Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Good Night and Good Grief

It was only a matter of time, I suppose, but I never dreamed that it would happen this soon. Sean McManus, President of CBS News and Sports said yesterday that gender bias is to blame for the ratings failure that has befallen the cute and perky anchor chick over at Black Rock.

"I think it is a fact there are probably people, both men and women, who are perhaps uncomfortable having a woman anchor the news,” McManus told the media industry publication Broadcasting & Cable.

"The way she is scrutinized, I think sometimes unfairly, quite frankly, I think a lot of that has to do with gender. As a woman, Couric has to be concerned about a lot of things the male anchor doesn’t have to worry about, like how she looks or what she is wearing."

Granted, Im probably not the best person to comment on such matters--the last time I watched a network news broadcast I was backstage operating a special effects projector in Studio 3K at 30 Rockefeller Plaza and John Chancellor was at the anchor desk.

Also, anything I say has to be viewed through the prism of my mid-Victorian anti feminist leanings. But what the heck, here goes: SHE'S FRIGGIN' AWFUL!

24 hours a day we get our news from cable Info Babes who know what they're talking about AND are easy on the eyes. Ms. Couric, heaven forgive me, looks like that sinister smiling logo over the entrance at Steeplechase Park.

I'll admit that I'm as shallow as the next guy, probably more so, however my distaste for Her Cuteness goes beyond her gruesome exterior. First, there was her pre-production listening tour. Correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't another lead-bottomed New York dishrag conduct a listening tour before her big premiere? Then there was the on-air struggle to come up with an appropriate tagline. Dan had Courage, could Katie or any of her loyal viewers (all three of them) come up with something compelling yet dignified? And what is with the legs? Can you imagine Chet and David sitting behind open-front anchor desks in their Bermuda shorts?

So what is it that has caused CBS Evening News to tumble from a close third to an abysmal third in a field of three. It's all of the above, and more, including the snarky undertone in Mr. McManus' comments: "We've failed," he admits, "and it's your fault."

In my business we compete for projects every day. Basically, to get a project we have to create the project... stage designs, scripts, media excerpts... and present them to our prospective clients. Sometimes we win and sometimes we lose. When we lose you can bet that it's because one of our competitors did a better job, but I'm continually amazed that many of my colleagues refuse to admit that sometimes we just get beat. We fail.

No. The typical post-mortem conversation nearly always includes a rundown of all the ways that the cards were stacked against us:

"The VP of Marketing has his favorite vendor."
"We had the best ideas, but purchasing thinks we're too small."
"We had the best ideas, but purchasing thinks we're too big."
"The CEO plays golf with the sales director from MoonBat Productions."
"The MoonBat sales director is married to the CEO."

Never has anyone said: We missed the mark. We got beat fair and square.

Does anyone at CBS admit that they're getting their asses handed to them, fair and square, because of their own shortcomings?

I doubt it.

No, Mr. McManus. Viewers aren't turning away from CBS Evening News because the anchor is a woman. They're turning away because the anchor is THAT woman and because the news judgement, presentation style and journalistic integrity of the Managing Editor lacks judgement, style and integrity.

In 1945, Edward R. Murrow filed a report from the grounds of the Buchenwald death camp in occupied Germany:

"As we walked out into the courtyard, a man fell dead. Two others, they must have been over 60, were crawling toward the latrine. I saw it, but will not describe it.

In another part of the camp they showed me the children, hundreds of them. Some were only 6 years old. One rolled up his sleeves, showed me his number. It was tattooed on his arm. B-6030, it was. The others showed me their numbers. They will carry them till they die. An elderly man standing beside me said: “The children — enemies of the state!” I could see their ribs through their thin shirts....

I arrived at the conclusion that all that was mortal of more than 500 men and boys lay there in two neat piles. There was a German trailer, which must have contained another 50, but it wasn't possible to count them. The clothing was piled in a heap against the wall. It appeared that most of the men and boys had died of starvation; they had not been executed.

But the manner of death seemed unimportant. Murder had been done at Buchenwald. God alone knows how many men and boys have died there during the last 12 years. Thursday, I was told that there were more than 20,000 in the camp. There had been as many as 60,000. Where are they now?

I pray you to believe what I have said about Buchenwald. I reported what I saw and heard, but only part of it. For most of it, I have no words.

