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Bias in the News

Guest blogger today, here’s Shelby Ostergaard’s take on bias in the news (full disclosure, she’s my daughter)


Fox lies. So does NBC. Rachel Maddow and Jon Stewart do too. And hoo boy, does Bill O’ Reilly lie. Ask around enough, and you’ll find someone willing to tell you all about how anyone under the sun lies. Liberal laugh at Fox. Conservatives can’t stand NPR. Anytime a news story breaks, the second wave of it is everyone squawking about bias.
There is no shortage of causes for the increased political polarization we’ve seen lately. The murkiness of the 2000 election, Sarah Palin, the Occupy movement, all that crap about birth control, you name it. But personally, I think all this blabber about bias is another reason.
It wasn’t always like this. When newspapers fist started in the US, no one bothered to try and hide their bias. The Federalist was a federalist newspaper, end of story. It was like that for quite a while. One of the first moves of the abolitionist movement was to start a clearly abolitionist newspaper, The Liberator.  When you had something to day, you said it, and you used current events to help you make your point.
Two things changed at the turn of the 19th century.     
First of all, journalists were getting more professional. More universities began offering a degree in journalism. The Society of Professional journalists established itself and produced a code of ethics for journalists to follow, based on protecting sources. All across America, bright, fresh, young people were trying harder to make journalism more professional and FABulous. That is, fair, accurate, and balanced. (My high school newspaper used the acronym. You know, in case you forgot what your ethical code was, you could at least remember to be FAB.) Nobody wanted to be a dirty, overly passionate muckraker anymore, ala Upton Sinclair or Stephen Crane. Those guys never got paid anyway.
Oddly enough, at the turn of the century, journalists were also getting less professional. It was the age of yellow journalism, the news boys forcing the paper into people’s faces, shouting “EXTRA, EXTRA!,” trying to get a penny for the latest scoop. Sensationalism got so bad that people sometimes blame Hearst and Pulitzer’s subscription war for the start of the actual Spanish-American war. Each was trying to top the other, until all of a sudden one published a story on the sinking of The Maine and America was engaged in our “Splendid Little War”. Needless to say, it was a little much and people were getting tired of it.
These two major changes made for a volatile combination. People were sick of dirty newsies, untrue stories, and muckrakers that brought nothing but trouble. They wanted something new. In came the bright, young, shiny new journalists. And semi-modern journalism, with all its emphasis on being un-bias, was born.
So, if this changed a hundred years ago, why do I only think it is contributing to political polarization now? Well, my friend, the internet came. And even I, who can barely remember the world before the internet, know that the internet changed absolutely everything.

Portman Will Be Romney VP Choice

ImageMitt Romney’s choice of vice presidential running mate will directly affect the outcome of the election.  Everyone wants to know who will be a ballot box and heartbeat away from the Presidency.  Historically, running mates can make or break a candidate, but sometimes they appear to be an afterthought on the ticket, often a failed challenger or favorite son candidate. 

George H.W. Bush lost the 1980 Republican nomination to Ronald Reagan, and despite George’s oft-quoted line about Ron’s “voodoo economics, Reagan chose him as a running mate.  Eight years later, Bush secured the nomination but inexplicably chose Indiana Senator Dan Quayle, ostensibly to provide some youth and vigor  to the ticket but ultimately serving as late night comedian fodder.

John McCain’s choice of Sarah Palin was a the right idea, attempting to strengthen his appeal to conservatives and women, but  the idea backfired when many of the Hillary Clinton supporters and independent women the GOP were trying to woo were instead turned off by the Alaskan governor.

One of the smartest choices of all time was Sen. John Kennedy, an Eastern Catholic, choosing Texas Senator Lyndon B. Johnson, ultimately gaining 24 crucial Lone Star State electoral votes in a very tight election.

So who will be Mitt’s mate? He has campaigned with several prominent Republican officeholders, instantly vaulting them into the VP derby.  These include Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, N.J. Gov. Chris Christie and Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, all from battleground states that Romney needs to carry to win the election.

Less prominent but interesting choices include New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte.  She’s a longtime ally who’s receiving scrutiny as a potential contender for the number two spot on the GOP ticket.  Nikki Haley is a GOP rock star (there’s an oxymoron for you) when she became South Carolina’s first female, first Indian-American governor in 2011. Conservatives love her for confronting  the Department of Labor when it tried to deny South Carolina a Boeing manufacturing plan because of the state’s right-to-work laws. Susana Martinez, governor of New Mexico, could appeal to both female and Hispanic independents. But South Carolina is almost assuredly going to vote Republican. Ayotte and Martinez are from smaller states (thought EVERY electoral vote will count in this election) and have no national profile.

I am predicting today, 5.30.12, that Rob Portman of Ohio will be the choice.  He brings some foreign policy credentials that Romney is short on and has strongly supported Israel, something the President has been a little squishy on.  We’ll see if my prediction is right.  


What Illegal Immigration?

Illegal immigration is not nearly as big a problem as the Presidential candidates would have you believe.  For all the talk of securing our borders, the simple fact is with the economic downturn, coming to work in the United States isn’t nearly as attractive as it was a decade ago.

According to a recent article in the Chicago Tribune, the number of U.S. Border Patrol apprehensions last year was under 350,000, a number that hasn’t been seen since the 1970s.  Now, you can argue that these are just the people the border patrol catches, not the ones that slip through, but it’s our most reliable indicator of illegal border activity.

The same article notes that apprehensions peaked at 1.68 MILLION in 2000.  That was the peak of the economic boom (or bubble, depending on your perspective).  Even as late a 2006, the number of detainees was more than 1,000,000.  So we’ve seen a stunning drop in the number of illegal immigrants.  And remember, we now have improved detection technology, the “Tortilla Curtain” fence along the US-Mexican border near San Diego and other tools that have helped reduced the flow of illegals.

