Archive for the ‘press’ Category

During 2020, at least 110 American journalists were arrested or criminally charged in relation to their reporting, and around 300 journalists were assaulted, the majority by law enforcement, according to the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, of which CPJ is a founding member. The Tracker is working to verify more than 930 total incidents in 79 cities.

These are numbers that you would expect from a 3rd world police state upset about press coverage of their heavy-handed actions, not from a supposed advanced democracy. About the only ray of sunshine in the whole situation is that while American journalists were arrested in unprecedented numbers last year, at least they were not being summarily executed.


— Badtux the Serfin’ USA Penguin

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So a question was asked, “what’s the worst thing that can happen to a journalist’s career?” Well, that’s simple. The worst thing I’ve ever seen happen to a journalist’s carreer is telling a truth that is not liked by the CIA.

Back in the 1980’s, the CIA was illegally running guns to the Contras in Nicaragua using money received from the Iranians in exchange for anti-tank missiles sent to Iran. The CIA was using private contractors with private aircraft to do this from airstrips in the desert Southwest, and those private contractors figured out an easy way to make some extra cash both for themselves and for the Contras — bring crack cocaine from Nicaragua, offload that at the desert airstrips to accomplices, and then load up the guns to take back to Nicaragua. Since this was all 100% illegal the CIA prevented other law enforcement agencies from intervening, the result being huge amounts of cheap crack cocaine flooding the Southwest and thousands dead.

So anyhow, a while later by the name of Gary Webb who worked for the San Jose Mercury News managed to meander across this story. He started with a street dealer in Los Angeles and followed it up to a supplier who then connected it to a known CIA operation that had been revealed during the Iran-Contra trials, and they published it in his newspaper, a mid-market newspaper that until then had courageously published nothing of note.

Then the CIA came in. They pulled out their big guns — one of their assets at the Washington Post, a man by the name of Walter Pincus, being the biggest — and ran a huge smear campaign, including threatening the editor of the Mercury News, who then retracted the story. Gary Webb was fired and blackballed from the news industry, and eight years later when it appeared that everybody had forgotten his sin and he might be able to get a job at the Los Angeles Times, his motorcycle was stolen so that he couldn’t make it to the interview. Gary realized that the CIA was never going to leave him alone, and ate the revolver that he had inherited from his father.

Being harassed to the point of suicide is pretty much the worst thing that can happen to a journalist’s career.

And in the decades since, the San Jose Mercury News once again has courageously published nothing of note, having learned their lesson that printing the truth about powerful organizations like the CIA is not allowed in the U S of A.

– Badtux the News Penguin

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So, Julian Assange has been arrested and turned over to the U.S. government on a now-unsealed indictment. Julian Assange is a legend in his own mind who is fundamentally an agent of the Russian government. His participation in the election of the Giant Orange Rage Toddler is just one of the things he did that I detest. His participation on the Russian operation against Hillary Clinton is now incontrovertible. He is a tool.

The thing is, it’s not illegal to be an agent of the Russian government. I’ve read the indictment now, and it’s all nonsense. It accuses him of encouraging Chelsea Manning to hack U.S. government computers, and it claims Assange received an encrypted password hash from Manning (but not that he sent a decrypted password back). Thing is, encouraging someone to give you information is a fundamental part of investigative journalism, if that’s illegal, then investigative journalism as a whole is illegal. Furthermore, Assange is not a U.S. citizen and was not doing this under U.S. jurisdiction. So reading the indictment I was utterly baffled, until suddenly it clicked. This isn’t about Assange. This is about the Mueller Report and criminalizing publication of the entire uncensored report if it ever does leak out.

The one thing Assange is *not* accused of doing is receiving and publishing classified information. That’s because it’s not illegal to receive and publish classified information. It’s only illegal for government employees and contractors to transmit classified information to unauthorized parties. And there is one big reason why Assange could not be indicted for receiving and publishing classified information: New York Times v. United States, 1971. Otherwise known as the “Pentagon Papers” case before the U.S. Supreme Court, where the NYT and Washington Post published the classified Pentagon Papers and the precedent was set — you can’t be prosecuted for publishing classified information. Most recently tested when Judith Miller outed a CIA employee with the result that an entire anti-nuclear-proliferation network was rounded up and executed by various nasty state actors. So if you can’t prosecute a newspaper for publishing classified information, maybe you can make an end-around by prosecuting them for encouraging someone to send them the classified information? If so, then the fact that the New York Times has set up an encrypted network to receive classified information from whistleblowers and encourages whistleblowers to use that network is enough to convict their publisher if they do publish classified information.

