We Deserve A Vote

I can remember the shock and disbelief I felt when I first learned about the shooting in Newtown on December 14, 2012. My daughter celebrated her 20thNewtown_2 birthday on the same day and as I celebrated 20 years of her life- 20+ other parents in Connecticut learned the lives of their children ended much too soon.

That day and the days that followed, my heart broke over and Newtown_1over again as I witnessed the pain on the faces of those parents as they learned their precious babies were never coming back home again. I think the most riveting thing forTrayvon Martin me was watching the still images of their grief forever frozen in time that was sometimes too painful to watch.

I love my daughter, Jasmin and my son, Zion and the day their hearts stop beating; so will mine. To this day, I can’t even imagine the pain and grief these families are going Newtown_4through. I’m jaded enough to realize that gun violence is a way of life in America but sometimes a Newtown happens- to remind me of my humanity. Then I’m shocked all over again that we have so little value for life here in America.
I grew up in the inner city in West Baltimore in the 80s and 90s Hadiya Pendletonand gun violence was a way of life. I’ve know too many friends that fell victim to gun violence and resigned myself to believe that this was just an ugly part of the American culture. But my soul can’t survive with another mass murder of innocent Americans- especially innocent children- at the hands of a madman that should have never had access to weapons of mass destruction in the first place.

What does it say about our country if we do nothing and allow another Newtown to happen because we are afraid to upset Chavis Carter10% of our society?

What does it say about me as a parent, if I don’t stand in solidarity with the parents of Newtown, and in inner cities across this nation- to say ‘ENOUGH’!

I don’t want to watch another parent, sister, brother, husband, wife or any loved one bury someone they love from senseless gun violence and ask ‘why’?

What is an acceptable velocity of a bullet needed, to defend one’s home without accidentally murdering innocent people in the process?

How many rounds in a clip is needed to hunt or to defend one’s self?

I’m not saying we can legislate ourselves out of this wave of gun violence but we can definitely enact legislation that will reduce Newtown_5the instances when the wrong people get their hands on military style guns to brutally murder innocent Americans. Here are three areas of gun safety that immediately come to mind:

1. Universal background checks for gun shops, gun shows and private purchases.
2. An immediate ban on high capacity clips.
3. An immediate ban on military style assault rifles.

We can put these laws in place federally while still allowing Americans to exercise their 2nd Amendment Rights. But putting these comprehensive laws in place keeps the rest of America safe to exercise their 1st Amendment Rights. Where does the rights of one person ends and the rights of the other person begins?

There are those that say you can’t regulate a Constitutional right therefore we can’t impose any regulations on the 2nd Newtown_3Amendment right to bear arms however Republicans repeatedly enact legislation to regulate my Constitutional right to vote.

It makes me nauseous to think over 3,300 Americans have been murdered by guns since the shooting in Newtown while DC has been paralyzed by political ideology. This isn’t ‘politics’ because real Americans are dying every day our leader do NOTHING in an effort to support the NRA and gun-makers.

It doesn’t matter if those Americans are little children in Newtown, an average person in the inner cities of America, people shopping in a mall or simply going to the movies. No American should be brutally murdered by military style weapons with high capacity clips because we are too afraid to do what’s right.

SandyHookVictims

So let’s force the 14 cowards below to stop blocking our democratic process and vote on their beliefs.

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Crossroads

Crossroads

 Crossroads_1

As the dawn of a new day rises on President Obama’s second term as the President of the United States, we have finally begun to have an honest and robust debate over immigration reform.  The President has proposed a plan that both addresses the 11 million people that are already here in the United States illegally while creating a path to citizenship for the missions of people who want to come to our country.

I firmly believe our immigration laws need to be reformed because our current system is long, expensive and much too complicated.  We are after all a nations of ‘immigrants’ and should extend the offer of citizenship to all who want to share and be a part of the American dream.

It is truly reprehensible the way American employers exploit undocumented workers just to maximize profit margins.  Many times undocumented workers are treated as if they are I indentured servants; forced to work under dangerous conditions, subjected to extremely long work hours often for a salary well under minimum wage.

