Benny's World

Friday, March 13, 2009

Difference between Rush and Jon

Last night, I watched the Daily Show, in which "Mad Money's" Jim Cramer was the guest. "Mad Money" is a show on CNBC. I have tried to watch Mad Money, and to me the tone is obnoxious, and I think the information gets lost in the loud music and honking horns. It's no wonder Stewart dubbed it "Brawl Street."

To get the background on why Cramer was on the TDS, go to the NYT. It's not a complete background, but it will give you an idea.

The interview was the entire show, and it was amazing. Stewart more or less schooled Cramer on a couple of levels. One: admitting shorting stocks by manipulation of the markets is one thing, but to do it as "an entertainment" value is another. Second: CNBC should have known all along about the melt down. But instead, the network hides behind "being entertainment" when it can't explain why they didn't investigate some of these firms. CNBC is supposed to be a financial journalist program in which many investors or those who wanted to invest watched and took seriously. I agree with Taylor Marsh that Cramer knew to take it on the chin because of the Madoff scandal, and possibly to not give the story any longer legs.

Update: Here is the entirety of the show, courtesy of the fabulous Jed Lewison, Daily Kos TV and

At DKTV, you will also see a Flashback moment in which Stewart was on "Crossfire" a few years and predicted the American people would not take the show seriously anymore with the constant bickering...or wouldn't find the show as entertaining either. A few months later, the show was canceled.

No doubt the Wingnuts will try to paint Stewart as "the face of the Democratic Party", just as Rush has been painted as the "leader of the Republican Party" by CPAC (and to a certain extent, the Progressives) . The latter is accurate because the GOP has been sent out to the wilderness in the last election. They are trying to regroup, which is normal, but the extremists of the right still haven't quite gotten the memo that moderates are needed back in the party to stabilize it. Thus, they let Rush spew venom such as "I hope Obama fails" and then goes on at CPAC that he is the only Republican who admits it, and those in Congress won't. Thus, with the microphone, Rush continues to spew venom, even though he is an entertainer. He believes he has power. I don't think he has power as much as influence, as evident by the ads that have been effective on his program. His listeners buy those products and services. That's why he commands a high salary.

But the difference between Stewart and Limbaugh is this: Stewart is an entertainer and his role is to make fun of the dumb things that either celebrities in the entertainment industry or politicians (especially those on the right aisle) do or say. Stewart also is some what of a journalist with his interviews as he does his homework whenever some one comes on the show to discuss a book s/he has written on a cultural issue. Stewart took the journalist chair and rather than preaching, he was teaching. I don't think Stewart wants CNBC to go away, nor the show Mad Money, but rather do due diligence, be more transparent for the investors, and quit trying to entertain them. (That will be hard though because access to CEOs is everything on that show and Cramer couldn't explain that very well. See Cenk Uygur's diary from Wed at DK) Moreover, Stewart knows his place though. It is not for power in the Democratic Party. He's not the least interested in being the face of the Democratic Party. And he won't consider himself a hero either, even if the Left would like to say he is.

Stewart knows who the leader of the Democratic Party is: Barack Obama. And yeah, he'll make fun of his administration too when merited.

Last night was a cultural moments, as Chris Bowers said at Open Left. To me, the TDS did more: it presented a teachable moment.

Another update: Apparently Robert Gibbs, press secretary for the White House, enjoyed the interview. You can see the clip at DKTV.

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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

How Progressive Are You?

Chris Bowers at Open Left took an interactive quiz from the Center for American Progress. I decided I would take the 40 question quiz knowing it wouldn't consume much time for me.

Out of 400 points, in which the average Conservative Republican is 160 (jeez, I'm surprised it's that high), the mean is 209, the likely Obama voter was 244, and a liberal Democrat was 247.1, guess where Bowers's score was on the chart?

It wasn't even on the chart. It was 361.

FWIW, my score was 310, and it still wasn't on the chart. I'm guessing my fellow JRE Democrats would probably land between my score and Bowers' scores. Nonetheless, I'm considered "Extremely Progressive." Guess that's why I read Open Left if I want some good analysis.

