Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Networks snub, malign tea party movement

Report finds news coverage of movement sparse, cynical

The big three television networks virtually ignored the massive, grass-roots "tea party" surge in 2009, and so far this year have maligned the movement as teeming with racists and violent fringe figures, according to a report by the Media Research Center.

"Rather than objectively document the rise and impact of this important grassroots movement, the 'news' networks instead chose to first ignore, and then deplore, the citizen army mobilizing against the unpopular policies of a liberal president and Congress," wrote MRC Research Director Rich Noyes.

As a nation-spanning "Tea Party Express" caravan plans to pull into Washington for a "tax day" rally on Thursday, a Rasmussen poll finds that the number of people who say they're part of the tea party movement nationally has grown to 24 percent, up from 16 percent a month ago.

"The rise in tea party support is perhaps not surprising at a time when more voters than ever (58 percent) favor repeal of the national health care plan just passed by Democrats in Congress and signed into law by President Obama," the pollster wrote.

The Media Research Center, a watchdog organization founded by conservative L. Brent Bozell III, compiled reams of statistics to support its findings about TV network coverage, among them:

• ABC, CBS and NBC aired 61 stories or segments on the anti-spending movement over a 12-month period, and most of that coverage is recent. "The networks virtually refused to recognize the tea party in 2009 (19 stories), with the level of coverage increasing only after Scott Brown's election in Massachusetts" in January, the report said, referring to the Republican's win of the Senate seat long held by Edward M. Kennedy.

• Overall, 44 percent of the networks' reports on the tea party suggested the movement reflected a fringe movement or a dangerous quality. "Signs and images at last weekend's big tea party march in Washington and at other recent events have featured racial and other violent themes," NBC anchorman Brian Williams said in a September report.

• Coverage of the movement pales in comparison with coverage of "protests serving liberal objectives," the report said. For instance, the Nation of Islam's "Million Man March" in 1995 garnered 21 evening news stories on the day of the march — more than the tea party demonstrations received in all of 2009.

No one from any of the three networks returned phone messages or e-mails seeking comment.

Thousands of tea party protesters are expected to turn out Thursday for a "People's Tax Revolt" rally in Washington's Freedom Plaza, a block from the White House. Mr. Obama plans to be out of town that day, traveling to Florida for an event on the future of the U.S. space program.



A new Boston Tea Party

by Jeff Jacoby

SARAH PALIN AND THE TEA PARTY EXPRESS will rally on the Boston Common this morning, and if everything you know about the tea partiers comes from talking heads on your TV screen or big-name pundits in the prestige press, you're probably cringing in expectation of an ugly invasion by hate-filled, out-of-control bigots.

It was only a couple of weeks ago, after all, that the New York Times's Frank Rich was informing his readers that Tea Party protesters opposing the Obama health-care bill were "goons," so inflamed by "homicidal rhetoric" -- Rich cited the protesters' chant "Kill the bill!" as an example -- that they had turned into latter-day SS troops engaged in a "small-scale mimicry of Kristallnacht." ....

To anyone who knows real Tea Party members or has attended a Tea Party event, these characterizations are so absurdly scurrilous that it's hard to imagine anyone could possibly believe them, let alone utter them in good faith. Yet some people will believe anything, especially when it suits their political prejudices.... So we shouldn't be surprised when some grow-the-government liberals convince themselves that the tea partiers' real agenda isn't opposition to ObamaCare and exploding federal budgets, but nostalgia for Nazism and Jim Crow.

Like any enthusiastic grassroots movement, the Tea Parties are bound to attract a sliver of disreputable cranks, some of whom may seek attention from credulous or cynical members of the media. And there are reports that Tea Party opponents have been recruiting infiltrators to crash the rallies and discredit them with fabricated hate speech and extremist rhetoric.

Head over to the Boston Common this morning, however, and you will find neither fascists nor Klansmen, but a sea of sincere and energized citizens worried about the direction in which their country is headed and alarmed by the vast aggrandizement of government power.

NPR's Juan Williams, the bestselling civil-rights author and nobody's idea of a conservative, has warned Democrats that they demonize the Tea Parties at their peril. "Tea party outrage over health-care reform, deficit spending, and entitlements run amok is no fringe concern," Williams wrote recently. Contrary to the way they have been maligned on the left, "tea party activists are surprisingly mainstream when it comes to their grievances about politics."

