Insight. Antics.

Archive for September, 2009|Monthly archive page

Who’s Afraid Of A Filibuster?

In Politics on September 21, 2009 at 9:34 pm

Cots in Senate - Stephen Crowley/The New York Times

It’s been a week since the Baucus health care bill was introduced and insta-panned. It’s since been downplayed to the role of additional building block and is being revised. The lead headline in The New York Times the morning after the plan was introduced read: “Democrats in Senate Reach for 60 Votes on Health Care Overhaul.” The implication here is that Democrats need those votes to get the legislation passed, because without them, Republicans will resort to a filibuster.

Who cares?

It’s confounding. Why are the Democrats so terrified of a filibuster?

The filibuster is a gift.

Grow a backbone. Call them out. For their political goals, the Democrats should force the GOP to back up its threats and filibuster.

As a friend so brusquely put it: “There is nothing I would rather see than the GOP filibustering health care for poor people. That is a Democratic attack ad for the next 50 years.” Democrats: that’s the win-win you face.

This filibuster is precisely what the Democrats need to reinvigorate themselves and attempt to demonstrate that they are looking out for the not-so-special interests. Otherwise, they’re going to look more and more like bought-out corporatists each day.

Besides, it would be the greatest spectacle in years! Would it not be more impressive than America’s Got Talent to see these old folks read the rules of blackjack, the Bible, BusinessWeek, and recipes for Bundt cake without their bladders bursting? (Sans Flomax.) I bet some Americans would even leave it on CNN in the background at bedtime. When interviewed they might say, “It’s like white [man] noise. It helps me to fall asleep.” Read the rest of this entry »

Economists. And Everyone Else.

In Economy, Media on September 18, 2009 at 12:04 am

Ben Bernanke on 8/19/09 - Doug Mills/The New York Times

Are economists out of touch?  By definition, I’m afraid so.  Take a 60 Minutes feature two years ago where Alan Greenspan can be seen enjoying reading labor and manufacturing statistics over breakfast, while his wife, Andrea Mitchell, looks on, swooning over how adorable she thinks it is.

I’m not sure it’s their fault though.  It’s just their nature, and someone’s going to follow this stuff.  The disconnect arises when economists irritate laypeople with statements like these: “The recession is very likely over at this point.”  That was Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke speaking Tuesday at the Brookings Institution.

Okay, so I did extract his quote out of its natural habitat (and unlike other media entities I am admitting to it), but the gist is still the same: “Even though from a technical perspective the recession is very likely over at this point, it’s still going to feel like a very weak economy for some time as many people will still find that their job security and their employment status is not what they wish it was.”  This technical analysis may be accurate, but it does little to help the national mood.

Bernanke’s not the first economist to put bookends on the recession, but he is the best known.  These economists called the recession in May in Forbes. Some outlets have been teasing the story for a few months now.  And the IMF’s top dog said a month ago that the global recession is over and the recovery has begun.  The consensus is that America was the caboose entering this tunnel, but still, as interdependent as today’s world is, can that really be so?  And what’s the benefit in saying it?

A huge portion of the population is still reeling from the fall and struggling to get up.  It’s not like four years after Katrina the new head of FEMA would be so insensitive as to call a press conference to say, “We’re all back to normal!”  Can you imagine what Tyler Durden would do to him? Read the rest of this entry »

Return Of The Mack.

In Media, Politics on September 10, 2009 at 2:25 am

Barack Obama's Health Care Speech on 9/9/09 - Doug Mills/The New York Times

Wednesday was a big day.  New iPods.  Beatles Rock BandDerek Jeter tied Lou Gehrig’s 72-year old record for most hits by a Yankee.

And then, after months of trying to let Congress do what it is supposed to do (pass laws), President Obama came off the bench like a sixth man who is better than the entire starting five and infused the conversation with the proper touch of urgency, decency, and possibility.

