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Perhaps the island's citizens should kneel in quiet protest
The Washington Post's Petula Dvorak duly notes how President Trump tweeted, “Puerto Rico is a fantastic place and deserves the best, which is what we will deliver. Every detail will be important to me."
Unfortunately, that was in 2008 and involved a golf course that he promised would revive a resort that ultimately went bankrupt. It's said to have cost taxpayers there around $33 million. When it comes to the island's current tragedy, Trump has expended far more energy tweeting about pro athletes and the national anthem.
In the hours after Dvorak's piece was posted at 12:20 p.m. Monday, Trump tweeted thrice, all about the anthem kerfuffle. It was not until nine hours later that the subject of Puerto Rico came up, sandwiched between tweets on the "backlash" against NFL players and a shot at Sen. John McCain for again rejecting a Republican plan to dump Obamacare.
And that trio was pretty bloodless, in part focusing on the island's infrastructure weaknesses. Here's the combo of the three:
"Texas & Florida are doing great but Puerto Rico, which was already suffering from broken infrastructure & massive debt, is in deep trouble……It's old electrical grid, which was in terrible shape, was devastated. Much of the Island was destroyed, with billions of dollars….owed to Wall Street and the banks which, sadly, must be dealt with. Food, water and medical are top priorities – and doing well."
Got that? "Food, water and medical are top priorities – and doing well."
Pretty passionate, eh?
But Trump's not alone. If you had power in your house — unlike the island of Puerto Rico — you could turn on the TV Tuesday morning and get this early lineup on "Trump & Friends:" Dallas Cowboys kneeling at their Monday night game during the national anthem, the Alabama U.S. Senate race, a suspected terrorist attack outside Jerusalem, an immigration story (subtext: it's bad) and a final push to repeal Obamacare. And then, more derision toward the NFL players' protest.
MSNBC'S "Morning Joe" was all Trump trashing, opening with his Sept. 23 tweet that, it now appears, was based on an erroneous report of an Iranian missile attack. It was then the inside D.C. politics du jour, including White House aides hypocritically using private email accounts for government business and Trump feuding with McCain (who could have avoided the Vietnam War draft and "stayed home like Donald Trump and chased models," said an especially acidic co-host Joe Scarborough).
CNN, however, went quickly, directly and justifiably at Trump's own lack of a response on Puerto Rico during its "New Day" show Tuesday. Yes, Daily Beast editor John Avlon punditized that it's because the island is heavily Democratic, as opposed to hurricane-hammered Texas and Florida. And co-host Chris Cuomo noted a pretty hefty response by FEMA. But it gave the story its tragic due.
As Trump was insinuating that Puerto Rican wounds are somehow self-inflicted, his favorite allegedly money-losing, fake news communist organ, The New York Times, was underscoring, "As life in Puerto Rico grinds on nearly a week after Hurricane Maria knocked out all the power, most of the water, and left people waiting in excruciating lines for fuel, Gov. Ricardo A. Rosselló said the island was on the brink of a 'humanitarian crisis' and it was up to Congress to prevent a deepening disaster."
But even while some actually cover the story systematically, the fatigue of tragedy besets the press. So along comes the NFL flap to supplant it. It's perfect: not much actual reporting needed (certainly not about the underlying catalysts to the original Colin Kaepernick-Black Lives Matter protest), just a lot of blabbing.
"NFL Fans Cry Foul" was a Tuesday morning Fox chyron, with a tweeted video of some guy burning a Pittsburgh Steelers jacket. It's what can pass for reporting of cultural trends. But at least it apparently had one West Wing viewer per usual: Trump.
Yes, he started tweeting at 6:28 a.m. His second tweet read, "The booing at the NFL football game last night, when the entire Dallas team dropped to its knees, was loudest I have ever heard. Great anger."
If only San Juan had an NFL franchise, it might get his attention and, thus, some of the press.
Note to Mark Zuckerberg
As the Miami Herald points out, one of the most popular memes making the rounds on Facebook "claims the NFL rulebook explicitly requires players to stand for the national anthem and asks why the league’s not enforcing the rule."
"Probably because it doesn’t exist."
Yes. "Breitbart Editor-in-Chief Alexander Marlow said metrics indicated that a Sunday morning post on the topic by the site’s Facebook account had greater reach than any post in Breitbart history."
NBC News justifiably touts ratings leads in key demographics of four cornerstones: "Today," its nightly news with Lester Holt, "Meet the Press" with Chuck Todd and "Dateline." Those demos are 25-54 and 18-49.
Unmentioned are the actual ratings on the shows relative, to say, 10 years ago. The bigger broadcast picture is the fighting over decreasing audience share amid fragmentation.
And this nitpick: Does what Megyn Kelly debuted Monday morning really constitute a "news show," as its ratings-related announcement calls it? "It was an NBC promotion for 'Will and Grace,'" says a former network executive who does wonder why Kelly left Fox for such a format.
As they say in pedestrian local news live shots around the land, only time will tell. But, In a maniacally ratings driven landscape, NBC has reason to crow.
