Category Archives: the media

The Media, Part 2

the media2

Once you perceive the important role the media plays in our society then it becomes clear, I would think, that those in the media bear a heavy burden of responsibility. Journalists can try to be as truthful as personal perceptions allow, they can twist and spin the facts by pretending that commentary is news, or they can even lie.

Propaganda can be subtle or it can be obvious. Journalists can pick a focus group of people, such as middle class white folks, figure out what they think (profile them) and then feed them an interpretation of the news that exploits their mindset. The propaganda can be organized on behalf of any group that sponsors it, such as the GOP or the Tea Party. This is not necessarily new, but, given a news cycle that repeats hour after hour, day after day, is probably more effective at “brainwashing” a target audience in a more casual, folksy way than ever before.

Is this wrong? Should people in the media, who are almost our sole source of news and information, bear a moral responsibility to be as objective and factual as possible? If someone in the media is actually offering commentary on the news should there be a disclaimer? If people agree with the way commentary is slanted are they always more likely to believe it is factual?

There are so many citizens commenting on mainstream media articles and on social media websites who seem brainwashed, who parrot, almost word for word the same nasty insults if anyone disagrees with them, who quote the same right wing sources as if they were Bible verses. Does this signify that there are propaganda strategies that are so effective that if might be immoral to use them, even in a society that holds free speech as dear as we do? How could people listen to blatantly skewed commentary and come to passionately defend such information as straight-forward news?

The reason people mention Hitler so much these days is that they believe that what I just described is exactly how a creepy little man like Hitler was able to create a mass movement in Germany. He told a disillusioned but proud group of people that if they joined him they could win back their national pride. In America both sides have accused the opposition of leading Americans astray in the manner of Hitler. Are our leaders acting in the twisted manner of a master manipulator as the media often claims? The answer depends on who you ask. The GOP accused Obama of acting like Hitler. FOX news has hinted that Obama acts like Hitler. However it is a common tactic on the right to accuse someone else of acting the way you are actually acting as a sort of deflection.

If the media will not act in a moral fashion and tell us when we are getting news and when we are hearing opinions should we pass laws that require them to label their content? I don’t think we would be happy doing that because it would curtail freedom of speech. Obviously all we are left with is appealing to the better instincts of our media outlets and their journalists. But as long as money and profit play such large roles in our culture I suspect some in the media do not feel their better instincts, not so much.

All an educated citizenry can do is analyze what they hear and try to consult sources that slant all different ways. It is interesting that the same people who are trying to use media to exploit the downturns and disillusionment of the white middle class are arguing against free public education and against teaching things like critical thinking. You cannot hang on to freedom if you are not educated to read, write, and understand all the language and the intent of the language that is constantly being broadcast to your brain. We should be learning a lot about propaganda and manipulation because we have been subject to large doses of each. Hopefully we will be less susceptible in the future. Perhaps, perhaps not. Seduction is powerful even when it uses only words.

By Nancy Brisson

The Media

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We may not always like the media, or parts of the media, or certain voices within the media, and we are certainly offered a lot of choices. Some Americans like to collapse everyone in the media into one cynical package and pretend that they do not have to rely on the media, in some form, to draw conclusions about everything under the sun. And this is especially true in politics.

When you buy a piece of electronics you might solicit personal advice from friends or read the possibly unreliable online reviews or talk to a salesperson in a big box store who is there to drive up the store’s profits. We eventually learn that totally objective advice on any subject is almost impossible to come by. And we learn to accept that in some areas we have only the media to rely on.

In the earliest days of our nation some people probably only knew candidates for government through broad sheets or news sheets, although America was quite small and there may have been large numbers of citizens who actually knew the candidate much as we know candidates running for local government today.

We have seen old movies and newspapers that show candidates taking trains (once trains were available) out to small towns and larger cities all across America, waving to voters, stopping to give a stump speech and moving on. Many citizens got to see a candidate in person in this way. Some even got to shake his hand (there were no female candidates although there were sometimes wives of candidates).

Today few of us have seen a candidate in person unless we live in an early primary state. I saw Dan Maffei in person when he was running for Congress. I saw Bill Clinton in person but only after he was no longer President. I saw Joe Biden when he was actually VP. I did not meet them or shake their hands but I heard them speak on behalf of Mr. Maffei who eventually lost his seat to a Republican that most voters did not even know, but who was endorsed in the local newspaper.

