What journalists do: My thoughts

Rex Smith, editor of the Albany Times Union, informs us “a journalist who just passes along what is said is a fancy stenographer, failing at the task of truth telling.” That in a nutshell describes where journalism has gone off the rails and why it’s audience represents only one segment of society.

When I was a cub reporter with the Oberlin College student newspaper, my first assignment was to cover a talk by the poet Stephen Spender. I was asked to take notes so that people not able to attend would get an accurate idea of what he said. I certainly was not expected to judge or evaluate Spender’s presentation.

Later I became a sports editor. The closest I came to “truth telling” was writing a headline that told readers the extent of the victory or defeat. The story itself was a recapitulation of the events of the game or match told without editorial input. Today sports stories rarely report on the game itself; instead they purport to tell us what the victory or defeat means, taking away our pleasure as fans coming to our own conclusions.

When it comes to politics, journalism today is agenda driven. What that means is that the newspaper’s point of view on all major topics is pre-determined. All a reporter needs to do is fill in the details that support the paper’s view. If that’s truth telling, my name is Bill Clinton.

If you need evidence, consider the revelations that discredit the New York Times from being an objective source of information on the issues of the day.

With the election of Donald Trump, the Times resolved to focus on the assumption that he stole the election with help from Russia. “We built our newsroom to cover one story, and we did it truly well,” said Dean Baquet, the Times’ current executive editor. I would question that conclusion. There was no collusion, but the Times reportedly gained 600,000 digital subscriptions telling its readers daily for more than two years that the evidence was mounting. Mission accomplished.
Today, Baquet has decided to shift to another story: racism. His goal is to reframe the entire history of this country to make it a function of slavery. They want us to believe that the history of the United States of America began with the arrival of the first African slaves at Jamestown in 1619. Slavery taints all and cannot be erased. Not even reparations will satisfy.

It’s easy to see how this game plan accomplishes the Times’ current political agenda. It not only appeals to the descendants of slavery, but it enables the Times to undermine black support for President Trump, which could be a factor in the outcome of the 2020 election.

What should newspapers do?

In its long history on this continent, newspapers evolved from being a voice for owners to express their views on the issues of the day ala Ben Franklin to becoming a platform for political parties, which meant tarring opponents with whatever calumny was handy. In the early 20th century reformers sought to hold papers to a set of principles that included separating news stories from opinion. That was the prevailing ethic until Watergate—the expose of President Nixon’s involvement in trying to undermine George McGovern’s campaign by planting false evidence in a Democrat campaign office.

After that, the big newspapers got swelled heads, feeling their job was not just to report on, but once more to influence the outcome of the issues of the day. If that means reporters inserting their views in news stories, so be it. If that means having an agenda which all stories on a topic such as climate change or tariffs have to adhere to a set position, so be it.

Professional journalists should not just be stenographers, but neither should they couch a news story to follow a political agenda failing to report facts that conflict with those that support the company’s view.

Jill Abramson, Baquet’s predecessor at the Times, wrote a book, Merchants of Truth, in which she argued that newspapers are kowtowing to advertisers in the face of declining revenues. What has turned things around economically for some has fast news distribution via social media, using Twitter for example, to release partial stories ahead of print publication. The danger she sees is a lack of oversight and a rush to judgment. That is exacerbated when the paper has an admitted agenda.

In a democracy, readers ought to be given adequate information to make up their own minds. Newspapers should provide a balanced coverage of the issues, such that reporters tell us what people say on both sides of an issue without editorializing. If they want to express their own opinions on the issues, save it for their personal Twitter account. The arrogance of those who think they are in possession of the truth contributes to the public’s distrust of the media. Fox has it right: their job is to report; ours is to decide.

Is there such a thing as Democratic Socialism?

There are only two types of socialists: those who believe socialism will come by revolution––the uprising of the working class––and those who believe socialism can be voted in. The problem comes after socialism arrives. Then little distinguishes the policies that are advanced and the means by which they are implemented.

In the Soviet Union, the Communist Party implemented its policies by force, using the police and military to get people to do the party’s bidding. There were no individual rights in the Soviet Union, except for the Party’s top leaders of course. In Argentina, where socialism was voted in, the police and military have become the means by which a socialist dictatorship remains in power. Today people have numbers written on their arms to show their place in the food lines. Echoes of the Holocaust.

