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3/21/2010
FUN WITH NUMBERS: CBO ESTIMATES FROM WONDERLAND

This is my PJ Media column from Friday that took the Democrats to task for trying to game the CBO numbers.

A sample:

It’s been known for many months that the cost of the health care bill has been phoney baloney budgetary gimmicks. Most of the costs of the bill won’t kick in until 2013, while the bulk of the costs would be picked up in the next six years. A true cost of this bill over the first ten years (2013-2023) is well into the trillions of dollars.

CBO makes no apologies for basing their projections on what they acknowledge is tomfoolery. Nor do they seem to see it as their job to highlight this legislative legerdemain.

I guess that’s why they’re “non-partisan.” They cooperate in hoodwinking the American people with both parties.

[...]

Sleight of hand, double counting, magical thinking — one would think we were talking about a Houdini memorabilia convention and not the most important piece of domestic legislation in more than a generation. But in service to saving Obama’s presidency, anything is allowable.

Besides, does anyone really believe the CBO has a handle on how much this Gargantua is going to cost? Or how much we’re going to save? Or how much it will cut the deficit 20 years from now?

History is an unforgiving vixen. What the past tells us about the future is that never in the history of entitlement spending have estimated costs ever come anywhere near the actual expenditures. And the further out the predictions, the more spectacularly inaccurate they become.

How proponents of Obamacare can justify their support based on this bill saving the US taxpayer money is incredibly disingenuous. Either that, or they, like the Democratic leadership up to and including our president, simply don’t care. I wouldn’t go so far as some on the right and claim that this is a conscious effort to control our lives - even though I believe that will be the ultimate result of the legislation once it becomes obvious that the only way to control costs is to try and control how people live. But I think that Democrats believe they can “fix” what’s massively wrong with the bill at a later date.

There is no case to be made for this bill to reduce health care costs, reduce federal expenditures on health care, help save Medicare, or do anything that makes insurance more affordable. Nothing. Nada. Zero. Zilch. What we have here is a case where the Democrats and their allies in the media know all this. The GOP knows it. Anyone who has been paying attention to what’s in this bill knows it. My pet cat Snowball knows it. And yet, one side is pretending that black is white, up is down, and that this bill will do most everything the proponents are claiming it will.

Ladies and gentlemen…the Reality Based Community.

By: Rick Moran at 4:59 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (2)

3/19/2010
CHANGES
CATEGORY: Blogging

As of today, I am no longer going to post a daily essay on this site.

The reasons are not surprising. My two paying jobs take up around 12 hrs a day - sometimes more - and it has become a burden to try and get something on this site every day.

Besides, I have wanted to write for other publications like, forever, but this blog has become something of a millstone in that it has prevented me from devoting time to carefully crafting and polishing pieces for which other publications might pay me some coin. By not having to worry about getting something on RWNH every day, I can take my time, think and write more intelligently over a couple of days, while actually editing the final product so that it is something that might sell.

I will also be able to contribute again to American Thinker and Newsreal Blog. Those submissions will appear, as usual, in their entirety on this site.

Other articles that might be published, I will supply a link and a sample as I have done with my PJ Media efforts.

In short, the blog will become a place where if you’re interested in what I’m writing about, you’ll be able to find out without any trouble.

Two days short of 5 1/2 years of almost daily essays - 3,335 posts. I suspect I’ll be posting links to my articles at least 3-4 times a week, and hopefully more so I really hope you stay in touch with the site via your blog reader or just drop by occasionally.

Thanks for your support.

Rick Moran
Proprietor

By: Rick Moran at 7:56 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (0)

3/18/2010
THE BIGGEST ISSUE OBAMACARE DOESN’T ADDRESS

We like to think of ourselves as a compassionate people. We also pride ourselves on possessing good old fashioned American common sense.

Those two American traits are on a collision course that, when they collide, will present us with a moral and ethical dilemma that Obamacare is ignoring, and that few of us are thinking about at all.

I’m talking about the stark, and uncomfortable choices we will have to face when our ability to pay for “anything goes” end of life care smashes into our out of control Medicare deficits.

To put it another way, do we bankrupt ourselves, not to save lives but to extend them? Should a 66 year old man suffering from heart disease that will kill him in a year be eligible for a kidney transplant that, if he doesn’t receive the organ, kill him in a matter of weeks?

I addressed some of these issues generally here. The raw data is fairly straightforward. Currently, we are spending $50 billion a year on “end of life” care. A big chunk of that is in hospital stays for dying people who would almost certainly be just as comfortable in a hospice or even at home.

Beyond the question of where a dying American should be treated, there are the painful choices regarding how the patient will exit this world. The problem grows out of the miracles that are routine in American medicine; a drug or a treatment is invented that deals with an underlying symptom of a disease that is killing a patient but has no chance of curing him. The question of whether to grant the dying patient something that will extend life by addressing a health issue that, if not treated, might kill him sooner, while failing to cure his underlying illness is one of those issues that will have to be discussed if we are to both maintain our compassion while trying to solve the fiscal mess that is Medicare.

Obamacare ignores the whole thing - including serious cost containment issues for Medicare of any kind. And it is difficult to see how any serious attempt at “reforming” our medical care system can claim that mantle while allowing these issues to fester.

There are two easy ways out; death panels and giving patients whatever they want. The organization of the proposed Medicare cost effectiveness panel will mandate certain treatments for diseases but will not touch these end of life issues with a ten foot pole. But one could imagine such a scenario occurring in the future if costs continue to spiral upwards.

