April 27, 2008

What is it with April Birthdays?

I just finished a fun, stimulating, exhausting week of birthday celebration, that included dinners, parties, classes, two writers' groups, and even a volunteer stint at the L.A. Times Festival of Books at UCLA. It was a great birthday because I did so many things that I enjoy doing, with some of the people (the ones who live locally, at least) with whom I enjoy doing them.

Then I saw a blog post stating that today is William Shakespeare's birthday. This reminds me that my birthday is sandwiched right between those of Willie the Shake and Adolf Hitler. I also share my birthday with Barbara Streisand and Shirley MacLaine (and, presumably, all the people and animals Shirley MacLaine was in her many past lives).

What do I have in common with all these people? I don't know, but April is a most interesting time to have a birthday.

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April 23, 2008

Separated at Birth? Television Edition

First up we have Dan Abrams, the host of MSNBC’s “Verdict with Dan Abrams” and chief legal correspondent for NBC News. Dan is something of a boy wonder, having served as an anchor and reporter for Court TV, and then having his own program on MSNBC, "The Abrams Report," while still a thirtysomething, before being named General Manager of MSNBC.

Dan looks an awful like like another television boy wonder from a few decades ago -- the original Boy Wonder, Batman's sidekick Robin, a/k/a Dick Grayson, who in real life was known as Burt Ward.
In fact, if I didn't know that Dan Abrams is the son of famous first amendment attorney Floyd Abrams, I might think that Dan and Burt were Separated at Birth.

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April 20, 2008

Wikipedia is the Greatest Fount of Knowledge Ever Part Deux

Once again, Wikipedia has referenced the Media Concepts blog as a source. This time, it's in a Wikipedia article regarding Grouply, which, as my referenced post on the subject indicated, is a controversial service that involves handing over your group sign-in information, including your password, to a third party that claims to "organize" your Internet groups.

Since I have had concerns about Grouply from the moment I heard about it, I am glad to be part of a public notice regarding that organization. And of course, I can vouch for Wikipedia's excellent sourcing and references.

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April 17, 2008

The Debate is Over, and ABC News Lost

To say that ABC News marginalized the issues in last night's debate would be an insult to margins everywhere. ABC's coverage of the Democratic Presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama was beyond embarrassing, beyond shameful, beyond inane.

The first 50 minutes of the debate, moderated by Charles Gibson and George Stephanopoulos, consisted of trivial non-policy questions, mostly aimed at Obama, concerning his use of the word "bitter" to describe the way some Americans feel; his serving on a charity board that included a former Sixties radical from something called the Weather Underground; the lack of a flag pin on Obama's lapel; and good old Reverend Wright. Clinton got tagged again with her exaggeration of sniper conditions at the Tuzla Airport in Bosnia.

Someone should have told the bespectacled Gibson that Barack Obama was seven years old when the Weather Underground was active, and that, if wearing lapel flag pins was a requirement to demonstrate one's patriotism, then the Founding Fathers, Benjamin Franklin and nearly every past President of the United States must not have been patriots. Oh, and the "bitter" thing? Guess what -- it's true.

The questions from Gibson and Stephanopoulos were not only superficial, they were framed right out of the right wing "culture war" playbook. Everyone knows that, in this November's election, the Republicans will once again try to paint Democrats as a bunch of lefties out of touch with mainstream America on "issues" such as the Pledge of Allegiance. But I had no idea that the Republicans had paid ABC News to run a Republican convention against the Democratic nominee nearly five months early.

What were some issues that ABC News did not cover last night? How about the issue of us losing a poorly resourced war in Afghanistan while the Taleban regroups? How about the issue of Al Qaeda sitting untouched in Pakistan? How about the economy, housing market and stock market melting down? How about our planet warming up? How about average Americans no longer being able to afford health care or college for their children? How about the revelation, broken by ABC News just a few nights ago, that, with George Bush's blessing, senior Bush Administration officials such as Dick Cheney, Condoleeza Rice, Donald Rumsfeld, and Colin Powell discussed torture techniques for U.S. prisoners and then lied about it when asked by Congress and the press? How about Republican presidential nominee John McCain singing about bombing Iran and saying at least three times that he knows little about the economy? Nope, those issues wouldn't be entertaining enough, and might embarrass the right wingers.

Silly me, I must have thought television news, and coverage of debates in particular, is designed to inform rather than entertain. My television set is once again turned off and so are the American people.

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April 13, 2008

Freedom Isn't Free, But Apparently, Being an Ass Over an Airplane Loudspeaker Is

On a cross-country flight last Saturday night, we had a stewardess flight attendant sky waitress who was a real hoot. Over the loudspeaker, she said things like "turn off your Blackberry, your rasberry, and your strawberry." Ha ha ha.

Then, when we were getting ready to land, she made a speech about the "men and women of the military" on the flight and how they are "fighting for our freedom." She asked the passengers to give these unidentified soldiers a big round of applause. The passengers eagerly complied.

"Fighting for our freedom"? Not the 80 percent or more of our soldiers engaged in combat who happen to be in Iraq. They are bravely and dutifully fighting for whatever their commanders tell them they are fighting for. In Iraq, the Bush administration's explanation of why our troops are fighting has shifted more times than the sands of the desert on which they stand. First it was to find Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction. Then it was to bring democracy to the Middle East. Then there were many more reasons given. Now, according to General David Petraeus, "It has to do with regional stability, a region that is of critical importance to the global economy...." In other words, Petraeus was saying that the Iraq War is about oil, which is something that many critics of the war have said all along.

"Fighting for our freedom"? The people doing that are the citizens, and their representatives in Congress, who are fighting to make sure that our government cannot violate the Constitution by spying on us illegally, without obtaining a warrant from the FISA court or another court of law empowered to grant such a warrant. Or the ones fighting for the Constitution's guarantee of freedom from being imprisoned without being charged for a crime, or for a fair trial where the defendant is able to speak to an attorney.

Instead of making a political speech, and an erroneous one at that, to a captive audience of seat-belted airplane passengers, perhaps our sky waitress should have stuffed her mouth with some salted peanuts.

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