Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Death of REAL Journalism

(Editor's Note: This was sent to me by a close friend of mine named Frank Johnson who lives on the Gold Coast of Australia. Frank is a retired physician who is still quite active in a number of issues and causes. The fact this was published and came to me from that far away is very telling in itself. But the content is a direct hit on the hypocrisy that passes for newspaper journalism in America today — LFC)

About The Author: Orson Scott Card is a Democrat and a newspaper columnist, and in this opinion piece he takes on both while lamenting the current state of journalism. Born in Richland, Washington, Card grew up in California, Arizona, and Utah. He lived in Brazil for two years as missionary for the Church. He received degrees from Brigham Young University (1975) and the University of Utah (1981). He currently lives in Greensboro, North Carolina. He and his wife, Kristine, are the parents of five children: Geoffrey, Emily, Charles, Zina Margaret, and Erin Louisa (named for Chaucer, Bronte and Dickinson, Dickens, Mitchell, and Alcott, respectively).

An open letter to the local daily paper — almost every local daily paper in America:

From Orson Scott Card

I remember reading All the President's Men and thinking: That's journalism. You do what it takes to get the truth and you lay it before the public, because the public has a right to know.

This housing crisis didn't come out of nowhere. It was not a vague emanation of the evil Bush administration.

It was a direct result of the political decision, back in the late 1990s, to loosen the rules of lending so that home loans would be more accessible to poor people. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were authorized to approve risky loans.

What is a risky loan? It's a loan that the recipient is likely not to be able to repay.

The goal of this rule change was to help the poor — which especially would help members of minority groups. But how does it help these people to give them a loan that they can't repay? They get into a house, yes, but when they can't make the payments, they lose the house — along with their credit rating.

They end up worse off than before.

This was completely foreseeable and in fact many people did foresee it. One political party, in Congress and in the executive branch, tried repeatedly to tighten up the rules. The other party blocked every such attempt and tried to loosen them.

Furthermore, Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae were making political contributions to the very members of Congress who were allowing them to make irresponsible loans. (Though why quasi-federal agencies were allowed to do so baffles me. It's as if the Pentagon were allowed to contribute to the political campaigns of Congressmen who support increasing their budget.)

Isn't there a story here? Doesn't journalism require that you who produce our daily paper tell the truth about who brought us to a position where the only way to keep confidence in our economy was a $700 billion bailout? Aren't you supposed to follow the money and see which politicians were benefiting personally from the deregulation of mortgage lending?

I have no doubt that if these facts had pointed to the Republican Party or to John McCain as the guilty parties, you would be treating it as a vast scandal. "Housing-gate," no doubt. Or "Fannie-gate."

Instead, it was Senator Christopher Dodd and Congressman Barney Frank, both Democrats, who denied that there were any problems, who refused Bush administration requests to set up a regulatory agency to watch over Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and who were still pushing for these agencies to go even further in promoting sub-prime mortgage loans almost up to the minute they failed.

As Thomas Sowell points out in a essay entitled "Do Facts Matter?", "Alan Greenspan warned them four years ago. So did the Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers to the President. So did Bush's Secretary of the Treasury."

These are facts. This financial crisis was completely preventable. The party that blocked any attempt to prevent it was ... the Democratic Party. The party that tried to prevent it was ... the Republican Party.

Yet when Nancy Pelosi accused the Bush administration and Republican deregulation of causing the crisis, you in the press did not hold her to account for her lie. Instead, you criticized Republicans who took offense at this lie and refused to vote for the bailout!

What? It's not the liar, but the victims of the lie who are to blame?

Now let's follow the money ... right to the presidential candidate who is the number-two recipient of campaign contributions from Fannie Mae.

And after Franklin Raines, the CEO of Fannie Mae who made $90 million while running it into the ground, was fired for his incompetence, one presidential candidate's campaign actually consulted him for advice on housing.

If that presidential candidate had been John McCain, you would have called it a major scandal and we would be getting stories in your paper every day about how incompetent and corrupt he was.

