John Stossel: Working At ABC Was “Frustrating”

JOHN Stossel's only got a few weeks to go before starting with Fox News, but he's still talking about his old job.

"It was frustrating," Stossel wrote on in a parting-shot blog posted on "My vision and that of my producers were often not in harmony. Too many stories I thought were important . . . were not aired."

John T. Elson, TIME Editor Who Asked “Is God Dead” Dies At 78

The quiet, studious Mr. Elson, who died on Sept. 7 at the age of 78, was an unlikely bomb-thrower, and his article, for those who ventured past the cover, reflected his scholarly bent. Meekly titled on the inside as "Toward a Hidden God," it began: "Is God dead? It is a question that tantalizes both believers, who perhaps secretly fear that he is, and atheists, who possibly suspect that the answer is no."

Charles Warner: What I Learned From Jay Leno’s Prime Time Debut: Part II

I watched Jay Leno's prime time debut Monday night and learned: 1) Don't watch Jay Leno's new prime time show; it's dull and overly scripted. 2) Don't watch prime time terrestrial network TV entertainment programming; it's not entertaining. 3) Don't read about TV in the NY Times; its coverage is insipid and inaccurate.

At 11:00 p.m. Monday night, after the Leno show on NBC, I made a second mistake. I watched WNBC-TV's local news with veteran anchor Chuck Scarborough and Sue Simmons.

It has been at least about ten years since I have watched the late news on the NBC owned-and-operated station, but what amazed me was that the newscast looked the same as I remember it from almost a decade ago. It was as though Scarborough, Simmons, and the producers and writers of the program had been frozen in time and were sleepwalking through the exact same format that it used in the 70s, 80s, and 90s.

It was dull, boring, formulaic, and old-fashioned. It was as though management had said, "don't make any changes or you'll wake up the audience." The newscast led with the death of actor Patrick Swayze, the second story was about the death of the female Yale student, and the third story was about a rape in New York. All stories to be expected on a local TV station in New York the day the president of the United States gave a major policy speech about the excesses of Wall Street.

The next section of the newscast, the B block, I'll just call "Pimping for Jay." Because WNBC-TV is an NBC O&O, word certainly came from the top to pimp the Jay Leno show for all it was worth. Station news departments and producers generally hate these top-down pimping edicts - they come all the time for TV specials - because they are so clearly promotional and have no real, serious news value.

The first story in the pimping segment was about the Leno show's debut and the lead was, of course, Kanye West's tearful apology for his interrupting Taylor Swift in a mic-swiping incident at the MTV Video Music Awards, certainly a more important, newsworthy, and momentous event than Obama's Wall Street speech.

The second story in the "Pimping for Jay" section of the newscast was rather creative. A News 4 reporter did interviews with a group of New York working comedians who had gathered in a bar and were watching Leno's prime time debut. It was clearly a passive-aggressive way to get back at the suits who had ordered the Leno show pimped because the comedians generally panned the show and made fun of Jay's looks and grey hair, saying he looked too Teddy Kennedyesque.

The comedians got it right; the general consensus was that the show was not funny, was dull, and was just like the old "Tonight Show." I think one comedian repeated Jerry Seinfeld's best line - the one about how in his day when someone retired, they stayed retired. Like all good humor, this line was based on a harsh truth. The line may not have been repeated by a comedian in the News 4 story, but if it wasn't it should have been,

Then there was a commercial break, one with the new General Motors chairman announcing GM's 60-day money back guarantee and daring people to compare GM's cars to all others and "may the best car win." I'm afraid GM will regret this campaign because the best cars probably will win.

The next story was a brief reader about Obama's Wall Street speech, followed ominously by a story about how banks (that were bailed out by the government) are finding new scams to bleed money out of people (my wording, not News 4's) by charging customers with debit cards for overdrafts - a direct ripoff from a NY Times story I suspect.

The weather was next, and an attractive, upbeat black weatherwoman gave a quick weathercast and spoke of the good, sunny weather "if you go to the beach." On a frigging Monday? She must have assumed all of the News 4 audience was retired or jobless - probably a good guess.

Next, a commercial break had six commercials in the pod and four of them were for political candidates running in the next day's primary. All four of them touted being endorsed by the NY Times. Because of all of the political commercials in the newscast, the NY Times was mentioned more during the half-hour newscast than News 4, which is probably the first time that has happened in years.

The next two stories were health related. This section of a newscast is generally referred to as the C Block, and clearly it had been reserved for health related stories because research shows that health is one of the top issues people are interested in especially local TV news viewers, the majority of which are 65 and older.

The stories were about preventing Swine Flu by sanitizing your hands. It told people to wash their hands a lot. Thanks. The next story was something about bacteria in shower heads, but it was completely incomprehensible. I have no idea what the message was; it must have been about making sure your shower head is clean.

No wonder I stopped watching local TV news a decade ago.

Five more commercials, four of them for political candidates, but this was the not-endorsed-by-the NY Times group. Not that anyone would care or ever know the difference, but the previous pod with the NY-Times-endorsed front runners was clearly considered a better position than the second pod with all of the non-endorsed candidates. I assume WNBC-TV charged more to be in the first pod ("we'll put you and all the front runners in the first pod"). If it didn't, it missed a money-making opportunity.

But, come to think about it, that does sound like NBC.

Sports was next, sponsored by Verizon Fios. Sports must be the only section that NBC allows to be sponsored. I guess because no one cares about a perceived sponsor influence on sports. Short and sweet: Federer loses, Yankees and Pats win, out.

The last story was the required kicker - a supposed light story that gives viewers a going-away smile. Research shows that people remember stories in a newscast based on primacy and recency. In other words, the first and last stories they watch. So, start 'em off with death, disaster, crime, blood, and guts, and leave 'em laughing.

The kicker was about a mascot of Virginia college football team. He fell of his horse and looked like a fool trying to get back on. What a thigh slapper.

Next were two promos and then six commercials for political candidates, half of them endorsed by the NY Times (some repeats of earlier commercials), but two for candidates for governor of New Jersey. These NJ candidate commercials were nasty. They both deserve to lose for running such negative, disgusting advertising.

So, I left the News 4 newscast not with a smile from the silly kicker but with loathing for politicians - a nice lead into the "Tonight Show" with Conan O'Brien. His opening monologue was funnier than Jay Leno's earlier and he looked a lot more at ease than Jay did. No wonder, he didn't have to live up to all of NBC's hype, expectations, and pimping.

What did I learn from watching WNBC-TV's late news? 1) I was absolutely right in my decision ten years ago to stop watching local TV news; it's worthless, boring, and old-fashioned. 2) Never watch local TV in the days and weeks before election because you'll hate all politicians and you'll avoid voting. 3) Someone should wake up Chuck Scarborough and Sue Simmons -it's safe because I Googled sleepwalking and it's a myth that it is dangerous to wake up someone who is sleep walking.

Glenn Beck’s Bizarre Climate Bill Rant: Calls FDR “Spooky,” Pretends He’s A Southern Belle (VIDEO)

On Thursday, Glenn Beck latched on to a discredited argument being promoted by conservatives that the climate bill would increase personal income taxes by 15% and cost every American $1761. (Beck takes the fuzzy math even further and implies that it would cost this amount PER DAY.) The Treasury memos Beck and others use to validate this claim, according to Media Matters. "...Do not address the current House climate change bill but, rather, a proposal that would auction 100 percent of the emissions allowances; the bill under consideration spends revenue created by the program to offset costs to households and businesses."

Beck then falls into nonsensical rants about Czars, how the Democrats are being played by the Obama Administration, and then pretends he's a southern belle.


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Scott Kurashige: Sever the Link Between Populism and Racism

David Brooks is a very clever and gifted writer. But his latest NY Times piece repudiating the role of race in the vitriolic backlash against Obama just doesn't pass muster.

At the core of Brooks's argument, which attempts to draw lessons from American history, is a false dichotomy between racism and populism. The backlash to Obama, he asserts, falls within a "populist tendency" ("for the ordinary people and against the fat cats and the educated class; for the small towns and against the financial centers") with roots in Jeffersonian and Jacksonian democracy.

While there may be some truth to this, in no way does this negate race as a factor. Jeffersonian democracy involved slavery. Jacksonian democracy involved anti-black racism and Indian "removal." We could add that FDR's New Deal coalition bound together white supremacists and civil rights advocates.

In fact, Brooks's core idea in support of a non-racial reading of the Obama backlash--"free labor is the essence of Americanism"--is itself bound to the history of racism. The writings of Theodore Allen, Alexander Saxton, David Roediger and a whole slew of others make this more than clear.

Throughout history, white workers and other non-elites have defined "freedom" in racial terms. When African American, Asian American, and Latino workers--be they enslaved or free, immigrant or American-born--were waging their struggles for freedom, did these white "free laborers" find common cause with them? Sadly, white workers and small farmers could be found far too often on the wrong side of history. They believed that the only way they could remain free was to exclude and degrade people of color they associated with savagery and dependency. Their pursuit of democracy in America sought to narrow and confine the scope of citizenship based on race. As a result, the historical concept of "free labor" is scarcely more race-neutral than is the idea of "states' rights."

Did elites play a major role in using racism and nativism to divide the working class? Of course. Did white workers choose the wrong course in every case? Certainly not. There are heroic tales of cross-racial solidarity readily found in books like Howard Zinn's People's History of the United States. But there's no question that regressive forms of white populism played a substantial role in maintaining Jim Crow, bans on Asian immigration and naturalized citizenship, and ongoing xenophobic reactions to Latino immigrants.

Now let's recognize that overt forms of racial hatred and knee-jerk antipathy based solely on skin color have dramatically diminished in the aftermath of the civil rights movement. (Brooks makes this point via an anecdote about white tea party protestors listening to rap music at a black family reunion.) If that level and form of white racism still existed in America, Barack Obama would have never been a serious candidate in the Democratic primary let alone the general election. So old screeds protesting racism won't suffice.

But there remain within American culture a wide variety of fears, anxieties, and prejudices that intersect with conscious and unconscious forms of bias and xenophobia. We won't be able to move towards a truer concept of freedom until we overcome the contradictions inherent in the American populist tendency. We can't have a united effort to contest entrenched corporate power, when some Americans victimized by the oligopoly banks see bailouts as the expedient response of a progressive president taking what appears (wrongfully, IMHO) to be a pragmatic step while others see bailouts as an Obama scheme to impose Nazi fascism upon "real" Americans.

One need not look hard to see these types of contradictions flaring up within the right-wing backlash. Many of the policy positions are downright incoherent--e.g. "don't let a government takeover of health care destroy Medicare." Beyond that, the backlash continues to be fueled more by fears than fact (death panels, birthers). These resemble less measured political responses and more spastic responses to cultural change--what Glenn Beck calls, a fear of losing "the America I know and love."

We could poke further holes in Brooks's reasoning. He calls "hard work" "the moral backbone of the country." But for many up in arms about immigration, respect for "hard work" never translates into respect for the humanity of undocumented janitors, dishwashers, and gardeners.

And was Glenn Beck's attack on Van Jones mainly about stirring up populist resentment of the urban elite? Did Beck focus more on Jones being a Yale Law School graduate or a "black nationalist," "revolutionary," and "ex-con"?

Brooks is smart enough to know the right, or I should say, correct answers to these questions. But the real matter before those of us working to build a better future is getting beyond the rear-guard fights with rump members of a party tied to a dying social order. The old racial populism can't claim the allegiance of anything close to a majority today.

The long-term solution--beyond the immediate policy debates over the merits of split the difference bipartisanship or what to do about blue dog moderates--is to construct a new coherent political majority that will correspond to an already emerging multicultural majority. This means resisting self-righteous excesses, struggling to transcend narrow partisan interests, and finding some way to mold common values even with those whose sincere populist concerns are surfacing through highly warped expressions.

This was the promise and hope of candidate Obama that inspired the "yes, we can" millions to take grassroots action. He said true change would require difficult struggle. He said no one person could do it alone. He said real transformation comes not from Washington but from the bottom-up.

Those realities ought to be sinking in pretty deeply by now.

Michael Shaw: Reading The Pictures: Glenn Beck’s Organ. TIME’s Dime.


Sheesh, and I thought Newsweek was juicing the wackos this week.

TIME is not only in absolute collusion with the radical right in offering up this week-long, national FU to moderates, progressives, and, especially, President Obama (who the literally mad Beck wipes his feet on every chance he gets), it's also rubbing our faces in the not just contemptuous, but unbroken and lurid exposure to Mr. Beck's organ.

With so many confused and troubled people being politically exploited right now, TIME has, in effect, gone beyond good sense to pull its own Joe Wilson. Simply put, in that tongue is another flaunting of decorum to incite the crazies.

...And props to Greg Mitchell who eviscerates the article.

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Andy Richter Crushes CNN’s Wolf Blitzer In Celebrity Jeopardy

Hey, Wolf Blitzer! Know what the situation is, in your Situation Room? Looks to me like the situation is that Andy Richter controls the universe. At least as far as "Celebrity Jeopardy" goes!

Tonight's episode of Jeopardy kicked off a year-long "Celebrity Jeopardy" contest in which twenty-seven former contestants vie for a one-million-dollar kitty, to be donated to the charity of their choice. The Tonight Show's Andy Richter went up against CNN's Wolf Blitzer and Desperate Housewives' Dana Delany.

How did this end up?

Youch. It was like Blitzer walked right out of those SNL sketches, where the "celebrities" are hapless, self-obsessed incompetents!

Of course, Richter had shot a preview for his Jeopardy appearance, which included footage of the dress rehearsal for the show that all but predicted tonight's outcome:


Richter's charity of choice is the St. Jude Childrens' Research Hospital. Seeing as how Jude is the patron saint of lost causes, perhaps Blitzer stands to benefit after all.

Filling Your Head With Lies And Your Pants With Hands [Pygmalion in a Blanket]
Andy Richter Beats Wolf Blitzer in Celebrity "Jeopardy!" [The Sling Blog]

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