There was a time when being a journalist was a higher calling - and that higher calling was truth.    Somewhere in there it became well-known that journalists were a little more liberal than most and that was bad.   Well, why wouldn't they be?   Journalists, of the old school, graduated high school and took jobs at small newspapers.   They covered the late night crime beat, they did obituaries - they saw how in some cases people who didn't have much of a way out did things people with money and food say they would never dream of doing.   

In any civilized society, people should not starve.   I'd be more suspicious of young journalists who were not liberals in that environment.   Who doesn't want to believe we can create a better world?

But journalism changed.  It became a college education first and journalism students, who once looked up to journalists who searched for truth and found it, instead had role models who took a stand.    Walter Cronkite coming out against the Viet Nam War in 1968 was an ethical stand, he felt, but it was the collapse of journalism as we know it, to a point where we have today personalities like Keith Olbermann, who know next to nothing about everything, in existence solely to take a stand - but only against George Bush - considered journalists (I know, I know, the far right has Rush Limbaugh - no one calls him a journalist).

Orson Scott Card is a newspaper columnist and, not surprisingly, a Democrat.  What sets him apart is that he is an old school Democrat, before there was a coalition of litmus test positions you had to adopt (Republicans, don't start writing me like I am on your side, you do the same stupid thing - if I could find a Republican journalist, I would reference him too) and he wants to know what happened to truth.   Let's face it, Chris Matthews talking about a "thrill going up his leg" about Barack Obama is not taking an ethical stand or doing objective journalism, he's making 'the stand' the whole point of his journalism.

What set off Card?  The reporting on the recent mortgage crisis and what he sees is a cover-up because the political party of most journalists, and their desire to see anyone but a Republican win in November, has become bigger than the truth.    Now, if you know anything at all about math, you know exactly how the mortgage crisis happened.    We adopted the idea that everyone should own a house - and I agree with that, it's a tax break and an investment, but being told that it should be a right no matter what your income is, well, that isn't smart.

When you decide that, ethically, everyone should have a house, a few things will happen.   Prices will go up, because more people can buy them, and oversight has to go down.   Why?   A lot of people won't qualify under any rules that make sense.   And if you turn someone down who is poor and they are a minority, you had a bigger problem.    It's fact, right or wrong, that there are more poor minorities.   No one wants to be called racist yet throughout the 1990s we were told that minorities were discriminated against because they got fewer mortgages so the heat was on to provide more mortgages to minorities.  

Now, I am not going to get into the facts of that because there is no reliable data - we don't know motivations of lenders.   Minorities probably were sometimes discriminated against.   You want to see discrimination?   Try to get into a California college today as an Asian man with the same grades as anyone else on the planet.  That's discrimination, my friends.    In mortgages, since this is not the 1930s, you're most likely to be discriminated against if you don't have the money to pay for it but it is likely that some minorities with equal income got turned down for reasons based on prejudice.   It's still no reason to overthrow common sense in lending but that is what happened.

Let's close the circle and bring it back to the issue of honesty in journalism.    If you have read and seen over and over again that this financial debacle is all the fault of one party, I am not surprised.      But Alan Greenspan saw it coming years ago.    George Bush saw it coming years ago too.   And the Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers to Bush.  And Bush's Secretary of the Treasury.

Yet the blame is being handed to Republican "deregulation" - and that's what makes Card, a Democrat, a little crazy.    He's of the old mold.    As he says 

I remember reading "All the President's Men" and thinking: That's journalism. You do what it takes to get the truth and you lay it before the public, because the public has a right to know.

Now I don't hold that same affection for the book he does.    They introduced the anonymous source as a legitimate one (you see people doing this now on some science blogging sites - they claim they are revealing things so damaging and important they can't disclose who they are; it's rubbish, which is why we don't allow it here) and the generation after them invented anonymous sources when they had no real ones.   But I like what he got out of it.    He was going to go after the facts and let the public decide.

So it makes him a little crazy that his fellow journalists are using a political filter and not reporting that Democrats blocked attempts at more oversight for lending institutions - but they then wrote articles that criticized Republicans, who had said the standards were too loose, for not wanting the government to bail out the agencies that abused the lack of oversight and killed the industry.   As he puts it, if it were Republicans who had set up this mess, journalists would be calling it "Housing-gate"  or "Fannie-gate."  Instead they have to just mumble things about evil Republican deregulation still being the boogeyman.

He gets into a bunch of stuff about Barack Obama too, but I won't bother with that.   You can read it for yourself.   If journalists are not going after the story because it would damage the Democratic contender, there is no way to prove it.   And I am not Dan Rather, around here we like data.

But this honesty stuff is something we can all talk about without any data.   Everyone assumes politicians are crooks because more of them are not honest.   Everyone assumes journalists are in the bag for Democrats because most of them are.   That goes for scientists too.    Academics, like old school journalists, don't work for a lot of money so they clearly care about society.

In that light, it's time we took back honesty from the hinterlands and scientists are the perfect group of people to start.   Scientists care about data, research, knowledge and rigorous methodology more than anyone.    The next time someone in science media insists that Republicans are the big problem and that another party would make it all go away, we should examine that data on its merits and not just nod our heads.   

Because I am absolutely convinced that there won't be Republicans to kick around for the next 8 years so there's no time like the present to start looking at the confluence of science, culture and politics in an honest light.    If Democrats are trying to shut off open access, it doesn't even get a whisper in the rest of the science media world.   But if bloated science agencies start spending a projected larger budget before it is approved and then have to cut back when the increase is not as large as they wanted, Republicans get the blame.    Republicans haven't been in control of Congress for two years.   In this next election, Democrats are almost certain to control both Houses and have a filibuster-proof majority, and rightfully so.   But if funding is not suddenly of a  'mana from heaven' volume, will anyone write books about how Democrats hate science or will people still rationalize that it's due to Bush's failed policies of the previous 8 years?