But instead, that candidate was Barack Obama, and so you have buried this story, and when the McCain campaign dared to call Raines an "adviser" to the Obama campaign — because that campaign had sought his advice — you actually let Obama's people get away with accusing McCain of lying, merely because Raines wasn't listed as an official adviser to the Obama campaign.

You would never tolerate such weasely nit-picking from a Republican.

If you who produce our local daily paper actually had any principles, you would be pounding this story, because the prosperity of all Americans was put at risk by the foolish, short-sighted, politically selfish, and possibly corrupt actions of leading Democrats, including Obama.

If you who produce our local daily paper had any personal honor, you would find it unbearable to let the American people believe that somehow Republicans were to blame for this crisis.

There are precedents. Even though President Bush and his administration never said that Iraq sponsored or was linked to 9/11, you could not stand the fact that Americans had that misapprehension — so you pounded us with the fact that there was no such link. (Along the way, you created the false impression that Bush had lied to them and said that there was a connection.)

If you had any principles, then surely right now, when the American people are set to blame President Bush and John McCain for a crisis they tried to prevent, and are actually shifting to approve of Barack Obama because of a crisis he helped cause, you would be laboring at least as hard to correct that false impression.

Your job, as journalists, is to tell the truth. That's what you claim you do, when you accept people's money to buy or subscribe to your paper.

But right now, you are consenting to or actively promoting a big fat lie — that the housing crisis should somehow be blamed on Bush, McCain, and the Republicans. You have trained the American people to blame everything bad — even bad weather — on Bush, and they are responding as you have taught them to.

If you had any personal honor, each reporter and editor would be insisting on telling the truth — even if it hurts the election chances of your favorite candidate.

Because that's what honorable people do. Honest people tell the truth even when they don't like the probable consequences. That's what honesty means . That's how trust is earned.

Barack Obama is just another politician, and not a very wise one. He has revealed his ignorance and naivete time after time — and you have swept it under the rug, treated it as nothing.

Meanwhile, you have participated in the borking of Sarah Palin, reporting savage attacks on her for the pregnancy of her unmarried daughter — while you ignored the story of John Edwards's own adultery for many months.

So I ask you now: Do you have any standards at all? Do you even know what honesty means?

Is getting people to vote for Barack Obama so important that you will throw away everything that journalism is supposed to stand for?

You might want to remember the way the National Organization of Women threw away their integrity by supporting Bill Clinton despite his well-known pattern of sexual exploitation of powerless women. Who listens to NOW anymore? We know they stand for nothing; they have no principles.

That's where you are right now.

It's not too late. You know that if the situation were reversed, and the truth would damage McCain and help Obama, you would be moving heaven and earth to get the true story out there.

If you want to redeem your honor, you will swallow hard and make a list of all the stories you would print if it were McCain who had been getting money from Fannie Mae, McCain whose campaign had consulted with its discredited former CEO, McCain who had voted against tightening its lending practices.

Then you will print them, even though every one of those true stories will point the finger of blame at the reckless Democratic Party, which put our nation's prosperity at risk so they could feel good about helping the poor, and lay a fair share of the blame at Obama's door.

You will also tell the truth about John McCain: that he tried, as a Senator, to do what it took to prevent this crisis. You will tell the truth about President Bush: that his administration tried more than once to get Congress to regulate lending in a responsible way.

This was a Congress-caused crisis, beginning during the Clinton administration, with Democrats leading the way into the crisis and blocking every effort to get out of it in a timely fashion.

If you at our local daily newspaper continue to let Americans believe — and vote as if — President Bush and the Republicans caused the crisis, then you are joining in that lie.

If you do not tell the truth about the Democrats — including Barack Obama — and do so with the same energy you would use if the miscreants were Republicans — then you are not journalists by any standard.

You're just the public relations machine of the Democratic Party, and it's time you were all fired and real journalists brought in, so that we can actually have a news paper in our city.

