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Topic: Media Stupidity

Kitzhaber Exonerated; Oregonian Debases Itself Again
6/16/2017 2:29:54 PM

I wrote an article about Governor John A. Kitzhaber and how terrible it was that the local newspaper, The Oregonian, drummed him out of office over false issues related to his fiance, Cylvia Hayes. A federal prosecutor has been investigating the case. Good news. Kitzhaber announces on Facebook today:
Today the US attorney concluded the investigation that began shortly after I was elected to a fourth term as Oregon's governor, coming to the same conclusion I started with over two years ago: there was nothing nothing to pursue. As I have said from the beginning, I did not resign because I was guilty of any wrongdoing but rather because the media frenzy around these questions kept me from being the effective leader I wanted and needed to be. Then there was the real investigation, not by reporters, but people with subpoena power and the ability to look at everything in context. They decided there was nothing to pursue.

So I'm back. I intend to continue to do what I’ve been doing for most of my adult life: trying to help Oregon deal with the challenges we face in a way that moves us beyond the current division and polarization and brings us back together as a community. I want to thank all of you who have stood with me and I look forward to reengaging with you in the months and years ahead.
In an article in the Oregonian about this today Jeff Manning and Hillary Borrud actually repeat what they think are the terrible things that Cylvia Hays did. They call it "influence-peddling". And they repeat details in Hays earlier life as if to say that she is not an honorable person, that she doesn't deserve to be in such a high position in government. Donald Trump says he is the target of a witch hunt. Well, the Oregonian newspaper is doing exactly that against Cylvia Hayes.

Think about this. A governor's wife is a school teacher. And she continues to teach and receive a salary after her husband is elected. And she may share thoughts with people in state government involved with education. She may even promote particular educational methods or programs just because she is interested in this field and has some knowledge. No one would question this. They certainly wouldn't call it "influence-pedaling." She would be a resource for good government.

Cylvia Hayes is an environmental consultant. She is paid by contracts from non-profit agencies involved with preservation of the environment. That's what her job is. John Kitzhaber wanted her to be involved in state government on behalf of the environment. He was elected by the people of Oregon to do this. But the Oregonian, at the time heavily influenced by libertarian ideas, interpreted Hayes involvement, and payments she received from contracts, as "influence-pedaling" and forced the governor from office. It was a shameful abuse of power. Hayes was only doing her job, supported by the governor.

Now they continue a mindless attack in this article. It is shameful for this newspaper to be doing this.


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False Community Consciousness and Local Radio
4/1/2017 4:25:25 PM

Just as individuals have a "consciousness" of themselves, their history, their environment, their sense of identity, so also do groups and communities. In local communities it is various clubs, associations, churches, radio and sometimes television stations, which together create a kind of "community consciousness".

This is the factor left out in an article in the New York Times called "In Trump Country, Shock at Trump Budget Cuts, but Still Loyalty" by Nicholas Kristof, a writer I especially like to follow because of his good work. In this case, he as most other reporters, allows his conception of social life to fail to grasp what is happening in politics in local communities.

He writes about Trump voters in Oklahoma and describes how they are shocked at the fact that the federal budget proposed by the administration is excluding programs that have been directly helpful to them. Yet they say they would vote for Trump again.

Kristof has no explanation for this. That is because people, especially liberals, tend to think of human beings as isolated individuals. Each person has their own individual thoughts, attitudes, opinions and feelings that are consistent over time and these opinions from time to time, for example, can be collected in polls from which conclusions can be drawn about larger social realities.

What this fails to take into account is the social processes and institutions in local communities which create a community consciousness that informs the individuals in specific communities. These processes and institutions also enforce what are considered to be the proper or expected attitudes and opinions to have in particular communities. So, what a local pastor preaches on Sunday mornings makes a difference in what is talked about in the barber shops and other gathering places in local communities.

What is said on the radio also makes a difference, and the talkers on the radio tend to take the viewpoints of the business people who pay for the advertising that pays the salaries of the talkers, or which produces the profits for the owners of the local radio stations. Those talkers are against the taxes that pay for the federal programs that are helpful to troubled people in local communities, but those people tend to be ridiculed by the local talkers, who hate anything associated with words like "welfare" and "social services".

Pastors of local churches tend to go along with this because those same business people are the bigger givers to the salaries of these pastors. So a type of "conservatism" is preached and talked in local communities which actually creates a false community consciousness which then influences the hearts and minds and speaking of the individuals in the community. And this creates the kind of politics that is possible. Politics is finally a way to speak about how to live together in community.