We are perfectly content to have undocumented workers care for our children, clean our homes, cook our food and ted our lawns but are outraged at the thought of offering them citizenship or provide a decent education for their children.

Gone are the glory days of Ellis Island where millions of people passed through on their journey to become an American Crossroads_2citizen.  We once told the world, “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”  Now it seems like the message we are sending to the world says, “Do not enter under the penalty of servitude.”

Yet, in spite of these harsh realities, the fabric of America is changing dramatically.  According to the 2010 Census, 63.7% of the country is white, 12.2% African American, 16.3% Latino and 4.7% Asian. It is projected that by 2050, Latinos will constitute 30% of the nation’s population making them the largest ethnic or race minority in the United States. By 2060, African Americans will constitute 18.4% of the total population.  Women make up 51% of the total population and 67% of Americans are between the ages of 15-64 years old.

What’s the significance of these facts? In the 2012 Presidential Election, President Obama won the majority of the votes in each of those demographics overwhelmingly.  President won 55% of the women’s vote compared to 39% who voted for Mitt Romney.  President Obama won 93% of the Black vote, 71% of the Latino vote and 73% of the Asian vote.  The majority of Americans between the ages of 18-64 years old voted for President Obama (18-29 yrs- 60% & 30-44 yrs old- 52%).

The American demographic is changing and that means many of our historical views on issues such as marriage equality, women’s rights, reproduction issues and immigration are much different than the generation before.  Each of these issues may be difficult to discuss and challenging to find a common ground to better serve the majority of society however now more than any other time in recent history, those tough conversations will need to take place.

It will be interesting to hear arguments on both sides of the immigration debate and see how will our government decide how to handle issues like- How to create a path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented works in the United States without slighting the millions of people who have applied for citizenship legally?  Once citizenship is given to undocumented workers, how will we address the years they have lived and worked in the United States but didn’t pay into Social Security and Medicare?  My concern is when that segment of our country reaches retirement; it will burden an already fragile system with an increase of payouts that doesn’t match the revenue taken in to sustain it.

What will happen to undocumented works that may have assumed another identify in order to obtain work?  Will that person be charged with identify theft?  If not, how can we charge other citizens who have committed the same crime just for a different reason?  Would any restitution be owned to the person whose identity was stolen/damaged?

Many undocumented workers have been unable to obtain employment because they have no proof of citizenship so once citizenship is granted; will we see a rise in unemployment?  If so, what provisions will be put in place so our economy can handle the budget increase of unemployment claims?

That’s not to say I don’t care for the plight of undocumented in the United States however there will be a huge impact to our country and government resources once they become citizens.  We mustn’t forget while we are charting a path to citizenship for this population, the fact is they are here illegally. 

Some supporters of making undocumented workers American citizens often give of a feeling of entitlement and/or hostility if Americans have questions or concerns regarding how this can be achieved.  Every group of immigrants that have come to the United States earned the right to be here by blood, sweat and tears.  From Africans who were brought here as slaves and had their language, religion and families taken away from them.  African Americans were beaten, experiment upon, raped and were treated less than cattle.

African Americans had to fight in the Civil War just to gain their freedom and endured decades of segregation before winning their Civil Rights in 1965.  None of these rights were given to them; they marched, protested, attacked with fire hoses and had police dogs turned on them while protesting.  To this very day, African Americans are treated as 2nd class citizens.  Just look at the way President Obama has been treated since he took office as President of the United States.  But the one thing African Americans didn’t do was break the law to obtain freedom.Crossroads_3

Between 1820-1860, 1,956,557 Irish arrived, most after the Great Irish Famine of 1845–1852, struck in Ireland.  In New York City the public school curriculum portrayed Catholics, and specifically the Irish, as villainous.  Prejudice against Irish Catholics in the US reached a peak in the mid-1850s with the Know Nothing Movement, which tried to oust Catholics from public office.  Irish Catholics were targets of stereotyping in the 19th century and the media often stereotyped the Irish in America as being boss-controlled, voting illegally, alcoholics and dependent on street gangs that were often violent or criminal. Large numbers of unemployed or very poor Irish Catholics lived in squalid conditions in the new city slums and tenements.  The Irish were the poorest of all immigrant groups that arrived in the United States in the nineteenth century.

