Tuesday, May 26, 2020

The media jumps all in on partisan bias

Along with a couple of my friends, including one-time mentor, friend, fellow native
Oklahoman and author
Terry Wade
and others, I spent a short time during my first eventful but mistake-filled post-graduate years as a news reporter, state capitol correspondent, and as a daily newspaper editor in Henryetta, Oklahoma, 74437, population 5,937 (it was closer to 7,000 when I lived there, and it no longer has a daily newspaper). I was also editor, for a brief while, of my college newspaper, the USAO Trend (University of Science of Arts of Oklahoma).
I love journalism and am sort of rediscovering it in my retirement years. I have been very critical of the profession's move away from fact-finding and sharing and trusting consumers to make their own judgments, into political advocacy and partisanship.
So, it saddened me in no small way when I read the following op-ed from a former CBS news editor that basically exhorted the media to surrender to its biases and embrace such partisanship and its advocacy role, not in its editorials, but even in its newsgathering and "reporting." Now, we're being told, it is too financially advantageous NOT to engage in fair-minded journalism. I have to admit there is a lot of truth in that.
Somewhere, Vladimir Putin is smiling.
I do not think that's what James Madison had in mind when he drafted and proposed the First Amendment, which included the Freedom of the Press among its five God-granted, government-protected rights.
Oh, sure, the press during the late 18th Century was no less biased and scurrilous than today. Papers were clearly established to pick sides and advocate points of view. But as the nation matured, so did the media, especially with the advent of broadcast journalism in the 1950s and '60s. At least, until about 1974, as investigative journalism helped topple a President. Heads began to swell. Power once obtained and exercised is hard, very hard, to relinquish. Just ask a few governors right now.
I remember my journalism class in the fall of 1974, and how it was evolving to include taking on established powers, and the abuse thereof, on behalf of 'the powerless.' I admit that I bought into that for a while. Now, the corporate media has taken upon itself the role of choosing who, and what political party should rule, and how. Ask Hong Kong how that is working out for them. Worse, they defame, ridicule, and discredit those who disagree.
Read the following carefully, and think hard about the media you choose to consume and support. Here's my strategy:
1) find and financially support, and most importantly, consume honest journalism. I subscribe to Mother Jones, the Wall Street Journal, the Epoch Times, the Washington Times, and a few others. Diverse, honest journalism (and some advocacy) exist there. It allows me to make informed decisions.
2) Reject writers and outlets that have a clear agenda and a history of violating norms (relying heavily on single-sourced and/or anonymous sourcing). Buzz Feed, the NY Times, the Washington Post, CNN and most of the broadcast media and other outlets have devolved into this swamp of mediocrity and alarmism. Sadly, so increasingly has the Associated Press and China-friendly Bloomberg.
3) Find the nuggets of truth and fairness that exist out there in the form of daily newsletters, such as John Ellis (Google him), John Solomon and his great new site, "JustTheNews.com" and "Full Measure" media's Sharyl Attkisson among others who are accused of being "conservative" but if you watch and read carefully, ask tough and direct questions of everyone they encounter, right or left. I would add the right-leaning but fair Washington Examiner in that category.
4) Support local media. I subscribe to several local/regional news organs, from my local Delco Times to the Daily Oklahoman, Tulsa World, and even the Chicago Tribune. I find these news outlets to be more fair and balanced in their coverage, and less alarmist and partisan, than most. They are more sensitive to and respectful of their local consumers, some more than others. Many of these outlets have special deals right now, take advantage of them, and get behind their paywalls.
Sorry for the rant. A lot is at stake.
The ‘Liberal Leaning’ Media Has Passed Its Tipping Point
A return to balance would be commercially unviable. The best solution may be an honest embrace of bias.
By Van Gordon Sauter
May 25, 2020 2:21 pm ET
