Monday, November 30, 2009

Hunting For A Cop Killer, Clemency Questions, Tiger Woods Non-troversy, White House Crashers Update, And Women In Combat

Hi everyone. It's good to be back! Kinda. Gotta say, it was also good to be away, especially during a week when the media lost their damn minds. Of course, that could be ANY week. Tonight we were subjected to a bit of residual idiocy from the days prior, but luckily not too much. And hey, we always have snark, right?

The show kicks off with the BREAKING NEWS that Maurice Clemmons, the alleged gunman in the horrific execution-style slaying of four Washington cops, is surrounded by SWAT in a home in Renton. Well, maybe. Actually--SPOILER ALERT--not so much. We go live to Dan Simon for the latest, but he can't really tell us anything given that nothing is actually happening.

This leads us into a piece from Dan where we get the requisite clip-from-the-neighbor and learn that Clemmons was kinda nuts. The guy went on a rock-throwing rampage and thought he was Jesus, so...yeah. One key bit of info we learn is that it's believed Clemmons was shot and probably had initial help with his wounds. What's more disturbing, the help was given willingly or not?

We then move on to a Joe Johns piece that tackles the subject of Clemmons's record, which is fairly extensive, and why he wasn't kept in jail. Oh, this is also where we declare, sorry Mike Huckabee, no 2012 for you! The former Governor of Arkansas' misstep was to grant Clemmons a commutation per the recommendation of the parole board. From there, Clemmons spread his crime to Washington State, where he went on to commit more violent crimes, such as assault of a police officer and child rape. So you see, this is all Huckabee's fault.

Also currently feeling the sting of the pitchforks, is Judge Marion Humphrey, supporter of Clemmon's initial parole in Arkansas. He joins us next for an interview that, quite frankly, I don't know what to do with. Let me preface by saying that I normally love it when Anderson Cooper gets fired up. It's good to see him alive during a segment (sometimes we wonder). But after watching it twice, I just don't think this interview was handled well at all. The interruptions bordered on rude (very rare for our anchor) and the detour to the focus on marriage was just bizarre.

From what I can tell, Clemmons committed a string of robberies as a minor and was sentenced to 108 years in prison. Due to his age and excessive sentence, the judge recommended parole, and Huckabee dropped his time down to 47 years. After 10 years served, Clemmons was released. Do Judge Humphrey and Huckabee really deserve to be tar and feathered here? We hear stories all the time of kids caught up in the street life who do their time and then go on to help others. But Maurice Clemmons was not one of those kids. He turned out to be a cold blooded killer. Hindsight is 20/20.

But I HAVE read reports that Clemmons was violent throughout his initial 10 years in prison. THAT is troubling information and something I would have liked to have put before Humphrey. After all, Arkansas apparently warned Washington State the man was coming and would likely repeat offend. Instead, we got an interview that wasn't very enlightening at all.

In my opinion, Anderson clearly had an agenda and seemed more interested in getting his questions asked then the answers Humphrey provided. That is not to say I am on the judge's side or even believe what he said. It is what it is. To borrow an incessantly annoying CNN talking point, I'll let you watch the video and decide for yourself.

Remember that residual idiocy I mentioned up top? Guess where we're transitioning! Once upon a time, there was a guy who crashed his car into a fire hydrant outside his house. Normally, that's where the story would end. But make that guy golfing superstar Tiger Woods, and this story ends with the media totally losing their shit. Why won't you tell us every single detail of your life, Tiger? Tiger, why?!! Anyhoo! In a Randi Kaye piece, we learn the cops are going all Dragnet on this for some reason, though it seems no crime has actually occurred. For his part, Tiger is staying mum.

To discuss all this (we must!), we're joined by Jeffrey Toobin and USA Today sports columnist Christine Brennan. From Anderson: "I kind of like the fact that they haven't said anything. It's no one's business." Exactly. So we will never speak of this again, right? RIGHT? Then later our anchor talks about his understanding of Tiger's public life philosophy: "When he needs to be in the public eye, he's in the public eye. Otherwise, he guards his privacy. And more power to him." Reminds me of someone else, but I can't quite put my finger on who.

Christine brings up the gossip going on in the blogosphere and how Tiger's normal PR savvy seems to have fallen through. But says Toobin: "If he has to live his life so that the blogs don't write bad things about him, that's a hopeless standard." Seriously. And who are these "bloggers" who write critical things about people? I mean, what kind of person does that? Oh, wait...

