ICYMI: Baby, you’ll be sorry someday – Bill Maher and his “break-up” with MSNBC

In case you missed it (I sure did), Bill Maher tried to let MSNBC down easily…by breaking up on Valentine’s Day:

It’s Valentine’s Day, and I cannot go on any longer living a lie. MSNBC…we need to talk.
Whatever we had is not working any more. You’re obviously interested in another man: Chris Christie. You’re obsessed with him. So I wanted you to hear it from me first. I’m going to start seeing other news organizations.

He’s tired of hearing about this guy Christie all the time. “But now we never talk about any of the things we used to talk about: global warming, gun control, poverty… “, he pouts. I think he’s just missing the good old days when they both joyfully obsessed over Obamacare and Sarah Palin. He minimizes and is dismissive of this new interest: “Look, I’m no good at being noble, but it doesn’t take much to see that the problems of three little lanes of traffic don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world.”

Yes, yes, he did it for dramatic effect. Valentine’s Day, Casablanca reference. Cute. (Side note: breaking up on Valentine’s Day is really not a good idea, Bill. If the two of you had truly been an item, it would have invited some kind of scorned-lover vengeance.)

One could imagine MSNBC’s response: “Go ahead, Bill. Go have your flings, go see other news organizations, see if you can find one that fits your interests. You’ll be sorry someday. You’ll see. Someday, you’ll lean forward again.”

But Bill has had post-breakup remorse. We can’t call it a change of heart, but Continue reading

Al Jazeera America asks: Shouldn’t news just give the facts? The false god of utter objectivity

In a promoted tweet today, Al Jazeera America asked “Shouldn’t news just give the facts?”

The problem is with that word “just”. It implies a pure, no-additives-here neutral objectivity. Real news, untainted by bias. It reduces the news organization to “just” a fact-checker and news reader. But given limited time and resources, choices must be made: which news items will be aired? Which facts will be presented? What to leave in, what to leave out…those are editorial judgments.

Those choices are increasingly perceived to be driven in some news organizations by ratings or ideology, rather than the public interest.  In a 2010 opinion published by the Washington Post, Ted Koppel decried the death of real news, calling cable news biased and calling for a return to facts:

We live now in a cable news universe that celebrates the opinions of Olbermann, Rachel Maddow, Chris Matthews, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly – individuals who hold up the twin pillars of political partisanship and who are encouraged to do so by their parent organizations because their brand of analysis and commentary is highly profitable.


What we really need in our search for truth is a commodity that used to be at the heart of good journalism: facts – along with a willingness to present those facts without fear or favor.

Actually, the op-ed piece was more about Koppel’s slightly bitter opinion that news organizations had transitioned “from a public service to a profitable commodity”, and that “company bean-counters” trimmed, cut, and eliminated Continue reading

What is wrong with you, Lawrence O’Donnell? The Last Word’s Monday night Fox News-style ambush rant on Anthony Weiner

Last night on his MSNBC show The Last Word, Lawrence O’Donnell did two things that I didn’t think were possible: he made former representative and current NYC mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner look like a sympathetic, reasonable candidate and made himself look like a stereotypical haranguing Fox News hack.

O’Donnell began the segment with a sucker-punch question to Weiner: “What is wrong with you?” He continued almost without letting Weiner complete a full sentence, let alone a full answer, constantly interrupting and peppering him with judgmental opinions disguised as “journalism”:

  • What is wrong with you that you cannot seem to imagine a life without elective office?
  • …what seems to be your absolute desperate need for elective office and what seems to be your inability to live outside of it.
  • You have been pursuing elective office for over 20 years now….it does not seem to be a fully healthy pursuit.
  • If you take in the totality of your life, Anthony, do you think you’ve spent your time well?
  • Why didn’t you do something for no money?
  • What drives you?…. I mean it from a psychiatric level…. You are being driven by some kind of demons….

And Murrow turns over in his grave….

O’Donnell repeatedly accused Weiner of “hustling his services” as a lobbyist. His proof? “Come on, I know the racket of ex-officials in this town.” Yes, that’s it: superiority without substance – always good to fall on when facts fail you. He calls Weiner a lobbyist because it wouldn’t sound as sneeringly gotcha to say “consulted to businesses that do business with the government”. Consulting to businesses that lobby the government or do work for the government is not lobbying, no matter how much your straw man wants it to be.

O’Donnell must remember replaying Bill O’Reilly’s February 2011 Fox News interview with Obama and keeping count of how many times O’Reilly interrupted the President. The final count, according to O’Donnell, was more than 70 (live and taped parts combined). The number of times that O’Reilly allowed Obama to complete an answer uninterrupted: 0. We all thought at the time that O’Donnell was being scornful of O’Reilly when he reported this…but maybe he was really just watching the Continue reading