Category Archives: Media

Facts are irrelevant in American politics, and this video proves it.

In this extended interview, CNN’s Anderson Cooper interviews Texas State Rep. Leo Berman, a Republican who’s offered a bill that would require presidential candidates to present their birth certificates to Texas’ Secretary of State.

And why is this crazy law important?

“This bill is necessary because we have a president whom the American people don’t know whether he was born in Kenya or some other place,” Rep. Leo Berman, R-Tyler, said in reference to President Barack Obama and of House Bill 295. “If you are running for president or vice president, you’ve got to show here in Texas that you were born in the United States and the birth certificate is your proof.”

Anderson Cooper’s received a lot of praise for this clip, mainly from liberals and fans of schadenfreude. He’s incredibly well-prepared with documents and citations that refute all of Berman’s efforts to prove that there are any legitimate “questions” about Obama’s birthplace, citizenship and background.

I clicked into this video from my RSS feed. The headline was progressive link bait, something like, “Anderson Cooper Reduces Texas Birther to Jelly!” The only reasonable reaction: brew a fresh latte, angle my beret just so and settle into my angular Scandanavian chair to watch.

Yes, Anderson Cooper puts a rhetorical smackdown on Rep. Berman. If this were a high school debate, Berman’s mom would have sneaked out of the auditorium and pulled the fire alarm just to spare her baby the humiliation.

But this is politics in 2010, so Cooper has the dissonant task of propping Berman up so he can continue tearing him a new one while he refutes his guest’s tortured conspiracy theories and bad sourcing.

Where’s his birth certificate? In a safe.

Why won’t colleges release Obama’s school records? It’s against the law to do so.

Why did he violate a travel ban to Pakistan in the early 90s, I mean, 80s? There was no travel ban; like others, he received a 30-day visa.

It goes on like this for 12 minutes, a TV eternity. If you’re up on the facts (regardless of how you feel about Obama), you may develop a smidgen of sympathy for Berman. He was clearly expecting more deferential treatment from Cooper, and he starts to grow more uncomfortable as the interview draws on.

Cooper fills the screen with quotes from Hawaii state officials, images of Obama’s Certificate of Live Birth, a 1981 New York Times travel piece about Pakistan… it’s relentless, and after a time, ridiculous. For SNL’s parody, all they’ll need to add is the 8mm movie that Obama’s grandmother shot in the delivery room while Ed Sullivan blared on a TV in the background.

Berman never lets up, though he slows down. The man sticks to his guns but stops just short of stuffing his ears with Doublemint.

After watching, I understand why AC is our most crushed-on TV news personality; he never goes in for the kill — he just does trap-and-release:

COOPER: Sir, I don’t mean to contradict you.

BERMAN: I’m sorry?

COOPER: I — I respect you. And I respect, certainly, your service to this country, but where do you get your information? Because that — that — what you have just said is factually incorrect.

and later:

BERMAN: Oh, I don’t think most people have moved on.

I think either 50 percent — even CNN polls have shown that 50 to 60 percent of the people of the United States do not believe that the president is eligible to be holding that office.

COOPER: Sir, again, I’m sorry to — to keep…

BERMAN: That’s your own CNN poll, isn’t it?

COOPER: All right, sir, OK, I have the CNN poll right here.

I hate to — I hate to keep reading this. The CNN poll from July 16-21, all Americans, question, was Barack Obama born in the U.S.? The number of Americans who said definitely or probably, the percentage was 71 percent, definitely or probably no, 27 percent.

So, according to this poll, if you believe this poll, 71 percent of Americans believe probably or definitely that Barack Obama was born in the United States.

By this point in the interview, liberals see little blue birdies and stars orbiting Berman’s head. There’s more:

COOPER: But how much of this is about — purely about politics? Because, look, you — you — you are a good person, and you have served your country remarkably in the military, and you’re a public servant now.