In other words, it’s not about Assange. It’s about the New York Times and Washington Post. If Assange can be successfully prosecuted for encouraging people to leak classified information, so can the NYT and Washington Post — and for a certain Giant Orange Rage Toddler, that’s a great reason to do it.

– Badtux the Press Penguin

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Carl Hiaasen’s younger brother was gunned down in Annapolis, Maryland today along with four others executed for the crime of being a journalist.

Unknown is whether the killer was a MAGAt, spurred into violence by his fascist overlords in the White House and elsewhere. It would not be the first time that fascists attacked newspapers. Their campaign was largely successful in Weimar Germany — of all of Germany’s newspapers, only one single newspaper, the Munich Post, dared to oppose Hitler directly. The rest of Germany’s press, cowed by the brownshirts / MAGAts, tried to be “fair” to the Nazis. For their trouble their reporters and editors ended up in the exact same concentration camps as the reporters and editors of the Munich Post. Appeasement, it turns out, is a rather ineffective tactic for dealing with fascists. As is civility.

Let us hope that our own newspapers have learned that lesson. I’m not holding my breath though.

– Badtux the News Penguin

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Trump and his cronies are freaking out about a tabloid book about a tabloid president, Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House. And incidentally have turned what would likely have been yet another ignored book on Trump into a best seller.

Cheetoh Mussolini’s lawyer threatened to sue the publisher. In response, the publisher released the book four days early and the publisher’s lawyer eviscerates the President’s lawyer in a public letter. BRUTAL.
Trump surrogate Miller had to be escorted off of CNN property by security after he started ranting at Jake Tapper.

Cheeto Mussolini whines that he can’t sue author of tabloid book for libel, claims new libel laws would make that possible. Except he’ll need a new Supreme Court too, to overturn the actual malice standard set for public figures by the 1st Amendment freedom of press right to cover news.

Steve Bannon fired from Breitbart by the Koch brothers because they’re upset that Bannon said of the Trump kids’ meeting with Russian spies in Trump Tower that it was “treasonous”.

Herr Twitler himself calls Wolff a “loser” and his book “boring”. And boasts about how he fired Steve Bannon, the man who made him President, for being “sloppy”.

All this fire and fury because the book tells us something we already knew: Trump is an unstable and incompetent president who has no business holding the office he didn’t really want all that much anyway. Duh. It’s not like the book tells us anything we didn’t already know. It just slings tabloid sleaze upon a tabloid President. And thus is perfect for this era: a tabloid book, for a tabloid president.

– Badtux the Amused Penguin

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You may have seen this image going around social media:

True, or not?

Well, there was only one way to find out: sic some reporters on the story! Have them track the photos all the way back to the first person to post them and…

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As some of you know, Roger Stone, a close advisor to Donald Trump, got kicked off of Twitter for tweets cursing out and threatening CNN reporters. So how does Roger Stone react to this? Does he laugh and say “well, I disagree with their actions, but they’re a private business and can choose to do business with whomever they please”? Is that how he reacted?

Well, no. First he raised a hissy fit, threatening Twitter via right wing media. Twitter took notice and then made his 3 day suspension into a permanent ban — deleting his entire Twitter account, tweets included. (Actually, Twitter accounts are never physically deleted, they’re kept around in case law enforcement needs to look at them, but effectively it’s gone). Because as a private business, they decided they don’t want Roger Stone as a customer anymore. So they exercised their freedom of association by choosing not to associate with him.

So what did Roger Stone do then? Did he apologize to Twitter in hopes of getting his account back?

Well, of course not. That would require some level of self-introspection. Instead: Roger Stone says that he will sue Twitter.

Will sue.

A private business.

For exercising its freedom of association.

For exercising a right guaranteed by the 1st Amendment of the Constitution of the United States as interpreted by the Supreme Court of the United States of America, the right of freedom of association — or non-association, in this case.

So, Roger Stone: In the past, you supported the right of the Boy Scouts to exercise their freedom of association in order to not associate with homosexuals. So at one time, you apparently believed private organizations had freedom of association. When did you convert to Communism — the notion that private property and private organizations shouldn’t exist? Why do you believe Twitter is or should be public property with no right of freedom of association as guaranteed by the Constitution for private entities?

