Sunday, June 26, 2005

Still more editorial overview

I owe a lot to the Chattanooga Times. From the time I was a pre-teen, but already getting interested in ideas and philosophies and politics, I learned about dishonesty and bias in "news"papers.
The Times distorted, for example, a 1964 student mock election. It was a primary, with Democrats running against Democrats and Barry Goldwater standing tall against some piddly nobodies who should have been Democrats. (Hmmmm. Does anyone get the feeling I might have been partisan?)
Fulfilling expectations, the Democrat students voted pretty overwhelmingly for Lyndon Johnson and the Republicans, still a minority in those days, choosing Goldwater.
The Times, though, headlined, "Johnson Beats Goldwater."
I will remember till the day I die a front-page story headlined, "Goldwater Man Turns To Scranton."
Scranton was the then-governor of Pennsylvania, and about the 19th candidate the leftish Republicans threw across the path of Goldwater.
Probably very few people even remember his name today, and with good reason.
Anyway, the headline was a big chortle from the propagandists of the Times, but the story itself was a big yawn to anybody reading it. Essentially, a seventh vice president of the National Association of Manufacturers said Bill Scranton would be a good second choice, after Barry Goldwater!
Today we use the term "disconnect" to describe the relationship between the head and the story.
Those are the two I remember, but of course there were dozens, scores more examples of bias and/or dishonesty -- just as with the rest of the "news" media that year.
The Times, perhaps mostly or solely for its leftward slant, did something almost no other morning papers in the country did: Fell behind the Free Press, its afternoon competitor, in circulation.
When about seven years ago the two papers were merged into one by the new corporate owner, one exceptionally good thing -- or at least potentially exceptionally good thing -- was done: The editorial pages were continued as separate entities. The Times is, appropriately, on the left-hand page and the Free Press, appropriately, on the right.
The left columns tend to be hysterical anti-Bush diatribes, from the likes of the vulgar Molly Ivins and Ellen Goodman and the opaque E.J. Dionne, Jr., although there is occasionally Thomas Friedman or David Broder or, far too infrequently, the superlative William Raspberry.
The right columnists include the brilliant Walter Williams, but often the run-of-the-mill rightists with no new insights but just the usual cant such as Phyllis Schlafly and William Rusher.
Dr. Williams actually explains things, detailing ideas and underlying philosophies.
On Friday, 24 June 2005, the Times published a cartoon by Wright of the Palm Beach Post. In front of what seems to be a painting or poster of the Muppets is an obvious curmudgeon, identified by a lapel button saying "GOP" and muttering "Another liberal cabal."
Nowhere have I seen, in print or on the Internet or on television, nor have I heard, on radio or anywhere, ANYone saying the Muppets were "liberals."
It is a fact, though, the Muppets' creator, Jim Henson, who, about 1990, died rich because of the Muppets' popularity and clever capitalist merchandising, was indeed a leftist activist.
It was his leftist activism that first brought him to the attention of the WGBH TV station in Boston, and from there he branched out into Public Broadcasting System programming, and thence into the much better-paying commercial networks and, even better paying, motion pictures.
In Henson's generally charming and enjoyable first film, "The Muppet Movie" (1979), starting Kermit and Miss Piggy and all the rest, plus Orson Welles, Henson's leftism was splashed right in front of everybody, not even very subtly: The bad guy, played by Charles Durning, who wanted Kermit's legs for a line of food, very ostentatiously wore an American flag lapel pin.
So the Times cartoon is a silly straw-man effort at caricaturing Republicans and rightists (who these days do well enough, thank you, at caricaturing themselves), and is further demonstration the Times editorial page editors know not whereof they publish.

