Friday, April 29, 2011

It Appears the Race Card Will Be Obama's Re-election Strategy

The 2012 Presidential Race is well underway even though few have officially announced their candidacy for the position.  Unfortunately, it appears that the race card will be the cornerstone of Barack Obama’s re-election strategy.  Look at what has happened since the President has released the long form of his birth certificate.  Anyone who had questioned why he didn’t release it sooner, especially Donald Trump, have now been declared racist by the Obama supporters in the mainstream media.

It has been a frequent lament of mine that there truly are few real journalists left in our media, but the recent days prove that the liberal advocates appear to be locked and ready to label anyone who opposes Obama a bigot.  One might have thought many in the mainstream media would have been embarrassed by the blatant cheerleading they displayed for Obama in the 2008 election, but it looks like they are prepared to go even further to ensure he gets a second term.

In just the past few day, Jonathan Alter of MSNBC, Chris Matthews of MSNBC, and Bob Schieffer of CBS News have all labeled either Donald Trump and/or the Republican Party as racist and haters.  It is especially significant that Schieffer has engaged in such name calling because he hosts one of the major Sunday network news shows, “Face the Nation.”

I marvel at the evolution of our modern-day new media.  We once only had reporters trying to give us the news as accurately as possible.  Now, these reporters have become psychoanalysts, who are capable of telling you what is in the minds and hearts of the newsmakers they cover.  They seem to be especially effective in ascertaining the motives of the newsmakers who don’t agree with their liberal orthodoxy.

Since I can’t read minds or hearts, I don’t know whether Donald Trump is a racist.  I’ve never met the man.  However, I do know many Republicans who have no shred of hate in them whatsoever, so I find that charge to be especially perplexing.

I guess that I just long for the day when our so-called news reporters apply equal scrutiny to anyone running for public office, not just the ones they don’t like.  Alas, it looks like we are in for second Presidential election during which our mainstream media will be cheering Obama onto another term in office.

By the way, it has been reported that Obama is well on his way to amazing a billion dollar war chest for his re-election campaign.  I don’t know why he really needs that much money.  He already has a campaign staff working for him at the major news networks, and that’s doesn’t cost him anything.  Sadly, it is costing those networks their credibility.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

What Is It About the Word Illegal That the Media Doesn't Understand?

I currently live in Arizona, which has been in the national news many times over the past few years for passing into law several pieces of legislation addressing the problem of illegal immigration.  Unfortunately, there are far too many times when the media reports on these laws label them as anti-immigration laws.

Often in my blog postings, I have pointed out that there are so many advocates in the news media that it is difficult, if not often impossible, to get the straight story about almost any issue.  The illegal immigration problem in the southern Border States, like Arizona, is a good example of this poor reporting.

In the first place, not one of the laws passed in the state of Arizona is designed to hurt immigrants who are here legally, but you would never know that if you read or heard most of the media reports, especially the national ones.  You would think that Arizona is on a mission to rid the state of everyone who is not white, which, of course, is ridiculous.

Whenever any piece of legislation is even proposed to address the illegal immigration issue, the media immediately focuses on the advocacy groups who accuse the supporters of such legislation of being racist, especially against Mexican people.  Of course, Arizona shares a border with Mexico, and so it is only logical that the overwhelming majority of illegal immigrants in the state are likely to be Mexican.  It would be rare to encounter an illegal immigrant from Sweden or Denmark, but when did common sense ever matter to the advocates in our main stream media.

It doesn’t matter that the overwhelming majority of Arizona citizens have supported the illegal immigration laws.  It also doesn’t matter that the majority includes many Mexican people who are in the state legally and believe that other Mexicans who want to be here should also do so legally.  Our media all too often seem bent on reporting as many issues as it can through the prism of race, and facts be damned.

If the advocates in the media actually read the legislation, they would find out that the language is far less harsh that the federal legislation on illegal immigration.  Unfortunately, the feds are not enforcing the federal legislation, which is why Arizona felt compelled to pass the laws in the first place.

Our wonderful first amendment affords our media the right to say anything it wants, and the advocates in the media who don’t agree with Arizona’s legislation have every right to say so.  However, if those media advocates claim to be journalists, than they have an obligation to be accurate.  Accuracy requires that you call the legislation anti-illegal immigrant laws, not anti-immigrant laws. At least try to get it right.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Mr. President, What Took So Long?

Today, April 27, 2011, over two years after he was sworn in as President of the United States, Barack Obama finally released his long-form birth certificate.  The question I have is what took so long?  Being born in the United States is a basic requirement for the job.  Why did he wait until now to prove he met one of the basic requirements?

Obama showed up today in the White House press briefing room to urge everyone to drop the issue.  He said, "We're not going to be able to solve our problems if we get distracted by sideshows and carnival barkers," Mr. Obama said. "We've got some enormous challenges out there. There are a lot of folks out there still looking for work... We do not have time for this kind of silliness."

Well, excuse me, Mr. President, but who allowed the distraction to go on as long as it has?  If I remember correctly, we have been facing the same problems in this country since before you were elected in 2008.  There were a lot of folks looking for work then, and there still are plenty looking for work now.  Mr. Obama, you did everything you could do to allow this issue to fester when you could have released the document you released today two or more years ago.