On to...more media ridiculousness. Sorta. Ed Henry is here with an update on that White House party crasher story. Don't get me wrong, it's good to look into the security aspect. But OH MY GAWD. It was just a couple of yahoos who got their pics taken with the president (and STILL had to go through security). This is not Defcon 5. Please unclench. All I have to say is this better end with the making of a hilarious Vince Vaughn/Owen Wilson movie.

Transitioning now to a panel that delves into the issue of women in combat, something that's occurring more and more frequently these days. Joining us are former Marine Captain Vernice Armor, former Army sergeant Kayla Williams, and Navy clinical psychologist Heidi Kraft. Each talks about her experiences and challenges of being a woman who has been in battle. For example, Kayla notes that a friend was told by the V.A. that she couldn't have PTSD because women aren't in combat, which obviously isn't true.

Vernice talks a bit about sleeping arrangements and how it can be difficult suddenly coming together with her male squad if the call comes in the middle of the night and she is far away. She dealt with this by trying to always actually sleep where the men did. Heidi tells us how she had to compartmentalize her life and separate being a mom from being in the military. All of the women seem to feel extra pressure to represent women well. This was a good, but much too short segment. There's so many ways this could have been expanded and there's plenty of fluff that could be cut from the broadcast to make room.

Next up, Erica Hill has a piece on Chelsea Clinton. America watched her grow up and now she's getting married! And...that's really all I got. I always liked her. She took a lot of crap when she was just a kid, but still kept trucking. I wish her well.

At this point we learn that Clemmons is actually NOT in the home, though I pretty much already told you that. Anyway, the "shot" tonight is the most adorable kitten ever. Seriously, how can you resist that? Our anchor also deems it adorable, but he's really not selling me. Where are your "aw" noises, Anderson?! Only for dogs and babies, huh? Cat hater.

Okay, yeah, the cat hater thing might be a little harsh after the whole interview panning I just did, but eh, he knows I still love him. Or, he would, if he knew of my existence in the first place. Anyhoo! The show was just meh. Thank God for the Obama speech tomorrow. I'm hoping that will semi-guarantee us a night of solid news. That'll do it.

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Sunday, November 29, 2009

Congo's Gold

Hey guys. I thought I'd check in since I've been exhibiting major fail on the blogging front. Except for "CNN Heroes" (which was excellent), I've pretty much been on a CNN hiatus lately. I'll be back tomorrow. For now, I urge you to check out this great report from "60 Minutes" on Congo's conflict gold:

Watch CBS News Videos Online

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Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Hi everyone. Just wanted to wish my celebrating readers a happy day with good food and good company. As per tradition here at AC360 Review, I give you the requisite posting of "The Thanksgiving Song."

Also, I've discovered that the actual Adam Sandler video can be viewed here, apparently the only place The Man has not yet found.

For those of you that make it through your turkey dinner without falling into a Tryptophan-induced coma, I encourage you to watch "CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute." Hosted by Anderson Cooper, the program airs at 9pmET and is sure to be inspiring. Normally this is the part where I point out how much I respect CNN for taking on these kind of specials even though they don't bring in a lot of ratings. But I said that about "Planet in Peril" and now, well, have you heard anything about that lately? Yeah, me neither. So this is just me encouraging you to watch. Have a good one, people. I'll try to do another post this weekend. See you on the flip side.

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Monday, November 23, 2009


Hi everyone. It's a busy week here at AC360 Review central. I've got a lot to do in preparation for a houseful of people on Turkey Day, so I doubt I'll be blogging the show this week. I still plan on posting a wrap-up of the "Killings at the Canal" series. Whether that will come before or after Thursday is up in the air. Remember, you can always find me on Twitter. For now I'll leave you with a little viewing fun. Because I've got a feeling, tonight's going to be a good night:

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Thursday, November 19, 2009

Radicalization Report Gone Unheeded, Oprah Pulls A Palin, Killings At The Canal: The Army Tapes Part Three, & Controversy In A Wal-Mart

Hi everyone. We begin tonight with the news that Defense Secretary Gates has ordered a review of military policies and the events leading up to Nidal Hassan's massacre of soldiers at Fort Hood. But CNN has learned that the Defense Department contacted independent cyberterrorism analyst Shannen Rossmiller before the Hasan shooting ever occurred, in order to look at how the military deals with procedures related to possible radicalism in their ranks. If fact, Rossmiller completed a report in April 2008 entitled "The Radicalization of Members Within DOD," which sounds a lot like what Gates is ordering now. Shades of Hurricane Pam.

