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Utilities wage campaign against rooftop solar – The Washington Post.

There is a growing body of evidence pointing to a deep divide between the interests of conservatives (and, indeed, of America) on the one hand, and those of corporate America on the other. The campaign being waged by public utilities against rooftop solar is one. The buried lede:

“Conservatives support solar — they support it even more than progressives do,” said Bryan Miller, co-chairman of the Alliance for Solar Choice and a vice president of public policy for Sunrun, a California solar provider. “It’s about competition in its most basic form. The idea that you should be forced to buy power from a state-sponsored monopoly and not have an option is about the least conservative thing you can imagine.”

Excellent article, superb links.

As an aside, I am on the verge of giving up my resistance and subscribing to the WaPo. With The New York Times continuing Pinch Sulzberger’s long, ugly slide to the Left, and the Murdoch-controlled Wall Street Journal digging in deeper on the far right, it is nice to see Jeff Bezos allowing the Post to settle in somewhere closer to a balanced center.

Quote of the Day: Tyranny and Lethargy

IT’S WELL KNOWN AMONG THE SMALL WORLD of people who pay attention to such things that the liberal-leaning reporters at The Wall Street Journal resent the conservative-leaning editorial page of The Wall Street Journal. What’s less well known—and about to break into the open, threatening the very fabric of the institution—is how deeply the liberal-leaning reporters at The New York Times resent the liberal-leaning editorial page of The New York Times.

via The Tyranny and Lethargy of the Times Editorial Page | The New York Observer.

Nothing brightens my day more than an open, frank admission someplace other than in the pages of the Journal or Commentary that despite some token efforts at non-partisanship, The New York Times is, in fact, the paper-of-record of the American Left.

Partisanship in op/ed pages is a good thing. Partisanship as a de-facto part of the editorial policy outside of the opinion pages is something quite different. Political bias in reporting the news lays a path away from truth and democracy, but toward demagoguery, and as such there is no room for it in the American system.

Bull Moose of the Day: Peter Wehner

Peter Wehner at the Ethics and Public Policy Center is our Bull Moose of the Day.

Young bull moose in Cook Inlet, Anchorage

Young bull moose in Cook Inlet, Anchorage (Photo credit: Alaskan Dude)

In his essay “Extremism in the Defense of Liberty is No Virtue” in Commentary, Wehner fires an important shot against the forces that brought the GOP so far to the right and, if they had their way, would continue to drag us down that path. By harkening to Barry Goldwater‘s infamous speech at the 1964 Republican National Convention (a moment that GOP historian Geoffery Kabaservice flags as the beginning of the Republican lurch to the right), Wehner points us back to the kind of Republican Party and the kind of conservatism that is built on principle but ultimately dedicated to an America for all Americans.

Wehner notes that we can all envision moments when extreme measures would be justified, but they are rare. However:

That said, my concern about those who endorse extremism is that it is by its very nature militant, a break with the kind of moderation that is essential for a free society. Extremism, of course, characterized the French Revolution, which (unlike the American Revolution) so unnerved Edmund Burke. It leads to dogmatism and distorted thinking, to viewing politics in apocalyptic terms.

He has captured in a single paragraph the problem of the Tea Party, and of those Republicans who find themselves sucked into the apocalyptic dogmatism of the Tea Partistas, whether by inclination or compulsion.

And in so doing he has, I hope, begun a process that will lead the GOP not just away from the reactionary leanings of the Tea Party, but back to its roots as the party of wise, practical, balanced progress typified by Abe Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Ike Eisenhower, and (on their better days) Dick Nixon and Ron Reagan.

There is always a role for the ideologue in any political organization. But we cannot govern the nation as prisoners of absolutes, whether they be radical or reactionary. Wehner, a veteran of the Reagan and Bush administrations, gets this, to his lasting credit.

Unbiasing the Media

Fair & Balanced graphic used in 2005

Whatever happened to it? (Image via Wikipedia)

After getting involved in a long discussion on The Peking Duck about journalism and bias, I realize that we too often miss the point about the role of the media in American politics. The problem with media in America is not that it is either liberal (as some conservatives claim) or that it is the handmaiden of the plutocrats who defend the status quo (as radicals will attest.)

Rather, the real issue is that the largest and most prestigious institutions of the American Fourth Estate have surrendered even a pretense of balance. Seemingly unsatisfied with the mission to investigate, inform, and analyze so as to enable the public to make intelligent choices, publishers and station chiefs have decided that their media must now also be advocates. Apparently, it is not enough to invorm our decisions on policy, they now feel obliged to make those decisions themselves and then convince us of their rightness.

I am no naif: throughout American history, the owners of media have taken public stances on political issues. One only need mention the name “Hearst” to invoke that sordid tradition. But not since the phrase “yellow journalism” became a pejorative have U.S. media so thoroughly abandoned the quest for objectivity in the name of advocacy.

In his landmark book Gray Lady Down: What the Decline and Fall of the New York Times Means to America, media critic William McGowan documented the beginning of this shift from the accession of  Arthur Ochs “Pinch” Sulzberger, Jr. to the publisher’s chair at the venerable paper. The Times had never been anyone’s idea of a political lapdog, but its very motto –  to report the news “without fear or favor – embodied a commitment to balance that was the goal even when its reportage fell short of the ideal. When Pinch took over in 1992, he decided to turn the paper into an instrument of political change, to “enhance society.” McGowan decides this was the beginning of the paper’s long decline from its perch as the exemplar of the American brand of objective journalism.

In fact, it was the beginning of an even greater decline. Once the bearer of journalistic standards surrendered its ethics, what could the rest of the profession do but follow? Arguably, this gave license to Fox News to stake its claim to the right of the political spectrum when it was established four years later. More recently, CNN has also taken on the mantle of activist, establishing its “Freedom Project” not only to call attention to the problem of human trafficking around the world, but to actively crusade against it. From CNN’s site:

Since its launch in March, the CNN Freedom Project has helped shine a spotlight on all aspects of modern-day slavery and spurred action from governments, corporations, and individuals. Nearly 2,ooo people have come out of slavery, either directly or indirectly, as a result of the hundreds of stories broadcast on air an published online.

An admirable and laudable cause, to be sure, and meaningful results. But one is left with the nagging question: is this the proper role of journalism? Who decides where and for what the journalists campaign? And at what point does this subordination of reportage to advocacy put the Fourth Estate on the path to utter politicization? At what point does Fox News become an adjunct of the Tea Party, and The New York Times of the Democratic Leadership Council?

In becoming advocates, political actors, right when America most needs informants, the media have abandoned its especial place in the American polity. We do not need more advocacy – there is advocacy aplenty in the modern infosphere. What we need is information and analysis delivered as wrung of bias, intent, or demagoguery as humanly possible.

The only systems that need media to make decisions on our behalf, to advocate, to sell politics and policy, are fascism, communism, and feudalism. Democracy has no need for the media to serve as propagandists for political interests, regardless of how admirable the bias. Democracy needs informed citizens. If the media forgo the role of information and analysis for advocacy, does democracy still need the media? Or do we need something else to fill its abandoned role?

Let us forgo the name-calling, the complaints of liberal or conservative bias. There is ample bias in the American media on both sides. Instead, let us campaign for a return to the vaunted standards of journalism that expunge bias in the name of fact-finding, reportage, and analysis.