Obamacare had something of a “fix” for this situation. It gave Medicare the authority to pay for one doctor visit every 5 years where the patients would be informed of their rights regarding what proponents call a “durable power of attorney.” Such a document would specify what kinds of treatments would be acceptable at the end of life, made while the patient was of strong mind and body.

The idea that this would be some kind of effort by the government to force people to euthanize themselves when they get sick is outrageously ignorant. All it does is offer some guidance for your physician those last two month of life. So few of us have these instructions for our physician that right now, the doctor is forced to practice preventive medicine, fearing lawsuits if he doesn’t use the entire panoply of treatments in order to keep a patient going despite the terminal nature of his disease.

Some may wish those extraordinary measures taken. Others wouldn’t. And if we don’t start thinking about it more, we are going to wake up one day where the government is simply going to make those decisions for us.

On my radio show on Tuesday night, we had a hard time coming to grips with the issues involved. I asked Rich Baehr, a health care consultant for 30 years, if one of the problems is that there is the widespread view that health care is a zero sum game, that using resources for those at the end of life takes away from those who need them nearer the beginning. In other words, is there a finite amount of resources available for health care? Even if that is not true, it’s the way that supporters of Obamacare are acting. And if they believe it, then the scenario of government making end of life decisions for us becomes dangerously real down the road.

It needn’t be this way. Part of the solution is almost certainly education - informing Medicare patients of their options regarding end of life treatment and having them plan for that eventuality. Beyond that, it’s a little more complicated; it turns out, that many end of life caregivers believe that nothing short of a revolution in how we view death itself must come about in order for us to avoid both fiscal calamity and decisions at that critical, intimate, and fearful point in life being taken away from us:

Marcia Klish might have lingered for quite some time in the intensive care unit at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center. But Dr. Byock and his team had a number of meetings with her closest friend, Barbara Menchin. She said Klish would not want to be kept alive on machines if there was no meaningful hope of recovery.

It was decided the doctors would not try to resuscitate her if her condition worsened, which it soon did.

“Her heart has just flipped into a rhythm that doesn’t allow it to beat effectively,” Byock told Menchin.

Klish died a few moments later.

“This is a hard time in human life. But it’s just a part of life,” Byock said.

“Collectively, as a culture, we really have to acknowledge that we’re mortal,” he said. “Get over it. And start looking at what a healthy, morally robust way for people to die looks like.”

Dr. Byok is not a ghoul or heartless monster. He is a compassionate man who is put every day into situations where he knows that, if properly explained, he could ease the passage of his patients considerably. But this is a system that is set up so that the patient has no clue what their true options are and those who might want to spend their final days at home or in hospice are instead, treated to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars of care that has nothing to do with curing what ails them.

By law, Medicare cannot reject any treatment based upon cost. It will pay $55,000 for patients with advanced breast cancer to receive the chemotherapy drug Avastin, even though it extends life only an average of a month and a half; it will pay $40,000 for a 93-year-old man with terminal cancer to get a surgically implanted defibrillator if he happens to have heart problems too.

“I think you cannot make these decisions on a case-by-case basis,” Byock said. “It would be much easier for us to say ‘We simply do not put defibrillators into people in this condition.’ Meaning your age, your functional status, the ability to make full benefit of the defibrillator. Now that’s going to outrage a lot of people.”

“But you think that should happen?” Kroft asked.

“I think at some point it has to happen,” Byock said.

“Well, this is a version then of pulling Grandma off the machine?” Kroft asked.

“You know, I have to say, I think that’s offensive. I spend my life in the service of affirming life. I really do. To say we’re gonna pull Grandma off the machine by not offering her liver transplant or her fourth cardiac bypass surgery or something is really just scurrilous. And it’s certainly scurrilous when we have 46 million Americans who are uninsured,” Byock said.

This is a question I asked in my previous post on this subject:

When a society is faced with a crisis that may lead to its dissolution, is it a higher moral choice to abandon individual ethics and morality to save it? Are we really facing this kind of moral conundrum or am I setting up a “false choice” where another solution is available but I am refusing to acknowledge it?

If we can’t face this issue ourselves; if we can’t come to grips with this delicate and personal issue, then someone is going to do it for us. There’s no continuing the way we are going now.

It’s a pity that in a “comprehensive” reform bill, no mention is made of these vital and complex issues.

By: Rick Moran at 11:20 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (1)

3/17/2010
JACK BAUER AND LADY GAGA: WHEN CULTURE PARODIES ITSELF
CATEGORY: "24", Culture, Politics

A little change of pace from me over at PJ Media today. Two pop culture icons — one falling, the other rising — demonstrate a capacity for mocking the culture that created them.

A sample; first, on Bauer:

The sense of duty is still there, but to what? All Bauer seems to have left is a personal code of honor to which he is loyal. Gone is the clear notion that Jack was fighting for America, replaced by a much more individualistic sense of “me vs. them.” Bauer fights a private war now, for his own goals and his own reasons. It diminishes him in ways that reduces his impact on the culture. It’s like Bauer has gone from Captain America to Captain Crunch.

It isn’t so much that Bauer has become a liberal, or now reflects liberal sensibilities about the war on terror. That’s not entirely accurate. Instead, the character is now a parody of the old Jack, a notion reinforced by the writers deliberately eschewing the tactics used by the old Bauer, while steering the new Jack away from almost all controversy. The old Jack not only tortured suspects; he routinely thumbed his nose at the bureaucrats and his superiors. He seemed to have adopted the old Davy Crockett motto: “Be sure you’re right — then go ahead.”

