When reporting a story, context is everything. When making a statement, context is everything. When communicating, it is important to include context in your communication if you really want to be understood.
There are two reasons context is left out of communication: ignorance or underhandedness.
Ignorant context-dropping results in faux paus and jokes we tell over a beer. Underhanded context-dropping is what we read in the media.
Come on, it’s not all that bad. They’re writing and writing and maybe they assume we know what they’re talking about, or maybe they are really that dumb. They can’t be doing it maliciously or for nefarious causes!
Judge for yourself.
If you’re talking about stem cells there are two very different forms with very different moral surroundings and very different legal arrangements. It is important to specify which type of stem cell is being discussed because that bit of information is necessary to an accurate understanding of the topic at hand.
I’ve been over the various types of stem cells here on I, Pandora before. The short version is that there are adult stem cells that usually come from adipose (fat) tissue of the person who will be receiving the tissue. No babies destroyed. And there are embryonic stem cells which are harvested from “unwanted” embryos and then applied to other people.
There are several different considerations regarding stem cells, but you can read up on them yourself.
In recent reporting on the stem cell issue, as the Obama Administration and this new government has tried to allow embryonic stem cell research, you would have been hard pressed to find, in reading headlines, any clarification as to which type of stem cells were being talked about. Nor would you have heard anything about President Bush not having prohibited embryonic stem cell research. Apparently the writers of the news didn’t think these facts was significant information or material to the discussion.
So there are the differences with where the stem cells come from, big deal, you may say. There are also significant differences between success rates with treatments using the various types of cells. Check around for yourself, but there have been zero successful treatments using embryonic stem cells, and that despite the fact that evil President Bush did not stop all embryonic stem cell research and that annoying detail that research using embryonic stem cells has attracted vastly more government money than treatment using adult stem cells. There have been thousands of successful treatments using adult stem cells for all types of conditions.
So I think it is important that we clarify which type of stem cells we’re talking about. It’s not until the end of the fourth paragraph in this story, after they’ve lost many of the readers who are now fuming at how anti-science and downright medieval that judge is. By George, he must be a Bush appointee!
The second issue is brought on by President Obama recognizing he is not making sense to enough people with all his efforts to create a command economy. So he’s trying to speak in a language more people understand: tax cuts.
So he’s trying to pass tax cuts for the poor and let all those tax cuts the rich currently enjoy expire. A couple problems: the poor don’t currently pay much of anything in taxes, and the rich do.
I think it’s fair to draw the rich/poor line at half. Though I personally would say it’s probably nearer the bottom 10% that are really poor, and those of us in the middle class have just gotten too used to spending way too much.
But if you draw the line at half, you get just about the line at which people stop (or start) owing federal income tax. There are more taxes than federal income tax. Sales tax, investment tax, state taxes. Rich people own property, so they pay property tax. They buy more expensive things, so they pay more sales tax, and they probably pay luxury tax on some of what they buy. The rich have many and large investments, which means they pay investment taxes. They also can buy off politicians and get loopholes built into laws. That racket is one of the most significant blights on the current US government. Which shows more the differences between the parties, where McCain ran publicly supporting an extremely simplified tax code with a 1040 the size of a recipe card. Not a cure-all, but a step in the right direction.
But when the media talk about tax cuts, it’s all about how those nasty, rich-loving Republicans want to tax the little guy and let the rich keep beating the system, getting off scott-free. There is no scott-free for the rich. Corporations in the US are taxed at more than 30% of their net earnings. This is the highest corporate taxation rate in the industrialized world. This confiscatory and unbelievably high rate encourages companies to spend vast sums of money manipulating tax policy and government projects in their favor. The rich are taxed at similar rates and make similar efforts to avoid, by loophole and shelter, those insane rates.
Not that lowering or equalizing the tax rate will cure all these ills, but 10% or 15% is a much easier pill to swallow. For everybody.
It is important to have context, and to know that the media have some reason not to tell the whole truth in their stories. Objectivity is such an old ruse.
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