Saturday, October 11, 2008

Blog #57: No muckraking in the Debate

Well, Presidential Debate #2 from Nashville happened Tuesday night, and the earth remains in stable orbit around the sun, and a brief check of the night sky did confirm that the moon was still mindlessly circling the earth. CNN’s post debate poll showed Obama the winner by 24 points, 54 for Obama to 30 for McCain. There was no muck raking, the names Ayer and Reverend Wright never came up, neither did a reminder of McCain’s link to the Keating Five. Did they answer the questions? Well, kinda, sort of.

As for the debate, pundits, including top Republican strategists, said that Senator McCain had needed a watershed event during the second debate to change the polls which are beginning to favor Senator Obama. Thankfully for those of us who advocate the need for real change in Washington, none was forthcoming. Republicans, desperate for some flicker of light as they near a dead end tunnel’s dead end, have been heard to say, “If Obama is doing so well, why isn’t he leading in the polls by ten or twenty points, instead of only four or five?” To which a Democratic analyst was heard to reply, “because he’s black. If he was white he would be leading by twenty points easily.”

In summing up Tuesday night’s 90 minute debate we used the same technique we used after the Palen-Biden debates last week, that of reprinting the first four comments that followed the Houston Chronicle’s report of the debate. In answering a possible charge of skewering the results, I would point out that, like last week, I simply published the first four comments the Chronicle published. You would have to delve much deeper into the comments to find one supporting Senator McCain’s position. And now, the comments:

Chop281Shop wrote: Tomorrows News Headline: Scrooge Gets Schooled. McCain is too angry, unhinged and 26 years out of touch to be President.
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nonewsisgoodnews wrote: Senator McCain is trying to convince voters that the best way to "change" the Bush/McCain policies of the past eight years is to vote for another Republican...that is like setting a house on fire, and then claiming that you are the best qualified person to put the fire out.
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AnimuX wrote: These debates are not for those of us who are already decided on our candidates. For those who have made up their minds it's the equivalent of a sports match and they all root for "their team.” Hopefully those who are still deciding on what they see as the lesser of two evils will get the information they need to choose a candidate.
On that note I can only say that for me as an independent voter the choice boils down to the last 8 years of Republican president and the decade before 2006 of Republican controlled congresses which, in my opinion, have placed us in the precarious and ruinous situation we see today.
This Veteran of the Iraq war will not vote for another Republican disaster.
No way. No how. No McCain. No Palin. No more Republican BS in the White House.
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GatorBait wrote: Great performance tonight by Obama. He called out McCain for his continual lies about Obama's tax and health care plans. He was confident and calming. McCain came across as old and tired with few new ideas…. You call this "taking the gloves off?”
Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. - Albert Einstein
Insanity: electing Republicans over and over again and expecting different results. - GatorBait
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In my view neither candidate boiled the election down to its true essence. Which is, which group (class) of the American people should the federal government work for? Under the Republican rule of the past seven plus years the government has existed primarily for the financial gain of the extremely wealthy, the big corporations, and most particularly the war contractors. All were excused from paying their fair share of the cost of government and the war, although they get the primary monetary benefits from the system. Republicans believe in “pure” capitalism and so in their tenure they cheerfully deregulated as much of the banking and financial industry as they dared, and as a result much of the credit for the current meltdown of our economic structure can be rightfully laid at their doorstep. And the dramatic swing in the polls indicates that voters are beginning to place the blame exactly where it belongs.

Every time the Democrats promise help for the middle class in tax breaks, in health care, etc., squeamish squirming Republican scalawags squeal socialism. And indeed, socialism it is, but ladies and gentlemen, pay no attention to the babble of Republican mouthings. Socialism is no dirty word. Deregulated capitalism out of control is the dirty word of this day and age. An equally dirty phrase is “Trickle Down,” the brand of economics espoused by “supply side” Republicans from Herbert Hoover to Ronald Reagan, and from Newt Gingrich and Phil Gramm to John McCain. The comedienne Rosanne Barr characterized trickle down succinctly in her Huffington Post critique of the first presidential debates when she wrote, “Trickle down economics is when the rich piss on the poor, and John McCain thinks that's swell. Obama tried to remind Americans of what is morally right and what is morally wrong, and that was fantastic to witness.”

