Mar 3, 2011

A pattern of deception at Fox News

Don't get me wrong, I have no problem with Fox News as an idea. The conservative cable television station has a place, there is nothing at all wrong with news from a particular viewpoint. In Europe news sources have traditionally reported from a point of view with great success and their readers were no worse off because of it.

I am uncomfortable with Fox News calling themselves 'Fair and Balanced' when they are clearly conservative, pro-Republican and right-wing. The slogan "We report, you decide" smacks of arrogance that the relatively young news source has not yet earned.

If they keep up their recent history of convenient 'errors' that all for some reason end up favoring right-wing candidates and Republicans, they'll cease to be a source of journalism altogether.

In recent years, Fox News has inflated the numbers of people attending political rallies and book signings for conservative politicos.

There are multiple examples of Fox News broadcasting misleading and erroneous graphs that are not reflective of reality. For some reason these errors always seem to favor Republican points of view - whether disparaging President Obama's policies or inflating public response to GOP proposals.

It might not be fair to say all Fox News mistakes are because of their bias and desire to see liberal policies fail. Some are just plain ignorant.

When the network decides to reverse the results of polls to make it seem like Americans favor Republican governors' attempts to curtail collective bargaining rights for public workers, or post polling results that are utterly irrational, one begins to question their motives.

The problem with Fox is that they are now responsible for a generation of misinformed people who are willing to accept falsehoods as truth, all in the name of their political ideology. That should be a crime against the intellect. How can a democracy function if the media is telling people bald-faced lies and spinning important issues in an unethical manner to prevent honest debate? Fox is the most watched news network in the country, and its viewers are the most misinformed people in the country.

In the worst cases, Fox's editorial mistakes appear to be both racially and politically motivated.

Our neighbors to the north have prevented organizations like NewsCorp from dominating their airwaves by making it illegal to lie in a news broadcast. Perhaps we should do the same here, in the name of preserving the craft and profession of journalism and keeping it separate from entertainment.

Every time Fox writes or broadcasts an error, they damage our democracy as well as their credibility. We have a whole legion of politically motivated but terribly misinformed Fox News viewers out there who insist that they must be right because the 'mainstream media' has a liberal bias, and Fox does not. If Fox is purposefully lying to these folks, then there are dangerously ignorant people out there with the power to vote.

Charlie Sheen + Family Circus = Perfection

This is the most awesome thing going right now on Blogspot.

A Matter of Choice

Whether Democrats like it or not, there is always a chance that the 2012 elections will put a Republican into the White House. The GOP has a responsibility to nominate a credible candidate for President. I think Mitt Romney is the only potential Republican candidate who is prepared to lead this country.

In the past election, the choice of Senator John McCain (R-AZ) was a good one on the surface. McCain ran unsuccessfully for the nomination several times and had experience on the campaign trail. He was a political moderate known for his ability to reach across the aisle and compromise with Democrats, and he had credible foreign policy experience. McCain was also known as a shrewd, intelligent individual that approached the challenges of governing with gravitas and dignity.

John McCain went awry when he selected an utterly unqualified person like Sarah Palin as his running mate. Sarah Palin represents everything wrong with the Republican Party - willfully ignorant, politically incompetent, it seems like every time Mrs. Palin opens her mouth she does more harm than good. Sarah Palin cost Senator McCain his election and making the mistake of nominating a candidate like her would surely cost the GOP again.

When I look at the field of Republican potentials today, I don't see many individuals who live up to our standards - most candidates resemble Sarah Palin more than they resemble John McCain.

For one thing, ideologues like Ron Paul have no place in the White House. They are utterly incapable of hammering out the compromises that lead to signed legislation and strong diplomacy. Leaders make compromises that most people don't like, accept the blame for them and then present said compromises to their consituents in a manner that makes them acceptable. I can't imagine Ron Paul making a compromise, let alone presenting it to the people in an acceptable manner.

