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    • Trump/Clinton Debate Open Thread
      I used to get paid to watch these things. I don’t any more. So…I’m going to go read a nice novel in a coffee shop. Please feel free to talk about the debate in comments. I will, actually, be curious to hear what people have to say, just not willing to sit through so much […]
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The truth is biased


Big Tent Democrat:

There is a new celebratory quality to journalism that manifests itself in different ways. In the Beltway, it’s being in with the government In crowd. That means sacrificing objectivity and the truth.

Davies seems to have allowed, indeed he appears to be celebrating, his belief that Assange is a loathsome figure (not about the sex he makes clear) interfere with his duties as a journalist.

Can Nick Davies be considered an objective reporter on Wikileaks or Assange in the face of that admission? Similarly Wired magazine appears to have made similar moral judgments about Assange. In an e-mail he sent to Glenn Greenwald, the entirety of which he published himself, Wired’s Ryan Singel wrote of Assange and Wikileaks:

Suffice it to say I’m disappointed by your article, which I find to be warped by your allegiance to Wikileaks, which gets nothing but glowing accolades from you, despite ample evidence that Assange and Wikileaks aren’t acting in good faith.

Now whether Assange or Wikileaks are acting in good faith is an important part of the Wikileaks story, but it strains credulity to believe that a reporter who has concluded that Assange and Wikileaks “aren’t acting in good faith” can present itself as, in the words of Newsweek, “objective and nonpartisan.”

First of all, let me remind you that BTD thought media bias was a good thing when it came to selecting the Democratic nominee:

As most of you know by now, the difference maker for me in supporting Barack Obama in the primaries was the fact the he is the Media Darling of the election.

Secondly, while the media should be somewhat objective and neutral at the beginning of researching/investigating a story, by the end they should have formed an opinion. They can’t put aside their own knowledge and experience and that will affect their perceptions.

More importantly, we rely on reporters (and cops) to evaluate what they see and hear and give us an accurate picture of what they think really happened. But, just like cops, they need to present us with ALL the information they have gathered so we can double-check their conclusions.

How many times in recent years have we seen the media present both sides of as story as equally credible when they’re not? How often have they given us a completely one-sided presentation?

Both approaches are equally wrong.


Caveat: I’m talking about what’s called “investigative journalism.” When reporting on something like a political debate the media should try to present both sides as accurately as possible so the voters can form their own opinions. But even then they should fact-check misstatements and incorrect information.


Saturday Morning News and Views: May Day Edition

Beltane Fire Ritual, Edinburgh, Scotland

Happy May Day, Conflucians!! It’s the feast of Beltane. In Edinburgh, 12,000 people gathered for the Beltane Fire Festival spring rituals. Here is a little information on the pagan holiday:

By Celtic reckoning, the actual Beltane celebration begins on sundown of the preceding day, April 30, because the Celts always figured their days from sundown to sundown. And sundown was the proper time for Druids to kindle the great Bel-fires on the tops of the nearest beacon hill (such as Tara Hill, Co. Meath, in Ireland). These “need-fires” had healing properties, and skyclad Witches would jump through the flames to ensure protection.

Frequently, cattle would be driven between two such bonfires (oak wood was the favorite fuel for them) and, on the morrow, they would be taken to their summer pastures.

Other May Day customs include: processions of chimney-sweeps and milk maids, archery tournaments, morris dances, sword dances, feasting, music, drinking, and maidens bathing their faces in the dew of May morning to retain their youthful beauty.

In the words of Witchcraft writers Janet and Stewart Farrar, the Beltane celebration was principly a time of “…unashamed human sexuality and fertility.” Such associations include the obvious phallic symbolism of the Maypole and riding the hobby horse. Even a seemingly innocent children’s nursery rhyme, “Ride a cock horse to Banburry Cross…” retain such memories. And the next line “…to see a fine Lady on a white horse” is a reference to the annual ride of “Lady Godiva” though Coventry. Every year for nearly three centuries, a sky-clad village maiden (elected Queen of the May) enacted this Pagan rite, until the Puritans put an end to the custom.

May Day is also an important day for the labor movement.

