Current Thoughts (Mostly Hawaii)

On the Resignation of Shepard Smith

Shepard Smith
From Wikipedia
licensed under the Creative Commons 2.0 Attribution License.

First off, a couple of disclaimers: First, there is only one show on Fox News that I watch with any regularity (which is sporadic these days), that being the Journal Editorial Report with Paul Gigot. I rarely if ever listened to Shepard Smith and his show.

Second, while my education at college was in Political Science (BA & MA), I also worked at a newspaper, the Pacific Business News for five years (got the 5-year watch to prove it). It was the place where the ideals of journalism were instilled in me – getting the facts and reporting on what the facts said.

So, with those two disclaimers, let me be another voice in the wilderness that says it’s sad to see another journalist be run out of a media firm for doing their job.

As the news broke about Shepard Smith’s sudden resignation from Fox News, I became intrigued in the how’s and why. The how was an announcement on his show at 3 p.m. Eastern. The why is, after interpreting all of the reports on this, that the ability to report facts and the desire of Fox News to report on things that made President Trump happy, had become a gulf too wide to transcend, as a professional.  

A professional, a professional journalist. When was the last time we saw that noun and adjective put together with a name that was, unquestionably, qualified for that title?

Since I disclaimed before that I rarely if ever watched his show on Fox, I had to do a little digging to figure out Smith’s reporting. What I came up with was a perfect example of how a good reporter will go through the issues brought up, discern fact from fiction, and report on just “what is”.

I cite the example of Smith’s dismissing the whole “Uranium One” psudo-scandal that has been promoted by right-wing commentators like Sean Hannity. In a report Smith made in November 2017, Smith debunked the major issues that made up the “Uranium One Story”. In listening to the actual report, which is about 6 minutes and I encourage you to listen to it, Smith does what every professional journalist should do – examine the source documents and the accurate role of each player and the timeline of actions.

In this case the accusation is that Hillary Clinton approved the sale of American uranium overseas. Then as a “thank you” by the investors, a $140 million donation was made to the Clinton Foundation.  The “facts” that make this version of the story up comes from one source – a reporter for Breitbart News who wrote a Clinton hit-piece book called “Clinton Cash”.

Cross walking this into a personal example, I was pursuing a story at PBN about Aloha Airlines putting itself up for sale or negotiating a sale. I was getting source material from a gentleman who would only give me enough data to start the investigation. After pursuing leads, I presented it to the paper’s Publisher to see if we had enough in his view to move ahead with the story.

Literally put, it was this “sources” information, with a dashing of “it could be” statements from aviation experts and examination of financial information of the airline from a third-party source.

Larry, the publisher told me, and I quote “there is a lot of smoke here, but no fire”. He wanted the fire, the fact that “x was really happening”. At the end, I never got the story. It was the airline that would announce it was being sold a few months later.

Point being, while I missed my chance to break a story, the fact that there was so much rigor in the evaluation of the information presented, and then being told “its not good enough” is not designed to dismiss a story. In a professional journalist setting, that type of rigor is designed to make sure the story is right, for the audience to read and decide.

That is something my publisher understood. It is something that I question whether Fox News will ever understand.

Sean Hannity by Gage Skidmore 3.jpg
Is this the face of “professional journalism” at Fox News now? (Sean Hannity)
PC: Gage Skidmore

At the end, the loss of Smith as a professional journalist doing his job should be a real concern. For we now have it where the talking heads who are promoting one President’s position are demanding that their point of view be the only one to report on a major news channel. Letting facts be distributed by talking heads who have a strict agenda to support the president is not journalism, its “topical advocacy”.

The American people deserve better than that for its news.

Why Not Censure?

As the House of Representatives in Congress continues to drive the United States toward a full-blown impeachment of President Donald Trump, the idea that a less-but-still-significant statement from the body has yet to be entertained, let alone voted on.

That statement is that of a full Congressional Censure of the President for his various acts that the Congress feels are improper. Maybe even multiple censures considering the amount of actions that have riled up Congress.

Now I understand, before the flip of the House of Representatives to the Democrats in 2018, even the idea of a Censure of the President was a far reach. There was no way, especially during the last days of Republican rule in the House, that anything less than fawning adoration of the President was going to be entertained.

Enter the Democrats.

With their entry into majority-rule politics, it would seem to me that their endless levels of disgust for the President would lead immediately to the House starting to throw out censure after censure of the President by the House. While the Senate would not even look at them, it could be said that enough complaints filed could lead to some Republicans in the Senate to stop and say “okay, what’s really happening here”.