On the other hand, you have leaders like Newt Gingrich who have the intellect and gravitas to sit in the Oval Office but lack the strength of character to be head of state.

Then you have some candidates that are just unacceptable because of their views on race and religion. Southern governors like Haley Barbour (R-MS) and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee fall into this category.

The most qualified potential GOP candidate in the field is also the most popular one - which may stand as proof that the Republican Party is not the mass of hardline fools that many liberals try to portray them to be. Mitt Romney's moderate, nuanced points of view are always backed up by a torrent of logic and data. In debate he would be every bit the match for President Obama.

Romney has had the experience of being a Republican governing one of the most Democratic states in the country, Massachussetts. He successfully passed a health care reform law that mirrors Obama's own, and defended it against his critics. Not only that, Romney is also an experienced business man who can hold his own in economic discussions. If Obama must go down in defeat in Novemeber 2012, Romney is the only one who could credibly claim to be a better leader than him.

Mar 2, 2011

This is now a Libyan Civil War.

Robert Fisk today has an eye-opening story in The Independent about the state of Libya. He speaks of near chaos on the border as 10s of thousands try to leave the country beleaguered by internal conflict for over two weeks. What authorities remain there try to keep refugees supplied with water and food. In the mean time, state media within Libya continues to repeat the assertion that the global press is lying about conditions in the North African country and that the protests were small, localized disturbances encouraged by al Qaeda and hallucinogenic drugs.

Opposition protesters have received weapons training, according to Al Jazeera English, and have volunteered to march on Tripoli. The leaders and organizers of the anti-Gaddafi forces have for the time being decided to fortify and garrison the town of Benghazi.

In the meantime, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, Libya's leader, clings to power and title in the capitol of Tripoli. Today he addressed the public with a rambling, two-hour speech in which he reiterated that the protests were encouraged by al Qaeda and claimed that he was the only barrier preventing terrorism from entering southern and western Europe.

Gaddafi forces have engaged the opposition in brutal ground assaults, briefly retaking the city of Brega before the opposition apparently took it back. Though the opposition has the arsenal and numbers to protect itself from ground attack it has no answer to the Libyan air force which has inflicted casualties on protesters in support of Colonel Gaddafi. Gaddafi is also attacking oil producing areas in order to put economic pressure on the West.

As the border system collapses and panic sweeps over some of the population, the opposition stands strong, and Colonel Gaddafi is still in denial. Gaddafi still has a military force of around 10,000 trained troops, and anti-Gaddafi forces have more numbers but less firepower. Neither side recognized the authority of the other, and neither has sovereignty over Libya at this particular moment. Therefore, I conclude that we are witnessing a civil war.

Is asking whether Obama has purposefully raised gas prices a stupid question?

Governor Haley Barbour of Mississippi raised eyebrows today by accusing President Barack Obama of pursuing policies that will drive up the price of oil.

Barbour was quoted in a Huffington Post article:

"This administration's policies have been designed to drive up the cost of energy in the name of reducing pollution, in the name of making very expensive alternative fuels more economically competitive," said Barbour in a speech to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington, DC

I'm not sure if this goes anywhere from here. The recent spike in oil prices has been caused by conflict in the Middle East. The Obama Administration has always taken great pains to frame their policies in encouraging alternative energy research and expanding public transportation as designed to ween the United States off of its dependence on Middle Eastern Oil. Barbour's accusations don't hold much water.

The more I think about it, the more I wonder where these alternative fuels that Barbour claims Obama is trying to push are. As far as I have seen, Obama has been compromising to use traditional fuels in more environmentally friendly ways. The White House has been a verbal proponent of clean coal power and exploration and cars with better fuel economy - policies that should drive down the cost of energy, not increase it.

I fail to see what political gain the Obama Administration would have for driving up the price of oil. Even if you oppose their policies, it isn't wise to assume that the administration is stupid.

