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 ‘Idaho’

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 »

Top stories and missing stories of 2008: Obama, the economy, China and Mother Nature–and by the way, isn’t something going on in Iraq?

Posted by James McPherson on December 30, 2008

It’s the time of year for lists, and not surprisingly, the election of Barack Obama topped the annual Associated Press list of the top 10 stories of the year. The next three were the economic meltdown, oil prices and Iraq. The order of those three stories help explain the election of Obama.

In fact, Iraq has faded so much in importance that now NOT ONE of the three major broadcast networks has a full-time correspondent there (reaffirming once again how far the news operations of the Big Three have fallen).

China made the AP list in fifth and sixth place, with the Olympics and the May earthquake that killed 70,000 people.  I was happy to see no “Nancy Grace specialties (“pretty dead white woman stories) on the list, while two women in politics–Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton–finished seventh and ninth. Two more international stories, the Mumbai terrorist attacks and the Russia-Georgia war, filled out the list.

CNN let readers and viewers vote on the top stories, and as of today those readers the respondents agreed with the AP on the top three. Further down, however, Michael Phelps, O.J. Simpson, Rod Blogojevich and same-sex marriage all made that list.

Fox News also lets “you decide,” though just through a running blog that lets people sound off. Some respondents’ ideas for “top story” (as written): “The biggest story of 2008 is that Barack Obama is not eligible to hold the office of the President, because he is not a Natural Born Citizen”; “It was the Democrat spawned credit crisis which they have worked so hard for to have it happen when the election was close”; “a made up money crisis to sway an election and Muslim financing in our institutions”; and “How the Democrats highjacked the economy and the white house.”

Time‘s list was considerably different and more internationally oriented than the others. The magazine put the economy at the head of its “top 10” list, followed by Obama’s election, but the next eight were the Mumbai attacks, terrorism in Pakistan, international piracy, the war in Georgia, poisonous Chinese imports, the Columbian rescue of hostage Ingrid Betancourt, and “Mother’s Nature’s double whammy” in China and Burma.

Time also offered a number of other top 10’s, including lists of crime stories, political gaffes (the Huffington Post also offers its own list of “top political scandals“), oddball news, and medical breakthroughs.

I found Time‘s list of underreported stories among the most interesting and disturbing. For example, No. 9 on the list: the shipment of 6,700 tons of radioactive sand–created by U.S. weapons during the first Persian Gulf War–from Kuwait to Idaho.

Fox News contributer K.T. McFarland offered her own “most important story everyone missed this year,” one particularly close to my own heart: “the death of news delivered in print and the birth of news delivered over the internet.” She also engaged in a bit of snarky broadcast-style self-promotional hyperbole: “Perhaps the most intriguing new way to deliver news is something FOX News came up with this summer–online streaming programming delivered right to your computer screen. FOX’s first foray into this medium, The Strategy Room, is part news program, part panel discussion, part chat room. It’s been called ‘”The View” for Smart People.'”

Actually, like “The View,” “The Strategy Room” is sometimes informative, sometimes a trivial and inane collection of posers. But if you want to be really afraid–and disgusted with the shortcomings of fading American journalism–read Project Censored’s annual list of the top 25 “censored stories.”

In truth, the stories were simply underreported or incorrectly reported rather than censored, but the fact remains that every story on the list is more important than the “accomplishments” of Britney Spears (who topped MTV’s list), Paris Hilton, and every other Hollywood nitwit combined. And speaking of nitwits, Fox News also produced a “top” list. On its Christmas Day front page, Fox–the great “protector” of Christmas–offered “2008’s Hottest Bods.”

Finally, on a personal note related to another list: I was excited yesterday morning to see my blog at #5 on the WordPress list of “top growing blogs,” with my post about Christmas killers hitting at least as high as #76 on the list of top posts for the day. Less encouraging were the responses from nutball racists (mixed in with several more thoughtful and thought-provoking comments) on both sides of the Iraeli-Arab issue over both that post and yesterday’s.

Posted in History, Journalism, Media literacy, Personal, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments »