02.18.14

James Moore, The Texas Tribune, & Media Funding

Posted in Around The State, Media at 11:42 am by wcnews

Yesterday James Moore, Of Bush’s Brain fame, posted a four part exposé on his blog, Don’t Grow Texas, about how the Texas Tribune does business.  It’s called The Trouble with the Trib, again it’s in four parts and will take a little while to read, but it’s worth every minute.

It’s an unfortunate story.  Many of us had hopes that the Trib would succeed where others had failed. It starts out going through how the Trib began, and wanted to be donor funded, but quickly found that was unsustainable. From there the Trib turned to big donors and, unfortunately, corporations. And that’s where the story gets ugly.

The Texas Tribune launched in 2009 and was immediately hailed as the future of non-profit journalism. Supporters of the project failed to note that non-profits such as Consumer Reports and the Center for Investigative Journalism had been delivering great reporting for years, and ProPublica had established itself with hefty work on the potential problems of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in the exploration for natural gas.

The Trib drew attention, though, with more than $1 million pledged by the Austin venture capitalist John Thornton, and a combined $750,000 in grants from the Houston Endowment and the Knight Foundation. The fact that Thornton invested some of his personal wealth might have prompted the giddiness. His financial success has been the product of exacting due diligence before investing in technology startups, and waving his golden hand over the Texas Tribune concept gave it a deep, sturdy heartbeat at launch. Plus, he committed to keep it alive for several years out of his pocket, if necessary.

Thornton had recruited Evan Smith to be CEO and executive editor and promoted him as a “rock star” of journalism. Smith, who had been the editor of the glossy and successful Texas Monthly for 18 years, did not have experience in non-profit work. Nonetheless, he knew the importance of appearances of conflict of interest in journalism (before he started ignoring them) and understood innately that large corporate donations were anathema to unbridled reporting, and just plain looked bad. Smith told Washington Post media columnist Howard Kurtz “corporate backers were limited to $2,500 to avoid the appearance of undue influence.”

The Tribune’s expenses, though, had quickly exceeded its revenues by $610,000 through 2010 and the monetary foundation provided by Thornton was in danger of eroding into oblivion if a major change did not occur. The cap on corporations and fretting about the appearance of undue influence were suddenly no longer all that important as a standard. Smith conjured up a new concept called the Texas Tribune Festival, an annual policy weekend designed to put his operations back into the black. TribFest is underwritten by policy junkies and sponsors with vital interests in the topics of the program, which, bluntly, means corporations and lobbyists.

Money quickly stopped being a problem when Smith opened his loving arms to unrestrained corporate givers. The first festival was launched with $132,500 from the American Natural Gas Alliance (ANGA), an association of the biggest natural gas companies. ANGA’s membership includes Devon Energy, a company conducting the most hydraulic fracturing in North Texas. ANGA had served often as a news source for Tribune stories and it seemed appropriate that they opened the first policy weekend with a party for reporters covering the event. Smith and the Tribune disclosed ANGA as a sponsor of TribFest but never revealed what had been given. The figure only became public through ANGA’s filings with the Internal Revenue Service.

ANGA’s cozying up to the Tribune might have simply been a pragmatic business decision for CEO Smith but for writer and activist Sharon Wilson the relationship delivered a reality check whack to the head. Wilson is a hydraulic fracturing opponent who has been blogging a long time and quite reputably under the name Texas Sharon. TribFest planners invited her to participate in a 2011 discussion on fracking but she made the observation that the panel was clearly biased toward the industry, and she was summarily uninvited.

“Maybe there is an explanation of the Tribune’s behavior that isn’t explained by financial influence of the natural gas industry,” she wrote on her blog in 2011. “But if there is, it is past time for them to make their case. And from where I sit, it better be a doozy.” The title of her article containing the criticism was, “The Texas Tribune Fracks the First Amendment.” She has concluded there is no doubt the Texas Tribune is “corrupt.”

ANGA, however, must have seen some kind of return on its donation, oh hell, let’s call it what it was, investment in Texas Tribune. ANGA very soon afterward dropped $250,000 into funding a Conservative Roundtable of Texas. The money moved through the Washington offices of ANGA to the Austin offices of Chesapeake Energy as seed money for the roundtable. Does it even need to be mentioned that Chesapeake is also a major gas producer?

The problem at the Trib is the same issue that’s going on at NPR, PBS and most public and non-profit media organizations. They’re having to turn to big money and corporations for their survival.  And with that comes a cost to objectivity.  David Sirota did a similar investigation of PBS, The Wolf of Sesame Street: Revealing the secret corruption inside PBS’s news division. His recent opinion piece on the PBS investigation highlights the problem succinctly.

In a world of screaming cable television hosts and partisan media outlets, PBS is supposed to be the last refuge for honest news. This is ostensibly why taxpayers still contribute money to the public broadcasting system. That money is appropriated to try to guarantee that there remains at least one forum for unvarnished facts, even if such facts offend those with money and power.

