Friday, December 31, 2010

Mis-reported stories of 2010

As usual, national, regional and local media did a poor job in 2010 in keeping Americans informed about what matters.

Typically, the media would report about "controversy" without first reporting what the issue was. In looking for conflict, no matter how minimal and inconsequential, the media mis-informed viewers, listeners and readers.

Check this list for some examples.

On health care, the media focused on Republican complaints without first telling Americans what health care reform was about. Consequently, we heard plenty about so-called "death panels," and not much about how reform would benefit the vast majority of Americans.

We're already seeing benefits in the fact that x-rays and MRIs are placed in a database for all doctors to see without having to order repetitive and costly x-rays, MRIs or CT scans.

Yes, there are court cases out there challenging the legality of the health care reform law, but almost all of them have been tossed out. One lawsuit in Virginia is moving forward that challenges the government's authority to require people to buy health insurance.

Well, news flash, the government already requires that drivers buy auto insurance. Also, workers have deductions for Social Security whether they want these deductions or not.

Should the High Court toss out this compulsory insurance provision in the health care reform law, such a ruling will logically lead to lawsuits challenging auto insurance mandates and Social Security.

Won't that be wonderful.


Why can't mainstream media explain such fundamental facts?

The issue of taxes is an area where every level of mainstream media failed to inform citizens what was at stake.

For some context, in 1970 the top 1 percent controlled 9 percent of the wealth in this country. Today, that same group controls 25 percent of the nation's wealth.

In Oregon, we had Measures 66 and 67 that increased taxes on the rich and on businesses. (In 1990, through Measure 5, the property tax burden shifted from businesses to individual homeowners.)

The media's take on the these tax measures was that it would lead to an exodus of businesses and the very rich. Of course, none of that has occurred. Quite the contrary, the opposite happened. Businesses are expanding in Oregon and the state is attracting new businesses.

Still, the local paper went on a successful crusade to oust our state Rep. Judy Stiegler from office as well as her husband, D.A. Mike Dugan, because they were outspoken supporters of the tax measures. We lost two tremendous public servants who are being replaced by individuals with dubious track records, if any at all.

On the national level, the extension of the tax cuts to the ultra-rich means that taxes will increase for the poor. Is that not counter-intuitive? Would the media report this fact? No.

Yes, the stock market indexes are rebounding, but most 401ks are not. Where is this money going? Don't you think the media should investigate? Well, they won't, because waving pom-poms is their No.1 priority where business matters are concerned. (Check this story for more examples.)

As for the collapse of the housing market, the media is fixated on the government's role, but not banks' despicable actions.

For example, banks now approach cities and counties and buy up their properties with delinquent taxes. The municipalities get their tax monies, and the banks end up seizing properties for a fraction of what their worth.

In essence, we're experiencing the greatest land grab since the Great Depression.

Part of the reason the media turns a blind eye to this kind of story is that their chief function is to be cheerleaders for growth at all costs. This fact is one of the main reasons we are wallowing in the dire economic straits that we find ourselves in.

Locally, the media formed one of those cheerleading pyramids to promote growth and now report how the city of Bend is $20 million in the hole after the ridiculous growth we experienced this decade. Don't you think the media should connect the dots between unbridled growth, low taxes/fees and failing infrastructure?

They won't, because they're not really capable of reporting on such a complex story. The mainstream media needs black and white, right and wrong, Republican and Democrat. If a story falls outside those tracks, it falls through the cracks.

We are then left with an uninformed electorate and in Fox News case, a mis-informed viewership. (Can we create a "death panel" for Fox News panelists?)

As long as the media tailors news to the lowest common denominator, we will all eventually become the lowest common denominator.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

More BS from the BCS - No TV

Yes, that's right, roughly 300,000 Oregonians, and possibly more, won't get to watch Oregon play in the national championship game because it won't be on broadcast TV.

Not even the Rose Bowl will be on broadcast TV.

ESPN outbid Fox and will air these games on its cable network rather than its sister station of ABC, where bowl games have been aired for decades.

The bad news for Oregon and other teams is that many fans won't be able to watch the games at home.

For much of 2010, cable companies, for the first time ever, have been losing hundreds of thousands of subscribers all across the country.

There are many reasons why, but the main one is the exorbitant cost of cable. Many former subscribers, including yours truly, concluded the benefit wasn't worth the price. There may for hundreds of channels, but still nothing to watch.

The local cable company in Bend has also been shedding customers to satellite subscribers, internet surfers and over-the-air watchers.

But the changes we see this year mean the future is clear: Internet television.

Why can't cable subscribers pick and choose which stations they want to pay for? Well, they can, on the internet.

There are many viewing options on the internet, but few for sports. One option is

You can watch ESPN and other sports cable channels on this website.

You're going to see more of this and there won't be much that the cable companies can do about it.

The cable companies have refused to offer a-la carte pricing and viewers are finding a way around this limitation.

Content providers, like ESPN, believe they are indispensable. With so many cable cancellations this year, they're finding that they are not.

In case they hadn't noticed, the Great Recession is affecting all aspects of American life, including the watching of cable TV.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Are we a 'Christian' nation?

Ever since 9-11, many Americans want to distinguish our country from those Muslim countries that harbor terrorists by claiming the U.S. is a Christian nation.

Oh, really.

First off, there is nothing in our Constitution or Declaration of Independence that says we are a "Christian" nation.

Yes, most Americans identify themselves as Christian, but that still does not make us a "Christian" nation.

America was founded on the ideal of religious freedom because the First Amendment (sorry NRA, the "right to bear arms" doesn't show up until the Second Amendment) to our Constitution is: "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."

This First Amendment means that Americans enjoy freedom "of" religion and freedom "from" religion being imposed upon them. And that includes Christianity.

Of course, within Christianity we have Catholics who believe they are the original Christians, we have Baptists who believe that there is no way in hell that Catholics can make it to heaven and we have Mormons who believe that your marriage carries on after you die in heaven.

Let's just say that Christians don't exactly see eye to eye regarding matters of Christianity.

Any student with a thumbnail-size grasp of history knows that religion has more often been a cause of strife than of harmony. This is not to say that religions don't do good work. They do, just not when they're running a country.

Protestants and Catholics couldn't even agree on the wording in the Bible until King James I of England convened a conference in 1604 to reconcile differences between the two camps and in seven long years they had a new Bible.

And, let's not forget all the wars between Catholics and Protestants after the Reformation. Again, Christians vs. Christians.

Now, we have fundamentalist Muslims waging war not just against the "Christian" west, but also among each other. Shiite and Sunni mirror the ridiculous and tragic conflicts in the Christian camp.

Of course, when all else fails, Christians and Muslims unite in their distrust of the Jews.

In short order, basing a country on any religion is a recipe for disaster.

Can anyone say that Israel or Northern Ireland or Iraq are models of peace and prosperity?

So, it is disconcerting that so many Christians want to impose a religion on our country when our Founding Fathers had the good sense to frame our Constitution against such a concept.

Of course, many Christians claim that the Founding Fathers never said we aren't a Christian nation.

That's true.

It's also true that they never said we "are a Christian nation."

In fact, their are papers and treaties that say religion should have no role in our government.

Want some proof?

Well, check out the treaty between the U.S. and the "subjects of Tripoli" on the Barbary coast of Africa.

Article 11 reads: As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity, of Mussulmen; and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.

This treaty was read aloud in its entirety on the floor of the U.S. Senate in 1797 and unanimously approved. President John Adams signed it and proudly proclaimed it to the nation.

John Adams is known as one of the "Founding Fathers."

So is Thomas Jefferson, another "Founding Father," who wrote, in 1802, to the Danbury (Conn.) Baptists of "the wall of separation between church and state."

Read about it here from the Library of Congress.

As I've written on this blog before, no religion can lay claim to the moral high ground.

That is why the United States is a nation of laws and common sense.

We don't need any religion to tell us that it is wrong to hijack our jets and crash them into the World Trade Center killing thousands of innocent people.

Likewise, we don't need any religion to tell us it is wrong to blame all practitioners of Islam for those terrible attacks in 2001.

We are Americans. We don't need any religion to tell us right from wrong.

I hope.

Friday, December 24, 2010

The real war on Christmas

'Tis the season for Fox News and misguided Christian groups to assault Americans with a phony news story about the "war on Christmas."

There is no war on Christmas and there never has been.

But, that doesn't stop Fox News and extremist Christians for getting angry and becoming well, un-Christian.

Check this story for some background about the early years of the "war on Christmas."

Christmas stopped World War I for a few days in 1914 and it's most unfortunate that it didn't stop it completely.

Ironically, we have Fox News and other misguided souls who want to perpetuate a phony "war," to rile people up over nothing.

The recent skirmishes began, apparently, in September at the Value Voters Summit. Read this piece for details about "Christmas with a Capital C."

What about Santa with a capital S?

The First Baptist Church in Dallas created a website called Grinch Alert to alert consumers about which retailers say Merry Christmas and are "nice," and those that say Happy Holidays or Season's Greeting and are "naughty."

Nina Totenberg, an NPR analyst, created a mini-blizzard when she said to "forgive the expression" but that she attended a "Christmas party." Here's another take on this "controversy."

Fox News has accused the NBA for waging war on Christmas for saying "Happy Holidays" in its promos. Heaven forbid.

The problem with this "war," though, is that Christmas doesn't just belong to Christians anymore and they're fuming like spoiled children who didn't get what they wanted from Santa under the Christmas tree.

Recently, I caught a glimpse of "White Christmas," starring Bing Crosby and that was released in 1954, when "under God" was placed in our Pledge of Allegiance to distinguish the U.S. from the USSR. (The Republican-led Congress needed to do that because they didn't know the difference.)

In "White Christmas," which extols the soldiers from WWII, a few banners read: "Merry Xmas," and "Happy Holidays." Thank god Fox News wasn't around then or we would've have World War III over a sappy movie.

If you want to blame anyone for the dilution of the "true meaning" of Christmas, blame Charles Dickens and his story, "A Christmas Carol." The tale, retold many times in movies, created the modern "Christmas spirit." And, it has nothing to do with the birth of Christ.

Or watch "It's a Wonderful Life," which extends Dickens' "Christmas spirit," into a new realm. Yes, it doesn't have anything to do with the birth of baby Jesus, and yet, it's probably a Christmas movie that even Christ would approve of.

It never dawns on extreme Christians that Christmas actually is rooted in pagan rituals. Check this story for background.

And can anyone really say on what day Jesus was born? No, they can't.

But, it doesn't matter because Christmas, like many things, has evolved. It's now a family time of year when we're all supposed to get along. To be giving and merry and inclusive.

This so-called "war on Christmas," however, preaches exclusiveness, which leads to crankiness and stinginess and worse.

There was a time in our history when the American flag couldn't be used for commercial or retail purposes. Now, if you don't plaster the American flag on everything from storefronts to underwear, you're branded a terrorist.

Likewise, if you don't use the word Christmas to sell flat-panel televisions or underwear with Santa on it, you're labeled a terrorist.

The real war on Christmas is how it's now used to gauge our economy. It's not about how much time we spend with our families, but about how much we spend on our families.

In spite of that, Merry Christmas to you all as well as Merry Xmas (my favorite), Happy Holidays and Season's Greetings.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Why Fox News misinforms

A recent study shows that Fox News viewers are the most misinformed consumers of news because those viewers choose ignorance over enlightenment.

CNN and MSNBC took their lumps in the study, but Fox News won the day for deliberately misinforming viewers.

The University of Maryland study shows what Fox News viewers believe:

* 91 percent believe the stimulus legislation lost jobs

* 72 percent believe the health reform law will increase the deficit

* 72 percent believe the economy is getting worse

* 60 percent believe climate change is not occurring

* 49 percent believe income taxes have gone up

* 63 percent believe the stimulus legislation did not include any tax cuts

* 56 percent believe Obama initiated the GM/Chrysler bailout

* 38 percent believe that most Republicans opposed TARP

* 63 percent believe Obama was not born in the U.S. (or that it is unclear)

If you were to confront a Fox News viewer with these falsehoods, they would say you are lying.

As Groucho Marx would say: Fox News is to news what military music is to music.

In other words, Fox News exists to present an alternate reality in which the viewer decides what is true. If a Fox News viewer believes the sun rises in the west, then so be it.

In the Fox News realm, all truth is relative. Ironically, Fox News is the ultimate in moral relativism.

Talk to an avid Fox News viewer and they really don't know what's going on in the world. Either their minds are filled with all the things Obama is doing to destroy America or matters like Natalie Holloway's disappearance.

I have to admit that I don't watch Fox News these days because my low-end cable package doesn't include that channel. Nor does it include MSNBC, Comedy Central or ESPN.

But, I routinely check out the Fox News website in my daily perusal of news sources that include: the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, MSNBC website, ESPN and the Huffington Post.

