Should Murdoch Own the Wall Street Journal?

June 29, 2007 at 9:03 am | Posted in Media | Leave a comment

New York Times Op-Ed Columnist Paul Krugman published a column in today’s New York Times titled “The Murdoch Factor.”  You have to be a member of Times Select to read it, but he says important things about the bid by media mogul Rupert Murdoch to buy the Wall Street Journal.

 

If Murdoch adds the Journal to his swollen media empire it would be a disaster for journalism, for the dedicated journalists who work for the Journal, for the paper’s readers, and (because it’s influential nationally and internationally) for the country.

 

Krugman quotes a study published in October of 2003 by the nonpartisan Program on International Policy Attitudes.  The study, titled “Misperceptions, the media and the Iraq war,” found that 60 percent of Americans believed that there were links between Al Qaeda and Iraq, WMD had been found in Iraq, or world public opinion favored the US going to war with Iraq.

 

Of course none of these were true, but the point is that peoples’ misperceptions depended on where they got their news.  Only 23 percent of the people who got their news from PBS or NPR believed them, but 80 percent of the people who depended on Fox Noise (er… News) believed!  Guess who owns Fox?

 

Rupert Murdoch

 

Krugman points out that Murdoch exploits the media environment by slanting coverage to serve his business interests.  Therefore, in the United States, Fox is heavily biased in favor of the Bush administration and the Republican Party.  In Britain, Murdoch enterprises (including the Times of London) supported the Blair government, so it would let him keep his holdings.  And in China Murdoch’s organization is working to help the Chinese censor the internet.

 

I thoroughly agree with Paul Krugman when he says, “If Mr. Murdoch does acquire The Journal, it will be a dark day for America’s news media — and American democracy.”

 

What can you do?  You can help to put pressure on the Journal not to sell out.  Write your elected representatives and ask them to hold hearings and write legislation to help preserve national information assets.  Write Jim Ottaway and Jay Ottaway, at Dow Jones Corp., 200 Liberty Street, New York, NY 10281.  Send an email to Wall Street Journal Managing Editor Bill Grueskin (b.grueskin@wsj.com).

 

If you’re a member of Times Select, the following link will take you to the article:

 http://select.nytimes.com/2007/06/29/opinion/29krugman.html?hp 

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Immigration Bill Down In Flames

June 28, 2007 at 9:03 pm | Posted in Immigration | Leave a comment

The revised Compromise Comprehensive Immigration bill is dead.  The Senate defeated a Cloture motion which would have ended debate and brought the bill up for a vote.  The total was 46 (34 Democrats and 12 Republicans) voting for cloture, and 53 (16 Democrats and 37 Republicans) voting against cloture.  One Democrat did not vote.

 

In a reversal of their usual voting practices, most Democratic Senators supported the President, while most Republican Senators voted against the initiative in spite of personal campaigning by the President.  Immigration reform was a cornerstone of his domestic agenda.

 

Senator David Vitter, Republican of Louisiana, said: “The message is crystal-clear. The American people want us to start with enforcement at the border and at the workplace and don’t want promises. They want action, they want results, they want proof, because they’ve heard all the promises before.”

 

We agree with Senator Vitter, to some extent.  The American People, we believe, want to start with enforcement at the border.  Enforcement at the workplace is a close second, but needs fast, accurate identification and tracking systems to work.

 

We also agree with Senator Jim DeMint, Republican of South Carolina, who said, “The American people won today. They care enough for their country to get mad and to fight for it. Americans made phone calls and sent letters, and convinced the Senate to stop this bill.”  If you were among those who sent letters and made phone calls, give yourself a hand.  You have helped to show that the people can move the government.

 

Among those unmoved, however, was Senator Edward Kennedy, of Massachusetts.  Referring to opponents of the bill, Mr. Kennedy said: “We know what they don’t like. What are they for?”  If he had listened to the American people; if he had read this blog, he would know what we want.