This article first appeared in The Rhinoceros Times of Greensboro, North Carolina.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Thoughts on the Election...

The one thing that has struck me like a 2x4 to the side of the head about this election has been the decided mean spiritedness, as well as the blatantly naked partisanship shown by the news media. The notion the news media is anything even close to neutral, and reports in a fair and unbiased manner so voters can make informed choices based on facts, and not political prejudices, is the biggest lie ever perpetrated on American voters.

To say John McCain — and especially Sarah Palin — received anything even close to neutral coverage from the TV networks is absolutely laughable. The national media clearly supported Barrak Obama and endured John McCain. Since the media couldn’t make any mud stick to Palin, it criticized her for absurd things — her wardrobe, and for getting a makeover. Judging from past photos and news footage, it’s obvious Hillary Clinton has had some serious cosmetic surgery. Did we hear anything from the media about that? Of course not. That wasn’t “relevant.” But that kind of thing sure was when it came to Palin.

Frankly, I admire Palin for enduring all the vicious personal attacks with a patience and graciousness I’m not sure Hillary would have been able to pull off.

Another example: Joe Biden predicts within six months one of America’s adversaries is going to “test the mettle” of Obama. But when Sen. Joe Lieberman said essentially the same thing in July, he was vilified by both Obama supporters and the media.

What I found most appalling was the lack of media coverage of Biden’s statement. I believe that’s because it came so close to election day, it had the potential to scare presumed Obama supporters into voting for McCain. Had Sarah Palin made that statement, it would have been front page news. Yet Biden gets a free pass. Go figure.

And then there was that whole Saturday Night Live parody of Palin that ran ad nauseum on the news shows and late night talk shows. Perhaps the Republicans should have demanded equal time.

You just have to wonder about the outcome had the coverage been absolutely unbiased and facts reported unfiltered by personal opinion.

Locally, there wasn’t even the pretense of neutrality. In fact, someone on one of the Kitsap Sun’s blogs suggested the paper rename itself the Kitsap Democrat in order to reflect its obvious political bias.

Another poster went as far as to offer the paper’s blog readers a bet — that the Sun would endorse every Democrat from Obama, and Christine Gregoire to Charlotte Garrido. I found it especially telling that not a single reader challenged that possibility. In the end, except for a lukewarm, token endorsement of Republican Jan Angel over Kim Abel — but stating clearly it wouldn’t discourage voters from supporting Abel — the Sun endorsed every local Democrat. Why bother even trying to hide bias behind tokenism?

Finally, our governor’s race was the dirtiest, nastiest, most vile political campaign I’ve ever had the personal displeasure to cover. Christine Gregoire couldn’t run on her record of massive taxation and creating the largest deficit in state history, so she and her supporters unleashed a relentlessly coordinated series of ruthless attack ads assaulting Dino Rossi’s character, and outright lying about the budget deficit, his voting record as member of the legislature and his positions on stem cell research, the minimum wage, insurance deregulation, congestion relief, and a host of other things.

Gregoire lied to our faces in a TV commercial about supporting an income tax. She lied about those 1,300 missing sex offenders as well as her law enforcement endorsements — even enlisting Kitsap County Prosecuting Attorney Russ Hague to do a commercial perpetuating that lie. The truth is, almost every police officers union in the state endorsed Dino Rossi.

Gregoire said during the campaign she has never supported a state income tax. Yet there’s video taken during her April 24, 2007 interview with the Spokesman Review in Spokane clearly proving her to be a liar. It shows her stating we need a partial conversion over to a state income tax and that. "it’s a good idea."

The day after, the paper quoted her as saying this during that interview about an income tax: “…it’s just not the right time to push for it, because the public hasn’t sufficiently been educated on the merits.”

She clearly supports an income tax, and her own words have once again trapped her in yet another blatant lie.