Now, Jack Bauer defers to authority in ways he never would have in the first years of the show. He has been defanged in an effort perhaps to widen his appeal. Instead, the effect is to parody what made Bauer such a powerful image of American strength and determination to take the fight directly to the terrorists. The old Jack Bauer probably belonged in a cage. The new Bauer only needs a leash. And the difference is a reflection of how pop culture has changed the last decade. Cynicism and a general malaise have overtaken the explosive and often over-the-top exuberance that was once the hallmark of the American pop scene.

And I am goo-goo for Gaga:

Gaga disassociates her music from the images because she is using the video as a vehicle to send up iconic pop culture images and hence, pop culture itself. It is one gigantic inside joke that almost everyone is in on.

Her send-ups are not performed with any reverence or sense of homage, but with a desire to impose an ironic juxtaposition between the pop culture images she mocks and her own over-the-top personae. And in so doing, she consciously brings herself full circle from pop icon to a self-mocking caricature of a pop artist — a cardboard cutout so depthless and shallow, so deliberately provocative and outrageous, that the creative product — her music — actually aids in the parody by standing at arms length from the “art” of the delivery system. The art ignores the reality Gaga has created onscreen, imposing its own pleasant association with another world.

In the “Telephone” video, for instance, she is bailed out of the “Prison for Bitches” (following some rank lesbian and fetish images both designed to shock and evoke amusement) by formerly squeaky clean Beyonce. The two then take off in a Thelma and Louise adventure, parodying Quentin Tarantino’s epic Kill Bill films as well as Pulp Fiction by driving in a vehicle named “The Pussywagon” (Kill Bill) and stopping at a diner (Pulp Fiction) just long enough to poison the patrons by slipping a toxin into their food. They then drive off, the sound of police cars pursuing in the distance, and the imitation of the iconic raised handclasp of Thelma and Louise right before they drove over the cliff is used as a parody of solidarity between the two mega-stars.

Read the whole thing.

By: Rick Moran at 8:37 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (1)

3/16/2010
THE RICK MORAN SHOW: ON THE PRECIPICE OF REVOLUTION - A TWO HOUR HEALTH CARE REFORM EXTRAVAGANZA

You won’t want to miss tonight’s Rick Moran Show, one of the most popular conservative talk shows on Blog Talk Radio.

Tonight, we’ll stretch the show to two hours and bring in some of the smartest bloggers and writers out there. Rich Baehr and Ed Lasky of the American Thinker, Stephen Green of Vodkapundit, and Monica Showalter of Investors Business Daily will fire up and let it fly about all things health care reform.

The show will air from 7:00 - 9:00 PM Central time. You can access the live stream here. A podcast will be available for streaming or download shortly after the end of the broadcast.

Click on the stream below and join in on what one wag called a “Wayne’s World for adults.”

Also, if you’d like to call in and put your two cents in, you can dial (718) 664-9764.

Listen to The Rick Moran Show on internet talk radio

By: Rick Moran at 4:25 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (0)

3/15/2010
PUSH IS COMING TO SHOVE FOR DEMOCRATS

They all sound so confident, don’t they? Gibbs says that this time next week, health care reform will be passed. Pelosi says she has the votes now (I call bullsh*t on that - as does Pelosi’s own whip Rep. Clyburn). Axelrod, who must have been drunk yesterday morning, dared the GOP to run in the fall on repealing the bill. Um, yeah. And since the only people who are going to vote next midterm are people who are mad at the Democrats because of the economy and mad at them because of health care reform, Ax better find a nice deserted island to try and hide from the tsunami that is going to hit his party in the fall. If he thinks Americans are going to turn out in droves in November and thank Obama for this monstrosity, he is kidding himself.

But that’s the future and the immediate problem for the Democrats is to find a way to 216. The estimable Nate Silver explains:

It seems to me that there are sort of two equilbiria: either essentially all of the non-Stupak yes votes hold, in which case health care passes very narrowly (perhaps with exactly 216 votes) — or the floodgates open, there are a few key defections about half-way into the roll call, and anybody with a grievance deserts the bill, in which case all of the sudden it might struggle to get 200 votes. (Of course, Pelosi doesn’t have to hold a vote, and would probably want to avoid such an embarrassing outcome — but it’s not out of the question that she could push the measure to the floor not knowing the result, and that things could totally unravel during the roll call.)

Right now, I’d place slightly more weight on the former case: that Pelosi holds together somewhere between 216 and 218 votes. For essentially the first time during the health care battle, all of the key Democratic constituencies are lined up behind the bill: the Congressional leadership, the White House, the unions, the non-Naderite activists. And when one cuts through all the clutter, the vote-counting news has basically been pretty good for the Demorats: (i) the Stupak bloc is toward the smaller end of its prospective range; (ii) some non-retiring no votes, such as Jason Altmire and Scott Murphy, have been openly flirting with a yes; (iii) none of the non-Stupak yes votes have yet flipped.

A lot of members are playing this close to the vest, but I think Nate is correct. After all the leveraging, and maneuvering, and hand wringing by Blue Dogs, Pelosi is probably 5 or 6 votes short at this point. And the full court press for passage that will be initiated this week by Obama-Pelosi is going to be awesome to watch.

This whip count is based on publicly declared positions of members, which is useful to see how some Democrats are playing the game, but not particularly accurate as to what is happening on the Hill. Rich Baehr, my colleague at American Thinker and one of the sharpest political minds you’ll find, has been saying for months that Pelosi probably has 6-10 - maybe a handful more - of Democrats who voted “no” the first time around but who got “permission” to do so from the Speaker because she had the vote wrapped up. In essence, she granted them a stay of execution if - a big if - she could count on them for the final vote.

