Thursday, August 14, 2008

How Does a Regular American Make Sense of the Issues Through Mass Media Goggles

We live in very complicated and dangerous times. Never before has the average citizen had so many issues to stay on top of, and while the sources of information are broader than ever, the challenge to get good reputable material to stay informed, guide decision making, and to be an effective voter is confusing and frustrating. In the following article, we’ll discuss the challenge and analyze the information sources.

How does a voter chose a candidate and identify with a political party? One would hope that every voter has a certain knowledge base of the political system, the function of the various branches of government: federal, state, and local. From there, every citizen should be aware of what issues affects his or her day-to-day life but also has some sense of the more global issues that influence society’s overall well-being. From there, one should assess each candidate’s stance on these concerns and have some perspective on their ability and experience to deal with such issues. None of these factors matter unless the voter has some core values to guide the selection process. Some voters don’t make the connection between their moral values and ethics and approach elections from at best a pragmatic standpoint, examines the candidates’ responses and determines which one has the best grasp on that voter’s concerns. Others have a clearly defined notion of the function of government, a coherent political philosophy of what the roll of government is. Those voters weigh the issues against their political orientation, determine what the government’s role is one solving those issues, and determines which candidates and what party is most consistently meeting their values system. From there, other factors must be examined, the candidate’s experience, voting record, and accomplishments.

Wouldn’t it be nice if most voters put that much effort into determining their votes? Sadly, even the best intentioned voters have a difficult time getting accurate information on what the state of various issues of concern might be then being able to get a good read on the particular candidate’s capabilities is even tougher. First, look at the voters’ sources of information:
The Media
1. Local news broadcasts: usually television – not all cities particularly smaller markets have radio stations with a fully staffed news operation. Additionally, local outlets are challenged by short-sighted competition for ratings which determine the ability to charge for the all-important advertising dollar. Though many local news operations are clearly biased, what’s more obvious is the extent to which gimmicks and sensationalism are employed to draw viewers. There’s nothing like a big warehouse fire to make a dramatic lead story on the 11:00 news. Most stories consist of short segments with at best 20 second sound bytes. Stories on the local economy are less likely to look at the bigger issues but instead some big haired blond reporter will ask the typical touchy-feely, “How does it feel?” question to some recently laid-off factory worker. The issue behind the plant closure is never intelligently revealed. When elections roll around, at best gubernatorial, senatorial, and big city mayoral races get coverage. If something really hot is going on perhaps an occasional congressional or county administrator contest gets coverage. Seldom are these races given much articulation. Can anyone explain to us why at least in the mid-Atlantic area almost all weekday evening newscasts consist of a white female blond anchor often spotting very obvious plastic surgery sitting opposite some African American fellow who can run the gamut from a hip jive-talking hip-hop hotdog to a stately professorial gentleman? Naturally, there’s a never ending escalation for which station has the hottest new technology gimmicks for weather forecasting and bigger cities compete for which station has the biggest, fastest, noisiest helicopter to catch all those police chases on the freeways.

2. Local newspapers: YEOW, what a mess!!! Many cities have only one paper. With declining readership and out of town ownership, the quality of local and state coverage is lacking. Additionally, some of the most ideologically biased news sources are in the print media. Most of them are radically left such as the New York Times. The most usual function of local newspapers is pages and pages of advertising for the department store anchors at the local malls. Many find them useful for lining bird and gerbil cages or toilet training their dogs.

3. Nightly Network News: How much serious news can be covered in 30 minutes, 20 minutes deducting out advertising. National newscasts aren’t quite as gimmick oriented as their local counterparts, but their approach is highly formulaic. NBC has moved to the far left where any pretense of objectivity is a joke. Can anyone watch David Gregory in action and not see a clear bias against Republicans? Their bias is not as conspicuous as their cable counterpart, MSNBC, but they are the same operation, the same editorial control, and the same support staff. CBS and ABC both lean substantially to the left, but ABC in particular will run some superbly objective stories. CBS is floundering largely because its bias became no longer transparent as Dan Rather’s dishonest reportage on President Bush’s National Guard service was false and contrived. Bob Schieffer is a solid veteran, help restore credibility. Alas, the Katy Couric experiment appears to be a horrible failure, but give K.T. credit for trying for her aggressive cross examination of Barrack Obama regarding his stand on the Iraqi surge.