If an individual is afflicted with a false consciousness it means that what is in his or her mind will not correspond to what is out there in the external reality within which a person is living. That means that the person will act in ways that can only be hurtful to himself or herself. It is a kind of mental illness.

And the same for a community. If the politics of a local community is based not on what is good for that community, but on what is good for the profits of the outside corporate owners of local radio and television then the future of that community is not very viable. Those owners want to keep local people stupid so they are able to keep the profits flowing to themselves. They don't want money spent on schools or colleges because they don't want people to be educated, to be able to think critically, to be able to ask questions of local politicians.

It is particularly in rural areas of red states where false community consciousness is most prevalent. These are areas where a false form of Christianity is being preached, a kind of "evangelicalism" that is anything but good news, it is rooted in nostalgia for an earlier era before the civil rights movement, before the women's movement, when white men were most authoritative in local institutions. It was in Oklahoma that Kristof did his interviews with people, an area where the false religious right is very prevalent and exercises a good deal of power over individuals.

I hope more reporters like Kristof will begin to look beyond the views of individuals, to look at the actual leaders and institutions of local communities that are having such a disabling effect on the politics of our country.






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Basic Civics Lesson for Libertarians
3/8/2017 6:10:40 PM

Most of the right wing radio talk show hosts are "libertarians". That means that they don't believe government should do much of anything, which means that they have to take no responsibility for what they say. They can just criticize and criticize and make people angry at government without having to actually think of how to make things better. Just wreck it. Well, now we have a Republican Party that has been created by talk radio and they basically want to wreck everything. They want to take us back the wild west when there little government or law and people tried to get justice by shooting one another.

Here is a graphic from an old civics book. It is a good lesson for libertarians.


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Trump is Not a Normal Politician and Was Not Elected Fair and Square
2/21/2017 5:59:50 PM

Update: The item below was first published on 11/23/2016. Yesterday, Presidents Day, there were continuing protests against Trump all across the nation, including here in Portland, Oregon. The headline is still clearly true, and very large numbers of people reject the idea that this is a legitimate president. The media literally created this obscene con man, the media must help take him down. Trump is doing everything he can to intimidate the press because he knows they can destroy him. They need to do that.

The widespread protests against the election of Donald Trump should be supported and encouraged. These protesters are chanting "not my president" and rejecting the legitimacy of this election. I have been hearing too many people say that Trump was elected "fair and square". This is absolutely not true. Trump bullied his way through the nominating process, calling people names, refusing to engage in civil discourse. He thus disqualified himself as a serious candidate.

But the modern media loved it, and was making so much money that they gave more and more free time to covering this television figure. Trump did not earn this, he didn't deserve it, the media built him up. This was not a fair political process.

Now that he has been elected the media is treating him as a "normal" politician and president-elect. But he basically ran not for president but as an autocrat, one who rejected the normal rules of running for president, and he will run the country as an autocrat, rejecting the normal rules.

Masha Gessen knows how autocrats govern. She has covered Putin in Russia. She has written this in the New York Review of Books:
But Trump is anything but a regular politician and this has been anything but a regular election. Trump will be only the fourth candidate in history and the second in more than a century to win the presidency after losing the popular vote. He is also probably the first candidate in history to win the presidency despite having been shown repeatedly by the national media to be a chronic liar, sexual predator, serial tax-avoider, and race-baiter who has attracted the likes of the Ku Klux Klan. Most important, Trump is the first candidate in memory who ran not for president but for autocrat—and won.


She thinks that the institutions of journalism in this country will be big losers in Trump's autocracy. Think about what this means in terms of who we can believe is telling any "public truth" in the Trump years. She writes:
Of course, the United States has much stronger institutions than Germany did in the 1930s, or Russia does today. Both Clinton and Obama in their speeches stressed the importance and strength of these institutions. The problem, however, is that many of these institutions are enshrined in political culture rather than in law, and all of them—including the ones enshrined in law—depend on the good faith of all actors to fulfill their purpose and uphold the Constitution.

The national press is likely to be among the first institutional victims of Trumpism. There is no law that requires the presidential administration to hold daily briefings, none that guarantees media access to the White House. Many journalists may soon face a dilemma long familiar to those of us who have worked under autocracies: fall in line or forfeit access. There is no good solution (even if there is a right answer), for journalism is difficult and sometimes impossible without access to information.

