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Archive for February 2009

Rick Santelli acts more like a performer than a reporter to merit the Media Putz award

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Originally published on on February 26, 2009

Rick Santelli

When you are a performer, it’s good to play to your audience. Rick Santelli might have thought he was “playing to his audience” during his now infamous rant late last week on the floor of the Chicago Board of Trade on CNBC.

“The government is promoting bad behavior!” Santelli complained. “This is America! How many of you people want to pay for your neighbor’s mortgage that has an extra bathroom and can’t pay their bills?”

His audience was actually the people watching his rant on the cable business channel. But Santelli was really playing to his audience, the traders on the floor.

Santelli was ranting about what he thought was in President Barack Obama’s proposal, whether or not what he was saying was actually in the proposal.

There are a few problems with this. As White House spokesperson Robert Gibbs pointed out, “I feel assured that Mr. Santelli doesn’t know what he’s talking about.”

Santelli isn’t a performer. He is hired by CNBC to offer responsible business information and analysis, not blather cluelessly about something with which he should understand, but failed to do so. It’s easy in a bar to offer up a rant not backed up by facts — no one holds you accountable in a bar. The traders on the floor might have liked what Santelli said, but his audience is not those traders, it’s us. Once you turn on the camera, the rules change.

Santelli says the issue for him isn’t political, but philosophical. But his motivation for his rant inadvertently became something completely different, ironically financial. From an interview with the Chicago Tribune’s Phil Rosenthal:

“I don’t think in those terms, but maybe I should now,” Santelli, 52, a full-timer on CNBC since 1999 whose current contract is set to run out around the end of the summer, said from his west suburban home. “I have three daughters. I have the whole college thing and whatnot.”

Santelli, who doesn’t have an agent, said he already has heard from several publishers, a prospect that interests him. (“I’m kind of a closet writer and a closet oil painter,” he said.)  And he previously has enjoyed doing talk radio. That said, he noted, “I’m pretty happy with what I do.”

So we are to believe that his Howard Bealesque rant wasn’t motivated by some potential financial gain. After all, Santelli has worked for CNBC for 10 years and says he appears on the cable business channel about 12 to 16 times a day, and nobody outside of financial wonks knows who he is. His contract was set to run out this summer, and that college fund isn’t getting any bigger.

If you are going to be a media whore, you might as well get paid for it. That seems to be the current mantra in some circles. But some of us still think responsibility and the media go hand-in-hand.

Even John King of CNN (who couldn’t remember that the Republicans controlled the White House and Congress under George W. Bush) weighed in and thought Santelli went too far.

“I think you just hit the nail on the head there, Howie (Howard Kurtz) — way to get attention,” King said. “I think there’s probably a little bit too much. Asking what people think on the floor, that’s a legitimate question. Doing it as a stunt, over the line, in this reporter’s view.”

You can get rich being a performer, and you don’t have to worry about whether what you say has any impact. If Santelli wants to be a performer, then he should stop pretending to be a source of legitimate information and analysis.

In the rant, Santelli turns to the traders and proclaiming “This is America.” No, they aren’t. The smell of bad behavior, which Santelli seems so eager to not reward, permeates Wall Street. America is just stuck cleaning up the damage left by those smells.

But Santelli can’t see that; all he sees are $$, and this rant, not filled with facts, might be the ticket. And he gets another prize, too: the Media Putz of the week.


Written by democracysoup

February 26, 2009 at 6:00 am

Posted in media criticism, MSM

Bobby Jindal’s packaging may be different, but still peddling same GOP crap

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Originally published on on Wed, 02/25/2009 – 11:12am

Rachel Maddow was speechless after Bobby Jindal’s Republican response.

Bobby Jindal tried to portray a different picture of the Republican Party. He used phrases that sounded similar to things Barack Obama has said. Jindal spoke of the story about the American dream: “Americans can do anything.” And since we are talking about the superficiality of the experience, Jindal did deviate from the traditional white shirt and solid color tie (Republican red).

Unfortuantely for Jindal, those were the highlights of the speech. David Brooks, noted conservative, thought Jindal’s response was “just a disaster for the Republican Party.” Rachel Maddow, one of the most eloquent voices on television, was left uttering gibberish, feeling speechless in her initial reaction.

The “highlight” (well, highlight for the rest of us) was Jindal’s isolation of the government’s reaction to Hurricane Katrina:

“Those of us who lived through Hurricane Katrina — we have our doubts.”

