James McPherson's Media & Politics Blog

Observations of a patriotic progressive historian, media critic & former journalist


  • By the author of The Conservative Resurgence and the Press: The Media’s Role in the Rise of the Right and of Journalism at the End of the American Century, 1965-Present. A former journalist with a Ph.D. in journalism, history and political science, McPherson is a past president of the American Journalism Historians Association, a board member for the Northwest Alliance for Responsible Media, and a professor of communication studies at Whitworth University.

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Posts Tagged ‘Supreme Court’

Roberts rule the order in Obamacare decision

Posted by James McPherson on June 28, 2012

Like most people, including supposed experts, I was surprised by the Supreme Court’s ruling today on the Affordable Care Act. Like most legal experts, I also thought it should be upheld under existing law regarding the Interstate Commerce Clause of the Constitution. But Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the majority decision in a way that managed to agree with the four most conservative justices about the Interstate Commerce Clause, let agreed with the most liberal justices to keep Obamacare mostly intact.

I suspect Roberts’ decision will keep courts and legal scholars (and I don’t claim to be one) busy for years, though at least one Yale law professor predicted the winning argument. And unfortunately the one part of the bill that the court threw out–an expansion of Medicaid–will leave many poor people uncovered. Ironically, a disproportionate number of those people will be in conservative Southern states, where people were most likely to oppose Obamacare.

Obama obviously comes out a winner, at least in the short term. Some argue that the decision may fire up conservative independents enough to help Romney–especially if the word “tax” can be emphasized enough–but I don’t see how a guy who lies dozens of times in a single week,  whose own state plan was the well-known model for the Affordable Care Act, and whose reaction to the ruling was a weak promise to “act to repeal Obamacare” (which he would have no power to do) if he were elected, can overcome the hole he is in. Some Republicans claim that the decision will actually help kill Obamacare, but that argument is nonsensical on its face, simple posturing by the vanquished.

Another big winner is Roberts, who took advantage of his right as chief justice to write the decision. His interpretation will be debated for years, and likely will shape future policy in a number of areas–unlike any majority opinion written by longtime justices and conservative political hacks Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. Conservatives may be cranky with Roberts now, but they’ll get over it when the “evil genious” quickly rejoins the reactionary side of the most conservative Supreme Court in history.

I do hope a Fox News column is right in predicting that the Obamacare decision might be a step toward a single-payer health care system. But I doubt it (and not just because the prediction comes from Fox). And until that happens, insurance companies and drug companies will reap big rewards including whatever company makes the drugs that Michael Savage blames for Roberts’ decision. Those beneficiaries demonstrate one consistency for Roberts: As with the horrendous Citizens United decision, he came down on the side of corporations.

Oh, another winner–all of us, if Rush Limbaugh would just keep his promise to move to Costa Rica.

Saturday follow-up: More evidence that this is the most conservative court ever.

Posted in History, Journalism, Legal issues, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments »

Since your ballot won’t matter, why not vote against both Obama and Romney?

Posted by James McPherson on June 25, 2012

Newspapers tell you every election season that your vote counts. I’ve even said so myself in my pre-blog life, including six years ago with a guest opinion in my local newspaper. But at least I noted that people were “least interested in the local issues they could most influence and which usually affect them most. They’re much more likely to vote in national elections, especially if political ads and talk-show spin generate enough heat (though rarely much light) about inflammatory ‘threats’ such as flag burning, homosexuality, immigration and terrorism.”

But here’s a secret that all those folks who keep predicting (probably incorrectly) a close presidential election don’t mention — however close the election is, your vote probably won’t matter at all. “You have a better chance of being killed by a meteorite than you do of having your vote determine the next president,” I heard a political science professor professor say years ago. With that sentence in mind, I’ve since told my students, “If you go to the polls thinking you’ll affect the presidency, make sure you’re looking up as you go.”

Your vote won’t be rendered meaningless by voter fraud, by the way, or probably by voter suppression (though the latter is far more likely, regardless of what conservative jokers may claim). Your vote probably won’t be negated by Republican-controlled electronic voting machines. No, your vote for president — unless you’re a resident of one of a half-dozen to a dozen states — won’t matter because of where you live.

As I noted in a recent post that contained links to several electoral maps, most states are already out of the running unless something dramatic happens between now and November. That’s why, as CNN noted today, a new Barack Obama ad campaign “will run in Colorado, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Iowa, Virginia, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Florida.” If you don’t live in one of those states, your vote for president likely won’t matter at all.

But wait, you say. A generally “blue state” like Washington could shift, leaning toward Mitt Romney or a virtual tie. It’s even remotely conceivable to imagine that a state such as Idaho or Texas could move toward the Obama side. But so what? If either of those were to occur, it would mean that the election was about to become a landslide. And the winner would be known long before individual Washington or Idaho votes were counted.

I’ve voted in heavily red states most of my life, and therefore have not voted for either major party candidate in most presidential elections. When I lived in Idaho and Arizona, I knew that the Republican candidate would get all of my state’s electoral votes. And since failing to vote at all might be viewed as simple apathy, instead I’ve voted for independent candidates who were most in line with my views. That is an especially appealing approach to me when we have two conservative candidates both fighting for the same corporate dollars, as we do now.

The so-called Republican “war on women,” Fox News, the economy, a gutless Congress, events abroad, the Supreme Court’s immigration decision today or its health care decision on Thursday may change the outcome of the election — but not the effect of your vote. (By the way, the Court ruling most likely to affect elections in general is another from today that is getting less attention that immigration or health care; it states that the court’s previous abysmal “Citizens United” decision overrides state election laws.)

So here’s what I suggest: Unless you live in one of those very few true battleground states, cast your presidential ballot for anyone other than Obama or Romney. Well, maybe not Ron Paul, because he’s crazy. OK, he’s not the only one, so even him. More importantly, how about reading up on your Congressional and local races? There your vote might actually matter.

Posted in History, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 25 Comments »

Graham right and wrong about Kagan

Posted by James McPherson on July 20, 2010

Not surprisingly in this political climate, the Senate Judiciary Committee vote today to approve the nomination of Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court split mostly along party lines.

Perhaps the one surprise is that Sen. Lindsey Graham (no, not that Lindsay, despite her disproportional share of the news this morning–some spoiled witless women apparently are far more “newsworthy” being sentenced in court than are those who would serve on the court) voted for Kagan.

Lindsey’s correct rationale, as when he voted for Justice Sonia Sotomayor last year, is that “elections have consequences, and senators should be deferential to presidential nominating decisions.” Perhaps he’ll remember that “consequences” thing with his next filibuster vote, though I doubt it.

Of course Graham is wrong in terming Kagan a liberal. Like every new appointee for decades, she will be more conservative than the justice she replaces, doing little or nothing to continue the court’s activist slide to the right.

Posted in History, Journalism, Legal issues, Politics, Written elsewhere | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

The activist conservative Supreme Court and its contradictions

Posted by James McPherson on May 12, 2010

Remember when conservatives said they didn’t want activist judges, back in the days when they were still able to pretend (though the claim was pretty far-fetched during most our history) that activism somehow meant liberalism? We now have pretty good evidence that the current Supreme Court, in addition to being an activist court, is perhaps the most conservative in history.

Apparently four of the five most conservative judges who have served since 1937 are on the court today, with another current justice, Anthony Kennedy, ranked No. 10. Incidentally, Clarence Thomas–whom I had previously considered to be the equivalent of a ventriloquist’s dummy for Antonin Scalia (except that wooden dummies typically come across as smarter and more expressive than Thomas), is actually ranked as more conservative than Scalia. Or anyone else who has served since 1937.

