Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Lara Logan Calls Reporter a Liar for Committing Journalism

I've always liked Lara Logan. I always liked Christiane Amanpour and other women strong enough and brave enough to report from war zones and do, what I believed, real journalism.

For years, women on the news side of television were little more than talking heads, hired for their appearance and instructed on how to wear their hair, how to accessorize, and what to wear. Not real journalists, they read what they were given to read and if seen at an actual news event, it was usually as a celebrity presence, not as a reporter.

I have enjoyed watching women on television news age; their jaws becoming slightly less firm as did mine, their waistlines a little thicker, and their smile lines staying in place when they stopped smiling. A few years ago, women were fired when they were no longer Miss America beautiful; now they are allowed to be human, mostly.

When Michael Hastings wrote his article about General Stanley McChrystal in Rolling Stone that led to the General's firing and eventual retirement from the military altogether--reported yesterday--the backlash was not against McChrystal and his reported disrespect to his Commander in Chief. The backlash was not toward his staff and the frat boy atmosphere that encouraged such a wealth of material for Hastings to choose from. No. The backlash was against Hastings for having the temerity to write such an article. And the backlash was from the mainstream media who were universally appalled that a "reporter" would so abuse the honored privilege he had been given by writing so negatively about General McChrystal. The consensus was, "Rolling Stone? Who cares what they say. They're not 'real' journalists anyway." Fortunately (unfortunately?) the readers of Rolling Stone (including evidently the President), do care.

The most egregious example, to me, was an interview given by Lara Logan on CNN. The rising star of the Afghan war with her glowing reports conducted while embedded with the troops, Ms. Logan has, apparently, the gravitas to give the final word on the actions of Mr. Hastings. Not.

Watch Hastings appear on the program earlier:

Talking to the oh so neutral Howie Kurtz on "Reliable Sources," Logan claims that:
"Michael Hastings, if you believe him, says that there were no ground rules laid out. And, I mean, that just doesn't really make a lot of sense to me ... I mean, I know these people. They never let their guard down like that. To me, something doesn't add up here. I just -- I don't believe it. "

Using loaded language, she referred to Hastings' "game" when describing his earlier comments about his methods to build trust between himself and the subjects of his report. She denied that reporters write only positive articles to ensure continued access to their assigned "beats" saying,
"What I find is the most telling thing about what Michael Hastings said in your interview is that he talked about his manner as pretending to build an illusion of trust and, you know, he's laid out there what his game is. That is exactly the kind of damaging type of attitude that makes it difficult for reporters who are genuine about what they do, who don't -- I don't go around in my personal life pretending to be one thing and then being something else. I mean, I find it egregious that anyone would do that in their professional life."
What, the military didn't know Hastings was a reporter? Or are they so used to "reporters" who buy access by saying only nice, sanitized things about the conduct of the military?

Angered at Hastings' suggestion that reporters edit themselves in order to maintain access, Logan said: [emphasis added]
"I think that's insulting and arrogant, myself. I really do," Logan said, "because there are very good beat reporters who have been covering these wars for years, year after year. Michael Hastings appeared in Baghdad fairly late on the scene, and he was there for a significant period of time. He has his credentials, but he's not the only one. There are a lot of very good reporters out there. And to be fair to the military, if they believe that a piece is balanced, they will let you back. Michael Hastings has never served his country the way McChrystal has."
Can she not see that she just contradicted herself? "...if they [the military] believe a piece is balanced, they will let you back." By whose standards? The military? What is balance? Is this the same military that  embeds journalists to make sure that they see what they want them to see and report what they want them to report? I remember watching images of Vietnam over the dinner table and know that it was those images that had a lot to do with the national mood that ultimately led to our leaving. Journalists in Vietnam were not "embedded" nor were they limited on what they could see, do, or say. As a result, we have a vivid, albeit ugly, history of our time in that country. And, we now have a generation of American's who have a real understanding--without having been there--of the real meaning of war, not the pretty, Disney version the Pentagon would have us see.

By the way. What branch of the military was Logan in? And this has to do with what, how?

