Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Paul Kurtz is a moron. Again.

Oh, Paul Kurtz. Is it just me, or are you terminally stupid? You start your most recent article about how much harder the press is on Obama on his second press conference compared to his first one.

First of all - did you hear some of the questions? They were OK, I guess - I did like Chris Todd asking about sacrifice. But where were the questions about executive privilege and if he's going to let Rove claim it during testimony? Where were the questions asking about the use of presidential powers to deny access to reporters to treaty documents or allow terrorist defendants access to their accusers documents?

Second, and this is where Commander Stupid comes in, is this:

Breaking with tradition and using a prepared list...

First sentence, and Kurtz is forgetting that other presidents - like the *last one* used a prepared list of which reporters to call upon. And, for the most part, odds are that every president knows which reporter they're going to call upon beforehand.

But good old Paul Kurtz, he of the "the press is soooo important, even when we're acting like lick spittle dogs towards any presidential administration and asking hard questions of CEO's like CNBC did", must have the memory of a goldfish when it comes to other presidents.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Stewart and Cramer. Journalists - THIS IS HOW YOU DO IT!

Last night, Jon Stewart interviewed Jim Cramer, the host of the CNBC show "Mad Money". This was after a weeklong "cable news" tit-for-tat the two gentlemen have been having.

I'm not going to go over the history - it's been in the news, and you can see the genesis of how Mr. Stewart shined a gigantic spotlight on the entire CNBC network, of which Mr. Cramer is a featured member.

I think it's important to see what Stewart is doing here.

He's not criticizing Cramer and Co from CNBC because they were wrong - there's plenty of people who are wrong.

He's going after them because:

1. They claim to represent "the heartland" of the American public (see the Santelli rant), when they really only represent a very specific cross section of mostly male, mostly white, and almost entirely wealthy people.

2. The hypocrisy - this is probably Stewart's #2 button to push about people. He can't stand it, so when you've got people on CNBC going on about the "losers" who "caused all of the problems in the economy" or the "the Obama administration who's ruining everything" - all the while almost pointedly ignoring the billions that the financial markets received because of their own actions, then Stewart is going to shine a giant flashlight on their double standard.

3. The lying. This is usually Stewart's #1 button that just gets him going more than anything else. If you lie, he will go out of his way to destroy you. So when Cramer goes on about "Oh, I didn't tell people to buy Bear Sterns", Stewart has no problem saying "You liar." When the guys on CNBC go on about how wise they are, and how well they know everything, Stewart isn't mad about them being wrong - he's mad about them lying about it.

4. And finally, the media. I think of all the targets that Stewart and Colbert go after, the media is probably one of their favorite. Again, he's not so much mad about CNBC being wrong about the former bubble - but for going out of their way to promote the bubble. Daily Show has made a point of going after reporters for being a bunch of wimps when questioning the former and the current administration, too scared of giving up "access" instead of looking to find out the "truth". So while the CNBC guys were softballing CEO's that, with any amount of homework, could be seen as lying and, in Standford's case, operating a ponzi scheme, rather than being directly challenged with real, earnest reporting that so-called "experts" in financial matters should have done, the CNBC crew all but licked the balls of the oh-so powerful CEO's they invited on - because if they didn't, they feared not being allowed to talk to them again.

From what I've seen of Stewart, this is an unpardonable sin. The media's job isn't to be a friend to the powerful or the famous, but question them, push them, research the facts and when there is a contradiction between fact and statements, point that out.

When Stewart had Cramer on his show, he did the one thing that journalists have been afraid to do - challenge his guest. When Cheney was on Tim Russert's "Meet the Press", Russert took Cheney at his word - and afterwards said "Oh, well, I thought it was up to the viewer to decide if he was telling the truth or not.

No! You don't! That's what we rely on "the media" for! We expect you to be like Edward R. Murrow, who would interview people and challenge them with facts when they lied. That's how he destroyed Joseph McCarthy during the Communist Scare - not by shouting, not by being a windbag, but by letting Mr. McCarthy have his say - then systematically pointing out that McCarthy was a liar and a fraud.

Last night, Stewart did the same thing. When he showed Mr. Cramer clips of himself *admitting* that he engaged in illegal actions during his hedge fund days but he got away with it because the people at the SEC didn't know what they were doing - he pointed out that he wanted the Cramer who ran the "Mad Money" show to protect his viewers from the Cramer that ran the hedge fund.

There's been a lot of talk from journalists whining about "But - but - if we were adversarial like that, we'd lose our access! The White House/Senators/Governors/Pedo Bears wouldn't invite us to the press conferences and we'd never be allowed to ask questions!"

My reply: Look at Jon Stewart! He's always challenging the powerful, *and they come to his show*! Granted, he treats them with respect (as long as they don't lie). He gives them fair say, and I've often seen him expand an interview segment to let his host have more commentary time.

Newspapers are dying, media is complaining that people don't watch the news. That's because it's not news - it's regurgitated talking points. If someone doesn't give you access because you ask too many questions - then there's your story right there. "Powerful person too much a chicken shit to talk to answer this question."

