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‘Adults In Wonderland’
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Top Athletes Should
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Obama ‘Stumbling’ To Victory? - 5-08-08
"‘Charisma’ Not Always a Good Thing" - 2-27-08
"Nosy Congress Makes
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"Right Decision Could
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"Stop Trying To Make God A Republican" - 10-6-07
A number of you have told me that you don’t look forward to reading the column on your computer screen. That’s not necessary if you have a printer. Print out the column and take it with you to the breakfast table or wherever else you choose to read printed material. (You can also call up past columns in case you missed them.)
And, if you haven’t already done so, let us know your e-mail address so that we can send you a weekly reminder when a new column is available.
First, a reminder:
Attractive, hardbound copies of “Life With Marian”—a book which a good many readers have said they would be interested in owning—are still available for purchase (for $22.50) at The Bookworm in Countryside Village. If more convenient, you can now also send a check payable to Harold W. Andersen for $26.66 (includes tax and postage) and mail to me at P.O. Box 27347, Omaha, NE, 68127. A copy will be sent by return mail.
July 30, 2009
A longtime problem in journalism, here and in other nations, is the fact that news media, which have consistently represented themselves as society’s watchdogs, responsive to no special interests but representing the public in an impartial search for truth, too often turn out to be lapdogs.
Lapdogs in terms of coverage of a particular political leader or public issue. Or perhaps attack dogs, as in the case of much of the news media in their coverage of the George W. Bush administration.
The lapdog role has been on frequent display since Barack Obama launched his campaign to become the first black American president.
Of course, there have been news media dissenters—the fiercely partisan Bill O’Reilly and Rush Limbaugh types who consider their proper journalistic role is to be attack the Obama administration and liberals in general. But some of the biggest hitters in the national news media—The New York Times, for example, and ABC, NBC, CBS and CNN television networks—too often play the lapdog role when it comes to coverage of the Obama administration and particularly Obama himself. A recent example:
When the president announced he would hold a televised “news conference” one recent evening, ABC, CBS, NBC and CNN promptly decided that they must cover the proceedings—proceedings which everyone with half a journalistic brain knew would not be a conventional press conference, with give-and-take between the president and the reporters, but primarily yet another effort by Obama to pressure Congress into passing a health care bill of which he and other liberals approve—and passing it quickly.
CBS had the gall to describe the telecast, in wording which appeared onscreen beneath all 60 minutes of it, as a “CBS News Special Report.” The NBC telecast carried a similar label, “NBC News Special Report.”
ABC and CNN were a tad honest. They used only the label “Presidential News Conference.”
None of these networks described the hour-long-telecast “news conference” as what it primarily was—a speech by President Obama in an effort to generate support for health program legislation which has recently generated less than 50% support in public opinion polls.
The Fox News Channel, which is hardly a model of journalistic objectivity in its frequent tilt to the attack dog role in coverage of Obama and other liberals, had the journalistic guts to refuse to carry the misnamed “presidential news conference.”
I wonder if President Obama is misreading public reaction. I believe it is less a matter of the public not understanding the supposed benefits of the legislation (so the president has to keep explaining it to them) but more a matter of a majority of the public understanding—and fearful of—some of the negative impacts of the legislation.
* * *
Extensive news coverage was given to the results of a recent USA Today/Gallup Poll which showed that at the six-month-in-office stage of his presidential career, Barack Obama’s 55% approval rating puts him 10th among the 12 post-World War II presidents.
Less widely reported were the Gallup Poll ratings for those 11 other post-World War II presidents after each had served six months in office. The poll rankings, from highest to lowest:
Harry Truman, 81%; John Kennedy, 75%; Lyndon Johnson, 74%; Dwight Eisenhower, 73%.
Jimmy Carter, 67%; George H. W. Bush, 66%; Richard Nixon, 65%.
Ronald Reagan, 69%; George W. Bush, 56%.
Then the bottom three: Barack Obama, 55%; Bill Clinton, 41%; Gerald Ford, 39%.
* * *
I was surprised if not shocked by some of the language used by a respected former dean of the Creighton University School of Medicine in criticism of private medical insurance companies in a recent column in The World-Herald—a column designed to advance the case for the national public medical insurance program being pushed by President Obama.
Apparently, Dr. Richard L. O’Brien, the former Creighton School of Medicine Dean, and a Creighton associate, Dr. Donald R. Frey, chairman of the Department of Family Medicine, had decided that the best way to promote a national government-created insurance program is to attack the existing private insurance industry.
Their World-Herald article argued that the private companies could continue to exist if they shaped up and were willing to “give up huge profits and executive perks.” It was language like that that made me wonder how carefully Dick O’Brien, a longtime friend, had chosen his words.
Incidentally, nothing that Dr. Frey would say would have surprised me, considering that he has previously gone public with a charge that the current system involving multiple private insurers has made the nation’s health care system a costly “mess.” He made clear he prefers a government-driven system like those in Western Europe, Canada, Japan, Taiwan and South Korea.
In his current criticism of private-company health insurance, Dr. Frey joins Dr. O’Brien in language suggesting that defenders of the private-industry health insurance industry are “apologists” for the industry and that if a public insurance option becomes available, “private companies would gobble up the healthiest patients and leave the sickest patients to the public plan.”
In one of the 19 paragraphs, Doctors Frey and O’Brien concede that many private insurance plans engage in fair practices and would have nothing to fear from a public plan. The 18 other paragraphs either bash private insurance companies or more directly promote a proposed public plan such as Obama is fighting for.
Doctors Frey and O’Brien write of private insurance coverage: “And good luck if you have an existing health condition. You aren’t likely to be able to get coverage for it or pay the exorbitant premiums that will be charged.”
Doctors O’Brien and Frey should be aware that Dr. Les Spry, president of Nebraska Medical Association, said recently that the association—which opposes a government-run insurance plan—would approve “certain reforms” in the private insurance industry including eliminating use of pre-existing conditions to deny coverage.
Dr. Spry also said that the Nebraska association would support a program in which a group of insurance companies would fund and oversee a basic, no-frills plan for the uninsured and others.” Federal health programs, Dr. Frey said, force rules and regulations on physicians without funding the costs of responding to them.
In their statement, Doctors Frey and O’Brien fire at no target other than the private insurance industry and its “huge profits and executive perks.” Ironically, immediately adjacent to the Frey/O’Brien column was a cartoon indicating that in his health reform efforts, Obama is challenged primarily not by private insurance companies but by a pack of dogs labeled “Blue Dog Democrats,” the name given to a coalition of more than 30 conservative or moderate Democratic members of the House of Representatives.
Incidentally, two prominent buildings on the Creighton campus were built with funds generated originally by Mutual of Omaha, formerly one of the giants of the private medical insurance industry. I’m referring to money donated to build the V. J. and Angela Skutt Student Center and the Dr. C.C. and Mabel L. Criss Health Sciences Building.
V. J. Skutt was a longtime president of Mutual of Omaha and Dr. C. C. Criss and his wife Mabel were founders of Mutual of Omaha.
Dr. Frey, incidentally, is in the process of moving his office to the Criss Health Sciences Building. Dr. O’Brien is still a Creighton University professor and member of the Center for Health Policy and Ethics at Creighton.
* * *
I hope and believe that Tom Watson’s nearly incredible performance in the British Open at Turnberry two weekends ago will be long remembered. Falling just one stroke short, on the 72nd hole, of winning a sixth British Open championship at age 59 is the kind of performance that sticks in mind of any follower of golf.
With that memory still less than two weeks old, a couple of observations are very fresh in my mind:
As Watson continued to top or tie on the leader board, a television commentator burbled about the effect of Watson’s performance: “Do you have any idea how many older fellows will get up off the couch and get their clubs out of the attic?”
Yes, Mr. Commentator, I have an idea: None.
American television viewers may not have realized the significance of the consistent description of the tournament at Turnberry as “The Open,” rarely if ever “the British Open.”
The Brits believe that since their tournament started in 1860—56 years before the next oldest of the golfing world’s four “major” tournaments, they can properly refer to their tournament as “The Open” and let the others call themselves whatever they wish. (The other so-called “majors” are the PGA, first played in 1916; the U.S. Open, first played in 1895 and the Masters tournament played at the Augusta National Golf Club every year, first played in 1934.)
British pride in the longevity of “The Open” golf tournament is matched by the way they refer to the annual tennis tournament played at Wimbledon. The rest of the world calls it “Wimbledon” (the borough where it is played). The Brits call it “The Tournament,” first played in 1877.
The three other tournaments which, with the Wimbledon tournament, constitute the so-called “Grand Slam” tournaments are the French Open (first played in 1891), the United States Open (first played in 1881) and the Australian Open (first played in 1905).
But the British like to refer to the Wimbledon tournament as simply “The Championship.”
* * *
I’m not sure what it says about the taste of the American people—it doesn’t say anything very uplifting, in my opinion—but the fascination with Michael Jackson and all the details surrounding his death, his estate, whether his father beat him, etc. ad nauseam is a national if not world reality. A reality that has reached—probably predictably—into the United States Congress.
Assigned to the House of Foreign Affairs Committee was a 1,500-word resolution in Jackson’s honor introduced by Rep. Shelia Jackson Lee of Texas. I am not aware of any explanation as to why it was assigned to the House of Foreign Affairs Committee unless someone reasoned that Jackson’s fame was worldwide.
The resolution praises Jackson’s charitable activities with language like this: “Whereas, in December 1991, Michael’s office MJJ Productions donated more than 200 turkey dinners to needy families in Los Angeles…”
Do you suppose if the nation and the world had known earlier of this 200-turkey-dinner donation to needy families, lamentations over Jackson’s death would have been even louder? Worldwide, of course.
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