Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Did Rudy Giuliani's most destructive act take place in 1996?

We hear a lot in recent days about Rudy Giuliani's acts in the end stages of Donald Trump's political career, from his activity in Ukraine that helped lead to Trump's impeachment to his current inept attempts to throw out hundreds of thousands of Democratic votes as Trump refuses to accept his overwhelming loss (in the Electoral College as well as the popular vote) to President-Elect Joe Biden.

But what I've been thinking about today is the action of Mayor Giuliani's that may have done as much as any other to lead Trump to the White House in the first place.

In 1996, the Fox News Channel was started by Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes, with its main studio in New York. However, it was not immediately available in any major television markets, including New York City. There was no internet method of getting video news in 1996, so Fox News was even more invisible than Trump's current favorite online right-wing channel, OANN, to the vast majority of Americans. The only cable provider in NYC was Time Warner, and they said they had a waiting list of 30 other cable stations vying for space and they didn't have room for a nascent cable news channel from the Australian owner of the New York Post.

"It began with a phone call to Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani on Sept. 20 [1996], an entreaty that would soon mire City Hall in a feud between two media conglomerates. On the line was an old friend of the Mayor, Roger Ailes, a former Republican political consultant who is now chairman of the 24-hour news channel started by Rupert Murdoch." --New York Times, November 4, 1996

It could be just that Ailes was an old friend, or that Rudy's second wife, Donna Hanover, was then working at Murdoch's local station, WNYW-5, or that Rudy saw Fox as a national stage for his own presidential ambitions, or that he was unselfishly trying to save a few hundred NYC media jobs for a fledgling cable station, but the fact remains that he went to bat -- hard -- to get Fox News on New York's only cable provider, engaging much of the mayor's office and staff to do so, and he was ultimately successful. 

On a personal level, this has stuck in my head (and craw) because in the same year, 1996, Rudy sold the television station I watched most regularly, the city's PBS station WNYC-31, to a private buyer who immediately stopped showing BBC & PBS programming (he also sold my favorite radio station, WNYC-FM and AM, but those airwaves were bought by a foundation that kept the call letters and they have remained the city's main outlets for National Public Radio content.)

We'll never know if the struggling brainchild of Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes would have survived its infancy if it hadn't been able to move into the New York cable market, but maybe more importantly, we'll never know if tri-state real-estate con man Donald Trump would have become PRESIDENT DONALD J. TRUMP without the Trump/Fox feedback loop that created his political "philosophy" and gave him a similarly-brainwashed audience for his political ambitions. Even though Trump had shown some of his political leanings publicly as early as 1989 when he lobbied heavily for the killing of the (innocent) Central Park Five, he was mainly a tabloid punchline for his marriages and affairs and bankruptcies and real-estate battle with Leona Helmsley; it's hard to imagine Trump becoming TRUMP without Fox News. It's hard to imagine now, but there was a real possibility that Fox News never would have appeared on the television screens in the Trump Tower penthouse without the heavy-handed intervention of Mayor Rudy Giuliani. It may be one of Rudy's greatest crimes.

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Start learning German while you maintain social distancing this winter...

...so that you can enjoy the best COVID-19 videos; both of these new videos are from the German government: 

You can understand the story of these exceptional heroes of the winter of 2020 without English subtitles, can't you?

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Ex-President [Expletive Deleted]


From September 15, 1973...

Mike Stivic:
Watergate. Watergate. Watergate. Watergate. Watergate. Watergate. Watergate. Watergate. Watergate. Watergate!
Archie Bunker:
Don't say that no more, GODDAMN IT!
Edith Bunker:
You shouldn't swear like that.
Mike Stivic:
You shouldn't swear like that, Arch.
Edith Bunker:
Ever since this Watergate thing, it's GD this and GD that.
Archie Bunker:
That ain't swearing, Edith, GD. The first word there is God. How can that be a swear word? The most popular word in the Bible. The second word, that's damn, that's a perfectly good word, you hear that all the time, like they dammed the river to keep it from flooding, see? And even in the Bible you read where some guy is damned for cheating or stealing or having "insex" in the family. And who damned him? Who else? God. God damned him. Edith, beautiful words right out of the Holy Book. Don't show your ignorance!

The setting of linguistic standards for broadcast radio and television is a very fluid matter, and it runs in both directions - toward and away from absolute freedom of speech. In my high-school years, All in the Family pushed a lot of limits, using slang descriptions of ethnic groups and sexual orientations in the early 1970s that would be taboo on the air or in polite company in 2020. Their broadcast use of  the relatively mild expletive "Goddamn It!" also expanded freedom of televised speech in 1973, and even appended Archie's defense of the everyday expression of disapproval or exasperation. Slightly earlier, its use on the radio with the Grateful Dead's 1970 "Uncle John's Band" also broke broadcast barriers ("God damn well I declare | have you seen the like? | their walls are built of cannon balls | their motto is 'don't tread on me'" [a prophecy of the Tea Party?]) Now, however, because every mention of the words "God" and "damn" in combination will invoke the knee-jerk wrath of self-proclaimed guardians of American Fundamentalist Christianism, the networks have turned into cowards. As quoted in this NPR article "Bleeping Out Words" from 2009, the Standards & Practices department of All in the Family's old network CBS replied via email: "No gd on cbs." NBC also told NPR "As a general rule, we would not permit 'GD' to be used on our air. We would bleep one or the other...usually the first word." All of this network cowardice, despite the fact that the FCC does not consider "God damn" or its variants to be legally profane.

This is all to show that definitions of profanity change, so there is no reason that the "T-word" -- the family name of the person who is currently squatting in the White House for 70 more days -- should be heard on America's airwaves anymore. It can easily become the eighth word to join the Seven Words You Can't Say on TV, and I can stop using it here on my blog even though it's been used in almost every single post since 2015. Standards can change. The euphemisms You-Know-Who, or Mango Mussolini, or Adolf Twitler, or Cheeto Jesus, or Orange Julius Caesar, or Cadet Bone Spurs, or Putin's Puppet, or Putin's Puppy, or Short-Fingered Vulgarian, or Sore Loserman, or Diaper Don, or The Whiner In Chief, or Bunker Boy, or Trumpelthinskin, or The Groper In Chief, or The Dick Tater, or The ImPOTUS, or Tangerine Trash-Can Fire, or Lame Duck à l'Orange, or... , can all be used in place of the T-word without losing any meaning, or causing any confusion about the subject of one's sentence.

Monday, November 02, 2020

True Blue Liberal Poll: When Will We Know The Winner?


What America's Voting System(s) Look Like From Abroad.

 The New York Times showed some details of the archaic United States voting system(s) to residents of some of the worlds newer and less baroque (or broken?) voting systems.

Here's the resulting video:

"When we showed voters from around the world what American elections are like in practice, they weren’t impressed. But they were impressed with our resilience and determination. So, while the world’s 'oldest democracy' may be a bit creaky these days, let’s be clear: Go vote! That’s really the best way to make a change."