She is probably going to have to pull several of those Democrats out of her magic hat for passage. That’s because there may be at least six and as many as 10 Democrats who voted “yes” the first time around but have indicated they are going to vote “no” this time. A couple of those who have said they are leaning against voting despite supporting the bill in December are no doubt looking for a little leverage. Chicago Congressman Luis Gutierrez, for example, has made noises about voting “no” because the issues of illegals being able to purchase insurance is not addressed. But he will almost certainly be a yes vote when push comes to shove.

Dennis Kucinich is another vote that might switch from yes to no but again, I doubt if he will want to be remembered as the liberal who killed national health care. Expect a Road to Damascus conversion from Mr. Potato Head.

That leaves the “Stupak Six That Used to Be 12 But Nobody Believed That Anyway.” I’m afraid that the lobbying efforts to get those holdouts on board will not be pleasant. The combined ability of the Speaker of the House and the President of the United States to make life difficult for a Congressman is awesome. By mid-week, it is going to get awfully lonely for Bart’s boys unless they play ball.

With 25 confirmed “no” Democratic votes, that puts the Republicans at 203 - so close and yet so far. In essence, they need to get 13 of the remaining 37 fence sitters. This sounds doable until you realize that there’s not a thing the GOP can offer these Democrats while Obama-Pelosi can promise the moon or threaten them with hell. There will be some resisters but it is very difficult to see where the Republicans are going to get the votes. It will take uncommon courage to look the president or the Speaker in the eye and turn them down when they are appealing to party, to history, to the viability of Obama’s presidency.

No doubt Rahmbo will be on the phone reminding the holdouts of the president’s ability to not only make them, but break them too. For example, the discretionary authority a president has to release funds earmarked for specific congressional districts will mean the difference between getting funds for that road building project, or old folks recreational center approved before or after the election. That’s real power that a member can’t ignore.

The blandishment of a presidential visit can be effective also. Meanwhile, Pelosi can promise a better committee assignment next January, or banish the member to the post office committee. Co-sponsors for a member’s bill can suddenly dry up. And PAC money from other members may not be forthcoming.

The point is simple; vote against reform and there will be unpleasant consequences. How many of those 37 waverers have the courage to resist the onslaught? In the end, it will be easier to go along and worry about getting re-elected later. Besides, they can always believe the codswallop that by the fall, the American people will absolutely love Obamacare and thank their representative for being such a swell fellow and voting for it.

Can it be stopped? The courage to resist may indeed be found given the stakes. And one should not give up trying to influence the vote (I’ve written three emails to my own Congresswoman, Debbie Halverson, who is a possible no). And perhaps Nate’s scenario of a floor revolt may come to pass, although I don’t think Pelosi will have any kind of a meaningful vote until she’s reasonably sure she has 216.

Situation grave, but not hopeless.

By: Rick Moran at 10:31 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (0)

3/14/2010
THE PACIFIC: HOMAGE FINALLY PAID
CATEGORY: History, Media

It isn’t necessarily true in historical circles, but the Pacific campaign during World War II has mostly received short shrift from popular culture, as well as popular histories.

Now HBO is going to remedy that shortcoming with a gigantic 10 part miniseries entitled The Pacific. By most reports, it is a winner - a worthy companion piece to the best miniseries in TV history, Band of Brothers. (Sorry Roots fans but as gripping as that miniseries was, it failed on several levels in its portrayal of history.)

While it is a subjective accolade I give to BoB, the sheer ambition of the project made it tops in my book. That, and the extraordinary characters who made up Easy Company, drawn with loving care, and so far above the usual miniseries one dimensional fare that few other projects have come close. Not coincidentally, another HBO series, John Adams, makes a run at BoB for character development. But despite a strict adherence to historical facts, it never rose above a rather parochial and ordinary view of Adams as an American original rather than the world historical figure he was.

The Pacific promises to fill in some very large, very obvious blanks in our cultural understanding of what happened on those battlefields. First and foremost, the Pacific war was a naval war - “A gut bustin’, mother lovin’ naval war,” as Kirk Douglas playing Commander Paul Eddington opined after Pearl Harbor in Otto Preminger’s In Harm’s Way. The island hopping strategy of McArthur meant that not only ships were required to ferry his forces from hot spot to hot spot, but that American carriers supplied the air power that supported troop landings as well as keeping the supply lines free of Japanese interference.

And Admiral Halsey’s northern Pacific strategy also relied on carriers to get the job done. Ironically, our massive losses at Pearl Harbor forced us to rely on carriers for advancing across the Pacific, despite the fact that until well into 1944, it was still thought by both sides that the decisive naval engagement of the war would occur when the battleships of both sides squared off for one, gigantic Super-Trafalgar, or Jutland. Such never occurred, while our emphasis on sea-air power allowed us to push the Japanese back to their perimeter defenses.

While this was happening at sea, what was occurring on the ground in places like Guadalcanal, Tarawa, Peleliu, and other seemingly insignificant piles of volcanic rock, turned out to be a nightmare every bit as terrifying and bloody as any combat Americans have fought anywhere in the world before or since.

Apparently, The Pacific will not stint on showing this:

Modern war movies don’t hold back on the bloodier aspects of combat, a trend unofficially cemented with Steven Spielberg‘s 1998 epic Saving Private Ryan.

