Tuesday, February 10, 2009

2/10/09 Howard the Kurtz

Good times. Howie Kurtz is one of the more fun chatters. Here is his chat today.
I fired off a few questions prechat:
Prescott, AZ:
Did it ever occur to you that asking Katie Couric a question about her new hairdo right after you had been discussing the role of sexism in the criticism directed towards her wasn't exactly in the best taste?
How many times have you questioned a male journalist about their new hairstyle?

Prescott, AZ:
When are you going to revisit your theory that the reason Republicans dominated appearances on Sunday talk shows was because they held the Presidency and both chambers of Congress? According to your thesis, Republicans should be way behind in recent appearances.

I got the idea to ask about Couric from Thinkprogress.
Back in r 2006, MediaMatters did a study of the Republican to Democrat ratio on the Sunday talk programs back to 1997, and it was heavily slanted toward Republicans. When someone brought it up to him, he (ignoring the fact that the data included many Clinton years) asserted that since Republicans controlled all the levers of government, it was only logical that they would be overrepresented on the talk shows.
I ask him about his theory rather often, but he doesn't really want to chat about it.
I sent this question right as the chat started:

Ana Marie Cox claimed on her Twitter feed that some "journalists" were grumbling about Obama taking a question from the Huffington Post. Boo hoo.How come they never grumbled when Bush was taking questions from Jeff Gannon/Guckert, who is a male prostitute turned online journalist (and, contrary to your article this morning, was the first blogger to ask the President a question at one of these things)?

The Villagers are clueless and very protective about their domain. Remember when Gannon was walking into the White House? The traditional media ignored it, and pretended it wasn't happening.
One has to wonder how much they grumble when Obama goes to these townhalls and the little people get to communicate with him and cut their static out?

Howie is defending the stupid question the Washington Post journo asked Obama about Alex Rodriguez. Someone commented that it was okay because Bush answered questions about Barry Bonds. I have to snark that:

Bush and Bonds:
If I recall, baseball questions were the only ones that Bush could answer in complete sentences.
No response, of course.

A number of people are pointing out that the Republican whining about the Stimulus is over 2% of a giant bill, and the press is amplifying their quibbles:

The one or two percent stimulus: Howard, Like your show on CNN. I have been puzzled by the news media when they often do not correct clearly misleading items presented by guests on shows. Like the percent of pork in the stimulus bill. Is it considered rude for a particular host or reporter to discount these items, or just allow he narrative to take shape, even if incorrect or frivolous. This seems to happen very often and almost always applies to the political reporting

Howard Kurtz: I certainly think anchors and other journalists should put things in perspective by pointing out the relative level of spending for controversial items in the bill. But that doesn't mean they should be discounted. After all, with a package this size, 1 percent amounts to more than $8 billion, which, even by Washington standards, ain't chicken feed.

This is the second or third question of this type Kurtz has answered, and he at first said that Democrats "courted trouble" by thinking money to hire nurses for STD prevention was "stimulus" Silly Democrats:

$8 billion in chicken feed:
Don't you think that journalists should put this stuff into perspective by comparing it to how much money we are blowing in Iraq?
Like let's say a Republican complains about $50 million for Headstart. Since the War is reported to cost $340 million per day, the reporter could report that said Republican thinks that pre-K education isn't worth 1/7th of a day in Iraq, and the Republican has voted yes for every single war appropriation.
I think it would put this thing in perspective real fast.

Kurtz keeps defending the stupid A-Rod question, and he put it into perspective by saying that Obama had already answered a bunch of boring old economic questions and he was way too windy doing it (and made the poor Wall Street Journal guy sad because they didn't get to his question) so it was time to change things up.
Howard Kurtz: I did not notice that, and as I've said, I didn't find it inane at all. This wasn't some "how 'bout them Yankees" question; it concerned the use of illegal substances by the biggest and richest star in baseball. And it came at a point when the president had already been asked a slew of economic questions.

I comment:

More questions…give and take:
You already complained that Obama answered four whole questions on the economy and thus it was time to move on to sports celebrity gossip and trivia.
What would have came next, Natalie Holloway?
Given the choice between a few long substantive answers on something really important, or a contest between reporters to see who can get the most inane, I suspect most people in this country are with Obama on this one.

Kurtz starts hyping his own high quality of journalamisms:

Hell's Kitchen, NYC: Per your column a few days ago: That the members of the pundit class have secure gigs while actual reporters have their paychecks on the line is a pretty big hint as to why the print media is in trouble. But I warn you: Watch your back. There is no shortage of grumpy guys with opinions about the media. Good, well-written reporting is hard to come by, though. When push comes to shove, isn't that where the investment should go?

