Saturday, February 28, 2009

Gov. Jindal's lie about his Hurricane Katrina role

Childish, disaster, these were words, not only used by Democrats, and also by Republicans.
From the Associated Press, on GOP-leaning commentators' reactions:
David Brooks, a conservative New York Times columnist who has criticized aspects of the stimulus plan, nonetheless called Jindal's arguments "insane" and tone-deaf given the dire economic challenges the country faces.
"To come up in this moment in history with a stale, 'Government is the problem, you can't trust the federal government' is just a disaster for the Republican Party," Brooks said on PBS' "The NewsHour With Jim Lehrer." "It's not where the country is, it's not where the future of the country is."

Fox News commentator Juan Williams focused on Jindal's delivery.
"It came off as amateurish, and even the tempo in which he spoke was singsongy," Williams said, adding that the content of the speech was "very simplistic and almost childish."

So, Gov. Bobby Jindal (La.) will sit on the shelf of buffoonish Republican "leaders," and "stars."
And several Republican governors will attract a lot of voter anger in 2010, over their rejection of unemployment compensation aid. News reports have already registered voter anger at governors that that have rejected federal unemployment aid.
Frank Rich has pointed out that Gov. Jindal now has a budget with a $1.7 million deficit; in his campaign he offered in his campaign, and a promise of some kind of "alternative" administration.
Talking Points Memo has pointed out that Jindal's claim that he stood shoulder-to-shoulder with a sheriff that was trying to circumnavigate bureaucratic red tape.
Jindal had described being in the office of Sheriff Harry Lee "during Katrina," and hearing him yelling into the phone at a government bureaucrat who was refusing to let him send volunteer boats out to rescue stranded storm victims, because they didn't have the necessary permits. Jindal said he told Lee, "that's ridiculous," prompting Lee to tell the bureaucrat that the rescue effort would go ahead and he or she could arrest both Lee and Jindal.

But now, a Jindal spokeswoman has admitted to Politico that in reality, Jindal overheard Lee talking about the episode to someone else by phone "days later." The spokeswoman said she thought Lee, who died in 2007, was being interviewed about the incident at the time.

This is no minor difference. Jindal's presence in Lee's office during the crisis itself was a key element of the story's intended appeal, putting him at the center of the action during the maelstrom. Just as important, Jindal implied that his support for the sheriff helped ensure the rescue went ahead. But it turns out Jindal wasn't there at the key moment, and played no role in making the rescue happen.

And TPM placed this episode in the larger context, connecting it to the GOP's fight against onerous government regulation: "There's a larger point here, though. The central anecdote of the GOP's prime-time response to President Obama's speech, intended to illustrate the threat of excessive government regulation, turns out to have been made up."

But overall, Jindal failed in the Republicans' quest to resuscitate their ideology that minimal government involvement is best for a comfortable country. Their impact, via the Gingrich Congress in the 1990s and the Bush presidency prove the contrary.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Fox's position in news oligopoly

A little historical background on why there --historically-- had been Federal Communications Commission (FCC) restrictions on one company's ownership of multiple media outlets in one media market:
There had been a growing outcry at the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth century against oligopolies (small numbers of companies controlling an industry) and monopolies (single companies controlling an industry).
In several sectors of industry the United States government established laws and agencies to increase competition and to limit monopolies and the monopolization of industries. The FCC limited media companies, whether headed by individuals, or run by corporations, to one media outlet (such as a newspaper, a radio station or a television station) in one media market.
A few media corporations secured exemptions to these restrictions. Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation secured numerous exemptions to this restriction. His corporation owns the tabloid newspaper, The New York Post, in New York City. And in the same city, his corporation owns channel 5 (WNYW) and channel 9 (WWOR). In Boston his corporation owns the tabloid, The Boston Herald, and channel 25 (WFXT). (See my Sunday February 22 post below to see the other metropolitan areas in which Murdoch's News Corporation owns multiple television stations.)