Crossroads_4Chinese immigrants in the 19th century worked as laborers on the Central Pacific Railroad and as laborers in the mining industry and suffered racial discrimination.  In 1868, the government drafted legislation for the equal treatment of Chinese immigrants with the Burlingame Treaty.  Some Americans were outraged and against Chinese American immigrants and regarded them as a degraded race and “cheap Chinese labor.”  The hatred of some Americans rose so high that in 1882 the United States Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act, which prohibited immigration from China for the next ten years. This law was then extended by the Geary Act in 1892. The Chinese Exclusion Act was the only U.S. law ever to prevent immigration and naturalization on the basis of race. These laws not only prevented new immigration but also brought additional suffering as they prevented the reunion of the families of thousands of Chinese men already living in the U.S.

During World War II, an estimated 120,000 Japanese Americans and Japanese nationals or citizens residing in the United States Crossroads_5were forcibly interned in ten different camps across the US, mostly in the west. The internments were based on the race or ancestry rather than activities of the interned. Families, including children, were interned together. Each member of the family was allowed to bring two suitcases of their belongings. Each family, regardless of its size, was given one room to live in. The camps were fenced in and patrolled by armed guards. For the most part, the internees remained in the camps until the end of the war, when they left the camps to rebuild their lives.

The campaign for redress against internment was launched by Japanese Americans in 1978. The Japanese American Citizens’ League (JACL) asked for three measures to be taken as redress: $25,000 to be awarded to each person who was detained, an apology from Congress acknowledging publicly that the U.S. government had been wrong, and the release of funds to set up an educational foundation for the children of Japanese American families. Eventually, the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 granted reparations to Japanese-Americans who had been interned by the United States government during World War II and officially acknowledged the “fundamental violations of the basic civil liberties and constitutional rights” of the internment.

Each of these groups were discriminated against and were outcasts of the ‘American Dream’ but they all fought and worked Crossroad_6hard to move closer to the promise American offers to all its citizens.  The road wasn’t easy and many sacrifices had to be made but they never expected anything they weren’t willing to work hard to obtain.

I understand that what’s done is done and we are now faced with what to do to resolve this issue however each side has to take ownership of the current situation and have realistic expectations on how immigration gets resolved.

 

 

Why President Barack Obama’s 2nd Term Is So Important?

U.S. President Barack Obama takes the oath of office as First lady Michelle Obama holds a bible during the official swearing-in ceremony at the White House in Washington January 20, 2013.

U.S. President Barack Obama takes the oath of office as First lady Michelle Obama holds a bible during the official swearing-in ceremony at the White House in Washington January 20, 2013.

Martin Luther King Jr.

Martin Luther King Jr.

And Why Having His Inauguration On Martin Luther King Jr.’s Holiday Is Icing On The Cake…

As President Obama’s 2nd Inauguration rapidly approached, I found myself thinking back to 2008 to the night I watched the first African American become President of the United States. I knew it was possible that I would see this moment during my lifetime, but I didn’t know if it was going to be anytime soon.

My parents grew-up in the segregated South during the 50s and 60s which makes me in the first generation of my family that was born with the ability to drink water from the same fountain as other White Americans, be admitted to the same hospital and receive the same quality of Education.

When we hear about the Civil Rights Movement, society has tricked us into believing that was ‘so long ago’; but actually it wasn’t that LONG ago. African Americans have become so complacent post the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision and have not continued the legacy we inherited to fight the rights for every American- regardless of race, religion, gender or sexual orientation.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 – legislation largely passed due to high profile efforts of Martin Luther King Jr.; made it illegal to discriminate against African Americans and women but there is still more work to do.