 

Well …having defeated this massive asininity, the Senate and the House ought to roll up their sleeves and get to work one a staged approach to solving this highly complex problem.

The Senate should vote NO to the new Immigration Compromise

June 27, 2007 at 9:22 pm | Posted in Immigration | Leave a comment

I have sent the following message to my U.S. Senators:

The Comprehensive Immigration Reform bill before you now is a bad bill that takes a bad approach to immigration reform.  It is a long and complicated bill that will no doubt be the subject of amendment after amendment.  It will not do what out immigration policy ought to do:  reflect the values and needs of the United States as a whole.

The issues are too complex to be dealt with all at once, without hearings, and without serious study on your part.  You have not had the opportunity to do the research you need to do, or to contemplate the proposals being made in the bill.

The subject should be taken up in stages.  I believe that the first thing we need to do is to strengthen border security.  Legislation has been passed (the compromise bill would weaken it) but the Congress needs to insist that the corrective measures be implemented quickly and effectively.

Once that has been done you need to address the problem of the more than 11 million illegal immigrants now living in the country, and the countless others who have overstayed their visas.

Finally, you need to examine, revise, and simplify the tangled web of guest worker and special visa programs as well as the qualifications for immigration and citizenship.

I urge you to vote the current bill down so that you can take the logical approach to immigration reform.

Please send a similar message to your U.S. Senators.

Congress should override President Bush’s Veto of the Stem Cell Bill

June 27, 2007 at 9:17 pm | Posted in Stem Cell Research | Leave a comment

I have sent the following message to my U.S. Senators, my Representative, and President Bush:

President Bush recently vetoed the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2007, which was passed by large majorities of both houses of Congress.  He did so because of an ideology that ignores the facts, and his actions seek to deny millions the potential benefits of stem cell research.  

Stem cells show promise in developing cures for a wide variety of otherwise incurable diseases.  The veto, if not overridden, will therefore cost many, many lives, and condemn millions to a life of disease.

The veto will not save any lives, even if you believe that an embryo is a human life.  The bill allows research using stem cells derived only from embryos that will be discarded in any case.  In addition, it specifies that the donors must give their informed written consent, and will receive no financial or other inducements to donate the embryos.

I urge you to vote to overturn this unfortunate veto.

I urge you to send a similar message to your Senators and your Representative.

Recommendation on Immigration Bill Vote

June 26, 2007 at 7:02 pm | Posted in Immigration | Leave a comment

The revised, renegotiated Compromise Immigration bill will be coming up for a Senate vote sometime this week, probably Thursday.  The Curmudgeon recommends that Senators vote against the bill. (For more information, please see my previous post on immigration.)

 

The Congress needs to revise the immigration law in stages.  First, seal the borders against further illegal immigration.  Then handle the illegal immigrants who are already here.  Finally revise the guest worker and visa programs.

 

Please call or write your Senators and urge them to vote against the bill.

Watching the Water: The Outer Banks in May

June 26, 2007 at 9:20 am | Posted in Travels | Leave a comment

I went to the Outer Banks the first week in May and took my laptop along.  On Tuesday night I was at the Driftwood Motel (next to the Cedar Island Ferry Terminal).  The area has no cell phone service, much less internet access, and I had to be up at 6:00 am for a modest breakfast so I could be in line for the ferry at 6:30.  For some reason I woke up early.  So …open up the laptop (sans mouse) and write an email.  The rest of this is based on that email, and others that followed.

[Early Wednesday Morning]

Things are a bit Spartan at the Driftwood Motel.  The 12 x 18 room is paneled in the original cinder block, with a window and a door worthy of a medieval fortress.  There’s a king-size bed, and the other furniture  (a dresser, two bed-tables, and a chair) is imitation rattan.  The TV is on the dresser, and to my surprise they have cable, so I was able to watch Keith Olbermann last night.  (He excoriated Bush:  it was the fourth anniversary of “Mission Accomplished” in Iraq.)  There’s a reading lamp by the bed, so I sat on the bed with my laptop… in my lap!