The power of the investigative press—whose adherence to fact has already been severely challenged by the conspiracy-minded, lie-spinning Trump campaign—will grow weaker. The world will grow murkier. Even in the unlikely event that some mainstream media outlets decide to declare themselves in opposition to the current government, or even simply to report its abuses and failings, the president will get to frame many issues. Coverage, and thinking, will drift in a Trumpian direction, just as it did during the campaign—when, for example, the candidates argued, in essence, whether Muslim Americans bear collective responsibility for acts of terrorism or can redeem themselves by becoming the “eyes and ears” of law enforcement. Thus was xenophobia further normalized, paving the way for Trump to make good on his promises to track American Muslims and ban Muslims from entering the United States.
Read the entire article. It is one of the best pieces I have seen on Trump.


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The Silly Controversy about Hillary's Emails
11/7/2016 5:45:20 PM

A couple days ago I happened to see the name of the Internet domain used by Hillary Clinton on her private email server. It was "clintonemail.com". I laughed out loud. She has been accused of sneaking around trying to avoid notice about her email address. But the address is right out there for all to see. Every email anyone got from Hillary would have been something like "hillary@clintonemail.com." In other words, there was no hidden conspiracy here. Not at all.

But Donald Trump has been saying that Hillary is a liar and corrupt and a criminal for how she handled her email. The head of the FBI, James Comey, made it a big issue right at the end of this presidential campaign. Some think it may turn the election to Trump tomorrow. But yesterday Republicans went ballistic over Comey's announcement that the new investigation also found nothing worthy of charging Clinton with any crime.

The major media have been using the email issue as a false equivalency to their criticism of Trump. The fact is it is a silly, ridiculous accusation against Clinton that she herself did not handle well. She should never have so quickly apologized for this private server.

The whole truth of the matter has been written by Matthew Yglesias at Vox. Read through this article and you will see how Donald Trump and Republicans have been accenting this silly issue and lying about it.


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Journalists Must Treat Trump Differently
7/15/2016 9:25:55 AM

In a Washington Post opinion blog on July 13, 2016, New York University journalism professor Jay Rosen wrote that Donald Trump has “shatter[ed]” journalists’ system of fact-checking in election coverage. Rosen said that because Trump “wants to increase public confusion about where he stands,” journalists must “become less predictable.” We quote him below.

We should notice that line journalists (not commentators) consider it their duty to "report" what candidates say, not interpret their comments. But that means that they repeat the lies that a habitual lying candidate makes. And Donald Trump is a habitual lier as Rosen indicates below.

Furthermore, the media owners want to sensationalize as much as possible to get viewers. Trump knows this, he brings high "ratings" and thus advertising dollars. So his outrageous lies are repeated in headlines and opening statements to gain attention. His bullying comments are repeated over and over like "crooked Hillary", a technique he used to great advantage in the primary election to successfully intimidate his Republican opponents.

These are not really legitimate political practices and in my view disqualify Trump as a serious candidate in a democracy. But journalists' habits don't change quickly, they don't realize they are dealing with a very different animal in Trump. I am happy Rosen sees that point as well as indicated in his comments below.

One of the newer parts of that system is fact-checking, but this is also a practice with a premise. The premise is that fact-checking will have some shaming effect on the kind of behavior it calls out. Notice I said “some.” While all candidates (including Hillary Clinton) will avoid inconvenient facts, make dubious claims or even lie at times if they think they can get away with it, they normally change behavior when a statement has been widely debunked. They may not admit they were wrong, but they will stop repeating the unsupportable claim, or alter it to make it more plausible. That’s what a “check” is supposed to be: it constrains a candidate’s power to distort the public dialogue. Trump shatters this premise.

As FactCheck.org put it: “He stands out not only for the sheer number of his factually false claims, but also for his brazen refusals to admit error when proven wrong.” Said Glenn Kessler, The Post’s Fact Checker columnist: “What’s unusual about Trump is he’s a leading candidate and he seems to have no interest in getting important things factually correct.”

Under conditions like these, fact-checking may still be worthwhile, but not because it has any shaming effect on the candidate. In fact, it could even be useful to Trump in whipping up resentment against the media, a key part of his appeal. My point is this: When the assumptions underneath a practice collapse, the ethics of that practice may shift as well.

[...]

One of the assumptions of campaign coverage was that candidates would never use their huge platforms to spread malicious rumors and unreliable information for which they have no proof: Too risky, too ugly. Trump has crashed that premise too. When called out on his rumormongering, he just says: Hey, it’s out there already. For journalists, this changes the practice of giving the candidate a broadcast platform. Just by granting that platform you may be participating in a misinformation campaign. Are you sure you know what you’re doing?