4. Cable News: Cable news provides a chance to air out stories and more fully develop the content. Unfortunately, there is also plenty of time to waste time on fluff. Currently, the saga of missing child Caylee Anthony is slotted as the second or third most important story during each news cycle. It’s a sad and horrible story to be sure, but it is a story of little importance to the viewer’s day-to-day life. The only benefit of saturation coverage of missing children is that hopefully the media can create a public awareness that would help authorities find such a child, but in this case, it’s almost certain that the child’s mother murdered her child while the grandparents stand before the media lying their asses off to confuse the media and defend their spoiled brat of a poor excuse for a daughter. Coverage on this story has gone on for several weeks now. The viewing audience knows little more about the story than when it first broke. Yet on Fox news, and it appears much attention on CNN and MSNBC too, this story is right up there with the Presidential race, Congressional inaction on energy legislation, the Soviet invasion of Georgia, and other far reaching stories. There’s nothing wrong with cable news stations having their “crime stoppers’ programs and some incidental coverage of these kinds of stories but think of all the time spent on the Natalie Holloway/Aruba story where it dominated news coverage for months, the Lacy Peterson murder and trial of husband, Scott, and other such stories, to what end?

The bias and selectivity of coverage varies substantially between CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC. CNN’s editorial view grew out of Ted Turner’s vision. Turner is a committed “globalist” looking at the news from a hypothetical “world” perspective which is basically a euro-centric, socialistic, hooray for the United Nations approach. Their bias favors the Greenpeace kind of environmentalism, a strong respect for human rights, a commitment to diversity and multiculturalism, and a negative stance toward large American and international corporations and industries.

Fox News runs under the mottos of “we report, you decide” and “fair and balanced.” On general news reporting there is not much difference between Fox and the other two cable networks. Where they differ dramatically is on political stories and the role analysts play in their coverage. Fox provides counterpoint coverage reflecting an assortment of divergent views on a wide array of topics. Where CNN has established that global warming is an established truth and endorses the Al Gore kind of perspective, Fox will give full reign to presenting scientists who have other perspectives on the subject. From there, they’ll generally have some commentators reflecting different points of view on the issue debate the subject. While Fox has been labeled as a conservative network, in truth, they are rather neutral although their commentary programs do tilt to the right. Fox Business VP, Neil Cavuto is moderately conservative, a true free market though socially responsible economist. His conservatism is not doctrinaire as he frequently takes different stances on some issues. Fox heavyweight, Bill O’Reilly is much more anti-Liberal than he is united with any particular Conservative school of thought. O’Reilly crusades against “secular progressives” while advocating traditional values. There is a distinctly populist “for the folks” undercurrent to his commentary. Sean Hannity is the one true consistent conservative, the kind that bristles Kool Aid drinkers into a frenzy; however, five nights a week, he is countered by the mild mannered, good hearted, but terminally confused Liberal, Alan Colmes. Whether by design or just the strength of their arguments, Hannity clearly dominates Colmes as the most cogent figure. Greta VanSusteran is hard to pin down politically. Her roots are Maryland style liberalism, but she’s a pretty free thinker. Finally, there’s Geraldo Rivera who is pretty much more about Geraldo than any particular point of view. Geraldo is a hawk on defense, an extreme leftist on illegal immigration, and all over the place on the issues though added up, his outlook is mostly traditional not radical new left Liberalism.