Curious penguins are… curious!

– Badtux the “Hypocrisy, much?” Penguin

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Seems like everybody is using the word “fake news” recently without, apparently, having the slightest idea what it means. Heck, there’s even people who’ve (incorrectly) called blogs “fake news” where said blogs, such as Daily Kos, contained nothing of the sort. So, here we go, let’s do a bit of ferreting out of definitions:

1) News: This is reporting that follows the 5 W’s and one H: Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How. For example, a car chase. Who: Some thug named Goon McStupid, and the combined police departments of Santa Clara, Mountain View, and the CHP. What: A car chase. When: Last night at 3am. Where: Down US101. Why: Felon in possession of a firearm and heroin tried to evade police. How: Police tossed out stop strips, shredded his tires, and captured him as he attempted to run from his car.

Thing about news is that it’s verifiable. People heard it on the scanners. You can call the police press relations office and get a thumbnail summary of what happened. There will be an arrest record that can be examined. A court record when Goon McStupid gets charged and has a bail hearing. And so forth.

2) Fake news: This follows the 5 W’s and one H, but is completely made up. If you call the police press relations office they’ll say they never heard of anybody named Goon McStupid. There will be no arrest record. There will be no court record. The entire story is completely made up. A “tell” of fake news is that information that would allow verifying it is completely left out. Another “tell” of fake news is that if you do attempt to verify it and find that it’s unverifiable, it’s always a conspiracy. So, let’s talk about the horrible Incident in Sweden Last Friday. So, you attempt to verify the existence of this incident, and find that there’s no reporting of any such incident in the Swedish press last Friday. You call the national police department of Sweden, and they tell you that there was no terrorist attack in Sweden last Friday. The perpetrator of the Fake News story then claims that there is a conspiracy to hide the Incident in Sweden. The moment you see the “conspiracy” word, the chances that it is Fake News rises to almost 100%.

3) Analysis: This combines news stories and statistics from reliable sources to examine what a news story actually means. News reporting of Donald Trump’s latest Nuremberg Rally would include details of what he stated in his speech, such as his mentioning of a horrible Incident in Sweden Last Friday. Analysis then examines news stories from Sweden to see if anything happened there last Friday, calls the Swedish police and finds that they know of nothing remarkable happening in Sweden last Friday other than the Eurovision contest, and concludes that nothing happened there last Friday. Analysis then notes that Trump’s invocation of a horrible Incident in Sweden was inaccurate or false. If they’re being really bold, they will say “Trump lied.” Analysis is not fake news, regardless of whether you agree with its conclusions or not. You can still follow the links to the underlying cited facts and do your own analysis and draw your own conclusions.

4) Commentary: This goes beyond simple analysis and arrives at overarching conclusions or opinions, usually from references to or analysis of multiple news stories. For example, a blog is usually commentary. A blog may link to multiple news stories and data sources, provide analysis of those news stories, then say that Donald Trump’s White House is in chaos. Again, this is not fake news. This is commentary or opinion about the news.

5) Editorial or opinion piece: This goes beyond commentary and attempts to make you think or feel a certain way or do something that the writer thinks you should do. Facts may or may not be used, and where used, will generally be facts that support the conclusion that the author wants you to reach, or if it is a less scrupulous opinion writer, may be made up entirely from whole cloth. The thing is, opinion doesn’t pretend to be news, because it isn’t. It’s an argument that you should think or feel a certain way or do something that the writer thinks you should do. For example, an opinion piece may argue “Illegal immigrants are criminals and should be deported.” This is not “fake news”, even though there are no facts to support this opinion (when you look at the underlying facts, unauthorized aliens are actually less likely to commit violent felonies than citizens are). This is a typical “call to action”, which tells you immediately that it is an opinion piece, not news.

6) Satire: The best satire exaggerates real life facts and creates deliberately implausible “facts” in order to comment upon reality. For example, The Onion’s famous “Our Long National Nightmare of Peace and Prosperity Now Over” published on January 21, 2001 pointed out that the Clinton years were peaceful and prosperous, and the Bush years likely would not be given the general Republican platform. It did this by putting words into President Bush’s mouth. However, this was not “fake news” because it was clear both from context and from multiple disclaimers that The Onion was not, in fact, positing that President Bush actually said these things. The words were put into his mouth in the service of commentary upon what was likely to happen during the Bush Administration, not as an attempt to convince people that President Bush actually said those things. That’s the difference between satire and fake news.

