Monthly Archives: January 2011

CRAZY LIKE A FOX

Recently, a friend implied that she wouldn’t accept Fox News as a “fair and balanced” news source.

So I posted a link to a headline from FoxNews.com about the situation in Egypt. I asked her to click the link…not to read the article, but to look at the attribution under the title.

The article was from the Associated Press.

Later on in the day, I clicked the link again and it was directed to FoxNews.com original reporting. It’s possible she may have clicked it, saw the FoxNews.com attribution, and said “Duh.”

The content on the FoxNews.com website seems to get updated more regularly than I realized. I have the Fox News mobile app, on which articles persist till replaced by newer ones. But both versions of FoxNews.com feature a lot of articles attributed to the AP.

I realized Fox uses AP material because of a story from January 5, 2011, referencing the start of the 112th Congress (a reprint from the Associated Press, attributed to David Espo). It appeared in my local newspaper that morning. I was paying special attention to the paper that day because I wanted to see how this liberal paper would treat the beginning of a new congress featuring the House leadership of Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA).

The title was “House GOP goads Obama to cooperate.”

The article was carefully crafted to propound the narratives I have come to expect from the typical AP article. It was quite acerbic toward Republicans while casting President Obama as the benevolent protagonist.

(New Speaker) John Boehner’s name appeared only once in the article, at the end of the fourth paragraph. Most of the quotes were from Eric Cantor, framed in cynical context by the author.

What caught my attention the most was a line from the final paragraph. It claimed “Instead of merely opposing Mr. Obama’s every proposal as they did in 2009 and 2010, Republicans must compromise to show results in their drive to cut spending.”

I was perusing FoxNews.com headlines on my mobile phone at lunch, when I came across that same distinct wording. The attribution confirmed that it was the same AP article I’d read in my liberal local newspaper that morning.

FoxNews.com uses Associated Press material each day.

If FoxNews.com utilizes a mix of original reporting, opinion, and AP content, what makes it so different from other news sources?

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CONGRESSIONAL WEEK IN REVIEW (FOR WEEK OF JANUARY 17, 2011)

This week, the U.S. House of Representatives resumed operations with a roster of 242 Republicans and 193 Democrats. The House had essentially been on hiatus the previous week due to the attempted assassination of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ). Fortunately, her recovery continued to go well, and she was transferred to a rehabilitation facility in Texas on Friday.

One can find in the legislative program for January 20 an exchange between Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD). After mention of the YouCut program (to reduce Federal spending and the deficit by terminating taxpayer financing of Presidential election campaigns and party conventions), Hoyer thanked Cantor and Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) for joining Hoyer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) in what Hoyer called a “very appropriate and united response to that tragedy.”

In the 10 minutes that followed, Cantor and Hoyer discussed the spending reduction objectives of the Republican leadership. While the subject matter was by its nature contentious, both Cantor and Hoyer advocated effectively but respectfully for their differing positions.

H.RES.5 (passed on January 5) had made changes to the standing rules (citing authority under the constitution, three-day availability, transparency for house and committee operations, and initiatives to reduce spending and improve accountability), and members observed those.

One example of that was H.R.359, a bill introduced by Tom Cole (R-OK) to “To reduce Federal spending and the deficit by terminating taxpayer financing of presidential election campaigns and party conventions.” He cited Amendments X and XVI along with Article I Section 8 (which was referenced quite often in the various statements of constitutional authority).

H.R.292 (Stop the OverPrinting (STOP) Act) passed with 399 yeas (unanimous among all members who voted on it).

H.R.2 (Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act) passed 245-189. Critics labeled the move “symbolic” but attention shifted to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who is believed by some to know of parliamentary possibilities he could use to get a vote in the Senate, despite contrary assurances by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV).

Before and after the passage of the repeal of the ACA, Democrats strongly asserted that the Republicans were not going to replace it.

But on January 20, H.RES.9 was passed 253-175, instructing certain committees to report legislation replacing the job-killing health care law. The specific committees charged were: The Committee on Education and the Workforce, the Committee on Energy and Commerce, the Committee on the Judiciary, and the Committee on Ways and Means.

An amendment to H.RES.9 (to also instruct the committees of jurisdiction to include a permanent fix to the Medicare physician payment formula) was passed with 428 votes. Only John Conyers (D-MI) voted against it.