Which brings us to the bottom feeders, MSNBC’s editorial orientation is both cynical and ideologically left wing. Their prime commentators, Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews represent different aspects of the committed extreme left culture. Olbermann is psychotic and delusional having little intellectual grasp on his material. The once hip and entertaining sports anchor on ESPN is totally lost in the land of real issues. His stance on issues is predictably whatever has the Daily KOS, Huffington Post, and enraged at any point. Approaching each topic on a level that would get him blown out the door in even a mediocre novice high school debate (it’s questionable whether his knowledge base of the functions of government might not even pass a middle school basic skills test), Olbermann develops his topics in start black and white terms generally focusing on the perceived villain who he attempts to deride with slightly sanitized potty language. The key segment of each broadcast is his “Worst Person in the World” complete with Bach’s “Toccata and Fugue in D Minor” playing in the background. On any typical night, the subjects of the big O, as in zero, are Fox News personalities, prominent Republicans, or anyone who dares to step off the Hollywood plantation. He’ll attempt to draw sound bytes, out of context, and fully misinterpreted. Does NBC believe that Olbermann has the personality, the following, and the gravitas to get away with such drivel? Hardly. Chris Mathews is an old school Liberal, mainstream Democrat who once worked for Tip O’Neil, with a voice that only rivals cheapo TV ad pitchman, Billy Mays, and a malfunctioning fire house siren, is transitioning more and more to being a shill for the radical MoveOn/KOS point of view. O’Neil worships the ground Barrack Obama walks on in his starry eyed reveling over Obama’s speech on race when he finally attempted to rescue his reputation from the Jeremiah Wright scandal glowing that it was the kind of speech every student in every school should study and will be remembered for generations. Meanwhile, NBC positioned him in the anchor not the analyst chair during the debates.

5. The Internet: The final source of news is the on-line domain. Much can be learned by checking news sources from around the country and the world and what’s developed in blogs. Naturally, there is no quality assurance as to the accuracy of any blogger’s content, but then what is there really for conventional media. Still, there’s some really weird stuff going on out in blog nation. Rest assured if you stay posted with Right Minded Fellow, you will get reportage that is factually accurate to the fullest extent your humble blogger can provide coupled with thoughtful analysis, and opinion which attempts to provide a degree of enthusiasm for the good and contempt and outrage for the bad. This little stop in cyberspace will never be crippled by trying to put information through a political correctness strainer. Language choices and attitude are adjusted to reach the broadest base of normal Americans who are trying to make sense out of a rapidly changing world and absolutely corrupt news media.

The Big Issues Approaching the November Election:

1. The Volatile Situation in the Middle East and Islamic World

a) Iraq: Our troops are executing the final campaigns to transition Iraq into a free standing and independent nation. The exit strategy should start to evolve realizing that artificial time-lines and hasty withdrawals could plunge the whole region into all out warfare.
b) Iran: The Islamic Republic and its frontman Ahmadinejad represent possibly the greatest danger in the world. As they bob and deceive to thwart efforts to block their nuclear weapon develop they continue to man, supply, and advise terrorists groups around the world most notably Hezbollah’s efforts to destroy Israel. Given Ahmadinejad’s constant threats to obliterate the Zionist state and threats directed at the USA, who are we to doubt him.
c) Afghanistan: The Taliban and their thugs-in-arms Al Qaeda are on the move stirring up chaos nationwide but causing the most trouble in the southeastern territories close to the Pakistani border. The Allies have not been effective thwarting this insurrection. Things must turn around immediately.
d) Pakistan: Their inability to control their mountainous territory home turn for Bin Ladin and boys and seeming ineffectiveness to help fight terrorism in general creates both a strategic and political danger. Political instability and ferocious factionalism is always worrisome when dealing with the only Islamic nation with the bomb.
e)World Wide Islamic Influence: Through out the world where Moslem populations are concentrated, tension is high where the slightest small event can spark riots and massive chaos as witnessed when a Danish cartoonist ran a series of satiric political cartoons poking fun at Mohammed. Meanwhile, Islamic communities attempt to gain acceptance of Sharia and Islamic honor killings are practiced even in the United States. The violence, intolerance, oppression of women, and disregard for human rights can never be excused for the sake of the apparent beliefs of a mean spirited religion. Moderate and peace loving Moslems, WHERE ARE YOU? SPEAK UP!!!