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Monday, March 09, 2009

TVUUC is Praying for Maryville First Baptist Church

As many of you have read on Yahoo by now, a visitor to the Maryville, IL First Baptist Church had a brief word with Pastor Fred Winter at the altar, then shot him with his concealed weapon yesterday. The Good Book he held protected the pastor on the first shot as many saw a confetti like atmosphere at first, but Fred Winter could not protect himself on the remaining fatal shots. Then as the gun jammed, the intruder (link is to the man accused and in jail) pulled a knife and tried to kill himself. He stabbed himself a few times, and as parishioners tried to subdue him, a couple were slashed in the process. All were hospitalized, the parishioners not as seriously hurt, and they were thankfully released later without deep wounds.

Many of BW readers may remember that the Tennessee Valley UU was attacked during a Sunday service of a children's play last summer. It was by a man who was homophobic and upset about his person economic situation. The church members responded in the man shooting in some instances getting in front of the man and trying to get his gun, in attempts to secure safety for the children and others. Two died, some injured.

The community surounding the TVUUC reacted by candlelite vigils, prayers, food, signs, etc. And in a heartbeat, the Rev Chris Buice returned from his brief vacation up north to bring comfort to all, and to announce to the world, that terrorism had no place in their church, and the church rededicated its sacred space to love, security, and my mind, peace. They were resilient.

Today, I wrote TVUUC to ask for Prayers for the First Baptist Church in Maryville, IL. I did this as a UU. The TVUUC has no idea who I am, other than I identified myself as a UU living in IL. Here's Rev Chris Buice's response, within 5 hours today from my filling out an online form to the Church:

Subject: Prayer

Benny, we are sending many messages and prayers of support to the congregation in Maryville with tangible offers of support. Thanks for your concern.

Rev. Chris Buice
Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church

The TVUUC gets it, and I appreciate the prompt response in knowing they know what the congregation is going through. More important, it helps me in the healing process too when no place seems sacred to a killer or to anyone.

Thank you, Rev Buice and the TVUUC. We are in faith together.

The Chalice is burning brightly, and won't be extinguished this week in prayer and thoughts for the congregation of the FBC of Marywille, as well as Pastor Fred Winters' family.

It feels good to be a person of faith once in awhile.

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Dean Baker Makes Too Much Sense

Dean Baker wrote a column for Truthout today called Competing Views of Government. Baker, who is a progressive thinking economist, addresses the problems of health care reform and the conflicts ahead between those who believe in reducing costs via more access, and those who spend a lot of money to keep costs down by denying treatments or coverage to those who need it.

Those who think that the role of government is to serve the public good are likely to favor some form of universal Medicare. Such a system would almost certainly save a huge amount in administrative costs at the level of insurers, providers and government oversight.

Private insurers spend more than 15 percent of the money they collect in premiums on administrative costs. By contrast, Medicare spends about 2 percent. Part of the insurers' administrative expenses go toward marketing - an expense that would be unnecessary in a universal Medicare system.

The other major factor driving administrative costs with private insurers is associated with their efforts to game the system. Gaming is the best way to make profits in the current system. If insurers can find effective mechanisms for either keeping sick people from being insured, or finding ways to deny coverage for expensive care, then they stand to make large profits. Naturally, profit-maximizing insurers will therefore devote substantial resources to trying to avoid ways to provide health care to people who need it.

What's being proposed by Obama is similar to what JRE and EE have advocated, which is to make private insurers compete with government plans. The difference, of course, is that Obama's is still optional and not mandated. But it is a step in the right direction. As Baker concluded:

The insurance industry already recognizes that it will lose out in this sort of competition. A government-run plan will be more efficient. We already know this based on the experience with Medicare. When private insurers have competed side by side with the traditional government Medicare plan, in the absence of government subsidies, the overwhelming majority of beneficiaries opted to go with the traditional Medicare plan.

This is why the insurers are yelling that they don't want to face "unfair" competition from a government plan. But, their complaint should be all the endorsement that the public needs to support a public Medicare-type plan. The public plan will be cheaper and better than what the private insurers have to offer. Why shouldn't the public then have this option?

We all know that the insurance industry executives and the company shareholders want to make lots of money, but maybe they should try to find an industry where they can compete. If the government can provide health insurance better and cheaper, then why do we need private insurers?

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