See Robert Greenwald/ Brave New Films' seminal video, "Outfoxed," on the News Corporation's Fox News' integration with Republican Party talking points.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Whether to boycott NY Post, News Corp / List of Fox-owned stations

Broad reasons to boycott the News Corporation's Fox Network outlets: It is widely demonstrated that the Fox News Network is an aggressively biased network that distorts the news and promotes Republican Party interests and leads the television networks in booking more Republican Party guests than Democratic Party guests. (See Robert Greenwald's documentary video and web-site, “Out-Foxed” and MediaMatters:, e.g., see this recent report.)

Film director Spike Lee has called on entertainers and athletes to refrain from speaking to the Post. Lawyer and talk radio host Ron Kuby, on WWRL and Air America Radio, has argued that boycotting the post is unproductive, since the newspaper loses money.

Yet, the parent of the New York Post, the News Corporation has other significant holdings to which consumers can direct their protests.

Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. media holdings include the Fox News channel and the Fox Network in general. The latter has major shows that viewers can stop watching: American Idol, House, Lie to Me, Fringe, 24, Cops, The Simpsons, Family Guy and King of the Hill.

Also, those seeking to boycott News Corporation can boycott the following 27 Fox Television Stations that it owns:
*in New York City and Secaucus, NJ: WNYW (5) and WWOR (9)
*in Los Angeles: KTTV (11) and KCOP (13)
*in Chicago and Gary, Indiana: WFLD (32) and WPWR (50)
*in Philadelphia: WTXF (29)
*in Dallas-Fort Worth: KDFW (4)
*in Boston: WFXT (25)
*in Atlanta: WAGA (5)
*in Washington, DC: WTTG (5) and WDCA (20)
*in Houston: KTXH (20) and KRIV (26)
*in Detroit: WJBK (2)
*in Phoenix: KSAX (10) and KUTP (45)
*in Tampa-St. Petersburg WTVT (13)
*in Minneapolis-St. Paul: KMSP (9) and WFTC (29)
*in Orlando-Daytona Beach: WOFL (35) and WRBW (65)
*in Baltimore: WUTB (24)
*in Memphis: WHBQ (13)
*in Austin: KTBC (7)
*in Ocala-Gainesville, FL: WOGX (51)

Again, the stations in the above list are Fox-owned stations, not mere affiliates.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Rep. Frank points out Repub. hypocrisy on one-party government

Republicans want to have their cake and eat it too.

Through most of Pres. George W. Bush's tenure (six years) Republicans controlled the White House, the House, the Senate. As Rep. Barney Frank (Mass.) said on Meet the Press, the Republicans had no reservations about governing with one-party government.

Now that the Democrats won their greatest presidential victory in over 40 years, and have secured both houses, now they rant, along with their Rush Limbaugh / Bill O'Reilly allies, against Democratic one party government.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Senate reaches compromise, on the backs of education / Media giving heavy exposure to Republican critics

Reports early Friday (2/06/09) evening indicated that a Senate compromise was made. The compromise was reached via the support of three Republicans.

The Republicans, who gave us eight years of the president (G.W. Bush) who claimed to be the education president, insisted on a thick host of cuts.
Prominent among the cuts was education spending. This will hurt financially needy districts profoundly. They can look forward to increases of student class sizes, such as 30 students in a kindergarten class.

The cuts will pit district against district and school against school (given the combination of cuts and the protection of pay for No Child Left Behind "NCLB"); this from Huffington Post:
In a key reduction from the bill that reached the Senate floor earlier in the week, $40 billion would be cut from a "fiscal stabilization fund" for state governments' education costs, though $14 billion to boost the maximum for college Pell Grants by $400 to $5,250 would be preserved, as would aid to local school districts for the No Child Left Behind law and special education.

The Democrats need to call attention to the destructive role that Republicans have played in this mess. When cities and states have to slash budgets, due to Republican-triggered cuts, the Democrats need to publicly highlight this. When the recovery is weak, because of modest federal infusions of cash, Democrats need to call attention to the Republican pressures for austere financial contributions to the recovery.