Barbour claiming that Obama is purposely driving up the price of oil is like me claiming that Barbour caused Hurricane Katrina to hit his state in 2005 - purely ludicrous.

Mar 1, 2011

Libya may be on brink of humanitarian crisis

The situation in Libya has disintegrated since my last update. The north African country's authoritarian leader, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, is under fire from the diplomatic community and literally from his own people. Diplomatic and economic sanctions have been imposed by the UN and individual member-countries after Libyan diplomats withdrew support from Gaddafi's regime.

Protests have rocked the country for two weeks, and an all out rebellion has broken out with the resistance taking control of large portions of the country.It is unclear how much of Libya Gaddafi is in control of at this point, but he remains convinced that he is still in control of his country.

Al Jazeera has carried stories about groceries in Tripoli running out of food. Throughout the country protests continue relentless pressure on Col. Gaddafi to step down, however the inflation of food prices might extract a higher toll that the violence of the regime.

Gaddafi is refusing to relinquish control. Today he sent armed mercenaries to confront the demonstrations in cities in the east of Libya. There are no credible estimates as to the number of dead. Unlike Egypt, there are very few journalists freely operating in Libya, restricting the flow of good information from the country.

In the mean time, Libyan protesters are making one thing very clear to the west: they want control of their own country on their own terms, something that would be impossible with western interference. Nevertheless, it does look like a consensus is building to create a no-fly zone. I think that combined with humanitarian aid, such a measured response would not be inappropriate.

Is demonizing unions fair?

With the ongoing protests in Wisconsin against budget cuts proposed by Republican Governor Scott Walker and a law that severely curtails the right of public employees to collectively bargain for better working conditions, the value of labor unions is once again an issue before the country. It is disturbing to see the decline in support for unions in America.

Those on the right generally oppose the labor union ideal, though for what reason exactly is difficult to find. Many root their arguments in the economic freedoms of business owners, whom Republicans argue should be able to run their business without interference from the government. However, there is also a long tradition of union support for the Democratic party, which has added a very political element to the GOP's opposition to labor unions.

I find it difficult to come up with a credible argument against the formation and existence of labor unions in the United States. Their very presence is just a continuation of the democratic, liberal values of the American revolution. The revolution was about asserting an individual's political independence from the tyrannical domination of a king. In the same manner, labor organizing into unions is asserting the individual's economic independence from the domination of wealth.

Labor unions give individual working people with little influence power to join together and speak with one voice to negotiate with the owners and operators of their respective industries. We, as citizens, vote on representatives to speak for us in legislatures. In the same manner working people should be allowed to vote for representatives to speak for them at the bargaining table where labor contracts are hammered out.

There is a stereotype in the United States of labor unions as a tool to negotiate for ridiculous concessions. Union members are portrayed as lazy, overpaid and coddled. This simply isn't true. Unions, using the collective power of labor, have led to the laws that shape our culture.

If not for unions, we would not have the 40 hour work week and the 8 hour work day. We would not have laws to prevent child labor. Our workplaces would be unsafe, and there would be no restitution for work missed while sick or injured, and workers could not miss days to care for injured or ill family members. There would be no minimum wage law. No one would make overtime pay. Laborers could be forced to live on property owned by their company, and required to buy products from a company store.

Remember the sacrifices that were made for labor rights - labor leaders endured violence and the threat of murder. Laws were changed to imprison union leaders. Many of them were incorrectly labeled communists and provocateurs and blacklisted. The struggle that gave individuals the right to form groups to negotiate for better conditions in their workplace was a direct descendent of the American Revolution and an ancestor to the American Civil Rights movement.

Unions have done for working people what democracy did for voting people. To abolish unions - or even curtail their rights - would be like appointing someone president for life or denying Americans the right to vote for their legislators. It would be like going back to Jim Crow laws and repealing the 19th Amendment. Opposing labor unions is - dare I say it - the very definition of being unamerican.