Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Best Of Anderson Cooper 360 In 2008

The listicles continue! It's that time of year again. Yesterday, I posted my choices for the worst of 360 in 2008, which means it is now time for the praise-heaping to begin. I like doing that much better. As previously stated, the majority of the picks have been chosen by me, using my memory and a quick trip through my archives. I have also taken input from two other long-time 360 viewers. If you think I've left something out (and I've no doubt left out plenty) or disagree, feel free to chime in and leave a comment. Now on to the lovin!

I'll admit, when I heard Anderson Cooper tease this interview as "probably the toughest McClellan has faced," I might have raised an eyebrow in bemusement. But dang it if he wasn't telling the truth. Probing questions. Passionate follow-ups. This was our anchor totally on his 'A' game, leading me to deem the interview one of Anderson's best ever. Unfortunately, it got a little tainted when Dan Abrams decided to be a jerk and play fun with editing (you'll notice most of those clips don't even include Anderson's questions), but there was praise to go around as well. All in all, a most excellent job.

I debated on whether to include this because it wasn't exactly done by 360, but logistical issues and work put into the special no doubt affected the regular broadcast, so I think it merits inclusion. As I stated in my recap and review of PIP, the CNNers should be proud. Traveling across the globe is no small feat, and to do it in pursuit of important stories that the public may not exactly be clamoring for, is an admirable undertaking. All of the segments were informative and engaging, though Sanjay Gupta's reporting from Peru probably stands out as the strongest of the bunch. I look forward to the third installment of this series and respect CNN for their ratings-be-damned mentality when it comes to this issue.

One of the most frustrating things about cable news is their seeming belief that if anyone spends more than a few minutes discussing a specific topic, everyone will spontaneously burst into flames. This sound bite world we live in almost ensures that news is delivered to the masses lacking context. Not so with the map table. The discussions conducted during these specials are intelligent, thought-provoking, and often educational. In my prior post I derided the ever-present panels, but this is an example of conversation done right. I only have one request: more please.

Not long ago, you could ask any long-time 360 viewer to identify the show's biggest problem and you would almost always get the same answer: consistency, or actually, a lack there of. I know I myself have previously deemed this show the most inconsistent I have ever seen. It used to be that viewers had no idea what they were going to get and when they were going to get it. Would 360 be leading with Britney Spears? Doing an excellent hour on foreign issues? Nobody knew.

It was to the point that I had great difficulty describing the show to other people--even though I had been watching for years. But something happened in 2008. Aside from a few slip ups, I can now actually expect to see real important news at the top of the show every night. The sensational stories are still done (of course), but they've mostly been relegated to their own 'crime and punishment' segment, and the more trivial matters (and fun) have rightly found a home at the end of the broadcast.

The show has also exhibited a stick-with-it-ness that I'm not sure we've seen before concerning the segments ("The Shot," "Beat 360," even the retired "What Were They Thinking?). They used to pretty regularly start a segment, only to forget about it or ditch it a few days later. Though I would like to see a slight overhaul of the show regarding the panels, I hope they stick with this new-found consistency.

The financial coverage hasn't always been as deep as I would like, and I know I've noted previously that it would have been nice to get some good investigative coverage of these issues before everything went to hell, but I still think 360 should be commended for stepping up and calling out. They took on some powerful people (surely none too thrilled) and even made viewers ponder their own culpability in the economic disaster. Could the financial coverage have been better? Sure, but the attempt, and the fact that they're staying on the overall story is a step in the right direction. Honorable mention to hardworking financial guru, Ali Velshi.

Amid all the ridiculous pundits feeding us their wrong predictions, and sniping surrogates that had us scrambling for the remote, there was one really bright spot when it came to the coverage of the election: actual reporting! I'm really not that interested in what the chattering class of the Washington elite have to say about the problems that I face, but it's always a good thing when reporters bring us the perspectives of every day people just trying to get by. Though there were many correspondents that found themselves all over the good ol' USA, Gary Tuchman's reporting specifically stands out.

Whether investigating the persistent Obama-is-a-Muslim myth in Tennessee, taking a look at the nexus of politics and poverty in Kentucky, or following around everyone's favorite moose hunter in Alaska, Gary's stories were always respectful and engaging. Specifically in regards to covering Palin, it would have been easy for him to get caught up in the adoration from her supporters, or go the opposite route and turn snarky (which though enjoyable for me, would have admittedly been wrong). Instead, he struck a perfect balance, even with the piece where we learned that hey, you really can see Russia from Alaska. Here's hoping that 2009 brings less speculation and more actual reporting.

Let's face it, a lot of people who get booked on cable news are simply insane. Some of the conversations I've heard on the TeeVee I could never imagine going down in real life. This alternate reality where any statement is deemed legitimate for discussion often made the panels, shall we say, frustrating. That being said, as long as David Gergen is there, you know everything is going to be okay. The knowledge and thoughtfulness and just plain rationality that he brings to the table has resulted in proclamations of love and had me singing his praises on more than one occasion.

Sure, in the past I've noted his tendency to always give everyone the benefit of the doubt, even when they maybe don't deserve it. But in a world currently blanketed in cynicism, don't we need somebody like that? And yes, after watching him for a few years now I have come to the realization that he is, in fact, adorable. Besides, you have to love a man who knows how to boogie (Oh my God!). Honorable mention to the always amusing and informative Jeffrey Toobin.

Gay rights is not a subject that most outlets are exactly scrambling to cover, but 360 has done a good job keeping us informed of the battle, specifically concerning the developments regarding Prop 8. Though I understand that some viewers might find that the intense passion behind the issue results in annoying television, I thought the debates between Tony Perkins and Lisa Bloom and then Tony Perkins and Dan Savage were quite good. It should also be noted that, to my knowledge, 360 was one of the first to significantly cover the murder of Lawrence King.

This would be the spot where I dump everything that I want to mention, but don't exactly know where to put. One thing I've always admired about 360 is that though they take their work seriously, they don't really take themselves seriously. They realize that during this time of depressing news at every turn, it's okay to take a minute or two and have a little fun. Whether it's ambushing David Gergen with a declaration of love from Jessi Klein, asking Ed Henry's cameraman to pan out so we can see his shorts, playing "Single Ladies," for the 15th time, or conducting a mock "Voice of 360" contest, we've had some laughs in 2008.

The show also shines in their willingness to embrace new ideas. Yes, the webcast and live-blog are fairly gimmicky, but they're growing on me. Floor Crew Friday is a specific highlight. I've always had an affinity for behind-the-sceners, but who knew they could be so much fun! The Great Starburst(s) Debate of 2008 will go down in history. As for the regular blog, this year we saw it get quite the makeover. Fancy-pants! Not only is it more informative, with more perspectives than ever, it also allows us to read the comic-stylins' of the great Jack Gray. It's been quite a year. Here's to more fun and innovation in 2009.

Monday, December 29, 2008

The Worst of Anderson Cooper 360 In 2008

It's that time of year again. A time when media outlets everywhere take a gander over all the happenings of the previous 365 days and then squish those items into list form. I happen to have a special affinity for listicles, so this year I've decided that AC360 Review is going to get in on the action. In lieu of a normal post, the next two nights will be spent bringing you my picks for the best and worst of 360. The majority of the picks have been chosen by me, using my memory and a quick trip through my archives. I have also taken input from two other long-time 360 viewers.

I've tried to stick to issues only involving the show, which means these posts will be free of hologram and "BREAKING NEWS" mentions (the latter being something that I think is an issue of the entire network). But I'm sure a few items, specifically the criticisms, could still be applied to CNN as a whole or even the broader news media. Because I'd rather leave em' smiling than crying, I'm starting with the "worst" list first, items in no particular order. If you think I've left something out (and I've no doubt left out plenty) or disagree, feel free to chime in and leave a comment. And don't forget to come back for the follow up post where I give the show some lovin.

It was everything the media could have wanted in a news story: a major political figure, sex, hypocrisy, and it was important. The downfall of Eliot Spitzer was a completely legitimate story to cover. But unfortunately, once the true newsiness wore off, 360 couldn't let go. This led to a broadcast that consisted of an interview with a former pimp and a correspondent staking out a prostitute's apartment. Bizarre would be an understatement.

Every once and a while you run across a piece of journalism that is so abhorrent, it makes your jaw drop. This was one of those times. Drew Griffin's reporting on the community group ACORN left out pertinent facts and made biased insinuations. Everyone makes mistakes and I'd be willing to cut him some slack on this if the report was a one time thing (which is why I'm leaving off Tom Foreman's brief run-in with bad reporting). It wasn't. He continued the hackery all over CNN for days, taking much too long to finally get up to speed on the facts of the case. To add insult to injury, promised reporting of voter suppression, to my knowledge, never made it to air.

I'm not going to claim that 360 didn't cover the conflicts in 2008. That would be completely untrue and totally unfair. But the fact of the matter remains that the drop in coverage has been significant, with the lack of Afghanistan reporting being completely egregious. To my knowledge, the only broadcast in which Afghanistan was featured for most of the show, was when Drudge spilled the beans that Prince Harry was fighting there. The fact that it took a royal to get a light shined on everyone else is just shameful. That being said, in fairness I should point out that Anderson Cooper stated several times in 2008 that he was trying to get to Afghanistan. I have no reason not to believe him, so the effort should be noted.

Sometimes the media's tendency to go retarded becomes unbearable. The stakeout of Clinton's home when no one was even there falls into this category. They sure did fill up a lot of airtime with absolutely nothing. The Veepstakes coverage could also fall into this category. They just couldn't wait for their damn text message, could they?

I can't put my finger on exactly when (probably at about the start of the campaign), but at some point 360's broadcast shifted from being mostly fact-based reporting to sometimes majority speculative discussion. Given Anderson Cooper's tendency to note that he doesn't think viewers want to hear the opinion of a blow-dried anchor, one might wonder why he seems to think we do want to hear the opinion of a blow-dried pundit.

That's not to say the discussion is/was always bad. I am and will probably always be a huge fan of David Gergen, but the trivialities discussed and the amount of time given to this discussion every night is kind of ridiculous. And, quite frankly, lazy. There's a sense that they're just filling time instead of putting some effort into real reporting or even real interviewing. Compared to his colleagues, Anderson Cooper has barely conducted any real interviews this year. It's baffling. I'll be including one of them in the next post, but the fact that I had to reach back over six months to find it really says something.

This sort of overlaps with my last point involving the panels. So much speculation and just plain stupidness. Where to begin? Lip-stick on a pig? The dozens of, "can you believe that surrogate said that?" moments? Then there was all the hand-wringing about the polls when the election was months and months away. Oh my God, Obama isn't winning as much as he was before! He's doomed! There was discussion after discussion about demographics too. What does McCain have to do to win over taxidermists from Indiana who wear a size nine shoe? And let's not forget the narratives. Clinton has the nomination in the bag. Obama will take New Hampshire. The PUMAS will destroy the Democratic party! So much valuable airtime spent on making themselves look stupid.

My heading doesn't exactly convey what I mean to say, so let me explain. Objectivity in a journalist is unequivocally something to be admired. Anderson has stated before that he's proud of his stance and he should be. While he has always held his 'no opinions' beliefs, this year I have noticed that sometimes keeping with this standard has caused him to render himself ineffective as an anchor. Too many times I have witnessed a panel discussion in which a surrogate has been allowed to get away with saying something untrue because Anderson rarely ever challenges the guests. I realize there are time constraints, which in fairness should be pointed out, but asking a question and then presenting the answer (no matter how untrue or ridiculous it may be) to someone on the opposite side of the political aisle is not helpful to me.

As one of my friends says, "the job of a reporter, in many respects, is to ask the questions the viewers are unable to ask because they don't have access to the interviewee. That means questioning things at every turn, rather than being so "objective" all the time. Viewers have a sense of morality, and know damn well that sometimes there is a clear right and wrong. When Anderson fails to point that out, he's failing to speak for me, and thus failing to do his job. It makes me change the channel to someone who will ask questions for me."

I actually didn't want to include this item and initially thought maybe it was just my pet peeve, but I've had enough people bring up the objectivity issue to me unprovoked that I thought it relevant to mention. Regular readers might remember that I was particularly disturbed by Anderson's strive for balance when McCain and Palin (particularly the latter) were inciting violence at their rallies. Maybe I was being unfair in expecting anything more from him, but out of everybody, I figured he was someone who would get it. After all, he covered the aftermath of a genocide spawned by hate speech on the radio. I'm bringing this up again because Gary Tuchman (more on him tomorrow) actually went to some Palin rallies and did a good job at pointing out the hate speech without becoming opinionated. I think this is true in a lot of contexts--journalists are quite capable of calling people out or making points without becoming pundits. I wish someone would tell that to Anderson.

Yes, I feel a little bad about picking on Anderson twice, but such is the unfairness of life and he will get mentioned tomorrow. Almost exactly a year ago, our anchor made a little resolution in which he pledged to "blog much more often." His goal was to post every day. How'd he do with that? Epic fail! Over the past six months he's made a mere dozen or so blog posts, most of them in some way related to promotion. I was in no way going to hold him to daily blogging, but that's pretty bad. As for the live-blog, most nights we rarely get more than a "good evening," but really, I'm not going to complain about that.

I think asking him to chat with us and sometimes be on the webcast, all during his three minute breaks of broadcasting a live show, is a little much. I mean, should we make the poor guy stand on his head too? My one main beef with his live-blogging was when he would constantly say he was going to be blogging with us and then, uh, not. Don't be a fibber, Anderson. I don't think he does that much anymore and I don't think he should be made to participate. But the regular blog is another animal. I don't know what the deal is there. Brian Williams has the same stance of objectivity that Anderson does and I'm pretty sure he blogs almost every day. So...check in sometime, Anderson. We miss ya.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Katrina's Untold Story

Hi all. I'm pressing pause on my epic holiday laziness to point you to an amazing piece of journalism currently running in The Nation. I know I've linked this before, but it deserves to be given a second chance for anyone that may have forgotten. "Katrina's Hidden Race War," is the result of 18 months of investigative reporting by A.C. Thompson. What he found is very real evidence of white vigilantism against African Americans in the New Orleans's neighborhood of Algiers Point following the storm.

Predominantly a white neighborhood, Algiers Point stood between desperate victims seeking rescue, and a government evacuation area. According to the reporting, at least 11 men who set out on the journey through Algiers were shot, some of them fatally. At the time of publication, none of the deaths had been official investigated. Since that time, Representative John Conyers, chair of the House Judiciary Committee, has responded to the piece's revelations. The NOPD has responded as well, making a Christmas Eve announcement that the department will be looking into the alleged crimes.

I also urge you to read Thompson's related story, "Body of Evidence," which looks at the case of a body burned in the back of a car and whether or not the NOPD were the ones that lit the match. For more info about this reporting, you can watch an interview Democracy Now's Amy Goodman conducted with Thompson about a week ago. Given Anderson Cooper's dedication to New Orleans, I'd love to see Thompson show up on 360. Finally, the Nation Institute has produced a video to accompany their vigilante reporting. It contains footage of the alleged perpetrators themselves, quite gleefully reveling in their crimes. To call it disturbing would be an understatement. Watch for yourself:

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


Hi everybody. Wow, I totally slept through 360 last night. I've been super busy lately with work stuff, completing a program I've been doing for my breathing, and getting things ready for Christmas. Yesterday I laid down in the early evening and just did not get back up. I slept through dinner, 360, pretty much everything. It was nice. Anyway, not much to tell you. I'm not planning on reviewing anytime this week, except maybe Friday if they have a live show, but I'm sure I'll have something before Monday.

My brother and his girlfriend get into town tonight and then I have more get-togethers after that. I've never really understood the whole notion of dreading spending time with family over the holidays. My family is awesome. Oh, sure, they're completely insane and everything; but in an awesome way. I hope all my readers have their own awesomely insane break as well. So, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa, and greetings to all those hanging at Osama's homo-abortion-pot-and-commie-jizzporium.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Blagojevich Speaks, Caylee Anthony's Remains Found, It's Winter (!), Prop 8 Update, Bailout Talk, And Palin Family Getting More White Trash By The Day

Hi everybody! Up top tonight we kick things off with some "Men in Black" related snark regarding Governor Blagojevich's amusing hair ("call the Men in Black to zap the memory of that hairdo out of your head"). Aw, 360 is so hip with their pop culture references. Or, well, they would be if this was 1997. I kid! I kid! I loved the reference. I also loved the no BREAKING NEWS. Woo!

So anyway, today the foul-mouthed governor from Illinois decided to do a little talking to the press. In what is sure to be a shocker, he tells them he's not guilty. Also? He's will fight...and fight...and fight, apparently until his last breath. I thought he was going to go with "for his right to party," but no. And though he may be fighting, he will not be going on the TeeVee news shows. Then he'd have to answer questions! Oh noes!

Instead, he believes the appropriate forum to talk is court. Then he busts out an exceedingly long Kipling quote and tells us that the truth totally has his back. Near the end of the conference, he mentions that he wants to say "one more thing" and I swear to God, a part of me thought that line was going to be followed up with "Live, from New York, it's Saturday Night!" Satire and reality are kinda indistinguishable these days.

For more on this, we've got Jeffrey Toobin in the studio for the legal lowdown and Gary Tuchman still in Illinois, working the story. Jeffrey notes that the whole public appearance thing without taking questions seems to be becoming a trend. We just saw it yesterday with Caroline Kennedy. From Gary we learn that people are angry Blagojevich has claimed to be the victim of a political lynch mob. Apparently, it's a very bipartisan lynch mob because pretty much unless their last name is Blagojevich, they don't like him. It's hard out there for a corrupt governor.

Transitioning now to the news that they have found the remains of poor little Caylee Anthony. Such an awful case, though I can't say I'm surprised at the outcome. Erica Hill has a piece and then we're joined by Dr. Larry Kobilinsky and Ashleigh Banfield. I'm going to skip all that. I feel badly about what happened, but the little girl is gone. There is no longer anything television coverage can do that could be characterized as helpful. This is now straight up voyeurism and exploitation for ratings, plain and simple.

Moving on to a weather-related Susan Candiotti piece. Hello, winter! Snow everywhere. We had sleet here in St. Louis earlier in the week. Where was my weather update then, huh 360? Don't you love me? Anyhoo, we get all the requisite stuck in the airport type shots and then we go to Chad Myers for the latest. Chad, by the way, no doubt has himself a full inbox today after stepping in a little global warming-related controversy. The blogs are a-buzzing about his recent comment that, "to think that we could affect weather all that much is pretty arrogant." Oh boy.

Honestly, I don't know what to think about the comment. You can watch a clip of him saying this on TVNewser, but it seems like it starts and ends in the middle of the conversation. I'd like more context before I go all, "Oh my God, Chad is a global warming denier and therefore teh evil," which is kinda the sentiment from the Left now. People are so reactionary, I swear. Although, I will say that Jay Lehr clearly seems to be a nutter.

More on him here. Anyway, I hope Chad fleshes out his views more in the future. It would be really interesting if CNN, a network whose reporting has pretty consistently operated under the belief that global warming is real and man made, had a chief meteorologist that disagreed.

Jeffrey Toobin then rejoins us, this time to talk about Proposition 8. I guess it wasn't good enough just to deny couples the right to marry, no, now there's talk of taking away the marriage of those that have already done the deed. I'm sorry, that's just horrible. It's almost Christmas and they want to legally break up families? It's sick.

And guess who is behind this push? None other then Ken Starr. Yeah, you remember him. On the flip side, California's Attorney General Jerry Brown wants the California Supreme Court to overturn Prop 8. Jeffrey seems to think both sides have a case and it's anybody's ballgame. Let's hope humanity wins out.

Moving on now to discussion with David Gergen and Joe Johns on talk of the auto bailout and Obama's cabinet picks. Not wanting to be known as Hoover, Bush has decided to give General Motors and Chrysler a little don't-go-bankrupt money to tide them over this month and next. But we are still very much deep in the woods on this one.

As for the cabinet picks, the Gerg is very happy, calling Obama's peeps a "dream team." Also of note is when Anderson Cooper asks if there's "such a thing as too big a tent and too much of a team of rivals?" Lordie. First they question whether his picks were rivalry enough and now they ponder if it's too much. Stop filling time with pontification!

Our last piece of the night is from Joe Johns and we learn that the Palins are the family that just keep on giving. Now there's the news that Sherry Johnston, mom of Bristol Palin's baby daddy, has been arrested in Alaska on felony drug charges. You know 360 couldn't pass this one up. I would have guessed meth as the drug in question but the Anchorage Daily News sez Oxycontin. She should totally talk to Cindy McCain.

The Shot tonight is an iReport from someone who apparently watches 360 as much as I do. His name is Marcus Harun and he's put together a 16 minute fake broadcast of the program entirely by himself. It's kinda insane. Seriously, watch the whole thing. My mind is blown.

He's even got Anderson's quirky humor down (note him kidding his "panel"). Anyway, the real Anderson ponders, "He can do it by himself, how come we need these people?" If your mind jumped to the layoffs, you're not the only one: "Anderson, come on, we talk about the layoffs, we don't need to hear this. Christmas is next week!" says Erica Hill Aw, I'm crying sad tears for Miles and the others.

On the webcast tonight, we had a little lackluster Floor Crew Friday. Quite the opposite of the Great Starburst Debate of 2008. No one even wanted to take the microphone and finally it was given to Frank who I guess drew the metaphoric short straw. Aw, don't you all love us anymore? Also, Erica Hill talks about Anderson's Wii and gets some comments from him, which may or may not have been interesting, but I couldn't tell you since we can't hear what he's saying!

Another thing of note is that, once again, they totally left the sound on for almost the whole show. That's right 360, from the first commercial break to about 10 minutes before show's end, we heard everything that went on in studio. While I have to admit that I enjoy listening, it also makes me nervous, because it seems like a controversy waiting to happen--especially given the guests surely don't know their commercial chit chat is being broadcast to the masses.

As for what I heard, it was seemingly all benign, but I've decided to leave it un-recapped. Something about passing it on makes me uncomfortable. Your mileage may vary and I'm sure you can find the info on another Anderson-related site if you so desire. That'll do it.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Obama's Rick Warren Headache, Caroline Kennedy Talks (Kinda), Bill Clinton Reveals Donors, Justice For Rwanda, Bailout Talk, And Pork Projects

Hi everybody. Sorry for the no blog yesterday. I was falling asleep during 360, so I decided to take a pass. Anyhoo, we begin with, what else, BREAKING NEWS--this time the subject being the inauguration prayer controversy. If someone can explain how this is in any way "breaking" I'd appreciate it. So okay, Obama has angried-up his base by inviting Pastor Rick Warren, non supporter of gay rights, to give the prayer at his big swearing in. Both men are feeling the heat and have therefore released statements with Warren's basically saying, "yay, Obama!" and Obama's saying, "we can disagree without being disagreeable, yo."

In a subsequent Tom Foreman piece we further learn that progressives are mad. So very mad! They don't think Obama should be giving someone with bigoted views a fancy schmancy platform to do anything. But Warren claims he's all about the love and just has a different view. And besides, he, like, has gay friends and stuff. So it's all good. Right? I mean, yeah, he did kinda compare gay marriage to incest and pedophilia, but can't we all just get along? All he did was insinuate their lifestyle is the same as preying on young children. Those gays are so sensitive.

After Tom's piece, Anderson Cooper informs us that blacks are mad Obama didn't choose a black pastor and conservatives are mad that Warren is associating with Obama. Look at that, our prez-elect is uniting already--no one likes this choice. We're next introduced to tonight's panel of David Gergen, Hilary Rosen, and Earl Ofari Hutchinson (new kid buys the drinks!). The shocker of shockers, the ever-conciliatory Gerg is cool with the Warren choice and thinks we need to give Obama a chance. He also informs us that though he might not agree with Warren on some things, he does respect that the man has broadened the spectrum of conservative Christian issues to include things like global warming, poverty, and HIV.

These are all good points and I myself would probably fall in the Gerg's camp if it wasn't for the comparison comments. Hilary nails it. She points out that this is not a policy difference--Warren's comments are dehumanizing. "... to compare gay relationships with incest or pedophilia, the way we just heard him do, is simply unacceptable," she says. Then later, "that's what I think people just don't get. This is not about gay marriage." I'm actually more annoyed at the people defending Obama's choice than I am at Obama's choice itself. As Hillary says, they clearly do not get it. Earl thinks we shouldn't be surprised because Obama has always said he was going to reach out to evangelicals. I guess Warren's probably the least anti-gay as they come, huh?

Transitioning now to a Mary Snow piece on Caroline Kennedy and that eye she's got on Hillary's senate seat. Today she was out lunching with Al Sharpton and...she speaks! Well, for a second anyway. Apparently, she thinks she has a lot to learn and she's an education advocate and blah, blah, blah. Nothing really news-bite worthy here. Back with the panel, Anderson is having Sarah Palin flashbacks. He wants Kennedy to talk to us, God dammit! Anderson is not happy when you deny him, people. And he, of course, has a total point. Kennedy will be representing the people--it might be nice for them to, I don't know, maybe know what she believes.

On now to a Joe Johns piece that informs us that Bill Clinton is finally giving up his donor list of his charitable foundation and even posting it online. Interesting tidbits? Well, he got $10 million from the Saudis for one. Then there's a donation from security contractor Blackwater, which by all intents and purposes is kinda evil, so that's disappointing. But the big story here is the potential conflicts of interest Hillary will face in her role as secretary of state. After all, Blackwater gave a donation and Blackwater has a contract in Iraq. Tricky line-walking ahead.

Next up, Lil' Anderson! Today Theoneste Bagosora, a former colonel in the Rwandan army, was sentenced to life in prison for his role in the 1994 genocide that took 800,000 lives. Anderson was there for a short period after the slaying and we get a clip of his reporting from that time. Normally, this is when I'd be all over some good-natured mocking, but the fact that he's surrounded by bodies really puts a damper on the fun. Such a horrific event. I was hoping they'd cover this--it's a story that has 360 written all over it. For those interested, David Mckenzie filed a report on the sentencing earlier today.

Transitioning now to Ed Henry and Ali Velshi joining us for some bailout talk. See, now the story has moved on to something called "orderly bankruptcy." Hm. As Ali explains, bankruptcy isn't really just about going out of business, but having time to negotiate with your creditors. Apparently an orderly bankruptcy just means people will know more about what's going to happen. Or something. I mean, shouldn't it be done like that all the time? But don't worry, people. Back from playing a rousing game of Iraqi dodge-shoe, our prez is all over this. And by all over this, I mean he's got it on his to-do list after "master Guitar Hero."

As Anderson says in response to a clip, "President Bush kind of kicked back, just talking about the desperately ailing auto industry." Yeah, the country's about to start bread lines. No biggie. Don't strain yourself, Dubya. My favorite part is when Bush says he doesn't want to dump Obama "a major catastrophe in his first day of office." Um...hello! Too late! Ed talks to us about Bush's dying legacy. He's stuck between possibly taking down the auto industry and risking too many bailouts. Aw, buck up, prez. You still have Iraq and Katrina.

Moving on to an Abbie Boudreau piece on those infrastructure projects that city mayors and governors want to help grow jobs and jump start their local economies. But guess what? The proposals have pork in them. I'm, like, so surprised. Though really, I think I'm done with being outraged about this earmark stuff. It usually turns out to seem more nefarious that it actually is. Check out this post for a rebuttal to the piece. Also, not to be petty, but it was good to see Abbie doing this story and not who we would usually have.

Our last piece of the night is from Erica Hill on a white-girl-gone-missing story back in the news. Remember Stacy Peterson and her bizarre husband Drew? Well, Stacy still hasn't turned up, but Drew is getting hitched again. You might recall that he's suspected of killing Stacy, allegedly threatened to kill his second wife and make it look like an accident, and his third wife's death was ruled a homicide (he was never charged). I can't wait for my invitation! You know, I think the sole purpose of this piece was simply for 360 to have the opportunity to say, "this guy is a huge douchebag," which is very much implied. I second that notion.

The Shot tonight: Jim Carrey. Larry King. Bubble bath. Do I really need to say more? Surprisingly, still not as disturbing as this. Anyhoo, Erica Hill wonders if either Jim or Larry might have been wearing Flame, Burger King's new cologne. Yes, you read that right. The cologne is supposed to smell like their burgers. Because you know, if there's one thing I look for in the fellas, it's the aroma of meat hastily fried up by 16-year-olds. Yum.

Since I missed blogging last night, I have to catch you up with the webcast. When last we met our heroes, we finally got an answer to the Starburst versus Starbursts question. The candy company has spoken and there is no "s." But confronted with this verdict, Frank still refuses to waiver from his "s" stance. Very Bush-like there, Frank. Today, Erica brought the crew some Starburst candy canes. And, well, that's all she wrote. If there was more, my computer denied me.

For those interested, The Nation is running a long piece titled, "Katrina's Hidden Race War." I haven't gotten through it yet, but I know the subject is near and dear to many of you.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Bernard Madoff Case, Jesse Jackson, Jr. An Informant, Obama Names Duncan, Kennedy For Senate, Adam Walsh Case Closed, And Bush Exit Interview

Hi everybody. Raise your hand if you're cold! There's nothing like spending 20 minutes unfreezing your car in the morning. And I especially like having to climb in my passenger side because my driver's side door is frozen shut. A very graceful performance for the neighbors. Anyway! We're kicking things off with some new and improved (?) BREAKING NEWS regarding that Ponzi scheme run by Bernard Madoff. I have to be honest, I completely missed the boat on this story. I didn't pay attention when it broke and I haven't watched since, so I hope no one was looking for any real information.

In a subsequent Joe Johns piece, we learn that the Security and Exchanges Commission is admitting that they do, in fact, suck. Also, fun fact: If like me, you were sitting there wondering, "Why do they call it a Ponzi scheme?" I can tell you the name comes from Charles Ponzi, an Italian who immigrated to the U.S. in 1903, who successfully bilked people out of a lot of money. Thanks, Wikipedia! We're next joined by Ali Velshi and Andy Swerver, the latter of who was shocked to hear an SEC mea culpa and who believes Madoff is a "financial psychopath."

Anderson Cooper is really engaged in this story, to the point that I'm wondering if he lost money. Also, he seems to be having an existential crisis. "What's stunning about this to me is, as a layman, I tend to believe these people who say they're business experts, who say they are hedge fund experts and SEC experts," and then, " I don't believe anybody knows anything anymore. I mean, who really knows what is going on?" Aw, it's going to be okay. Probably. Maybe. Oh hell, what do I know? No one knows anything anymore.

Moving on now to Gary Tuchman coming at us live from Springfield, Illinois, where it looks to be a wee bit chilly. So, apparently, Jesse Jackson, Jr. has been an informer for the feds about corruption in his state for at least a decade. Whoa! That's a nifty little twist. The rest of the time Gary talks to us I have this stuck in my head. Early 90's shout out!

Next up, we have a Jessica Yellin piece about Obama tapping Arne Duncan to be the new education secretary. But during the Q&A the rascally press corps first wanted to talk about Blagojevich. Obama was having none of it. Wham! Denied! So back to Duncan, he's not without controversy. He's backed measures such as paying kids for good grades and even tried to set up a gay friendly high school. That last thing makes him sound pretty awesome to me. But you know the drill: a place for gay kids to feel safe while learning? We can't have that! *Le sigh*

On now to our discussion panel, because it's the law. We're joined by David Gergen, Joe Johns, and Jeffrey Toobin and Anderson kicks things off by noting that, like, oh my God, Obama didn't even answer the reporters' questions! My feelings about this topic and the press can pretty much be summed up with this post from John Cole. Though I'm not sure I would call John King a wanker. Harsh!

Transitioning now to a Mary Snow piece all about Caroline Kennedy possibly getting appointed to Hillary Clinton's senate seat. Her qualifications are being debated by all sides and I'm very meh about all of this. It doesn't seem right that just one person can give away a senate seat. I didn't even know you could do that until I watched "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington." Cute Jimmy Stewart! Personally, I think D.C. has seen enough dynasties.

After Mary's piece, we're back with our panel and Anderson notes that Paterson is under tremendous pressure, but Jeffrey disagrees. Then Anderson brings up Harry Reid and other Democrats to back up his statement, leading Jeffrey to say, "What does Harry Reid do to the governor of New York?" And that, my friends, was probably the most heated debate you'll ever see from Anderson Cooper. The Gerg thinks Kennedy is all but in and Jeffrey just wants to see somebody other than a friggin politician. I second that motion.

Anderson then brings up celebrities and how they act entitled to these kind of things, though he's careful to note he's not putting Kennedy in that camp. Then he starts going off on Elisabeth Hasselbeck because she was all mad she didn't get invited to the White House Christmas party. Apparently someone watched "The View" this morning. "Why should she be invited to the White House Christmas party? I don't understand," he says. Can one really understand Elisabeth Hasselbeck? And then, "I know, I'm veering off topic." Just a smidge. This is what happens when one keeps all opinions under wraps like they're the nuclear code. Sometimes they just gotta burst out!

Transitioning now to a Randi Kaye piece on the news that the killer of Adam Walsh, John Walsh's son, has finally been identified after 27 years. Wow. We're played an emotional press conference with Walsh and get the background from Randi. Adam disappeared from a Florida mall, only his decapitated head was later found. The man identified today, Otis Toole, actually confessed to the crime twice, but recanted.

Sloppy police work and not yet up to snuff DNA testing resulted in Toole never being charged. He died over a decade ago. Walsh then went on to found the National Center for Missing an Exploited Children, a great organization no doubt, though I have a lot of problems with John Walsh himself. He's way too quick to point the finger of blame and talks in certainties about things he doesn't know. That being said, I'm happy this day finally came for him.

On now to a short clip of Candy Crowley's "exit interview" with Bush. In the clip we see he's asked about the pressure he felt in 2006 to pull out of Iraq. He tells us that he couldn't live with himself if he'd chosen to just leave, which leads one to assume that he can live with himself for all the other destructive choices he's made. Bye, Dubya. Don't let the shoe hit you in the head on your way out.

The shot tonight is a puppy poll. No, really! CNN/Opinion Research Corporation polled people on whether the Obamas should get their puppy from a shelter or breeder. Man, the poll people must have the shakes or something after the election. They'll poll anything! The verdict? Shelter puppy wins!

Randi Kaye manned the webcast tonight and she first talked Ponzi schemes with Ali, who tell us that if it looks too good to be true, it probably is. Wise advice, my friend. Then she does a little chat with Jeffrey and we learn his daughter just got into college. Also, tonight was apparently some kind of crew potluck dinner of which Randi and Anderson were not invited. Ooh diss! Randi asks everyone what they made and not a one passes up the opportunity to note that Kevin did not bring anything. Gasp! Well, obviously he must now be stoned. And apparently the universe already got on that because he's sporting a big bruise. No, he didn't really get stoned (at least not with rocks--tee hee); he got doored. Opened it right into his head, I guess. See, that's what you get for not cooking. Karma's a bitch, my friend.

Finally, one of my commenters from Peru has been all over the Doe Run story. She just did a great post on the subject with lots of info and links on how to help. Also, make sure you check out the comments as well. That'll do it.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Newsy Musings: Graphics, Promotion, and Layoffs --Oh My!

Hi everybody. Tonight I had a visitor who was unaware I have a date with Anderson Cooper every weeknight. In other words, no review. I missed a lot of the show. What I did get to see seemed pretty meh, so I'm not all that torn up about it. Although, I probably would have had some fun with the Bush "shoe attack" coverage. I know there are serious implications behind the incident, but I'm sorry, I'm still laughing.

From my brief viewing of CNN today, it looks like the red BREAKING NEWS graphic might finally be gone...only to be replaced with a yellow BREAKING NEWS graphic. Oh, well, that's much better. Yes, it seems CNN has a new look. They're bleeding reporters left and right, but apparently that's okay if your graphics look snazzy. For me, it's not a matter of liking or not liking the new screen; its about learning to tolerate the clutter. It took me forever to learn to completely ignore the crawl. Now I have to train myself all over again with ths "flipper" thingee. Grrr.

You know, I don't understand CNN. Like, at all. I've been trying to figure out who they want their viewer to be and I just don't know. Are they trying to grab the casual channel flipper when they can or are they wanting to build a loyal base who considers their shows appointment viewing? Obviously any network is going to take anybody they can get, but CNN seems to be shooting themselves in the foot a lot. Case in point, I caught a few minutes of the second hour of 360 tonight. We all know that this hour is usually taped and almost a complete repeat of the hour preceding.

Thing is, I say "we" know this because I'm betting almost everyone reading this post is an appointment viewer. If that's what they're going for, fine. But if they're wanting to pick up new viewers flipping around, the fact that they air the second hour with no "previously taped" bug is a problem. And somewhat dishonest. People don't look for the absence of a live bug when watching news--they just assume it's live. Sure, seeing that the news is taped could drive people away, but consider this: Anderson is telling them to do things that no longer apply. Join others on the live blog, he says. Watch Erica Hill's webcast, he says. Well, all that is over in the second hour. Selling people a bill of goods is no way to gain new loyal viewers.

Switching to the subject of promotion, oh my God, if I see one more Campbell Brown Internet ad I think I'm going to scream. She's everywhere! Oversaturate much? They better watch it before there's a backlash. I seem to remember something similar with Anderson back in the day, though I don't think that was even this bad.

I see there's been some talk about Planet in Peril's bad ratings. After reading a few reviews and reader comments, including the Washington Post Blog that linked to my own post on the special, I'm beginning to wonder if they might have completely blown it in terms of promotion. A lot of the comments I've read have been hostile to Anderson and have brushed the documentary off as shallowness. Anyone who actually watched knows that's not true, but what was consistently hammered on whenever PIP was brought up? Anderson swimming with sharks. Would the casual viewer who was just interested in seeing that cute guy from Regis and Kelly swim with sharks, necessarily sit through watching sharks have their fins sliced off? Maybe. Maybe not.

I just wonder what would have happened if their promotion was a little more well-rounded. Maybe more of the serious viewers would have tuned in--those who actually want to learn about what's happening to the earth. It just seems like CNN is always all over the place. They try to be everything to everyone and in the end continue to get crushed by Fox News. Though I loath that network, I have to give one thing to them: they know who they are and they know who their viewers are. MSNBC is on the same road. CNN has no identity. It doesn't have to be about a political point of view. They could be the network that is about good journalism.
Instead, they consistently copy Fox News, a strategy that is a guaranteed failure.

Layoff Watch: Another two bite the dust. Linda Stouffer and Rusty Dornin. Merry Christmas, from CNN.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Heads Up!

The latest to be filed in my drawer titled, "I probably shouldn't be hysterically laughing, but..." I shall put it right behind the folder containing Dick Cheney shooting an old man in the face.

Iraqi journalist hurls shoes at Bush's head:

Friday, December 12, 2008

More Blagojevich Fallout, Auto Bailout Failure, Anderson's Interview With Phelps, And Starburst Vs. Starbursts--A Candy Conundrum On The Webcast

Hi everybody. I think tonight's review is going to be on the fluffy side. It's Friday and I'm not really in a buckle down and get serious about recapping kind of mood. Shall we begin? You know what's coming, right? Yep, BREAKING NEWS kicks us off as per usual, the subject this time being one Mr. Rahhhhhm Emanuel and the fact that he is not a target of the Fitzgerald probe against Governor Rod Blagojevich. Hm. Well, I'm not a target either. Where's my BREAKING NEWS banner? This is, like, negative news or un-news or we-didn't-really-need-to-be-told-that news.

But Jessica Yellin joins us live to inform us that, yes, we did need to be told that because the non-news implies that Rahhhhhm probably did talk to the governor's people about something. Okay then. So...pretty much you don't know anything.

Next up, Drew Griffin plays the role of stalker in order to get a pointless soundbite and b-roll for future stories. You know the drill: reporter waits around Blagojevich's house until he comes out, then shoves a microphone in his face, and gets....nothing. Denied! Do we actually expect people to talk in that situation? In a subsequent Drew piece, we play a game of "just who hates the governor?" Answer? Everyone, apparently. The attorney general of the state wants him stripped of power, the legislature is working to take away his ability to name someone to the senate, and Congress is working towards his impeachment. Feel the love!

Then there's a snippet of Jesse Jackson, Jr related news, but I didn't really get that down.

Moving on to a David Mattingly piece on the auto bailout. The failed auto bailout. From David we learn that many of the Republican senators that caused the legislation's failure come from southern states where foreign brands--competition of the Big 3--are made. What a coinkidink. Also, almost all southern states have right to work laws. Then there's the even rawer politics involving campaign contributions from UAW over the years. Hm, do you think those getting the most cash voted yes or no? Do I even need to tell you; I don't think I do.

Our nightly panel is up next and we're rocking out with David Gergen, Jeffrey Toobin, and Joe Johns. They start out with speculation about Obama, which continues to tick me off. I know, I know, you guys love conflict and controversy. Makes a good story. Funny thing is, the administration of our current preznit (blessedly on his way out) was practically bursting at the seam with conflict and controversy--still is, actually. Yet the media feeding frenzy most of the time wasn't so much of a frenzy, as maybe a little nibble. Obama is not even in office yet. Can we maybe at least wait until he is before the massive speculation starts?

On now to a Gary Tuchman piece on the questionable sanity of the potty-mouthed governor from Illinois. Yep, we get some more "bleeping" from Gary and yep, it's still amusing. See, this dude has known he's been under investigation and even just recently said people could tape him and it wouldn't matter since he was always lawful. Perhaps he has a different understanding of the word 'lawful' than the rest of us. Or...he's frickin crazy. At least that's what some fellow Illinois politicians think. But they're not professionals. Sometimes 360 guest Dr. Gail Saltz thinks it's very possible he could be having an emotional or mental issue, though Gary is quick to point out that no real diagnosis can be made without a face-to-face evaluation. Unless you're determining whether or not a woman is in a permanent vegetative state. Then video is totally legit. Will Bill Frist jokes ever get old? No they will not.

Next up, we have a piece from Joe John on some corporate crook named Bernard Madoff. This actually looked like a good piece...but I totally didn't pay attention to it. I know, bad blogger! Bad, bad blogger! Did I mention it's Friday?

Transitioning now to Anderson Cooper's 60 Minutes interview with merman Michael Phelps. But first we begin with a clip of Anderson co-hosting Regis and Kelly this morning where the guest was, coincidentally, Michael Phelps. Well, that worked out nicely. Anyway, at this point everybody and their grandmother knows about and has seen the Phelps/Cooper race, but in this clip we learn that Anderson's little condition of only swimming under water actually helped the human fish. You know, I wondered about that. And I think it's hilarious that Michael didn't say anything until now.

From here we cut to the 60 Minutes interview and learn that Michael is tired, y'all. After non-stop appearances, he's so tired that it takes him under a minute to fall asleep while riding in the car with Anderson. Not really an attractive sleeper, I must say. Also? How anyone could fall asleep while sitting next to Anderson Cooper is beyond me. Just saying. We also learn that Phelps' training was insane. He took no days off. And no days means no days--not even Christmas.

Okay, back to another Regis and Kelly clip and this time Kelly is mocking our anchor's rather grandpa-like swimming attire. Aw, he was just being prepared. You never know when you might need a parachute. Kelly then shows a photo of Anderson wearing a Speedo, which she allegedly found on the Internets. It cracks me up how he immediately starts to deny the authenticity (saying "that's not..."), as if we're really going to believe that the worst photo-shopping in the world is actually him. Back in the 360 studio, live Anderson quips that it's actually Wolf Blitzer's body. Oh, dude. Mental image! Do not want!

In the rest of the 60 Minutes piece we learn that Michael Phelps is so hot that even his mom and dog--yes, dog--have sponsorships. Though I have to say that it's very cool that his mom remains a school principal. Also, Anderson makes her cry. Because he's a meanie. Or because he told her nice things her son said. Whichever. We then get a little look-see of Michael's apartment, which is messy and not very nutritionally stocked. Speaking of which, that 12,000 calories a day rumor? Lies! All filthy lies! The actual number is only 8,000 to 10,000 when training. Because those numbers aren't at all shocking. Finally, there's the race--talk of the interwebs, which I've probably seen a few more times than I'd like to admit. Oh, like you haven't. Don't play.

The shot tonight is a vice-presidential puppy. The Obamas may not have yet made up their minds on their new pooch, but it turns out that Joe Biden had been wishing for a furry friend himself. He's adopted what is quite possible the cutest German Shepherd puppy ever. I had heard that our VP-elect had been asking his wife for one, which in of itself is rather adorable. But the news that he got the puppy through a breeder causes Erica Hill to get on her soapbox. Anderson notes that this is a "point of contention" with her and then sheepishly admits he got his dog from a breeder too. Gasp! I totally have Erica's back on this. Go to the Humane Society, people! That's where I got my dog and besides being overly clingy and petrified of thunderstorms, he's as perfect as can be.

The show was actually much better tonight than I thought it was going to be. After being busy with the Planet in Peril hubbub and it being a Friday, I was pretty much expecting the suck. Of course, they did have a nice long quality profile all produced and waiting to be dropped in as filler, so that probably helped. But no Caylee Anthony coverage?! Is it my birthday? They deserve a big cookie for that. I'd also like to give them a zillion cookies for Planet in Peril because, well, I feel bad.

The ratings are in and...not good. Not good at all. There hadn't been as much promotion this time around--I know it's hard to believe, but it's true--so I was expecting lower numbers than last year. But Jeebus, third in the demo? They even got beat by Headline News in the second hour, I guess proving that one little girl in peril trumps a whole planet. Depressing. I don't know what to say, PIPers. You done good. Don't let it get you down.

On now to the webcast with perhaps the most hilarious edition of Floor Crew Friday ever. We begin with what might be life's quintessential question: what is the plural form of Starburst candy? What follows is the most lively debate over a chewy treat that I think I've ever seen and it had me cracking up the entire show. They were serious about getting to the bottom of this, y'all! Crew members came out of the woodwork to make elaborate defensives of their positions using inordinate amounts of vending machine goodies as evidence--Skittles, Snickers, Kit Kat bars, you name it. Seriously, I bet they have to restock the machine now.

At one point I thought we were going to have a Starburst fight! Different methods of persuading were used. Frank metaphorically broke himself up into Franklets, while Ed went all scientific on our asses. Erica, meanwhile, casually munched on some "evidence" while the fellas quickly handed the microphone off to each other like they were doing closing arguments in a court room. I believe the words, "I rest my case," were used. The debate also spread to the blog where Anderson said more than he has in weeks, and even The Gerg weighed in before he got on with his serious analyzing. But in the end, when it comes to the floor crew, Kevin is king--or at least judge. No 's.' Kevin has spoken. And that, my friends, is that.

Okay, maybe it's my warped since of humor, or the fact that I pondered almost this same question when including Zagnuts in one of my prior posts, but they should think about putting this on the web. It's a classic. I felt like I was watching a sketch on a satire show, but they were serious! Well, mostly. Thanks for the laughs, guys.

Lay-off Watch: >Kathleen Koch, Kelli Arena, and Jamie McIntrye are out. So, is CNN replacing all their reporters with holograms or what?

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Planet In Peril: Battle Lines

Hi everyone. Well, a year's worth of work from our CNN friends has finally been viewed by the public and I think they should be quite proud of themselves. Once again, they've managed to produce an educational, engaging, and aesthetically intriguing documentary. Very snazzy intro and transitional graphics. And how nice was it to actually be able to see your whole television screen? Oh sure, there was occasional pimping going on at the bottom, but for the most part our viewing experience was blessedly clutter free.

The special kicks off in Central Africa where rising food prices have forced people farther into the forests in search of bushmeat to feed their families. Bushmeat, by the way, consists of critters, some of them cute little monkeys. Yes, I am sad. But people have to eat and unfortunately the slaughter of furry friends is not the big picture problem here. Both Anderson Cooper and Sanjay Gupta go on separate hunts for bushmeat and as they learn from an epidemiologist, the animals being sought can contain nasty viruses--some possibly transferable to humans.

We've seen it happen before, most notably with HIV. That particular virus is believed to have started in a chimp in Cameroon in the 1900's. However, it wasn't until air travel boomed in the 1980's that it became a global pandemic. It's pretty scary to realize that something lurking in the middle of a forest in Cameroon could be infecting a major American city within a mere 48 hours or so. One bright spot is that when our hunters come across another group of hunters that actually were successful in their quest for bushmeat, it's discovered that they're carrying filter papers to have the animals' blood tested. At least some of the preventative education is working.

From here, Anderson and Sanjay go to the Democratic Republic of the Congo where people are being quarantined due to monkey pox. Yes, monkey pox. It looks like a fairly nasty thing to have. We're shown video of a woman who has the pox, but apparently she was too contagious to interview or something. I don't know. It seems weird that they went to the Congo just for this, but perhaps a lot of footage got cut.

Switching reporters now, we travel with Lisa Ling to Nigeria to learn about the fight over oil going on in the Niger Delta. Her goal is to meet with the group MEND, which stands for the Movement for Emancipation of the Niger Delta. Nigeria is very oil rich and MEND believes the people should get to reap some of the benefits and they're willing to make their case by whatever means possible, even if it means targeting the government and taking oil company employees hostage.

Longtime 360 viewers might remember former CNNer Jeff Koinange also did some reporting on MEND. Of course, then there were questions about his reporting and then there was a woman and then there was an alleged relationship and then there were blog posts and then there was scandal(!) and then there was you're fired! The moral of the story? Never scorn a woman with a blog. Ahem. Anyway! Lisa goes on a long boat ride to a super-seekret meeting with MEND and when she finally gets there they're shooting the hell all over the place, just because they can, I guess. Man, Lisa is fearless.

In a quasi-comic twist, one of the MEND gets accidentally shot. Good lord. These guys may be rag tag idiots, but you can somewhat sympathize with their cause when you see what the oil companies have wrought. Take Shell for example; they let a pipeline just leak for three months, ruining the environment. The communities around the delta rely on fishing, and 6,000 oil spills since the mid 70's have made that mighty hard. I love that CNN is taking Shell to task on this. Lisa even tries to meet with the head of the company in Nigeria, but the meeting is canceled. This was some great reporting by Lisa.

From the Delta, we hook back up with Sanjay and take a trip to La Oroya, Peru, one of the world's most polluted places. To state it plainly, smoke stacks from the town's Doe Run smelter are poisoning the community and causing 98 percent of the children to have elevated lead counts. Sanjay tells us he can feel the pollution affecting him after only one day; image being a child and living there. There have been complaints that have resulted in improvement, but for the most part, the company is still poisoning the town.

One reason this hasn't turned into a full fledged fight against Doe Run is that the company is the largest employer in town, putting the people in a dilemma of choosing between earning a living and basic health, a choice no one should have to make. The twist in this story is that Doe Run has a sister company located in Herculaneum, Missouri, and shocker of shockers, they've somehow managed not to poison the Missouri kids. This makes one wonder if perhaps the people of La Oroya just aren't all that important to Doe Run's parent company, The Renco Group, founded by Ira Rennert (more calling out. yay!). Again, some great investigative work here.

We next leave the polluted air of La Oroya and tag along with Lisa to Costa Rica, Cocos Island to be specific. The focus at hand is on sharks, 100 million of which are killed around the world every year. The murders are committed in order to get their fins, which are then used to make shark fin soup, popular in Asia. Lisa notes that we should care about this because sharks are the top predator in the food chain and to lose them could collapse the whole ecosystem. I think we should care simply because the process of finning is horrific. They catch the poor sharks on hooked lines, slice off their fins, and then toss them back in the ocean where they have no other choice but to sink and drown. Again, horrific.

Lisa and crew then follow the fins to Asia and we see thousands of them at a port in Taiwan. But apparently the workers there are not too fond of cameras. That might have something to do with the fact that the industry depends on customer demand for the soup. If you knew something you ate was not only brutally killed, but might become extinct, would you still order the same thing for lunch?

Back to Anderson now, and he's taking us off the coast of South Africa where we get a little more up close and personal with our great white shark friends. Well, he does anyway. He does a little cage diving, which is apparently a tourist draw. This is not without some controversy. Some feel that throwing chum (that lovely blood and guts nastiness) in the water to bait the sharks is actually teaching them to eat people. Which, you know, kinda a bad thing.

But others don't think the process is an issue and in fact, there's one crazy dude that even does the dives without a cage. Guess who's crazy enough to join him? You know who I'm talking about. White hair. Blue eyes. Cute, but with sporadic moments of nuttiness? And if those clues didn't tip you off, I'm sure the incessant CNN promotion and gazillion articles written about the cageless dive did.

Yes, Anderson has added sharks to our list of things we fear are going to kill him (list already containing hurricanes and bullets). Also, I love how he says "we decided" to do it. Um, you and who else? So anyway, he goes down and the first thing that happens is his weight belt falls off, which probably would have given me a coronary. I imagine at that moment his internal dialog was very Blagojevich-sounding. After that, he just pretty much chills on a rock and after some sharks swim by, that's that. Very cool. And thank you sharks for giving us back our anchor in one piece.

We next ditch Anderson and travel with Lisa to Eastern Chad for a closer look at the Ivory Wars being waged in Zakouma National Park. The elephants are under siege for their tusks, which can cost a pretty penny. As most of you know, neighboring Darfur is in a near lawless state, which compounds the problem. In other words, it's all about the benjamins. China and the U.S. are the top two markets for ivory and basically buyers are indirectly funding militias. In this segment we are treated to the sight of an elephant horde, but also see elephant carcasses, and even more disturbing, a fresh elephant kill. Awful. Truly awful.

For the final segment, we hook back up with Anderson for a story that contains a little hope. The mountain gorillas are a critically endangered species, but in Rwanda, they're a success story. After the horrendous genocide in the country in the 90's, the government decided to make protecting the gorillas the center of their tourism, offering people the opportunity to experience the majestic beasts up close. Locals were initially skeptical, but when the money started coming in, they jumped on board pretty quick.

Unfortunately, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (where the rest of the gorillas are located) is another story. The country is in chaos and last year there was a horrible gorilla slaughter. Longtime viewers might remember that 360 saw the gorillas in the country in 2006 (check my archive), but since that time their habitat has been taken over and no one knows their status. Sad.

This time in Rwanda, Anderson and crew get to see a group of gorillas that are for research and not tourism. They're warned that these animals could potentially be aggressive, leading Anderson to say, "frankly, if they charge, I'm going to hide behind the biggest cameraman I can find." Neal!? But actually, the research group of gorillas isn't so much aggressive as they are, well, relaxed. They clearly aren't too concerned about their new human friends and would just like to take a nap, thank you very much. Okay, Anderson has gotten to see these gorillas how many times now? Yes, that's the green-eyed monster in your midst.

There's not really much else to say about the special. It was great. I hope they kick ass in the ratings. Sorry I was too lazy to post pictures, but you can find some here.

Finally, this has nothing to do with Planet in Peril, but I wanted to point you to this devastating and, quite frankly, heartbreaking must-read profile of Michael Ware. It's a very upsetting piece, though I can't say it contains anything that surprised me. I've often praised Michael on this blog because he's an unbelievable reporter, but one thing I've never mentioned is the more than one occasion I've watched one of his live remotes and wondered if he was lost forever. The profile just confirmed all of my fears. He's not doing well. We should never forget that the truth that war reporters bring us comes at a cost to them.

In a strange coincidence, about two hours before I read this profile, I was driving to perform an errand and noticed a box in the middle of my neighborhood street. Debris in the street is not unusual, but this box seemed so purposefully placed. As I drove by, the first thought that popped into my head was "IED." Of course, the thought was merely fleeting and never did I feel afraid. Just one of those fluke things no doubt brought on by too much reading of the subject. But as I drove, it got me thinking what it must be like for soldiers and others who have come home. When everyday for them is like what I experienced today, only magnified thousands of times over in intensity. When every box is a potential IED and every piece of trash a threat. I can't even imagine.

According to the profile, Michael is back stateside (at least he was in October) and is trying to spend less time in Iraq, both physically and mentally. I wish him well and hope that one day he truly finds his way home.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

J. Jackson, Jr. Named Senate Candidate 5, Patty Blagojevich Implicated, Possible Bailout Progress, Anderson is Insane, And Forgiveness Amidst Tragedy

Hi everybody. No full review tonight. I'm a bit pressed for time. But quite some interesting fallout from the Blagojevich mess, huh? The governor himself was freed on bail today, and also turned 52. Happy birthday Rod! Your present is a ruined political career and possible jail time! You know what's sad? He still probably had a better birthday than I did. Intubated in the ICU does not a party make, let me tell ya.

Anyhoo! More information trickled out today, including the revelation that Jesse Jackson, Jr. is Senate Candidate Number Five. This is not to be confused with Client Number Nine, though there's a possibility he's still getting screwed. People are zeroing in on him because the story from Blagojevich is that he offered to raise money for him and there were talks held through an emissary. I'm not defending Jackson, but are we really going to take the governor's word on this? The man may very well be delusional.

It seems pretty clear that Jackson can kiss that dream of a senate seat goodbye. Kind of a shame if he did nothing wrong. I guess time will tell. Speaking of doing nothing wrong, Obama is now getting pummeled by the press and the Right. It's true there are legitimate questions to be asked, but the cynical part of me thinks the Right sees an opening and the press sees a good controversy that might help shore up some of their post-election ratings/readership. Obama needs to nip this story in the bud before it becomes a thing.

You know, I tend to think of myself as a bit of a potty mouth, but these Blagojevichs, man, they've got me beat by a mile. And was anyone else giggling to hear Anderson Cooper say "effing" this and "effing" that? Then there was Gary Tuchman and the "bleep." I so wanted him to just say it. Hey man, the FCC can't fine cable. But alas, we must think of the children.

So...turns out our anchor is slightly insane, though actually, I kinda already knew that. Swimming with the sharks with no cage! Ah! Okay, okay, I suppose that if I were capable and was with the expert shark diver guy and had the opportunity, well, why not? Except for that painful death thing, where's the bad? All kidding aside, the footage looks very cool and I look forward to seeing the whole thing. Which brings me to some pimping. Don't forget to watch Planet in Peril: Battle Lines on Thursday at 9 p.m. ET. That's Larry King time, people--an hour before normal 360. Show them love and good ratings!

That story of the marine crashing into the house and killing Don-Yun Yoon's family is just heartbreaking. How he was able to function, much less give a press conference is beyond me. And then to think of the marine's well being and offer him forgiveness...wow. After hearing about this idiot Blagojevich and then having all the loser CEOs in the news recently, it's nice to have a reminder that there are still really awesome people out there.

The Shot tonight was a Joe Biden commemorative plate and it's fairly hilarious. Not much of note on the webcast, though apparently Anderson got a call on his cell during the show. Okay, which one of you has his number? Also? No OJ! Woo hoo! I'll be back tomorrow. I'm still deciding on how I want to handle PIP, but I'll have something.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Illinois Governor Blagojevich More Corrupt Than Seemingly Possible, O.J. Continues To Ruin News, Oprah Can Buy Everything Except Thinness, And PIP

Hi everybody. We're kicking things off with the BREAKING NEWS that Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich is one freakin' corrupt dude. Like, really corrupt. Of course, news viewers learned of the governor's arrest this morning, so the red graphic is being stretched about as far as it will go. Before I get into this thang, since it seems some of our friends on the TeeVee need a little help, it's bluh-GOY-uh-vich. Can you say that children? I think you can.

Anyway! Blagojevich's dirtiness has been no secret to those in Illinois or across the river in my neck of the woods (my local news has been all over this), but whoa Nelly! What this guy is being accused of is jaw-dropping. In a blast from the past, special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald--former charger of Scooter Libby and maker of baseball analogies--is back in our lives and laying out what he calls a "political corruption crime spree."

What constitutes a crime spree? Well, he allegedly tried to sell Obama's senate seat for starters, reportedly trying to net $500,000 to a cool million for the position, and threatening to take the seat for himself if no one showed him the money. And that's just the headliner. Blagojevich and his chief of staff, John Harris, are also alleged to have withheld funds from the Tribune Company in order to blackmail the Chicago Tribune into firing critical editors. The Tribune Company, incidentally, just filed for bankruptcy.

Additional nastiness includes various other pay-to-play schemes, such as trying to secure positions for himself and his wife. And my personal favorite, Blagojevich was allegedly going to rescind eight million dollars in funds for a children's hospital because the CEO didn't give him $50,000 in campaign contributions. So...wow. No really, wow. I mean, I'm impressed. That's some off-the-charts douchebaggery there. That guy must have some massive cajones. And not in a good way.

In a Drew Griffin piece, we learn that this is all being brought to light because the Feds have had their eye on Blagojevich ever since Chicagoan Tony Rezko went down. All information Fitzgerald brought to us today was obtained through bugging the governor's home and phone. Well done, sir. Now Blagojevich could be looking at 30 years in prison. But don't feel bad for him, people. He'll have some political company--his predecessor George Ryan is already there.

After Drew's piece, he joins us live to tell us many Democrats are calling for the governor to resign and the Illinois legislature is working on stripping him of his ability to name Obama's successor. Blagojevich's attorney would like to remind us that he is innocent until proven guilty. Dude, he's on tape.

Next up, we have a Jessica Yellin piece on Obama's connection to all this. You see, Blagojevich is the governor of Illinois and Obama was a politician in Illinois, so using the media's (and the right wing's) method of infallible logic, Obama must MUST somehow be involved. And if he's not, well, we'll fix that by throwing enough speculation out there, so people believe he is anyway. Sigh. From the mouth of Fitzgerald, Obama has done nothing wrong.

Actually, it seems Blagojevich was mighty ticked that our president-elect wouldn't play dirty ball. Quite the pouty mouth, I must say. Yes, there is the curious incident of David Axelrod going on record that Obama had spoken to the governor about the senate seat, only to now claim he misspoke. However, I think they're just scared that this nothing is going to get made into a something. They know how the media operates. They know how the right wing echo chamber operates.

Of course, it's legitimate that Obama would have talked to the governor of the state he's leaving regarding his senate seat. There's nothing nefarious about that, but in this new context, it looks bad. Hopefully this story won't fall into ridiculousness, especially since we're still kind of in a massive financial crisis here. Also, earlier today there was a rumor zipping around that it was actually dead fish-sender Rahm Emanuel who had brought the law down on the governor's head, but it's looking like that's not true. Bummer. It made for a good story.

On now to our inevitable panel, which tonight sports a fired-up David Gergen, Jeffrey Toobin, and Roland Martin. The Gerg begins by noting he has a hard time pronouncing Blagojevich's name and therefore just calls him 'the idiot.' Read the beginning of my post, Gerg; I totally hooked you up. Also? I would have gone with 'douchebag', but that's just how I roll. The panel then talks a bit about how very corrupt Illinois is and Jeffrey notes that even though this is a white collar case, they frog marched the governor like he was a "mafia don."

As for Obama, The Gerg ponders whether the Right will go after him for coming up through the Chicago machine (answer: yes!), though he personally feels that would be unfair. Well, if there's one thing the Right is all about, it's fairness. Just ask gay people. Finally, Jeffrey makes the interesting point that Obama is pushing this big stimulus package and money for infrastructure, but that's going to involve a lot of pork. Good point, though I'm not sure the public is extremely fired-up about pork. The subject certainly didn't work for John McCain.

Moving on to a Gary Tuchman piece that profiles the corrupt governor. It seems that Blagojevich wasn't always sleazy. In fact, in his first year of his first term he was actually deemed reasonable and even backed a moratorium on the death penalty. But then it was all downhill from there--a journey that nabbed him many enemies and a 13 percent approval rating. Worse than Bush. Now that's an accomplishment. Now he's got people calling him "insane" and saying he has "delusions of grandeur."

