All posts by vigilantunderwood

The Loudest Voice in the Room

The Loudest Voice in the Room For everyone who detected a smelly mess at FOX NEWS, the “Ailes Book” offers a few “ah-ha’s” that explain the odd timing and persistent stream of negative views that flow from the network. The book is titled “The Loudest Voice in the Room” (Random House, 2013), written by a New York journalist, Gabriel Sherman.

I usually shy away from books that have that hint of sensationalism: literature clad in controversy that promises spurious political rumor based on more rumor. Usually, worthless, pointless, and puerile. However, I have found that there is far more to this book than its sordid cover graphics portend.

Fueled by my own misgivings about the news network that Roger Ailes has run for nearly a decade, I must admit that the words “bombastic” and “Fox News” blared out at me like trumpets. Standing in the middle of the book store, pretending to be aloof to the bulging typography, I scanned, assessed, then succumbed.

I’ll put out a few questions to the critics of the book – noting perhaps that my own bias is to favor anything that may muzzle the Fox machine, albeit just a little. But is it too much to say that Fox News pushes an agenda and has been highly critical of President Obama (and other Democrats)? Is it a fair assessment that Fox News journalists appear to embrace the Republican conservative agenda (aka “Tea Party”)? Is it reasonable, all things being equal, that Fox News excels it comes to sensationalizing its own headlines and content?

I agree with pundits who say that news ought to be critical of political leadership; all views must be examined; all actions debated. However, I am with the many people who worry that Fox News has pushed too far. According to Sherman’s reporting, Ailes has been behind it all, fired up by an unapologetic unwavering ultraconservative Christian political agenda that has pushed Fox News to the extreme:

Among the many claims Sherman makes in this book:

  • Ailes has sought to damage political initiatives and personalities that do not pass his ideological litmus. No good news for anything that doesn’t pass the Ailes sniff test.
  • Ever got the feeling that Fox News was an engine of education, teaching fans by rote the key points of every sordid turn? Apparently, according to Sherman, that’s an Ailes specialty.
  • According to several eyewitnesses, Ailes exercises over-the-top manipulation over how and when reporters covered certain stories – rewarding those who followed his lede (intentional).

In case you miss the point, Sherman does not decry the ‘conservative media agenda.’ In fact, he demonstrates that Americans expect and are entertained by political bias from their favorite journalists. He notes that we like it when factoids come with a bit of drama (as Ailes is quoted saying: sensationalism sells). However, where Sherman leaves is how the ‘bombastic’ Roger Ailes taken entertainment too far. What he has accomplished – either by accident or by design – should be beyond our tolerance and, in the worst sense, is wholly dangerous to the continuation of the Union.

Gabriel Sherman has accomplished a “Woodward & Bernstein” on the Ultraconservatives’s chief propaganda engine; how fitting that Fox News leadership has been felled by the sword of sensationalism.

Sherman has delivered a substantial catalog of factoids derived from more than 600 personal and corroborated interviews – factual evidence that has the mettle of unimpeachable authority. It’s up to us to consume this information and force an end to this divisive, derisive and dismissive reign of falsehood and fakery at Fox News. 

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The Villains of Marijuana

CNN

You must admit, faced with all the facts, the only reason why marijuana is illegal is because of MONEY. The people who want to continue the prohibition of Marijuana are the same people who contribute the MOST money to politicians to keep it that way.

The bottom line (and there’s always one in these types of things) is that prohibition of Marijuana is driven by money and greed. The ‘villains’ recognize legalization as meaning less money in their pockets; therefore, they will do anything to stop it. They have been successful for many decades.

Here’s my list of “Villains of Legalization” – Five special interest groups that want to keep the prohibition in place and are willing to spend millions to protect billions in revenue.

  1. First on my list are the pharmaceutical companies. These guys are the most obvious. They stand to lose a big chunk of revenue because many pill-popping addicts will stop buying their chemical poisons in lieu of Marijuana: a legal and less harmful alternative.
  2. Not as obvious (perhaps) are the producers of beer (mostly). Like big pharma, breweries could see some erosion in revenue as people turn to smoking joints than consume 6 cans beer a night.
  3. Private prisons could also lose the inflow of tens of thousands inmates who still go to jail for minor possession violations if the end of prohibition went nationwide.
  4. Law enforcement unions will also lose when Marijuana is legalized in the U.S. The “war on drugs” is funded by federal grants and bonds; unions stand to lose millions when federal agents and local drug enforcement teams are paired down and refocused on hard drugs and illegal pharma distribution rather than a natural weed that anyone can grow.
  5. Petrochemical companies could end up being the biggest losers in the long run. Marijuana was made illegal was because industrial hemp (btw, hemp = marijuana) was a competitor to Dupont, Allied Chemical Corporation and Hearst Paper Manufacturing Division of Kimberly Clark, just to name a few. These companies wanted to make synthetic products like plastic, nylon and paper. Restoration of the hemp industry in the U.S. could be devastating to their absolute control over textiles and other hydrocarbon dependent products. It could even spell the end to U.S. dependence on foreign textiles because cultivation of hemp is cheap and environmentally sustainable.

Still not convinced? Take a good look at the anti-pot groups websites and postings: mere parroting of the weird logic and false information that comes from lobbyists who have also profited.

One ongoing complaint that smoking marijuana will increase disease is the most controversial. True – anything done in excess is bad for you – but the fact is, people have been smoking pot for centuries. If there were any direct effects from smoking weed (e.g., cancer or other disease) we’d have empirical data. But we don’t.

NORML released this well-written and fairly comprehensive report on various medical studies. So this amounts to ‘another’ bottom line for legalization: no conclusive evidence, no direct cause-effect relationship between Marijuana and disease. Here’s a direct link: http://norml.org/component/zoo/category/cannabis-smoke-and-cancer-assessing-the-risk

When the Tea Party first emerged, I was inspired by their platform to limit government’s reach: to live my life as I choose. As an adult, tax paying citizen, I am entitled to make decisions about my personal enjoyment. If my choices do not infringe on others, what I do is my own business, nobody else. 

Unfortunately, the Tea Party never lived up to that ideal, but the dream lives on. Now voters in states are lining up support for legislation to make Marijuana legal – finally, once and for all. Here’s our chance to end this wasteful and horribly distorted prohibition. More of us need to stand up and speak up. This prohibition has to stop.