Archive for the ‘atlanta journal-constitution’ tag
Maureen Dowd‘s assessment of how the more things change, the more they …
Of the U.S. House of Representatives Speaker-to-be, she writes:
… the elites in the White House were snuffing out the America he grew up in. It only took two years to realize that their direction for the country was simply, as he put it, “a contradiction with the vast majority of Americans.”
No one gets to take America away from Americans — not even the American president!
“What the American people were saying is ‘Enough!’ ” the Speaker-to-be told me, as he savored his own win and his party’s landslide, which he said was “a historical tide, not just a partisan election.”
Washington had not been listening. Washington had been scorning the deepest beliefs of Americans. And now that would have to change.
“American people are clearly fed up with what they see as the decay of American society,” he declared.
The next Speaker felt that the humbled president should take the election as a cue to be conciliatory, and he proposed they talk in the next few days. He offered to reach out to Democrats who wanted to work with his side, but also noted that the president would not be wise to stand in the way of the conservative agenda.
“I prefer to believe that this president, who is clearly very smart, is quite capable of thinking clearly about a message sent by the American people,” he said.
He said that, contrary to what the media elite had been jabbering about, he would not use his subpoena power to rain down a series of investigations on the Democratic administration.
No “witch hunts,” he said. Only “legitimate” investigations.
Yeah, that all worked out for Newt Gingrich. He really came through. The quotes above came from Gingrich, when I covered his heady victory in Marietta, Ga., in the 1994 Republican landslide that made him Speaker.
And, obviously, the Republican House only pursued “legitimate” investigations of Bill Clinton. Sixteen years later, as a weeping John Boehner extolled the American values he learned at his father’s bar — in the moment he dethroned Nancy Pelosi — the new crop of anarchic conservatives are saying all the same things.
God help the Republic.
For Salon’s William Saletan, Boehner is a shell of his mid-1990s counterpart and offers a different perspective on the Gingrich-Boehner dichotomy:
Gingrich acknowledged Clinton’s authority but cast him as a responder to the new agenda. “At least half of our Contract With America are things that the president should be able to support,” Gingrich argued. He added: “We are bound, to some extent, by the contract. But within that framework, we’d like to work with the president.”
Boehner asserts no such mandate or central role. In his speech last night, he framed the referendum of 2010 in strictly negative terms: “Across the country right now, we’re witnessing a repudiation of Washington, a repudiation of big government, and a repudiation of politicians who refuse to listen to the American people.”
As to his own agenda, Boehner offered only the vaguest boilerplate: “cutting spending,” “reducing the size of government,” and “giving government back to the people.”
Nor did Boehner proclaim a new relationship between Congress and the public, as Gingrich did. On the contrary, Boehner emphasized the centrality of Obama’s relationship with the public: “We hope President Obama will now respect the will of the people, change course, and commit to making changes that they are demanding. And to the extent that he’s willing to do that, we’re ready to work with him.”
Politically, Boehner’s deference makes sense. Voters are angry. They want the economy fixed, but it’s too messed up to be repaired before the next election. In these circumstances, the worst place to be, from an electoral standpoint, is in power. You want to be the linebacker, not the quarterback. You’re better off with Boehner’s vacuous Pledge to America than the substantial Contract With America.
But politics, too, has its price. Fear of electoral failure can make you impotent in office. You spend the years between elections ducking the risks of leadership. You wedgislate andhedgislate, but you never really legislate. For the sake of your career, you waste it.
That’s what I admire about Gingrich and Obama. Obama may lose more seats in Congress than Clinton did. He may be thrown out after one term. But he’ll have accomplished more than Clinton did, because he focused on doing the job, not keeping it.
The AJC’s Jay Bookman on supposed compromise between the Dems and Reps post election:
So to review what seem to be the major Republican themes:
GOP Talking Point 1: The Democrats lost because Obama refused to compromise.
GOP Talking Point 2 — Compromise? Hell no, we aren’t going to compromise!
In other words, our leaders can’t come to an agreement on whether it’s important to come to an agreement.
Ezra Klein with The Washington Post surmises that the final two years of Obama’s first term will be mostly focused on foreign affairs, rather than the domestic policies he took up in the first two years, and I’m inclined to agree, given that Obama barely got stuff done with a majority in both chambers, much less now with the House controlled by the Reps, who will do nothing if only to see Obama fail at every turn (Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell: “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.”). Shameful. \
I wouldn’t run the argument the same way Matt Yglesias does, but I definitely think you’ll see a more foreign-policy-focused White House over the next two years. In some ways, the domestic and economic focus that the financial crisis forced on the White House was a bit of a surprise, as Barack Obama’s candidacy was powered by his foreign-policy convictions, and that’s what he seemed most comfortable and enthusiastic about during the campaign.
And finally, The Times’ Paul Krugman on the “Whiny Center,” which, with their self-defeatest Blue Dog Democratic policies, some Dems shot their own party in the foot (Krugman says “in the face”) by first, blocking even stronger and needed measures from Obama and second, by losing half their seats in the process:
So, we’re already getting the expected punditry: Obama needs to end his leftist policies, which consist of … well, there weren’t any, but he should stop them anyway.
What actually happened, of course, was that Obama failed to do enough to boost the economy, plus totally failing to tap into populist outrage at Wall Street. And now we’re in the trap I worried about from the beginning: by failing to do enough when he had political capital, he lost that capital, and now we’re stuck.
But he did have help in getting it wrong: at every stage there was a faction of Democrats standing in the way of strong action, demanding that Obama do less, avoid spending money, and so on. In so doing, they shot themselves in the face: half of the Blue Dogs lost their seats.
And what are those who are left demanding? Why, that Obama move to the center.
Mike Luckovich is a Pulitzer Prize-winning and longtime editorial cartoonist with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Today, I scanned through some of his more recent cartoons and found a few cartoons that represent topics with which I have dealt on this site in recent weeks. Here’s a sampling with the related post from this site.
This last one doesn’t have much to do with anything I’ve written recently, at least, but I thought it was quite poignant in this age of corporation ownership of our elected officials.
Scoping the net tonight (late tonight) for something to write about, mostly for no other reason than the fact that I haven’t written in a few days, and I like to keep some level of consistency, I came across this guest column on the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Web site about gun control. The gist of the story is that an autoshop owner, with a wife and two kids, was shot in the head over an $800 bill.
The writer was angry and remorseful over the man’s death and used it to briefly speak his mind on the need for more gun regulations, noting that
The only thing that could have saved George was the irrational man’s inability to access a gun.
But, we’re unwilling to address that issue, right? Because people kill people, not guns.
Well, if we’re unwilling to somehow curtail the development of irrational people with things like first-rate education and mental health services — which we’re clearly averse to — then we better address the guns. If not both, it has to be one. — AJC, Oct. 13, By Steve Reba
I want to be on board with his thoughts, I really do. Needless killing, with guns or knives or broad swords or cannon fire should never be Ok. But I do have a couple bones to pick with this argument, and frankly (I’ll go ahead and get it out of the way), I can’t say that I’m totally sold on the idea of gun control or ridding the country of guns altogether. My reasons are not moral or ethic, but purely logical.
To address the above statements from the writer, first, we have no way of knowing whether the shooter was rational or not. He, in fact, could have been quite a rational person in thinking he was being being ripped off. True, typically the unethical action of ripping a person off doesn’t license the “victim” to wield a Magnum and start shooting. The shooter could have been insane, or not. We don’t know. Mass murderers have often been quite calm and collected, in the case of Dennis Rader, aka BTK, of whom, after watching the chilling BTK Killer movie awhile back, I could make the case Radar was cool as a salamander as he violently binded, tortured and killed at least 10 women over about a 17-year stint in Kansas and then disposed of the ravaged bodies. One could say Radar was deranged and perverted, but as he carried on his charade (He was also a leader in his church) for such a long time, one could hardly call him irrational. He was smart and one step ahead of investigators nearly the entire way, meanwhile carrying on his “real life” as if he was as innocent as the candy man.
But back on point. I do agree with Reba’s tongue-in-cheek facetious-point: “people kill people, not guns.” If we magically took all the guns in the United States (and it would have to be by magic), we would not end violence in America. Killers half their weight in salt would find other ways to kill. We may hope to reduce the number of deaths initially by eliminating guns, but to say that atrocities like the death of a guy with a family wouldn’t take place in a world without guns misses an important point about human nature: we will never inhabit a world where desperation, irrationality, psychosis, dementia, revenge and evil do not exist (I use the last word as a blanket term for anything else that may motivate someone to kill). I suppose it would be possible to imagine a society that has evolved to some higher order where we have, by no small measure, eradicated the tendencies that cause people to kill or to want to kill, for instance, by increasing the scale and efficiency of education and increasing (by leaps and bounds) the standard of living in even the most slum-like neighborhoods. But these high notions are far, far into the future, farther away in America’s future, less far away in more progressive countries.