2. The Fuel Crisis. The ramifications of the dependence on foreign oil and need for a far reaching strategy to deal with a finite resource was clearly recognized in 1974 during the first Arab oil embargo. This problem was further driven home during a crisis mentality that developed after the Islamic radicals seized power in Iran in 1979 when gas prices rose to around $1.50 in a late 70’s economic world. Gas lines and rationing were common place. Soon the world oil market recovered. Prices dropped, and all attempts to strategically plan for possible interruptions or future supply issues vanished. Through out the 1980’s, 90’s, and 2000’s until very recently there have only been minor spikes in the cost of fuel largely around the time of the Iraq invasion of Kuwait and 9/11. Our society increasingly relied on imported oil with an economy that is based on an unlimited supply of cheap oil. At long last, our indecision and irrational irresponsibility has lead to its inevitable conclusion. How come nothing ever gets done until a crisis arises?

Regardless, as helpful it is to see fuel prices drop, we cannot allow the urgency of this situation subside.

The United States must establish the goal of total energy independence to where it can potentially have consistent surpluses of oil. Short term, all existing territory which can readily produce oil safely must be tapped. Power generation must be transitioned from fossil carbon based fuel to nuclear and other renewable sources. Alternative power sources must be rapidly developed and deployed. How many public facilities could produce enough solar electricity to power its basic electric needs for lighting, technology infrastructure, and office equipment? Heating and air conditioning might be more demanding. Renewable fuel sources must be explored but corn-based ethanol is a TERRIBLE solution. It’s only making corporate farmers filthy rich. This is an immediate and long range problem. Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid feculent* reasoning cannot be tolerated. Excuses and pie-in-the-sky thinking will not do a damned thing. Yes, the future solutions in the Democratic solution MUST be pursued, but we need fuel now. We need our own fuel, now. Between the Middle Eastern sources where Saudi profits fund terrorists, to the crazy Joker-like rebellious conduct of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, and now the threat Russian Imperialism invading Georgia where a strategic pipe line provides vital fuel for Europe while Russia has already shown its willingness to use fuel as a political weapon. Inflate your tires while Obama inflates his vanity, but there are plenty of things every citizen can do to make minor contributions to the big problem. Don’t brush it off, DO IT.

3. Taxes: A tax increase on one is a tax increase on all. Though many more citizens do not pay income taxes, they are subject to sales taxes, licenses, tolls and fees. If the government is going to tax businesses, screw with capital gains, or pursue their get tough on “Big Oil” strategy, who’s ultimately going the pay the tax? Everybody who buys the product as business will pass on the cost of such taxes to be reflected in the cost of goods. A growing economy provides increased revenue for government coffers. The more business develops and creates better paying jobs, the more tax revenue streams into all levels of government. Raise taxes, EVERYBODY loses as the government is the least effective source of benefitting the economy. Only one dollar of every one hundred the government controls goes back into the general economy.

4. Government Spending: The voters nationwide must get on top of where their taxes are going and demand accountability and fiscal responsibility. Pork Barrel spending, earmarks, set-asides, and self-serving sneaky add-ons to the budget cannot be tolerated. Both parties share tremendous blame. Don’t pay any attention to one acting holier than thou compared to the other. Generally, the longer a representative has been on the hill, the more they have the ability to pig out.

5. Health Care: The current delivery system is a mess. However, is a Federal takeover the way to go? When Canadians can’t get routine MRI’s for instance, do we want that kind of system? Monopolistic practices and runaway prescription drug costs must be reigned in immediately.

6. Education: There are too many issues to discuss here. Voters need to assess is the government part of the solution or part of the problem. The quality of American public education has been in free fall for over thirty years. Monitor the influence of the Teachers Unions, federal, state, and local. They’re well funded and very deceptive in their PR campaigns. The unions are looking out for themselves gaining and retaining more and more dues paying members. They’ve consistently fought educational reforms like pay-for-performance, vouchers, and any effort to give parents greater choice for their children’s education including attempting to outlaw home schooling.