So we rely on the media and there is lots of it. We have print newspapers, online newspapers, magazines, online magazines, and online commentary sites like Slate, Politico, Daily Kos, Salon, and many, many more. We have cable television media sources like CNN, FOX, MSNBC, C-SPAN and network media on ABC, NBC, CBS, and PBS, and we have all of our local news channels. We have radio media used by people who are on-the-go and cannot access TV all of the time.

Candidates are swamped by media. There are so many microphones pointed at them we can barely see them. Donald Trump is just about the only candidate who is meeting large numbers of Americans in person and this could be one reason his followers defend him beyond what most of us consider reason. It also tends to make him look sort of fearless, or it would if any dissenters were not at the mercy of his followers. But however often Donald harangues the media and excoriates anyone who dares to critique him in any way, he too must and does rely on the media to take his message to most Americans.

Oddly, while we have this proliferation of national media, we are losing media in the local market because our print newspapers are folding. I like the way Rachel Maddow always brings this to our attention. This is a bad thing. It will put candidates for our Federal government even more out of reach for voters. Will online news sites that are local find the funds to pay reporters so that we continue to get news that focuses on regional concerns? When the print equivalent of a website goes out of business does the online version suffer?

All our online media is disappearing behind the pay wall. Keeping track of all those electronic fund transfers, even if you can afford them, is a real headache. These EFT’s do not always occur on the same date making budgeting even more difficult. Most of us cannot afford to read every source we would like to. In the old days we could go to the library to read the big newspapers and magazines. If print sources keep going out of business this may not always be the case. News might become the province of the wealthy.

Skewed media is certainly not new, but it has had a profound effect on political discourse in America in the last several decades. I still contend that the right wing in America would not be so united in fringe extremism if it were not for Talk Radio and FOX news. Left wings talkers were nowhere near as effective in riling up their voters because possible they did not understand the angst of the audience they were addressing.

In these days when there is an invisible ideological line that separates the American people it is especially easy to see how dependent we are on our media people to create our national spirit or even to pit our spirits against one another. I don’t see any way the media will become less important in sharing information, opinions, and even disseminating propaganda unless we devolve into anarchy or evolve into a totalitarian state. Most of us will never get to know our political candidates as friends, neighbors, part of our social group.

We only have the media. If we could rely on their professional objectivity it would be easier for us all to take in facts and make reasoned decisions. Too bad we are not all computers. We are people and we like a little emotion in our news. Our very nature as humans encourages the media sources to outdo each other in order to catch our attention or sway our minds into sharing their passionately-held beliefs.

This is the legacy of a free press. Sometimes we love it, sometimes we hate it but, hopefully, we always treasure it, continue to wend our way through the conflicting messages, and never give into the temptation to turn it into one clear, sanitized and leadership-approved voice. Freedom is hard but it is too wonderful to ever give up without a fight.

By Nancy Brisson

What We Owe the Mainstream Media

Tone matters. The tone of our politics lately has been one of two parties in a verbal war. The language of this war is sometimes hateful, sometimes short-sighted, sometimes revealing. Feelings have been aired that have festered in the bowels of America. Many of these feelings are more than a century old, some of these feelings are new and have to do with economic and cultural change in America and around the globe. Some of these feelings arise out of people’s quite irrational fears that there are vast global conspiracies whose goal is to make America unrecognizable. Others arise out of real change in the economic situation of some Americans. Some have to do with something as basic as which skin color will prevail in America, as if our souls resided in the color of our skin. So people have been passionate, and aggressive, and intimidating, perhaps even letting their passions boil over at times into borderline or actual violence.

But I have to give most of the media kudos for keeping cool heads in situations that could easily tip over into chaos. The media has threaded a careful way through the swollen emotions and the impassioned rhetoric giving people a calmer platform from which to express their ideological concerns, giving their ideas credence when they seem to push humanitarian concerns forward, and perhaps a bit of mild ridicule when ideas seem too reactionary to contribute to cultural progress.