Gregoire supporters funded attack ads centered on Rossi’s relationship with the BIAW, drawing heavy media coverage of two PDC complaints and two lawsuits filed based on those complaints, in an obvious attempt to discredit BIAW and forcibly sever its relationship with Rossi. Yet the media failed to report the outcomes — both PDC complaints were dismissed, and both lawsuits were thrown out of court.

Meanwhile, most of the local media neglected to even report on a PDC complaint filed against Gregoire’s campaign over out-of-state PAC money she accepted that was deemed illegal, or the $1+million in illegal money from Evergreen Progress that had to be returned, or even follow up the the tribal gaming issue and that $140 million giveaway, plus the $650,000 in tribal contributions funneled to Gregoire's campaign by the state party. There’s clearly a double standard at work here.

A lawsuit filed by two former state Supreme Court justices and Gregoire supporters — Faith Ireland and Robert Utter — by attorneys Robert Withey and Knoll Lowney, who have a history of filing frivilous, politically-motivated lawsuits, indicate Gregoire may challenge the election in court if Rossi wins. The lawyers say their on-going efforts to find BIAW and Rossi guilty of something, could serve as the foundation for a legal challenge should he win. How lame.

Using the court system as a last ditch attempt to stay in office, shows the absolute depth of Christine Gregoire’s desperation — even after months of failed attempts to scam the courts into defunding and silencing BIAW’s opposition. Personally, I think she should just accept the will of the voters.

But I have to wonder if the media’s blatantly irresponsible bias in this election hasn’t polarized us as a nation to the point of no return. As a member of the Fourth Estate, I’m ashamed to admit, I’m afraid so.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Guest Editorial - Angel vs. Abel

This is a "Guest Editorial" by my friend Rick Flaherty, who is the head honcho at Leader International Corp., which also happens to be Port Orchard's largest private sector employer.

“It’s NOT the economy, stupid”… it’s all about Leadership

By Rick Flaherty, President & CEO
Leader International Corporation

In just a short time we will go to the polls to elect some old blood and — possibly the most dramatic change in decades — with new blood; not only in Washington, DC but in Washington State as well.

I am compelled to write this article to help those who either don’t have the time to become educated about the candidates or who are wearing those rose colored glasses because one candidate or the other took the time to ring your door bell or shake your hand. BUNK!

Let’s get serious about electing individuals to represent us and insure we have vetted these candidates leadership capabilities; because when it’s all said and done and the final ballot is cast we are stuck with whomever we put in their new or continued seat of power.

We can no longer afford to be “indifferent” and just elect someone because we might “like them”… no, no, please not any more. We have to elect those who have proven leadership acumen and not because they are a “nice person”.

Forget the nice woman or man who took the time to ring your doorbell and tell you how they are one of you and that they understand your plight. Forget the niceties, the pat on yours or your spouse’s back and nice firm and warm handshake. And before you let go of that nice warm hand — and because you’re so enamored with the smile, don’t forget to ask this individual what makes them think they can lead and what leadership posts they have held. Most important, ask them what successes they have had in their stated leadership posts and what they accomplished.

And then let’s make sure to ask the other hard questions all too often overlooked until it’s too late.

• “Would your direct reports, administrators who were under you, your staff and other employees you dealt with give you a solid report card of at least an A or better?

• “Would the public you dealt with give you kudos for your leadership in office and indicate what a great public official you were?

• “Would you rate yourself as having good business acumen, an excellent understanding of government finance, the ability to listen well and understand the needs of the communities you represent — and, oh by the way, do you understand that you will be facing some of the toughest economic challenges since the Great Depression?”

Now it’s my turn to ask these same hard questions for the benefit of those who have been so enamored with at least two candidates running for our State House of Representatives. Fortunately, I have had the opportunity to work with both extensively… for the past four years with one individual (former Mayor of Port Orchard, Kim Abel) and for more than seven years with the other individual (current Kitsap Commissioner, Jan Angel).

I will give Kim Abel a D- on my leadership report card and Jan Angel deserves at a minimum a solid A. Why? Jan has the foresight to see what’s coming before it hits — she saw that the County would be in trouble financially by 2010 and tried in vane to bring a high-value economic engine in NASCAR to Kitsap County.