The House is scheduled to resume on January 24 at 12 PM.

The Senate will convene again on January 25 at 10 AM.

(Congress online: http://thomas.loc.gov)

AS PROMISED AND ON SCHEDULE

As expected, the U.S. House of Representatives voted yesterday to repeal the ACA.

For anyone keeping score on the House of Representatives under the leadership of Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor, on a pass-fail system, mark this as a pass.

They did what they said they would do.

If you are keeping track of points, you can use these numbers:

All 242 House Republicans voted for the repeal.

Three Democrats joined them.

The date of the vote came on the anniversary of the election of Scott Brown as Senator from Massachusetts. The Obama administration and leadership of the 111th Congress had forged ahead with their comprehensive health care reform agenda even after the eye-raising defeats suffered by Democrats at the end of 2009 (a notable example being the victory of Republican Chris Christie in the race for Governor of New Jersey). When the legislature indicated it would proceed in spite of those election results, voters in Massachusetts opted for Brown as their senator, knowing he would end the uncontested domination of the Senate enjoyed by Democrats in 2009.

This forced a change in strategy for the health care reform initiative. Knowing that the bill would not pass the Senate again, former Speaker Nancy Pelosi was forced into a messy process of procedural maneuvering that required her to try to pacify the liberal wing of her party who wanted the bill to reach further, while also comforting the more conservative “blue dog” faction, which would soon be seeking reelection from unhappy districts.

Pelosi eventually navigated all those hurdles, ultimately allowing her to carry a huge gavel to the building while being flanked by an entourage intended to evoke comparisons to the civil rights movement. This gave optics to the media narrative in play at the time—that critics of the bill were racist (though as I noted in my April 12, 2010 blog, other inaccuracies were in regular rotation as well). Those insults were not sustainable because they were demonstrably inconsistent with visible reality (though they are still revived from time to time when Democrats and their media extenuators have nothing more substantial to regurgitate).

We now know that Pelosi’s grand moment would come at a great price to her party.

I learned a hard lesson in March of 2010…that politicians make laws, and those laws directly affect our lives. The old boundaries on which we once relied no longer suffice to keep those politicians in check.

At that time, I said goodbye to my nonpartisan neutrality. I openly identified myself as a conservative, and joined the Republican Party. I played my part in helping transfer the speaker’s gavel from Pelosi to Boehner.

And yesterday, the House Republicans delivered—in a big way.

And while the media narrative today will be why this vote doesn’t mean anything, it actually serves a twofold purpose:

First, it represents a promise made and kept in rapid fashion. Not even a rabid assassin who rejects the American system of government could derail this action for longer than a week.

Second, it serves notice that we will continue to pursue this. Voters will continue to reconfigure the federal government until the ACA is erased and replaced by smaller, more focused legislative solutions that respect the spirit and letter of the Constitution of the United States. While it is possible that the Supreme Court may invalidate the ACA before we get to that point, a legislative solution is the optimal remedy for a problem created by legislative error. It is the Supreme Court’s job to enforce the Constitution. It is the legislature’s job to listen to the American people.

As I said yesterday, the ACA must be repealed before it can be replaced. It cannot be “fixed” as so many Democrats are now suggesting.

From the floor, Speaker Boehner acknowledged the developing Democrat mantra of “let’s fix the law instead of repealing it” with this observation:

“If we agree that this law needs improving, why would we keep it on the books?”

“Let’s challenge ourselves to do better.”

TODAY’S WORD IS “R-E-P-E-A-L”

Today, the House of Representatives will vote to repeal the comprehensive health care reform law that was passed last year. This vote is fulfillment of one of the key promises made by the GOP during last year’s campaign.

The law subject to the repeal effort is known to some critics as “Obamacare.” I prefer now to call it the ACA. That was the term used to describe it in the ruling by Judge Henry E. Hudson on December 13, 2010, that found the law to be unconstitutional (there are now 26 states challenging the ACA in court).

The vote that will occur today in the House is seen by some as “symbolic.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has indicated that he will not allow it to see a vote in the Senate. Were it to come to a vote and be passed in that chamber, the repeal would almost certainly be vetoed by President Obama.