So I’ve seen analysis, commentary, opinion pieces, and satire repeatedly called “fake news” over the past couple of months. That’s inaccurate, incorrect, misleading, and needs to stop. Fake news is “news” that purports to be real news but is actually made up from whole cloth. It’s not analysis. It’s not commentary. It’s not opinion. It’s not satire. It’s just fake.

– Badtux the Terminology Penguin

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Click on it to embiggen it.


  1. Over 10 million Democrats stayed home compared to 2008.
  2. Donald Trump won despite having fewer votes than John McCain and Mitt Romney lost with.

Now, let’s look at that 10 million people. What this is a sign of is massive voter suppression. This voter suppression consisted of multiple things:

  1. New voter ID laws that excluded many poor or elderly from the polls
  2. Restrictions on voting hours or voting methods that precluded many people being able to get to the polls
  3. Massive voter “caging” to remove traditionally Democratic populations from the voter rolls

But those techniques are only part of the problem. They explain why Wisconsin and North Carolina went red — too many traditionally-Democratic voters were kicked off the rolls. But there’s a number of states where they can’t possibly explain why voter participation was so low.

Which brings up our next point: negative campaigns depress voter enthusiasm and voter participation. With the participation of a mainstream media more concerned with profit than principle, the Trump campaign and its surrogates in the FBI and KGB threw out fake scandal after fake scandal at Hillary Clinton. None of them “stuck”, they were all debunked with a couple of weeks which in turn depressed Trump’s numbers as the person propagating the misinformation, but Trump had a trump card: His explicit call-out to racists, xenophobes, misogynists, and all-around deplorables. McCain and Romney had run principled campaigns that rejected blatant appeals to racism. Witness McCain’s awkward interaction with the elderly lady who called Obama a nigger and said he was an evil wicked human being, McCain awkwardly said to her “no, no, he’s an honorable man and a good human being”, clearly uncomfortable with the whole notion of appeals to blatant bigotry. Trump? Trump had no such compunctions. He headed for the gutters from day one, enlisting his army of deplorables much like this:

Q: “Qualifications?”
A: “Rape, murder, arson and rape!”
Q: “You said rape twice.”
A: “I like rape.”

Trump’s bet was that he could recruit enough of these deplorables with enough bigoted language in enough swing states to overcome the fact that he was driving his own numbers down at the same time that he was driving Hillary’s numbers down. And he won that bet.

Now, where does Bernie Sanders come into this? Could Bernie have overcome this strategy?

In a word: No. Bernie had plenty of things in his own past that Trump would have hammered him on, so Bernie would not have been immune to the negative campaigning. Bernie would have gotten some die-hard Berners to show up at the polls who instead stayed home. But as a Jew from Brooklyn, a.k.a. “Hymietown” as the Rev. Jesse Jackson so politically incorrectly termed it in 1984, he would have lost the black vote. I don’t know why black people hate Jews — it makes no sense, given the massive help that young Jewish intellectuals were to the civil rights movement — but they do. I taught at several black schools in two different states, and that was true in all of them.

In other words, Bernie would have ended up in the same position as Hillary — his numbers hammered down, able to make up some of those numbers with fervent Berners but losing numbers as blacks stayed home. The reality is that Donald Trump hit upon a brilliant strategy, whether by accident or on purpose, and the Democrats didn’t have any clue as to how to counter it. Hillary tried to run a positive campaign. She tried to focus on issues of importance to America. But the constant rain of flying monkey poop from the Trump campaign and its surrogates obstructed anything positive she tried to do so badly that you would have needed a shovel to see it.

Could Bernie have won if he’d started four years ago, like Hillary, and built a machine and a message? Maybe. But that’s one of those contrafactuals whose answer we’ll never know. In the end, he didn’t. And that’s the end of the story.

– Badtux the Numbers Penguin

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The Arizona Republic and its staff have received death threats and threats of violence after their rejection of Donald Trump as worthy of being President.

Go read it. It’s pretty sickening. This is how un-American the Trumpistas really are. They have no — zero — respect for the 1st Amendment right of freedom of the press. They issue threats of violence whenever anybody uses the right of freedom of the press to contradict their cherished beliefs. They threaten to blow up Arizona Republic reporters and assassinate its editor and publisher.

These Trumpistas are fundamentally deplorable.


That is all.

– Badtux the Deplorables-spottin’ Penguin

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