Thursday, February 15, 2007

It's Official!
It's official: Bill O'Reilly is no longer watchable. At least I say so.

There was a time when Bill actually engaged in journalism and debate. Those days, alas, are all over. While there are segments of O'Reilly's program that do, almost purely by accident, managed to convey information, the remainder is simply given over to shameless self-promotion; of O'Reilly's books, of the personal attacks upon O'Reilly, upon the supposed effect which O'Reilly's program has upon the actions of the powerful. The problem, as I see it, is that Bill has become the center of everything, and the news gets somewhat skewed and often buried.

Want to ensure that you get attention for a trivial issue? Write an editorial which mentions Bill O'Reilly by name; Bill will make reference to it on his show. If you wish a little commentary on your commentary, mention Bill in a negative light --- he'll make you into a personal crusade.

In any case, when your program devotes weekly segments to examining "body language" and, invariably, you as host are having your body language analyzed in the context of your personal appearances with Stephen Colbert, David Letterman and Oprah, it's no longer just an examination of a slightly-interesting semi-science; it's now an advertizement of how visible Bill O'Reilly is, and how far he's risen in the pantheon of...ahem...television personalities. Bill is, perhaps subconciously, measuring himself against the giants in his industry and bragging about his stature, too.

It's pretty sad when the most interesting segments on the show as of late have been the monologues of Dennis Miller.

Speaking of unwatchable television, we come to Glenn Beck. On a good day, Beck is a poor-man's O'Reilly, but he does, in my opinion, have the quality of at least being willing to handle topics in a more than cavalier fashion. He often, I admit, turns me off with his smarmy uber-conservative smugness from time to time, but he does present an entertaining and informative show. Most nights.

Which leads us to what happens to Beck's show when he isn't there. Last night, Beck was replaced by one Michael Smirconish. It's enough to make one pine for O'Reilly.

Smirconish last night, in reference to the Anna Nicole Smith kerfuffle (and can can we please get back to something important on the news nowadays?), made the comment that Ms. Smith's baby daughter is perhaps better off with her mother dead. He delivered this gem of graciousness with an oily assuredness that he was right and justified in being so harshly judgemental, most probably because God contacted him, personally, about this very subject many times through the fillings in his teeth. At least that's impression his expression and evident self-assuredness in making such ridiculous statements gave.

Now, I will admit, the brouhaha surrounding Ms. Smith, and the circumstances surrounding her final days and death all have the typical salacious elements we've come to expect in such cases. However, if the Duke (Non-)Rape case taught us anything, and especially taught those in the responsible media anything, it was not to jump to conclusions. If Mr. Smirconish had irrefutable proof that Ms. Smith was a drug-addicted lowlife (like, say a coroner's report stating she died of an overdose, for example), then perhaps his opinion might be valid. However, we only have circumstantial evidence of Ms. Smith's drug use and the resulting behavior. While a reasonable person might assume, given the evidence, that Ms. Smith was a drug addict incapabpe of raising a child, we have no definitive proof of such.

In that regard, Mr. Smirconish should have kept his big, fat, yapper tightly closed about the woman's personal character and fitness as a parent. However, since Smirconish is one of the self-appointed defenders of 'merican society (i.e. Bible-thumping conservative) he feels he has the right to say whatever he wants, improper or not, because he's been granted the power of the Almighty to judge.

I seem to remember a quote...How did that go, again? Oh, yeah:

"Judge not, lest ye be judged....".

Monday, February 12, 2007

Amazing What Constitutes Journalism, These Days...
This is a little blurb to warn you of the panty-bunching psychosis of the bunch over at (hyperlink not given, ON PURPOSE).

Not long ago, I was involved in a discussion with one of NewsBuster's regular contributors (regular only in the sense that he posts often. I'm not sure there's anything "regular" about him after that, and no, that is NOT a reference to his sexual orientation). The subject had to do with an offhand remark made by one Meredith Viera (of "Who Wants To be A Millionaire" fame), now a regular on the Today Show (taking Katie Couric's place).

