We Must Obey The Obamessiah, Rather Than Human Beings

The President of the US will give His latest State of the Union address this evening, and the BBC has published the press release with key talking points.

Obama State of the Union speech to act on income inequality

Sound promising, no? Just by His words, He can move mountains. What they mean is that the President will announce one of His latest executive orders to help the poorest and most vulnerable and strike a blow against what Katty Kay has described as a social injustice which causes economic problems. There can’t be any doubt that she’s writing her from her personal beliefs. But is that really what He will be doing?

The White House said Mr Obama would unveil an executive order to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 (£6.10) an hour for new federal contract workers.

Oh. So He’s just spending more money that we don’t have, increasing our debt, as an ideological gesture. Not really doing anything to help the working poor in my neighborhood, then. The BBC wants to make sure you get the desired impression, though, so they add key details about who those public sector workers will be:

To sidestep lawmakers, Mr Obama will issue an executive order raising the hourly rate of federal workers with new contracts, such as janitors and construction workers. However, that measure is only expected to benefit a few hundred thousand employees.

Yeah, it’s only going to add a few hundred million dollars to the debt, but at least you know it’s going to noble blue-collar jobs. Now, what’s this about sidestepping lawmakers, you ask? After almost five years of this, we should all know the BBC’s Narrative by heart:

Just over a year after his re-election, Mr Obama must contend with determined opposition from the Republican Party, which controls the House of Representatives and has the numbers in the Senate to block his agenda.

Time is running short before Washington DC turns its attention to the 2016 race to elect his successor, threatening to render him irrelevant even with three years remaining in office.

In the face of a divided Congress, Mr Obama has pledged to use executive action to bypass Congress, and the White House says he will flesh out some of his plans in the State of the Union speech.

As always, the problem is an intransigent Congress, blocking His every move. Screw the separation of powers. Never mind that during the two years where He had super-majorities in both houses of Congress we got the disaster of ObamaCare and a failed Stimulus. It’s His Plans For Us that must be passed, regardless. As the BBC’s friends in the US Left-wing media and the Administration have been saying, the President has been acting too much like a Prime Minister and not seizing power like He should.

“The problem for us is that the test of our success became what we passed in Congress, and even in the best case — if the fever had broken and the clouds had parted — we still would have only gotten maybe 40 percent of what we wanted,” one senior White House official told the Post.

“The political discussion, the press, the politicians want to pull the president into the role of prime minister,” added the official, whom the Post did not name. “So you have to swerve really hard to the executive powers at a time like this.”

According to the report, an internal review of Obama’s failures last year — from Obamacare to sequestration to Iran to the 16-day government shutdown that cost American taxpayers $1.4 billion — led the White House to conclude that the president “too often governed more like a prime minister than a president.

“In a parliamentary system, a prime minister is elected by lawmakers and thus beholden to them in ways a president is not,” the report noted.

Obama will kick off his new agenda in his State of the Union address on Tuesday.

Funny how the BBC decided not to include that bit of information. And they certainly won’t be reminding you that the Junior Senator from Illinois criticized President Bush for doing this.

No. The thing is, the BBC is all for it because they support the President’s policies and report as if His Plans are correct and all opposition is wrong. What the BBC is doing here is more than reporting and analysis: they’re presenting this as if the President’s way is correct and Congress is wrong for not cooperating.

The worst part is Katty Kay’s inset “Analysis”:

Washington can be a cold, cruel city, as anyone who is living here this freezing January is well aware. And as he heads into his sixth State of the Union address, no-one is feeling the chill more than Barack Obama.

In last year’s address to the nation, Obama promised action on three important issues: immigration, guns and the environment. As of today, there has been no legislation on any of those. A gridlocked Congress has thwarted his every attempt to pass laws that would make it possible for undocumented immigrants to stay here legally or increase background checks on gun sales or expand environmental controls.

The president has three years left in the White House, but already everyone here is focused on who replaces him in 2016 and who will win the midterm elections in 2014. With time moving on, chances are slim that he can get anything major done in what remains of his presidency.

No questioning whether or not what He’s doing is entirely legal, no wondering about whether or not the policies He wants are correct, no asking if maybe Congress didn’t pass the legislation He wanted because maybe the majority of the public they’re elected to represent didn’t want it. No, to Katty Kay and the BBC, His Plans are correct, and inaction on them is wrong.

“As for God, his way is perfect:
The Lord’s word is flawless;
he shields all who take refuge in him.

For who is God besides the Lord?
And who is the Rock except our God?”

2 Samuel 22:30-32

Katty’s full editorial piece is more or less a pity party for Her beloved Obamessiah. Read the whole thing if you must, but have a sick back ready. While she points out that there have been some relationship problems for the President, none of it is apparently His fault. He has “an aversion to schmoozing”, but all that means is that He’s above the ugliness of political logrolling. It’s not meant as a criticism at all. Aside from an admission that He mishandled the discussion of attacking Syria, even the ObamaCare website disaster is presented as something that affected His political capital, and no mention of the damage the law itself has done and is doing.

Now is the time where a BBC journalist bashes and mischaracterizes Republicans and their policies:

His saving grace is that Republicans are in an even weaker position than he is. The party’s approval ratings are lower than the president’s. They are failing to reach out to women, young people, Hispanics and African Americans – all important voting groups. And on the signature issue of income inequality – something Obama intends to spend a lot of time on this year – Republicans are struggling to come up with any ideas that don’t smack of “let’s just cut taxes.”

This is an editorial remark, Katty’s opinion of her political opponents. Notice that cutting taxes is treated as an anathema. Also notice Katty’s ignorance on young people. They are in fact turning away from Him because of His policy failures. But Katty lives in the bubble, so isn’t aware of it. Now turn back to your hymnal:

This buys the president a little bit of time. He can still use that to get things done over the next six months, which is really all he has before mid-term fever makes legislative action totally impossible.

The smart money in Washington thinks two things could get done this year. First, we could see some form of immigration reform: not a big comprehensive bill, but something smaller. And, Mr Obama may be able to use his Presidential powers to bypass Congress and get something done to raise the minimum wage. That could help narrow the gap between rich and poor.

It is a far cry from the lofty, change-the-world approach of the first term. But six years have beaten the idealism out of Barack Obama. The man who goes to address Congress on Tuesday is more pragmatic. Forget changing the way government works here.

Here’s another way of saying it:

“Truly I tell you,” he continued, “no prophet is accepted in his hometown. I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land. Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon. And there were many in Israel with leprosy in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed—only Naaman the Syrian.”

All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him off the cliff. 30 But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way.

Luke 4:24-30

Everyone else is the problem, not Him, not His policies. The policies, as we learn from the personal friend of the White House spokesman, are good and just. So everything He does now will be correct in the eyes of the BBC. Can’t wait to hear the rejoicing in His word from the BBC tonight, and the scorn heaped upon Republican rebuttals.

PS: Post title is from Acts 5:29 with one alteration.

 UPDATE 1/29: The BBC has completely replaced the preliminary article I linked to and discussed at the top of this post with what seems mostly to be Katty Kay’s pronouncements on the speech. Not even News Sniffer has the original, so it’s down the memory hole.

On Institutional Bias

This isn’t specifically about any one instance of BBC bias, but it is directly, 100% relevant to our ongoing debate about whether or not it’s possible for there to be an institutional bias at the BBC even though there’s no deliberate conspiracy to push an agenda or narrative (except, you know, when there is: e.g. 28-Gate and the deference to Islamic sensitivities and multiculturalism).

Will Bloomberg Challenge the New York Times

Now that Nanny Bloomberg is done with trying to use political power to directly control the personal behavior of New Yorkers, he’s aiming bigger. Despite his previous claim of not wanting to get into editorial control of Bloomberg News, well, that’s what he’s now doing.

Is Mike Bloomberg the next William Randolph Hearst, a tycoon who mixes media and politics, influencing the course of the nation? Bloomberg has the money and the opportunity; we know he wants a seat at the policy table.

In a recent piece, The New York Times says that the former New York City mayor is involving himself in the editorial activities of Bloomberg LP. The Grey Lady sounds concerned, and rightly so. Just as Mr. Bloomberg won unlikely election as mayor of a heavily Democrat city by skipping through the political middle, he could also steer Bloomberg’s news operation in between the left-leaning Times and right-sided Dow Jones, ending up where a great many Americans reside. It would be a fitting and satisfying next step for the successful financier and politician, who is clearly not ready to retire.

Anybody who thinks Bloomberg is going to seek the happy middle hasn’t been paying attention. I’m not sure how the normally fairly sensible Liz Peek thinks Bloomberg was anything other than a life-long Democrat dressed up first in Republican sheep’s clothing, and then pretended to be an Independent, and it’s worrying that she can look at the track record of his third extra-legal term in office and see anything even remotely resembling the middle ground where most Americans live. But that’s another story. The story here is that Bloomberg News has grown to be much bigger, staff-wise, than the WaPo, and is rivaling the NY Times. I’m bringing up this article because of the following:

But, it’s not all about numbers. It is also about positioning. The New York Times has become more liberal over time, derided on the right these days as a virtual mouthpiece for the Obama White House. The paper has not endorsed a Republican for president since Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1956; the nod has gone to the Democrat candidate in every election since.

It’s not just those on the right that see the paper as tilting left — former ombudsman Daniel Okrent wrote a farewell piece in 2004 describing the paper as slanted liberal, especially on topics like gay marriage. As he said, rather gingerly, “On a topic that has produced one of the defining debates of our time, Times editors have failed to provide the three-dimensional perspective balanced journalism requires.” He noted that the paper unintentionally tends to “tell only the side of the story your co-religionists wish to hear,” but adds that “negligence doesn’t have to be intentional.”

Another departing public editor, Arthur Brisbane, made a similar confession as he exited the paper a year and a half ago. He admitted “the hive on Eighth Avenue is powerfully shaped by a culture of like minds,” a “kind of political and cultural progressivism” that leads to “developments like the Occupy movement and gay marriage” being treated “more like causes than news subjects.” And, this is from the inside.

Emphases mine.

This isn’t the wittering of some angry, fat, old, single white male (or whatever other pejoratives defenders of the indefensible like to hurl at us) ranting because some media outlet publishes opinions he doesn’t like, pretending to read their minds and reading things that aren’t there. This is a case of two different professional, highly experienced journalists (three if you count Peek as well) saying that there is an institutional bias in a world-class, long-lived news organization, and that it happens quite naturally due to the personnel involved.

Does that sound familiar? It should. It’s what I’ve been saying about the BBC for years. For evidence of the hive-mind at the BBC, one need look no further than the “In Their Own Tweets” page. For more evidence, look at the “In Their Own Words” page. Then read the last line of this feature on the BBC’s “North America editor”, Mark Mardell. Then consider the evidence of 28-Gate, Robin Aitken’s book, Peter Sissons’ complaints, and Jeremy Paxman’s statement on using the World Service to “spread influence”. These are only the tip of the world’s largest media iceberg.

I submit that the evidence of this hive-mind which causes the institutional bias at the BBC is irrefutable. And professional, experienced journalists know that this is a very real phenomenon in media organizations.

BBC Bias On Net Neutrality

A US Appeals Court has rejected an attempt to damage and control the internet provider market. Or, as the BBC put it yesterday:

Net neutrality threatened by court

Which is it, then? Since this is the BBC and a US issue, it’s a good bet that it’s not what the BBC is telling you. First, here’s the BBC’s explanation of what the “Net Neutrality” rules created by the FCC:

Net neutrality is the principle that ISPs should not block web traffic for customers who pay less to give faster speeds to those who pay more.

Sounds pretty reasonable, no? But is it really the goal of the FCC’s rules? We’ll leave for another time the debate about how this is another example of how federal departments are now essentially a fourth branch of government, enacting laws and making legal decisions on their own, outside the three official branches of government. The BBC wouldn’t be interested in that anyway. The BBC’s report continues:

Supporters of net neutrality said the ruling was a major threat to how people use the internet.

The rules were designed to ensure that small or start-up organisations had as much chance of reaching an online audience as a large, established company.

But broadband providers argue that some traffic-heavy sites – for example, YouTube or Netflix – put a strain on their infrastructure.

They say they should be able to charge such content providers so that users who pay more can get faster access to those sites than other customers.

As a consequence, companies who did not pay would find that access to their services could be slower for customers.

