Journalism? General Education, That is the Problem

A comment on Robert Reich's status went a bit long;
Trump is a manifestation of poor education in the US exacting its price on the US and the world.  The chickens have come home to roost. The wide-spread, wrong-headed notion that a strong leader is the way to get the change you want in a complex system, has manifested in the personages of Trump and Sanders, the demagogic "outsiders" who are believed by the uninformed to be capable of effecting change on a system by themselves.

While Sanders elected alone would fail just as Obama failed to live up to the dreams of the people who voted for him in 2008, Trump is quite capable of wrecking the system all by himself if he is elected. 

It is much easier to destroy than it is to create. 

At this point in this one election all that is left is to hope for is that the Democrats can pull out a win.  It would be nice to think that they could gain a sweeping victory that would bring in enough progressives to alter the system in a positive way.  Hand the Republicans such a crushing defeat that they are forced to re-invent themselves into a opposition party that doesn't deny science and embrace religion as its starting point.  The Bernie or busters are going to make that possibility as remote as they can, unfortunately.

The Bernie or busters are not interested in reforming the system any more than the Tea Party Trump supporters are.  They want to re-invent it, which is just one step more than simply destroying it.  They tell themselves they'll be happy with a Trump presidency because at least the status quo will end.  Both the Trump supporters and the Bernie or busters don't really understand the kind of misery bringing down the US system will create.  I'm becoming afraid we might just find out how deep that well of misery is.

The fix for this is so much more than just reporting.  Just being able to predict what the population will go for in an election. That is not even scratching the surface of the problem. First you have to educate the voting public on just how blind this faith in a strong leader is.  The journalists who inform us on politics cannot be held responsible for the failure of the education system in the US to actually educate the population to the dangers of dictatorship.  As college educated people they of course discarded the idea that the average American would fall prey to a demagogue like Trump.  It's obvious he's lying and has no clue what he's talking about.  Why would anyone take this orange hate-monkey seriously?

...Unless of course you believe that a strong leader is what we need, in spite of the obvious fact that a system as complex as the US government cannot possibly be run by one person. Then all bets are off and the people who want a guy who pretends to have all the answers have control of the mechanisms of statecraft through the selection of the next head of state.

We've been so busy propping up dictators in other countries that we've forgotten we might be subject to one ourselves.  That fate is now just the flip of a coin away. 

US Politics Fix; Starting the Process

From Robert Reich's Facebook Feed
This will probably turn into a page of its own at some point, a book-length outline of the problems and processes that have to be reformed, and the obstacles in the way of average Americans retaking control of their government from the political bosses, corporate sponsors, and wealthy contributors who currently control it.

We have to start somewhere, so let's start at the beginning.

A bright, fresh-faced teenager sees the problems in the world, the calcified systems in the US that seem incapable of dealing with these problems and asks himself/herself
"how do I get involved in this? How do I change this?" 
The answer to that question is related to current events, and the image at right.

In the midst of a sideshow barker taking over the Republican primary process on the one hand, and a proud Socialist trying to pull the Democratic primary onto liberal ground it hasn't seen since the 1970's, I find myself without a group I feel can align with once again.

I left the Libertarian Party due to their inability to separate their ideological dedication to anarchism from the goal of actually winning the democratic election process.

Now I'm wondering just what the rest of the American populace is smoking, not just the libertarians, because it must be some good shit for everyone to be so clueless all of a sudden.

I really can't make heads or tails of the purpose of all of this noise. I'm once again reminded of the Babylon 5 episode with Drazi killing Drazi over what color sashes they randomly select.  What I can say for certain is that Americans in general are dissatisfied with the political process as we've come to know it.  I can say that because the only reason that two outsiders could dominate the early potential candidate fields in polling is because Americans don't like either of the two parties.

So what about third parties? is the question now being asked.  That would be backtracking for me.  I'm a veteran of the failed political process that is third party attempts at wresting control from the two major factions. For more than a decade I worked in the trenches, canvassing, promoting, representing the Libertarian Party in Texas in the best light that I could generate for it. I was never very important to the party (as I'm sure local activists will be quick to point out) but it was important to me, until it wasn't anymore.

