journalism and media

Headlines excel in misrepresenting the true stories

The following was sent to the Letters to the Editor section of the Naples Daily News.  Upon submitting it, I requested that the newspaper keep my headline and not rewrite it. Read on to find out why.

TO THE EDITOR (Naples Daily News):

At least twice in the past week (and probably more), the Naples Daily News has used  a misleading headline to introduce a story. One was an article written for the News; the other was a USA TODAY story that was re-headlined.

The Naples Daily News story appeared on Sept. 18. Headlined as, “Locals respond in solidarity with demonstration against Dakota Access oil pipeline,” the story then goes on to note (with photograph) that, “…Motorists passing by Collier Boulevard and City Gate Drive at 5 p.m. Tuesday couldn’t ignore the sight of seven (bolding is mine for emphasis) people holding large signs…” Simply stated, and not taking sides in the story, seven people does not demonstrate solidarity.

The Sept. 24 story was from USA TODAY. The USA TODAY headline read, “Joint staff General’s girlfriend problem grounds career.” The Naples News rewrite changed the headline to, “General’s affair grounds career.”

Yet, reading the first paragraph suggests otherwise. The text states, “…has been fired from his job after an extramarital affair, and interviews and records show he had also negotiated a job and lived rent free in the home of a defense contractor, USA TODAY had found. (bold is mine for emphasis)” It seems to be that the extramarital affair is the least of the general’s problems.

By the by,  a similar story about another military official appeared in USA TODAY on July 27 and was headlined as,“Extramarital affair, misuse of resources cost Army general his post.”   That’s the type of headline that was needed onSept. 24.

In this day and age of misleading news coverage, isn’t it time for the Naples Daily News to set the tone of a higher level of journalism? Let’s have the headline really tell the tale of the upcoming story.

politics, Social issues, U.S. government

A Time For Fairness?

Many, probably most, progressives preach “fairness,” at every turn. Well, this once liberal, turned conservative, believes that fairness needs another perspective.

Consider these two scenarios. First, a commercial airline company strands hundreds of passengers on a tarmac during a severe winter storm. Unable to deplane, conditions on the plane become “deplorable.” Thanks to legislative authority, the Federal government now gets to levy onerous fines on the airline, most of which spill into Federal coffers (not into the pocketbooks of the “victims”).

Now, the Transportation Security Administration (affectedly known as TSA) strands many planeloads of passengers on long security lines at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport. People miss flights; the airlines lose money; disruption ensues. TSA’s answer…”We’re sorry (for the inconvenience).”

Does this disparity in outcomes smack of “fairness” to you?

We can add IRS delays in processing NFP applications, the VA’s cavalier attitude with delays in providing medical attention; and a growing list of governmental lies, cover-ups and inappropriate spending, and it is clear that some “fairness” needs to be put back into play for all. In short, “what’s good for the goose is good for the gander” (or is that some type of equal rights quotation?).

The government needs to be as accountable as the businesses and individuals it wants to rule. This means if fines are to be levied on airlines for creating intolerable situations and on BP for creating an oil spill, there should be a consummate fine levied on the government when it errs. That money (and also a larger share of the tarmac-rule penalty) should go to the “victims” of government-created or government-labeled “crimes.”

If the government wants to collect millions, it should be prepared to pay out millions. How about if that starts happening NOW?

Originally published 5/30/16

Europe, history, Iran, Middle East, politics, U.S. government

Appeasement circa 1938-1940, happening again today

George Santayana is among those quoted as saying something concerning, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Well, there seem to be many in Washington, DC (Republicans and Democrats alike), who failed their history classes. President Obama may well replace Neville Chamberlain (British Prime Minister just prior to World War II) as the poster child for poor scholarship. With a long string of acts of appeasement (does anyone in Washington have a clue what the word, “appeasement” means?), Obama is taking the word and its meaning to new heights. According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, appeasement means to “pacify, conciliate, and to buy off (an aggressor) by concessions usually at the sacrifice of principles.”Fig001HitlerChamberlainGettyImageThe latest appeasement incident, in a long string of political miscues emanating from our Nation’s Capital, involves the pending Iranian nuclear deal. After more than a decade of Iran’s snubbing of U.N. and Western demands to curtail the development of its nuclear power base and subject itself to monitoring and inspections, and after feigned U.S. economic threats that did not make Tehran capitulate, this administration became hell-bent on getting a nuclear deal at any cost. I am almost 110% certain that Congress will be asked to approve the Iranian nuclear deal and then, and only then, will they really be allowed to fully understand what’s in it. No apologies to Nancy Pelosi here.

A decade ago, Iran had a fledgling nuclear program. Now, they are close to having nuclear weapons. And based on news reports for the past month or so, Iran demanded and the U.S. and the other superpowers said, that’s okay, over and over again. It’s actually been that way for more than a decade. It is not unlike making threat to a misbehaving child and then not delivering any consequences.

This deal comes on the heels of normalizing relations with Cuba, even though Cuba hasn’t done anything to address U.S. retributions and concerns. The beat continues with unanswered Russian aggression in the Ukraine and Chinese attacks on U.S. corporations in its country and alleged cyber attacks here.

But, perhaps the greatest and, most significant, act of appeasement has been this Nation’s failure to see ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) for what it really is. My reference to Chamberlain and World War II earlier in this writing was intentional.

Chamberlain is well-known for his appeasement to Hitler. The German leader took groups, religious and other, who didn’t fit his mold of a true German, and used various means (intimidation, scorn, imprisonment and execution) to rid the new Germany of these so-called “undesirables.” ISIS’ beheadings, kidnappings and other heinous acts are no different from what Hitler and his cronies did 70 years ago. This time, it is the Christians and other non-believers to “Sharia Law” who are being subjected to religious persecution, not the Jews.

As the U.S. makes insignificant and sporadic bombing runs on ISIS targets, ISIS continues to gain followers and grow the territory under its control. Much like Hitler in the early days, the threat was small. Then the threat got very large, very quickly.

However, there are two differences between Hitler and ISIS. Hitler needed oil; ISIS is starting to control it. Hitler, just wanted Europe and nearby areas. ISIS has already committed itself to destroying Western civilization.

Still, one could argue that appeasement is better than war. Writing at slate.com (Sept. 2013), Nick Baumann makes the case that “Chamberlain was right” in appeasing Hitler pre-1940. Given the ill-equipped military position in which England found itself, Prime Minister Chamberlain had no choice but to delay any type of war actions. Could this be the U.S.’ plan – to delay until ready?

I don’t think so. Rather than learn from England’s poor state of military readiness in the 1930’s, the U.S. government is planning to cut its military further (40,000 army positions during the next two years). What is wrong with this picture, given historical context? Maybe Hillary Clinton will chime in with, “what difference does it make,” here.

The list of historical miscues is long (I have only touched the surface here) and getting longer by the day. For political expendience, “good press,” and a false sense of making the world safer, our president, Congress, and other leaders in the U.S. and abroad are making some very bad choices.

History will surely repeat itself and those of us in the wake of a very badly steered national ship of state are doomed to experience it.

I hope that someone in the mainstream media will see the parallels between what happened 70 years ago and what is happening today. Our Nation, as a whole, needs to wake up to the real threats around it and act decisively…now, not later!

Originally published 7/14/15 at examiner.com; republished here 5/30/16