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Asheville, NC, USA
Updated November 18, 2015

Blue Ridge Journal
"A Potpourri of Good Sense"
presented by H.Paul Lillebo

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Recent essays:
The flap over voter ID
The Real population problem
Democrat Presid'l Candidates?
The Georgia Guidestones
Islamist terror & Islamic culture
Unconstitutional amendments
Nationhood & Multiculturalism
Good Friday
NSA, Snowden, national security
Nebulous cosmology
Another Washington disaster
Bye-bye privacy
U.S. states as power centers
Asteroids, meteors, and us
World peace - regional security
A New Year's wish list
Israel and Palestine
No Emancipation Celebration?
Presidential debates again!
The "Roberts trick"
The sins of The Fathers
NC vote on same-sex marriage
Updating the U.S. Constitution
Reforming a moribund Congress
A Civilization built on hot air
The "Occupy Wall St." protests
Arguing about God
The irrational stock exchange
The danger of belief
Obama's asteroid boondoggle
Presidential MQ's
"Don't ask, don't tell"
The Second Coming
Glob. Warm'g - western guilt?
Rot of campaign finance
Health care debacle
Cities in the sea
On human population
Education for democracy
Are 3 gods better than 1?
Stupid is as stupid does
A new economics
Immediate energy solution
A Public Stock Exchange
The Dawkins delusion
Viceroy of the carpenter?
Charisma and Democracy
US missile shield for Europe
Eve of Eden
A fable of fools
China's cheap labor
Memorial Day: an addition
Congress & representation
On doing stupid things
The Calendar & diplomacy
Science & Religion
The American President
The spark of life
Liberal & Conservative
Real campaign issues
Evolut'n/Creat'n conundrum
The toy kings of Europe
The disease of militarism
The Supreme Court...
Reps, Dems & coup d'état
On going to Heaven
"Creationism" in school
Mars Madness
Global warming
Free public transit
Lotto: a new poor tax
EU: the new imperialism

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Support Jim Webb
Suggested Related Essays:
"Rot of Campaign Financing"
"Presidential qualifications (2007)"

Current essay:

The Responsibility of the Press in the Election

Will it be fair and full information, or the same old celebrity pap?

November 2015
The press coverage of the current U.S. presidential election campaign suggests that neither print nor electronic news media have deviated from their everyday practice of "celebrity" reporting: reporting that which sells. I argue that the press must have a special and particularly responsible role in elections, beyond their usual profit motive. The Supreme Court, by its skewing of elections toward the well-connected, has made this role crucial.

Everything we thought about elections in the U.S. changed in 2010, when the Supreme Court (Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission) held by a 5 to 4 vote that the FEC could no longer limit the money spent in support of candidates in federal (and by extension – state and local) elections. The results of this widely criticized decision have been predictable – practically unlimited amounts of money have been poured into the election campaigns by major donors who want influence over their candidates. This has had two related and disastrous consequences: first, elections have suddenly become far more expensive, as each candidate tries to match the opposition's fund-raising; and second, politicians have become more dependent than ever on the wealthy mega-donor, individual or corporate. There can hardly be any doubt that this condition is directly corrupting, as the politicians' sugar-daddies are now calling the shots on public policy. The politicians will dance like marionettes in the strings of their handlers, to ensure funding again for their next election.

The role of the press in election campaigns has become critical after the Citizens United decision. The press, which has always had a key role in informing voters about the candidates, is now the only remaining potential source of reasonably objective news and analysis. With the vastly increased amount of intentionally misleading "information" put out by the campaigns, and with the candidate "debates" being controlled and trivialized, both by the national party HQ or by tendentious cable TV sponsors, the press is the only vehicle for posing probing questions to the candidates, questions that the campaign literature and ads will never touch, as well as critiquing their stated program and forcing them to address difficult issues. The voters can't do this, and if the press doesn't, no one will. In that case, we all lose.