And of course the most relatively liberal John Paul Stevens is the  justice who is leaving, with the largely unknowable Elena Kagan nominated by pseudo-liberal Barack Obama to take Stevens’ place on a court of contradictions. Assuming Kagan is seated, the court will have a record number of women on the court–and all of them from New York City. Her appointment means that four of the nine justices will have been appointed by Democrats, the “best” it has been for progressives for more than 40 years. Oh yeah, those damned liberal activist courts!

Except for his race, Thomas seems to be the justice who would feel most at home at a Tea Party gathering, but in fact most of today’s justices could hang out at such a gathering unnoticed (not least of which is because most tea partiers wouldn’t recognize a Supreme Court justice if they tripped over him). And the fact that the only black man on the court is its most conservative member–while the only other African American to serve, Thurgood Marshall is ranked as the least conservative since 1937–is only one current oddity of the court.

It appears that Protestants may want to start clamoring for more diversity on the court, considering that it is about to be made up of six Catholics and three Jews. NPR notes that half of the Roman Catholics who have ever served are on the court now. (The first Catholic also has the distinction of being perhaps the worst chief justice ever; Roger Taney wrote the Dred Scott decision, which some Arizonans are no doubt trying to figure out how to apply to Hispanics today).

I’ve complained in the past about how America’s leaders were more conservative than the people they pretend to serve. But as long as corporations have more political power and more interest in the process than people do, those in power will continue to benefit from an increasingly activist conservative court.

Posted in History, Legal issues, Politics, Women, Written elsewhere | Tagged: , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

More Bush-league antics: Did administration knowingly lock up innocents to play politics?

Posted by James McPherson on April 9, 2010

New revelations about the ongoing international embarrassment that is Guantanamo:  The Times of London today reports, “George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld covered up that hundreds of innocent men were sent to the Guantánamo Bay prison camp because they feared that releasing them would harm the push for war in Iraq and the broader War on Terror.”

The claim is made by Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, a top aide to former Secretary of State Colin Powell, and because Wilkerson has been a regular critic of the Bush administration his account will (and should) be questioned. Still, according to the newspaper, Wilkerson maintains that Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld “knew that the majority of the initial 742 detainees sent to Guantánamo in 2002 were innocent but believed that it was ‘politically impossible to release them.’”

Once again we’re left to wonder if the most dangerous post-9/11 war criminals were those who had offices in the White House.

Sadly, if Bush administration abuses are ever considered by the same Supreme Court that put Bush in office in the first place, the sole remaining real liberal on the court–Justice John Paul Stevens–will be gone.

It is a sad reflection of how far federal politics has shifted to the right, despite the fantasies of Glenn Beck and assorted Tea Party Mad Hatters, that the most liberal member of the court is someone who was appointed by Republican Gerald Ford. Sadder still is that a president whom loonies now claim to be a “socialist,” despite the fact that Barack Obama is more probably conservative than Richard Nixon, is the “liberal” who will get to try to replace Stevens.

At least the conservatives who will reflexively fight the nomination (and if Obama were to nominate Rush Limbaugh, those conservatives would suddenly be screaming that Limbaugh was “too liberal”) cannot hope to credibly claim that they don’t want “activist judges,” if they’ve paid any attention to Supreme Court decisions of the past few years.

Posted in History, Journalism, Legal issues, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Supreme Court & NRA may kill 2nd Amendment, aid abortion

Posted by James McPherson on March 2, 2010

Remember when gun nuts were claiming that Barack Obama would take their firearms away? Those paranoid claims bolstered weapon and ammo sales, but in fact gun regulation has decreased since Obama took office, not increased.

It’s easier (though more expensive) to buy a gun now than before Obama was elected, easier than it was under Ronald Reagan (funny how getting shot clarified his mind). Even Yellowstone Park can now boast something scarier than grizzly bears. To be fair, though, those who feel a need to wear a gun just because they can often may not be able to afford new trucks or other traditional mechanical redneck means to public prove their manhood.

