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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: March 16, 2009 @ 5:32 pm

    Obama’s Running-Mate in 2012?

    Deaglán de Bréadún

    Just when you thought the wide boys and fatcats were having it all their own way, here’s a feisty voice of the people in the person of Virg (short for Virgil) Bernero, Democratic Mayor of Lansing, Michigan who showed how to get the better of those pesky Fox News interviewers. 

    There is some useful background on the interview which you can read by clicking here. If Joe Biden should decide to step down as Vice-President after one term, we could be looking at his successor right here.

    We could sure use a few Virg Berneros on the Irish political scene. I am grateful to N.M. for sending me the link to this lively video. All such contributions gratefully received.

    • Tony S. says:

      Please look at (or post) Jon Stewart’s pummeling of Jim Cramer from CNBC’s Mad Money programme on the Daily Show last Thursday. You don’t need too much of a context to get it.

      It says something about the state of the US media that he (Stewart) is the most incisive and courageous commentator/interviewer around

      Because the interview is in separate sections on the Daily Show so I’m not sure how best you can post the link if you decide to do so


      When will we in Ireland wake up and ‘get it’?

    • Steve K says:

      In two minds about this one. Obviously honest passion trumps smarmy cynicism.

      If this politician was South American you would label him “populist”. But I understand we are all populist now, what with all our financial bogeymen lined up at the gallows.

      Since he is American, he’s a blue-collar hero.

      He doesn’t answer the question from the interviewer, that I would have liked a response to, how does he rectify health-care for life with the stripped-down rights of his more successful Southern neighbors? I agree with him about the race-to-the-bottom stuff, and from a very abstract view he is correct, but how does he propose to harmonize the benefits issue in the short-term?

    • Steve K says:

      Tony S. says:
      When will we in Ireland wake up and ‘get it’?

      Get what? I don’t think the cheerleading for the market that Stewart exposes in the States has an equivalent here.

      Sure we were collectively overconfident in our economy, but there were plenty of mainstream economic commentators (known back then as ‘gloom merchants’) who continually predicted a housing bubble, instability in the markets etc. George Lee and David McWilliams spring to mind.

      I don’t think the comparison between CNBC and Irish media is correct.

      You could question the quality of investigative reporting with regards to banking irregularities, but that is probably more to do with competence and resources rather than complicity.

    • Tony S. says:

      Steve K.

      It was late when I sent my message so I accept my argument was poorly expressed and tenuous.

      What I was implying was that while we in Ireland don’t have a media as craven as that of the Bush-era US, we nevertheless can also be passive in our acceptance of the ‘party line’ when it comes to political debate.

      Plus, I have to say that I find the majority of Irish commentators lazy in their refusal to ‘join the dots’ and make the links which might require a bit of mental effort on their parts and on the parts of us, the listeners/viewers/readers.

      For instance, I almost never hear, when somthing like poor public services are discussed, a challenge to the widespread expectation on the part of the Irish public that we feel entitled to European levels of public spending while paying US levels of taxation. This debate is never carried through to its logical conclusion, which would be that our system of politics and voting precludes any real long-term thinking, and that’s what ultimately will have to be tackled.

      So, the Irish media (in general) prefers to deal with problems and issues in isolation, which, combined with the ‘short attention span’ thinking of practically all media nowadays, leads to a serious lack of debate pretty much across the board.

    • Steve K says:

      Tony S.

      Agree with you completely.

    • David says:

      Steve, I disagree. There was some dissent during the bubble years, but there weren’t many commentators expressing doubt. And relatively speaking, there were few to none, being completely overwhelmed by the tidal wave of pseudo-journalism which constantly harangued readers for not yet having a property portfolio, or when many became totally outpriced as the market ballooned ran stories upon stories about overseas investment opportunities, where you could get a flat in Bulgaria at 30 times the national wage.

      Sent to The Irish Times a week ago, not fit for publication:


      A recent editorial in this paper claimed “we lost the run of ourselves” during the bubble years, foolishly believing the “onward and upward” myth and the “invincibility” of the developers who sold it.

      An unconvincing defence amounting to either ignorance or temporary insanity, which fails to mention the media’s complicity in the speculative bubble and the collapse of the supposed ‘Berlin Wall’ between editorial integrity and commercial interest which enabled it.

      This is a serious blind spot.

      There are few adequate metaphors to describe institutions so lacking in self-perception that they so regularly point the finger at everyone but themselves. This whitewashing of media involvement, disguised by talk of a collective failure, is as embarrassing now as it was seedy then.

      The Irish media had a crucial and self-evident economic stake in the property bubble. It reaped huge profits from a relationship that dealt in the buying and selling of vastly over-valued property.

      It employed estate agents to pose as journalists and journalists who appeared to be estate agents, it attacked economists who failed to toe the mythical line, dubbing them “Econo-witches” and dismissing their theories as “lurid predictions.” Dissenters were literally drowned out by the constant drum of press release and PR concocted ‘news’.

      The present about-turn is nothing but a fig leaf. Current flirtations of concern for white collar crime and calls to “share the pain” are just that, flirtations. As Fintan O’Toole writes, the economic rescue debate is dominated by the rich. As such, it continues to represent the establishment: politics, banks and business, the media sitting comfortably at the decision table.

      But readers are unlikely to forget this illicit relationship, fully aware that should the markets miraculously regain the illusory ‘confidence’, and the world goes back to the pursuit of unsustainable growth, frantic meetings will be arranged between media outlets and “affable” developers to ensure an editorial environment that best suits their mutual interests.

      This letter itself is a fig leaf. The fact it is published will be held up as evidence of balance, however the procession of the powerful that dominates news reporting will continue unchallenged.

      Yours sincerely,

    • Tony S. says:

      Two items:

      1. On the maturity of our political system – Brian Cowen’s reply to Barack Obama’s was quite illuminating, when he said that, if there was a (distant) relative of Obama’s to be found in Offaly, then he (Cowen) would have had him on his campaign team. This just illustrates the point that Irish politics is a) inherently local and personal, and b) really ALL about getting elected, no matter what …

      2) On how ‘naysayers’ and ‘doom-and-gloom’ merchants were being perceived not even two short years ago – have we all forgotten Bertie Ahern’s comment, in 2007 I believe: “I don’t know how people who engage in that don’t commit suicide” ? Ahern quite rightly got taken to task about his suicide comment (the fact that he felt he could say this is a stunning indictment of the moral compasses of some of our political ‘leaders’), but nobody engaged in the validity or otherwise of his argument

      We are a lazy and irresponsible nation, just beginning to finally break free from the post-colonial mindset and learning the basics of political maturity, and our media (with a few exceptions) reflect this state of affairs …

    • Deaglán says:

      If you want to capture the zeitgeist of Ireland at the moment, listen to Gerry Ryan’s “spake” on radio where he announces that he is taking a pay-cut. It was sent to me as part of an email by http://www.mediacontact.ie


    • Ben Rickert says:

      I wish you learned scholars would learn to correctly state this party’s name.
      It is the DEMOCRAT PARTY not the Democratic Party.

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