Imagine a candidate who wants to increase public confusion about where he stands on things so that voters give up on trying to stay informed and instead vote with raw emotion. Under those conditions, does asking “Where do you stand, sir?” serve the goals of journalism, or does it enlist the interviewer in the candidate’s chaotic plan?

I know what you’re thinking, journalists: “What do you want us to do? Stop covering a major party candidate for president? That would be irresponsible.” True. But this reaction short-circuits intelligent debate. Beneath every common practice in election coverage there are premises about how candidates will behave. I want you to ask: Do these still apply? Trump isn’t behaving like a normal candidate; he’s acting like an unbound one. In response, journalists have to become less predictable themselves. They have to come up with novel responses. They have to do things they have never done. They may even have to shock us.


Inspiration for this item came from an article at Media Matters.




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Who Should be President? Strict Father or Nurturing Parent
3/3/2016 7:09:15 PM

I have just added an article on the website by George Lakoff which explains his views of why Donald Trump is winning the Republican race for president. I think his views are helpful. However, also note that the entire spectacle of this election is managed and massaged by the professional media in this country which operates on the basis of profit. That is, the media isn't primarily concerned for truth (that's the function of higher education, supposedly). It is concerned with entertainment in so far as it can get big audiences. But it is mostly concerned with making money for the television networks. And here it is possible to state a simple truth: Donald Trump makes money for the networks. So they put him on, over and over, again and again. He says outlandish things so the journalists just can't help themselves. Trump has mastered the art of controlling the media.

But, still, I think the Lakoff article helps understand how and why various groups of persons support Trump. His theory, though, is questionable in terms of the idea of a "strict father". Donald Trump seems anything other than a strict, conservative father in the traditional sense. Something else is going on entirely which the family model cannot capture, I think. It has to do with the political demand for a strong authoritarian figure which has to do with nationalism and a highly sentimentalized patriotism. This is the dangerous "blood and soil" politics of a Hitler which cannot be adequately grasped with family metaphors. We will be talking of this more in the future.

------------------------

I have been reading George Lakoff for a number of years now. His book "Moral Politics: How Liberals and Conservatives Think" was especially helpful. The so-called "mainline churches" (the historic Protestant bodies like the Presbyterians, Episopalians, Lutherans, Methodists, etc.) became "liberal" in orientation with support for civil rights for blacks and gay people, and equality for women. These churches questioned the hierarchial authority of the Roman Catholic Church or other religious bodies so they correspond to what Lakoff calls the "nurturing parent" family. On the other hand, the "strict father" model of the family was emphasized by the so-called "conservative" religious groups like those in the South, the Southern Baptists and Pentecostals, generally those in the religious right and associated with the various television preachers. I think this family model world view framework can be helpful to understanding positions on social and political issues. In the article below Lakoff applies this distinction to the dramatic rise of Donald Trump in the current presidential contest. I would only add my own view that the rise of Trump is explained primarily by the fact that the major television media have given him an astounding amount of free air time. Trump is winning because he has learned how to manipulate the media; the media cannot keep themselves from covering him constantly. The "ratings" will make the president in this election; at least keep that thought in mind as the election unfolds.

Read the article


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CNN Repeats Stupid Claim by Pew Research that Religious 'Nones' Dominate Democratic Party
11/5/2015 6:42:09 PM

In order to make it onto a TV news program a story has to have an angle, some hook by which to grab people's attention. So those interested to get their work into the news try to package their information with this attention-grabbing hook. That's what Pew Research has done with its most recent report of American religious attitudes. But doing so they have maligned one party and given talking points to the other.

The hook Pew has set up is that the Democratic Party is now dominated by people with no religious affiliation. That was the headline of a news program at CNN, "Nones" now largest religious group among Democrats. Jake Tapper interviews Gregory Smith of Pew, and says it is "astounding" that the "Nones" are now the most numerous of their religious categories.

The implication is, of course, that Republicans are the party of religion and that Democrats are those terrible secular atheists. This is, of course, what Republicans have been saying about Obama and Democrats, that they are basically socialists and communist atheists. This fits the old Cold War mentality that Southern religionists have been promoting ever since they claimed it was the communists who were promoting civil rights for black people in 1960s.

Tapper begins by saying that it is well known that the "evangelicals" (what is generally called the religious right with its anchor in the white South) provide the base of the Republican Party. But now, he says, people with no religion dominate among Democrats. What a ridiculous association this is, however. It is all in how Pew has set up its categories.

Here is how Democrats answered the question: "How do you describe your religious identity?"

