Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Fox on Fifteenth

 Dean Baker has taken to referring to the Washington Post as "Fox on Fifteenth" for the right wing agenda pushed in its editorials and op-ed pieces.  I wish more people would use this description to warn the unwary of the tendentious nature of the opinion coming from the WaPo.

I particularly enjoyed this comment from one of Mr.Baker's recent posts :
"...the folks at Fox on 15th Street, where the guiding philosophy is that a dollar in a worker's pocket is a dollar that could be in a rich person's pocket,...."
 I wish we could see more of this (justified) criticism from other sources.

Why Let Fox Go Unanswered?

As we know, Fox "News" is the mouthpiece of the Republican Party, serving approximately the same function that Pravda used to for the Communist Party in the Soviet Union.  (Roger Ailes who runs FNC used to be a media consultant for the Republicans, working to get favorable coverage for his party in the news media of the day.  But now he has his own network to push party propaganda practically 24 hours a day.)*

For a while back in 2009, the White House called out Fox on its distortions, but in typical wussy fashion backed off when Fox objected.  And one could argue that the White House should not be using taxpayer money to defend itself against media attacks from a specific source.

But there is no reason the DNC could not work to expose the distortions coming from Fox.  I would suggest that the DNC set up a dedicated website just to report on Fox's untruths - call it say "Fox's Daily Distortions" - and list on it all the misstatements and unfair rhetoric put out by Fox in the previous 24 hours.

But will they?  Not a chance.

(And yes, from time to time I've sent messages to the DNC with suggestions on improving the Democrats' messaging.  I've not once received an acknowledgement.)

* I'll acknowledge that there are interruptions to the propaganda mill, such as Shep Smith's reports

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


When I think of the freedoms I want to enjoy, I think of things like the freedom to breathe clean air, the freedom to swim in clean rivers, the freedom to enjoy the beauties of nature, the freedom from unsafe working conditions at my job, the freedom to have any site I visit on the internet to come up as quickly as any other - I could go on with a long list, but in general, I'm talking about the freedoms that my government protects for me.

There's another view of freedom loose in the land:  the freedom for farmers and factory owners to foul our air and rivers, freedom for coal companies to rip up mountains, freedom for employers to set whatever working conditions they choose, freedom for monied interests to decide whose internet sites may be visited more quickly - again, I could go on with a long list.  And infringement of such freedoms to do harm is disparagingly referred to as "government regulations", instead of what they really are:  protections.

In general, the Democratic Party favors the freedoms from harm, and the Republican Party favors the freedom to do harm.  Yet the Democrats seem incapable of drawing the distinction between the two kinds of freedom:  they allow the Republicans (and Libertarians allied with the Republicans) to claim the moral high ground in proclaiming that they are for freedom, rather than making clear to voters that there are two competing visions of freedom, and offering an informed choice between the two visions.

Another of the Democrats' rhetorical failures.

Monday, November 14, 2011

What's Wrong With the Press (yet another example)

On November 11, the Republican presidential candidates held their "debate" on foreign policy, when Governor Perry famously could not remember which agencies of government he would eliminate..

One of the moderators was John Harwood of CNBC and the NY Times.  On a post-debate discussion on PBS, he had this to say about Rick Perry's brain freeze::

" Well, first of all, I was happy because for most of the debate, the candidates had made a very determined strategic decision not to engage with one another. And when you have a debate, you’re hoping to provide something interesting for the audience and we thought we had some good questions for these guys, but they were not engaging with one another.  They were giving their typical answers.  Some of it was interesting on a policy level, but for viewership, not so sure."
 I would have thought that the whole purpose of a debate was to let candidates set out their policy prescriptions, so that viewers (i.e. voters) could determine whose policies they preferred, and vote accordingly.  But for Mr. Harwood and his ilk in the press, presentation of policy is damned with faint praise: it does not seem to be the point of such events.  He wanted to provide viewers with the entertainment of watching the candidates argue, and if they didn't, that viewers have at least some other form of entertainment.  He finished his remarks by saying:
"I’d never seen anything like that in a debate.  I guess none of us have.  And – and you know, you knew immediately you at least had something that viewers would remember from it."
 Huh?  Does that mean that his expectation was that viewers would not remember the policies presented by the candidates?  And if so, what did he think the purpose of the debate was?  Well - I'm asking a rhetorical question here - apparently in Mr. Harwood's mind the purpose was entertainment either from conflict ("they weren't engaging with one another") or from candidates' errors in presentation ("something that viewers would remember").

But serious consideration of policies that might be guiding the country in the next administration?  Not so much.

Thursday, November 10, 2011


Dick Cheney is reported to have conducted the "War on Terror" by this standard: even if there's just a one percent chance of a terrorist attack coming, act as if it is a certainty.

We're facing a worse longer term threat than any terrorist attack:  the possibility that global warming will change the planet's climate so much that our descendants will face food shortages and mass starvation, water shortages, unbearable temperatures, and fierce struggles over the planet's dwindling resources.

I would apply Cheney's standard to that possibility: even if there's just a one percent chance of such a miserable future for those who follow us, act as if it is a certainty.  We should start a crash program to reduce carbon emissions now.

(Brad Plumer reports on how fast CO2 concentrations are rising, and the narrowing window we have left.
Joe Romm rounds up the dire predictions.)