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 and a board member for the Northwest Alliance for Responsible Media.

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Posts Tagged ‘Bill Moyers’

Texas and Idaho consider devolution into confederacy of ignorance

Posted by James McPherson on March 25, 2009

Perhaps because some Texans can’t stand being upstaged in their ignorance by the likes of Kansas, Idaho and various states of the Deep South–and perhaps as a reflection of dismay over the fact that the end of the Bush administration has taken away the state’s national platform for promoting scientific ignorance–the Texas Board of Education apparently will vote this week on new science standards that may promote religious views over scientific theories.

Of course, I’m not surprised when Texas looks  stupid, and I appreciate much of what the state has given us. (My Top 10 list for today: Molly Ivins, Bill Moyers, Barbara Jordan, Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Janis Joplin, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Carol Burnett, Steve Martin and Babe Didrikson Zaharias.) But Texas matters more than most of other states in the discussion about science textbooks because it’s so big that decisions made in the Lone Star State can influence textbooks in other states.

As it is, U.S. kids trail much of the world in math and science, finishing behind Finland, Canada, Japan and a dozen other countries. On the plus side, we beat Mexico so we finished second in North America.

In the meantime, a state legislator in Idaho has convinced fellow Republicans to go along with a resolution declaring the United States to be “a confederacy.” The resolution “declares Idaho’s sovereignty from the federal government and ask the federal government to ‘cease and desist’ from violating that sovereignty.”

Since the biggest “violation” would seem to be to make Idaho (where support for its own residents is an embarrassment) into a welfare case (like most Republican states, Idaho takes in more federal tax dollars than it pays, about 20 percent more in this case), the action is a ludicrous and unnecessary, but typical, effort to suck up to the base.

Keep in mind, this is the state that elected Bill Sali and Larry “Wide Stance” Craig to Congress, and where, despite the state’s conservatism, for many Idahoans Sali was considered the bigger embarrassment of those two. Yet the only way to defeat Sali was to have a conservative former Republican–who probably will lose to some other Republican in 2010–run against him.

The state house of representatives approved the confederacy resolution–which has absolutely no power to do anything other than to make Idahoans look like idiots–by a 51-17 vote. The article didn’t mention how many of the legislators were actually capable of counting to 51.

Same-day update: Though Idaho’s legislature is dumber than most, I didn’t mean to imply that the state of my birth is the only one (though almost all are  red states that get more than they give in federal funds) now talking about sovereignty. As I’ve said before, I’m willing to let them go, if they’re willing to stop taking my money. But now I’m curious: Just in case things ever went so far as the creation of a new confederacy, I wonder what percentage of Idaho legislators can name any of the states in the original Confederacy–or realize that Idaho doesn’t share a border with any of them.

Posted in History, Politics, Religion, Science | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

Two days in ‘the Greatest City in the World’

Posted by James McPherson on January 11, 2009

Since 9/11, every episode of “The Late Show with David Letterman” has started with a reference to that slogan, “the Greatest City in the World.” I’m not sure I buy that–“greatest” is one of those phrases so common to advertising because it’s impossible to quantify–but New York is a very cool place.

Students are already picking up some interesting insights from their time here–check out their “Media Impact” blog, linked under “Students and Friends” at the right side of this page. (I’d embed the link, but the hostel computer system isn’t very link-friendly.)

We have the weekend off, and some of us spent most of yesterday at the Met after a walk across Central Park. Others made a quick visit there, then went on to Staten Island, Brooklyn, West Point and/or Times Square. We also had snow that remains on the ground today–though nothing compared to what we left in Spokane.

Today some of us are hitting the Statue of Liberty and Ground Zero. Then for the rest of the week it’s back to work, meeting with media leaders. Tomorrow we’ll visit with The Onion and Channel 13, where Bill Moyers does his show.

Posted in Education, History, Journalism, Personal | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Bill O’Reilly: liar, bully and buffoon

Posted by James McPherson on June 11, 2008

Father Charles Coughlin often serves as the historical prototype for on-air fanaticism and bullying. As it turns out, statistically the good father was a slacker compared to Bill O’Reilly.

Below are some of Bill’s “best”–helped in the first case by the laughably inane Ann Coulter-wannabe Michelle Malkin. Malkin, you’ll remember, managed to turn right-wing Dunkin’ Donuts (which she previously had promoted over Starbucks) into an Islamic terrorist front, forcing the company to pull some of its advertising. She is noted for lying and distortion. (By the way, Michelle, Dunkin is now promoting “going green.”)

And you gotta love when O’Reilly says (late in the first video),  “We stayed in the parameters… of what was true.” Oh, and just for fun if you want to get a real sense of what it must be like to work for Bill, play all three videos at once.

Posted in History, Journalism, Media literacy, Politics, Religion, Video | Tagged: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »