Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Going Away Hodgepodge

Hi everybody. This post is to let my regular readers know that I'm heading to the Sunshine State for a bit. The sister is graduating from college. She was on the six-year plan, so yay to finally getting that degree. But boo to having to help drive all her crap back to St. Louis. Anyway, I tried to get you guys a blog-sitter, but there were no biters. It turns out doing the reviews is harder than it looks. Plus, 360's choice of coverage of late didn't do me any favors. Wading through an hour of Reverend Wright or polygamy is a lot to ask of someone. So I shall leave you with some randomness that I found on the Internets...and in my head. I'll be back reviewing around the end of next week and will check in on the comments/emails if and when possible.

A Perfect Fit...

The "ice" of the short-lived duo "fire and ice" is making his way back to television. With his contract finally expired, former CNNer Aaron Brown has joined PBS, where he will anchor their stellar "Wide Angle" series. You might remember Brown as the quiet and cerebral guy who used to occupy Anderson Cooper's time slot. He began his career at the network on September 11, 2001, but a long run was not meant to be. It looks like everything worked out for the best though. Congrats Aaron! No longer will you be a slave to the latest sensation of the news cycle. But I will always miss you telling me the weather in Chicago.

The Law of Double Standards...

So CNN, just to be clear--a senior producer blogging under his own name and never mentioning the company he works for is worthy of immediate termination, but a reporter being caught in the park after curfew with meth in his pocket, a sex toy in his boot, and a rope connecting his neck to the "bits" of his "bits 'n pieces" is a survivable indiscretion? So when the Blitzer sex tape finally hits the interwebs, I guess he's still safe to anchor another primary?

Down the Memory Hole...

I think at this point the "Blog From the Back Row" is officially dead, but I'm going to take one last time to mourn. Sean Yates, what happened? Your posts were some of the best. Too much stuff going on, I suppose. If 360 would like to take suggestions on what to get rid of I totally vote the web cam. I logged on once and that was plenty. Something else that seems to have gone by the wayside is the "Voice of 360" contest. Who won? Are there more contestants? Yes, obviously the whole thing is one big snarky joke, but c'mon, a girl needs a little (fake) closure. And Ozzie is a lock! Continuing with the missing, just when I start to look forward to Erica's behind-the-scenes videos, poof, they're gone. I suppose by now I should know not to do that. So...what of it? Are Erica's videos chilling with Sean's posts? And finally, there hasn't been a "What Were They Thinking?" in a while. It's cool to phase things out, but remember to stay consistent, 360. Any other memory hole related issues? Speak now or forever hold your peace.

Everybody Loves A Winner...

Vote for 360! They're nominated for a Webby award and if the amount of times they mention it is any indication, they really want to win. I have to say though, I'm a bit miffed about the category. Celebrity/fan? Pshaw. C'mon, it's not like Anderson is posting about what he had for lunch (though I would shamelessly read that). There's, like, news and stuff. I mean, they're up against freakin Annie Lennox. If it wasn't so hilariously amusing I'd say we should all be insulted. But 360 is adorably excited about it, so what are you waiting for? Go vote!

The Power of the Press...

You have to admire their persistence on press room infrastructure issues. I think I see a young Ed Henry.

Destructive Tornadoes And Reverend Wright Won't Be Quiet (Monday's Show)

Hi everybody. Happy Monday! Although actually, probably not so happy for those living in Virginia right now. Our coverage kicks off with the BREAKING NEWS that Mother Nature has been using portions of the state to show off what she can do. And it's not pretty. Tornadoes have flattened homes; lives ruined--all the usual horrible stuff. Tis the (cruel) season, I suppose. Chad Meyers does his thing.

So, you know how I'm really sick of Reverend Wright? Well, apparently he was just getting started. Over the past few days he's been on a PR blitz--showing up at Bill Moyers, talking up a big NAACP audience, and rounding things out at the National Press Club in D.C. (By the way, as Anderson Cooper intros all this, the big graphic behind him says, "The 'Wright' Stuff." Okay, they got me, I laughed.) And I'm sure Obama is just pleased as punch to have this story revived from the dead. Geez. With friends like these...you know the rest.

In a Soledad O'Brien piece (she was at the NAACP speech) we learn that Wright feels like all the previous controversy was an attack on the black church and he's angry about all the sound bites. Okay, dude, the whole getting screwed by sound bites thing? Really has nothing to do with the black church. That's what cable news does! They leave out context. They repeat incessantly. And then they get a panel who don't know what they're talking about to yell for a while. (I'm not talking about you, 360. You're perfect. Ahem.)

Anyway, then Wright goes on about how being black is different, but not deficient. Or something. He even says that black people learn differently, which I'm guessing is not going to go over well in some circles. The NAACP audience eats it up though, I'll say that much. After Soledad's piece, Anderson notes that, yeah, this really isn't helping Obama. Soledad agrees, but reminds us that Wright isn't running for anything. So he's incapable of taking a hit in order to help a friend and fellow African American lock up the nomination for president? Nice guy.

Moving on now to 360 pretending they don't play sound bites and take things out of context just like everyone else. In other words, they play us a long clip of Wright at the National Press Club, but first Anderson intros with some show praise. And this is pretty much where Wright completely loses me. His comments are so flippant. He does realize what the stakes are here for Obama (hell, for the country), right? In another time or context I might find him funny, but all I see right now is arrogance. Plus he completely throws Obama under the bus when he paints him as just another politician. That's the opposite of Obama's campaign. Again Wright, you are not helping.

Transitioning to a Candy Crowley piece on how Wright dogs Obama and then we're on to a discussion panel with Roland Martin, David Gergen, Faye Wattleton, and Ed Rollins. Just as I'm trying to come up with the right words to express how I feel about Wright, The Gerg totally nails it (as usual), calling the reverend's actions the most selfish and narcissistic he's seen in years. Even Roland , who's been defending Wright pretty forcefully, admits he thought the National Press Club speech was over the line. Anderson is totally boggled over how the man could be so media/politically dumb, though admittedly those aren't his words. Roland simply says that Wright marches to the beat of his own drummer. Which would be fine, except the beat makes him keep bumping into the guy that's totally trying to be president.

Ed then pipes up that we live in a world of sound bites. Exactly. This wasn't a conspiracy against Wright. It's just the way things are. Only the political junkies are going to watch more than the sound bites anyway. The Gerg thinks that Obama needs to come at this with some anger to show strength. Well, he needs to do something, that's for sure. Telling his friend to shut up would probably be a good start.

From here we go into a Joe Johns piece on black churches because hey, why not, right? I think this is even a repeat. Then we're back to the panel, where Anderson asks if Wright is writing a book, seeing as he's kind of on a PR blitz. Roland notes that people already knew of him before all this. Anderson assures that he'll be getting a bigger advance now. Ha! So cynical. And so right. After the panel we hear from a tornado witness.

The Shot tonight is a clip from Bulgarian American Idol. Yes, it exists. Anyway, they play this woman singing Mariah Carey's "Can't Live, " which she is apparently singing in English, but it took me quite a while to figure that out. It's that bad. So...yeah, there's that. As for the show, they didn't make Wright speak out, but they do control the coverage, which is way too much. I mean, that was basically the whole show. There's a whole hour; I don't understand why we can't have at least three or four topics. C-

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Reverend Wright Speaks Out And More FLDS Raid Coverage (Thursday's Show)

Hi everybody. Anderson Cooper is off and probably racking up some frequent flyer miles somewhere, so tonight Campbell Brown holds down the fort. Hey, remember that whole Reverend Wright controversy that just wouldn't go away? He's baaaack. That's right kids, after the story had finally run its course through the news cycle, Obama's number one annoyance has decided we weren't quite done talking about all that. Sigh. Reverend Wright, can I give you some advice? Shut up!!! And I say that with the utmost respect. You are not helping. It's like when Bill Clinton started talking about the Bosnia sniper story again after all the chatter had finally died down. C'mon people, this isn't rocket science: if you want a story to stall and die, you don't talk about it. Talking about it moves it forward into the next cycle. There's no way they don't know that.

So anyway, seeing as though Reverend Wright majorly buttered 360's bread the first time around, they're all over it this time too, giving us extended clips from Wright's sit down with Bill Moyers. I love Bill Moyers, but I always forget to watch his show. He and David Brancaccio are my PBS guys. Is it weird that I have PBS guys? Mostly I just like saying Brancaccio. I heard Moyers speak a few years back and he was really good. Unfortunately, some jerk had to pull the fire alarm right as he was finishing. What are you going to do? If you've noticed that I'm kind of weaving around here, it's because I am so over this pastor drama. Obama has said all he can on the topic and it's time for all of us to move on.

But...we're totally not moving on. Instead, we've got discussion with David Gergen, Roland Martin, and the Family Research Council's Tony Perkins. The Gerg pretty much holds my "shut up" view, though he's much more polite about it. Of note is when Tony gets to talking and says that even evangelicals that have problems with the country's policies, don't pray for damnation of the country. This causes Roland to pipe up and claim Wright never prayed for damnation of the country and the two go back and forth on the issue until Campbell simply changes the subject.

Oh, what the hell? Look, either it was taken out of context or it wasn't. There is a right answer here and I'm getting sick of this whole "we'll let you decide" crap. People are busy. They don't have time to be constantly reading a whole transcript or watching multiple speeches. If I'm expected to do all that work anyway, what possible motivation do I have for watching the news half the time? I don't want them to tell me that person A said this and person B said this. I want them to tell me that person A said this, person B said this, and then we checked it out and discovered that person A is the one who is right. It's not always going to be that black and white or easily verifiable, but like I said, either Tony is taking him out of context or Roland is wrong. C'mon most trusted name in news, which is it?

We then move on to some more Wright clips from Moyer's show and Roland and Tony kinda tango back and forth, culminating in Roland awesomely popping his top: "Secretary of State Colin Powell had to apologize for what took place when it came to Chile and Pinochet. We have had American officials apologize because of what our government has done, what happened in Iran with Mossadegh, overthrowing him, what happened in Nicaragua? I mean, the Reagan administration completely ignored the laws of the United States. And that's a reality there. We can't deny what we have actually done. We have done good. We have done bad. That's called American history." Whoa. You don't usually hear that on CNN. Go Roland.

Next up, we have a Candy Crowley piece on election math. Oh, so much better. Anyhoo, hey, have you heard that Clinton actually has the most votes? She totally does. Of course, you have to count Michigan...where Obama was not even on the ballot. And then there's that pesky problem of Obama leading in the popular vote, states, and delegate count. But, you know, other than that, she's totally winning.

Transitioning now to a Susan Roesgen piece on all those kids taken from the Yearning for Zion ranch. Most are being separated from their mothers and sent to group homes. Also, DNA has been taken to try to determine who belongs to who. After Susan's piece, she tells us the children will be schooled in the group homes, so as not to subject them to more trauma. She notes that even her red shirt could scare them because they are taught that red is the devil's color. Yikes. Red is the devil's color. Black is supposedly sin. I wonder what other colors mean.

From here we have discussion with Jeffrey Toobin, and Carolyn Jessop, who they might as well just hire at this point. Then we go into a Gary Tuchman piece on the phone call that started it all. Turns out that it might not have been a 16-year-old that called at all. It might have been Rosita Swinton, a 33-year-old pretending to be a 16-year-old. Obviously the woman has some mental issues. But chew on this: If Swinton is the caller, she committed a crime...and she also might have just saved a few hundred kids from further abuse. Bizarre.

The Shot tonight is poor Pierre, a penguin cruelly afflicted with, well, baldness. But don't cry too many tears for Pierre. Biologists made the little guy a wetsuit and Pierre is back, baby! He's even growing back his feathers.

The show was okay. You can probably tell I'm over the Wright coverage, which sucks for me because as of this blogging he opened his mouth AGAIN. Hm, I think I know what 360 will be talking about on Monday. Sigh. But hey, they are more than welcome to prove me wrong and give a little coverage to Iraq, Afghanistan, New Orleans, troop mental health issues, infrastructure, Darfur, government corruption...and on and on and on. C

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Pennsylvania: The Hangover (Wednesday's Show)

Hi everybody. The "best political team on television" is once again coming at us from the Election Center (did they lock them in all night?!), taking full advantage of every last drop of primary shiny screen goodness. Anderson Cooper begins things with the fallout from last night, which then moves us into a Candy Crowley piece on where things go from here. Recently the state on every pundit's lips, Pennsylvania has been kicked to the curb for something a little more Midwestern. Hello Indiana! Oh, and we're also introduced to the new favorite media narrative: why can't Obama close?

For discussion, we're then joined by Carl Bernstein, Jeffrey Toobin, and Gloria Borger. Carl thinks Clinton is hanging on and counting on Obama to collapse. Hey, the "last candidate standing" strategy worked for McCain, so maybe Carl's onto something. Toobin notes that her negative campaigning has worked, but he doesn't see an end game because she just doesn't have the numbers. There's a lot more here, but meh, speculation nation. Hey, remember how Huckabee just kept running even though math was not his friend? Where are the comparisons?

A stint in the Election Center just wouldn't be the same without John King and his Magic Map Board, so he's up next to do his thang. For those interested in the Dunder Mifflin vote, we learn Scranton went heavy for Clinton. Hm, and I pictured Jim and Pam (they're so cute!) as Obama supporters. Then there's Indiana and North Carolina predictions and we leave the map to talk polls with the poll man himself, Bill Schneider.

On now to the surrogate bickering part of the show, we're joined by Paul Begala, James Carville, and Jamal Simmons. Hey, what's with the two-to-one match up we have going on? Although really, Paul and James are both kind of crazy (in their own separate ways), so the Obama camp still might have the upper hand here. The conversation begins with Anderson bringing up a recent New York Times editorial that decries Clinton's negative campaigning. Paul then proceeds to call those steering the gray lady a bunch of ninnies. "Ninnies?" asks Anderson. "Ninnies, wimps, wussies. Pick your word," says Paul. Uh, here's one: immature. But it's not directed at the paper. Although, I did just call Paul crazy, so there's that.

Anderson then dutifully brings up the new media narrative of wondering why Obama can't close. Jamal tells us he's making up ground with white voters, but I have to say, his weakness in that area at this point in the race is a little troubling. Anderson wonders how Clinton, with a straight face, can count Florida and Michigan, when she agreed not to count them before. "Well, who knows what she agreed to?" asks Paul. Um, she does! It's in writing! "The rules say that you can't seat those delegates. It doesn't mean that we have repealed the laws of mathematics," he says. What? "This is like arguing over what the definition of is, is, isn't it?" asks Anderson. No, says Paul, it's simple math. Uh, no it isn't. Ah! Okay, you want your candidate to win. Fine. I totally get that. But the magical thinking is getting ridiculous. The segment basically ends with James admonishing Obama for hiding under the New York Times editorialists' skirt. I'll let you mull that over for a bit.

Moving on now to a Randi Kaye piece, all about Clinton's benjamins. Long story short? She was broke, Pennsylvania helped her fundraising, but she's massively in the hole. Man, so much money wasted on all sides. From Randi, we go to Tom Foreman who gives us the low down on Indiana. Then we're back to the panel and the subject of race comes up. Of note is Carl saying that Colin Powell could have been president in 2000, which I assume he's using as an argument against the importance of race this time. At least I think. But anyway, it's just kind of strange since the reason he didn't even run was that his wife was afraid. I actually might have voted for Powell back in 2000; now he just makes me sad. Calvin Trillin has it down:

"His memory of war was strong.
No Sissy Hawk, he'd fought the Cong.
He knew that bunk on nukes was wrong.
But, still, he chose to go along.
Of him, they'll sing the saddest song:
But, still, he chose to go along."

Coming back from commercial, we rock out to a little Modest Mouse and I notice for the first time that the intense drumbeat that often assails Election Center viewers is blissfully absent. So much better! Anyway, there's more panel, but I'm going to wrap this thing up and go to The Shot, which is Obama's left over waffle. Apparently it's selling on eBay for $10,000. We are electing a president right? Ever the skeptic, Anderson wants a DNA test done on that puppy. "So, I don't even believe it was -- how do we know it was his waffle?" he asks. I don't know; maybe you guys should get the investigative unit on this one. "If you see some waffles for sale, please tell us about it at CNN.com/360," says Anderson. I'll take a picture next time I pass an IHOP.

Tonight's "Beat 360" is a picture of a little bear baby playing with a TV camera. The staff caption comes from Gabe: "Anderson, show that bear falling out of a tree again and I'll bounce you off a trampoline." Oh, Gabe's a bit violent. So, of course we're shown the requisite (and old!) clip complete with DRAMATIC ANIMAL VIDEO intro. Okay Gabe, ball's in your court. Oh, and don't forget the camera because, yeah, we're going to need to see that. Don't worry, people, Anderson's been working out--he can take it. Annnd that's about it. Oh, one more thing: Jeffrey Toobin must live-blog more. That is all. B-

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Pennsylvania! Pennsylvania! Pennsylvania! (Tuesday's Primary)

Hi everybody. Well, here we are again. After six weeks of boring old regular Tuesdays we finally find ourselves back safe and sound in the Election Center, that mecca of schizophrenic graphics and pulse-pounding sound effects, all guided with precision by the smooth monotone of one Mr. Wolf Blitzer. Where punchy metaphors abound and no one ever wants for an analyst (you can find them rows deep!). Yes, it's a magical place--just look at the map board!

Annnd now that the primary has happened...I've got nothing to say. Hillary Clinton picked up a victory as most assumed she would. When I turned off my tv she had a 10 point lead, which is enough to give her momentum to move forward, but maybe not sway the superdelegates. As Amy Holmes said tonight, she's "in it to spin it." I'm assuming the "spin" of both camps is what we'll be drowning in tomorrow.

I actually didn't watch much of the coverage. At a certain point it's like you're watching the same thing over and over again. But I do have a new analogy to file in the "I haven't heard that one before" drawer. It comes from Howard Fineman of MSNBC (yes CNN, I did a little cheating; you'll get over it with time). He likened the Obama strategy to playing a game of Monopoly and placing hotels all over Boardwalk and Park Place in an attempt to bankrupt your opponent. In other words, the belief is that Obama spent so much in Pennsylvania because he was trying to get Clinton to keep up, thus making her go broke. So there's that. Also? Chris Matthews totally hates Mark Penn.

No live-blogging with Anderson Cooper or Erica Hill tonight, but we did get Bill Schneider, which I thought was kind of interesting. He seems like a really nice man, though not the first one I would picture for jumping at the live-blogging. I actually have this image in my head of none of them wanting to do it, so they solve the dispute with rock/paper/scissors. Heh.

Well, that'll do it. Next stop, Indiana. And I'm really hoping the ride there doesn't include too much time in Polygamyland.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Pennsylvania, Here We Come! (Monday's Show)

Hi everybody. Happy New Week! Well, this is what we've been waiting for (at least I have). Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton's long long six weeks of essentially being all dressed up with no where to go, finally comes to an end in Pennsylvania tomorrow. It's primary time again! Anderson Cooper gives us the rundown of the last minute campaigning and we learn that the current polls are pretty tight, indicating the race will probably not end in the Keystone State. Well, it has to end before November.

Coverage begins with a Candy Crowley piece that focuses on Clinton. It seems she's got a new ad out against Obama that features a cameo from one Osama Bin Laden. You know, that guy we still haven't caught yet. The Obama camp is none too thrilled with the whiff of Rovian fear-mongering. But hey, says Clinton, if you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. Or, you could be like my mom and just bring up a fan from the basement. Just saying. And to further confirm that there is no demographic these candidates won't court, our three contenders recently had some fun on World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE). Buh bye Billary. Hello, Hill-Rod.

For the Obama side of the coverage, we have a piece from Suzanne Malveaux that features the Junior Senator doing all things Pennsylvania. See Obama ride on a train. See Obama eat a sausage. See Obama ask a kid if he'd like a sausage. Is it just me or is this kinda absurdly hilarious? I mean, what the hell does eating sausage have to do with being president? It's like some sort of weird hazing. We make our candidates travel all over the country performing tasks that make them look and no doubt feel ridiculous, and if they survive it all, well, then they get the most important job in pretty much the whole world. Anyway, as for the race, we learn Obama is lowering expectations, but believes he'll be competitive. Also? Obama had some WWE fun too. "Do you smell what Barack is cooking?"

Moving on now to...John King's Magic Map is back! I wonder if he was getting the shakes. From John, we move on to a panel discussion with Gloria Borger, Joe Klein, and Mark Halperin. Not much here besides speculation. Anderson asks if Clinton has to win by double digits tomorrow to keep going. "I don't know," says Joe. Good answer! Also of note is that Anderson is apparently getting as sick of this punditry as I am, and proposes banning phrases such as "make or break." I would also like to include "in it to win it" and all boxing metaphors.

Later in the panel, they're watching the live feed of what's going on in Obamaland, when Teresa Heinz Kerry pops up on screen and Anderson is like, "Oh my God, there's John Kerry's wife." Obviously I'm paraphrasing, but that totally cracked me up. He just sounded so surprised. Like that one Republican debate when the camera panned over Alan Keyes and half of America jumped up and said, "Alan Keyes, WTF?!" By the way, is he still in it? Did they tell him it was over? Because literally, I saw him at that debate and then never again. A big ball of crazy, that one. Anyway, as Anderson throws out to commercial, he breaks his ban (already!) by using the phrase "make or break," which he then acknowledges with mild consternation. But that's not his fault; that was in the script. That writer's in trouuuble. Five demerits for cliched phrasing.

Next up, 360 tries to show us what's happening live with the candidates, but suddenly on one side of the screen there's a dude doing a live shot. Whoops. Apparently he's a local reporter. Well, I hope he enjoyed his three seconds on CNN. With the unpredictableness of television news careers, that might have been the only national face time he ever gets. And while I'm blogging the irrelevant, they have gotten rid of the "wa wa wa" sound normally played during "Beat 360." Apparently somebody with some power didn't like it. Does this person's name rhyme with Smanderson Looper? Anyway, they've replaced the "wa's" with people that scream and startle me. Oh yes, much better. Okay, the whole startled thing probably won't happen tomorrow. But let me get this straight, playing Warren Jeffs' seriously creepy singing all the time was apparently cool, whereas the "wa's" bug? Those crazy 360 kids.

On now to Bill Schneider, who breaks down Pennsylvania demographics and polls. We then sit down in studio with Lisa Caputo (for Clinton) and Jamal Simmons (for Obama). Lisa is confident about Clinton's overall chances because she's winning in the large states, but Jamal points out that this is a Democratic match up and just because she's winning those states now, doesn't mean Obama wouldn't in a general election. He also talks about that ad she's running with the Bin Laden appearance. Anderson wants to know why that's such a bad thing, after all, the Republicans will just do it anyway. Jamal feels the Democrats are family and you don't fight family the same way you would an enemy.

Anderson brings up the charge that Obama is whining about questions from the recent debate, but then asks if Clinton is being a hypocrite because she complained about the debates previously. Lisa totally dodges, stating Obama is on the defensive and outspending Clinton. Anderson then reminds her what the actual question was and Lisa basically replies that the New York Senator has grit. Um, what? From here, Anderson wonders why Obama can't just answer all the irrelevant debates questions (like why he won't wear the flag on his lapel) because he'll have to do it in the general anyway. I think I missed something here because the next thing I know Jamal is admitting Obama is not the best debater. Fair enough, I suppose.

Lisa then gets in there and claims that Obama was basically cheering on McCain by saying he'd be better than Bush. Jamal rightly counters this by bringing up Clinton noting McCain had passed the Commander in Chief threshold test. The panel ends with Anderson making a-pox-on-both-their-houses type diplomatic statement. Also? Dude, is it humanly possible for someone to be worse than Bush? Thinking about that could give you nightmares.

Transitioning now to a Randi Kaye piece on the newest most-important voting bloc. Hey ladies, are you single? Desire low gas prices? Enjoy excellent health care coverage? Well, the candidates are out to get your number, or more importantly, your vote. In previous elections it was the soccer moms that were the media darling demographic, but now they've been kicked to the curb to make room for single women. Hey, that's me! Apparently I am the new soccer mom, which is kind of ironic since I've actually done the whole drive-kids-to-soccer-practice thing. The perils of having younger siblings and working parents. But anyway, 25 percent of eligible voters in Pennsylvania are single women and the majority vote Democratic. So they're a bit popular these days. Soak it up now while you can, ladies. Apparently the love doesn't last. Just ask soccer moms.

Coming back from commercial, Anderson does some previewing of tomorrow's coverage with the "best political team on television." "Maybe you've heard that phrase before," he says. Just a few...thousand times. I've barely noticed. We then have some John King map speculation, followed by more panel, and then a listen in to Obama and Clinton live. Annnnd that'll do it. The show contained a lot of ultimately irrelevant speculation, but I have to say, it was a nice change of pace from all polygamy, almost all the time. Isn't it funny how a primary comes up and suddenly, poof, polygamy is gone. B-

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Analyze This

Hi everybody. As you can see, this isn't one of my regular blog posts. I think I've come down with a case of polygamy fatigue, people. I watched most of Thursday's show, but I really haven't the time or the desire to do a review. Although I will say that the interview with the three sexual abuse victims was pretty powerful. They seemed fairly optimistic, so hopefully the Pope really was listening and will act.

Anyway, I wanted to point you to this must-read New York Times article regarding a massive propaganda campaign set up by the Pentagon. We're all familiar with the friendly "military analysts" that have been gracing the airwaves and our televisions with their objective experience since prior to the war. Turns out? Not so objective:
Hidden behind that appearance of objectivity, though, is a Pentagon information apparatus that has used those analysts in a campaign to generate favorable news coverage of the administration’s wartime performance, an examination by The New York Times has found.

The effort, which began with the buildup to the Iraq war and continues to this day, has sought to exploit ideological and military allegiances, and also a powerful financial dynamic: Most of the analysts have ties to military contractors vested in the very war policies they are asked to assess on air.

To those of us that have had our eyes open these past seven years, this isn't really a huge surprise. But if you read the whole thing (and you really should), you will be left with that familiar little sting of having your soul crushed just once more. I think my favorite part involves the "analysts" that knew they were peddling crap, but did it anyway because they didn't want to lose their business access. Gotta love that integrity!

As for familiar faces, long time 360 viewers might be bummed to know that when it comes to conflicts of interest, General James "Spider" Marks seems to have been one of the conflictiest of all:

CNN, for example, said it was unaware for nearly three years that one of its main military analysts, General Marks, was deeply involved in the business of seeking government contracts, including contracts related to Iraq.

General Marks was hired by CNN in 2004, about the time he took a management position at McNeil Technologies, where his job was to pursue military and intelligence contracts. As required, General Marks disclosed that he received income from McNeil Technologies. But the disclosure form did not require him to describe what his job entailed, and CNN acknowledges it failed to do additional vetting.

Aw Spider, say it ain't so. For the record, CNN let him go in 2007 after reviewing his disclosure form. Anyway, like I said, give the whole thing a read. Because methinks this story will not be coming to a news network near you. Just a hunch.

And because I hate to leave you all with a downer, I shall share a little 360-related aw-worthiness that I stumbled upon on one of my random trips surfing the interwebs. I spy some bi-partisan lip-action (fourth pic up from the bottom.) Aren't they cute? But let's keep tongues from wagging because that there's a platonic smooch.

I should be back reviewing for Monday's show. Pennsylvania is just around the corner. Thank God! Something is actually going to happen. What that something is, well, that's anybody's guess.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Post Debate Analysis, Inside An FLDS Home, And Interview of FLDS Attorney (Wednesday's Show)

Hi everybody. Well, they kinda screwed me up for tonight by going two hours live. Eliza has a booked schedule and I was not prepared for that. You know how some doctors still make you pay for your appointment if you cancel with less than 24 hour's notice? I think I'm going to need 24 hour's notice as well or else...yeah, I got nothing. Also, I found a lot of the post-debate discussion not really worth blogging and at one point I got distracted by three-dimensional life stuff intruding on my viewing. So basically, this blog will not be complete, to say the least.

We kick things off with Anderson Cooper telling us the BREAKING NEWS that Democratic debate #389 has just ended in Philly. Because after having Obama versus Clinton shoved down our throats for the past few months everyone said to themselves, "You know what we need? Another debate." And apparently it was a clunker. I wouldn't know from first hand experience because I didn't watch. At some point there's nothing new you're going to learn. Actually, I think that point was debate number 16 or 17. But anyway, this debate seemed to be chock full of ultimately irrelevant silliness that makes the 24 hour news cycle go-round: Reverend Wright's comments, Obama's "bitter" comments, Clinton dodging snipers that double as poetry-reading little girls...you get the idea.

For discussion, we're joined by Candy Crowley, Mark Halperin, and David Gergen and I'm just going to pull out the stuff I want to talk out. Hey, my blog. One of the things brought up is that Clinton said she would bring the troops home if the Generals on the ground said she shouldn't, and Obama pretty much agreed with her. The Gerg thinks this was pandering and I completely agree. I physically cringed when I heard that clip because it was so politically stupid in terms of the general election, something Candy kind of goes into, though without the "stupid" part. The majority of Americans may want the troops home, but on a visceral and even unconscious level, not listening to the Generals is going to feel off somehow and that just leaves the door open for John McCain to get in there and convince them the Democrats are wrong.

Anderson wonders if it will make them look anti-military and as much as I loath that GOP talking point coming out of his mouth, the question is valid. Although speaking of anti-military, you'd think that someone who supports the troops would want them to have the best, but free-pass McCain opposes expanding the GI Bill. Why? Because he's afraid it would lead to more members of the military leaving the service. That's right folks, apparently some things are too good for our troops. We want to keep things just crappy enough that they feel like they have to stay. We then move on to the "elitist" topic and The Gerg brings a well deserved smack down to Clinton, noting her reaction to the situation seemed completely manufactured. You think? If she wasn't running against him she'd be defending what he said. Finally, Anderson notes (via a post from Andrew Sullivan's blog) that when these controversies spring up, Obama explains, rather than going defensive like an average politician. I've noticed that too and it's one of the things I love about him. How that's going to work in the general (assuming he's the nominee), I do not know.

Transitioning now to an episode of Cribs: FLDS. Continuing with the polygamy PR, we're invited to check out the digs of Marilyn, a soft spoken mother with fascinating hair. (Do you think they use hairspray? How does she get it so high?) And the place looks like a boarding school. But the most noteworthy part is Marilyn's commentary. She wistfully notes the empty beds, missing shoes, and quiet eating room. "My little girl's name is Marla. She's such a lovable little girl. She loves school. She's in third grade. She comes home, 'Mother, I got an A-plus today.' I grab her and hug her: 'Good job, Marla, good job.' She is my only child," she tells us. This is what they call an oversell. Don't get me wrong, I don't doubt that she loves her child, but one gets the picture that last night she was running through this little performance, script in hand. Even seeing the camera crew out is one big show, with her mournfully looking at her church, stating it desecrated, and then bursting into tears. Wow.

Next up, Anderson has an interview with Rod Parker, attorney for the FLDS. How'd you like that job? Anderson begins by asking him about underage marriages and FLDS practices, but he doesn't seem to be able to give concrete answers. They then get to the legal argument and Rod tells us the abuse allegation is uncorroborated and the girl who allegedly made the initial call, Sarah Jessop Barlow, doesn't exist. Well, according to those in the compound anyway. He also notes that they've taken a whole community of kids based on one case. That part has bugged me a little bit. Does every man in that compound marry young girls and abuse his wife and kids? Maybe. But maybe not. This was a huge thing for Texas to do and I just really hope this whole thing doesn't fall apart on them because it's obvious there are horrible things going on behind those gates.

Annnd this is pretty much where I checked out. I'm a little bummed I missed Erica's McCain piece, though it seems part of it is online. No grade tonight since I missed some and didn't pay the best attention to the stuff I did watch. Although I will leave 360 with a question: How come The Daily Show has covered the recent and extremely news-worthy torture revelations more than you have? Who is the real news source again?

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

More FLDS, The Pope Visits The US, An Obama Profile, And Football Player Herschel Walker' s Mental Illness (Tuesday's Show)

Hi everybody. Would you care to wager on what we're beginning with tonight? If you said the FLDS raid, you get a cookie. Apparently the members of the sect are continuing with their PR campaign and have released pictures they took of the raid to the media, and the media is more than happy to show them to us. From the pictures we can see that the cops came packing some heat. That probably was pretty scary for those people, but the cops didn't know if they were walking into another Waco (anniversary 4/19--See? These days are cursed!), so what are you going to do?

David Mattingly then joins us live and informs us the mothers are still pretty ticked. In a taped piece that follows, David goes into the compound to talk to the women, but when it comes to getting clear ages out of them, things get a little weird. He asks one woman how old she was when she got married and then how old she is now, and it's fairly apparent she's doing some sort of calculation in her head before answering. Anderson Cooper wonders how deceptive the women are being. Obviously David can't say for sure, though he notes a history of deception regarding outsiders.

Moving on to a Dan Simon piece on polygamists north of the border, British Columbia to be exact. Man, they're everywhere! So anyway, Dan talks to this dude that was excommunicated from Warren Jeffs' church and living in a community split between loyalty to Jeffs and loyalty to excommunicated dude (who is a bit a jerk, I must say). But all this child and parent-separating going on in Texas has caused them all to come together in their opposition to the raid. Yay for unity? Sigh. Also? Dan rides a horse.

Next up, here come da Pope! Did you know his head holiness (or whatever) was coming to these here united states? Did you care? I gotta say, I'm pretty underwhelmed about the whole thing. When John Paul came I sort of had an interest, but this guy? Eh. At this point you've probably gathered that I'm not Catholic, but the religion has always been at least a peripheral part of my life because of all my Catholic family and friends. Hell, my father studied to be a priest, but decided it wasn't for him (and my existence is grateful for that decision). My grandma used to give directions based on parish locations and when I was a kid I even took communion once (which I learned afterwards was a no no). So I think I have the Catholic cred to say, "The Pope's coming? Meh."

Of course, the buzz related to the visit is all about what the Pope is going to say about the sex abuse scandal. CNNer John Allen, who joins us live, got to ask him a question about that in a highly stage-managed "press conference" and the Pope replied about how ashamed he was and blah blah blah. Not good enough. By the way, the back-to-back coverage of the FLDS and Pope stories reminded me of Bill Maher's New Rules from last week (he compares them). I have a love/hate relationship with Bill and I'm not sure I agree with him on this one, but it's definitely worth a watch. The point I'm talking about starts about halfway in, and it's Maher, so the whole thing is NSFW.

Transitioning now to an Anderson piece that squishes Barack Obama's life down to three cable news segments. I'm not going to really knock this because I know there's plenty of people out there who don't know the candidates, but man, at this point I think I know more about Obama than some of my friends. Anyhoo, here we go, in possibly not exact chronological order: Born in Hawaii to a Kenyan father and white mother, father was absentee, mother remarried an Indonesian, moved to Jakarta, saw poverty, got teased, went to prep school back in Hawaii, tried drugs to numb identify confusion, went to college, started going by Barack as opposed to Barry, was an underachiever, mother kicked his butt into gear, got a job trying to help the community, got frustrated, went to Harvard law, met Michelle, worked for civil rights law firm, married Michelle, joined Wright's church, won Illinois state senate seat, ran for Congress, lost, ran for senate...and this is where I have to pause the longest run-on sentence ever.

The guy in the piece (Obama expert?) says the following: "His broad support in the U.S. Senate race in 2004 was unheard of in Illinois politics for a black politician. He won in white areas of Illinois that no -- that black people even today don't venture into." Um, perhaps it would be pertinent to note that his opponent was Alan Keyes, who by most accounts is frickin insane! I mean, hello! That race should have been, and was, a total cake walk. Obama deserves praise for a lot of things, but winning that election in a landslide really isn't one of them. "Barack Obama: This is Your Life" ends with him keeping a low profile in the senate his first year and then running for president. As they say kids, the rest is history. Also, for the trivia buffs out there, at one point they play music that is totally the same thing that played in "Fahrenheit 9-11" when the opening credits rolled.

On now to a Sanjay Gupta piece on football player Herschel Walker, who suffers from dissociative identity disorder. This used to be known as multiple personality disorder, but they changed the name because sufferers have personality fragments that prevent them from forming one personality, not fully formed multiple personalities. Anyway, we get the requisite "Sybil" clip and also meet Herschel's ex-wife who tells us that he would freak her out. She says that on some occasions his skin would actually get darker, but that just sounds bizarre to me. Unless during his alter his brain is releasing something that affects pigmentation maybe? I don't know. Weird. Basically this was just a profile piece and Herschel seems to be doing okay. And now I'm going to be wondering about that skin thing.

In The Shot tonight, Buster is back! We remember Buster, right? Beer-drinking 101-year-old marathon runner. Or is he? It seems "fibber" might be the latest thing that gets put on Buster's resume because the good people of Guinness World Records have discovered that Buster here is a spry 94-year-old. "Oh, Buster, say it ain't so," says Erica Hill. Actually, he does say it ain't so and really, who's going to argue with Fidel Castro's doppelganger? Or maybe it's the other way around. Anyhoo, Anderson doesn't have Buster's back. Such a cynic. This world is hard on believers. B-

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The FLDS Opens Their Gate, Obama Branded An Elitist, And A School Shooting Prevented (Monday's Show)

Hi everyone. Happy New Week! Anderson Cooper is back in the anchor chair for us tonight--well, actually, not his anchor chair because he's in Florida (and I think standing), but he's on my television and that's all that matters. Anyhoo, we're kicking things off with the BREAKING NEWS that David Mattingly is inside the FLDS compound. Oh my god, the polygamists have kidnapped David! Okay, no, he's fine. The real BREAKING NEWS is that the FLDS, hater of outsiders, is launching a PR blitz and opening their gates to the media. Whoa. Seeing as though these people have absolutely no experience in dealing with the media (besides the shunning), I'm sure this will go well for them.

In related news, most of the children taken from the compound have been separate from their mothers, who were given the choice of going back or going to a "safe location." Most opted to go back home, but they are not happy. At all. They claim their rights are being violated, they're being persecuted for their religion, and that whole abuse thing? Never happened. In fact, they claim the call from the 16-year-old was really a hoax that came from the outside. Uh huh. Anderson is quite amazed that the media has been let inside the compound and he goes all first-person plural with his pronouns when describing how they were previously chased away. Hey buddy, what's with this "we" stuff? Poor Gary Tuchman's the one with the door imprint on his face.

Next up, Anderson has an interview with one of the aggrieved FLDS mothers, who has been separated from her children. Her name is Kathleen and she wishes to go partial incognito, so no last name for her. Basically, Kathleen is talking to us because she feels her children have been "confiscated." She is unwaivering in her claim that it was the wives' idea to talk to the media, but the coached nature of her answers and the fact that she's not even looking at the camera kinda don't help sell her case. Anderson asks her stuff about polygamy, like how many wives her husband has, but she ain't having it--says it's not pertinent. I think it's a little pertinent. Anderson then brings up all the claims of abuse and Kathleen totally downplays, saying she has no fear about living there. Yeah, but it's not about you; it's about your minor kids.

It should be noted that throughout this whole interview Kathleen is looking off to the side and if I didn't know better, I'd say she was reading off cue cards. Of course, it's CNN's camera, so that's probably something they'd mention if it was occurring. Anderson points out the appearance of rehearsal and Kathleen of coures denies it, asking him what he'd say in the situation. "I don't know," says Anderson. I'm actually a little surprised he answered. Usually when the guest pulls the question flipparoo he just ignores and moves on. From there, Kathleen claims they're being treated like the Jews. Annnnd that's where she completely loses me. Yes, you guys are the Jews and Texas is the Nazis. That is a perfect analogy and not in any way insane. Trying not to sound condescending, Anderson asks, uh, she does know what happened to the Jews, right? Kathleen assures him she does and that she's an educated woman with a college degree. Wait, from where?! And that's about it. Besides that last missed follow up, this was a good interview on Anderson's end.

Moving on now to an interview with FLDS escapee Carolyn Jessop and a bit of a dramatic soap opera-like twist. You remember how Kathleen didn't want to give her last name? Well, tough cookies for her because Carolyn totally recognized her voice and tells us she was one of her sister wives and is married to Merril Jessop. In fact, she's the sister wife that told on Carolyn when she was trying to flee the FLDS and Carolyn is pissed! Man, I'd make some sort of "small world" comment here, but when you live in a compound, well, it's always going to be a small world. I'm guessing this is the first time Carolyn's gotten to vent about her own personal Brutus (at least publicly, anyway), which is probably why she keeps coming back to Kathleen in the interview. And 360? Apparently had no idea about the relation. Bizarre.

Next up, we have a Gary Tuchman piece that takes place in Colorado City, where the FLDS there decided all this commotion has hit having-a-meeting status. So they called one and everyone came. Even the media, who unlike in Texas, were apparently not invited. The FLDS made them feel right at home though by using their cars to block the camera shots. Of note in this piece is that there's more confusion over that 16-year-old that made the initial call. They still haven't found her and now they've been getting calls from a 16-year-old in Arizona. Are these calls from the same girl? Maybe, but unclear. After his piece, Gary tells us that some of the FLDS have been pulling some thuggery with him and his crew (aren't they suppose to be a Godly people?) to intimidate them and they can't count on the cops to help them because, well, they're FLDS too. Okay, that can not be made amusing in any way. That's just scary. Be careful Gary! From here we have Jeffrey Toobin for the legal aspect. All together this was about 35-40 minutes of coverage. That's way too much polygamy if you ask me.

Transitioning now to a Candy Crowley piece that brings us the latest installment of "Days of Our Political Lives." Or perhaps, "As the Campaign Turns"? Anyways, you may have heard that Obama recently made some comments regarding rural voters in failing economies who are "bitter" about it and clinging to things they know, like religion, in order to deal. And now Obama is apparently an elitist. Good lord. You know what's funny in a way that's not? People say that they want their politicians to be real and honest, but obviously they don't. What Obama said was poorly worded, but it is not untrue. The GOP have been exploiting the "bitter" feelings of rural America for years. Hell, there was a whole book written about the subject a few years ago (a good read, by the way). But that doesn't matter right now. What matters is he's opened himself up to the elitist label and God forbid the media punditry not follow along with the idiocy.

And it's not just the conservatives who are already murmuring about latte drinking and Volvo driving, Hillary Clinton is all over this action too. While Obama is an elitist, she's quickly morphed herself into a shot-drinking gun-toter (seriously, she totally downs a shot on camera!). See, she's just like you. This would be much more hilarious if these people weren't running for president. Hillary? If I may let you in on a little secret: you're all elitists! Do you honestly think I think you have any idea what my life is like? You're running for president, not manager of a bowling alley. It's okay if the president is a little elitist. I don't want to have a beer with them; I want some friggin universal healthcare. What is wrong with us that we actually demand our candidates lower themselves to be able to run?

Moving on now to a reminder that Wednesday is the first anniversary of the Virginia Tech massacre. A year already. Also, I feel I should share that it is my belief that the days from about now until the end of the month are cursed. Yes, cursed. I'm just saying a lot of bad things seem to happen in this span we've got coming up, so, you know, FYI. Anyway, our last piece of the night is from Abbie Boudreau about a school shooting that almost was. The story goes a little something like this: Bulgarian kid is adopted by nice mother who soon notices her son is sometimes psychotic. Turns out the kid was fascinated with Columbine (anniversary 4/19--See?) and planned his own shooting.

But for some lucky reason, he told his mother and she had him committed. He then got out, took meds, went to college, and all was going good, except, oh noes, the piece is playing us music of doom, so that can't be good. This is where things get extra weird. The guy gets accused of making threats again to do a shooting, but he claims he was just telling what he was going to do in high school. And his own mother doesn't believe him, saying so right to his face. It seems there are no hard feelings though because he says she's the greatest person in the world. Hm. I suppose that ended well. Let's hope it stays that way.

The show was okay. Two-thirds polygamy coverage? Still? Really? There's a billion other things going on in the world. At least what we got tonight was new stuff (as opposed to digging out tape from two years ago) and we were absent any speculating "experts." I'll give them that. C+

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Ultimate Fail: 360 Strings Us Along For Over An Hour With The Promise Of A Great Petraeus/Ware Interview, Only Delivers A Snippet (Thursday's Show)

Hi everybody. Campbell Brown continues her subbing reign for Anderson Cooper and we begin with the BREAKING NEWS that the FBI has Marine Corporal Cesar Armando Laurean in custody in Mexico. You might remember Laurean as the Marine who went on the run after allegedly murdering a fellow pregnant Marine who had accused him of rape. So yay for justice! But can we move on? No, apparently we cannot. Because we've got people on the phone (which includes a cringe-worthy period of dead air) and Jeffrey Toobin live and the show is not going to let any one of this story's 360 degrees go uncovered.

Look, don't think me insensitive. Of course what happened to the female Marine was horrific and I hope justice is served, but this is essentially a true crime story that has no impact on anyone's lives except the people it involves. This is Laci Peterson. This is Natalee Holloway. You get the picture. I was hoping with the Marine aspect and the details of the rape, this story might spawn a closer look at the abhorrent rate of sexual assault in the military, but no. We're going with the same old infotainment coverage as always. And because I'm so sick of this kind of stuff, after Toobin I do the unthinkable: I turn to Fox News to see if they have something better. I know! Temporary insanity. But I snapped right out of it when I saw Greta was doing the same damn story. It's hard out there for a news junkie.

Next up, we have a David Mattingly piece that updates us on the polygamy raid story. It seems the Texas authorities had an informant who was feeding them information about the compound for four years (four years!) , but it wasn't until the 16-year-old called that they could do anything. They claim their hands were tied and when Toobin joins us after the piece for our legal perspective, he confirms that often times just the word of the informant won't move a case forward. But he also can't say one way or another what happened here. After this, we're joined by Dr. Bruce Perry and Kathy Jo Nicholson.

Moving on now to a Gary Tuchman piece and he is on a quest to find Dale Barlow, the man suspected of abusing the 16-year-old that sparked the raid. Except, will he find the right Dale Barlow? From what I understand, they don't even know if the guy whose picture they keep showing is the right Dale Barlow. Color me confused. But anyway, Gary goes to Dale Barlow's house (or a Dale Barlow's house), where there is a 'no trespassing' sign. So he stands at the edge of the property and yells, "You have a 'no trespassing' sign, so we're yelling from here to see if you'll talk to us." Okay, yeah, I laughed. But don't tell me you didn't.

For me, the amusingness of Gary's polite sign obedience is compounded by Cal Perry's confession of totally stalking Mike Huckabee at the airport. Ha! Back in Gary's piece, no one answers him (shocker!), but but a neighbor rides by on horseback. No, really! It's like the land that time forgot. Gary then asks him some general stuff and the neighbor rides off into the sunset. Okay, no, it was still daytime. I just really wanted to type that. Gary joins us live after his piece and we learn the place is just crawling with Barlows. This is what happens when everyone marries each other.

Now we go back to the true crime story from the top of the hour and I'm beating my head against the wall because this whole time they've been promising us an interview Michael Ware did with General David Petraeus. And honestly, besides the fact that I'm blogging for you guys, the interview is the only reason my television is on right now. A journalist living in Iraq who takes no BS is going to interview the guy running the show? Uh, yes please. That's awesome coverage, so the wait is a bit frustrating. But 360 assures us they're going live longer to get it in. So when the top of the second hour rolls around, I'm hoping to see Michael, but again it's the Marine. They have got to be kidding me. You know what's cool about the 360 blog though? If you get pissed off at the coverage you can totally flip to The Daily Show and still be able to follow along with what 360 is current airing. I bet that's a little unintended consequence they didn't think about.

So anyway, at 15 minutes past the hour we finally, finally get the interview. Michael begins by asking Petraeus if he thinks Congress gets it and we get a very diplomatic answer in reply. Michael then wonders if the lack of timetable talk (something Michael does not seem to be a fan of) means Congress is finally starting to understand things better. "And being perfectly frank with the view that we both share from the ground this war is far from over, isn't it?" says Michael. But Petraeus will only concede that it's "hard. Michael tries again: "We're not coming home any time soon, are we?" Instead of just admitting what those of us who have been paying attention already know, we get some Orwellian parsing using the word "engaged", which is annoying because I want to like this guy. Michael points out that there's no miracle on the horizon, but Petraeus thinks the surge has resulted in dramatic changes in certain areas. This is Michael's opportunity to point out that really "the awakening" had a lot to do with that, which Petraeus concedes.

Next, Michael zeros in on the issue of the government and seems to be forming a big question, but Petraeus cuts him off before he gets to the actual question part and starts talking about what Iraq was like a couple years ago. Now I'm left wondering where Michael had been going. But it's okay, he gets in the good question anyway: "So with this sectarian legacy of the war, and all the competing interests, I mean, honestly, General, do you really believe that there's an interest in reconciliation in Iraq?" Petraeus says it will require leaders who can make compromises. "Do you think those leaders are there?" asks Michael (yay follow-up!). Petraeus says leaders actually have been coming together recently. "Interestingly, one aspect of the situation that has brought them together is unified concern about the role of Iran," he says. Hm. That's rather faint optimism, isn't it?

Annnnnd that was it. Micheal joins us live after the clip and we learn that was only the beginning of the interview. But that's all we're getting. Unbelievable. I even kinda suspected they were going to pull this (hey, you watch the show long enough, it's not hard to predict what they're going to do), yet I'm still mad. Oh, and the kicker? There's a whole bunch more polygamy stuff. But not for me. I am so done for the night. Anyway, the Petraeus interview can be viewed online and I urge you to do so. Because it's a great interview and really important and shame on CNN for relegating it to the web. The interview gets an A, but as for the show, after what they pulled? D

Friday, April 11, 2008

Update On The Polygamy Raid, More Flight Cancellations, Political Speculation, And "Surge" Talk With Michael Ware (Wednesday's Show)

Hi everybody. At this point, Campbell Brown has made herself comfortable in Anderson Cooper's anchor chair. Not so much with the blogging though. Our sub seems to be MIA when it comes to the extracurriculars. Anyway, we kick things off with BREAKING NEWS related to the polygamy raid story and go to David Mattingly live for the latest. You remember the 16-year-old girl that made the call that sparked the raid? Well, apparently she gave the name of her abusing husband: Dale Barlow. Weird thing is, authorities are looking for a Dale Barlow from Colorado who says he doesn't even know the girl. Wait, what? I'm confused. One thing's for sure, the picture of "Dale Barlow" that 360 shows us? Creeeepy. I don't know if this man has anything to do with the girl that made the call, but that picture screams child molester. Just saying. We also learn that during the raid authorities found what appeared to be a sex bed in the temple, which they believe was used to consummate marriages. All together now: ew.

Next up, we're joined by Flora Jessop, an FLDS escapee, and mind control expert Steven Hassan. Flora talks a bit about the sex bed, noting it is "very common for them to do the consummations of the marriages in front of others." Whoa, whoa, whoa. In front of others?! Campbell has to make sure she heard that right too, "So, this was taking place on this bed, but with an audience?" Unbelievable. Flora also tells us of the tolerance that was taught regarding black people. Apparently black people were actually born white, but God turned them black to show they were sinners. Lovely. I wonder what they were taught about other races. Or maybe they don't even know other races exist. Steven then buts in to ask Flora a question: "wouldn't you say now that you are free, and you have learned about mind control, your life is far superior, and that there is hope?" To which she replies, "Oh, absolutely. With the help of people like Steve Hassan, we have been able to overcome those fears." I have to say, that little interaction in of itself was a little creepy.

Coming back from commercial, we are again "treated" to the seriously disturbing singing of Warren Jeffs. Ah! Okay 360, it's on now! Tremble in fear! Anyhoo, we then move on to a Gary Tuchman piece. Aw, I kinda thought maybe Gary was enjoying a vacation, but nope. He's been sent to polygamy land where no one loves him. Bummer. Like usual, Gary is mostly shunned, but a few Jeffs supporters give a word or two of displeasure about the raid. He also sits down with some non Jeffs supporters who aren't thrilled with all the children being taken. After his piece, Gary tells us Dale Barlow's parole officer believes he is in Colorado City and could actually be mere blocks from him right now. This story just keeps getting weirder.

Moving on now to a Randi Kaye "Keeping Them Honest" piece on where the FLDS gets all the money to buy their sex beds and stuff. Hint: who's usually getting screwed in these situations? You, silly! Since the men can only be legally married to one wife, the other wives are considered single mothers. And though they certainly aren't fond of our government, it sure doesn't stop them from taking welfare. But the men do their part too. See, they work their butts off in construction jobs and all their money gets funneled to the church. Pretty sweet gig if you're the leader of the church; not so much otherwise.

Transitioning now to a Drew Griffin piece and...oh my God what is wrong with our planes?! Now it's coming out that there are problems with American landing gear too. Do they want me to cry on my flight later this month? Seriously, do they? Truth be told, I have never been afraid of terrorists on planes, but I have always been afraid of random mechanical failures and now it's like all my nightmares realized. So okay, in one instance of landing gear failure it actually disabled the anti-icing thingee ma bobber and it turned the plane into a popsicle. I enjoy a frozen treat every now and then, but not when it's my plane! So what's the FAA doing about this? They're "aware of the problem," Well, fabulous. Don't get proactive or anything. Apparently people need to die before anyone tries to fix anything in this country.

Next up, we have Candy Crowley to talk about a new poll that finds New Yorkers prefer a McCain/Condi Rice ticket to an Obama/Clinton ticket. Gasp! Oh my God, a statistically insignificant poll taken seven months out from the election that contains someone who's not even running! This is huge news. Alert the media. Oh wait, they've been alerted. And actually, Candy kinda looks like she wishes she hadn't been. Don't get me wrong, she brings it with the punditry and all, but really all we need is the first sentence out of her mouth: "Well, let's remember that polls are snapshots." Yup. Moving on.

Forty-five minutes into the show, we finally get to the good hard news stuff. A Michael Ware "Keeping Them Honest" piece asks the question, "Is the surge working?" Answer? Yeah, it is, but the surge is much more than what people think. It's not just an increase in troops. According to Michael, it's an entire shift in strategic thinking. Killings are way down due to a combination of several factors. Most of us know by now that we're cutting deals and paying our enemies to kill our other enemies. (By the way, my prediction of how that will ultimately turn out for us? Not well.) Also rarely mentioned in your average "surge" soundbite is the Al-Sadr cease fire and all the blast walls that are essentially segregating the country. And I would bet you that anywhere from 50 to 75 percent of our country doesn't know the majority of what was in that piece. Unfortunately you really have to look for Iraq news with context nowadays and most Americans just...don't.

After Michael's piece he joins us live. Like last night, he laments about how the Petraeus and Crocker hearing seemed to be stage managed for people wanting to be president. He's still missing the true debate (as am I), but was pleased to hear Iran mentioned more and the democrats begin to change their rhetoric on withdrawal. For the most part, Michael thinks Petraeus and Crocker did the best they could, though he would take them to task for characterizing the Iraqi government as an ally. "I mean, please. I think that's quite a stretch," he tells us. He then goes on to say, "America has got to stay this course," which kind of makes me cringe a bit. Please don't use Bush talking points, Michael. It makes puppies cry sad tears. They always end the interview with Michael right where I think there needs to be a follow up. Because, is he advocating the McCain strategy? Surely not. Even forgetting the horrible loss of life, the status quo in Iraq cannot be sustained by the army or financially. And if the government is not our ally then...what? What does Michael think should be done?

The Shot tonight is an elephant in a bubble. Apparently there is such a thing as a bubble artist. Of course there is. Weirdness. The show was okay. I really wish they'd scale back on the polygamy stuff. Give us the facts, but do we really need the mind control expert? B

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

General Petraeus Goes (Back) To Washington And More On The Polygamy Compound Raid (Tuesday's Show)

Hi everybody. Campbell Brown is holding down the anchor chair for Anderson Cooper again. Well deserved vacation, perhaps? Anyway, hey, remember back in September when General Petraeus and his media-designated side-kick Ambassador Ryan Crocker took a little trip to Capitol Hill, where there was much kerfuffle over what they were or weren't going to say? Well, back then they basically told us to wait. So now we've waited over six months and they've come back to tell us that...we should wait some more. Kinda anti-climatic. If you'll allow me to sum up their testimony, it goes a little something like this: that whole war thing? Not going to be over for a long time.

Tom Foreman then joins us live with the bummer news that we shouldn't expect those troop levels to go below pre-surge levels anytime soon. Other facts given that can be filed in the "without context" drawer include a decrease in violence and improvement in Iraqi troops. Of course that last thing may depend on whether or not they get to break for lunch first. In a clip, Petraeus notes that it's not time for celebrating yet and the champagne bottle has been pushed to the back of the fridge. To which the average Iraqi replied, "It doesn't matter where you push the bottle, we hardly have any electricity!" Also? Joe Biden is angry. And you wouldn't like him when he's angry. Or, er, actually I do. Because even though there's no Hulk action going on here, in his questioning he points out that we're not getting anywhere with this war--we're just "treading water."

Next up, we have a Candy Crowley piece on how the questions from the presidential candidates did or didn't make them look, well, presidential. Really, there was nothing spectacular or surprising from any of the three. Though I do have to say that the mere existence of this discussion is making me nauseous. This is not some complicated photo-op; this is about a real war where real people are really dying. Every day. Politics should have no place here. Of course that whole notion is kind of ironic given that Petraeus and Crocker, while professional and noble men they may be, have been politicized by the Bush administration since day one.

For discussion of all this, we're joined by Candy, Nic Robertson, Michael Ware, and David Gergen. The panel kicks off with Candy talking about the political aspect, but I'm skipping over it because it just feels dirty. The Gerg thinks it's almost like the candidates were looking at two separate wars (McCain's war vs. Obama and Clinton's). And I'm betting neither of them are the real war. But let's get to Michael, shall we? He tells us that, yes, Petraeus and Crocker are basically serving it to us straight, but gloss abounds, and, oh yeah, they might have left out some stuff. Michael is upset about the lack of probing questions and the fact that candidates treated the hearings more as a show for their candidacies. "I mean, some people are living this thing. It is not a campaign event," he says. Thank you! Later Michael says it creates "a discomfort" in him, which I have to say is almost comically understated for our impassioned Aussie. Those are so not the words he's using when the cameras are off.

We then move on to Nic and the subject of possible diplomatic talks with Iran. Nic actually talked with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who acknowledges the Iranian problem, but would really like to get the U.S. and Iran to come together. For you see, while our president likes to beat war drums and talk of Iranian evilness, al-Maliki kinda has to live right next to the country. It's a lot easier to talk smack about someone who lives two towns over than it is your neighbor who can make your life a daily hell. But anyway, we then go to commercial and when we come back poor Michael is still very upset about the hearing. "I found it a galling experience, to see the war so dismembered and -- and so sterilized," he tells us. He then talks a bit about the gloss and the lack of context. Finally, noting, "For or against this war, whether you liked it from the beginning or not, that's irrelevant, folks. This is the war you have got, and you have to take responsibility for this, either out of self- interest or out of some moral responsibility, and you have got to get on with this. "

You know, honestly I'm not sure I have a clear opinion any more on what we should do about the war. They tell us there'll be bloodshed if we go, but they told us a lot of things that turned out not to be true--how can they know? I used to be one of the "pull out now" people, but now I'm just confused. Conservatives and even people like Michael tell us that how we got in this war is irrelevant now and we need to deal with the war we've got. While that's true in some ways, I think that those of us who have been against this war from the start have been having such a hard time with that notion because no one, no one, has been held accountable. And I'm sorry, I just can't let that go. There have been too many lies. Too many unnecessary deaths. Officials make some of the worst blunders in our nation's history and they get the Medal of Freedom. Even Scooter Libby, who let's face it was just the fall guy, didn't do a day in jail. That's justice Bush-style.

We've had five years of lies about this war, so it's kind of understandable the country is having a hard time dealing with it. What we need is someone to lay it all out for the American people, without the gloss. Because there are very serious questions no one is asking. I mean, has anyone even talked about what's going to happen to the contractors when the U.S. pulls out? But anyway, if history is any indicator there will be no big truth telling speech. Instead we'll just welcome Petraeus and Crocker back come September. Anybody care to guess what they'll say?

After the panel, we learn that Petty Officer and Navy SEAL, Michael Monsoor, was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for saving his comrades by throwing himself on a grenade. This is of obvious note because the guy is a hero and deserves to be recognized, but also because the news wants us to know that Bush was "teary-eyed." And my reaction to that is the same reaction Cheney had when asked about American's disapproval of the war: "So." Seriously, who the hell cares about Bush? It's not about him. He doesn't even deserve to be around Monsoor's medal. And isn't it a coinky-dink that this very patriotic ceremony was scheduled on the very same day as Petraeus' testimony? Why, it's almost like they planned it that way. But exploiting the troops for political gain? That's crazy talk.

A big transition now to polygamy and in a David Mattingly piece we learn a little more about that 16-year-old that sparked the El Dorado raid. She was married at 15 to a 49-year-old man (which is disgusting) and then went on to suffer beatings and sexual abuse. The girl was also held against her will and the really unfortunate part is they have yet to identify her. Hopefully she was one of the girls taken out in the raid, but they can't know that for sure. We then throw to commercial and as we come back, our sadistic little 360 friends play us some creepy singing from Warren Jeffs. Why, why, why would you do that, 360? I thought you were going to burn those tapes. Were things not clear enough last time? And you just know they're laughing at us, people. The crew probably listens to it while they're choreographing their thigh dancing.

Anyway, next we have Mike Watkiss back from yesterday and he is very sad he's not shocked about any of this. But he is very angry. Just keep exposing it, Mike. It's about all you can do. From Mike we move to an interview with Kathy Jo Nicholson, who was a student of Warren Jeffs and was able to escape that life. She tells us of fasting and beating. Not fun stuff. Then we go to commercial and come back to what is basically the greatest hits of Gary Tuchman being shunned in the FLDS community. This moves us into a Gary piece on a 1953 polygamy raid, which was taken from the 2006 wing of the 360 vault. We haven't seen much of live Gary lately. Hopefully enjoying some nice time off.

Well, that's it. No Shot or "WWTT?" apparently. Unless they were in the second hour. The show was pretty good. As my regular readers know, I'm not really a fan of the polygamy stuff, but that's personal taste. It's definitely an important story that I think deserves coverage; I guess maybe my problem is I watch the show too much, so all the coverage of it seems the same to me. As for the Iraq stuff, I hate to say this, but I was missing Anderson during the panels. Perhaps I'm being unfair (especially since Campbell may not have even written the questions), but I think his questions would have been more on point. For example, check out the last time Petraeus went to Washington. I'm just saying the coverage was a little surfacey. So I think I'm going to again stick them with a B

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Children Removed From Polygamist Compound, Training The Iraqi Army, Mark Penn Demoted, And Condi For VP Rumors (Monday's Show)

Hi everybody. Happy Monday! Campbell Brown takes the anchor chair from Anderson Cooper tonight and we begin with the raid on that polygamist compound in El Dorado, which resulted in the removal of 401 children. A David Mattingly piece breaks things down further and we learn that the raid occurred because of one phone call from a 16-year-old. Officials believe all of the children were in danger of physical abuse and they're currently searching the ranch for other children that might still be there. After David's piece, he joins us live and says that officials are basically mum right now regarding specifics of the allegations. Apparently there's more investigating to do.

Next up, Erica Hill has an interview with Helen Pfluger, a church volunteer at one of the shelters where they brought the children. According to Helen, the kids are pretty freaked and didn't offer up any information about themselves, though they did eventually become comfortable enough to politely ask for things they needed. Those kids must be terrified. That compound is no doubt the only thing they've ever known and now they're suddenly being taken to live in a world that they've been taught is bad. But if Carolyn Jessop is any indicator, they can learn to adjust. She's a former polygamist and she joins us next to talk about what the kids might have gone through in the compound.

We then move on to the American Morning preview, but during Kiran's look-live shot she throws it back to Anderson. "I'm sure she meant Campbell," says our anchor. I don't know why, that cracked me up for some reason. Anyhoo, on now to some discussion with Jeffrey Toobin and reporter and 360 go-to polygamy guy, Mike Watkiss. Mike is not surprised about this raid, but Toobin is in awe of the size, noting the strain it must be putting on the system. In terms of the legalities, our senior analyst tells us the obvious number one priority was just to get the kids out of danger and decide about possible prosecutions later. Mike then talks a bit about the girl who made the call. No one knows if she was one of the kids removed or what. That's kind of disturbing. Let's hope she got away from those people at least.

Transitioning now to the news that tomorrow General Petraeus goes to Washington. Is it sad that I'm actually looking forward to he and Crocker testifying? Don't answer that. It's just that it almost guarantees us some good Iraq coverage. Unless, of course, Britney Spears OD's or something. Then I guess all bets are off. For now though, we wet our palates on a Nic Robertson piece. We all know the plan is to train Iraqi troops so that they can take over for us, but in Nic's piece, we see how that process is, well, challenging. Even with encouragement from an American captain, the Iraqis look none too keen on taking down militias. In fact, you know what, they're going to take a lunch break first. Apparently that fighting can wait. No, I'm not kidding. This does not instill confidence, people. Eventually the Iraqis do go to the fight and come back with some injured, and claims that they killed a gunman. So, yay? After Nic's piece he notes that U.S. air power is a big factor in the fight right now and the Iraqis don't have that. So basically, we can never leave. Awesome.

Next up, we have a Candy Crowley piece on our latest installment of Days of Our Lives...On the Campaign Trail. More trouble for Clinton. This time she had to kick her senior strategist, Mark Penn, out of the senior strategist chair. Why? Oh, no biggie. It's just that while she had been loudly railing against the Colombian trade deal, Penn had been spending his off hours lobbying. For the deal. On behalf of Columbia. Wow, that's chutzpah. So, yeah, that's a pretty big whoops. The crazy thing is that he's still with the campaign, he just lost the fancy-smancy title.

This calls for some punditry from out most favoritist pundit, David Gergen. Or perhaps I should call him an analyst? More dignified? Anyhoo, The Gerg is all about fairness and optimism and playing clean, and apparently Mark Penn...isn't. Word has it he wanted to throw a bunch of nasty stuff at Obama last minute and now The Gerg thinks there's potential for the whole campaign to change. Well, Clinton definitely needs something to change.

Next up, Campbell tells us that according to Republican strategist Dan Senor, Condoleezza Rice is actively campaigning for a VP slot. She also tells us that she is married to Dan Senor. Campbell, not Rice. Hm. I forgot about that. It probably shouldn't, but it makes me view her differently. It's like how I can't trust Carville. Of course, that's as much to do with him being frickin crazy as him being married to Matalin. So there's that. So anyway, it seems like every once and a while there's this upswing of Condi buzz regarding the presidency or vice-presidency. So I guess it's about that time again. After her reign as National Security Adviser, sorry if I'm not able to muster up any support. I don't think she wants it anyway. In the piece, Grover Norquist says, "she articulates Bush's vision and what he's trying to do better than he does," but hell, I-articulate-better-than-Bush isn't exactly something to put on the resume. If you can speak in complete sentences, you're already there.

