Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Economic Failure (or, Media Losers pt 2)

Just as I am not sure what to make of the polls, I have also given up trying to figure out what's happening at the stock market. Everyday, there is another wild swing, up and down.

Surprisingly, the FannieMae/FreddieMac debacle has kind of faded from view, which is interesting. No one seems to be reporting on just how we got from Point A to Point B. What's the story?

There is an obvious political angle here. This article by Orson Scott Card,(I only knew him as an interesting sci-fi writer) should be required reading. It not only gives a fairly succinct summary of the origins of the crisis, but calls the media on the carpet for their less than honest reporting of the situation.

This housing crisis didn't come out of nowhere. It was not a vague emanation of the evil Bush administration. . . This was completely foreseeable and in fact many people did foresee it. One political party, in Congress and in the executive branch, tried repeatedly to tighten up the rules. The other party blocked every such attempt and tried to loosen them.

Guess which party is which.

"Isn't there a story there?" asks Card. Of course there is--inconveniently though it involves the wrong party. So, it becomes not-news; not now anyways. So, Card hammers the media:

Now let's follow the money ... right to the presidential candidate who is the number two recipient of campaign contributions from Fannie Mae.

And after Fred Raines, the CEO of Fannie Mae who made $90 million while running it into the ground, was fired for his incompetence, one presidential candidate's campaign actually consulted him for advice on housing.

If that presidential candidate had been John McCain, you would have called it a major scandal and we would be getting stories in your paper every day about how incompetent and corrupt he was.

But instead, that candidate was Barack Obama, and so you have buried this story, and when the McCain campaign dared to call Raines an "adviser" to the Obama campaign -- because that campaign had sought his advice -- you actually let Obama's people get away with accusing McCain of lying, merely because Raines wasn't listed as an official adviser to the Obama campaign.

You would never tolerate such weasely nit-picking from a Republican.

The job of a "journalist" (ugh--there's that word again) is to tell the truth. But in this case, the truth is ignored, or, at best, only selectively reported. Card mentions how Sarah Palin's life and family (and Joe the Plumber too) got extensive attention and scrutiny, yet John Edward's rather messy and tawdry extramarital perambulations were studiously ignored and perhaps even covered up.

Remember--Card is apparently a Democrat, so this insight is amazing:

This was a Congress-caused crisis, beginning during the Clinton administration, with Democrats leading the way into the crisis and blocking every effort to get out of it in a timely fashion.
If you at our local daily newspaper continue to let Americans believe -- and vote as if -- President Bush and the Republicans caused the crisis, then you are joining in that lie.
If you do not tell the truth about the Democrats -- including Barack Obama -- and do so with the same energy you would use if the miscreants were Republicans -- then you are not journalists by any standard.
You're just the public relations machine of the Democratic Party, and it's time you were all fired and real journalists brought in, so that we can actually have a daily newspaper in our city.

And yet, with all of the media adoration, with the repeated mantra of change, Mark Steyn notes this:

This is an amazing race. The incumbent president has approval ratings somewhere between Robert Mugabe and the ebola virus. The economy is supposedly on the brink of global Armageddon. McCain has only $80 million to spend, while Obama's burning through $600 mil as fast as he can, and he doesn't really need to spend a dime given the wall-to-wall media adoration. And tonight Chris Matthews' doctors announced that his leg tingle has metastasized leaving his entire body like a vibrating cellphone whose ringtone is locked on "I'm In Love, I'm In Love, I'm In Love, I'm In Love, I'm In Love With A Wonderful Guy."

And yet an old cranky broke loser is within two or three points of the King of the World. Strange.

Strange indeed.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Big dummy!

At least that's what Fred Sanford would say.

Apparently, Obama botched this pop culture test the other day, confusing Fred Sanford with George Jefferson.

"That ain't right," Obama said. "Can you imagine? If Social Security funds had been invested in the stock market, Americans wouldn't even need Social Security!
"You would be having Sanford and Son," the senator said, referring to the 70s sitcom featuring Redd Foxx as the proprietor of a junkyard.
"I'm comin', Weezie," he said, laughing, botching one of the signature lines from the show, in which Foxx clutched his chest in a mock heart-attack and prepared to meet his late wife in heaven.

As we all know, the actual line is "I'm comin', Elizabeth."

One commenter nailed it: "I guess all blacks look alike to Obama."

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Big losers this election season

When your reputation has fallen lower than both President Bush (25 percent) and the Democratic Congress (18 percent), I think there's a problem.

Former New York Times columnist and veteran newspaperman Michael Malone knows it. “I’ve begun - for the first time in my adult life - to be embarrassed to admit what I do for a living,” he said.

Why? Because the percentage of Americans who rate reporters as objective and not favoring either candidate is at a dismal eight percent.

No matter who wins next week, mainstream objective journalism comes out as a big loser.

As this article points out, "journalistic integrity now ranks along side communicable diseases and nuclear mishaps." It discusses some Pew research studies documenting the marked discrepancy between reporting on the McCain and Obama campaigns:
. . . while 71 percent of Obama’s recent media coverage has been “positive” or “neutral,” almost 60 percent of McCain’s coverage over the same period has been “decidedly negative.”

And how much positive coverage did the media give McCain? Fourteen percent.

The American people have figured this out.

“By a margin of 70 percent to 9 percent,” another Pew study reported, “Americans say most journalists want to see Obama, not John McCain, win on Nov. 4.”

Yes, whether we like it or not, there is media bias. I don't know that it was always this way; perhaps it was. And "media" is changing. Newspaper circulations are plummetting (I wonder why?), and viewership for the classic if moribund Big 3 news programs (CBS/NBC/ABC) is abyssmally low. The internet, and in particular, the blogosphere is in part responsible, but I suspect that people are also fed up with how MSM reports the news, especially political issues. The fawning over Obama, and the rather narrowly focused Palin reporting are the latest examples.

It's getting harder to find objective, neutral journalism. What is a "journalist" anyways? Not Limbaugh, or Hannity (I doubt that they would include themselves in that tribe). Certainly not Chris Mathews or Olbermann. Does anybody really consider Bill Moyers as anything but one of the most partisan reporters around? I'm pretty sure though that he would consider himself a "Journalist" (and that is Journalist with a big J). No--I think they are better classified as commentators, or entertainers. But is there even a place for neutral reporting?

What about the Florida newscaster who got Biden all flummoxed? I think SOME of her questions were over the top, no doubt (quoting Karl Marx, for example). But I have heard the MSNBC boys threaten what they would do if Palin ever happened to appear on their show, and believe me, it makes Biden's questioning look like a pep rally.

Look at how different Charlie Gibson's questioning of Obama and Palin was. Gibson questioned Obama on June 4, just days after he had left Wright's church. So how much of the interview was devoted to this very controversial pastor and church? That's right--none. So, when Charlie interviewed Palin on September 11, how do you think things went? Pretty differently. She got grilled for reciting a prayer in her church that was credited to Abraham Lincoln. Heck, Gibson couldn't even get her original quote correct.

I don't expect our reporters to be all meek and subservient, like the Kennedy press corps. Maybe they do need to ask the tough questions. But don't you think everyone should get the same level of questioning?

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Spread the wealth around . . .

This blurb is apparently making the e-mail rounds.

In a local restaurant my server had on a “Obama 08″ tie, again I laughed as he had given away his political preference–just imagine the coincidence.

When the bill came I decided not to tip the server and explained to him that I was exploring the Obama redistribution of wealth concept. He stood there in disbelief while I told him that I was going to redistribute his tip to someone who I deemed more in need–the homeless guy outside. The server angrily stormed from my sight.

I went outside, gave the homeless guy $10 and told him to thank the server inside as I’ve decided he could use the money more. The homeless guy was grateful.

At the end of my rather unscientific redistribution experiment I realized the homeless guy was grateful for the money he did not earn, but the waiter was pretty angry that I gave away the money he did earn even though the actual recipient deserved money more.

I guess redistribution of wealth is an easier thing to swallow in concept than in practical application.

You see, it's not about whether the plumber is licensed, or has a tax lien, or whatever. It's that he asked an embarassing question.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Plumbers, SNL, Ayers, etc.

A smattering of political observations:

--Palin (you know, the one that the Secret Service isolated from the press) has been increasingly press-available (although I missed the SNL appearance, she helped garner their highest ratings in something like 14 years), yet according to CBS, Biden (3 letter word---J-O-B-S!) has not had a press conference in more than a month, and Obama has not taken questions from the press corps since the end of September.

--He did take an unfortunate question from Joe the plumber, and Joe's life hasn't been the same. The MSM was quite diligent in uncovering Joe's license status, tax liens, etc., all of which ignores the ACTUAL ISSUE of what Obama actually said to the guy.

--But, as Lileks notes in today's Bleat, "the small things matter, which is why Joe the Plumber has to be vetted, and Biden’s gaffes ignored. The big things are in the past, and the past is irrelevant."
He's got a good post about the Ayers and Obama connection (and yes, there is one). To me, it's kind of like the Wright thing; how did he sit there for 20 years and not hear anything objectionable from that pulpit? The fact that Obama was only 8 years old when Ayers was violently active is completely irrelevant. Out of all the people in Chicago to politically associate himself with, he picks Bill Ayers? Chicago has something like 2.8 million people; surely there was someone else he could have chosen to help launch his career.