It wasn't anymore because it became clear to me that;
  1.  The majority of the U.S. population was never going to embrace anarchism and/or smaller government than currently exists and 
  2. Majority is what determines the leaders in a democratic process.  Finally 
  3. I was no longer personally convinced that the U.S. actually suffers from too much government. 
What the U.S. suffers from is ineffective and inefficient governance. Looking at the circus acts currently playing, one might well wonder if that wasn't the purpose from the beginning.  Harry Brown said government doesn't work long before Ronald Reagan said it.  Both of them are incorrect, because government works in other nations. It is just that the US government seems doomed to drown in a puddle of its own inefficiencies unless something fundamental to the process is changed.

There have always been third parties. There are several third parties right now. The system is rigged to only allow two parties to have any real power. Has been rigged since the Republicans rose to national prominence with the dissolution of the Whigs in 1854 over the question of slavery. This is the point that seems to be glossed over. It isn't that I don't care about third party politics. The system itself isn't setup to recognize minority parties in any real way.  It has been codified and calcified over the course of 200 years to the point where, in certain states, it is all but illegal to be a member of any party aside from the Democrats and Republicans.  Third parties, minority parties, minority factions cannot alter the system because it is insulated from their efforts by layers of interference.

And still the question appears "how can anyone vote Democratic or Republican?" The answer is demonstrable; we vote for them because one of the two of them will win. One of the two of them will win because in the vast majority of races throughout history the political system in the US has been controlled by one of two dominant parties in the US.

Whoever the Libertarians nominate (or the Greens nominate) will lose again as they have in every previous election. They will lose because they aren't Republicans or Democrats; which the rules at the national level and at the state level virtually guarantee will win all electoral races especially the president.

Running for President as a third party is a waste of time, worse it is a waste of resources which could be used to fund campaigns to change rules so that candidates who aren't part of a party structure can compete. What we get from that investment of time and money is the exact same argument over and over again. Why are you voting for Democrats and Republicans?

First admit that there is a problem and that problem is the electoral rules themselves. Then fix that problem before doing anything else.

Go read Ballot Access News, edited by the magnificent Richard Winger. Top of the page today is a notification that a majority of seats in a particular state are unopposed. Tomorrow it will be a different state. Unopposed means the incumbent will be re-elected. It means no change. It means that the system will remain unaltered.  Why are the seats being handed to the incumbent?  Because ballot access is gated by a huge hurdle in nearly every state.  If the hurdle (be it signatures or party requirements) is topped, the next legislature will simply raise the bar for the next election.

The never asked question is why do Americans insist that voting by itself constitutes meaningful involvement in government? Voting is actually the very least we should be doing if we hope to ever live up to the promise of self-government. Why is the least we can possibly do that constitutes doing something considered active involvement in the political system?

If you concede that voting is not enough, and you should, then the question becomes how to make effective change in our government without reinventing it? The answer to that question is to co-opt an existing party and make it do what we want it to do.

This really isn't news.  The religious right took over the Libertarian Party with Ron Paul as their nominee in 1980, and then shifted their support to Reagan and their membership to the Republican Party when Reagan invited them to move in and take over the GOP.  The religious right have been the motivating force behind party politics ever since, and were effective at getting their way politically until the election of Barak Obama in 2008.

Even the current President has been forced to cater to the whims of the religious right, modifying many of his programs specifically to accommodate demands made by them.

This lays bare the how of how to change politics for all to see.  Simply have enough agreement among the population who vote to effect change at the city, state, and national level.  But that agreement is the hard part, the part that requires attention long before you go into booth and cast your ballot.

Political veterans will tell you, it takes work. Years of work.  Which is how we got where we are today, people who went into politics with a clear vision of what they wanted to achieve have been co-opted and subverted by the process of hammering out agreement after agreement in decades of struggle with people who think differently.

Eventually you end up voting for a candidate that you really don't agree with on any specific issue, but remains the best choice given the compromises required, hopefully not loosing sight of your overall goal in the process.  Not being able to see the forest because of all the trees.

Hillary Clinton is probably going to be that candidate for me. If you read back over this blog you'll discover that I first abandoned the Libertarian Party to support Barak Obama so that he would be President instead of Hillary.  In 2016 I would vote for Hillary Clinton with almost no reservations.