The WSJ and Fox News are owned by Rupert Murdoch, an Australian who has found a way to divide Americans better than the Communists or slave-owners.

In fact, the deep polarization in American politics can be traced to when Fox News came on the air in the mid-1990s. Since then, we've had this alternate reality competing with what is real.

When Fox News deliberately misinforms viewers, it naturally creates a fissure that mainstream corporate media cannot repair.

This results in disunity where there is little room for consensus-building and no space for compromise.

Fox News proclaims that it is "fair and balanced," but that is only true if you believe up is down and down is up.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Don't bask, don't yell

With the repeal of the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, there are some who will point to this moment as the beginning of the end of American civilization.

The bizarre Family Research Council entered the fray with its criticisms that you can read here.

For most rational Americans, though, the repeal is met with a collective shrug. What does a person's sexual orientation have to do with his or her ability to serve our country? Nothing, really.

Most Americans still wonder what does this have to do with the economy.

As we know, nothing will change overnight. Certainly not the perceptions of millions of narrow-minded Americans.

If we lose a war now, we'll have a convenient scapegoat. If we win a war, we can still ignore the contributions of gays and lesbians in that cause.

So, while the repeal of DADT is a long overdue action on the part of our government, and will likely result in a better defense of our country, one can still caution: don't bask, don't yell, just yet.

Bend in new top 10 list

Okay, it's tenth place, but city of Bend water is known to have higher levels of a dangerous chemical, chromium-6, than what some states deem acceptable.

Check out this story to see if your city is on the list.

I'm on Avion water and we don't know its levels of chromium-6, but at least the water tastes better than the city's water.

Naturally, the federal EPA gushed about the new report on the nation's water supply, but admitted that it doesn't test, nor set levels for, chromium-6, the stuff that made Erin Brockovich a household name. Julia Roberts won an Oscar for her portrayal of Erin.

Of course, the local daily bought the EPA line, and hook and sinker too.

Also, the city's attempt to upgrade the current water supply is being met with howls of protest from the usual suspects: the daily paper and corporate interests.

Of course, what can you believe these days.

We all have to decide for ourselves if we believe the water contains unacceptable levels of chromium-6 or it doesn't. It's all about belief. As Fox News says, "you decide."

Can we trust the EPA, CNN or scientists.

I mean, who can we trust?

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Deficits don't matter afterall

Yes, Dick Cheney was right when he said, "Reagan proved that deficits don't matter."

As we now know, Reagan knew everything. Apparently, Cheney did too.

With President Obama caving in to Republican demands to further enrich the richest people in America, the deficit will just keep on growing. Party like it's 1999.

Yes, unemployment benefits get extended for a year, but the tax cuts for the wealthy continue for two years. I can do simple math and so can you. Two is more than one.

Forget the "trickle-down theory," which failed miserably, we're getting the "trickle-up theory," where those making less than $20,000 as an individual and less than $40,000 as a family will have to pay more taxes under this "deal." Check this story for details.

Now, if we didn't extend the tax cuts for the most moneyed people across the land, we could've paid down the $14 trillion debt by $60 billion a year. Naturally, that's a drop in the bucket, so why bother.

But that $60 billion a year could've paid for things like:

• Free college, including room and board, for about half of all full-time students, at both four- and two-year colleges.

•A national infrastructure program to repair and upgrade roads, bridges, mass transit, water systems and levees.

•A tripling of federal funding for medical research.

•Universal preschool for 3- and 4-year-olds, with relatively small class sizes.

Not that any of those things matter when compared to giving money to the rich. And besides, we've survived for centuries without those things.

Thank god that the rich have to the GOP to look after their interests.

Of course, the GOP did block an attempt to give a one-time payment of $250 to those scraping by on social security. Can't add to the deficit in that manner.

Leave it to the rich to complain about the poor having too much money.

Here's hoping a filibuster can stop this "deal" and let these tax cuts expire.

If teabaggers are serious about reducing our debt, now's your chance to "man up," you weanies.

Let's knock down this deficit together. Let's all pay higher taxes. Yes, it will stifle the economy, but isn't the deficit the most critical issue facing us as a nation right now?

That, and gay marriage, of course.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

BCS stands for Bowl Cartel System

Okay, now that Oregon is in the "National Championship" game, it's time to trash the system that gave us this so-called "championship."