Democrats need to call attention to the guns/butter dichotomy. Every dollar for the military is money withheld from useful social spending or useful injection into the civilian economy.

The Democrats need to start a drumbeat of these talking points NOW. There are many vulnerable Republican senate incumbents, in seats in economically depressed areas, e.g., George Voinovich of Ohio. The Republicans need to go. Spector too. The Republican pair in Maine are lucky that their seats aren't up for reelection in 2010. They (Collins and Snowe of Maine) and the other so-called moderates have shown their true colors on this urgent stimulus package. Moderate Republicans are generally liberal on social issues and conservative on economic issues. That kind of posture is not helpful in this true national emergency.

President Obama has offered an olive branch to the Republicans. They have not responded in kind --not even the moderates. Instead, they have, as he has recently pointed out, pursued the same old thinking that got us into this mess in the first place.

From Glenn Thrush and Patrick O'Connor at Politico, Friday afternoon (2/7/09):
In a statement sure to rile Republicans, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi Friday dismissed calls for bipartisanship as “process” arguments extraneous to passing a stimulus bill — and warned Senate Democrats against slashing proposed increases to education spending.
. . . .
“Washington seems consumed in the process argument of bipartisanship, when the rest of the country says they need this bill,” the California Democrat said, seeming to sweep aside the Obama administration initial desire to have broad GOP support for the plan.

“We must have a bill [quickly],” she said, in a clear message to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who has spent the past two days wrangling with moderates who want to cut proposed education funding for the states by as much as $50 billion.

“These cuts are very damaging — [the House bill] was put together very carefully. ... The funding goes directly to school districts, they are stimulative because they maintain jobs instead of cutting jobs.”

The Democrats need to hold press conferences, to call attention to the media bias for Republicans, a bias that has led to a (recent) public appetite for austerity.
See this study at, for factual demonstration of this partisan bias in booking of guests.
REPORT: GOP Lawmakers Outnumber Dem Lawmakers By Almost 2 To 1 In Cable News Stimulus Debate Again»

Last week, ThinkProgress released a report showing that, in the debate over the House economic recovery bill on the five cable news networks, Republican members of Congress outnumbered their Democratic counterparts by a ratio of 2 to 1. The analysis tallied interview segments about the stimulus on CNBC, Fox Business, Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC during a three-day period, finding that the networks had hosted Republican lawmakers 51 times and Democratic lawmakers only 26 times.

The economic recovery package passed the House last week with zero Republican votes, shifting the focus to the Senate. Though the venue has changed, the debate on cable has not improved much.

In a new analysis, ThinkProgress has found that Republican lawmakers outnumbered Democratic lawmakers 75 to 41 on cable news interviews by members of Congress (from 6am on Monday 2/2 through 11pm on Thursday 2/5):

Some observations from our analysis:

* Last week, Fox News came the closest to balance with 8 Republicans and 6 Democrats. But the so-called “fair and balanced” network was not able to maintain such a ratio this week, hosting 24 Republicans and only 11 Democrats.

* The business news networks were particularly egregious this week. CNBC had more than twice as many conservatives, with 14 Republicans and 6 Democrats. Fox Business was even worse, hosting 20 Republicans for just 4 Democrats.

* In the previous study, the supposedly liberal MSNBC favored Republicans 15 to 9. This week, however, MSNBC became the only network to host more Democratic members of Congress than Republicans, with 17 Democrats and 12 Republicans.

Though the imbalance is already stark, the tilt of the coverage would have been even more lopsided if the analysis had been broken down into whether a lawmaker who appeared on TV was a supporter or a critic of the economic recovery plan. Some of the most frequent Democratic guests this week were outspoken critics of the proposed stimulus plans, such as Sens. Ben Nelson (D-NE) and Kent Conrad (D-ND).

Fortunately, the imbalance on the networks is not going unnoticed. A House Democratic leadership aide told Politico’s Michael Calderone yesterday that “what happened with cable last week is that Republican House members were the only show in town.” A “very senior” Democratic aide told The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent that the leadership is “aware of the problem and are taking steps to fix it.” The aide noted that “there is also an onus on producers to remedy this issue.”