About 35 years ago I was sitting at lunch next to Jeane Kirkpatrick, a onetime Democrat who became a foreign-policy adviser to President Reagan and later U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. She was lamenting what she called the “liberal leaning” media. As the president of CBS News, I assured her it was only a “liberal tilt” and could be corrected.
“You don’t understand,“ she scolded. “It’s too late.”
Kirkpatrick was prophetic. The highly influential daily newspapers in New York, Washington, Los Angeles and Boston are now decidedly liberal. On the home screen, the three broadcast network divisions still have their liberal tilt. Two of the three leading cable news sources are unrelentingly liberal in their fear and loathing of President Trump.
News organizations that claim to be neutral have long been creeping leftward, and their loathing of Mr. Trump has accelerated the pace. The news media is catching up with the liberalism of the professoriate, the entertainment industry, upscale magazines and the literary world. Recent arrivals are the late-night TV hosts who have broken the boundaries of what was considered acceptable political humor for networks.
To many journalists, objectivity, balance and fairness—once the gold standard of reporting—are not mandatory in a divided political era and in a country they believe to be severely flawed. That assumption folds neatly into their assessment of the president. To the journalists, including more than a few Republicans, he is a blatant vulgarian, an incessant prevaricator, and a dangerous leader who should be ousted next January, if not sooner. Much of journalism has become the clarion voice of the “resistance,” dedicated to ousting the president, even though he was legally elected and, according to the polls, enjoys the support of about 44% of likely 2020 voters.
This poses significant problems not only for Mr. Trump but for the media’s own standing. If Mr. Trump prevails in November, what’s the next act, if any, for journalists and the resistance? They will likely find Mr. Trump more dangerous and offensive in a second term than in the first.
More important, how will a large segment of the public ever put stock in journalism it considers hostile to the country’s best interests? Unfortunately, dominant media organizations have bonded with another large segment of the public—one that embraces its new approach. Pulling back from anti-Trump activism could prove commercially harmful.
On the other hand, how would the media respond to a Joe Biden victory (beyond exhilaration)? Will Mr. Biden be subjected to the rigor and skepticism imposed on Mr. Trump? Will he get a pass because he is a liberal and “not Trump”? The media’s protective coverage of the sexual-assault allegation against Mr. Biden is perhaps a clear and concerning preview to how his presidency would be covered.
The media seems uninterested in these issues of bias. But wouldn’t a softening of its editorial orientation bring new readers or viewers? Probably not. The growth of new customers would be more than offset by the defection of outraged members of the current audience. The news media seems very comfortable with its product and ability to sell it.
There’s probably no way to seal the gap between the media and a large segment of the public. The media likes what it is doing. Admires it. Celebrates it. There is no personal, professional or financial reason to change. If anything, the gap will expand. Ultimately, the media finds the “deplorables” deplorable.
Dan Abrams, ABC’s chief legal-affairs anchor and founder of the website Mediaite, has a novel but valuable idea for the media—candor. Speaking to the matter at February’s Rancho Mirage Writers Festival, Mr. Abrams said “I think the first thing that would help . . . is to admit . . . that the people in the media are left of center.”
It would be delightful if a publisher, an editor, a reporter, would just say: Yes, I am left of center! I’m proud of it. I think our reporting is accurate. It best serves the public. And the credibility of the media. So there!
Publications open about their bias might feel freer to focus on the specifics: story selection, presentation, facts, fairness, balance. Not devoid of subtlety for sure, but manageable.
Journalism affects social cohesion. Convinced of its role and its legitimacy, however, the media doesn’t seem to much care. And the other side can certainly enjoy throwing rotten tomatoes at distant targets.
But America won’t reunite until far more people can look at a news story in print or on the screen and, of all things, believe it.

