Wednesday, March 18, 2009

ABC's Castle, and the Strangest Line of the Year

In the
Castle premiere, a woman said to the lead that in order to attract men "it wouldn't kill you to put on some lipstick."

The woman in the picture above? That's Stana Katic, the woman this line was said to. (It goes without saying that the woman who said the line was not nearly as attractive, and was wearing too much makeup.)

But to return to the main point: If Stana Katic is not wearing lipstick in the picture above, then she doesn't need lipstick. Do women really think there exists a straight man who would look at Stana Katic and think, "Meh, needs lipstick."?

Dick Cheney Does Not Think About Things He Does Not Think About

Dick Cheney's most recent interview, a tongue bath from CNN's John King, has angered many people. The fear-mongering, the revisionism, the denial. The way he seems to be hoping for an attack on America... all vintage Cheney, all pure Dickery.

What strikes me most is the sadness of it all. Cheney used to be this smirking Darth Vader figure, this shadowy ghoul who seemed to delight in the fact that he struck terror into all around him. But like many powerful men, he forgot that the power was not his. It was ours. We lent it to him. And once we took it away, he was left pitifully naked. An Emperor with no clothes.

Dick Cheney doesn't really seem like DICK CHENEY any more. He is more like Matthew Harrison Brady at the end of Inherit the Wind. A former lion, now pathetically sputtering instead of roaring. A confused old man who used to live surrounded by power and influence, and who now lives among the smell of Gold Bond and old farts.

He should be indicted, but if we're not going to do that let's just turn away and let him crawl back to his hole. It would be more humane than anything he ever did.

Please Help Me Understand MSNBC

I am not being a wiseguy, I really don't understand how the place works. My news experience is limited to one year at Northwestern's Medill School... so in other words I have no news experience. But as much as I love MSNBC, I still feel like there's a link missing in the chain.

All of MSNBC news and NBC news has reported that word of the AIG bonuses reached the President on Sunday. Which is true.

Yesterday on Morning Mika, Mika Brzezkinski whined and whatEVer'd all morning about how the President knew "all along" about the bonuses and was "play-acting" on Monday. She continued the refrain on Hardball: "We knew all along!" "We're all to blame!" To which I, at home, replied, "Who's this 'we'?!" and turned off the TV.

Every other program on MSNBC had reported and continued to report that the President learned of the bonuses on Sunday. I'm thinking, gee, if I ran MSNBC I'd pass a note down to Mika to tell her she was saying something untrue, and saying it over and over. But no one did. And the other MSNBC shows continued to report the non-Mika version, the truth.

This morning, Chuck Todd reported on Today that the President learned of the bonuses on Sunday. But on Morning Joe, the gang was still saying this "He knew all along" stuff. Did it all morning.

So I'm thinking, gee, if I ran MSNBC, I'd pass a note down to them to please stop that.

But something quite different happened: Chuck Todd came on Morning Joe, and apparently everyone had been told to stop talking about that one subject. They carefully and obviously avoided the one thing the show had been hacking away at all morning, apparently to avoid compelling Chuck Todd to correct them. It was as if Chuck Todd told them ahead of time, "Hey, by the way, I won't lie if asked" so they just didn't ask.

And today, Chris Matthews is back beating the drum, saying the press "let Obama off easy" because they didn't ask him about when he learned of the bonuses. Huh??

NBC news should have only one truth, shoudn't they? I'm not asking for unity of message -- that's Fox News stuff -- but the facts should remain consistent throughout the day, should they not?

And while I'm at it, one more question for MSNBC: You've got this huge, beautiful studio. Why do you pretend it's a bunch of individual, tiny studios? Aren't Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow sitting in the same room, possibly facing one another? So why not show their relationship to each other? Why not pass from one show to another by panning from one to the next? (You record a new out for Hardball's second airing, so you could do the same when needed here.)

And why do guests sit at the same table, but exist in separate cameras? And why on Earth was Mika hosting Hardball from in front of a green screen window? And why does Chris Matthews host Hardball from in front of the tiniest, ugliest backdrop of the least flattering color ever? Just wondering...

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Please Kill These Three Talking Points

You know something's really stupid when Joe Scarborough, Tucker Carlson and Howard Kurtz all say it. And in the aftermath of Jon Stewart's brilliant slicing-and-dicing of Jim Cramer, you would think even this unholy trinity couldn't come up with talking points. But boy did they. (Scarborough and Carlson do it out of craven dishonesty, whereas Howie is just kind of a doof.) Please, media, kill these three talking points. If someone says one of these two things in your presence and you don't shut them down, you are part of the problem.

1. "Jon Stewart didn't attack Cramer until Cramer criticized "his guy" Barack Obama"

Okay, Jon Stewart has criticized CNBC lots of times over the years, and did so again last week. Jim Cramer chose to squawk about how unfair this was to him. That was when the focus shifted to Cramer. Had Cramer kept his idiot mouth shut, the storm would have blown right over him, without exposing his potentially criminal activities.

2. "Hey, you can't expect someone to accurately predict the stock market."

Again, this didn't start out about whether one could predict a stock's rise or fall. (Cramer made that the focus by putting the "In Cramer We Trust" hype on trial.) The original report was about a failing of financial journalism that is also a failing of political journalism: buying a source's story as true just because a source said so. When someone lies to a reporter's face, "Hey, he lied to my face" is not a defense. And too many journalists refuse to check facts because they're too cozy with sources, because they don't want to "lose access." Because they like being part of "the game."

3. It's unfair for Jon Stewart to blame Cramer and/or CNBC for "singlehandedly" causing the financial crisis.

This is a bloodboiler, and not just because Stewart has repeatedly said that it's not about Cramer and that CNBC is not even the sole culprit in terms of business journalism. To use the now-familiar "house fire" metaphor: If your house is set on fire, and the firemen do nothing to put the fire out, you can be mad at them. If the police who knew the arson was going to happen didn't warn you, you can be mad at them. In neither case would you be accusing them of "singlehandedly" setting the fire. In this financial crisis, there is a lot of blame to go around. Stewart was right to ask the same question of CNBC you would ask of the firefighters and cops: "Where were you?!"