Now, in response to a Chicago case, the activist Supreme Court probably will further the Wild West approach to gun ownership favored by the National Rifle Association. Chicago allows homeowners to own shotguns (which are better for home protection that handguns), but not handguns. So how open should it be? As I heard on NPR this morning, ormer Bush administration Solicitor General Paul Clement, representing the NRA in the case, “says a bazooka is probably not even an arm ‘for purposes of the Second Amendment.’ But, he concedes, ‘A machine gun is a more difficult question.’”

I’m not against firearms, by the way. I grew up in Idaho, own a variety of long guns and handguns, and once taught gun safety. That’s how I know that that vast majority of homeowners (and their children) would be safer with a dog at home and pepper spray in their purse or pocket than having guns in either place.

And please forget the tired and inaccurate argument that we’re all safer if more of us have guns and regulation is less strict. As shown here, states that are the most pro-gun tend to have the highest firearms death rates. That would seem to be common sense, but when it comes to the gun debate, common sense often is in short supply. In fact, you’re more than three times as likely to be killed by a gun in Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Lousiana, Mississippi or Tennessee than you are in New York.

In the category of unintended consequences, once gun ownership becomes more widespread, and deaths ranging from kids accidentally shooting themselves to Virginia Tech-style massacres to domestic terrorism become more common, expect a backlash. That backlash might even result in a new constitutional Amendment that overturns the Supreme Court interpretation of the current Second Amendment. The NRA may find that it has a much easier time buying off members of Congress than it will controlling an fearful anti-firearms movement that it helped start.

Interestingly, the case could end up being a good thing for liberals in another arena, as well. The Court’s pro-gun decision may also help preserve abortion rights, a result likely to bother many of the same folks who are apparently untroubled by the fact that a few dozen kids are killed each day by guns.

Posted in History, Legal issues, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Election ads to be even more obnoxious in 2010

Posted by James McPherson on January 21, 2010

Scott Brown’s election to the Senate, while interesting, isn’t the event this week that will have the biggest effect on the future of the American political process. A much more important (and activist, considering the overturning of legal precedent without corresponding new facts) decision is the one today by the Supreme Court to ban corporate spending limits on political speech, killing the McCain-Feingold act in the process.

McCain, still confused over whether as a Republican he’s supposed to be a shill for big business or a protector of the people, offered a weak criticism of the decision. The 5-4 decision (aren’t they all, anymore?) extends the conservative corporate tradition of treating corporations as if they are individuals (except with much more money and less moral guidance than most people have).

Frankly, as a near-First Amendment absolutist, I have mixed emotions about the decision from a theoretical perspective. From a practical view, however, I have little doubt that future campaigns will be even more negative and more riddled with lies and smears than past elections. An already-broken political process in which most Americans already get their political information from clearly biased pundits and paid advertising will become even worse.

With the news media flailing and perhaps less likely to have the ability to provide meaningful perspective to political events–even if they had the will to do so and more Americans had the will to pay attention–those who care about the process would be well advised to bookmark FactCheck.org, PolitiFact.com, Snopes.com, TruthOrFiction.com, Open Secrets, SourceWatch.org and USAspending.gov, and plan to check them often.

Posted in History, Legal issues, Media literacy, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Congress approving digital delay that few want?

Posted by James McPherson on January 27, 2009

After last night’s unanimous Senate vote, the House of Representatives will take “emergency action” to vote on a bill to delay the switch to digital television from Feb. 17 until June 12. The House vote may come as early as later today, though I suspect ongoing stimulus talks and other issues (which fortunately included passage of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act) will delay it until tomorrow or later this week. So much for the idea that interest groups and lobbyists have all the power in Washington, since students and I learned first-hand last week that representatives for several powerful groups actually oppose the delay to digital.

