Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Idiot Interminable Goodbye

Katie Couric signed off as co-anchor of the "Today Show" this morning in order to assume the anchor chair of the "CBS Evening News" in September. Thank goodness it is over.

Of course, I realize that May is sweeps month for the networks, but one more day of this long goodbye and I would switch over to the CBS morning newscast. Yes, Katie was on for 15 years. Yes, she's a good morning anchor. But, the amount of attention for this woman was way disproportional to even her importance in the news business.

This long farewell process became even more annoying in the last couple weeks when 1) ABC decided to give current morning co-anchor Charles Gibson the anchor chair on ABC World News Tonight in large measure because (now) former co-anchor Bob Woodruff is still recovering from injuries he suffered while reporting in Iraq and 2) Kimberly Dozier lies critically injured in Germany from injuries suffered on Monday also while she was reporting from Iraq. I don't ewer remember seeing Katie Couric in harm's way during her years on the "Today Show."

So, good luck, Katie, and goodbye (finally!)

Friday, May 26, 2006

Idiot Bill O'Reilly Jumping the Shark

There is an expression in the TV business called "jumping the shark." What jumping the shark means is that a TV program has passed a point where it can be taken seriously, and that usually means the program will soon fade into that great network in the sky. The phrase originated from the reaction to a scene in "Happy Days", when the popular character of Fonzie (Henry Winkler), wearing swim trunks and his trademark leather jacket, jumps over a shark while water skiing. Many viewwers later felt the scene was too unrealistic, and believed that the show was on the downside of its creativity.

Based on what I saw on "The O'Reilly Factor" Wednesday night, I think old Bill has "jumped the shark". I'm going to include his talking points memo here, and provide my commentary in brackets.

Talking Points Memo

"Earlier this week, I said I was praying for a miracle that one American newspaper would take my side in the University of Oregon controversy, where a radical student publication printed vile illustrations of Jesus."

[The publication, The Insurgent, printed some provocative pictures of Jesus in response to another University of Oregon publication publishing the now-infamous Danish cartoons mocking Muslims. O'Reilly has had no problem with the publication of the Danish cartoons.]

"That hate speech violates academic standards, in my opinion. And the publication should be denied college funding. I also said the University president, Dave Fronmeyer, should be fired for poor judgment and lax leadership."

[The name is actually Frohnmayer. And, because of a legal decision Southworth v. Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System, Frohnmayer's hands are pretty much tied. The Southworth decision declared that a) student fees and the activities they fund are protected by the constitution; and b) these fees must be allocated without regard to a group's point of view, so that a student organization can't be denied funding because of the viewpoint they represent. It is OK if funding levels are different for different groups so long as these differences are not based upon the views of the groups. So, if there is a liberal newspaper on campus and a conservative newspaper on campus, all other things being equal, they should get the same amount of student fees.]

"Well, I didn't get the miracle I asked for. No newspapers have backed me. But something even more miraculous has happened. In a poll sponsored by the University of Oregon student newspaper, 38 percent of students say 'Bill O'Reilly is right, fire Fronmeyer.' Thirty-three percent believe the administration should say stay out of it. And 22 percent say the paper should not be shut down, but should be condemned."

[Of course, there is nothing scientific about the poll. In addition, a number of the respondents might want to fire Frohnmayer for other reasons.]

"So 60 percent of those who voted understand that hate speech is irresponsible while the faculty and staff of the university have no clue."

[Gee, that's quite a leap of interpretation! Nothing in the poll mentioned hate speech or faculty.]

"Now according to Black's Law Dictionary, hate speech is not always protected by the Constitution. And neither is lewd and obscene public speech, libelous public speech, and insulting words designed to inflict injury."

[True, but conditions need to be met in order for any of these types of speech to be banned. Be afraid, be very afraid, any time that Bill brings out Black's Law Dictionary because he actually thinks he knows something about the law, especially as it applies to the press.]

"The Jesus pictures are clearly obscene and designed to injure Christians. Any rational person can see that."

[Actually, the pictures may be designed to injure Christians, but it is unclear that that are legally obscene. Miller v. California set out the basic guidelines for determining whether a work is obscene:
(a) whether "the average person, applying contemporary community standards" would find that the work, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest,
(b) whether the work depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by the applicable state law; and
(c) whether the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.