I will be voting for whoever the Democratic party nominates in this election. I will be voting for the Democrat, because the Republican party has apparently gone over to the magical thinkers, and I don't believe in magic.  The entirety of the Republican Party has been dispatched on a fool's errand by the Tea Party's co-option. Until they can figure out who they are and what they stand for, I don't have the time of day for the party as a whole.  If they were to nominate someone like Governor Kasich I might have to revise my opinion of them, but I don't see much chance of that, of Republicans being willing to compromise enough to embrace a man who supports the ACA.

I vote down ballot based on candidate qualities alone, discarding anyone who pretends at being the better conservative. These candidates generally win in Texas (because conservative=correct in the mind of the average Texas voter) outside of Austin, but you can't fix any stupid aside from your own. In Austin the down ballot offices (state senate and legislature) are held by Democratic incumbents, usually running opposed only by independent candidates. The independents almost always get my vote, because I want to see change and you won't get change from an incumbent.

But I'm still talking about voting, the last thing on the list.

The only way to change the system is to infiltrate the two parties and alter them from the inside, thereby altering the system they control. It has to start with ending gerrymandering and real campaign finance reform.  Opening up ballot access and ending party control of the ballots in every state in the nation. Not doing this will simply kick the can forward again. That is the forest that we must keep in sight, the big picture. Gerrymandering must be ended across the entire nation. Districts must be drawn blindly with no consideration of the political, racial or social strata that the people in the districts represent. Campaign finance must be addressed, or the corruption of our electoral process by the wealthy will continue in spite of any other change we might put in place.

Changing any of these fundamental corruptions of the system will take a long, hard effort. It will require canvasing of your local precincts to get a feel for who supports or doesn't support these changes. It will take joining the local precinct and becoming involved, and bringing enough people along with you to alter the votes at the precinct level. It will take making sure that county gatherings and state conventions also support these measures.

Faction is why these rules, this corruption, has taken hold.  Madison was correct when he cited faction as one of the biggest threats to the Republic.  The Democrats are a faction. The Republicans are a faction. Third parties are all factions.  Faction leads generally sane people to do insane things like drawing districts to favor your party (gerrymandering) allowing contributions that favor your party over your opponent (campaign finance) never taking into account that the practices you use to force the system to cater to your faction can be used to exclude your faction when power is finally wrested from you.

...and it will be.

Fucking as in "Bucky Fucking Dent"

Watch this clip from The Late Show interview with David Duchovny promoting his new book Bucky Fucking Dent.



Given that the last show I noticed him on was titled Californication, the f-bombs don't surprise me. What does surprise me is that 40+ years after George Carlin's 7 deadly words we are still bleeping expletives on television.

This segment of the show put the censors to the test, though.  I haven't bothered to count the number, but it very nearly was one long bleep from beginning to end as Stephen joked it would be.

Which is a sad observation on the state of intellect in the US today.

I even googled fucking as Stephen suggested (in an incognito window, of course) and discovered that the closest thing to actual fucking on the top of the list was a wikipedia entry for Fucking, Austria. Not one image in the top third of the image search page featured intercourse.  So googling the word actually will not enlighten you as to the meaning of the word in the way googling other english words will.  Try googling any word other than that one. Even other members of the seven deadlies list.

Seriously, America.  Can we just grow up and admit that sex and course language exists?

April Fool's Day

It is April the first in case most of you haven't checked your calendars. That is April Fool's Day in the US.  I despise April Fool's Day. It's the only day of the year trusted sources go out of their way to pull your leg; and as many good comics have noted, the amateurs are never as good as professionals when it comes to telling jokes. Consequently most of the attempts at humor are merely attempts, and the ones that are convincing simply confuse the stupid for years to come when the humor of the moment is long gone.

I was lucky this year.  The first prank I came across was concocted between Berkeley Breathed and Bill Watterson showing an aged Mr. Watterson happily signing the rights to Calvin and Hobbes over to Mr. Breathed. Given the political year we are having right now, I don't even think this development is beyond possibility.  Comic artists.  They never stop having fun, do they?

I'm taking my lucky break and running with it.  Count me out for the rest of the day.  I will be hiding in my living room with the lights down low, the wifi turned off and the router unplugged, watching reruns of Gilligan's Island like Opus has been for awhile now.  Somebody slide a note under the door when it is April the second so that I will know it is safe to pay attention again?  I'd really appreciate it.