Jindal proceeded to tell the story of a discussion with the long-time Sheriff of Jefferson Parish, Harry Lee. It’s a pretty powerful story: Lee is yelling at someone on the phone, trying to get permission to send out boats to rescue people trapped on rooftops.

“He told me that he had put out a call for volunteers to come with their boats to rescue people who were trapped on their rooftops by the floodwaters. The boats were all lined up ready to go, when some bureaucrat showed up and told them they couldn’t go out on the water unless they had proof of insurance and registration. I told him, “Sheriff, that’s ridiculous.” And before I knew it, he was yelling into the phone: “Congressman Jindal is here, and he says you can come and arrest him too!” Harry just told the boaters to ignore the bureaucrats and go start rescuing people.”

If we could accept that at face value, this might send a message. But as Jindal is about to discover, while the MSM will likely not blink an eye at that story, Internet journalism takes a different vantage point.

The Daily Kos has been looking into whether the story is valid. Parts of it are likely true, but there is some question as to whether it happened the way Jindal said. Lee died in 2007, so we can’t ask him. And Lee’s racist background doesn’t make the story sound that much better.

And even if the story is 100% true, it’s difficult to believe that all around FEMA and the federal government response was so underwhelming, yet a bureaucrat would be that stifling in a time of emergency. If all of this is true, the words came from a flunky in the spirit of “You’re doing a heckuva job, Brownie” that prevailed under George W. Bush.

You can assume Jindal’s focus is on the federal government in the story because he would have blamed it on the state government if it were true. And all that means is that the Bush people did a lousy job when they were actually trying to do their job.

During Hurricane Katrina, Republicans worked really hard to take advantage of the disaster to gain politicically. Conveniently, state government was blamed, but magically not the federal government. After all, the governor at that time was Kathleen Blanco, a Democrat. This is not to say there was no blame on the state level, but it paled in comparison to the disaster on the federal level.

The fact that a number of registered Democrats were bussed out of the state with no practical shot of returning to where they used to live was also something that Republicans used to their advantage. Fewer Democrats in the state means more electoral wins for Republicans.

And which politician has benefited the most from this political strategy? Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal. After all, Jindal ran for governor in 2003 and lost to Blanco. With Blanco retiring from politics, in part due to the firestorm of controversy launched in part by Republicans, Jindal had a much easier time in the 2007 governor race.

Of course, the federal government couldn’t be blamed (according to Jindal) for Katrina because, wait for it, Jindal was a Congressman at the time. His district included parts of New Orleans and its western suburbs.

If you weren’t done yelling at the TV screen following the concept that the government’s response to Katrina (GOP) is a reason not to trust the federal government (which Jindal wants returned to the GOP), there were more golden moments.

Jindal started four paragraphs in a row with the phrase “To strengthen our economy,” but here were the “solutions.”

“increase conservation, increase energy efficiency, increase the use of alternative and renewable fuels, increase our use of nuclear power, and increase drilling for oil and gas here at home.”

Republicans haven’t been and aren’t for increasing conservation or energy efficiency, and haven’t supported alternative and renewable fuels. They are in favor of more nuclear power, despite the high risk and non-solutions for dealing with nuclear waste. Even if we did drill more domestically, the results would be drops in a large bucket.

“Republicans believe in a simple principle: No American should have to worry about losing their health coverage — period. We stand for universal access to affordable health care coverage.”

This would be news if a) it were true, and b) they had a solution. There were Republicans watching the speech who asked the TV, “Republicans care about health care? Really?”

“After Katrina, we reinvented the New Orleans school system, opening dozens of new charter schools, and creating a new scholarship program that is giving parents the chance to send their children to private or parochial schools of their choice.”

This was another situation where Republicans took political advantage at the expense of those who suffered in Katrina. Even if you argue that charter schools could be part of the solution, it’s not the whole solution by any means. And as our friend Greg Palast points out, Louisiana is suffering so far down on the scale that spending money on charter schools seems misguided. Palast points out that Louisiana has the 3rd-worst poverty rate, 5th-worst mark for math scores, 5th-worst in per-capita incomes, yet number 1 in infant mortality rates.

“we must promote confidence in America by ensuring ours is the most ethical and transparent system in the world.”

Uh, you do realize you’re a Republican, right? If Jindal really wanted to promote this, he did have the opportunity as a Congressman to do so, but didn’t. Only after Barack Obama campaigned and won (and delivered) on this item is there now “concern” about ethics and transparency.