This is what we, the viewers, and the public, want. We want the powerful challenged and forced to account for their deeds. We want the liars to be told "You're a fracking liar!" to their faces and shown *why* they're a liar.

We don't want "Here's person A, here's Person B - we'll let them hash it out." We want Person A to speak, then confronted with the facts so we can know if they're lying or not.

Jon Stewart gets that. And its sad that one of the few journalists with the guts to tell people to their faces "You, sir, are a liar" - is the commedian.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

I heard about Limbaugh offering to debate Obama

Evidently, Mr. Limbaugh feels that his ideas and show are important enough that the President should come down and debate him about whether or not the President Obama economic plan is the right one, or if Mr. Limbaugh's plan of "cut taxes" is better for the economy.

The problem with this, of course, is that you don't know how anyone will "win" the argument. Do we expect President Obama to suddenly say "Dude, I totally get it now - just cut taxes and the miracle of the market will provide roads and education for people and health care! Why didn't I see it before!" And we certainly don't expect Mr. Limbaugh to say "You know, now that I see it your way, I can understand why you think the providing health care untethered from your job, or why increasing education funding is such a big deal. I've changed my ways!"

Yeah. I don't see it happening either.

So, let's try this "debate" thing in another way. How about if President Obama and his supporters and Mr. Limbaugh and his Republican party that he leads take their case to the American people. Now, this is going to get kind of complex, but we should split it up three ways. There can be locally leaders in proportion to the populace - we'll call them "Congresspeople", and they'll stay in the debate for 2 years. Then there are people we'll call "Senators", and they'll stay in the debate for 6 years. And finally, the President, who gets to stay in the debate for 4 years at a time.

Every 2 years, we have this thing called "an election." If people think that Mr. Limbaugh and his representatives are right, they'll elect them, and they can help in shaping laws. If they think that President Obama and those who agree with him are correct, then they can vote for them instead.

This way, the American People can continually see how the debate is shaping out, which ideas work, and which ones don't, and shape the country.

Of course, this also means that Mr. Limbaugh would actually have to get out there and run for office himself, instead of staying safe behind his microphone, where he can lob grenades and accusations all he wants without actually having to get his hands dirty by, you know, really putting his ideas and energy out there to see if they actually work or not.

I think this sounds pretty fair. We'll have to write down all of these rules, though. Maybe on some piece of paper, start it out with the words "We the People...."

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

The Difference Between "I hope you fail" and "I think you'll fail"

To all those trying to defend Limbaugh by saying "He doesn't want *the President* to fail, just his *ideas* to fail": I think your ideas are fair -you're trying to defend the guy who doesn't want the President's *ideas* to succeed.

But even if that's true - the fact that he says he wants him to fail, which means *the country may fail along with him*, is what most people have a problem with.

Let me show you how other people see it.

Imagine there's a patient with a failing kidney - they're own fault, really. They were told to lay off the alcohol and the fatty, salty food. And now all of their bad habits have caught up with them.

Dr. Ron Paul says "You know what, just let it fail. The other kidney will pick up the slack, and if it doesn't, then I guess other people will learn." Nobody listens to him, though, so he won't be in the story any more.

Dr. Obama says "I think we can let him keep the kidney - prop it up a little with some medicine, and tend to him. Eventually, the kidney will come back, and the patient will be well again with two fully functioning kidneys. Yes, he was stupid, and he'll have to learn his less, but we have to think about the patient."

Dr. Limbaugh says "Are you nuts? If you just put him on medicine, he'll be on that medicine for the rest of his life, and it'll be more expensive, and he'll always be sickly. The best thing to do is just remove the damaged kidney permanently - he can function with one, and he'll act better in the future by not abusing his last kidney."

Dr. Obama comes back "Why do that? I think he'll only be on medication for a little while, he'll have to change his habits, and he'll be as good as new."

Dr. Limbaugh responds "You fool - once he starts that medication, he'll never be off of it!"

Now, at this point, we have two differences of opinion. Dr. Limbaugh thinks Dr. Obama is going to fail. That's reasonable. He thinks that the patient is going to suffer long term consequences and be on medicine for the rest of his life that he'll become dependent on, when surgery will cause less long term harm and expense (in Dr. Limbaugh's opinion).

This is where Dr.Limbaugh, though, loses it. "Yeah? Well, I hope you fail! I hope you fail so people will see that your ideas are stupid! I hope the patient goes into shock as the failing kidney completely dies and the patient is forced to come into surgery like they should have in the first place! Because if your idea works, then every other patient is going to go looking for a drug decision instead of the surgery they really need!"

Dr. Limbaugh might have a point, and he might even, possibly, maybe, be right. But the second he started with the "I hope you fail so your ideas don't take root" - he lost any moral standing in the argument. Because if Dr. Obama fails, then the patient stands a good chance of dying.

And hoping the other guy fails and the patient dies just because you think he's wrong isn't noble or patriotic - it's being a dick.