Wise Words on COVID from an Economist. Seriously.

I've written before about my friend Brian Wesbury. He's the Chief Economist for First Trust Financial, a Chicago financial services company. Brian was the chief economist for the Joint Economic Committee back when I was Secretary of the Senate, and we became fast friends, and remain so today.
He also publishes a terrific blog and posts the most informative items on Twitter and elsewhere about the economy. He's an optimist, and was among the first, if not THE first, to notice the "green shoots" of reopening economy (whether certain governors like that or not). His post today is worth your time. Linked and posted below. Lots of wisdom here. https://www.ftportfolios.com//blogs/EconBlog/2020/5/26/miscalculating-risk-confusing-scary-with-dangerous
Miscalculating Risk: Confusing Scary With Dangerous
RealClear Politics, May 22, 2020
The coronavirus kills, everyone knows it. But this isn't the first deadly virus the world has seen, so what happened? Why did we react the way we did? One answer is that this is the first social media pandemic. News and narratives travel in real-time right into our hands.
This spreads fear in a way we have never experienced. Drastic and historically unprecedented lockdowns of the economy happened and seemed to be accepted with little question.
We think the world is confusing "scary" with "dangerous." They are not the same thing. It seems many have accepted as fact that coronavirus is one of the scariest things the human race has ever dealt with. But is it the most dangerous? Or even close?
There are four ways to categorize any given reality. It can be scary but not dangerous, scary and dangerous, dangerous but not scary, or not dangerous and not scary.
Clearly, COVID-19 ranks high on the scary scale. A Google news search on the virus brings up over 1.5 billion news results. To date, the virus has tragically killed nearly 100,000 people in the United States, and more lives will be lost. But on a scale of harmless to extremely dangerous, it would still fall into the category of slightly to mildly dangerous for most people, excluding the elderly and those with preexisting medical conditions.
In comparison, many have no idea that heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, killing around 650,000 people every year, 54,000 per month, or approximately 200,000 people between February and mid-May of this year. This qualifies as extremely dangerous. But most people are not very frightened of it. A Google news search for heart disease brings up around 100 million results, under one-fifteenth the results of the COVID-19 search.
It's critical to be able to distinguish between fear and danger. Fear is an emotion, it's the risk that we perceive. As an emotion, it is often blind to the facts. For example, the chances of dying from a shark attack are minuscule, but the thought still crosses most people's minds when they play in the ocean. Danger is measurable, and in the case of sharks, the danger is low, even if fear is sometimes high.
Imagine if an insurance actuary was so scared of something that she graded it 1,000 times riskier than the data showed. This might be a career-ending mistake. This is exactly what people have done regarding COVID-19: making decisions on fear and not data.
According to CDC data, 81% of deaths from COVID-19 in the United States are people over 65 years old, most with preexisting conditions. If you add in 55-64-year-olds that number jumps to 93%. For those below age 55, preexisting conditions play a significant role, but the death rate is currently around 0.0022%, or one death per 45,000 people in this age range. Below 25 years old the fatality rate of COVID-19 is 0.00008%, or roughly one in 1.25 million, and yet we have shut down all schools and day-care centers, some never to open again! This makes it harder for mothers and fathers to remain employed.
All life is precious. No death should be ignored, but we have allowed our fear to move resources away from areas that are more dangerous, but less scary, to areas that are scary, but less dangerous. And herein lies the biggest problem.
Hospitals and doctors' offices have had to be much more selective in the people they are seeing, leaving beds open for COVID-19 patients and cutting out elective surgeries. According to Komodo, in the weeks following the first shelter-in-place orders, cervical cancer screenings were down 68%, cholesterol panels were down 67%, and the blood sugar tests to detect diabetes were off 65% nationally.
It doesn't stop there. The U.N. estimates that infant mortality rates could rise by hundreds of thousands in 2020 because of the global recession and diverted health care resources. Add in opioid addiction, alcoholism, domestic violence and other detrimental reactions from job loss and despair. It's tragic.
The benefits gained through this fear-based shutdown (if there really are any) have massively increased dangers in the both the short term and the long term. Every day that businesses are shuttered, and people remain unemployed or underemployed, the economic wounds grow more deadly. The loss of wealth is immense, and this will undermine the ability of nations around the world to deal with true dangers for decades to come, maybe forever. We have altered the course of economic growth.
Shutting down the private sector (which is where all wealth is created) is truly dangerous even though many of our leaders suggest we shouldn't be scared of it. Another round of stimulus is not what we need. Like a Band-Aid on a massive laceration, it may stop a tiny bit of the bleeding, but the wound continues to worsen, feeding greater and more elaborate intervention. Moreover, we are putting huge financial burdens on future generations because we are scared about something that the data reveal as far less dangerous than many other things in life.
A shutdown may slow the spread of a virus, but it can't stop it. A vaccine may cure us. But in the meantime, we have entered a new era, one in which fear trumps danger and near-term risk creates long-term problems. It appears many people have come to this realization as the data builds. Hopefully, this will go down in history as a mistake that we will never repeat.
Brian S. Wesbury, Chief Economist
Strider Elass, Senior Economis

