Poligags :: America's Fix Tank


Month: April, 2013

The State of Journalism

We were at once saddened and angered by the news this morning that Sunil Tripathi, a Brown University student missing for over a month, was found dead in a river. Saddened, for the loss of life; angry, because he was falsely accused by amateur sleuths as the possible perpetrator of the Boston Marathon bombing.

It is with astonishing regularity that speculation and outright falsehoods are spread by the media. They are often stated as fact. They continue to be broadcast even after being debunked. Blogs – including this one, which is clearly opinion – are cited as “sources”.

What pass for journalists now is little more than a group of personalities with a LOT of air time to fill and neither the intellect nor the educational background to pull it off unscripted. Worst of all, they are fixated on being first and sacrifice accuracy for some non-existent trophy waiting for them at an imaginary finish line. There have been some notable examples over the last year, even excluding election year shenanigans:

  • Last June, the Supreme Court rendered its verdict on ACA (the Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare”). With copies of the opinion waving in the breeze, both Fox and CNN reported their wrong interpretations.
  • A few months later, AP reported that Manti Te’o’s girlfriend was real.
  • Joe Paterno was declared deceased before he actually died.
  • In December, it was widely reported that Ryan Lanza was responsible for the tragic shooting of two dozen students and employees of Sandy Hook Elementary. In fact, it was his brother Adam who had perpetrated the crime and was carrying Ryan’s driver’s license. Ryan, however, received death threats resulting from the news.
  • In February, former LAPD officer and Navy reservist Chris Dorner went on a shooting spree. He was said to be in Torrance. No…San Diego! Guess again: Riverside! In fact, he was holed up in a cabin in the mountains, while adrenaline-infused police were shooting a 71-year-old Latina in the back.

Which brings us full circle to the Boston case. Media reported a tall, ‘dark-skinned’ individual. CNN indicated that a Saudi student had been seen running from the area and was later arrested. The New York Post pictured two spectators on its front page and labeled the photo ‘bag men’.

None of these reports was remotely accurate; but the media did manage to track down and descend upon the roommate of the student and the families of those now accused of the crime, including those in Russia.

Look! Tsarnaev is in a boat! He’s alive! He’s not moving! There’s a fire! No, there’s not! He shot out of the boat toward officers! He was unarmed!

The speculation continues with the dueling possibilities that the brothers made their money from marijuana sales and that the elder brother committed other unsolved area murders in which the victims had pot sprinkled over their corpses.

Walter Cronkite – long time journalist and news anchor – was voted “most trusted man in America”. Like today’s personalities, he regularly had to fill air time, covering live events ranging from assassinations to NASA launches to political conventions to war. He did it in a measured manner, reporting what he saw or what could be confirmed.

He was not unusual for his time. There were many others – real journalists – including but not limited to Severeid, Chancellor, Kalb, Moyers, Wallace, Rather, Brinkley… As reporters, they investigated. They researched. They cited sources and didn’t broadcast until at least two had confirmed what the reporters thought they knew.

This is what recent events should teach us: that, in some things, the old ways are better. News anchors and those who work with them are referred to as reporters because they are expected to report the news – not to be the news and certainly not to make it up. To achieve “journalistic integrity,” correct should be valued over first; knowing should be preferable to speculation; justice is more important than accusation; and fact supersedes fiction.

© 2013 Poligags


Greed is good for capitalism.  Taxing greed is good for democracy.

Republicans won’t be happy until the Supreme Court is as fair and balanced as Fox News.

How is it that the same people who say that Big Government can’t do anything right think that Big Business can’t do anything wrong?

Obama saved General Motors.  A real socialist would have saved Detroit.

Did God create evolution or did creationism just evolve?

Why does every driver behind me seem to be fleeing a nuclear bomb, yet every driver in front of me can’t seem to find the gas pedal?

Every time capitalism gets in trouble, socialism has to bail it out.

A balanced budget is easy.  Just enact a tax on the use of the words “socialist” and “socialism”.  Heck, throw in “job creators” and “entitlements” and before you know it, we’ll have a budget surplus.

We pay for lots of studies.  How about one on how to speed up karma?

I voted for Barack Obama, and hope and change.  Now, I just hope he gets something right for a change.

© 2013 Poligags

It Really IS The Inequality

It really is the inequality.

Americans have been through the wringer for the last several years. We endured the fallout of the bursting economic bubble. We’ve witnessed congressional tantrums and showdowns over the debt ceiling, the budget, taxation, and the trillion-dollar coin. We’ve been subjected to sequestration and the threat of austerity measures.

While economist Paul Krugman said (New Republic) that “economics is not a morality play,” at every turn, it is the average citizen whose continued economic well-being has been at stake in these debates over the economy. Real wages continue to deteriorate. The jobs market remains flat and the middle class simply doesn’t have the purchasing power to spend the economy back to health. People are being asked to do more, accept less and accede to being bled dry.

What pols don’t seem to realize is that when people are unemployed, they draw from the system. They rely on unemployment insurance to make ends meet. Some turn to food stamp and welfare assistance. They utilize public health care resources. There have been reports recently of TANF recipients who have exhausted the funds for which they were eligible moving toward disability for continued income.

By contrast, people who work pay into the system. They pay into federal and state coffers. They travel to and from work, sometimes paying tolls and, in nearly all cases, gasoline taxes. They use their incomes to purchase homes, paying property taxes that fund schools and community services. They patronize stores, buying things while keeping others employed; they pay taxes on purchases, as well. Further, according to the US Commerce Department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis, US employment accounted for 68% of world-wide employment; so we benefit ourselves and the global economy through our economic strength.

The powers-that-be only see the WIIFM (what’s in it for me?) angle. For years, the so-called job creators have been sitting on over a trillion dollars in assets. Last summer, one article cited that figure at $5 trillion (The Atlantic). Instead of stimulating the economy through hiring (and the resulting spending noted above), they “save it for a rainy day”. And, whereas corporations used to contribute about one-third of the tax revenues that funded government functions, they now only contribute less than 10% (The Contributor). The corporate entity is also entitled to shelters the average person is not: corporations offshore their money so that it isn’t subject to taxation. Sixty corporations were found to have hidden $166 billion in assets in just this manner (Daily Kos).

It doesn’t end with corporate taxes. Congress has quashed pay equity bills twice in the last year (Think Progress). Based on a survey of 327 of the S&P 500 and Bureau of Labor Statistics data, CEOs are making 354 times what the average worker earns (Executive PayWatch). One family – the heirs of WalMart’s Sam Walton – have as much wealth as the bottom 40% of the population (PolitiFact), while WalMart “associates” must accept public assistance despite full time employment (PolitiFact). This is because the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour is too meager to be a living wage (living wage calculator). President Obama proposed a minimum wage increase to $9; several states have adopted this standard, but no headway has been made at the federal level. We argue that this rate is still insufficient, but it would be an improvement.

All of these things contribute to our current state of disparity between the haves and the have nots. The gulf between the two is widening and threatens whatever opportunities exist for economic recovery. So, while the House of Representatives meets only 126 days in 2013 (Washington Post) and engages in such productive activities as naming post offices and dedicating weeks to celebrating vegetables made inedible by multinationals with lobbyists, remember: it is the inequality. Right up until November 4, 2014.

© 2013 Poligags


You’ve heard the saying: the more things change, the more they stay the same. To kick off this blog, we offer some classic lines from the pundit of his day, Will Rogers:

  • The 1928 Republican Convention opened with a prayer. If the Lord can see His way clear to bless the Republican Party the way it’s been carrying on, then the rest of us ought to get it without even asking.
  • Everything is changing. People are taking their comedians seriously and the politicians as a joke.
  • You can’t say civilization don’t advance… in every war they kill you in a new way.
  • If we ever pass out as a great nation we ought to put on our tombstone, “America died from a delusion that she has moral leadership.”
  • There are three kinds of men. The one that learns by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves.
  • Anything important is never left to the vote of the people. We only get to vote on some man; we never get to vote on what he is to do.
  • I have a scheme for stopping war. It’s this – no nation is allowed to enter a war till they have paid for the last one.
  • There ought to be one day – just one – when there is open season on senators.  (Note: If Rogers were alive today, there is no doubt he would have added representatives.)
  • Live in such a way that you would not be ashamed to sell your parrot to the town gossip.
  • Our country has got so that each one of us has to live by a “racket” of some kind, and none of us must be too critical of the other fellow’s racket.

© 2013 Poligags