If I have offended you by this rather mild account of Buchenwald, I'm not in the least sorry..."

In a world where atrocities similar to this happen on a recurring basis, CBS Evening News chooses to follow the same old path. It isn't news, it's an electronic encounter group.

Ms. Couric could present international news from parts of the world that remain invisible. She could report economic news with context and political news with insight rather than personal bias. But instead of asking herself "What is the most important 24 minutes of information I can present tonight," she asks her viewers to suggest a clever slogan for her sign off.

Good grief.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Georgie Cracks Corn

I don't know how many State of the Union Addresses since 1973 have pledged commitment to energy independence, but to quote Jim Ignatowski when he was asked how many different illicit drugs he had ingested in his lifetime, it's "exactly a lot."

It was still a surprise, however, when our current President touted ethanol last week citing the sustainability myth as just one of its many indisputable virtues. Science aside, the numbers on ethanol are staggering. Today, the federal subsidy stands at 51 cents per gallon. The most optimistic projections regarding the effects on greenhouse gases are estimated at 5%, but, like nearly all environmental statistics, they're based on static models that do not factor the ancillary costs of growing, processing and transporting ethanol. For example, since ethanol destroys the rubber seals used in conventional pipelines, every drop, at every stage of its refinement, must be trucked in vehicles burning, what?

Candidate Clinton, campaigning in Iowa last week, touted ethanol mandates as an excellent method for promoting sustainable alternatives to foreign oil. But there’s a reason why so few U.S. Senators have been elected President, and this is the perfect example. During this little chat, Her Heinous neglected to mention that she consistently voted "Nay" on ethanol legislation and even signed a letter stating that: “There is no public policy reason to support an ethanol mandate.”

Senator Clinton opposing a government mandate?

Now there’s news.

Last year, federal and state subsidies for ethanol total $6 billion. In addition to the 51-cent a gallon domestic subsidy there's a 54 cent a gallon tariff on imported ethanol. Would anyone make the stuff without these government bribes? Would anyone buy it without government coercion?

But there’s an even darker side to this charade. Artificially high corn prices are reflected in everything from breakfast cereal to Coca-Cola, taco shells to pork chops. America’s meat industry, a major exporter, is becoming much less competitive because of a distorted market for feed corn.

The price of tortillas, an important dietary staple among the world's poorest, has risen sharply. In Mexico this price rise has caused widespread protests and price controls. China has abandoned ethanol-plant construction declaring ethanol a dangerous threat to food security. In Brazil, long touted by environmentalists as a beacon of enlightened ethanol policy, ethanol production has displaced small indigenous farmers. For their own survival, many of them have fled to the Amazon rain forest where they clear the forest for their small subsistence farms.

Once again, an elitist Western fad is causing widespread Third World misery. Once again we have proof that when the government, rather than the free market, selects the economic winners and losers, eventually everybody loses. For someone born, raised and educated in New York City this simple fact has been evident to me since Vincent Impelleteri was mayor.

In spite of the multiple attempts at indoctrination by The New York City Board of Education, The City University of New York, and conversations with nine out of ten people I meet in my peregrinations around the town, I hold these truths to be self evident:

Freedom is better than tyranny.

Free markets distribute economic benefits more equitably than centrally planned, subsidized and distorted economies.

Free people pursuing their enlightened self interests have created ALL of the technological advances, material wealth and public good in world history.

But all philosophical matters aside, the ethanol debate represents a much larger issue that no one on the Left, Right or Center seems willing to face: The morality (yes, morality) of using food to fill the fuel thanks of America's SUVs when there are still people in this world who are slowly, but surely, starving to death.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Beginning in Earnest

The Washington Post yesterday announced the first steps in America's latest coronation. The lead headline in their Sunday edition read: Senator Clinton Begins Campaign in Earnest.

Earnest, a small suburban community just outside of Ames, was the perfect place for the President Select to begin her campaign. Confining her campaign activities to this bedroom community adjacent to the largest college town in Iowa, Illinois' Third Senator was absolutely assured of having an enthusiastic audience of sniveling liberal weenies, all gazing at her starry eyed, as she kicked off her quest to fulfill all of their hopes and dreams.

