Friday, February 24, 2012

Journalism's strong bias against identifying the truth

Dean Baker identifies a clear example of "he said she said" reporting in the New York Times and Washington Post. As Krugman put it a few years ago, "If Bush said the Earth was flat, the mainstream media would have stories with the headline: 'Shape of Earth—Views Differ.' Then they'd quote some Democrats saying that it was round.”

The point is that reporters routinely fail in their ethical obligation as reporters to point out what is true, whether it is consistent or contradicts what one politician or another says.

There are now 'fact checker' news services. They do a valuable job, even though they also spectacularly fail in the job sometimes—Politifact most notably. But more than their failures, that they exist at all is a testimony to a massive failure of Journalistic ethics. Journalists should be regularly pointing out what is true and real, when politicians disagree with one another. And this should not just involve specific factual claims but also policy claims.

It is true that policy claims are more difficult to sort out. But journalists can point out regularly the salient facts that question competing policy claims, so that the public knows the state of debate on policy issues. The allergy to policy issues plus the fear of saying what is true and false makes this practice unknown on television, and rare in print.

Baker points out that in the New York Times and Washington Post they report Obama's claim that we are producing more oil, and that overall oil prices are set by world markets, as we only have a small fraction of oil production or reserves. These claims are meant to counter the current Republican claim that he is responsible for the high price of gasoline. As Baker points out, they are also true claims and easy to verify as true. But neither paper does this. The fear of offending one side or another by pointing out what is true evidently rules not only the TV, but also the top print media.

Sad, and alarming.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Reagan's 28 year reign: Clinton as ratifier of Reagan

Now it is well recognized that the collapse of the financial system in 2008 had its seeds in the last years of the Clinton administration, when The Glass-Steagall Act regulating the financial industry was repealed, and congress refused to regulate derivatives. Both of these disastrous mistakes were pushed and supported by the Clinton administration.

What else? Well, welfare reform was a center piece of the 'triangulation', but I don't know enough about that to judge. Another very telling thing was the 'National Performance Review', otherwise known as 'Reinventing Government', led by Al Gore. According to this article on the subject, in 1994, I'm assuming after the loss of the House to Republicans, a 'Rego II' was added. According to the report it said "departments and agencies were directed to examine all their various activities and to ascertain which could be privatized, devolved to state and local government, or simply terminated."

Clinton and Gore didn't ask, 'What will make this system work best for the goals we have?' and then 'What resources will that take?' 'And if the resources are too much, is there a second best that is satisfactory?'

In other words, instead of trying to make government work effectively, they started with the premise that they needed to cut, and then imposed on people choosing what would do the least damage. And that seems to me a prescription for damaging government.

Talking to Federal workers at the time and since, they have viewed 'Reinventing' as a disaster that outsourced too much and weakened the effectiveness of government.

In other words, pure Reaganism.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Did the Obama economic stimulus work?

I've been traveling, so haven't posted for a while. For now here's a good video with charts, on the affect of the stimulus, from the Center for American Progress.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Working Inside the Neo-Con Republicon "bubble."

These days, the Republican Party appears to be obsessed about a "new" radical icon with whom they hope to link Obama..a Russian Jew named Saul Alinsky who has been dead for over forty years. So what did Saul Alinsky do to earn such opprobrium from the Republican Party?? He worked as a community organizer (most famously) in an area of Chicago called "The Back of the Yards." The Back of the Yards area (still called Armourtown in the 30s in recognition of its primary economic work as a meatpacking community) was a slum community, with extraordinarily high rates of infant mortality, high levels of juvenile delinquency, terrible wage conditions among workers, and a pervasive sense of hopelessness throughout the area. This was the very community which Upton Sinclair wrote about thirty years earlier in 1906 and characterized as "Packingtown" in his tabloid novel The Jungle thirty years earlier.

But Alinsky used conflict-oriented tactics to "get things done." He had absolutely no use for either Democrats or Republicans. "Liberals he saw as mostly hypocritical people who espoused his [Alinsky's values] but did not live according to them....For Alinsky liberals paralyzed themselves into immobility by their inability to take a stand for social and economic justice based on true democracy..Alinsky did not try to explain conservatives..He thought they were not worth explaining because they did NOT accept the American values that he saw as essential to democracy." (

Alinsky was fully prepared to use outrageously creative conflict techniques (like threatening to recruit 2500 people to occupy the toilets at O'Hare airport, making it impossible for deplaning passengers to find an accessible toilet (a strategy which prevented Mayor Daley from backing out of important agreements the Mayor had signed); like threatening Kodak Corporation in Rochester, N.Y. that his protest group would partake of an enormous pre-show banquet of baked beans in the Symphony Hall (a "fart-in") which he used to secure concessions for workers at Kodak.

Is it any wonder that Republicans detest him even as the Tea Party adopts his techniques? His version of American political life is a truer reflection of what democracy means than the majority of elective officials today could ever acknowledge - Democrat or Republican. It's just too dangerous !! And, by the way, I'm not really sure that Obama can withstand a proper comparison with Saul Alinsky - viewed through the lens of a democratic citizen.