Jindal is a Rhodes Scholar, he is of Indian descent, and even younger than Obama. So the Republican Party, seeing what Obama did, is trying to duplicate the results. But what the GOP and its followers don’t realize is that people admire Obama not for what he looks like, but who he is on the inside. The same old tired rhetoric (tax cuts? really?) with prettier packaging is not what the American people want — or deserve. They want substance, and they saw what Jindal was peddling last night, and they said, “Thanks, but no thanks.”

Full transcript from Jindal’s speech

Written by democracysoup

February 25, 2009 at 11:12 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Revising unemployment programs involves wresting power from clueless Southern governors

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Originally published on on Tue, 02/24/2009 – 11:33am

Texas Governor Rick Perry is right on one statement, but he doesn’t understand as to why that’s true.

“My instinct is that a whole lot would rather have a good-paying job than they would unemployment insurance.”

Though there’s one clarification: EVERYONE would rather have a good-paying job than unemployment insurance. The problem with Perry — and the other Southern governors more concerned about their political futures — is that while there aren’t the good-paying jobs, they would rather give their citizens none of the above.

Anyone who has been on unemployment insurance, anyone who has dealt with the archaic rules, the startling restrictions on what supplemental income you can make, and the layers of bureaucracy would much rather have a good-paying job that will stick around.

Perry (Texas), Haley Barbour (Mississippi), Mark Sanford (South Carolina), and Bobby Jindal (Louisiana) have been the loudest supporters. But Phil Bredesen (D-Tennessee) and Sonny Perdue (Georgia) are also talking about not taking the unemployment benefits.

Unemployment compensation has been generally unfair: never enough weeks, not enough money, and too many arcane rules. George W. Bush seemed cruelly unaware, even for him, of the effects on real people in not extending unemployment compensation. And the amounts aren’t designed to live off of long-term.

Unlike all these governors, I’ve received unemployment compensation. And it’s not fun at all. But we are really in a bind, even in these Southern states. These people need some help, and the governors choose not to see the suffering.

But some governors, even Democratic ones, have this view that the unemployment compensation is too much of a burden to fully support. Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, a Democrat, said on “Fox News Sunday”:

“I’m not sure that we can, over the long run, cope with the high unemployment compensation standard that this mandates for states.”

High standard? Unless Pennsylvania’s rules are substantially better for the workers than any of the other states, Rendell’s standards aren’t that high.

We’ve already seen stories about how employers are fighting harder to deny legitimate unemployment claims. We are seeing some companies get rid of workers, even when they can afford to keep them on. And the standards, even in a normal economy, are miserable, much less in a deep recession.

The objectors are mostly Republicans, but they say they have their principles. They don’t mind if we spend money in Iraq, on obsolete weapon systems, but they object to spending money here in the United States. Then they allow money to be spent in the United States, reluctantly, but they draw the line on unemployment compensation, which offers very little to those who really need it.

After all, as Jon Stewart pointed out in last night’s Daily Show, Jindal is being offered $3.8 billion and will accept a little over $3.7 billion.

The easy joke here would be to say to solve the problem by making the governors unemployed. But every one of these governors, Republican or Democratic, have much more money than anyone received unemployment and fewer financial problems. The governors know, even if they lose their jobs, that being an ex-governor still pays quite well.

The best time to fix the unemployment compensation would be just after a major recession and/or depression. Unfortunately, it’s the last time we addressed this by starting up the unemployment compensation program through the Social Security Act of 1935. After all, if people are in the system who aren’t normally there, they will see first-hand that we need revisions.

And one of those revisions is to take away so much control to the individual states, state rights be damned. This program involves federal money and federal taxes; it should be run as a federal program.

The governors who are whining won’t say the real reason for their objections. Since businesses pay into the funds, the unethical businesses want the unemployment compensation to dish out as little money as possible to “save them money.”

We show our true selves by how we treat the least of us, those who are suffering the most. With the current unemployment compensation standard, we aren’t in a good light. And the Southern governors currently on display want that to be even worse than the currently low standard.

Written by democracysoup

February 24, 2009 at 11:33 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Obama in Canada: a little talk, a lot of charm

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Originally published on on Fri, 02/20/2009 – 11:38am

Wasn’t that a beautiful sight yesterday? Imagine a U.S. president traveling outside this country and being greeted with crowds that are happy to see him. Positive signs that read “Yes we Can-ada.” People who got on buses from distant cities just to see him.