So, is there such a thing as democratic socialism? The answer is no. There are European countries that have adopted some socialistic policies, but none are truly socialist societies. Private ownership of wealth and property cannot be allowed to exist under socialism. Corporations and small businesses may operate under severe restrictions in Europe, but they exist in all European countries. In a truly socialist society any attempt to restore capitalism even by electoral means has to be crushed by force. Take Cuba as another example where the people do not have political liberty and where private ownership is extremely limited.

What would “democratic socialism” mean in America? Loss of individual liberties in the name of the society as a whole. Loss of freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of religion. Those losses would not be labeled as such. They would be announced as great accomplishments for the “working class,” but they are inevitable.

Elizabeth Warren wants to know where the family lore blank is on the presidential application form?

Writing in the May 17 Washington Post columnist Margaret Sullivan defended Elizabeth Warren against Donald Trump’s calling her Pocahontas by arguing that Warren was “merely repeating family lore.”

That is b.s. to put it mildly. You can’t tell me that Warren didn’t know that attaching “Native American” to her applications for graduate school, professorships and grant applications didn’t give her a step up over other candidates. “Female and Native American. Wow. We want one of those,” said the law school dean who hired her at Harvard.

She can’t say she didn’t know she was benefitting from that claim without appearing out of it. Identity has become a primary qualifier for academic positions for decades. She had to know that, which is why she referred to herself as Native American.

And for Sullivan to accept Warren’s excuse as legitimate and also to say “She does have some such ancestry, but not very much” is also disingenuous. The results of the DNA test she took “cannot show that she or any other person is ‘NativeAmerican’” according to Jennifer Raff writing in Forbes Magazine.

In other words, Trump is entirely justified for his calling Warren Pocahontas because that’s what you do to people who cheat. You call them out. Thank goodness that name is sticking because it reminds people that when she had an opportunity to cheat to advance her career Warren didn’t hesitate. Is that the kind of person we want as president?

Elizabeth Warren Is Barking Up the Wrong Trees

Given her academic credentials and past political successes––having won her Senate seat twice––you’d think Elizabeth Warren would run a smart campaign for the Democrat Presidential nomination, but you’d be wrong. Polls show her below the top male contenders and she’s far behind in fund raising. Lately, her policy pronouncements sound desperate rather than calculated.

Tax the Richest

Warren began her campaign calling for an “ultra-millionaire tax.” She claims America needs to tax household net worth, not just income, on the basis of statistics that show the richest Americans are richer today than they were forty years ago. She claims that is due to government policies that facilitate wealth accumulation at workers’ expense.

(Workers is her word. It’s a term used by Communists and Socialists and goes back to Karl Marx and the 19th century. It’s not only slanted, but it’s intentionally imprecise. In socialist jargon everyone is a worker except capitalists.)

There is a false assumption underlying her calculation, which is that the same families who were super rich forty years ago are superrich today. If that were true, then we could consider her argument that government tax policy is a factor in keeping the rich rich, but it’s not true. Just as many of the top 25 corporations of 1975 have been replaced by new corporations today, many of today’s wealthiest families gained their wealth recently. They didn’t inherit their wealth. They earned it.

Her wealth tax also ignores that fact that the top wage earners in America already pay a hefty percentage of income taxes, which is why Warren wants to tax household net worth including assets held in trust, retirement assets (401k plan monies) and even assets held by minor children. This is a soak the rich scheme the consequences of which can only be bad for the economy. Why? The tax would force people to withdraw billions out of the stock and bond markets, which would slow economic growth and result in layoffs. Further, a significant portion of the collected money would have to pay the thousands of new IRS employees who would be necessary to assess the household wealth of millions of Americans. It could take one fulltime employee weeks per millionaire.

Warren Boards the Runaway Electoral College Wagon

Not satisfied to ride the tax the rich train, Warren joined the crowd clamoring to get rid of the Electoral College. “Everyone’s vote should count equally,” she argues. That would make sense if we were a country like Israel, whose population is around 10 million, but we are a federal republic made up of 50 states. To nationalize our electoral system taking political power away from the states would represent a dangerous step towards nationalizing the entire country, making the federal government all powerful and reducing state and local governments to puppet shows. That is exactly what the founders feared when they designed our constitution.

The Electoral College gives power to small states like Rhode Island, Utah and Mississippi. Abolishing the Electoral College would lead to candidates spending all their time in the five or six most populace states. It’s a terrible idea and even worse that a law professor who should know better endorses it.

Chasing Bernie: A Bad Plan

Off to a slow start Warren seemingly saw Bernie Sanders leading the early polls and decided to compete with Bernie by coming out with her “universal free college and cancellation of student loan debt” plan. Some of her analysis of the problem makes sense––in particular the fact that public college tuitions have escalated faster than inflation disadvantaging lower income families.

There two major problems with her plan, however––her analysis of the source of the problem is skewed and her solution introduces a measure of unfairness and false hope.

Warren claims it’s “virtually impossible” for a young person to achieve what she achieved––rising from a poor small town family to become a teacher, law professor and U.S. Senator. The basis for this unsubstantiated and rather absurd claim is the high cost of higher education. Costs have increased faster than inflation and many students are forced to borrow money, but what’s to stop someone from following a similar career path once they graduate? To make that claim, Warren makes assertions that are patently false.

Why has college become unaffordable? Warren says it’s become the state and federal government would “rather cut taxes for billionaires and giant corporations and offload the cost of higher education onto students and their families.” This is a backhand slap at the Trump tax cut, but Warren admits elsewhere the high tuition problem is not recent in the making. It’s been building for decades, under both Democrat and Republican presidents and governors.

She can’t resist taking a whack at capitalism claiming government has “stood by as employers demanded higher credentials while offloading the cost of getting those credentials onto workers.” What? Job credentials reflect the skills and knowledge required to do the job. Government has no role in determining what skills an employer feels an applicant should possess for any particular job title. I don’t even think the Soviet Union went that far.

Then she claims employers have not passed along in the form of wage increases the profits they’ve earned as a result of the skills workers bring to the job. That must come from some academic statistician who decided to find figures that matched his or her bias because the fact of the matter is that employers today are paying high wages for skilled workers. Ask any computer programmer if s/he is compensated fairly in relation to the cost of his/her education!

How Much Will It All Cost?

Warren admits her debt cancellation plan would cost $640 billion and universal free college would double the cost of the total program. Where will $1.25 TRILLION dollars to pay for this come from? The ultra-millionaire tax program, of course.

Fine, except Bernie Sanders wants that money to pay for universal health care, Beto O’Rourke wants it to battle climate change, and Warren herself needs some of that money for her universal child care program.

Warren should know that chasing Bernie’s socialist student crowd is political suicide. Students don’t register to vote at the same rate as older adults and their turnout rate is poor. Young adults 21 to 30 may be attracted to all these give-aways, but retired people and those who are in the middle of a career, whether married and raising a family or not, have gained enough life experience to understand these politicians are playing a zero sum game. Here’s why: if you start taking money out of the pockets of the 75,000 richest families, they will not only fight back with tax accountants and lawyers challenging the IRS’ every move, but her program will reduce their wealth resulting in revenue shortfalls. Then what happens when all those giveaway programs can’t pay their bills?

Warren has not separated herself from the crowd because she’s playing the same game as Bernie, Beto and the rest––promising what can’t be delivered with full knowledge that she’ll have to have someone to blame from preventing nirvana. Guess who that would be? That’s right: Republicans and corporations. The next step would be a call for outright socialism. Before that could arrive, however, hopefully Americans would take a look at the Soviet Union, Cuba and Venezuela and decide if that’s the future they want for themselves and their off-spring.

Identity Politics Gone Insane: The Case of Elizabeth Warren

More evidence of Elizabeth Warren’s fraudulent claim that she is Native American has come to the fore in recent days. She self-identified as Native American thirty years ago on her Texas Bar Association application and also later on her official listings at the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard. Some accept her excuse that she thought she was Native American, but why didn’t she attempt to verify whether she was or wasn’t? The fact is she would continue to be getting away with a lie today had not others challenged her.

