“TRUMP’S CHAMPAGNE CABINET GETS ITS OWN TRAVELGATE” – Vanity Fair

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They may love the president but they sure hate flying commercial.

The Trump cabinet is bound by two enduring values: faith in their leader and a pathological aversion to fly commercial.

Thursday’s latest disclosures suggest why Washington editors should hire both journalists and air traffic controllers in the uphill battle of proving to a doubting America that the press plays a salutary role.

 Let’s see. Last evening brought word from The Washington Post that “Interior Secretary Ryan Zinkechartered a flight from Las Vegas to near his home in Montana this summer aboard a plane owned by oil-and-gas executives, internal documents show.”

This was a few hours after Politico, which is proving our most valued chronicler of aviation follies, disclosed, “The White House approved the use of military aircraft for multi-national trips by Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price to Africa and Europe this spring, and to Asia in the summer, at a cost of more than $500,000 to taxpayers. The overseas trips bring the total cost to taxpayers of Price’s travels to more than $1 million since May.”

That revelation came not long after Politico could proudly report that “Price said he will write a personal check to the federal government for his costs of traveling on private jets and will permanently halt his use of charter flights.”

Before that we had  “Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt has taken at least four noncommercial and military flights since mid-February, costing taxpayers more than $58,000 to fly him to various parts of the country, according to records provided to a congressional oversight committee and obtained by The Washington Post.”

And, of course, we had ABC News revealing, “Secretary Steven Mnuchin requested use of a government jet to take him and his wife on their honeymoon in Scotland, France and Italy earlier this summer, sparking an inquiry by the Treasury Department’s Office of Inspector General.”

As all this surfaces, there’s an especially big decline in Republicans who even concede a “watchdog” role for the press. The situation is so bad that PolitFact is touring conservative bastions to meet with citizens and try to explain the media’s aim and the act of fact-checking.

It’s a tall order, in no small measure due to Trump’s own unceasing derision of the press and basic ignorance of the media role in a democracy. But the flurry of reporting continues on arrogance-driven transportation follies, as it should.

John Harris, a co-founder and the boss of Politico, says this morning, “Attacks on the press have no doubt succeeded in some quarters in a making reporters and news organizations less popular, but in no way have they succeeded in  undermining the legitimacy and power of independent journalism.”

“To the contrary, the work of many news organizations over the past year has abundantly vindicated the value of what we do. The Price travel story was a vivid example of why everyone benefits when responsible reporters and editors are paying attention. Trump himself, reading POLITICO, learned about Price’s expensive travel from our story and expressed disapproval from his own cabinet secretary.

Well, you can hope he’s correct but at least rest assured that there’s clearly only one word for the Trump cabinet.

Amtrak.

Google forced to invite competitors but nobody showing yet

As Bloomberg reports, “On Thursday, Google complied with the European Commission ruling that hit it with a 2.42 billion euro ($2.85 billion) fine and ordered it to share real estate on its search pages with rival comparison shopping services. From a customer’s point of view, nothing has changed.”

Assessing Hefner’s Playboy

There was lots of content beyond the real allure—the centerfolds—and Columbia Journalism Review surveyed some of its journalism and I sought the counsel of historian Garry Wills and New Yorker Editor David Remnick on its more literary thrust, with the likes of Vladimir Nabokov.

Then there’s Thomas Dyja, author of the excellent look at Chicago’s cultural impact (including Hefner’s) on the nation in The Third Coast.” His take via email:

I have to say that as much as they had the Bradburys and Algrens and all sorts of people writing for Playboy, to me the real journalistic contribution of the magazine was the Interview. The interviewers were smart, they were given lots of space and I can’t tell you have many I’ve gone back to over the years as references. As much as the articles may have dated, especially from the Spectorsky years, the interviews stand up and some were, you could argue, important, such as Carter’s Lust in his Heart interview.

It’s impossible to write about Hefner and Playboy in purely good or bad terms: How you do capture someone and something both liberating and oppressive for everyone involved? In the VERY short time I spent with him, he was considered, serious, kind, smart and totally oblivious to the large plaster bust–and I do mean bust–of Barbi Benton over his shoulder. He welcomed everyone to the party, even if it wasn’t the coolest party in town.

National anthem (cont.)

