Archive for the ‘Television’ category

Bill Moyers

January 5, 2008

Last evening Bill Moyers held an information session on the 2008 Presidential nomination process that should make all other honest media stars ashamed.  Bill interviewed Kathleen Hall Jamieson, author and University of Pennsylvania professor, Ron Paul, and Dennis Kucinich.  It was a gift to sane thinking and a wake up call to the hash that mainstream TV, radio, and newsprint are serving up on this race.

Ms Jamieson was positive on every account and underscored the great loss to a relevent discussion that results when Ron Paul or Dennis Kucinich are denied participation in any of the televised debates.  Following Ms Jamieson, Ron and Dennis demonstrated why.  While totally opposite on how they see a just and practical world, the shined a bright spot light on the thin and often dead end view of Government policy that the leading candidates espouse.

Ron Paul is a phenomenon that should be studied closely.  He stands for so many things that are not practiced today (no soldiers overseas, no or very little taxes, no Federal Reserve, free speech, right to privacy etc).  It is very difficult to see how you can get from here to there.  Despite that, Paul is raising more money that most of the other candidates and none of it seems to be coming from special interests.

Dennis Kucinich reminds me a little of Hubert Humphrey (the happy warrior).  Dennis speaks of a world watched over by a caring government where no one goes without basic needs.  In Dennis’ world, everyone has a job, cheerfully contributes their fair tax share, and is never called upon to bare arms since the government conducts its foreign policy such that wars do not occur.

Yet amazingly these two projections of extremes show that somewhere in between there is some center ground that might be both better than the Bush extremism and achievable.  These two candidates are serving America mightily and should be listened too, if only to provide a guide to a better position than present.

Their Finest Hour?

December 6, 2007

On a day when the Supreme Court is hearing arguments which in essence could make it perfectly legal for the US Government to go into the piracy and hostage taking business, The news was headlined by the senseless shootings by a mentally sick young man in Omaha.  TV news jumped on this incident as flies do horseshit in July.  What are the national networks thinking?

1. There certainly is a place for reporting this tragic event and it begins in Omaha and probably ends in Nebraska.  There needs to be accurate information delivered so that the public can remain calm and cooperate with what ever type of investigation is felt necessary.  There does not need to be any pretty (male or female) faces standing before the camera telling you what you are seeing or what you are about to be told (by a less pretty face).

2. National reporting is just what these sick people want.  For what ever the reasons they are losers in their own world and through the magic of media, they want a record made that they were here.  Media executives who pander to the general audience and feed this sick information are simply encouraging the next sicko to do the same.

3. The Supreme Court case could reaffirm a 600 year old right of Western Law, habeas corpus.  This would be a wonderful victory for common sense and the American way.  Or, in the end, the Court could side step that fundamental issue and simply declare that the law governing the military commissions in Guantanamo is flawed and remand the case back to the Government for further revisions.  In the worst case, where the conservative four stand, the Court could rule it has no call to be involved, and in that situation, they will validate the wholesale hijacking of our due process and probable cause tradition.

The argument that “we are at war” is laughable on its merits.  We are no more at war than a child shooing a ghost from behind a tree at halloween.  We are definently involved in two police actions, Afghanistan and Iraq, but these are not wars since Congress has never declared war.  The Guantanamo prisoners are not even classified as enemy combatants and not accorded their protections under the Geneva Convention.  Some of these people may have been or are bad people.  That is no excuse for not offering them due process.  The real losers are the American people who do not see their freedoms slipping away.

Tone at the Top

April 26, 2007

Most corporations today are concerned about the “tone” (attitudes and actions) of top corporate officers because that is what all the subordinates lower in the organization see and assume is acceptable behavior.  These corporations all have written codes of conduct and if written words were sufficient, there would be no need for any anti-trust or tax evasion activity by the Justice Department.  But corporations are filled with real people who possess varying motives, loyalties, personalities, and behaviors.  The proper tone at the top is no guarentee of avoiding unethical or criminal activity but it is a very positive step in minimizing and subsequently detecting these unwanted actions that are in conflict with laws and regulations.  A tone at the top that reflects looking the other way or openingly endorses activities that flaunt laws and regulations is almost assured to be followed someplace in the organization with unethical or worse behavior. 

By the same token, the US Government is like a very large corporation.  The Presdient is our CEO.  He plus his cabinet leaders are the senior officers and through their behavior and fulfillment of their cabinet duties set the tone for our country.  Co-presidents Bush and Cheney have set a standard that we should all hope is not repeated no matter which party wins the next election.