What did Kim Abel do? She showed up in Olympia at hearings to talk against this once-ever opportunity that would have lifted the entire State to a new level of recognition and added substantial tax revenues to the City of Port Orchard and other surrounding communities. And she did so without the authority of her City Council and yet indicated she represented and spoke for the City of Port Orchard (the fact is she testified for future personal gain).

Now, before I go any further, I personally like Kim Abel. She’s personable, polite and always smiling. But she definitely lacks leadership. She hired incompetent staff to lead one of the most important aspects of any city in its department of building, planning and public works. She allowed personal “fiefdoms” run by incredibly incompetent individuals to proliferate even when many of her constituents complained and even provided written proof of misdeeds and malfeasance — and in several cases outright illegal undertakings.

Jan Angel on the other hand worked tirelessly against a tyrannical and liberal north end commissioner to bring civility and leadership to Kitsap County. Contrary to what Kim Abel has claimed, Jan Angel worked with and not against the wishes of her constituency — the citizens she represented. Jan Angel worked diligently to help small business; I can tell you first-hand that she was almost singlehandedly responsible for our success in obtaining rezoning and site specific amendment approval to help us grow our business to Port Orchard’s largest private manufacturing employer.

And Jan Angel never “rubber-stamped” sprawl development. I know because she asked me to serve on the Citizens Advisory Group (CAG) to insure that the UGA boundaries were preserved for proper growth for Port Orchard’s future. She never once pressed anyone in our group to move lines or push the envelope to the advantage of uncontrolled sprawl that would benefit developers. She only wanted responsible and sensible urban boundaries that would meet with the guidelines outlined by Washington’s Growth Management Act.

So let’s be sure we make the right decision for our communities and put a responsible leader — one who truly has proven and documented leadership skills in the State House’s 26th District. There is only one choice and that is Jan Angel.

Friday, October 10, 2008

The Wall Street Journal's Take On Our Governor's Race

I was originally going to write a piece to post here on Christine Gregoire's pathetic attempts to subvert the legal system to muzzle her pit bull detractors at the Building Industry Association of Washington (BIAW).

But in researching the facts, I came across the editorial posted below that ran in this morning's Wall Street Journal. It profiles our Governor's race and the blatant abuse of our legal system by Gregoire and her minions as they attempt to use the courts as a way to eliminate free speech in opposition to her re-election bid. This is the second time the WSJ has weighed in on this issue, so it goes without saying at this point, that the actions taken on behalf of Gregoire by her supporters, have become a national embarrassment. Yet she has refused to move to bring it to a halt.

There is seemingly nothing too demeaning for her and her supporters when it comes to making sure she stays in office, because if Dino Rossi is elected, things as the Olympia establishment knows them — and has known them for the past quarter century — will change.

As Rossi has repeated in all his campaign speeches, "This election isn't about Christine Gregoire. It isn't about me. It isn't about 2004. It's about changing the culture in Olympia — for a generation." And that's exactly what scares the crap out of the Democratic Party establishment.

I thought this particular editorial was provocative, and right on point. You can find the original here:

Scoundrel Country II

Further Evidence Campaign-Finance "Reformers'" Muzzles Free Speech

If you're wondering why business groups tend to stay neutral in elections these days, take a look at the Building Industry Association of Washington. That trade group's liberal opponents continue to harass it with lawsuits because it won't stay mute.

The BIAW recently won a court battle over whether it could continue to use profits from its workers' compensation program to support Republican Dino Rossi for Washington state Governor. Attorneys allied with Democratic Governor Christine Gregoire filed a class action suit that was nakedly aimed at robbing the BIAW of its free-speech rights. State Judge Christine Pomeroy refused to bar the BIAW from spending.