I thought the motel restaurant would be open for dinner, but it’s only open Thursday through Sunday, so I drove back down the road a couple of miles to a very small Mom & Pop store and got an awful, pre-made, ham and cheese sandwich on white bread.  No mayo, no butter, no mustard, no lettuce, and no tomato.  For a drink I got a bottle of  V8 Splash Berry Blend that was even worse than the sandwich.

But before you cry for me you should know that I stopped at The Ice House in Morehead City at about 5:00 pm and had a bowl of their wonderful clam chowder.  To my astonishment, they remembered me from my March visit!

[Wednesday Afternoon]

I was sitting on the upper deck of the Cedar Island – Ocracoke ferry this morning, and I was thinking that I’m really lucky.  It was sunny and warm, with 15 knots. of wind on our quarter.  There were whitecaps and just enough of a sea to make the boat roll easily through the swells at about 10 knots, so there were only a couple of knots of relative wind.  I had my NC Ferry System mug of coffee, the air smelled good, and all I had to do was enjoy the ride.  If it’s stormy on the way back, I thought, it will be perfect.

As we approached the first channel markers outside of Ocracoke, the engines slowed to idle, then reversed, and we swung into the wind.  Somebody asked me what was happening (why he thought I would know escapes me) and I said that the skipper had forgotten his cigarettes and we had to go back for them.  But it turns out to have been nothing so dire:  they had merely lost steering, and two of the crew were working on it.  Fifteen minutes later they had fixed it, and we came on into Ocracoke.

There’s another ferry ride between Ocracoke and Hatteras.  I had to wait about fifteen minutes before boarding the ferry, and the 40-minute free ride was as pleasant as the other one, with no steering or other problems.  Once on Hatteras I headed for Kill Devil Hills without (this time) stopping at the Cape Hatteras lighthouse.  I got to my hotel, checked in and then went to the Jolly Roger, where I had lunch:  eggs, toast, and scrapple.  Oh, I love scrapple!

My room has a balcony, and  I could see the ocean (as blue as the Mediterranean) a hundred yards away from across the street.  I couldn’t see the beach, but I could see a vast expanse of water, and before dinner I went down to the beach and spent a few minutes supervising the surf, even though the waves are probably six inches from crest to base.  Salt water is good for my soul.

[Thursday]

I had dinner Wednesday at The Windmill Point restaurant.  The restaurant has a huge collection of memorabilia from the USS United States, and its back yard looks out over Pamlico Sound.  I sat in a window and enjoyed the view, which is somewhat restricted by a full-size windmill (and a number of very realistic water fowl sculptures).  There were a number of people para-sailing (surfboards pulled by a parachute), and it was interesting to watch.  I don’t have the foggiest idea how they do it, but it must take a lot of skill.

I had breast of duck with a port wine raspberry sauce for dinner, following a cup of pretty good New England clam chowder.  (Lots of clams, but a bit watery and with too much sherry.)  I washed dinner down with a glass of Sterling Merlot, a very good merlot that didn’t go with the sauce on the duck.  I should have had the Riesling.

And I missed Keith Olbermann. <sigh>

Thursday morning I went out to supervise the surf.  The weather had changed completely:  cloudy, in the low 60s, with a brisk Easterly wind.  The surf was up, and in serious need of supervision.  The beach is short and steep (the result of winter storms?); the sea was an absolutely beautiful grey-green, and lumpy.  The wind was in my face, the world smelled good, and the surf crashed and hissed on the shore.

Later on I checked out the pavilion at the Wright Brothers Memorial.  It has a bunch of exhibits left over from the 100 years of flight celebration.  Some were about the progress aviation has made, some were about NASA (Did you know that the joystick is a spin-off from the space program?), and some were about the Outer Banks circa 1903.  There was nothing much on the Outer Banks in those days except some very poor fishing villages and Coast Guard lifeboat stations.  The prosperity came with the tourists a few years later.