It appears that Warren sought to use this myth to enhance her status and advance her career. She wanted to be seen not just as a woman, but as a Native American woman. There is an academic construct called ‘intersectionality’ that increases a person’s status if she is a member of more than one oppressed minority. It appears that Warren’s use of her fake identity, rather than the merit of her academic accomplishments, earned her prestigious jobs and high salaries. She then built on that resume to gain the nomination of the Democrat Party for U.S. Senator from Massachusetts––a position she holds today, a position some might argue she does not deserve. She further has the gall to think she should be the Democrat Party candidate for President in 2020!

Focus on the distinction between identity and merit as the basis for hiring and promotion. While minorities and women were discriminated against in the past, that doesn’t justify giving them a free pass today. When equal opportunity is no longer the standard for advancement in a society, the door is wide open to new forms of discrimination. There is strong evidence that has been the case in academia for decades. People who hold conservative views have an inordinate hard time getting jobs in the social sciences. Some people have admitted they had to hide their beliefs until they had tenure track jobs because they knew prejudice, not merit, determines hiring in academia.

Identity Discrimination Now Found in the Business World

Favoritism based on identity has now been extended to the business world as well as in the news media where to be charged of an act of malfeasance by a minority is tantamount to guilt, especially if the person is a white male.

To be very clear, I also would challenge the notion that a non-minority—i.e., a male Caucasian––cannot be objective, impartial and fair in the fulfillment of his duties whether as a policeman, school and college instructor, or as president of the United States.

Democrats who wish to preserve the notion of equal rights for all citizens—something embodied in our Constitution––ought to make it clear that they do not support Warren’s candidacy for president or that of any other candidate who feels qualified because they are a member of a minority group or because they believe minorities deserve special treatment apart from merit.

Masculinity Under Attack

Gillette, the makers of shaving products, is trying to win over millennial and younger males by attacking masculinity. A recent video advertisement disparages the notion that boys should be boys, and Gillette is not alone. Much of the entertainment and news industry follow the same formula: white men, business owners (capitalists), and the United States are the source of the world’s problems. All women, all non-whites, and all people whose sexual preferences are not heterosexual are victims.

Beyond the stupidity of alienating millions of existing customers, Gillette’s throwing in with the victimized political movement should serve as a warning sign. The price of overthrowing nature with regard to gender can only lead to the decay of the overall society, to the undermining of natural human attributes––the desire to compete, the desire to achieve, the desire for comfort, and the desire for shared progress.

There is a necessary biological difference between males and females, and I’m not referring solely to the reproductive function.

The vast majority of male children approach life differently. They interact with the physical world differently. They learn differently. That is not to say there are not males who, for biological reasons, have feminine tendencies, which society should accept and not ridicule, but they are the exception.

One danger of a feminized culture is that normal males will believe themselves the source of pain to women and minorities and try to become what they are not. That is what Gillette is preaching and it must be challenged.

Victimology is being taught at all levels of our educational system. Why is it so prevalent even in elementary school? One reason is the power that is gained by women and racial minorities. Today minorities and women receive favored treatment in admissions and hiring throughout American society. Today to be a woman means you are automatically favored to win an election if your opponent is a male. Yet women and minorities continue to claim they are disadvantaged, treated unfairly and damaged by their status.

Sadly, those practicing victimology are hypocrites for affiliating themselves with real victims. Real victims, such as women and gays in Muslim countries, are ignored while phony victims use their victim status to gain unfair advantage in our society. Black Africans are also ignored victims of Islam––in the Sudan and Nigeria for example, but Muslims in the U.S. and Europe see the benefit of claiming victim status and attempt to join the pity party under the label of “intersectionality” the notion that all victims have in common the same oppressors.

Parents must challenge teachers who make boys feel their natural boyish behavior is bad. They must not allow their children to attend colleges where victimology is the underlying educational philosophy. The Ivies are among the major offenders in that regard. We must stop making donations to such institutions.

Companies like Gillette and its parent Proctor and Gamble must be boycotted to show the majority of Americans oppose the victim ideology that makes natural maleness an evil, and candidates who run on victim platforms must be defeated at the polls.

There are bad men in the world, but there are also bad women. There are bad whites, but there are also bad Blacks, bad Hispanics, bad Asians, and bad Christians, bad Jews, etc. Bad actors are not confined to one group and membership in any group should not automatically consign someone to possessing certain characteristics. That is the kind of thinking we fought against 50 years ago when we attacked segregation and opened the doors to women and blacks as equals.