More from Lileks:

You have to ask yourself how the media would cover a long-standing association between John McCain and a fellow who, in the hurly-burly-mixed-up-folderol of the Civil Rights Era, went a little too far and burned some Black churches, or led a group devoted to blowing up abortion clinics. Mind you, he was never convicted – technicalities, which was ironic, because Conservatives hate those – but he went on to serve on school boards and charity foundations that advocated for States’ Rights, an issue dear to conservative hearts. Imagine the deets are the same – cozy fundraisers, serving on the same boards, McCain’s name on Bomber Bob’s memoir. Add to that some other parallels – say, McCain attended a church that praised a fellow who believed black people were descended from the devil, and believed Jesus was an Aryan.

John McCain wouldn’t be the nominee, and if by some chance that happened, this association would be draped around his neck every day.

But, of course, it's more important to know about the details of the plumbers life.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Prague and Rockettown

Whoa--Prague is beautiful. Every time I turned my head, there was another vista, another alley, another cathedral spire that was jaw-droppingly amazing. Check out Anya's blog for some pictures.

Eastern European for sure, but it seemed worlds away from my Russian experience. Certainly in Prague they kind of have the tourist thing down quite well. Waiters and staff people seemed actually interested in assisting you, something that I found to be somewhat lacking in Krasnodar. I especially enjoyed visiting Anya's family in the countryside at Rozhmital (that's a pic near the castle at the top of this post). I unfortunately lost the piano duel with Masha, Anya's cousin, who blew me away with her obvious talent. We also had a trip to Pilsen, where we met Anya's other cousin, Igor, who surprisingly does NOT work for a mad scientist. Who knew?

It has taken about the last 3 days to shake off the jet lag, although we did attend a local charity cook-off last night, where Anya's paintings were the hit of the show--she actually sold a couple on the spot. Tomorrow is a big bad Monday. Time to get back into the regular swing of things.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Trip to Prague

We are off again, to Prague and the Czech Republic for some R & R and a belated honeymoon. So no kids this trip (awwwwww).

We will spend a few short days in Prague, and then visit with Anya's aunt in a little town outside of the city--not sure of the name, but apparently Smetana is buried there.

I will miss some of the political fireworks, but it will be nice to get out of the news cycle for a few days.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

VP Debate Questions--Sneak Peek

This is a sample of some of the questions that Ms. Awful--I mean, Ms. Ifill, is supposed to ask during tonight's debate:

Mayor Palin, Barack Obama is a handsome, charismatic demigod. How many boxes of Kleenex will you need after your crushing loss?

Senator Biden, what is your favorite color? And if you have time for a follow-up question: Why?

Mayor, you talk funny and you own a tanning bed. Why haven't you released Trig's birth certificate?

Senator, have you seen those pictures of Obama in his swim trunks? If not, I have them right here.

Mayor, what are the names, ages, and blood types of all 71 members of the Belgian Senate? And why are you unwilling to admit that your inability to instantly produce any and every fact I demand makes you unfit to stand in the way of history?

Senator, you've spoken at length. Could you please continue?

Mayor, which is your preferred method of stifling dissent, banning books or burning them? Since it's both, please explain how you can deny the accusation that you're a fascist, which I am making now.

Senator, could you please sign my book?

'Cause, you know, she's a journalist, so she's just gotta be neutral, right?

Questions courtesy of Jim Treacher.

One Year in Rockettown

Wow--it's been one year, here in Rockettown, that bustling metropolis, that Gotham of the bayous, or, as those in the know refer to it, "Manhattan-on-the-Boeuf".

Actually, contrary to all of my expectations, it has been one of the best years of my life. Cityboy dragging his beautiful citywife and their decidedly un-country kids to the back end of the state . . . and everyone loves it. Who'da thunk it?

It took a little getting used to, for sure. No French Quarter; the top of the food chain is Olive Garden; accents so thick you need a machete to cut through them. I think living out of the Days Inn for the 1st 8 weeks didn't make the transition easier. But it has all been worth it. When I think back to where I was last summer, looking for work, counting pennies . . .

So I am immensely grateful for my life now. Sober now for over 3 years, my head's on straight (for the most part, although I'm sure my wife would like to adjust it every now and then). We live in a beautiful house that's about to get a little bigger (kind of like our family :) ), I have this great job (my commute is across the backyard), and the girls have made new friends and even know how to chew tobacco!

There are no traffic jams. At night, there are a million stars in the sky, and owls perch in the treetops, calling to each other. I get to spend a lot of time with my wife and the girls. Anya has her very own studio. And when we get a hankerin' for some city food, we hop in the car and drive down to N'awlins.

I never imagined my life could be this good.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008