Discussing the issue of "on-the-record" vs. "off-the-record," Taibi notes that although he works for Rolling Stone, he does not know Michael Hastings, but can sympathize for him after listening to Logan's interview because;
"...when some would-be "reputable" journalist who's just been severely ass-whipped by a relative no-name freelancer on an enormous story fights back by going on television and, without any evidence at all, accusing the guy who beat him of cheating. That's happened to me so often, I've come to expect it. If there's a lower form of life on the planet earth than a "reputable" journalist protecting his territory, I haven't seen it."
Commenting on Logan's remarks about the "understanding" between reporter and subject and trust that is built up so that--in this case--McChrystal knows he can talk freely knowing that anything negative will not be reported, a trust that she says Hastings broke, Taibi says:
"...the reason Lara Logan thinks this is because she's like pretty much every other "reputable" journalist in this country, in that she suffers from a profound confusion about who she's supposed to be working for. I know this from my years covering presidential campaigns, where the same dynamic applies. Hey, assholes: you do not work for the people you're covering!"

Somehow in this country, we have come to the conclusion that if we speak out against the war, we are against the troops. That if we show the horrors of war, we are anti-war. Clearly Lara Logan has become enamored of the military. Who wouldn't? Her rise to fame (and I'm sure, fortune) is directly tied to American's wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. What is sad is that true support of the troops would be to bring them home, to fight the war they signed up for and then bring them home. Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11. We "won" Afghanistan in 2002. There are (according to the military) less than 50 Al Qaeda members in Afghanistan at this time. Even McChrystal does not believe in his much touted anti-insurgency policy and President Obama is fighting a sinking approval rating and believes somehow that a withdrawal from Afghanistan will make him appear weak. It is the Lara Logan's in the mainstream media who are responsible for our going to war, our continued presence there, and the nation's ignorance of the true agenda of the Republican Party.

Thanks for stopping by. Come back soon.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Sarah, President Obama is Not a CEO (& You Weren't Either)

As appropriate, today President Obama met with the Chairman of BP, as well as CEO Hayward and other officials. Yesterday, half-term quitter, I mean, ex-governor Palin said on the O'Reilly show that President Obama should meet, CEO to CEO with Hayward to resolve the Gulf oil disaster. Watching her body language and interaction with Bill O was quite amusing as she did not receive the beauty queen treatment she normally expects on Fox News shows. The grim expression and shrill voice said more than her words as she demanded actions already taken (how many foreign flagged vessels are already working in the gulf?) and claimed, again, her lengthy experience working with the oil companies. Did anyone else catch her on the one hand claiming that the oil companies lie, while at the end demanding that we not demonize them so they don't fail. She also demanded throughout that the fault was the lack of regulation and oversight by the Obama Administration (in office for a whole 16-months by now) and this by someone claiming membership in a party and sub-party pleading for enough government to fit in a bathtub. Sigh.

Not only can Sarah Palin not stay on script, she cannot remember what she said three sentences ago in order not to negate herself. Much as I hate to say it, Bill O pushed her just enough that any half-thinking person (although not sure there are any watching Fox) would catch the inconsistencies. He certainly did.

Let me try to explain. Sarah. President Obama is not a CEO. The United States is not a corporation. I am not a shareholder. Congress is not his Board of Directors. They do not have the authority to fire him as they did not hire him (the duty of a Board). Although he proposes budgets and oversees departments in a very broad sense, his bottom line is not profit. A CEO's reason for being is profit. The purpose of government is to spend money on its citizens, not to create profit for its own sake. The purpose of a corporation is to create profit for its shareholders. Period. A CEO that does not produce profit is fired. A CEO that does not focus on the bottom line and does not put his or her shareholders first before all other factors, is behaving in an unethical and possibly illegal manner.

Much as we would like BP to be warm and fuzzy and care about the animals and the people of the Gulf, it's not their job. Their job is to make lots of money. It is the job of government to make sure that the people of the Gulf are taken care of and that the animals and the environment are taken into account. That's why we have such things as the Clean Water Act, the EPA, and the MMS. Regulations were put into place because corporations are there to create profit and governments are there to protect its citizens from the corporation. Anyone who questions this should locate a copy of Upton Sinclair's "The Jungle" and then go buy a hotdog. Or any kind of processed meat. Go on. I'll wait.