They are mainstream in other ways too. "Tea Party supporters skew right politically," Gallup reported last week, "but demographically, they are generally representative of the public at large." In terms of age, education, employment, and, yes, even race, the tea partiers are a pretty typical slice of America.

Contention over the scope and legitimacy of government authority is quintessentially American. So is the struggle to balance individual liberties with national needs. Today's Tea Party in Boston is only the latest link in a chain reaching back to that first Boston Tea Party in 1773. You don't have to be a fan of Sarah Palin or a foe of President Obama to welcome the tea partiers to town or to admire their civic engagement.

"We are not obligated to support the president's policy because . . . this is the United States of America and dissent is patriotic." So Howard Dean declared in 2003, and so insisted countless liberals and Democrats during the George W. Bush years. If it was patriotism then, it's patriotism now. Stop by the Common today, and you can see it for yourself.



The value of private charity

When “Cheech,” a street hustler, would stand outside my apartment building begging, I’d ask him why he was begging. He’d tell me about his gambling and family problems, and I’d repeatedly tell him, “Someone who speaks as well as you could do much more with his life,” and I’d encourage him to consult New York City’s Social Services agencies. I could have done more for Cheech personally, but I said to myself, “Better leave it to the specialists — my city spends billions on social services — they have specialists to deal with people like Cheech.”

Multiply that thought by 296 million Americans, and you see how public assistance displaces private charity. And that’s only the beginning of the damage.

Twice we’ve brought ABC’s cameras to Delancey Street, a mutual aid charity in San Francisco. It’s a collection of hundreds of former street people and ex-cons (18 felony convictions is the average) who live and work together and help each other out.

Delancey Street has been hugely successful. Thirteen thousand people have been through its programs. The ex-addicts now run a dozen businesses, including a restaurant and a moving company.

But Mimi Silbert, who started Delancey Street, says it almost didn’t happen, because government kept getting in the way. “We have had to fight every bureaucracy that exists.” Silbert doesn’t employ certified teachers and drug counselors, so welfare workers tried to smother her with red tape. “If Jesus Christ walked in today and wanted to start Christianity, he wouldn’t be able to do it because they say to him, ‘You need two psychiatrists, you need one social worker, somebody has to sign the things . . . ‘”

Silbert wanted to help some of the worst-off people in America learn to be productive citizens. The government, which typically doesn’t do anything more productive with those people than lock them up, release them and lock them up again, nearly stopped her with its complicated rules.

Fortunately, Silbert fought the bureaucrats and won, but many others are beaten down by the bureaucracy. Government often makes private charity so difficult, individuals stop trying.

I once thought there was too much poverty for private charity to make much of a difference. Now I realize that private charity would do much more — if government hadn’t crowded it out. In the 1920s — the last decade before the Roosevelt administration launched its campaign to federalize nearly everything — 30 percent of American men belonged to mutual aid societies, groups of people with similar backgrounds who banded together to help members in trouble. They were especially common among minorities.

Mutual aid societies paid for doctors, built orphanages and cooked for the poor. Neighbors knew best what neighbors needed. They were better at making judgments about who needs a handout and who needed a kick in the rear. They helped the helpless, but administered tough love to the rest. They taught self-sufficiency.

Mutual aid didn’t solve every problem, so government stepped in. But government didn’t solve every problem either. Instead, it caused more problems by driving private charity out. Today, there are fewer mutual-aid societies, because people say, “We already pay taxes for HUD, HHS. Let the professionals do it.” Big Government tells both the poor and those who would help them, “Don’t try.”

Private charity develops a sense of personal responsibility for recipients, and it does something similar for donors, too. If I hadn’t thought the government would take care of Cheech, I would’ve had to decide whether I thought he was worth my money — money I could spend on myself and my family, or on promoting freedom, or on any number of charitable causes.

When you rely on the government to help those who need it, you don’t practice benevolence yourself. You don’t take responsibility for deciding whom to help. Just as public assistance discourages the poor from becoming independent by rewarding them with fixed handouts, it discourages the rest of us from being benevolent. This may be the greatest irony of the welfare state: It not only encourages the poor to stay dependent, it kills individuals’ desire to help them.