The same lawyers are now back for another go, and this time they aren't even hiding behind the workers' comp fig leaf. The activists have filed suit on behalf of two former state Supreme Court justices who support Mrs. Gregoire and who claim the BIAW illegally coordinated with the Rossi campaign in developing a multimillion-dollar spending effort. What makes the suit more outrageous is that only recently the state's Public Disclosure Commission dismissed these accusations, claiming the evidence was "vague" and that there was no "smoking gun."

The lawyers' aim is, once again, to shut down BIAW political spending in the final weeks of the election. At the very least they hope to turn this suit into a media circus, forcing Mr. Rossi to submit to a deposition and suggesting malfeasance in the heat of a close election. The losers are voters, who are stuck reading about frivolous lawsuits, and, should the Gregoire activists succeed, will lack the information that the BIAW's ads provide. Mark it down as further evidence that the goal of campaign-finance "reformers" is to muzzle political speech.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Assessing The VP Debate

After the media circus leading up to the Vice presidential debate, the two bottom line questions are, what actually happened, and who won? In my view, it was basically a tie in terms of who scored the most points on the issues. There was no knockout blow delivered by either side. However, we did get to know Sarah Palin better and, personally, her performance just reinforced my opinion of her. The media pundits seem to all agree as well, that in spite of the misstep with the Katie Couric interviews, she proved she can hold her own.

But on to assessing the "performances" of the VP candidates...

Palin: After all the hype and the SNL parody of her disasterious Katie Couric interview, (you have to admit, Tina Fey has Palin down cold) America's favorite Hockey Mom proved she's fearless, and what a quick study she truly is. She did a much better job of connecting with the viewers than Biden. She looked straight into the camera — something Biden didn't do with any regularity — and basically had a conversation directly with the American people. Obviously, she was nervous in the beginning, but settled down quickly and answered Biden's criticism's of McCain with spirited relish.

When in her comfort zone — energy, taxes, and reform — Palin excels, broadcasting an authenticity, warmth, and appeal rare on the national scene. Meanwhile Joe Biden came across much the same way McCain does when side by side with Obama — like an old white guy. Palin's repeated critique that Biden was "looking backwards" is something to listen for on the campaign trail between now and November 4.

Palin was also in stronger command of her facts than either Democratic strategists or the Mainstream Media (MSM) anticipated. She stayed on message very well and didn't distort Obama and Biden's records nearly to the extent Biden did McCain's. She also aggressively came back to her talking points several times when Biden had gotten the last word in on a question and distorted one or more of them.

Overall, Palin handled herself significantly better than the MSM predicted she would, and I can't see where she did the McCain campaign any harm. What will be interesting to see, is if the McCain/Palin poll numbers pick up, because that's going to tell the tale about how well she really did.

Even if you don't like her politics, it's hard to deny that Sarah Palin is the real deal. She has that same ability to connect directly with voters that Ronald Reagan had, and that has to be scary for the Democrats — both now and in the future.

Biden: Biden was smart to attack McCain, and not Palin. That would have been disasterious, making him appear to be a bully, and creating sympathy for Palin. He stayed on Obama's message relentlessly, and although he was basically gaffe-free, and seemed to be in command of the facts, the truth is, a large number of his statements on McCain's record (and perhaps Obama's) seemed to be screaming for a fact check, because he confidently distorted McCain's record without hesitation.

I was extremely disappointed to see Biden trot out the Democrat's tired old standby, Class Warfare — "the wealthy" vs. the rest of us, and the forced redistribution of earned wealth through tax policy. My question has always been, what constitutes "wealthy?"

I was genuinely surprised at how Biden made it extremely clear just how staunchly anti-business he, Obama, and the Democrats truly are. While he pontificated about helping small business, if you really listened, you could hear him talking out of both sides of his mouth, because every single proposal he discussed will hurt small business. And while he made no secret of hating big business, he failed to address the fact multinational corporations will move more and more jobs offshore if proposals like employer-paid universal health care the Democrats want so badly, are implemented.

Finally, you have to admit, the man has a good grasp on Foreign Policy — much more so than his inexperienced running mate..