‘Turning down the thermostat on our political rhetoric’

I had been working on this prior to yesterday’s Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear but, with the demands of a day job and a family, I don’t always get a chance to finish and post some of what I write. Rather than let this one sit in my drafts folder though, I’ll post it…

“The media in general … it’s focused on conflict. It’s focused on creating drama and a false sense of urgency. For better or for worse, the 24-hour networks are now the leading light of our information age. They’re the ones that kind of drive the dialogue. The people whose voices are heard are the ones who will say the most extreme things.”

That’s what Jon Stewart told Larry King last week. He went on to say, in describing The Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear that he and Stephen Colbert are holding this weekend in DC:

“We are presuming that 75 to 85 percent of the country — reasonable people that get along — they may not agree on things, but they can do things. And the other 15 percent control it — the dialogue, the legislation. This is for the people that are too busy, that have jobs and lives and are tired of their reflection in the media as being a divided country and a country that’s ideological and conflicted and fighting.”

And that brings me to a Politico article from Friday, “Surviving in the Middle“, which talks about candidates in next week’s mid-term elections who have taken a moderate stance. Politico’s Alexander Burns writes:

“For all the talk of a campaign dominated by ideological extremes, a surprising number of candidates in both parties are competing by casting themselves as unapologetic centrists, attempting to seize the vast space between the made-for-TV conservative activists and national liberal favorites who dominated the primary season.”

As someone who watches about as much Olbermann as I watch O’Reilly and who doesn’t enjoy some of the venom that ends up in this country’s political dialogue, this is all music to my ears. Stewart and Burns are not far from each other with their statements. The country is not as polarized as some in the media would like us to believe. As Matt Bennett, vice president of centrist think tank Third Way, said in the Politico article, candidates who “have talked about finding sensible solutions to problems are resonating.”

In a recent column, “The Colbert Democrats,” Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer said Stewart and Colbert “will light up the TV screens as the hip face of the new liberalism — just three days before the election. I suspect the electorate will declare itself not amused.”

I think it’s a mistake to suggest that Stewart and Colbert are the face of a party or that this weekend’s rally is only about the Democrats. Due to a multitude of reasons, the rally no doubt leans—or at the very least comes across as—more left than right. But for me, Stewart and Colbert have always been more about pointing out the absurdities in the media and U.S. politics than about cheerleading for a particular party.

The messaging around this weekend’s rally is no doubt muddied. But that can be cleared up when Stewart and Colbert take the stage, depending on what direction they choose to go with things. The two may be comedians but that does not mean what they do is fake or that it can’t make a statement while also being funny, as The Daily Show showed this past week, for example, with their commentary on the firing of Juan Williams—neither NPR nor Fox News was spared.

In an Outside the Beltway article, “Where Are the Moderates“, James Joyner hit on exactly why I’ve always enjoyed Stewart and Colbert. Joyner said, in talking about the rally, “to the extent that there’s a political message, it isn’t ‘Elect liberal Democrats’ but rather ‘Can we turn down the thermostat on our political rhetoric just a skosh?'”

That’s what I wrote in advance of the rally. Back to the present…

I was able to catch some of the rally on TV and I was a little disappointed in the parts I caught before heading to a family event. I laughed a few times and there were some some let’s “turn down the thermostat” lines aimed at the media. I was hoping for more though.

It turns out, that “more” was in fact delivered, just after I had already turned off my TV and gotten in my car to head to our destination. I was able to watch it last night on video though.

If you haven’t seen it yet, watch John Stewart’s closing speech from the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear. It made me happy and I’m sure you can understand why it did if you read the thoughts I wrote above.

Some of the money quotes (full transcript of Stewart’s speech):

  • “…we live now in hard times, not end times. And we can have animus and not be enemies. Unfortunately, one of our main tools in delineating the two broke. The country’s 24-hour politico pundit panic conflict-onator did not cause our problems, but its existence makes solving them that much harder.”
  • “If we amplify everything, we hear nothing.”
  • “The press is our immune system. If it overreacts to everything we eventually get sicker. And perhaps eczema. Yet, with that being said, I feel good. Strangely, calmly good, because the image of Americans that is reflected back to us by our political and media process is false.”
  • “We hear every damn day about how fragile our country is — on the brink of catastrophe — torn by polarizing hate and how it’s a shame that we can’t work together to get things done, but the truth is we do. We work together to get things done every damn day. The only place we don’t is here or on cable TV. Americans don’t live here or on cable TV. Where we live our values and principles form the foundation that sustains us while we get things done, not the barriers that prevent us from getting things done.”
  • “Most Americans don’t live their lives solely as Democrats or Republicans or conservatives or liberals. Most Americans live their lives that are just a little bit late for something they have to do. Often it’s something they do not want to do, but they do it. Impossible things get done every day that are only made possible by the little, reasonable compromises.”

That stuff right there, that’s what draws me to The Daily Show or the Colbert Report. Their pointing out of the absurd and their call for reasonableness are what it’s about for me more than anything else.


The $500,000 Retention Bonus

I picked the wrong profession. From a Gawker article: “Google and Facebook are competing so fiercely over some engineers that half-million-dollar retention bonuses are not unheard of.”

h/t Jeese Newhart

D.C.’s new West End Cinema “a compliment, not a competitor”

Continuing what is unexpectedly a series on competition and collaboration…

There must be something in the water in D.C. or Jamie Shor, co-founder of the new West End Cinema, has been hanging out with Steve Buttry, Tom Meyer and Seth Hurwitz.