The remark was in reference to a symptom of menopause, i.e. the hot flash. Meredith made this remark, I gather, in the context of making a joke about the guest (a Medical doctor suffering from said hot flashes) who came on to talk about this serious health risk (snicker, snicker), and the grave, deadly threat (I guess) it serves to 'Merican womanhood.

Now, ordinarily, I should think that something like this would escape most people's attention. Evidentally, it did not escape the attention of the nitpickers at NewsBusters.

The remark was made into a conservative websphere cause celebre! Meredith DARED to mention hot flashes on TV? Isn't is just ABSOLUTELY EVIL? Is there no decency anymore? Why hasn't the Lord struck her down for her sin? Oh wail and woe! The end times are nigh!

Well, guess what? They ain't. And while NewBusters continued to hammer away at this tale of depravity for all it was worth, when it was suggested that perhaps, the reporter in question had just a little too much free time on his hands and a very small mind, I was savaged. Well, perhaps savaged is a bit hyperbolic; I was instead reminded that decency was at stake and that without NewsBusters to tell the American people about the hot flash embroglio, the "Mainstream Media" would have ignored it, we'd all be pig-ignorant, and the Earth might spin off it's axis.

God forbid the children heard "hot flashes" and perhaps asked Mother and Father to explain it all (when Pastor Bill might not be conveniently available to offer the right sort of counselling to the family)! Or worse, the public schools might take it upon themselves to explain hot flashes and menopause in the classroom! Imagine that; discuss menopause, but not Jesus! After all, it's all about "the children" isn't it?

Even making mountains out of molehills, evidentally, is all about the children...

What makes this especially delicious is that not a week later, Sean Hannity and others of his ilk were beating the drums loudly over a soon-to-be-released film in which 12-year old actress Dakota Fanning takes part in a simulated rape scene (on record; 12 year girls should have nothing to do with rape, simulated or not) .I'm not sure if NewsBustwers covered that with the same hyperbole (they probably did, I couldn't be bothered to check), but I'm dead certain that NewsBusters didn't go back and review the "hot flash" post and say to themselves "perhaps we've overreacted a bit in light of this new development..."

Of course, they wouldn't. If they didn't make minor incidents into stories, theyd have nothing to post over there on NewsBusters, I'm sure.

One of the disadvantages of the internet, alas, is that anyone capable of typing and holding an opinion at the same time is capable of bringing every petty subject into the light of day, regardless of how ridiculous the issue... or the reporter.

Myself included...
I Told You So...
Got into another argument with one of the I-WILL-Hold-My-Breath-Till-Blue-in-The-Face sort of..ahem..conservatives on FR recently, and I finally got at least this one to admit to something none of them ever will. The argument was begun on the premise that a certain Mr. Duncan Hunter, a backbencher Congresscritter, should be the Republican nominee for the Presidency in 2008. Mr. Hunter, so far as I know, has but one rock-solid conservative credential to his name: Ann Coulter said he should be President.

From Ann's luscious lips to God's ear, I guess.

Now, I seem to recall about this time last year, Ann putting her stamp of Conservative approval on another backbencher named Mike Pence for the same office. I similarly recall all the "excitement" generated by this coronation on FR and other conservative sites. I also recall that after a few weeks, Mr. Pence was found to be wanting in the conservative cojones arena, and the buzz that arose from his selection by Ann, quickly fizzled. If I recall, Mr. Pence, in keeping with his name, was Pence-wise and Pound-foolish; i.e. he was profligate spender of government tax revenue. A decided no-no if you wish to call yourself a conservative, you see (although it didn't stop half of the 109th Congress).

But I digress...

Now, so far as I know, Duncan Hunter is a fine and upstanding citizen, an honest representative of the people, and a snazzy dresser. However, I do know that when the prospective republican candidates at this time include the likes of Rudy Guiliani and John McManiac, Mr. Hunter is fighting an uphill battle. McPain at leats gets good press, Rudy is still fondly remembered for is leadershi on September 11th. I would very much like to hear what Mr. Hunter migth have to say, if only in the vain hope thathe might elevate the present political debate above it's current "oh yeah?" schoolyard character. Both McCain and Guiliani, naturally, will have their issues in the primaries, but that was not the gist of the debate.

