Wednesday, October 4, 2017

American Carnage, Trump Edition



What happened Sunday night on the Las Vegas strip was perversely, singularly American. The nation’s sense of its size, its culture, its broad existential vistas, its romance with armada, its literal and spiritual wide-open spaces — all collided with its tragic irony as a nation whose pugnacious, futurist identity derives from the ballistics of 250 years ago. Sunday’s events were a malign form of so-called American exceptionalism: What took place outside the Mandalay Bay Hotel probably couldn’t have occurred in any other country in the world.

When self-described professional gambler Stephen Paddock shot from his 32nd-floor hotel window into a crowd of concertgoers at the Route 91 Harvest Festival, 500 yards from the hotel, he would kill 58 people and wound another 527 people with an arsenal that included .223-caliber and .308-caliber rifles, Daniel Defense DDM4 rifles, and FN-15 carbines built, according to the company website, to “withstand the varied and unrelentingly harsh conditions of battlefields around the world.” He would by accident also begin the unraveling of the rationale that weds guns to regional components of the national identity. ...

Read the full essay at The Swamp

Image credits: Running trio: David Becker/Getty Images. Swamp logo: © 2017 Jerrick Media Ventures LLC.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

The, um, Evolution of Donald Trump II


Sooner or later, every autocrat finds it necessary to embrace some of the tenets of democracy. Sooner or later, kicking and screaming if necessary, every putative ruler obeys the call to govern — with all the parliamentary, deliberative and conciliatory actions the word “govern” implies.

In fits and starts, that’s starting to happen to President* Donald Trump, whether he likes it or not. In a generally increasing series of rebuffs and rejections, the occupant of the White House is learning that the authority of the Oval Office isn’t the same as that in a C-suite in Manhattan.

We remember the fire-breathing ideologue of the campaign days, last year, the man who insisted that if he won, there’d be no quarter asked of or given to the Democrats, scourge of species, Satan’s deputies on earth.

And lo, the commandments were written upon the tablets: The wall protecting the United States from the tide of brown people in the south shall be built. The abomination known as Obamacare shall be defeated. The sellout of the Paris climate accords shall be corrected, with the United States getting out of a bad deal.

Fast forward through the thicket of the 2016 campaign, into the cold light of the autumn of 2017.  . . .

Read the full essay at Swamp

Image credits: Trump: Via @CBSNews. Swamp logo: © 2017 Jerrick Media LLC.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Nation time in Mexico


Sometimes a writer has no words.

This video has been making the rounds of the Interweb all day today. It's a painful snapshot of Mexico, as our neighbor to the south recovers from a devastating earthquake, the most recent in a string of seismic catastrophes. As rescue workers and everyday people dug through the rubble, there was a point where the people stopped to stand and sing the Mexican national anthem.



It's a moving, wrenching event made more powerful by its sheer spontaneity, a suddenness that mirrors the swift onset of the earthquake itself. You can see what it means to a country with myriad problems and challenges, a nation needlessly under fire from its hot-headed, xenophobic northern neighbor.

Even amid the tragedy when this video was made (some time in recent days), it's clearly nation time in Mexico, a time to honor that which binds people together, in defiance of the forces — seismic and geopolitical — that do whatever possible to tear them apart.

Viva Mexico.

A Real Joint Venture



Few things say “normal” like television, our public square, our soapbox in Hyde Park, our platform for the popular and unpopular alike. For friends of herb who watch TV, BurnTV, a new West Coast-based entertainment channel, hopes to fill a niche with programming that both informs and enlivens – presented through the lens of the marijuana experience more than 40 million Americans enjoy on a regular basis. Americans for whom pot is utterly, totally normal.

At least that’s the plan, according to Jason Santos, BurnTV’s man of many hats. “We’ve built our own apps, and we’re beta testing and putting them through rigors, making them more robust, making sure we get as many of the bugs out,” said the CEO, founder and chief evangelist, cornered by phone for a brief interview with Potent, after sprinting from one bit of pressing business to another. “Our target is October, but we haven’t committed to a date yet. As we get closer, we'll be able to pinpoint an exact date. It’s the nature of the beast.

“We hope to have a final announcement of the launch date in a couple weeks. It’s exciting.” ...

Read more at Potent

Image credits: BurnTV splash image: © 2017 Burn Entertainment Corporation. Potent logo: © 2017 Jerrick Media LLC.