The problem, though, is that because our government spends so little on public media as compared to many other industrialized countries, our most prominent public media outlets are becoming instruments for special interests to launder their ideological agenda through a seemingly objective brand. Starved for public resources, these outlets are increasingly trying to get their programming funded with money from corporations and wealthy political activists — and that kind of cash comes with ideological expectations.

The problem/conflict comes in when the media outlet does not disclose to the audience their financial ties to the issues and players involved.

Case in point is the Public Broadcasting Service, as evidenced by the major report we published this week at PandoDaily. In that story, we meticulously documented how PBS’s flagship affiliate, WNET of New York, solicited funding from former Enron trader John Arnold. The $3.5 million Arnold contributed was earmarked for a “Pension Peril” series now airing in PBS NewsHour broadcasts on stations throughout the country.

If that was the entire story, it might not be much of a story. However, at the same time the billionaire Arnold is funding PBS’s pension-related coverage, he is also sponsoring the nationwide legislative push to slash public employee pension benefits. Indeed, with his massive contributions to Super PACs, think tanks and local front groups, Arnold is financing a national movement to convince legislators to, in the words of his foundation, “stop promising a (retirement) benefit” to public workers.

This is likely why the Arnold-backed PBS pension series has loyally echoed the billionaire’s anti-pension themes.

[...]

It is not, though, great for those viewers. PBS’s behavior, which appears to violate its own disclosure and conflict-of-interest rules, effectively turns the network into just another outlet whose journalism is stealthily shaped by monied puppet masters.

It doesn’t have to be this way. To preserve some modicum of independent journalism, Congress could simply provide the same amount of resources for public media as other advanced democracies do. Congress could then bar PBS from accepting corporate and special interest funding.

If it doesn’t, though, then we will get what we now have: a PBS that increasingly removes the “public” from its mission and becomes the Plutocrats Broadcasting Service.

But it also shows up in the silence of other media outlets on the subject, which Moore points out so well at the end of his piece.

No one has written about the Tribune’s hypocrisies and contradictions with any detail simply because they feared sounding petty or self-serving. Texas newspapers, some of which use the Tribune’s stories, can hardly be expected to criticize an editorial service they use or to publicly whine about unfair competition. The Quorum Report and Capitol Inside could expect its lobby and legislative information sources to go quiet because they, too, must function in a culture of cooperation that is implicit in the way business is conducted by the Texas Tribune.

Politics is a cruel game. Journalism is not supposed to play it, though. Reporters are expected to cast little lights into dark corners and illuminate the way government works and who has influenced its decisions. The Texas Tribune rarely lives up to that mandate and, instead, takes big cash from the people and institutions it is supposed to hold accountable. Money is coming in the door as fast as integrity and credibility are running out.

In less than five years, the Texas Tribune has gone from being an exciting startup to a hypocritical, money-grubbing promotional operation wearing a coat of many colors that it wants desperately to convince everyone is actual journalism. But it is not. There is no reason to any longer take the Tribune seriously as a news organization. They simply cannot be trusted.

The big brains of the Texas Tribune were supposed to save journalism. Instead, they are busily speeding up its extinction.

And they ought to be ashamed.

There is no sustainable business model for doing the kind of journalism and reporting that the public needs in a democracy. Corporations and the wealthy will not buy advertising on media outlets that doggedly expose their malfeasance and corruption. The publicly funded model we once had did a pretty good job of supporting the kind of journalism and reporting we need. But when the same money that’s buying public and non-profit media, is also buying our politicians, it’s unlikely they’d be willing to ramp up funding for public media. One that would be independent enough to expose their political corruption.

One other interesting note is how often the right wing blogs in this state accuse the Trib of being a left wing media outlet.  It just goes to show how far to the right our politics has shifted.  Where a corporate funded media outlet is thought to be left wing.  As PDiddie points out.

With the news over the weekend that Breitbart is to begin posting a Texas version of its very own truthiness for conservatives, this remains a bad time to be a real, actual journalist in the Lone Star.

[...]

If the TexTrib wants to be a mouthpiece for the corporations, much as what has become of NPR, then so be it.  Let’s not kid ourselves about it, however.  And if the looniest of conservatives think the Tribune is “leftist media”, you better know that the remaining load is to be dumped on top of your head in short order.

At this point in time it’s got to suck to be a journalist.  They need to be able to earn a living, but it’s hard for them to do that and keep  their integrity in today’s media landscape.  Nobody wants to be a corporate shill when they start out.  But this is where we are. The only things that have value in our country today are things that make money. If it doesn’t make money it might as well not exist.

Moore’s follow up today on the Trib’s non-reaction, No Country for Old Reporters.

Further Reading:

Bill Moyers, “Welcome to the Plutocracy!”
Money buys results & erodes trust.

