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March 5, 2015

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Time to change to another channel

Where is the truth channel?

I know it is hard to believe, but I am still on speaking terms with a few bankers. It is easy to lump them all into one category of folks who don’t seem to give a damn about the problems we are all having, but the truth is that many of them are just as much at a loss for what to do in this new world as we are.

That doesn’t mean I feel sorry for them the way I do for all the homeowners who have been caught up in this depressing recession without a way to go, it just means that most of them are human beings who still feel the anguish their fellow citizens are experiencing. And it is good, once in awhile, to touch base with them.

One of those human beings is a fellow named Dallas Haun, who is the president of Nevada State Bank. He took over a few years ago from another really decent person in the banking business, Bill Martin, so he had some big shoes to fill. And from the sounds of things, he is doing a good job during a most difficult time.

You would think Dallas and I talk a lot about banking when we get together from time to time. Other than the obligatory lament that prefaces everyone’s greeting in Las Vegas these days, there is little business discussed. Mostly, we opine on the future and how we and the rest of Las Vegas get there.

For sure, the role the banks play in helping to secure the financial futures of underwater homeowners and their neighbors who could drown right alongside them is a topic of discussion, but it is more in the “How do we fix it?” category. As in: What can the banks, the people and the government do to get us out of this mess, especially in Las Vegas, where we have felt the full force and effect of the global economic melt down?

Mostly, though, we talk about the same things most people talk about when they take the time to let their defenses down and leave their political weapons at the door. We talk about the future and how best to get there — especially, how Las Vegas can best reach its potential as one of the best cities in this country.

Somewhere in the middle of last week’s lunch, politics reared up and jumped into the middle of our otherwise very fruitful discussion. That is when we both looked at each other with what would have been a look of exasperation had we not been friends. For we found each other mouthing, mostly for the sake of challenging each others’ theories, the political certainties that can be heard nightly on the various cable “news” channels.

Mind you, it is impossible to hear the same truths on Fox News as you would hear on MSNBC. Regardless of the facts, the reporting of those facts will be diametrically opposite when given voice by those empowered to comment on either of those two “news” stations. And that raises a major concern as one worries about the future of our democracy and the sources from which people garner their news and information.

I have long believed that a young person’s beliefs will be shaped in large part by what television station is on in his home while he is growing up. This has been borne out in my observations at the Las Vegas Sun Youth Forum each year. Practically without fail, I can pick out those high school students who have grown up in a household that listens exclusively to Fox and those whose home TVs are tuned to MSNBC. Based on the same set of facts, the conclusions drawn will be polar opposites.

That doesn’t make any sense. And yet, that is exactly what is driving the political debate in this country today. The cable news channels are just an example of the compartmentalization Americans are practicing. We live amongst people who think like us, and we try to work with people who agree with us. We share coffee breaks, go to churches and synagogues, and travel on vacations with those who think as we do. Hardly ever do we put ourselves in a position where we may have to either endure the unpleasantness of a disagreement or, worse, have to argue the merits.

Is it any wonder that when people get to Congress they not only sit on the opposite sides of the aisle but they use that space as a barrier to reasonable thought? And damned be he who dares to cross that political chasm to shake hands, break bread or, perish the thought, discuss an idea that may benefit the America people. For that is the way of certain political defeat at the hands of a people who know only what they think they know.

And because they only listen to that which they choose to listen to, they don’t know very much!

So, that brings up the need for a truth channel.

There was a time in this country, long before the 24-hour news cycle that pervades our psyche and the privacy of our thought processes, when people read newspapers, magazines and watched the nightly news on television. They took that information with them to their workplaces, water coolers and meeting houses and discussed it passionately and cogently with people who believed as they did — and those who didn’t. And they usually came away with a consensus that was based on a common set of facts and an understanding that the goal was to move America forward.

All that has changed. People have access to instantaneous information, some of which is factual, and all of which is pounded over and over again from the mouths of paid shills into the brains of overworked and overwrought Americans who demonstrate daily an inability to process much more than 30-second sound bytes. And they remember even less!

All of that combines to form opinions based on opinions that are based very, very loosely on some form of facts. And the people fight to the death over their right to believe that which they believe, no matter how wrong they may be. We are a democracy on overload, to the detriment of good government.

Why can’t we go back, just for a little while, to those days when there was a channel or two that told the truth to the American people? And when there was opinion, it was clearly labeled as such, so there was no confusion.

I am one of those folks who believe that most Americans are smart enough to understand what to do when they are told the facts. I am also one of those folks who believe that many Americans have become too lazy to make the effort to discern the truth from the fiction they are fed on their cable “news” channels, their favorite blogs or whatever other sources of opinion by which they choose to be comforted.

And that presents the really scary question that I was afraid to ask Dallas during lunch.

What if we had a truth channel, which would be good for our democracy, and no one was able to recognize it?

Brian Greenspun is publisher and editor of the Las Vegas Sun.

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  1. "I have long believed that a young person's beliefs will be shaped in large part by what television station is on in his home while he is growing up. . . . .Why can't we go back, just for a little while, to those days when there was a channel or two that told the truth to the American people? And when there was opinion, it was clearly labeled as such, so there was no confusion."

    Greenspun -- what a scary nail you hit on the head here. Aside from lamenting the good ol' days of Walter Cronkite and his ilk, what you seem to be talking about here is how we as a people have quit doing our own thinking. Perhaps the scariest part of that is despite all the fuss here about public education and the money poured down that black hole, our schools don't teach kids to do that. We're all in trouble if we can't teach our heirs to turn it off and think critically.

    Not long ago I spent a miserable half year with housemates, their big, new high-def TV, and Fox News. I mostly stayed in my room trying not to listen to those 24/7 opinions being shouted out of that box. Except for the occasional Napolitano (the ex-jurist), absolutely nothing was on worth paying any attention to. That contributed a lot to I don't own a TV.

    "I think TV is very educational. Every time someone turns on a TV, I go in the other room and read." -- Groucho Marx

  2. In a recent study, Fox News viewers were found to be less informed than those who watched no news at all. How can this be? A person who watches no news has a 50/50 chance of getting it right. A person who watches Fox News has higher chance of getting wrong than guessing? Fox News must be intentionally misleading its viewers. Could it be they are lying? If you only watch Fox News, you will never know that there are other sources out there responding to the misinformation. Why is this happening? Simple, actually. We prefer our beliefs to any truths which contradict our beliefs. We dismiss any facts which do not conform, esp if the source is someone with whom we disagree on a fundamental level. A person who agrees with us can tell us false information and we latch onto it, while someone with whom we disagree can give us the correct information and will be called a liar. This is the fundamental problem which Mr. Greenspan does not address, perhaps because he's a gentleman and will give the other side the benefit of the doubt he no longer has.

  3. I'm not mad at the world or think it's going to Hell in a hand basket. The biggest thing I've learned from being over fifty is that I'm not right all the time or know everything. Young people are going to get their chance, just like I did, and they are gonna be just fine.
    I think CNN is still the closest thing we have to a Truth Channel and Mr. Greenspun usually writes good editorials,

  4. Author, banks are NOT here to help you or your community. Banks are not your friend. They are here to make as much money as they can. Period.

  5. Thanks Bradley, for chiming in and giving some story background (I was wondering what happened). One of the tools used to manage truth is censorship, which has been making a rabid comeback. As a society, we should be able to filter information on a personal level to determine truthfullness or deceit. In communications there is the "sin of ommission, or sin of commission" of truth, in whatever is being said. That seems to always be a factor these days, with all the agendas that are floating around.

    Earning a person's trust and confidence is still a big deal. There is such a thing as "talking heads" with all talk and no substance. And then there are real stories, real personal truths, either tragic or victorious, that we share the room with every minute of the day. We all try to "get to know" someone or something, as that moves us away from our egos into the space of experiences of another. The question is: can we stand it once we believe it?

    How can one live with themselves and the truth? Some find it way too uncomfortable and therefore will alter it to a form they can bear.

    When we link "truth" to real experiences, then we allow other's perceptions to form in a healthy way so that they can effectively deal with it. As soon as someone elects to do a "spin" on a truth, it begins the destructive process of weakening the effect of a truth.

    There is an old saying, "Let the buyer beware." So be careful what "truth" you "buy" into!

    Blessings and Peace,

  6. I have been watching MSNBC and I learn all the truth I need:
    1) It is all Bush's fault
    2) Any one who does not think "IT is all Bush's fault" is a racist.
    This easy recipe has won arguments..If anyone mentions any topic...I quote 1) "Bush's Fault"..and if the person disagrees..I shout "racist"
    No one disagrees with me now. I know I have won the hearts and minds of many who stare at me in awed silence whenever any political issue or topic is discussed..probably because I am so smart and well informed..Now if msnbc would just pay me to spread the word!

  7. I'll say this..Any station that would give a race baiting semi-literate moron like Al Sharpton his own show on television, will be eliminated from my TV..

  8. Want a truth channel? CSpan, but most people find it boring watching how the government really works. Which brings us the wonder of "reality" television. Shows such as the Jersey Shore, where no talent drunken idiots are paid millions to misbehave. How about The Survivor? A show where people who are smart and excel are back stabbed and voted off the show. Today it's no wonder that these types of mindless shows distract viewers. Television is no longer used as an education tool, unless people want to seek that sort of programming.

    Roger Ailes noted in a 1970 memo to Richard Nixon, "A Plan for Putting the GOP on TV News" He wrote, "Today television news is watched more often than people read newspapers, than people listen to the radio, than people read or gather any other form of communication. The reason: People are lazy. With television you just sit--watch--listen. The thinking is done for you."

  9. Today's corporate media world has reached a point where the news is controlled by half a dozen or so news outlets.

    It's all part of media consolidation that has taken place in the last 30 years. For those has followed this -- and since I am are retired political/investigative reporter and former president of a local of The Newspaper Guild I certainly have -- unfortunately, that is a continuing bad process.

    Charles "Chuck" Perlik, the longest (1969-2007) and most dynamic president of TNG -- warned this would happen in the 1970s.

    Please let me illustrate my point with a pop quiz on politics and current events that could have drastically altered our political direction -- if they had been reported by our corporate media.

    I am now a political activist and I find even people who are heavily involved in the political process do not know these facts.

    My quiz includes 20 questions about political and current events going back to era of Ronald Reagan. Using the grading system most schools use, a score of 70 percent will be considered passing and a 90 percent or better will be an A. Eighty to 89 percent will be a B.

    1.Who originally proposed the mandated individual purchase of health care insurance that evolved into ObamaCare?
    2.What governor -- working with Democratic Sen. Ted Kennedy -- adopted this plan and got his Democratic Legislature to adopt it?
    3.Who offered this concept in Congress as an alternative to President Bill Clinton's HillaryCare?
    4.Who funded both the foundation that came up with the individual purchase mandate and the organization who fought ObamaCare by calling that provision "socialized medicine" and the "government takeover of health care"?
    5.Who was a major leader in the fight against ObamaCare, what was he noted for in the health care provider field and what is he now?
    6.Who is the president who implemented the policies Mitt Romney advocates as a cure all for improving the economy?
    7.What president was the ultimate business Schlemiel -- having four oil companies and running each one into the ground?
    8.Whom did Ronald Reagan call the "40 something son who never had an adult job" when he was asked to give this person a political job?
    9.What president was a drunk half of his adult life, illegally smoked cocaine, was a Yale University affirmative action case for the rich and well connected, dodged the Vietnam War in the Texas and Alabama National Guard, went AWOL for over a year without any consequences and according to one book that also disclosed three publications confirmed the story, but chickened out of publishing the article during this president's re-election campaign?

  10. Part 2. 10.He was repeatedly bailed out by the Saudis and Salem bin Laden was one of his partners in one of his oil company adventures?
    11.Who built the Twin Towers?
    12.Who had the security contract for the Twin Towers on 9/11 and also the for two other elements of that day?
    13.Who headed the counter terrorism task force for the Bush administration in 2001 and when did that panel have its first meeting?
    14.What event two days after 9/11 led to at least 140 prominent Saudis being whisked to Boston Logan International Airport and then flown out of the country with little no no FBI questioning?
    15.How did four hijacked West Coast bound airline planes make U-turns on 9/11 escape being intercepted by Air Force NORAD planes when normally these aircraft go up when a pilot goes off his flight plan by as little as a mile or two?
    16. How much money disappeared from the Iraq Reconstruction Fund?
    17.Who in the 1990s advocated "spreading democracy" throughout the Middle East by an aggressive foreign policy, including invading Iraq and removing Saddam Hussein from power. Hint: The working paper of this group said such a policy would be politically nearly impossible "absent some catastrophic catalyzing event -- like a new Pearl Harbor."
    18.This group included many Americans with close ties to one nation and several of them had been unofficial advisors to what former and current prime minister?
    19.Who gave Saddam Hussein most of his nerve gas and what pharmaceutical produced most of it.
    20.Whom did President Reagan send to talk to Saddam after he used to gas the Kurds in Iraq?