At its national convention in Chicago, held in 1884, the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions (which later became the American Federation of Labor), proclaimed that “eight hours shall constitute a legal day’s labor from and after May 1, 1886.” The following year, the FOTLU, backed by many Knights of Labor locals, reiterated their proclamation stating that it would be supported by strikes and demonstrations. At first, most radicals and anarchists regarded this demand as too reformist, failing to strike “at the root of the evil.” A year before the Haymarket Massacre, Samuel Fielden pointed out in the anarchist newspaper, The Alarm, that “whether a man works eight hours a day or ten hours a day, he is still a slave.”

Despite the misgivings of many of the anarchists, an estimated quarter million workers in the Chicago area became directly involved in the crusade to implement the eight hour work day, including the Trades and Labor Assembly, the Socialistic Labor Party and local Knights of Labor. As more and more of the workforce mobilized against the employers, these radicals conceded to fight for the 8-hour day, realizing that “the tide of opinion and determination of most wage-workers was set in this direction.” With the involvement of the anarchists, there seemed to be an infusion of greater issues than the 8-hour day. There grew a sense of a greater social revolution beyond the more immediate gains of shortened hours, but a drastic change in the economic structure of capitalism.

Back here in the 21st Century, it’s been quite a week for news.

Continue reading

Given #1: The media is not your friend

Mike Lux can’t understand why the networks are getting all giddy about the TeaParty movement.  It’s all they ever cover.

To be clear, the tea partiers aren’t the only angry people in America. There are plenty of working class swing voters who aren’t inclined to buy into the tea party stew of racism, nativism, and Ayn Rand style libertarianism, but are deeply troubled that the jobs situation isn’t improving and that no one in government seems to be looking out for them. There are plenty of progressive activists angry at the Wall Street bankers, the health insurance companies, and the other corporate interests that are screwing them, and are angry that too many politicians seem to be in their pocket. In both cases, Obama and his fellow Democrats still have the opportunity to reach them, still have the ability to make absolutely clear whose side they are on. If Democrats show those voters that they will reject those special interests, and fight hard for average folks’ interests, they can still win this election. If they show voters that they are just as angry about what’s been done to regular people as the regular people, they will have a better 2010 than anyone is predicting right now.

The media loves-loves-loves this tea party story, but the tea partiers really aren’t anything new, and they don’t represent a very big group of voters. There is a lot of anger out there, but most of it is righteous anger that Democrats can and should tap into – anger that Wall Street and other bad actor big companies have been allowed to destroy our economy, and that no one is taking them on for it.

I have to go back and do my research but wasn’t OpenLeft one of the places that was dumping all over “the bubbas” during the primaries?  You know, the working class women who weren’t in love with Obama because they knew poison when they saw it? Well, whatever.  We’ll come back to that later.  The primaries are where this problem started.  If only Mike Lux would have a Soylent Green moment about them, we could start talking the same language again and get on with it.

Anyway, about the TeaParty.  Mike probably already knows the answer to this.  There have been reports in various places, the latest in The Big Short by Michael Lewis, that Hill staffers are glued to cable TV. The media shapes their worldview with  distortion and misdirection and bad information. Yep, you can put any stupid thing you want on CNN or CNBC and Congresscritters act like Rupert Murdoch and the other media owners have sunk their electrodes deep into the brains of the American public. But it isn’t true.

What the media has the power to do is amplify the voices it likes and mute the voices it doesn’t like.  It likes the TeaPartiers because they are militantly anti-government, anti-immigrant, anti-progressive.  Sweeet!  The neo-feudalists don’t have to lift a finger.  Well, that’s not strictly true.  We know that hard-ass Republican movement conservatives are funding the TeaParties.  But it’s a drop in the bucket compared to all of the attention they’re getting.

Nevertheless, there are people on Capitol Hill who are watching that nonsense and getting the heebie-jeebies.  OMG, the TeaParty is on the march!  They’re in your Walmart.  They’re pissed off.  They want you to do Republican things and be all bi-partisan and sell out women. And it’s working so well. Congress is scared to death of TeaParty people.  They’re so scared that they don’t even see the ax that’s about to fall on them from their (former) friends.

