Tag Archives: politics

Modern Tips for Consuming News Media 

The liberal media ain’t just liberal anymore. I may be stating the obvious to some, but seeing and feeling how divided our country is in the wake of #charlottesville, it occurs to me — a former business reporter from Springfield, Mo. — this could be a great time to offer some quick and valuable, if not obvious, tips for consuming today’s media. If you’re mad and you know it, the media might be partially to blame. Curse you, Fake News! 

1. Every publication has a niche and works to serve its audience. NYTimes serves the interests of different readers/advertisers than FoxNews or the Springfield News-Leader, generally speaking. Think of media like restaurants. Yes, McDonald’s and Black Sheep (high-end local) both have hamburgers on the menu, but their goals, approach and ingredients are wholly different. 

2. The vast majority of news organizations are working to establish facts that serve their audience — often by consistently trying to meet their expectations. FoxNews, for example, has, and I assume will, report accurate facts in news segments (when not offering commentary), but it’s not looking to report on a study funded by a left-leaning nonprofit that finds people in countries with universal health care spend half of what the average U.S. citizen pays. No, but it may report extensively on a conservative-backed study that shows there is abuse within the Welfare system. Both would be news, but Fox (like CNN or MSNBC or anyone) wants to be a consistent brand distinguishable from other news outlets. 

3. I’ve said before that media has a money bias, and it’s true (they are all pushing stories they think will get the most attention to help generate the most revenue), but it may be more accurate to say media has a conflict bias. Conflict is just more interesting. “Peeps got along today just fine” is not a headline anyone cares about. Unless your in the Middle East. Then, that may be remarkable. … There is an old saying, “if it bleeds, it leads.” It’s unfortunate, but often news is the most disturbing thing happening right now. 

4. If you’re a Democrat and you just can’t understand how or why anyone would support our president, it may be a good time to check out conservative-leaning news orgs like National Review or Red State. Or if you’re a Republican and can’t understand why liberals are so hell bent on ruining our country, it might be time to pick up The Atlantic or The New Yorker. 

If you’re angry and don’t know why, the conflict-bias you’re used to may be to blame. Solution: hide under the covers and plug your ears while loudly saying, “Nah, nah, nah,” if anyone talks or tries to hand you a smartphone. Or, just get your news from a various sources — particularly if it’s a story you care about — and apply reason to sort fact from audience development. The latter option is much harder, but satisfying. 

Reading the Room: a white guy’s view on racism in America. 

“Then watch out that the light in you is not darkness.” -Luke 11:35

For the better part of my life, racism has been a publicly condemnable thing. 

Oh, I’ve been under no illusions that it had vanished. But, from my white and privileged perspective, it had gone underground. 

This was most obvious in the subtle ways racists reveal themselves.

You see, people tend to project. They more often than not assume others are like them. White racists tend to believe other white people share their views. 

In my Midwest blue-collar work life, these folks would let down their guards in quiet moments on the job when other black employees or bosses or customers weren’t around. This was my wife’s experience, too.

While we are both white, together we have raised her oldest son, William, who is mixed. 

Will was 5 when I married his mother in 1997.

I remember being a skinny 20-year-old man-boy taking 3-year-old Will to Wal-Mart and being ready to fight the first person to disrespect me or him. Only that day never came. 

No one ever discriminated against us to our face. As Will got older, he’d have to experience racism on his own. Ever heard of “driving while black?” I know he’s been messed with by cops on a few occasions. And I’m sure there’s a lot he hasn’t shared. But Will is tough, and this is not a victim’s story. 

My point in sharing is that sometimes racists white people misread the room. They are so anxious to have their skewed views and exaggerated sense of superiority supported that they jump the gun and tell a joke about porch monkeys or mention to your wife that another white lady looks like the type to sleep with black guys. 

“When a person shows you who they are, believe them.” -Oprah Winfrey

On the few instances I had racists mistake me for a sympathizer, I always made it clear I wasn’t on board. I’d tell them my step-son was mixed, which usually garnered a pretty satisfying reaction. Invariably, they’d backpedal. I believe racism can’t stand up to moral scrutiny. It can only really exist in public when enough people in power see the benefits of propping it up. 

And this is what’s concerning about the recent demonstrations in Charlottesville, Va. White supremacist see today’s political environment as the right time to come together. 

And while the president condemned the violence that surfaced there, he stopped short of laying blame where it lies — with the passionate white nationalist movement that helped elect him.

The good news is there was wide and bipartisan condemnation of the white supremacists’ views on display in Virginia. Many on the right including Trump’s daughter Ivanka and Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, voiced their opposition to the Nazi-evoking and Confederate-flag-waving alt-right demonstrators. 