    1.The libertarian/right wing Heritage Foundation.
    2.Republican Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
    3.Republicans including then Senate Minority Leader Bob Dole, Congressman Newt Gingrich and Sen. Orrin Helton. Hatch is now a strong opponent of ObamaCare.

  11. Part 3. 4.One of the billionaire John Birch Society revivalist brothers of the political team that acts as the Financial Godfathers of the GOP -- Greed Old Party. The foundation is stilllpartially funded by Koch brothers money. When Obama adopted mandatory individual health care purchase the concept became the root of all evil. Dream Work, an ultra right wing group run by former Republican House Majority Leader Dick Armey sent out its Tea Party goons to disrupt 2009 Democratic congressional and senatorial town hall meetings. They intimidated regular constituents, disrupted speakers and spread lies about ObamaCare. Dream Work, under another name, got $12 million from one of the Koch brother sources. It also got money as part of the $106 million the two brothers -- who have a combined net worth of more than $40 billion and greater than Warren Buffett -- shelled out to conservative/libertarian organizations and causes between 1998 and 2008.
    5.Rick Scott, now the governor of Florida. Scott was the CEO of the health care provider who paid the highest Medicare fraud fine in history, In fighting ObamaCare Scott used the same PR firm that ran the Swiftboaters smear attack against Sen. John Kerry in the 2004 presidential campaign.
    6.George W. Bush, who used those policies to mismanage the economy into the worst recession since the Great Depression.
    7.George W. Bush.
    8.Reagan wrote that in a memo -- now displayed in his library - after he had a meeting with then Vice President George H. W. Bush, who asked him to give W. a political job.
    9.George W. Bush
    10.George W. Bush was repeatedly bailed out by the Saudis as his father was rising up the top of the American political ladder. Salem bin Laden, half brother of Osama, was one of his partners in his fourth oil company he ran into the ground. He later was killed in a Texas plane crash.
    11.The bin Laden Construction Company.

  12. Part 5. 12.A Kuwaiti security headed on 9/11 by Wirt Walker II, first cousin of George W., Jeb and Marvin Bush .Walker was a large principal in the company. Marvin had been a large principal, but sold his shares in 2000. However, he remained on its board of directors of the firm until 2002 when he went on the board of directors of a Houston insurance company that had the insurance for some of the Twin Tower complex. The same security company -- Securecom, since renamed Strasec. The company was capitalized Kuwait-American Corp. The security company also had the security contract on 9/11 for John Foster Dulles International Airport and United Airlines. One of the hijacked planes that day was hijacked from Dulles. United Air Lines had two of the four planes hijacked. (I had previously mistakenly said three United Airline planes had been hijacked.) Marvin Bush is better known for mismanaging the Silverado Savings & Loans in Denver. Jeb and a partner also mismanaged an S & L in my home Florida county of Broward. The two brothers combined cost US taxpayers $1.5 billion.
    13.It was headed by then Vice President Dick Cheney. Despite repeated warnings about intelligence reports of a likely terrorist attack, Cheney did not convene the panel until 9/10.
    14.President Bush met at the White House with Prince Bandar, a Bush family insider who was then the Saudi ambassador to the US, on 9/13.
    15.To me that is one of the strangely unanswered questions about 9/11. The 9/11 Commission said NORAD was doing training exercises that day. And they left most crowded air corridor in a highly dense populated urban area totally unprotected? If that was true, shouldn't Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld have been fired immediately and charged with criminal neglect? Shouldn't the joint chiefs of staff have faced a court martial?
    16.There have been various figures but the consensus figure is $9 billion, although the number has said to have grown.
    17.The Project for a New American Century. The group was set up by Cheney in the 1990s and sort of served like a Cheney government in exile.
    18.The group included many Jewish neo-cons close to my native Israel and several of them were unofficial advisors to former and current Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
    19.The pharmaceutical G. D. Searle and Company had Rumsfeld as CEO.
    20.Rumsfeld. He went to Iraq essentially lectured Saddam about what a bad boy he had been, but re-assured him that we would back him in the war against Iran. Ironically, Rumsfeld -- who had brought Cheney into the Gerald Ford administration and made sure he succeeded him as chief of staff, came back as defense secretary for George II and he helped Bush and the vice president -- some would say the co-president -- lie us into the Iraq War. One item Rumsfeld added as a reason for going into this war was Saddam's gassing of the Kurds.

  13. Part 6 of 6 parts. You can see from this quiz the many things the corporate press does not report, vastly underplays and most of the time does not connect the dots.

    Ironically, Las Vegas Publisher and Editor Brian Greenspun, in his Sunday column, was lamenting the loss of balanced news.

    He blamed the whole situation on cable news channels -- particularly Fox News on the right and MSNBC on the left.

    There is legitimacy to what Greenspun said. I have long said Fox News was nothing more than the Pravda of the Republican Party.

    I confess that I watch MSNBC a lot and agree with much of its commentary shows. However, I find in its regular news show it makes effort to be fair and balanced.

    In fact, one of my criticism of the network is that it is reactive rather than being timely in its exposes.

    It's true MSNBC has dug out a lot of the Bush administration lies on the Iraq War. But it did so only after we got into this war that killed over 4000 Americans and at least 100,000 Iraqis and cost us roughly $1 trillion.

    Is this because General Electric, a former owner of MSNBC and now a 49 percent co-owner, is one of the largest defense contractors? It no doubt made a ton of money of this conflict.

    A partisan press is not new to this country. Go back and read the newspapers of our early history. In fact, this led to the unconstitutional alien Alien and Sedition Act.

    In today's modern age of the Internet, I-phones and all kind of instant communication, you are going to have a variety of people relaying information. Unfortunately, there is no sure way to know if their sources are reliable and their information is accurate.

    But in my humble opinion, Greenspun failed to address one thing has greatly magnified the frustrations of readers, viewers and listeners. And that is the failure of the corporate press to fully report the news -- especially the corporate world news.

    Journalism is essentially part of the five Ws -- what, when, where, who and why -- plus how. Unfortunately, the why element today is often not fully reported, if reported at all.

    When there is such a vacuum all kind of people move into it. Often those who do, offer an even worse alternative.

    Therefore, we need to move back to more investigatory journalism. In fairness to Greenspun's Las Vegas Sun his paper is better than most in doing so.

    Unfortunately, investigative journalism is expensive and there is always the risk of lawsuits and when the economy is not booming, it is often the first area to be cut. Regular news must still be reported so when the news media is hard hit economically, the investigative area the first to go.

    I hope Greenspun continues the fine tradition of his father, Hank, and will emphasize investigative reporting and the why element of journalism. I encourage readers to get let him know how they feel.
    Ray A. Cohn, retired political and investigative reporter.

  14. I find it disturbing that Brian Greenspun, whose newspaper I like and mostly agree with editorially, seems less receptive to readers than Bob Brown, publisher of the reactionary rival publication.

    Every time I have e-mailed Brown, publisher of the Las Vegas Review Journal, he answered or had somebody else at the RJ do so. My first e-mail was answered amazingly within five minutes.

    By contrast, when I e-mail Greenspun, I never get a response or even an acknowledgement.

    Brown's answers didn't always satisfy me, but I think he has made an effort to address my and the concerns of those with a similar progressive/liberal point of view.

    As I wrote Brown, as a retired reporter who covered politics and government in the red state of Kentucky for more than 20 years, I don't expect an ultra conservative newspaper -- such as the RJ -- to change its ultra conservative point of view.

    But I think readers -- regardless of political persuasion -- have a right to expect fair and balanced (not the Fox News Pravda of the Republican Party kind) of political coverage on its news pages. Democrats also deserve to have equal access to our opinions in letters to the editor.

    I sincerely believe Brown has greatly improved the RJ in that regard. I have had several letters to the editor in his paper. In fairness, I have had about an equal number of them published in the Las Vegas Sun.

    In one of my e-mails to Greenspun I made some suggestions to give readers -- including Republicans and progressive Democrats who want a more activist role in pushing needed change an occasional voice in Greenspun's paper.

    Even if Greenspun is not immediately receptive to the idea, thinks it is infeasible and is too busy to deal with it himself, he should be open enough to have somebody at the paper to address my and other readers's concerns.

    Since the paper let Mike Campbell go as editorial page editor, I am afraid I have detected a lot less openness to reader participation.

    I sincerely hope I am wrong. As a progressive/liberal activist and a former media person who covered state government/politics in Kentucky, I find the recent trend in Greenspun's still fine publication disturbing.

    Ray A. Cohn