So, what is a CEO? Why do you and others who continue to call the President (and themselves when Governor) a CEO look foolish when you do so? It's because you ignore the complexity of government and the corporate world. You not only talk only in buzz words and catch phrases, but evidently, you can only think in them as well.


Chief Executive Officer (CEO) -- per Investopedia
"The highest ranking executive in a company whose main responsibilities include developing and implementing high-level strategies, making major corporate decisions, managing the overall operations and resources of a company, and acting as the main point of communication between the board of directors and the corporate operations. The CEO will often have a position on the board, and in some cases is even the chair."

"There are various other titles for the position of CEO including president and executive or managing director. The role of the CEO will vary from one company to another depending on its size and organization. In smaller companies, the CEO will often have a much more hands-on role in the company, making a lot of the business decisions, even lower-level ones such as the hiring of staff. However, in larger companies, the CEO will often deal with only the higher-level strategy of the company and directing its overall growth, with most other tasks deligated to managers and departments."

An article in Business Week in April of 2009 discussed the need to redefine the role of the CEO in light of the financial meltdown of Wall Street and the need to avert government interference in the operation of corporations. The discussion said, among other things that,
"Appropriate management of financial risk involves elevating the function so that it reports at the top of the company to the CEO and board and is treated as an equal in status (if not precisely in pay) to business generators. It then entails evaluating both business processes and real results in the core tasks of assessing, spreading and controlling risk. It should focus on fundamental issues of capital adequacy, leverage, and liquidity—integrating off-balance sheet activities into assessments of these risk issues and using early warning systems to spot unforeseen risks." [emphasis added]

I'm disappointed in President Obama's apparent lack of understanding of the seriousness of the mess we are in, but I understand that 1) BP and the other oil companies are the only ones who have the knowledge to clean this up, and 2) it is the policies and de-regulation of the previous administration that created the environment that led to this disaster.

Thanks for stopping by. Come back soon.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Sarah Palin's "Tells" Tell Us When She Lies

I try to avoid watching Sarah Palin anymore, although I have written in the past about how she presents and what I observe. During the 2008 campaign, my main concern was for the children as they were paraded before the media while at the same time, the Palin's demanded that the children be left out of political discussion. Watching the dynamics of the Palin family while on-stage, while waiting to go on-stage, during video clips of the campaign plane and the various interactions available to us via hours of video and still photographs was an education in family dysfunction.

I am gratified that we see very little of Trig or Piper - perhaps she is now attending school and he is receiving the intensive one-on-one attention necessary for an infant with Down Syndrome? The parading of Bristol and now Willow in inappropriate venues in inappropriate clothing is a disappointment, but it is clear that the Palin family business is business, and that the commodity that they have to sell is themselves. As Sarah ages and her lack of substance becomes more apparent, perhaps she is counting on her daughters to step in and fill the family coffers. Who knows. Hopefully the day will come when we can cease caring - the day when if the Palins have not left politics, that at least politics will at least have left them.

Sarah's most recent video appearance was with Greta Van Susteran as she addressed the buzz that is all over the internets about the possibility of breast implants. She seems somehow surprised that feminists have not joined in supporting her as her attempts - she says - to wear layers to avert attention away from her breasts (what was that very thin t-shirt at Belmont?) has failed and she is being objectified (my word, not sure she knows that one).

When I watch someone speak or appear in an interview, just as in a counseling session, I pay more attention to how they say what they are saying then to the actual words said. Obvious "tells" alert me to moments when the words probably mean more, but overall, it is how someone says something and the meaning behind the words that mean the most. In counseling, of course, the purpose and goal is quite different than in "real" life where - especially in politics - words do matter. However, Sarah has some really interesting tells that I am surprised that at this point in her public life, remain. With all the 'gates and media attention one would think that she would have received better advice (as well as voice coaching), but she apparently knows it all already and is unable and/or unwilling to acknowledge any faults, the first step necessary to self-improvement.

As I watched this video, 2 things struck me. I re-watched it several times to ensure that I had seen what I thought I had seen, and believe me, it was like nails on a blackboard. But even though she was prepared for the questions about breast implants, Sarah was very angry that she had to address the issue, and despite her statement to Greta that she had great respect and love for her, it was one of her bigger lies of the interview. The other? Claiming that she did not want to be judged on appearance. Lie. The tells were huge for anyone who knows what to look for.

