Jan
01
2010

SoundBites

Public’s Longstanding Opposition to Roads and Bridges

Matt Bai wrote of the Obama administration in the New York Times (9/9/10), “Little was achieved by way of investing in 21st-century infrastructure, largely because the public never seemed open to the idea of huge new spending.” Really? When Bloomberg (12/10/09) polled on this last year, its write-up began: “Americans want their government to create jobs through spending on public works, investments in alternative energy or skills training for the jobless.... Two-thirds of Americans back boosting spending on infrastructure. Six of 10 also support more spending on alternative energy to stimulate job growth.” But maybe Bai knows about a national referendum that was conducted that we somehow didn’t hear about.

Pundits Were Depressing Then, Too

To read the newspapers just now is to see Bedlam let loose. Every person in the country of super asinine propensities, everyone who hates social progress and loves deflation, feels that his hour has come, and triumphantly announces how, by refraining from every form of economic activity, we can become prosperous again.

—John Maynard Keynes (9/14/31; quoted in Fabius Maximus, 6/21/10)

Depends What You Mean by ‘Small’

To illustrate Republican claims that allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire for the wealthiest taxpayers would hurt small businesses, ABC World News reporter Jonathan Karl (9/8/10) introduced two small business owners: One said he’d lose $20,000 to $40,000 if his taxes went up, the other said he’d be out $120,000. Karl didn’t point out that if this was true, his guests had astronomical take-home salaries: somewhere between $700,000 and $1.1 million dollars for the first one, and almost $3 million for the second.

‘Divisive’ Is Mediaspeak for ‘Overwhelmingly Popular’

“As the first full week of the 2010 general election season opens across the country on Monday, Washington is scheduled once again to debate immigration and gay men, lesbians and bisexuals in the military, two deeply divisive social issues that threaten to polarize the conversation on the campaign trail,” the New York Times’ Michael Shear reported (9/20/10). The most recent national poll (CBS, 8/20-24/10) found 75 percent support for repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell--deeply dividing the vast majority from the 19 percent who oppose it. Immigration is a more actually polarizing issue, but when people are polled on the currently pending legislative proposal for immigration reform, 70 percent support it (Texas Tribune, 6/30/10).

Violence ‘Spills Over’—From North to South

U.S. corporate media often treat Mexican drug violence as a phenomenon that threatens to “spill over” into the U.S. (Extra!, 6/09)--as in New York Times headlines like “Drug Cartel Violence Spills Over From Mexico, Alarming U.S.” (3/23/09) and “Wave of Drug Violence Is Creeping Into Arizona From Mexico, Officials Say” (2/24/09). A report from Mayors Against Illegal Guns (9/10) underscores how this “spill over” metaphor distorts reality, noting that “90 percent of guns recovered and traced from Mexican crime scenes originated from gun dealers in the United States.” An imaginary crime wave supposedly caused by unauthorized immigration from Mexico has been frequently offered by pundits as a rationalization for Arizona’s draconian anti-immigrant law (Extra!, 7/10), yet the actual assistance U.S. gun dealers are providing to violent criminals on the other side of the border is seldom noted in media accounts.

Vanishing Palestinians

The Brookings Institution’s Martin Indyk wrote a New York Times op-ed (8/27/10) suggesting reasons to be hopeful about peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority--starting with, “First, violence is down considerably in the region.” He pointed out that while 452 Israelis were killed in the violence during the Intifada back in 2002, only eight Israelis have been killed since 2009, and just two so far this year.

Completely unmentioned were the roughly 1,500 Palestinians that have been killed since the Israeli assault on Gaza in December 2008—the vast majority of whom were minors or noncombatant adults, according to the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem.

A similar disappearing trick was performed by the Washington Post editorial page (9/8/10), which described shooting attacks that killed four Israelis on the West Bank as “interrupting what had been nearly three years of peace in the territory.” Over the past three years, that peace has killed 92 West Bank Palestinians, according to B’Tselem figures.

Publishers, Not E-Books, Are Pinching Authors

“The digital revolution that is disrupting the economic model of the book industry is having an outsize impact on the careers of literary writers,” the Wall Street Journal’s Jeffrey Trachtenberg (9/28/10) reported in “Authors Feel Pinch in Age of E-Books.” “Priced much lower than hardcovers, many e-books generate less income for publishers.... As a result, the publishers who nurtured generations of America’s top literary-fiction writers are approving fewer book deals and signing fewer new writers. Most of those getting published are receiving smaller advances.” Trachtenberg is engaging in sleight-of-hand here: While e-books generate less income for publishers, they produce more profits, since their per-copy costs are dramatically lower (Extra!, 8/10). If publishers lowered their e-book profits to what they make on a hardcover, there’d be enough money left over to ensure that authors went unpinched.