More editorial overview, continued

It's really too bad the Chattanooga Times Free Press can't find an editor for its editorial pages, especially for its Sunday Perspective section, who is qualified to be an editor.
In the edition of Sunday, 26 June 2005, there is this item in the "Rant" department: "It appears that the only physician in Congress has put his foot in his mouth. I hope he chokes on it."
First, the "Rant" is one of the worst things in any "news"paper, but Chattanooga's reflects what is worst in town and in the whole Tri-State area.
It is anonymous garbage, which is bad enough, and should the opinion be moronic or a fact misstated, it gets printed anyway, as long as the "editor" of the section allows it in.
Second, Congress has, in fact, at least two medical doctors. One is Bill Frist, the lamentable U.S. Senator who is apparently planning to run for president in 2008.
Tennessee's record in presidential candidates is not very good, but is probably not much if any worse than any other state.
Most recent was the unlamented Albert Gore, Jr., who garnered more popular votes in the 2000 election but lost in the Electoral College.
In 1980, Howard Baker, Jr., ran in the Republican presidential primary, along with what seemed to be six or seven dozen others.
There have been other Tennesseans over the centuries, including one of the in many ways worst presidents, Andrew Jackson, and one of the best in at least one way, James K. Polk.
Polk seems to be the last and perhaps only president who kept all his campaign promises, which included getting the United States into a war with Mexico, settling the "54-40 or fight" situation, and serving only one term (a wonderful idea that should be imposed on all presidents).
Even Jackson had some stature, although his mistreatment of the so-called "Indians" was so shameful it is a disgrace he is given any admiration today.
Bill Frist is not a patch even on Jackson.
And he might be the only doctor in the Senate, but over in the House of Representatives is a man who might well be the sole surviving member of Congress who knows what's in the Constitution: Dr. Ron Paul of Texas.
Wait a minute -- there IS another doctor, an obstetrician, just elected last year from Oklahoma. He is Tom Coburn, and he was in the lower house first.
Ron Paul, however, is the kind of man who would not be mentioned on editorial pages. He makes too much sense; he wants the government to obey the Constitution; he believes in the sanctity of the individual.
Well, now we know there are at least THREE doctors in Congress, but Times Free Press editors are not as knowledgeable -- or as smart -- as we.
And we are also smarter than the author of the "rant," whose target most likely was Frist, meaning the ranter is one of the mean-spirited, nasty-mouthed local Democrats.
A county commissioner, Curtis Adams, recently switched parties, from Democrat to Republican. Hardly a letter or rant that resulted was anything but a mean-spirited attack, with no substance but a lot of vitriol.
Wouldn't a good opinion page editor have sought out some intelligent -- being, considering the quality of the local Democrat Party, a very relative term -- spokesman who could speak of substance, and not just make personal attacks?
Another rant is a good illustration of the general worthlessness of the feature: "Styles and Wolfe: Two individuals starving for ratings and votes, obviously in need of a real life. Move on to a topic of real importance."
Jeff Styles is the morning talk-show host on WGOW FM, 102.3 in Chattanooga. John Wolfe also hosts a talk program, paid for with his own money, and he has twice been a Democrat candidate for Congress.
Wolfe makes a similar mistake to the ranter, spewing personal assaults, although he usually does try to point out some evidence or alleged evidence as a basis for his attack and, as a talk-show host, is almost always polite and nearly always letting his caller speak.
Wolfe has been treated very shabbily by the "news"paper generally but he did get an endorsement in 2004 by the Times editorial page, which would no doubt endorse the proverbial yellow dog if said dog ran as a Democrat.
Styles, by the way, is a very knowledgeable talk-show host, able to converse on a surprisingly wide range of topics. He is much more intelligent and substantive than, for example, Michael Savage or Sean Hannity or Alan Colmes. He might not have the finesse of some national hosts, but I would choose him over any of them to listen to or to talk with.
And I'll bet he already knew there are at least three physicians in the U.S. Congress -- which needs at least that many, being a pretty sick institution.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Editorial overview, continued

As previously mentioned, the Times Free Press, after the merger, continues to publish two editorial pages, The Times on the left side and the Free Press on the right side.
Times editorials tend to be long and boring, frequently pompous, almost never intendedly humorous, and nearly always very one-sided and supportive of more and bigger and more intrusive government.
On 14 June 2005, the editorial bemoaned "A threat to public broadcasting."
Naturally, expectedly, it groused about the new administration of Kenneth Tomlinson and fusses that now, though certainly not previously, so-called "public broadcasting" will be biased.
Its accompanying intellectual and fair-minded cartoon portrays opponents as hatchet-armed gorillas storming into the PBS office as a receptionist intercoms, "Mr. Moyers, some conservative gentlemen to see you -- something about balance and liberal bias."
Bosh! Of course there's no such thing a "liberal bias." No, sir.
On the Free Press side that day is a cartoon and editorial protesting, essentially, that claims of "War on Terror" torture are, at least, exaggerated. There is an editorial questioning the "global warming" hysteria ... well, hysteria in certain circles. Another asks "Why not insist on U.N. reform?"
The last editorial comments on "Another court stymies democracy," referring to a federal court overruling a Virginia law banning "the gruesome procedure known as partial-birth abortion," and containing this line: "That is a strange thing for a federal court to do since the Constitution leaves to the states the power to regulate those things not specifically delegated to the federal government's control."
That is a very interesting editorial comment, one we want to remember and one to which we will refer in the future.


"Rate your school online" is the head on a syndicated article in the Times Free Press, Monday, 6 June 2005, page D-1.
First, to the eye, the second-person style of the head grates, and has always grated, on me, but I suppose that could be written off as personal. (Of course I don't; I find second-person writing in "news" papers to be very amateurish, for one thing.)
Second, the apparently intendedly breezy style of the article, by Theresa Walker of what used to be a much better paper, the Orange County Register, begins this way: "NGA wants teens to check out its Web site.
"No, that's not a new hip-hop group. That's the National Governors Association."
That group is "asking high school students to participate in an online survey that will give them firsthand (sic) information about the high school experience."
In the Times Free Press, the beginning of the article is accompanied by a photo with this cutline, or caption to civilians: "Angeline Grimsley, 18, and Nicole Weiner, 17, give their California school high marks for diversity."
Beside the jump, or continued, portion is another photo, this one of a young man.
Inexplicably, all three pictured are leaping into the air in the photos from Knight Ridder Newspapers.
Perhaps explicably, but not explained, all three are very white, blonde and blond, even.
So where is the "diversity" in the "news" story and photos?