President Obama has largely furthered that dream with the passage of The Lilly Ledbetter Fair

President Obama signing The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act

President Obama signing The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act

Pay Act (which was the first bill he signed into law) that amends the Civil Rights Act and gives protection against pay discrimination and allowed for the potential for further improvements and expansion to our nation’s civil rights laws.

Additionally, President Obama is the first President in over 70 years to pass major healthcare reform with The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) of 2010.

His list of his other Presidential achievements in the face of historic Republican opposition is too numerous to name but here is a like to the running tally- http://http://obamaachievements.org/list.

But stepping down from my President Obama soapbox let me get back to my original point-

President Barack Obama’s re-election was confirmation that while there are many Americans on opposite sides of the spectrum on topics such as healthcare, immigration, marriage equality and the future direction of our nation; when threaten with an uncertain future- Americans will ban together to make our voices heard.

President Obama’s re-election signaled to the world that we are not destroyed by our differences but united in our spirit of democracy that Americans will not allow the fringe of our country – whether to the left or the right to weaken this nation

President Obama told us on election night of 2012, “Tonight, more than 200 years after a former colony won the right to determine its own destiny, the task of perfecting our union moves forward.

President Obama on Election Night 2012

President Obama on Election Night 2012

It moves forward because of you. It moves forward because you reaffirmed the spirit that has triumphed over war and depression, the spirit that has lifted this country from the depths of despair to the great heights of hope, the belief that while each of us will pursue our own individual dreams, we are an American family, and we rise or fall together as one nation and as one people…

…America, I believe we can build on the progress we’ve made and continue to fight for new jobs and new opportunities and new security for the middle class. I believe we can keep the promise of our founding, the idea that if you’re willing to work hard, it doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from or what you look like or where you love. It doesn’t matter whether you’re black or white or Hispanic or Asian or Native American or young or old or rich or poor, abled, disabled, gay or straight. You can make it here in America if you’re willing to try.

I believe we can seize this future together because we are not as divided as our politics suggests. We’re not as cynical as the pundits believe. We are greater than the sum of our individual ambitions and we remain more than a collection of red states and blue states. We are, and forever will be, the United States of America.

And together, with your help and God’s grace, we will continue our journey forward and remind the world just why it is that we live in the greatest nation on earth…”

So today’s as we celebrate the 2nd Inauguration of the 44th President of the United States who also just happens to be the first African American to hold that position; let us not forget the struggle, fight and sacrifices that have been made throughout the history that made today possible.

Hopefully, we can channel that passion to galvanize a new generation to resume the work that needs to be done to better perfect our Union for every American citizen.

Don’t like the way government is running, check the Constitution…

I’m sick and tired of political pundits and politicians criticizing the President for EVERYTHING that’s wrong with our government and their inability to legislate.

Maybe I’m reading from the wrong Constitution but the last time I checked, the only powers that were endowed to the President of the United States were:

  • is the Commander in Chief of the armed forces. He or she has the power to call into service the state units of the National Guard, and in times of emergency may be given the power by Congress to manage national security or the economy.
  • has the power make treaties with Senate approval. He or she can also receive ambassadors and work with leaders of other nations.
  • is responsible for nominating the heads of governmental departments, which the Senate must then approve. In addition, the president nominates judges to federal courts and justices to the United States Supreme Court.
  • can issue executive orders, which have the force of law but do not have to be approved by congress.
  • can issue pardons for federal offenses.
  • can convene Congress for special sessions.
  • can veto legislation approved by Congress. However, the veto is limited. It is not a line-item veto, meaning that he or she cannot veto only specific parts of legislation, and it can be overridden by a two-thirds vote by Congress.
  • delivers a State of the Union address annually to a joint session of Congress.

The President of the United States CAN’T WRITE OR PASS LEGISLATION, that’s the job of Congress who for the last four years HASN’T DONE IT!

If you don’t like the direction of the government, pay more attention to who you elect to the Senate and the House of Representatives!

You want tougher gun control laws; look back to history for the answer.

Whenever black and brown people used current gun laws in the context of the second amendment… the most sweeping gun control laws in the history of the United States were passed.

