Monday, February 09, 2004

Catch-Up Day

So much to mention, and so little time...Still, I'll make an attempt to catch up on a few small things.

Mr. Viral. Our boy Jimmy Kukral, about whom I expounded the other day, may or may not be virile (only his wife and hairdresser know for sure), but he's certainly been increasingly viral of late. Last week, the nationally influential blogger Doc Searls briefly took note of his new e-book on blogging, which has prompted several other similarly influential bloggers (including the incomparable e-journalism guru JD Lasica) to also pick up on it. The momentum is slowly building. And closer to home, the PD's Chris Seper (who holds much of the thin reed upon which we put our trust in the PD beginning to get online religion) mentioned him in today's print column as well. The ball rolls on...

February Dad's Column Online. Click here to read.

Somebody Please Put a (Figurative) Stake in Nader's Heart. I heard old lefty grouch with a Jesus complex, a.k.a. Ralph Nader, babbling on NPR recently, defiant as always. As always, he's currently embarked on a Hillary-like "listening campaign," deciding if he's being called to one more run for the White House. Now let me stop for a moment here: Like, one would hope, most progressives, I feel nothing but deep respect for Ralph's decades of fearless work in essentially inventing the American consumer movement. When GM meatheads decided to sic their goons on him to ward off his verbal onslaught against unsafe cars, he became an instant living symbol for the cause. HOWEVER: by his continuing insistence that his personal liberty not only permits but almost insists that he should split the left't presidential vote by running himself, he's become a symbol of something else in his last years: obstinate obstructionism. Ralph was meant for Europe, where multiparty systems rule. Here, for better or worse, we have a two-party system, and third-party insurgencies such as his inevitably get absorbed by the major parties. And sometimes, as in the case with Nader in 2000, they help install lying, duplicitous, ignorant people in control of our government. So it's time to think about your place in history, Ralph. Just do the right thing...

Bush Meets the Press. The NBC/Beltway Insiders buzz network cranked on full bore over the weekend, puffing up the Prez's one-hour date with vaunted Tim Russert as if it were a sit-down with JFK or Martin Luther King come back to life. Mostly, it was ho-hum, with Russert doing his usual schtick: a slick form of faux toughness with those who actually hold power, as opposed to a real toughness-bordering-on-savagery with those who don't, or don't yet (such as Howard Dean). Okay, he did ask some tougher questions than Bush is likely to get in many formats, no question about that. But he also let the Great Prevaricator drone on in appalingly evasive ways after Bush numerous times insisted "let me finish," only to finish with laughably bald-faced lies. And Russert rarely followed up by pointing out that what Bush just said was demonstrably false. The worst example (of many): he let stand an outrageous lie that Bush made about how all of the records related to his military "service" in the reserves during Vietnam were opened during the last campaign in 2000. That's just flatly false. We'll see if the press pack now follows up for the Buffalo Choir Boy By Way of JCU and Cleveland Marshall Law School and gets those records pried open, three years after they should have been in the first place. But like most progressives, I've always known (and written) that Bush is an empty suit. Far more telling were post-interview doubts from two Monday-morning quarterbacks who are ordinarily Bush shills, Andrew Sullivan and former Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan. Noonan weighed in almost immediately with a Sunday piece on the Wall Street Journal's Opinion Journal, admitting that "I am one of those who feel that his performance was not impressive," and calling him "almost bumbling." Surprise, surprise, Peggy. As for Sullivan, after arguing in his obligatory see-no-evil-of-the-right-wing fashion that his hero GWB didn't hurt himself in the interview when it came to Iraq, Sullivan writes that Bush seemed "scarily out of touch" when it came to matters of the nation's fiscal health. I'd say that Sullivan is himself scarily out of touch if he only learned that about Bush this weekend.

FCC Chairman Powell Is Not a Breast Man. FCC Chair Michael Powell, trying desperately to reclaim some shard of his reputation, is now on record about something so obscene that even he has to object: televised nudity during a Super Bowl. Only a boob would argue with that, but he'd have earned a tad more of my respect if he could have also summoned some outrage over attempts by a handful of giant companies to turn the American television landscape into a domestic version of the Arab Oil cartel (it's already bad enough--check this media consolidation tool). Instead, he tried his best to grease the skids for further consolidation, at least until an unprecedented citizen outpouring against that scheme finally convinced Congress to act.

But it's probably too late to save a now thoroughly corrupted medium: TV is indeed the vast wasteland that Powell's predecessor Newton Minnow called it a generation ago, and much worse than he could have ever imagined at that time (the early '60s, now a relative golden era). And the FCC, while certainly part of the problem, has plenty of company in the defendants' pen. As the crowded media landscape makes it ever harder for any one person or company to gain attention, TV (aided by the deregulatory FCC) is increasingly a full partner in the spiraling outrageous stunt arms race. If you doubt that, check out this eye-opening piece in Ad Age). "She opened the door for more people to take risks," says one particularly soulless, shameless New York p.r. guy. But I have just one question for Mr. Powell, whose constant refrain in the past when he was met with outcry over crap TV was a plaintive "why can't they just shut it off?" The answer: crap TV is just one part of the larger crap culture that's increasingly engulfing us, and there's no way to turn it all off. Instead, we have to try to change it...


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