When you ask a question

I have written about this before, but am consistently reminded of it watching a variety of talk shows, including news and news-opinion shows. A pet peeve of mine is someone asking a question and not letting the person answer it. This is followed closely by people who interrupt another person asking a question.

Watching the Showtime mini-series “The Loudest Voice,” about Roger Ailes leading the creation of Fox News, he valued his talk show hosts talking over guests who were making fact-based arguments that countered the mission of the station. That mission was to tell conservative viewers what they wanted to hear.

But, it is not just on Fox, as it occurs on CBS Morning News, Real Time with Bill Maher, The View, etc. I appreciate many of Bill Maher’s opinions as he is well-informed, but I see him often derail good conversation from his guests. Let them talk I say to the TV screen.

The same goes for Joy Behar on The View and Gayle King on CBS Morning News. They both have strong opinions, many I may agree with, but all too frequently they derail good conversation or speak over the guest. Let them talk I say to the screen.

My best example is a Fox host had a guest who had written a well-researched book about the life of Jesus. When he was asked to come on Fox, it was obvious he was there to be verbally beat-up by the host. It was so overt, he asked if it was OK for him to talk. His opinion did not matter.

Two other practices stand in the way of good discussion. The first is the side-by-side talking heads, which make a very unequal issue look like a 50/50 debate. John Oliver once addressed this by having 97 scientists come out to debate three over climate change. Often the 50/50 debate pits an extreme view against a normative one; so if the extreme view wins the debate, viewers feel that makes the good talker’s position correct. It just means they are a better talker over two minutes. Again, with climate change, a glib marketer would often win short debates with scientists who found it difficult to boil points down to short sound bytes.

The second is the interviewer asking the question with the answer in it. This is prevalent on 60 Minutes, where too often the interviewee repeats what the interviewer said. That is force feeding in my mind – let them frame their answer.

This is a key reason I watch PBS Newshour. They have informed guests, who act civilly toward each other and the host. When they are not civil, they tend not to be invited back. The host lets each have time to talk and counter the other. Often, there is mutual agreement on many points, which makes you think more when they differ.

So, interviewers, ask your question, then let people talk. You might learn something.

God gave us a wonderful brain


Paraphrasing King Solomon’s words from the bible, let me say this with emphasis. God gave us a wonderful brain. We honor him when we use it. Here is a sampling of Solomon’s wisdom:

“For whoso despiseth wisdom and nurture, he is miserable, and their hope is vain, their labors unfruitful, and their works unprofitable.”

“Wisdom is glorious, and never fadeth away; yea, she is easily seen of them that love her, and found of such as seek her.”

“But the multitude of the wise is the welfare of the world: and a wise king is the upholding of the people.”

We often pray for miracle cures, good fortune and remedial help with our difficulties. Yet, we lose sight of this wonderful thing in our heads. God has armed us with a great tool to solve our problems. As Paul McCartney once sang about in the famous anthem Hey Jude, “the movement you need is on your shoulders.” It should be noted, McCartney was going to strike that line from the song as he thought it cheesy, but John Lennon said to leave it in as it was the best line in the song.

I have written before that God does not care who wins football games, so thanking him when you win is misguided. Now, thanking him that no one was hurt is different. Same holds true about war. One of my favorite questions is “which side was God pulling for during the Civil War?” Both sides felt they had righteous cause, yet the prayers should have been for leaders to find wisdom to stop this carnage and let all people be free and not to win a war that claimed the lives of 750,000 Americans.

It is my belief God wants us to solve our problems. He  gave us this wonderful brain and it is incumbent upon us to use it. When people pray for a miracle to cure cancer in their child, how do we know if the doctor’s experience, skill and intellect are not the miracle for which we are praying. As reported on “60 Minutes” last night, some doctors at Duke University may have discovered a cure for certain kinds of cancers using a variant of polio. I stand in awe of those who are behind this research that has saved three lives and prolonged others, thus far.

So, let’s continue praying, but don’t stop thinking and acting. We may have the ability to solve our own problems and doing so would make God happy, just like it does when a child makes his parent happy.

I am reminded of the key moment in the movie called “Ray” about the life of the blind singer and pianist Ray Charles. The scene is when the mother leaves him alone in the house as a child and watches from the door as he figures out things on his own. It is breathtaking. In my eyes, she was God-like. Let’s use our brain like Ray did.

 

A little bit of this and a little bit of that

TGIF for those who can still call it Friday and happy Weekend to our friends in Australia, Japan, Indonesia, etc. Just a few odds and ends to chew on for the week that was. Or, as the cooks would say about seasoning, “a little bit of this and a little bit of that.”