Bush and Cheney are men who think they are on an important mission and that the ends justify a much wider range of means than has previously been viewed as acceptable.  Cases in point:

1. Convinced that the Middle East needed “regime change” and continued strong long term American influence, they concocted an elaborate fabrication of mis-truths to claim Iraq represented an imminent threat.  Bush and Cheney then lead the country into a war that was both unwise and unnecessary.

2. Possessing only ideological guidance, Bush and Cheney had no interest or ability at setting policies or plans that would assure the winning of the peace following the invasion.  Further since long term presence and control of the Iraqi government was their goal, there was little concern in the White House that the war was dragging on and death and destruction was mounting with Iraqi civilians.  Katrina, the Walter Reed scandal, and the recent student loan kick-backs (no over sight) all flow from the same managerial style.

3. The “war on terror” which is a brilliant political statement.  It fits the conservative fundamentalist view of the world divided into good and evil.  So, the President declared war on evil, whoever that was.  Who could possibly be against that?  Anyone who voiced support or even questioned the targeting of others as “evil” were also branded as an enemy sympathizer.  Whatever happened to due process?  Alberto Gonzales, then President Bush’s personal lawyer was tapped to craft some language that would give a legal standing to denying US citizens as well as anyone found in the war on terror “rights” of a US citizen as well as the Geneva Convention.  Rendition, extraordinary interrogation methods, unlimited detention without charges orrepresentation, Abu Ghraib, and Guantanamo are all products of this tone.

4. Fast forward to today.  Attorney General Gonzales has recently testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee and over 70 times used the phrased “to the best of my memory, I can not recall…”  Once or maybe twice might be ok but this many times either represents someone hiding something or someone not up to the task of being the highest US justice official.  In either case, there is only one honorable thing to do and that would be to resign.  It is no surprise that Gonzales has elected to stay and Presidents Bush and Cheney have backed him.

What is most worrisome about this foul “tone at the top” is that it was not evident during Bush’s 2000 campaign.  It was evident fairly early following the election that Bush preferred to use political appointees and leave things to others.  The tragedy of 9/11 let the goblins out of their box (Kristol, Pearl, Wolfowicz, and Feith).  Cheney set the sails and the rest was history.  How can we avoid this in 2008?

I am not sure but would offer these recommendations:

1. Do not accept euphemism like “war on terror”, “clear air act”, “no child left behind”, “sanctity of marriage”, and “victory”.  Instead we should insist that the candidates be specific and describe exactly who and what they are referring to.

2. Be absolutely certain that either party can produce a successful next government and either party can also be a complete bust.  So there should be no room for candidate Rudy Giuliani’s statement that there will be terrorist attacks if the Democrats are elected.  This is shameful and should be repudiated.

3. Monitor the broad spectrum of political opinion including far right and far left.  Truth and practicality will lie way in between.

4. Be very skeptical of regular television news or news/talk shows.  You will see the same faces on these programs and the shows have become extensions of the candidate’s campaign.  It is ok to watch but don’t believe what is said without much more information.

5. This will be an election where the lesser menace of two unknown candidates will probably be the best bet.  Each candidate will have attributes that some group is deeply concerned about (either positive or negative).  Look what the “right to life group” got by supporting Bush; they got two Supreme Court Justices and over 3000 unnecessary deaths of Americans in Iraq coupled with 100’s of thousands Iraqi civilian deaths.  What type of right to life is that?    

Guilt by Association

April 12, 2007

Last evening I was forced to turn off the MSNBC show “Hard Ball” because it chose to devote its time to the sensational news surrounding radio show host Don Imus.  The focus of their report was the decision by NBC (owner of MSNBC) to drop the live simulcast of Imas’ daily show.  While this might have been worth about 30 seconds of news reporting, the devotion of so much time suggests other motives.

It had been reported during the day that big name sponsors like GM, American Express, and P&G had already dropped their advertisement of the program.  NBC was already late for a moral or ethical statement and now found itself open to the accusation that this was all about money.  NBC, of course righteously claimed otherwise.

Imus’ program, on which most NBC personalities have appeared along with many popular politicians, did not suddenly change last week when he spoke inappropriately of the Rutgers Women’s Basketball team.  His program has been engineered to run the edge of decency with calculated steps over the line to get those ratings.  So everyone associated with Imus’ show already knew what he was like and who he pandered to.  To say he crossed some magical line is a joke.

Imus will visit in person with the Rutgers team in order to apologize.  He should not do this along.  He should be accompanied by the President of NBC News, and suitable representatives from GM, American Express, and P&G who are all equally responsible.