03.18.13

10 years ago…we’ve learned nothing

Posted in Around The Nation, Commentary, Media at 3:35 pm by wcnews

There’s really nothing that can be written to make sense of the horrible decision to invade Iraq ten years ago. And reading again, just some of what happened, makes my stomach sick all over again. As does this from Jim Moore, Bang the Drum Loudly: The Failed Journalism That Sent America to War in Iraq.

The White House had mixed up journalists’ ambitions with misleading intelligence and brewed up a myth that yielded a powerful national belief in its illusion. A political Sasquatch, the aluminum tubes story was the first to begin banging the drums of conflict. The truth, finally, was tortured until it was no longer recognizable.

And the sons and daughters of America were sent marching off to war wearing the boots of a well-told lie.

Paul Krugman in his column today points out that no much has changed with journalism in the US since then, Marches of Folly.

Ten years ago, America invaded Iraq; somehow, our political class decided that we should respond to a terrorist attack by making war on a regime that, however vile, had nothing to do with that attack.

Some voices warned that we were making a terrible mistake — that the case for war was weak and possibly fraudulent, and that far from yielding the promised easy victory, the venture was all too likely to end in costly grief. And those warnings were, of course, right.

There were, it turned out, no weapons of mass destruction; it was obvious in retrospect that the Bush administration deliberately misled the nation into war. And the war — having cost thousands of American lives and scores of thousands of Iraqi lives, having imposed financial costs vastly higher than the war’s boosters predicted — left America weaker, not stronger, and ended up creating an Iraqi regime that is closer to Tehran than it is to Washington.

So did our political elite and our news media learn from this experience? It sure doesn’t look like it.

The really striking thing, during the run-up to the war, was the illusion of consensus. To this day, pundits who got it wrong excuse themselves on the grounds that “everyone” thought that there was a solid case for war. Of course, they acknowledge, there were war opponents — but they were out of the mainstream.

The trouble with this argument is that it was and is circular: support for the war became part of the definition of what it meant to hold a mainstream opinion. Anyone who dissented, no matter how qualified, was ipso facto labeled as unworthy of consideration. This was true in political circles; it was equally true of much of the press, which effectively took sides and joined the war party.

[...]

All in all, it was an object lesson in the dangers of groupthink, a demonstration of how important it is to listen to skeptical voices and separate reporting from advocacy. But as I said, it’s a lesson that doesn’t seem to have been learned. Consider, as evidence, the deficit obsession that has dominated our political scene for the past three years.

Now, I don’t want to push the analogy too far. Bad economic policy isn’t the moral equivalent of a war fought on false pretenses, and while the predictions of deficit scolds have been wrong time and again, there hasn’t been any development either as decisive or as shocking as the complete failure to find weapons of mass destruction. Best of all, these days dissenters don’t operate in the atmosphere of menace, the sense that raising doubts could have devastating personal and career consequences, that was so pervasive in 2002 and 2003. (Remember the hate campaign against the Dixie Chicks?)

But now as then we have the illusion of consensus, an illusion based on a process in which anyone questioning the preferred narrative is immediately marginalized, no matter how strong his or her credentials. And now as then the press often seems to have taken sides. It has been especially striking how often questionable assertions are reported as fact. How many times, for example, have you seen news articles simply asserting that the United States has a “debt crisis,” even though many economists would argue that it faces no such thing?

Dean Baker has much more to say about the economic lies we are being told over and over today, that are causing us harm, Three card Monte with Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid..

This is the great Three Card Monte trick. What will matter to the living standards of our children and grandchildren is the upward redistribution that we have seen over the last three decades. If this upward redistribution continues, then most workers will see little benefit from economic growth in the future. In that situation, their living standards may not be much better than those that workers are seeing today and possibly even worse, because a small group at the top will get most of the benefits of growth.

However this is not an issue of intergenerational distribution, it is a question of intra-generational distribution. Yet many economists are running around saying the opposite, arguing that we have to cut Social Security, Medicare and other programmes that primarily benefit the elderly in order to help our children.

This speaks to the incredible corruption of the economics profession. The vast majority of economists are supporting, or at least acquiescing, in plans to cut Social Security and Medicare even though they know that the upward redistribution of income is the real threat to future living standards.

When my children make a mistake I always tell them, “everyone makes mistakes, the key is to learn from it and never make the same mistake again”. I wish my country would heed that advice.

01.18.13

Debunking the deficit “crisis”

Posted in Around The Nation, Media, Poverty, The Budget at 2:55 pm by wcnews

In his column today Paul Krugman does his usual excellent job of showing whey the deficit is such a non issue, The Dwindling Deficit.

It’s hard to turn on your TV or read an editorial page these days without encountering someone declaring, with an air of great seriousness, that excessive spending and the resulting budget deficit is our biggest problem. Such declarations are rarely accompanied by any argument about why we should believe this; it’s supposed to be part of what everyone knows.