After lunch I went back to the beach (in two different places, actually) and supervised the surf some more before holding a staff meeting.  It’s a good thing, too:  the surf really needed additional supervision.  After the staff meeting I noticed that the waves had grown even bigger and had changed direction, because the wind had shifted toward the north.  So I went back to supervise some more. <sigh>  My second career (as a Surf Supervisor) is so demanding!

The surf was higher and wilder than it had been:  does this mean that I’m a failure?  NO!  I like it that way!  It crashes on the beach, and waves run into each other, making all sorts of interesting lumps and patterns, as well as lovely crashing, booming, hissing noises.  Even the seagulls enjoy it.  I saw several of them playing in the surf like kids, running after retreating waves, then running away from newly arriving waves.  Yup, running.  Not flying, running.

I dined at the Prime Only.  Superb cream of asparagus soup.  A 6-oz. filet mignon done to perfection, and easily cut with the butter knife that is the only knife they offer.  And a very nice Cabernet Sauvignon.  Finally, coffee and crème brûlée.  The waiter did the burning with a hand-held blowtorch straight from Home Depot but wrapped in a napkin: I told him he could easily have a second career.

After dinner I watched the Republican Presidential Candidates debate and concluded that our next President is almost certainly going to be a Democrat.

[Saturday]

Friday was a travel day.  I drove past endless (and endlessly beautiful) sand dunes.  On the Hatteras – Ocracoke ferry I met a retired orthopedic surgeon who used to operate in Lumberton once a month 40 years ago.  He was surprised to learn that the names “Lumberton,” and “Lumber River” have nothing to do with Lumbee Indians.  The river is so named because they used to float logs down it; the town is named after the river.  I have no idea where “Lumbee” comes from.  Luckily, I was able to enjoy the wind and the sea while holding a desultory conversation with the guy, so enjoyed the ride.

Had an early lunch at the Pony Island restaurant in Ocracoke:  eggs, grits, toast, and corned beef hash!  I love the stuff; it’s the only thing in the world I use ketchup on.  It was only 10:00 and they don’t serve lunch until eleven.

The Ocracoke-Cedar Island ferry was jammed.  I headed for the upper deck (the “sun deck” so I could find a good spot in the lee of the deckhouse and watch the water.  Unfortunately, so did approximately 17,000 yard apes on a school trip.  Most were girls; all were shrill.  I soon retired to the main deck where I was lucky enough to find a sheltered spot to enjoy the sea and the fresh air, and drink my coffee.  Again, the wind was on our quarter, having changed direction from Westerly to Easterly, and it was stormy.  Whitecaps all over, sea birds diving into the wake:  exactly what I wanted.

Life is good!

Immigration: Some Problems, Some Solutions

June 26, 2007 at 8:53 am | Posted in Immigration | 3 Comments

The immigration issue is a complex one, as are most of the issues that face us today.  U.S. immigration policy is complicated, misdirected, and ineffective.  It has resulted in porous borders that allow a stream of illegal immigrants into our country.  It has had a negative impact on our security, our economy, and our society.

In a world where terrorism is probably the greatest threat we face, our porous borders make it easy for terrorists to enter our country, move about as they wish, and perpetrate terrorist acts.  Aside from terrorism, many illegal immigrants commit crimes of all kinds here. Although most are simply looking for a better life, some cross the border on a regular basis to carry illegal drugs to sell here, or to smuggle other illegal immigrants into this country.  These smuggled immigrants face a very dangerous crossing and are frequently injured or even killed by the experience.  Other illegal immigrants commit criminal acts here and some are criminals fleeing from prosecution.