Often the media reminds us of our nation’s rather passionate political history. Our politics has often been verbally, and occasionally physically, explosive. They remind us of the political shambles our nation was in prior to the Civil War. The rhetorical passion was shouted daily in our Congress, in our press, and in our streets. On that occasion people’s passions, unabated by discussion, ended in a brutal war with so many casualties. There have been other times of great passion in American politics such as in the years before World War II when isolationists disagreed with those who thought we would have to go to war against Hitler. It took Pearl Harbor to put the kibosh on that disagreement and unite us against common enemies. The sixties and seventies were certainly passionate times in our nation with the sexual revolution and the cultural revolution and the Vietnam War making America often appear to be two (or more) different nations. None of us who lived through the Civil Rights’ Movement will ever forget the passion of those days, one side with its desire to be treated as equal Americans, the other side holding on to and expressing years of contempt and prejudice with guns shots and hangings and the powerful streams of water from the ends of fire hoses, and so many other hateful things.

Yes, we are a nation of passions and we often find ourselves once again dividing into two segments of our America who are at loggerheads with each other and who feel what they feel so strongly that they would like to actually come to blows over it. But the press sort of operates as the people who stand between the two opposing groups with their hands against their chests to keep them physically separated, and it is the press who gives us perspective on how each of our partisan groups arrived at this impasse.

The way the mainstream press treats extreme speech as real politics and discusses it as it would more moderate politics keeps our government from imploding or exploding. They refuse to give any credence to voices on either side that see the fringes as more in control than the center is. They have kept their heads, partly by treating it all like entertaining theater, partly by helping us connect fringe dialogue to its historical roots to remind us that this stuff did not suddenly crop up out of nowhere, and partly by refusing to get too hot under the collar which could only help foment hysteria.

Right now the press is calmly and as objectively as possible (given that these are human beings who also feel passionate) helping America hold a normal Presidential election in times that feel anything but normal. They have a matrix in their brain, a matrix that tells them what elections have always been like and they are using that historical memory to keep this election, which could so easily go off the rails, on track. We get impatient with them sometimes. They seem too moderate, too data bound, too controlled, and perhaps, sometimes, too stodgy for our heated debates. And yet this very ability to treat our current situation as normal, as just another hotly contested moment in the history of our nation, keeps the process ticking along. We do not really want to break apart our great nation and so, right now, I am thankful that our media are such nerds, such political geeks that they are keeping us all somewhat civil and on track to hold a traditional election according to the rule of law in November of 2016. I think it is called professionalism.

By Nancy Brisson

Which Came First, the Meme or the Media?

CNN Poll reprinted online in American Thinker

It is difficult to tell if people believe Hillary Clinton is untrustworthy and a liar because she really is or because the media repeats these epithets every day hundreds of times in a news cycle. They say they are giving poll results in which average citizens record their opinions of whether or not these two adjectives are Hillary’s main qualities and they are doing that. But there have been dozens of such polls which means that we get to hear people’s feeling recounted over and over again. But which came first, the media hype or the public opinion?

Did this mantra begin with the investigation into Whitewater? Most of us no longer know the details of Whitewater (was it some kind of real estate, investment or banking transaction which seemed not quite up to snuff). It was reported that Hillary was cleared of any wrongdoing. However, a shudder still goes through the public sphere whenever the word ‘Whitewater’ is invoked. We have been lead to believe that there were improprieties but they were skillfully done and could never be proven. As long as questions linger, the taint on the Clinton reputation remains.

Then there are Hillary’s reactions to her husband’s indiscretions which suggest that the marriage is purely for optics, purely a political bond. How could any woman overlook infidelity and not assume that a wandering husband was a criticism of her behavior, or her womanliness, or her lovability? Perhaps this is where the adjective cold comes in and the adjective calculating. Women should never be so emotionally strong that they can keep their eyes on the prize and refuse to be viewed as less because of the behavior of their spouse. The conclusions made from this line of reasoning are that Hillary has no human emotions but can sometimes pretend to have empathy for others and that she should be ridiculed rather than praised for letting her ambition be more important than her image as a wife and as a woman. But it seems possible to conclude that she is a true feminist, who will not give her husband’s inability to remain faithful power over her own self-respect or the world’s approbation. Again the media possibly has furthered this social meme and perhaps kept it alive in the guise of merely repeating a popular opinion.

