Esoteric Dissertations from a One-Track Mind

September 11, 2008

Media Narratives

Filed under: media, politics — Tags: , , — codesmithy @ 8:19 am

Crooks and Liars has video of Lou Dobbs discussing the “liberal” media with Howard Kurtz and Ken Auletta from the New Yorker.  I am somewhat thankful that Auletta called Dobbs on his assumptions about the “liberal” media.  Auletta is right that one facet of bias is horse race politics, it isn’t the only bias, but for broaching the issue in the mainstream media it is a good start.

Kurtz opines that he has never seen so much positive coverage of a presidential candidate as Barack Obama has gotten.  I will say again, the best indication of bias are not the stories that run, but rather the stories that get ignored.  History doesn’t really allow repeatable experiments, so a reasonable approach is to look at paired examples.  Thankfully, there have been multiple in the campaign and campaigns past that we can draw upon.

First, there are the respective episodes of Reverend Wright and Reverend Hagee.  Obama’s pastor dominated the news cycle.  McCain’s political alliance with Hagee got a brief mention.

Second, we can compare coverage of Kerry and McCain marrying heiresses as Glenn Greenwald did.  The conclusion was that Kerry was a gigolo.  McCain is just living the American dream.

Third, we have McCain saying that Iran is training al-QaedaChuck Todd points out that if either Obama or Clinton had made a similar mistatement, more attention would have been focused on the episode.

The problem with the media is not facts, it is the framing.  A truly objective mainstream media would look at a story from different perspectives and multiple frames.  But, we don’t have an objective media.  The various media narratives for Obama is that he isn’t specific, an elitist, vaguely un-American, and inexperienced.  For McCain, he is maverick, a war-hero, a straight-talker who may be suffering various degrees of senior moments.

It doesn’t matter if the evidence for media narratives are flimsy, it is just a simple matter of repetition.  The “pledge of allegiance” smear has lasting effects beyond that story because it reinforces a particular narrative.

Narratives like the Republicans running a badly mismanaged and unnecessary war in Iraq,  Republicans being the party of irrational fear and cronyism, Republicans being a party of incompetence in times of crisis (i.e. the credit crisis and Katrina), these narratives don’t gain traction in the media.  Yet, the myth of the “liberal” media persists.

The Republican party is the one that wrecked America.  Our infrastructure is in shambles, our economy skirting with disaster, our standing in the world has been severely diminished, our civil liberties have been trampled, none of this leaves the slightest blemish on the Republican party in the eyes of the mainstream press.  No, it is Obama who has received gushing coverage in the eyes of Kurtz with the so-called bitter-gate, alienating-low bowling scores and all.  If this is what Dobbs and Kurtz consider to biased towards Obama then I find their world-view and their expectations for an objective reporting of it inconceivable.

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September 3, 2008

Reflections on the Bristol Palin Fiasco

Filed under: culture, politics — Tags: , , — codesmithy @ 9:55 am

The Internet was buzzing with rumors this weekend that Bristol Palin was the actual mother of Trig Palin, Sarah Palin’s fifth child.

Fueling the rumors was this photoHowever, this story also with a photo is the most convincing, clinching that Sarah Palin is actually the mother of Trig.  Everything else, as it turns out, is just coincidence.  Therefore, I feel obligated to preface any comment on this story by saying Bristol is not the mother of Trig, Sarah is.

Now from the you-can’t-make-this-up department, the McCain campaign countered these “vicious” rumors, not with a photo of Sarah being clearly pregnant, but by saying that Bristol can’t be the mother because she is currently 5 months pregnant, and pointing out that Trig is four months old.

This leaves me sort of dumbfounded on exactly what was so “vicious” about the rumors then.  Let’s say for the sake of argument that the rumors were right (which they aren’t) and that Sarah Palin was covering for her daughter.  Is that so horrible?  When I think about it, there is a part of me that finds it admirable that a mother would make that type of sacrifice for her daughter.  Really, who is hurt? Who is worse off?