This is, however, a case in which what everyone knows just ain’t so. The budget deficit isn’t our biggest problem, by a long shot. Furthermore, it’s a problem that is already, to a large degree, solved. The medium-term budget outlook isn’t great, but it’s not terrible either — and the long-term outlook gets much more attention than it should.

It’s true that right now we have a large federal budget deficit. But that deficit is mainly the result of a depressed economy — and you’re actually supposed to run deficits in a depressed economy to help support overall demand. The deficit will come down as the economy recovers: Revenue will rise while some categories of spending, such as unemployment benefits, will fall. Indeed, that’s already happening. (And similar things are happening at the state and local levels — for example, California appears to be back in budget surplus.)

Still, will economic recovery be enough to stabilize the fiscal outlook? The answer is, pretty much.

[...]

The deficit scolds dominating policy debate will, of course, fiercely resist any attempt to downgrade their favorite issue. They love living in an atmosphere of fiscal crisis: It lets them stroke their chins and sound serious, and it also provides an excuse for slashing social programs, which often seems to be their real objective.

But neither the current deficit nor projected future spending deserve to be anywhere near the top of our political agenda. It’s time to focus on other stuff — like the still-depressed state of the economy and the still-terrible problem of long-term unemployment.

There’s is a reason why such a non issue dominates the discussion of our economic politics. And this article from Remapping the Debate shows why, Journalists in the service of Pete Peterson.

anuary 16, 2013 — Each spring since 2010, some of Washington’s A-list politicians assemble in the capital to submit to questions from some of the media’s A-list journalists on the future of the federal fiscal policy.

These interviews, though, aren’t conducted on the steps of Congress, in the Washington bureaus of the nation’s newspapers, or in the television studios of major networks, but rather at private “Fiscal Summits” convened by Peter G. Peterson, the billionaire former commerce secretary and co-founder of the Blackstone private equity group.

Peterson, however, is hardly a disinterested and dispassionate observer of such discussions. In fact, he is now beginning his fourth decade of arguing that there is no alternative to enacting “entitlement reform” (read: cut Social Security and Medicare) and “tax reform” (read: raise regressive taxes and lower progressive ones) in the name of curbing the country’s “unsustainable” debt and deficits.

An essential and successful element of the Peterson strategy is to create an environment where it is widely if not universally believed that there is no alternative to his vision. In this view, it’s “not realistic” to believe the country can afford the same programs it once did. Those who are prepared to be “adults” will look at these “hard truths” without flinching and recognize that it is time to take citizens-have-to-do-with-less medicine.

The conceit is that those with “courage” will see past narrow, partisan concerns and embrace an ideal: a bipartisan consensus that has the strength to demand “shared sacrifice” from a childish and selfish populace.

A review of the proceedings of the Fiscal Summits of the last three years makes agonizingly clear that most of the journalists who conducted interviews or moderated panel discussions both reflected and amplified the Peterson worldview — entirely unselfconsciously, it would seem.

So, for example, Lesley Stahl, the CBS “60 Minutes” reporter, was fully a part of the Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson deficit-cutting team during her interview with both men: “You are going to have to raise taxes and cut things, big things, put restrictions on Social Security. Everybody knows that.”

Virtually none of the reporters thought to ask about or suggest an alternative path, such as preserving Social Security benefits and bolstering the system’s reserve by raising the cap of wages subject to Social Security taxes (currently annual wages above approximately $110,000 are not subject to any Social Security tax).

And most questioning proceeded either on the false assumption that deficits were derived from excessive spending on entitlements or as though they had mysteriously, but inevitably, come to pass.

Click the link above where specific journalist’s service to Peterson are pointed out. But to Krugman’s point about wondering why everyone believes the deficit is such a problem, is because almost everyone is telling theme it is a problem.

And as David Cay Johnston points we’re not even talking about attacking the things that are creating so much debt, Deficits, Schmeficits.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., put the situation into perspective on the first Sunday of the year. On ABC’s This Week, he told us that any thought of further tax increases is over. Put another way, tax reform is dead, at least in the 113th Congress. That means we are in an Alice-in-Wonderland debate about taxes and federal debt — reality be damned.

President Obama and congressional Republicans have announced that the first stop in this fiscal twilight zone will be an assault on Social Security.

Policymakers seem determined to ignore the fact that Social Security does not contribute to the deficit or federal debt. The vast majority of the public loves Social Security, according to polls. So if they can’t kill it, Social Security’s enemies plan to wound it, and Obama is happy to oblige them in his quest to go down in history as a post-partisan peacemaker.

Two areas that do increase the debt will get less attention.

One is national security spending, now larger than all the revenue from individual income taxes. Because of a World War II-era doctrine that America must be prepared to fight two full-scale wars simultaneously against traditional enemy states, we employ a vast standing army overseas and pay for 71 nuclear submarines and 10 aircraft carriers with their multiship support fleets.

Of all military spending worldwide, measured in purchasing power parity dollars, the Pentagon alone spends 44 percent. Much of that money is spent overseas, a greenback spigot that drains the domestic economy.