The “emergency” aspect of the House action is somewhat humorous, since the switch to digital has been scheduled for more than a decade and those of use with cable or satellite hookups probably won’t be seriously affected (though even we may need an extra cable box or experience a slight  increase in the number of neighbors who want to watch football games at our houses). A January startup date previously had been moved to Feb. 17 after legislators realized what might happen if the switch screwed up people’s Super Bowl viewing or messed with the plans of advertisers, who will pay up to $3 million for 30 seconds of advertising during the game. No, that’s not a joke–at least three experts we spoke with in New York and Washington, D.C., verified the Super Bowl-related reasoning behind the February date.

I don’t know the significance of the June 12 date, which among other things happens to be George H.W. Bush’s 85th birthday, the 70th birthday of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, the 22nd anniversary of the date Ronald Reagan urged Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear down this wall,” and the 15th anniversary of when Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman were murdered (an event that came 27 years to the day after the Supreme Court struck down state laws against interracial marriages, suggesting that O.J. may have an odd way of celebrating key anniversaries).

Regardless of the date, the Nielsen ratings folks are concerned about the switch to digital, as Dave Thomas, president of Global Media Client Services of the company, noted when we met him two weeks ago. He estimated that 5 to 6 percent of viewers are “completely unprepared” for the switch (despite the fact that as National Association of Broadcasters executive VP Marcellus Alexander told us last week, more than $1 billion has been spent on industry advertising warning viewers that “you may need a converter box” if your TV is too old and you don’t have cable or satellite television).

“What’s troubling is that it’s not going to fall evenly,” Thomas noted about the people who will be left without television. Young people, the elderly and poor people will be most likely to suffer problems, and not nearly enough cost-reducing coupons have been set aside for people who need converter boxes. I don’t know how much the problem might be aggravated by people like me who got converter boxes despite already having cable, just in case a natural disaster or the desire to watch a baseball game while camping forces me to rely on older, non-digital technology.

A bigger problem will be that some people won’t have signals even with their new converter boxes, as we were reminded last week by Seth Morrison, senior VP of the Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing. On the digital transition issue, members of CTAM–who naturally (but not “officially”) want everyone to switch to cable, anyway–find themselves in rare agreement with the National Association of Broadcasters in opposing the delay, in large part because in the meantime broadcasters and cable companies are paying to transmit both digital and traditional analog signals.

Paula Kerger, the president and CEO of PBS, told our group last Friday (and apparently told the Associated Press a few days later) that a four-month extension would cost PBS stations more than $22 million in extra transmission costs. Coincidentally, just a few minutes into our meeting, she had to leave the room to take a call from Senator Jay Rockefeller, the sponsor of the bill (favored by Barack Obama) to delay the transition to digital.

“It sounds like they won’t extend the date,” Kerger said when she returned, indicating that there didn’t seem to be enough Senate votes to force the extension. Assuming that Rockefeller wasn’t intentionally misleading Kerger, just three days later the tide shifted dramatically to make the vote for the extension unanimous, while illustrating another Kerger point: “The conversion has not been well managed.”

On the other hand, as more and more Americans find themselves without work, at least the delay will let more of those people spend their suddenly free time watching the antics of politicians and thieving financial fat cats, so viewers can better understand just how screwed they really are.

Incidentally, for tonight’s viewing I recommend FRONTLINE/World on PBS, which starts a new season with stories about Guantanamo prisoners, the Italian Mafia and Barack Obama’s Brazilian appeal.

Posted in Education, History, Media literacy, Personal, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Why conservatives may want to sit this election out and let Obama win

Posted by James McPherson on October 31, 2008

Obviously most conservatives will keep pulling for John McCain to pull out a win on Tuesday, and McCain likely will continue his unprecedented slog through the mud (tempered with an appearance this weekend on “Saturday Night Live,” where he can have a conversation with a fake Sarah Palin that is as convincing as his rapport with the real Sarah Palin).