The Bowl Championship Series began in 1998 and it is cartel of five bowls -- Rose, Fiesta, Sugar, Orange and National Championship -- that annually hordes tens of millions of dollars that rightfully belong to colleges all over America.

In the process, it denies deserving teams a chance to compete for the mythical national championship.

In all other sports in all divisions in the NCAA, a true national champion is determined on the field, court or track or in the pool.

All except the biggest money-maker of them all: Division 1 football, now known as FBS or Football Bowl Subdivision.

That is why there has never been a true national champion in D-1/FBS football.

When a national championship pairing is determined by a matrix of polls and computers, you know how bogus it is. Why even play the game if polls and computers are so accurate?

Teams that get screwed over in this cartel are in the less-populated western part of the country in general and in the Pac-10 in particular. Oregon, USC and Cal have all been passed over for less deserving teams in the South and Midwest.

Boise State, Utah and TCU have all been denied a chance at the pinnacle.

Why has there never been a playoff?

Well, there are a few ridiculous reasons trotted out by the cartel. They include:

1) It would hurt the present bowl system. Please. The cartel makes all but one game completely meaningless and not worth watching.

2) It would diminish the regular season. Of course, they give no data to back up this assertion, because there is no data since there has never been a playoff. For all we now know, the opposite is likely true: A playoff enhances the regular season.

3) It would negatively affect the education of the student-athletes by keeping them away from the classroom in December. Really? Are they serious? What education are they talking about?

The big schools, from Ohio State to Texas, prefer the status quo because they get the most money from this arrangement. Although, as the writers of "Death to the BCS" point out, all colleges are leaving millions on the table under the cartel.

Money is one of the main reasons why we don't have a true champion determined on the gridiron.

The other main reason is the elephant in the room: the NFL.

The NFL doesn't want a college playoff because it would coincide with the end of their season and beginning of their playoffs.

Imagine if the NCAA basketball tournament took place during the NBA playoffs. No one would watch the NBA games.

Likewise with the NFL and NCAA football. A college playoff system would crush the NFL in the TV ratings. The college game is just more entertaining. In fact, the NFL is predictable and boring.

The NFL certainly does not want a college football playoff and that is why we're stuck with the Bowl Cartel System.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Mighty Oregon going to Glendale

After all the off-field troubles the Oregon Ducks caused themselves last winter, I predicted on March 20 that all those arrests and all those player dismissals from the team, including Heisman hopeful Jeremiah Masoli, would result in the Ducks making it to the National Championship game.

Here's what I said then:

And, I predict a trip to the National Championship game next season. Why not? Bellotti bailed coaching before the Ducks made it to the Rose Bowl and now he leaves altogether before the Ducks' greatest achievement. Kelly's goal all along has been a national championship. With all the problems the team is experiencing right now, no one expects great things from the Ducks. And, that suits Nike U just fine.

Although I haven't been a diehard Duck fan for many years, Saturday's victory over Oregon State was a watershed moment, in tears alone, for all those who have waddled with Oregon over the decades.

Listen to the end of the game from longtime Oregon broadcaster Jerry Allen, who let his emotions do the talking. I'm sure he spoke for many long-suffering, rain-soaked Duck fans.

The "12-0" t-shirts were available at the Duck store on Sunday. There have been many times in Oregon's past when the team didn't win 12 games over four years.

Inferior was the word then. Superior is the word now.

A one-time perennial Bottom 10 dweller now flies over all but one team -- Auburn -- in the land.

It really is an astonishing turn-around and it lets the Cals and the Arizonas of this world know that anything is possible.

It's inspiring on many levels and it's something this state has desperately needed since the Portland Trail Blazers won the NBA championship in 1977.

Kudos go to many people, especially Nike owner Phil Knight who has spent millions upgrading the facilities at the university in Eugene. In fact, some have suggest that Eugene be renamed Phil.

But, it is head Coach Chip Kelly who deserves the most credit for righting a sinking ship last winter and leading his team to victory after victory this season. Perhaps that is why the coaches' poll lists Oregon as No. 1. They know how tough it is to do what Kelly has done.

For his impact on the game, check out this long piece from the New York Times Magazine.

As for the actual game on Jan. 10 in Glendale, Arizona, I can't really predict an Oregon victory since their opponent, Auburn, seems so dominant now.

But, I learned this year to never underestimate the Ducks. They never give up. Anything is possible.