Republicans are not happy with the idea of cutting defense spending. They say the Pentagon needs more. So much for their rhetoric about government spending too much.

The second debt contributor is healthcare. Solving the healthcare cost problem would put the federal budget in balance. So why is this not the issue Congress puts the most time and effort into, especially since we are endlessly told that the growing federal debt is our biggest economic problem?

The answer is that Dick Cheney was right, at least as a political matter — deficits don’t matter. What we will see is an assault on Medicare. Polls show that the public does not want Medicare cut, but Congress is sure to do just that because Obama has said cuts are required. That is true, assuming you do not reform healthcare overall.

There will also be cuts to Medicaid, which serves the poor. Numerous Republican congressional leaders have said that America cannot afford to spend as much as it does on Medicaid.

How is it that Portugal, with less than half the per-capita income of America, can afford universal healthcare and America cannot?

The reason is that we spend too much on healthcare through tax expenditures like fringe benefits for health insurance premiums and through private spending. However, universal care on a public service model would reduce costs and burdens on business — especially small business.

America cannot afford to continue denying all but emergency room care to 50 million people, some of whom move from working taxpayers to disabled tax-eaters because they lack proper medical care for injuries or chronic conditions. A healthy and productive worker is a terrible thing to waste.

Reducing defense spending and single-payer health care would do wonders and getting rid of the deficit. The other is to put people back to work, and then it’s all gone.

Of course the best thing we could do for our country is end poverty.

07.20.12

The horribleness of our media

Posted in Around The Nation, Commentary, Media at 10:11 am by wcnews

Many are familiar with the acronym SCLM, which stands for “so-called liberal media“. Media Matters highlights the SCLM at work, CNN Facilitates Romney’s Deceptive Attack Ad Against Obama.

In a July 19 article headlined, “Romney drives a truck through Obama’s ‘build that’ remark,” CNN.com reported on a new ad from the Mitt Romney campaign that attacked President Obama over his recent remarks about small businesses, without pointing out that the ad dishonestly edited Obama’s comments to portray him as anti-business.

Furthermore, here’s the way CNN described the Romney ad: ” ‘These Hands’ [is] about an owner in charge of a family business who challenges Obama’s claim that his family did not build their business on their own.” Again, CNN did not inform readers that Obama made no such claim in his remarks.

In other words the ad is blatantly, and patently, false. And CNN, as with GOP media outlet Fox News, doesn’t even bring up the fact that it’s a lie.

As Think Progress points out, Romney agrees with Obama’s actual statement, Romney Agrees With Obama: Government Does ‘Help You In A Business’.

But during a campaign appearance in Ohio on Wednesday, Mitt Romney misquoted Obama, before agreeing that tax payer-funded programs help all American businesses succeed:

ROMNEY: I know that you recognize a lot of people help you in a business. Perhaps the bank, the investors. There is no question your mom and dad, your school teachers. The people who provide roads, the fire, the police. A lot of people help. But let me ask you this. Did you build your business? If you did, raise your hand. Take that Mr. President! This is what’s happening in this country. These people are entrepreneurs.

As Media Matters points out.

But you won’t hear that played on endless loops on Fox News. Instead what you’ll get is the narrative that Obama is anti-business, a concoction dreamed into existence with the help of deceptive edits of Obama’s comments. In fact, Fox News spent 42 segments and more than two hours of airtime pushing this manufactured controversy.

And now we’ve come full circle with Romney repeating the distortion with the full backing of Fox News. On Thursday, Sean Hannity even promoted the Romney campaign ad, with pollster Frank Luntz crowing, “I’ve been very critical of many of the ads, and that is one of the best ads that you have shown on this show since the beginning of the campaign.”

[...]

Now that the echo chamber is working as intended with this even more blatant distortion of Obama’s comments from the Romney campaign, CNN should be pointing out such dishonesty instead of promoting it.

The Obama campaign has really hurt Romney on his tax, secrecy, outsourcing, and foreign money problems. (Sparking the “you people” comment.)   So much so that the campaign is stooping to blatantly lying about what the president said. While this kind of stuff is expected from the GOP’s media outlet, Fox News, it’s despicable that CNN is joining in. The fourth estates job is supposed to point out these kind of lies and deception, and bring the truth to the public, not join in with the lies.

Further Reading/Viewing:
Conservatives Selectively Edit Obama’s Speech To Claim He Hates Small Businesses
Here’s Rachel Maddow, Video: Romney tests electorate’s tolerance for lying.

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

06.05.12

Misleading headline of the……well, will call it of the day

Posted in Around The State, Media, Taxes at 9:57 pm by wcnews

Texas’ business tax exceeding expectations.

Texas businesses have paid almost $4.3 billion in franchise taxes this year, a figure that exceeds expectations and provides yet another signal of the improving health of the state budget.

[...]