TV Throws Down the Gauntlet, Again


THE NIGHT OF September 17 was a cracked bellwether in the world of entertainment. The Emmy Awards, the television industry’s homage to its movers and shakers (and by extension itself) stepped off at the Microsoft Theater in Hollywood, and marked what would become a night of historic firsts, firing broadsides on the complacency of the Emmys' own past:

Donald Glover won Emmy Awards for lead actor in a comedy series and directing for a comedy series, both for his work in FX’s Atlanta. He became the first African American director to win for directing a comedy series, and only the second to win best actor in a comedy series, after Robert Guillaume, the immortal Benson, in 1985.

Sterling K. Brown made history, becoming the first African American to win best actor in a drama at the Emmys in 19 years, for his performance in NBC’s This Is Us.

Riz Ahmed, won the Emmy for Best Actor in a limited dramatic series for his role in HBO’s riveting The Night Of, becoming the first Muslim and the first South Asian actor to be so honored. ...

For the Emmys as an institution, and a community trying not to become an “institution” (with all the word's hidebound associations), it was a very good night. The 2017 Emmy recipients’ list reflected an understanding of how minorities figure as position players in every step of the televisual process, from writing to directing to acting. Thus, the Emmys threw down one gauntlet of implicit challenge to the Academy Awards (“let’s see you top this next year!”) — and then threw another one, with the medium of television itself.

The demographic triumphs of this year’s Emmy winners add to the growing cultural and technological evidence that, as a medium in a refreshing, wrenching transition, television has fully achieved primacy in the national media diet, as much or more an immediate identifier and signifier of American popular culture than the movies were for the previous 30 years. ...

Read the full story at Geeks

Image credits: Sterling K. Brown: © 2017 CBS/Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. Geeks logo: © 2017 Jerrick Media LLC.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Pot Advertising Hasn’t Gained Altitude
with In-Flight Pubs



As the United States adjusts to sweeping changes in marijuana laws — 26 states and the District of Columbia have decriminalized or outright legalized the herb for personal recreational use — a new green industry has emerged. Marijuana dispensaries and cultivators are actively soliciting new business in the states where it’s legal, and makers of other cannabis-related products are likewise selling their wares in a wide range of earthbound publications.

But marijuana advertising hasn’t yet taken off with one part of the publishing world: in-flight airline magazines whose route systems service the states where marijuana is legal. Almost without exception, you won’t find ads in those publications. And it may not be an accident, despite the growing consumer appeal for recreational pot — and the benefit to states’ bottom lines. ...

Read the full story at Potent

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

The real Maverick. Maybe.


READERS OF YOURS truly have probably noticed that, when writing about Arizona Republican Senator John McCain at just about any time since his 2008 presidential campaign, I’ve often invoked the phrase “The Maverick” to describe him, and capitalizing the phrase's operative word to characterize his presumably independent streak in Congress. The word “maverick” was so often used in news descriptions of him, that year and earlier, that it got to be a definitional label — the kind of thing I sometimes thought deserved a “™” (trademark) signature, often applied with all pejorative intent.

We’ve had our differences in the past. But McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has lately taken on not so much a new guise as a new persona. We saw a glimpse of that (more than a glimpse, really) early on July 28, when he arrived in the well on the Senate floor and cast the deciding vote against the “skinny repeal” bid to overturn Obamacare — a vote at odds with nearly all of his Republican colleagues in the Senate. Since then, McCain wrote an op-ed piece in the Aug. 31 Washington Post that sharpened distinctions between himself and House Trump, in clear and unambiguous strokes.

He returns to Washington this week set to take the lead as the Senate debates the National Defense Authorization Act, which determines levels of government funding for the military.

He comes back to Washington facing debate on the DREAM Act and its enforcement; tax reform and other issues amid a jittery and possibly doomed administration frantically flexing its muscles.

And he comes back to Washington after his first treatments for one of the deadliest and most aggressive cancers there is.

The sunset days of the maverick of Arizona may yet be his best.

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From the Post op-ed: “Our shared values define us more than our differences. …

“Congress will return from recess next week facing continued gridlock as we lurch from one self-created crisis to another. We are proving inadequate not only to our most difficult problems but also to routine duties. Our national political campaigns never stop. We seem convinced that majorities exist to impose their will with few concessions and that minorities exist to prevent the party in power from doing anything important.

“That’s not how we were meant to govern. Our entire system of government — with its checks and balances, its bicameral Congress, its protections of the rights of the minority — was designed for compromise. It seldom works smoothly or speedily. It was never expected to.

“It requires pragmatic problem-solving from even the most passionate partisans. It relies on compromise between opposing sides to protect the interests we share. We can fight like hell for our ideas to prevail. But we have to respect each other or at least respect the fact that we need each other.

“That has never been truer than today, when Congress must govern with a president who has no experience of public office, is often poorly informed and can be impulsive in his speech and conduct.

