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Archive for the ‘Media’ Category

Leisure Crime.

In Economy, Media, Politics on August 11, 2010 at 11:50 am

There’s been a recurring narrative in the major publications and cable news channels about the Obamas’ leisure time: that they’re  wasting or abusing taxpayer money to enjoy life outside of the White House, or that they’re doing so in the “wrong” place. Their date in Manhattan, their recent trip to Maine, their plans to spend a week in Martha’s Vineyard; all have drawn criticism.

This week has seen renewed hubbub since Michelle Obama took Sasha to Spain for a few days. She is paying for all the things you and I would pay for if we were going (hotel room, meals, and transportation) but of course being First Lady comes with a hefty Secret Service entourage, not to mention a secure private jet. I’ll admit that this trip seems much more lavish than a Cosby ShowWomen‘s Day” with Clair and Rudy, but whatever. (I wonder if Michelle is also telling Sasha, “Your father and I are rich. YOU have nothing!”)

I don’t fault Michelle for this. The first family shouldn’t be held to account for the modern realities of protection: I’m sure she would love to whisk Sasha away and disappear down the calles of España alone for a weekend.

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That’s Just Speechy.

In Government, Media on June 15, 2010 at 2:36 pm

For a year and a half, President Obama has been taking pitches on issues of great scope, effect, and deliberation. As I Bloviator-ed about last year, he’s passed on opportunities to address the nation from the Oval Office. No recession or Stimulus bill address. No health care reform address. No Afghanistan troop escalation address. Whether or not he has a good eye is up for debate. But it’s pretty hard to argue today that he doesn’t have a full count now.

Well, tonight is the moment: mono-a-nation. It’s significant for the tragic damage and repercussions of the BP oil spill but also because it is the first time he is truly and simply, without middlemen or journalists in the way, going to speak to the American people, calmly and up close. Perhaps those topics above were all things visible on the horizon, and he wanted to save the Oval Office address for an unexpected calamity. It really is as if he’s been waiting to cash this in, as if he and his inner circle said a while ago, “There’s a lot of big stuff on our plate, but put this card in the drawer and save pulling it out for the possibility of something unforeseen and massive happening.”

Or there is the possiblity that, perhaps, he’s simply been avoiding it. Take a look at this list of all national addresses in the era of television. Obama is way behind schedule. For all his oratory prowess, he is not well tested in this intimate setting. There are many that perceive his even temperament as detachment, so perhaps there is fear he won’t come across well. By the way, how lucky are we that HDTV wasn’t around during the days of Nixon and LBJ? Those guys would look like an old baseball glove on today’s technology. Read the rest of this entry »

An Inconvenient Poll.

In Media on April 18, 2010 at 8:23 pm

One of the past week’s big political attention-getters was the release of a New York Times/CBS News Poll on the Tea Party. Numerous pundits jumped on it as proof of the narrow-minded, predictably stereotypical folks who comprise the Tea Party. For their parts, Bill Maher, Jon Stewart, Slate, and MSNBC all made hay of its results, often entertainingly, but mainly for fulfilling their preconceived notions.

The poll finds what those who were paying attention to the news expected to find: that the Teabaggers are made up of Obama-disliking white people who list heavily to the starboard side of the ship, if you catch my drift. (Starboard = Right = Republican.)

Easy as it is to view this poll as unassailable proof that the Tea Party conforms to all the norms of the Republican base, it is inconclusive.

For while it seems plausible, I have to take issue with the lack of reporting of another recent poll. Three weeks ago, Quinnipiac University came out with a detailed poll of its own on the Tea Party. It was re-posted by Mark Halperin, but beyond that didn’t prove to have much in the way of legs. There have been other polls in recent months on this subject, as well.

The Times/CBS and QU polls each take the temperature of the Tea Party, but come up with different readings on the thermometer. I was surprised to see some of the QU poll findings, as I mentioned earlier this month. Nonetheless, they don’t appear to be any less sound than the Times/CBS ones. Read the rest of this entry »

The Great White Grope.

In Media, Politics on March 13, 2010 at 1:55 am

The fall of Eric Massa from Congress and subsequent rise as one-size-fits-all media personality has been strange indeed. Last week, Massa was a run-of-the-mill upstate New York Representative and married father of two. This week he’s the scuttlebutt, lightning rod, and punch line of the political establishment.

His whirlwind run through the gauntlet of a roughly 96-hour news cycle is a parable on scandal (don’t do sketchy stuff in office) and the state of media and politics (it’s messed up).

