Archive for the ‘USA’ Category

Bear baiting and cock fighting (aka US journalism)

Sunday, August 23rd, 2009
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The last couple of weeks of The Daily Show have been particularly good – some sort of end of term feeling, perhaps? Or maybe it’s the increasing frustration with the absurdities of the health care debate in the US (especially the bizarre claims about the UK’s NHS which, incidentally, isn’t even the model that’s being proposed for the US).

Anyway, it’s good to see someone in the US media call the “death panel” idiots out on their claims. It’s a shame it has to be a comedian on a cable channel.
Here’s the difference between UK and US journalism:
In the UK, someone makes a bizarre claim. Journalists investigate it and if it’s loony they ignore it (and make a note not to listen to that person again). If there’s something behind it, they report the story, not the claim.

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In the US, it seems, the claim itself is the story. Irrespective of whether there’s any substance to it. Just get that person on camera and let them make their claim, then ask someone to respond. It’s like bear baiting, or cock fighting. Except the journalists are the owners, setting up a fight for the entertainment of the audience.
Where’s the analysis? Where’s the fact checking?

I’ll tell you where: it’s on the Comedy Channel! How screwed up is that?

What Jon Stewart and his team do is invite people on to the show and instead of simply letting them repeat their claims, they ask them for evidence. Or present them with reasoned, logical arguments. He did it with Bill Kristol recently and got him to admit that military health care for veterans was excellent – that would be government-run health care.

He also pointed out that a discussion on cable news about health insurance was sponsored by an insurance company. But not a health insurance company – no, a car insurance company. The irony being that it is illegal to drive in the US without insurance, but not illegal to have no health insurance.

Here’s Stewart interviewing Betsy McCaughley, who identified the “death panels” in the health care bill. Except that when she’s asked to show where it mentions those, she can’t. She points to how doctors will be evaluated on their use and adherence to statements from patients about “life sustaining treatment” which as Stewart points out could mean “keep bringing me back no matter what” rather than mandatory “do not resuscitate” instructions.

Something Stewart points out but which is lost in the general melee is that “end of life counselling” was actually introduced by a certain George W Bush. It was seen as a great idea back then – allowing people to make their wishes known to avoid burdening loved ones with dreadful decisions or putting people through long and painful but ultimately futile treatment. But that was then. A Republican was in the White House. Now we’ve got a Kenyan Nazi (apparently) who wants to ship anyone over 60 off to the gas chambers.

Apparently that’s what we do here in the UK. Really?

Er, no. Far from having death panels, and poor health care because of the NHS, the UK not only has a better life expectancy than the US but the number of 100-year olds is steadily rising to such an extent that it’s no longer a big news event when someone reaches their century, as it was when I was a kid.

“Babies born nowadays in the UK are expected to live to the age of 100, while it is predicted that the number of centenarians will increase from the present-day total of 10,000 to 1million by the year 2074”

Compare “death panels” with the current denial of care that exists in the US, as covered in this fascinating but depressing story.

Or, for an uncomfortably funny/despair-inducing few minutes, watch as Jon Stewart tears apart the “death panel” argument with logic rather than rhetoric.

<td style='padding:2px 1px 0px 5px;' colspan='2'Betsy McCaughey Pt. 1
The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political Humor Healthcare Protests
<td style='padding:2px 1px 0px 5px;' colspan='2'Betsy McCaughey Pt. 2
The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political Humor Healthcare Protests

Most of the images of “town halls” I’ve seen have shown politicians standing dumbfounded in front of the (somewhat organised and well-briefed, if wrongly briefed) critics. You really want them to say simply that their concerns are unfounded.
All praise to Barney Frank who had the guts to go one step further:

Jon Stewart takes down CNBC and Jim Cramer

Saturday, March 14th, 2009

If you’ve been watching the Daily Show over the past week you’ll know that Stewart has been exposing the shoddy and dodgy advice that CNBC gave out before the collapse of the stock markets. That led to a war of words with Jim Cramer which culminated in his appearance on Thursday’s Daily Show.

If you missed it, here it is in three parts. It’s crazy that it takes a comedy show to expose the bullshit that came out of that network but this is exactly what satire is for:

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Vote McBlinky and Winky

Thursday, October 16th, 2008
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According to Sarah Palin you can’t blink. It’s a sign of weakness.

McBlinky & Winky 08

Sarah Palin at the UN: The secret footage

Thursday, September 25th, 2008

(I’m not the only one to spot the similarity – Andrew Sullivan got there first)

Argh! Make it stop!

Thursday, September 25th, 2008

If only this film were real:

See more funny videos and funny pictures at CollegeHumor.