 Whatever their reason for crossing the border, we should remember that all illegal immigrants have broken the law:  they are criminals by definition. Our porous borders have already allowed more than 11 million people to enter our country illegally.  These people pay no income or payroll taxes, but put a great burden on education, health care, law enforcement, and other social services.  Although most illegal immigrants contribute to the economy by spending some of the money they earn here, they send a lot of that money back to their home countries.  Studies show that the difference between what illegal immigrants contribute to our economy and what they cost it is more than $20,000 per individual.  Multiply that by 11 million:  that’s what illegal immigration costs the taxpayers. 

In addition, illegal immigrants lower wages for American workers.  The argument that they take only jobs that Americans won’t take is nonsense:  In many cases Americans would take the jobs if they were paid a decent wage.    There are, it must be admitted, cases where employers are unable to fill jobs with legal residents, but we already have “guest worker” programs for use in such cases.

The argument that low wages paid to illegal immigrants keep the cost of products down is sophistry.  If employers paid a living wage to employees, the cost of the products might go up (or the employers’ profits might go down), but the employers and their employees would be paying for the social services they use, and the employees would not be living in the squalor that most illegal immigrants suffer.  As it is, the American taxpayer pays… and pays… and pays.

 So we need to close the border as quickly as possible.  Congress has already passed legislation that would erect a fence along some 800 miles of the border with Mexico, add border agents, and deploy technology like pilot-less aircraft, video cameras, and radars.  But Congress needs to exercise oversight to ensure that these things are happening as quickly as possible, with a minimum of waste, and without fraud and deception.  The current Administration has taken fraud, deception, and incompetence to new lows, and Congress needs to make sure this job is done right! 

However, even if we closed the border today there are more than 11 million illegal immigrants who are already here, and we have to do something about them.  I don’t want to see us take draconian measures, but illegal immigrants have committed a crime, and should not be allowed to get off without paying a penalty.  We need to deport most of the illegal immigrants, and allow them to apply for immigration lawfully, but with a disadvantage because of their illegal entry.  We need to jail those who have committed crimes here, and when they have served their sentences we need to deport them with no chance of future immigration.  We need to develop a realistic “path to citizenship” for the relatively few illegal immigrants who would face extraordinary hardships if they were deported.

Of course it will be difficult to find most of these illegal immigrants, especially after they discover that they’re not going to get an amnesty.  But there are ways of making them easier to find.  We should:

  • Develop a system for checking immigration status so that employers can easily and accurately check the status of prospective employees.
  • Vigorously enforce the existing laws against hiring illegal immigrants. 
  • Develop a tamper-proof  ID card and tracking system that would allow us to keep track of legal resident aliens, and enable us to ensure that they don’t stay longer than their visas permit.
  • Permit state and local law enforcement personnel to check immigration status when they make an arrest or have probable cause to believe that an individual is an illegal immigrant.
  • Require the Federal government to take illegal immigrants into custody and process them as I discussed above.

These things would make it much more difficult for illegal immigrants to find jobs, and therefore make it less desirable for them to come here illegally.  It would also motivate many illegal immigrants who are already here to leave the country.  They should be allowed to do so (within a specified time frame) without penalty.

 In addition to the 11 million illegal immigrants living here, there are millions of people here on visas that allow them to work.  We need to revise the incredibly complex, tangled web of temporary visa and guest worker programs that are bringing in skilled as well as unskilled and semi-skilled people.  Many of these people are overstaying their visas, and many of them are taking jobs that Americans could fill.  We should work on the principle that foreign workers should be imported only to the extent that an employer can prove there are no Americans available to fill the job.  And we need to revise the immigration laws to favor the kind of people we need as citizens over those who simply want to come here or those who have relatives here. Immigration is a complicated issue.  I’ve made some proposals here, and if you have questions I’ll be glad to answer them if I can.  I hope you’ll write your representatives in Congress, as I have, to give them your advice.  As I have said, it’s easy if you go to http://www.congress.org, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to helping people communicate with members of Congress.  (No, I have nothing to do with that organization.  I do use their services.)  

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