Ivan W. Parkins
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About Ivan W. Parkins:
Dr. Parkins is a retired professor of Political Science from Central Michigan University. He received his PhD from the University of Chicago and is a graduate of the United States Naval Academy. Dr. Parkins served as a naval officer during WWII aboard the battleship Alabama. He is a recent widower with three daughters, 3 grand children and 2 great grand children. Dr. Parkins has written extensively, having authored 3 books and a newspaper opinion column for many years.
On the Inside
In This Issue:
-Obama Land (Some points along the way to…)
-The Intellectual/Media Love Affair
-The Misrepresentation of Congress
-DDT and Hasty Environmentalism
OUR ROAD TO OBAMA-LAND
SOME HIGH/LOW POINTS ALONG THE WAY
By Ivan W. Parkins
What raucous health care debates and related news have disclosed recently is that our House of Representatives is grossly dysfunctional. I believed that I saw that coming half a century ago. Then, I, at least, had respect for Speaker Rayburn.
There have now been some positive changes in the House, but mostly they have been overwhelmed by other changes in our political system. The seizure of authority by the Supreme Court in 1962, did produce greater justice in districting. But the big changes were the continuing growth of business in Washington and of our population, separating Representatives more and more from their constituents. Along with that separation came the increased role of the mass media as our main link between individual citizens and their Representatives.
Prior to 1956, all newly elected Presidents, if they had won by majorities of the popular vote, had also won majorities in both Houses of Congress. That, no doubt, was due largely to partisan influences, e.g. presidential coattails and straight-ticket voting. Since 1956, George Bush in 2004 has been the only Republican President to win a Congress of his own party along with his popular majority. And Bush’s congressional majority was a very thin one. All Democrat winners of the Presidency by popular majorities continued to get Democrat Congresses as well. Carter, who had won the office by a majority slimmer than Bush’s, had gotten huge majorities in both Houses of Congress. To this situation the media responded with much abuse—of Bush!
We were having a huge expansion of the media, especially with television in nearly all our homes. And there was an equally huge expansion of professional communicators, journalists, lawyers, professors, entertainers, artists, etc. Never before had these people been so central to our society and economy. They wanted more political influence, and their positions enabled them to take it, without even asking.
An early clue to the situation was fallout from President Kennedy’s assassination. President Johnson appointed a commission of our most prestigious political and legal leaders, under the chairmanship of Chief Justice Warren, to investigate the crime. That Commission did an extensive and sound job, but found only one simple and well supported explanation. Various people attempted to exploit small oversights and ambiguities of the Commission into more ominous solutions, with very little supporting evidence. The media gave wide notice to many of these alternatives. For them, it was news, readership, and money. Even now, opinion polls show that most Americans distrust the Warren Commissions’ report. Where would the most crucial political and legal judgments finally rest in decades to come?
The Presidents, Johnson and Nixon, who followed Kennedy pursued with vigor the Vietnam War to which Kennedy, following the containment strategy of the Cold War, had largely committed us. Both won, by record margins, re-elections to the top office. But, Johnson was discouraged from seeking an additional term and Nixon was forced to resign. The ultimate authority in America seemed to rest elsewhere.
Anti-Vietnam movements were rocking college campuses, encouraged by good press coverage. Meanwhile, the press was featuring every weakness and casualty that our war effort suffered, but belittling the enemy brutalities and losses, both of which greatly exceeded our own. The antiwar movement, centered in the growing communications professions, assured our defeat in a war that, even our former enemies have admitted, we were winning on the battlefields.
In the post Nixon-Vietnam era, President Ford began with wide popular support, but with a heavily Democrat Congress. He soon lost media and public support when he pardoned ex-President Nixon. More thoughtful judgments, many of them coming later, were that the pardon enabled us to move on with less division and bitterness.
Meanwhile, the Democrat Congress ran wild; seizing more power over budgeting, imposing severe limits on police and intelligence agencies, requiring that banks reduce their strict lending practices, and generally allying themselves with the “mainstream media.” From 1954 to 1994 the House of Representative had a 40 year, unbroken, period of medium to very large Democrat majorities. The fact that several Republican Presidents in that period labored under a special disadvantage got little attention when comparing their achievements with those of Democrat Presidents.
We are now involved in a critical political conflict that might have occurred earlier had it not been from the substantial popular victories, 1980-1992, of Presidents Reagan and Bush. Meanwhile, neither Democrat President Carter nor President Clinton produced much basic political change. And, the House of Representatives even shifted to a slim Republican majority under Newt Gingrich’s leadership. That shift foreshadowed what was to come.
The overwhelmingly “liberal” and Democrat mainstream media of the anti-Vietnam to Gulf War days were encountering new and substantial competition. Cable news, Fox News, a more broadly focused WALL STREET JOURNAL, and talk radio were supplying some potent alternatives to THE NEW YORK TIMES, CBS and its sisters, several news magazines, and other major elements of the old media “mainstream.”
