Class Warfare Blog

June 27, 2017

The Teenification of Us

Filed under: The News — Steve Ruis @ 8:43 am
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I am reading “news stories” in which the writer states that President Trump tweeted this and then his son in law tweeted that and…. This sounds like two young teenagers in a conversation “He went … and then I said … and then he said, and I went…”

Can we stop with the reports on who tweeted what. These are not official communications, nor are they particularly interesting. They sure as Hell aren’t “breaking news.”

December 6, 2016

All the “Fake News” that Is Fit to Publish

Apparently the latest hot topic for political pundits to pontificate upon is the idea of “fake news,” otherwise known as lies. What they are decrying is not that lies exist or that there are so many of them, but they are so easy to “publish.” Hah!

There are more lies now than any other time in human history and I am confident in that statement because there are more people alive that ever before in human history and all humans lie. And it is also true that each of us has more reach than ever before. You are, for example, reading this blog, which in effect is my personal publication organ. This was not possible even a short time ago.

What is lacking is not control over the sources of such material, after all we do pride ourselves in having a political system that protects the freedom of speech, but that people are apparently not at all skeptical about the “information” they have available.

I must insist that all news is fake news. It is the case in which every time I have been interviewed for publication that I have felt that the interview and what was published were at odds. Local papers never seem to get it right. I have heard that same criticism over the years about larger publications.

“I must insist that all news is fake news.”

The manipulations of the Bush administration leading up to the Iraq war were willingly embraced by major “news” publications, even though they turned out to be made of whole cloth. What, the utterances of our politicians are no longer trustworthy? I’m shocked, shocked I tell you … that anyone ever thought they were. Politicians look at the “press” (now “the news media”) as something to be managed or controlled, not as something to embrace as a bulwark of democracy. The “press” no longer looks at itself as the protector of democracy, nor does it have the role of scourge of dishonest politicians.

What is needed is for all of us to be a lot more skeptical. We need to ask “Where did you hear/get that?” On Facebook? Oh, that explains a lot. Apparently many Americans get a substantial amount of their news off of Facebook. WTF? Well, Facebook has a well-known reputation for journalistic integrity I guess. (No, it does not; I am being sarcastic!)

Come on, people! Get a pair! Show the whole world that you are not the gullible idiot who thinks that “if it was on the Internet, it has to be true.”

We need more guidelines. How about “Breaking News!” — Breaking news means we got it wrong, but we got it fast! And “this was verified through a confidential source” means (a) if I told you who told me, you’d laugh at me or (b) I am willing to be manipulated by someone who is unwilling to be quoted.

Our news media were on an upward trajectory away from “yellow journalism” and toward greater integrity but that trend has been reversed. In today’s journalism, opinion is promoted as fact and to make money news organs are peddling opinions without any facts. The newspaper guideline “If it bleeds, it leads” has been replaced with the 24-hour news cycle’s “Look at the shiny object, how does it make you feel?”

September 15, 2016

Our Scum Sucking News Media Have Chosen to Hide the Facts about Public Education

Newspaper after newspaper after news sources has chosen to hide the facts and instead beat the drum of a lie: “Our public schools are failing! Our public schools are failing.” One particular point of leverage is trying to sell families of color that their children would be better off in a charter school than in their “failing” local school.

“The meme ‘Our public schools are failing!’ is a lie.”

Well, let’s do some fact checking. The federal government has supplied the only consistent nationwide testing in the form of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) exams. The NAEP has a search engine from which you can acquire the following data:

Average scores, Grade 4 Math,
National Assessment of Educational Progress
White Students / Black Students

1990: 218.63 / 187.42
[…]
2007: 247.88 / 222.01
2009: 247.85 / 221.98
2011: 248.70 / 223.80

What these data show is that in under 20 years, Black students have achieved an average performance level higher than that of white students from 20 years ago. You can see there is still a gap between white students and black students on these tests scores, because white students didn’t stand still, they improved, too, but how did this incredible improvement in performance by Black students occur? By what magic? Surely it cannot be due to the performance of our failing public schools?

The increase in math education test performance is so great that in one generation Black kids have about two grades higher performance than did their parents at the same age.

The meme “Our public schools are failing!” meme is a lie.

And if you want to know why this lie is being promulgated, follow the money. (The pot of gold at the end of the rainbow is the pot of money labeled “For Public Education.”)