I cringe, and yes, cringed even today, upon seeing a “right to keep and bear arms” bumper sticker on the back window of some super-sized tank of a truck, likely owned by a hunter or gun nut who has no notion of the Second Amendment or the context in which it was written. For a detailed discussion of the amendment, see here. We must understand that the Second Amendment was ratified just 15 years after the country declared its independence from an invading country. At the onset, before Congress officially made Washington general of the army, a state militia, mostly Massachusetts’, was fighting against the British invaders. The right to keep a “well regulated Militia” was a very real and necessary concern in those days, as was likely the right of every man to possess a gun to protect his family, as there was, very real in most people’s memory, once an invading army just around the bend. The full force of Britain’s army, was, indeed, at one time, just five miles from John Adams’ homestead, and Abigail, indeed, kept one of John’s guns in easy reach in case the British cut through the state’s militia. So, both the personal right to possess a gun and the corporate, or state’s right to form a militia (I think I would read: the nation’s right) are probably intrinsic in the amendment.
Also, in one important sense, the “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms,” given the context of the words before, “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State,” do suggest that “the people,” could mean, not each individual person (for it certainly says nothing of the sort), but the people as a whole of the state (nation).
The Supreme Court has ruled on the amendment, and I could elaborate further, but I suppose my grander point here is that we simply don’t know for sure what they meant by the “right to keep and bear arms.” If the full body of the Congress were before us today, maybe they could enlighten us on what they meant. But we don’t know for sure, and impassioned, to use the term here, “irrational,” voices on both sides of the issue of gun control gets us nowhere because they only add to the babble and cacaphony of polarization.
The larger point, I think, is that crime is not going to go away in a gun-free world, and we must succumb to this bitter fact: to erase guns is not to erase the will in some to kill or harm others. They will find other ways. We’re a very inventive species, and the last 200 years has told us that much. The irrationality and non-erudition on both sides, in my opinion, cancel each other out (and this can apply to other issues). The actual truth, as it does on so many questions, likely lies somewhere in the middle.
In a Feb. 8, 2009 column, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Cynthia Tucker supplied her view of Black History Month, dubbing it, “quaint, jarring, anachronistic.”
Coming from a black person, this comment itself may sound jarring. But it’s really not. As Tucker notes, even after Carter G. Woodson’s original 1926 Negro History Week went into effect, black folks were still the but of racial epithets and racial acts. Lynchings were still imminent for many. Segregation was still very much in force. Then, as now, Black History Month or Week or whatever we want to call it, means little, for those recognitions do little to repair scars, smooth hatreds or open locked minds.
As a child, I certainly remember sitting through special lessons in class geared to teach us about the important contributions of black people through America’s history, from Stowe to Tubman to Douglas to Du Bois down to King and Jackson (Jess, not Michael, though Michael has made important contributions as well). But even then (although it probably didn’t occur to me at the time), it merely seemed like we were just throwing black folks a bone, as if to say, “Sorry about those 150 or so years of slavery and another 100-plus of oppression and inequality under the law. Here’s a month just for you. Enjoy!”
I wonder how black children or youths feel nowadays when it comes time for the lessons on black leaders throughout history. Do they feel proud? Undermined? Embarrassed? No doubt, those lessons are important and every child, black or white or brown or yellow should be well-grounded in our own history. But shouldn’t we now, in the 21st century with a black man holding the highest office in the land, move past all the silliness of giving certain groups special tokens simply for being a certain color? As the new president has continually stressed, black people’s history is so inextricably bound up with America’s history that none of us can escape it. And why would we want to?
Tucker also notes that many traditional textbooks “gloss over” certain ugly periods in our history like Jim Crow and Reconstruction and the Black Codes. I would say this is largely true. Frankly, I knew little, if anything, about Reconstruction, lynchings or Jim Crowe before going to college. Some of that lack of knowledge falls on me. I didn’t have the hunger for learning that I do now. But part of that falls on our educational system. I knew all about Black History Month, even as a tyke. But after that month was over, it was back to pilgrims, stage coaches and manifest destiny (Interestingly, we learned less about the human atrocities resulting from that “destiny.” We did, however, touch briefly on the Trail of Tears. Thousands of Native Americans relocated from their homes and thousands dead. But let’s quickly move on.)
