Bias in reporting about the Tea Party?

Thank you so much for putting this all in “perspective”! What did we learn from this, even before any actual issues were discussed?

  1. If you want to find the “Tea Party”, you go to the “Bible Belt”; and you do not merely go to the Bible Belt, but you look for the Moral Majority; and you do not merely look for the Moral Majority, you seek out “Jerry Falwell’s” Liberty University, the central asylum for the misogynist, evolution-denying, gay-hating, xenophobic, flat-earth Christian Right.
  2. Tea Partiers are inherently untrustworthy. They can’t even be expected to be honest about whether or not the Tea Party has leaders. Of course it has leaders: we found them, at Liberty University! Well, technically it wasn’t Liberty University but Lynchburg, VA — but that’s the same thing, right? And, since these are the “leaders” of the Tea Party (we told you so!), what they say naturally reflects what the Tea Party stands for. In its entirety.
  3. Tea Partiers all speak in funny rural accents that good, sophisticated, intellectual NPR listeners automatically associate with ignorance, racism, parochialism, and lunatic faith. They are rustic.
  4. Tea Partiers are all fundamentally ignorant people with empty heads and no curiosity, just primed to be brainwashed by the manipulations of the right-wing media machine.
  5. Tea Partiers learned everything they know about politics and government from FOX news. Which means the Tea Party is really directed by Glenn Beck.

So, of course, having already gotten all that background, we can safely, sanctimoniously, and in good conscience, ignore everything else that is said by anyone interviewed because, well, it’s all the product of ignorance and superstition….

Do you think that maybe your pre-judgement — dare we call it “bias”? — about what the Tea Party is, what it stands for, and who supports it, might have skewed your reporting on it just a bit?

Continue reading

Citizens United

“No taxation without representation” was the rallying cry of the American revolution, an explicit acknowledgement that the role of taxpayer — the role of providing financial support to government — is an overtly political one. If corporations are not individuals for political purposes, then they should not be taxed as individual entities. If corporations are really no more than aggregates of their stakeholders, and have no right to political participation other than through those stakeholders, then political duties, including the paying of taxes, should also apply strictly and purely through those stakeholders.

Continue reading

Estate taxes and other tax oddities

I actually think the Estate Tax has a beneficial consequence in preventing the establishment of multi-generational economic dynasties. Apart from the potential detrimental effects of such dynasties on society and the economy, they do spiritual damage to those who inherit them: handing someone “success” without any need for effort or sacrifice is almost always a recipe for intellectual, psychological, and moral dissipation.

My objections to the estate tax — and to other tax policies — are based more on basic ideas of economic fairness and on the cultural ideals of “family”.

Continue reading

Breaking News: People want to get things and make other people pay for them!

Suppose you want me to pay for your health care — or for your mortgage, or for your car, or for your iPod, or for anything else you feel you really need but can’t afford — and I don’t want to do so. If you point a gun at me and tell me to give you the money, it would be armed robbery. Everyone knows you don’t take what isn’t yours by force just because you want it. That would be wrong.

So, instead, you convince your Congressman to take the money from me, as a “tax”, and to give it to you. Why does that suddenly make it right?

What if I still don’t want to pay? What if I refuse — what do you think is going to happen? Federal agents will point guns at me and tell me to give them the money. Is taking my money by force suddenly righteous, rather than outrageous, because you outsourced the job? Is that what democracy is supposed to be about — lending moral authority to what would otherwise be morally reprehensible?

Continue reading

Home is where the deed is

It has been said that a man’s home is his castle. That is, in our increasingly interconnected and regulated society, home is still the one refuge from social demands, is still the one place where your own preference truly determines how you live your life.

But, apparently, “home” is no longer home unless you own it yourself. So far, at least, no government has dared to cross that barrier.

Then again, given the trends, it’s probably only a matter of time….

Continue reading

The ethics of “instant” news reporting

Instant reporting serves the business needs of news outlets — it attracts viewers — and the entertainment needs of the general public — it is titillating.

But instant reporting serves no journalistic purpose. And, therefore, journalistic purpose cannot be used as an excuse for getting the news wrong in the interest of getting it quickly.

Continue reading

Reporting on Ambiguity

One of the main problems is that so much of the outcome hinges not on what is explicitly stated in some bloated and arcane piece of legislation but on what the unstated incentives are that get built into it and in how people react to those….

…Unfortunately, such results are based on predictions about human behavior rather than on observable facts and statements written into legislation. Hence, it is very hard to report “objectively” or, perhaps, even “accurately”. People disagree on the likelihood of such results occurring, and often the conception of that likelihood depends as much on what people want to believe as it does on observation and experience.

Here is my question to you: How do we create a process for reporting on these kinds of issues — for informing the public so they can make intelligent decisions — in the face of such ambiguity?

Continue reading

The Limits of Diplomatic Engagement

Aside from its affects on our adversaries, diplomatic engagement creates certain expectations at home: expectations that can be manipulated to gain advantage by politicians during the electoral contest and during legislative debate; and expectations that can be manipulated, also, by our adversaries as they augment the quiet closed-door diplomacy of engagement with public relations efforts aimed directly at the American citizenry.

Continue reading

The Office and the Occupant

The uproar over President Obama making a speech to school kids is ludicrous and, once again, undermines efforts to steer the liberals away from their most harmful and anti-liberty projects by making the conservatives, by association with such paranoia, look like idiots. The response, even to well-reasoned and principled opposition, is now the general-purpose dismissal, “Oh, it’s just those crazies again”; and a Republican party (and any Republican office-holder or aspirant) that wants to reclaim any moral authority and/or intellectual integrity should be up front in telling those people, “Get over yourselves! And stop claiming to speak for me!”

But I have to ask: Wasn’t the root of this paranoia established by the left during the Bush years?

The wingnuts complaining about Obama’s speech are failing to distinguish between the Office of the President and the man who occupies it. They so dislike and distrust the man that they can’t accept any action of the Office, no matter how proper and reasonable.

But wasn’t that precedent set by those leftist nutters who utterly refused to accept George W. Bush’s legitimacy — “He’ll never be my President!” — and who did everything in their power to undermine anything and everything he did just because he did it, even if it undermined the nation in the process? Did they not create the template of contempt for the Office that we are now seeing? Did they not set the pattern of refusal to respect the Office because they did not respect the man? And, if we are honest about it, was that not, in itself, a continuation of the pattern they set during the administrations of Nixon and Reagan (and, to be fair, embraced by the right during the Clinton years)?

Continue reading