Now, President Obama’s dilemma is that he got most of his education, formal and otherwise, from some of the most “progressive” elements of America’s Democrat indoctrination system. Bush bashing is rapidly losing its salience. And Obama is not really closely tuned to “down home” America. He is headed into what closely resembles a “perfect storm” in three parts.
1. The choice of health care as his first big issue was a mistake. It affects nearly everyone personally, and cancels much of the voter apathy that had become an important part of our politics. Furthermore, even successful changes are most likely to produce confusion before benefits for most of those who do benefit.
2. The old “mainstream media,” that have provided much of his support, are largely addicted to President baiting, it has been part of their bread and butter. The newer information suppliers are likely to cover small “liberal” mistakes unlike mainstreaming back-paging of a few tens of millions of innocent deaths from an errant environmental project, as occurred with the DDT ban. Prior to DDT, mosquito borne malaria had infected millions of people annually, especially in Africa. The chemical's discoverer received a Noble prize for the great reduction in human deaths that it facilitated. But, neither science nor legal process was sufficient to prevent a ban being rammed through the Environmental Protection Agency once aggressive environmentalists, fearing unproven danger to birds,
3. The House of Representatives, having long flourished on voter apathy and festered on odiferous patronage, is not a strong leg on which to base support for an inherently controversial program.
Whether our First Black President will prove able to advance life in America is now very much in question. It may become more appropriate if he is remembered not as Black, but as the too aberrant and ambitious paladin of another subculture, the verbal elite.
A commentary on the book by Bernard Goldberg
This is reprint from July, 2009
By Ivan W. Parkins
The above book title nearly drove me away, but the authorship of Bernard Goldberg and the picture of President Obama on the jacket had the reverse effect.
Journalist Goldberg, previously a CBS correspondent for 28 years, also the author of BIAS, is for me well worth reading. As usual Goldberg is quite direct and substantive. He is not averse to harsh judgments, but seems to let them follow from his evidence, rather than reversing that order as too many writers do. His account of the Obama-Ayres (terrorist) link was more informative than the others that I have seen.
Like Goldberg, I believe that what we are witnessing is not a conspiracy but the logical consequence of people (for Goldberg journalists, for me a broader range of information providers) who live like fish in the ocean. Fish, Goldberg says, know only “wet.” To them, all else is alien and dangerous. Many journalists (and some other information providers) know only their environments. Of media liberals, Goldberg says, “To them, conservatives are not simply wrong—they are repulsive.”
I would add to the above that a huge and heavily one-sided media is not at all what was anticipated by the authors of our First Amendment. In the late eighteenth century there were keen memories of two institutions that had contested the power of the nation state. They were the army and the church. The Framers limited the roles of both in our Constitution.
What we have now is the emergence of a communication elite, especially in large institutions of journalism and higher education. And that elite, largely united with the Democrat Party, seeks to make the nation “theirs.” President Obama has emerged as the vehicle.
Road to Chaos!
By Ivan W. Parkins
This is a reprint from June 8, 2007
It takes a bizarre partisanship for the majority of 110th. Congress to suppose that their modest victory (in an election attended by nearly 30 million fewer American voters than elected the 109th. (Two years earlier) mandates major changes in the nations direction. The evidence suggests more clearly that many Americans are alienated and confused about how their government does, or does not, work.
Congress has come to believe that oversight of the Executive and Judicial Branches is it’s most important function. And, the resulting conflicts do win media attention. Meanwhile, Congress focuses too little of its attention on providing our country with effective laws for dealing with immigration, energy needs, etc. Even more significantly, Congress fails to approve timely, manageable, and “clean” budgets. If the United States is to survive and to prosper, it cannot afford a Legislative Branch that neglects its own primary, and most constructive, powers while it interferes in time-consuming and other damaging ways with the Executive and Judicial Branches.
No simple reform will remedy what has become a systemic and institutional failure of Congress. The problem extends beyond the short comings of individual members and practices. Congress must be reconstituted to be both closer to the American people and more respectful of the other branches. Anything less is just more pavement on the road to chaos.
DDT, Malaria and Hasty
Or how the ban on DDT has led to millions of malaria deaths. Why has this not been reported?
By Ivan W. Parkins
THE WALL STREET JOURNAL, May 23-24, 2009, in its lead editorial says, “In 2006, after 25 years and 50 million, preventable deaths, the World Health Organization reversed course and endorsed widespread use of the insecticide DDT to combat malaria.”
What! After a mere 50 million lives sacrificed to the ban on DDT, it is withdrawn? World War II cost all military involved an estimated 25 million lives, and civilian deaths are estimated to have added 30 million more; it was a bigger killer than malaria without DDT.
Why have we been so poorly informed in this matter? Is it that 50 million, mostly poor African children, count less than the three or so, terrorists that our security people have water boarded? Will the occasional deviations of our national defense establishment from gentlemanly rules of warfare really cause us greater international grief than our sacrifices to environmentalism of millions of human beings? Isn’t there something more than a little skewed in our huge public information system?