As I was driving and listening to my usual podcasts later that day I nearly crashed the truck yelling "bullshit!" at the news that the EU was banning CO2 from all sodas and champagne in an effort to reduce global warming.  Even away from Facebook and the internet I could not escape the japes.

Then there was the news that April Fools day inspires the usually complacent to check the veracity of the news on April first before just believing it.  Frankly I doubt that is true.  I've seen far too many people believing ridiculous things lately, even on April first.  Pretty sure that one was an April Fool's joke.

In the end I've be forced to the conclusion that I will have to embrace April Fool's day.  The Chinese government issued a warning that jokes on April the first would not be tolerated because;
“'April Fools' Day' is not consistent with our cultural tradition, or socialist core values,” state news agency Xinhua announced on social media Friday. “Hope nobody believes in rumors, makes rumors or spreads rumors.”
It is actually against the law to tell falsehoods in public in China.  Literally no jokes allowed. While I loath misinformation myself, anything that pisses the Chinese government off is something we should probably have more of right now.  So pass me those paper fish and some tape. I have some April Fish to fry.

Rites of Spring

A few years back on Facebook, I posted the image at right to The Wife's wall.  Silly me, I was thinking I could entice the woman I love into engaging in some Rites of Spring when I posted it.

I posted it on Easter because Easter is the celebration that corresponds most closely with the Vernal Equinox, the real demarcation of the beginning of spring.  It is the original spring festival, unlike the Hallmark created holiday of Valentine's day which is as like a real celebration of spring as porn is a representation of sex.

It is a testament to the sexual repression in the US that there isn't even a wiki page on the subject of Rites of Spring that isn't about music. Another testament is the fact that I can't even say exactly when I posted the image to The Wife's Facebook wall, because the image is consistently removed as offensive every time it is posted there.

I am sorry that the fact that spring is the time of rebirth, of fertility and sex, gets in the way of a deathcult-like obsession with afterlives and resurrection that is found within the various flavors of the christian religion when it comes to their spring celebration. That the sexual repression that Paul introduced into the church from it's earliest days has seized hold of the majority of the religion's followers in the US, causing them to reject all things sexual as anti-christian. Jesus was not a sexist, saw no need to place women in an inferior role in the world.

There is also a hemispherical bias here. I've often wondered what an Australian would think of the hubbub common in the Northern hemisphere surrounding this issue. Easter is in the fall in the Southern hemisphere; consequently the death-cultish air that bothers me about Easter probably is a nice foreshadowing of the oncoming winter when viewed from South of the equator; a preparation for the dying off of plant life, the hibernation of animal life, with a spring resurrection waiting at the other end of winter.

I originally titled this piece Easter-Ishtar-Astarte. How about Tammuz? Because I wanted to push back at the near-hysterical responses I got from offended christians on Facebook. The offense has since spread all across the internet, with rebuttals on nearly any christian site you care to look at (no I won't link any of them) most of them rather petty in tone.  Also, most of them cherry-pick history to prove their points, largely relying on Bede and Herodotus who give the preferred twist to the pagan spring rituals that pre-date christianity.

The facts are much harder to tease out than those people who simply want to prove their worldview make them. 

For example. The article at Scientific American on the subject of this meme also cites the Germanic deity Eostre as the basis of the word Easter.  However, the sole source of this proposition remains Bede. In the end, the need to prove that Easter is or isn't some phonetic variation on Ishtar is pointless and petty, a hallmark of the vast majority of Facebook content. As one of the commenters to the SA article pointed out;
Actually, there is a connection between Oestre and Ishtar. Ishtar is associated with Venus, which is often referred to as the morning star, or light-bringer with its association with Lucifer (lucis = light). Venus is the planet of love and marriage traditionally. 
There are Babylonian egg myths too featuring Ishtar being hatched, and the mystic egg falling from heaven to the Euphrates. These same myths are recycled from their Egyptian/Babylonian origins and do seem to be connected to the old pagan rites. 
The mythology of Astarte (Greek) and Ashtoreth (Jewish) seems very similar too. Everything seems to have a common origin. (emphasis added)
The rest of the meme is even more questionable than the assertion that Easter and Ishtar are one and the same. Further down in the SA article is the observation;
The cosmic egg, according to the Vedic writings, has a spirit living within it which will be born, die, and be born yet again. Certain versions of the complicated Hindu mythology describe Prajapati as forming the egg and then appearing out of it himself. Brahma does likewise, and we find parallels in the ancient legends of Thoth and Ra. Egyptian pictures of Osiris, the resurrected corn god, show him returning to life once again rising up from the shell of a broken egg. The ancient legend of the Phoenix is similar. This beautiful mythical bird was said to live for hundreds of years. When its full span of life was completed it died in flames, rising again in a new form from the egg it had laid (4).
Eggs appear to be central to almost all of the spring rites and creation stories.  They lend themselves quite handily to the theme of new life arising from an apparently inanimate object. There is no specific linkage between Ishtar and eggs that I could lay hands on; but then there doesn't need to be, since the egg is all over the various mythologies of the day as being the beginning of life.

