Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Is the Scott Brown win a Blessing in Disguise for Liberals?

Last week, many liberals were disheartened by Scott Brown winning the senate seat once occupied by Liberal Lion Ted Kennedy. The right of this country, ever moving further and further to the fringe, celebrated Brown's win as a referendum on President Barack Obama's agenda. It was one of many great disappointments for the left of this country, after the death of Kennedy, the lax healthcare reform bills and the retirement announcements of many long standing stalwarts of the Democratic party, and many hoped this would cause Obama to, like Bill Clinton in 1994, move to the right of the political spectrum. However, ironically, since the win, the President and Congress have taken bolder steps to the left since these cuts, including being stronger on financial reform, pushing back against campaign finance and creating a middle class task force.

According to many sources, Obama's Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Economic Advisor Lawrence Summers have since lost their influence after failing to achieve any type of financial reform. In turn, Paul Volcker, Chair of the Economic Recovery Board and former head of the Federal Reserve, has gained more influence. Last week, Obama called out big banks and demanded the current financial reform bill include a consumer protection committee as well as limiting mergers between banks.

Another sign of Obama moving further to the left came when in this past Saturday's weekly address, he called out the supreme court's decision to overturn a 107-year old ruling on campaign finance reform, calling it an assault on democracy. As somebody who has rarely made declarative statement, this was a shocker to hear from the President.

Finally, at the State of the Union Address, Obama demanded that Congress work to create a Middle Class task force, begin creating jobs in infrastructure and working on Climate change legislation. He demanded lifting the burdens of college student loans and working to tax bonuses of bankers. Compared to his previous joint address to Congress in September, which was filled with vagueness and non-declarative statements, this address was bolder and more dignified.

This isn't to say Obama is a full blown liberal. This past Monday, he announced plans for a spending freeze and is still adamant about the confirmation of Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's second term. However, the seeming about face could be one of the greatest examples of getting back on track in American politics.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Break up the Pit and return to Journalism

This Past September, all hell broke loose when Congressman Joe Wilson interrupted President Barack Obama's address to a joint session of Congress regarding health care by exclaiming "You Lie!" Rather than it being a feature headline and allowing Wilson to go into eventual obscurity, Wilson's outburst gained national attention. The next day, all of the major news networks were reporting on Wilson and his sentiment, ultimately killing any serious discussion on the actual issues being discussed in something as ponderous as healthcare. In November of that year, a similar storm was conjured when Tareq and Michaele Salahi crashed President Obama's first state dinner with the Prime Minister of India Manmohan Sign. The next day, once again, the mainstream media, rather than reporting the actual discussions that gave rise to the state dinner like India's increasing nuclear threat, reported on the idiotic actions of these two reality wannabes. Rather than the media choosing to focus on serious crises that are at hand, they have chosen to follow sensationalism instead of common sense and in turn are killing journalism

Former George H W Bush advisor and the progenitor of Fox News Roger Ailes has a name for this method of journalism and he calls it the "Orchestra Pit Theory." Ailes elaborated on this theory in an interview with q-and-a.org, saying "you give a journalist a picture in the electronic media, you've got a guaranteed story. Its what I used to call the 'orchestra pit theory of politics.'" He then uses this example "Two guys on a stage, one guy jumps up and says I've got the solution to the problems in the Middle East. Other guy jumps up and falls into the orchestra pit. Who's going to be on the front page? The guy laying on the bass drum."

In the same respect, the Salahis, Congressman Wilson, and the Mark Sanford and Tiger Woods affairs have all glorified orchestra pit descenders. Indeed, in this era of reality TV and celebrity tabloid insanity, it seems that more people are actually diving into the pit and in turn, compromising journalistic integrity.

As a result, the general public is more well informed on the amount of Tiger Woods' mistresses than the growing crisis of increasing troop numbers in Afghanistan; they are more cognoscente of Sarah Palin's brouhaha about death panels than if citizens will get better care instead of more care. The population's obsession with Taylor Lautner and Taylor Swift and insouciance about the tailors in Illinois losing their jobs is a stunning failure on the behalf of the mainstream media that cannot be tolerated.

It appears that the media has become a little starstruck in recent years. Rather than reporting on the benefits of regulating Goldman Sachs, they are more worried about losing their interview with the Goldman Sachs executive for their nightly special. Rather than evaluate whether or not President Obama has kept his campaign promise of not instating a mandate for healthcare, they are fearful of falling out of good graces with the White House.

This failure in the media then raises the question of what would have happened if we had a better system of journalism in times when we needed it. What would have happened if journalists had spent more time reporting Osama Bin Laden's recruiting of radical Islamists in the mountains of Afghanistan than who Bill Clinton had an affair with or not. What would have happened if somebody had blown the whistle on credit default swaps and collateralized debt obligations on Wall Street that would have a disastrous domino effect instead of not kissing the feet of Alan Greenspan and Ben Bernanke? Would they have not have happened?

The role of journalists is to speak the truth about power, not to become its mouthpiece. It is to cut through all of the distractions and give the news to the general public straight and unadulterated, without demagoguery. It is the essential ingredient to a representative democracy. Without proper journalism, democracy shall also fade away.