The Shot tonight is a massive crash from the Texas Motor Speedway in which the driver flipped over like eight times...and walked away! Amazing. The show was okay. It's nice to not be inundated with politics, but 30 minutes on polygamy? It's an important story, but like usual, they took it too far. If I wasn't blogging they would have lost me to another channel. As for Campbell, I know 360 regular viewers tend to be pretty hostile to new subs, but I think with time she'll adjust to the format of the show. I guess it's hard coming from network. I mean, look at John Roberts--he didn't mesh so well at first, but now he's fine. Also, a reminder to my readers that they're sneaking Planet in Peril stuff during the second hour. Have you seen the new site? Apparently they're going to do a special again, but it's unclear if any of the three musketeers will participate on location. And if so, we're left hanging on the most important question of all: will there be more tight black t-shirts? Well, will there? Inquiring minds and all. Heh. The show gets a B

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Thursday and Friday Odds And Ends

Hi everybody. On Thursday night we had a special broadcast of 360, Race and Politics: Black in America. But, eh, I just wasn't feeling it. A lot of the coverage felt like deja vu and I don't know if this makes sense, but it didn't feel like they were talking about race issues; it felt like they were talking about talking about race issues. I'm not sure cable news is even capable of tackling race in a meaningful way. You know who we need for this (and I'm loath to say it)? Oprah. Because love her or hate her, Oprah would cut through all the surfacey crap and get to the inconvenient truths (apologies to Al Gore). In fact, maybe she already has, I don't watch the show all that much.

Speaking of inconvenient truths, I do have to praise 360 for the Joe Johns piece on Martin Luther King's controversial remarks. I just wonder why it took everyone so long to realize the similarity with Reverend Wright's sermons. That's not a defense of Wright. I've only seen the clips shown on cable news, so I'm no where near informed enough on the subject to have an opinion either way, but one thing that's been bothering me since the Wright stuff surfaced is that everyone is talking about the way he put forth his argument ("God damn America!"), instead of discussing the foreign policy issues he brought up. But that's usually how we deal with stuff around these parts, isn't it?

Also? The discussion with Eleanor Holmes Norton and Stephanie Tubbs Jones was too cute. They were so happy!

A big transition now to some fun. Because I can. Hey, when Anderson Cooper woke up on Friday, do you think he knew he was about to be humiliated coming and going? I am of course referring to his appearance on Regis and Kelly, where he non enthusiastically did not exercise.

It's okay Anderson, I totally wouldn't have done it either. It's funny, because I was feeling bad for him and then I realized, hey, he's the one that keeps getting himself in these situations! 360's little masochist. Because in case he hasn't noticed, an embarrassed Anderson Cooper makes good television and it seems there are many just waiting for the opportunity to take advantage of that. Case in point, the slightly evil Ms. Erica Hill:

First of all, let me just say that I love that the 360 crew has time to choreograph and learn a whole exercise routine. It kind of makes you wonder what else they're doing back there. Hm. Maybe I should try watching the webcam again. Also, what is it with this show? Even all the crew guys are cute. Something in the water? And if so, can they share? Just saying. Okay, that's about it from me. And I think I've been pretty good, seeing as though that first video contains a very nice gun show. Ahem.

I'll be back to the regular reviewing on Monday.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Airlines And FAA Investigated, The Never-Ending Florida/Michigan Debacle, And Autism's Genetic Component (Wednesday's Show)

Hi everyone. We're beginning with BREAKING NEWS tonight, which Anderson Cooper tells us also contains EXCLUSIVE information. It's a twofer! Ladies and gentlemen, start your graphics. Apparently because I wasn't sufficiently scared enough of flying already, we're now learning that the FAA is investigating four major airlines (Southwest, American, Delta, and United). No major reason why, just, you know, they've been flying unsafe planes. Drew Griffin has been all over this story and he tells us this is all coming about because two FAA employees were so concerned about lax oversight that they went to Congress. You gotta love the whistle-blowers. It seems the main problem is FAA supervisors are too buddy-buddy with airline employees, thus helping them get around rules. So now planes are being grounded and inspections performed. And here you thought you only had to worry about terrorists.

But we're not done yet. In a Drew Griffin "Keeping Them Honest" piece we learn that jetliner windshield heaters have been overheating and causing the cockpit windshields to crack. That could probably be a problem. And guess what. A whole slew of people have known about this issue for years. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigated, but while the FAA is too tight with the airlines, they don't seem to be cooperative at all with the NTSB. Sounds like a huge systemic problem to me. Congratulations to Drew on a job well done (beats standing outside a prostitute's apartment, huh?), but dude, this is not crap I wanted to hear a few weeks before I fly. I know, I know, it's still the safest way to travel. But I maintain that if you're not a bird, it's not natural to be up in the air.

Transitioning now to a Candy Crowley piece on the working class vote. And man, Obama's really busting his butt for it. "We visited steel mills and apparel factories. And I played basketball with Bob Casey, and I fed a cat milk. I visited a chocolate store/museum," he says in a clip. Adding, "So give me your damn vote! I even bowled; what more do you people want from me?" Okay, perhaps not, but you have to laugh at the ridiculousness. Like someone is going to watch Obama feed a cat and be all, "yep, that's the guy for me." So anyway, blah blah blah and then we have some discussion with Candy Crowley and David Gergen. Is it Pennsylvania yet?

In tonight's "What Were They Thinking?" a Russian tennis player participating in a Florida tournament takes out his aggression...on his own face. The dude, like, wallops himself with his racket to the point that blood is streaming down from his forehead. That's insane. Simmer down, son. "We should point out, he actually went on to win the match. Lucky for him he wasn't played darts," says Anderson. Yuk, yuk, yuk. Yeah, or competitive shooting.

Moving on now to Tom Foreman live to talk about Florida's delegates. You were hoping that disaster had just kind of disappeared, weren't you? Well, no. But Howard Dean is making noises like they're going to get it all wrapped up. Then again, it sounds like no one has agreed to anything, so...still a mess.

For discussion of the democrat's ongoing nightmare, we're joined by David Wilhelm (for Obama) and Debbie Wasserman Schultz (for Clinton). Debbie is very enthusiastic when it comes to Florida and of course she would be because seating the delegates would help Clinton. Anderson asks her if a 50-50 split would be okay, but she dodges and says it's too early right now. David gets the same question and says it sounds fair to him. Then Debbie pipes up, saying, "Anderson, I can tell you that our delegation is united against a 50-50 split." He just asked you about that. What the hell? "So cutting through all the politics of this and the spin on this, I mean, for the Clinton side, basically, it seems like you don't want a 50-50, because that doesn't give any benefit to Senator Clinton, and she's behind. On the Obama side, it seems it's the status quo," says Anderson. Bingo. We don't even need these guys. Anderson gave us what's the what in about 10 seconds.

Next up we have a Randi Kaye piece on autism, as part of CNN's special autism day. Or something. I haven't been paying a huge amount of attention to their special coverage. It's a fascinating subject though with a frightening prevalence. In the piece we meet an adorable five-year-old named Dylan with autism who has memorized the New York subway grid. Man, I could have used that kid when I was there in November. Yeah, I got a little lost. Anyway, Dylan's mom had Dylan with a sperm donor and it turns out that out of 12 kids conceived from the same donor, three of them have autism and another is showing signs. So obviously there's a genetic component to autism, but unfortunately there's no way to screen for the condition yet. We've got pills for erectile dysfunction, but not a test for autism. Sure one's probably more complicated than the other, but you can't tell me our priorities aren't screwed up.

On now to a preview of the Soledad O'Brien's special on Martin Luther King's assassination. And now I'm singing U2: Early morning, April 4/Shot rings out in the Memphis sky/Free at last, they took your life/ They could not take your pride.

The Shot tonight is a painting elephant. No, really. Or, actually, maybe not really. Anderson and Erica are a bit skeptical. It paints better than me; that's all I have to say. Anyway, Erica then reminds us of that time Anderson got some lovin from an elephant while filming Planet in Peril (similar clip). " It's really weird. It's like someone is rubbing their nose all over your face," says Anderson. And when he's at a loss to describe the experience further, Erica helpfully suggests, "Maybe you should paint a picture about it." Bwah! Erica for the win. I have to say, after seeing Jeff Corwin's arm almost ripped off by an elephant, the trunk around Anderson's neck makes me retroactively nervous. After The Shot, Anderson gives his go-to-the-site-spiel, "You can go there to see all the most recent shots and the other segments of the program. You can read the blog. You can check out the "Beat 360" picture." Adding, " I'm exhausted by the end of this promo every time." Because they keep adding stuff! I'm tell you people, it's only a matter of time before we see Anderson and Erica spinning plates.

Hey, did you notice that they finally got Anderson and Erica authenticated on the blog? It's about time. Little pictures and everything. This is going to make things much easier on those of us that just want to see if they say anything interesting about programming and don't necessarily want to scroll through all of the (sometimes) inane comments. I don't know about you guys, but I find myself slowly giving up on the live-blogging. I never comment much anyway because I'm busy with my own blog stuff, but between not getting posted most of the time and all the commenters who seem more interested in their own agendas than an actual conversation, it's losing its luster. I'm really curious as to what the tone will be once the democratic nominee is decided. Maybe it'll be better then, or maybe it'll just be the same thing except with the general election nominees. Anyway, the show was okay. Really good stuff from Drew. B
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