Of course, his many cheerleaders and defenders in the mainstream media will be blaming those who have been asking for his proof of birth for the distraction.  However, isn’t it the news media’s job to ask such questions and not just give anyone a pass because so many in the media have invested so much of their professional credibility to get him elected in the first place?

I’ve written in many previous postings that I don’t believe we have too many real journalists working in our news media, and I believe this issue is a prime example of my premise.  I am not running for President, nor do I have any immediate plans to run for any public office.  Yet, I can produce a birth certificate, passport, social security card, baptismal certificate, high school diploma, and my two degrees from the University of Illinois on a moment’s notice.  Unfortunately, our news media didn’t ask our President to produce basic documents that all of us are expected to produce when applying for most jobs.

The question I have for the media is why are you so afraid to scrutinize this President like you have done for every other one?  The question I have for the President is why did you allow this distraction to continue for so long?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Be Careful What You Hope for Democrats

Donald Trump, the New York financial and real estate mogul, is seriously thinking of running for President of the United States, and many in the media on both the left and the right are having a field day denouncing Trump for even thinking that he is qualified to be President.

You have wonder, sometimes, what drugs people in media take.  Trump, whether you like him or not or whether you agree with him or not, is far more qualified than a once obscure senator from Illinois, Barack Obama, who decided in 2007 to run for President.  Obama wasn’t even past the halfway point of his first term as senator when he threw his hat into the ring.  The media didn’t make fun of him.  In fact, many of them arguably could have been considered cheerleaders for his candidacy.

Donald Trump has had his share of financial failures, but obviously he has learned from them because he has become a hugely successful businessman.  He runs a conglomerate of businesses and has exhibited substantial leadership skills.  His educational credentials are also just as impressive as Obama as he earned a bachelor’s degree in economics from the prestigious Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania.

Now, let’s take a look at candidate Obama back in 2007.  He has an impressive law degree from Harvard Law School and did teach constitutional law at the University of Chicago.  Other than that, he was a self-proclaimed community organizer in the economically ravaged South Chicago neighborhood on the far south side of Chicago and a perpetual candidate for public office. 

I grew up in that South Chicago neighborhood, which was devastated by the closings of U.S. Steel, Inland Steel and Wisconsin Steel plants. No one person could have brought that neighborhood back, and it remains economically depressed to this date. 

Prior to being elected to the United States Senate in 2006, Obama served three terms in the Illinois Senate.  During his time in the Illinois legislature, he was best known for voting present on many controversial issues.  Political pundits in the Chicago area speculated that he was strategically avoiding a record that would preclude him from running for higher office.

So who is more qualified to run for the Presidency?  The Barack Obama of 2007 was in his first term in the United States Senate.  He never ran a business and never had any executive experience whatsoever.  Donald Trump, on the other hand, has demonstrated business experience and has been an executive his entire professional life.

Many Democratic strategists are gleefully hoping Trump does run for President.  They believe that his brash personality and inconsistent record of political statements will tear apart the Republican Party and pave the way for an easy second-term victory for Obama.  Reminds me a little of 1979.  Back then, the Democrats were also hoping that a former governor of California, who they derided as a second-rate actor, would be the Republican nominee for President.  Ronald Reagan went on to win two overwhelming victories to become what many believe to be one of our greatest Presidents.  Be careful what you wish for Democrats!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Why Isn't the Media Challenging Obama's Upside Down Statement?

Last week, President Barack Obama made one of the most colossally ignorant statements about successful people in our capitalistic form of economics that I have ever heard. Unfortunately, I haven’t heard anyone in our biased media challenge him on his basic premise.

In referring to successful people, Obama said, “Their basic view is that no matter how successful I am, no matter how much I have taken from this country, that somehow I now have no obligation to people who are less fortunate than me.”

I’d like to believe that Obama was just engaged in foolish campaign rhetoric comparable to the class warfare language Democrats have been using for decades.  If he really dose believe what he said, however, than this country is in big trouble because the President has everything upside down.

Successful people don’t take from this country.  On the contrary, they give plenty to this country, and many of them are becoming more and more contemptuous of our politicians. Obama’s ignorant statement is good indication why.

One of the most successful people I’ve ever known is my good friend Ray.  He is a semi-retired veterinarian who exemplifies how many people have started out in life with very little and built a great career through hard work and perseverance.

Ray worked his way through the University of Illinois, ultimately earning a degree in veterinary medicine.  He did it without any scholarship help from anyone.  After graduation, he worked a short time for an animal hospital in a near western suburb of Chicago, and then he moved to a far northwestern suburb of Chicago where he took a position with an animal hospital owner who was nearing retirement.

Ray and another veterinarian took out a loan and bought the practice and building from the retiring animal doctor, and they took what was an already successful practice and built it into a huge complex.  They had increased their clientele so significantly that they constructed an entirely new and larger animal hospital and leased out the older building to an animal grooming service.

To say that Ray has taken from this country is insane.  He and his fellow business partner have employed many people with good salaries and benefits.  It would be an understatement to say that his work in life has benefited our society and this country exponentially.  Ray would later take on another partner and eventually sold his share in the animal hospital complex for a good sum, so he could slow down a bit and enjoy the rest of his life.

After nearly four decades of employing people with his money, not taxpayer money, and after paying substantial taxes himself, he hears Obama accusing him of taking from this country.  It’s no great surprise that Ray has nothing but contempt for our politicians.  Like me, he believes that many in our political class use the taxes of our successful producers to buy the votes of unsuccessful people.  Those who are on the entitlement programs are the ones who are really taking from our country and contributing very little, if anything, in return.

So, Mr. President, instead of demonizing and vilifying successful people, like my good friend Ray, you should be spending every day applauding them for taking advantage of the opportunity available to all of us and forging a very successful life that has contributed so much to our society.  Without people like Ray, you have no money to run this country and to use for your social entitlement programs. How dare you accuse him and other successful people of taking from this country? Ray has contributed far more than you have and probably ever will.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Don't Take It Personally

A few days ago, I posted a story about how newsmakers tend to freeze out reporters who don’t report things exactly the way they like it.  Of course, it is not unusual for politicians, corporate heads, religious leaders and other newsmakers to be a little thin-skinned in the face of bad press, but the worst thing their press representatives can do is to take any bad story personally.

I have worked as a journalist and a communications professional for more than three decades.  Whenever I have directed an organization’s communications effort, I did my best to ensure that the communications department’s relationship with the press was based on accessibility, mutual respect and trust.  That was not always easy because some of the newsmakers for whom I worked had a definite disdain for the media.

Even though I had a positive philosophy about dealing with the media, it doesn’t mean that everything went smoothly.  There were many times I had heated discussions with reporters.  A few times the discussions even accelerated into shouting matches.  The key element, however, was that neither the reporter nor I took the discussion personally.  We both understood that we had our jobs to do, and the next time we talked to each other, it was as if the heated discussion never took place.  Each story was a new story, not to be affected by the tone of the previous discussion.

The overwhelming majority of media people with whom I have worked are good, decent people just trying to get the story as accurately as possible.  If I didn’t help them, I knew there was no chance that the organization I represented was going to get a fair shake.  Even if I did help them, the story didn’t always turn out the way I wished it would have, but that’s part of life.  Media people are going to give an opposing point of view, not because they want to embarrass the press representative or the organization that person represents but because they want to balance the story.

For the most part, I have had good relationships with the media wherever I have worked.  The number one reason was that I didn’t take the unfavorable stories personally and kept working with reporters in a positive way no matter the outcome.  Doing so often led to very positive stories on the organizations I represented because reporters favorably remember those press representatives who were accessible and respectful during the reporting of difficult issues and events.

After leaving a few organizations, I have unfortunately noticed that their relationships with the press have deteriorated.  In one situation, it would not be an exaggeration to say that the organization’s relationship with the media would be now characterized as one of fear, loathing and mistrust.  A contributing factor is that some communications professionals take everything personally and hold grudges against those in the media who don’t report exactly the way the organization wants it done.  The sad thing is that those communications professionals are not only alienating the media, they are doing a tremendous disservice to the organizations they represent. 

Being adversarial is one thing, being hostile takes it to another level that almost ensures bad press.  More importantly for the public, the truth loses out.

To those communications professional who take things personally and hold grudges, you are in the wrong line of work.  You should find something else to do for a living.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Shame on Media Advocates for Demonizing Those Who Don't Agree with Them

E. J. Montini is an opinion columnist for the Arizona Republic, and you don’t have to read too many of his columns to realize that he is very liberal.  Nothing wrong with being an opinion columnist of any political viewpoint, but it is sad to see Montini demonize and vilify those politicians who don’t perform according to his liberal orthodoxy.

A few days ago Montini once again took a major shot at Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, who has become one of his favorite targets.  For a short time, there simply wasn't enough money in the state budget to provide for every disadvantaged person who may require some kind of organ transplant to stay alive.  Gov. Brewer worked successfully with the state legislature in Arizona to reign in a huge budget deficit and still find a way to allocate money to keep the transplant program fully funded, but that wasn’t enough for Montini.

His latest column basically blamed Brewer for the deaths of those who died before the funding was restored.  You can understand the emotionalism of the relatives who lost family members, but Montini did his best to make sure that she was was the only target of their anger, not the former governor, Janet Napolitano, who left a huge state deficit that temporarily wouldn’t enable full funding of the transplant program.  Montini even quoted one of the relatives referring to Brewer as “that woman, that terrible woman killed my mother as far as I’m concerned.”

Montini’s column is unfortunately typical of what many opinion columnists in the mainstream media do in these modern media times.  Instead of discussing the unrealistic expectation that government can provide for every disadvantaged person in every circumstance, he, like many columnists, just picks a politician who is not in accord with his ideology and makes that person responsible for the unintended consequences of legitimate state budget deficits.

Here is the reality.  Governor Brewer inherited a huge state deficit.  She and the Arizona legislature did everything humanly possible to balance the budget and still keep commitments to certain social programs, like the transplant program. 

Here’s is some more reality for Mr. Montini.  Despite being fully funded again, there will never be a guarantee that the program won’t run out of money again, no matter who is governor.

It’s a legitimate point that politics were a contributing factor in the unfortunate deaths of the people who didn’t receive transplants in time to save their lives.  However, to characterize one person as a devil who is personally responsible for the deaths of those waiting is not only completely unfair, it is bereft of logic.  There are so many other factors involved in these scenarios that Montini is not even exploring.

We’ve seen quite a few examples of many in the mainstream media demonizing politicians who they don’t like, especially women politicians. Look what has happened in recent years to women like Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann. Both of these conservative politicians have been attacked relentlessly in the liberal media.

There seems to be a pattern developing here.  Is it possible that liberal men in the mainstream media are intimidated by strong conservative women?  Maybe?

Monday, April 18, 2011

Now Rahm Emanuel is Freezing Out Some in the Media

About a month ago, I posted a story about how a newsmaker, the famous activist priest Fr. Michael Pfleger, can deny access to a reporter if that reporter decides to write anything embarrassing or negative about him.  A print reporter actually admitted not reporting an embarrassing, but hardly devastating, inconsistency in something Fr. Pfleger claimed out of fear of losing access to one of the big news makers in Chicago.

I said then how that scenario demonstrates that even the best of reporters can be compromised by a major newsmaker. The problem with newsmakers, such as Fr. Pfleger, manipulating reporters is nothing new, but it has become worse in recent years.

Little did I know that I would see another example of this manipulation so soon and again in Chicago.  According to NBC news in Chicago, mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel decided last week to grant rare one-on-one interviews to every news outlet in the city, except WMAQ-TV, the NBC owned station in Chicago. 

The reason was that evidently NBC ran a story about how Emanuel will be the first mayor of Chicago to charge for premium seating to his inauguration, which is scheduled to take place on May 16.  It was reported that donors would be charged up to $50,000 for the best seats.  Emanuel’s team said that charging donors would save the taxpayers for paying for the event.

When NBC balked about being left out of the one-on-one interviews with Emanuel, his communications team reportedly said that they didn’t like the tone of the story that NBC did on VIP seating for the inauguration.  Later last week, Emanuel walked away from NBC reporter Mary Ann Ahern as she asked him about his new communications director, who has allegedly racked up nine personnel complaints when she worked for the federal government.

I said last month that when reporters go along with newsmaker manipulation by refusing to report the truth for fear of losing access, they compromise their credibility.  Now we see a scenario that indicates why reporters fear losing access for reporting the truth because they often do.  As far as I am concerned, the newsmakers that cut off access to reporters who don’t report everything the way they want are just as guilty as the reporters, themselves, of creating an atmosphere where truth loses out. 

I’ve worked for a few newsmakers who did nothing but complain about how reporters get it all wrong, but then they didn’t want to take the time to engage in any attempt to correct the record because of fear of not having everything precisely reported their way. While I was not always successful in combating such a bunker mentality, I gave three axioms of why it is not wise to avoid the media or play favorites.

The first axiom is that the reporter is going to do the story anyway, whether the newsmaker chooses to cooperate or not.  When a person doesn’t cooperate, the reporter thinks that person is trying to hide something, so the story will not only be missing the newsmaker’s position; it is likely to be negative.

The second axiom is that cooperation still will not guarantee a favorable story.  If the newsmaker does engage the media on the story, he or she might not like the outcome anyway, but at least they will have an opportunity to have their side included in the story. 

The third axiom is any communications or public relations director who says they can control the media is a liar.  The press secretary to the President of the United States can’t control the media, and I can guarantee you the White House press corps is always worried about losing access.  Therefore, how can a press representative of anyone else promise nothing but good stories?

Mayor-elect Emanuel, if you are truly a leader, you should have no problem standing in front of a group of critics or television cameras to explain why you made any decision.  If you can’t do that, you should not have run for mayor of Chicago in the first place.

He has yet to be inaugurated, and he is already showing a very thin skin.  One wonders what Rahm will do when the you know what really hits the fan?

Friday, April 15, 2011

Why the News Media Obsession with the British Royal Family?

Prince William and Kate Middleton are getting married on April 29.  Who cares?  Unfortunately, we have an American media that seems to be obsessed with reporting the royal family of Britain, and for the life of me, I really can’t understand why so much news time is going to be wasted on what in reality is such a trivial event.

I know that some people are going to read this posting and think that I’m some crabby old curmudgeon, and I admit that I am when it comes to the attention the American media pays to people who have really accomplished little in life other than being born.  Yes, in my mind on April 29, we will witness the wedding of a woman who is only famous because she has decided to marry a man who is only famous because he happened to be born to a particular family that has been declared royal by, guess who, the British government and the media.

The British royal family is actually funded through the United Kingdom’s taxing system.  The family receives roughly 37 million pounds a year, which is equivalent to $75 million dollars.  Think about it. The British taxpayers pony up $75 million a year to keep the charade of a British monarchy going despite the economic difficulties that country is facing.  Am I the only one who thinks that is insane?

There are those people who say that the British royal family is worth the money because they bring that much attention to England and engender a great deal of tourist money.  Don’t forget that those networks that will be televising the wedding are going to be paying a pretty price to do so.

Since the United States news media has always tried to convince us mere mortals that the Kennedy family was American royalty, maybe our media secretly wishes that we had a phony monarchy to support.  Of course, I always wondered why the media didn’t also declare the Bush family as American royalty.  Let’s see…..two Bush presidents and a governor vs. one Kennedy president and two senators.  Oops!  I forgot.  The Bush family has the wrong political ideology to qualify for such a media designation.

At any rate, on April 29, 2011, countless numbers of celebrity-worshipping Americans will be getting up very early in the morning to watch the television broadcast of the wedding of a man whose only major achievement in life was being born.  Have fun.  As for me, I’m sleeping in.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Liberal Media Advocates Won't Report That Raising Tax Rates Reduces Tax Revenue

The liberal advocates in the mainstream media are cheerleading for President Barack Obama’s call yesterday to raise tax rates on the rich so that senior citizens don’t go without health care, and the poor don’t go without food.

What the media won’t tell you is the truth about tax rates, and that is raising tax rates will actually produce less revenue for the government social welfare program.

Class warfare has been a staple of the Democratic Party playbook for as long as I’ve been alive.  Soak the rich because they have too much money anyway, and redistribute that wealth to people who have not been lucky in life.  You see, the Democratic Party appears to operate under a premise that successful people have somehow benefited from some mythological good fortune that was denied others.  I see no overwhelming evidence of that, but many liberals in the Democratic Party really believe that mantra.

I believe that most successful people prepare better, work harder and endure failure better than unsuccessful people.  Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule, and there are truly people who have found themselves in difficult positions through no fault of their own.  Those are the people that the government welfare programs are designed to help.

Unfortunately for those programs that need funding to aid the disadvantaged, raising taxes on the rich is likely to reduce revenues for these efforts.  History has shown that every time tax rates are raised, revenue to the federal government decreases in the long run. High marginal tax rates on the richest Americans changes their behavior.  They don’t work as hard; they don’t invest as much money; and they defer income or evade taxes altogether through intricate tax shelters.

In the late 1970s, I knew of a professional athlete in Chicago who signed a long-term contact with his team for big money. Because of the high confiscatory tax rates at the time (70 percent for every dollar earned over $250,000), this athlete had the payment on his contract deferred, so he would never be paid more than $250,000 a year.  However, the deferred payment meant that his team would be paying him long past the year 2000.  I don’t know if that athlete ever renegotiated the terms of the contract after Ronald Reagan drastically reduced the top marginal tax rate.

The way the rich change their behavior to avoid higher tax rates ultimately leads to a slowdown in the economy, and so the nation’s economic pie becomes smaller.  What would you liberals in the media rather have….rich people paying a larger percentage of a small pie, or a smaller percentage of a very large pie?  If you want to increase revenue to the government to save your social welfare programs, you should be cheerleading for reduced tax rates.

A good example of the benefits of reduced tax rates occurred during the administration of President Ronald Reagan.  During the 1980s, Reagan reduced marginal tax rates on the rich from 70 percent to 50 percent and then to 28 percent.  As I previously noted, and many of you too young to remember might find it hard to believe,  there was a time in this country that every dollar earned over $250,000 was taxed at 70 percent.  Talk about penalizing success!

Although Reagan dramatically reduced the top marginal rate for the rich, tax revenues increased significantly.  Individual income tax revenue rose from $244 billion in 1980, the last year of the Carter Administration, to $446 billion in 1989, just as the Reagan Administration was ending.  In other words, tax revenue almost doubled.  That fact seems to contradict the class warfare rhetoric of the Democratic Party…doesn’t it?

President George W. Bush was often pilloried for favoring the rich with his tax cut plan, which was ultimately enacted by Congress.  However, the top income earners actually saw their share of taxes paid rise at a faster rate than they did under the Clinton tax hikes of the previous decade. The reason is simple. It was more attractive for the rich to invest in tax-generating investments under the lower rates.  In fact, during Bush’s second term, the federal treasury experienced its highest receipt of income tax revenue in history.

From a political standpoint, I can understand the attractiveness of trying to demonize and vilify very rich, successful people. It estimated that about only two percent of the American population makes $250,000 or more. So what if you alienate them with class warfare rhetoric?  You can still work on the other 98 percent of the population to fashion an electoral majority. 

Maybe the Democratic Party truly believes that raising taxes on the rich is a winning political strategy, but it makes no sense economically.  Ultimately, the people the liberals claim they want to help will lose because higher tax rates will produce less revenue to redistribute.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

"If Your Mother says she love you, check it out."

It appears that today many in our media were victimized by a hoax.  A false news release from General Electric (GE) indicated that GE had agreed to “donate” the entirety of its $3.2 billion tax refund to the federal government.  The news release was totally false, but it was accepted at first because GE had been under attack recently for not paying any federal income tax in 2010 despite making more than $5 billion in profit.

The Associated Press (AP) was the largest media organization taken in by the hoax, but withdrew the story 35 minutes after it was published.  AP admitted it did not adhere to its own standards of checking on the veracity of the news release.

This type of news media laxity is hardly new to anyone who has been in the media or has worked with the media.  As someone who has been a professional communicator for more than three decades, I have seen reporters accept charges from advocacy groups at face value before calling the target of those charges for a response.

This has been particularly disappointing for me because I grew up in Chicago where many journalists trained in the now defunct City News Bureau under the direction of the legendary Paul Zimbrakos.  He has been credited with telling every new reporter that “if your mother says he loves you, check it out.”  It was his way of telling rookies that if they want to be true journalists, they shouldn’t take anything they hear from the news makers they cover at face value.  True journalists are supposed to check the veracity of everything they are told.

As a former director of media relations for the Archdiocese of Chicago, I witnessed a great example of what can happen when journalists do not check something out. On July, 13, 2005, I personally was involved in one of the worst examples of journalism I have ever known.  On that day, a news conference was held outside of the Pastoral Center of the Archdiocese of Chicago by Philip Aaron, an attorney from Seattle, WA.  He represented several young black men who claimed to be sexually abused as minors by a priest named Victor Stewart of the Archdiocese of Chicago, who died 11 years and one month prior to the date of that news conference.

The primary reason for Aaron’s news conference was to condemn the Archdiocese for not trying to find more victims of the now deceased priest, which was a common refrain of plaintiff attorneys representing abuse victims of priest.  However, Aaron injected a new twist to the usual scenario. He claimed that Stewart died of AIDS and infected the accusers standing with him at the news conference.  He offered no evidence, and admitted that none of the men standing with him had ever been tested for AIDS, but the media expected the archdiocese to defend itself against an allegation that day that no one had provided one shred of proof to back up the accusation.

As part of my usual routine, on the next day I read the print accounts and looked at the videotapes of the news conference.   I couldn’t help wonder why none of the reporters I talked to asked questions that any curious journalist would have asked Aaron and his group of victims.  If they had been infected by Stewart with AIDS, it would have had to happen no later than 11 years and one month prior to the news conference.  That is assuming, of course, that Stewart could have infected anyone as he was lying on his death bed, one tall assumption to make.  I told every reporter that called the day of the news conference that records indicated Stewart died on June 10, 1994, of what was believed to be a subdural hematoma, which is a bleeding on the surface of the brain.

What really struck me when viewing the videotapes was the physical condition of the alleged victims of Fr. Stewart who were lined up behind the plaintiff attorney.  Each of them seemed to be in fairly good condition.  In fact, most of the men actually seemed to be a little overweight, which would hardly fit the physical profile of someone who contracted AIDS more than 11 years ago as they claimed they might have.

My journalistic curiosity prompted me to call the Center for Disease Control in Washington, D.C.  The Center is one of the premier clearing houses on information regarding infectious diseases.  When I reached an AIDS expert at the Center, the first question I asked was whether or not a person infected with the AIDS virus more than 11 years ago would still be alive.  That person told me that it is very likely that a person could still be easily alive 11 years later because of the tremendous advances in the medications to treat the disease.  When I told him that none of those claiming that they might have been infected 11 or more years ago had never been tested, let alone taken any medication, he paused and said that these people could still be alive, but they would certainly be showing significant signs of the disease.  He paused once more and then related that there was a remote possibility that a person might have what he described as a “super-human” immune system that could fight off the disease for a substantial period of time, but he said those instances were very rare.

  The logical conclusions was that yes, they could still test positive for the AIDS virus, but it would be highly improbable that they were infected by Stewart.  I don’t know of any of the reporters who attended that news conference that had the journalistic curiosity to check with an AIDS expert, and I kept wondering why?  Even if you want to skew the story against the archdiocese, wouldn’t your journalistic curiosity cause you to check with an AIDS expert when an allegation and the reality of the men’s condition just don’t match?  How could I see something that none of them appeared to see?

To my knowledge, no reporter in Chicago has yet to do a follow-up story on the validity of Philip Aaron’s claim that Fr. Victor Stewart may have infected several young men with AIDS before he died.  One would think that such a serious charge would be fully investigated by the media and merit more than a one-and-done story.  As a consumer of the news, I would like to know if the charges were accurate.  What bothers me is that the news media in Chicago doesn’t appear to care.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Should Government Force Us To Be Our Brother's Keeper

Cathy Lynn Grossman, the religion reporter for USA Today and one of the best people I have ever known, posted an interesting thought on her “Facebook” page recently.  She wrote, “Washington is about to tackle entitlements.  It appears the poor and elderly will take a hit.  One reason: They’re defenseless, no matter how many pastors, bishops and interfaith groups talk about morality and money.”

As anyone who reads my blog on a regular basis might suspect, the issue of government entitlements may be a point of disagreement between me and Ms. Grossman.  While I think we would both agree that there is a definite moral foundation for us to help our fellow citizens in need, I don’t personally believe that the moral foundation translates to giving government license to arbitrarily confiscate the money of successful people under the guise of helping unsuccessful people.

As a pragmatic libertarian Republican, I don’t believe it is government’s role to act as a charity to redistribute wealth that is legitimately earned and created.  Unfortunately, many liberals believe that political philosophy equates to a person who does not care for the poor and disadvantaged and believes they should fend for themselves.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  I am all for helping the poor, even those who are in that condition because of their own reckless and irresponsible behavior.  I just don’t believe that the government entitlement programs are even close to being as effective as private charities have proven to be.

Here is one question that I would like to ask Cathy and all big government advocates in the media.  Why are you so sure that the taxpayer money that goes into these entitlement programs is actually getting to the people who need help?  How do you know that the funding isn’t so diluted by the time it gets through the massive government bureaucracies that are charged with administering these programs that there is very little left for the people the funding is meant to aid?

I would much rather see these huge federal bureaucracies significantly downsized and have the U.S. Treasury cuts checks directly to those in need.  Sure, some may squander the money on drugs and alcohol, but I firmly believe that the overwhelming majority of poor people would use the funding to help improve the lives of themselves and their families.

When you downsize the government, you can cut tax rates even further.  Then, like-minded people can form tax-free foundations to help the disadvantaged far more effectively, in my opinion, than government entitlement programs do.

The usual response I get from my liberal friends is that rich people must be forced through taxation to help those less fortunate.  My response is nonsense.  I know there are a certain percentage of greedy people out there who will never have enough money.  However, it has been my experience in life that most rich people in this country, especially those who have made it all on their own, are very generous.  In many of my corporate communications position, I have rubbed elbows with wealthy, powerful people who I’ve known to be ethical and kind.  I have sat in board rooms and watched as very wealthy people have written huge personal checks to construct new hospital buildings, underwrite scholarship programs for good students who can’t afford college, and fund a variety of private charities that provide effective aid for the disadvantaged.

Yes, we do have a moral obligation to help our fellow citizens.  We do not, in my opinion, have a moral obligation to fund a bloated and ineffective bureaucracy that appears to have failed miserably in assisting those who are truly needy.

Monday, April 11, 2011

New Media Dynamic Precludes Government Shutdown This Time

Last week, it seemed as though media pundits were spending a great deal of time trying to predict who would be blamed for what seemed to be an inevitable shutdown of the U. S. Government over the federal budget that should have been passed last October.  There were many comparisons being drawn to the 1995 government shutdown that eventually reflected poorly on the new Republican majority in Congress and led to the reelection of Bill Clinton in 1996.

This time, the media dynamic is totally different, and the Democratic Party, which once thought it could benefit from another government shutdown, is now facing a news media landscape that is far more diverse and no longer overwhelmingly liberal and favorable to their policies and somewhat outlandish rhetoric.  During the last government shutdown, talk radio was first beginning to take hold, and there was no Fox News Network to provide an alternative to the significantly biased network news shows.  In addition, few at that time even heard of The DrudgeReport, which has now become an Internet staple among news junkies.

Back in 1995, one of the major issues that led to the government shutdown was a Republican proposal to limit the increase in Medicare spending to seven percent per year over the next three years.  The Democrats wanted to continue double digit increases, and because of the overwhelming support of a compliant new media, they were able to convince the public that Republicans were cutting Medicare spending and were somehow abandoning old people.

The Wall Street Journal ran a very amusing poll at that time.  The first question basically said, “which party do you trust most to protect the Medicare program.”  By a wide margin, the poll numbers favored the Democratic Party.  The second question was, “what do you think of a Republican proposal that would increase Medicare spending by three times the rate of inflation (the rate of inflation at that time was about two percent) over the next three years.”  By a wide margin, the poll numbers said that increase was too much.  That provides a small indication about how the public was confused by the distorted reporting on the Medicare funding issue in 1995.

That is the way the news media used to report on government expenditures.  If the government did not increase the rate of spending on any government program as much as it was increased in the previous year, the mostly liberal news media referred to it as a cut of the program.

Let’s put it this way.  Say you received a 10 percent raise one year, but only received a 7 percent raise the following year.  If you came home and told your family your salary was cut because you got a lower percentage raise this year that you did last year, your family would probably consider that you may have lost your mind.  Yet our media for years has considered a decrease in the rate of increasing spending as an actual cut.  As irrational as that may sound, big government advocates and their cheerleaders in the media got away with it in 1995.

Today, the entire media and political landscape is different.  It has changed so much that government office holders can now advocate legitimate, real cuts in government spending without being tarred and feathered in the media.  This changing dynamic also led Howard Kurtz of CNN to question why there was no outrage over a ridiculous statement made by New York Democratic Congresswoman Louise Slaughter, who said last week that the newly-elected Republicans elected to the House of Representatives “are here to kill women.”  Kurtz openly wondered about the harshness and absurdity of the congresswoman’s statement on the show “Reliable Sources” that he hosts on CNN.