The end game is near: "The American Left has long derided what it considers the romanticized myths regarding the virtue and wisdom of the group of dead, white males most responsible for the founding of the American Republic. It does not celebrate America as a land founded on the ideals (imperfectly as they may have often been realized) of individual liberty, equality under the law, and opportunity, but rather as a land founded on slavery, economic inequality, and exploitation. It should come as no surprise, therefore, that the American Left also disdains the United States Constitution. The United States Constitution, even battered and weakened as it has been by precedents set by various liberal, activist Supreme Courts, still guards the liberty of Americans against the authoritarianism required to impose a fully socialist, or other collectivist, regime. It now appears we are headed towards the ultimate battle in the American Left’s war on individual liberty.”

Army officer won’t accept Obama as chief: "The Army may be forced to court-martial a lieutenant colonel who refused to deploy to Afghanistan because he considers orders from President Barack Obama to be illegal, military officials told NBC News on Tuesday. Army doctor Lt. Col. Terry Lakin believes Obama does not meet the constitutional requirements to be president and commander-in-chief because Lakin believes the president was not born in the United States. A video with statements from Lakin on the subject was released by the right-wing American Patriot Foundation.” [On past precedent, the army will simply discharge him. Anything rather than have a trial where the judge might want to see Obama's original birth certificate]

Dr. Nurse? States consider expanding nurse role: "A nurse may soon be your doctor. With a looming shortage of primary care doctors, 28 states are considering expanding the authority of nurse practitioners. These nurses with advanced degrees want the right to practice without a doctor’s watchful eye and to prescribe narcotics. And if they hold a doctorate, they want to be called ‘Doctor.’ For years, nurse practitioners have been playing a bigger role in the nation’s health care, especially in regions with few doctors. With 32 million more Americans gaining health insurance within a few years, the health care overhaul is putting more money into nurse-managed clinics. Those newly insured patients will be looking for doctors and may find nurses instead. The medical establishment is fighting to protect turf.”

The secular inquisition: "The New Atheist campaign to have Pope Benedict XVI arrested when he visits Britain later this year exposes the deeply disturbing, authoritarian and even Inquisitorial side to today’s campaigning secularism. There is nothing remotely positive in the demand that British cops lock up the pope and then drag him to some international court on charges of ‘crimes against humanity.’ Instead it springs from an increasingly desperate and discombobulated secularism, one which, unable to assert itself positively through Enlightening society and celebrating the achievements of mankind, asserts itself negatively, even repressively, through ridiculing the religious.”

In defense of sedition: "America’s conservative movement, writes Sara Robinson, is engaged in ’sedition in slow motion, a gradual corrosive undermining of the government’s authority and capacity to run the country.’ If only it were so! Alas, even using Robinson’s preferred definition … she’s not even close. … What I really take issue with, though, is not Robinson’s mistaken contention that the specter of sedition haunts North America, hovering over assorted Tea Party gatherings, militia musters and talk radio rants. My problem with Robinson is that she thinks sedition is a bad thing.”

An obstructive and fearful bureaucratic monster: "Over the past half-century, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has made it increasingly harder for Americans to get access to innovative new drugs and medical devices. By raising the hurdles medical products manufacturers must clear before they get approval, the agency has increased the cost of new treatments and delayed their availability.”

Former Episcopal churches, diocese spar: "A group of conservative former Episcopal churches tangled with the Episcopal Church and its Diocese of Virginia before the Virginia Supreme Court on Tuesday over a unique state law that awards property to congregations that bolt their parent denomination. The 90-minute session before a packed courtroom of 140 onlookers, plus more outside, appealed a Fairfax Circuit Court verdict that awarded about $30 million worth of historic property to the 11 churches that broke away from the diocese three years ago."

Income falls 3.2% during Obama's term: "Real personal income for Americans - excluding government payouts such as Social Security - has fallen by 3.2 percent since President Obama took office in January 2009, according to the Commerce Department's Bureau of Economic Analysis. For comparison, real personal income during the first 15 months in office for President George W. Bush, who inherited a milder recession from his predecessor, dropped 0.4 percent. Income excluding government payouts increased 12.7 percent during Mr. Bush's eight years in office."


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