Does the press have a special responsibility to furnish citizens with fair information in elections? I say "Yes". The U.S., like other countries, has "press laws" that give the press special access, privileges, and protections. For that, the press owes the public fair and full information. At no time is this more crucial than in election campaigns, because there is no other unbiased voice in the deafening clamor of special-interest verbiage.

There is another reason that the Citizen United decision has made the role of the press more crucial. Under the Supreme Court's new law, the candidates who can convince the deepest pockets of a favorable reception for the donor's ideas – in other words, the candidates who can be bought – get their message out via paid advertising. Candidates who eschew "big money" donations with strings lag far behind in the ability to get their message across. If it is not the charge of the press to give fair and equal coverage to each of the candidates, where will the candidates who say No to the corruption of influence money get their hearing? They won't be heard, and the election becomes a charade.

Unfortunately, the media, both print and electronic, have not taken the idea of fairness to heart, so far in this election season. The competitive nature of "News" has led most news outlets to continue their ordinary standard of news reporting, which is based on celebrity, scandal, disaster, and usually surficial and tendentious coverage. They seem to have forgotten the art of objective analysis and fairness, which in an election means very simply giving equal treatment to all the candidates.

I'll mention an example of what seems to me typical press coverage, this from a Democratic candidates' forum in Iowa a few months ago. The Iowa organizers had been meticulously fair in giving each of their five candidates an equal fifteen minutes to talk. I read the Washington Post's report of this event the next morning.

In the Post article, written by Dan Balz, Hillary Clinton's speech was described in 9 paragraphs, Tom Sanders' in 6, Martin O'Malley's in 5, and James Webb and Lincoln Chafee each in one paragraph. There was room in the article for Clinton's jokes about Donald Trump's hair, but not for Webb's views on judicial reform or economic fairness. The article appeared to have been written to entertain and gossip about the celebrities, and not at all for the expected purpose of informing the public about what the candidates had to offer. The non-celebrity candidates got essentially no attention.

In this (typical) example the Post's article reflected what the Supreme Court may have had in mind with the Citizens United decision: to those who have shall be given. Those perfectly viable candidates who depend on a fair press to get their views across are stymied by an apparently complicit press that rewards those who have given unknown promises of future influence in return for mega-donations.

Is there any reason to hope that "The Press" will in time appreciate their unique role under the new election rules, and resolve to follow a standard of fairness where they actually provide the citizenry with full and fair information, and do not treat the candidates according to their celebrity status, or according to the wealth of their campaigns?

The alternative is a future where the media continue on their present course, where even in elections – the most sacred act of our democracy – it's still all about celebrity: if you've got it, you get coverage; if you don't you're out of luck. This future represents a frightening reification of the Supreme Court's stated principle in Citizens United, that the more money you've got, the greater right you have to "free speech".

H. Paul Lillebo

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Previous essay: 
The political flap about Voter ID

A straight answer

An American minor movement, supported by the Democratic party, makes the claim that state laws requiring voters to positively identify themselves at the voting booth are prejudicial against those who find it difficult to obtain ID documents. Their simple solution is to not require positive ID of voters; but this would lead to worse problems than it would solve.

Next previous essay: 
The Real Population Problem

... and a false solution

European populations (and some others) are aging. Pensions for the old and health care for all are draining national budgets, since there aren't enough younger tax payers to pay for them. Some countries think they have the solution: make more babies! But that's a deceptive and naïve short-term "solution" which will exacerbate their problem.

2016 Election:

What is it about Hillary Clinton and her constant need to lie? One of the more recent is the one about being rejected from the Marine Corps because she was a woman. (Reminds us of when she told of being shot at in Bosnia!) The word "shifty" comes to mind, as does this association:

Washington Post: Jim Webb on the need for an Independent President
Webb decries the development of extremism and triviality in our elections, and the partisanship threatening to destroy this country's ability to govern itself. He is considering running as an independent candidate. He will be the best candidate if he runs, and he deserves our support.

Visit the Hillary Page:
"Thanks for the Memories"

The true Hillary Clinton is not the construct we see running for president of the United States. Indeed, "true" is not a word we are used to associating with Mrs. Clinton. Her 40 years in the public eye call up vivid memories of scandals and lies, incompetence, bribery and other corruption, financial irregularities, felonious friends, and a supremely embarrassing tour in the White House with a supremely embarrassing husband, "Horny" Bill Clinton, who again is a co-applicant to return to the White House.

For some inexplicable reason, a substantial portion of the Democratic Party's voters seem to have excused Hillary's past outrages, or – if they're young – they may simply be unaware of the real Hillary, who by now has learned to play nice to the public. Those of us who do remember the 90's find it astounding that the party cannot find an honest, qualified leader as a candidate for the presidency. The above link should help with recalling the nature of this scheming wife of the former president and her unquenchable and unprincipled hunt for power.

It's particularly strange to see both the Democratic and and Republican parties offering us family members of recent presidents as candidates. We have 320 million people in this country. The attempt to convince us that the wife, brother, or son of the president would be the best president reeks of corruption, of improper money influence and maintenance of the political power elite. Family dynasties have been customary in some countries, but it's not a custom we ought to adopt in the U.S.  The effort by Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush to seem and sound "progressive" or "renewing" is a sham and a fraud. One can only hope that the American people will, in the end, not allow themselves to be duped by these slick snake-oil hawkers.

House Benghazi hearing:
Another Hillary Clinton lie exposed.

Transcripts of Hillary's phone and email records made it hard for her to continue to lie about Benghazi. The day of the attack, shortly after telling the American people that the murders were an incidental part of a protest against an offensive video on UTube, she told her family, "Two of our officers were killed in Benghazi by an Al-Qaeda-like group." The day after the attack she told the Egyptian prime minister on the phone, "We know that the attack in Libya had nothing to do with the film. It was a planned attack – not a protest." For the next two weeks, Ambassador Susan Rice in the U.N. continued to tell the world that the attack was not a terror attack. The administration didn't want to admit that they had ignored the terror threat in Benghazi and the late Ambassador's pleas for additional security, so they preferred to lie.
Video here.

Clinton received TOP SECRET emails on home server

The NY Times reports that just-published reviews by the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency and by CIA have concluded that at least two emails received by Hillary on her home acount were "Top Secret". It can be assumed that her home email account was routinely tapped (hacked), and that the Top Secret material fell into the hands of foreign agents.

Poll: Not trusting Hillary

The nationwide Quinnipiac University poll (PDF) sampled eligible voters.

To the question, "Would you say that [candidate] is honest and trustworthy?" – asked about six candidates of both parties, Sanders led the positive responses, while Clinton led the negative responses with 61% "no", and Trump elicited 54% "no" replies.

To the question, "Would you say that [candidate] cares about the needs and problems of people like you?" asked about the same six politicians, most elicited positive responses, while only Clinton (51% "no") and Trump (60% "no") elicited negative majorities.

In an unprompted word association question, the words most often immediately associated with Hillary were 1. "liar", 2. dishonest, and 3. untrustworthy. Most frequently associated with Donald Trump were arrogant, blowhard, and idiot. So it could be an interesting election.

Interesting election footnote:

The Washington Post reported on August 5 that Bill Clinton had a phone call with Donald Trump a couple of weeks before Trump's declaration as a presidential candidate. Aides to both men say that the former president urged Trump to get more involved in politics, and that Trump's ideas could be a valuable addition to the Republican party's discourse. No one says Mr.Clinton urged Trump to run, but he knew Trump was near the moment of decision. Was Clinton sowing the seeds of tumult in the Republican camp? Setting up a perfect foil for his wife's barbs? Dangerous sport, exchanging barbs with Trump.

All content © H. Paul Lillebo