Still, barring something dramatic, unexpected and/or illegal, Barack Obama is likely to win the election handily (as I predicted a couple of months ago). Even NBC’s electoral map, one of the most conservative, now predicts 286 electoral votes for Obama, with 89 too close to call. But Obama also leads in most of those “toss up” states, including Nevada, Florida, Ohio and Indiana. CNN’s electoral map now has Obama leading by significant margins in enough states to claim 291 electoral votes, with 84 more up for grabs. Even just the 291 count, which National Public Radio also predicts, is 21 more than needed (the exact total offered by Pennsylvania).

CBS has the only map I found that doesn’t yet push Obama over 270 (giving him a 259-163, but it also leaves more states uncommitted. As I’ve noted previously, the so-called liberal mainstream media want to keep things close, and don’t want to be proven wrong. Incidentally, Fox News doesn’t have an electoral map (perhaps because the network hates to air news that might be detrimental to the McCain campaign), but Bill O’Reilly does, and even he puts Obama’s current lead at 286-163.

Non-media maps have things looking even tougher for the GOP. Real Clear Politics and Congressional Quarterly gives Obama 311 electoral votes as of today. Even more notably, so does Karl Rove, the man once known as “Bush’s Brain” and on whom some conservatives now place much of the blame for the current woeful state of the conservative movement. Politico’s map gives Obama 353 electoral votes, and VoteFromAbroad.org pegs the count as 364-171.

So what’s a distraught Republican to do? For one thing, he or she might recognize that an Obama win might well turn out to be the best possible outcome for conservatives. It is well known that conservatives has been no big fan of McCain’s, and in fact they have only one good reason to support his presidential bid: the chance that he might be able to solidify the hard right perspective of the Supreme Court. But other than that somewhat iffy possibility, there are a number of reasons conservatives probably should favor Barack Obama, instead.

Addressing the court issue first, McCain may not be able to change the court even if he is elected. He would try to make the court even more conservative, but his nominations to fill the expected two or three vacancies would have to get through a Senate approval process. And the older, more liberal members of the court might decide not to retire, hoping to outlast or outlive McCain (and good luck to a President Palin trying to get anything past a Democratic Congress).

On the other hand, even if Obama has the opportunity to replace three justices, in all likelihood he’ll replace three of the more liberal members of the court with three others who think much like them. The overall makeup of the court itself won’t change, unless Obama makes a mistake–as Dwight D. Eisenhower and other presidents have done in the past–and accidentally appoints someone who turns out to be something other than what Democrats expect. Think of the delicious irony for conservatives if Obama should happen to appoint the justice(s) who solidifies or even strengthens the court’s conservative activist stance for a generation to come.

Even national politics are unlikely to change a lot–to to become in the words of a Times of London columnist “a liberal heaven“–or to change nearly enough, for some of us. We live in a country with politics that have become increasingly conservative, as I’ve demonstrated elsewhere.

History also shows that presidents, once elected, tend to govern more like the opposite party, probably in an attempt to build larger coalitions and to recognize grand ambitions. That might explain why Richard Nixon went to China, Ronald Reagan went to the Soviet Union, and Bill Clinton approved NAFTA, the Telecommunications Act of 1996, and welfare reform.

A decisive loss may help conservatives refocus their party. How they might do so remains anyone’s guess–Reagan managed to help create a coalition of otherwise distrustful neoconservatives, fiscal conservatives and social conservatives, before the neocons won. Conservative Republicans already have a meeting planned for just days after this election to try to rebuild the party, .

Finally, back in 1988, I told friends that Democrats should hope for a win by George H.W. Bush, because in my view the economy was about to hit a rough spot and whoever was in office would get much of the blame. Bush won, the economy plunged, and Bill “It’s the economy, stupid” Clinton won in 1992.

The same is true today, though of course the economy is already in the toilet. But it’s not going to be fixed in four years, and unless Obama and a Democratic Congress take dramatic steps that I think they’ll be afraid to take, they’ll get the blame for not fixing things quickly enough–setting the stage for yet another Republican revolution in 2012.

