When Headlines of News Stories Pose Questions, the Answer is Sometimes in Plain Sight

When a headline poses a question, it suggests that the article will shed light on a question the reader wants answered. But I’ve recently noticed a type of headline-question that answers itself. It’s the variation on the question: Is Donald Trump Nuts?

A case in point: “Is Trump making America mentally ill?” by Kathleen Parker in the Washington Post. I don’t need to read the story to know that the article’s answer is Yes. (If you don’t believe me, Parker writes: “Today, about a third of the nation’s population seems to be suffering from a reality discernment malfunction. Have they been ingesting mushrooms plucked from bull dung? Drinking water spiked with credulity-enhancing chemicals? Thus, when President Trump speaks in his fourth-grade, monosyllabic, syntax-challenged verbiage, they hear lyrical lucidity. When he brags that he has accomplished more than any other president, save for Franklin Delano Roosevelt, his starry-eyed minions nod their approval. Exactly no major legislation has been passed by Congress since Trump took office.”)

And some of the suggestions for further reading after Parker’s article are just as effective at communicating an answer. The first article suggested under the “Read More Here” banner is “Is Donald Trump just plain crazy?” (And the article’s answer is, of course, Yes. Or as the writer Eugene Robinson puts it: “During the primary season, as Donald Trump’s bizarre outbursts helped him crush the competition, I thought he was being crazy like a fox. Now I am increasingly convinced that he’s just plain crazy.”)

The second Read More article is Jennifer Rubin’s “When is it okay to say the president might be nuts?” This question doesn’t have a yes or no answer, but it nonetheless communicates the same message as the other articles–that yes, the president is nuts–otherwise there’d be no point in asking when it’s OK to say so.

A Vision of the Future in 2 Headlines

It’s bad enough to read a headline like this one tonight in The New York Times: Trump’s Budget Has Sharp Cuts for E.P.A. and State Dept. The story previews Trump’s “budget blueprint for the coming fiscal year,” which would “slash the Environmental Protection Agency by 31 percent … in a brash upending of the government’s priorities.”

But when the same front page has this headline as well–Large Sections of Australia’s Great Reef Are Now Dead, Scientists Say–it’s hard not to despair. The second story explains that “huge sections of the Great Barrier Reef, stretching across hundreds of miles of its most pristine northern sector, were recently found to be dead, killed last year by overheated seawater.” If the words “overheated seawater” don’t make the underlying cause of the calamity clear, the article illuminates: “The state of coral reefs is a telling sign of the health of the seas. Their distress and death are yet another marker of the ravages of global climate change.”

So while the world suffers (and the Great Barrier Reef is just one of seemingly endless examples of the environmental disaster unfolding around us), our new president wants to cut funding to the lone agency responsible for monitoring and regulating greenhouse gases in the world’s second largest emitter of greenhouse gases.

Surprisingly (given the rush to censor damning data), the EPA still has information about greenhouses gases on its website, including this chart. Perhaps because it indicts China as the world’s largest polluter it’s considered non-fake news, but if the EPA’s budget is slashed, it will only make it easier for the U.S. to catch up fast.

Protest is the new normal

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Jan 29 2017 Rally

It’s not surprising that “the most unpopular new president in modern times” is generating daily protests, including a vow to ensure rallies follow him wherever he goes. The remarkable thing is how many people show up at these rallies–three times as many showed in Washington for the Women’s March as attended his inauguration (and 2.5 million joined them around the world). Of course, numbers can always be questioned but with the president making such a big issue out of them, people seem to be more meticulous in their counting.

Jan 29 2017 Rally 3

These photos are from a protest and march on Jan 29, 2017 against Trump’s executive order banning refugees and travelers from seven Muslim-dominant countries. The march went from Battery Park to Foley Square. Media reported that about 10,000 attended but, as Trump would say, it looked like more than that to me.

Post-Election Post-Its for Post-Traumatic Stress

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The Union Square subway station is full of emotional Post-its mourning the outcome of the election. What’s remarkable isn’t the sheer quantity. What’s remarkable is that three weeks after the election no one has torn them down. I would have thought a Trump supporter would have tried; or someone tasked with cleaning the subway would have done it. At the very least, I’d expect a homeless person to hear a voice telling him to do so.

Maybe people are taking them down and other people are adding new ones every day. In any event, it’s a remarkable record of the shock, grief and fear generated by Trump’s victory.

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Not too Noisy in Boise

I spent a few days in Boise, Idaho, this week working on a video about the Ada County Domestic Violence Court.

The downtown was old-style and human-scale. The domed capitol building, surrounded by a lovely park, conveyed the sense that democracy was within reach of the people. And I found something comforting in the presence of coin operated newspaper dispensers, which I haven’t seen (or at least noticed) in ages in New York.

I’d expected to see Trump signs everywhere but I didn’t see any. Nor did I see any for Hillary. Perhaps it’s because there’s no question that Idaho is a red state so people don’t feel it’s necessary to promote their candidate; or maybe people don’t want to antagonize their neighbors. Then again, I only saw a small sliver of the community, mostly the downtown area, and I suppose people tend to muzzle partisanship in commercial districts so as not to offend customers.

There are diverse opinions everywhere, a fact I was reminded of when an attorney told me she was a fourth generation Idaho Democrat. Idaho Chief Justice Jim Jones also offered encouraging words in a short speech about the social and legal progress that’s been made regarding domestic violence. He noted that when he was a child, people never talked about violence that occurred within families, partly because it was thought to be shameful and partly because some still held notions that a father/husband could treat his wife and children like property. Fortunately, that’s no longer the case and society and the legal system are better prepared to offer help and support to victims while holding batterers accountable. One line from the speech that surprised me, and has therefore stuck in my memory, is that people also now realize “that they can’t beat the gay out of their kids,” he said. Amen to that.