And one more thing, ladies and gentlemen, you cannot truly reform the health care industry unless you bring it under the wing of the federal government, placing it under government surveillance and control. Harry and Louise be damned, a for-profit industry does not and cannot serve people’s health care needs, as the present system attests all too clearly. Under such a system if fairly run providers would have to pay out more than they take in. And so the only way they can turn their shareholders a profit is by refusing coverage for as many of their members as they can get away with. This point was brought home in memorable fashion in Michael Moore’s unforgettable documentary of our health care system, Sicko. After once hearing it who can forget the testimony of Linda Peeno, a former medical reviewer for Humana, whose testimony was broadcast to the nation by C-SPAN as she testified before a Congressional committee in a deathly quiet, tear streaked voice:

“I am here primarily today to make a public confession. In the spring of 1997 as a physician, I denied a man a necessary operation which would have saved his life, and thus caused his death. No person and no group has held me accountable for this, because in fact what I did, I saved the company a half a million dollars. And furthermore, this particular act secured my reputation as a good medical director and it insured my continued advancement in the health care field. I went from making $300 a week as a medical reviewer to an escalated six figure income as a physician consultant.

“And in all my work I had one primary duty, and that was to use my medical expertise for the financial benefit of the organization for which I worked. And I was told repeatedly that I was not denying care, I was denying payment. I know how managed care maims and kills patients, so I am here to tell you about the dirty work of managed care, and I’m haunted by the thousands of pieces of paper on which I had written that deadly word, denied.” Remember Ms Peeno’s words when the subject of health care reform comes up after the election. And ignore the squeals of the medical and drug establishment, don’t let Harry and Louise put the shiv in us yet again. Let’s take the profit out of Health, and put the Care back in.
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Cindy McCain, wife of candidate McCain, made no friends with the truth the other day when she emotionally lamented Senator Obama’s refusal to vote to fund the troops. Mr. Obama, along with many another Democrat, was trying to attach some kind of timeline for a troop withdrawal in the bill, not deprive the troops of funds. Like the Republicans back in the Clinton years when they threatened to shut down the government and then were the first to blink and back down when President Clinton called their bluff,

House Democratics blinked after trying to get the Shrub* to set a timeline for troop withdrawal. But Ms McCain tried to depict it as a deliberate case of troop deprivation and questioned Obama’s patriotism. Cindy McCain had also lashed out at Obama earlier in the week telling a Tennessee newspaper that the Illinois senator has waged the "dirtiest campaign in American history." What kind of nonsense is that? The McCain campaign is not suffering from charges the Obama campaign is making; it is taking hits from the state of the nation’s economy, a condition of which their party was a direct contributor. And Obama was not the first to instigate negative ads, but only responded in kind to negative ads of the McCain campaign? Ms. McCain must be consuming entirely too much of the product her family distributes.

Cindy McCain isn’t the only Republican lashing out in recent days. Vp nominee Sarah Palin has been leading the charge, fruitlessly trying to link Senator Obama to Bill Ayers, a man who had been a founding leader of the Weathermen, an anti-government group who in the 1960’s expressed their displeasure with the government’ s Vietnam policy by exploding bombs here and there. All of this happened when Senator Obama was eight years old, and many years later when he knew of the Weathermen’s history he condemned their actions. Ayers is currently an American elementary education theorist who served on a board with Obama many years ago and who early in his career held a fund raising party for the then state senator.

In their desperation with their plumeting poll ratings even members of McCain’s audience were crying for McCain to “take off the gloves” and get nasty, as if tearing down the Obama campaign was going to solve their lagging campaign’s problems. Everybody knows their problems hearken back to James Carville’s famous slogan from the Clinton campaign of 1992, “It’s the Economy Stupid!” and the present day economy is no friend of the McCain campaign.
*Shrub is the name the late Molly Ivins tacked onto Prez #43.
“If it fits you must convict,” paraphrasing the words of the late Johnny Cochran.
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Poor John McCain, reputable songwriters just don’t want his presidential campaign using their music. The latest to complain is Foo Fighters. They sent out a missive to the Republican candidate to stop using “My Hero.” They said they learned it was being used through news reports. "The saddest thing about this is that 'My Hero' was written as a celebration of the common man and his extraordinary potential," the band said in a statement. "To have it appropriated without our knowledge and used in a manner that perverts the original sentiment of the lyric just tarnishes the song."

The band noted that it's not the first time McCain has been told to stop using a song. John Mellencamp, Heart and Jackson Browne have also complained — Browne even filed a lawsuit. In the interest of balance we should point out that soul legend Sam Moore also has asked the campaign of Barack Obama to stop using his song "Soul Man."