The town was founded in the 1960s by New York City expatriate professors who had migrated to Iowa in order to bring Eastern Enlightenment to this intellectually-barren fly-over outpost. They named their new home in honor of their philosophical and political hero, Ernesto "Che" Guevara.

But on this day, far from being an unqualified hit, here in Earnest, Iowa Shrillary's most glaring shortcomings became painfully apparent to anyone with one eye and one ear. The sight of her gives many folks, male and female, the dry heaves. The sound of her makes almost anyone within earshot run for the exits, screaming. The verdict: When she's chatting, she's fine, as she demonstrated in her state-of-the-art Internet announcement video.

(By the way, how did she manage to create springtime outside her Chappaqua great room? In the real world it was January, but in Clinton's little corner of Westchester every tree is green and every flower is in full bloom.)

However, when she's on a confrontational roll--as her true-believing Socialist supporters have urged--every dog within three miles heads for the fallout shelters the instant she opens her mouth. I'm not an expert on Constitutional Law, but the First Amendment says nothing about protecting freedom of screech.

Supporters of Her Heinous may dismiss these comments as the desperate ravings of troglodytes and fearful, insecure American males who are all cowering at the prospect of America's first female President. But these observations were reported in The Washington Post this morning, just one day after they gleefully heralded her pre-inaugural celebration. In today's edition WaPo describes a series of focus groups conducted with Democrats in Iowa. Yes, some people like her, they said. But most people hate her. Can she be elected? Most of these Democrats think not, which is why she is now running fourth in Iowa.

I disagree. Any candidate who wins their party's nomination has a chance to win. And a little part of me is even rooting for her. No candidate since James Earl Carter has been more thinly equipped by intellect, aptitude and talent to be President. But without Carter we could never have had Ronald Reagan. True the damage inflicted by Carter to America's economy and place in the world was considerable. But this is not 1977. When Hildebeast's husband tried to replay the Carter years there were responsible people in power who were more than willing to take him on. Today, the opposition is more organized and the bankruptcy of Clintonism is even more widely acknowledged, even by eastcoast elitist Democrats. Check out Senator Schumer's comments during a recent confab with Gov. Spitzer and Mayor Bloomberg.

So relax. It won't happen. Lady Macbeth's campaign may have begun this week in Earnest. But when it ends, the Washington Post headline will read: Senator Clinton Burned in Effigy.

Effigy is a small cattle town about ten miles from Amarillo.

Coming soon: Hillary assures voters she has the experience to deal with BAD men.

Friday, January 26, 2007

McMansions... I WANT ONE!

It was a dark and stormy night. No kidding, it really was, and we were having dinner with old friends here on Long Island in their quaint, cozy AND FRIGGIN' FREEZING HOUSE. Our hosts, I'll call them Mr. and Ms. Green, had bought this little gem, their Dream House, because living in it gave them a sense of history. For me, just being in it for less than an hour was robbing me of my senses and leaving in their place a predictable and creeping numbness. After dinner we were all invited to the family room for coffee and dessert. The roaring fire was a welcome sight and I quickly grabbed a seat close to the flames in an attempt to stave off frostbite.

My relief was short lived, however, and I was soon reminded of Ralph Kramden describing his affliction (after a bowling injury) as feeling "like I have my head in the oven and my feet in the ice box." As it happens, just as the feeling was returning to my fingers I could feel my eyebrows singeing from the radiance of this cozy fire, while the back of my neck was developing a patina of Winter frost from the arctic blast blowing through the quaint leaded windows opposite the hearth.

Very cozy.

Soon, the conversation came around to the changing face of Long Island. I'm sure that suburbanites the World over have been having this same conversation for decades. "They come here, crowd our schools and build their McMansions," complained Ms. Green. "Do you see that monstrosity they're building across the street?", she said, pointing to the window.

I tried in vain to turn my head and get a look, but the ice was now too thick and had formed a frozen collar around my neck.

"McMansion?", I asked.

"Yes!", she said. "They knock down the old homes, the ones with character, and they build those monstrosities!"

"Ah, McMansion. I get it. A clever term of derision for a home with walls and floors that are plumb and level.

Where all the drains work. Homes that are cool in the summer AND WARM IN THE WINTER! Who on Earth would live in such a place?"

For some reason we haven't been invited back, though we have spent many pleasant evenings with our new neighbors, the ones that knocked down the cozy, quaint structure that had been there since the Garfield Adminstration. In truth, we had lived here for fifteen years and I didn't know that house existed. When the new owners took possession they cleared away the brush and, what do you know? A house.

And in place of this quaint and historic structure, these Philistines, a Scottish-American family ironically named MacManschin, erected an eyesore; a monument to excess and personal greed. There, mocking me from across our narrow street stands a home that is actually habitable with enough room for Mr. and Mrs. MacManschin, the five little MacManschins, the Golden Retriever, along with pushy neighbors that show up on cold evenings in pathetic attempts to restore the circulation in their extremities.

So last night, as the wind howled and the temperature plummeted into single digits, my wife turned and asked what I'd like to do.

"We could fly a kite in the living room. Or we can grab a bottle of Frangelico and visit the MacManschin family across the street."

Thursday, January 25, 2007

The Need For Speed


To all of those who are familiar with the general tone of this blog, you have been warned: WHAT FOLLOWS IS AN ANTI-AMERICAN SCREED!

Why can't America make a low-cost, high performance motorcycle?

Here I am, cash in hand, ready to buy American and my only choices are Victory (horrendously expensive) and Harley-Davidson (just plain horrendous).

In fairness to Victory, they make a magnificent bike; powerful, gorgeous, and with fit and finish that makes them look like rolling jewelry. But that pricetag!!!???

Then there's Harley. Overweight, underpowered and overpriced. The overweight and underpowered part may be a marketing strategy. Matching bike to rider. And the overpriced part was understandable when there was a six-month waiting list to pay thousands over MSRP for the privilege of owning one of these Hogs.

They're more like Sows.

Last year an acquaintance of mine who bought one of these pigs two years ago put it up for sale because, he said, he doesn't ride it enough to justify the expense.

"How much?" I asked.

"Well... I paid 27, but I'll take 25."


Today the bike is still in his garage and H-D Finance invoices still come to his mailbox every month. It's enough to make a grown man cry.

My 1984 Honda V30 Magna is faster and handles more nimbly than a just-out-of-the- showroom 2007 Sportster. One would think that a bike called a "Sportster" would have some element of "Sport" in it's DNA, but no. So what's a patriotic American rider who's in the market for a new bike supposed to do?

I'm buying a 2007 Honda VTX 1300.

Can American workers make a bike as fast, nimble and beautiful as the VTX? You bet they can, and do. The VTX is made in Marysville, Ohio by American workers who are the most productive in the world. A fact that Honda realized decades ago when they started building Accords here, and quickly expanded with Civics, Gold Wings, as well as engine building for all Honda models.

In fact, if a Japanese rider buys a Gold Wing in Tokyo, it has to be shipped from Marysville, Ohio. If a German motorist buys a BMW Z4 in Munich, it has to be shipped from Spartanburg, South Carolina.

So if you're wondering why Americans can't built a car or a motorcycle that can compete with the Germans or the Japanese, don't. But if you're wondering why an American company, like Harley, can't build a technologically competitive motorcycle, don't look to the assembly plant. Look into the executive suites.

It's sunny and dry out there. I'm taking my 23 year old bike for a spin.

Monday, January 22, 2007

A New Direction

One can't help noticing that there's been some sort of change in Washington. I don't pay much attention to politics, but people that keep track of such things are bubbling over with enthusiasm about the spirit and energy of this new generation of leaders. These are the young bucks who will now manipulate the levers of government in order to take America in a new direction. What's immediately apparent about this new generation is that their average age is approximately five days past dead, which is why all of this new-direction talk is so amusing.

Anyone with two brain cells to rub together recognizes that this new direction they're always babbling about dates back to the mid-nineteenth century and two disagreeable malcontents named Freddie and Karl. It's never worked and never will, but what the heck, let's bet our children's future on another Utopian pipedream.

Imagine that Captain Smith, after realizing that his unsinkable ship has struck an iceberg, shouts to his helmsman:

"Full reverse! Let's ram it again on the port side!"

In reality, today's situation is even more baffling. Beyond the obvious goofiness of this new/old herd, who among us, other than a tiny number of parasites, elites, and ideologues doesn't recognize that we're in a period of economic growth, low inflation and full employment? Now we're looking at Captain Smith cruising along in calm clear waters looking for something big and hard to slam into just for grins and giggles. So if it's not about economics, this new direction must be something very esoteric, beyond the understanding of mere mortals.

Maybe it has something to do with this Culture of Corruption we've been hearing about. Speaker Pelosi did say that ethics reform was high on her agenda. Never mind that the new Federal Minimum Wage law passed by the House specifically excluded American Samoa. "Who cares about American Samoa?" you may ask. Del Monte Foods cares about American Samoa. Their Star-Kist Tuna Division is the island's largest employer and Del Monte HQ is located in Ms. Pelosi's district.

Coincidence? Maybe. Proximity doesn't necessarily imply cupidity.

Well then try this one on for size: Ms. Pelosi's Mister just happens to own $17 million worth of Del Monte stock. But this is nothing new. Vineyards owned by the happy couple have been cited for minimum wage as well as immigration violations at the same time that these same enterprises were getting special consideration from the California Legislature as well as the U.S. Congress.

This new direction looks curiously like the same old direction.

Over in the Senate, Dingy Harry took one look at the lobbying reform bill sent to his desk by Frau Facelift and got so angry that his pulse nearly reached three beats per minute. On close review, the House bill seeks to restrict lobbying abuses practiced in the Senate, while Reid's Senate version will outlaw the petty nick-nacking so common in the House. We'll devote a future column to Harry & Son's curious dealings with certain Nevada real estate developers and the Federal land the U.S. Congress is supposed to oversee. Apparently, the Reid family operates under the axiom: Never steal anything small.

And in late-breaking news, Nancy & Company are set to alter House Ethics Rules to protect Democrats who might be found guilty of corruption or bribery related to the passage of legislation.

Under present rules, if Members of Congress are found guilty of a crime related to the passage of legislation, they would have their pensions cut off as of the date of the legislation's passage, even if it took a few years to find them guilty.

The Democrats, via H. R. 476, the Member Pension Bill, which they intend to push through tonight, will seek to change this. With this scam, if a bill is signed by President Bush, and then a Member of Congress is found guilty of a crime related to the passage of legislation between the President's signature and January 2, 2009, the member would receive his or her FULL Congressional pension.

Guess who just might be found guilty of a crime between now and January 2, 2009?

Are you listening Reps Mollohan, Cole and William (stash it in the freezer) Jefferson.

Ah yes, victory over the Culture of Corruption. It looks like the coming years will be fun, fun, fun.

With Pelosi playing Nedda to Reid's Canio, who will she call for when Dingy Harry comes for her with the knife in his hand? Will John Murtha be willing to take one in the gut for his lovely but spoken for paramour? I doubt it.

In any case, it will be quite a spectacle as Charlie Rangel stares into the C-Span camera and wails:

La commedia e finita.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Liar. Liar?

The new religious alliance formed by former Presidents Carter and Clinton, both unabashed Christians, reminded me of a brief exchange I had with an acquaintance more than a decade ago. During an after-dinner conversation the subject, once again, came around to religion and intelligence.

"How can anyone with an ounce of brains believe that nonsense?" he asked.

I explained to him that I was not blessed with the gift of evangelism and if he was seeking someone to give him reason to change his mind, he should look elsewhere. Truthfully, I would love it if everyone could discover the peace and contentment that I have found, but I'm not going to lose any sleep over it.

But he was relentless. "You'd have to be an idiot!" he continued.

In an attempt to end the discussion I pointed out that his hero, William Jefferson Clinton, the man he considered to be the most intelligent human in the history of civilization (because he did the Times Sunday Crossword in pen) was a committed Christian.

"Never!" he snapped. "He's way too smart."

"He speaks of his Christian faith all the time." I answered.

"He's lying," came the instant reply.

I stared for a moment. Did he just say what I think he said?

Then he continued: "He's lying because he knows that an Atheist could never be elected. And anybody that smart has got to be an Atheist."

Of course, that means he's been telling the same lie since the Kennedy administration, but that didn't seem to faze this sycophant on this night. In fact, he explained that he expected him to lie... he encouraged him to lie... because it's the only way he could achieve power and implement his agenda.

While I'm as cynical as the next guy about politicians and truthfulness, it had never occurred to me that Mr. Clinton would construct this elaborate lie early in life and actively maintain the deception through four decades. Any candidate can get around the religion thing by simply showing up at church now and then and keeping his mouth shut on the subject. Why then this intricate fabrication? He didn't just show up at church, he spoke candidly about how his faith informed every aspect of his public and private life.

If this is a lie, it's a beaut. I can understand and even accept political lies as reasonable puffing of the wares. After all, nobody's going to rush out and vote for the candidate that declares: "I'm as impotent as the other guy, but I have better hair." They have to express unwavering commitment to bold new strategies and breakthrough ideas. But, with rare exceptions, they never actually describe those ideas and strategies let alone act on them.

All these years later few of his supporters or detractors can say exactly what Bill Clinton's agenda might have been. The Clintonistas looked to him, teary eyed with hearts palpitating, as the Messiah who would finally lead them to their Utopian Promised Land. His opponents warned of dire consequences indeed if, left unchecked, he was able to put his ideas into action. What ideas?

Who was right? It turns out that our 26th President, who had died nearly thirty years before B.J. was born, had him pegged. Like the political hacks that Teddy Roosevelt derided a century ago, it seems he was interested not at all with big ideas, but with digging sewer lines in Ashtabula.

In the intervening years I've recalled this short conversation on occasion and one simple question still gnaws at me: If they know he's lying about this, how do they know when he's telling the truth? Does Hillary know? Does he have a secret code or a hand signal? And if he does, why hasn’t anyone figured it out yet?

I suspect that the answer is much simpler and more universal. It's not so much that politicians lie to us. It's more that we're all lying to ourselves; hearing what we want to hear and seeing what we want to see.

"What kind of a Christian are you?" he sneered when I tried to turn the conversation toward baseball. "Don't you care if I get to Heaven."

I didn't care then and don't care now.

"Part of the attraction of Heaven" I explained, "is that you won't be there."

Friday, January 5, 2007

If This Isn't Civil War, What Is?

This report was compiled from multiple sources.

The Arab street, the U.S. government and the American media refuse to term the violence here a civil war, even after at least 6 more were killed Thursday in ‘inter-factional violence’.

As the gunfire raged in her neighborhood, Amina Abu Sahar walked into the street Thursday night and cried out, “Stop the fire! Arabs shooting Arabs…”

“What has happened to us? Save your bullets for the enemies. What a disgrace,” she said through tears.

Abu Sahar is not alone. Many of the “simple people” on the Arab street feel the same, feel despair over the escalating chaos.

On the street, people still refuse to term the events a civil war. Official spokespeople chose more military definitions, such as “confrontations between rival factions.” But as the death toll rises, including a senior security commander, plus dozens of wounded, it is clear to all that these are legitimate confrontations in a governmental power struggle.

Every violent incident results in threats, revenge, and in the end, more casualties. Every day there is renewed drama. Today the drama was broadcast to residents of the entire country when chief of the Security Service in the north, Mohammed Ghayeb was killed when rival militants laid siege to his house. Ghayeb’s killing was expected to trigger revenge attacks by the men under his command.

Ghayeb was on the phone to national TV just moments before his death and appealed for help as his house came under attack. "They are killers," he said of the gunmen. "They are targeting the house, children are dying, they are bleeding. For God's sake, send an ambulance, we want an ambulance, somebody move."

The battle outside the house raged for much of the day and killed four of Ghayeb's guards and a rival gunman. About three dozen people, including eight children, were also wounded.

Now, all fear further escalations, which are likely to rise if public representatives are counted among the casualties. The concerns are not unrealistic – Wednesday an RPG missile was fired at the home of senior insurgency official Sufian Abu-Zaida, although he was not killed.

This could be the reason as well why the Prime Minister called on all sides to do all possible to bring the fighting to a halt. “These confrontations must stop, this slaughter must end. Let us love one another, let us solve our disagreements through dialogue and not weapons. Our weapons should be directed only at the occupation,” he said.

No, this is not Iraq. This what daily life is like in Gaza and the rival factions are Hamas and Fatah. The New York Times doesn't call this a civil war. The U.N. has no opinion. A former U.S. President blames the Arab-on-Arab violence on Israel, which he likens to Apartheid South Africa. And the Palestinian Prime Minister?

He wants this slaughter to end so they can get back to their real mission: slaughtering Jews.