Thursday, June 23, 2011

Fair and Balanced

A nice little TV political morality play took place Sunday on Fox when Jon Stewart appeared on Chris Wallace’s show. I didn’t see it at the time, which is just as well, because an important segment, which network wisely decided worked to its embarrassment, had been deleted. However, the entire interview is available on the electronic media.*

I haven’t seen enough of Wallace to know how he conducts himself when interviewing someone he isn’t trying to deligitimize. With Stewart he was stiff as a board, obtrusive and appeared to be doing a lot of smirking.

Stewart was funny, natural and as informative as he could be given the host’s understandable propensity to interrupt. After saying that he was a comedian first who was “ideologically informed,” he was accused moments later of being “only” a “comedian,” to which he took issue articulately and, in the opinion of this admittedly biased observer, mopped the floor with Wallace.(I think of Stewart as more humorist than comedian)

The exchange that was edited out of the show went as follows; Stewart “So you believe that Fox News is exactly the ideological equivalent of NBC News?” Wallace; “I think they’re the counterweight. I think that they [NBC] have a liberal agenda and I think we tell the other side of the story but…..since this is my show I’m asking the questions.” Stewart; “I’m sorry. I won’t get my parking invalidated will I?”

There are sharp differences of opinion over the nature of the “agenda” of the mainstream media. But it’s now etched in stone that Chris Wallace, the “good face” of Fox, that network’s attempt to present what Walter Cronkite was to CBS, has inadvertently admitted that his employers are trying to “tell the other side of the story.” It’s little wonder that this segment was deleted from the broadcast. It’s also to the nation’s edification that it was preserved. It paints a clearer picture of what these people mean by “fair and balanced.”


*There are several sites on the internet showing this interview. The entire time was 24 minutes and 11 seconds. Anything shorter consists of selected segments and probably excludes the deleted part. Still Wallace makes nearly the same point, a bit more subtly, at other times in the interview.


Saturday, June 18, 2011

Cheaper By the Dozen

Several years ago Chicago’s municipal parking enforcement business was turned over to a private interest group operating from one of the Arab Emirate States. At that time a quarter paid for the customary fifteen minutes of metered parking. Today you’d need four of them. A family driving to town for a little fun is going to need a lot of quarters.
There are two things wrong with this picture. One is that the city’s streets were built with and are maintained by money from taxpayers who assumed that they were creating something for their city. Any fees collected for its use would be assessed and collected under the auspices of their elected government officials, not by corporate executives whose only obligation, after taking their cut, is to shareholders from all over the world.  I’m guessing that collecting fines from scofflaws is still the city’s job. This sort of thing is not limited to city streets. Many toll booths on bridges and highways around the nation are privately run.
The other thing wrong is that this practice of literally selling government goes well beyond our infrastructure. Of greater concern is the incessant pressure from the newly emboldened right to privatize areas that should be exclusively publicly operated. State penal systems, such as Arizona’s have been sold to private interests, whose bottom line benefits directly from increased volume of incarcerations from our judicial system. It’s not hard to figure that one out.
Public education, law enforcement and, most particularly national “defense” are among areas that should be verboten to any but government operation. How many people know that we had more guns for hire in Iraq from Blackwater and other mercenaries than we had troops? I wonder if any of them are now proud owners of state of the arts weaponry financed by taxpayers.
The sale of the city’s parking meters in Chicago may have been engineered by Mayor Richard Daley, a Democrat, who obviously was not planning to run for reelection. Nevertheless there’s no question that as a group, Republicans are leaders in the fight to privatize publicly owned facilities and operations.
An opinionated person might conclude that they have been knowingly and intentionally working to make this country fail financially during Obama’s presidency. The coming showdown on the debt limit may tell us something about this. The most obvious motive is to increase the chance of electing a Republican president next year. What I’ve yet to hear mentioned is that the worse the financial conditions of the federal, state and local governments the more is for sale and, according to the old supply and demand formula, at a lower price. 
The same opinionated person might also conclude that that they are figuratively guilty of looting, something my father told me was punishable by death in Biblical times. But I say hold the guillotine. Perp walks will suffice.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Anthony Weiner

Regarding the future of Anthony Wiener my opinions demonstrate Harry Truman’s stated preference for one armed lawyers. On one hand, to our knowledge no laws have been broken and nobody, with the exception of his wife, has been hurt. If unconventional sexual proclivities diminish one’s ability as a legislator we are in even worse shape than I think. There are those now serving in major elected public positions known to have committed acts at least as egregious as Mr. Wiener’s. At this point I see nothing he has done that would mandate a Congressman’s removal from office and believe he can probably be reelected.

On the other hand Mr. Wiener is not just another Congressman. He has become the unofficial House media spokesman for causes in which many of us believe strongly. He has actively pursued that role to the exclusion of others. I consider this a matter of bad faith in view of the skeletons he knew were in his closet and the chance that they might come out.