In order for a work to be obscene, all three parts of the test must be met, which is difficult at best. The fact that the Insurgent published the works in response to the Danish cartoons may suggest that the pictures have serious political value, for example.]

"In an interesting aside, The New York Times ran a piece today about the ACLU. Apparently that organization does not want its own members to criticize it. That's right. The free speech champions, the ACLU doesn't want to be criticized from within. Excellent."

[Now what this has to do with the University of Oregon is beyond me.]

"As part of that article, ACLU executive director Anthony Romero says he believes in free speech, kind of. 'Take hate speech,' Romero says, 'while believing in free speech, we do not believe in or condone speech that attacks minorities.'

Aha, but you can attack the majority, which in America is Christians. And therein lies the crux of this issue."

[No, that's not what Romero said or implied.]

"Nobody in their right mind thinks the University of Oregon would allow a KKK student-run newspaper to receive student funding, but they will kick $20,000 a year to a Marxist, anti-Christian hate sheet. That's unacceptable at a publicly funded university. If that sheet wants to go off campus and publish with private money, I don't have a problem, but no student funding should be forthcoming."

[So far as I have been able to determine, the Insurgent is not Marxist. Whether the cartoons make it an anti-Christian hate sheet is subject to interpretation. But what is important here is this -- the student government directed student-generated fees to go to the Insurgent. If the student government wanted to kick $20,000 to a KKK student-run newspaper, it could do so.]

"University of Oregon alumni should stand up the way the students have and withhold donations until something is done."

[OK, except that the University of Oregon is a public institution, and gets its primary funding from the state government.]

"Tonight, the student senate of the University of Oregon will discuss the issue. And tomorrow, we'll report any action the kids might take. Again, this whole thing is miraculous to me. The students are much smarter than the faculty and much braver as well.

And that's "The Memo."

[And, what happened? Seven senate members walked out of the meeting because they felt the discussion was counter to board policies. So, nothing will be happening until the fall. I guess Bill was right -- the students are pretty smart!]

Anyway, Bill is losing it. His grasp on the facts of issues is weakening, and his analytical skills -- slight to begin with -- are becoming laughable.

Now, I don't want Bill to leave the air just yet. Keith Olbermann has been whacking O'Reilly like an pinata for weeks. I find that highly entertaining.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Idiot ACLU

The New York Times reported today that the ACLU is considering a proposal that would discourage its board members from making public their disagreements with ACLU board policies. The Times stated:

"The American Civil Liberties Union is weighing new standards that would discourage its board members from publicly criticizing the organization’s policies and internal administration.

'Where an individual director disagrees with a board position on matters of civil liberties policy, the director should refrain from publicly highlighting the fact of such disagreement,' the committee that compiled the standards wrote in its proposals.

'Directors should remember that there is always a material prospect that public airing of the disagreement will affect the A.C.L.U. adversely in terms of public support and fund-raising,' the proposals state.

Given the organization’s longtime commitment to defending free speech, some former board members were shocked by the proposals."

As well they should. The story goes on to reveal that these policies are being floated at a time when ACLU head Anthony Romero appears not be playing well with others. Romero has had a long-running battle with board member Wendy Kaminer over board policies, and recently has had run-ins with Alison Steiner and David Kennison, going so far as to imply that he has "thick files" on board members who disagree with him.

The story only appeared in the Times this morning, but already right wing blogs, and that defender of free speech, Bill O'Reilly (more on him later) are already ridiculing the ACLU.

If Mr. Romero can't take criticism, then he should consider another job rather than trying to get the board to adopt policies that would make the ACLU a public laughingstock for its hypocrisy.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Idiot Bernard Goldberg

Bernard Goldberg is a former CBS news reporter. As a CBS reporter, he was OK, but he never was going to be treated in the way he thought he deserved. So, he left, reports for Bryant Gumbel's "Real Sports" on HBO, and writes books attacking the "liberal media", such as "Bias" and "Arrogance."

He was on the Sean Hannity radio show today. Hannity was off on a rant about how so few conservatives are invited to speak at commencement exercises. He then decried about how Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice faced opposition to her speaking at Boston College's commencement. Goldberg then claimed, "There's more diversity on the Taliban than on U.S. universities."

What a stupid statement.