“We must respect his authority and constitutional responsibilities. We must, where we can, cooperate with him. But we are not his subordinates. We don’t answer to him. We answer to the American people. We must be diligent in discharging our responsibility to serve as a check on his power. And we should value our identity as members of Congress more than our partisan affiliation.”

◊ ◊ ◊

IF THE SUPINE Republicans wanted to send a message to President* Trump, a message from one of their number, they’ve got one in those last sentences alone. For months, Republican senators and congresspeople alike have chafed under the wannabe-tyrannical rule of The Donald, who’s gone so far in his dangerously self-styled approach to governance as to endanger global relationships, the United States Constitution, and this nation’s deepest sense of itself and its future. John McCain’s op-ed was the first concerted pushback from those on his side of the aisle.

And for McCain, the institutionalized dysfunction that the Republicans have visited, or tried hard to visit, on Congress for the last eight-plus years — starting practically the day Barack Obama took the oath of office in 2008 — isn’t working anymore.

He continues: “I argued during the health-care debate for a return to regular order, letting committees of jurisdiction do the principal work of crafting legislation and letting the full Senate debate and amend their efforts.

Monday, September 4, 2017

ACA deadlines: Spread the word


Team Trump has slashed the advertising and outreach budget for HealthCare.gov from $100 million to $10 million. It's easily one of the most pernicious, willfully mean things the presidential asterisk has done since taking office.

Among other things, the White House action complicates the process of reaching out to millions of Americans about Obamacare, enrolling them for 2018 coverage between the dates of Nov. 1 and Dec. 15, informing them of changes in the program, and telling them what they need to be healthier citizens. It goes without saying: If the president* doesn't like your program, it's probably good as dead.

But maybe not. The digital age has made taking matters into your own hands an incredibly viral phenomenon, and a fairly easy one: Copy the graphic up at the top of this blogpost, blow it up to any size you like — then paste it anywhere, in your blogs, your tweets, your Instagram images, your Facebook posts, everywhere it might be casually seen. Let's make this thing virally visible. It may not close the gap of a $90 million budgetary shortfall, but it'll help, a little or a lot, between now and mid-December.

We're a species of procrastinators. But we remember when the stakes are high enough.

Guess what? The stakes are high enough.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

54th: The March, history and now


YOU SEE IT and it breaks your heart. If there is a drop of blood circulating anywhere within you at all, it was aroused by the image of Bernice King, daughter of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., her head and right hand leaning in to his face, in a gesture that poignantly distilled a daughter’s love and a nation’s self-inflicted pain.

If agony can be said to possess the realm of the exquisite, if we ever hoped for a fresh visual distillation of the human spirit … this was it. Samuel Beckett would understand this picture; his own knowledge from the past is here, vivid and inescapable, and now the mantra of America’s vast unnamables: “I can’t go on. I’ll go on.”

It was a picture in a tweet (like everything else these days), one that the youngest of the King daughters sent to Jan. 15, the birthday of her father, who would have been 88 years old. But what it says about Martin Luther King and our national past, and how we reach back to the past to make sense of an angry present and an unclear future, is resonant and ubiquitous beyond the medium that contains it.

◊ ◊ ◊

The Root reported on Monday: “A predominantly black Prince William County church has been the latest target of racists after messages of hate were posted up at the church’s front entrance over the weekend. According to Fox 5 DC, church members at Greater Praise Temple Ministries in Dumfries, Va., found the disturbing messages on Sunday. The news station was told that it took officers about two hours to respond to a call from the church after it was reported.

“One of the signs in question showed the front cover of the German magazine Der Spiegel, which features President Donald Trump wearing a Ku Klux Klan hood: an image that came as criticism of Trump’s outrageous response to the violence following the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va. Accompanying the photo were the words, ‘Now that’s white power. Day of the rope is coming niggers.’ ”

“It’s very disturbing … there are a lot of churches in this area,” a member of the church identified only as Sister Gwen told the news station. “But for the people of color, we have to go through this—it’s like taking a step back to the ’50s and ’60s.”

Specifically it was like taking a step back to the America of 54 years ago, of Aug. 28, 1963, when a crowd of about 250,000 people gathered at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington. Or a step forward into the present day, and the fact of a march still underway, en route to the nation’s capital to address some other of the nation’s unfinished business.

◊ ◊ ◊

PAST IS PROLOGUE: the current march from Charlottesville to Washington and scheduled to end Sept. 6, has its inescapable lineage. The event in 1963 broke new ground in the national discourse; everything that MLK had done to that point had led him there; it was a kind of focal point, not only of his career but also of the question of civil rights as a national matter. But where King’s iconic 16 minutes at the microphone established him as the de facto North Star of American racial morality, we don’t have such a defining, centralizing force in American life today.