7. Immigration: Illegal immigration cannot be tolerated. Businesses who entice aliens to enter the country illegally and hire them must be severely prosecuted even if it means closing down some businesses and imprisoning their officials. The immigrants are not the villains but more the victims of this situation. The borders must effectively be managed as well as other points of entry. A fair immigration process must be established where a steady supply of good people who will be fine contributors to our society. America is a nation of immigrants. President Bush’s concept of a “Welcoming Society” should be the goal. A fair but firm process needs to be established to deal with illegal immigrants already here. They cannot and will not all be deported. Sanctuary cities that refuse to cooperate with higher levels of government must be severely punished. Cities enacting such policies should face impoundment of Federal funds and in some instances where local officials openly refuse to cooperate on specific cases should be prosecuted. RMF doesn’t like the idea of a physical wall across the southern boundary. Proper enforcement and immigration law should make such a wall unnecessary.

8. The Environment: While the issue of global warming is open for debate and is not the impending doom of all life that the Al Gore groupies insist, there are few measures designed to prevent global warming that aren’t sound environmental policies that should be addressed in a carefully planned, economically sound master plan. When environmental efforts reach a point of diminishing returns, careful risk/reward strategizing must be employed. Living in Maryland, it’s hard not to be aware that regardless of what efforts have been employed and where improvement has been noted, the Chesapeake Bay remains a severely threatened magnificent eco-system. Careful land use strategies must be employed where used land can be redeveloped and rural areas maintained. Watershed and forest management needs to be an interstate coordinated plan as one state’s effluence is another state’s pollution. Open space areas especially in suburban and urban areas should be evaluated for smart forestation efforts. Steams and coastlines must be carefully protected to prevent erosion and runoff intrusion and silt spilling into major waterways. Sound environmental policies must become a part of foreign policy and trade agreements. For the sake of cheap finished goods, America buys billions of dollars worth of Chinese products built in factories with limited regard for the environment powered by generating facilities are damaging the world’s ecosystem even fueling acid rain causing tremendous damage in Canada. The concept of “carbon credits” is a joke. Politicians who advocate such should be laughed out of office.

9. The Aging of America’s Population: If the baby boomer years are from 1947-1964, by 2029, the entire boomer generation will be over 65. Social Security and Medicare are only the opening issues to what the significance of this means. That this population can be driven into concentration camps for elderly often known as chronic care or skilled nursing facilities cannot be tolerated. Remember kids, SENIORS VOTE!!!
10. Russia: Russia has thrown itself squarely in the middle of foreign policy and national security with their imperialistic invasion of the emerging democracy of Georgia, one of America's most loyal allies in Iraq. The spooky similiarities to Hitler's march on the Sudatenlands cannot be ignored nor can the prospects of Vladimir Putin's desire to seek greater treasure. If the world allows Georgia to fall, what next, the Ukraine? How about the Balkans which have great ports on the Baltic Sea? It's been more than two generations since a major power has embarked on a massive march of Imperialistic conquest though the pursuits of Saddam Hussein should be foot-noted not knowing just how far his agression might have spread had the allies not driven him from Kuwait. Russia is not only a danger to its neighbors but can use its huge stash of natural resources, oil, natural gas, and minerals to play international economic blackmail to affect concessions for its evil desires. There is now no question that Vladimir Putin is one of the most evil and dangerous figures in the world. Over night, the adversaries of the west have doubled. It's no longer just radical Islam but the great Russian Bear has just shown its sharp teeth.
Yes, there's a lot to digest in this article, but somebody's got to reason with you. It is RMF's pleasure to do so.
*feculent (adj) fouled with impurites: FECAL Your humble blogger is too polite to come right out and say Reid and Pelosi are full of shit.

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