The Young America Foundation just released a list of commencement speakers. If you take their numbers at face value, you have approximately 54 commencement speakers who are liberal (colored blue on the YAF website) and 19 who are conservative (colored red). Interestingly, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who I thought is a Republican, is put in the liberal list. Harriett Mayor Fulbright, wife of former Senator William J. Fulbright, is listed as a liberal. Fulbright was not that big of a liberal himself, but the assumption she is a liberal is quite an assumption. So is the labeling as liberal Vice-Admiral Richard Carmona, the present surgeon general.

But, here are folks who are not identified at all in terms of ideology. Yet, many of the following 11 folks clearly fall into the conservative camp.

Ben Bernanke, new Fed chair
Lance Armstrong, cyclist (and a previously announced Bush supporter)
Julie Gerberding, head of the CDC
Bernie Marcus, co-founder of Home Depot
Thomas Siebel, former CEO of Siebel Systems
Curtis Carlson, president of SRI
Jeffrey Immelt, president of General Electric
Paul Volcker, former Fed chair
Vance Coffman, former president of Lockheed-Martin
William McGuire, chair of United Health

and my favorite, Elder Robert D. Hales, of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I guess I'm wrong -- he's got to be a flaming liberal.

BTW, Secretary Rice was not the only one to be protested at a college commencement. Court TV anchor Catherine Crier got booed at Western Connecticut State University while saying the following about an interview Fredrick Schwartz, the Chief Counsel for the Church Commission in the 1970's, gave: "Bush lawyers argue that the Constitution gives the President the right to break the law. If this is not put down or defeated, we are in a slippery slope moving toward a much more totalitarian government that's like the monarchy we tried to put behind us when we had the revolution 200 years ago."

Interestingly, Hannity was not upset about the treatment Crier received, but the content of her speech. What a surprise.

What a hypocrite!

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Idiot O'Reilly May 20

I'm just going to date the O'Reilly entries because I am losing count.

On the Wednesday "The O'Reilly Factor" TV Show, O'Reilly featured a story about the furor over anti-Christian cartoons in a University of Oregon student newspaper, The Insurgent. One cartoon depicted Jesus on the cross with an erection. Another depicted a sexually aroused Jesus kissing another man. The issue also included essays critical of Christianity and Catholicism. Many students and critics (many stirred up by Catholic organizations) claim the cartoons in the March issue overstep the First Amendment and want UOregon President Dave Frohnmayer to step in.

O'Reilly's producers called Frohnmayer's office on Wednesday morning to have him appear on the show. That would have meant a round trip to the closest FOX TV station, in Portland. Frohnmayer declined, not only because of a busy schedule, but because "There's no reason to drive 200 miles to appear on a show that's entertainment."

In response, O’Reilly labelled Frohnmayer a coward who should be fired and that the issue is one of hate, not free speech.

On Thursday, Frohnmayer noted that he denounced the cartoons when they appeared, but said U.S. Supreme Court rulings (specifically the Southworth decision) prohibit denying funding for such publications on content-based issues. The Insurgent receives fees paid by all University of Oregon students.

Frohnmayer shrugged off O’Reilly’s comments, saying, "Being called names by him is like being called ugly by a frog." He also dismissed O’Reilly is an entertainer, not a serious journalist, observing, "Bill O'Reilly doesn't know the First Amendment from the back of his own hand, which is a shame because he takes full abuse of it."

[Note to Frohnmayer. Be afraid. Be very afraid. Either you will now occupy the O'Reilly Wall of Shame, or he's going to launch an economic boycott of the University of Oregon. You can't diss Bill like that. Don't you realize what a girlie-man Bill is? Say something bad, and he has a hissy fit.]

Editors at The Insurgent said they decided to publish the cartoons after an earlier uproar over cartoons in a Danish newspaper that took aim at Islam. Those cartoons caused rioting and deaths in some Muslim parts of the world. Ironically, O'Reilly had supported the publication of controversial Danish cartoons.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Idiot Bill O'Reilly again

I wonder how much of what Bill O'Reilly says is rooted in any kind of fact. He clearly makes stuff up as he goes along.

Wednesday night on his "O'Reilly Factor" TV show, he threatened Mexico with a boycott if they dared to file any lawsuits over the National Guard taking over the Mexican border. And, to back up his threat, O'Reilly pointed to the success of the boycott he had off France and how much they suffered.