Here is a quote from a book that examines the time in history when The Black Panthers’ knowledge of current gun laws caused California to become the first state to pass strict gun control laws.

“As the Black Panthers’ strategy of armed self-defense became more and more Black Pantherseffective at mobilizing members of the black community, the Panthers attracted even greater attention among authorities…

On April 5, 1967…Assemblyman, Mulford introduced a bill, AB 1591, in the California legislature proposing to outlaw the carrying loaded firearms in public.”

-Joshua Bloom and Waldo E. Martin, Jr.

“Black Against Empire: The History And Politics Of The Black Panther Party”

Then Governor Ronald Regan signed that bill into law and went on to become the ‘Father’ of the Conservative movement who now supports no regulation of firearms.

Origins of gun control legislation

Ta-Nehisi Coates, senior editor for The Atlantic, talks about his personal views on gun culture as the Up w/ Chris Hayes panelists discuss the origins of gun control legislation.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/46979738/vp/50277648#50277648

A conservative case for an assault weapons ban

If we can’t draw a sensible line on guns, we may as well call the American experiment in democracy a failure.

Judge Burns

Well what more can be said? Conservative Judge Larry Alan Burns was appointed by former President George W Bush and is a proud gun owner who supports a ban on assault weapons and a proud member of the NRA!

Owning guns won’t help you “over-throw the government” unless you also own Tomahawk® Cruise Missiles, B52 Bombers, nuclear warheads, battle tanks and battleships.

The 2nd Amendment was written by men who used MUSKETS!

Remember Adam Lanza’s mother owned assault like weapons and it didn’t save her life but rather got her killed by her own son!

Obamacare made mental health benefits equal to regular health benefits so Americans with mental health issues now have affordable access to care.

Don’t let the lives of those 20 beautiful little angels and the 6 adults who were brutally murdered in New Town, CT; in addition to the many other mass murders be in vain!

It’s time to stop ‘talking about it’ and ‘be about it’!

Here is the Op- Ed by Judge Burns in the Los Angles Times

By Larry Alan Burns

December 20, 2012

Last month, I sentenced Jared Lee Loughner to seven consecutive life terms plus 140 years in federal prison for his shooting rampage in Tucson. That tragedy left six people dead, more than twice that number injured and a community shaken to its core.

Loughner deserved his punishment. But during the sentencing, I also questioned the social utility of high-capacity magazines like the one that fed his Glock. And I lamented the expiration of the federal assault weapons ban in 2004, which prohibited the manufacture and importation of certain particularly deadly guns, as well as magazines that can hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition.

The ban wasn’t all that stringent — if you already owned a banned gun or high-capacity magazine you could keep it, and you could sell it to someone else — but at least it was something.

And it says something that half of the nation’s deadliest shootings occurred after the ban expired, including the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn. It also says something that it has not even been two years since Loughner’s rampage, and already six mass shootings have been deadlier.

I am not a social scientist, and I know that very smart ones are divided on what to do about gun violence. But reasonable, good-faith debates have boundaries, and in the debate about guns, a high-capacity magazine has always seemed to me beyond them.

Bystanders got to Loughner and subdued him only after he emptied one 31-round magazine and was trying to load another. Adam Lanza, the Newtown shooter, chose as his primary weapon a semiautomatic rifle with 30-round magazines. And we don’t even bother to call the 100-rounder that James Holmes is accused of emptying in an Aurora, Colo., movie theater a magazine — it is a drum. How is this not an argument for regulating the number of rounds a gun can fire?

I get it. Someone bent on mass murder who has only a 10-round magazine or revolvers at his disposal probably is not going to abandon his plan and instead try to talk his problems out. But we might be able to take the “mass” out of “mass shooting,” or at least make the perpetrator’s job a bit harder.

To guarantee that there would never be another Tucson or Sandy Hook, we would probably have to make it a capital offense to so much as look at a gun. And that would create serious 2nd Amendment, 8th Amendment and logistical problems.

