Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Toyota Lobbyists, Central Falls Teachers Fired, Pushing Through Health Care Reform, And A Good News Story Out Of Haiti

Hi everyone. No Anderson Cooper tonight. In CNN's apparent continuing quest to confuse me, we've got Jessica Yellin pulling anchor duties. Well this is new. I'm not sure I've seen her host 360 before. Admittedly, most of my confusion up top here is due to the fact that, well, I just woke up.

Yes, your blogger was napping. Sue me. I pretty much spent the first five minutes or so of the broadcast just wrapping my head around Jessica being there, so yeah, my indepth-ness is going to be of the not variety.

We begin with the subject of Toyota, and how they kinda seem to be trying to kill us. This is all very important of course, but again, I was all discombobulated. So, from some clippage of congressional testimony, we go into a Drew Griffin piece that explores just what the heck is wrong with the cars. The company has previously blamed things such as stuck pedals, but evidence seems to be pointing more and more to electronic issues.

On now to a Joe Johns piece about all those lovely lobbyists Toyota has hired. Ugh. I think we all know that seedy deal by now (though it should absolutely be reported). We also learn that Representative Jane Harman has recused herself from the congressional investigation due to her husband's business dealings with the company and stock holdings. Good for her. Others like Senator Jay Rockefeller aren't stepping aside.

Particularly of note, is the notion that this mess might not be so much that lobbyist money convinced regulators to look the other way, but that the regulators just didn't have the resources to deal. As Joe points out, it's not that far-fetched given how much the Bush administration loved them the regulation. Thanks conservatives!

Transitioning now to the story of Central Falls High School in Rhode Island, which was covered on the program last night. In a Randi Kaye piece we learn that, it's official, the teachers are getting fired. To recap: the district is very poor with horrible statistics when it comes to student performance. But the teachers make between $72,000 and $78,000 per year.

In an effort to shape things up, the superintendent put forth a plan that mandated more time with students. The union for the teachers claims that scores have actually improved as of late and they just wanted to work out details of a plan moving forward. The district says the teachers actually refused the new schedule. I guess the truth is in there somewhere.

In a taped interview, Jessica talks with superintendent Fran Gallo. She assures us the teachers will finish out the school year, but she seems pretty set in this decision to terminate. Some of the teachers may be hired back if they reapply. I guess that's something, though probably rather humiliating. Dr. Gallo also notes that the teachers have complicated things by bringing the students into the issue. I'd be interested to hear more about that angle.

Now for the other side, we're joined by fired teacher George McLaughlin. He seems to think this was all avoidable. First of all, he doesn't accept the district's performance statistics because they have a transient student population. He also kinda disses on the superintendent and how little he believes she knows about the community. Finally, he resolutely states this was not about money. In fact, he seems pretty open to working out details.

I think this was a better format to explore the story that what we had last night, though I still don't feel like I have all the facts. George appeared to think there's some sort of agenda going on, and admittedly the superintendent came off pretty unwavering. I guess the big question is whether the teachers are looking out for the students or just themselves. I don't know the answer to that.

Next up, Dana Bash joins us live to report that reconciliation in health care reform is on the table. Woo hoo! Once upon a time, I had a notion that someday we'd really live up to this whole democracy thing. The system would work and everyone would have their say. But you know what? Screw it. Ram that sucker through!

We spent years watching the Bush administration and Republicans jam legislation down our throats with nothing we could do to stop them. I didn't really want the Democrats to be like that. And they haven't been as of yet. They've bent over backwards so many times for Republicans that they're all going to need chiropractors, with nothing to show for their efforts. Well, enough! It's time for my side to be the jerks. At least in this case we get health care reform.

Of course, it's not without risk. Obviously that whole planned summit thing is going to be painted (accurately) as a farce. Not to mention the overall politically controversialness of the move. But doing nothing might be worse politically (and it will certainly be worse on the nation's health). Plus the base is pissed. No more kowtowing to the stupid centrists who quit when things get hard. I'm through with getting my hopes up on this, but it wasn't a bad day.

From here we have a "broken government" segment with Ali Velshi and Peter Beinart. An okay discussion. I'm taking a pass.

Moving on to Gary Tuchman live with actual good news out of Haiti. The six orphans he reported on last night are going home. Woo! As I'm sure most of us suspected, the previous problems were all just a miscommunication and they really did have the prime minister's signature to take the children. So yay. The aftermath of this mess was also not without difficulty. Gary tells us that when the women went to get the kids at the orphanage...they were gone. Turns out they had been moved to yet another orphanage without telling them. What a day.

All this info sets the very adorable (taped) scene of Gary interviewing the three women while they're all holding kids. And when I say all, that includes Gary. He's got Malichi (ph) who is a little chatterbox and quite enamored by Gary's comically ginormous microphone. At one point he tries to eat it, which hey, it happens. The whole time Gary's doing that thing where you're trying to hold the kid in a way that he can't reach anything. Heh.

Also? The women didn't have a ride, so CNN was kind enough to load them and the six kids into their van. During the interview those boys seemed to be hitting the kinda wound-up crabby stage that kids get in. That might have been a long ride. In any regard, once again, yay. Happy ending! We all know that's not the case overall. Anderson Cooper was on Charlie Rose the other day discussing Haiti and you can see the show here. I thought it was a very good indepth conversation, and I especially found Robert Maguire very informative.

The "shot" tonight was billed as a countdown of Olympic mishaps, which I was going to say was in poor taste given what happened to the luger. But it turned out to be something completely different. Instead, it was a salute to CNN's own "Olympic-ish athletes." Okay, yes, they are totally stretching the Olympic relatedness, though who am I to reject trainwreck-y video?

First up, we get a picture of Tom Foreman receiving first aid treatment after attempting (and apparently failing) a jump onto a desk. Now, why this was attempted, I can't tell you, but I do know at some point he landed that jump. Then there's David Mattingly getting hit by a carp, which let's just face it, who doesn't want to watch that over and over. Anderson sure does.

Finally, perhaps the greatest piece of video CNN has ever broadcast: Rick Sanchez getting tasered. It hurts! I cannot tell you how much I have watched that video over the years. And I laugh every damn time.

The show seemed pretty good. But don't forget the wars, guys. The Iraq election is just around the corner. I know it's the new forgotten war and everything, but the troops who are there now and the troops who paid for that country's future with their lives deserve better, as do the Iraqis.

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