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 ‘immigration’

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 »

Armed and delirious: Save 2nd Amendment, to heck with the 4th

Posted by James McPherson on April 21, 2010

To commemorate the 15th anniversary of the actions of white domestic terrorist Timothy McVeigh, gun rights activists held a couple of rallies to express their fanciful concerns about another supposed government conspiracy. To quote the CNN story:

“We’re in a war. The other side knows they are at war, because they started it,” said Larry Pratt, president of the Gun Owners of America. “They are coming for our freedom, for our money, for our kids, for our property. They are coming for everything because they are a bunch of socialists.”  

The protests come despite the fact, as I’ve noted previously, that  gun regulation has decreased since Obama took office, not increased. And with crowds much smaller than should be worthy of so much media attention, I find the protests interesting mostly because I’d bet that many of the same people who are now worried about some undefinable communist/socialist/facist/Muslim takeover of their civil rights were among the biggest supporters of the Patriot Act.

I’ll bet they also fully support the Arizona immigration bill under which “police would be required to question anyone they suspect of being undocumented.” Some of those same gun-toting irony-challenged folks will soon support similar legislation elsewhere–folks like “robincalif,” perhaps, who responds to a Fox News story with these words: “If your [sic] here ILLEGALLY then GET THE “F” OUT OF OUR COUNTRY PERIOD!! It’s time the American Citizens of the USA stop pandering and making excuses for criminals just because their [sic] of a deverse[sic] background. Justice should know NO color.” I assume, rockin’ Robin, that last line means you think that cops should be required to ask you for identification whenever they see you. (Of course John McCain supports the bill, but McCain has turned into such a hypocritical panderer that his opinion is essentially meaningless.)

The ancestors of many of those same people, no doubt, supported the illegal rounding up and mass deportation of a million Mexican Americans during previous economic hard times. After all, we have a great legacy of taking out our frustrations on people of color. And politicians of all stripes find the idea of “protecting America” from its farm, factory and construction workers to be a handy diversion.

By the way, I predict that the governor of Arizona will sign the immigration bill into law, and that a few years from now it will be overturned by the Supreme Court–which despite its recent conservative radicalism doesn’t have to pander (though it sometimes does) to populist paranoia. In addition to the millions of dollars Arizona will spend on legal fees to support its untenable position, it also will lose millions in lost tourist dollars.

Not that there will be anyone available to change the hotel sheets or wash the restaurant dishes, even if tourists do show up.

Posted in History, Politics, Written elsewhere | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Pigs now fly: journalism at two levels

Posted by James McPherson on April 28, 2009

You may die. Today. Or, if you’re exposed to swine flu today, maybe next week. Especially if you’re in Mexico City, the 20-million-person “epicenter” of the potential pandemic, where swine flu is “suspected” in 152 deaths, which means the virus may have wiped out almost eight-one-thousandths of one percent of one third-world city’s population.

Gee, I haven’t been this frightened since the last bird flu pandemic, which I suspect killed your entire family. Bad enough that Lou Dobbs told me all the Mexicans wanted to give me leprosy while the druglords kill all my friends in Arizona. Now this.

And yes, I know that influenza can be deadly. All in all, though, you’re still more likely to die by choking on your sandwich today at lunch. But CNN’s top three stories right now (unless you count the White House plane that buzzed New York) are about swine flu.

The main reason for today’s special post, however, if to call your attention to a more responsible form of journalism than much of what we’ve been seeing in the national media. The Whitworthian has just won a number of regional Society of Professional Journalists awards, claiming the top prizes for online journalism, feature writing, general column writing, sports column writing, feature photography and editorial cartooning (for which it also won third prize). It placed second for “best all-around non-daily newspaper.”

The Whitworth student newspaper (which I happen to advise, but it is a totally student-run operation so they deserve all the credit) also recently was named one of 20 finalists for an American Collegiate Press Online Pacemaker Award. The Pacemakers are as good as it gets in college journalism.

The Whitworthian of today offers a lead story about an apparent hate crime near campus and is in the middle of an excellent series about pornography, and this week launches the most ambition project I’ve ever seen conducted by a student journalist–a multi-part multimedia package about gender issues produced by online editor Jasmine Linabary.

So now I’ll duck away from posting for yet another unknown period. But I’m proud to have recognition of some of my top students at the top of my blog. And if you want to read more from them, besides reading the Whitworthian, check out the blogs of this year’s editor-in-chief Joy Bacon, online editor (and last year’s editor-in-chief) Jasmine Linabary, photo editor Derek Casanovas (who blogs about sports), sports editor Danika Heatherly (who doesn’t blog about sports), prize-winning columnist Tim Takechi, and next year’s editor-in-chief Morgan Feddes.