During the entire interview, Sarah's behavior was incongruent with what she said. Watch her eyes, her neck, and her mouth. Stress is apparent as her neck cords, as she swallows, and in the tightness of her mouth. I think she wears glasses believing they hide (filter) her eyes - they do not. (BTW - anyone notice that she did not refer to the mainstream media as lamestream media? she actually said mainstream this time - significant stress signal when that is one of her favorite slurs).

Throughout the interview, she either nodded (very infrequently) or shook her head. Most of the time when she was speaking, she was also shaking her head, which tells me that she does not agree with what she is saying. There is shaking your head to suggest dismay at something or someone (i.e., "oh, those poor...), but behavior incongruent to what one is saying that is excessive and continuous is problematic. For her. For us? I'm glad she continues to get such poor advice, especially with the mid-terms coming up.

Thanks for stopping by. Come back soon.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

President Bush - Ongoing Serial Stupidity & Willful Ignorance (Or Is He Just Evil?)


I've written 15 posts about torture and although I am deeply disappointed at the Obama Administration's decision to let Bush and Cheney get away with their actions leading up to and during the Iraq war, I had thought that the discussion had subsided into a low murmur.

Unable to keep his mouth shut, President Bush made a cavalier comment while speaking in Grand Rapids, Michigan yesterday, saying that he did indeed have Khalid Sheikh Mohammed waterboarded, and would do so again if it would save lives. Never mind that there is significant evidence, as discusssed by Matthew Alexander here, that details how waterboarding detainees made us less safe.

Extensive research, readily available to the President and much of it conducted by the FBI - experts at interrogation - and the Department of Defense, has been conducted on how to elicit useful information from people. As a counselor, it is my job to be able to get people to open up as I have discussed here that I have related to SERE training and torture.

Today, Dan Froomkin reports on the response of top military leaders to Bush's comments. Anger appears to be the universal response. They are appalled that Bush, still, has no conception of the illegality of his actions nor does he appear to care (although, why should he? apparently ex-Presidents are above the law).
"George W. Bush's casual acknowledgment Wednesday that he had Khalid Sheikh Mohammed waterboarded -- and would do it again -- has horrified some former military and intelligence officials who argue that the former president doesn't seem to understand the gravity of what he is admitting."
There is no question that waterboarding is torture regardless of what has been discussed in the media in the past year or two. This country has imprisoned people and even executed people for waterboarding, and as recently as a few years ago, a sheriff's deputy in Texas was jailed for using waterboarding as an interrogation technique. More discussion here.

The article goes on to quote military leaders:
"Waterboarding, a form of controlled drowning, is "unequivocably torture", said retired Brigadier General David R. Irvine, a former strategic intelligence officer who taught prisoner of war interrogation and military law for 18 years."

"As a nation, we have historically prosecuted it as such, going back to the time of the Spanish-American War," Irvine said. "Moreover, it cannot be demonstrated that any use of waterboarding by U.S. personnel in recent years has saved a single American life."
Irvine told the Huffington Post that Bush doesn't appreciate how much harm his countenancing of torture has done to his country.
"Yeah, we waterboarded Khalid Sheikh Mohammed," Bush told a Grand Rapids audience Wednesday, of the self-professed 9/11 mastermind. "I'd do it again to save lives."
But, Irvine said: "When he decided to do it the first time, he launched the nation down a disastrous road, and we will continue to pay dearly for the damage his decision has caused.
"We are seen by the rest of the world as having abandoned our commitment to international law. We have forfeited enormous amounts of moral leadership as the world's sole remaining superpower. And it puts American troops in greater danger -- and unnecessary danger."
The article continues by quoting other military leaders:
"James P. Cullen, a retired brigadier general in the United States Army Reserve Judge Advocate General's Corps, told HuffPost that the net effect of Bush's remarks--and former Vice President Cheney's before him--is 'to establish a precedent where it will be permissible to our enemies to use waterboarding on our servicemen in future wars."

"Cheney famously once agreed with an interviewer that a 'dunk in the water' was a 'no-brainer' if it saves lives."
What is it with these men? Don't confuse me with the facts? As I wrote about yesterday, this is willful ignorance in the extreme, and the serial stupidity of the Republican Party to the nth degree.