Nones 28%
Catholics 21%
Evangelical Protestants 16%
Mainline Protestants 13%
Hist. Black Protestants 12%


Notice if you add up those with religious identity you get 62%. So nearly two-thirds of Democrats claim some religious identity, only 28% say none. Democrats cannot be said to be a "secular" party with numbers like this. But the mainstream media love to play it that way, and Pew, to get on the news, uses categories to seem to portray the Democrats as against religion.

Ridiculous.

J. Howard Pew was chief of Sun Oil Company for years and years, was an active conservative Presbyterian, and was "one of the nation’s most outspoken critics of the New Deal" of the Democratic president, Franklin Roosevelt, according to Wikipedia. So maybe Pew Research, often touted as objective and non-partisan in its approach, has buried its prejudice in its way of setting up categories of religious identity.




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The Shameful Media Attack on John Kitzhaber and Cylvia Hayes
2/18/2015 2:33:18 PM

This past Saturday KGW in Portland, Oregon, ran a television talk show called Straight Talk with three guests and a host on the topic of the forced resignation of Governor John Kitzhaber. The Republican guest had only negative things to say grounded in nothing substantive. The so-called Democratic female guest had almost nothing positive to say about Kitzhaber and Cylvia Hayes, assuming that the media portrayal of her was correct and attacking Kitzhaber for reportedly wanting to destroy emails.

And then there was Nigel Jaquiss, a reporter for Willamette Week in Portland who wrote the original article about Cylvia Hayes which was a series of very cheap shots. He starts out saying that Hayes should not be doing something different as a first lady of Oregon, she should do what other first lady's have done, she certainly should not be allowed to exercise influence in state government even if it agrees with what the people of the state of Oregon would want.

Notice that none of these guests, not one, had an independent or neutral opinion about Kitzhaber and Hayes. All of them accepted the extremely hostile and negative view of the governor and his fiance that the press has been building up for several weeks. Here was a television news program which piled on the media band wagon against the governor. But, of course, the program presented itself as just stating the obvious news.

During the program Nigel Jaquiss was asked why he thought the governor was in so much trouble. He said that it may be because the Democrats had been in charge of the state for so long they assumed they could do anything they wanted to do. So, Nigel Jaquiss has a theory about governing, a party in power for too long is going to go awry. And this may help explain why he went looking for something wrong in the Kitzhaber administration and found a weak link in Cylvia Hayes. Jaquiss really went after her in what can only be called a shameful attack. If you read his original article carefully you will see that everything in it can be explained within a more positive framework if one were writing an article about how lucky Oregon was to have a knowledgeable and competent first lady working on important new initiatives like promoting sustainable economics, a critically important matter for the future of the state.

But, no, Nigel Jaquiss is a very small-minded reporter who saw that there were factors in the biography of Hayes which he could attack with a vengeance. He didn't see her as one who was able to rise from a humble background but he used her background against her. Where a man would be admired for ambition a female is not allowed to put herself forward as a person of competence and worth.

The public is so ready to believe negative stuff about government that they don't really think about what they are reading, they just go long with the negativity. The corporate press makes it's living attacking government, of course, but in this case a little, hateful person like Jaquiss has been able to set forth a process by which a popular and able governor has been forced to resign.

It was the Oregonian newspaper which took the Jaquiss article and decided it could demand the governor's resignation. That paper is especially opposed to the clean energy policies of Kitzhaber and Hayes.

My own article on this site about the resignation has received over 3500 hits in just three days, so another viewpoint is getting out there to some degree. But in discussions with others it is amazing to me how nearly everyone assumes Cylvia Hayes is a very bad person. She and her character have been systematically destroyed by the press. It is the most shameful thing I have seen for a long time. The press has made up a literal lynch mob against Hayes and used it to depose a governor.

The Oregonian today published a group of letters to the editor about the resignation. I found a couple especially interesting:
Kitzhaber and the media: The allegations of misconduct regarding Gov. John Kitzhaber remain unverified; hopefully in time they will be discredited. What is verified is The Oregonian/OregonLive's relentless attack on the governor as evidenced by Steve Duin's column, in which he cynically dismisses Kitzhaber's advocacy for what Duin calls the "progressive mumbo jumbo of the genuine progress indicator" ("For Kitzhaber and Hayes, it's all about arrogance, stonewalling," Feb. 8).

On this issue, the governor has been forward-thinking and in step with a new way of accounting for economic progress that includes Oregon's environmental and social well-being. There is growing evidence that the GPI is a more realistic indicator of a society's health, and it has already been initiated in the states of Vermont, Maryland, Washington, and Hawaii, as well as the Canadian province of Alberta.

