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Sunday, September 18, 2011

Cable News Debate Coverage Is Hurting Democracy

The cable news media has gone from simply cracking gaming and sports metaphors to actually becoming a game, with politicians as the contestants and a rotating guest panel of snickering propagandists and "analysts" as the judges. 

The only difference is that contestants on traditional game shows are held accountable when they answer incorrectly -- 

From the Huffington Post, not by this blogs author. Presented for informational and educational purposes only.
Chuck Todd likes to occasionally refer to the political press as "the refs." While at first glance it appears to suffice, it's actually just another bad euphemism in a growing list of hackish politics-as-sports metaphors intended to deflect criticism and exculpate the news media when it clearly fails to effectively hold accountable our elected officials. I'm not sure if Todd and the others realize that "the refs" both diminishes the role of the press and abrogates its responsibility to the public.
Whether it's print or broadcast news, the press is the only industry specifically named in the Bill of Rights, preserving for history the founding mandate that the press remain independent and unconstrained as a means of checking government power. Consequently, an unrivaled degree of integrity is required to fulfill that mandate. The ability to remain objectively segregated from political influence and coercion, not to mention the whimsy of the public, isn't an easy task, but, in deference to its inclusion in the Constitution, a degree of professional discipline beyond what's found in other professions is crucial in order to adequately serve democracy.
Perhaps it's an overly idealistic expectation, but, in pursuit of the truth and with the goal of informing the public, journalists, editors and reporters ought to make decisions in spite of and divorced from what happens to be popular with readers and advertisers. Unfortunately, ratings, ad revenue and acquiescence to conservative misinformation appear to be dictating what's aired.

Put another way, if the framers of the Constitution had watched CNN's Tea Party Republican debate Monday night, they might have reconsidered their priorities. I'm not sure if "Congress shall make no laws abridging the freedom of games shows" would have made the cut at the convention.
And that's exactly what CNN put on the other night. A game show. The cable news media has gone from simply cracking gaming and sports metaphors to actually becoming a game, with politicians as the contestants and a rotating guest panel of snickering propagandists and "analysts" as the judges. The only difference is that contestants on traditional game shows are held accountable when they answer incorrectly -- they're penalized monetarily or eliminated from the game altogether. But our cable news game show hosts just move on to the next question, so, in this regard, Wink Martindale might be a tougher moderator than Wolf Blitzer.

From the Huffington Post, not by this blogs author. Presented for informational and educational purposes only. Click on "read more' below to continue.

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Sunday Morning News and Views, Part I

Store closing signs are posted on the exterior of the Borders book store in Ann Arbor, Mich., Friday, July 22, 2011. Borders Group began liquidation sales at all of its 399 stores as the 40-year-old chain winds down operations. Photo: AP, Angela J. Cesere / AnnArbor.comIt's It's the final chapter for Border's. The once-dominant bookseller will close today, a victim of growing online sales and other problems. One Las Vegas location closed its doors for the last time earlier this week.

Ford's rugged and roomy Crown Victoria sedan has long been a favorite of police departments and taxis fleets.   But Ford has been trimming its production line and last week, the last "Vic" rolled off the assembly line.  Earlier in the week the final Lincoln Town Car completed that models long run (the two are the same basic vehicle with slight body and interior changes). The Crown Victoria is popular with police departments and cab companies, while its sister is popular as a small limo and image car. Budget cuts at the departments and private companies led to a demand for fuel efficient alternatives, and the US mandates on average automobile mileage all but signed the death certificate for the still popular vehicles.

Researchers at Crater Lake National Park in Oregon have been documenting its natural sound scape.  The two-year long project is part of a campaign by the national park system to document the invasion of human-caused noise and to preserve a natural quiet in the parks. Scientist say you can literally hear the changes associated with Global Warming, as  animal and insect populations and variety change and human noises penetrate even the most remote and thought to be pristine areas of the park.

New York Times columnist John Tierney co-authored the new book, "Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength." He seeks to change our understanding of the most coveted human virtue: self-control. He says that diet is vital, as we need the right amount of glucose to ignite our will power to avoid foods, and even to do other difficult tasks. Sugar or rice or other natural fuel is needed, substitutes and corn fructose are not the same. The other elements that assist are exercise and getting enough sleep at the right times. Yes, we do drag biologically mid afternoon and in the early hours of the morning. And, yes, major life and business decisions should not be made in the early evening, after eating too much or over the sugar rush of alcohol.

Children of anonymous sperm and egg donors have grown up, and are demanding their own rights.  Many say they deserve to know the identity of their donors, something a number of countries have already mandated. In the US such decisions fall under state laws, with a wide range of variation and most favoring protecting the identities of the natural parent(s).

Last year President Obama told the UN General Assembly, "When we come back here next year, we could have an agreement that would lead to a new member of the United Nations--an independent, sovereign state of Palestine, living in peace with Israel." Here we are a year later with no agreement, but the Palestinians have promised to seek formal recognition from the UN anyway. The US is trying hard to keep that vote from happening. The reasons are complex, but boil down to disputed borders and the lack of any guarantee to stop aggressions on both sides of the disputed borders with Israel. The strong presence of terrorist organizations is another conflict for the US, where the quandary becomes the US stance for access to the UN and not wanting valuable votes added to the UN by states that sponsor terrorist. Then too there is the technicality of laws...Michael Oren, the Israeli ambassador to the United States. explains that "We have a lot of agreements with the Palestinian Authority. We have no agreements with a 'Government of Palestine,'" 

Sunday Morning News and Views, Part 2 have discovered a planet that could be Tatooine, the fictional desert planet home of Luke Skywalker in "Star Wars".It has two suns, sits at a distance from those suns where life as we know it could exist. Also in orbit of the double suns is a much hotter planet where there may be an atmosphere where life in other forms could evolve.  

Dinosaurs had feathers...well at least some of them did. That has been known for sometime now. Newer discoveries are that the world the giants walked the earth in could very well have been far more colorful than previously thought. Plus flowers and foliage provided camouflage for a wide range of creatures with bright feathers, well beyond those known to us now. Fossilized feathers contain the DNA for bright colors, and come in everything from very simple stems to interlocking birdlike "plumed" features. Some of the feathers may have been veined, indicating warm blooded hosts, while others grew in a way much closer to hair or nails. In a remake of "Jurassic Park" filmmakers will need to have a much more varied pallet of colors to paint.

For the past two weeks, President Barack Obama has been out on the stump, campaigning for his jobs bill. He's revved up friendly crowds in battle ground states with his pitch for government help to boost the economy. He does so when even members of his own party say they will not support all or portions of the proposed programs, and a majority of the house (controlled by a Republican party that has become known for bock voting) must support it for the programs to ever get out of the starting gate. It is as if the nation's next election is more important than taking care of the needs of the people and business of the country for those on the Republican side of the isle. They know they are in a position of power and a position to potentially retake the presidency, and that remains their stated primary focus.

 President Obama's approval ratings is at 39%. George HW Bush was at 36% when he ran and lost his reelection. Franklin D Roosevelt was at 32% when he won reelection. There are too many other options beyond poll results to predict a future presidential election this far out. High unemployment beyond the president' power to change, a Congress with far lower popularity ratings than the president, high publicity and media attention on the horse race to find out who will face the president next fall, strong polarized views reflected in all but two of the many Republican candidates (views not popular beyond the Tea Party who say they reflect all of America), we are still fighting in at least two theaters of war, the president has been very effective and well likes as a world leader.

President Barack Obama wants millionaires to pay at least the same percentage as middle class taxpayers. A White House official says Obama plans to include a new base tax rate for the wealthy in a proposal for long term deficit reduction that he will announce tomorrow.

Searchers have recovered parts of the tail section of a World War II-era airplane that crashed at an air race
in Nevada, killing the pilot and eight spectators. Federal investigators say videos show the possibility of something coming off the fighter before it crashed in Reno on Friday. Witnesses say the video appears to show it's the elevator trim tab on the plane's tail. The scene was one of body parts, carnage and pain. For that reason the first report had a larger number dead and up to 100 casualty injuries. Several victims remain in critical condition this morning. The Reno Air Races is one of the main events of the year for aerial enthusiast.

Sunday Morning News and Views, Part 3

It s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown

Linus may have to have patience waiting for the Great Pumpkin to rise, as there is a pumpkin shortage back east. Folks in the Northeast may face high pumpkin prices this Halloween. Farmers say Hurricane Irene destroyed hundreds of pumpkin patches across the region, and wholesale prices have doubled in some areas. But the Northeast shortage has turned out to be a boon for growers in other parts of the country, such as Illinois, Indiana, California, Ohio and Michigan.

The Emmy Awards are tonight, yet most Americans could care less. The broadcast audience continues to decrease overall, as do the ratings for each Emmy Award broadcast. Pay Cable Premium networks and even commercial cable stations continue to dominate nominations, with AMC's "Mad Men" and HBO's "Boardwalk Empire" leading nominations this year. Jane Lynch of "Glee" will host, in an effort to attract the coveted 18 to 49 demographic advertisers target.

September 18, 1870, 141 years ago today Old Faithful was first discovered by explorers. Within in two years Yellowstone became America's first National Park, with Old Faithful the most known natural feature of the new National Park System. Seismic Activity is slowing the regularity of Old Faithful and its size and scope, but visitors still prefer it to any other guiser or part of the famous park.

California Republicans say they are revamping their strategy and creating a sustained effort to attract Hispanic
voters. The GOP's weekend convention in Los Angeles featured a town hall conversation yesterday about issues that are important to Hispanics. Party Chairman Tom del Beccaro says Republicans need to broaden the discussion with Hispanics from immigration and begin talking about jobs, education and public safety.

A strong earthquake has hit northeastern India near the border with Nepalthis morning. There were no
immediate reports of damage or injuries. Indian seismology official R.S. Dattatreyan says the quake
struck Sunday evening and had a preliminary magnitude of 6.9. It was centered near Nepal in India's northeastern state of Sikkim.

Syrian activists say dozens of students have used the first day of school to demonstrate near the capital, Damascus, calling for the downfall of President Bashar Assad's regime. The Local Coordination Committees network says security forces fired into the air, forcing students of one school in the area to disperse.

Sweden's security police say they have raided the administrative office of a mosque in the country's second
largest city. Security police spokeswoman Sirpa Franzen says Thursday's raid against the Bellevue Mosque in Goteborg was prompted by prosecutor Agnetha Hilding Qvarnstrom, who heads the investigation against
three men arrested on the eve of the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the United States. Franzen declined to say if the raid was connected to the arrests and wouldn't give more details. The men, of Somali and Iraqi origin, were initially suspected of plotting a terrorist attack, but the charges were later changed to preparing murder.

Pope Benedict XVI says his trip to his German homeland this week can help generate hope there. Benedict expressed excitement over the four-day pilgrimage as he spoke in German at his summer residence Sunday in Castel Gandolfo near Rome. The Pope asked Germans to pray for him during the trip, which begins
Thursday. Benedict says he can help them be "witnesses to hope and orientation for the future." Some 100 German lawmakers plan to boycott Benedict's speech to Parliament. The Vatican's No. 2, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone promised Sunday that speech will be "very beautiful." In a message broadcast on a German public television station, Benedict invited Germans to renew their faith.

Despite deep cuts in its budget, the formerly world respected Desert Research Center on the UNLV campus remains a key research organization on climate and econology. The Desert Research Institute is announcing a
scientist with federal environmental agencies is taking over as director of the atmospheric studies program. Marc Pitchford will take the job starting Nov. 16. Pitchford works as a Las Vegas-based researcher for the National Atmospheric Association. He earned master's and doctoral degrees from University of Nevada, Reno. He has worked on several DRI air quality monitoring projects including one that measured the impact of a coal-fired power plant on the Grand Canyon.Pitchford also led the creation of an interagency network that works to protect air quality and visibility standards in U.S. national parks and wilderness areas.The network began with 20 monitoring sites and now has 160 sites. Nevada is getting a grant of nearly $3.5 million to start a pilot program that rewards Medicaid patients for behavior that prevents expensive chronic health

Nevada officials announced Friday they won the grant from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid and will be getting the money over the next five years. Health officials will use a point system and provide rewards when patients participate in certain prevention programs that help them control their weight or cholesterol. Similar programs are at work in private sector insurance plans.The grant money is meant to encourage participants to use preventive services and reduce their use of medical services that are costly to the state.

Death has claimed daughters in two political families. Kara Kennedy died Friday after collapsing in the steam room at a Washington health club. The daughter of the late Sen. Ted Kennedy had battled lung cancer. And Eleanor Mondale, the daughter of former Vice President Walter Mondale, has died after a long struggle with brain cancer. Both were 51 years old.