Mike, the media is never going to cover your frustration with the Democratic party.  The Democrats aren’t listening to you because they are transfixed by Fox News.  No matter how much you tell them they are pissing you off, they will ignore you because you and your rowdy band of progressive activists are not on the TV.  If the cameras aren’t covering you marching on the Mall and shouting slogans or throwing cherry bombs through the windows of some Democrat who just voted on the most regressive Republican health care reform bill in history, then you don’t really exist to those Hill staffers. And the cameras are never going to cover you, no matter how many millions you get to march on Washington.

Even Corzine’s loss and Martha Coakley’s defeat won’t register for awhile because it takes effort to analyze the polls and it’s so much easier to hear some blond spokesmodel tell you what those elections really meant based on some slanted poll the network conducted.

If you want to make a difference, you have to stop trying to get your politician’s attention through the media.  The people you want to reach are those very same voters you dumped on during the 2008 primaries.  Remember the working class?  Yeah, well, they don’t even know you exist.  They don’t read blogs.  But they might read a bumpersticker.  They might read guerilla messaging.  You can infiltrate them with signs and unanswered questions.  You could write a book.  Don’t fill it with tree hugging, birkenstock wearing, vegan, recycling crap though.  They really don’t care about that stuff.  They want to know whether you feel for them and their unemployment status.  Do you know what it’s like to work so hard and never seem to get ahead?  Have you ever had to take a 30% cut in salary to keep the lousy job you have?  Can you sympathize with the newly unemployed couple who can’t pay the mortgage on their house and will soon have no home for themselves and their two kids? Have you seen your friends with PhDs in the sciences wandering around the grocery store, not knowing what to do with themselves because they’ve lost their jobs and their industry has gone to Hyderabad for the indefinite future?

Those are the people you have to reach out to, not your politicians.  Not all of those working class schlubs are watching Fox.  They are waiting for a different answer.

You will not get good media.  If you get to be popular, the parties will dump on you.  Your friends will abandon you.  You will face humiliation, jeers, lies about you.  People will find out where you live and put dead bunnies on your doorstep.  You will not get to sit at the kewl lunch table.

You know what?  Forget about the media.  Hillary did and she almost beat the bastards.  She was knifed by her own, not by Fox news.  Go around them, Mike.  Be the anti-media.  Get all mysterious.  When you start to attract their attention, don’t return their phone calls.  Play hard to get.  Deliver your messages without them.  When the pols lose and lose and lose, they’ll eventually get a clue.  The Republican party is a lost cause.  The Democrats have an infection that needs to be cured.  But don’t put your faith in either one.  Put your faith in the people you scorned in 2008.  Women, working class people, Hillary supporters, the FDR style liberals.  Get them on board, Mike, and you can turn this thing around.

But don’t expect the media to acknowledge your existence.  They have you right where they want you right now.  Silent and invisible. Accept that as a given and move on.

Saturday Morning News and Views

Good Morning Conflucians!!!! It is 3 degrees here in the Boston western suburbs!!

Nevertheless, we are better off than you guys in the southern states where there is a winter storm going on. Yesterday, Texas and Oklahoma got about a foot of snow, and today the storm will move east into the Carolinas and Virgina and then out to sea.

California Conflucians are getting a break from the storms, but the state still needs more to end the long-term drought.

Our economics-challenged President is threatening to veto spending bills (except money for wars, banks, and insurance companies), because he thinks cutting the deficit is as important as creating jobs. I wonder when he’s going to figure out that the U.S. economy is dependent on consumer spending; and if people don’t have jobs, it’s kind of hard for them to buy things. Since he never held a full-time job before getting elected President and all his friends are rich corporate types, he doesn’t quite get what us ordinary people are so worried about.

“Like any cash-strapped family, we will work within a budget to invest in what we need and sacrifice what we don’t,” Obama said. “And if I have to enforce this discipline by veto, I will.”

In an effort to make a dent in the growing federal deficit, White House officials announced earlier this week that their budget proposal would keep non-military discretionary programs at fiscal 2010 levels (Greenwire, Jan. 26). The proposal would exempt some of the largest parts of the federal budget including defense and entitlement programs, such as Social Security and Medicare.