Suffered? U.S. exports to France have never been higher. Plus, they have climbed ever since O'Reilly announced his boycott! He cited evidence from the Paris Business Review indicating that the boycott had an impact. Problem is, there is no such publication. Talk about pulling stuff out of a part of one's anatomy!

The same day on his radio show, O'Reilly claimed that since Sweden allowed for same sex marriages, their social structure has plummeted. Most children are now born out of wedlock, he claimed, and the divorce rate is over 60%.

Let's introduce a couple of facts.

1) The marriage rate in Sweden has been climbing in this decade, after three decades of decline. In 2002, there were slightly under 80,000 new Swedish marriages and about 42,000 new Swedish divorces (according to Statistics Sweden). In 2005, there were 89,000 new Swedish marriages and 39,000 new Swedish divorces.

2) The trend to cohabitation occurred well before Swedish legislation legitimizing gay unions, and is most prevalent among people in their 20s. Most cohabiting couples either break up or marry within 5 years.

3) The U.S. has the world's biggest problem with single-parent households for children 15 or younger.

I will have more on Sweden in another post.

But, I would love to have a job where I could make up things as I went along.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Idiot Federal Law

In federal court yesterday, an attorney for AT&T suggested AT&T might have legal cover for the lawsuits just filed against the company. A section of federal law, 18 U.S.C. 2511, permits a telecommunications company to provide "information" and "facilities" to the federal government as long as the attorney general authorized it.

If John Ashcroft, who was serving as Attorney General when the National Security Agency program began, provided "a letter of certification" that no warrant was required, then AT&T is off the hook. Yesterday in court Deputy Assistant Attorney General Carl Nichols suggested such a letter exists, noting that there are undisclosed "facts that AT&T might want to present in its defense."

What makes this situation curiouser and curiouser is that 18 U.S.C. 2511's says that telecommunication companies may not "disclose the existence of any interception or surveillance or the device used to accomplish the interception or surveillance".

So, the court could absolve AT&T of any wrongdoing and we, the public, may never know the true reason.


Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Idiot Phone Companies

Last week, USA Today reported that AT&T, BellSouth and Verizon had given the National Security Agency (NSA) access to customer records in order that the NSA be able to determine "calling patterns." On Monday, BellSouth denied it cooperated with the NSA, and yesterday, Verizon claimed Tuesday it did not give the NSA customer records. Interestingly, the company declined to comment on whether the agency had access to its records, after reports that it shared data for an NSA call-tracking program.

In a statement, Verizon declared: "One of the most glaring and repeated falsehoods in the media reporting is the assertion that, in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, Verizon was approached by NSA and entered into an arrangement to provide the NSA with data from its customers' domestic calls."

"Contrary to the media reports, Verizon was not asked by NSA to provide, nor did Verizon provide, customer phone records from any of these businesses (wireline telephone, wireless and directory publishing), or any call data from those records."

In an intriguing development, however, Verizon did not exclude MCI as a source of customer records. MCI is Verizon's primary long distance carrier. In addition, asked if the NSA had access to Verizon or MCI call records even if they were not handed over to the agency, spokesman Bob Varettoni declined to comment beyond the company's statement.

One additional line in the statement included: "As the President has made clear, the NSA program he acknowledged authorizing against al-Qaeda is highly classified. Verizon cannot and will not comment on the program. Verizon cannot and will not confirm or deny whether it has any relationship to it."

AT&T has said it will not comment on matters of national security, and has declined to comment on whether it has a relationship with the NSA. AT&T further said it had not given customer information to law enforcement authorities or government agencies without legal authorization. Now, given that Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez has declared the previous domestic spying operation to be perfectly legal, that doesn't mean AT&T didn't cooperate.

Verizon, BellSouth and AT&T have been sued for $200 billion for violating customer privacy rights.

The statements made by the phone companies are reminiscent of the Nixon Administration, whose own statements often fell into the categories of "non-denial denials" or ones containing "plausible deniability." The Nixon Administration engaged in numerous incidences of illegal surveillance of members of its "enemies list." Given the scope of the domestic surveillance occurring today, the Nixon Years may look like the Good Old Days.

It is interesting to note that Qwest Communications refused a government request for access to customer records, according to the company's former chief executive, Joseph Nacchio. That refusal just might give Qwest what is known in advertising as a Unique Selling Proposition: "Qwest: Whatever you say here, stays here."