Where else is the anthem played regularly other than sports events? Readers continue to help out, with Ron Rapoport now adding, “They play it at every classical music concert of the summer at the Hollywood Bowl. I was hoping Yo-Yo Ma would play it when he appeared solo playing Bach’s cello suites earlier this month, but alas…”

Covering (or not) Maria

“But compared to the other natural disasters of the past few weeks, Hurricane Maria has been relatively ignored. Data from Media Cloud, a database that collects news published on the internet every day, shows that the devastation in Puerto Rico is getting comparatively little attention. (FiveThirtyEight)

For sure. But some folks continue to do an extensive job, including The New York Times, Washington Post, some of the broadcast and cable networks—and the island’s own El Nuevo Dia.

Roku’s future

Roku is now the leading streaming device, with nearly 40 percent of streaming devices in U.S. homes being Roku. On Cheddar, CFO Steve Loudin discussed growing competition, including from Amazon, and both consumer doubts about spending more money on such services and the quiet arrival of gaming-driven eSports.

Jemele Hill

The ESPN host was at turns poignant, defensive and unbowed as she wrote about controversy over calling Trump a racist. It was the first substantive look at the mess by The Undefeated, ESPN’s look at the nexus of race, sports, politics and culture.

“Since my tweets criticizing President Donald Trump exploded into a national story, the most difficult part for me has been watching ESPN become a punching bag and seeing a dumb narrative kept alive about the company’s political leanings.”

“If we’re keeping it all the way real, that narrative is often pushed by the folks in the media who benefit most from that notion and all the attention that criticism of ESPN brings.”

“Folks in the media. . . ”? She might have been a bit more intellectually honest. Folks such as . . . ?

The morning Babel

“Trump & Friends” was all-in on the NFL protests, deeming the most important story on the planet that players locked arms during the anthem at the Packers-Bears game last night but the fans did not. The NFL is “starting to panic,” said co-host Steve Doocy. “And, boy, was it a powerful moment,” says sub co-host Abby Huntsman, who joined the crew in heralding polling bashing the players. Alas, it’s polling  that, as Chicago Tribune libertarian columnist Steve Chapman wrote, doesn’t look different than 1960s polling that asking whites whether “the demonstrations by Negroes on civil rights have helped more or hurt more in the advancement of Negro rights.”

CNN and MSNBC went heavy with Politico’s Tom Price story , with A.B Stoddard of RealClearPolitics believing Trump will “let him twist in the wind, as she put it on “New Day.” “I do think Tom Price will be let go,” in part due to failure of an Obamacare repeal. “Morning Joe” did a story on former President George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama at the opening ceremony of the Presidents Cup golf matches (The U.S. vs. the World), which NBC will cover. Self-serving but interesting, nonetheless, even if anti-Trump blowhard Donnie Deutsch likened the trio to “comfort food,” as opposed to Trump. “Those are three incredibly decent human beings at their core,” he said, forgetting no shortage of imperfection in performance and personality exhibited by all.

A surprise of the day

“Jeff Sessions Has a Point About Free Speech”

That’s the headline on Michael Bloomberg’s piece in the news site he runs, reacting to Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ speech at Georgetown Law School

“However flawed the messenger, Sessions’s speech identified a real and growing problem: College students and administrators have been displaying a shocking disregard for First Amendment rights. Recent incidents involving violent protesters and overzealous administrators have made headlines, but they are not isolated cases. An unwillingness to hear opposing views is getting to be a defining feature of campus culture.”

Should Trump get a check-up?

One of the many traditions Trump apparently disavows is the annual presidential trek to the National Naval Medial Center in Bethesda, Maryland for a medical check-up. (U.S. News & World Report) In talking to Ben Michaelis, a psychologist in New York City whose resume includes hundreds of fitness-for-trial assessments at the request of judges in the court system, I confronted an interviewee distinctly questioning the premises of my reporter questions.

He suggested that they reflected a a journalist’s frequently introspective, verbal and self-reflective view of the world. “In all due respect,” he said (very nicely), he couldn’t agree with my speculation that Trump is probably anxious about the outcome of a real check-up. Imagine if it showed some real frailty, I imagine.

“This is not someone with the introspection you or I would recognize,” says Michaelis. He meant it’s probably wrong to assess Trump from most rational precepts since Trump exhibits “this level of pathology” that’s akin to very small percent of inmates he interviews who don’t operate from rational principles he (and thus, he implied, journalists) would generally comprehend.

That’s it for the week from us. The weekend brings one fall baseball practice, one fall ball game and three soccer games but no choir. And a rare date night tonight. Piece of cake.

This article was originally published on Vanity Fair

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