The Pacific continues in that vein without feeling exploitative or cheap. The carnage underscores the constant danger Marines faced as they poured onto battlefields already teeming with enemy soldiers.

Viewers will feel the concussive force of every mortar shell and sniper round, a visceral torrent nearly unmatched in modern war pictures.

And, of course, what can never be truly caught on film, the abject terror of the unsettling Japanese tactic of mounting suicide attacks at night, where desperate fighting became hand to hand and the war telescoped down to American soldiers trying to stop a fanatic from skewering him with a bayonet.

No book tells this story better than William Manchester’s Goodbye Darkness, that opens with a frank, brutal, searing recounting of how Manchester killed a Japanese soldier up close and personal. That’s the kind of war it was and it had American fighting men having to make a choice; they could despair over the fact that the Japanese were so willing to sacrifice themselves just to get close enough to kill them. Or, they could adopt an absolutely heartless attitude that allowed them to shoot down Japanese soldiers even if they were surrendering.

This grim job was necessary because, as Ronald Spector points out in Eagle Against the Sun, the Japanese military creed of bushido made surrender not only something that would dishonor the individual soldier, but his family as well. So when all was lost, the Japanese soldier was more than likely to pretend to surrender while killing any American who came close enough. Similar instances of Japanese wounded who waited for an American to get close and see if they were dead before trying to kill their enemy were very common as well. The fact that our boys didn’t wait around to see if a Japanese soldier was really surrendering or really dead means that very few POW’s were taken and even fewer wounded POW’s. If you wanted to stay alive, you killed anything with a Japanese uniform on it.

This was the nature of the war. But there are those who have deliberately - or ignorantly - tried to push the notion that the real reason for our brutality was that we were racists and that the entire war in the Pacific - up to and including Hiroshima - could be explained because we saw the Japanese as less than human.

Tom Hanks in Time Magazine:

Back in World War II, we viewed the Japanese as ‘yellow, slant-eyed dogs’ that believed in different gods. They were out to kill us because our way of living was different. We, in turn, wanted to annihilate them because they were different. Does that sound familiar, by any chance, to what’s going on today?”

Hanks is by no means the first or only revisionist to ignore Pearl Harbor, and the nature of Pacific warfare, to point to our behavior and cry “racism.”

Here’s James Carroll writing in the Boston Herald:

The Iwo Jima image is sacred precisely because the men lifting up the fallen flag are all but unable to do so. The extremity of their exhaustion, their nearness to defeat, the horrors of what they have been through and of what awaits them are all implied in the painful stretch of limbs, in the rough gear of armored clothing, in the absolute investment each has made in a symbol of something better than himself. Even as the valor of what they did on one beachhead after another is properly honored, the American fighters of the Pacific War were not heroes. The desperation of island combat included exchanged barbarities of which no one would willingly speak for a generation. On the American side, there were foul racism, vengeful refusals to take prisoners, a generalized brutality that extended to a savage air war. To raise the flag at Iwo Jima was to lift the transcendent symbol out of the total hell that the war had become. Few if any men who survived it came home speaking of virtue.

Historical accuracy note: the famous flag raising pic on Iwo Jima was actually a picture of the raising of a second, much larger flag. The first flag raising was done by a recon patrol who managed to reach the top of Mt. Suribachi and raise a smaller standard. This overheated, hysterical description is a crock.

A “vengeful refusal” to take prisoners? More like a common sense precaution. And what is war anywhere except a “generalized brutality?” The question isn’t so much was racism a factor in the war. One need only examine our detention policy for American citizens of Japanese descent to agree with that statement. But was it the dominant motivation for the savage combat in the Pacific? Ask the Japanese who saw Americans as sub-humans and treated them that way in POW camps and most especially, on the Bataan Death March.

Hanks, Carroll, and their fellow travelers must ignore, forget, or otherwise subsume certain historical facts in order to arrive at their nonsensical notions of racism being a dominant motivation for our Marines and GI’s in the Pacific war. It doesn’t stand up to the facts.

Hopefully, The Pacific will rise above such idiocies and give the participants in that campaign long overdue homage. There simply hasn’t been the kind of attention paid to these warriors as has been given to participants in the European theater. There have been some excellent books on the Pacific War. I mentioned Spector’s excellent tome. And Barbara Tuchman’s Stillwell and the American Experience in China
offers a compelling and cautionary look at that much misunderstood theater. For sheer beauty of prose, Manchester’s book is one of the best. Alexander’s Utmost Savagery: The Three Days at Tarawa might be the best book on any single battle I’ve ever read. And another good memoir by a real hard case - Eugene Sledge - With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa describes what he went through on Okinawa in a way that makes Truman’s use of the atom bomb totally justifiable.

These and a few other popular histories nothwithstanding, there simply is no comparison with the volume of books written about D-Day, or The Bulge, or most other important battles in the European Theater. It could be that there just weren’t the number of troops involved, or the unbalanced coverage in the press at the time contributed to the illusion that what was happening in the Pacific was a “sideshow” to the war being fought against Hitler.

More books, more movies, more TV shows, more plays - the European theater seems to have embedded itself in our national consciousness in a far greater way than what happened in the Pacific. I sincerely hope that The Pacific begins an evening up process that is long overdue.

By: Rick Moran at 10:15 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (0)

A SHORT, PUNGENT POST ON MEDIA BIAS
CATEGORY: Blogging, Media, Politics

I write a lot less about media “bias” these days because I’ve come to the conclusion that the topic is overblown.