But today feels different. It feels like a time and place where racists aren’t afraid to be racists anymore. I pray I’m just misreading the room. 

Hard Truths and the Politics of Helping the Poor

Conservatives and liberals are each only half right when it comes to helping the poor. 

That’s because their ideologies largely revolve around two different and hard facts of life. And while these truths aren’t necessarily competing — and neither is wrong — both sides seem only capable of accepting one. 

1. Government intervention often hurts the people it’s intended to help. 

Conservatives got this. They know we live in a hard, cold world. They love freedom and understand if you force companies to pay higher wages, businesses will naturally jack up prices, increase automation or reduce their level of services.

Business owners aren’t inherently evil. Well, some are surely, but they do want to stay in business. And they are certainly not more evil than consumers. In fact, they are consumers. 

Capitalism works because free people are naturally self-interested. If the price of a burger at a fast-food restaurant is too high, consumers will find a cheaper burger. Or eat less of them. Or grow their own burgers. (Yes, veggie burgers are an option, but the point here is too few know where hamburgers come from; That’s how well the free-market works). 

A new University of Washington study focused on the $15 minimum wage in Seattle unmasks this inconvenient truth. It confirms what conservatives think-tanks, salesmen and common-sense business owners have known for ages: government regulations can and do stymie the prosperity the free-market provides. 

Even if you dispute the study the Washington Post finds credible, surely you don’t have to look too far to find real examples of government overreach and its negative impact on lives.

2. The more we help the poor, the better off we all are. 

Liberals got this. “A rising tide floats all boats” is a cliche for a reason. Higher wages mean workers have more disposable income. More disposable income means more spending, which means more jobs and more prosperity for all. This is why disposable income is a key measure of an economy’s health. 

While many on the right decry the folly of higher minimum wages, those on the left argue for assisting those in need. Beyond moral arguments, did you know food stamps provide a great return on investment? According to those who track such impacts with the USDA, every $5 our government spends on new SNAP benefits generates $9 of economic activity. 

This is no shock to liberal researchers, educators and salt-of-the-earth union supporters. They know we need good schools, a robust transportation network and a strong social safety net to allow everyone a chance to achieve the American dream. Nothing wrong with a fair playing field. 

Many on the left and right have the best interests of all at heart. It’s up to us, as good citizens, to listen to both sides and give credit where credit is due. 

Now, who wants a burger? 

United We Fall

God’s provisions to mankind surely include unending opportunities to appreciate irony.

I’m thinking about America today, what it means to be an American, and I keep coming back to a single sing-songy phrase: “United we stand; divided we fall.” I’m 42 years old, and I’ve never seen my country so divided. If the phrase is true, the future seems bleak.

Standing in this reflective space, I can’t help but return to when I was 26. In September of that year, a group of determined terrorist changed the course of America – and the world – irrevocably.

Following 9/11, I saw America at its finest. I remember the pride I felt. I was proud of our president; proud of New York; proud of first responders; proud that I could be counted by some invisible hand among the Americans. I remember flags were everywhere – on bumper stickers, on shop-house doors, in front of big houses and small.

I remember thinking, the enemy has underestimated us. Their horrific act of terror – which had to be more effective than they could have imagined with the fall of towers South and North – resulted in a nation resolved to be free. (And to wipe them and their worldview from the face of the earth.)

We set aside political parties. For a time. We were unified. Briefly.

Fifteen years later, a flip of the Uncle-Sam-feeling-good coin was complete with the presidential election of 2016.

Ironically, a billionaire living in a Manhattan penthouse decorated in 24k gold and marble was the voice of the small-town “forgotten” man; the former first lady of Arkansas was the darling of New York elites.

We know how it turned out. Let me be clear on one point, however: we wouldn’t be any less divided had Mrs. Clinton won. FoxNews could see to that; Rush Limbaugh still would have a show to do. As it is, the people who would like to see single-payer health care are leading the #resist movement.

Yes, in today’s world, socialists defend a free press while Christians fight for gun rights.

And the ironies run much deeper. In the age of the Internet, with information and perspectives at every turn, people get stuck in echo chambers where they’re own positions are never challenged; we may well know strangers better than old friends; and common human interactions require a web of electronic networks.

On this 4th of July, I’m worried about where we are headed as country. Oddly enough, I think this is a sentiment we can all share.

 

Table Talk

Heavy envy envelopes objective relatives.

Persistent resistance distances verbal dancers dissing dug in positions with similar stubbornness. 

A win is immenent. 

The brethren can’t conceive concessions. 