Benghazi. One only has to say the word. It is extremely doubtful that any American citizen let alone a Secretary of State would deliberately deny support to an American Ambassador faced with a violent attack. Testimony has shown over and over again that there was no help available that could arrive in time to save Ambassador Stevens and his staff. So when the press invokes Benghazi, which they must because the Republicans keep the situation alive by investigating it ad infinitum, what is it that their American listeners hear? Do they believe in their hearts that Hillary could have done something to help but purposely did not? If so that would be a terrible indictment of Hillary (but it has been disproven). Do they believe she was so lightweight and frivolous that she did not give the pleas of the Ambassador professional attention? Is Hillary shallow? If she is, which I don’t believe, then she would probably not make a very good President (although I don’t know who could be shallower than Donald Trump).

Or were all Hillary’s sins committed after the event when she supposedly colluded with President Obama during his election campaign to make events look isolated and to make Americans believe that terrorists were not involved? Political expediency has often affected stories the public is told about world events I would guess, and yet, even so, the President did use the words ‘terrorist attack’ both in the Rose Garden and in his speech as the bodies came home to America. We may never know the truth about Benghazi because half of the people believe we already know the truth and half of the people believe that dire secrets are being kept. The media’s role in this is perhaps inescapable because the Benghazi questions are kept alive as news.

Now we have the emails and the press reporting everyday about what the polls have to say. Hillary is untrustworthy. Hillary is a liar. This is the actual message America is hearing even though the media is only reporting the results of polls and not actual facts about Hillary’s character. We don’t have a true test that will prove whether or not someone is untrustworthy, unless s/he is caught red-handed. We have never really caught Hillary out in a lie. Did the Hillary adjectives, cold, calculating, untrustworthy, liar, begin with the public or with the press? Are they kept alive by the public or by the press? Which came first? I watch a news station that supposedly leans left and still the words untrustworthy and liar are linked with the name Hillary Clinton on each new hourly news show throughout the day. That is a lot of mentions and this has been going on for months. Is the characterization true or is it a witch hunt? We can no longer tell. I guess if the FBI arrests Hillary and charges her with a felony that will make a lot of people very happy. But not me. Perhaps Hillary was trying to be cagey and thought that she had found a way to keep her tenure as Secretary of State under her control, but I am certain that she did not intend to break any laws or play fast and loose with any government secrets. Did she do this to cover up anything shady about Benghazi? Since she set up the server before the events at Benghazi (at least as far as I know she did) then this seems unlikely. This reminds me of when Martha Stewart went to jail for something that happens all the time in the old boys’ club.

The press should give this particular litany of Hillary faults a rest. Stop all the stories that whisper those very negative adjectives in the same breath with the name Hillary. Let things shake out without your incessant pretense that you are possessed of knowledge which you do not possess. Polls are only powerful when they are used as clubs to beat people over the head and beat a message into their brain. It is now impossible to discern whether people would have been as convinced of these particular Hillary character flaws if they had not heard them hundreds of times a week for months.

By Nancy Brisson

The Media Blasts the Progressives

Sunday morning did not have much media presence on our TV’s because of soccer, which the networks hope will be the next great sports craze. However in just the tiny bit of time intellectuals were allowed this morning the media managed to warn Progressives that they were too focused on the middle class and they were about to ignore hordes of voters among the poor. Applying a bit of logic to this piece of skewed nonsense will show that Progressive/Liberal agenda items are not only important to the middle class; they could also be very important for those who are considered poor. But what the media may be suggesting is that the poor are deficient in logical thinking skills and will never realize these social programs would also help them. (Surely, the media wouldn’t do that!)

Americans who accept low paying jobs because they lack training and/or education often cannot afford to work because child care costs would wipe out their income. Single moms are in an especially precarious situation when they have no nearby family support system. If you can drop your children at home and if you know your Mom’s a nurturing person with a healthy lifestyle, then you are lucky indeed. Free day care along with universal pre-K, are certainly programs that would help lift some people out of poverty and programs which would also help the middle class.

Free training and college, another Progressive goal, especially if accompanied by reliable child care and pre-K and after-school programs is a triple whammy that might make astonishing inroads into the number of poor in the country. These same things would also provide security to the American middle class. Children would be cared for systematically and parents could work with less guilt and fewer interruptions. For the middle class these are peace-of-mind-items but would also help folks climb their career ladders. For the poor they could be the difference between failure and success. These programs might attack those pockets of stubborn poverty in America that we discuss so often and create pathways out.