The gist of the debate was that even if Mr. Hunter was a projected no-show come primary time, no "real" conservative would bend his neck and be "forced" to vote for either McCain or Guiliani. Considering that there aren't, to my knowledge, Republican Death-Squads, frog-marching people to the polls with guns to their heads, I hardly see how anyone is being 'forced' to do anything. There's nothing that says you can't be a republican and not vote for the party's presumptive nominee, although these folks ar ein a bit of a quandry; they will be blamed if a candidate which hasn't mustered up to their skewed visionof the role of government in society doesn;t win. They simply won't vote for someone they don't agree with simply for the sake of party unity. Fair enough. Conversely, they don't take blame for skewing the primary process in the first place by only ensuring that candidates who pass the majority of their litmus tests actually DO get to compete. Like most human beings, even in politics, they want their cake and to eat it to. However, the true reason why either McCain or Guiliani is such an odious choice, is of course, God. Or at least what many of the perpetually panty-bunched on the American right believe to be God's political agenda (notwithstanding all the "Render unto Caeser what is Caesar's, spiel). The problem, naturally, revolves around three cultural-conservative bugaboos;

a. Abortion should be illegal in ALL cases (I sorta-kinda agree with them on this point)
b. Gun rights (they need them thar flame throwers and RPG launchers from when the End of Days arrives to protect them from the heathens who won't be saved. Or, in some versions, to actually begin the chaos which will bring the Rapture upon us. Or, in a third version, to start the Second Revolution in which the people of "Fly-Over Country" will have to battle the federal Leviathan which has come under the control of the Fascist Gays with Fashion Sense).
c. The fact that you can say certain four letter words on television without being horsewhipped in public.

I generalize on the third issue, but you get the point; cultural conservatives rail against the coarsening of American society, seemingly remembering a time when everyone went around saying things like "gosh-darn-it!" and "oh pooh-with-sugar-on-top" whenever they were angry or required an interjection intended to convey annoyance. A time, which, incidentally, never existed, except in the milleaux hand-crafted for American conservatives; a world in which it is eternally the 1950's, Leave it to Beaver was entertainment of the highest order, and America was always right, no matter what.

Anyways, when it was pointed out to the misguided individual that the upcoming Presidential race will be less about conservative issues and more about mending Republican fences with the great American political middle, the gentleman (although he did call me a fascist, a marxist and several other, hysterical and totally unrelated-to-the-subject-at-hand names, all of which betrayed a total lack of knowledge of politics and political theory, in general) finally said that none of it mattered to him, because he had "God on his side" and that made him totally and completely correct in his assumptions and assertions. His world view was the only one that counted because it was the only one in which he believed God would agree.

There you go; the total stunting of political deabte, the complete divorce with reality, and the new weapon of the conservative ideologue; just say "God said so", and any debate which you are losing on reason and logic, is ended. No one can answer God, can they? Then again, it's not like God answers us, but that's another issue. The point was to direct the debate in such a way as to prevent adequate response, or, to squash the debate in it's entirety. In the meantime, no information of real value is exchanged, no point of view is expressed by either side which might serve to persuade.

God, apparently, is against Free Speech, too, now. Curious, since most "conservatives" will insist that God granted us our constitutional rights to begin with (you know, that time when Jefferson came down from Montecello with the stone tablets after he spoke to a burning bush (not Bush) for a couple of days). Just like the Catholic Church and it's convoluted and contradictory premise of "Free Will", the American conservative of a certain Jethro-and-Ellie-Mae bent has applied the same hypocrisy to the exercise of a constitutional right. It is both God-given and God-takeneth-away if it is not used in the "proper manner", i.e. in any way that does not reinforce or glorify God's role as Creator of the Universe, Arbiter and Judge of Mankind....Or in Support of Duncan Hunter.

I'm telling you; if you believed the left was off it's rocker (and it is), you should see some of the folks running around calling themselves "Conservatives" these days.