In an article in today’s Washington Post, “D.C.’s West End Cinema to provide outlet for smaller films“, Ann Hornaday writes:

Although the Landmark theaters on E Street and in Bethesda show independent movies, as well as the Avalon and the AFI Silver Theatre, the West End will be “a complement, not a competitor” to those venues, Shor said. “I’m a firm believer that a rising tide raises all ships. We only benefit from each other being here.”

Just as Meyer and Hurwitz spoke about music venues and Buttry wrote about the news business, Shor seems into the idea that more of a certain product doesn’t necessarily mean less business for others in the same industry.


Healthy views on competition and collaboration

Steve Buttry, Director of Community Engagement for TBD, offers up some great “thoughts on competition and collaboration” in a recent post about Patch, the AOL series of local news sites that some bloggers are worried will cost them web traffic. Buttry writes:

“I don’t know that Patch being in your community is necessarily a bad thing because I don’t see the news business as a zero-sum game. In the same way that competing stores in a mall or a historic shopping district actually benefit from each other’s presence because together they attract more business, a more robust news and advertising ecosystem in your community might be better for everyone.”

When I read this, it reminded me of some quotes by Tom Meyer, executive vice president of Clyde’s Restaurant Group, and Seth Hurwitz, owner of the 9:30 Club, that appear in a recent Washington Post article by Chris Richards. The article, on a new DC music venue being opened by Clyde’s, states that Meyer would be “entering a very competitive market”. But Meyer says:

“The only people who say [the Washington area] is becoming crowded with nightclubs are the people who own nightclubs. Whenever I build a restaurant, people ask me, ‘Who do you want as your neighbor?’ . . . The best thing for me is another really good restaurant. . . . It keeps me on my toes.”

Hurwitz says something similar:

“The more clubs there are helping bands develop, the better it is for the music business, of which we are obviously a part.”

This all brings to mind—particularly Buttry’s blog post—Stephen Covey’s abundance mentality, described in his book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People as “the paradigm that there is plenty out there and enough to spare for everybody. It results in sharing of prestige, of recognition, of profits, of decision making. It opens possibilities, options, alternatives, and creativity.”

It would be naive to think business is entirely peace, love and abundance mentality. News organizations, music venues and other businesses will obviously compete with one another. Buttry does not deny this in his post on Patch and shares multiple bullets on how sites can compete. There have also been and will no doubt be more occasions when, for example, one music venue will win the bidding to book a certain artist over another venue.

But it’s refreshing to see people talking about the benefits of having other players in your marketplace, and not viewing it as simply just a threat. The total profits can often be greater when companies maintain a healthy view of competition or remain open to collaboration, rather than simply seeing things as a race for limited quantities of viewers, concert-goers or cash.


Can an opening night get any better?

If Ted Leonsis ends up with any complaints in his inbox after the Caps 7-2 home opener win over the Devils, I respectfully ask that he forward those along to me. D.J. King and I can respond to them together.

That game had pretty much everything a Caps fan could hope for. Sure, you can pick it apart and find a few little things to complain about, but why bother; there was just too much to enjoy.

The Caps gave us seven goals, including one on a penalty shot, and didn’t back down when the Devils decided to goon it up late in the game. I think the moment I was sold on this being simply a fantastic opening night was when, with the Caps already in control at 7-2 and the crowd feeling good, Mike Green and Ilya Kovalchuk dropped the gloves. A two-time Norris finalist and one of the games most prolific goal scorers squaring off? I didn’t see that one coming.

And before all that, there was John Carlson scoring the Caps’ first goal before later picking up two assists, a sweet pass from Tomas Fleischmann to set up a goal by Jason Chimera whose shot placement was equally impressive, and a short handed goal by Brooks Laich after he intercepted a zone clearing attempt by goalie Johan Hedberg. Michal Neuvirth rather quietly held the Devils to two goals and Eric Fehr added a power play tally from down low for the Caps.

The Caps also managed to chase starting goaltender and four-time Vezina Trophy winner Martin Brodeur, delivered free wings for the fans when they hit the five goal mark and showed us they can still change a scoreboard quickly, like they did so many times last season. The new red steps in VC look great too.

We’re a long way from April and I don’t put too much into any one game, much like I don’t let too much ride on any one season during what I see as a long window of opportunity for this team. But it felt good to be back in Verizon Center in the midst of one of those great nights this team so often provides us with, and that you just have to get caught up in and enjoy.

Oh and a guy named Ovechkin scored a couple of the Caps goals too. Now we just wait and make sure John Feinstein was ok with the way the Caps raised their banners this year.

Related Articles:
Recap: Caps 7, Devils 2 (Japer’s Rink)
Caps beat Devils 7-2 as the Circus Comes to Town (RMNB)


This month’s Urbanite magazine

Looking down Bright Angel trail to the Grand C...

Image via Wikipedia

An essay by my sister Jennifer appears in this month’s issue of Urbanite, a magazine published in Baltimore.

Hers is the second essay on the page, beginning with “we’d been hiking Bright Angel Trail since sunrise…”

She’s also had a couple pieces published in StepMom Magazine recently. I’m very excited for her.

Check it out and hopefully there will be more to come.