What some see as bias, I think it more appropriate to chalk up to laziness or even ignorance. That, and the narrow perspective that many reporters bring to their job makes what might be construed as bias to be nothing more than the media cocoon many reporters find themselves in - especially those who write for national publications or on national issues.

Bias can be screened out of reporting through a conscious effort of the writer or editor. Not doing so is simply not being bothered to get it right. I would make an exception for the New York Times which published for 100 years a fairly non-biased, non-partisan product but in recent decades has shown itself to be shamelessly skewed toward the left, and Democrats. I am not talking about editorial leanings at the Times which have been left since the Ochs family took control at the turn of the 20th century, but rather in the “straight” reporting of news where a decidedly partisan point of view is advanced.

That said, I think most charges of left wing or right wing bias are a reflection of which aspects of a story are stressed. This is an editorial rather than ideological decision - usually -but is leapt upon eagerly by those who make a living pointing out bias in media reports.

If you want an example of bias, here’s CNN:

Democrats soften pledge for three-day posting of health bill

No, sorry. Not even close. The Democrats aren’t “softening” anything. They are breaking their promise outright.

House Democrats appear to be softening their pledge to allow the public 72 hours to review the health care reform package online before a House vote. “We will certainly give as much notice as possible, but I’m not going to say that 72 hours is going to be the litmus test,” said Majority Leader Steny Hoyer on Friday.

“The House bill or Senate bill, as proposed, has been online for some two-and-a-half months, otherwise known about 75 days,” Hoyer added, referring to the November and December dates each chamber passed its version of health care legislation.

But Democrats could vote as soon as next week on a series of changes to the health care package - called a reconciliation bill - and the number two House Republican criticized Hoyer directly on House floor.

“I’m a little bit taken aback that now that 72-hour rule has been completely cast aside, since nobody in the House has seen what’s in the reconciliation bill,” said Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Virginia.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi promised earlier this year Democrats would make the final health care bill public at least three days before voting.

I can imagine the writer and editor for that story coming up with just the right adjective to describe the Democrats reneging on their 72 hour promise. It must have taken a little bit of thought. Ordinarily, “softening” would mean that the Democrats were thinking of violating their pledge. In fact, they have already decided to do so which leaves “softening” hanging out there in misinformation land.

Deliberate? Can’t see it any other way. Of course, the GOP might shame the Democrats into changing their minds. I wonder if that happens whether CNN will use the adjective “hardening” to describe the Democrat’s position?

By: Rick Moran at 8:23 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (1)

3/13/2010
WHAT’S THE BEEF? THE SLAUGHTER RULE IS JUST A LITTLE UNCONSTITUTIONAL

Here we go again, conservatives blowing something way, way out of proportion that when smart people think about it, doesn’t deserve all this hand wringing and angst-ridden diatribes on the right. When are conservatives ever going to learn that all this talk about the Constitution is just a distraction? What everyone should be looking at is making sure that everyone has their own set of dentures by passing Obamacare.

I’m talking, of course, about the “Slaughter Rule” where Democrats in the House - in what is really a brilliantly conceived and incredibly ballsy move even though Pelosi is gonadless - won’t even vote on the original health care reform bill passed by the senate and instead, simply “deem” the bill as passed. This will allow the president to sign into law a health care reform bill that will then be amended using reconciliation.

Stick in the mud conservatives are screaming foul. They point to this obscure part of the Constitution to make their case:

U.S Constitution, Article I, Section VII, Clause II.

Every Bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate, shall, before it become a Law, be presented to the President of the United States; If he approve he shall sign it, but if not he shall return it, with his Objections to that House in which it shall have originated, who shall enter the Objections at large on their Journal, and proceed to reconsider it. If after such Reconsideration two thirds of that House shall agree to pass the Bill, it shall be sent, together with the Objections, to the other House, by which it shall likewise be reconsidered, and if approved by two thirds of that House, it shall become a Law. But in all such Cases the Votes of both Houses shall be determined by Yeas and Nays, and the Names of the Persons voting for and against the Bill shall be entered on the Journal of each House respectively…

How quaint. Basing your objections on a 231 year old document is just a little bizarre, don’t you think? How seriously can we take this thing if it doesn’t even mention health care, or global warming, or even amnesty for illegal immigrants?

Oh sure, it’s ok as a sort of guide for government. And there are some really, really neat parts in there, like the First Amendment that says you can’t have any religion anywhere, at any time. And the Fifth Amendment that protects terrorists from incriminating themselves. Those are fine.

But remember, the Constitution is a racist document. It counted slaves as only 3/5 of a person. If that were true, then conservatives would count as about 1/3 of a person. Obviously, if conservatives are going to argue anything based on this document, they are closet Kluxers.

Besides, what’s the big deal about not voting for health care reform? Sure, a lot of people are opposed to it now, but just you wait until all the good stuff that’s in there kicks in. Yeah, it will take a few years but eventually, all you rich people out there - the ones with jobs anyway - will be subsidizing those who, through no fault of their own, didn’t buy insurance when they had the chance. This time, no excuse for you. You will buy insurance or the IRS is going to make sure you pay big time.