In my last posting, I was wondering if any member of the so-called mainstream news media would ever challenge one of the outlandish statements made by members of the Democratic Party every time Republicans wanted to trim spending for government programs.  Well….Mr.  Kurtz finally did it on Sunday, April 10.  Thank you, Howard, for granting my wish.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Government Shutdown Threat Shows News Media Taking Sides

In the movie Groundhog Day, we saw actor Bill Murray waking up to the same scenario every day.  Now that the United States government is facing a potential shutdown over a budget battle, we are seeing the same scenario play out in the news media that we have seen at other times in recent political history.

Once again, the Democrats are accusing the Republican of waging war on women, children and the elderly.  Once again, the reporters at the major news networks seem to be taking sides with the Democrats by not challenging what any rational person would consider ludicrous declarations.

I don’t have time to see every newscast, but I have watched plenty over the last few weeks, and I am still waiting for a reporter to ask Harry Reid, “Come on, do you really believe the Republicans don’t want women to have mammograms and want dirty air.”  I keep waiting, but I still have yet to hear any reporter challenge any of the ridiculous assertions of Democratic office holders during these budget battles.  When reporters don’t challenge a seemingly foolish statement, then it’s difficult not to assume that they must agree with the statement. 

It gets even worse when talking about tax cuts.  When any tax hike or cut comes up in the government, how many times do you hear Democratic office holders accuse Republicans of wanting to grant tax gifts to the rich?  Once again, few if any reporters challenge what I believe is a bastardization of language and common sense.

Let me see if I have this correct.  In today’s distorted political and news media lexicon, allowing someone to keep more of the money that they legally, honorably and legitimately earned is a gift.  Having the government confiscate an increasing amount of that money to give to someone who has done nothing to earn it is an entitlement.  I think any logical person would find something wrong with those descriptions, but not our politicians and news media because these terms have been acceptable to them for decades. 

I have been involved in the media all of my professional life as a newspaper reporter, managing editor and communications professional.  I am still waiting for one reporter to ask a politician if it is really is a gift to allow someone to keep more of the money they legally and legitimately earn?

We live in a capitalistic economic system, but you might never know that if you just get your information from the mainstream media.  In a capitalistic system, all wealth created and earned first belongs to those who create and earn the wealth.  Unfortunately, many in our news media report from a premise that all wealth belongs to the government first to be distributed at the whim of government officials.  If you actually buy that premise, you must believe in Marxist economics, because that’s what it is.  I’m sorry, but there is no other way to put it.

Am I saying that the advocates in the news media support Marxist economics for the United States?  Well, if you ever found out about the exorbitant salaries many of them make, they obviously believe in capitalism for themselves, but given the way they report economic issues, maybe they do think the rest of us should live under socialism.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Transplant Issue in Arizona Exposes Media Ignorance About Government Funding

I live in Phoenix, AZ, and for months, the media, especially Arizona Republic columnist E.J. Montini, have been unfairly trashing Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer because there simply wasn't enough money in the state budget to provide for every disadvantaged person who may require some kind of organ transplant to stay alive.

Gov. Brewer has now worked successfully with the state legislature in Arizona to reign in a huge budget deficit and still find a way to allocate money to keep the transplant program fully funded. The governor has been able to prioritize the fiscal situation in the state despite being subjected to the usual ridiculous claims in the media that she wanted people to die.

Reporters and columnists who make such claims never seize to amaze me.  Do they not understand that no government entity has a bottomless pit of money to give to everyone who can’t fend for themselves?  These usually are the same media people who have for decades pretended that society can rely on government for every need and desire.

The reality, which Gov. Brewer and governors in Wisconsin, Ohio and New Jersey have also been facing, is that states are going bankrupt because many former government officials in those states thought they could promise everything, even knowing there is a limit to how much you can tax the productive people in our society.  These governors don’t want people to suffer, but they are courageous enough to say that everyone will suffer if their respective states go belly up financially.

For most of my life, I have watched, read and listened while reporters have pretended that local, state and federal government entities can supply unlimited funds for everything that goes wrong in life.  I’ve got news for those who rely on the mainstream media for all of their information.  Governments really have no money.  They receive money in the form of taxes from those people in our society who are productive, in other words the successful people.  There is a limit to how much you can tax people, so there will always be a limit to what government can fund no matter what big government advocates contend.

All the debate surrounding the transplant issue in Arizona should focus attention on what would happen if we really end up having a government-backed, single-payer health care insurance system.  Since there will always be limited funds under any kind of health insurance system, there will always be rationing of care.  I worked in the health care field for 20 years as a communications professional, and the reality is that there are limits to what public insurance can provide, just as there are limits to what private insurance can cover. 

Anyone who denies that rationing of care would not take place under either scenario just doesn’t understand the economics of health care.  Nevertheless, our news media, for the most part, still advocate for a single-payer system as if it is the panacea.  They obviously haven’t paid attention to the European countries that are going bankrupt because of their socialized health care systems.

I have a suggestion for E. J. Montini and the other media advocates who think government can solve every problem.  Start your own tax free foundation to help people who don’t have any health insurance and are in need of organ transplants.  There already exists similar foundations throughout the country that assist people with medical bills.  Just think, E. J.  Instead of just giving lip service, you will be able to actually help the people that you claim you really want to help.  And you can save on your taxes, too.