2011/12/31

Girl Scouts of America revives old dispute about objectivity

Media Matters For America (MMFA) was cited by a Girl Scouts of America (GSA) guide to the media as a good fact-checking website to counter lies and misinformation in the media. Well, the right wing wasn't going to have any of that! As they're frequent targets of MMFA, they of course resented it's inclusion in the Girl Scout piece and especially the suggestion that it was a reliable source for girls and their parents. Quoted by MMFA from the Glenn Beck website:


Her daughter, Sydney, a 15-year-old who served as a Girl Scout for eight years, left the organization in 2010 after she found that it embraces some controversial stances. Now, Sydney co-edits "Speak Now: Girl Scouts Website," which provides plenty of other examples of what some may see as liberal bias.
Perhaps the Girl Scouts staffers were too busy to respond to us, but considering the fact that the Media Matters reference is, in itself, a form of misinformation, bias -- potentially even indoctrination -- we assumed that the book would no longer be on the market. But we were wrong. [TheBlaze.com, 12/27/11]

Steve Doocy of Fox News has a basic, fundamental objection to the Girl Scouts using MMFA, and that is that MMFA is "a site that is clearly with an agenda." So for an informational site to have a real point of view, to have an agenda even, is somehow inconsistent with being able to provide girls and parents with accurate information.


Problem: PolitiFact is considered to be a site that doesn't have an ideological point of view or any sort of agenda. Yet PolitiFact published their "Lie of the Year" and they named the Democratic Party assertion that Republicans, and specifically Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), want to "End Medicare." Turns out after a considerable amount of back and forth that PolitiFact now agrees that Democrats are charging Republicans with wanting to make such drastic changes to Medicare that it would be a program that would be essentially different from what it is now. PolitiFact appears to be really grasping at straws here and is trying to tell the public that there's a fundamental difference between "Ending Medicare" and "Ending Medicare as we know it."


So my question would be "What's so great about objectivity?" Isn't it better to have a site that makes no claims about being objective and above it all and to have no pre-concieved ideas about anything? Obviously, just because Politifact claims it's an objective source, that doesn't mean that they provide good, solid, reliable information.


Chris Wallace of Fox News purports to be an objective journalist, but the biggest problem with MMFA that he could come up with was:


But industry blog Mediaite says Media Matters has a, quote, "far left bent that is both transparent and indisputable." [Fox News, Special Report, 12/29/11]

Which again, is a "criticism" that causes many folks to dismiss MMFA out of hand, but I'm not really sure why having a "far left bent" is automatically disqualifying. My feeling is that if MMFA provides substantiated accusations, charges that are backed up with evidence, i.e., video, audio and photographs, and if they go the extra mile and provide contest for the accusations (Quoting whole paragraphs as opposed to just giving us the sentence or sentence fragments that are damning), well, what's the problem?


The Girl Scouts reportedly agreed that MMFA is not a source they should be using.


"Girl Scouts constantly reviews our materials based on feedback and suggestions we receive from our members and we update our materials on a regular basis," said the statement. "As a result of this process, upcoming reprints of journeys materials will not include links to Media Matters."

I see this far more as a matter of the GSA backing down to political pressure placed upon them by right-wing media figures than it is any sort of epiphany that MMFA really is biased.


Score another victory for right-wing pressure to conform to their idea of what constitutes "bias" and "objectivity."

2011/12/15

Becky Sharp and evolution

In the piece "Gay gene, deconstructed," the observations were made that:

Most scientists who study human sexuality agree that gay people are born that way. But that consensus raises an evolutionary puzzle: How do genes associated with homosexuality avoid being weeded out by Darwinian evolution?

Some gays and lesbians do reproduce, said Pennsylvania State University anthropologist and geneticist Mark Shriver, but not as much as straight people do. Even if a gene decreases people's fertility by 1 percent, it's going to be eliminated.

To which I answer "Becky Sharp." Was she the heroine of Vanity Fair? Hmm, "heroine" would be much too complimentary a term.  "Protagonist" will do. Miss Sharp was a woman who very much enjoyed sex (It's made clear that her primary reason to marry the fellow she does is so she can have plenty of sex without the scandal of being a single woman doing so) and who bore a number of healthy children. Problem: She didn't particularly like children. She didn't enjoy spending time with children and greatly preferred the company of grown-ups.


Let's presume that that was the natural consequence of regular old human diversity and ask "How could such a gene survive?" Clearly, in an agricultural or an industrial society, it wouldn't. But in a hunting and gathering society, I can very easily see how people who were attracted to same-sex partners could ally themselves with the Becky Sharps of the world.


For humans, with their lengthy times for child-raising, producing the child is only a first step. To get a fully competent human being that can raise itself and take care of its own needs requires, what for any other mammal, would be a very extended period of care and devotion from at least one parent, but preferably from two of them.


In an agricultural or industrial society, a nuclear family is the preferred social unit because that's the ideal social group for assuring that material wealth is passed down from one generation to the next. Why don't we see nuclear families in hunting and gathering societies? That's easy, in that type of society, there's no material wealth to pass down.Everything that's used is taken directly from the environment and is easily replaceable.


Without being constrained by a nuclear family, where husbands and wives stay with each other and with their children, the Becky Sharps who don't like spending time with children can pass them off to a same-sex couple that is less likely to produce children themselves. The same-sex couple is then able to take over the job of raising the children that the Becky Sharps produce.


So, my theory is that the two types of people, women who produce children but don't like spending time with them and gay couples who are likely to produce fewer children than regular opposite-sex couples would, would ally with each other in a symbiotic relationship. Their own tendencies would complement each other.

2011/12/09

Round-up of events - Nov 30th to Dec 9th

Wow! Awesome speech by the President! After so many "populist" appeals by the Tea Party (Genuine populism takes the side of regular folks against billionaires, the Tea Party was largely founded by billionaires), the President makes a genuinely populist appeal to the American people! Naturally, a fellow on Fox News has a problem with it. Very interestingly, he tips his hand as to how weak his case against the President's speech is. The President is "quoted" as saying "Rugged individualism doesn't work." Did Obama actually say any such thing? Here's the part where Obama says "rugged individualism":


OBAMA: Now, just as there was in Teddy Roosevelt's time, there is a certain crowd in Washington who, for the last few decades, have said, let's respond to this economic challenge with the same old tune. "The market will take care of everything," they tell us. If we just cut more regulations and cut more taxes -- especially for the wealthy -- our economy will grow stronger. Sure, they say, there will be winners and losers. But if the winners do really well, then jobs and prosperity will eventually trickle down to everybody else. And, they argue, even if prosperity doesn't trickle down, well, that's the price of liberty.
Now, it's a simple theory. And we have to admit, it's one that speaks to our rugged individualism and our healthy skepticism of too much government. That's in America's DNA. And that theory fits well on a bumper sticker. (Laughter.) But here's the problem: It doesn't work. It has never worked. (Applause.) It didn't work when it was tried in the decade before the Great Depression. It's not what led to the incredible postwar booms of the '50s and '60s. And it didn't work when we tried it during the last decade. (Applause.) I mean, understand, it's not as if we haven't tried this theory. [emphasis added]

Obama isn't saying that "rugged individualism" doesn't work, he's saying that trickle-down economics doesn't work. That's something entirely different from what the Fox News guy "quoted" the President as saying. This goes back to G.W. Bush and his constant "straw man" arguments. If an opponent has to make up straw men in order to make an argument, that indicates that they don't have any good arguments to begin with.

Right-wingers are now using urban legends to deny economic help to struggling constituents. People need help after being unemployed for months? Nah, right-wing Congresspeople are just contending that there are just too many lazy people collecting unemployment! How is that approach affecting the middle class? Very badly, as a matter of fact. Another urban legend appears to be the talking point that, by proposing to raise taxes on millionaires and billionaires, Democrats want to raise taxes on "job creators" and that small businesses in particular, would be devastated by those new taxes. Slight problem with that talking point:
We wanted to talk to business owners who would be affected. So, NPR requested help from numerous Republican congressional offices, including House and Senate leadership. They were unable to produce a single millionaire job creator for us to interview.
 NPR lists several other groups they contacted to try and locate these elusive "millionaire job creators" but, amazingly enough, couldn't locate any [/snark]

Heh! Elizabeth Warren is doing extremely well in her campaign to replace Senator Scott Brown (R-MA), so well in fact that Karl Rove is tossing everything and the kitchen sink at her! His latest ad accuses Warren of approving of the TARP bailouts of late 2008 (After an ad accusing her of being too close to the Occupy Wall Street crowd failed miserably). Warren responds by noting that Rove gets the situation completely backwards and that, boy, he sure is getting desperate.

Republicans block nominee for Consumer Financial Protection Agency (The vote "lost" with 53 in favor against 45 opposed as 53 wasn't sufficient to break the Republican filibuster). Republican Senator openly admits that the nominee was qualified, but that he opposes the whole idea of the agency to begin with.

Politico shows itself to be an organization utterly without integrity. Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI) presented a ludicrously half-baked mess of a plan to end Medicare and to replace it with a voucher system. Not only that, the system would diminish in value to senior citizens every year, leaving them increasingly unable to afford health care. Naturally, just about every Republican member of Congress voted for the idea, a vote that Democrats would do well to hang about their necks in 2012 as the idea quickly proved to be wildly unpopular. To the absolute delight of partisan Democrats, Mitt Romney has now wholeheartedly adopted the Ryan plan as his own.

And in cheerful news, a Fox News host has to back down after calling the Muppets a group of communists.