Thursday, September 06, 2007

German Terror Plot, More Larry Craig Fallout, Missing Millionaire, Raw Politics, Thompson Finally Announces, And Benoit's Brain (Wednesday's Show)

Editor's note from Eliza: Hi guys. I wasn't home for Wednesday's show, so I called in back-up. This review is brought to you by guest blogger Arachnae.

Hi, everybody. Arachnae here, filling in for the absentee blogger, who has inexplicably gone to a ballgame. No, I don't get it either. Basketball, okay, young men in skimpy clothing running around showing off their remarkable physiques, but baseball? Oh well. None of my business...(Editor's note: Hey! I'd tell you not to rain on my parade, except it already rained at the game. And they lost. Sigh.)

Three-Sixty tonight starts off with a report on the busted-up terror plot in Germany. I admit, I tend to roll my eyes when we get these 'terror busts' – whatever happened to Brother Corey and the 'Islamic Jihadists' who never got around to converting to Islam, who were going to blow up the Sears Tower just as soon as they could figure out where it was? But this being a Serious Mainstream News Outlet, they have to take these things very seriously indeed, and they do. And maybe it's me, but the phrase 'homegrown terrorists'? Overused. I know they mean 'domestic as opposed to imported' terrorism, but. the opposite of homegrown is store-bought and everyone was grown at SOME home or other. As the story unfolds, it appears that the German police were quite clever; they had actually arrested one of the conspirators and, realizing he was part of something bigger that they couldn't at that point bust up, they appeared to release him, and allowed him to continue to plot until they could apparently snag the whole network. They also were responsible stewards of their citizens' safety, surreptitiously substituting a less hazardous chemical for the hydrogen peroxide that these guys were amassing in dangerous quantities. Wait a minute – hydrogen peroxide? The stuff I've got in my medicine cabinet to disinfect cuts and things? Great, now I'm all worried.

But the thing you need to notice is what the Germans did not do in response to this plot. They didn't invade Sweden. Or even Norway. Hello? Paging Paul Wolfowitz. Take notes, please.

Now Anderson goes to a panel of experts, Paul Cruickshank of the NYU Center for Law and Security, and Steve Flynn, author of Edge of Disaster, who's a bit of a recurring character on Anderson Cooper 360, and always gets a nice book plug from Anderson as a parting gift. And Steve makes the 'Yay' point of the discussion, pointing out that it was superior law enforcement and not military action that saved the day. Again. Anderson asks why everyone has to go to Pakistan to learn to make bombs, and that's a pretty good question, really. Why aren't these Terror Trainers taking their seminars on the road, booking into Conference Centers world-wide? Well, maybe not conference centers, but there's nothing particular to the Pakistani geography that makes it necessary to learn there, surely? Oh, maybe the trainers don't dare try to leave. Anyway.

In other news, Senator Larry Craig is still Not Gay. Yes, we turn now to this continuing soap opera, with another story about how he's trying to get a do-over on his plea deal. Joe Johns reports that he has to overcome three obstacles – first, actually get the guilty plea tossed, second, get the Senate Ethics Committee to MYOB, and then lastly, overcome the fact that his party doesn't want him around any more.

Now we turn to Jeff Toobin, in studio, to have some more fun with this story. He suggests that Craig MAY have a chance if he can say the plea wasn't related to the crime; like a kid who pled guilty to burglary to get out of a peeping-tom charge. Huh? AC gets one of the best lines of the night: "Can he be charged with... flirting in a bathroom?" Inquiring minds want to know!

Turning now to the Missing Millionaire story, with the Benoit's Brain story waiting in the queue, and I feel like I've stumbled into an Erle Stanley Gardner convention. Or maybe Ellery Queen. But the millionaire, aka Steve Fossett, is still missing, and Ted Rowlands reports on the day's efforts to find him. They thought they found him once today, but it turned out to be just one of many known but unmapped sites of older plane crashes. Who knew? Apparently there are dozens of crashed planes littering the Nevada landscape? The search will continue overnight using C130s and thermal imagery. Good plan. And I hope they find him and he's okay – there are too few people who enter the 'adventurer' field in these coddled-pantywaist times.

Headlines with Erica gives us arguably the creepiest story of the day – Nukes On A Plane! Eeek. But they were unarmed, so unarmed, no foul? I don't think so – someone's career just circled the drain on that one.