You can imagine that any president after George W. Bush would get a seemingly positive reaction. But Obama is a game-changer to many Canadians.

If my anecdotal evidence from last September in Toronto is any indication, Canadians on the whole are thrilled that Barack Obama is the U.S. president.

There were serious moments in Obama’s day trip to the Canadian capital of Ottawa. Afghanistan, oil in tar sands, environmental issues from those tar sands, trade, how border security is impeding trade, NAFTA, the auto industry, et al. More issues than could be settled in a 7-hour period.

Unlike the tone set by the previous U.S. president, the fact that the U.S. and Canada are going in two different directions on Afghanistan wasn’t met with disdain. PM Harper has said Canada will withdraw its 2,500 troops from southern Afghanistan in 2011. The Liberal Party wants more NATO troops for reinforcement to keep the troops there that long. Obama wants to increase the number of U.S. troops in that country.

On trade, Obama said, “I’ve provided Prime Minister Harper with an assurance that I want to grow trade and not contract it.” But Obama notes that NAFTA does too little to protect U.S. workers and the environment.

Obama spoke in favor of coordinating auto-industry bailouts, and Obama and Harper announced the launch of a “Clean Energy Dialogue.”

The U.S. President also met with Canada’s opposition leader, Liberal Party Michael Ignatieff, for about 30 minutes. Depending on how Canada’s political situation goes. Ignatieff could be Canada’s leader if there was another federal election.

Besides all the serious talk, there was an effort by Obama to show Canadians he understood the special relationship between the two countries, and that he wanted a better relationship between the two countries. He actually spoke French in the news conference, a nod to the bilingual status of Canada.

Obama talked about his personal relationship with the country: he mentioned in the press conference with Prime Minister Stephen Harper that he has a Canadian brother-in-law and two key staff people who hail from Canada. In that same sentence, Obama said, “I love this country and I think that we could not have a better friend and ally.”

He even thanked those Canadians that crossed the border to help campaign for him in the presidential election.

Obama also stepped up the charm by saying he wanted to come back when it was warmer, and stopped by to get a “beaver tail,” a pastry that is a variation of a bear claw. These were decorated with an O of chocolate and maple syrup for Obama.

Much of the serious stuff will come later in longer, more extensive visits between the two leaders. Yesterday was a chance to get foreign policy started on the right foot. Not every stop will go as smoothly as yesterday in Ottawa, but the foreign policy is already off to a better start than the last guy.

Transcript of the Obama-Harper press conference

picture of Obama in an Ottawa bakery

Written by democracysoup

February 20, 2009 at 11:38 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Will one GOP politician stand up for ‘principles’ and not take stimulus money?

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Originally published on on Fri, 02/20/2009 – 10:17am

We don’t expect “Republicans” and “principles” to normally be in the same sentence, but on the stimulus package, they are spreading their hypocrisy in ways even above their standards.

We have GOPers such as Sen. Kit Bond (R-MO) and Rep. Don Young (R-AK) who fought hard against the stimulus package. While Bond and Young are the most famous, let’s not leave out Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-MO), Rep. Ken Calvert (R-CA), Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-MI), and Rep. Leonard Lance (R-NJ). This list is likely to grow significantly.

Bond could have taken the chance of voting for funding for his citizens, since he isn’t making himself available for re-election.

These are true hypocrites playing it down the middle: frowning with one side of their face and smiling with the other.

Then we have the GOP governors who are “debating” about whether to take the money. Those who live in Mississippi, Texas, South Carolina, Louisiana, and Alaska theoretically are being held hostage financially over whether the states will accept the federal aid. Ultimately, they will take the money (or the state legislatures will override any gubernatorial veto, thanks to a clause in the stimulus package). The hypocrisy kicks in when they do take the money, and they get to look “tough” while knowing the money will end up in their coffers.

Haley Barbour, Rick Perry, Mark Sanford, Bobby Jindal, and Sarah Palin aren’t just hypocritical GOP governors. They are also thinking ahead to 2012.

But let’s play out a scenario in, let’s say, South Carolina. Despite Lindsey Graham’s outward greed and hypocrisy, we imagine that Gov. Sanford says no and the legislature agrees with him.