If you want to know why our news media have fallen in with the liars, follow the money. More and more news organs have been scooped up by conservative owners, who expect their news organs to a) make money, and b) support conservative narratives moving us toward the glorious world they see in our future, where all of the children are above average, and government regulators disappear, and….

September 9, 2016

Scaring Ourselves to … Bad Policies

The NYT posted another “investigative journalism” report, this one is on crime, specifically murder (Murder Rates Rose in a Quarter of the Nation’s 100 Largest Cities, 9-9-16).

If one looks at their graphics, though, another headline could have been “Murder Rates Either Fell or Stayed the Same in Three Quarters of the Nation’s 100 Largest Cities.”

“’The homicide increase in the nation’s large cities was real and nearly unprecedented,’ wrote the study’s author …” yes, but this highlights another disturbing trend in modern journalism, the examination of the gaps but not the actual amounts. So, education reporters talk about how the gaps between black and white students has stayed the same or risen but ignore the fact that both Black and white students scores has risen considerably. Black students have increased their performance on standardized tests substantially. In one generation, Black students knowledge of mathematics has increased almost two whole grade levels (e.g. fourth graders can do math that their parents did in sixth grade)! That news somehow does not make it above the fold, below the fold, or anywhere in the paper apparently.

And, in crime reporting, how about the fact that murder rates in those cities has declined substantially since a high around 1990? They even include a graph showing this general decline but they are reporting only on an up-tick at the very end of the graph that may be part of a trend … or may not be.

Journalistic narratives are leading us astray. Violence is on the decline (per capita). Murder is on the decline (per capita). Crime is on the decline (per capita). But that doesn’t sell newspapers. The lede is still “if it bleeds it leads.”

August 6, 2016

The NYTimes: On the Slippery Slope and Accelerating

Journalism is suffering or, rather, we are suffering from a steep decline in the quality of journalism. Schlock and shoddy journalism has always been with us and always will, because it is cheap. If I may quote an executive of the National Enquirer magazine in court, “Everybody knows we make this stuff up.”

High quality journalism, though, is expensive. And, unfortunately the funding base for high quality journalism has evaporated. First on TV, where news divisions were not expected to make money but now they do, to newspapers, which used to be somewhat profitable and now are marginal at best.

The result has been that a great many journalists have been fired and a great many good journalists have retired and been replaced by, well, poorer journalists.

I was reading a column in today’s Times (“We’re in a Low-Growth World. How Did We Get Here?” by Neil Erwin, Senior economic correspondent at The New York Times’ The Upshot column in which he refers to an interview with Larry Summers, economist and former Obama administration economic advisor:

Mr. Summers, in an interview, frames it as an inversion of ‘Say’s Law,’ the notion that supply creates its own demand: that economywide, people doing the work to create goods and services results in their having the income to then buy those goods and services.
In this case, rather, as he has often put it: ‘Lack of demand creates lack of supply.’”

Apparently the good reporter missed something in translation, because the “framing” is a bit upside down. Say’s law has been widely discredited (and in economics that means “doesn’t work” rather than it is flawed logically or whatever) and the fact that demand drives supply is long standing economic principle.

The way it is stated it appears that Say’s Law is the operative principle, but in these unusual times it has been inverted (“In this case, rather …”). So, “normal” is declared to be an aberration.

Do realize that many folks still quote Say’s Law as if it were valid because it supports the fiction that is supply-side economics (which has also been thoroughly discredited (aka doesn’t work), just look at the last 35 years as evidence).

So this piece implies that Say’s Law is valid and an unwary reader would have that “factoid” reinforced.

Only a savvy journalist would note that either Mr. Summers misspoke or he was speaking ironically or was actually trying to counter the zombie idea of Say’s Law (zombie ideas are those that refuse to die because they are propped up for various reasons).

In any case, we lose when the quality of journalism declines and decline it has. We are on the slippery slope and accelerating. Soon, someone on the N.Y. Times staff is going to say “Everybody knows we make this stuff up.”

June 7, 2016

Super Bowl 2017; It Is Over!

Filed under: Politics — Steve Ruis @ 12:20 pm
Tags: , , , ,

The media are all over themselves declaring Hillary Clinton the “winner” of the Democratic Party presidential primary contest. Even though she has not won enough delegates to be so declared, they are including estimates of the “superdelegates” who will also get to vote along with the elected/appointed delegates gotten through the primary processes.