In America we have so many GOP politicians trying to garner attention away from The Donald, that they are making beyond crazy remarks. Maybe those who don’t want to look at real data and look at what is happening through a reasonable lens of eyeglasses might appreciate the middle-aged craziness, but those who stay in closer proximity to real news are not impressed by these remarks. I would ask these politicians to not try to “out-crazy” a man who is willing to say anything. The Donald will crash and burn as he is his own worst enemy, but he also has more baggage than a normal caravan could transport, which will eventually come out. Yet, he does make good copy for the media.

Our Congress just kicked than can down the road for the 34th time on the Highway Trust Fund, which funds needed infrastructure and road improvements. We have yet another stop-gap measure for three months. At least the Senate passed a three-year bill, but the House did not want to take it up, so they could take a month off from their ineffective job performance. You know, you get tired from pretending to govern for a few months. In short, our infrastructure is badly broken in terms of roads, bridges, ports and grids. These include railway bridges which were reported on “60 Minutes” that could go any day with 500 trains per day going over them. With interest rates low, we have had a window to borrow to maintain and build assets. Plus, there is no better jobs program, which as I recall is “the number one issue” per our Speaker. This is the same Speaker who did not want to take up a longer term fix.

When our Congress returns in a month do not expect great things, as we have some very important financial matters to vote on, including extending the debt ceiling. As you may recall, this is what caused Senator Ted Cruz to single-handedly shut down the government a couple of years ago, to the chagrin of the rest of the world who begged us not to go down this path. It took six female senators to reopen the government by making the deal. This is one reason we need more women in leadership, as men like Cruz like to play more win-lose politics and grandstand. It should be noted that the President had to cancel two global trade meetings in Asia-Pacific and Europe which promote trade because of Cruz. So, the shutdown put even more headwinds into our sails and the meetings were rescheduled with some additional cost.

While the economy, stock market and jobs numbers under this President have done pretty well over the past four years, and while he has been speaking to the real dangers of climate change and doing something about it, he has been disappointing in one major area to me. I am going to set aside transparency and use of drones and spying for now, as he has left a lot to be desired there. What I am speaking to is his cheerleading for fracking. This surprises Conservatives to hear this, but our President has been pro-fracking to the extent he has bifurcated the EPA. The EPA released a report noting the leakage of fracking into groundwater, but the press release noted the opposite. Since few folks read anymore, the press release was latched onto and used to show how safe fracking was (as an aside, it did not speak the vast use of water, the earthquakes, the air pollution or the environmental degradation). The press release was retracted on a Sunday after a Friday release, but the story was already out. This is not the first time that the White House has pressured the EPA to sand around the edges on their findings on fracking.

Well, that is enough grist for this mill. I don’t know if I helped your weekend with my little news report or not. Have a wondrous weekend.

 

 

Interviewers – please refrain from answering your own questions

While on hiatus, John Oliver’s show “Last Week Tonight” did a brief skewering of shows like “60 Minutes” where the interviewers have a terrible habit of answering their own questions. Since I like “60 Minutes,” it made it more fun to see interviewer after interviewer feed the answer to the person being interviewed, who would echo the response or just agree. When this form of questioning and fed answering was packaged together where you witness it done twenty times in a row, it is quite humorous.

Yet “60 Minutes” is not alone in this interviewing style. It is more widely used by interviewers on all kinds of shows, be they entertainment, pseudo news or more serious news shows. If there is any thoughtful hesitation by the interview subject, the seconds are filled with the interviewer’s perceived answer to which the subject must react. It becomes less amusing when the interviewer is not interested in the response and is more antagonistic to the subject being interviewed. These tend to occur on the pseudo news networks or with an overbearing host, even if the show is a comedy show.

When I see this occur either in a demonstrative or antagonistic way, I find myself saying “Let him (or her) answer the question.” I enjoy watching Bill Maher’s show “Real Time with Bill Maher” due to the subject matter, comedy and guests, but find he often will talk over someone who does not entirely agree with his view. To his credit, he will have people with opposing views on his show and he tends to be more well-versed than many of his non-expert guests, but when he disagrees (or curtails conversation) with a true subject matter expert, it is often puzzling. But, Maher does a better job than many of the hosts of  talk shows which become a shout fest, where listening to the other person’s view is a challenge.

Much of this gets back to people using their own set of facts to foment their opinion on something. If the subject offers any opinion that creates a dissonance in the interviewer, whether they are anti, neutral or pro the argument, then it is unsettling to the interviewer and audience. It may also be due to the interviewer wanting to show how smart he or she is to validate his or her worth to his viewers and management. I also think the lack of control over the interview scares people, as they don’t want to be shown to be foolish. Some people cannot help themselves in this regard.

Yet, what we are lacking through this interview process, is more people asking “why” questions. Why do you believe that? Why did you change your mind from an earlier stance? Why should we believe you now? That would be scary, but would give us more answers to our many questions. One final comment about talk show hosts – just because you have a talk show does not make you right or right on every opinion you espouse; it just means you have a talk show.