However, the House GOP has the power to defund the bill. That should be the next action on the matter if the repeal bill never reaches the Senate.

These options only exist because Americans asserted themselves through their votes in November.

The vote to repeal the ACA is certainly symbolic—of the resolve of the American people.

We, the people, understood that the individual mandate—requiring us to buy something we would not purchase voluntarily—was a clear violation of the Constitution of the United States. We did not have to wait for a court decision to tell us that.

Some have proffered that parts of the law should remain intact, but those who constructed the law intended it to be as comprehensive as it was massive. It appears that no allotment was made for any degree of severability. The entire law must be repealed. The parts worth keeping will need to be replaced separately…via constitutional solutions.

This untenable legislation was the product of one party’s total domination of the legislative and executive branches of the federal government.

In their paucity, the Republicans in both chambers of the legislature were powerless to stop the bill from being passed and signed into law.

But in their prudence, they were unanimous in trying. That effort resulted in enough electoral victories to make today a reality.

LETTER TO THE PRESIDENT

Mr. President,

Though my personal story is of no consequence at this moment, for the sake of honesty, context, and disclosure, I must tell you that I consider myself a Tea Party Republican. By any objective measure, and in the strongest sense of the word, I am your political opponent.

But I am also a citizen of the United States of America.

And you are my president.

It is my understanding that tomorrow you will address the nation regarding the tragedy from the past weekend. The attention of a wounded state and saddened nation will be on the words you deliver.

I believe that you are aware that an attempt was made, almost immediately, to politicize this horrific event. That led to a brief but intense period of division when only unity should have been observed. It is my understanding that some have suggested that it might somehow be advantageous for you to join in the attempts to besmirch political opponents by creating a false impression that they are somehow accomplices in this atrocity.

I choose at this time, out of respect for you and the office you hold, to have optimism that you will not participate in that effort. My trust is that you will choose an apolitical tone of healing and hope, as you have done for the duration of this ordeal.

The aforementioned attempts to besmirch have now been rebutted, rejected, and largely abandoned.

The dialogue in media today was more conciliatory.

The governor of my state, Ed Rendell, had a very encouraging discussion with a radio host Sean Hannity. That discussion was one of many in which an honest examination was made of words and imagery used throughout the political spectrum with the correct understanding that it is neither logical nor appropriate to try to connect established political terminology with the shooting.

The mood was better in the nation today than it was at any time since this weekend, as good news continued to flow about Congresswoman Giffords’ improving condition.

Today’s conversations paid tribute to the other victims and included interviews with those who knew them and told remarkable stories about them.

The nation has no appetite for division, but is ready for healing. Tomorrow night, we will not expect to hear the word “vitriolic” in every sentence. The nation will certainly not be anticipating phrases like “all radio and some television” to come into play.

President Obama, I take this moment to say that I believe you will use the words that people will expect from you…such as hope, courage, and unity.

If the words you choose tomorrow night match the ones you spoke Saturday, I believe many will find comfort and inspiration in them.

WHAT IT WILL TAKE TO CHANGE THE DIALOGUE

“Of strange, discordant, and even hostile elements, we gathered from the four winds, and formed and fought the battle through, under the constant hot fire of a disciplined, proud, and pampered enemy. Did we brave all then to falter now?

Now, when that same enemy is wavering, dissevered, and belligerent? The result is not doubtful. We shall not fail—if we stand firm, we shall not fail. Wise counsels may accelerate or mistakes delay it, but sooner or later, the victory is sure to come.”

Those were the words of Abraham Lincoln in 1858. If uttered today, how would they be received?

Would he be attacked for choosing such “vitriolic” language by people who communicate exclusively via the ritualistic regurgitation of talking points?

Would those charges come directly from those who had used far more toxic rhetoric and were still using it?

If we seriously want things to change in conversation, in politics or in any other aspect of life, we have to really want it. We have to commit to it. Each party in the conversation needs to live up to such an agreement. The days of “I say whatever I want, and if you say the exact same thing I said, you are vitriolic/racist/hate speaker/evilmonger/etc” have to be a thing of the past. As long as unrepentant hypocrisy persists, nothing is going to change. We’re all free to speak or none of us is.