Posted in Education, History, Journalism | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Bordertown and raging on: Remembering Dan Seals

Posted by James McPherson on March 26, 2009

I don’t often do more than one post in a day, but I just saw a report that singer/songwriter Dan Seals has died. Considering the topics in the news that I’ve been discussing lately, these videos seemed appropriate as a tribute:

“Bordertown”

“They Rage On”

Posted in Music, Politics, Video | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Culture warriors were dreaming of a really white Christmas; others get coal in their stockings

Posted by James McPherson on December 12, 2008

Writing for the Daily Beast, Max Blumental traces the idea of a “war on Christmas“–the bitter annual holiday tradition of right-wing moralists such as the Wall Street Journal’s Daniel Henninger, Utah Sen. Chris Buttars, several Fox News commentators, and Focus on the Family, which maintains a list of major retailers who prominently acknowledge” Christmas and those that have “apparently abandoned” the word–to former Fortune magazine editor, anti-immigrant, and perhaps anti-Semite Peter Brimelow.

Blumethal writes: “In his 1995 book, Alien Nation, Brimelow argued that the influx of ‘weird aliens with dubious habits’ from developing nations was eroding America’s white Christian ‘ethnic core,’ and in turn, sullying its cultural underpinnings. The War on Christmas was, in his view, a particularly pernicious iteration of the multicultural ‘struggle to abolish America.'”

For Bill O’Reilly this is the hap-happiest time of the year because he knows he’ll get to wade into a can’t-lose culture battle. He has repeatedly made the war on Christmas a central theme of his “talking points,” most recently on Dec. 3 and Dec. 5. Of course, the night after that last show, he referred to O.J. Simpson conviction as “karma,” not exactly a Christian term. One front of the war over (not “on,” in my view) Christmas (not the war that killed three people on “Black Friday”) is in my own state of Washingon, where atheists have been allowed to put up a sign near the capitol Christmas tree. Now someone wants to put up a “Festivus pole,” an invention of “Seinfeld.”

On an even weirder front, the American Coalition for Clean Coal Technology has put the holiday to its own use. As Rachel Maddow and others reported earlier this week, the group has put together a series of videos in which animated lumps of coal sing “carols”–changing the words to fit the coal message. Unfortunately, the ACCCT has removed the video from its site, but you can see a photo here:

cleancoal2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As the Center for Media and Democracy’s Sheldon Rampton points out: “Some of the lyrics sung by the ‘Clean coal carolers’ might actually offend people who take Christmas seriously as a religious holiday. ‘Clean Coal Night,’ for example, uses the melody of ‘Silent Night’ but replaces the words, ‘Christ the savior is born’ with ‘Plenty of coal for years to come.”‘Similarly, the chorus praising Jesus in ‘Come All Ye Faithful’ is transformed from ‘Oh come let us adore him’ to ‘And we can count on clean coal.'” Citing O’Reilly’s annual rants about people using the phrase “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas,” Rampton writes, “Let’s see if O’Reilly even mentions the coal industry’s latest sacrilege.”

Clean coal actually is appropriate for the Christmas holiday, of course, because it has at least three things in common with another “weird alien with dubious habits [smoking a pipe, overeating, talking to animals, etc.]”: Santa Claus. Both Santa and clean coal make you feel warm and fuzzy, both end up in your chimney, and, most importantly, NEITHER IS REAL. Despite Barack Obama’s and John McCain’s kowtowing to the Pennsylvania and West Virginia coal industries, there is no such thing as “clean coal.”

Brimelow probably would be appalled by the Clean Coal Carolers. For one thing, all the singers are black. Of course, most of the 26,500 children under the age of 5 who will die on Christmas day also are black (and most of the rest are brown-skinned or Asian), as are the 26,500 who will die on Christmas Eve, and the equal numbers who will die every day from now through the forseeable future. Most of those children will die of things we could prevent today, if we had the will–things such as disease, starvation, bad water and war.

Put another way, a child under the age of 5 dies about every three seconds, about the same time it takes to say “Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. And until we dramatically improve that statistic, speaking as a Christian, I don’t really care what you call your damn tree.

Dec. 15 update: The state of Washington has put a moratorium on future displays.

Posted in Politics, Religion | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

Carbon paper offsets: drilling for logic in energy policy

Posted by James McPherson on September 14, 2008

The idea of more oil drilling has long been popular with oil companies and the lobbiests and members of Congress whom they fund. Lately those self-interested folks have been joined by a skittish populace and even more shaky members of Congress, and unless recent scandals manage to stop it, American’s shores are likely to see more offshore drilling.

