Why David Brooks 'ruining America' column fell short
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David Brooks may deserve what we once called a knuckle sandwich.
It's one thing to be responsibly provocative, especially as an op-ed columnist. It's another to be sanctimonious, moralizing and off-key, as is the case with "How We Are Ruining America." A discourse on the societal peril of privilege generated lots of response and included this minor classic of a vignette:
“Recently I took a friend with only a high school degree to lunch. Insensitively, I led her into a gourmet sandwich shop. Suddenly I saw her face freeze up as she was confronted with sandwiches named ‘Padrino’ and ‘Pomodor’ and ingredients like soppressata, capocollo and a striata baguette. I quickly asked her if she wanted to go somewhere else and she anxiously nodded yes and we ate Mexican.”
An essay on "cultural signifiers" not understood by the poor and under-educated prompted McSweeney's to offer Lucy Huber's "Course Catalog for David Brooks' Elite Sandwich College." It includes these courses:
Classic Italian Meats 205, Prerequisite: Basic Deli Meats 101: "In this class, we will go beyond the American deli meats like ham, turkey, and chicken breast and learn more in-depth about the classic Italian cured meats: Pancetta, Prosciutto, Capicola, and more. Students will learn about origin, curing techniques, and appropriate stacking method. Two lectures and two studio hours each week."
Fancy Condiments and Toppings 305, Prerequisite: Mayonnaise and Mustard Only 101: "Students will learn the basics of topping a sandwich beyond just meat and vegetables. Techniques include the seasoned olive oil drizzle and distribution of aioli. If time in semester permits, students will dabble in use of cornichons and castelvetranos. Three lectures and one lab weekly."
Finally, Talking to Your Friends About Italian Delis 426: "In this soft-skills class, students will learn how to help friends who have never visited a deli choose items on the menu. Students will learn how to gently correct friends when they pronounce 'mozzarella' with the 'a' sound at the end...."
But, seriously, folks...
Rich Neimand, a brainy Washington consultant, reminded me of his Los Angeles upbringing and why Brooks was so off, even if there was this defense in The Washington Post of the Brooks thesis that rich kids have hidden cultural advantages.
"I was once that person who Brooks took into a deli. I came from a working class family and busted my ass to become intelligent and sophisticated so I could live a better life. I was fortunate to live in a society at the time that wanted that to happen for me if I was willing to want it and work for it."
"I went to public schools in California when taxpayers cared about all children. I had good teachers in good schools with majority minority student bodies. I went to a great community college and was able to transfer to UCLA after two years. Then I had bosses who saw some raw talent in me and stuck with me to refine it touchingly, they made a point of teaching me how to eat in restaurants and have business meetings, lunches and dinners."
"I saw how important it was to read, keep up on food trends and try to evolve as society evolved. Now I am supposed to feel bad because someone is intimidated by the term mortadella and can't take a chance on finding out that it’s a fancy ass name for Oscar Meyer bologna? Someone who can’t risk an upset stomach to have lunch with a columnist from The New York Times?"
"Given a chance to do over, I don't think Don Jr. would set up a meeting between the Russian lawyer and the publicist again." And that was from co-host Steve Doocy on "Trump & Friends," throwing the British publicist under the bus and praising Don Jr.'s performance on "Hannity" last night, especially his statement to Hannity that he should have done things differently. Ah, yup, Donnie.
CNN's "New Day" went with "White House Under Siege After Emails Bombshell." As David Gregory put a potential prosecutor's case, the Trump team welcomed support from Russia to beat Hillary Clinton. They were open for business. At the very least they were willing to play with fire and the fire was Russia, an adversary of the United States, to undermine their political opponent. That was just wrong and that is why it is engulfing the Trump presidency and undermining his credibility and those around them. These emails contradict months of denials from the White House."
MSNBC's "Morning Joe" broached something rather relevant: how Robert Mueller will view the meeting and whether the Trump folks lied about it essentially being about adoptions. AP's Julie Pace says the White House "is struggling now with where this presidency goes. They know this is going to be something they're going to live with for months or years."
There was morning talk on a couple of cable news networks about the president obviously taking a low profile on the mess involving his son. No characteristic tweets – at least not until 6:19 a.m. Eastern.: "My son Donald did a good job last night. He was open, transparent and innocent. This is the greatest Witch Hunt in political history. Sad!" (@realDonaldTrump)
The Donald Trump Jr. revelations
"Donald Trump, Jr.’s E-Mails Have Fundamentally Changed the Russia Story" is the New Yorker headline as Ryan Lizza recounts talking to a Trump campaign official yesterday:
"This morning, I asked him about revelations in the Times about the meeting between Natalia Veselnitskaya and senior Trump-campaign officials—Trump, Jr. as well as Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner—and the source practically yawned. 'It is still nothing,' he responded, echoing the common refrain from most Trump defenders since Saturday when details of the meeting first emerged."
"After the e-mails were posted, he amended his reaction. 'It’s moving too fast for me to appear intelligent in analysis,' he wrote back. 'I know DJT2 is a good guy and wouldn’t break the law.'"
"In less than ninety minutes, the sentiment from people sympathetic to the President’s son had shifted from 'nothingburger' to 'I hope he doesn’t go to jail.'”
White House plots against reporters
The Washington Post reports that "operatives close to the White House are mulling this to help Don Jr.: "Their plan, as one member of the team described it, is to research the reporters' previous work, in some cases going back years, and to exploit any mistakes or perceived biases. They intend to demand corrections, trump errors on social media and feed them to conservative outlets, such as Fox News."
Guys and gals, I'm not sure you want to go there. Not sure you'd want an army of fact-checkers to return fire and look into Sean Hannity and the past labors of cadres of Trump media sympathizers. In a duel over past accuracy, I think my money would be on tired old legacy media you deride. They do have copy desks.
Twitter's new CFO
It's Ned Segal, a former Goldman Sachs banker who's been an executive at Intuit in Silicon Valley.
"Key question: Can Segal help Twitter tell a more convincing story to investors? He has lots of Wall Street experience, but does not have a background in advertising or media, which are the industries driving Twitter’s entire business." (Recode)
NBC, Axios and Koch
Here's a sign of the new pragmatism. NBC's Chuck Todd and Axios' Jim VandeHei will host chats tomorrow morning with Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan and House Financial Services Chairman Jeb Hansarling. The event is at AJAX, 1011 4th Street NW, Washington, DC 20001 and is sponsored by Koch. Yes, Koch. You can sign-up here.
Trump and the press
"No president since Nixon has found himself so joined to the reporters he loathes (and the few he likes), and none has inspired quite so many heroic-journalist profiles" (The Ringer).
"For Trump, who obviously despises the press, the irony has got to be grating. So far, the history of the Trump administration is being written as a history of reporters taking apart the Trump administration."
Say it ain't so
"Time Inc. Explores Renaming the Company, Seeking a Refresh" (The Wall Street Journal)
They've actually thrown around the name "Life" – as in its long iconic Life Magazine – as a possibility. Yikes. A friend reminds me of the notorious change of the legendary legacy brand McCall’s to Rosie. You know, the president's favorite comedienne.
Confirming a scoop
Amy Fiscus, The New York Times’s national security editor, moderates a panel Wednesday at the Spy Museum in Washington on "what it takes to confirm a scoop, the story behind The Times’s anonymous tip line, how journalists use their sources in an age when leakers are increasingly under public scrutiny, and what it’s like for a C.I.A. spokesperson to handle tough questions and keep information classified."
The panel includes her colleague, reporter Glenn Thrush, who's seen some of his own emails to John Podesta divulged by WikiLeaks.
As publishers search for dollars...
"News publishers may want to emulate the music industry, but the only similarities that matter work in favor of the aggregators, not suppliers. Spotify is the perfect example." (Stratechery)
Suing over Trump's Twitter feed
The Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University sued Trump for "blocking Twitter users from his @realDonaldTrump account, arguing the practice violates the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution." (Reuters)
It's executive director argued, "The First Amendment applies to this digital forum in the same way it applies to town halls and open school board meetings. The White House acts unlawfully when it excludes people from this forum simply because they’ve disagreed with the president." (Poynter)
The lawsuit, brought by the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University in New York and joined by seven individual Twitter users, claims Trump blocked a number of accounts whose owners replied to his tweets with comments that criticized, mocked or disagreed with the president.
A joint Boston Globe-STAT investigation concludes, "Drug users, desperate to break addictions to heroin or pain pills, are pawns in a sprawling national network of insurance fraud."
"They are being sent to treatment centers hundreds of miles from home for expensive, but often shoddy, care that is paid for by premium health insurance benefits procured with fake addresses."
Google's payouts to pointyheads
"Google operates a little-known program to harness the brain power of university researchers to help sway opinion and public policy, cultivating financial relationships with professors at campuses from Harvard University to the University of California, Berkeley." (The Wall Street Journal)
As it notes, "Company paid $5,000 to $400,000 for research supporting business practices that face regulatory scrutiny; a ‘wish list’ of topics."
Ah, imagine if it started showing such largess to newsrooms whose content it's ripped off all these years. To bolster news gathering, democracy, all that stuff.