We need to move beyond talking points. People need to stop making statements they can’t defend. If we don’t have an assertion we can back up, we can just ask questions. How different would things be if we asked more questions of each other, and got useful answers, instead of just making statements that get swatted out of the open air as soon as they leave the mouth?

And make no mistake, if changing speech in America for the better is to happen, it must be voluntary. No statute or regulation can mandate it. Any elected official who thinks otherwise learned nothing from the elections in 2009 and 2010. I have heard some very discouraging things about free speech over the weekend. Fortunately, I don’t believe that the House, having just the read the Constitution, is going to run back and repeal the First Amendment (or the Second).

We need intellectual honesty. Everyone needs to be able to say what they think and not have it offend the other person (or a third party). Why is it so hard to discuss anything? Every topic seems toxic, be it religion, freedom, guns, money, sexuality, etc…

One benefit of an honest, open discussion is that it leads to more correct understanding of who each person is. Good information is always better than bad information, and honesty spawns truth. How many of you have felt some stress today because you were wrong about someone or they were wrong about you? It doesn’t have to be that way. If we could open up discussion without negative reaction, I think we would be well served.

If you love this country, and you consider yourself a proud American, then you and I automatically have something in common. Is there any other difference between us too strong to overcome?

TEETH-KICKING COUNCILMAN SAYS WE PROMOTE VIOLENCE

In yesterday’s blog, I asked whether we were going to unite or divide after yesterday’s senseless shooting in Arizona. I expressed interest in the former, but outlined exactly what I thought could cause the latter.

I am sad to say that in all that I’ve observed today, the interest level in unity just might not be there.

Yesterday, I predicted that if people blamed Sarah Palin for comments involving guns, someone would bring up 2008 candidate Barack Obama’s “we bring a gun” quote.

I saw both of those occur in online chatter today.

When a conservative friend posted a link in which the shooting suspect in the shooting was described as “left-wing” by classmates, someone mentioned the infamous “If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun” statement from Obama (June 14, 2008, Philadelphia).

The most disappointing thing I’ve seen today is the politicization of this tragedy by a local official.

A city councilman here in Pittsburgh had this to say on Facebook today:

“Sean Hannity, Sarah Palin, Ann Coulter, OK St. Rep. Sally Kern, Rick Santorum, Dr. Laura Schlessinger, Michael Savage, and the others.

You’re so adept at sowing the seeds of violence. Your vitriol is sophomoric. Your outrage childish, Your cavalier attitude as to promoting violence dumb, if not criminally wreckless. [sic]

Unfortunately, your messages made it to Tucson.”

This same person who posted the statement above is known for making statements such as this one about energy companies from November 20, 2010:

“They lie through their teeth, and we’re going to keep kicking them in the teeth until they stop telling their lies!”

How about another week of such prescriptions for civility?

I included that one because of the prodigious cognitive dissonance he exudes, but attacks on Palin by a local official also reminded of the two New Hampshire state representatives who had a Facebook exchange in August where one noted the plane crash that killed former Alaska Senator Ted Stevens with this sentiment:

“Just wish Sarah and Levy [sic] were on board”

FYI: By lunchtime tomorrow you’ll probably have seen or heard about the map on the page of the Democratic Leadership Committee website from 2004 featuring…wait for it…targeted Republicans.

What do those who are politicizing this event believe they will accomplish?

The suspect listed the Communist Manifesto as one of his favorite books. He’s NOT a Tea Party member. Those are mutually exclusive. Now, are you ready to ask how many Democrats in the 112th Congress like that book? Didn’t a current Democratic Senator once refer to himself in his writings as the “bearded marxist?”

I’m not blaming Democrats or liberals for the shooting. I’m blaming the shooter for the shooting.

By the way, I’ve typed another 500 words tonight. Have I brought any healing to anyone? Have I made anything better?

No.

All I’ve done was to defend myself, my friends, and my parties. Don’t get me wrong, I can do that all day and night. That’s just part of my DNA now.

But given the magnitude of the tragedy that occurred yesterday, I was hoping it wouldn’t be necessary.

UNITE OR DIVIDE?

Appropriately, the thoughts and prayers of a nation are with those who were injured in the shooting that targeted Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in Arizona, and with their families. We know now that six people died as a result of the rampage.

