Friday, February 13, 2009

Horrible Crash Of Flight 3407 In Buffalo, NY, Stimulus Bill Finally Passes, And An Interview With Ben Affleck Regarding The Congo

Hi everybody. What a week, huh? Our inevitable BREAKING NEWS tonight is that the Senate will be voting on the stimulus bill soon. And they're not playing when they say soon. But hold that thought because we're first covering the horrible plane crash of Flight 3407 into a house in Buffalo, New York, complete with "Fatal Flight" graphic (a bit much, don't you think?). I have to say, I'm kinda ticked at the universe right now. I mean, could we not have a little more time to savor the awesome story of Captain Sully and all those lives saved before our parade was not only rained on, but completely demolished by this terrible news? And all these planes going down is not helping my wariness of flying, which recently became more complicated because I'm pretty sure it was on my flight to Florida where I caught whatever it was that turned into my near-fatal pneumonia. So to sum up, planes? Not a big fan.

A piece from Anderson Cooper gives us the basics: all 49 on board were killed, as was a man in the house (I think last night I blogged 48 on board--sorry). It is the first fatal U.S. commercial air crash since 2006. Ice is suspected as the culprit. There was no indication from the crew that anything was wrong before the plane simply disappeared from radar. Victims of note include a 9-11 widow who did a lot of work on behalf of the families. Man, talk about the unfairness of life. As Anderson does his voice over, we're being shown I-Report video and then we hear from the wife of the man who was killed on the ground. She's devastated, obviously. I think I'd like to go back to when we were just worrying about the imminent collapse of the world economy.

Next up, we go to Jason Carroll near the crash site and he tells us they already recovered the cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder. Then we're on to an interview with Susan Reinhardt, a woman whose decision to get dinner and take a later flight probably just saved her life. About a decade ago, Gwyneth Paltrow was in a movie called "Sliding Doors," which showed two versions of one woman's life, based on whether she caught a train or didn't. It's amazing to me how something so small--sometimes a decision you don't even really think about--can completely change your life. For example, Ms. Reinhardt tells us she was talking to another woman who wanted to get home fast to see her boyfriend, so she opted to take Flight 3407 and now she's dead. So sad.

On now to an interview with retired airline captain Jim Tilmon for speculation about the cause of the crash. As great a job as Anderson did with the "breaking news" last night, I couldn't help thinking how I wished we had the expertise of Miles O'Brien and how his firing keeps being proven over and over to be one of the worst decisions CNN has ever made. I knew it wouldn't take Miles long to weigh in and he has with a very informative blog post (and I thought it was very sweet of Roland Martin to leave a comment). He then followed up late tonight (I know because he tweeted it!) with another post that links to a NASA video on icing for those interested.

Moving on to a Randi Kaye piece on that aforementioned 9-11 widow, Beverly Eckert, co-founder of Voices of September 11th. She was a big advocate for 9-11 families, pushing for the 9-11 Commission and enaction of its recommendations She had recently met with President Obama on what to do about terror suspects. It sounds like her dedication will be sorely missed. What are the odds of both members of a couple dying in two separate incidents related to plane crashes?

Transitioning now to Tom Foreman at what I'm going to refer to as the Poor Man's Magic Wall or maybe the Ghetto Magic Map. I don't know. I'll work on it. He's telling us what's in the stimulus bill and moving stuff around on the wall with his hands like John King did during the election. Can't let that technology go to waste, I suppose. Anyway, this breakdown is good, but still no economic analysis. In fact, the whole way this is framed in terms of winners and losers is kinda messed up. I'm sure there was lobbying going on and everything, but it all goes back to turning things into a game, when it's very much not. Tom even calls money for transportation, "sort of a jackpot." I mean, transportation is kinda important, you know?

Next up, we have a Joe Johns piece on accountability related to the bill. It's so huge, ensuring everything goes as planned is going to be tough. Lawmakers have tried to provide themselves some insurance by giving more funding to the federal inspectors general and GAO, but it may not be enough. At least they're trying. Now everyone just needs to pay attention as the money starts going out. Of course, that's easier said than done.

Panel time! Tonight we're pontificating with David Gergen, Joe Johns, and Dana Bash. They begin by playing a clip of John Boehner having a freakout that no one has read the bill and Anderson asks how often the congresscritters vote on bills they haven't read. "Quite a bit. I mean, it happens all the time," says Joe. Isn't that awful? But I thought it was pretty common knowledge at this point. Remember when Michael Moore went to D.C. and read Congress the Patriot Act (yeah, they didn't read that one either)? Good times. It's pointed out that Congress peeps are busy, much too busy, apparently, to read bills, so the task is often given to aides. This can lead to things being slipped into legislation with no one knowing. Awesomeness, huh?