What's It Worth To Ya? (Post, Feb. 6)

Howard Kurtz: This is why I concentrate on good, solid reporting as opposed to bloviating.

HAHAHAHAHAHA. HA. I have to ask about his other recent "reporting":

“good solid reporting”
You reported that Tucker Carlson had been "banished" from MSNBC and he showed up on Morning Joe a few days afterward. I don't think "good solid reporting" means what you think it does.

He takes the bait:

Howard Kurtz: How about some good, solid reporting by questioners? Here's what I actually reported in September after the Democratic convention, as opposed to what you imagined I reported:

"Tucker Carlson, the Weekly Standard alumnus whose show was canceled in March, went to Denver expecting to be on 'Hardball' every night. But only the morning show hosted by former Republican congressman Joe Scarborough would use him."

Uh, Howard, that would be true, if you weren't claiming a month ago (1/13/09) that Carlson was "banished":

Factual ideology: It is really easy to look up some of Republican Joe Scarborough's recent gaffe's (e.g. his fact-free rants about Al Franken "stealing" an election, or his fascination that Obama and Blagojevich have some sort of close relationship). I don't MSNBC's embrace of ideology is going as smooth as you think.

Howard Kurtz: "Morning Joe" (a show I like) is the only MSNBC program hosted by a conservative, albeit one who spent plenty of time criticizing his Republican Party over the last two years. Tucker Carlson has been banished. The evening programming is handled by Keith Olbermann, Rachel Maddow and Chris Matthews, who just got finished exploring running for the Senate from Pennsylvania as a Democrat.

He answered my question with 2 minutes or so left in the chat, but I still sent a response:

good solid reporting 2:
From your chat on 1/5/2009:
Factual ideology: It is really easy to look up some of Republican Joe Scarborough's recent gaffe's (e.g. his fact-free rants about Al Franken "stealing" an election, or his fascination that Obama and Blagojevich have some sort of close relationship). I don't MSNBC's embrace of ideology is going as smooth as you think.

Howard Kurtz: "Morning Joe" (a show I like) is the only MSNBC program hosted by a conservative, albeit one who spent plenty of time criticizing his Republican Party over the last two years. Tucker Carlson has been banished. The evening programming is handled by Keith Olbermann, Rachel Maddow and Chris Matthews, who just got finished exploring running for the Senate from Pennsylvania as a Democrat.

I wish I would have also brought up his recent "reporting" on Chris Matthews being a liberal. You know, Chris Matthews. The guy who admitted on his show that he voted for wingnut and scandal-ridden new RNC chair Michael Steele.

Monday, February 9, 2009

2/9/09 Shailagh Murray

Todays Post Politics chat. Two questions. Neither answered:

Prescott, AZ:
Something like 99% of economists, including the ones with Nobel Prizes, say federal government spending, on things like financial aid to states, food stamps, and unemployment insurance get more "bang for the buck" than tax cuts.
Yet when the "bipartisan" types in the Senate started slashing through the stimulus package, they appear to have specifically targeted the very type of stimulus that the highly regarded economists are saying is most essential, and either left in or even increased tax cuts that most economist don't think very highly of.
You've recently authored or collaborated on a number of articles about the Senate's stimulus debate. Have you asked these Senators about what particular insights they might have that causes them to ignore the professional opinions of economists? If not, why not? And if they have answered this, what are they saying? Does it jive with reality?

Prescott, AZ:

Any chance the Post could bring back their fact-check articles they were running during the campaign?
All last week, I heard Republicans complaining that this bill (except the tax-cut parts) stole from children. Well when the compormise came out, Republicans managed to cut this spending:
• $100 million for distance learning
• $1 billion for Head Start/Early Start
• $5.8 billion for Health Prevention Activity

I actually thought Ms. Murray did a good job in this chat today with substance. Given that in the past she has really irked some people with her answers (Atrios calls her "the devil" because she really, really, didn't like questions about the Valerie Plame affair and it was pretty obvious the whole outing a CIA agent thing bored her), I congratulate her.
There was one pet peeve instance in this chat. I don't like when they answer questions (usually dealing with process-type stuff) that someone could look up on the Google in 5 seconds:

Wilmington, N.C. : I'm new at this. So the House has one bill; the Senate theirs. So how is it decided which bill is passed and which is vetoed? Or do they get together and consolidate ideas from both? Thanks.