So what’s the alternative? Bring back the assault weapons ban, and bring it back with some teeth this time. Ban the manufacture, importation, sale, transfer and possession of both assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. Don’t let people who already have them keep them. Don’t let ones that have already been manufactured stay on the market. I don’t care whether it’s called gun control or a gun ban. I’m for it.

I say all of this as a gun owner. I say it as a conservative who was appointed to the federal bench by a Republican president. I say it as someone who prefers Fox News to MSNBC, and National Review Online to the Daily Kos. I say it as someone who thinks the Supreme Court got it right in District of Columbia vs. Heller, when it held that the 2nd Amendment gives us the right to possess guns for self-defense. (That’s why I have mine.) I say it as someone who, generally speaking, is not a big fan of the regulatory state.

I even say it as someone whose feelings about the NRA mirror the left’s feelings about Planned Parenthood: It has a useful advocacy function in our deliberative democracy, and much of what it does should not be controversial at all.

And I say it, finally, mindful of the arguments on the other side, at least as I understand them: that a high-capacity magazine is not that different from multiple smaller-capacity magazines; and that if we ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines one day, there’s a danger we would ban guns altogether the next, and your life might depend on you having one.

But if we can’t find a way to draw sensible lines with guns that balance individual rights and the public interest, we may as well call the American experiment in democracy a failure.

There is just no reason civilians need to own assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. Gun enthusiasts can still have their venison chili, shoot for sport and competition, and make a home invader flee for his life without pretending they are a part of the SEAL team that took out Osama bin Laden.

It speaks horribly of the public discourse in this country that talking about gun reform in the wake of a mass shooting is regarded as inappropriate or as politicizing the tragedy. But such a conversation is political only to those who are ideologically predisposed to see regulation of any kind as the creep of tyranny. And it is inappropriate only to those delusional enough to believe it would disrespect the victims of gun violence to do anything other than sit around and mourn their passing. Mourning is important, but so is decisive action.

Congress must reinstate and toughen the ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.

Larry Alan Burns is a federal district judge in San Diego.

How the Mainstream Press Bungled the Single Biggest Story of the 2012 Campaign

By Dan Froomkin

Posted: 12/07/2012 1:36 pm

Post-mortems of contemporary election coverage typically include regrets about horserace journalism, he-said-she-said stenography, and the lack of enlightening stories about the issues.

But according to longtime political observers Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein , campaign coverage in 2012 was a particularly calamitous failure, almost entirely missing the single biggest story of the race: Namely, the radical right-wing, off-the-rails lurch of the Republican Party, both in terms of its agenda and its relationship to the truth.

Mann and Ornstein are two longtime centrist Washington fixtures who earlier this year dramatically rejected the strictures of false equivalency that bind so much of the capital’s media elite and publicly concluded that GOP leaders have become “ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.”

The 2012 campaign further proved their point, they both said in recent interviews. It also exposed how fabulists and liars can exploit the elite media’s fear of being seen as taking sides.

“The mainstream press really has such a difficult time trying to cope with asymmetry between the two parties’ agendas and connections to facts and truth,” said Mann, who has spent nearly three decades as a congressional scholar at the centrist Brookings Institution.

“I saw some journalists struggling to avoid the trap of balance and I knew they were struggling with it — and with their editors,” said Mann. “But in general, I think overall it was a pretty disappointing performance.”

“I can’t recall a campaign where I’ve seen more lying going on — and it wasn’t symmetric,” said Ornstein, a scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute who’s been tracking Congress with Mann since 1978. Democrats were hardly innocent, he said, “but it seemed pretty clear to me that the Republican campaign was just far more over the top.”

Lies from Republicans generally and standardbearer Mitt Romney in particular weren’t limited to the occasional TV ads, either; the party’s most central campaign principles — that federal spending doesn’t create jobs, that reducing taxes on the rich could create jobs and lower the deficit — willfully disregarded the truth.

“It’s the great unreported big story of American politics,” Ornstein said.