The 2012 numbers still pale in comparison to the 2006 estimate that it would bring in more than $7 billion a years, but it is a marked improvement over recent years. [Emphasis added]

That would be it exceeded the lowered expectations, $3 billion less then originally expected.   The GOP tax swap scheme of 2006 created an annual structural budget deficit, Understanding the budget and Texas’ structural deficit.  Which made up most of the budget shortfall from last session, that allowed the wing nuts to begin gutting public education.  The so-called liberal media is at it again.

01.27.12

Great reads

Posted in 2012 Primary, Media at 2:54 pm by wcnews

Rick Perlstein on Newt, How Wily Newt Pulled the ‘Contract with America’ Scam.

Newton Leroy Gingrich is one wily mothertrucker.[...]The title, of course, refers to the Contract With America, which 367 Republican congressional candidates signed on the Capitol steps in September of 1994. When, two months later, the GOP took over Congress for the first time since 1952, making its architect, Newt Gingtrich, the Speaker of the House, all the world proclaimed that the electorate had just delivered a historic mandate for conservatism.

[...]

Well, not really. The Contract With America was a hustle from start to finish. It never really was about conservatism at all – practically the opposite. The fact that Newt can redeploy it to promote his right-of-Attila-the-Hun harpyish shrieking for 2012 just shows how effective the hustle – and the hustler – turned out to be.

And more on this from Americablog.

More on Newt, Newt and Callista’s Affair ‘Was Common Knowledge’ on the Hill.

Oddly, Gingrich and Bisek benefitted from something akin to omerta across the Hill. “She openly carried on this affair with Newt,” the colleague says, shaking his head. “I wouldn’t say they were flamboyant about it, but they weren’t veiled about it either. I would see them having lunch in some of the Capitol cafeterias, or restaurants about town.”

A couple  on the media:
Agnew’s Resentment Machine: Six Data Points About Culture War and The Campaign Press.
Local TV Stations Rally to Oppose Media Transparency.

And one more from Jay Rosen, A Brief Theory of the Republican Party, 2012.

Post SOTU, President Obama Scores With Middle Class Message.

11.22.11

Failure was a success

Posted in Around The Nation, Had Enough Yet?, Media, Taxes, The Budget at 11:40 am by wcnews

The so-called “supercommittee” failed and I feel fine.

The biggest success of the conservative movement of the last 40 plus years has been their ability to wreck government and the people’s faith that government can help them. The framing our country’s fiscal arguments have evolved to a point where it is now taken for granted that all government spending is bad. Complicit in this, is the inability of the other side/Democrats to stand up, over the years, and vociferously defend the good that government does.

That being said it’s startling what was on the table for this committee. This is a really good take on the total farce that this committee was, Superfail! 7 Amazing Supercommittee Headlines You’ll Never See.

The Republican and Democratic co-chairs said today that “we end this process united in our belief that the nation’s fiscal crisis must be addressed.” That’s how this exercise in misplaced priorities ends: With a “bipartisan” statement about the urgency of our “fiscal crisis” – deficits – rather than our massive and much more immediate economic crisis of jobs and stagnating wages. And with that, the media onslaught begins. Now we’ll see hundreds of new headlines screaming that the Committee “failed.”

What we won’t see are headlines explaining what really happened: That this failure was inevitable; that it reflects the wishes of most people, Republicans as well as Democrats; that Occupy Wall Street played a large part in the outcome; that Republicans never intended to compromise and Democrats shot themselves in the foot; that this “failure” will be good for most businesses – and for the rest of us too; or that a misguided and right-leaning consensus turned leaders of both parties into cheerleaders for ill-timed budget cuts even as the economy continued to burn down all around them.

Here are seven more accurate – and more eye-catching – headlines you won’t see in your major media outlets.

Here are the 7 headlines (click the link above to read full explanations of each):

  • OCCUPY MOVEMENT WINS MAJOR VICTORY
    Unpopular ‘Supercommittee’ Deal Stymied by Popular Opinion
  • GOP VOTERS HOLD “EXTREME” VIEW OF CUTS – EXTREMELY “LIBERAL,” THAT IS
    “Left” Anti-Supercommittee Views Supported by Almost 3 Out of 4 Republicans
  • GOP ‘COMPROMISE’ HOAX SPREAD BY PRESS, PUNDITS
    Supposed “compromise” was actually more extreme than ever
  • DEMS DEMAND TO GO ON RECORD AS EAGER TO CUT SOCIAL SECURITY, MEDICARE
    Party Leaders Deny Defending Popular Programs, Insist They Were Prepared to Gut Them
  • WASHINGTON MOURNS MISSED CHANCE TO ENSURE A ‘LOST DECADE’
    Leaders lament lost opportunity to inflict ten years of economic misery
  • BUSINESS LEADERS CELEBRATE SUPERCOMMITTEE FAILURE
    They’re grateful that cuts won’t be enacted and make things worse, say executives.
  • IN SURPRISE DEVELOPMENT, TERRIBLE IDEA DIDN’T WORK OUT
    Pundits, Washington leaders express shock and dismay at failure of unpopular committee to agree on widely-hated cuts

What that shows is that the only thing this committee was super about was being superbly out of touch with reality.  Overwhelmingly what the American people want are taxes raised on the wealthy, that money used to create jobs in our country, and help our economy recover. Doing nothing was the best result for this committee, and would be the best thing for our country going forward, The do-nothing plan: now worth $7.1 trillion.