Decades from now, Duin's sarcastic denigration of the GPI will be remembered as myopic, whereas Kitzhaber's initiative will be seen as visionary.

John F. Christensen

Corbett

----------------------

Kitzhaber and the media: What occurred last week in Oregon, culminating in our newly re-elected governor announcing his resignation, is a tragedy. It is also a travesty of the due process that a democracy claims to uphold. The Oregonian/OregonLive and other media outlets have taken a superb man who has given Oregon so much of what we value and denied him the most basic of democratic rights -- a fair, unbiased hearing.

John Kitzhaber has always been passionate about the very things that the majority of Oregonians are passionate about: environment, clean energy, health care, education. Cylvia Hayes' professional work -- and yes, she is a professional woman, contrary to a recent editorial which was gravely insulting to working women -- did not represent corporations out to make profits, but rather nonprofits based in idealism and out to improve the world.

Kitzhaber, with an unblemished ethical record of service, made repeated efforts to inquire and ensure that there was no conflict of interest resulting from Hayes' work. If his legal team failed to inform him properly about the state's ethical standards, it is likely that these "standards" are not clearly defined for this unique situation -- a fiancée who also consults for nonprofits.

Should Hayes have stepped back and baked cookies -- as Hillary Clinton once said she'd been advised to do -- because she is the governor's partner?

Oregon has often led nationally in governmental policies, especially those aimed at impacting the environment. At a time when such policies are ever more pressing for this planet's future, we needed Gov. Kitzhaber to continue to lead. It is why we elected him in November. It is why his resignation is a tragedy.

To the newspapers who fueled this feeding frenzy which circumvented due process: Shame!

To the Democrats in the Oregon Legislature who showed no appreciation for Kitzhaber's years of visionary service and no respect for the millions of Oregonians who voted for him: Shame!

And to John Kitzhaber: Thank you. Let due process take its course, and then, please, run for office again. You have my deep respect, my great appreciation and my vote.

Claudia Martin

Southwest Portland



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Very Disturbing Governance by Media Manipulation
10/4/2013 12:19:03 AM

I have just watched via C-Span a meeting of the House Rules Committee as it prepares the way for funding of specific agencies. One of these, especially, specifically, concerned the National Institute of Health cancer research for children. House members who are physicians dressed up in white robes with stethoscopes for a press conference. They accused President Obama and the Senate for closing down the government which took away funding for crucial research for children with cancer. They said that they wanted to restore this funding by passing a special bill just for this program.

Now, these were grown-up men. They graduated from medical school. They pledged an oath to "do no harm" in their profession. And they stood there and engaged in an act of desperate falsification of the facts and extraordinary hypocrisy.

Here is what has happened:
  1. The House demanded that the Senate pass a continuing resolution keeping the government open which included defunding, or later delaying, the Affordable Care Act.
  2. The Senate sent back to the House a bill keeping the government open, accepting a House proposal for a low total budget number, which represented a major compromise and a real "win" for the House.
  3. But this was not enough for the House. They are demanding to somehow do damage to the ACA, "Obamacare". So they will not pass the Senate proposal, closing down the government including critical agencies which do cancer research for children.
  4. And now they hold a press conference blaming President Obama for not caring about children with cancer.
The bad logic of this is so disturbing it is difficult to find words to talk about it. If President Obama really cared about children with cancer, according to this logic, he would agree to limit or withdraw his commitment to his health care act.

What this is really is an effort to govern by manipulation of the media which just "reports" what these men say without giving the background clearly about what is going on. The Republican House is not interested in governing, in engaging in the give and take of compromise necessary in regular political negotiation. They wait till the last minute to hold a gun at the heads of Democrats about a shutdown, then they try to pretend it is not them who are doing this but the uncaring Democrats.

They have been winning at this kind of strategy for some years now because of the habit of regular journalists to "just report the facts" (even when the fact is a lie) and not the context of the political process. This requires that regular people like you and I read the papers and watch television with a sharp eye for obfuscation.

Update (10/7/13): The New York Times published an article documenting the role of outside conservative groups which organized explicitly to pressure House Republicans to engage in the shutdown over the health care law. The article, A Federal Budget Crisis Months in the Planning shows how a few wealthy individuals are able to influence the media in such a way as to try to get congress to do what they want.

