Tag Archives: Chicago Tribune

You’re hurting America

I missed the John Stewart-Bill O'Reilly debate.  But I did read Brett Lang's review of it in the Chicago Tribune.  The review of this debate is about as post-truth as the coverage of the Presidential debate.

Here is how Lang characterizes Stewart:

On "The Daily Show," Stewart's job is to skewer the media for not doing their own. He is best when looking at the hyper-partisan coverage that defines talking head program's like O'Reilly's and the political theater that both parties are guilty of deploying. But he is at his worst when he tries to be sincere. Case in point was his finger-wagging appearance on CNN's "Crossfire" a few moons ago during which he accused the rating-challenged show of ruining political discourse.

Argument for that?  That was a rather pivotal moment for "Crossfire."  And Stewart was right. 

Here's Lang's portrait of O'Reilly:

Over at "The O'Reilly Factor," the pugnacious Fox News host has a talent for boiling down the most complex geo-political issues into common sense stew, theatrically badgering those who deign to see the world in shades of gray. It may be intellectually dishonest, but it makes for good television.

That was Stewart's point about "Crossfire."  Jeez.  The President of CNN even cited that event as a reason the show was canceled (and Tucker Carlson fired).

This review gets worse when Lang addresses the substance:

The biggest problem was that both O'Reilly and Stewart seemed like two people who read The New York Times over breakfast and maybe TiVo "Meet the Press," yet believe that makes them well-informed enough to give policy prescriptions on the myriad issues facing the country, from failing schools to the Muslim Brotherhood. That said, it's not like the answers offered up by Barack Obama or Mitt Romney last week were any more substantive or any less pandering. The major saving grace was that at least the Stewart-O'Reilly rumble wasn't moderated by Jim Lehrer.

O'Reilly is a political pundit, who gives policy prescriptions all of the time.  Stewart's point is that he is an intellectually dishonest, uniformed blowhard.  I think he's made that point.

Sadly, Lang doesn't realize that. After all, for him it's about television:

So in the end how did it stack up? I'd say it was slightly funnier than Stewart's never-ending "Rally to Restore Sanity," and a smidge more intelligent than O'Reilly's "Killing Lincoln."

Sadly, it was nowhere near as good as either of their shows.

They don't have the same type of show, you know.



To all the h8trs

Some puzzling words in favor of "traditional" marriage:

It was not for nothing that societies for millenniums recognized marriage for its civilizing properties and stepped in to regulate them secularly. That's because marriage, among other things, seeks to protect the lives and rights of women and children in a historically patriarchal society.

This from the mouth of the Chicago Tribune's get-off-my-lawn conservative guy, Dennis Byrne.  This is in an argument against gay marriage–or rather, to use his words, in support of "traditional marriage."  Of course, for Byrne, "traditional marriage" is one-man-one-woman  leave-it-to-beaver marriage: not the real traditional marriage of the kind where the wife had very much unequal status.  That particular argument from tradition would appeal to very few. 

Anyway, so Byrne maintains that marriage civilizes.  But it civilzes only when it's one-man and a series perhaps of individual women (or vice versa: one woman and a series of individual men).  There seems to be no actual evidence for that claim, other than the fact that some form of contractual union has existed for a long time.  In the absence of such evidence, one must naturally rely on the slope:

The formulated response to this point is that marriage can continue to go on protecting those lives and rights whether or not gays and lesbians are legally included in the marriage contract.

But that's too simplistic. Cultural institutions like marriage can be fragile structures, bending to the crosswinds of changing public attitudes. Tamper with them too much, and they become diluted and ineffective in their purpose.

I believe people have rights to legally designate in contract law who can visit them in hospitals, who can be named as insurance beneficiaries and the raft of other considerations sought for gay and lesbian couples. Call the arrangement civil unions if you wish.

But that's not the same as defining any union a marriage.

My fear — based on secular, more than religious precepts — is that watering down marriage could eventually rob society of the stabilizing and other beneficial effects of an institution now relentlessly under attack. Perhaps this argument is too ethereal to be grasped or accepted in an age of radical individualism. But it's an argument that is understood by plenty of Americans willing to state it, although it puts them in danger of being painted as haters.

This argument achieves new heights of terribleness.  Byrne believes people have contractual rights except when they don't.  Marriage, one might recall, as far as the law is concerned is a type of civil contract (that's why Sea Captains can perform marriages).  People have a right to this with its responsibilities and benefits or they don't.  If they don't, some aspect of contract is closed to them.  Why don't they have those rights, according to Byrne?  The slippery slope.

Recall that Byrne has already argued that marriage has stabilizing, er civilizing effects.  Nowadays, more people want access to those effects (people who would not have accessed it before).  So this means, somehow in Byrne's world, that marriage is under attack.  And of coruse, the very fact that more people want to realize the benefits of civilization means the very end of civilization.  I mean, you can't get a good drink around here anymore.

Grown ups

People acquainted with media narratives know that the "adults" and the "grown ups" and the "serious people" are very often the Republicans, especially when we're talking about entitlements.  Democrats and their union friends, we're often told, are childish or immature for wanting something–public benefits such as medicare and social security–at no cost.  Click here for a funny illustration of that sorry meme

We have something along these lines in this Steve Chapman column from the Chicago Tribune.  The "real world," of course, demands cuts and reforms just like the Republicans want:

After House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., unveiled a plan to overhaul Medicare, Democrats announced that despite its minor flaws, it was a brave and thoughtful attempt to grapple with a serious problem that has been ignored for too long.

Just kidding. They said it was the worst thing they've seen since "Sex and the City 2."

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi accused Ryan of offering "a path to poverty for America's seniors." Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., said Ryan's proposal would not reform Medicare but "deform it." The White House faulted Ryan for "placing a greater burden on seniors."

The chief outrage, in their minds, is his proposal to restructure Medicare for Americans currently younger than 55 while keeping the old version for older folks. Instead of guaranteeing a certain set of benefits regardless of cost, the government would pay a fixed premium so recipients could choose their own packages.

The other meme is the "brave" or "courageous" meme.  This one, unfortunately, has even been adopted by Democrats.  On the unity of the virtues theory, however, you can't be stupid and courageous, or wrong and courageous. 

Back to the point.  The "reality" meme usually requires that you show that someone else's plan is unrealistic.  You can do that by carefully demonstrating the shortcomings of their views or their presuppositions, or you can do that by misrepresenting them.  The second is faster.  Here's Chapman again:

I have news for people old enough to be thinking about retirement: Your children may love you, but not enough to be taxed into poverty. Ryan's detractors pretend we can go on enjoying the status quo indefinitely. But it's only a matter of time before we hit a fiscal wall, hard.

There are three basic choices. We can keep on just as we have in the past until the program collapses of its own weight. Or we can restrain costs by letting the federal government ration medical care. Some patients would have to wait months or years for procedures now taken for granted — and some wouldn't get them at all. Death panels, anyone?   

"Ryan's detractors" sure seem stupid, don't they?  There's a reason they don't have a name–they don't exist.  They're hollow men.  Whatever you say about the opposition to Ryan, you'll have to admit that they tried to have a discussion about health insurance reform in light of the problems of rising health care costs, an aging population, and, of course, the limitations of the private insurance model.  Whatever you say about them, you cannot say that they embraced the status quo indefinitely. 

One more thing along these lines.  Notice that Chapman considers three options for reforming medicare: (1) do nothing; (2) death panels; (3) Ryan's plan.  That's a false trichotomy.  It's like a false dichotomy, only you add two unworkable choices rather than just one.  Since (1) and (2) are ridiculous, ergo, ipso fatso, (3) is our only realistic option. 

A courageous adult conversation about the realities of health care systems in the industrialized world, however, would consider many other empirically tested options.  Would it be immature to want that?


Sometimes things get framed in a funny way.  Here's the way an article from today's Chicago Tribune framed the debate–I know, what debate?–about building a mosque and Islamic Center in the Chicago suburbs:

On one side, the issue is about the right to have a sacred space where believers can pray. On the other, it's about preventing religious institutions from crowding residential neighborhoods.

The only evidence in favor of the second part of this dilemma are the claims of people who oppose the mosque.  No evidence, in other words, is offered in the article to suggest that non-Muslim "religious institutions" are being "prevented from crowding residential neighborhoods" in this area.

So, judging by the rest of the article, which deals exclusively with matters related to Muslims, the first sentence ought to read:

On the one side, the issue is about the right of Muslims to build mosques where they want, on the other, it's about preventing Muslims from bulding mosques where they want with disingenuous arguments about zoning and traffic.

Nice job Tribune.