Dana wants to get in on the bill-reading discussion and she's brought a prop: the 1,100 page bill. "I mean, I can barely lift it," she says. Well, to be fair, you're kinda small. Just saying. Not that I can talk. Okay, so then there's a lot of other conversation, but we're sorta just killing time here, so they can show us the actual vote live. The Senate has been holding it open in order to wait for Senator Sherrod Brown to return from his mother's wake. Finally, he does return, casts his vote, Dick Durbin says some legislature-y stuff, the gavel is banged, and wah lah, we have a vote! Gotta say, that was pretty anti-climatic.

Anderson then brings up how some people see this as a step toward recovery and others see it as some sort of "doom." What he doesn't say is that the doomers are in the minority by a fair degree. Then later he says this: "What's so worrying, I guess, that you have smart people, very smart people on both sides of the aisle, on both sides of this debate who are arguing the exact opposite things. And it's hard to know who's right, and I guess time will tell to some degree." Argh. Stop saying that! Seriously, the whole "smart people on both sides of the aisle" thing is getting really old.

Since he never tells us who WHO these smart people are or the smart things they're saying or gives us proof as to why those things are smart, it renders the whole statement meaningless and makes me think he's just spouting generic crap to look bi-partisan. As I've said before, this is a hard situation because there is no provable exact right answer, but there are these things called economists and the majority of them are on the same page. Seriously Anderson, WTF?

That's pretty much it for the first hour, but tonight during the second hour they ran a taped interview with Ben Affleck about his travels to the Congo. It's very annoying, yet admittedly savvy, that they stuck this in hour two, thus making many of us stick around for almost the whole two hours. (BTW, I can't believe they ran tape in the second hour given the "breaking news" stimulus vote, but whatever.) Of course, if I would have checked the blog, I wouldn't have needed to continue watching since they got the interview online really quickly. And actually, that's the full interview--an edited version made it to air. The interview came about because Affleck has penned a piece about his experiences in the DRC for the recent issue of TIME magazine.

I'm not going to recap the whole interview because I'd really rather you just watch it at the link, but topics discussed include the recent arrest of rebel leader Laurent Nkunda, the horrific sexual violence perpetrated against women in the country, and the unbelievable strength of Africans. Ben tells us that in some regions in eastern DRC two out of three women have been raped. It's a stat almost impossible to get your mind around. People may mock him, but in watching the interview, it's clear the guy knows his stuff. I actually did a post back in June related to a special on the Congo he did for Nightline and here's some of the video of that broadcast. Also, our own anchor has done more than his part to bring awareness to the issue, taking the show to the DRC in late September/early October 2006. I blogged it and you can check out my archives if you're interested.

I was very, very pleased to see this interview with Affleck and I'm not sure why they don't do this kind of thing more often. Long time viewers know the things this show (and specifically Anderson) care about--Africa, New Orleans, the wars to a certain extent. But it seems like coverage of them is few and far between. It's completely understandable that CNN can't send their primetime show all the way to Africa with any frequency. I totally get that. Even going to New Orleans now is dicey, what with the huge economic news going on, which, ironically is no doubt affecting CNN's ability to send their people places. What I've never understood is why they seem to have this belief that they can't cover a story unless they go to it.

There are so many opportunities to cover, say, New Orleans, that they're just not taking. For example, I recently linked to Howard Fineman's piece that argued the city should be made a focus of selling the stimulus. They could have had on Howard and covered both the stimulus and New Orleans at the same time. Double win! To be fair, there's questionable synergy going on in that situation (too bad it wasn't a TIME piece), but really it's just an example. It was really smart to have on Affleck and I hope they do that kind of thing more often to bring awareness to stories that for whatever reason CNN can't report themselves.


Blogger Anne said...

Hi Eliza,

If only people in the news business would listen to people like you. I agree it doesn't make sense that stories are not covered unless it seems a film crew is there. I read Howard Fineman's piece and also agree with you that he could be brought on. Why not, we have those enless pundit panels. For that matter bring on others like Ben Affleck instead of the endless pundit panel ponderers. Very hard hitting but so true about AC and his "spouting generic crap to look bi-partisan". It seems to me the odds would have to be a million to one for a couple to perish the way the Eckerts did. Anne D.

11:44 PM  
Blogger eliza said...

@Anne--The world would be a much better place if more people listened to me. Heh. Kidding. Seriously though, I don't know why they don't think outside the box more.

I didn't really want to pick on Anderson, but he's been saying that line for years now and it's starting to grate.

4:21 AM  

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