It might have been helpful for the reader to appreciate this in the proper context if the BBC had included the background information that YouTube and Netflix account for around half of all internet traffic during peak hours. In fact, Netflix shares dropped a few percentage points after the decision was announce, as investors speculated that this would eventually have an adverse affect on profits. And it’s only going to get worse as Netflix starts adding 4K content and more and more YouTube videos and content on other popular streaming services like Twitch.tv and LiveStream are in higher definition, requiring more and more bandwidth. At some point, something will have to give, and unpleasant decisions will have to be made.

But is it really about “fairness”? Wise people get suspicious whenever that term is used, as it often turns out to mean a highly selective set of beneficiaries.

Verizon had said in September 2013 that if it were not for net neutrality rules they would be looking at different pricing models.

In a statement released after the ruling Verizon said that the court’s decision would not affect customers’ ability to access and use the internet as they do now.

“The court’s decision will allow more room for innovation, and consumers will have more choices to determine for themselves how they access and experience the internet,” it said.

This is more or less true, although there’s a caveat. In reality, consumers are already paying more in some areas because the ISPs have to make up the revenue somewhere else. My own ISP offers consumers a choice to pay $10 more per month for higher speed and more bandwidth. The same people who are in favor of this “net neutrality” rule are against tiered pricing as well, and for the same fundamental reason. I’ll get to that reason later. Some ISPs cap their customers’ bandwidth usage, and some deliberately throttle it during peak hours or when doing a certain type of activity. Which type of activity is likely to get throttled? The voice the BBC provides as standing up for freedom and fairness is the giveaway:

The boss of BitTorrent – a system for sharing large files using peer-to-peer technology – warned that the court’s decision would be a major threat to innovation, free speech and “the internet as we know it.”

“For the ISPs, it’s a momentous decision. This ruling will consolidate their powerful role as arbiters of culture and speech.

Why the choice of BitTorrent here, which is used largely to distribute pirated content, as the voice for freedom? It could be because BBC journalists not involved in the business side of protecting property rights see them as heroes in the way most BBC staff see Julian Assange and the Occupy movement as inspirations. There’s another key bit of background information which didn’t make its way into the report. This graph says it all:

Source: Sandvine

Source: Sandvine

BitTorrent still accounts for more than a third of uploading bandwidth. The article where I found this graph has a little more pertinent information:

 Meanwhile, file sharing continued emaciating on many fixed-access networks as streaming video options like Netflix, YouTube, and others proliferate.

File sharing now accounts for less than 10 percent of total daily traffic in North America, down from the more than 60 percent it netted in Sandvine’s first Global Internet Phenomena Report released more than 10 years ago.

Five years ago, it accounted for more than 31 percent.

ISPs have been throttling torrent use for some time now. That’s the freedom BitTorrent and their advocates are really worried about, and the thought of having to pay ISPs for people to use the technology will be a nearly final blow. The BBC really should have pointed this out in order to paint a more honest picture of the debate their presenting.

Our favorite “Echo Chambers” feature has weighed in as well. (I’ve given up my experiment on that for the moment, pending a rethink.)

The concept, called net neutrality, has been the source of a great deal of debate – in the US Congress, courts and the media. Supporters view it as a way to ensure freedom and fairness on the internet, while opponents call it unnecessary government intrusion on business.

There’s that word again: “fairness”. The editor, Anthony Zurcher, first offers the conservative, anti-government regulation point of view from the Wall Street Journal. That view is essentially that it makes no economic or legal sense to prevent ISPs from charging more for more use of their service than it would to prevent a retailer from charging more when somebody buys more than one item. This kind of damper, they say will also impede other providers from getting involved because their chances of getting a return on their investment is severely curtailed.

Also from the Wall Street Journal is an op-ed from the former FCC commissioner, Robert McDowell, who says the whole thing is a bad idea because there are already plenty of measures in place to protect freedom. He’s been a staunch opponent of government meddling with the independent commission and attempts to get around legal infrastructure for some time. Furthermore, he says, more regulation could pave the way for a global body to try and regulate everything, which would ultimately place at least parts of it under the control of those who seek to crush freedom. That’s the part of his piece Zurcher feels was important to cite, anyway. I, on the other hand, think the bit immediately preceding it is more worthy of your attention:

But the trouble is, nothing needs fixing. The Internet has remained open and accessible without FCC micromanagement since it entered public life in the 1990s. And more regulation could produce harmful results, such as reduced infrastructure investment, stunted innovation, slower speeds and higher prices for consumers. The FCC never bothered to study the impact that such intervention might have on the broadband market before leaping to regulate. Nor did it consider the ample consumer-protection laws that already exist. The government’s meddling has been driven more by ideology and a 2008 campaign promise by then-Sen. Barack Obama than by reality.

What ideology could that be, you ask? McDowell has been fighting against this for quite some time. Zurcher doesn’t want you to think about that. Instead, to balance out the two opinions from the Right-wing echo chamber (which are really the same opinion, albeit one has the appeal to authority), we get the notionally impartial Yahoo blogger, a venture capitalist with a vested interest Zurcher forgets to point out, and his usual collection of Left-wing Progressive voices: Slate, Ezra Klein, and Juan Cole, the latter of whom is way, way out there on the far-Left fringe.

The best point from that side is the only one that comes close to something resembling fairness. It seems reasonable to worry that, as we’ve all become so spoiled by fast speeds that we’re wont to click away when something doesn’t load instantly, and choose faster loading sites over slower ones, the little guys will be harmed, and the internet won’t be an even playing field because they can’t pony up like the big boys can. Of course, that’s most likely not going to be the case as the ISPs are only going to try to squeeze the big boys, as the little guys aren’t using up all the damn bandwidth. More moaning about “preferred access” crushing new ventures and Rupert Murdoch’s “growing power” (like Mrs. Thatcher, he’s never far from a Beeboid’s thoughts, is he?) won’t change that.

If the point of this installment of “Echo Chambers” is to unscramble the noise, you can see which side of the debate the editor feels is the best one. As always, it’s of the Left.

Zurcher or the writer of the BBC Technology article could have offered another point of view, one that suggests this ruling isn’t really bad at all because it actually acknowledges that the FCC has more power to force behavior on ISPs. It’s from the Left-leaning Los Angeles Times:

The appeals court ruling Tuesday that rejected most of the Federal Communications Commission’s “net neutrality” rules sent a fair number of Internet advocates into panic attacks. But the worst-case scenarios laid out in the media — consumers gouged, rival websites blocked, commercialization triumphant — are for the most part overblown.

That’s because the ruling was actually a victory for the methodical rule-making process conducted by former FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski (shown in an unflattering photo above). In sharp contrast to his predecessor’s attempt to force broadband Internet providers to treat all legitimate traffic on their networks equally, Genachowski’s rules weren’t thrown out wholesale.

In fact, the court held that the FCC established that it did indeed have the authority to protect “edge providers” — that is, websites, services and uploaders — against mistreatment by broadband Internet service providers. What the court rejected were the specific rules the commission adopted to preserve openness online.

So it’s perhaps not quite the blow to “fairness” and “freedom” that all those from the Left-wing echo chamber claim. It’s a very complicated web (sorry) of services, technologies, and markets (the latter is a real problem regarding monopolies and fairness and harm to the consumer, but that’s another topic) and the author, John Healy, is aware that this might open the doors for ISPs to weight their services toward more profit-making content, but also says that history tells us that consumers and technology won’t put up with restricted freedom and choice for very long. He suggests it’s in the best interests of everyone for the ISPs to work something out that isn’t too restrictive. Why Zurcher decided to go with his usual opinion-mongering suspects instead of this more measured voice I have no idea. Maybe the LA Times isn’t in his echo chamber feed.

Getting back to the true reason behind all this, I’d suggest a different analogy about the folly of preventing ISPs from charging more from the one the WSJ editorial offered, perhaps one the BBC is more likely to understand. Preventing ISPs from charging more when more of their service is used would be like preventing Hertz or Avis from charging more when somebody rents a BMW rather than a Ford Focus. In this case, the rental company certainly can’t force BMW to lower the cost to get the car into their fleeet, so they have to pass that on to the consumer. Nobody complains about this because it’s obvious, up front. “Net neutrality” would similarly prevent ISPs from charging Netflix or Google (YouTube) more for offering their products, so they will continue to have to pass the expense on to the consumer.

And therein lies the true reason behind this whole thing. Behold:

The Origins of the Net Neutrality Debate

Telecommunications companies and their suppliers have been nursing dreams of tier pricing for years.

I mentioned tier pricing earlier, and here’s where it gets interesting. By the way, this is from 2006.

On June 28, the Senate Commerce Committee rejected amendments that would have built a ban on tiered pricing for Internet access into the big telecommunications bill Congress is trying to pass this session. It was a big blow for “net neutrality” advocates, who argue that if the major cable and telephone companies are allowed to sell certain customers faster Internet connections, those who can’t afford the new tolls will be relegated to the slow lane.

I think you can see where this is headed, no? John Fund wrote the following article in 2010 in that apparent bastion of the Right-wing echo chamber, the Wall Street Journal:

The Net Neutrality Coup

The campaign to regulate the Internet was funded by a who’s who of left-liberal foundations.

I’m sure you’re all shocked, shocked to learn that.

The Federal Communications Commission’s new “net neutrality” rules, passed on a partisan 3-2 vote yesterday, represent a huge win for a slick lobbying campaign run by liberal activist groups and foundations. The losers are likely to be consumers who will see innovation and investment chilled by regulations that treat the Internet like a public utility.

There’s little evidence the public is demanding these rules, which purport to stop the non-problem of phone and cable companies blocking access to websites and interfering with Internet traffic. Over 300 House and Senate members have signed a letter opposing FCC Internet regulation, and there will undoubtedly be even less support in the next Congress.

Yet President Obama, long an ardent backer of net neutrality, is ignoring both Congress and adverse court rulings, especially by a federal appeals court in April that the agency doesn’t have the power to enforce net neutrality. He is seeking to impose his will on the Internet through the executive branch. FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, a former law school friend of Mr. Obama, has worked closely with the White House on the issue. Official visitor logs show he’s had at least 11 personal meetings with the president.

Like with the IRS scandal, we keep learning about these bosses of allegedly independent departments having lots of meetings with the President just before that department launches an obviously ideological initiative. However, I should also point out that Genachowski worked with McDowell for years, and he, too stepped down last year. McDowell, as it happens, praised his colleague when the former announced his departure, while acknowledging ideological differences. So perhaps he’s not quite as bad as Fund alleged. As for the ideology in question:

The net neutrality vision for government regulation of the Internet began with the work of Robert McChesney, a University of Illinois communications professor who founded the liberal lobby Free Press in 2002. Mr. McChesney’s agenda? “At the moment, the battle over network neutrality is not to completely eliminate the telephone and cable companies,” he told the website SocialistProject in 2009. “But the ultimate goal is to get rid of the media capitalists in the phone and cable companies and to divest them from control.”

A year earlier, Mr. McChesney wrote in the Marxist journal Monthly Review that “any serious effort to reform the media system would have to necessarily be part of a revolutionary program to overthrow the capitalist system itself.” Mr. McChesney told me in an interview that some of his comments have been “taken out of context.” He acknowledged that he is a socialist and said he was “hesitant to say I’m not a Marxist.”

Sounds like he’d fit right in at the BBC. Read all of Fund’s piece to get the full picture of the ideology McDowell was worried about. This is the true goal of the whole “net neutrality” thing: to put a stop to evil corporate capitalist profits, period. After all, first the advocates wanted to prevent ISPs from charging customers more for using more of their service, then they wanted to prevent ISPs from charging content providers for placing a higher burden on their services. The only goal of either approach is to prevent profits, no matter how much it’s dressed up as consumer advocacy and “fairness”. Instead, the BBC hides this from you and frames it in a “fairness”, David vs. Goliath context, just like all the Left-wing echo chamber voices Zurcher quotes.

Zurcher is a titled editor. In that sense, he operates on his own, and while he has a supervisor on some level he is not, so far as I’m aware, subject to editorial directives from on high, or from anyone else which might direct him to publish something reflecting the same point of view as the BBC Technology journalist who wrote the first piece I cited. The bias happens naturally, because they all think the same way. An echo chamber, indeed.

 

Where Credit Is Due – The BBC And Christianity in Britain

I know this title will shock and annoy most people here. The following is not meant to discredit or dismiss all the complaints about the BBC’s shabby treatment of people with  Christian faith. I’m not here to claim there is no BBC harsh treatment of the religion itself and its various churches as opposed to what Mark Thompson admitted was the soft touch with Islam. I offer this only as a moment to take notice when the BBC actually does get it about right, as giving credit where due can only help deter charges of the blog seeing only negatives in everything and not ever taking an objective approach.

Watching the latest episode of Neil Oliver’s “Sacred Wonders of Britain” was a refreshing change to the sniggering and sneering or casting doubts we usually get from Beeboids about faith, especially that of believing Christians. For example, Jeremy Paxman giggling when asking Tony Blair if he prayed together with George Bush, or Radio 4 suggesting that the danger from Christian extremists was just as bad as from Mohammedan jihadi extremism, or having atheist Melvyn Bragg present a controversial programme about Gnostic Gospel ideas on Good Friday, have all added to the perception that the BBC treats Christians faith with some disdain. And let’s not even get into all the hate poured out by “edgy” comedians and the likes of Stephen Fry. Usually it seems like the only time the BBC nomenklatura approve of religious Christians is when they’re the useful kind: right-on vicars who espouse Socialism or hold the usual approved thoughts on pet BBC issues. I confess to being a little wary initially, being aware of Oliver’s otherwise typical BBC ideological credentials. For example, I saw him turn a segment of one episode of his “Coast” series into an advertisement for wind turbines.

In this series, though Oliver actually treats the expressions of faith with wonder and a smile. There are no side quips about modern problems, no rolling of the eyes at discussions of how faith was important in daily lives. His demeanor does not come across as phony or patronizing. While the series obviously began covering the old pagan faiths, it’s now into Christianity and it’s offered without any diminishing qualifiers.

Another recent example of getting it about right was the “Tudor Monastery Farm” series. Previous versions of the historical farming series didn’t really get into religion at all, but this one had it at its center because of the premise. This time, the producers chose the historically accurate plot vehicle of having the crew act as if they were tenant farmers on a monastery estate. So they really had no choice but to have unadulterated, old-school Christian faith infused into almost everything.

(Yes, I know some people here have been outraged at seeing a black face in Tudor England. I know it can be seen as a gratuitous token done not out of historical respect but in fealty to what we know to be their editorial policy to promote multiculturalism at all costs. Perhaps those who are angry can take comfort in the fact that, from what I saw, the blacks were never shown to be allowed indoors. This has nothing to do with the topic of Christian faith in the series, and I’m hoping we can all leave this issue alone this time.)

In this series, they had no choice but to act as if faith was the guiding force in everyone’s daily lives. Food was symbolic, the meals could take on ritual elements, and real faith was involved in nearly everything on some level. Like Oliver in his show, the “Tudor Farm” cast explained the various religious facets with smiles on their faces and positive expressions. It was done with sincerity, no downplaying it as, “This is what those people did, we’ve now advanced,” sort of thing, nor did they try to say that faith wasn’t all that important. Sure, they were probably acting for the camera, but that doesn’t detract from the sincerity of the presentation. Faith was not described as a negative influence at all. Celebration of religious festivals was not done ironically. Instead, it was presented as a fact of daily life, without negative qualifiers or denigration. Religion wasn’t the point of the series at all, of course. It was just there because it was accurate.

Sometimes – not very often – the BBC can get it about right on matters involving Christian faith. I think we should recognize it on the rare occasions when it does happen, if only to show that our own biases don’t prevent us from noticing. If anything, giving the BBC credit when they do it right should only strengthen our position on criticizing them when they get it wrong.

“Echo Chambers” – An Alternative To The BBC Feature #2

The first installment with my own mission statement is here. Zurcher’s next topic was inevitable, so here goes. Again, I’m doing this without having read any of it other than the title and the first sentence.

Chris Christie’s Bridge-sized Headache

Somebody has leaked or stolen some emails by the popular and prominent New Jersey Governor detailing and gloating about deliberately blocking traffic on a vital commuter conduit in order to retaliate against a local politician who didn’t endorse Christie in the last election. The deputy chief of staff – whom Christie has now fired – seems to have made no bones about what they were doing, and even expressed pleasure in doing so in emails between her and the the Port Authority official in charge of running the George Washington Bridge, who’s a high school friend of the Governor and was appointed by him. It does have all the appearances of being very cozy.

It’s ugly business, not because it’s a national incident but because it’s a clear case of using government power to harm a political opponent, which is a major issue on its own thanks to the IRS scandal, never mind the negative affect it had on ordinary citizens, apparently simply because most of them voted the wrong way. As this editorial from Investor’s Business Daily says, “What’s infuriating is how this kind of politics is becoming the norm.”

This is a major national story also because Christie has a national profile not only because of his public image as a straight talker and a caring, competent administrator after the devastation of parts of his State from Hurricane Sandy, but because he’s been considered by many in the media and political wonk class to be the front runner for the Republican candidacy for President in 2016. Anything that calls his integrity into question is going to be big. It’s especially going to gain legs regardless of the facts because at the moment he’s the number one obstacle to President-in-waiting Hillary Clinton. So Christie now has the biggest target on his back of anyone in the country.

He’s going to get the vetting that the media never did for the Junior Senator from Illinois in 2008, or even during Obama’s first term as President. It’s no secret that the mainstream media knows they didn’t do their job properly, and that they really did use the power of the press to support him and attack enemies. There’s been a little pushback in the last couple of months, and it was probably always going to be inevitable that they were going to overreact in order to reestablish public trust and prove that they really do want to hold politicians accountable and speak truth to power.

As Paul Bedard points out in the Washington Times:

The Big Three networks, in a frenzy over New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s traffic headache dubbed “Bridgegate,” have devoted a whopping 34 minutes and 28 seconds of coverage to the affair in just the last 24 hours.

By comparison, that’s 17 times the two minutes, eight seconds devoted to President Obama’s IRS scandal in the last six months, according to an analysis by the Media Research Center.

“While routinely burying new stories on the IRS scandal, the media practically fell over themselves to start taking shots at the potential 2016 Republican presidential nominee,” said the conservative media watchdog.

It’s important to keep this background in mind when considering the media coverage now, regardless of the facts as they come out. Opinion on the validity of the IRS scandal can be viewed as a metric. So, naturally there’s noise in both the Left and Right echo chambers. Christie says he didn’t know the truth and was misled by his staff about the whole thing. Naturally, some won’t trust him and are asking “What did he know and when did he know it?”, while others are taking him at his word. While it’s impossible to prove a negative, many are pointing to his known brusk, tough-talking, and at times aggressive behavior as evidence that this attitude was endemic in his administration, and thus he shares blame.

A good example of this comes from the Washington Post’s Jonathan Capehart. Just his blog title says it all:

Chris Christie: ‘I am not a bully’ – LOL

During his 107-minute me-me-mea culpa over the traffic fiasco that plunged his national political fortunes into chaos, Gov. Chris Christie said something that was LOL funny. It came in response to a question from NBC News’s Kelly O’Donnell: “Your critics say this reveals that you are a political bully, that your style is payback,” she asked the New Jersey Republican known for his love of rhetorical fisticuffs and penchant for retribution. “Are you? And does this compromise your ability to serve?

Capehart then cites a couple of instances of Christie making snarky retorts at people asking him challenging questions. Those responses are part of what made independents and people on the Right like him, while it tended to anger those on the Left. To Capehart and those in his echo chamber, it’s proof that Christie is a bully, and proof that he either knew or his style encouraged the corrupt behavior.

At the top of that echo chamber is this editorial from the New York Times:

There are plenty of questions that Mr. Christie and his aides, current and former, need to answer.

First, is it plausible that officials as high up as Ms. Kelly and Mr. Christie’s top appointees at the Port Authority, which controls the bridge, would decide to seek revenge and create this traffic chaos on their own?

Did Mr. Christie know in December, when Mr. Baroni and Mr. Wildstein resigned, that these two members of his inner circle had taken part in the scheme? Did he ever ask them what happened?

Piers Morgan says it’s as big a scandal as Watergate.

The echo chamber from the other side is obviously more willing to give Christie the benefit of the doubt. But they’re certainly not just accepting his side of the story and drawing a line under the incident. Charles Krauthammer is taking a wait-and-see attitude. He even suggests that if Christie’s toughness image comes across after this as “a petty toughness”, he’s “toast”.  That and the IBD sentiment I mentioned above are echoed by Red State’s Eric Erickson (writing for Fox News here):

I’m ambivalent on his run for the presidency . But I don’t see him getting that far for the very reasons underlying this issue — he and his staff operate as divas.I have had congressmen, governors, and the staffers of congressmen and governors tell me horror stories about dealing with Christie’s people.

All of them seem to dread it.

It seems that even if Christie comes out of this with clean(ish) hands, the bully label is going to stick. Of course, nobody in either echo chamber is comparing that to Hillary Clinton’s own horror stories about how she treats people, but it’s only a matter of time if Christie does eventually declare.

So is it going to doom Christie’s presidential hopes? It’s too soon to tell, of course, but there are plenty of guesses out there. Lisa Schiffren in the National Review Online’s “The Corner”, thinks this too shall pass and Christie the (eventual) candidate might even come out of this the better for it. The other echo chamber, here in the form of Jason Linkins of the HuffingtonPost, thinks there’s always the possibility of a “Comeback Kid” story, as the media likes to create these Narratives.

There’s one other facet to this story – particularly the coverage and the opinion-mongering – which goes back to what I said about how opinion of the IRS scandal can be a kind of metric. The same people on the Left who defended the President on that saying he couldn’t possibly have known, and his behavior had no influence on the IRS going after his political enemies, are now certain that Christie’s behavior influenced and led to everything, and of course he probably knew.

Before closing, we must also consider the other, other echo chamber: Twitter.

 

 

It’s too early to know how this will turn out, but the various opinions have been far more revealing of the attitudes and politics of the people making them than about anything in the story itself.

Nick Robinson’s Immigration Truthspeak – An Outsider’s View

I wrote this up while watching Nick Robinson’s “The Truth About Immigration”. After it was over, I rearranged a few things, but except for the last couple of paragraphs it was nearly all written as I watched. However, after having digested it for a minute, I think I can sum the whole thing up much more briefly.

Nick Robinson: How is it that a subject that was once taboo is now on every poltician’s lips? Why is it that the doors to Britain were flung open and what are the benefits and what are the perils of now seeking to close them?

Why is it now a major issue and what is the truth about immigration?

Shorter fisking: What Robinson covers is all old hat. See the BBC’s “White” Series for evidence that most of what he rehashes has been done before. In addition, everyone by now knows what Labour did and why. This is a dishonest discussion if one side of the issue is a strawman. Most people do not want to close the door, full stop. I suppose that makes for good TV, but it’s not honest.

What is the truth? Why is this issue now such a big deal that the BBC feels obligated to go over all this again? Aside from the obvious current event of Bulgarian and Roma(nian) immigration, Spot the missing murder of Lee Rigby with the murderer explaining himself on camera. Spot the missing no-go areas. Spot the missing imams preaching jihad. Spot the missing grooming gangs of Rochdale and Manchester. Spot the missing mass murders of 7/7.  Spot the missing discussion about how the BBC got it wrong as well, which was part of Robinson’s statement to the Mail.

I think that about sums up the BBC’s approach to the truth.

Longer version, if anyone’s interested:

So we’re expected to believe that the BBC’s original Young Conservative is straying off the reservation, are we? Sorry, no.

It’s all a big deal now, we’re told. Illegal immigrants are being told to go home. Robinson emphasized “illegal”. And what, exactly, were illegal immigrants being told until this national conversation hit an all time high? Oh, sorry, wrong national debate. I was momentarily stunned by hearing a BBC journalist use the words “illegal” and “immigrants” in the same sentence. I’m just so used to hearing them censor that word in their dishonest reporting about the issue in the US.

Notice the footage Robinson chooses to accompany that line. The police are clearly approaching someone who has just snuck across the border. This is an entirely different topic than the real concerns about immigration in Britain. By conflating the two from the outset, Robinson has already muddied the waters. Whoops, that’s a racist comment these days, isn’t it?

Nick’s Big Question: Why is it now a major issue?

Answer: Anything except third-world extremely fundamentalist Muslims coming in en masse and setting up segregated enclaves and not only maintaining those extremely fundamentalist behaviors and refusing to integrate, but causing certain local problems and then being enabled by politicians, police, and a BBC willing to kowtow to any demand in the name of political correctness and to give two fingers to their political opponents, as well as because they’re afraid.

I hadn’t even watched seven minutes of this before I could see it’s mostly a load of tired old talking points, and would ultimately be a dishonest approach to the issue. If the issues Robinson presents as the main concerns weren’t already talked about enough to be well covered, why did the BBC do that whole “White” Series a few years ago? What was “The Poles Are Coming” about, then? It was a deliberate attempt to control the national debate on this issue, and to demonize those who thought it might be a problem. If it wasn’t already a well-known concern, why was Mrs. Duffy such a story? The BBC was just as quick to paint her as a racist as any politician was.

And what about “White Girl”? That particular facet of the immigration issue was entirely absent from Robinson’s supposed truth about it. And let’s not pretend it’s not the main reason immigration is a hotter topic than ever.

Nick Robinson and the BBC think you’re all stupid. We could tell from their reactions to public complaints about Mandelapalooza, and Evan Davis more recently gave DB a hint of it: they hold you in contempt, now more than ever.

Another question – in two parts – left unanswered: If so many immigrants were needed, as Robinson states, to fill all those jobs, how many British people were unemployed at the time and why are there so many more now? Secondly, why was unlimited immigration the answer instead of training the citizens? Surely there must be a difference in cost – on several levels – between the two options. As was evident from the “The Poles Are Coming” episode, the “lazy British” Narrative has become an immutable object at the BBC. Now they don’t even think it’s worth addressing. It’s a given. Not a single moment was spent asking about  what to do with the unemployed youth in Britain.

(Side note to Nick Robinson and his producer: You really should have resisted the temptation to use the cute “boom and bust” reference there. It only highlighted how dishonest the BBC has been about that issue as well.

Other side note: I admit it’s nice to see Nick Robinson presenting politicians as being scheming and damaging rather than protecting and defending them, like he did for the Blair/Brown relationship or as the expenses scandal was at its height.)

I’ll grant that it’s good that Robinson got Labour politicians to admit how slimy they were on their policy, but if it’s just David Blunkett saying they were “on the side of the angels”, and Jack Straw saying Labour got it wrong, then the debate gets shifted to whether they were right or not, rather than how dishonest they were the entire time. Yvette Cooper was shown as trying to have it both ways, so nothing enlightening there, either.

Robinson, being of course ruled by the BBC’s requirement to remain impartial, leaves it there. For balance against three Labour politicians, two of whom essentially defended the policy without much reservation, we got Michael Howard. Oh, right, Robinson himself is supposed to count as being on the Right in this case, yeah.

The one saving grace of this entire hour was the part where Robinson showed non-white immigrants complaining about the same things that concerned the first round of complainers, meaning it can’t be called racist anymore. I know a couple people here have brought that up recently, and I imagine it would come as quite a shock to those who trust the BBC for their news on important issues. Unfortunately, it’s easy to predict that the BBC will forget all about that immediately and will be quickly back to calling it racist.

So David Cameron is putting a limit on “net immigraton” is he? How will that work out, Nick? No prizes for guessing. To make matters more pathetic, after going over the whole “We needed mass immigration to fill the jobs” theme, Robinson takes that to the next level to show that you need mass immigration to fill all those student slots at universities. Apparently, the university system will be economically threatened if you worry about the questionable student applicants and don’t let in enough proper ones.

Then we get to work permits. Um, what’s this about skills and the ability to speak English? Didn’t we meet some Eastern European kids who were picking strawberries and were told this is an example of the kind of jobs Britain vitally needs filling? Aren’t those the low-wage jobs lazy British young people won’t do, so limiting immigration to skilled workers will harm the economy? Of course that’s so, and Robinson is keen to tell you later on. He doesn’t have to come out and say it at this point, as that wouldn’t be, you know, impartial.

Then Robinson says that Cameron’s statement about allowing in skilled workers needed now (chefs in the shown example) – but he wants to train the next generation of home-grown workers – is a “blunt” message to stop hiring foreigners. Blah, blah, blah. This makes it all the more lame that Robinson didn’t flat out ask the practical question about training and unemployment I mentioned above.

Ultimately, Robinson tells us, immigration is a great net benefit to Britain. The only question now, apparently, is what’s the best plan to make it work more smoothly in future.

No. That’s not the question at all. Robinson asked at the start, why is this such a big deal now? He doesn’t dare touch the real answer.

I know why the BBC can’t touch the real answer. It’s because those of you who do want to shut the door (or at least put much more stringent limits than Cameron wants) want it shut mainly – and are talking about it more loudly than ever before, which is allegedly also what Robinson is meant to be investigating – because of the factors the BBC refused to address. So they just have to present that side of the argument as some phantasm. Everyone on camera is talking about limits, amd figuring out some common sense, not shutting it down, full stop. Yet Robinson frames that side of the argument in its extreme version. He and his producer know full well what they’re doing. This only makes it more galling that he avoided discussion of the BBC’s influence in the whole thing, after recently saying they made a “horrible mistake”.

This is a major public debate like never before because of things like the murder of Lee Rigby and the seemingly endless stream of stories about Muslim grooming gangs, not because a few Slovenians are picking strawberries for less than Wayne and Kaylee get on the dole. The primary reason it’s such a big deal now that even the BBC has to admit it is the reality of things like Tower Hamlets and Anjem Choudary, not Polish glass workers who moonlight as DJs and Bangladeshi students wearing the hijab at some hip university. That shot of the latter from the part where Robinson is discussing the need for students is almost like they’re taunting you. The only reason I’m noticing something subliminal is because I’ve been prepared to notice it. Perhaps they’re so far out of reality and intellectual honesty that they don’t realize what they’ve done.

Sure, Robinson at least briefly lays out the more general concerns along the way about too much pressure on communities and services, jobs, benefit migration, and people feel like they’re losing their own neighborhoods. But the only time Islam comes up is when he casually mentions that the Muslim population has rapidly doubled, as if it’s just another color in the rainbow.

If one thinks that the real reason unlimited immigration is such a hot-button topic right now is limited to jobs, then one will feel that Robinson has successfully opened the way for a more honest debate about the pros and cons of immigration. But it surely can’t be an honest debate if he reduces one side of the argument to some people wanting to “shut the door once again”. He doesn’t present anyone as saying they want the polar opposite of unlimited immigration, so why the reductio ad absurdum for only one side?

“Perhaps it’s time to have that open and frank discussion we’ve really never had.”

If only. And this documentary avoided that frank discussion at every turn. The BBC can now claim to have successfully addressed the issue, but they will only be lying to themselves, and to you. So where was the part where Robinson talked about how the BBC got it wrong? Where was the part where Robinson discussing how and why the BBC made a “horrible mistake” in suppressing concerns about unlimited immigration? The BBC has more influence on the national debate of every issue than any politician or political party could ever hope to achieve in their wildest dreams. Blaming politicians and I guess the media in general ignores the very real influence and deliberate policy the BBC had on the issue over the last decade, and still has now. This documentary is evidence of their desire to influence it.

“Echo Chambers” – An Alternative To The BBC Feature

Last November, the BBC website created the “Echo Chambers” feature, and assigned one of their experienced editors and journalists, Anthony Zurcher to curate it. The mission statement as he originally stated it is this:

Welcome to Echo Chambers, a new blog about opinion and commentary in the United States and around the world.

The purpose of this blog is to discover and present quality opinion journalism wherever it may be – to find value amid the noise. We’ll unearth interesting material and underreported views from the BBC, on the world’s newspaper opinion pages, and in think tank reports, magazines, blog posts and scholarly journals. The venue isn’t important; the content is.

A condensed version of this is permanently in the upper right corner of the Echo Chambers page.

Unscrambling the noise of the global debate, from social media to scholarly journals, Kansas City to Kathmandu.

As has been pointed out many times, I’m not a professional journalist and so cannot understand the arcane arts, but to me, this means that the blog is meant to make some sense of the chatter on both sides of an issue. After all, we’ve been told countless times by journalists and defenders of the indefensible that this blog is just a Right-wing echo chamber, and we often complain that the BBC functions as a Left-wing echo chamber. We all know the drill about Fox News or the Guardian, each often described as an echo chamber for their own side of the political spectrum, and intellectually lazy people who want to stifle debate simply dismiss any point made or evidence offered from either as invalid, simply due to the source, relieving the accuser of the need to address the actual point itself. Media in both the US and UK have become highly politicized, from local newspapers and obscure blogs all the way up to national papers and network and cable news. There’s far more opinion-mongering going on everywhere these days than actual objective newsgathering and reporting. In fact, even the top outlets like the Washington Post and the BBC are moving more and more towards opinion journalism.

One would think it’s a good idea to try and sort through the noise and attempt to distill it down to some semblance of reality, to point out merits or flaws in arguments coming from each side of an issue. The question for the BBC’s Echo Chambers feature, then, is does it meet its remit?

Zurcher’s opening mission statement was that he intends to “find value amid the noise”, and the permanent mission statement is to “unscramble the noise”. In practice, it seems that, with the exception of a weekly list of links about various topics, the installments are  mostly an exercise in Left-wing editorializing. Much of the time, Zurcher is basically presenting stuff from the mainstream Left-wing echo chamber as value in reaction to an issue which seemed to be momentarily gaining traction from the Right. His choices of who writes quality opinion is revealing. One has to give him credit for being one of the more industrious BBC journalists. He sure cranks out a lot of these in a short space of time. A list of links to my analyses of several of his pieces can be found in the comments section of this post about it by Daniel Pycock. Personally, I’m sick to death of opinion journalism, and I think it’s done far more damage to public discourse than help crystalize any ideas. But again, I’m not a professional journalist, so not qualified to judge the priest caste.

With this in mind, I’m going to try a little experiment. For the next five Echo Chambers installments (not including the next simple list of links), rather than do my usual long-winded parsing and complaining, I’m going to attempt an alternative version of what I think it says on the tin. That is to say, I’ll try to actually present a few opinion pieces on whatever topic catches Zurcher’s fancy. I won’t read his piece, just check the title and the opening lines to see what the issue is. I’ll even use his title. Then I’ll curate my own collection of “value”, adding my own brief (I promise) comments so the reader gets the idea of what I think is going on. Each one will include a link to the BBC Echo Chambers piece, and everyone can view them side-by-side and judge for themselves not so much if I’m doing a great job, but whether or not Zurcher is really doing his properly, and just how much of a Left-wing echo chamber he lives in. I may or may not link to the same things he does. Without reading it in advance, I’ll have no idea. If I do, it’s purely coincidental. This whole thing is nothing more than opinion journalism on that level anyway, and anyone who has read two or three of these things will know in which bubble Zurcher lives.

So, below is my first installment. Four more will follow as and when.

*********************

Senator Ted Cruz, still Canadian

One of the most prominent politicians on the Right these days is Ted Cruz, the Republican junior Senator from Texas. He was elected on the strength of Tea Party backing, and in these days of desperation for a fresh face is already being touted as a possible presidential candidate in 2016. Many on the Left see him as a possible threat because he is Hispanic, and identity politics is a very important tool for them. So he’ll most likely get more attention early on than a junior Senator with no experience would otherwise. Sounds familiar, somehow. Cruz is also hated on the Left because of his support for last year’s government shutdown. In other words, there’s a big target on his back.

So it was inevitable that people would start looking for something on Cruz. As it happens, he was born in Canada. His mother was a US citizen at the time of birth, so US law says he’s a citizen at birth, regardless of where he was born, even though his Cuban father was not. Cruz claims he didn’t know because he was told in his youth that he had to make some official affirmation to finalize his Canadian citizenship, and since he never bothered, he forgot all about it. It’s actually automatic, no need for him to do anything. Of course, it’s impossible to prove he’s lying.

The noise first started, really, back in March 2013, after he introduced Sarah Palin as keynote speaker at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). One of her main topics was gun control and the Obama* Administration’s press for more and stricter background checks in the aftermath of the mass murder of children at a school in Newtown, CT. At one point, she made quip about maybe we should have started checking his background first.