I'm no Bill Frist, but my diagnosing through the TeeVee abilities tell me that seems pretty spot on. Actually, there have been serious questions brought up regarding whether he might have a psychological imbalance. Most major psychological pathologies in adults surface in their 20's, but I suppose he might really be sick. Then again, power corrupts and makes people think they can get away with insane things. I'm looking at you, John Edwards.

Randi Kaye has the headlines for us tonight and we get a mention of both Sarah Palin and Joe the Unlicensed Plumber. Am I having a nightmare about the election again?

Transitioning now to O.J. Simpson crap. Still. Two wars on and we're still talking about a dude that stole his stuff back. Not only is there a David Mattingly piece, but that's followed by discussion with Jeffrey Toobin and Roland Martin. I refuse to believe that there isn't something more important they could be covering that would garner them the same ratings as O.J.

Moving on now to coverage that isn't that much better. In a Randi Kaye piece, we learn all about Oprah's recent setback in her weight struggles. They have got to be kidding. I know there's a platonic kind of fascination/crush going on here, but c'mon 360! Look, I feel bad that Oprah is having weight problems that are obviously translating into self esteem problems. But not everyone overweight is unhealthy and the queen of daytime talk has the financial resources to ensure her body is getting the very best. And then some.

In case no one has noticed, there are a lot of families these days who are struggling just to keep enough food on the table that their children don't become malnourished. To spend time covering Oprah borders on offensive.

From here we go to a Planet in Peril preview piece, this time from Lisa Ling. Again, I'm saving the recap for the special.

The Shot tonight is Anderson Cooper's recent appearance on Letterman, specifically the part where he relays a story of how his mom totally blew him off on Thanksgiving one year. She sent the turkey, but not herself. Ha! And aw. I'd be upset if my mom did that. At least she sent the turkey.

The webcast was manned by Randi Kaye, but I caught so little of it that it's not really worth blogging. So...360, O.J. and Oprah in the same show? What are you doing to me? I really hope the show lately has been a reflection of them putting a lot of their resources into the finishing touches on Planet in Peril, and not indicative of what we can expect from future broadcasts.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Coming Closer On A Big 3 Bailout, Our Economic Outlook, O.J. Simpson Crap, And A Planet In Peril Preview

Hi everybody. Happy New Week! Are you ready for your BREAKING NEWS? 'Cause here it comes: Congress is maybe sorta thinking about coming closer to bailing out the Big 3 automakers. Yay? I swear, this is becoming as tedious as the Clinton tapping for secretary of state. But hey, when we're talking about tossing out billions of dollars, I say go ahead and mull.

In a Dana Bash piece we learn that we're not going to just give the beggars everything they ask for all at once. This time we'll start them out with $15 billion. You know, just a little something we shook out of the couch cushions. Plus, there's more. Under the deal the president--the new smart one--would appoint a car czar who, one would imagine, will have special czar-like powers. And maybe a magic wand. Or not.

Anyway! Apparently the companies will have until mid February to restructure themselves so that they don't suck so much. If they fail to do so? No more loan for you! In that case, the loan would be revoked, but, uh, are we supposed to actually believe there will be any of that $15 billion left come February? Please.

For the Republican's part, they seem to be dragging their feet a bit. Bush does too actually, though to be fair, I'm not sure anyone has even told him about the deal. I say we just leave him to his macaroni art or interpretive dance or whatever the hell he's been doing lately. Though it should be pointed out that when it was Wall Street that needed the money, this administration was all for shelling out the cash--Bush even addressed the nation.

Now an industry that actually makes tangible (though admittedly, crappy) goods is in trouble, millions of blue collar jobs are on the line, and suddenly our preznit isn't so sure bailouts are the way to go anymore. Obviously two wrongs don't make a right, but there is very much a white collar against blue collar vibe going on here. We're putting the automaker CEO's through the ringer--as we should, but what about the bankers? Why do I think they still have their corporate jets?

Next up, we have Ali Velshi at the financial wall of doom to fill us in on the specifics.

Then we're on to a Jessica Yellin piece on our broader economy and how Obama plans to get it back on track. The good news is he actually has a plan. (Yay!) The bad news is that he believes things will only get worse before they get better. What Obama is proposing is the biggest public works program in 50 years that in the end will allegedly save or create 2.5 million infrastructure related jobs.

These will include things like bridge and road repairs, work that is sorely needed. Just ask Minnesota. Also? Christmas is coming a month later than usual and in the form of a massive stimulus package. Spend, baby. Spend. After her piece, Jessica joins us live with the news that Obama will be meeting with Al Gore about green jobs. Gore, are you suure you don't want a position in the administration?

Strategy Session time! Seat-warmers rocking out with us tonight include David Gergen, Marcus Mabry, and Gloria Borger. There's a lot of bailout talk here and Anderson Cooper seems a little confuzzled over the idea of a car czar, and perhaps czars in general. Remember when I nominated The Gerg to be the country's reasonableness czar? Obama should think about it. And yeah, that's pretty much all I have to say about this panel.

Moving on to a Tom Foreman piece that asks the question, "hey, when are things going to stop sucking so bad?" "Money Magazine" tells us the answer may be as soon as the first quarter in 2009. Hooray! See, according to "experts," the bailouts are totally working, consumer confidence is going to come back, and the housing market is ready to revive. Wow. It's gonna be a bright, bright sun-shiny day.

Except, well, who are these economic experts? Were they right before or are they in the class that didn't see this disaster coming. Without that information, this whole exercise in speculative happy talk is pretty worthless. We've been in a recession for a year and still may not have hit bottom, yet we're suppose to believe that things will be better by early next year? What are they smoking and where can I buy some?

In tonight's headlines we get a little Oprah talking about Sarah Palin. In terms of 360 obsessions, it's the equivalent of a twofer. Throw in some Beyonce and we'd have the hat trick. Anyhoo. Oprah would like to note that she never ever snubbed Palin! Well, now that we have that cleared up, I can sleep at night. This all came about because Palin isn't going on Oprah, so people are saying it's like reverse snubbing now. Or something.

Allegedly the VP loser is turning down interviews left and right. "Yeah, tell me about it, I know," says Anderson. Sorry, dude. You made that bed yourself. I'm the last person to defend Palin, but I wouldn't go on after his subtle yet constant snarking either (though it was enjoyable to watch). Oh, who am I kidding? Yes I would. 'Cause he's so dreamy!

Transitioning now to crap about O.J. Simpson. Aww, but I don't wanna! I guess I have to grudgingly give credit for sticking it here and not at the top of the show like they did on Friday. Jeffrey Toobin and Lisa Bloom are back for discussion and from Jeffrey we learn that, "prison stinks." Interesting perspective.

And it's funny because he seems quite giddy at the prospect of the Juice finally having to endure some suckitude. Lisa reminds us of the survival of the fittest nature of prisons, not to mention the racial schism found there. Also? Apparently O.J. is making friends by giving away candy bars. Seriously.

Next up, we have a Planet in Peril preview from Anderson. He and Sanjay Gupta both go on separate hunts for bushmeat and we learn how the bushmeat trade makes the whole world vulnerable to viruses. I'll recap further when the actual special airs. It's funny, despite their incessant advertising, Planet in Peril has kind of snuck up on me this time. I never watch the second hour and am therefore unspoiled when it comes to a lot of the footage. I'm looking forward to seeing it. For now, check out this behind the scenes video:

Poor Mary Ann! You're gonna need an ocean, of calamine lotion...

We have a double "shot" tonight, beginning with a little girl happy to have her father home from the war, and ending with a cringe-worthy kiss between Barbara Streisand and Bush. And of course 360 could not pass up the opportunity to add music to the kiss, which they then play in slo-mo over and over. *shudders*

I caught two webcasts tonight: one at the beginning and one at the end. Not quite sure what happened to the middle of the show. Anyway! We hear shopping tales from Erica Hill and apparently she's got her eye on a microphone for Cooper. It's kind of a WTF that this is falling on her, but whatev. C'mon Klein, you say you've got the money for holograms and everything else. Let's see it.

Things then heat up when Lisa Bloom and Jeffrey Toobin join the mix, though not in the literal sense. It's cold in the studio! We know Erica is always cold, but tonight we've got Lisa seconding that motion. I don't get it. Does the Silver Fox view anchoring like driving? Is he metaphorically rolling his windows down so he doesn't fall asleep? Because there have been times when he's been out in the field with a gazillion and one layers on, while his colleagues are in t-shirts. Yet in studio he apparently likes it frosty. Oh Anderson, you confuzzle me so.

I don't know if Jeffrey is cold in studio, but he most definitely was while watching his son play in a soccer tournament in the snow. Oh, I don't miss that. Being the oldest, I was a "soccer sister" and did my fair share of carting siblings to sporting events. I know my way around a cup of crappy concession stand hot chocolate. Anyhoo, then Jeffrey talks O.J. and mentions that during the first go-around he told his daughter a story every night and while in court he would try to think up more plot points. I hope I got that right. Also? Aww.

Lay-off Watch: Two more CNNers get the ax. I never really watched them, so I can't say I'm feeling these like O'Brien. Yes, Chez and Jacki have weighed in, but given that I'm sure (unfortunately) there'll be posts I'll want to link to in the near future, I'll hold off this time. Don't wanna be a blog stalker. Heh. That'll do it.
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