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Pray for Just. Ginsburg's health

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 75, often touted as "the liberal voice" of the United States Supreme Court, has been hospitalized with pancreatic cancer.
Let's wish her a speedy and vigorous recovery.

Another Justice is in more advanced age, Justice John Paul Stevens, 88, appointed in 1975 by Gerald Ford. Stevens is the next most liberal member of the high court. (One wonders, was he waiting for Bush to be replaced, before he considered resigning?)

President Obama will likely have the opportunity this year to nominate two Supreme Court justices. Let's hope that he chooses strong liberals, in the mold of Ginsburg. For those interested in speculating on coming appointments, let's look at this Times piece on the right-ward tilt of the court appointees since the early 1970s.
Adam Liptak, "To Nudge, Shift or Shove the Supreme Court Left" "The New York Times," January 31, 2009.

Support "Buy American" provisions stimulus package

The portion of the American economy represented by industry was hemorraging before the current economic crisis. We must act to improve the position of American industry. America has one of the lowest proportions of its economy being industry, among the world's industrial economies. The percentage of the Gross Domestic Product represented by industry is 19.6 percent. Compare this against Germany, 30.1%, Italy, 26.7, Switzerland, 34%.

We cannot rest our economy predominantly on finance or information services. Furthermore, these portions of the services sector have represented sectors with technology supplanting (human) workers.

The other industrial economies of the world have been aided by government industrial policies. The laissez fairists have always promoted doing nothing, saying that doing nothing is the best policy. This has been shown to be an unmitigated disaster. Our industrial sector has plummeted, as has our position in the balance of trade.

We should call on our Congressional officials, and President Obama, to support "Buy American" provisions of the stimulus package.

Here is one of the few news reports on the matter that does not echo the standard pro-laissez faire / do nothing position:
Andrea Holocek, "Steel leaders talk trade, climate change and Buy American" (Most media press has been biased against this provision.
Not only are union leaders behind this provision, but so are some business leaders; indeed, Republican Tim Murphy of Pennsylvania introduced the provision.
From Holocek's article:
Major U.S. steel industry leaders testified on the sorry state of the industry before the Congressional Steel Caucus Wednesday, asking lawmakers to uphold trade laws and pass sensible climate change regulations that don't hinder domestic steel production unfairly.

The Buy American provision of the Obama administration's almost $900 billion economic stimulus package took center stage.

The caucus, chaired by Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-Ind., works in support of the domestic steel industry.

"The single most pressing issue for steel, and our economy as a whole, is revitalization," said Visclosky, adding that his Northwest Indiana congressional district has had almost 600 steelworkers laid off and many more put on a shortened work weeks.

"These layoffs have serious repercussions throughout our local economy, and sitting idly by is just not an option."

Visclosky, who with Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Pa., introduced the Buy American provision that was added to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, said the requirement is a way to support those with jobs and return those currently unemployed to the work force. It would require, with few exceptions, that U.S. produced steel be used in infrastructure projects funded by the proposed federal stimulus bill.

Incentives for doctors to overprescribe must stop

Doctors are receiving incentives, for prescribing medications, from pharmaceutical companies.

Fortney H. "Pete" Stark, a central California Congressman (Dem.), spoke on the practice.

The New York Times gave attention to this issue last month:
Barry Meier, "An Rx for Ethics: New Rules on Doctors and Medical Firms Amid Conflict Concerns," January 24, 2009, p. B1.

Jerry Avron of Harvard Medical School said that "Most of what doctors know about drugs comes from the industry, and that's not healthy." (Elizabeth Williamson and Christopher Lee, "Conflict Alleged in Drug Firms' Education Role" "Washington Post" June 27, 2007 p. A 3.)

Until these incentives (and any kickbacks from pharmaceuticals to doctors) are entirely eradicated, we should be apprehensive when doctors are eager to get us onto regular prescription regimens.