He didn’t truly garner attention until early this week, but when he resigned last Friday with “a profound sense of failure,” he spoke more of health reasons related to the cancer, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, he was first diagnosed with 12 years ago. (By the way, how come we never hear about Hodgkin’s lymphoma?)

A little time passed and then he said he was being forced out by Nancy Pelosi and the House leadership for signaling his vote against the final health care reform bill.

What also came out in the midst of this sudden surrender of office were accusations of inappropriate physical conduct around young male staffers, laughably labeled as non-sexual groping and tickling. Ah, the non-sexual grope. It’s like Othello: “A minute to learn, a lifetime to master.”

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Extreme Court Makeover.

In Advertising, Media, Politics on January 22, 2010 at 3:11 am

Man, every time the Supreme Court seems to be forgotten about for a while, it comes roaring back to the fore and shakes things up. This time they really did it, overturning key campaign finance limits, which will allow corporations and unions to spend unlimited sums of money to influence elections. Talk about judicial activism.

Hey, and it was another nail biter. Okay, not really. It split predictably along ideological lines. Yup, another 5-4 ruling! Maybe 5-4 rulings should just not count. Make it like a veto: two thirds majority. 6-3 or bust.

By the way, can the justices make some more public appearances, please? For one, it seems like they make these huge declarations and then hide behind the curtain Wizard of Oz-style. Moreover, the once-annual footage of them coming out for a class picture in full robed regalia is almost as worn out as that clip of Bill Clinton hugging Monica Lewinsky.

Today’s ruling, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, is the judicial equivalent of a 20-yard loss and it’s going to be felt almost immediately. It reverses important components of the McCain-Feingold law (officially called the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002), two important related rulings, and “a century old-understanding,” as The New York Times put it, that imposed sensible balances on organizations affecting elections.

Am I missing something? Do the special interests not already have enough power? Are they not lobbying and throwing millions around behind closed doors to great effect? You need only look at the health care, climate change, and financial reform legislation to see their impacts.

We need some stare decisis up in here! Was this not settled law? I mean c’mon, it was bipartisan! Doesn’t that count as the same thing? Read the rest of this entry »


In Media on January 8, 2010 at 2:06 am

Through vague messages and a dubious PR job, news broke yesterday afternoon that NBC is planning to reinstate Jay Leno in his old slot. This is a bad idea.

The proposal appears to be to re-insert Leno at 11:35 right after the local news, but just for a half-hour, after which the current lineup would take over, starting at 12:05 with Conan O’Brien’s current Tonight Show running for an hour. Jimmy Fallon has got to be thinking, “How am I going to think of new ways not to be funny even later at night?” I’d rather watch Carson Daly.

NBC affiliates are pushing for some kind of change because their local newscasts are not getting a good lead-in from Leno, so this is what the network has come up with. Leno’s ratings fell after a decent start, but had since leveled off. Um, moving Leno from one side of the news to the other doesn’t sound like it’s going to fix a ratings problem.

This change is coming just as Comcast is about to take the reigns of NBC Universal. Perhaps this decision is also trickling down from them?

Either way, it’s a shortsighted, kneejerk reaction. It’s only been seven months. ABC has not given up on Jimmy Kimmel’s show in seven years (wow, that went fast) and he has gained in the ratings.

Conan’s finding his new voice. But David Letterman, in spite of, because of, or having nothing to do with his peculiar scandal, has taken his first big ratings lead in years, so the Peacock people are nervous.

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Gee, Why Joe?

In Media, Politics on December 16, 2009 at 2:59 pm

Most news outlets are reporting that Senate Democrats will give into “parliamentary terrorist” Joe Lieberman’s demands. That’s what he is at this point, regardless of your political leaning: someone who knowingly and unexpectedly creates legislative anger, confusion, and uncertainty for his own narrow-minded goals.

The Huffington Post was most blunt: “Lieberman Wins.” Long form, this means dropping two components of the bill that the Senate working group (aka the Gang of Ten) agreed to: allowing 55-64 year olds to buy in to Medicare, and a public option “trigger” if the national private nonprofit plans the bill calls for fail to come to fruition.

Suffice it to say, liberals are not happy. Some members of his state’s Congressional delegation are even calling for an (albeit non-existent in Connecticut) recall, just to show how livid they are.

Hater Joe made his initial unsupportive comments on Face the Nation. It’s too bad he doesn’t actually have to, y’know, face the nation and hear what people really think of him. It wouldn’t be pretty. With homeless guys lobbing tomatoes at Sarah Palin and mental cases nailing adulterous Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi with statues on the fly (he and Tiger Woods should hang out), it’s kind of surprising nobody has chucked a honeydew at Lieberman.

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Marching Orders: Live Blogging Obama’s Afghan Speech.

In Media, Politics, War on December 1, 2009 at 9:10 pm

President Obama is giving a much-awaited announcement on his intentions for the conflict in Afghanistan tonight from Eisenhower Hall at West Point. I am following along with commentary:

The Commander-in-Chief Emerges | 8:03 p.m. To a substantial, sustained, but not striking applause, Obama emerged, waving with a staid smile to a sea of gray-uniformed cadets.

Past is Prologue | 8:11 p.m. He’s just finished summarizing the history of Afghanistan’s relationship to 9/11, our deployment in the region, and how the war in Iraq has withheld resources from it, without placing blame, but acknowledging the controversy of that war.

30-Large | 8:15 p.m. The official number leaked earlier has now come out of his mouth: 30,000 troops will head to Afghanistan by this summer, “the fastest possible pace.”

Three Means Justifying Three Ends  | 8:23 p.m. He hasn’t mentioned any metrics for the outcomes in the speech, but he outlined each of his objectives: to deny Al Qaeda a safe haven, reverse the Taliban’s influence, and strengthen security forces and the sovereign government. The intended means to accomplishing these are a military effort, a civilian surge, and an effective partnership with Pakistan.

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Survey Says…

In Media, Politics on October 26, 2009 at 3:50 pm

Family Feud - 3 Strikes

The latest ABC News/Washington Post poll shows the sturdiness of a public option: after some five months of trash-talking and mud-slinging, it’s still holding at 57% favorability.

But amid the myriad of health care questions posed in this survey, a surprising numerical morsel arose: only 20% of Americans now identify themselves as Republicans.

Mind you, this ain’t no Zogby or Rasmussen hijinx. Those competing pollsters, although not as mainstream, are actually just as credible, if not more so. Nonetheless, I’d hazard the ABC News/Washington Post names carry a bit more weight out in the public square.

20% is the lowest figure on this measurement in 26 years. What’s more, “Among Republicans themselves just four in 10 are confident in their own party.”

On its face the 20% number is actually misleading. Just because Republicans clock in at 20% doesn’t mean Democrats are at 80%. Those identifying as Independents, whether registered officially or just saying so because they feel disenchanted and all trendy-like, make up a sizable middle position at 42%. This leaves 33% who call themselves Democrats.

33% isn’t none too high either, right? I didn’t think so until I put it like this: comparing the 20% and 33% suggests more than twice as many Americans identify as Democrats than Republicans. 65%, in fact. Read the rest of this entry »

Can’t ‘Stan Ya!

In Media, Politics, War on October 16, 2009 at 10:25 am

Spc. Zachery Boyd, wears pink 'I love NY' boxer shorts in a firefight with Taliban militants after rushing out of bed to join his fellow platoon members - Photo by David Guttenfelder/AP

There are two massive debates going on in this country right now. One is health care insurance reform. I’ve spent a lot more time on it than the other: Afghanistan.

To that point, there was a striking documentary by Richard Engel called Tip of the Spear that aired in relative purgatory last Saturday night on MSNBC. It should have aired on NBC. In prime time on Tuesday night. It’s online and worth watching, at least a segment or two if you’re strapped for time. In addition to the recent feature on Gen. McChrystal on 60 Minutes, it adds useful context to the issue.

It follows a group of soldiers in the Korengal Valley, a 30-square mile area with a mere 150 servicemen. The area has been nicknamed the Valley of Death because of its barely passable topography and deft Taliban presence. It’s much, much harder than Death Valley Rally. Its terrain is worse than the Aggro Crag.

The focus narrows on a remote outpost called Camp Restrepo, an apparent strategic high point in the area, manned by 20 guys. The conditions and supplies (aside from tons of mortars) leave something to be desired, but the guys are hardcore. They average a firefight with Taliban insurgents about 1.5 times a day. This includes the story of the soldier who ran to his post during a firefight in his “I Love NY” boxers.

On one day, Engel follows a troop as he heads out into the hills to a town, to be seen by Taliban. He’s live bait. He’s hoping for an ambush. The plan is to be attacked! This will lure hostiles, so that his American comrades can pop out of hiding and turn the tide. It’s utterly brave. Read the rest of this entry »