Sunday, May 29, 2011

How the news media handled the "death panel lie"—a valuable study

The Nieman Journalism Lab publishes an excellent study of how the newspapers handled Sarah Palin's "Death Panel" lie two years ago. The bottom line? Journalists were confused about whether being fair and objective means just reporting on different views, or whether they should say what they can verify or refute as true or false. That confusion, in the view of the authors helped the lie to spread.

The issue they point to is indicative of a much larger problem. Palin's lie was easily refuted. In more complex issues most journalists feel no obligation to ascertain the truth. They just quote opposite sides and leave it at that. That's the main reason, in my view, the "Republi-con," the claim that lowering taxes on the rich is the key to prosperity, still has any credibility. And why I started this blog

Friday, May 27, 2011

Shocking news: real debate on health care starts, maybe.

Amazingly, Paul Ryan responded to Ezra Klein's questions. I say amazing because this whole non-debate has been characterized by an absence of *relevant rebuttal* and response to it. And that's the heart of debate. Now Ryan has opened himself to rebuttal, and Ezra Klein has done it with his usual vigor and clarity. The big question is now whether Ryan will respond, so that a real debate ensues. Any bets? "Stay tuned".

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Questions for Paul Ryan—and the White House

Ezra Klein, one of the most knowledgeable journalists about the health care debate, and about the budget, has a list of questions he'd like to ask Paul Ryan about health care. But Paul Ryan won't talk to him, and Ryan has never answered them from anybody else either. Again, why are politicians able to get away with this? Why don't the press and the Democratic party ridicule and shame them for ducking straightforward questions?

Klein also pointedly asks the White House to answer why their budget fails to invest in the country, though Obama says that's a priority, and why he won't raise taxes back to what they were in the Clinton era.

I'd like some answers, but I'm not holding my breath.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The disaster of trying to govern by bravado

Lawrence O'Donnell had a stunning piece on Trump and Schwartzenegger in his show last night May 17, on MSNBC. He argued that both shared the illusion that governing is easy, and all you have to do is come into office and be a tough guy and problems will magically be solved. O'Donnell brilliantly predicted in early March the day on which Trump would drop out, and why. In this piece, he shows how Schwartzenegger said he could easily handle California's debt and deficit by his toughness—and the fact is that they doubled under his reign. The tragedy, as O'Donnell highlights, is that half of the country is deceived by this "governing is easy you just have to be tough" nonsense. My question is, why do Democrats let them get away with it? They should be combated with relentless facts and searing ridicule, such as came Trump's way.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Bush's failure in anti-terrorism, and being too soft on the Republi-con

Normally, this blog discusses the Republi-con, the lie that cutting taxes on the rich and small government will help the country. The reality, demonstrated vividly by the Bush's administration's creation of a huge debt and an economic collapse, is just the opposite. But I will note that the same con is going on with respect to terrorism. In fact, it was on Bush's watch that Osama bin Laden attacked the US and escaped. And both involved demonstrable Bush incompetence. Here, from Think Progress is an excellent video making the case for Bush's incompetence on Osama bin Laden. How Bush was able to portray himself as protector of the nation against Kerry is a mystery, except that Kerry was such a horrible candidate and didn't hit back. Is Obama too soft on the Republi-con now? Is that what led to the 2010 electorial debacle?

Friday, May 6, 2011

Enemy of the People: Liberterianism of the Pauls

An article in yesterday's Washington Post makes clear a key swing voting group that must be swayed if the Democrats are to win in 2012: Libertarians. They must be convinced the personal liberty is not well served by cutting taxes on the rich and starving public investment. Personal liberty is not served by such "small government" and has nothing to do with how oppressive the government can be. On the contrary, by wrecking the economy in the long term, it will dis-empower people in their personal lives. We need to make clear that the small government mania is far more of a threat to the future of the republic than Al Qaeda ever was.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Why Ayn Rand's philosophy is stupid and evil

This video with clips of Republi-cons praising Ayn Rand, and then a positively Hitlerian turn by Rand herself raises the question: What's wrong with Rand?

Rand views all relationships in a black and white way: either altruistic or selfish. Altruistic is stupid, selfish virtuous. Relationships are trades, like buying a cabbage: I give you this, you give me that. If we are both happy with the trading we keep the relationship, as soon as either of us is not happy, we break it.

What is stupid about her philosophy is that it leaves out risk and uncertainty, and forgets about trust. We enter into longer-term relationships, whether employment or marriage, because we think that in the longer term, we, and the other person will benefit. But we don't know. We're taking a risk. And when we're asked to do something for the other person, we don't know if we are going to get support in return. It's a risk. It's not buying a cabbage. That's why the character of the other person, and trust are critical. In fact, trust is at the heart of cooperative relationships, and both marriages and economies fall apart without out it. That's because when and how much to do short term sacrifice are critical issues. When suspicion and hostility arise, and trust dissolves, then people won't enter a cooperative venture.

This is not only true in personal relationships, but in economic ones. We just saw the economy freeze up in 2008 because of the collapse of trust. Credit was no good and nobody was willing to lend. And the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression followed. To keep up trust we need both strong regulation and a sense of moral duty on the part of those with fiduciary responsibilities. Both collapsed years before the financial collapse, and partly because of those, like Greenspan, who adopted the stupid philosophy of Ayn Rand. And that's why her philosophy is not just stupid in being blind to risk and trust, but also evil. It undermines both financial discipline and cooperation for the common good. There's more evil as well, but that's enough.