Thursday, May 04, 2006

Dishonest or Ignorant? You Decide

I hate the saying, "There are no stupid questions." Yes there are. There are also dishonest questions, loaded questions, leading questions. There are all kinds of ways to ask bad questions.

My favorite is from the winter Olympics a few years back. After hyping speed skater Dan Jansen in a particular race continually for several days, Jansen took a spill and wiped out in one of the first turns of the race. In the post-race interview, the correspondent looking to explain away the fact that an American would have screwed up, gave Jansen an easy way out with the open question, "Was the ice slippery today?" Jansen, who earned my eternal respect, gave the interviewer a "what are you smoking" kind of look and said in a somewhat condescending tone, "It's ice. Ice is always slippery."

I've had a couple of Dan Jansen moments myself this week. The first was Sunday when listening to Meet the Press. In a discussion about gas prices and energy policy, Tim Russert referred to Brazil's move to become energy self-sufficient with a policy that makes significant use of ethanol from sugar cane which Brazil grows. Russert asked energy secretary Samuel Bodman why we haven't done what Brazil did.

It would be one thing if Russert were starting on a serious line about the connection between the administration and big oil, but, of course not. He let the secretary get away with simply saying that Brazil was a good model. Yeah, ecological degradation, funding terrorism, economic dependence that limits foreign policy options. I'd say getting off Middle East oil seems like a peachy idea.

Ok, so Brazil has a President, Luis Ignacio "Lula" Da Silva of the Workers' Party, who has been a lifelong advocate for unions and the working people of Brazil. While we have a millionaire President and a multi-millionaire Vice President who are very wealthy because of oil companies. These are the oil companies who, by personal invitation of the Vice President, wrote our energy policy. We have a President who repeatedly ran oil companies into the ground until they were bought out at irrationally high prices by Saudi oil money. This administration receives huge financial donations and support from the Petrolium interests. Hmmm, I wonder why we are not moving towards Brazil-style energy independence. Was Russert's question an honest request for information? Honest or ignorant? You decide.

The second case was on Monday, listening to Tom Moon's critique of Neil Young's new album, "Living With War" which is an album about our current administration and the war in Iraq. After giving a positive, but not glowing discussion of the cd, Moon ended with what apparently to him is a real puzzler, "Why did it take a 60 year old Canadian to come out with songs

This is a guy who reports professionally on music and the music industry for a major news outlet. Let's just assume that he has recently come out of a coma and never heard of the Dixie Chicks. We have an music industry that has undergone significant consolidation. Corporate controls what music comes out. In doing this they work with the distribution end, broadcasters who have also undergone incredible consolidation and also have long and deep ties to the President. When a younger group did express anger with the war, they were, shall we say, discouraged from continuing to express their views. Companies that can make sure that a group's music remains hot, held corporately sponsored bon fire to burn instead of broadcast their music. Other young artists might have possibly been aware of this, even if Moon was not. I wonder why only an aging hippie who would appeal to the aging hippie demographic comes out with an anti-war album. Dishonest or ignorant? You decide.