Ok, ok, it is based on a deception and lying is bad.  Worse than Santa, the tooth fairy or the Easter bunny?  Worse than telling your kid that the Earth is only 6,000 years old?  Worse than telling your kid that they will burn in Hell for all eternity if they don’t open their heart to your particular brand of religion?  Worse than denying anthropomorphic global climate change? Worse than burdening them with more debt to China? Worse than continuing a disastrous war that was based on bad information?  Worse than endorsing ignorance as the preferred method of preventing teenage pregnancy?

Hey, at least Sarah is the mother of Trig.  Although, I’m personally finding broad ignorance a whole lot more terrifying than petty deception.

September 2, 2008

Amy Goodman Arrested at RNC

Filed under: culture, politics, protest — Tags: , , — codesmithy @ 8:39 am

Amy Goodman, award-winning journalist and host of Democracy Now!, was arrested at the Republican National Convention on Monday.

According to the Washington Post, Goodman has been released.

Goodman’s arrest is the culmination of a long series of events leading up to the RNC.  The FBI attempted to infiltrate “vegan potlucks” back in MarchThen there were a series of preemptive raids the weekend before the RNC.  Finally, we are seeing an escalation of mass arrest tactics used at the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York.

It is usually shrill hyperbole to call the United States a police state.  However, if what is happening in the Twin Cities does not constitute a police state, then what does?

Arresting journalists is a typical tactic of third-world dicatorships.  Now we are seeing it imported.

Glenn Greenwald has more.

July 28, 2008

McCain: Kick Russia Out of the G8

Filed under: politics — Tags: , , — codesmithy @ 8:11 am

McCain went on “This Week” with George Stephanopoulos and defended his position to kick Russia out of the G8.  Stephanopoulos notes that this is an unsupported position.  McCain compares it to Reagan declaring “tear down this wall.”  This really displays the utter dearth of comprehension in the Republican party.  They have really drifted toward complete incompetence.

The reason why “tear down this wall” worked was that it exposed a contradiction in the Soviet system.  One that Gorbachev tried to correct with glasnost.  Contrast this with McCain’s condemnation of Russia:

They cut back on their oil supplies to the Czechs, because the Czechs made an agreement with us. They have now thrown out the — or forced out — BP out of Russia. And by the way, I — a lot of us thought that might happen. They continue to put enormous pressures on Georgia in many ways. They’re putting pressure on Ukraine. They are blocking action in the United Nations Security Council on Iran.

Those are the big crimes: cut back oil supplies to the Czechs, forced out BP, “pressure” on Georgia and Ukraine, and a refusal to go along with the US on Iran.

It is clear that McCain has completely bought into the imperial mentality.  There is no reason to even disguise our ambition or reasons behind moral declarations as was done during the Cold War.  The US is the world’s only remaining superpower, we do as we please.  Go along with what we say, or else.

Maybe McCain didn’t notice, but we still have stockpiles of nuclear weapons.  After the Soviet Union collapsed, there was a definite moment there when we could have disarmed, and made some real headway against the potential of nuclear holocaust.  The course that was pursued was in fact, the opposite of this alternative.  There was a deliberate decision to escalate via SDI, despite the fact that SDI will not work.  It will just trigger a new arms race.

(h/t Pharyngula)

McCain may think antagonizing Russia in these petty ways is a good thing, but that is exactly what makes him so dangerous.  Let’s go down McCain lane.  Let’s say we manage to get Russia kicked out the G8.  Does this make them more or less likely to secretly give a nuclear weapon to Iran, like the US gave to Israel those many years ago?  How does this not cause more problems than it solves?

In McCain’s world, we threaten and they shape up.  History has shown that when we threaten, Russia responds in kind.  What does this belligerence buy us?  Do you want to die over BP?