Opponents must own their own arguments. Humble tears in tents; A clown smoking cigarettes. 

But who wins at some point with troubling anger on the table among us? Hurt hearts are contagious. 

Grab an ale and a napkin and make space for a feast, cousin. Let go this fight we’re waging. Eating time in session. On the plate is crow. 

We never got where it would have gone. Dangerous angling averted. Where’s dessert, then? 

Trump as Sherman with election end in sight 

As the 2016 presidential campaign reaches into the home stretch, New York real estate developer Donald Trump appears to have employed a political strategy akin to William Sherman’s march to the sea in the Civil War. Surrounding the former star of “The Apprentice” television series, is scorched earth here, there and everywhere in the wake of fresh sexual assault allegations. 

The enemy most clearly obstructing his path to the White House is corporate media. 

Those liberal bastards! How dare troublesome outfits such as The New York Times report allegations of sexual assault – as well as Trump’s emphatic denial – against said businessman while simply looking to become leader of the free world? 

To the Times’ credit, it appears a strong understanding of the First Amendment and libel case law by its legal reps have emboldened this pillar of American journalism. 

Yesterday, the Times laid a legal smackdown on Trump, all but begging him to sue the publication for exercising that thing we call freedom of the press. The letter, authored by attorney David E. McCraw, is, in my mind, nothing short of beautiful – a jewel members of the media and lovers of the American legal system should enjoy far and wide. 

Trump, with all his bluster, took to the campaign trail trying to marry the Washington establishment with the liberal media despite the fact that the U.S. House and Senate remain under Republican control. It all feels desperate and predictable. 

While I could have never guessed The Donald would become the GOP’s nominee for president at the controversial outset of his campaign, the very tough path for Trump became clear before convention delegates landed in Cleveland this summer.

In 2012, Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney did about as well as one could with white, Christian voters and still narrowly missed the executive office. No lesson learned for Trump, however, who has seemed hell-bent on doubling down on Romney’s strategy, alienating latinos, Muslims and minorities at nearly every turn. 

“The Atlantic,” which recently endorsed opponent Hillary Clinton – only the third such presidential endorsement by the publication since its founding in 1857 – is, unlike Trump, on top of the demographics. In its Oct. 13 piece, “We’ve reached the end of white Christian America,” it rightly notes that those who identify as both white and Christian now represent 45 percent of the population. 

Maybe that explains the anger and venom that rises to the surface at Trump rallies – America has changed without full white, Christian consent. And now there’s little left to do but wait for the crowning insult to the good-old-boy network that has for so long fed people like Mr. Trump so well: we elect a woman leader.

Nobel laureate Bob Dylan must have seen the writing on the wall when he said, “the times, they are a changin’.”

Hillary, Donald underwhelm in second debate


Last night, Secretary Hillary Clinton faced off against real estate mogul and reality television star Donald Trump in the second presidential debate of the 2016 election. If you watched the painful exchange of ideas for the duration, you likely already know the issues and candidates well and were struck by nothing, in particular.

In fact, precious few are excited about this election, according to Pew Research, which has found the most appealing quality in the candidate voters support is the fact that he or she isn’t the other.

To solidify your views, you may have turned to some of your favorite analysts on FoxNews, MSNBC, CNN or Twitter, where a culture of quick quips could have entertained you through the meandering democratic exercise. 

Fact checkers, perhaps not surprisingly, found the former first lady generally had a better handle on facts, while Mr. Trump, again, took more liberties.

Even so, this left-leaning hippie isn’t entirely lost when it comes to Trump’s appeal. While Hillary always seems to be searching for the right words, Trump is off the cuff, natural. If his view of the world aligned with reality, I might even be tempted to vote for him. But as it is, facts are important to me, and I like to break stereotypes; I’m a white male in my 40s, btw.

Regarding other impressions, it seems to me Trump can offer no adequate explanation for #gropegate, and Mrs. Clinton has no satisfying answers for lost emails during her tenure as Secretary of State. Both issues speak to character flaws, though I must admit to being more concerned about unwanted pussy grabbing, myself. Call me biased, if you like. Sidenote: isn’t Billy Bush just as creepy as you always thought he was?

Overall, viewers saw the debate much like I did, it seems; 57 percent thought Hillary won the night.

Looking forward, I found myself agreeing with Charles Krauthammer’s analyses on Megyn Kelly’s show post-debate: Trump salvaged his wreck of a campaign, but while Hillary could well be the target of future Wikileaks revelations, The Donald is just as vulnerable to more hot-mic moments from The Apprentice days or elsewhere.

Nov. 8 can’t arrive fast enough.