Of course, the theory goes that the Democrats put all their money on the Mueller report to have enough in it to file directly for impeachment and not waste time setting up a case through censures.

Unfortunately, that bet didn’t pan out. But here is my thinking – what if you had nothing on Mueller but all these censures on the President withstanding in which if you put enough of the pieces together, you could move ahead with impeachment just on that?

Now the Democrats are going down the road of impeachment based on a phone call the President made with the President of the Ukraine. One can think, again, that all the censures the House could have done, on top of this, could really seal a deal for at least some Republicans to think “hmm, maybe there is more here than just a political stunt”.

In the history of Congressional censures, only one president was ever censured – Andrew Jackson. But even that censure was expunged years later. Why the idea that censuring a President whom a good chunk of the Congress couldn’t stand, but decided to just go for impeachment is somewhat a mystery to me?

Maybe someone should call on Speaker Nancy Pelosi to get that ball rolling. Because putting all your chips first on Mueller and losing almost everything was a silly bet. The fact that the President gave you new chips, but then you decide again to put it all on red, is still a stupid bet, just saying.

This Can’t Go On

An open letter to Hawaii Governor David Ige by Stan Fichtman

Dear Governor Ige:

As a born-and-raised resident, constituent, tax payer and voter in the State of Hawaii, I am greatly concerned about the deterioration of Hawaii’s social and cultural integrity due to the ongoing Thirty Meter Telescope/Kia’i standoff at Mauna Kea.

Since the current standoff started in the middle of July, I believe that you first thought that this would only last a spell of time – maybe until school started again for kids at the end of that month. So, waiting them out may have been a good idea then. After all, the thinking goes that while protesters have principles, they also have bills to pay and kids to raise.

Well, obviously the protesters were not just parents or people who had obnoxious amounts of vacation time from their job to stay up there. To boot, the Kia’i that did make the trek to the mountain were people who seem to have nothing but time to commit to this venture. That is why it seems that they don’t have any problem sticking it out.

Then there are the support services that are feeding both the needs of people there, as well as making sure that those who want to go to the mountain, can. Did you know that there was a website that one can donate to that provides the equivalent of micro-grants for those who want to travel to Mauna Kea? Along with that one of the largest employers in this state, Hawaiian Airlines, is making it easy to donate miles to the cause. So the theory that economics will keep people from going to the mountain continues to be debunked.  

All in all, it seems that the durability and endurance of the Kia’i is admirable, and something that your administration wildly underestimated. While you might be a smart guy when it comes to engineering (your degree) I have a feeling that your betting decisions in Vegas are a bit to be desired.

But when you make bad bets, there are both expected and unexpected consequences of them. Of course, we know of one consequence, the enormous price tag of the police/prosecutor and Attorney General’s work, in dealing with the blockade. Already, we as the taxpayer has shelled out $8.4 million bucks, and the price tag goes up by six figures every day.

I think it would help your reputation as a leader in Hawaii to just tell the taxpayers the truth – the money is gone and we ain’t getting it back.

As to unintended consequences of the standoff, something even more expensive is happening all throughout the state. The tapa that makes up our state’s social fabric is being torn asunder by the standoff. While stories about people-to-people conflict seem few and far between (a professor saying something disparaging about the situation, for instance) we are probably not hearing various arguments on the standoff that are tearing friends and families permanently apart.

And while it can be dismissed and said “when this is done, we will heal”, again I wouldn’t put a bet on that. Some of this tearing is permanent, Mr. Governor, and the more time this standoff goes on, the more permanent the damage.

While I will not be one that will recommend to “send in the troops”, I will say that your current tactic is not working. While I have a lot of respect for Mayor Harry Kim, it has become apparent that he is a better leader to tell people to get out of the way of Madame Pele’s lava than being a diplomat. Giving him more time to craft a solution, I’m afraid, will simply lead nowhere at this point.

What is needed, now, Mr. Governor is a realization that 1. Plans so far to end the standoff have failed; 2. The longer this goes on, the more damage this incurs on the people of Hawaii; and 3. A real leader needs to step in and find the ability to bring both sides to the table and resolve the issue. If your abstaining from the role I am stating in No. 3, then please cast about for that diplomat to come in and solve this issue.

But if you have finally had enough of people saying that you have the political spine of a sponge, and want to engage, by all means, please do. After all, we are still the land of second chances. Just look at Ed Case and Gary Hooser.

Thank you

Stanford J. Fichtman
Resident, Taxpayer and Voter in the State of Hawaii.

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