Those included U.S. District Judge John M. Roll, who was born in Pittsburgh, Giffords staff member Gabe Zimmerman, and 9-year old Christina Taylor Green, who was recently elected to her school’s student council.

Representative Giffords survived, and as of this writing, she is recovering from surgery. Though fortunate to have survived a gunshot wound to the head, she now faces a potentially lengthy and challenging recovery period.

As you would expect, there has been an outpouring of bipartisan support and best wishes for Giffords (known as “Gabby” to many) in light of the tragedy. The local news here in Pittsburgh played statements from Congressmen Jason Altmire (PA-4) and Tim Murphy (PA-18). Both know Giffords personally, having worked with her in the House of Representatives.

Given the circumstances, the new leadership in the House has opted to postpone the vote to repeal the ACA that was scheduled for later this week. The House is not scheduled to be in session on Monday.

When the Constitution was read on the House floor last week, Giffords read one of the more inspirational and familiar parts…

“I just read the First Amendment!” she said. “I wanted to be here. I think it’s important…Reflecting on the Constitution in a bipartisan way is a good way to start the year.”

Indeed, after one of the most contentious midterm election years in recent memory, possibly in history, the start of the 112th Congress was shaping up quite well. The reading of the Constitution brought representatives from both parties together and generated a number of these kinds of highlights. It felt like we might have a chance to reach some measure of common ground and more effectively address some of the more serious challenges our nation faces.

Then this happens.

So now what?

Now we make a critical decision. It’s a simple one, but it will have far-reaching consequences.

We have to decide if we want to unite or become further divided.

You will know the choice we’ve made by where we try to lay the blame for today’s event.

Those who want to unite will blame the shooter, and if applicable, the second suspect I’ve heard discussed. THEY WILL BLAME NO ONE ELSE. If we can attribute this outrage to only the person actually responsible, we can move forward, perhaps in a way that reminds us that certain things affect us all. Then maybe we can solve some problems together.

Those who want to be divided will blame someone else in addition to the shooter. If you blame anyone else other than the person who pulled that trigger, you run the risk of creating a very nasty situation. If you blame someone other than the shooter, you do not want unity, because I tell you now that you destroy any chance of it.

It is imperative that we resist any temptation to blame someone other than those DIRECTLY responsible for this act. If we can just come together on that simple point, I think we’ll benefit from it. We can change the very contentious environment in which recent times have found us. Specifically, that will help us when it comes time to decide what to do about things like the debt limit and other critical challenges that we will be facing sooner than later. There are a lot of big political battles on our plate this year, and it looks like the 2012 presidential campaign is starting early. Wouldn’t it be better on us all for those conversations to be less toxic?

You have to know how this conversation would go if we blame specific people or groups for this attack.

If you blame it on quotes from Sarah Palin, you can expect to be asked what you think about threats and violent suggestions made AGAINST her. That will probably lead to you being reminded of statements made by President Obama that sound like they encourage or condone violence. I can think of several of those off the top of my head. I don’t want to be the one to bring them up, because right now, there’s no point. Barack Obama sounded presidential today when he spoke of this. Can we just go with that and move forward?

If you blame this on quotes or statements attributed to someone in the Tea Party, or to an elected Republican, or conservative pundits, or anyone else, you must know your accusations will lead to you having to defend the indefensible when you are reminded about the threats and suggestions made toward President Bush or against Republicans within the past decade. Then we go back to the Clinton years and talk about that era…and we get nowhere fast. What do we gain if we keep doing this over and over?

I know someone’s probably reading this and thinking they can actually make a plausible case that a single figure or group in American politics bears some responsibility along with the shooter, and I’m telling you up front that you can’t. I know what you’re thinking and I already have the rebuttals. Please, I’m begging you, use your logic and energy to bring something positive to the table and let me do the same with mine.

The conversation in America for the next week can go one of two ways, and I hope it’s one that says “hey, we’re all Americans, and we’re in this together” instead of “his/her/their/your fault.”

I hope that tomorrow’s discussion of this event will be the kind that brings healing and resolution.

It would be a shame if this much bloodshed became just another event to fuel a negative cycle of chatter.

What else could be better for the shooter than to see us fall apart in the aftermath of his handiwork?

I’ve said my peace, and you know where I stand.

What did you decide?