July 2, 2008

The Obama FISA Fiasco

Filed under: politics — Tags: , , , , , — codesmithy @ 9:16 am

Keith Olbermann gave a “Special Comment” on Monday encouraging Obama to do the right thing on FISA.  Olbermann’s suggestion to try to strip immunity, vote for the bill when that fails, then promise a full criminal investigation if Obama were to become president is a rather ineffectual gesture as Olbermann describes in his comment.  Olbermann is correct when he says it frees telecoms from civil, not criminal prosecution.   However, Glenn Greenwald points out the glaring flaw in the analysis.

That the FISA bill only immunizes telecoms from civil but not criminal liability isn’t some mystical discovery generated by John Dean’s Talmudic examination of the fine print, but rather, is something that was crystal clear and known to everyone for a long time. Indeed, from the start, the Bush administration only proposed, and telecoms only sought, immunity from civil — not criminal — liability. That’s because criminal prosecution would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, and beyond that, Bush could and likely will simply pardon telecoms from prosecution before he leaves office (nobody who has watched the last seven years would believe that Bush would be deterred because pardons are deemed by courts to be technical admissions of some level of guilt, and those asserting that pardons can’t be issued until there are charges brought simply don’t know what they’re talking about).

Immunizing telecoms from civil liability will ensure that the vast lawlessness of the Bush Administration is never aired in a court of law.  They have already knowingly broke the law.  We already know that they have a vast array of legal opinions from the likes of John Yoo and Alberto Gonzales that basically say the president can do what ever he wants in a commander-in-chief capacity.  The executive branch has turned any congressional oversight into a complete and utter farce.  This is precisely because Congress is unwilling to use the one tool they have for curtailing an out of control presidency: impeachment.

That said, it is not the case that the legal opinions of the presidential advisers are law.  In fact, they are most likely intended to shore up plausible deniability, to give the president fall guys.  The facade of legality only last as long as the doctrines are tacitly accepted and unchallenged.  Their true test is within a court of law.  There is no doubt in my mind that they will crumble under judicial scrutiny.  The legal opinions were always just pretense.  This is precisely why the Bush administration is so keen on getting the civil lawsuits dismissed.  With a pardon it is just he said, she said, Bush will come up with something lame like: “I don’t want to see members of my administration having to defend their actions in order to protect our nation.  I know they did the right thing under difficult circumstances.”  And that will be it.  Dismissing civil liability is giving Bush a trump card.  Is Olbermann really going to be that surprised if and when the president plays it?  THE DEMOCRATS ONLY GAVE IT TO HIM!  IT WAS ONLY WHAT HE OBVIOUSLY PLANNED ALL ALONG!  After all this time, does Olbermann really believe Bush cares what the public thinks of him?

Of course, there is Obama’s stance in the whole matter.  Krugman did a good job summing the current problems with the Obama agenda.  Obama might actually be centrist.  However, the one attribute I thought Obama had that Clinton lacked was moral courage.  The ability to stand by a principle and unabashedly defend it.  Clinton seemed too willing to compromise principal to meet some political end, which I felt was particularly displayed in her attempt to get the Michigan and Florida delegates seated.  So, even if Clinton had better policy papers, I thought Obama would be more effective in actually implementing something.

Telecom immunity is one of those issues that has no constituency outside of K Street.  Congressional oversight has proven itself to be a complete failure because punishment is off the table.  I want this administration judged in a court of law.  Any other issue is largely irrelevant.  What is the point of enacting new provisions when the president wasn’t following the old ones?  Really, what good does that do?

For a campaign that seems to be planning on continuing popular support as part of their fund-raising strategy, Obama surely demonstrates his willing to bite the hands that feeds him.  This isn’t to say Obama is worse than McCain.  However, a lot of my enthusiasm for his candidacy has certainly dissipated to a degree.  If his fundraising drops, he shouldn’t be wondering why.

June 8, 2008

Hillary Concedes

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — codesmithy @ 10:38 am

Hillary Clinton conceded the Democratic party nomination to Barack Obama.  In a campaign that was plagued with some tactless moments, the concession speech had a lot of class.  That is all.