ESPN belatedly getting religion
Its de facto silence on the mess involving its own show host Jemele Hill calling Trump a racist can now be juxtaposed with its ample coverage of Trump's fencing with pro athletes, notably the NBA and NFL. Ditto The Undefeated, its fine site on race, sports, culture and politics.
One of its efforts comes from ESPNM's Michael Wilbon (a longtime colleague at The Washignton Post of Undefeated chief Kevin Merida), who writes:
"There’s an old adage in sports that conveys: You are what your record says you are. We know what Trump’s record is regarding race. And in taking on two leagues, one (the NBA) with some of the most famous people on the planet and another (the NFL) that features the most popular form of sports entertainment in America, Trump emboldened a population that is often reluctant to rally or take risk. Suddenly, with public backing from owners and leagues, players aren’t feeling their careers are at risk to the same degree as before."
Stunning images from the Weather Channel
"From an incredible supercell storm at Lake Erie to a parade of bison marching through snow, submissions to the 2017 It's Amazing Out There Photo Contest featured stunning images of nature, wildlife, weather and adventure that truly showed why it's amazing out there."
You can check out the winners here.
Turning on a wet, wind-blown dime
Hurricane Harvey was tragic inspiration for Texas Monthly to do an about-face and crank out a very impressive issue on the disaster as seen through the eyes of 28 Texans.
The genesis of a tradition
The whole notion of playing the national anthem at sporting events can be traced to the seventh inning of a Chicago Cubs game in 1918, as The Washington Post notes. The country was in a glum mood due to the losses of thousands of soldiers in World War I, while the federal building downtown was bombed the day before.
And what about cultural events where it's a staple? Hmmm. Harvey Young, a theater and black studies expert at Northwestern University, emails, "The Chicago Symphony begins every performance of its first concert series of the new season with the national anthem. That's the only concert that I think of — except Fourth of July celebrations."
You know of others? Pass them along.
Laura Ingraham on the NFL and the anthem
Writing on her LifeZette site, the new prime time host at Fox (she starts in late October) declares: 1.) Standing for the national anthem does NOT mean that you support the president. 2.) It does NOT mean that you agree with the U.S. government. 3.) It does NOT mean that you endorse everything that happened in American history and 4.) It does NOT even mean that you believe the United States is fundamentally just."
"If it meant any of these things, then no social conservative could stand for the anthem, given that the Supreme Court has held that our Constitution protects abortions."
Hannity's big announcements.
With Tucker Carlson serving as his pro bono PR aide with a pre-show tweet about "the great @seanhannity" being back with news about three big announcements, I waited breathlessly (ah, not really, I was switching between CNN's health care debate and a Cubs-Cards game and wound up in a commercial break) for the big news. It came at 8:58 (Cubs now up 8-1).
Had he arranged for a meeting between his beloved Trump and Kim Jong-un? Was he departing to be Washington bureau chief for Mother Jones? Was he going to sing the national anthem at a Giants-Redskins game while kneeling?
Ah, no. He was going to have Bill O'Reilly, House Speaker Paul Ryan and Rush Limbaugh as guests in coming nights. Let's call that two modest-sized announcements (O'Reilly and Limbaugh). But good luck with the somnolent and politically spineless Ryan deconstructing the GOP failure on Obamacare.
And, as far as journalism and democracy
Speaking to a journalism awards dinner in Sydney, (yes, there are financial and travel benefits to being a New York Times op-ed columnist and not having to deal with the scummy complexities of daily reporting), Bret Stephens said:
"But no country can have good government, or a healthy public square, without high-quality journalism — journalism that can distinguish a fact from a belief and again from an opinion; that understands that the purpose of opinion isn’t to depart from facts but to use them as a bridge to a larger idea called 'truth;' and that appreciates that truth is a large enough destination that, like Manhattan, it can be reached by many bridges of radically different designs. In other words, journalism that is grounded in facts while abounding in disagreements."
"I believe it is still possible — and all the more necessary — for journalism to perform these functions, especially as the other institutions that were meant to do so have fallen short. But that requires proprietors and publishers who understand that their role ought not to be to push a party line, or be a slave to Google hits and Facebook ads, or provide a titillating kind of news entertainment, or help out a president or prime minister who they favor or who’s in trouble."
"Their role is to clarify the terms of debate by championing aggressive and objective news reporting, and improve the quality of debate with commentary that opens minds and challenges assumptions rather than merely confirming them."
And speaking of the role of journalism …
"The Medical Board of California has suspended the license of former USC medical school dean Carmen Puliafito pending a final decision on his fitness to practice medicine," reports the Los Angeles Times.
"The medical board opened an inquiry into Puliafito after a Times investigation found that he regularly used methamphetamine and other drugs, including while serving as dean of the Keck School of Medicine."
Amid more than a decade of downsizing, the paper has exited the ranks of The New York Times, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal. But it still does some very good work and this was a prime example of a local paper's real role in a community.