In the past, I’ve talked about the “do-nothing plan” for deficit reduction: Congress heads home to spend more time with their campaign contributors, and the Bush tax cuts automatically expire, the 1997 Balanced Budget Act’s scheduled Medicare cuts kick in, the Affordable Care Act is implemented, and the budget moves roughly into balance. It’s not an ideal way to balance the budget, but it helps clarify that the deficit is the result of votes Congress expects to cast over the next few years. If, instead of casting those votes, they do nothing, or pay for the things they choose to do, the deficit mostly disappears.

Here’s a NYT editorial today that shows enough Democrats we’re willing to give away the farm that all that was needed was for one Republican to sign-on and a deal could have been done.

The only reason the committee failed was because Republicans refused to raise taxes on the rich, and, in fact, wanted to cut them even below their current bargain-basement level.
[...]
But, had a single Republican on the panel endorsed even a modest increase in upper-income tax rates, Republicans could have won trillions in cuts from entitlements and discretionary spending.

Watch Bernie Sanders explain why no deal was the best thing, Wolff Blitzer just doesn’t understand.

SANDERS: I want to make sure that in the midst of recession, when tens of millions of people are desperately hanging on, that you don’t cut those people at the knees so that they become even more desperate. The issue now, Wolf, let’s be clear, the richest people in this country are doing phenomenally well, large corporation, record- breaking profits. You do not balance the budget in a civilized democratic society on the backs of the most vulnerable. You ask those people who are doing well whose effective tax rates are lower than in that case to start paying their fair share of taxes.[...]

As digby says, it’s really hard for Blitzer to grasp the idea that, since Social Security really doesn’t have anything to do with the deficit, there’s no reason to slash it in deficit reduction. Then there’s his utter incredulity over Sanders’ intractability on Social Security.

Government must help the American people, especially in times like this. But the Democrats no longer want to say that and fight for the poor, working, and middle class Americans.
Further Reading:
Woman Gets Jail For Food-Stamp Fraud; Wall Street Fraudsters Get Bailouts.
Debunking the conservative argument about the rich and taxes, in three easy charts.
No, `both sides’ aren’t equally to blame for supercommittee failure.
And a video:

09.26.11

Unfair and unbalanced

Posted in Around The State, Media at 1:25 pm by wcnews

Sharon Wilson who blogs at Bluedaze on her dis-invite from the Texas Tribuue’s Festival. The Texas Tribune inadvertently demonstrates the importance of the 1st amendment.

This past weekend,  The Texas Tribune, the nonprofit news site that enjoys a higher profile in the journalism world (than it would otherwise) thanks to its partnership with The New York Times, held a lecture-and-networking event on the University of Texas campus in Austin.

I was invited to appear on a panel after the showing of the documentary Haynesville: A Nation’s Hunt for an Energy Future.

[...]

I saw I was the token enviro on the panel, but I’ve been a turd in the punchbowl before. I did want to know how the panel would be structured, and if I would have an opportunity to correct their misinformation.

I sent back the following email:

I am quite surprised that your panel is so unbalanced. I would like to get more information on how this panel will work. I don’t mind being the token environmental person as long as I have an opportunity to give my vast experiences living in the gas patch and working with people who are suffering from natural gas drilling that is too close to their homes.

The next thing I know: I received a phone call from the festival coordinator notifying me that I was uninvited to participate. Maybe they would find a more suitable panel for me sometime. Ouch! But, on second thought, I reclaimed my weekend and shrugged it off to the influence from T. Boone Pickens, one of the festival’s financial backers.

[...]

Maybe there is an explanation of the Tribune’s behavior that isn’t explained by financial influence of the natural gas industry. But if there is, it is past time for them to make their case. And from where I sit, it better be a doozy

This is the first sentence at the Texas Tribune’s the About Us page.

The Texas Tribune is a nonpartisan, nonprofit media organization that promotes civic engagement and discourse on public policy, politics, government, and other matters of statewide concern.

When this venture started many thought it would be an independent voice that was lacking in Texas media. Sadly, though it’s produced some good things, it’s turned out more like the Texas version of the national insider/villager web site Politico.