It will be up to Congress to decide whether to comply with this request in its spending bills, and Obama pled with them last night to toe the line — addressing critics from his own party and calling the effort vital to keep markets in line and avoid increases in the cost of borrowing.

I guess Obama thinks he can solve our economic problems by creating jobs in the military and defense industries. Maybe he is hoping a lot of us will go to work for Blackwater? I don’t know what he’s thinking, but I like Joseph Cannon’s idea of replacing Geithner with our own Dakinikat.

Eric Holder has been taking a lot of criticism from the right for locating the 9/11 conspiracy trial in New York City, and now he will be getting critiques from not non-Obots on the left. The Justice department review has cleared the Bush torture memo writers of professional misconduct.

Previously, the report concluded that two key authors—Jay Bybee, now a federal appellate court judge, and John Yoo, now a law professor—violated their professional obligations as lawyers when they crafted a crucial 2002 memo approving the use of harsh tactics, say two Justice sources who asked for anonymity discussing an internal matter. But the reviewer, career veteran David Margolis, downgraded that assessment to say they showed “poor judgment,” say the sources. (Under department rules, poor judgment does not constitute professional misconduct.)

By this time everyone should be aware that the Obama administration is not going to hold anyone accountable for planning or participating in torture. Continue reading

First they came for FOX News . . .

stfu


Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.


Jake Tapper of ABC asked White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs this question:

It hasn’t escaped our notice that in the last few weeks the White House has decided to declare war on one of our sister organizations saying it’s not a news organization and tell the rest of the news media to not treat them like a news organization. Can you explain why it’s appropriate for the White House to say one of them is not a news organization and the rest of the media should not treat them like one?

Peter Wehner at Commentary:

The term “sister organizations” is important because it shows solidarity with a news organization under fierce attack by the White House. This is the kind of question one would hope to see when a president and his top aides target a news organization and then, for good measure, try to dictate to other news organizations what they should do, how they should act, and which stories they should follow. But so far, stunningly, the media — including the White House press corps — have mostly been quiescent. One might have expected more in the face of these extraordinary efforts at media intimidation and media control. If the situation were reversed, and a Republican White House were targeting an entire network in a similar fashion, criticisms, condemnations, and thundering editorials would be pouring forth; terms like “abuse of power” and “chilling effect” would be on the lips of virtually every reporter in America. Instead, the reaction has been, for the most part, uncomfortable silence (with a few, like Jacob Weisberg, siding with the White House).

According to Jim Vanderhei and Mike Allen at Politico:

President Obama is working systematically to marginalize the most powerful forces behind the Republican Party, setting loose top White House officials to undermine conservatives in the media, business and lobbying worlds.

With a series of private meetings and public taunts, the White House has targeted the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the biggest-spending pro-business lobbying group in the country; Rush Limbaugh, the country’s most-listened-to conservative commentator; and now, with a new volley of combative rhetoric in recent days, the insurance industry, Wall Street executives and Fox News.

Obama aides are using their powerful White House platform, combined with techniques honed in the 2008 campaign, to cast some of the most powerful adversaries as out of the mainstream and their criticism as unworthy of serious discussion.

I’m no fan of the Rupert Murdoch/Roger Ailes operation. In fact, I’m on record telling people to turn off FOX News. But I’m a lowly member of the Order of Liberal Basement Bloggers, not the President of the United States or one of his henchmen.

I think the White House War on FOX is both politically stupid and a bad precedent.  First of all it’s a bad idea because as Mark Twain said:

“Never pick a fight with someone who buys their ink by the barrel.”

When Mr. Twain said that newspapers were the dominant media, but if he were alive today he would probably say:

“Never pick a fight with someone who owns their own television network.”

Whether Teh Precious likes it or not, FOX News is the top rated cable news network, and their ratings are up 20% this year.  Their gleeful attitude towards the war against them is best described by the old adage, “Never wrestle with a pig – you both get dirty and the pig enjoys it.