This is a mere prediction, not a conclusion, but it is not being “reported” as such. It is as if well in advance of the Super Bowl, a winner was declared based upon “estimates” and there was no need to actually play the game.

What is the point of declaring a “winner”? Does that change anything? (No.) This is part of a trend in which pundits have to handicap each and every contest there is: from horse racing to baseball games, to the NBA Playoffs, now to political contests. When I was young, we often didn’t find out who “won” an election until the next day or even later because it took that long to count the votes. With more modern vote counting schemes, we got to declaring “winners” on election eve. But now, that is not fast enough. “Winners” are being declared with less than 10% of the ballots counted.

How long will it be until the charade of voting is dispensed with an the Oligarchs just tell us who we elected. It will save us all a great deal of time.

April 7, 2016

American News Sucks

My Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, who in my opinion is to be much admired, wrote an op-ed piece regarding tax avoidance schemes by the wealthy (If You’re Rich, You Can Avoid Paying Tax; That’s Got to Change, The Guardian Online, April 7, 2016). I got to read this because it was published in The Guardian. In case you are not aware, The Guardian is based in the U.K.

Time and time again, I have to get local and U.S. centric news from outside of our borders. Why is that? There is something very, very wrong with U.S. news organizations. Important news dissemination is taking a back seat to eye candy, so far back that one cannot find important stuff.

This obviously is in the best interests of the corporations and plutocrats who currently own our government. What we don’t know can’t hurt them.

May 22, 2014

Karl Rove is Relevant Again, uh, How?

Karl Rove is a political operative who only works for Republicans. Last seen, he was incredibly wrong about the 2012 election. Mr. Rove resurfaced recently saying something incredibly snarky, and as it proved out incorrect, about a potential Democratic candidate for President.

And this is news?

Uh, hello News Media. Hit Ctrl-Alt-Del and find another reason to exist please because when it comes to speaking truth to power, the only reason your sorry asses are justified, you are an abysmal failure.

Karl Effing Rove’s blathers are news . . . amazing.

December 22, 2013

The “Duck Dynasty” Kerfuffle

Filed under: Politics,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 11:48 am
Tags: , , ,

In an interview with one of the “stars” of the “reality” TV show “Duck Dynasty” in GQ magazine, it was discovered that the gentleman in question has some somewhat quirky “beliefs,” beliefs apparently stemming from his religion.

Regarding whether this TV show continues is neither here nor their to me. If people do not want to support others with such beliefs, their audience and their sponsors will evaporate and the “stars” will go back to their prior wealthy state. If not, then not.

In the discussion over the comments made, though, too many people are focusing on the matter that these are “religious beliefs” and therefore have some special standing in our public discourse. We are hesitant to criticize another’s “religious beliefs” because . . . well, because, that’s why.

What is missing from this discussion is the fact that the gentleman’s beliefs are created by him, not by the religion. If one goes to a church and learns of their doctrine and finds it unbelievable, or racist, or misogynist, or otherwise offensive, what does one do? (Miss Manners wants to know!) One gets up and walks out and goes into another church. Christianity alone has 40,000 different flavors to choose from. (Take that Baskin-Robbins!)

And people who are members of any church do not necessarily believe every last bit of that church’s orthodoxy. You see, Christians pick and choose what it is they will believe. They go from church to church until they find one they “like” and then they just ignore the bits of that church that they don’t like. Otherwise there is too much cognitive dissonance for comfort.

So, if a racist, misogynist, homophobic God-fearin’ ’Merican wants a church, he can find one that agrees with his beliefs. It is not the other way around. So, don’t criticize the man for his religious beliefs, criticize him for his personal beliefs, they are no more based upon his religion than the quality of a car is based on how many people buy one.

November 25, 2013

Calling Obamacare Rollout a “Disaster” is Ludicrous

I’m not using the Hurricane Katrina reference here, I am specifically addressing the use of the word “disaster” which has been dropped repeatedly by opponents and proponents of the Affordable Care Act.

So, I have a few questions:
How many people died?
How many people were injured?
How much property was damaged?
How much money was lost?

Answers: Zero, Zero, Zero, Zero.

Some “disaster.”

A better word, possibly, would be an “embarrassment” or maybe an “inconvenience.” Get a grip Talking Heads!

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