The McCain campaign released the following statement: "The McCain-Palin campaign respects copyright. Accordingly, this campaign has obtained and paid for licenses from performing rights organizations, giving us permission to play millions of different songs, including 'My Hero,'" said McCain-Palin spokesman Brian Rogers.
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These are strange times indeed. In a time when the Republican presidential campaign spews garbage, and the economy tanks, it is no wonder that many people prefer getting their news from the likes of Saturday Night Live, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, and from websites like The Onion, rather than from so-called legitimate news sources like the television networks and CNN and the champions of newsprint, the N.Y. Times and the Washington Post. This brings to mind a lovely story in this week’s Onion, one that rates quite high on our chuckle meter.

DAYTON, TN—A steady stream of devoted evolutionists continued to gather in this small Tennessee town today to witness what many believe is an image of Charles Darwin — author of The Origin Of Species and founder of the modern evolutionary movement — made manifest on a concrete wall in downtown Dayton.

"I brought my baby to touch the wall, so that the power of Darwin can purify her genetic makeup of undesirable inherited traits," said Darlene Freiberg, one among a growing crowd assembled here to see the mysterious stain, which appeared last Monday on one side of the Rhea County Courthouse. The building was also the location of the famed "Scopes Monkey Trial" and is widely considered one of Darwinism's holiest sites. "Forgive me, O Charles, for ever doubting your Divine Evolution. After seeing this miracle of limestone pigmentation with my own eyes, my faith in empirical reasoning will never again be tested."

Added Freiberg, "Behold the power and glory of the scientific method!"

Since witnesses first reported the unexplained marking — which appears to resemble a 19th-century male figure with a high forehead and large beard — this normally quiet town has become a hotbed of biological zealotry. Thousands of pilgrims from as far away as Berkeley's paleoanthropology department have flocked to the site to lay wreaths of flowers, light devotional candles, read aloud from Darwin's works, and otherwise pay homage to the mysterious blue-green stain.
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Investors are a skittish bunch. No matter how absurd, the wildest rumor can bring on the downturn of a stock. Recently CNN on it’s website floated a completely fabricated story that Apple CEO Steve Jobs had suffered a heart attack and was taken to the local emergency room. Apple stocks took a nosedive, even though the story was denied by an Apple spokesperson as completely false and the item was pulled within thirty minutes. The problem, of course, is that more than any other CEO in industry, Steve Jobs is identified with Apple products, the likes of the Macintosh computers, the iPod music players, and his latest creation, a combination music player, internet device, and cellphone known as the iPhone. However writing in PC World, Gregg Keizer offers a fascinating report disputing that premise: “Apple doesn't need Steve Jobs,” an analyst argued Monday.

“Early on Friday, Apple shares slid below $100 for the first time since May 2007 after a false report circulated that Apple's 53-year-old CEO had suffered a major heart attack. The report, posted on, a "citizen journalist" Web site operated by CNN, was quickly denied by Apple, but not before the share price had slid nearly 11%.

“The panic was unwarranted,” said Ezra Gottheil, an analyst with Technology Business Research Inc.

"Apple doesn't need Jobs anymore," Gottheil said. "He's established three sound businesses -- Mac, iPod and the iPhone -- and the company knows how to execute his fanatical devotion to design and usability. There's a stable management team in place, and they know what they're doing."

“Investors have been nervous about Jobs' health since last June, when he appeared gaunt at Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference. Although company spokespeople said Jobs was under the weather from a "common bug," his appearance fueled speculation that he was again seriously ill, a reference to Jobs' 2004 announcement that he had had surgery to remove a cancerous tumor in his pancreas. Jobs in July told The New York Times that he is healthy.

“Since then, other incidents, including the accidental posting of Jobs' obituary by Bloomberg financial news service in August, have caused investors to question the company's future sans Jobs.

“They shouldn't be so worried,” said Gottheil. "Without Jobs, Apple would have to pay a lot more to get the world's attention," he said, referring to the CEO's knack for promoting his company's products. "But he's got a company and a brand and an organization and a strategy in place. There's no reason to think that those things can't be carried forward without him."

“If Jobs stepped down, Tim Cook, currently chief operating officer, would run the company, Gottheil said. Cook ran Apple while Jobs out in 2004 after his cancer surgery. Jonathan Ive, Apple's senior vice president for industrial design, would pick up the reins on product design.

“The July hiring of former Segway Inc. chief technology officer Doug Field as Apple's new vice president of design, Gottheil speculated, is an attempt by Apple to free up Ive to take on a more strategic view of product design.

“That's not to say that Apple wouldn't be different. It would play things more conservatively without Jobs,” Gottheil believes. "It may not be able to make the inspired guesses that created the iPod and the iPhone," he said. But those leaps aren't necessary for Apple to continue. "We believe that sort of risk-taking is no longer necessary, and the current management can build very effectively on what Jobs has created," Gottheil added.