That’s both curse and blessing. We can use a moral center in the current debate right now, someone whose animating frame of reference is the spiritual (and not necessarily the religious) instead of the political. King’s oratory that day combined the two, blended the emotional power of homiletics with the everyday pragmatics of common-sense speech, the politics of life.

Who can forget the “promissory note” analogy, crowded with the symbology of quotidian economics? “When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. ...

“It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked 'insufficient funds.' But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt.”

◊ ◊ ◊

For all its power and its place in the national fabric, the totality of the march’s events at the Lincoln Memorial reflected blind spots by the organizers: it was an oratorical sausage fest. Only one woman gave any address at the march: Daisy Bates, a figure instrumental in the integration of the Little Rock Nine into that city’s high school in 1957, was shoehorned in at the last moment, Mother Jones reported in August 2013.

It was a shortcoming that didn’t go overlooked by Anna Arnold Hedgman, scholar, writer, executive director of President Truman’s 1948 presidential campaign, and one of the march organizers. Hedgman called the male brain trust of the event on the carpet: “In light of the role of Negro women in the struggle for freedom … it is incredible that no woman should appear as a speaker.”

The march keynotes revealed other elitist tendencies, freezing out a random “Unemployed Worker” at the podium, Charles Euchner reported in Nobody Turn Me Around, a people’s history of the march..

The march didn’t do everything; clearly, some things it didn’t do at all.  But it did what it had to do: the first televised protest demonstration shocked and galvanized a complacent, quizzical nation; and awakened black Americans, in a broad, mainstream way, to the clarified objective now writ inescapably large.

King distilled the pressing, nervous issues into an address that, in his words, then and now, hastens “to remind America of the fierce urgency of now.” And now is never a rear-view phenomenon.

◊ ◊ ◊

THE URGENCY of now couldn’t be much fiercer than it is, now. More than half a century after the fire and agonies of the civil rights era, we’re fighting old battles all over again, on the same turf in the legislatures and in the streets. Black people in the state of Georgia have to contend with a law-enforcement worldview distilled in the dashcam video-recorded words of Cobb County Lt. Greg Abbott, who, after pulling her car over, told a terrified white driver that she had nothing to fear: “We only kill black people, right?”

We as a nation have to contend with the brittle truth rendered by that paragon of journalism — MAD Magazine — which updated one of Norman Rockwell’s more cherished paintings, “The Runaway,” of a lunch-counter encounter between a burly but sensitive cop talking to a boy running away from home. MAD’s update — with a cop in full SWAT/riot-gear regalia, looking at a young black American boy in less than friendly terms — couldn’t be more on point, more accurate in announcing the terms of engagement between police and citizens in a nation Trumped by fear.

Neither could a recent picture I discovered at Shaun King’s Facebook page: A black cop stands a lonely yellow-tape vigil, protecting those people exercising their First Amendment rights at a white supremacist demonstration going on just yards behind him.

The changes sought at the first March on Washington are the same as those pursued by the good people now making the March To Washington. “This is no time to engage in the luxury of coming off or take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism,” King said, 54 years ago. “Now is the time ... 1963 was not an end, but a beginning.”



1963 was a beginning. 2017 is another one.

Image credits: Bernice King communing with father: @Bernice King. Lincoln Memorial program: Daisy Bates: via EURWeb. Cop and kid: © 2017 Mad Magazine. Cop at demonstration: via Shaun King Facebook page.

Monday, August 28, 2017

High Stream Flavors


Entities of commerce often make strange bedfellows. A great example of how marijuana’s intersection with the wider culture yields surprising synergies between products happened in Los Angeles over the weekend when Netflix, the streaming-TV media giant, opened a pop-up store at a local medical-marijuana dispensary to sell various strains of marijuana as a promotion specifically for one of its newest shows and for other Netflix shows. “Netflix and chill,” indeed. ...

The brandy-and-cigars aspect of Netflix's marketing tactic is well-timed for the arrival of recreational marijuana in California, a social and legal sea change set to begin in early 2018. ...

The weekend’s presumably one-time pop-up has the feel of a trial balloon for Netflix, whose programming taps into popular culture at a number of levels, with shows created with an energy, frankness, and conceptual daring that broadcast networks can’t match. ...

Read the full report at Potent

Image credits: Omega Strain image: Jennica Atkinson/Carrot Creative for Netflix. Potent logo: © 2017 Jerrick Media.
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