May 23, 2008

McCain News Redux Part Deux

Filed under: politics — Tags: , — codesmithy @ 9:15 am

The first item is that McCain got around to repudiating Pastor Hagee. Proving once again, nothing is more toxic in American politics than the ghost of Adolph Hitler. Hagee made it appear as if the dissolution was mutual. McCain also got around severing ties with Rod Parsley. The preacher who said it was the historical mission of the United States to destroy Islam.

The central point here is that it isn’t like these pastors views were unknown. The views of both these pastors were clear long before McCain specifically sought their endorsement. Either McCain is a horrible judge of character, he secretly holds the views of these pastors and welcomes their endorsement, or a complete shill and cynic running for president, completely willing to say anything or do anything to win. Regardless of the answer, this episode demonstrates further why McCain is completely unfit to be president.

The second item was McCain was on the Ellen DeGeneres show. Ms. DeGeneres challenged McCain on his stance towards California ruling which determined same-sex couples have the same rights as heterosexual couples, including the right to enter into civil unions or marriage. In the end, McCain pulled the we’ll-just-have-to-agree-to-disagree card. That is right, McCain said that he thought it was right to discriminate against same-sex couples, although he demonstrated he didn’t have the cojones to say it to her face. McCain’s history of opposing same-sex unions is documented on the Think Progress page.

The third item is that the new GI Bill was attached to the war funding bill. It passed by an overwhelming majority 77-22. McCain was opposed to the GI Bill and offered an alternative. Subsequently, he didn’t bother showing up for the vote. It really shows his commitment to supporting the troops.

The final item is that McCain is supposed to release 400 pages of medical records on Friday. Left off the list to see the records, the New York Times. Yup, McCain isn’t above the same access bull the White House currently employs.

Bonus item: McCain demonstrates his ignorance of Iranian government. The pure racket of it all is that he references the demonizing of Ahmadinejad as evidence of his rectitude.  Why are people seriously considering this man as a candidate to be president?

May 22, 2008

McCain News Redux

Filed under: politics, religion — Tags: , , , , — codesmithy @ 8:30 am

Here are some of the ways John McCain is making news.

The first item is that news broke today that the Pastor John Hagee said Hitler was fulfilling God’s will by carrying out the Holocaust.

It should be noted that McCain explicitly sought Hagee’s endorsement. Add this to the other Hagee beliefs such as the Roman Catholic Church is the Whore of Babylon spoken of in the book of Revelations and that God sent hurricane Katrina to stop an gay-pride parade that was supposedly set to get out-of-hand. In case you don’t know this already, dispensationalists are wacky and dangerous.

The second point is that the McCain campaign is trying to reward commenters who push John McCain talking points on blogs. The three featured blogs that they currently have targeted are:

  • Red State
  • Jeff Emanuel
  • Daily Kos

I couldn’t find any direct reference on the sites in reference to the news that they have been targeted.  I guess they call it a noise machine for a reason.

The third is more of an around-this-date-in-history type of item.  Two years ago, John McCain went on a university commencement speaking tour.  He spoke at three “universities.”

  • Liberty “University”
  • Columbia University
  • The New School – A University

The New School was the last stop and apparently the most protested.  Jean Sara Rohe gave a stirring speech trashing McCain’s before he had a chance to repeat it.  The immaculate Amy Goodman covered the story for Democracy Now!

Here is a summary in the New York Times.  The row Ms. Goodman mentions is still available on Huffington Post.

Basically, Rohe wrote this piece on Huffington Post better explaining why she decided to speak outMark Slater, a McCain aide, responded with some harsh remarksFinally, Rohe responds to Slater.

