Sunday, September 27, 2009

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Maybe They'll Fight in a Water Fountain and Rip Each Other's Shirts Off

This article by Samuel P. Jacobs on The Daily Beast tells of a war of words between MSNBC host and former Republican congressman Joe Scarborough and Fox News host Glenn Beck. It's a minor controversy, as Scarborough called out Beck on his hate-baiting and has called for Republican politicians to do the same. Naturally, none of the politicians are rushing to join this fight, which makes sense since they would have little to gain from it.

But the piece concludes with this quote from Texas Republican strategist Denis Calabrese:
“People are for aggressive questioning of the government and aggressive commentary about it. In general, it’s okay to defend Beck,” Calabrese said. “But it’s distracting. Debating the messenger is not to your advantage if you’re a Republican. The policies are what people are worried about. And the messengers are a distraction.” [Emphasis added]
What Calabrese says here is bigger than Scarborough vs. Beck, or Olbermann vs. O'Reilly, or Couric vs. Sawyer (there is no open conflict between them yet, but I'm waiting for the media to fabricate a verbal cat-fight). Aside from the more invisible ways in which bias on the part of the anchors shapes the news, so much of the coverage, especially on cable news, has become about the person reporting the news and his or her rivalries with other personalities. The television news circuit has become a big high school lunch room where all anyone talks about is who-is-mad-at-who while in the kitchen the administrators keep serving the same old reheated meatloaf and telling everyone that it's good for us.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

"A village cannot reorganize village life to suit the village idiot." - Frank Schaeffer

This is a long story from The Rachel Maddow Show, but it's worth sitting through. The first half gives an update of Joe Wilson's status as a right wing hero for calling the president a liar. The second half of the story is an assessment of the Christian right, starting with a poll in New Jersey where one-third of conservatives claim to believe that Obama is or might be the Antichrist. Following is an interview with former evangelical Christian Frank Schaeffer, who argues that this subculture has become a cult that will never be satisfied with any compromise with the left or with rationality.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

The Public Option Explained

Here, in less than two minutes, former Labor Secretary Robert Reich explains exactly what the public option means:



My question is, where was this video five months ago? Although the politicians, commentators, and lobbying groups blocking health care reform deserve a lot of blame for spreading confusion and lies, the White House and those on the side of reform dropped the ball early on by ignoring a basic rule of rhetoric: the person who controls the frame and terms of the debate will win the debate. When reformers allowed terms like "public option" and "single payer" to float around without clarification or explanation, they let other terms like "death panels" become the issue. I just hope it isn't too late to reclaim the debate from the lobbyists and hysterics.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Joe Wilson is Your Pre-Existing Condition

Just hours after yelling "You lie!" at President Obama during his health care address to congress, the website joewilsonisyourpreexistingcondition.com was launched and takes mostly cheap (but damn funny) shots at Wilson. Here are some good ones:

  • Joe Wilson talked on his blackberry all through your favorite movie
  • Joe Wilson called your sister a skank
  • Joe Wilson cancelled Arrested Development
  • Joe Wilson thinks you're too stupid to actually read the bill
  • Joe Wilson hit on your mom
  • Joe Wilson left a flaming bag of poo on your doorstep
  • Joe Wilson laid off your dad just before his pension kicked in
  • Joe Wilson sued your grandma for file sharing
  • Joe Wilson said you look fat in that dress
  • Joe Wilson distracted you from one of the most important speeches by an American president in the last 20 years
  • Joe Wilson gave your nephew cigarettes
  • Joe Wilson stopped seeding the Torrent at 97% complete
  • Joe Wilson yells while adults are talking

There are some other funny digs on the site but what really amazes me is how fast this has gotten up and running. I think the twenty-four hour news cycle is now a twelve hour news cycle.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

"Humor is reason gone mad." - Groucho Marx

Imitation is not only the sincerest form of flattery, it can also be the surest sign of influence. Here are two clips that ought to prove that The Daily Show is now the standard bearer for television news.

This clip ran last Thursday as the last story on Countdown with Keith Olbermann. Olbermann ridicules Glenn Beck's recent "report" on supposed communist symbols in Rockefeller Plaza.



On Friday, Olbermann followed up with an additional segment:



This is damn funny and Olbermann recognizes that humor is the best way to deal with someone like Beck and expose him for the nut and fraud that he is, a man who isn't interested in reasonable debate and whose show is predicated on shouting loudest and last. That said, it also worries me that television news is taking its cues from Comedy Central.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

What Happens in Kabul Stays in Kabul . . .

. . . until it ends up on Gawker.

According to a report, ArmorGroup North America, the private contractor providing security to the American embassy in Afghanistan, has turned the embassy into the Delta House.

From The New York Times:
The oversight group’s report said guards worked in a “‘Lord of the Flies’ environment,” where they and their supervisors groped and urinated on one another. They cite photographs that suggest guards have drawn Afghans into activities forbidden in a conservative Muslim country.

“Multiple guards say this deviant hazing has created a climate of fear and coercion,” the report said, “with those who declined to participate often ridiculed, humiliated, demoted or even fired.”

The report accuses the State Department of being complicit in the problems, citing numerous letters in which the agency expressed concerns about security deficiencies at the American mission in Kabul and threatened to terminate ArmorGroup’s contract. Yet in sworn testimony to Congress, the report said, department officials said the problems had been fixed. And the State Department renewed the company’s contract through July 2010.
Then came the photos, originally posted on Gawker, which busted this thing wide open.

It's interesting to view this story in the broader context of the relationship between private industries and the federal government. In September 2008 I blogged about a report of government employees receiving gifts and sexual favors from the energy companies they were supposed to watchdog and there is the recent report about XE (the private security contractor formally known as Blackwater) providing child prostitutes for its employees stationed in Iraq. A similar relationship can be viewed between Fox News and the Bush Administration, as the network presented the public with lies and distortions about Iraq at the behest of the White House. Seedy relations between the federal government and private industry can be applied to the current health care debate as well, as congressional representatives (Republican and Democrat) attempt to derail reform at the behest of private corporations.

I guess the only thing left to ask is, "How do I get a job at the State Department?"