Archive for the ‘journalism’ Category

For the second year in a row, the United States barely cracked the top twenty in press freedom.

Reporters Without Borders compiles the World Press Freedom Index annually. According to the organization’s website,

the index measures the state of press freedom in the world. It reflects the degree of freedom that journalists and news organisations enjoy in each country, and the efforts made by the authorities to respect and ensure respect for this freedom. (more…)


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On the same day she celebrated the long overdue exit of Mark Souder of Indiana, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow went after Rand Paul for fifteen minutes, browbeating him for his wrong answer to a hypothetical answer about a nearly fifty year old bill.

Rand Paul is a different shade of Right Wing than Mark Souder. I’m rather bored with the hypocrites of the Souder variety; hearing them talk just makes me tired.

I wish more Republican politicians were like Rand Paul–intellectually poised and (more…)

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obama_apTomorrow’s Chicago Tribune will publish “An Open Letter to Barack Obama” by Robert L. Schulz, chairman of the Foundation for Constitutional Education.

For several years, rumors swirled regarding Barack Obama’s birthplace, with partisans and concerned citizens alike contending that he was not really born in the United States, but in Kenya. The Obama campaign tried to squelch these rumors by posting an official copy of official copy of the candidate’s birth certificate online, at FightTheSmears.com. But that only gave conspiracy theorists a concrete document to inspect and discredit, upping the ante for those committed to bringing down Obama’s campaign.

“Where is the embossed seal,” they asked, “and the registrar’s signature?”

Obama’s detractors knew this could be more politically damaging than attending a church with an unpatriotic pastor. With the authenticity of Obama’s birth certificate in question, what choice would voters have but to conclude that the black guy was an un-American liar after all? So the silly questions persisted.

“Why is there no crease from being folded and mailed? And what’s up with the ‘07 date stamp bleeding through the ‘08 document?”


Increasingly, the conspiracy theorists weren’t just playing in Tinfoil Hat City. Some of their questions were genuinely intriguing. And we Americans tend to embrace illogical and scandalous explanations when logical and mundane ones aren’t immediately readily available. The observation that Obama’s birth certificate is a bluer shade of green than most Hawaiian birth certificates, for instance, leads many an uncritical thinker to conclude that Obama’s must be a forgery. Never mind that dyed paper fades over time, or that our laptops’ color and brightness settings may cause digital images to look slightly different from how they appeared in the real life light.

As this game went on, it almost looked like another Swift Boat had arrived to taxi all of us out to sea again. But when nonpartisan watchdog organizations launched their own independent investigations, they concluded that the birth certificate was authentic.

Obama's birth certificate

Barack Obama's birth certificate.

Though the elections are long over, this rumor and its adherents evidently will take one last swipe at the President-Elect in tomorrow’s Chicago Tribune.

Dear Mr. Obama:

Representing thousands of responsible American citizens who have also taken an oath to defend the Constitution of the United States of America, I am duty bound to call on you to remedy an apparent violation of the Constitution.
Compelling evidence supports the claim that you are barred from holding the Office of President by the “natural born citizen” clause of the U.S. Constitution. For instance:

  • Legal affidavits state you were born in Kenya.
  • Your grandmother is recorded on tape saying she attended your birth in Kenya.
  • You have posted on the Internet an unsigned, forged and thoroughly discredited, computer-generated birth form created in 2007, a form that lacks vital information found on any original, hand signed Certificate of Live Birth, such as hospital address, signature of attending physician and age of mother.
  • U.S. Law in effect in 1961 denied U.S. citizenship to any child born in Kenya if the father was Kenyan and the mother was not yet 19 years of age.
  • In 1965, your mother legally relinquished whatever Kenyan or U.S. citizenship she and you had by marrying an Indonesian and becoming a naturalized Indonesian citizen.

First of all, the last two bullet points are completely superfluous, though I do appreciate the heads up about four-decade-old citizenship clauses in Kenya and Indonesia. How old his mom was at his birth, and what rights she relinquished when he was a toddler is irrelevant. They only remotely apply if you buy into the first three, in which case we’re drawing straws about whether to deport the guy or just impeach him.

One wonders at this point, what is the goal? Even if Obama’s birthplace can neither be confirmed nor invalidated, the most they can hope to prove is that Hawaii is as bush league as Alaska. As of Obama’s birth in August of 1961, Hawai’i had been a state for less than two years.  Perhaps the Kapi’olani Medical Center for Women & Children had taken its time adopting the standard bureaucratic formats of American bureaucratic forms.  Do the birth certificates of other babies who were born at Kapi’olani in ’61 include their moms’ ages and the hospital’s address; and if not, shall we revoke their citizenships, too? Or perhaps our rule of thumb will be to take everyone at their word as long as they’re less than 49% black.

Regarding the Kenyan affidavits, I’m assuming they contain the “vital information” that Obama’s birth certificate lacks, such as the “hospital address, signature of attending physician and age of mother.” It would be logically inconsistent to offer the former as evidence after calling the latter inadmissible for similar omissions. As Christopher Hitchens once wrote, “That which can be asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence.”

All of that aside, the tape-recording of old lady hearsay does sound “compelling.”

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I know jack shit

There’s no excuse anymore for those of you who aren’t sufficiently pissed off. Rupert Murdock apparently considers the quasi-awake public expendable, an insignificant contingency. Too engaged as citizens and too critical as consumers, we the perceptive minority have little to offer Fox these days. When we do tune in, it’s only for the cheap adrenalin buzz it gives us to bitch about Bill O’Reilly or Sean Hannity. So alas Fox News bids adieu to the last of their informed viewers.

Now, absent the threat of any real accountability, Fox canpander more freely to its base–an eclectic blend of corporate sellouts and couch potato patriots–odd partners uniting to uproot democracy.  America’s spreading ignorance and acceptance of propaganda for power and profit. Thus it is now official that Fox is unconcerned about viewers whose IQs exceed their ages, banking on the majority of American viewers being too dumb to notice or too bored to care.


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A true “patriot” loves America enough to speak out against its corrupt politics. The U.S.A. was born out of protest. Our forefathers (frequently misremembered as servants of god) risked their lives revolting in protest against 18th century England’s abuse of colonial power. If we respect these so-called founders as passionately as our bumper stickers indicate, then why are we so afraid to follow their lead? Why do we balk at the mere thought of calling out those who abuse the power we’ve entrusted them with? (more…)

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New York Times’ editor Sam Tanenhaus paid homage to Arthur Schlesinger’s “broad cultural authority,” lamenting the loss of our country’s “last great public historian.” While some may dispute that claim (that he was the “last”) Schlesinger’s death reminds us that “public intellectuals” are a dying breed. Our society no longer saves a spot at the table for men and women like Schlesinger.

Ever since his death this past winter I’ve meant to read up on Schlesinger. Friends tell me I remind them of him, and that I’d have appreciated aspects of how he thought and lived. But if William Voegelli’s lukewarm summary of Schlesinger’s accomplishments is any indication, I’m afraid “commiserate” is a better word than “appreciate.” (more…)

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