“If voters are going to be able to hold accountable political figures, they’ve got to know what’s going on,” Ornstein said. “And if the story that you’re telling repeatedly is that they’re all to blame — they’re all equally to blame — then you’re really doing a disservice to voters, and not doing what journalism is supposed to do.”

Ornstein said the media’s failure led him to conclude: “If you want to use a strategy of ‘I’m just going to lie all the time’, when you have the false equivalence meme adopted by a mainstream press and the other side lies a quarter of the time, you get away with it.”

The Apostasy

Ornstein and Mann’s big coming out took place in late April, when the Washington Post‘s Outlook section published their essay “Admit it. The Republicans are worse “, adapted from their book It’s Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided With the New Politics of Extremism, which went on sale a few days later.

Political journalists had no doubt heard similar arguments many times before, mostly from left wing bloggers. But this time the charge was coming from two of the most consistent purveyors of conventional wisdom in town, bipartisan to a fault.

And they were pretty harsh in their critique of the media. “Our advice to the press: Don’t seek professional safety through the even-handed, unfiltered presentation of opposing views,” they wrote in the Post. “Which politician is telling the truth? Who is taking hostages, at what risks and to what ends?”

Initially, at least, Mann and Ornstein weren’t completely ignored. “We had really good reporters call us and say: ‘You’re absolutely right’,” Mann said. “They told us they used this as the basis for conversations in the newsroom.”

But those conversations went nowhere, Mann said.

“Their editors and producers, who felt they were looking out for the economic wellbeing of their news organizations, were also concerned about their professional standing and vulnerability to charges of partisan bias,” Mann said.

So most reporters just kept on with business as usual.

“They’re so timid,” Mann said.

Some reporters did better than others, Ornstein said, particularly crediting Jackie Calmes of the New York Times and David Rogers of Politico among a few others. “They grew a little bit more straightforward in what they do, and showed you can be a good, diligent unbiased reporter, report the facts, put it in context, and yet show what’s really going on,” he said.

Most reporters, however — including many widely admired for their intelligence and aggressive reporting — simply refused to blame one side more than the other. Mann said he was struck in conversations with journalists by how influenced they were by the heavily funded movement to promote a bipartisan consensus around deficit reduction and austerity. Such a bipartisan consensus doesn’t actually exist, Mann pointed out. But if you believe it does, than you can blame both parties for failing to reach it.

“The Peterson world, I think, has given journalists the material to keep doing what they’re doing,” Mann said of the vast network of think tanks and other influential Washington groups underwritten at least in part by Wall Street billionaire Peter Peterson .

Peterson’s vast spending has given rise to an environment of contempt among the Washington elites for anyone who doesn’t believe the government is dangerously overextended. And by that reckoning, the Democrats are therefore more out of touch with reality than Republicans, who at least pay the concept ample lip service.

How Fact-Checking Made Things Worse

Ornstein and Mann’s views on journalistic failure have not been widely shared by mainstream media critics, who have instead focused on the fact that the press, in its enthusiasm to see the presidential race decided by a nose, ignored solid polling data to the contrary and called it wrong until the very end.

To the extent that the issue of widespread prevarication has come up at all, many media critics identified the rise of fact-checking as the big new trend of the 2012 cycle.

But Mann and Ornstein said that in practice, the fact-checkers may have made things worse rather than better.

“We had these little flurries of fact-checking — which I found not worthless, but not a substitute for coherent, serious reporting — and most of the time it just got stuck in the back of a news organization’s output and there was no cost to a candidate of ignoring it,” Mann said.

And then there was this terrible irony: “Fact checkers almost seemed obliged to show some balance in their fact checking.”

“There was some damn good stuff done, and stuff that really did hold Romney to account,” Ornstein said. But no fact-checker intent on “appearing to be utterly straightforward, independent, and without an axe to grind, is going to actually do the job of saying that we’re going to cover 20 fact checks on one side, to three on the other.”

So, Ornstein concluded: “If you looked at where the scales should have been, and where they were, they were weighted. And they weren’t weighted for ideological bias. They were weighted to avoid being charged with ideological bias.”