In short, at this point in our history, we can now, and should, move past the necessity for Black History Month. Of course, as a white person, it seems tougher for me to theoretically and socially to say such a thing than it is for Tucker. But perhaps that’s the point. The fact that it seems harder for a white person to say that proves the point. It’s time to move on and integrate the history of black folks with the history of America, both in our textbooks and in our social conscious. Or, as Tucker concludes:
Americans young and old, black, white and brown, will understand that black history and the nation’s history are one and the same. — The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Quite a bit of talk has sprung up recently about the Fairness Doctrine. Some Democrats, like Louise Slaughter (D-NY) have worked quite extensively (Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) is another supporter) to have the legislation reinstated, while many Republicans, suggest the doctrine is specifically targeted toward silencing, or at least, dulling influence from conservative-dominated talk radio.
The Fairness Doctrine, which seeks to mandate that broadcasters give opposing viewpoints to an issue (or have both conservative and liberal viewpoints represented by separate programs, etc etc), dates back to the mid-20th century when it was introduced and put into law and then added to the Federal Communications Commission regulations. In 1987, Congress tried to turn the regulations into law, and Reagan handed down a veto. It hasn’t been enforced by the FCC since. Now since Barack Obama was elected, word is that the Democrats will attempt to reinact such legislation.
In a December 2004 interview with Slaughter, Bill Moyers asked,
Is somebody going to say, “Is this just a question of a Democrat who feels she’s not getting her message out and she’s mad?”
SLAUGHTER: No. It isn’t. I mean I get reelected, I’ve done extremely well in my district because people appreciate that I fight for things. I think all Americans would feel the same way I do exactly if we just had the ability to tell them. Reinstating the fairness doctrine would make a major difference in this country.
Near the beginning of the interview, Slaughter said,
I was so committed to it (the doctrine) and I kept doing bills. Because the airwaves belong to the people. I think we’ve good and sufficient examples now of what has happened to us with media consolidation — the fact that the information coming to us is controlled, the fact that at least half the people in the United States have no voice because they’re not allowed in on talk radio.
Actually, the airwaves belong to whoever owns them. Perhaps in some metaphorical sense, airwaves are part of the public domain, but radio stations are not. They are privately owned and those owners can do with them as they like. It just so happens now that, apparently, conservative-minded individuals have a hold on talk radio at the moment.
One question Democrats will have to answer is the one Moyer raised: Aren’t Dems just trying to get some more elbow room in the media, particularly in radio? And this is a valid question. One can’t convince us that Dems have some unbending, irrevocable hunger for fairness that transcends party lines. That just isn’t believable because some who claim to be journalists don’t even possess that, which is unfortunate. But that’s for another article.
Obligating broadcasters, newspapers or cable news to use their mediums to present separate viewpoints sounds irresponsible to me and is tugging pretty hard, if not trampling, on the First Amendment:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Part of me says, “Yeah! Let’s make our media more balanced!” while another part can’t support anything, be it censorship, governmental stifling of thought or governmental addition of thought, that infringes on the press. I agree wholeheartedly that some in the press today (FOX News, most talk radio) have all but reverted back to the 19th century brand of journalism, when newspapers were nothing more than sounding boards to political parties. Others aren’t so brazen, however, offering liberal-only and conservative-only talk shows on their channels (Keith Olbermann, D.L. Hughley, Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck, to name a few) as seasoning to their 24/7 line up of what we are to believe is balanced coverage.
Be that as it may, even though some “journalists” and broadcasters have trampled on journalism itself, that doesn’t give the government the right to trample on it as well, in order to squash the tramplers at their own game. This goes back to a larger picture, which I’ve written about before, that one of the flaws in this country, from giant financial institutions (Wachovia, Merrill Lynch) to computer corporations (Microsoft), companies are allowed to grow and grow seemingly without checks. They thus expand to the point that their very non-existence could crumble our economic infrastructure. Thus it is with the media corporations, like Rupert Murdoch’s universe of FOX News, The Wall Street Journal, etc, etc. Give one person huge assets and a set of political ideologies, and in which direction will he attempt to take those assets? Of course, wherever his ideologies take him.
It is ironic that our oldest modern medium, radio, is today dominated by a party stuck in the past and grappling with how to modernize itself. While this seems wholly appropriate at this point, it’s not the job of the government to modernize talk radio, for that would be constitutional infringement. Nor is it the job of radio, TV or any other media to be the one and only source for people’s information. As Moyers said in his interview with Slaughter, residents have enumerable sources from which to get data. The informed person will seek out those enumerable sources, not being satisfied with just watching Hannity’s America or Keith Olbermann or listening to Rush Limbaugh or Laura Ingraham. Those programs success speaks to the fact that Americans, at this point, aren’t willing or are too lazy or to stuck in their own entrenched ideologies to do that, and we have a long way to go in that regard.