Thanks for stopping by. Come back soon.

SUN: 7:02PM Edited for duplicate section

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Why Are Teabaggers Willfully Ignorant? A Social Psychological Perspective

PHOTO: Trish Wend

My last post discussed the tendency of so many Americans to complain about government while at the same time relying on the services it provides, all the while, likely not understanding how dependent they are on those services. One of the comments, posted by Lexcade said:
"i think the problem is that too many people are ignorant about what the government actually does but they have no interest in gaining the knowledge they need to understand. they're perfectly willing to let the pretty women on fox tell them what to believe, and they buy it without a second thought. i'm sure there's some sort of psychology term for this, but i don't remember what it is. i just call it laziness."
There is a form of mental laziness that allows us to ignore that which is uncomfortable and would require effort to correct. Cognitive dissonance is the state in which ones behavior is in conflict with one's beliefs; in this situation, the individual complains about the government intruding into their lives while at the same time knowing - perhaps unconsciously - that without government, their lives would be extremely different and very likely, uncomfortable.

In order to resolve that dissonance, you have to change either your beliefs (okay, government isn't all that bad) or your behavior (stop complaining about it or do something pro-active to change it). Somehow, waving signs and chanting pre-packaged slogans that have required no real thought doesn't quite do it.

It is very difficult to change behavior and research has found that cognitive dissonance is usually resolved by changing beliefs or attitudes. In the case of the teabaggers, the change required on either end of the spectrum is so radical that it is far more comfortable to ignore it.

In order to recognize dissonance, one must have a certain level of self-awareness and be willing to recognize the dichotomy that exists within us all. Introspection and self-improvement are not fun and one of the reasons that I know I have had a successful counseling session is if my client cries. Real work is not easy or comforting and to accomplish anything lasting requires what one of my professors called "kicking it down into the basement and keeping it there."

In social psychology, we learn that one of the strongest social desires is to be liked. In a group, we tend to accommodate our beliefs and desires to those of the group and over time, resolve any conflict within ourselves by telling ourselves that those are our real beliefs. We tend to associate with and like those who are most like us, and studies have shown that when presented with negative information, we tend to think better of people that we like and rationalize away the negative information. We also tend to believe that people we like believe in the same way that we do and people we don't like, don't (all cats are animals, therefore, all animals are cats). If someone is different, we are quick to believe the worst and given the choice, will ignore exculpatory evidence weighted in favor of a stranger over proof of wrong-doing against someone we like.

Whether it is some sort of genetic/tribal memory or environmental conditioning, most people fear that which is different and the teabaggers, most of whom are not highly educated, fear the changes brought by an African-American President and a Democratic Congress. Rather than listening, they respond on an emotional level which limits the ability to reason. By leading with emotions, people are then extremely vulnerable to politicians and pundits who cater to that vulnerability (read Fox).

By projecting their feelings of inadequacy onto others, people such as the teabaggers are able to blame others (the government, immigrants, the Democrats, liberals, etc.) for everything that is wrong in their lives. One social theory is based on social structuralism and agency theory. How does the individual fit into society? How much agency does the individual really have? Agency means how autonomous is the individual? How much free will can they exercise? It is thought that within the social structure, we all have a certain place and manner of behavior based on the existing structure (people act towards us as we expect them to, we react as they expect us to and so on). With greater agency, we are able to affect that structure and our place in it. The greater our knowledge of social structure and the greater our own self-awareness, the greater our own agency.

In psychology, we look at the locus of control - is it internal or external? A healthy individual has an internal locus of control, meaning that they look to themselves for agency. They take responsibility for their own actions whereas someone with an external locus of control blames everything on outside influences beyond their control. Can't get a job? Immigrants fault. No money? Government taking too much in taxes (never mind that this past year we paid the lowest taxes in decades). Everything is always someone else's fault. Life is ruled by fate, God, or others. By ceding responsibility to someone or something else, they no longer have to do anything about it. Life can continue to be lived by sitting on the poofy recliner, watching Bridezilla while eating TacoTime and letting others make all the decisions, accept all the responsibility, and write the scripts for life.