Shailagh Murray: This week the House and Senate will hold what's known as a conference committee, a huge gathering of leaders from both parties and both chambers, committee chairmen, and assorted others, who will set out to blend the two packages. Behind the scenes, staffers for all these folks will work around the clock, doing the real work. The Senate has the upper hand on this bill because Democrats aren't totally in control -- they have 58 votes, two short of the 60 needed to break a filibuster -- so they MUST retain some Republican support, meaning the final bill is likely to closely mirror what the Senate is expected to pass tomorrow. This process will take at least through Friday and very likely at least part of the weekend.

Am I being too harsh? I mean maybe this person is truly a political newbie and doesn't know where to start, but it is pretty easy to look up on your own how conference works, and I sometimes think that chatters answer these sorts of questions to get their hour over with. They filibuster, so to speak. During the election there was tons of "How many electoral votes does South Carolina have?" questions answered.
I should say that I have asked process questions when it was obvious that the political journalist in question let on that they either didn't know what the process was, or had it totally wrong. For instance, a few weeks ago Ann Kornblut was talking about the President issuing blanket pardons for torture related crimes. It was obvious Kornblut had no idea that a person accepting a presidential pardon was accepting guilt for a crime, and that if someone accepted a blanket pardon for torture, they were basically admitting to the World Court, Hague, etc. that they were guilty.
So I wrote in along the lines of "doesn't a pardon traditionally mean you are guilty? Wouldn't the World Court find such a torture admission interesting?" It got the ball rolling, and Kornblut proved she didn't know this pertinent bit of process.
I like to think these sorts of process questions educate the political insiders and help introduce a new set of variables to what is often insular thinking.

2/9/09 Rakesh Khurana

Rakesh Khurana, of the Harvard Business School, co-wrote this article about executive pay. The article is decent, and they argue that the problems with business don't just include exorbitant pay:

This system -- and the predictably reckless choices made by some of its most powerful players -- has brought our economy to the brink of collapse. To scold business may feel good and may even help move legislation along. But we need much more than a good scolding and limits on sky-high paydays. We need to rethink how American business ought to be run, including changes to fiduciary duties, legal liability, takeover rules and business education, among many other areas.

As I have been trying to introduce the theme that companies legally cheating on taxes is part of the problem, I asked him about it:

Prescott, AZ

Hi, I enjoyed you are article. In it, you refer to the "American public corporation". Do you think that companies that incorporate large portions of their companies at what is basically a PO Box in the Cayman Islands or some other tax haven should be able to consider themselves American?The events of these past couple weeks, with the emphasis on which Obama appointees did and didn't pay taxes on income made me start thinking about the billions that corporations, including some that are sucking up the TARP money at the moment, and one formerly run by the ex-Vice President, have skimmed by gaming our tax laws.

Am I only one who is outraged by this? And given current events, do you see a window of opportunity for fixing this legal theft?

Question not answered.

In the chat, there was the following exchange:

Atlanta: The newest thing I hear is that Barney Frank wants to regulate pay in all industries (presumably, all levels). I'm not sure that could happen - but that would certainly make me and my husband leave the country. That is no joke (we've even been discussing that lately). Aren't the consequences to what the Dems are talking about that people won't be wanting to work at the companies getting the bailout money? And the 'best and brightest' will go to the ones not taking the money? The flip side to that is this. Both my husband and I have worked at corporations - and most of them are incredibly risk averse. So they only promote people who think exactly like those doing the promoting. There are plenty of people who are good who never get promoted because they think differently. Will this possibly get the good but not promoted people up in the higher ranks?

Rakesh Khurana: I don't agree with the idea of regulating pay in all industries (and I say this as a voter in Congressman Frank's district).

I do, however, believe, that we are choosing the 'wrong' type of leader. Over the past two decades, the US shifted toward hiring 'celebrity' CEOs. Many of them from outside the company. This 'savior' model has proven disastrous. First, outside CEOs often lack the deep industry knowledge to be successful. There is a great deal of research highlighting this fact. Outsiders create a short-term boost to a firm's performance (most often by cutting and slashing), but long-term benefits do not emerge. Second, outside 'celebrity' CEOs demand outsized pay packages. Pay is no longer set against internal benchmarks (e.g. how much the COO makes), but rather against external benchmarks. These external benchmarks are often 'negotiated' and moreover boards set the pay at the 75th percentile, resulting in an accelerating pay package. Third, outside CEOs usually demand a buy-out of their current stock options as well as an air-tight golden parachute. The result is that you get paid, whether you succeed or not.