The current budget brinkmanship is just the latest development in a well-financed, broad-based assault on the health law, Mr. Obama’s signature legislative initiative. Groups like Tea Party Patriots, Americans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks are all immersed in the fight, as is Club for Growth, a business-backed nonprofit organization. Some, like Generation Opportunity and Young Americans for Liberty, both aimed at young adults, are upstarts. Heritage Action is new, too, founded in 2010 to advance the policy prescriptions of its sister group, the Heritage Foundation.

The billionaire Koch brothers, Charles and David, have been deeply involved with financing the overall effort. A group linked to the Kochs, Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, disbursed more than $200 million last year to nonprofit organizations involved in the fight. Included was $5 million to Generation Opportunity, which created a buzz last month with an Internet advertisement showing a menacing Uncle Sam figure popping up between a woman’s legs during a gynecological exam.

The groups have also sought to pressure vulnerable Republican members of Congress with scorecards keeping track of their health care votes; have burned faux “Obamacare cards” on college campuses; and have distributed scripts for phone calls to Congressional offices, sample letters to editors and Twitter and Facebook offerings for followers to present as their own.

One sample Twitter offering — “Obamacare is a train wreck” — is a common refrain for Speaker John A. Boehner.

As the defunding movement picked up steam among outside advocates, Republicans who sounded tepid became targets. The Senate Conservatives Fund, a political action committee dedicated to “electing true conservatives,” ran radio advertisements against three Republican incumbents.

Heritage Action ran critical Internet advertisements in the districts of 100 Republican lawmakers who had failed to sign a letter by a North Carolina freshman, Representative Mark Meadows, urging Mr. Boehner to take up the defunding cause.

“They’ve been hugely influential,” said David Wasserman, who tracks House races for the nonpartisan Cook Political Report. “When else in our history has a freshman member of Congress from North Carolina been able to round up a gang of 80 that’s essentially ground the government to a halt?”

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Michele Bachmann: Say Stupid Things, Make Lots of Money
8/1/2012 12:48:53 PM

Representative Michele Bachmann (R, Minnesota) has called for an investigation of the Obama administration's relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood citing Huma Abedin, Hillary Clinton's Muslim-American deputy chief of staff at the State Department. Bachman's public comments have been seriously criticized by many leading Republicans such as John McCain.

But apparently Bachmann has learned how right wing religious leaders, talk show hosts, and politicians make their money. They say outrageous things which then get reported in the mainstream media and then uninformed voters send them money. As USA Today reports, Bachmann has brought in over a million dollars since making her false charges about Muslims taking over the government. Bachmann literally feeds off the fear and hatred stoked by right wing religious leaders these days. It is shameful and irresponsible public leadership.

Bachmann claims to be a "Christian" leader. She is not; she was trained in right wing institutions in the South, she does not represent the best of Protestantism in the midwest. All good people of faith should repudiate her. If you know of anyone who sends money to such people try to find the compassion and good argument to dissuade them from doing so.


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The Moral Blindness of Glenn Beck
8/11/2009 11:30:07 PM

On the evening of the death of Eunice Shriver Fox News television host Glenn Beck began his program with a brief account of eugenics in this country in the early 20th century. He said that he didn't believe the Obama health care reform is aimed to implement a regime of eugenics, that Obama didn't want to snuff out your grandma. But then the whole program was focused on exactly the questions of who was going to decide who is worthy of what health care, and clear attacks were made on Obama in terms of his "advisors" such as Rahm Immanuel's brother who has written a paper on the value of human life at the various life stages. Reference was repeatedly made to Pete Singer who was said to explicitly call for health care rationing. And in the background of the discussion were constant questions of suspicion of Obama himself and his character, including references to Nazi Germany and what could happen in a time of crisis when decisions have to be made about the value of human life, who should live and die.

A "tree" of universal health care was put on a chalkboard with "roots" representing Obama advisors all of whom, it was said, basically do not care about the fairness of life chances and do not care about unborn human life. John Holdern was attacked for promoting "forced abortions." The real center of the debate among three panel members had to do with "government picking winners and losers," an idea which was roundly rejected (the same language conservatives use against government economic planning). More governmental involvement in health care meant government would be deciding who lives and dies. Terrible!

Now, think about this.... Those who have been pushing for health care reform have been doing so precisely to bring the benefits of science and medicine to larger numbers of people in the country. Think of Ted Kennedy who has made health care for all the central mission of his life. Kennedy is not motivated by sinister desires to control human life through eugenic policies, he wants all people to enjoy the benefits of modern medicine. But there was no discussion of Ted Kennedy in Beck's program, there was just the use of moral questions to attack the motives of those who support health care for all. Beck said he is not attacking the motives of others even while he displays images of Nazism associated with health care reform.

Ted Kennedy's sister, Eunice Shriver, died today but she was not mentioned on the Beck program either. She is the one single person who has perhaps had the most influence in changing attitudes of Americans about those whom were once called the mentally retarded, but whom were called by Shriver "intellectually challenged." She also started Special Olympics. At the beginning of his program Beck tearfully referred to his daughter with a disease making her less than perfect, and later talked about how much he learned from her. But then he played on this feeling for those who are imperfect to suggest that a government health care program was somehow threatening to such persons. I cannot remember seeing a case of such moral blindness as Glenn Beck. His mind is seriously confused and so idealogically distorted he cannot see the moral soundness of persons such as Ted Kennedy and Eunice Shriver. Think of all the people who have died and suffered in the last sixty years due to the fact that conservatives have refused to support health care for all proposed by Harry Truman those many years ago.

It was interesting that the three conservative panel members on the program, two of them from the former Bush administration, seemed to be embarrassed to be there, hesitant in their expressions, and at times not one of them would take the bait from Beck or confirm the direction of his thought.

What Beck does not understand is the difference between two different ethical orientations, the right and the good. The "right" is determined by the law, such as the commandment not to kill, called deontology. The "good" is a calculation of consequences, called utilitarianism. A highway planner knows that however a highway is designed there are going to be some deaths so he or she plans to minimize deaths. But there are no perfect highways, so calculation has to take place to make a "good" highway. If deontology was used to plan highways there would be no highways because the law as absolute would require that no highways could be built since no highway can be built that does not result in some deaths. In a high knowledge and technological society there are always going to be calculations of consequences in designing physical and social systems, including a health care system. But to use a deontological ethical orientation as a means of criticizing a necessarily utilitarian-designed health care system is ridiculous. If Glenn Beck were designing a health care system he would have to engage in utilitarian calculation. To say government should not be involved in this is also ridiculous, government is already massively involved, the question is to whose benefit. Human health, who lives and dies, are not finally questions a so-called free market should be deciding. Government should protect the people from predators who want to make money off illness.

Right now Beck is losing his advertizers. No one should support this kind of moral blindness.




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The Media Creation of Whacko Conservatism
7/30/2009 9:36:11 PM

One of the new factors in media and politics in the past couple years is the popularity of liberal-leaning talk shows on MSNBC television, Hardball's Chris Matthews, Keith Olberman on Countdown, Rachel Maddow and the latest, Ed Schultz from Fargo, North Dakota. If you watch all four programs on a weeknight you will often see the same type of stories and most of the content is focused on the antics of what can only be called whacko conservatism. All four of these television personalities are following the same model as Rush Limbaugh. Limbaugh's whole approach is to attack liberals; he spends the vast majority of his time attack liberals, and he says again and again that he "knows how liberals think" and therefore he knows politics. Limbaugh does not focus on positive programs or ideas promoted by conservatives, it is negative attack. That is what draws his audience, negativity and hate. I know people who get so mad at the world listening to Limbaugh that they need to take sedatives to settle down when his show gets done at noon each day.

And so the MSNBC programs do the same, except the tables are turned, though one difference is that the liberals are laughing at the whackos more than being so worried about them. But in the process they are, indeed, spreading the ideas of these conservatives. The last couple days there have been lots of stories about the claim that the health care reform bill promotes euthanasia for old folks, basically trying to kill off people to save money. During coffee a couple days ago with a friend who claims he is a conservative he referred to this, "those liberals want to kill old people." The more the liberal media talk about all this the more they spread the very stories they are otherwise laughing at.

But Glenn Beck receives the prize for the worst thing said on Fox News, not laughing at all: "This president has exposed himself as a guy over and over and over again who has a deep-seated hatred for white people... this guy is, I believe, a racist." A correspondent says of this:

"It's part of a larger argument Beck has been making: that President. Obama wants to serve the needs of Black communities at White people's expense. This kind of talk stirs up fear, hate, and it can lead to violence." She recommends going to ColorofChange to protest Beck.

I don't think conservative talkers are creating liberals as much as liberal talkers are creating conservatives. But rather have them talk against one another it would be so much better if conservatives would discuss actually conservative ideas and liberals discuss actually liberal ideas. But then, it seems that these talk shows cannot sustain an audience unless they holler against one another and that probably says something about those of us who watch these programs. Serious policy discussion does not generate an audience, fierce and silly counter-charges do. Not so good a basis for policy formation in a democracy.


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