Other predictions for the GOP in 2012: Mitt Romney will be the likely GOP nominee, and the Religious Right will continue to decline in influence.

Posted in Politics, Religion, Written elsewhere, History | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Media & GOP embrace socialism; Aerosmith offers emergency diet plan

Posted by James McPherson on September 21, 2008

Journalists now are lambasting the government for not warning us about the onrushing economic train. Aside from the fact that some economists and others have been trying to warn us, of course, the bigger problem is that the news media themselves just didn’t care enough about the issue.

Yet again the press has failed as miserably as the government, just as it did with the Iraq War. After all, charging bulls and bears are oh-so-boring compared to pigs with lipstick. Why attack complicated problems, when your audience is more entertained by political attack ads? Besides, in the words of Barbie and journalists everywhere, math is hard.

So now we have a nation in which “socialism” is bad if that government intervention would provide health care to all Americans, who live in a nation that despite its wealth is ranked just 37th in the world for quality of health care. Yet at the same time, “socialism” that bails out rich people who do stupid things with our money is good.

It almost makes you long for the stock market crash of 1929, when at least some bad investors supposedly had the moral fortitude to throw themselves off of buildings rather than begging for a handout. How many of these folks do you suppose are among the crowd that regularly criticize the poor for their own poverty because of “bad choices”?

The difference, of course, is that the poor–and their children–will pay disproportionately for their choices, aided in large part by the taxpaying largess of the dwindling middle class. Stupid bankers, who could get rich off of hair-brained schemes that went well, will now be bailed out by that same middle class since those schemes have gone awry. And neither Congress nor most of the media likely will demand reasonable concessions such as those described by former labor secretary Robert Reich, in return for the blank check we’ll all be backing.

It might be funny if it weren’t so disgusting. Now the nation is in the biggest economic trouble it has been in at least since the Great Depression (we may still fall much further), thanks to the actions of the current administration–and, to be fair, the three previous administrations. After all, despite his reputation as our “first black president” I’ve long called Bill Clinton our most successful recent Republican president, and though his economy was much stronger, he shares much of the blame for the deregulatory nightmare that allowed the current crisis.

I find it appalling and amazing that anyone wants to continue the policies of the current administration–policies supported strongly in most regards by John McCain, who tonight on “60 Minutes” said deregulation had probably helped the economy. But in truth it probably doesn’t matter a great deal whom we elect as the next president. Those current TV commercials that have news people saying this is “the most important election” of our lifetimes? They’re wrong. The last two were more important, and we managed to blow them both.

The Iraq War, the incredibly inept response of recent years to virtually every foreign and domestic crisis, and the massive bailout of Wall Street all mean that the next president’s hands will be tied in terms of the economy. And because things likely will get worse before they get better, I’d almost support McCain just so he might get a rightful share of the blame.

One huge problem with that, of course is that a McCain victory would also mean that he–or Sarah Palin, after McCain drops dead upon finally realizing the magnitude of the problems he faces–likely would end up nominating a couple of Supreme Court justices. Then we’d likely be in deeper trouble for a couple of generations, instead of “only” the decade or two that may be ahead of us (others such as my ecologist–yes, ecologist, not economist–brother, who long ago predicted the current crisis, anticipate an even an even more dire future, of course).

One bit of good news for rock music fans: I sense a comeback for Aerosmith’s 1993 song, “Eat the Rich”–even if a lack of electricity means it has to be an acoustical version. Perhaps that title might also be a survival plan for downsized journalists. Though one drawback to eating human flesh may be that it leads to insanity, many in journalism and government would seem to have little to lose in that regard.

NEXT DAY UPDATE: Not surprisingly, the Bush administration is trying to turn the bailout into yet another executive branch power grab. Also not surprisingly, most of the media are largely ignoring that attempt. One hope, however: Faced with the prospects of a Barack Obama presidency, some conservatives may help contain the proposal.

Posted in Journalism, Politics, Written elsewhere | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

 
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