I didn't bother to look it up, but I am fairly confident that Rep. Frank never called for capping all pay in all industries. If I was Khurana, rather than saying that "I don't agree with the idea of regulating pay in all industries (and I say this as a voter in Congressman Frank's district)," I would say: "Atlanta, as a constituent of Frank, I am confident in concluding you are full of shit and need to turn the channel when Glenn Beck comes on the TV, or else you make yourself look stupid."
Just so we are on the same page, didn't we decide during the last 8 years that people who threatened to leave the U.S. because of Iraq or torture or whatnot hated America?
I submitted this response:

Re: Barney Frank/regulating pay
I don't believe for a second that Frank called to regulate all pay in all industries. Perhaps the person making this accusation should cite a source?

As an aside, Republicans are currently claiming that the public works programs of FDR made the Great Depression worse, but the massive public works program known as World War 2 solved the Depression. The public works of World War 2 DID include regulation of all pay in all sectors. Be careful what you argue for...and did you know that Republican Richard Nixon also capped all pay for three or so years in the early 1970's. Last I heard Nixon was a patron saint of Republicans.

This comment got no response.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

2/6/09 The Broder

Hi, here is my first post. Today I askedDavid Broder a few questions:
First a long one, I am trying to tease out of Broder some sort of admission that 35 out of 40 Republicans in the Senate are too crazy to negotiate with:

Prescott, AZ

Jim DeMint introduced an amendment yesterday to strip the stimulus of all spending and double down on tax cuts (i.e permanently get rid of estate tax, cut business tax by a lot, cut all tax brackets, etc.). I could have sworn this was the same guy that on Sunday morning was saying a "stimulus" bill had to temporary, but when it came to tax cuts he and much of his caucus appear to not believe what they have been saying in the last week.
DeMint's amendment got 34 or 35 Republican votes. So we have 34 or 35 Republicans who only want more of the same Bush policies (1005 tax cuts), with absolutely no middle ground, and in the face of massive data that 8 years of tax cuts helped ruin our economy (or at the very least didn't stem the ruination).
This leaves only 4 or 5 "reality based" Republicans that appear open to negotiation.
I don't blame their stance, as the majority of Republicans left in Congress come from really Republican districts in Republican states. It is literally against their best interests to negotiate one iota.
I know you love bipartisanship pretty much more than anything else, but please answer me how bipartisanship can work when one party has absolutely no interest in negotiating, is willing to be disingenuous (see DeMint's "temporary" to "permanent" flip-flop above, and sees no benefit to negotiation?

Next I am responding to this question/answer sequence:
Joe the Plumber/GOP Economics Expert:
What's your reaction to the GOP selecting as its intellectual leaders Rush Limbaugh and Joe the Plumber? Can you have meaningful dialogue in such circumstances?

David S. Broder:
I've heard Rus and Joe called many things. But "intellectual leaders"? You kiddin' me?

Joe and Rush:
I don't know, Republican congressional-types have been kissing Limbaugh's ring and they had Mr. the Plumber in for a policy lunch the other day. Those are data points.
Given that they still believe that tax cuts add revenue and have been solving our economic woes since 2001, I think Rush and Joe are as "intellectual" as leaders as Republicans in Congress are going to get.

I have been asking all the the politics chatters whether they think that executives who offshore profits to cheat the U.S. out of profits are tax cheats. Earlier in the week I was directly referring to Dick Cheney and his Halliburton tenure in my questions. I dialed it back and got the Broder to basically admit they are acting in a less than American fashion. This is good, now maybe I can bring it up on NPR's Talk of the Nation or something, or use it as fodder for other WaPo chatters.
Prescott, AZ:
With all this talk about people like Daschle and Geitner having to pay back taxes I would like your opinion. Do you think that companies that "move" their companies to a PO Box in the Cayman Islands solely to skimp on paying their U.S. taxes are tax cheats?

David S. Broder:
They may not be violating the law, as Daschle and Geithner apparently were, but they are taking advantage of a loophole and cheating on their obligation as an American company.

I love when these WaPo chatters have to state the obvious like their audience is a bunch of morons. If offshoring profits wasn't legal, why would I ask such a question? Didn't someone once say that the worst crimes were the legal ones?
As to the whole offshoring tax dodge, I think that there is currently a seething populist rage rippling through this country. Focusing on shaming these companies could not only be a positive outlet for this populism, but I think that if such outrage became a topic of conversation among the villagers, it could really cripple these companies ability to publicly fight against things like card check. A company trying to maintain their "patriotic" street cred wouldn't be able to take the lead against American workers.