Looks Like GA's "Human Sacrifice" was PA's

This originally appeared on Ricochet.com

Looks like GA's "Human Sacrifice" was PA's

Perhaps you remember this story in The Atlantic a few weeks ago, as Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp
announced his state was going to begin reopening towards the end of April following a gubernatorial-led national shutdown of our economy. This paragraph is notable:
Kemp’s order shocked people across the country. For weeks, Americans have watched the coronavirus sweep from city to city, overwhelming hospitals, traumatizing health-care workers, and leaving tens of thousands of bodies in makeshift morgues. Georgia has been hit particularly hard by the pandemic, and the state’s testing efforts have provided an incomplete look at how far the virus continues to spread. That testing capacity—which public-health leaders consider necessary for safely ending lockdowns—has lagged behind the nation for much of the past two months. Kemp’s move to reopen was condemned by scientists, high-ranking Republicans from his own state, and Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms; it even drew a public rebuke from Donald Trump, who had reportedly approved the measures before distancing himself from the governor amid the backlash.
You can read the full story here if you wish. It’s a great example of media alarmism.
The author, Amanda Mull, and The Atlantic (which announced it was laying off 17 percent of their staff today as they slouch towards bankruptcy) accused Gov. Kemp of engaging in “human sacrifice.” Never mind that Colorado’s Democratic Governor, Jared Polis, who announced his own gradual reopening at the same time, escaped media hysteria.
Thursday, Gov. Kemp held a press conference where he outlines the state’s progress, both with its reopening but also its COVID-19 response. Here’s what “human sacrifice” looks like: fewer than 1,000 Georgians are hospitalized from COVID, a number that’s been in steady decline since he announced his reopening. There has been no spike, no increase, no massive “human sacrifice” in Georgia, or anywhere else that has begun to reopen their economies. Which makes you wonder about the efficacy of these lockdowns.
If there is a state that has engaged in “human sacrifice,” it would be Pennsylvania, where Gov. Tom Wolf ordered COVID positive long-term care patients back into their facilities against CDC guidelines. You read that right — in violation of guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control. The result: 68 percent of our COVID deaths in PA come from nursing homes; upwards of 80 percent in counties such as Delaware, where I live, which skews older and has a large number of long-term care facilities.
If anyone is guilty of “human sacrifice,” it is Gov. Wolf and his grotesquely incompetent Health Secretary, Dr. Rachel Levine. Levine, in particular, moved her 95-year-old mother out of her nursing home into a hotel as the “human sacrifice” unfolded. Pennsylvania actually had a remediation plan to protect vulnerable seniors as COVID-positive patients were moved back into long-term care facilities, but, oops, failed to implement it. And it gets worse: Gov. Wolf reversed a previous decision and promised to increase testing in long-term facilities, but it turns out it wasn’t much of a plan.
As of May 21, Georgia has experienced 1,779 COVID deaths; Pennsylvania, 4,869. Pennsylvania has more nursing home deaths than the total number of COVID deaths in Georgia. Their populations? Pennsylvania has 12.8 million residents; Georgia, 10.7 million. And guess which state is testing more of its citizens? If you guessed Georgia, you’d be correct — 3,595 of its citizens per 100,000 population, compared to Pennsylvania’s 2,731.
The evidence is in on which state really engaged in “human sacrifice.” It’s not Georgia.