For the life of me, I can’t understand why conservatives insist on getting a vote for the original senate bill? This voting thing can be very hard when you’re trying to make history and not enough congressman want to do what our great, great, grandchildren will see as the completion of the welfare state:

A larger question any member of congress reading the op-ed ought to ask himself is “so what?” If reform passes and is signed into law, then immediately Barack Obama’s position in history is secured. When people look back from 2060 on the creation of the American welfare state, they’ll say that FDR, LBJ, and BHO were its main architects, with Roosevelt enshrining the principle of universal social insurance into law and Obama completing the initial promise of the New Deal. Members of congress who helped him do that will have a place in history. Nobody’s going to be very interested in a story like “Mike Ross served a bunch of years in Congress and people were impressed with his ability to win a relatively conservative district; he didn’t achieve very much and one day he wasn’t in Congress anymore.”

Which is just to say that nobody lasts in office forever, no congressional majority lasts forever, and no party controls the White House forever. But the measure of a political coalition isn’t how long it lasted, but what it achieved.

This is very smart stuff from Mr. Ygelsias. “Go for it boys - I’m right behind you! Nothing will happen to me if I cheer you on mindlessly while your political career ends up in the toilet. After all, it’s not ME who will get pummeled in the next election.”

Brave Sir Matt with some sound advice for politicians whose “achievement” may end up sending us into sovereign default, but at least we’ll have stuck it to the rich (and the near rich…and the wannabe rich…and those not rich at all but dream of being rich), while creating a health care paradise where waiting for routine procedures won’t be much longer than a year or so, and old folks will be put in their place and denied treatment better given to a more productive member of society, and thus ushering them off to hospice lickety split where they’ll have a cot and three hots until they croak.

Surely conservatives can see the beauty, the efficiency, the fairness of a system like this. Why muck up the works by throwing up a Constitutional smokescreen when this historical bill will make schoolkids in America forever after repeat the name of Barack Obama in the same hushed, reverent tones they use when uttering the name “Eugene Debs?”

It’s a distraction, I say! A distraction! Concentrate on what’s important - the passage of health care reform that may not do much of anything that Democrats are claiming it will do, but by God, it will be historical.

And that’s what’s important. The libs haven’t had much of a chance to make history lately. They miss the delicious feeling they get when they are immortalized through government action. Of course, they’d never dream of actually, you know, creating something that would immortalize them. That’s so bourgeoisie. Better to be immortalized by ramming government run health care down the throats of the American people so that future generations will, in their minds eye, look back in awe - AWE I tell you — at the lengths to which they went to bring them this…this…achievement!

If we’re lucky, those future school kids won’t even have to worry about a racist, sexist, homophobic, document like the Constitution. It will be long gone and we’ll be well rid of it.

By: Rick Moran at 10:19 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (0)

3/12/2010
HOWELL RAINS AND JOURNALISTIC STANDARDS
CATEGORY: Ethics, Media, Politics

In many ways, I agree and sympathize with Howell Rains who bemoans the loss of journalistic integrity in this Washington Post op-ed. What is truly unfortunate - and a little bizarre - is that Rains only sees a lowering of standards at Fox News.

Is he trying to be funny? Or just very selective in his outrage?

A couple of hard truths along with a little history. Until around the turn of the 20th century, newspapers were wholly owned subsidiaries of political parties. Sure, there were independent voices here and there, crying in the wilderness to, as Rains put it, “afflict the comfortable.”

But the dominant media template of the day was partisan hackery. You had Republican newspapers and Democratic newspapers vying for readership in big cities while the hinterlands weren’t as lucky; people had to settle for usually one editorial voice that dominated a township, or county.

There was no attempt to “balance” opinion and plenty of effort put into spinning the news to make one side look good and the other side appear to be the spawn of Satan. This was the age of the front page editorial screaming bloody murder about something the opposition had done, or failed to do. It was the golden age of political cartoonists who skewered their targets with the nastiest of captions while drawing opposition figures in the most vile, and unflattering ways imaginable.

Ironically, the New York Times - a paper Rains was, at one time, executive editor - sought to change all of that. Always something of an independent voice from its founding in 1856, the Times strove over the years to stay above the fray of day to day politics and concentrate on delivering a reasonably factual product relatively free of bias. When the Ochs family purchased the Times at the end of the 19th century, an even greater emphasis on reporting the news in a style that highlighted the old “who, what, when, where and how” notion of factual storytelling came into vogue. The Times didn’t invent this kind of reporting, but editorially, they mastered it.

They also perfected the crafting of the “why” of a story, usually by separating the carefully wrought opinion of the reporter from the facts reported in the original story. Below the fold analysis of why a story was important contributed to the notion that the Times was responsibly separating journalistic opinion from the raw facts of a story.

Is this what Mr. Raines is talking about here?

Why haven’t America’s old-school news organizations blown the whistle on Roger Ailes, chief of Fox News, for using the network to conduct a propaganda campaign against the Obama administration — a campaign without precedent in our modern political history?

Through clever use of the Fox News Channel and its cadre of raucous commentators, Ailes has overturned standards of fairness and objectivity that have guided American print and broadcast journalists since World War II. Yet, many members of my profession seem to stand by in silence as Ailes tears up the rulebook that served this country well as we covered the major stories of the past three generations, from the civil rights revolution to Watergate to the Wall Street scandals. This is not a liberal-versus-conservative issue. It is a matter of Fox turning reality on its head with, among other tactics, its endless repetition of its uber-lie: “The American people do not want health-care reform.”

That “rulebook” was trashed nearly 40 years ago. It was ripped to shreds by the Times, the Washington Post, and most other major newspapers in America when Mr. Rains’ precious “standards” of “fairness and objectivity” were tossed aside in order to compete with Walter Cronkite, Huntley-Brinkley, and whoever was the flavor of the month anchor at ABC whose de-objectification of the news was already an art form.