Three-time Pulitzer Prize-winner Thomas Friedman, talking today to CNN’s Fareed Zakaria about his new book, pointed out that calling for more drilling–while chanting “drill baby drill”–would be like calling for more IBM Selectric typewritters and chanting “carbon paper baby carbon paper” at the begining of the computer age. While other countries are going full-bore on new energy technology, Friedman said, the Bush/McCain/Palin folks give that research lip service while falling back on ideas guaranteed to help the United States slide further toward technological irrelevance.

I frequently disagree with Friedman, the author of The World is Flat. He favored the U.S. invasion of Iraq, and I think he sometimes glorifies international trade and the free market too much while downplaying their accompanying problems. He is better at identifying fairly obvious problems, though with well-turned phrases, than at coming up with meaningful solutions. Still, one quote from the new book should give both liberals and conservatives pause, whether they agree with him or not:

America is always at its most powerful and most influential when it is combining innovation and inspiration, wealth-building and dignity building, the quest for big profits and the tackling of big problems. When we do just one, we are less than the sum of our parts. When we do both, we are greater than the sum of our parts–much greater.

I do agree with Friedman later in that first chapter when he writes, “America has shifted from a country that always exported its hopes (and so imported the hopes of millions of others) to one that is seen exporting its fears.”

The book is drawing mixed reviews, and I haven’t read most of it. I probably won’t. For one thing, it appears that much of it has been both obvious and ignored for quite some time.

Besides, even if American leaders buy into Friedman’s premise in a meaningful way, it’s probably too late to make much difference, in terms of avoiding either worldwide catastophic climate change or a dramatic decline in American influence. The first of those is tragic but perhaps inevitable. The second probably wouldn’t be a bad thing at all, based on how we’ve managed that influence in recent years.

I would be more optimistic that we were still capable of greatness as a nation if we chose leaders based on their knowledge and abilities. In that case, the electorate would not now face a choice between an audacious optimist with little meaningful experience on one side and a May-December remix of Bush/Chaney on the other.

Further evidence of a lack of guts or integrity that would be necessary for meaningful change: Palin suddenly forgot to mention nuclear energy when campaigning in Nevada, where the nuclear waste might end up, while new McCain ads aimed at Hispanics lie about the difference between his position on immigration and Barack Obama’s position–and even about the flip-flop immigration position McCain himself “adopted” to appeal to conservatives.

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

Straight Talk Express derailed, falls off “bridge” to become mired in mud

Posted by James McPherson on September 13, 2008

It’s an old story, of course: Politicians lie. But usually in presidential campaigns the candidates let their surrogates take on the most egregious fabrications, staying somewhat above the fray themselves. John McCain and Sarah Palin seem to be the exception, cheerily tramping through the mud on their way to a lead in national polls.

The lies range from tales of the infamous “bridge to nowhere” (see video below) to taxes to health care to immigration (bilingual lying!) to sexism to Alaskan oil production to pig lipstick to kindergarten sex education to Cindy McCain’s drug theft problems to even the findings of  FactCheck.org. In the words of the Associated Press’ Charles Babington, “The “Straight Talk Express” has detoured into doublespeak.”

Considering how much admiration I once had for McCain, I am troubled that he has become not just a typical campaigner but even worse than most. The campaign he has chosen to run is costing him other one-time fans, as well, while supporting the latest Obama camp claim that McCain “would rather lose his integrity than lose an election.”

The lying has become so bad that even the women of “The View,” a morning show watched mostly by stay-at-home wives, feel compelled to question McCain about it. His response: Lying, of course. Unfortunately Barbara Walters, long one of the most overrated journalists in America, helped McCain out by following up his lie with a trivial lipstick diversion rather than confronting him with the truth.

I don’t think McCain and Palin can lie their way to the White House. But a part of me fears that too many voters don’t care about the lying even if they recognize it. If those voters happen to help McCain win, they deserve what they get–four more years of Bush Administration nonsensical tough talk and bumbling policy. Unfortunately all of us may get an even more conservative and out-of-touch Supreme Court that will last for a generation.

Same-day update: Apparently the McCain/Palin camp also misrepresented her “world travels,” falsely claiming she has visited Iraq. And in a lengthy story about Palin today, the New York Times reports: “Interviews show that Ms. Palin runs an administration that puts a premium on loyalty and secrecy. The governor and her top officials sometimes use personal e-mail accounts for state business; dozens of e-mail messages obtained by The New York Times show that her staff members studied whether that could allow them to circumvent subpoenas seeking public records. ” She appears, as one of my colleagues noted recently, “Dick Cheney in a dress.”

Next day update: To John McCain–When you’re on the same side as Karl Rove and even he calls you a liar, maybe it’s time to dial it back.

Palin’s bridge to falsehood:

Posted in History, Journalism, Personal, Politics, Video, Written elsewhere | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »