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The Morning Grumpy – 4/24/12

Filed under: Morning Grumpy

All the news, views, and filtered excellence fit to consume during your morning grumpy.

 

1. How Congress and President Bush killed the U.S. Post Service.

In 2006, in what looks like an attempt to bust the Postal Workers’ Union, George Bush signed into law the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Actof 2006. This law required the Postal Service to pre-fund 100 percent of its entire future obligations for 75 years of health benefits to its employees – and not only do it, but do it within ten years. No other organization, public or private, has to pre-fund 100 percent of its future health benefits.

Taibbi leaves the legacy of this bill at the foot of President Bush, which only tells part of the story. The bill was co-sponsored by two influential Democrats, Henry Waxman and Danny Davis and received broad-based bipartisan support. The bill was passed by voice vote in the House and passed by unanimous consent in the Senate, which essentially means that no one officially voted against it. Imagine that happening on ANY bill of significance during the Obama Administration. I digress.
 
The new law forced the postal service to come up with about $5.5 billion a year for the ten years following the bill’s passage. In 2006, before those payments kicked in, the USPS generated a small profit. Not surprisingly, the USPS is now basically broke.
 
The law also prohibits the USPS from generating revenue from any alternative means. Essentially, this bill was designed to shut down the Postal Service. Now, whom do you think was interested in shutting down the Postal Service? Let’s check the lobbying database
 
UPS, Pitney Bowes, Stamps.com, Direct Marketing Association of America and other ancillary companies who would benefit from the privatization of the Postal Service. This is your government, bought and sold by lobbyists.

2. The media is making voters dumber. In a new report from Pew Research, we find that national media are completely disinterested in covering policy or government and instead focus on the “horserace” of the campaign season.

Their new report, out Monday, shows that the largest bias this year did not favor an ideology or candidate—though Santorum never got much love—but favored the coverage of the horserace and personal issues over public policy.

The press covered the horserace seven times more than domestic issues in the GOP primary. That made it the most covered topic by far, as Pew reports in this chart:

Extreme coverage of the horserace is how journalists avoid accusations of bias. If they spend their time covering whatever random “nontroversy” or “fauxrage” piques the interest of viewers, readers, and listeners; the less time they’ll spend evaluating/vetting positions and fact checking. This “he said/she said” style of coverage leaves voters less informed and less capable of evaluating the truth.

I’m reminded of something Jim Heaney likes to say, “I always thought my job as a reporter was to figure it out – after all, I was the one with the time, training and resources – and provide readers “the best obtainable version of the truth.” This required me to do my homework, get things right and write with clarity.”

3. Liberal media? The Pew Research Center also finds that President Obama was actually covered more unfavorably than Mitt Romney.

Of all the presidential candidates studied in this report, only one figure did not have a single week in 2012 when positive coverage exceeded negative coverage—the incumbent, Democrat Barack Obama.

In Obama’s case, his negative coverage was driven by several factors. One was the consistent criticism leveled at him by each of the Republican contenders during primary season. The other involved news coverage of issues—ranging from the tenuous economic recovery to the continuing challenges to his health care legislation—with which he was inextricably linked.

4. This seems like it should have been a bigger story. How America came to systematically torture its prisoners.

On Sept. 17, 2001, six days after the terrorist attacks in Washington, D.C., President George W. Bush sent a 12-page Memorandum of Notification to his National Security Council. That memorandum, we know now, authorized the Central Intelligence Agency to set up and run secret prisons.

Thanks to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit—a lawsuit the New York Times has called “among the most successful in the history of public disclosure”—we now know much of what happened in those secret spaces the Bush administration created. Under that litigation, the American Civil Liberties Union gathered nearly 140,000 formerly classified documents from the Department of Defense, the Justice Department, and the CIA that detail the abuse of prisoners in U.S. custody in the “War on Terror.”

Our highest government officials, up to and including President Bush, broke international and U.S. laws banning torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment. Worse, they made their subordinates in the military and civilian intelligence services break those laws for them.

America, the shining city on a hill? As a proud veteran of our nation’s military and as a person with a conscience, I find these stories of “enhanced interrogation techniques” to be a shameful chapter in our national history. President Obama’s patent refusal to investigate or prosecute these crimes will haunt this nation for the remainder of its history.

5. Let’s end with something positive…the U.S. economy is beginning to experience an export boom.

In his State of the Union address two years ago, President Obama argued there were a few things the U.S. needed to do in order to recover from the economic recession: One of them was to export more of goods around the world.

That night, the president unveiled a new goal: to double U.S. exports over the next five years. It would be an increase the president said would “support 2 million jobs in America.”

Most economists dismissed the pledge at the time as somewhat quixotic, but two years later, the U.S. is on pace to meet that goal. American exports are up 34 percent since the president gave that speech, and the number continues to rise.

America is also seeing a sharp increase in the number of companies moving manufacturing jobs back home, also known as “onshoring”.

According to a survey by the Boston Consulting Group of executives at 106 manufacturing companies with $1 billion or more in sales, 37 percent said they are planning or “actively considering” onshoring. Among companies with more than $10 billion in revenue, that percentage shot up to nearly half.

So, there’s your one bit of good news for the day.

Fact Of The Day: Let’s go with a visual fact…

Quote Of The Day: “A belief in hell and the knowledge that every ambition is doomed to frustration at the hands of a skeleton have never prevented the majority of human beings from behaving as though death were no more than an unfounded rumor.” – Aldous Huxley

Video Of The Day: Cassini and Voyager video from space. Incredibly beautiful and humbling.

Cartoon Of The Day: “The Three Little Pups” – Droopy Dog, Directed by Tex Avery

Song Of The Day: “Billie Jean” – Chris Cornell

Follow me on Twitter for the “incremental grumpy” @ChrisSmithAV

Email me links, tips, story ideas: chris@artvoice.com


  • Droopy: “Don’t ask how we got the television back…”

  • Tex Avery = pure genius.