It’s extremely satisfying to see a TV person fact-check a guest in real time, but my concurrent thought was, “why the hell is this the exception and not the freaking rule?” I loved watching “60 Minutes” when I was a kid because Ed Bradley and Morley Safer were so righteous. If they thought you were feeding them bullshit, they let you know, cameras rolling. Instead, Cooper reminds us (and Berman) that this politician is kind to dogs, children and old people. Hard to picture Murrow or Cronkite suffering a fool so gladly.

Back to my original point: I thought Berman seemed only slightly deflated at interview’s end. He didn’t respond directly to any points raised because he knew he didn’t have to. Berman will go on as many TV shows as he likes to spout his discredited beliefs — and the talking heads will treat him with lovingkindness.

Because the facts are irrelevant, or at best, secondary to Republican arguments. The progressive media spends most of its ammo refuting GOP talking points. American liberals are always trying to explain things and be so reasonable.

And that’s why they lose.

CNN Transcript is here.

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Put another nickel in the nickelodeon.

Even people who don’t know me know I love movies, even mediocre ones. I’ve had revelatory experiences inside video rental stores, so I have a real affection for these places.

On the rare occasion I find myself inside one, I’ll spend several minutes browsing. But, I couldn’t tell you the last thing I rented.

The last time I visited my video spot, the windows were papered over and there was a maudlin goodbye note from the owners.

The last time I was actually inside a video rental store, a guy in the back was replacing the headphone jack on my old iPhone. They also sold ice cream and performed VCR repair. I wouldn’t be surprised to go back now to learn that they sharpen knives and lawnmower blades. It’s rough out there.

Internet Killed the Video Store?

Video store workers hold vast stores of information about movies, often a particular genre. A clerk once foisted a copy of “Manhunter” on me as I rented “Silence of the Lambs,” and I’m still appreciative.

I like the fact that I can still go into a store to browse through DVDs, but I love digital distribution even more. My life is enriched by instant access to movies on multiple devices. Watching “Empire Strikes Back” on a laptop while I soaked in a bathtub was almost as much fun as it was in the theater 30 years ago. Fine, I’m weird.

I sympathize/empathize with video store employees, but their industry’s gone from essential to quaint for coastal urban elites like myself and also for red-blooded Americans who love Raymond. My parents haven’t been to their local video store since I gifted them with a Netflix subscription years ago. They have better things to do than spend 45 minutes coming and going so they can watch about 240 minutes of home video.

Yes, Internet killed the video store. Just like the movies strangled vaudeville and television put two in radio’s head before dumping it in a shallow grave.  It’s worthwhile to consider their passing, I just don’t see it as something to get mournful about. People used to pay to look at stereograms, too.

To me, the bigger question is: where does the knowledge go after all the video stores become froyo parlors and green pet boutiques? At this stage in human history, anyone who works in a video rental store must be a hardcore movie geek. Careerwise, most will likely wander the Earth like Cain, but if Hollywood can find a way to tap this resource, we’ll all be better off.

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Ball of Confusion.

It’s been a long day and there’s a lot on my mind.

The oil spill. That mural in Prescott. That retrograde racist GOP flack in South Carolina.

In Arizona, my father’s minister received a letter from the bishop asking her to lead her flock in a prayer for people negatively impacted by the “papers, please” law. As the law’s popular, she declined to open that particular can of worms. So my father, a lay speaker, asked the congregation to pray for those affected by SB 1070 and for greater understanding. I’m really proud of you, Dad.

As my father and I talked, I shared my concerns about the race-baiting that’s surfaced since Obama’s election. “I don’t think I’ve ever heard politicians speak like this,” I said.

“You haven’t,” he said. “To me, it sounds like 1961 or 1958. I haven’t heard politicians talk like this in your lifetime.”

As I said, it’s been a long day; but I had to express some anger and frustration somehow before pushing away for the rest of the evening. The clip below captures as much of the zeitgeist as I can take in from this vantage.

The Temptations, “The Smokey Robinson Show,” 12/18/70

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