abba's way

Today’s Breaking News

Today’s breaking news notes Mitt Romney’s staying power, Red Tube’s banality and the low esteem in which aesthetics is held,  considers the current state of US online businesses and China, links to a post-automobile street action in Bristol and reprises an exegesis of Bob Dylan’s enjoyable song “I and I”. This is a feature I am trying out. If there is good response I will continue it.

Of Red Tube and Other Web Excrescences

June 10, 2011
Annals of the Aesthetic
EBay Continues to Try in China

June 10, 2011
Annals of Business
Chalking it Up in Bristol

June 10, 2011
Annals of Facebook Grass Roots Revolution
Parsing Bob’Dylan’s “I and I”

June 10, 2011
Annals of Great Music



My Problem With MSNBC

My problem is I hardly watch it any more. A while back I thought it had real potential. Now I think it is on its way down.

Not because I do not agree with what I assume to be its hopes for the President. But because they serve these hopes in the following ways:

1. I cannot believe the Rachel Maddow peremptory attitude that says essentially, “We’ll see what the President can do now…” As though it was up to him alone. It is up to us and if she is a true progressive she will get with the program and stop playing wise guy. I know she often does exemplary things. But I also know she has shied away from major global human rights issues that cried out for some progressive attention. I think she is probably the best of the lot now, but a shaky best.

2. Keith Olbermann’s format is becoming a bore to me. I liked Jean Shepherd and his music and other anachronistic things on Keith remind me that the next time around is never equal to what is being evoked. The plain fact is we do not care about the pissing contests and fun-making and grimaces and other posturing. The most recent denouement of the current style was the Glen Beck Daily Kos fiasco in which Keith went full bore and then pulled a Wizard of Oz nothing act on the air. It was literally unbelievable. And I think full justification for the President’s gentle chiding of progressives last night.

3.  Then there is Chris Matthews who has evidently decided that visible aging is an excuse for the emulation of a gravitas that he lacks. Many of us who have served in various ranks have a choice to make when we talk about our less-than-central role in things. One can shut up or write a novel or start celebrating yourself at every turn. Chris has chosen the last option with numbing effect. But that is probably a nasty jab, even if  true. The main problem I have with Chris is that while he is routinely being rude and interrupting his guests, he is also allowing his own opinions and feelings to so predominate that he becomes a most unreliable witness to events. Because he is dealing with important issues, this is bigger than just accusing him of being opinionated. He is using words to distort the truth at times. And this makes him no better than the more obvious examples of this sad tendency.

4. I reserve my last place concern for the Ed Show which I think would require a H. L. Mencken to adequately describe. Again I agree with many of his impulses and points but I find his show a travesty, a production bust and an exercise in blather and bloviation beyond my capacity to describe or adequately criticize. I do not think he serves the causes he so obviously represents. I think he toadys to some guests and thinks that off-the-cuff will play to his audience. I find the whole thing frankly unbelievable. A man of the people in 30 Rock ? Enough said.

This is the MSNBC lineup and this is how I see it. I know there are many who are happy with this channel.  I think it is precariously perched on the road to perdition. I wish CSPAN would put up a news channel that simply reads news in something like real time.


Arianna Huffington’s Strange Aversion to Obama

Arianna Huffington seems to be becoming an MSNBC regular and MSNBC seems to have cast anything like reliable reporting to the winds.

Yesterday afternoon Barack Obama said just what he intended to do on health care and Roger Simon of Politico, a few minutes later, on Hardball, suggested that the President needed to do just these things. Such ignorance is pathetic. I didn’t tune in to see if it was repeated on a successive tape of the “show”. Simon also left out a whole list of other things Obama said. Obama is an inconvenience to the media. He says what he thinks. They could not report as they do if they listened.

Now it seems Ed Schultz, who is apparently miffed at being called an over-reactor, features as an apparent ally — Arianna Huffington. I think she and a number of MSNBC regulars, including the usually sensible Joan Walsh, are infected wth a virus I cannot identify. Well, maybe I can. Maybe is the virus that made it impossible for limousine liberals to escape the noose prepared for them by the likes of Dick Nixon.