As the viewership and influence of the Big Three TV news shows grew to an astonishing level, newspapers began to die in unprecedented numbers. Afternoon and evening mainstays like the Chicago Daily News, the Washington Star, and the Cleveland Press disappeared altogether while hundreds of other PM publications merged with their more successful morning competition. And the reason most often cited was the arrival on American airwaves of a new brand of journalism - one where images, rather than copy ruled the broadcast. And these images, manipulated by experts to wring drama and pathos out of a story in order to keep America glued to the channel, made a mockery of Rains’ “standards.”

In order to compete with network news, newspapers abandoned straight, factual news reporting and went into the business of using news as a way to convey opinion, infusing “drama” into stories. A young black kid did not kill the old white lady for her purse because he’s a criminal. Racism killed the old lady as surely as if George Wallace had pulled the trigger.

An exaggeration, but nevertheless, the entire concept of “objectivity” had been turned on its head in order to both sell newspapers and satisfy the “new journalism” that was making a mark in publications like Rolling Stone and Village Voice. The young, strongly opinionated writers for those publications and others were the vanguard of new kind of “journalist” who saw newspaper reporting as more than just a means to inform the public about what was going on in their part of the world, but viewed their mission as “reforming” the staid, old institutions of the media in order to promote a decidedly liberal point of view.

Rains has got to know that the New York Times does not report news the same way it did in the 1950’s, doesn’t he?

Whatever its shortcomings, journalism under those standards aspired to produce an honest account of social, economic and political events. It bore witness to a world of dynamic change, as opposed to the world of Foxian reality, whose actors are brought on camera to illustrate a preconceived universe as rigid as that of medieval morality. Now, it is precisely our long-held norms that cripple our ability to confront Fox’s journalism of perpetual assault. I’m confident that many old-schoolers are too principled to appear on the network, choosing silence over being used; when Fox does trot out a house liberal as a punching bag, the result is a parody of reasoned news formats.

My great fear, however, is that some journalists of my generation who once prided themselves on blowing whistles and afflicting the comfortable have also been intimidated by Fox’s financial power and expanding audience, as well as Ailes’s proven willingness to dismantle the reputation of anyone who crosses him. (Remember his ridiculing of one early anchor, Paula Zahn, as being inferior to a “dead raccoon” in ratings potential when she dared defect to CNN?) It’s as if we have surrendered the sword of verifiable reportage and bought the idea that only “elites” are interested in information free of partisan poppycock.

Mr. Rains and the Times surrendered that sword many years ago. It was the network news that accepted the capitulation of newspapers to the notion that objectivity and fairness in news reporting was part of the ancien regime and that in order to stay alive, print media would have to ape some of the worst attributes of bias found in the manipulation of images on TV in order to make them “interesting” or “dramatic.”

Where was Rains during coverage of the Katrina disaster? Where was his outrage at the lack of objectivity and fairness when CNN, MSNBC, and even Fox News reported rumors as being true, routinely added political commentary to their remotes, and shamelessly vied with each other to see which outlet could outdo the other in vitriol directed at the government?

Guess that sort of slipped his mind.

In their heyday, 80 million Americans tuned into one of the three network news broadcasts. Their power was incredible. It was they who set the nation’s agenda, deciding as they did which stories merited attention and which could be left on the cutting room floor. A half hour program just didn’t allow for in depth exploration of issues, nuance, or much explanation. And a dry recounting of the facts of a story would have viewers changing channels to something more interesting. Hence, storytelling via images was born - and in order to keep eyeballs glued to their product, news producers would indulge themselves by trying to create controversy, or take words out of context (easy enough to do with so little context given anyway). While copy may have been vetted for obvious bias, images, by definition, were different. Images were show biz and everyone from news executives down to segment producers didn’t want the viewers walking out at the end of the first act.

Rains and his old timers in the newspaper business followed right along, aping their electronic relatives by choosing angles for news stories that highlighted the dramatic impact a story would have on the reader; the goal being, to move the reader emotionally. At times subtle, at times blatant, the reporting of “news” was no longer a craft, but an art form.

Is Fox News any more at fault than CNN, or MSNBC? In the case of the latter, we have the senior vice president of NBC News Phil Griffin making no bones about the ideological nature of their programming:

“The network has evolved a lot in the past few years. We went from doing a little bit of everything to doing lots of politics under Keith from 2003-05. We first began to get traction after the Iraq war started, after ‘Mission Accomplished.’ Then, more and more, politics led the way. When we did well with it in the 2006 elections, we made a decision to become ‘the place for politics,’ as the late Tim Russert dubbed us - and all of a sudden began to take off a little.”

Griffin says that both Olbermann and fellow MSNBC stalwart Chris Mathews “both had a strong point of view about the war — but our strategy then was simply to hire smart people, allow them to have a point of view, and to be authentic. At the same time, we moved even further toward politics and away from trying to be ‘all things to all people.’”

Is Fox any worse than MSNBC? Nitpickers might discover a hair’s width of difference between the two, with CNN and their emotive journalism brand of weepy, touchy-feely storytelling not too far behind.

I agree with Mr. Rains that Fox is a travesty of journalism going by the standards of the 1950’s. But not including CNN and MSNBC, as well as his former employer and hundreds of newspapers, magazines, and the over the air TV networks in his diatribe is ludicrous. Journalism has changed. And Rains is kidding himself if he believes he and his “old timers” are immune from criticism for propagating those changes and foisting their own biases and politics on the rest of us.

By: Rick Moran at 9:53 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (2)