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Idiot Attempt at Public Manipulation

On the FOX program "Dayside", the blonde FOX babe (I think her name is Juliet Huddy, but they're all pretty much interchangeable -- fairly attractive, but with IQs closer to single digits than three) asked "Why were the pictures of the plane hitting the Pentagon released?"

Turns out today, the Pentagon found it necessary to release video from security cameras of the plane hitting the Pentagon on September 11, 2001 -- 4 1/2 years ago.

Why today? Well, supposedly because the Pentagon originally was going to use the video for the Zacarias Moussaoui trial, the so-called 20th hijacker associated with the September 11th attacks on the United States. Oh, wait, apparently the Pentagon backed off because the video was deemed to be too inflammatory (no pun intended) for the Moussaoui jurors.

How come the video didn't come out until today? The Moussaoui jury voted in favor of life imprisonment for him on May 3.

How about the real reasons -- because 1) the confirmation hearings for CIA chief-designee Gen. Michael Hayden are coming up on Thursday (May 18) and the Administration wanted to generate public support for Hayden; and 2) the president's approval ratings are 29% and any news item that will change the subject will provide him some relief?

This transparent attempt at public manipulation shows the Administration at its absolute worst. It is attempting to play on public emotions by reminding everyone of the death and destruction on that tragic day. And, it is doing so for the crassest of political reasons.

I am reminded of the question asked by lawyer Joseph Welch of that famous demagogue Senator Joe McCarthy: "Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?"

I am afraid the present Administration is fast losing its sense of decency.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Idiot Laura Bush and Mary Cheney

I feel bad criticizing Laura Bush, in part because of whom she is married to. But, talk about clueless. On "FOX News Sunday", Mrs. Bush was asked about the low poll numbers of her husband. She says she doesn't believe the polls. "Everyone in the country" she runs into supports her husband.

Newsflash, Mrs. Bush. Everyone you meet out there has been carefully screened. You might notice how the crowds are probably getting smaller because it's harder to find citizens who qualify.

On the same program, Mary Cheney claimed her father has a great deal of respect for people who disagree with him. Oh? Is that why he went after Joe Wilson by outting his wife, CIA operative Valerie Plame? Sounds like a lot of respect.

Then, the utter hypocrisy. She slams John Edwards and John Kerry for their comments regarding her sexuality during the 2004 debates. She accused them of saying those things to make people feel uncomfortable about the Bush-Cheney ticket. Yet, she continued to work on a campaign that 1) didn't not allow her to be on the podium with her partner during the 2004 Republican National Convention and 2) generated a number of anti-gay referenda to bring conservative out to the polls. She claims she was against the Republican platform, yet continued to work for the campaign. That's hypocrisy at its utmost.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Idiot Limbaugh III

Good old Rush. I could spend all my time writing in this blog about Rush.

But, this one really takes the cake. He has the audacity to be upset with the Associated Press because it reported last Friday that he had been arrested for a drug-related crime. He claims that was inaccurate.

Newsflash, Rush. When you surrendered to authorities last Friday, you were under arrest. Now, while it only took a couple hours for you to reach a settlement with the prosecutor, you were, indeed, under arrest.

For someone who can dish it out, he sure can't take it, even when it's true.

Even better, I loved how he framed this plea deal on his radio show on Monday:

"There was no arrest. There was no new charge, no new case. Case closed. Story's over. I won. Operative words: 'not guilty.'"

He won? What did he win? Here are the specifics of his plea deal on the charge of doctor shopping:

* Limbaugh will eventually see the charge dismissed in 18 months if he continues treatment for drug addiction

* Limbaugh has agreed to make a $30,000 payment to the state of Florida to defray the public cost of the investigation.

* Limbaugh cannot own a gun

* Limbaugh must submit to random drug tests

* Limbaugh must refrain from violating the law during this 18 month period

* Limbaugh must pay $30 per month for the cost of supervision and comply with other similar provisions of the agreement

* Limbaugh must eat some of his own words: "Drug use, some might say, is destroying this country. And we have laws against selling drugs, pushing drugs, using drugs, importing drugs. ... And so if people are violating the law by doing drugs, they ought to be accused and they ought to be convicted and they ought to be sent up."

So, what exactly did he win?