Oh wait a minute. It is:

Watch CBS Videos Online

And in case you’ve still not scratched your eyes out of your head…

Sarah Loves Charlie

Saturday, September 13th, 2008

I ran Sarah Palin’s Charles Gibson/ABC interview (part 1) through <a href="http://wordle.net/gallery/wrdl/184022/Palin_1&quot;
title=”Wordle: Palin 1″>Wordle and, as suspected, she uses “Charlie” like it’s some sort of punctuation mark. A great bit of coaching by her handlers.

If you read the transcript and substitute your chosen expletive, it’s a lot funnier. And God knows, reading it back, we need all the laughs we can get…

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Quick summary: the woman knows nothing. Heaven help us all.

Americans left abandoned by Bush

Thursday, September 4th, 2008

The parallels were amazing: in the wake of Hurricane Katrina thousands of Americans were huddled together in a sports centre wondering where their president was. And in the wake of Hurricane Gustav, thousands (just about) of Americans were huddled together asking the same question.

I was glad to see The Daily Show spot the irony. This is one of the funniest things I’ve seen in a long time. Enjoy:

Ten Freedom Points if you guess where this happened

Sunday, August 31st, 2008

Guess where this happened:

Protesters here in [XX] have been targeted by a series of highly intimidating, sweeping police raids across the city, involving teams of 25-30 officers in riot gear, with semi-automatic weapons drawn, entering homes of those suspected of planning protests, handcuffing and forcing them to lay on the floor, while law enforcement officers searched the homes, seizing computers, journals, and political pamphlets. Last night, members of the [XX] police department and the [XX] handcuffed, photographed and detained dozens of people meeting at a public venue to plan a demonstration, charging them with no crime other than ‘fire code violations,’ and early this morning, the [XX] sent teams of officers into at least four [XX] area homes where suspected protesters were staying.

A: China

B: Russia

C: Cuba

D: Minneapolis, USA

E: Tibet

F: Iraq

Read this in full to see if you were right

Being runner up in Miss Alaska is great practice for being runner up in November

Friday, August 29th, 2008
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Apparently Sarah Palin, McCain’s pick for Vice President, was a runner up in the Miss Alaska competition. (The swimsuit round must have been nippy, no pun intended – but go ahead if you spotted it).

Seeing as the female population of Alaska numbers around 260,000, that’s not saying much. Given those odds, I reckon if I padded up and wore a dress I’d stand a pretty good chance.

On a more serious note, given that she is three years younger than Obama and has even less experience of government than he does, it seems inconsistent to argue that he’s not ready to be President but that she is. Watching her next to McCain earlier just made him look even older and more wooden than usual. In a few weeks time I think the Republicans who thought this was a good idea will think again.

A moment in history

Thursday, August 28th, 2008

The BBC’s Justin Webb on the nomination by acclamation of Obama:

It was stunning – a moment of brilliantly produced political theatre and a moment to cherish forever. Television conveys something but to be there, to see a death and a birth; that was something else.

What made it was the chaos, the crowd, the press of bodies, the tears, the consequence of it all. It reminded me of the British parliament at its best, rowdy and physical yet serious of purpose and aware of its potency: consequence.

People died years ago for America’s right to be able to have these moments and their descendents have done them proud, though in a way most of the nation’s founders would have found impossible to imagine.

The roll call went state by state (Hawaii happy, talk of sunshine, Michigan miserable, talk of lost jobs in the Bush years) and all was proceeding with that ceremonial and genteel decorum that America is so good at (‘Guam, can you repeat your numbers please? Oh thank you Guam!’) – and then came New York.

What made it was the physicality of the moment – she swept in from a tunnel, on to the crushed, cramped floor, arm-in-arm with the governor of the state and its other senator. When she took the microphone, it was not at a distant podium with music and autocue and clocks to time the start and the finish.

There on the floor Hillary Clinton uttered the words that she needed to utter, in slightly courtly language (reminders of the Brits again) but clearly and with awareness of their consequence.

Then Nancy Pelosi called for the seconder to the motion that Obama be selected, and the roar was surely felt down the years. She did not pause for those opposed – they were crushed too. That, too, is politics. A reminder that all this is the exercise of power, of one group of human beings forcing others to accept their dominance.

As people cried and hugged each other and the music blared, I thought of the little black children stolen from their parents, the daily cruelty and humiliation suffered by black people in this country for so long in what one historian calls ‘America’s Original Sin’ and, to a lesser extent, the daily miseries they still endure. From slavery to the nomination of a black man as the leader of a major party. Sometimes it really does appear that our political evolution matches our physical progress…

(Via BBC NEWS | Justin Webb’s America.)

It certainly looked dramatic. Up until then the DNC had made even British parties’ annual conferences look like things of substance.