Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Wednesday Morning Potpourri: less tethered to reality Edition

 The Economist: Seven questions for Dan Froomkin
DIA: You were very critical of the media's coverage of the Bush administration. Do you think the press is doing a better job of covering the Obama administration?
Mr Froomkin: Yes, but it's still nothing to brag about. The reason the press is doing better is that it’s not faced with the same extraordinary challenge presented by the Bush administration. This administration, I’m happy to say, is not unprecedentedly and spectacularly dishonest, incompetent and secretive, and therefore doesn’t require the kind of courage to cover that the Bush-era White House press corps, to its shame, failed to summon. The unique and much less daunting challenge of covering this president is that he is such a celebrity. There has been way too much substanceless fawning over the man, particularly by the major networks, especially considering the daunting tasks before him. Overall, however, this is a more ordinary presidency to cover, and the press’s failing are more mundane and familiar. Notably, Washington reporters are obsessed with conflict and process and cover politics like a horserace, whereas I actually think a lot of this stuff matters and they should write more about what it means and its effects on real people.
DIA: Do you think the media should strive for objectivity in its reporting?
Mr Froomkin: No. Journalists should strive for accuracy, and fairness. Objectivity is impossible, and is too often confused with balance. And the problem with balance is that we are not living in a balanced time. For instance, is it patently obvious that at this point in our history, the leading luminaries on one side of the American political spectrum are considerably less tethered to reality than those on the other side. Madly trying to split the difference, as so many of my mainstream-media colleagues feel impelled to do, does a disservice to the concept of the truth.


Dear Kevin: All of cable

Dear Kevin: All of cable news, but especially Lou, is just loud noise to frighten old white people so they'll stay tuned in to see the (tax-deductable) ads for prescription drugs.
You're better off with the WWE broadcasts. More honest.
Kevin Drum: In Which I Listen to Lou Dobbs for 60 Seconds 
So I thought maybe I should turn on the TV and see if there were any election results available.  I clicked over to CNN and Lou Dobbs was on.  Literally the first words I heard were a question from Dobbs about whether the fact that there were 180,000 absentee ballots cast in New Jersey meant there was some kind of "skullduggery" going on.  First panelist says, hey, who knows?  Maybe.  Second guy says let's not jump to conclusions.  Finally the third guy reminds us that New Jersey has a new law this year making it easier to apply for an absentee ballot.  Uh huh.
So within 60 seconds of turning on the TV my head hurt.  I know, I know, I could have chosen some other channel.  But still.  Jesus.
The Great Orange Satan: Tonight's big lesson
There will be much number-crunching tomorrow, but preliminary numbers (at least in Virginia) show that GOP turnout remained the same as last year, but Democratic turnout collapsed. This is a base problem, and this is what Democrats better take from tonight:
  1. If you abandon Democratic principles in a bid for unnecessary "bipartisanship", you will lose votes.
  1. If you water down reform in favor of Blue Dogs and their corporate benefactors, you will lose votes.
  1. If you forget why you were elected -- health care, financial services, energy policy and immigration reform -- you will lose votes.
Tonight proved conclusively that we're not going to turn out just because you have a (D) next to your name, or because Obama tells us to. We'll turn out if we feel it's worth our time and effort to vote, and we'll work hard to make sure others turn out if you inspire us with bold and decisive action.
The choice is yours. Give us a reason to vote for you, or we sit home. And you aren't going to make up the margins with conservative voters. They already know exactly who they're voting for, and it ain't you.
 DougJ: Crist, you know it ain’t easy
Erick Erickson:
The race has now been called for Democrat Bill Owens.
This is a huge win for conservatives.
I have said all along that the goal of activists must be to defeat Scozzafava. Doug Hoffman winning would just be gravy. A Hoffman win is not in the cards, but we did exactly what we set out to do — crush the establishment backed GOP candidate.
For all intents and purposes, NY-23 is a trial run for Florida. And in Florida, the conservative candidate is operating inside the GOP. If John Cornyn and the NRSC do not want to see Florida go the way of NY-23, they better stand down.
How much more of Erickson’s bullshit is the Republican party going to take? The guy is quoted in Politico every freaking day now. Okay, so are Lanny Davis and Doug Schoen, so maybe that’s a bad example. But you see what I mean, right?
Marshall: Bookend 
The Democratic victory in NY-23 provides an interesting bookend to what was unquestionably a disappointing night for Democrats. As I noted a few days ago, for the right-wingers behind the Hoffman candidacy, knocking out Scozzafava was the big prize. Actually winning the race outright would have been icing on the cake, but hardly necessary.
They have shown they can topple any moderate Republicans who don't defer to right-wing dominance of the party. On the other hand, the upshot of the Hoffman campaign was a Democratic victory.
What does that suggest about Charlie Crist down in Florida? He's the next target of the Tea Party crew. Push him aside in favor of right-wing darling Marco Rubio. The big winner of the night was McDonnell, who's very right-wing but also ran an intentionally non-polarizing campaign.
Will Republicans do Obama a big favor by nominating a crop of Hoffmans for 2010?
Dick Armey embraces town hall disrupter   Nov. 3: Rachel Maddow calls out astroturf activist Dick Armey for being scheduled to attend a strategy meeting with a man from whom he disassociated himself just a couple of months ago.

C&L: Orrin Hatch Puts Christian Science Treatments Into Health-Care Reform Bill -- With Kerry and Kennedy's Help.
This is, to say the least, strange. Crazy enough that Hatch inserted it, odder still that Ted Kennedy and John Kerry supported it. But if passed, this will open the floodgates to every fringe group out there:
Reporting from Washington - Backed by some of the most powerful members of the Senate, a little-noticed provision in the healthcare overhaul bill would require insurers to consider covering Christian Science prayer treatments as medical expenses.
The provision was inserted by Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) with the support of Democratic Sens. John F. Kerry and the late Edward M. Kennedy, both of Massachusetts, home to the headquarters of the Church of Christ, Scientist.
The measure would put Christian Science prayer treatments -- which substitute for or supplement medical treatments -- on the same footing as clinical medicine. While not mentioning the church by name, it would prohibit discrimination against "religious and spiritual healthcare."
It would have a minor effect on the overall cost of the bill -- Christian Science is a small church, and the prayer treatments can cost as little as $20 a day. But it has nevertheless stirred an intense controversy over the constitutional separation of church and state, and the possibility that other churches might seek reimbursements for so-called spiritual healing.
Can you say "Scientology"? I knew you could!
Phil Davis, a senior Christian Science Church official, said prayer treatment was an effective alternative to conventional healthcare.
"We are making the case for this, believing there is a connection between healthcare and spirituality," said Davis, who distributed 11,000 letters last week to Senate officials urging support for the measure.
Don't get me wrong, I happen to believe this myself. But I wouldn't dream of asking other people to pay for my spiritual beliefs without their full knowledge and consent.
And since many Christian fundamentalists consider Christian Science to be a cult, I suspect the uproar will get this pulled out of the bill.

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