“And Gottheil is realistic to know that Apple's shares will invariably take a hit when Jobs does leave the company. "All this is not to say that the market won't react. Investors will certainly panic until they see proof that the management team can continue," he said. "But I see Apple after Jobs as Ford after Henry Ford," Gottheil said. "The acolytes have incorporated the main teachings of Jobs. He's created a process and a culture that will continue."

So much for “Citizen Journalism.” At the very least CNN ought to have a pair of eyes watching the posts, eyes with the ability to check out the facts before publishing so wild a rumor. Another happening like that is likely to do irreparable damage CNN’s good name as a reliable news organization. Just as deregulation has tanked the financial industries, so deregulation of the news can add chaos to the news business. Let’s face it, friends, the world needs traffic cops policing all of its highways and biways.
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And now for a message from the other side of the mirror, the Zune Player’s mission of iPod catchup. From the Seattle Post-Intelligencer’s Microsoft blog Joe Tartakoff reports on good news for Zune maker Microsoft. Piper Jaffray's bi-annual teen survey includes some positive news for Microsoft's Zune music player. Yes, the survey says that Apple's share of the portable media player market among high school students increased to 84 percent, up from 80 percent a year ago. And, yes, a whopping 79 percent of teens who said they planned to buy a music player in the next 12 months said they expected to buy an iPod, up from 78 percent a year ago.

But the Zune's share of the teen market is up as well -- up to 3 percent, from 2 percent a year ago. Moreover, 15 percent of teens surveyed who said they planned on buying a music player over the next year said they expected to buy a Zune, up from 13 percent a year ago.

The report concludes: While Microsoft is gaining on Apple, the share growth is coming at the expense of players other than Apple, as Apple's share is holding strong around 80%. Apple's dominance in the (portable music player) market remains largely unchecked, and it is clear to us that Apple has captured the "cool factor" among high school students across America.
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aggregator |?agri?g?t?r|
1 Computing an Internet company that collects information about competing products and services and distributes it through a single Web site : a travel insurance aggregator.
2 a wholesale buyer or broker of a utility service, such as electricity or long-distance telephone service, who packages it and sells it to consumers.
Apple Computer’s Dictionary, 1.0.2.
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Internet news aggregators include the Huffington Post at one end of the political spectrum and the Drudge Report at the other end, and also includes technology sites like Gizmoto and Endgadget. But there is a brand new general news site that is creating ripples throughout cyberspace. The site was created by Tina Brown, the former editor of The New Yorker and Vanity Fair.

There follows a few items from Tina Brown’s Q & A announcing the site: What is the Daily Beast? • It’s a speedy, smart edit of the web from the merciless point of view of what interests the editors. . . . the omnivorous friend who hears about the best stuff and forwards it to you with a twist . . . .

Does the world really need another news aggregator? • The Daily Beast doesn’t aggregate. It sifts, sorts, and curates. We’re as much about what’s not there as what is. And we freshen the stream with a good helping of our own original content with a wonderfully diverse group of contributors including satirist Christopher Buckley and historian Sean Wilentz, etc.

Are you doing this because you’re jealous of Arianna Huffington? • Not entirely, though I have always followed Arianna’s career with the liveliest interest. She is a very old friend, going back to when she was at Cambridge and I was at Oxford. I love what she has achieved at HuffPo. And her partner Ken Lerer, another old friend, has also been a total mensch about the birthing of our beast.

According to Ms. Brown the name is from Scoop, Evelyn Waugh’s satire of Fleet Street, which happens to be her favorite novel of all time. She added, for those who prefer Henry James let’s just say The Beast knows its way through the jungle.

Today’s Beast headlines (Friday, Oct. 10, 2008) include the following: Overnight Market Plunge, The GOP Has No More Smart People, Why the Recession is Good for You, and Buffett Still Incredibly Rich, among six others. And I found the ode below thanks to Saturday's Beast.

Ode to Sean Hannity

by John Cleese

Aping urbanity
Oozing with vanity
Plump as a manatee
Faking humanity
Journalistic calamity
Intellectual inanity
Fox Noise insanity
You’re a profanity

To try it for yourself go to the URL directly below.
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And political junkies are further directed to TPM Talking Point Muchraker (, a blog by Joshua Micah Marshall which aggregates political polls among other things and among other things asks the question, Will Trooper/Gate Report Ever See the Light of Day? as well as the resounding question, How Low Can He Go, Take #9.

And here’s where we leave the world for this week. Do come back next week, same URL, and why not bring along a friend or two. Meantime in the words of the immortal Mister Spock, “Live Long and Prosper!” No easy trick in times like these.

The Real Little Eddy

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