The United States is still the land of opportunity––a beacon and a model to the rest of the world. That status, however, is under attack by practitioners of victimology, by those who would repress masculinity, and by those who would replace free speech and free enterprise with constrained speech and socialism. The war is escalating. Who will win will be determined by each of us.

Democratic Socialism Revisited

The recent primary victory of a “democratic socialist” candidate for Congress in New York City has added a new chapter to the flirtation of the Democrat Party with “socialism,” coming on the heels of the avowed socialist Bernie Sanders’ candidacy for President in 2016. This may seem a step forward to “progressives,” but to me it demonstrates how many people in America fail to appreciate the history of socialist societies.

One hundred fifty years ago, socialism sounded appealing because it promised the solution to multiple social problems. Further, according to Karl Marx’ “scientific” analysis, it’s arrival was inevitable. Well, it turned out Marx’s theory was not so scientific since socialism did not arrive. What eventually came instead were forms government called socialism and communism as justification for pseudo-socialist policies at best and dictatorships at worst.

Not True Socialism?

Some present-day socialists claim these were not true examples of socialism, and thus argue the real thing hasn’t been tried. In science, when all attempts to prove a theory fail, the theory is rightly rejected. So, let’s examine why socialism has failed in the past and why it will continue to fail every time it is tried.

Marx theorized that capitalism created the seeds of its own destruction––that the imbalance between the haves and the have-nots would become so extreme that the haves would be pulled down and the have-nots would inevitably take over. That theory justified the Russian, Chinese, Cuban and other revolutions––except what replaced the previous system was a form of government where a small group––ultimately one man––made all the key decisions and controlled everything. That’s what still prevails in China and Cuba today.

Contrast that outcome with what the theorists of representative democracy envisioned. John Locke, Adam Smith, James Madison, et al, understood the evil of one-man rule and postulated an alternative: democratically elected representative government. Concerned about the rights of the individual, the founders of our country divided power into three branches—legislative, executive and judicial.

Can Socialism Arrive Democratically?

Of course, parties advocating socialist policies have achieved power via elections, but then what happens each time? In order to implement their policies, however, socialists have to fulfill their promises to their supporters and that they cannot do . . . for many reasons.

Socialism promises equal outcomes. Taken to its logical conclusion that means students cannot be rewarded based on achievement and jobs cannot be allocated by merit. No society will accept such policies except by force. In Europe, that has meant hybrid solutions—where merit is not totally outlawed and the existence of large corporations is seen as necessary in the short run.

Socialism also promises an equal distribution of goods. The problem with that is scarcity is inherent in the human condition. The only way to achieve equal distribution of food, clothing, transportation, healthcare, housing, etc. is to lower the standard of living for everyone. To accomplish that requires the use of force because people naturally rebel against policies that punish effort while rewarding sloth (i.e., a disinclination to exert effort).

Why Do Some Favor Socialism?

By ignoring the history of attempts to overthrow capitalism and institute socialism in Russia, China, Israel (see my article on what happened in Israel), Argentina, Cuba and Europe, people focus on what socialism promises and ignore the problem of how to get there. It also sounds good (to some, but not all ears) because it allows its advocates to blame others for keeping them from having whatever goods they believe they deserve.

Here in the U.S.A., socialist candidates and policies may win short-term gains, but must fail in the long run. The American people have shown themselves too savvy to be swayed by pie-in-the-sky promises because we know first hand the benefits of free enterprise and we are culturally resistant to compulsion.

That said, it is actually not bad for avowed socialists to run for office whether as Democrats or under some other party because it provides the public an opportunity to learn about socialism’s failures. While the horrors of the Soviet Union are in the past, lessons are easily seen by studying present-day China, Cuba and Argentina. Information is readily available on all three for anyone who cares to examine it.

Socialism became popular150 years ago because it promised an end to an industrial system that exploited laborers, despoiled the environment, and corrupted the political system. That’s not the world we live in today. Instead, the free enterprise system has prolonged life and raised the standard of living of millions across the globe. One must conclude no matter how many theories arise that promise a socialist nirvana, it’s existence will remain a pipe dream.