Category Archives: Media

HBO movie goes “All the way”

Political junkies take note.

If you subscribe to HBO in any form, or can beg or borrow access from a friend, be sure to watch the HBO movie, “All the way.”

It’s a movie adaptation of Seattle playwright Robert Schenkkan’s stage play which follows Lyndon Baines Johnson through the intense period from the beginning of his presidency in November 1963 through the 1964 election, where “All the way with LBJ” was the Democratic candidate’s campaign theme.

Count me on the side of critics who called Bryan Cranston’s depiction of LBJ “mesmerizing.”

We stumbled on the movie by accident a few nights ago while looking for something to watch, and were unaware of all the press attention it received following its debut earlier this year.

If you lived through those years back in the 1960s, it’s powerful and disturbing. If you’re way too young for that, it’s a pretty close-to-real-life look behind the scenes of hardball politics.

“Politics is war by other means,” LBJ muses at one point. Then he quickly circles back. “Politics is war.” Period.

I’ve read several of the books about LBJ, including a couple of valumes of Robert Caro’s intimate portrait of the man and his career, and collections of the secret White House tapes compiled by historian Michael Beschloss. I thought “All the way” captured much of what’s there in the historical record, and made it very human.

Johnson was being hit by competing political forces on all sides, the growing civil rights movement, the overt racism of the formerly solid Democratic South, a conservative challenge by GOP candidate Barry Goldwater, a deteriorating political and situation in Southeast Asia. We watch as he alternatively cajoles, bluffs, arm twists, horse trades, and outright bullies those who stand in his way, resorting to temper tantrums where necessary.

And there were great performances by those playing the other characters, from FBI director J. Edgar Hoover to Minnesota’s Hubert Humphrey and Georgia’s Richard Russell.

Good entertainment and engrossing history at the same time.

Monday miscellany

I decided to start the week by checking out a few blogs that I haven’t visited for a while. Oooh, there’s lots of good stuff out there waiting to be seen.

Horsesass.org is based in Washington State and has a caustic view of the state’s politics and, by extension, the national scene.

Check out its Friday Night Multimedia Extravaganza!, featuring links to a wide variety of items.

Buried down the list is this one: Democratic National Convention–A bad lip reading. Lots of fun here!

I then wandered over to Seattle-based Crosscut.com, which bills itself as “news of the great nearby.”

Several of the current stories sound very similar.

Examples:

Why huge cost overruns are so common in Seattle.”

Homeless in Seattle: The roots of a crisis.

As Seattle booms, we’re trashing our history.

Finally, I stopped by Crooks And Liars. Always interesting.

For example, here’s one featured story: “Memo To News Media: Consumers Crave Truth, Not Balance.”

Here’s an excerpt:

Our most popular clips and posts are not ones where we simply highlight and correct lies people tell on television. Those gain attention for sure, but they’re not the ones that people talk about, share, and appreciate.

Our most popular clips are the ones where the host or journalist takes on the lie head-on. Like when CNN’s Brianna Keilar refused to allow Trump surrogate and lawyer Michael Cohen bully her.

CNN reporter Kate Bolduan’s emotional report on the Syrian boy, Omran, whose family home was devastated by bombs was a moment of truth we all needed to see.

MSNBC’s Joy-Ann Reid had several moments this week. The video at the top where she told the Trump pastor he couldn’t come on her show and lie was a great one. Or when Trump surrogate Steve Cortes found out she doesn’t suffer fools lightly, as did Jack Kingston on Friday. Earlier last week, she also let Cortes have it for whining about “liberal media.”

Anyway, it’s a good way to start a week!

Thanks for sharing a graceful saga

A special shout-out to Jennifer and Ryan Ozawa, who are once again breaking new ground by sharing Jenn’s experience with a recurrence of breast cancer.

Four years ago, they created Jen’s Cancer Blog. It not only documented her fight with the disease, but gathered links to useful resources to assist others.

Earlier this month, after a long hiatus, a new post appeared.

“Season 2, Episode 1.”

The first time, cancer was scary because we had no idea what was coming. This time, it’s scary because we do.

Somehow, while coping with the cancer news, this amazing couple launched a daughter into a college career at UH Hilo, which Ryan somehow found time to write eloquently about in an essay posted to Medium.com.

Thanks to you both for sharing your story and your strength.

Cancer is becoming an all too familiar presence in our family these days as well, and your poise in facing the future is hopefully contagious.

Media watchdog questions Syria reporting

The media watchdog group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) featured an interesting article last week which dug into reporting on the breakdown of the ceasefire in Syria brokered by the U.S. and Russia in early 2016 (“How Media Distorted Syrian Ceasefire’s Breakdown“).

The long report by longtime investigative reporter and national security policy analyst, Gareth Porter, dings the media for “forgetting” the chain of events that led to the breakdown of the ceasefire.

And he further criticized news coverage for viewing the ceasefire primarily as an issue in the global rivalry between the U.S. and Russia rather than for its impact on the people living in the Syrian war zone.

Porter argues the ceasefire was undermined when so-called “moderate” rebels supported by the CIA joined in a military offensive in concert with the fighters from the Al Nusra Front, which he refers to as “the Al Qaeda franchise in Syria.”

The ceasefire, or “partial cessation of hostilities,” covered the Assad government and the moderate, non-jihadist armed groups. But it explicitly excluded the conflict between Assad and both Al Nusra and ISIS.

It was expected to prompt the so-called “moderate” groups to distance themselves from ISIS and Al Nusra.

Porter wrote:

But instead of separating themselves from Nusra Front, the US-supported armed opposition joined with Nusra and its jihadist allies in a major offensive aimed at destroying the ceasefire. Charles Lister, a leading British specialist on the jihadists in Syria, has recounted being told by the commander of a US-backed armed group that around March 20, Nusra officials began a round of meetings with non-jihadist opposition groups from Hama, Latakia and southern Aleppo—including those supported by the United States—to persuade them to participate in a major offensive against the Assad regime, rather than in a ceasefire and political negotiations.

But most mainstream reporting that followed ignored the rebels joint military offensive and implied that it was the Assad government and its Russian backers who were responsible for the collapse of the ceasefire and the new round of open warfare.

In any case, it is a very interesting read.

And an important one, given the central role that the Syrian conflict now plays in both the reemerging cold war between the U.S. and Russia, and the refugee diaspora that now threatens Europe in many different ways.

This week in journalism news

The week started with John Oliver’s riff on the status of newspapers and journalism, which became an instant favorite among those with experience in the industry.

It is definitely worth watching, all the way through the whole 20 minutes. If you haven’t seen this yet, trust me. You won’t be sorry.

About the same time, we heard about layoffs at Oahu Publications, which owns the Star-Advertiser and MidWeek (as well as newspapers on Kauai and the Big Island). The reason given–the major cuts in print inserts by major retail chains like Macy’s.

And we probably haven’t seen the last of those advertising cuts, with this week’s announcement that Macy’s will be closing 100 of its stores, about 15% of the total.

And how about the longer term prospects? A recent NY Times story about Amazon’s future suggests a possible fundamental challenge to retail stores and, in turn, the newspapers that still rely on their advertising dollars.

Amazon, according to the NYT story, is farther along in its planning for use of delivery drones that has been previously assumed.

If Amazon’s drone program succeeds (and Amazon says it is well on track), it could fundamentally alter the company’s cost structure. A decade from now, drones would reduce the unit cost of each Amazon delivery by about half, analysts at Deutsche Bank projected in a recent research report. If that happens, the economic threat to competitors would be punishing — “retail stores would cease to exist,” Deutsche’s analysts suggested, and we would live in a world more like that of “The Jetsons” than our own.

Will retail stores drag the remnants of the newspaper industry down with them?

Perhaps they’ll also have to resort to Feline Friday’s to attract new readers!