You can guess what happened next. Rick Ungar in Forbes saw support for Cruz as “Birther Hypocrisy”.

While Palin’s return to birtherism accomplished the intended laugh from the appreciative crowd, there was someone in the room who was likely not laughing.

That would be Senator Ted Cruz—the man who so glowingly introduced Ms. Palin and a man who clearly views himself as being on a populist track to the White House. He’s not alone in that regard as four percent of the votes registered in the CPAC straw poll were cast in support of Mr. Cruz, the man often referred to as the Republican Barack Obama.

Ironically, there can be little doubt that among those who expressed their support for a Cruz presidency at CPAC were attendees who continue to question the current president’s constitutional right to hold the office.

While there is no legal question about Cruz’s eligibility, it was quickly revealed that he was also a Canadian citizen, which is what happens when one is born there. So there was a call for him to renounce his Canadian citizenship, partially to make a point, and partially because many would consider it a little odd for a President to be a citizen of another country. As Wayne Slater of the Dallas Morning News explained in August:

What’s a birther to do? After years of haranguing Barack Obama as a non-citizen, what about Ted Cruz, who acknowledges he was born in Canada? He isn’t just a U.S. citizen. He has dual citizenship as both an American and a Canadian. Cruz says he’ll renounce his Canadian citizenship, but it’s not clear whether that’s enough to satisfy the birthers in his party who have long claimed at President Obama was born in Africa and therefore ineligible to be president. Obama was born in Hawaii. But most constitutional scholars agree that even if he had been born in a foreign country, he’s still a natural-born citizen under the terms of the Constitution because he is the child of an American parent.

Slater goes on to say that true Birthers claim – erroneously, of course – that nobody even born in a foreign country can be President. Cruz quickly promised to renounce his Canadian citizenship by the end of the year.

Steven Lubet in the Left-leaning Salon snarkily pointed out that there might be some complications in the process:

Only one of Ted’s parents was a citizen when he was born (his father is a Cuban émigré who did not take U.S. citizenship until 2005), and he therefore falls under a special section of the Immigration and Nationality Act that applies to “Birth Abroad to One Citizen and One Alien Parent.” Under that provision, Cruz only qualifies for American citizenship if his mother was “physically present” in the United States for 10 years prior to his birth, five of which had to be after she reached the age of 14. The only definitive way to prove Eleanor Cruz’s 10 years of physical presence would be with documents such as leases, school registration, utility bills or tax records.

Of course, we don’t know how rigorous the Canadians are about evidence of citizenship, but we do know that they will not be willing simply to take Ted’s word for it. Their form is very specific about requiring documentary proof, and that might be hard for Ted to come by. Could that be the reason for Cruz’s delayed renunciation? It would be pretty embarrassing to have his Application to Renounce Canadian Citizenship denied on a technicality.

In other words, in order to renounce Canadian citizenship, Cruz first has to go through a laborious record-collecting  process to prove his US citizenship. This was picked up in the Left-wing blogosphere and other outlets, and the Left thought they smelled ironic birther blood.  It’s now the new year, so naturally those who seek to undermine him are going to check up on it. It turns out he hasn’t officially done it yet, hence the noise this week. Why hasn’t he followed up on his promise? It should be a straightforward process. So are the Left-wing birthers on to something? Kelly McPartland from Canada’s National Post seems to think so.

Some immigration experts are wondering why it’s taken Mr. Cruz so long to complete the paperwork for his renunciation. “It’s not complicated at all,” said Stephen Green, an immigration lawyer in Toronto, according to the Associated Press.

Richard Kurland, a Vancouver-based immigration attorney, agreed: “Unless there’s a security issue that hasn’t been disclosed, unless there’s a mental health issue that hasn’t been disclosed, there’s no reason for anything other than a lickety-split process to occur.”

Hmmm. Well, something must be holding up the works, which is why Mr. Alexander should seize this opportunity to get involved. Ted Cruz is an American caught in the talons of Canadian citizenship. We need to set him free.

Yes, the Left-wing echo chambers like the Daily Kos are getting excited over this, but I’m having a hard time finding actual opinion pieces on it. Rather than seeing a lot of noise in the echo chambers which must be unscrambled, I’m seeing that almost everyone is pretty much reprinting the same Canadian Press/AP piece over and over, or quoting the relevant bits like McPartland has done. Wayne Slater in the Dallas Morning News is doing the same thing in his opinion piece. Is there anything in the Right-wing echo chamber about this? Not that I can find. I haven’t spent hours searching, and at this point it’s pretty clear that anything will be more speculation or a simple dismissal, repeating what’s already been said.

I suppose one way to look at this is that if the Right is silent, that means they’re afraid of the truth. Alternatively, they could simply feel that it’s already been proven that Cruz meets the definition of a natural born US citizen, especially since nobody is doubting that his mother didn’t live in the US for ten years before he was born, and don’t care about this. In other words, it’s exciting for the Left, who have only speculation to go on, and that’s about it. There’s nothing edifying either way other than the one supposition quoted by the AP. We’ll have to wait and see.

* I’m refraining from my usual formulation of “The Obamessiah” and the quasi-religious capital H in “Him”, etc., because I do that to make fun of the BBC’s reflexive worship and near religious devotion, and it’s not appropriate for what I’m trying to do here.

Mark Mardell Lies About Health Care

Mark Mardell, the BBC’s US President editor, has published his first post of the new year, and it’s as awful as we’ve come to expect. Doesn’t anyone read this stuff for him before he published it? (H/T George R in the open thread)

A big year for Obama and the Democrats

First he says that making everyone purchase health insurance is the President’s greatest achievement.

The plan to make all Americans take out health insurance is Mr Obama’s main achievement in office, and it is the biggest change he has made to American society.

Actually, the President’s main achievement has been to divide the country and fan the flames of political and ideological hatred. But Mardell and the BBC have always blamed the Tea Party movement and anyone he can think of on the Right for that, so never mind.

He sets up his explanation with this bit of ideological and class war talking points:

At the end of last year I saw the Obamacare sign-up in action in two very different states, Mississippi and Kentucky.

They are both in the South and both of a conservative disposition. But in Mississippi the Republican governor will have nothing to do with the plan, whereas the Democratic governor in Kentucky has embraced its possibilities.

I hope I will get the chance this year to look at other examples but these trips have left me with the strong feeling the healthcare changes will play very differently in different states – and within social classes.

He went to Mississippi, of course, to hoe his usual race row. Helping poor black people is the legacy of ObamaCare, and anyone who objects to the plan is racist. He doesn’t say it out loud, but that’s been his theme since 2009: those who object to ObamaCare as wealth redistribution are really objecting to redistributing wealth to people not like them. He’s said that over and over again.

Then Mardell explains how ObamaCare is playing out in different States. The Democrats, he says, believe all will be mostly well once the website is fixed.

That may well be true in some places – those states which have chosen to embrace expanding Medicaid, a US healthcare programme for the poor, and run their own exchange websites.

Er, if the State is running its own exchange website, that has nothing to do with the ObamaCare national website being fixed. Hello? Ideology has clearly muddled his thinking here.

Note to Mardell and the BBC: Going on Medicaid IS NOT purchasing health insurance.

Like all intellectually honest people have been saying from the very beginning, the goal of ObamaCare is to pave the way towards Socialist, government-provided health care for all. I’ve only been saying it for more than three years. If a political junkie like Mardell can’t tell the difference between buying health insurance and being a ward of the State, he has no business being a journalist.

And then he blames evil Republicans for the reason why insurance premiums are much higher in the ObamaCare exchanges.

But in Republican states where they do neither (and so people have to rely on the glitchy federal website), it could end up being very expensive for individuals and firms, and have a very low take-up.

This is, of course, a total lie. Okay, a partial lie. Yes, expenses for the insurance companies will go up if they don’t get enough young people and middle class and wealthy people to pay into the system. That’s why some insurance companies are already preparing to line up for a bailout. Actually, a bailout was sneakily written into the damn law in the first place, and a bill has been introduced to stop it. They knew all along that this wouldn’t be sustainable, and wrote themselves some taxpayer cash handouts. Did the BBC ever tell you that?

However – and here’s where the lie comes in – the premiums are higher for people who are paying for it because the whole purpose is to get them to subsidize and cover costs of insurance companies being forced to cover everyone with pre-existing conditions who would otherwise be paying a lot more, as well as being forced to pay for birth control pills and maternity care for everyone, men included. Plus taxes are being stuck on top of it. In short, the premiums will in general be higher anyway, regardless of how many people sign up in a world where the website was launched without a hitch. In fact, premiums are already higher. Insurance companies didn’t start out with high prices and will lower them once more people sign up. They’re higher because that’s what it’s going to cost even if everybody signs up, and they will remain so. What he’s saying simply isn’t true.

Here’s a good explanation from Forbes (not Fox News, not Breitbart, not the Right-wing echo chamber), which was written 10 months before we found out that the website was screwed up. No blame on a glitchy website preventing it from working was possible. The actual premium figures still remain to be seen, but there’s no denying the underlying mess. Well, Mardell is denying it, but he’s wrong, and has to be dishonest in order to do it.

Even when people in the US are trying to defend against this charge, it’s framed as “Why the premiums are lower than expected”, which is clever way to say they’re higher but it’s not as bad as the doomsayers said. Not much of a defense. And this is from California, one of those Democrat States running its own exchange that Mardell claims would work out well. The reason the premiums aren’t as high as expected? Some of the biggest insurance companies are staying out. They know keeping costs down isn’t going to happen, and they’ll be screwed. There’s a whole other cluster@#$% waiting to happen there with limited provider networks and limited options for care, but that’s for another time. In any case, notice that even someone defending against the charge that ObamaCare is making premiums higher isn’t actually showing that they’re lower than they would have been if it didn’t happen.

The system is mathematically unsustainable, and was never intended to be otherwise. Think it’s just me? Think I’m simply echoing red meat falsehoods tossed to me by Fox News and Rush Limbaugh? Think again. Even Mardell’s fellow far-Left Progressives are admitting it.

How Obamacare Actually Paves the Way Toward Single Payer

Last week the liberal documentary-maker Michael Moore prompted indigestion across the progressive wonk community by pronouncing Obamacare “awful.” In a New York Times op-ed, he bemoaned the way the president’s law preserved the health insurance industry rather than replacing it with a Medicare-for-all style single-payer system. The good news, Moore conceded, is that the previously uninsured (and often previously uninsurable) can get finally get coverage. The bad news is that their coverage will often be lousy and pose an enormous financial burden. He ended by calling for activists to lean on state politicians in an effort to beef the law up.

********

And yet I’m still much more sympathetic to Obamacare than Moore. He thinks it’s awful. I consider it a deceptively sneaky way to get the health care system both of us really want.

Mark Mardell is a liar, for purely ideological purposes. He’s made it very clear in the past that he thinks government-provided health care is analogous to the government providing police and fire departments. At the same time he made it obvious that he sees no difference between the government requiring people to buy health insurance and requiring people to buy car insurance. His personal ideology colors his thinking and his reporting, in this case to the point of dishonesty and misleading his readers.

My opinion of ObamaCare is irrelevant here. I’m not demanding that Mardell reflect my opinion instead of the one that ObamaCare is correct. These are facts. It’s not ideology to say that going on Medicaid is not the same thing as buying insurance. It’s not ideology to point out the actual reasons why premiums are high. Mardell is not impartial: he is biased. That’s the whole point of his job as a titled BBC “editor”, and I think it’s wrong.

Socialist Venezuela Crumbles Along With The BBC’s Vision For It

Pity poor Wyre Davies. Having spent a few years as a BBC Heroic Palestinians vs. Jew-Nazis Middle East correspondent, where he must have felt like he was walking on eggshells stacked precariously on top of eggshells, he’s now back to his area of university study, Latin America. Except now he’s clearly having to, as they say, file with his editor in mind and give Venezuela’s descent into Pol Pot territory the soft touch.

The inspiration for his report is the coming local and regional elections in Venezuela. Davies does lay out the basics that the election will be viewed as a referendum on President Maduro’s extremist policies. We get a statement from one of the opposition candidates and are told that critics feel Maduro’s policies will harm the country. He dutifully balances the critics with a pro-Government voice, and lays blame for the heated environment evenly on both sides. Fortunately, this isn’t Israel vs. Palestinians, so Davies can be a bit more forthcoming about how bad the Left’s favored side really is.

In more ways than one these are difficult days in Venezuela as the government and the opposition accuse each other of trying to systematically undermine the country’s economy.

It is quite common these days to see queues outside shops where there has been a fresh delivery of milk or toilet paper – basic goods that many Venezuelans no longer take for granted.

The left-wing popularist government tries to offset the notion of a crisis by running heavily discounted food and produce markets – counteracting, it says, the actions of profit-hungry private companies.

Good enough so far. Davies then goes on to mention that Maduro’s extremist economic noise is more than just “rehtoric”:

Two weeks ago, President Maduro ordered a chain of electronic stores called Daka to slash their prices, accusing it of defrauding ordinary people.

The allegation was that businesses were taking advantage of the huge discrepancy between the official, controlled rate for US dollars and what it is possible to get on the black market.

What Davies doesn’t mention in this report is that Maduro has gone much further than this. Presumably that’s because Maduro made the announcement the day after Davies filed his report, so he wouldn’t know about it. Except this plan was already known, and the President was asking for support for it two weeks ago. There have apparently been a lot of protests against the policy from ordinary people, so it’s not just political rhetoric from the opposition party. It’s a real shame Davies doesn’t read the news in his new beat. It’s either that or he and his editor simply didn’t want you to know how bad it was getting. Surely it can’t be that, can it?

In any case, Maduro’s claimed that 99% of businesses his crew has investigated are gouging customers in pursuit of evil profits (sounds familiar, doesn’t it?), and that yesterday (Saturday, Nov. 30), he launched a new round of even stricter inspections to root out the “capitalist parasites”. It’s not just a few electronics stores now: it’s going to be thousands of businesses. And there will be an election on top of it, which should be fun.

Even Davies, still reality-based for the moment, is allowed by his editor to gently, softly admit that “it is difficult to see what such policies do for business confidence.” Only without knowing that Maduro has just taken it up a couple of notches, you don’t get the full picture of what’s going on. After this, we stray into the realm of Left-wing fantasy.

It’s now the point in these BBC reports where they wheel out a vox pops for that local human touch. And so Davies finds one. The topic is whether or not Hugo Chavez’s legacy of heroic wealth redistribution helped the poorest and most vulnerable. You already know the answer to that, so I’ll just let Davies set up the background story:

Critics say Venezuela is now becoming ungovernable. One stark example is the Tower of David.

This oil-rich country once had plans to build Wall Street in the heart of Caracas.

But in 2007, homeless squatters invaded an unfinished financial centre and more than 1,000 families now live in the Tower of David.

The residents pay a basic form of rent to keep the building running.

So the government owned it, and allowed a bunch of squatters to take over. No rent is charged, just some maintenance fee, which means the building itself is a gift. Which is why the building is unfinished. No evil profits means no completing the stairs or fixing anything if it breaks. But you’re not meant to think about that. I suppose it’s irrelevant since no other contractors wanted to take it over many years ago when the government was trying to auction it off, and Chavez apparently had better things to do with his oil wealth in the end. The BBC even sent a camera crew to do a nice video report on the wonders of this communal adventure.

To be fair, Davies doesn’t present it as any kind of paradise. Indeed he introduces it as a sign of dashed hopes and dreams. But without blame, of course, and the real ugliness is somewhat sanitized. If this existed under a nominally Right-wing government, you can bet the BBC would have some ominous music playing in the background. We can’t blame Socialism. However, he goes on to say that the squatters moved in due to “pressures on social housing elsewhere”. Sounds familiar, no? In other words, no matter how many people you drive into poverty because you’ve run your country into the ground, you must still magically provide housing for them all. Davies uses the language of the Left to describe the circumstances. That’s probably in the BBC style guide.

One has to respect the residents, though, as they’ve somehow managed to set up a church and school on the premises. There a bunch of shops, and there’s even a motorbike taxi service to take people around the complex. Hey, free market capitalism helping people get along! Don’t worry, Davies doesn’t describe it like that. It’s probably banned in the BBC style guide. Instead, it’s presented as one element of the quasi-normal lifestyle they’ve magically set up for themselves. (In case anyone is wondering how motorcycles carry people upstairs, here’s a good set of photos of the interior. You can get a real sense of the communal paradise the BBC isn’t quite showing you. It’s a tale of the success of the socialist communal lifestyle, remember.)

The reality of the building is somewhat uglier. It was originally started by the usual sort of wealthy financier back in the early 90s. Then Venezuela’s banking crisis hit, and the money ran out. It wasn’t recent, part of the global financial crisis the rest of the world has been dealing with, nor is it even Chavez’s fault, as this happened before his time. But we’re not told that. All we hear from the BBC is that this is the result of some vaguely-known crisis, once upon a time. Which dream was dashed, exactly? The one where an oil-rich, productive country with a thriving middle class was going to continue to build great things, or the extreme Socialist dream of Chavez and the BBC? And who dashed which one, eh? You don’t need to worry about that. All you need to know is that the government must look after the poor, no matter how many of them it creates.

Chavez got elected riding the wave of populist resentment about that 90s crash, so this Tower of David can actually be viewed as a symbol of his utter failure to truly help the poor. Note to Leftoids: “maintain at the lowest level in perpetuity” isn’t really “help”. All the tales of heroic redistribution and reducing income inequality we’ve been fed over the years are a load of nonsense. Instead of finishing this building when his government took it over and providing marvelous social housing for the poorest among them, Chavez funded FARC, set up that publicity stunt of an orchestra music program, and died a billionaire. A billionaire, for heaven’s sake. And Davies can’t even mention that.

But to the BBC, this is all just a sign of dreams dashed by fate, or something. You’re given only the vaguest background, and at no time are you told who or what really failed here. The BBC will have to be dragged into the horrible reality of their beloved Socialism kicking and screaming. As usual with Venezuela fail stories, the BBC doesn’t think it’s worth quoting an actual independent economist like they do with certain other countries’ economic policies. The only voices you hear can be dismissed as partisan.

Now for the vox pops. One of the residents tells his tale.

Among the residents is Wilmer Angel. He runs a small business, making metal moulds, from the room in which he lives with his wife and four children.

Wilmer’s outlook is positive and he is certainly not looking to anyone else for help.

“No government has ever done anything for us,” he tells me with an ironic laugh. “Yes, I’m a Chavista because at least under that government no-one stopped us taking over this place, but what we’ve got here we built for ourselves.”

And there you have it. He lives in a building the government let him have because it didn’t actually give a damn, is allowed to run his private, free market business without government interference, and has a US-style attitude towards personal improvement and industry. Again, BBC journalists wouldn’t dream of presenting it that way. But the cult of personality is strong, and he’s a Chavista in spite of reality. So he’s the perfect voice for the BBC. They’re probably all Chavistas there, not knowing any better (at the Torre David, I mean. Draw your own conclusions about the BBC). Magical thinking is hard to change.

Davies concludes his piece by mentioning the endemic corruption and the delusional Chavista voice is balanced out by another opponent of the government. Then he says this:

Nicolas Maduro says he is governing for all Venezuelans and for the national good, but as each day progresses the country feels even more divided.

You can tell this isn’t a story about the US because the BBC journalist isn’t blaming racism or an evil opposition for it. He’s actually blaming this President for divisive rhetoric. If only this honesty could be transported to the BBC’s US bureau.

Pity poor Wyre Davies. He knows what’s going on, but has to tread on eggshells when it comes to blaming the policies which has created the nightmare he’s witnessing, and to play down just how bad it’s become. Why? He must feel very foolish for what his editor has ordered him to do.

The US, the BBC, and Guns: Bias? What Bias? Agenda? What Agenda?

Mardell just can’t help himself. He made a video report from just outside the Washington Navy Yard yesterday, featuring interviews BBC freelancers collected from a couple of the mass murderer’s friends, as well as his own analysis.

Mardell said that mass murder of this kind is now “as American as baseball.” Isn’t that charming? He wouldn’t dare say that child rape or honor killings or beheadings were as Islamic as a prayer rug. The BBC’s editorial double standards are clear.

Most people here will recall the not-so-prescient words of the BBC’s top man in the US the last time there was a mass shooting on a US military base:

The truth is of course cloudy. The alleged murderer was clearly a Muslim, but there is very little to suggest that he adhered to a hard-line interpretation of his religion or that he had political or religious motives.

And he closed with this classic:

Still, searching for patterns and for answers is part of what it is to be human. I loathe cliche, but perhaps, for once, this is a “senseless tragedy”, devoid of deeper meaning.

Mardell wrote these words even after it was known that Maj. Hassan shouted what the BBC has watered down to “an Islamic benediction”, and news of his jihadi leanings was coming out. In other words, his personal belief system – and an agenda to stamp down any possible unapproved thoughts – caused him not only to ignore facts, but to push what he must have known was a questionable Narrative.

This time around, because there’s a different agenda – the anti-gun movement – no way is he suggesting this was a senseless tragedy – even though it clearly was – because he and the BBC want to push it. He admitted he was asked to do this in his previous piece, so we know it’s not just him, and is acceptable practice in the BBC newsroom. It’s almost as if Mardell’s saying, “Don’t blame me for this sickening display: I’m only doing what London asked.” I’m not generous enough to give him the benefit of the doubt, I’m afraid, as he has form. This time around, the tragedy can be used to push an agenda of which he approves, so off he goes.

That’s fine, some may say, because it’s only natural that people will question what some see as the US free-for-all when it comes to weapons of mass murder when this kind of thing keeps happening with the regularity of the phases of the moon. Well, in this case, the leap to push that agenda was based on false reports, even though world-class, experienced professional journalists know all too well that all kinds of crazy stuff gets reported in the early hours of these tragedies. It’s human to speculate wildly, and opinion writers and pundits – as well as titled BBC editors and silly bloggers on obscure websites which nobody reads – can do so as much as they like, since opinion is their job, not reporting of facts. Yet the line is blurred at the BBC. People whose job includes giving opinion also do reporting, and it’s sometimes hard to tell where one ends and the other begins. In this case, facts were already decided upon, and the agenda was ordered. (My own local paper, the NY Daily News, is equally guilty of this sickness, and the writer I think I dislike most wrote the idiotic cover article. The steep decline of this paper since a News of the World/NY Post guy took over is a topic for another rant. And it’s not even owned by evil Uncle Rupert. But at least it’s not my official state broadcaster with a legacy of trust and deep cultural connection spanning generations, and I don’t have to pay for it if I don’t want to.)

Now once again Mardell is talking out of his own agenda even after facts are known to render it baseless. By the time this video was finished, news was already coming out that there was no AR-15 involved. It’s pretty hard to shrug this off as the understandable result of the fog of confusion common in the first few hours after this kind of incident. Not only that, but the murderer’s primary weapon was not the shotgun he brought, but guns he took from within the premises. The gun-control argument was rendered irrelevant, yet Mardell pushes it anyway.

Even here he closes with a sigh (my inference, yeah) that this tragedy won’t push the gun-control debate in the desired direction. If he didn’t think it needed changing in a stricter direction, why ask the question he asked? If he was impartial – or the BBC actually cared about impartiality on pet issues – he would have stopped asking about gun control laws once it was known to him that banning assault weapons wouldn’t have prevented this. All Alexis had on him when he walked in the door was a shotgun. Even British subjects are allowed to own shotguns, so nobody can claim cultural superiority here. Anyone insisting that stricter US gun laws would have prevented this must by definition be demanding even more draconian laws than the UK has. Any takers?

Mardell reports the killer had a checkered past that should have raised red flags. How many times have we heard this now? Sandy Hook, Colorado, Ft. Hood, the DC sniper of some years back. One could make the case that most or all the newsworthy multiple murders by AR-15 last year were done by people who would qualify as mentally ill in some way. It’s becoming, as the sage said, as American as baseball.

In spite of this, Mardell is worried about gun control laws which have absolutely nothing to do with this tragedy instead of what he knows is a systemic failure to keep seriously mentally ill people out of trouble. He knows this is the real problem. He brings it up himself in both the published article and this video report. It’s a big, big problem. I dare say it’s hard not to have developed even a tiny bit of pity or sympathy for the poor bastard who seems to have been a decent sort who just went mad. And now yet more families are hurt and diminished, lives cut short, hearts broken, because of a broken system. But not the one with which the BBC is obsessed.

Yet in his text piece he blamed lax gun control laws for the police deciding not to prosecute Alexis for shooting somebody’s tires and for firing a gun into a ceiling. Gun control laws aren’t relevant to those incidents either, but Mardell either doesn’t understand that or doesn’t care to.

The Ft. Hood murders were not a “senseless tragedy”, yet Mardell speculated that they were, because he had an agenda on his mind. This time it really was a senseless tragedy, but he’s not speculating that it was one and instead is finding a reason for it, because he has an agenda on his mind. Gosh, it’s a shame this tragedy can’t be exploited to change the debate, isn’t it? If that’s not on Mardell’s mind when he wrote and said this stuff, why did he keep saying it? Who other than anti-gun people have this perspective?

Mardell says that this tragedy will not change the debate about stricter gun laws, but gives the wrong reason for it. He said in his printed piece that US culture needs to change first. In fact – and he knew this by the time he made this video report – the reason it won’t change the debate is because it’s irrelevant. No assault weapon was involved, and the only weapon the killer brought to the party was one even BBC employees in Salford could own.

There is no other explanation for what he’s done. His judgment is clouded. And it’s not just Mardell.

Biased Editorial Double Standards: US Ideological Violence Edition

Two people from Nevada appeared in court yesterday on charges of plotting to abduct and murder policemen. They are members of the fringe group Sovereign Citizens, a movement of people who have an extreme, quasi-anarchic (in the old school sense), anti-government view. Apparently they were busted after an undercover operation exposed their plans. Nothing new or unusual, really, except that it’s a case of two extremist white people getting arrested for plotting anti-government violence in a week where the public has been overwhelmed with the news of young black men murdering white people (stories which have been used to hype up racial animosity and as a counterweight to the media’s Trayvon Martin Narrative) topped off with two different criminal convictions of military men who espoused political views shared by the Left-wing media. So this minor story must have come as a great relief to the newsroom and editors who are responsible for deciding what gets published every day, a welcome break in what must seem to them as a stream of unfortunate news giving credence to Right-wing views about racial violence, terrorism, and the dangers of the anti-war movement and heroic whistleblowing.

Naturally, the BBC feels it’s worth reporting. It was just a plot thwarted, noting actually happened, nobody even close to being harmed. But it’s newsworthy because of what they represent.

No bias on that score, of course, since the Washington Post, the HuffingtonPost, and CBS all felt it was newsworthy. That’s the lemming-journalism defense we often get: it’s okay for the BBC to report/not report it, because other media outlets are/aren’t. The bias lies in the report itself, as well as the blatant double standard in how they cover incidents of “domestic terrorism”.

First, the quality of reporting. The BBC cites the Southern Poverty Law Center as an authority on the Sovereign Citizens movement. They describe the SPLC as “a non-profit civil rights group”, full stop. Many people here will have seen some of us refer to a “Rule #1″ being in effect, and this is a classic example.

In this case, Rule #1 isn’t from the Philosophy Department of the University of Woolamaloo (although I think a BBC version could easily be made with one or two substitutions), but concerns how and when the BBC labels vox pops, guests, and think tanks or organizations they use in appeals to authority. The idea is that the BBC so rarely labels Left-wing, on-message groups or guests that, if they don’t label them, or call them “independent”, one knows which side they’re on. In contrast, those with opposing viewpoints are introduced with the health warning that they’re conservative, or take one side of an issue.

This isn’t just a Biased-BBC fever dream, either. The Center for Policy Studies recently published a report proving it, at least where think tanks and policy organizations are concerned. And here again is another example. The SPLC is independent only in that it isn’t officially owned or run by a political party. It’s hardly non-ideological, though, and the BBC’s use of “independent” is dishonestly meant to lead you to that conclusion. In fact, the SPLC has a long history as a Left-wing activist organization. It’s always been a civil rights and human rights advocacy organization (the “Southern Poverty” part should be a tip-off), more recently going on the attack against numerous non-Left organizations. For example, they labeled the Family Research Council a “hate group”, and featured it on a “hate map” (although they’re clever enough not to use Palin-esque crosshairs), which may have inspired an attempted murder. It’s a joke to present the SPLC as anything other than what it is. In other words, Rule #1 is in effect here, as usual. It doesn’t matter if they do the work of angels, or if you or I agree or disagree with their ideology. It’s a highly ideological organization with very clear political views and activities, and it’s simply wrong to hide that and mislead the reader.

In fact, this isn’t even the first time the BBC has used the SPLC as an authority to support an agenda. Jonny Dymond cited them in his dishonest story about how white supremacist groups have been on the rise since we elected a black President. Dymond presented the SPLC as an organization which tracks “hate groups and other groups on the far right”. In other words, not an impartial organization at all, but one dedicated to an agenda of attacking the Right. Much like some BBC journalists.

It would have been easy enough for the BBC to simply refer to the FBI, or even the Department of Homeland Security (surely not too partisan for the BBC), who have the same concerns about the Sovereign Citizens. Although maybe that would be a case of “they would say that, wouldn’t they?” about an anti-government group. Instead, the BBC went for an ideological fellow traveler, presenting it as an impartial judge.

This leads me to the biased double standard. A little over a year ago, the BBC published a news brief about the arrests of five young men in Ohio who were caught plotting to blow up a bridge. They, too, had known ties to a well-known organization, but for some reason, instead of reporting the connection and going into detail about it, the BBC decided to censor that key detail. I suspected at the time that the reason was that the organization in question was the Occupy movement. Laughably, the BBC managed to think of one possible motivation for the crime, which the FBI dismissed out of hand: the anniversary of Bin Laden’s death. The FBI dismissed that as a motivation because they knew what the BBC refused to tell you: they were Occupiers, and their motivation was to engage in some anti-government (or anti-establishment) ultra-violence. I say the BBC refused to tell you this because it’s impossible to claim that the BBC didn’t know, seeing as how the wire services from which the BBC gleaned this in the first place mentioned the Occupy connection. Outrageously, the BBC even quoted the FBI about ideology being motivation:

“The individuals charged in this plot were intent on using violence to express their ideological views,” said Special Agent Stephen Anthony, of the FBI’s Cleveland division, in a statement.

Which ideological views? Occupy views. It was deliberate censorship, because the BBC was (and still would be if it came back) highly and rather openly supportive of the Occupy movement, and was loathe to draw such an unsavory connection. When it’s a Right-wing group like the Sovereign Citizens movement, though, the BBC has no problem mentioning the defendants’ connection to it and citing its ideology as the motivation behind their plot to commit violence.

A clear double standard, and one unquestionably caused by personal, ideological bias. I wonder if either Daniel Nasaw, the man in charge of deciding what stories get published in the US section of the BBC website, or any lurking professional journalists, will be able to give us any other explanation besides, “Please shut up, you don’t know how things work in a newsroom.” (I paraphrase slightly.)

Detroit Is Bankrupt – So Is BBC Journalism In The US

Detroit has declared bankruptcy at last, and the BBC is on the case. Emily Buchanan, one of the battalion of Beeboids working the US scene, has put together a video report explaining why the once successful city has fallen so far. Her reasons:

White flight, leaving inner city blacks to suffer and find themselves trapped in an urban nightmare

The collapse of the car industry

“Detroit has suffered a vicious cycle of decay, mismanagement, and population decline.”

This last one, a direct quote, is a meaningless statement. It says nothing about how or why it all happened. Who let the urban center decay after the whites fled? Why did the auto industry collapse? Is there a relationship between the crushing burden of pensions and the collapse of either the auto industry or Detroit? There is, but don’t expect the BBC to tell you, because that would tread on sacred union ground. If the population has been dwindling for so long, and the tax base along with it, why did the city spend as if it still had the historically full population and wealthy tax base?

(UPDATE as the story has “evolved”: For some reason, the BBC has removed Buchanan’s video and replaced it with some disaster pr0n by Michelle Fleury.)

Spot the missing political party which has been running Detroit for the last 43 years: Democrats. Every single mayor since 1970 has been a Democrat, and they’ve all been African-American since 1974. Neither Buchanan’s video, nor the accompanying article, nor Jonny Dymond’s inset “analysis” mention either of these key facts. Why the censorship? Because it doesn’t help the Narrative.

The BBC isn’t really interested in discussing the realities behind Detroit’s destruction. No, they’re interested in the emotional impact of the story of evil wealthy white people abandoning a proud industrial city, destroying the lives of the working class and black people, and the city in general. They don’t talk about the corruption, they don’t talk about profligate spending in the face of a declining tax base. They admit that it’s been going on for a long time, but only that it’s “linked to declining industry”. Detroit’s income was largely dependent on a single industry. People in Britain know all too well how this is never a recipe for lasting success. But there’s no Thatcher to blame here, so the Beeboids aren’t really interested in going after the culprits. Although, didn’t the President save the auto industry a few years back? How’s that working out, BBC?

The accompanying article is only marginally better than the video. At least there we learn that public sector pensions have strangled the city coffers. Oh, wait, no we didn’t. We learn instead that two city unions opposed the bankruptcy plan to give creditors – union pension funds included – 10 cents on the dollar. The ones the BBC mentions are for retired workers, in case you hadn’t teared up enough yet. Dymond actually mentions corruption and mismanagement, but leaves it there. Instead we get more sexy details over which to shed tears and feel bad.

But there’s something of a dichotomy between the two quasi-explanations give. Either it was white flight and a declining tax base due to the collapse of the auto industry, or it was corruption and mismanagement. It’s both, of course, and mostly the corruption and mismanagement has been done in the last decade or so. One mayor even went to jail for it. However, there’s no identity politics benefit to be had from going into that issue, so it’s ignored entirely.

The thing is, we’ve seen all this from the BBC before. Two years ago, they sent Ian Pannell to spin a similar tale of woe. Pannell’s story was that the poor urban blacks whom Buchanan now describes as being abandoned and left to rot by wealthy whites were victims of income inequality, thrust upon the city by outside forces. The city was on the brink of bankruptcy in 2005. Eight years later, after much more corruption and fiddling and shuffling the deck chairs, the city was finally allowed to declare it openly. At least Dymond and Buchanan now admit (barely) that there was some local responsibility for the problems. They won’t say whom or how they ruined the city, but at least it’s a tiny improvement. The corruption doesn’t really burn all the money, but it does keep the powers-that-be from doing anything useful. It’s also likely that politicians who are so corrupt were never capable of doing anything useful in the first place, so it’s a no-win scenario no matter how you slice it.

Simply listing unpleasant statistics about empty homes and population decline and murder rates isn’t an explanation of anything. It’s merely a laundry list of indicators. How did it rack up such debt in the first place? What policies led to the city being so burdened by retired workers and public services maintained at a level which hasn’t been sustainable for a decade or more?

Actually, there was a brief period of potential growth after 2001. The city built casinos and sports stadiums, the kind of development which usually brings in a short-term boost. Of course, since the place was already falling apart and the population exodus was underway, it was never going to be sustainable. There’s that word again. The only time the BBC ever seems to understand that word is when discussing so-called “green energy”. When it comes to endless government “investment”, the word “sustainable” vanishes from their dictionary. By the time the next mayor took office and started burning money, the serious financial problems became clear. Here’s a more informative timeline, giving you more insight than anything the BBC can provide. As usual, you’d have been better served by a news aggregator than the millions of pounds spent on all the staff in the US.

The BBC isn’t interested in any of this, or in informing you of anything really useful or important. All they see here is a tear-jerker, and story-tellers love that sort of thing. So that’s what you get from the BBC: a story. Nothing particularly informative or worth your time, but that was never the point. The point is to manipulate your emotions. Plus, it’s an opportunity to continue to spin the myth that this kind of collapse is due largely to those outside, uncontrollable forces Pannell was talking about two years ago. The BBC brings up Stockton, CA, and other cities elsewhere which have declared bankruptcy recently, as if they’re all part of a piece. They are, but not the way the BBC wants you to think.

Here’s an example of how the BBC prioritizes the causes in  Detroit:

The city, once renowned as a manufacturing powerhouse, has struggled with its finances for some time, driven by a number of factors, including a steep population loss.

The murder rate is at a 40-year high and only one third of its ambulances were in service in early 2013.

Declining investment in street lights and emergency services have made it difficult to police the city.

And Detroit’s government has been hit by a string of corruption scandals over the years.

Between 2000-10, the number of residents declined by 250,000 as residents moved away.

Steep population loss, which equals steep tax loss. Less tax revenue means less money for the local government to spend, which in Beebspeak becomes “declining investment”. Murder rates on the rise, which, I suppose, translates into more white flight. Only then do we get to the corruption scandals. This should come first, not last. I say last and not penultimate because the last item is simply a more specific reiteration of the population decline point. Gosh, I wonder why people left in droves over the last decade, BBC? White flight, or cutting losses in a clearly corrupt and financially suicidal regime, with no real industry or commerce developed to replace what the auto industry provided?

All those other bankrupt cities the BBC mentions, except for San Bernardino, were run for a very long time by Democrats and powerful unions as well. And San Bernardino had massive public sector employee debts anyway. As Margaret Thatcher said, it’s fine until you run out of other people’s money. Instead of pointing the finger at the corruption and mismanagement and long-term unsustainable fiscal policy, the BBC blames other people’s money.

UPDATE: I forgot to mention that the BBC played another Spot the Missing Party game about another city where decades of Democrat, African-American mayors and city mandarins screwed the place up, where the economically deprived African-American urban community suffers most: St. Louis.

UPDATE 2: The BBC does, in fact, mention a political party: The Republican Governor who agreed to the bankruptcy deal (h/t Rufus McDufus). Naturally, the reason they mentioned a political party can be gleaned from the sentences preceding it:

But Ed McNeil, the lead negotiator for a coalition of 33 unions, told Reuters news agency the move was about “busting the unions”.

“This is not about fixing the city’s finances,” he said. “It’s about the governor and his own agenda to take over the city of Detroit.”

In a letter accompanying Thursday’s filing, Michigan’s Governor Rick Snyder, a Republican, said he had approved the request for Chapter 9 bankruptcy.

“It is clear that the financial emergency in Detroit cannot be successfully addressed outside of such a filing, and it is the only reasonable alternative that is available”.

Could the innate bias be any more obvious?

Don’t bother trusting the BBC on this or any US issue.

The BBC And The IRS

The Director of the IRS’s tax-exempt enforcement division, Lois Lerner, has been placed on “administrative leave” after her publicly derided appearance in front of Congress the other day. Reality forces the BBC to report on a story they were quietly avoiding until the story got too big to ignore.

Lois Lerner on administrative leave in US tax scandal

There are some glaring omissions here, as well as the usual partisan bias we’ve come to expect from the BBC’s coverage of US issues. Instead of my usual lengthy and tedious essays parsing every little word, I’m going to try something different. This time I’m simply going to rewrite the piece as if I were an editor, taking the bulk of what’s already been written and adding important things I believe they left out, and making a few changes to remove the partisan bias.

Read the BBC article above, and then read my version. Please compare and contrast, and let me know which version better informs you.
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BBC Censorship: The List Just Keeps Growing Edition

Everyone knows by now how the BBC got it wrong on Benghazi. I made a post about how the BBC was censoring news of what really happened on Sept. 13, 2012, two days after the attack. Plenty of people here from then on posted links to stories about it, and we all wondered why the BBC kept ignoring it or simply followed the White House talking points and dismissed those complaining. Now we know why they did this. As Mark Mardell has admitted (h/t DB), he thought it was all just partisan attack nonsense to which he needn’t pay attention.

In the interests of full disclosure I have to say I have not in the past been persuaded that allegations of a cover-up were a big deal. It seemed to me a partisan attack based on very little.

His very next sentence suggests that he was more convinced by a different spin on the incident, because it came from sources he was more likely to trust.

I remember listening to reports from the BBC and others at the time that did suggest the attack in Benghazi was a spontaneous reaction to a rather puerile anti-Islamic video.

Even though I’m not a journalist, I’ve heard enough from actual Beeboids who used to comment here, as well as from self-proclaimed journalists who’ve made attempts to explain it, not to mention the statements made by Mardell himself and the head of the BBC bureau in the US about how they decide what gets published/broadcast, to know that, no matter how hard everyone tries to be impartial, personal opinion is going to inform decisions on some level, at some point in time. The BBC’s top man in the US has now admitted that his personal opinion of both the sources of the complaints and what he understood of their merits prevented him from taking it seriously. It can’t be much of a stretch to conclude that the BBC in general took the same position. After all, they do tend to follow the lead of their fellow Left-wing journalists in the US.

One has to wonder just how much he knew about the complaints of mistakes regarding embassy security and the cover-up of what the Administration knew and the consequential lies to the victims’ families and the public about it, including lies told by someone at least one Beeboid sees as a global inspiration. Did Mardell simply dismiss it all because it was coming from Republicans, people he’s described on more than one occasion as “enemies” of the President? Not to mention the fact that everyone knew this was going to be a major issue in the campaign to re-elect Him. The BBC doesn’t like to report things which make Him look bad, and are more interested in demonizing opponents than investigating what’s going on. Mardell certainly has form on dismissing any criticism of Him as partisan attacks with little merit.

The day after the attacks, people were posting other news items on the open thread here about what actually happened, and showing what the BBC kept leaving out. It was clear even then that the President and His Administration was not being truthful, pushing the phony story about that video causing it. At the time, Mardell bought it hook, line, and sinker, and even seized on it to take a swipe at Mitt Romney (then the Republican nominee contesting His re-election). The BBC wasn’t interested in reality then, and continued to cover their eyes and ears for months. Defenders of the indefensible love to dismiss things because of the source (Fox News! Fox News!), refusing to even go into the merits of any of it. Yet who’s getting the last laugh now? One has to wonder if Mardell and the BBC similarly dismissed the merits of the stories simply because they didn’t like the source.

The fact that the BBC is only now getting around to admitting all of this and reporting it is revealing of how they prioritize news stories. It was only after the latest round of hearings started and the revelations were spread across the front pages of their preferred news outlets for more than a day that they decided is was newsworthy. The revelations had been out for days before that, and in some cases, weeks and months. Yet the BBC couldn’t be bothered. A simple news aggregator would have kept you better informed, and you could all decide for yourself what had merit and what didn’t. The gatekeepers failed you here.

The BBC has form on censoring deciding stories simply aren’t worth your time, only to be forced by reality to report it much later on, long after everyone here knows all about it. For example:

“Fast & Furious”, where the Administration oversaw guns being sold illegally to people who they knew would sell to Mexican drug cartels, without tracking them, in the hopes of creating a body count on which they could exploit to push for stricter gun laws, and then tried to cover it up.

The President’s mishandling of the Gulf oil spill cleanup.

They censored all kinds of stuff from the Trayvon Martin coverage.

They censored almost all news about the billions sent down the Green Toilet to failed green energy businesses run mostly by Democrat money-bundlers.

They’ve also censored news of all but two gaffes by the President, as it conflicts with the “He’s so suave and cool and far more intelligent than the inarticulate Bush” groupthink. Bush got no such protection, as even the slightest misstep was ridiculed for your benefit.

The BBC even censored a bit out of a speech by the President so it wouldn’t conflict with their Narrative about the budget and one round of debt negotiations.

There’s plenty of other stuff the BBC thought you didn’t need to know. Have a look at this list and judge for yourselves if any of it was newsworthy or not.

The latest major story the BBC has so far kept from you is the admission by the IRS that they’ve been illegally targeting and harassing Tea Party groups and other non-Left organizations. This has apparently been going on for some times, as a top Administration official (at the time) inadvertently mentioned over two years ago that the President’s inner circle had illegal access to tax information of their political opponents. It’s a big deal, but in the interests of keeping this from being yet another of my tediously lengthy posts, I’ll just link to an op-ed from the national newspaper perhaps respected most by the BBC: the Washington Post. Not Fox News, not Breitbart, not Jihadwatch, not Glen Beck. It’s simply not possible for defenders of the indefensible to dismiss this because of the source.

Playing politics with tax records

A BEDROCK principle of U.S. democracy is that the coercive powers of government are never used for partisan purpose. The law is blind to political viewpoint, and so are its enforcers, most especially the FBI and the Internal Revenue Service. Any violation of this principle threatens the trust and the voluntary cooperation of citizens upon which this democracy depends.

So it was appalling to learn Friday that the IRS had improperly targeted conservative groups for scrutiny. It was almost as disturbing that President Obama and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew have not personally apologized to the American people and promised a full investigation.

BBC: ZZZZzzzzzzz

With all this in mind, I say again that the BBC has given up being as serious news organization when it comes to US  issues. They may have a titled editor on the scene, and at least 100 employees beavering away at the website and producing those “bespoke” video magazine pieces, but it’s little more than a lightweight content producer these days, with an eye to attracting the MOR and low-information crowd, along with the ad and subscription revenue that comes with their eyeballs. Your license fee hard at work. Sure, most of this is technically paid for by the commercial arm, BBC Worldwide, but there’s plenty of sharing of resources and funding. And after all, this is your official state broadcaster expanding far beyond its original remit.

UPDATE, 5/13: The BBC has now reported it. Because the President spoke out about it, it’s new. He has condemned the actions and promised to deal with it, so all is well.

“I’ve got no patience with it, I will not tolerate it and I will make sure that we find out exactly what happened.”

Like He has with Benghazi, right, BBC?

The BBC’s Little White Lie For Palestinians

On the heels of Turkish PM Erdogan’s remark that Zionism is a crime against humanity, the BBC felt the need to briefly explain what Zionism is.

Zionism is an ideology or movement that asserts that the Jewish people have a right to a national home or state in what was the Biblical “Land of Israel”. There is no consensus among Zionists where the borders of the state should be. For Palestinians, the success of Zionism has meant the frustration of their national aspirations and life under occupation.

Except for one thing: there was no such thing as Palestinians or their national aspirations until after the Arabs failed twice to destroy Israel. Only then was there any movement to create the concept of Palestinians and a national identity, leading to the founding of the PLO in 1964. Only after Israel occupied territory ceded by Jordan and Egypt after yet another failed war to destroy the Jews was there even a concept of Palestinian territory. Until then, Israel’s enemies saw them as Jewish usurpers in Muslim Arab land, full stop. There was no such thing as Palestinian nationalism. Rather, the identity group was encouraged as a buffer and cannon fodder for the Arabs’ continued war against the Jews. As always, the BBC rewrites history so that 1967 is Year Zero. There was no “occupation” before that, unless one feels that the entire State of Israel has been an occupying force since 1948. That’s the impression given by this BBC article, though.

For other examples of this kind of BBC revisionism, see here, here, and here.

There was no movement for a Palestinian homeland when it was part of Jordan, or under the British Mandate, or under the Ottoman Empire or anything else. It’s a modern concept, created long after the creation of Israel. Of course, by “the success of Zionism”, one assumes that the BBC journalist who wrote this means that Israel hasn’t been destroyed yet. After all, the Palestinians’ true goal is not self-governance in Gaza and the West Bank (which they already have), but the removal of the Zionist Entity entirely. Every once and a while, the BBC admits this, but for some reason fail to mention it here. Nor do they ever mention that a Palestinian State will be Judenrein. If, hypothetically, there was a sort-of contiguous Palestinian State existing side-by-side with the Jewish State, does anyone seriously believe the Palestinians and the Arabs (and Iranians) would accept that the occupation of Arab/Muslim land had ended? Of course not. The very existence of Israel is the “success of Zionism”. That’s what the Beeboid meant here. The only logical conclusion is that, so long as Israel exists, Palestinian national aspirations will remain stunted.

(UPDATE: On further reflection, I’m now wondering if perhaps by “the success of Zionism”, the Beeboid meant not merely maintaining Israel’s existence but the conquest/occupation of Arab land. That’s more Palestinian/anti-Israel propaganda, as if 1967 was all about Israeli conquest and precious little to do with the attempts to destroy it. Can someone else find a better explanation? Or is this code for the evil Settlements?)

Whatever one thinks about the right of people who now call themselves Palestinians to their own self-governed territory, or the Jews’ right for same, the BBC is spreading a false version of history. This goes beyond mere criticism of Israel and strays into demonization territory. It’s impossible to have an honest discussion of the situation when the BBC taints the scene in this way.

Please don’t anyone try to start arguing about whether or not Israel is right or wrong, or give me any BS about how I think Israel can do no wrong or any other nonsense. This is about the BBC distorting reality in way that favors one side and demonizes the other.