In the coming days we will see if Obama can follow up this special joint session address, an uncommonly early second one of his tenure, with a convincing road show but much more importantly some legislative prowess and tenacity.  As he said, “I will not waste time with those who have made the calculation that it’s better politics to kill this plan than improve it.”  If he is as capable as we are led to believe, then, as Newsweek’s Jonathan Alter and Salon’s Joan Walsh pointed out on The Ed Show post-speech, he should be able to persuade reticent Blue Dogs to go along with him.  After all, they voted for the Bush tax cuts, which were more expensive.

Mark Halperin is weighing the landscape in the wake of the speech as well, categorizing the successes, (“Stiffened the spine of Democrats in Congress”), the risks (most poignant that he has “Fired his best shot, leaving him no obvious option for another galvanizing jump start”), and unanswered items (“How he can inflict political pain on those who try to block him”) for us all to consider.

Alessandra Stanley made an apt comparison about the President’s remarks: “In short, the president tried to do for his health care plan what he did for his candidacy when the issue of race, and the words of his pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., threatened to derail his presidential bid last year.” Read the rest of this entry »

Why The Anchor Rancor?

In Media on September 10, 2009 at 1:21 am

Will Ferrell as Ron Burgundy in Anchorman  - DreamWorks

Ron Burgundy must be spinning in his grave.  Not one, but two women will be helming the flagship network newscasts?  “Hot pot of coffee!” he would say.  “That is a joke. I’ll even write it down in my diary: ‘Charlie Gibson had a very funny joke today.’  I’m going to laugh about it later tonight.”  Watch out Brian Williams, these cougars are hunting.

Diane Sawyer certainly has the demeanor and presence to set the tone for a network newscast, save that time she got a little tipsy at Obama’s inauguration.

Sawyer will stand on the shoulders of giants when she takes over though, as Barbara Walters, Connie Chung, and, much as they might be perennial rivals, Katie Couric, have all eased the way for her.  That’s purely metaphorical by the way, since none of those women is above 5’ 5”.

Walters was a real-life Veronica Corningstone whose dream of being a network anchor came to fruition but was short-lived, partially because her co-anchor was a gruff, Old World newsman who displayed on-air disdain for her.

Things have also come a long way from the public outcry and sexism kerfuffle around Connie Chung’s firing from her two-year stint with Dan Rather in the mid-90s on CBS.

Moreover, Couric has earned respect for her disarming and insightful interviews with Sarah Palin that altered the course of he 2008 campaign.

An interesting aspect of this development is what it will say about gender and ratings.  Couric settled into a distant third against Williams and Gibson.  Does she garner fewer viewers because she is different?  Because she is a woman?  Will people show brand loyalty or gender loyalty?  For good or ill, we will be able to tell in January: Sawyer’s entry will serve as a sort of control group.

Read the rest of this entry »

Copy Blight.

In Advertising, Media on September 3, 2009 at 11:08 pm

Mad Men Boys - AMC

In our culture, brimming with brand barrages and sponsorship strafings, stepping back to consider the commercial colloquialisms of our media metabolism is eye opening.  (Good thing I didn’t have to read that off a teleprompter.)  So many of the same meaningless, vapid phrases are regurgitated and force-fed to us hourly, it can make you can feel like a duck being groomed for foie gras.

Space in print and time on television are costly and limited, so it’s amazing that these taken-for-granted lines have survived from Mad Men days until now, as they add remarkably little.  Let me explicate in translating Adman to Layman:


“Fun for the whole family!” is a guaranteed miserable time for at least half of the family.

Is it physiologically possible for Mom and/or Dad to enjoy Space Chimps?  Can their toddler’s teenage sister tolerate The Adventures of Shark Boy and Lava Girl without texting her friends?  That’s ¾ of a quasi-generic family right off the bat struggling to pay attention in the theater with more difficulty than a George Washington Bridge security guard.  Instead, advertisers should be clear and direct: “Kids love it!”  Parents know that this means they can entertain their tykes for a few hours at a flick without too many tantrums or complaints.  (Ohhh, nevermind, now I get it.  This is cunning copy.  Advertisers are leveling with the target: as a parent, any time without tantrums and complaints is considered fun.)

Read the rest of this entry »