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 ‘Kathleen Sebelius’

Economic health and inhuman services: Thanks to money woes, death may take a holiday

Posted by James McPherson on March 2, 2009

Mixed with all the bad economic news, a bit of good: the expense of killing someone may actually force states to put the death penalty on hold. As with much else in America, the decision to take capital punishment off the books comes down to money rather than any of the factors that should have ended it long ago, such as:

  • the fact that revenge killing is a barbaric practice that has been eliminated by the rest of the civilized world (why liberals might oppose it);
  •  the fact that it puts the power to decide life and death in the hands of state employees (why conservatives, who don’t trust government to handle even their money, should oppose it);
  • and the fact that we KNOW that bad eyewitness testimony and other factors have put innocent people (virtually always men of color) on death row (why everyone should oppose it).

Yet we still execute people here, even justifying it under religious pretexts. I’d be willing to be that many of the “pro-life” folks gearing up to oppose the appointment of Kathleen Sebelius as new secretary of Health and Services are all in favor of ending the lives of those who most scare them. And by the way, I do get it–I agree that there are people who deserve to die, even people that I might be willing to kill myself. That doesn’t mean that you should be willing to grant me the right to bump them off, and I’m certainly not willing to grant that right to you.

Another economic side note, which might irritate those who are suffering the losses or potential losses of jobs and homes, or those heavily invested in the stock market: CNN reports that  gadget-hungry folks are among those forced to change their habits because of the economy. Wah and boo-hoo. Still, as the story also points out, that the new buying habits affect the ability of gadget makers and sellers to stay in business, potentially putting more people on the street.

On the other hand, one bit of good news about having to postpose the buying of a new big-screen TV: If things continue at the current rate, you may soon be able to pick up a new one while looting after everything collapses–assuming you have the gas to get it home and the electricity to operate it.

Posted in Politics, Religion, Science | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

No surprise; Obama picks second-best to lead HHS

Posted by James McPherson on February 28, 2009

Barack Obama has tabbed Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius as the new director of Health and Human Services. That’s no surprise, of course: It would have been more surprising at this point if he had chosen the best person for the job.

I suspect Sebelius will do a decent job, and she has a credible health care-related background. She also adds a bit more diversity to the Cabinet.

Still, I am sorry that Obama and his advisors weren’t willing to overcome their dislike of the man perhaps most responsible for Obama’s election, and the one probably most qualified to head HHS–Howard Dean.

Next-day update: Dean, who admits that he would have liked to have led HHS, on Sebelius: “I think she will be very good. She is a very nice person and I think she will be fine.”

Uh-oh–if a buddy gave you an endorsement like that about a prospective blind date, you’d run away.

Posted in Politics, Women, Written elsewhere | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Optimistic groundhogs, governors and economists: Jindal’s losing presidential campaign to begin after Obama address

Posted by James McPherson on February 24, 2009

CNN reports that President Barack Obama will try to “mix sober talk with an upbeat bottom line” in an address to a joint session of Congress tonight. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal has been tapped to provide the GOP answer to Obama’s and thereby take another step toward launching his own losing 2012 presidential bid–assuming his speech tonight doesn’t kill his hopes by falling as flat as Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius’s Democratic response to George Bush’s State of the Union Address back in January 2008 (a speech the dropped her from serious vice presidential hopeful to possible second or third choice for secretary of Health and Human Services).

Though it’s too early for presidential predictions, I don’t see how Jindal can win. He’ll either be seen as a GOP attempt to “copy” a successful Obama, and will therefore lose the general election to Obama, or, if Obama falters, Jindal will be rejected in the Republican primary because he reminds voters too much of Obama. We can’t know what Obama’s future will look like four years from now, but we can guess that Jindal’s doesn’t look good for 2012.

However positive Obama’s tone, the news he delivers tonight likely will make Punxsutawney Phil look like an raging optimist. After all, the groundhog predicted “only” six more weeks of winter. The economic winter will continue much longer (despite some optimistic predictions by economists), with the Dow yesterday falling to about half of its high point. All in all, Phil might have some good advice to Jindal: Keep your head down.

Incidentally, if you want to see where the stimulus money is scheduled to go, and when, the government has launched a new website, www.recovery.gov with a timeline. You can also read the entire bill for yourself, if you have the time and determination to get through it. One weird thing about Recovery.gov–after you click on a link to exit the site and read the bill, you’re greeted with a message saying, “Thank you for visiting our site. … We hope your visit was informative and enjoyable.”

Two things bug me about that message. First, it’s not “their” site; it’s ours. They work for us. Second, the visit is unlikely to be “enjoyable,” at least for anyone who isn’t getting a bunch of money in a hurry. For the record, I’m not. And probably you aren’t, either.

Next-day update: Maybe Jindal won’t be a candidate in 2012 after all, after last night’s dismal speech. But American attention spans are short, and he does have plenty of time to recover.

Posted in History, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , | 9 Comments »

Gregg not sold on Commerce; public not stimulated by discussion, anyway

Posted by James McPherson on February 13, 2009

Apparently Senator Judd Gregg finally got around to watching some of Barack Obama’s old speeches on YouTube, and suddenly realized, “Hey, he’s not a Republican–how did he get elected president?” Gregg then promptly withdrew his nomination as Commerce secretary. It’s just as well–apparently Obama hadn’t yet gotten around to reading that Gregg once voted to abolish the very department he would have been leading as the third Republican member of Obama’s cabinet.

Gregg is the second nominee, after Bill Richardson, to accept and then reject the commerce position. Tax problems have derailed nominees for two other positions. Yet while embarrassing–prompting Obama’s unnecessary “I screwed up” statement–the missteps will matter little in the long run. For one thing, people don’t really care about cabinet positions even under the best of conditions.

And these are far from the best of conditions, of course. People care far more about is the economy, and with Congress about to passa stimulus bill today, Obama again proved successful on that front. The success or failure of the stimulus plan will have a far bigger effect on the chances of re-election for the president and his fellow Democrats than does any flap over cabinet nominees.

If you need an illustration of how little they matter, ask the people sitting next to how many of Obama’s picks they can name. I’d be surprised if they get three, even counting Timothy Geithner and Hillary Clinton. And for the record, a dozen cabinet nominees have already been confirmed.

In the meantime, Alexander Zaitchik of Alternet has joined the list of people and publications asking why Howard Dean, the guy perhaps most responsible for Obama reaching the White House, hasn’t been tabbed for a cabinet post. Good question, especially with that Health and Human Services position still open.

Thursday update: While Dean is forced to turn to the Huffington Post to get someone to listen to him about health care, it appears that Obama has decided on Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius for HHS chief. She’s not the best choice but probably not a bad one, assuming she pays her taxes.

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