The hardest facet of current Easter practices to track down is the Easter Bunny. Theories abound, and I even have some thoughts of my own on the subject as relating to the Wolpertinger and the Jackalope, both icons of Germanic influence in the US.

The rabbit's springtime mating antics do bring me back to the point I started with. Like so many things human, the trappings of tradition cloud the purpose of the celebration.

Courtesy Berlin Art Parasites

The Rites of Spring from a human standpoint are necessarily sexual. That is how we renew the species, creating children who go on to make the future of the human animal a reality. Nearly all of the celebrations of spring outside of the deviancy of of the christian religion are sexual in nature, as they should be.

If you want an example of this, wander through the galleries of ancient temples dedicated to the subject.  Read about the fertility rites that are still practiced in Asia. These are not perversions any more than christianity's sexless renewal celebration is a perversion of nature as well.

The US is demonstrably repressive, when it comes to the subject of sex.  Demonstrably repressive, and at the same time unhealthily obsessed with meaningless sex in the form of pornography.  Pornography which can be found all over the place in spite of the almost reflexive repression present everywhere in the US that isn't the internet. Or San Francisco.

Pornography is not really sex, in the same way that film is not real life. The proverbial money shot, a hallmark of pornography, defeats the entire purpose of the sex act. If the male's bodily fluids aren't left inside the female body, what is occurring is no more meaningful than a daily walk in the park. A session of weight lifting. Swimming a few laps. It is exercise; and in the case of pornography, exercise engaged in for the purpose of display and nothing else; or as Robin Williams once famously quipped "an industrial film covered in fur".

Sex is a joyous celebration of life. It is central to the human experience. No adult life is complete that doesn't include some form of sexual interaction with a willing partner on a regular basis. Good health requires this, and I consider it a travesty in the US that we cannot come to grips with the existence of sex all around us, all the time.

Much less be unable to declare that the Rites of Spring should be founded around sex.

I think I have a solution to the problem, at least from my non-believing perspective. I'm simply going to stop marking the holiday as celebrated by the majority of the christian world. Starting this year, the Vernal Equinox will be my Spring holiday.  I'm done with the vagaries of christian Easter, aside from the chocolate, of course. Dopamine rewards being what they are, I'll take them where I can get them.


Brain Fog

Three days ago I looked at the front page of this blog.  Who Gives a Shit About Iowa? Have I not written anything since then? WTF?

I've had several interesting conversations since writing that piece. I've had two or three good ideas (one of which will be applied to the next chapter of EPHN if I ever get around to completing the one I'm working on) None of the stuff I come up with gets beyond notes phase. None of it gets beyond notes phase because essentially, I have no brain. The problem I'm having is one of the symptoms of Meniere's, one that half the medical community says isn't real. Those of us who have Meniere's know differently. We call it brain fog.  I'm struggling with it right now, so please bear with me.

I'm trying to write today even though I have trouble forming basic thoughts because this is yet another part of the disease that plagues my every moment, and I don't really bother to talk about it to anyone outside the wife, the daughter and the son.

Brain fog.  It's like the insides of my head are full of cotton wool. Like the frontal lobes of my brain (had to look that up, sadly) have electrical current running through them, and conscious thought is elusive. Just beyond reach.  Most frequently brought on by vertigo attacks, it can show up without notice any time the pressure in the ears change, the tinnitus changes, the headaches start or stop. You name it. I think I had a vertigo attack while sleeping last night because I went to bed early and dizzy. I woke up the drooling genius searching for keys on his keyboard that I am now.

When I woke up seven hours ago I thought about writing this piece.  Clever ideas about what to say, ideas about how to express myself floated in one side of my head and out the other.  They are lost to me now.  I keep hearing the voice of the antagonist from Spock's Brain "I put the teacher on my head" a frequent joke around the house when one of us is forgetful.



But it really isn't a joke when I feel this way.  Ah, to have access to a device that would put the knowledge back in my head. To restore the mental acuity that I usually take for granted but is so lacking now (took a full 30 seconds to come up with the word acuity) I'm torn between stomping my feet in mock anger "brain, brain what is brain?" or just going with the flow and embracing the silence.



The above is another inside joke around this house, as frequently referenced as Spock's Brain.  At least Earth Girls are Easy was meant to be funny. If only I was blond and female I could make vapid work for me.  Guys without brains or muscle aren't of much use.  The Wife is blond and generally smarter than me when I'm like this. Some would tell you she is always smarter.  Can't argue with that right now.

So I'm going back to my marathon of Better Call Saul. Been meaning to watch that anyway and it is complex enough that I actually have to watch it or I'll miss something, unlike most television. Finished the Expanse yesterday and there won't be new Walking Dead till Sunday.  I'll find something else to watch when I finish that. Hopefully this fog will pass soon and I'll have something more substantive to say.

(This post subject to edit or deletion when the brain returns. Come back soon, brain)


Who Gives a Shit About Iowa Anyway?

So the news is engaged in a full court press today, bound and determined to prove that their horserace really is a race and they really aren't blowing smoke up our collective asses.  I'm doing my best to avoid this mess today, not listening to the news in a complete reversal of my normal patterns for daily life.

It is Monday though and Monday is Freethought Radio day (as well as Point of Inquiry day lately) so I have been listening to my regular podcasts (and BBC news) and Freethought Radio had an interesting interview with Justin Scott who has been doing some brave work in Iowa, going around asking questions of presidential candidates at various meetings attempting to call attention to the slights being offered to minority groups in the US when it comes to the subject of faith.

I wanted to highlight the bigotry by omission of candidates for government office; candidates who go around touting their religion prominently.  This importance placed on their beliefs in the supernatural leaves me wondering openly if they understand how those who believe differently feel when they stress how important their religion is to them. How important they think their religion is to good governance in the US.

The problem for me is, neither Justin Scott nor FFRF seem to be interested in producing content to be consumed directly on the internet and only on the internet.  FFRF's near cluelessness when it comes to web programming is what lead me to attempt to catalog all their episodes several years ago, a project that I finally had to give up when I realized that I wasn't willing to volunteer my effort on the project indefinitely.

First off, the videos of his interviews are not where he said they were; they are on his personal youtube channel which I finally located here. This is a playlist of all the interviews to date;




FFRF's link resolves on Facebook to look like this;


The youtube link conveys about the same level of information.  Therefore it falls to me to write something that I can share even though, as the title of the piece says, I really could not care less about Iowa. Or New Hampshire, for that matter.

Why?  Because they aren't representative of America.  They just agreed that they would go first, and they are determined as small Midwestern states to make themselves out to be more important than they are by being first to caucus and first to primary in the US, because they are utterly forgettable by almost any other measure unless you like snow.

So the presidential candidates run around in these little isolated areas of the US for months at a time, far longer than the voting block that they represent merits if you were looking at national influence, percentage of voting Americans. The idea that these two races mean anything would be laughable if only the media could be convinced to laugh.  Instead they insist on portraying the primaries as horseraces and build up the competition as if what we are witnessing was a sporting event and not the future leaders of our country vying for attention.

Which is why the subject of Justin Scott's videos interests me, even though his location in Iowa galls me ever so slightly.  Iowa is one of those regions where religion figures prominently; and when I say religion, I mean evangelical christians, the omnipotent WASP's who have run the country since its beginning.  The people who are most threatened by the presidency of Barack Obama and the likely potential that he will be succeeded by Hillary Clinton, if we are lucky.  If we aren't lucky we'll have any one of the current GOP candidates currently doing their best to out-conservative each other.

Being brave enough to go out in public and film, to identify oneself as an atheist and ask how the candidates plan on protecting your right to not believe.  That takes real courage.  I wanted to let Justin know that I appreciated his work, even though I have to spend several quality minutes (hours actually) writing a post highlighting the important work that he is doing.  I wish that more members of the media had the balls to ask the really hard questions.