Progressives also believe, and the experiences of other nations which have these supports in place show, that these programs also improve day-to-day life for the middle class and help them concentrate on their jobs when they are working and concentrate on their families when they are not, instead of being torn between two loyalties. Family leave helps families deal with illness, death, and crisis within the family without losing their livelihood.

I love the Progressive/Liberal agenda for its sheer audacity. To peddle growth in the midst of a push for drastic austerity takes a lot of chutzpah.

And this stuff, while jaw-dropping, does not strike us as being as nutty in a way as the right wing diatribes have been. If you ask me who makes arguments closer to the promises we believe are made by our Democracy, I would have to go with the Progressives. There is also the argument that we like these things Progressive want to fight for; we want these things; these things would be a godsend for both the middle class and the poor.

But we have been beaten down; we have been shown our greed and the affects that our greed has had on the Federal budget and we are ready to take our punishment. We are almost convinced it is just. We are almost persuaded that we cannot ask the rich to part with one more red cent of their hard-earned bucks. I say this with sarcasm but the part of the middle class which feels comfortable, that feels on the verge of attaining enough wealth to put their money worries to rest, are truly loathe to touch up the very rich for these programs (even if our tax structures and our laws are funneling all America’s money into a very few pockets).

Both propaganda and direct observation, I might add, have done their work. Americans with a strong work ethic feel like they have wage suckers attached to every window, door and crevice in their homes (thank you Progressive Insurance for that image). Perhaps they are right, but I believe the number of wage suckers would also be trimmed by adopting a more progressive approach to social programs (along with a really effective new way to wean people off opioids and other debilitating addictive substances.)

The middle class is ready to cut the wage suckers loose. Everyone should have to work and plan and save and climb. That’s the American way. And, yes, it is, but it has left a lot of wage suckers and those unable to work circling the drain. Abandoning them will not improve America. It will make it sadder and scarier. People will not just go live in suburbs, they will have to live in walled and guarded communities and be very choosy about who they let in. Or we can try one more time to help those who need it find a way to live independent and productive lives.

So the media may be correct about the factoid they offered which said that Progressive/Liberal talk is focused on the middle class and that they will lose a lot of votes with this kind of focus. Clearly, though, the same social programs that are offered to assist the middle class, would be even more helpful to the poor. It’s a bold approach. When all are moaning about debts and cuts, go big. Spend money to make money. If were headed for a 25 year long great depression on our current path, risk-taking might be just the trick to turn the whole thing around. We would be betting on the same Americans we have been talking about kicking to the curb. Now, that’s Progressive!

By Nancy Brisson

Hillary Clinton and the Media – and Bill…

The media seems to salivate every time the Clinton finances are attacked. The most recent tidbit reveals how much money the Clinton’s earned from speaking engagements between January and May (25 million dollars). They act like Bill and Hillary are con artists forcing people to turn out their pockets just to listen to charismatic charlatans for forty-five minutes to an hour.

I would think that perhaps people are willing to pay such large amounts as $250,000 per speech because they want to contribute to the good work being done by The Clinton Foundation and The Clinton Global Initiative. And there is the political celebrity status conferred on these two by holding top posts in our government like President and First Lady and Secretary of State.

Lots of politicians (mostly Republicans) and media people are offering up a silent and not so silent delight that we will soon be able to prove that the Clintons are guilty of that powerful leveler of political careers, “corruption”. The rest of us “everyday” folks out here think that it is almost impossible to participate in politics today without being corrupt. We will only be impressed with corruption on a very grand scale. We expect that our politicians will find ways to make public service pay. We don’t love the idea, but we feel helpless to change this dynamic.

People understand that there could be a conflict of interest here: it is possible that large donations given by foreign governments and by media figures like George Stephanopoulos could lead the donors to believe that favors might be forthcoming if we elect Hillary as our President in 2016. However giving to a charity that tries to mitigate misery around the globe does not seem like the usual road to a quid pro quo.

Hillary and the media have a sort of come here – go away kind of relationship. The press likes to expose the soft underbelly of candidates for public office, Hillary included. However, once you show emotion (fear, resentment) some in the press “smell blood” and like to go in for the kill. Hillary feels that she must exercise caution when reporters are present. We also accept that since she is running for President she cannot avoid the media. News people complain that she seems overly formal and gives off an edgy, annoyed air when confronted with questions which seems accusatory.