Unlike my opinions, my conclusion is unequivocal. I’m no admirer of Newt Gingrich. But in the wake of his party’s losses in the 1998 as a consequence of his leading the Clinton impeachment, he resigned as Speaker of the House, a position two steps removed from the presidency. For Wiener much more is at stake than his job. If he truly believes in the causes he has eloquently articulated he should resign ASAP. His continued presence in public office, like Gingrich’s, can only diminish them.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Run Sarah Run

A moment of high political humor, from a source other than the right, took place Wednesday night on Lawrence O’Donnell’s show. Speaking of Sarah Palin’s future, Mark Halperin said to the host “the more [that] people like you, with all due respect, suggest that ‘she’s not going to run, she’s a joke,’ I think it makes it more likely that she will run to prove people wrong.” O’Donnell’s prompt retort was “OK. Let me just say it again. She’s not going to run and she’s a joke.”

Warning! You might want to stop reading this now. I found the preceding exchange funny and possibly worth your time. But nearly everything about her and her Annie Oakley act that has taken place since her defeat for the vice presidency has not been worth he media coverage it received. Her current bus tour is a case in point.
I’ve been of O’Donnell’s opinion about her plans for some time. To extend Honest Abe’s dictum, you can’t fool all the people all the time, not even all Republicans. Surely a person who chose not to complete a first term as Governor of Alaska would never be nominated as a presidential candidate by a major political party. As a potential president her Gracie Allen type of patter was at least funny, much more so once it became evident that this potential was only theoretical. Since then her rote memorizing of right wing bromides has been anti climactic or, put more simply, dull.

I’m starting to have second thoughts regarding her plans. Her lack of knowledge in matters pertinent to high office is balanced somewhat by her ability at self promotion. Ignorance is not stupidity. She must know that as the most recently failed VP candidate, the shelf life of her act is at most four years. As the second most recent loser it would sell at a considerable discount. This is the way things would go after the votes are counted in 2012, barring some action by her in the meantime, without which she’ll become a political version of Paris Hilton.

Of course she’ll never be president. Apart from being unelectable I don’t think she even wants the job. Tweeting statements at one’s leisure is easier than answering questions extemporaneously, a skill at which she’s shown to be less than adept. But there’s no doubt that by simply declaring, she would accumulate a significant number of delegates, some of whom would jump off a cliff if she told them to. They could play a big part in selecting the next Republican nominee.

Should that nominee become president (perish the thought) Sarah might receive a position to continue her career in entertainment. Offhand I can’t think of a cabinet post for which she’d be remotely qualified. My guess would be the creation of a new agency for which she’d be a natural. Let’s hear it for the establishment of the Department of Perkiness.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Us versus Them

I’m tired of us “liberals” being referred to by them there “conservatives” as being engaged in “class warfare.” Of course we are. But warfare by one side is not unlike the sound of one hand clapping.  By my calculations the current war started about thirty years ago largely at the instigation of a president who made us feel good about ourselves, a mixed blessing, if a blessing at all. There’s also been a parallel “redistribution of wealth,” that the other guys are always complaining about. What they don’t tell you is that both have been moving unmistakably in their favor.

Class warfare, as old as recorded history, is now taking place in the Middle East. The weapons used there by the establishments are lethal while we use only paper documents, properly signed by the leaders of the three branches of government. Still ours are equally profound in their ultimate effect.

At the federal legislative level Congress, through the efforts of a vocal, obdurate and unified minority, has all but issued a declaration of war against those who aren’t “in the chips.” In raising the debt ceiling any minimal tax increase on the top income of the hoity toity is “off the table” while cuts in benefits from prepaid entitlements that benefit the hoi polloi are mandatory. I’ve heard that efforts are underway to ban class action law suits. To prevent the nation’s recovery under a president of the other party they have voted against measures they once advocated, a reversal well articulated by their plans to cause this president, and hence the nation, to fail. 

At the state level, where a presidential veto isn’t a consideration, some of the most outrageous legislative sins have been committed. Unions are being forbidden the right to organize and strike, cities alleged to be in distress have become subject to state takeover and voting is being made difficult for you know who.  

No matter how outlandish the law, there’s always the likelihood that five of the Supremes will approve it with a minimum of precedent and reason. The two most consequential recent judicial rulings have been Bush v Gore and Citizens United. The former etched in stone a partisan line on the bench which made the latter possible. For the Court majority, partisanship outweighs ideology. In Bush v Gore its declared reverence of states’ rights was secondary to precluding a Florida recount. Citizens United extended free speech to include unlimited anonymous corporate spending, possibly financed by people other than Americans. This is a far more liberal interpretation of free speech than the one that covered flag burning. 

Class warfare is raging and the sooner we recognize and respond to it  the better. Excuse the hyperbole, but I see it in large part as a fight between preservation and ownership. We represent preserving what is still left of this country while they are working for its ownership by corporations and the interests that finance them. In this context I consider our side decidedly the more conservative.