Sorry. Probably more information than anyone wanted or needed, but I can cope with ignorance - after all, we just got through eight years of No Child Left Behind - but willful ignorance on the part of the teabags and the blind obedience to party and church is just crazy-making to me. And it is willful. It's just too upsetting, depressing, confusing, boring, hard, complex, irritating, or just plain time-consuming to stay informed and be a good citizen, so they'd all rather wave their Dick Armey printed slogans, fantasize about Sarah, or daydream about whatever it is their teeny, tiny little minds dream about while they stuff their faces with cheese puffs and watch the tv machine.

Thanks for stopping by. Come back soon.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Sarah Palin and Her Redneck Jokes UPDATE: Link Fixed


This is a couple of weeks old, but if you missed it, it is a must read for all us Sarah Palin watchdogs. Moving from True/Slant back to Rolling Stone, Matt Taibbi writes about Sarah's trolling for jokes off the internet and the decided lack of substance in her speeches. Noting that she appears to have found a successful format for her particular audience, Matt says that:

"...I don’t think you can steal more than four or maybe five jokes before some kind of line is crossed..."

Plagiarism has been in the news lately, especially as she "borrowed" a poem which she tweeted for Memorial Day, later crediting Fred Thompson's previous use to avoid the already rampant plagiarism charges.

On a side note, she seems not to understand that Memorial Day is a celebration of those who have died, not her all-purpose support for the troops that she links everything to. Don't get me wrong, I support the troops, but I don't find it necessary to include that fact as a link back to every issue, discussion, or appearance. People who find it necessary to loudly and repeatedly proclaim something about themselves be it their patriotism, religiosity, or in this case, support for the troops, usually are projecting. For a discussion of projection, go here, or here.

Sarah chuckles at her use of Google to prepare for her various appearances - still lacking the self-awareness to understand that she looked foolish by telling Glenn Beck that she Googled the Statue of Liberty prior to their interview, assuming that because of the location of the interview that he would quiz her on it. She used quote finders during her campaign and in her book, and sees nothing wrong with helping herself to whatever she likes wherever she finds it (remember the swag bags?). Does she really imagine that we want a cutesy president? Especially as most of us outgrow cutesy at about age 13.

Matt goes on to note that whatever it is that she is doing:
 "She’s tuned in to the fact that her audiences literally can’t get enough of having their lunatic self-images massaged (“I’m a violent, illiterate pig who eats with her mouth open just like all you outstanding Americans!”) and aren’t really interested in much else beyond that — issues are really secondary."
"...all that boring stuff is really secondary to the more important business of reassuring her audiences that that it’s okay to be a slob who does nothing but shoot cute animals and watch TV. Most of all, Americans — the same Americans who buy everything TV tells them to buy and vote for the same shysters year after year, swallowing one lie after another whole — love to be told how tough and fearsome and independent they are."
Unfortunately, I think Matt is absolutely correct in his interpretation of her audience.
"It’s basically a risk-free strategy. You get up on stage and you say, “I’m just like all you idiots. And you idiots rock!” People will fall for this stuff. The ingenious part in Sarah Palin’s case is that she probably genuinely believes it."
I've mentioned before that we get what we deserve, and the rest of us will pay the price.

Talking to spouse last night and the point came up, what exactly do all these people think will happen if they achieve their goal of minimal government? They sit in their poofy recliners, watching their satellite dish tv machines, drinking beer and eating cheese-puffs and complain about government interference in their lives. They bitch about taxes and government takeover of healthcare as they put their twice-monthly paycheck in the bank and head off to WalMart to buy their Chinese produced toys.

If they lose their job, the first stop is the Unemployment Office where they demand that government do something for them, and if they have a heart attack from their sedentary lives, will expect 911 to send them medics in time and the emergency room staff to save them. If the neighbors are too loud, or the dog barks, they are the first to call the police to complain, and write letters to the editor or post on Facebook or blogs about those damned liberals who are trying to destroy their country.

They have no understanding of the concept critical thinking and believe that all members of their party believe as they do and if someone says they are Christian, then they share their belief. Self-awareness requires introspection and the desire to accept responsibility for those aspects of ourselves that are in need of improvement.

It is sad and it is funny, but it is also scary as too many Americans allow themselves to be lead by people who do not have their best interests at heart.

Thanks for stopping by. Come back soon.