What would South Carolina do? Congratulate its governor on having a higher deficit to overcome? Be thrilled that unemployment benefits will continue to be underfunded? Or would the citizens stand up and say, “Our governor took an unpopular stand and stood up for his principles.”

Would be fun to find out. But that would require a prominent Republican politician sticking to principles. And we know how often that happens.

Written by democracysoup

February 20, 2009 at 10:17 am

Posted in Uncategorized

New York Post’s degrading, violent, racist cartoon against President Obama earns it the Media Putz

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Originally published on on February 19, 2009

New York Post

Political cartoons are meant to be expressions that aren’t for the tame. A political cartoon that is too nice probably isn’t doing its job.

But there are certain lines where political cartoons should not go, and the New York Post crossed that line on Wednesday.

The cartoon is of two policemen standing over a chimp lying on the ground shot to death. The cop who isn’t holding the gun says to the cop holding the gun, “They’ll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill.”

We’re told that the theme is related to an incident in Stamford, Connecticut this week where a woman was attacked by a popular pet chimpanzee. Ultimately, a cop shot and killed the chimp.

Even if you were aware of the chimp story (and that’s a stretch), you still have to ask “and this relates to the stimulus package how?”

The disturbing part of the Sean Delonas cartoon is that it can be seen as degrading on multiple levels. The cartoon could be racist, comparing the first African-American president of the United States to an ape, long a favorite image among racists. Or it could be political — that an ape wrote the legislation. Or writing a stimulus package correlates to a likelihood to attack someone.

The cartoon isn’t funny or poignant and doesn’t even has a clear message. It’s offensive on multiple levels, depending on one’s vantage point — without redeeming value.

In response, New York Post Editor-in-Chief Col Allan said: “The cartoon is a clear parody of a current news event, to wit the shooting of a violent chimpanzee in Connecticut. It broadly mocks Washington’s efforts to revive the economy.”

To summarize Allan, the effort to revive an extremely sick economy is comparable to a chimpanzee on the loose who attacks a woman and the policeman, using life-extinguishing brutal force, represents the GOP leaders in the House. Or is it the right-wing media to the rescue with a gun?

This isn’t the first time Delonas has come under controversy. This blog entry notes that Delonas ripped off his own work, and was even lazy in doing so.

And then there’s this lovely collection of his tasteless, gay-bashing (among other groups), degrading political cartoons.

There is also a question about talent: Delonas, being obsessed with gay-bashing, draws former New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevey as if he looks like Barack Obama. McGreevey and Obama look nothing alike.

It’s not like the New York Post is known for taste or decorum anywhere in its ink-stained, tabloid, “I need a shower after I read it” pages. And there is a certain expectation that cartoons will occasionally be tacky. But a violent, degrading cartoon without a funny or relevant analogy is going far too far, and so we name the New York Post the Media Putz of the week.

Written by democracysoup

February 19, 2009 at 6:00 am

Posted in media criticism, MSM

Despite Congress’ move to delay the digital TV transition, some stations start today

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Originally published on on Tue, 02/17/2009 – 9:57am

If you are one of the 6.5 million people (or 5.8 million) who still rely on an antenna, today was supposed to be the day you were supposed to fear: the day analog TV signals disappeared.

You probably read in the news that Congress delayed the date until June 12 in the hopes of getting more coupons into households that still need them. And the stimulus package, which President Barack Obama will sign today in Denver, contains more funds for the coupon program.

However, in many markets throughout the country, today is D-Day. Turns out a lot of media markets are going to turn off some or all of their analog signals — today.

Actually, about 200 stations, have already made the transition to digital TV, including stations in Hawai’i, Wilmington, NC, and Chico-Redding, CA. About 500 more stations are planning to turn off their analog transmitters today.

The extension allows stations to wait until June 12 but doesn’t require them to stick to that date.

Some markets, such as South Bend, IN and Dayton, OH, will see analog signals virtually disappear, though low-power stations can still be watched even without a converter box.

The move en masse by television stations might help Obama and the Democratic-controlled Congress. Splitting the anxiety into two parts can make the situation easier to manage. Plus, stations that don’t make the move now can learn from the mistakes of the stations that are making the move. Or it could speed up sales of digital TVs, which could help service jobs, though the U.S. doesn’t make TVs anymore.

Will there be a lot of screaming and yelling? We are about to find out.

List of TV stations that have already made the transition or will do so today

Written by democracysoup

February 17, 2009 at 9:57 am

Posted in Uncategorized