I mean folk who operate not out of real need or self-interest but out of altruism, sometimes accompanied by preening self-regard. Their posture, depending on their wealth and celebrity, is what may have inspired Bob Dylan to speak of the executioner’s hand as “well-hidden”. Though in recent years the need to hide malevolence seems to have diminished.

Now Joan and Arianna and Ed Schultz would not execute anyone on death row, but they darn sure do not recognize the power of their words when dealing with one Barack Obama, who happens to be the President of the United States.

I honestly believe it is because they have no real interest in whether he succeeds or not, regardless of the sympathetic look in their TV eyes when they enunciate his shortcomings. If they were interested, they would start looking at the actual things he has said and done and at the language of what has been produced on the health care front, instead of pontificating on the President’s problems as though he was just a bystander buffeted by friend and foe.

Jack Kennedy was given a massive honeymoon by the media, even when he was doing things that turned out to be terrible. Now Arianna and Joan and Ed and Chris, and the whole sorry family of talking heads on MSNBC’s PM lineup, with the sometime exception of Rachel Maddow, feel they can beat up on President Obama while decrying the racism that others are showing. Ouch!

If Arianna has legitimate reasons to conclude that the President has mismanaged, she has not offered a proper brief. In fact, I think it is more a matter of whether she has mismanaged.

Someone commented here that HuffPo is tabloid journalism and I am reluctantly forced to agree. Even tabloids come up with an occasional gem. So does HuffPo.
But, over all, it really does participate in the pall of mediocrity that lies over our national life today.

Huffington Post is set up to favor celebrities and close out bloggers whose points of view are iconoclastic or at odds with conventional wisdom. Fortunately, there are efforts underway to provide an alternative that will hopefully carry on a tradition of fair journalism and a clear division between reporting and opinion.

Obama has been more than open and fair to Huffington Post. I am not suggesting that Arianna thank him. But I find it a tacky pursuit to become a talking head on MSNBC at a time when that channel is systematically throwing away the standards set by at least some of its past luminaries. Its sad ratings compared to FOX represent a compelling reason for new management.

It is bad enough to have no public intellectuals without having an increasingly mindless commentariat.


Digging Into The Health Care Morass

Yes. Well. No one said legislation would be like the campaign. No Hillary to knock around any more. No breathless waiting for this or that event or primary.

Just endless pages of health care legislation that is not even finalized. And with all the best will in the world, rampant ignorance and willful obfuscation.

Well here is most of the summary of the House bill of things I bet you did not even know were there. Whether they will end up there I do not know, but the following at least illustrate what MSNBC and others are assiduously failing even to note while they cover such important things as Hillary’s off hand remarks in Africa and other weighty matters.

Official Summary


America’s Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009 – Sets forth provisions governing health insurance plans and issuers, including:

(1) exempting grandfathered health insurance coverage from requirements of this Act;
(2) prohibiting preexisting condition exclusions;
(3) providing for guaranteed coverage to all individuals and employers and automatic renewal of coverage;

Establishes the Health Insurance Exchange within the Health Choices Administration in order to provide individuals and employers access to health insurance coverage choices, including a public health insurance option. Requires the Commissioner to:

(1) contract with entities to offer health benefit plans through the Exchange to eligible individuals; and

(2) establish a risk-pooling mechanism for Exchange-participating health plans. Provides for an affordability premium credit and an affordability cost-sharing credit for low-income individuals and families participating in the Exchange. Requires employers to offer health benefits coverage to employees and make specified contributions towards such coverage or make contributions to the Exchange for employees obtaining coverage through the Exchange. Exempts businesses with payrolls below $250,000 from such requirement. Amends the Internal Revenue Code to impose a tax on:

(1) an individual without coverage under a health benefits plan; and

(2) an employer that fails to satisfy health coverage participation requirements for an employee. Imposes a surtax on individual modified adjusted gross income exceeding $350,000. Amends title XVIII (Medicare) of the Social Security Act to revise provisions relating to payment, coverage, and access, including to:

(1) reduce payments to hospitals to account for excess readmissions;

(2) limit cost-sharing for Medicare Advantage beneficiaries;

(3) reduce the coverage gap under Medicare Part D (Voluntary Prescription Drug Benefit Program);

(4) provide for increased payment for primary health care services; and

(5) prohibit cost-sharing for covered preventive services. Requires the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to provide for the development of quality measures for the delivery of health care services in the United States. Establishes a Center for Comparative Effectiveness Research within the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, financed by a tax on accident and health insurance policies, to conduct and support health care services effectiveness research. Sets forth provisions to reduce health care fraud. Amends title XIX (Medicaid) of the Social Security Act to:

(1) expand Medicaid eligibility for low-income individuals and families;

(2) require coverage of additional preventive services; and

(3) increase payments for primary care services. Sets forth provisions relating to the health workforce, including:

(1) addressing health care workforce needs through loan repayment and training;

(2) establishing the Public Health Workforce Corps;

(3) addressing health care workforce diversity; and

(4) establishing the Advisory Committee on Health Workforce Evaluation and Assessment. Sets forth provisions to:

(1) provide for prevention and wellness activities;

(2) establish the Center for Quality Improvement;

(3) establish the position of the Assistant Secretary for Health Information;

(4) revise the 340B drug discount program (a program limiting the cost of covered outpatient drugs to certain federal grantees);

(5) establish a school-based health care program; and

(6) establish a national medical device registry.



MSNBC’s Slippery Fishing Expedition

I have to assume that MSNBC is following someone’s lead in trying to gin up a Pelosi coup story. It is the sort of thing that makes watching this once promising channel not merely a chore but an impossibility. When you are online and aware of what is going on, TV such as MSNBC and its Pelosi fishing expedition is too pathetic for more than an epitaph.

Here is what is happening. Pelosi will be Majority Leader much longer than MSNBC will be around in its present configuration.

Any channel that cares so little for news that it does not even run it on Sundays, that stacks its shows with stables of talking heads whose main qualification seems to be that they appear on all their programs and that insists on reporting events in progress before they have any understanding of what the event is, is going down.

Pelosi from strength to strength.

MSNBC, for taking a tempest in a teapot and trying to gin up a coup, a further slide down an already slippery slope.


Ed Show Sinking Fast on “Obama Blog”

I know the blog is now Organizing for America but I am a creature of habit. I think of it as the Obama Blog, and just now the attention is on the Ed Show. About a week ago the new boy on the MSNBC block was getting plaudits and I almost repented of my first criticism of the show back in April.

But now the Obama core that comments on the “Obama blog” is hitting Ed hard and with reason.

It is difficult to present yourself as a voice of honesty and then waver between having your own show and reverting to the same poor format that makes MSNBC largely unwatchable. I refer to the talking head format where you get a predictably wingnut voice from the depths of Las Vegas and someone centrist from online and someone else you have seen fifty times and assume that, when all of them are emoting simultaneously, you are having a discussion.

I can only conclude that Mr. Ed does not have real internal control, that is to say a real concept, a real understanding. Or maybe 30 Rock leeches these things out of all who enter there.

There are tons of genuine experts out there who are never asked to appear on TV, save sometimes on CSPAN or PBS.



How Journalistic Ineptitude Displays

Contessa Brewer on MSNBC offers an exact and chilling example of how TV is turning journalism into a shrug the shoulders. She blares out that scores have died of swine flu in Mexico. She then interviews a science guy who explains that in fact there have only been 19 actual deaths specifically attributed to this flu. She dismisses the expert she shrugs the discrepancy off. She does not say she was wrong. She does not say this is news. She breezes on to the next whatever. I think she is but an example of the interposition of barely-competent talking heads between expert reporting and us. This is unacceptable and shabby stuff. How MSNBC can allow it to stand is a question worth asking.