You’ll never hear any candidate bragging about it, but part of the reason is an improved Mexican economy, thanks to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).  And before you say we exported all our jobs south of the border, try buying a small, inexpensive consumer goods item in a store that doesn’t say “Made in China.”  People say they want to “Buy American,” yet they don’t want to pay a lot for goods.  I sell major appliances and the price of these items remains comparatively low.  People bring in the receipt and papers from their refrigerator purchased a decade ago and the price is virtually the same.  It can be argued that the two products, new and old models, are different quality, but free trade works at holding down costs.  Japan tried to protect its markets with restrictive policies and look at their economy for the last decade or more.

The Trib article also points out that a number of illegals are “self-deporting,” returning to their native land as the job market in the United States has tightened as the economy soured.

Illegals did many of the jobs Americans didn’t want to do (at least at the prevailing wage).  Now, that minimum wage warehouse job is much more attractive.  Let’s improve the economy, get American back to work and help get illegal immigration back up to previous levels (sarcasm font needed).

So long Santorum

Santorum in the race made the Republican primary infinitely more interesting and I don’t think it hurt Mitt Romney as much as some would have you believe.  Remember that Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton battled well into June, and it didn’t seem to hurt the future nominee.

Santorum was written off from the beginning as a small, under-financed organization, but he did work the grassroots of Iowa, often holding events with just a handful of people showing up.  His organization claimed he was the only candidate to visit all 99 Iowa counties.  But as the candidates rose and fell in the months leading up to Iowa — Michelle Bachman, Herman Cain, Rick Perry all took their turn as the poll leaders past Romney, Santorum soldiered on. He eventually won the Iowa caucuses, though that wasn’t apparent until after election night.  Romney was initially credited with the win, by a razor thin eight vote margin.

Don’t be surprised to Santorum pop up again in fouryears; the question is will he be challenging President Romney or looking to win the Whitehouse back after eight years of Democratic control?


Rick Santorum

Rick Santorum

Former Sen. Rick Santorum has announced he is suspending his campaign for the Republican Presidential nomination.

If not ObamaCare, then what?

We have to have some kind of national healthcare plan.  It is amazing that the leading industrialized country in the free world can’t guarantee some kind of basic health plan for its citizens.

ObamaCare may not be perfect, but I’ll give the President credit for at least trying to solve a problem that will only get worse as the population ages and the Great Recession continues to take a toll on people, families, and budgets (including the Federal!) stretched to the breaking point.  It looks like ObamaCare may not survive the court challenge,0,4382491.story so we are back to square one with problems like this,,0,5148764.story , people forced to turn to the emergency room for dental care.

Healthcare is expensive for a variety of reasons, some of which can be dealt with directly (tort reform).  No matter what plan is passed, it’s going to cost a lot of money. Everyone — doctors, hospitals, insurance companies and individuals — will feel the financial pain.  It’s critical that young people18-34, generally the healthiest group, pay something into a plan and get coverage.  Without these individuals, payers with a lower rate of claims, any plan is doomed to failure.  That’s why the mandatory purchase provisions were added to the current plan passed by Congress but apparently are destined to be shot down by the Supreme Court. But the cost of not passing a plan is greater, in both financial and human terms.  The problem will only get bigger the longer we wait.


Vote Counts In Today’s Illinois Primary

My vote counts today in the Presidential race, but it won’t count in November.  That’s because I live in Illinois, a solidly blue state.

Today’s Republican Presidential primary is a choice between the conservative Santorum, the libertarian Paul, the semi-moderate Romney and whatever Mr. Gingrich is casting himself as these days.  While Newt is on the ballot in Illinois, he hasn’t spent time here and is concentrating on Louisiana, next on the primary calendar and a southern state he thinks he has a chance in.

Come November, no matter who the Republican nominee is (and I’ll bet you $10,000 that it’s Romney), Illinois will vote solidly for our favorite son incumbent President Barack Obama.  So today’s Repub primary is the closest thing we’ll have to a Presidential contest.

Rick Santorum’s ground game wasn’t complete in Illinois; he didn’t file delegate slates in several legislative districts, so even if he wins the popular vote Tuesday (a long shot at best), Mitt will undoubtedly win more delegates and add to his already commanding lead in the numbers that really count.

Ironically, no one I know in Illinois is excited about this Republican Presidential primary, even though the nomination is usually locked up by this late in the season and the state’s primary election usually doesn’t have much weight in selecting a Presidential candidate.

Romney’s big  $$$ have bought a multitude of TV ads, calling Santorum, among other things, “an economic lightweight,” while Rick counters by calling Mitt a “big government heavyweight.”  Does he really think voters believe that Mitt Romney is for big government?  Mitt couldn’t backpedal any faster on the Massachusetts healthcare plan.

Even Illinois Republican leadership, tattered as it is, sounds bored with the contest.  Former Gov. Jim Edgar (that’s three former governors ago, that last two are currently in Federal prison) is sitting out the contest, and former Republican congressional leader Bob Michel was quoted in Politico (speaking of Romney, the candidate he’s supporting), “He’s not overwhelming… what’s the spark? What’s the thing that gets him of and running?  No one knows.”  Illinois rising Republican star, Sen. Mark Kirk, who endorsed Romney early on, was felled by a stroke earlier this year and has remained out of the public eye.

I just might take a Democratic ballot at the polling place today.  There are many local Democratic primary races, especially some judgeships (yes, we elect judges in Illinois) that are tight contests.  As the Democrats are a virtual lock for most of these races in November, and a local judge has more direct effect on my life than the President, it might be in my best interest to vote in those Democratic races.