It’s hard to exaggerate just how popular Mann and Ornstein were with the press before their apostasy. They were quite possibly the two most quotable men in Washington. They were the media cocktail party circuit’s most reliable walking talking points.

And now they are virtual pariahs.

“It’s awkward. I can no longer be a source in a news story in the Wall Street Journal or the Times or the Post because people now think I’ve made the case for the Democrats and therefore I’ll have to be balanced with a Republican,” Mann said.

Neither Mann nor Ornstein have been guests on any of the main Sunday public affairs shows since their book came out. Nor has anyone else on those shows talked about the concerns they raised.

Ornstein is particularly infuriated that none of the supposed reader advocates at major newspapers have raised the issues they brought up. “What the fuck is an ombudsman doing if he’s not writing about this?” he asked.

Their phones are still ringing, they say — but not from inside the Beltway. “We’ve gotten a tremendous amount of attention, but much of that is due to the Internet and our original piece going viral,” Mann said. They were also featured on NPR .

There have been countless requests for speaking engagements. “We’re just selling a shitload of books,” said Mann. “There’ve been page-one stories in countries around the world.”

Domestically, however, Mann and Ornstein said they refuse to be “balanced” on TV shows by Republicans — because they are not anti Republican. The reason they wanted the press to expose what was really happening, they said, was to give voters a chance to respond in an appropriate way.

“The argument we’re making is that our politics will never really get better until the Republican Party gets back into the game, instead of playing a new one,” Mann said. “We want a strong, conservative Republican Party — but one with some connection with reality.”

Their critique came not out of ideology, they said, but out of their background as devoted process junkies and honest analysts, who finally realized that their vision of collegial governance wasn’t possible any more, and it was clear why.

Both see the rise of Tea Party influence on the GOP as a major turning point. For Mann, the moment of reckoning came in the summer of 2011. “What flipped me over was the debt ceiling hostage-taking ,” Mann said. It was clear then that the Republicans would “do or say anything” to hurt Obama, even if it was overtly bad for the country and false to core Republican values.

“That and getting older. What do I give a shit about access,” he said.

“The fact is that one of the parties stopped being a conventional conservative party,” Mann said. “My own view is that what needed to happen is somehow the public had to take a two-by-four to the Republicans’ heads, knock them back to their senses, and allow conservative pragmatic voices to emerge,” he said.

Democrats won soundly in 2012 of course, so the two-by-four was administered. But because the media obfuscated what was going on, the message was not entirely clear — and certainly not to the Republican leadership.

Their Message Going Forward

Mann and Ornstein don’t get invited to talk to the leaders of news organizations anymore.

But if they were, again, here is what Mann would say: “First of all, I’d sympathize. I’d say I understand that you have the responsibility to use professional norms of accuracy and fairness and not let your own personal feelings get in the way.”

But, he would add: “You all have missed an incredibly important story in our politics that’s been developing over a period of time. You’ll slip it in here and there, you’ll bury it, but you really don’t confront it.”

Ornstein said his message would be this: “I understand your concerns about advertisers. I understand your concerns about being labeled as biased. But what are you there for? What’s the whole notion of a free press for if you’re not going to report without fear or favor and you’re not going to report what your reporters, after doing their due diligence, see as the truth?

“And if you don’t do that, then you can expect I think a growing drumbeat of criticism that you’re failing in your fundamental responsibility.

“Your job is to report the truth. And sometimes there are two sides to a story. Sometimes there are ten sides to a story. Sometimes there’s only one.

“Somebody has got to make an assessment of whether the two sides are being equally careless with their facts, or equally deliberate with their lies.”

Dan Froomkin is in the process of launching a new accountability journalism project. He is contributing editor of Nieman Reports, and the former senior Washington correspondent for the Huffington Post. He wrote the White House Watch column for the Washington Post website from 2004 to 2009, and was editor of the site from 2000 to 2003. Dan welcomes your email and can be reached at froomkin@gmail.com.

[http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/3036697/vp/50180466#50180466]