Does FOX put a right-wing spin on their stories?  Oh you betcha!  They got their start during the Big Dawg’s administration (October 7, 1996) and have been a key part of the GOP Noise Machine ever since.  Their commentary programs (Glenn Beck, The O’Reilly Factor, etc.) range from hardcore conservative to lunatic fringe wingnut.  You can also count on their “news” programs to spin and distort whatever they report.

But guess what?  CNN and MSNBC are no better, nor are the news divisions of the major broadcast networks (NBC, CBS and ABC) any different.  Every media outlet spins and distorts what they report.  They also have a bad habit of ignoring certain stories.  They are all owned by major corporations and/or filthy rich individuals, and they serve their masters, not the public.

Now personally I don’t give a shit if the Obamacrats take careful aim and shoot their toes off.  I expected them to fuck up royally once he was in office and they have.  But I have a big problem with the WATB White House declaring who is and is not a member of the press.  If they are granted that power it will be a major infringement of the First Amendment.

As Larry Flynt said:

“If the First Amendment will protect a scumbag like me, it will protect all of you.”

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Open Thread: John Nichols Smacks Down “Whiner in Chief”

Please don't hurt my feelings!

Please don't hurt my feelings!

This morning at The Nation John Nichols sternly reprimands the Obama administration for its attempts to control “left of left” bloggers with humiliating “off the record” remarks from anonymous administration sources, as well as its childish “war” with Fox News Network

Nichols writes:

…before the president and his inner circle go all Spiro Agnew on us, they might want to consider three fundamental facts regarding relations between the executive branch and the fourth estate

Next, Nichols discusses three main points about WH-media relationships: 1) media outlets have always been partisan; 2) “Presidents are supposed to rise above their own partisanship”; and 3) Obama is asking for trouble by “trying to ‘whip’ relatively like-minded” media sources “in line.”

Here are few salient exerpts from Nichols’ pithy piece:

Fox hosts do go overboard in their savaging of Obama and the Democrats — sometimes ridiculously so. But their assaults on the president are gentle when compared with the battering that Benjamin Franklin Bache’s Philadelphia Aurora administered to John Adams (appropriately) or the trashing that Colonel McCormick’s Chicago Tribune gave Franklin Roosevelt (inappropriately).

Obama should be better than [Dick] Cheney. But aides are not helping the president prevail in what ought to be an easy competition.

Cheney saw newspapers such as The New York Times and news channels such as CNN as little more than branches of his Democratic opposition.

…bloggers should…take [WH] criticism as confirmation that they are right when they suggest that this administration is increasingly out of touch with the progressive base that secured Obama the Democratic nomination and ultimately propelled him to the White House.

The fact is that the results of the 2008 election did not reveal “a closely-divided country.” Obama arrived at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue with the most muscular mandate accorded any Democrat since Lyndon Johnson’s 1964 landslide.

Please read the whole thing, and then come back here and discuss.

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Kanye West may Save Obama’s Presidency

(With apologies to Taylor Swift)

Kanye West may save Obama’s presidency. When President Obama said “He’s a jackass.”, the President confirmed a simple truth about civic virtue that transcended most political boundaries.

Importantly, he did so authentically. His statement was not the product of intense focus group distillation.

The comment leaked (hmm) and it met with significant approval. Unsurprisingly, given President Obama’s historic fall from favorability grace, the video was “released” by CNN.

In the video, the President is charming just being himself. His charm is but a bonus, however, because the People’s approval was based on his bare words.

Mr. West’s act could save Obama’s presidency, if “President Obama” recognizes the simple truth of why his comment worked. The people who voted for him did so because he promised to speak the truth and he promised to act on the truth. His statement both spoke and performatively acted on the truth of Mr. West’s behavior.  The People approved.

It’s remarkable that Obama has not realized the power of being honest, given that the promise of honesty carried him to power. Heck, he even disarmed the faux race angle of the incident, which delivers on the post-racial promise (that others made for him).

So, if President Obama realizes that being honest and keeping his promises (general as they were) will give him the best chance of having a second term, then perhaps he’ll adopt doing so as an election strategy. If he does, then his presidency will be historically important because he will be an example of how people benefit by doing the right thing.

UPDATE: Many of you think my modest proposal is not too swift. That is not a bad outcome.

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