While it is true that the press is intrusive and operates without filters, we are all hoping that Hillary gets a bit more comfortable around the media and that she is able to hide the defensiveness she currently reveals. I do not mind if she avoids situations which inspire a feeding frenzy in the media. As for the press they could stop being so thrilled by the shots candidates lob at each other, especially when they are aware that what they are repeating are rumors that have not been and never may be proven to be facts.

We have never before had a Presidential candidate with a partner who is an ex-President and who heads a charitable foundation. Unless this charity is simply a way to bilk donors of their money so it can fatten the personal bank accounts of the Clintons, it would seem that we need to cut them a little slack here.

I believe there is evidence that this foundation takes on real projects both at home and abroad to lift up people in need. I also tend to doubt that there is any criminal activity here worthy of Republican glee. All these allegations will do is force Bill Clinton to stop doing good things out in the world if he wants his wife to win the Presidency. And that will be a true loss for all who currently benefit from The Clinton Foundation and its programs.

Note: Isn’t the phrase “everyday people” from a song by Sly and the Family Stone?

This is the view from the cheap seats.

By Nancy Brisson

Changes at MSNBC

Wow, that was fast! I did not know a media outlet could turn an entire line-up upside down so quickly. MSNBC was providing an important counterweight to FOX news by taking a somewhat more left-leaning approach. A voice that brought some sanity and balance to the extreme fake right-wing version of the news as practiced by FOX was sorely needed.

As far as I am concerned President Griffin at MSNBC sold out. Admittedly TV lives by ratings and advertising dollars. Comcast laid down the law. It wanted a “straight” news approach during daytime hours at least. It wanted to cut shows that were not getting good ratings. Clearly Griffin did not stand by his people, so we could conclude that at heart he is no liberal.

My guess is that during these days of the winter of 2015, the news has lost that shocking edge that we have experienced since the trial of George Zimmerman and the Ferguson revelations and Cliven Bundy and the militias. Things got a bit heated and confrontational there for a while. I’m thinking that confrontation brings ratings.

Now we are in a calmer cycle because the Republicans have to cool their somewhat heated jets in order to get some credibility for their candidates for 2016. We are supposed to forget all the twisted logic, all the outrageous statements about women and immigrants and minorities. They cannot afford to have MSNBC stirring the pot. I wonder if any of that almost one billion dollars pledged by the Koch brothers to get a Republican elected to the Presidency has managed to find its way into the Comcast coffers?

I am certain that news viewing in general is down right now in the ratings. Since Christmas we have been hunkered down for winter. Between working, keeping up our houses and feeding ourselves and our families while adding on seasonal snow moving duties and perhaps some winter sports, people are happy to welcome back their favorite network and cable shows. I doubt that any fall in ratings has anything to do with the slight left wing skew of MSNBC news. If we are going to have multiple 24/7 news channels which are all trying to compete with each other on busy winter days when even normal activities are more difficult, then ratings are sure to suffer and the causes might be hard to pin down.

So we lost the Joy Reid Show and Joy Reid is one very smart cookie. We lost Ronan Farrow, the millennial who barely had time to establish a base. Chris Hayes, who served so well in Ferguson, was also rumored to be on the cut list, but may have survived. Reverend Al Sharpton, who is apparently having some difficulty reading his teleprompter, may be moved from weeknights to weekends. This leaves us with no Americans of African Descent with a daily news show except for Tamron Hall, who is undeniably beautiful, but does not have the gravitas of a Joy Reid. She does have seniority however and she has definitely shown lots of improvement.

I have been in the habit of turning my TV on to MSNBC when I get up and leaving it there all day. I guess I will have to get my lefty news on the internet and I can turn off daytime TV and read more, because there is nothing on daytime TV worth watching now. This news source was a good deal while it lasted and I will miss being able to hear analysis that agrees with mine. I hope this doesn’t embolden FOX news to new heights of outrageous Conservative fancy.

This decision could have a devastating effect on political dialogue in America. It’s a big mistake – big.

By Nancy Brisson

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Is the Media Trying to Kill the ACA?

Why are we so critical because a giant complex health care overhaul doesn’t run perfectly after only two months? Is this all about the mandate and the penalties? Do we expect to see the perfect mix of signers after only two months? Are we nuts?