The fourth item is that the EFF is reporting that John McCain wouldn’t give Telecos Immunity if he were president. This is in direct contradiction to his voting record on this issue.  He voted in favor of the bill that would grant the telecoms retroactive immunity and already voted against an amendment to strike telecom immunity from that bill (h/t yutt).  Given McCain’s close ties with lobbyists, Republican ideology, and already proven track-record of supporting telecom immunity with his votes and actions, I don’t really think we should give him the chance to demonstrate that this was just another one of his many campaign lies or flip-flops.

May 19, 2008

When Straight-Talk Goes Crooked

Filed under: politics — Tags: , — codesmithy @ 9:17 am

The above video paints McCain as a say-anything-do-anything politician (which he is). However, the most disconcerting thing about McCain is his policy towards war. He honestly believes Vietnam was “winnable” (what ever that means). He has indicated what his approach will be towards Iraq and the Middle East general: we stay and we bomb more. If Iraq doesn’t well, then he will expand the theater to Iran and we’ll bomb them. With McCain as president, the possibility of a conflagration that engulfs the entire region is very real. In the meantime, his expressed domestic policies are inline with what George W. Bush has been pursuing for the last 7 years. A vote for McCain is a vote for another term of George W. Bush’s disastrous policies with one significant difference: we can expect less restraint in terms of Iraqi civilian causalities.

May 17, 2008

Obama and West Virginia

Filed under: culture, politics — Tags: , , — codesmithy @ 11:45 am

The Real News has a segment called “Obama faces racism in West Virgina.”  The piece created a lengthy discussion on reddit.  As such, I thought there were a couple themes worth addressing.

First, some people called the segment cherry-picking.  We can compare and contrast it to Jay Leno’s “Jaywalking” segments which is obviously cherry-picking.

Here is a typical segment “Jaywalking.”

One thing to notice is that Leno really prods the interviewee to answer.  Many times, it is obvious that the interviewee is aware of their own ignorance and just answers to get it over with.  It is also obvious that their answers are sometimes made in jest.  Matthew Palevsky doesn’t press the people he interviews for answers.  They opine directly and authoritatively on the questions they were asked.  Tracy, the one wearing a “Hillary” sticker, declared that Obama is a Muslim, apparently in opposition to the fact that Obama has been a member of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago for over a decade.

Others tried to draw an equivalence between black people voting for Obama because of his race, and people who won’t vote for him because of his race.  As I wrote before about “Hillary Clinton and Female Solidarity,” I do not see the moral equivalence.  The argument rests on a few factors, but a parallel argument can be made.  Racism exists in society today as a real, measurable phenomenon.  The group in question has not achieved proportional representation in the halls of power.  The question of the morality is not over the means, but rather the ends.  Is the solidarity being used in such a way to disenfranchise a group of people or to properly secure their rights as citizens?  In 2006, blacks made up around 12% of the population.  In the 109th Congress, 42 Representatives are black and 1 Senator (Barack Obama).  I’m not saying that there is some quota.  However, voting against a candidate, solely because he is black has the effect of further disenfranchising a race that is barely achieving proportional representation.  The converse, voting for a candidate solely because he is black helps maintain the balance.  Admittedly, it is not an ideal solution and one has to accept the fact that racism is a real phenomena.   There are arguments against this view, although in some ways I find them as disingenuous as some of the responses from the West Virginia voters.

Another commenter dismissed The Real News report because they had a “very specific political agenda” they didn’t agree with and was therefore, most likely, biased.  What exactly that political agenda is, who knows.  I just find it odd because I was accused of having an “agenda” before.  Honestly, Martinsburg just seems like a small town in Eastern West Virginia.  It didn’t look like Palevsky had to search that hard, he just talked to various people in the town.  How many people were there to cherry-pick from?  Around 16,000?

Finally, one commenter remembered:

During his 1956 presidential campaign, a woman called out to Adlai E. Stevenson: “Senator, you have the vote of every thinking person!” Stevenson called back “That’s not enough, madam, we need a majority!”

We’ll see if we are actually in better shape 52 years after Stevenson made his cynical comment.

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