So, how do we raise a new consciousness of self-learning, to teach people to seek out multiple viewpoints and multiple ways of looking at complex issues? Part of that obligation falls to the press. While some calling themselves part of the “press” fail miserably, others — I would start with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and The New York Times — do a fine job of painting an accurate and fair picture of the American landscape. Most of that obligation is with teachers, professors and parents (and more so to the latter). This is where it must begin.
I admit. I haven’t worked in the industry for decades. I don’t concretely know what sells newspapers and what doesn’t. I know the direction the industry is going, and I know some strategies for luring potential readers to slip their hands into their pockets, find a couple quarters and deposit accordingly. But do any of us in the industry actually know what sells papers? Is it Godzilla-esque pictures or headlines? Teasers? Coverage on the issues that matter most to them?
I’m a word guy. I think well-crafted, well-reported stories are more important to fulfilling our service to the community than pictures or gigantic headlines. Especially in this era of “bigger is better” and less (content) is more, I suppose I’m in the minoritythere.
But the truth is this: we are living in an era where Reading — and its cousin, Learning — are not just dying, but are becoming taboo. Sure, Joe Schmoe reads, but it’s a headline here, a snippet there. The ability and desire to dig deep into the written word, to dig deep into complex issues has long-since escaped us. And that’s why the written word, the printed press, is slowly nailing itself to a cross. It really is a self-sacrifice. Newspapers still claim to be the authority on local issues ranging from zoning to immigration to water authorities and crime, but the nation’s leading papers — The New York Times being the exception … because it can — do their utmost to bury that important content inside the newspaper, thus making the front page appear like some daily Michelangelo painting, replete with teasers, huge pictures and giant headlines. But, consequently, my life calling is not to graphics and pictures, though I’m adept to these things, but to words on a page. Still, I play along.
Why have even the nation’s largest papers succumbed to such devices? I offer The Atlanta Journal-Constitution as a prime example. The Anderson Independent-Mail as another, which, consequently, has seemingly banished copy altogether from its front page.
This, because the economic situation at many newspapers is that bad, thanks to the 24-hour news cycle on cable television and the general dumbing down of America. Continually, we hear about buyouts, restructuring, etc. within the industry’s leading papers. Photos and graphics become necessary in order for newspaper to compete and not be drowned out in the blare.
Obviously, this speaks to a larger issue: that of our Red Bull-infused, spastic society. And admittedly, I get caught up in the great and rabbit race to nowhere. Frequently, I will catch myself surfing online, and — oooh — something else comes up that I might like to check out, thus diverting my attention from whatever I originally was seeking information about. What was it? I can’t remember. It’s maddening. In another post, I quoted Kurt Cobain on television:
I hardly write any stories and I don’t work on my songs quite as intently as in the past. You know why??? Television Television is the most evil thing on our planet. Go right now to your TV and toss it out the window, or sell it and buy a better stereo. — “Journals,” Kurt Cobain
I posit that the Internet is the new television.
Have any of you heard of The Spectator? It was a short-lived publication in the early-18th century. It was published in an era where coffee houses were hubs of political and societal conversation and learning. People then read as if their lives depended on it, and often, they did. Television, since the late 1930s has served to muck that up. The Internet has mucked it up further. I would argue that the Internet is actually more productive for the educational betterment of society than television, but neither wins a gold star.
Simply, I wish folks today read as if their lives depended on it. We simply have to promote a society that is bent on making reading the printed word a priority. Why? Because, as convenient and good as it may be, the Internet isn’t ironclad. Books in hard copy form are ironclad. Government documents in hard copy form are ironclad. But once they reach the Internet or e-mail, they can be manipulated at will by people who know more than you about Web site security. By way of example, my entire blog www.jeremystyron.com, which is on a separate server, completely went down for a few hours yesterday I can only assume, by a hacker.
I’m not optimistic that such a society will emerge in the near future — our society will continue wind-blown into its own technological tailspin — but I am committed to at least trying, in as much as I can, to focus people to more hard copy learning. I say that while admitting that any kind of learning and reading, virtual or not, is benefitial.
The most efficient studying takes place, I feel, not when one is, in tandem, listening to music, playing an online solitaire game and reading some essay for class, but when one is sitting upright at a kitchen table, hunched over a book — with nothing as a distraction — with, perhaps, only a cup of coffee as company. Such a commitment will assist in building a society again more focused on the printed word, one more focused on dissecting and vetting the complex issues that confound us.