The media has been brutal about the difficulties with this roll out. Maybe this has been positive in a way because it has forced the administration to pour energy into making the health care web site work. The media is still hyping this crisis, although I am not sure why. They have set this up so that if the web site is not perfect by December 2, 2013, then this whole new insurance framework will have failed forever. We know that in the past the larger the program, the rougher the roll out. This program, although it was only designed to provide insurance for 30 million or so uninsured individuals, also attempts to solve some thorny insurance problems which have been created by a risk-adverse industry – problems like pre-existing conditions and lifetime caps on treatment costs, problems like placing insurance costs beyond the reach of many younger Americans or the self-employed. In order to ask the industry to cover these high-risk areas it became important to reach a new pool of young healthy Americans to serve as a counterweight. The media reports the so far “desperate” failure of the plans to pull in these young buyers because they have been turned away by a nonfunctioning web site and they are not convinced of the value of this insurance to begin with, so once they have tried and failed, they will be lost to the market forever. Is this real panic or media created panic? Only time will tell, but I can’t help but wonder what stake the media has in the failure of the ACA beyond a blatant attempt to improve ratings. Even if the marketplace has not sorted itself out by March, 2014, it is entirely possible that dispensation will be given in the form of a later deadline for those tax penalties to kick in.

How much will these difficulties affect the 2014 election? We are all so fickle, or disenchanted by government, or so ADHD that it is impossible to guess how voters will jump until we are much closer to the election. We all know that big programs require generous start-up periods with an expectation of frequent glitches. Isn’t this the first large government/private partnership that has had a digital roll out? Of course it did not help that that oft-repeated statement the President made about keeping your insurance plan and your doctor was almost immediately proved wrong, or false, depending on your point of view. Did the President deliberately lie to get us on board? This really makes little sense as an explanation. Why would anyone whose life belongs right now to the public make such a public statement if he knew that it would soon be proven very publicly as false? I don’t believe any President would do that which leaves either 1) the President did not understand all the ramifications of his own plan, or 2) the President did not understand the calumny of the insurance industry.

The media is free, of course, to be as dramatic as they wish to be and to crank up their dismay at the “failures” of the ACA start up to operatic proportions, but they must accept that they may be helping the opposition party destroy a program that really would have eventually improved our health insurance. I also understand that it is not the media’s job to tout a program just because of inherent social values it might have; the media is not an advertising agency. However, reminding people that there is real history behind that old cliché, no pain, no gain; reminding them of the difficulties that have accompanied other roll outs; reminding people that mistakes are made and can often be forgiven, should also be covered regularly as part of this story.

The fact that Congress does nothing and is especially quiet and inactive right now may be forcing the media to focus on the ACA roll out because it is just about the only news in town. In fact, the media could be feeding right into one of those GOP game plans that the New York Times exposed, was it just last week? So the Republicans could have strategized to have the media dissing the ACA for them so they can really kick back and revel in that doing-nothing thing they are doing. We the people need a way to fire Congress but the only way we can do this is to elect Democrats in 2014.

This is the view from the cheap seats.

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Obama v. Romney/CNN Off the Deep End?

What’s up with CNN? After the last debate they never stopped drubbing President Obama. Even after this debate they still seem to be favoring Mitt Romney. They are political wonks, who love following every nuance of an election, ad nauseum, especially Wolf Blitzer. I can’t decide if it is making the election more interesting or turning it into an exercise akin to diagramming sentences.