09.02.11

There’s nothing bold about being greedy

Posted in Around The State, Bad Government Republicans, Media, Right Wing Lies, Taxes, The Budget at 12:14 pm by wcnews

This post from Paul Burka show what’s wrong with the political media in Texas, Dan Patrick calls for 2-cent sales tax increase for education. Wealthy right-wing tea party state Sen. Dan Patrick advocates for raising the sales tax to pay for educatrion. The sales tax is an extremely regressive tax, (the less one make the more one pays), and Burka calls this “.. a bold statement.” There’s nothing bold about a rich man advocating for higher taxes on those at the bottom. As a matter of fact that’s what got us into our current mess in the first place.

What Burka leaves out is the fact that the reason we need to make up money for schools is because of the 2006 GOP tax swap scheme which created the shortfall to begin with, How the Texas Governor Created His State’s Budget Crisis.

He Was Warned
“As of this moment, this legislation is a staggering $23 billion short of the funds needed to pay for the promised property tax cuts over the next five years. … These are conservative estimates.”

—Texas Comptroller Carole Strayhorn, warning Gov. Rick Perry about his 2006 tax reform proposal

This is how wing-nuts work and how the traditional media enables them, by omitting the context. In 2006 the a GOP plan was passed that cut the fairest tax Texas has, the property tax. Our politicians told us the money would be made up by a new “margins tax”, and it wasn’t. It has instead created a structural shortfall, that has lead to budget shortfalls each biennium.

But now Patrick is being called “bold” for taking the final step in shifting the tax burden from the wealthy to poor, working, and middle class Texans. There’s nothing bold about it, it’s greed, plain and simple.

Further Reading:
Who Pays Texas Taxes.
The New Resentment of the Poor.

06.08.11

Special session GOP/media spin is wrong

Posted in 82nd Legislature, Around The State, Education, Had Enough Yet?, Media, Public Schools, Right Wing Lies, Special Session, Teachers, The Lege at 11:16 am by wcnews

Are you buying the spin on the special session?  It goes something like this, none of this would be happening if state Sen. Wendy Davis (D-Fort Worth) wouldn’t have filibustered at the end of the regular session.  But that’s absolutely false.  The only thing that Davis’ filibuster changed was the timing of when the special session was called.  It’s likely without Davis’ filibuster the special session wouldn’t have started until July.

From a recent Texas Observer article this seems to be the media spin and what is causing much of the angst.

It’s been a week since the Fort Worth Democrat filibustered the controversial school finance compromise in the last week of the regular legislative session and forced a special session to deal with the budget cuts to education. In that week, the Senate has moved at lightening speed, passing not only the school finance plan that Davis and other Democrats found reprehensible, but also Senate Bill 8, which allows school districts to furlough teachers and cut their pay, as well as making it easier to fire them. These were all measures teachers’ groups successfully killed during the regular session.

Senate Republicans passed SB 8 Monday and had already approved the $4 billion cut to school districts on Friday. They also stuck with the unwieldy school-finance compromise forged during the regular session. The school-finance plan distributes the unprecedented $4 billion in cuts across an already vastly unequal system. In the first year of the biennium, it cuts $2 billion by slicing approximately 6 percent from all districts, poor as well as rich. In the second year, those districts getting more money per kid must bear $1.5 billion in cuts, while the poorest districts take a total of $500 million in cuts. Critics say the plan does little to rectify the unequal funding school districts receive from the state and cuts from poor school districts that are already limping along.

In other words, the Senate hasn’t changed its approach to school finance, but it has revived many of the controversial bills that advocates and Democrats successfully killed in the regular session. Now the fate of the education cuts, the school finance plan and SB 8 all rest in the House—which, with a Republican supermajority, has been more in lockstep than the Senate.

But the reality is no one really knows if those controversial issues would not have passed in the regular session. While the bills were dead, the issues were still likely to be added to SB 1811 if Davis had not filibustered. As far as the rest of the things that have been added to the call – TWIA, so-called “sanctuary cities”, Congressional redistricting, etc…all would have been added to any special session call.

What we can look back at recent history as a guide to what is likely to happen in a special session.  When given an opportunity to use their advantage to payback those who keep them in office the Texas GOP takes it every single time.  In the regular session both the Senate and House took unprecedented steps, changing long-standing rules, that just a few sessions ago would have made Tom Craddick blush.  Therefore we can surmise that any special session called this summer would be very similar, if no identical, to this one.

The reason for the blame-Davis mantra is an attempt by the GOP to get the media to absolve them of all the bad bills that are about to pass.  If we all would have just stopped fighting, let the GOP alone, and gave them a pass at the end of the regular session they would have taken pity on public education, teachers, undocumented workers, etc.., and that is not the case.

Anyone who thinks the Texas GOP would not use their advantage to push an extreme right wing agenda , no matter when the special session occurred, is fooling themselves.  The question is would we have been better off if they waited a month before doing this?  The answer is no.  At this point the what’s most sad about this is that there is not a unified, consistent, and constant push back on this from those opposed to this – Texans, Democrats, teachers, parents, and those concerned about treating all people with dignity and respect they deserve.

Don’t buy the spin!  This was going to happen no matter what Wendy Davis did.

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