Raw Politics features Tom Foreman waxing hysterical, as is his wont, over John McCain's Jurassic Remarks; this was their title graphic over the story about McCain's response to the kid who asked him if he maybe wasn't too old to serve. He called him a little jerk and threatened to draft him, but honestly, it was funny; no 'Macaca Moment' here, I think. And I'm not terribly crazy about McCain (and do think he's too old) so if I'm not frothing about it, I doubt anyone else is. But I could be wrong - people froth over the least little thing these days. I liked that one. But we didn't get to find out what Ray Nagin's Surprise was – technical glitch, which Anderson promises will be fixed before they release the podcast. So I'll have to wait until tomorrow to find out what Ray's up to. I'll live.

Then on to the political story of the century – Fred Thompson announces (to Jay Leno??) that he's running for President. Color me surprised. I honestly don't know why everyone's got such a hard-on for this guy. As far as I can tell, he's got one and only one qualification, but it might be hard to beat – he's got The Voice. That said, I can never hear his voice without cracking up over his Baby's Day Out line as the FBI agent: "Call for backup. We're going back to the Tick Tock to get the Boo Boo!" Whoever's running second in the GOP next week really ought to clip that – it would make a great attack ad. Or maybe not – Thompson's character in that movie was second only to that of baby Bink in loveability.

Candy reports in from the GOP New Hampshire debate, which seems to be a no-newser. But it gives Anderson the opportunity to brag on his own YouTube debates again, aw. So he does.

Then on to the story that's right up there with Nukes on a Plane for creepiness – the Harrowing Tale of Benoit's Brain. The autopsy shows that his brain exhibits a significant degree of damage, apparently caused by the excessive number of concussions pro wrestlers suffer in the course of their careers. Sanjay shows off his neurosurgical cred here. It seems that the kind of damage seen in Benoit's brain is similar to, but worse than, that found in football players who are exhibiting behavioral changes to include irrationality and aggression. And he showed no signs of the kind of brain changes seen in habitual steroid abuse. So steroids were unfairly blamed. But is it really any better to know that it's the unenhanced pursuit of the profession that may have caused him to undergo mental changes that led to murder/suicide? And does anyone else find it really creepy that football can cause the same kinds of brain damage? I'm not saying 'OJ' or anything, but really – a LOT of people play football. I presume you have to play a lot of football, like for a living, at least, for this to be a concern, but still. Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to play football.

We end the hour (and effectively the show) with the Bulletin and the Shot of the Day, featuring the world's strongest man pulling a truck and rolling up a frying pan. This was all they needed for Anderson to show off his awesome strength by crushing a coke can and Erica to 'one-up' him by breaking a plastic fork, with much flexing and byplay about tickets to the gun show. This will certainly be on YouTube tomorrow, if they inexplicably leave it out of the podcast. (Editor's note: And wouldn't you know. Not great quality though. It figures he'd talk about the guns when I don't watch. Because man, that tight black tee he wears . . .I mean, you know, not that I've noticed or anything. Ahem.)

And then... at the top of the hour, they hit rewind and replay the entire show again.

Here I have to say a word about the repeat thing. AC360 used to be a two-hour show. Over the summer, they started simply re-airing the first hour in hour two. Okay, but they're still showing it as a two-hour block in their schedule. If 11PM is always going to be a repeat of 10PM, they really ought to CALL it a repeat. For one thing, as long as the show is billed as a two-hour show, it will be ranked in the ratings as the average of the two hours, and since the first hour always scores bigger than the second, this brings down the ratings of the 10 PM hour.

I also have to express disappointment at the premiere 24-hour news network essentially going to tape at 11 PM, which, I should point out, is 8 PM on the West Coast. Sure, all the other news nets are taped at 11, but they're not CNN. And it seems like if the Situation Room can come up with three hours of unique programming every day, AC360 ought to be able to come up with two. Yeah, there are repeating packages, I can understand that – you have to replay the top stories every hour for the people who only tune in to that hour. But to give up a live 11 o'clock hour is essentially ceding the field to those sleazy-cheesy Catch a Predator and Inside San Quentin repeats on MSNBC. Doesn't that piss you off, CNN? It pisses me off and I don't even work for you guys. (Editor's note: It pisses me off too. Because seriously? The Doc-Bloc must die. Sleazirific.)

If they had actually done another hour, they might have been able to cover the recent report on the Iraqi security forces, but since the congressional report said pretty much what Michael Ware's been telling us all along - that the Iraqi police are riddled with Shiite militias and should be disbanded - I guess they thought they didn't need to.

They could also have covered the story about Oprah throwing the weight of her entire cult behind Barack Obama's campaign. I feel a little queasy about people using their cult of personality this way, but since Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell have been doing this for decades, I guess it's nice that we have a counter-cult to come in on the Dems' side.

Anyway, for a one-hour news show, I'd give it an A-. If I were grading it as a two-hour show, I'd have to give it a 50%, or at best, an 'incomplete'.


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