I am beginning to believe that CNN is not just trying to report on a presidential election, they are trying to influence the election. Maybe that is just the nature of the 24 hour news beast that in trying to fill each day with interesting, gripping news they actually begin to skew the news in a direction that matches their reporting. Perhaps pressure is being placed on CNN because they have fallen in the ratings or perhaps one of their key sponsors, with its right-wing sponsors, is steering them by threatening to pull their ads. Whatever is going on, I suggest that their endless criticism of the President’s performance in his previous debate and their insistence that Joe Biden was terribly rude in the Vice Presidential debate may have helped to move the electorate.
They have been repeating the fallacy that Obama does not have a plan for the economy but it is clear that Obama plans to continue on as he has been going. I know this is the crux of the matter. People are very unhappy that Obama’s methods are too slow, that they are not offering an instant cure to our economic woes. That is what people have found appealing about Romney’s plan. It sounds like it will bring immediate and extremely positive economic results. After all he has promised us 12 million jobs (I believe it is over the next 10 years, though, not actually immediately). Whatever – he sounds like he knows exactly what to do. He has a lot of big business friends. Maybe he can pull it off. He reminds us that Ronald Reagan did it. Well he is no Ronald Reagan and we are living in different times. Maybe cutting taxes for everyone will balance the budget but it certainly sounds counterintuitive. What is obvious is that Mitt Romney never brings up the “environment” or all of the challenges we face with doing business in such a way that we also safeguard the planet we call home. No one has actually brought up the environment because how can you argue about the effects of fossil fuels on the climate when the other side insists the effects are minimal or nonexistent.
Obama’s plans for the economy are not “sexy”. He feels that slowly, through effort and innovation and energy independence (that tries to keep environmental concerns in mind), we will build a new American economy that is oriented towards the future needs of a world that will contain 9 billion people by 2050 and that the America we build in this fashion will be stronger than an America that goes backwards to try to woo the same factories who left America with lower taxes, lower wages, fewer or no benefits, no environmental protections and few business regulations. Obama has managed to hold to his agenda and make some progress even though he had no support from Republicans and precious little from Democrats who were fearful about keeping their posts. I truly believe that Obama has the better approach to the economy. It doesn’t rely on magic and it doesn’t rely on going to corporations to beg them to come back to America. It relies on retraining, retooling, reimagining and rebuilding. He is more like an orchestra conductor deciding when the strings should come in and how loudly or softly they should play, when the brass needs to be heard, and etc., than he is like an old style “pol” who says anything to get into office.

Obama will involve the whole orchestra, in other words, he sees the American government and America as not just a business entity, but also a social entity which is what a government must be. With Romney we don’t know what our health care will look like but we know it will not look like it does now, we don’t know what will really happen to social programs that “lift up” the 47%. We have no assurance that the economy which is skewed towards the wealthy will be “unskewed”. I do not feel confident, if Romney is elected, that four years from now Roe v. Wade will still be the law of the land. Romney exudes traditional values which put wifey in the home as a helpmate. I’m not saying things will go this far, but he is not exactly a feminist. Romney conducts only a string quartet. String quartets are lovely, but not nearly as difficult to juggle as a full symphony orchestra. If we could give Obama four years with true bipartisan support I believe we might see something really great: the beginnings of our future. For those who imply that Obama cannot expect bipartisan support and that therefore we need to go with Romney instead I say he will be even more harmful because he does have bipartisan support and he only has it because he doesn’t want to change anything. He, and the Republicans, are yearning, yearning for what we had and going back to 1950 would be the best scenario of all. I don’t think we can get back  to 1950, or even that that would be a good thing.

CNN, if you are not trying to influence the election then be more careful about what you are doing. Maybe scale back your election coverage and cover the other things that are going on in the world. You are turning us all into election junkies. Obama does have a plan for the economy and it is the better plan.

Relying on Magic for Jobs

On Thursday, July 6th it was reported that only 80,000 jobs were added in all of America during June. The newsreaders and commentators acted surprised and disappointed that so few jobs were added. These are educated people who, I guess, have to act dumb in order to appear “fair”.  As usual they speculate that this data will hurt the Obama campaign and help the Romney campaign.
However, I have to wonder about where they thought new jobs were going to come from. We are all living in the same America I assume. I have not seen any active attempts to stimulate job growth either from the public arena or the private sphere. We can all see that we are in a sort of holding pattern, frozen in place, waiting to see what will happen next. Consumers buy, but not with any gusto. Employers hire, but only when absolutely necessary and they are prepared to lay employees off immediately if they think they need to. Our Congress has been stonewalling any effort to help stimulate economic growth or jump start hiring. We are still stuck in a tight money scenario and it is a sort of Catch-22. If we spend our debt will grow, if we don’t spend our debt will still grow, and if we cut, our debt will grow. But spending might lead to a way out of our torpor and, although the debt might increase temporarily, economic strength might eventually help us lower the debt faster.
Our media, by acting so disingenuous, by pretending that they don’t have the slightest idea how we got where we are or why we are still here, is acting like they had expected “magic” to create jobs in June. The one factor I don’t think we can rely on for job creation is “magic”, although it looks like all we’ve got.