For discussion of this, we're joined by Rossmiller herself, as well as Representative Pete Hoekstra, the ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee. It's a pretty good discussion. Rossmiller explains the report a bit and notes that to her understanding, it was received by the intelligence community in the Defense Department. They also talk profiling and though admittedly Hoekstra sounds relatively reasonable, I can't help but see irony in his advocation that we learn from the Europeans regarding how to deal with home grown radicals. Think he wants us to learn about their law and order approach too? Yeah, not so much.

Transitioning to the news that--ZOMG!!!--Oprah is quitting. In two years. And...she's going to have her own cable network, so everybody can just unclench, okay? She's not leaving us. I thought Twitter was going to have a heart attack when the news broke. It's going to be okay, people. In a Tom Foreman piece, we get an abbreviated Oprah biography. You know the drill: media empire, weight issues, book club, and YOU GET A CAR! If you're a regular reader of this blog, you know that I don't exactly buy into the Oprah hype, but that doesn't mean I don't like her. She's definitely done much more good for this world than bad, and I'll admit to watching on many an occasion.

It's just that Oprah has a tendency to make everything about, well, Oprah. Take James Frey. Did Oprah eviscerate him in front of millions of people in defense of truth? No, she did it because she felt personally slighted and had to do damage control to her reputation. If she was really all about the truth, that Sarah Palin interview would have been a hell of a lot tougher. (By the way, I bet this story bumped our nightly Palin coverage, so, uh, thanks Oprah.) Anyway, after Tom's piece, Anderson Cooper talks to Ryan Seacrest by phone, which just makes me laugh. I dunno, something about Ryan's whole existence makes me laugh. But, uh yeah, there's nothing of note here. Well, except Ryan reminding me that Oprah also unleashed Dr. Phil on us. Not her best moment in my book.

On now to part three of the investigative series "Killings at the Canal: The Army Tapes" with correspondent Abbie Boudreau. Tonight we learn how, after nine months of secrecy, the execution style murder of four Iraqis by U.S. soldiers was finally revealed. As reported previously, 13 men were on the mission that day that led to three sergeants committing murder. All 13 were questioned and interrogators found themselves up against a very strong brotherhood loyalty. But finally Jess Cunningham, now a former army sergeant, broke the silence. He insists he did the right thing.

David Court, attorney of First Sergeant John Hadley who is now serving time at Fort Leavenworth for the crime, doesn't find Cunningham's reveal to be exactly a noble act. In fact, at the time he came forward, Cunningham was facing disciplinary charges for assaulting Sergeant Michael Leahy, another soldier convicted in the murders. He has received immunity for testifying and is no longer in the Army. So in terms of viewing the case, that complicates things a bit. After the piece, Abbie tell us that Cunningham has been treated pretty badly since coming forward. Called a rat, property vandalized, things like that. It's sad. Ultimately he did the right thing, though perhaps not for the right reasons.

For discussion, we're joined by Army captain and Iraq war veteran Pete Hegseth, and Eugene Fidell, a military law attorney. They begin by talking about the whole 'band of brothers' thing and the extremely strong loyalty that soldiers have for one another. From Pete: "I don't think it's accurate to say that that band of brothers needs to extend to covering up war crimes that happen." And Eugene notes that when it comes to war crimes, there is an obligation to both report and investigate them. The panel then moves on to Cunningham's excuse that fear for his own safety prevented him from coming forward sooner. Pete agrees there's most likely truth there. I'm sure there is, and the fear is legitimate. Just ask Joe Darby or Justin Watt (old school 360 blog!).

Anderson asks about the validity of the argument that the men were simply trying to avoid having to release Iraqis who they believed had killed Americans and would do so again. Eugene thinks that kind of action is insubordination. Pete "completely disagrees," explaining the previously reported difficulties with keeping detainees locked up. But if you listen to the nuances, I'm not sure he's really disagreeing at all, but rather making sure a problem is acknowledged. Anderson sums it up nicely: "What you're saying is that's an argument for changing the ground rules in terms of what evidence is needed or how evidence is gathered against detainees. It's not an excuse for murder."

Transitioning to a Gary Tuchman piece on a racially charged controversy in Kennett, Missouri. I've missed some of this reporting, so time to play catch-up. When Heather Ellis, an African American, was 21-years-old, she was checking out at a local Wal-Mart, when she decided to switch lines. Customers--all white--accused her of cutting, and she allegedly began using profanity. Police were called and she was ultimately accused of hitting and kicking the officers, all white. Ellis claims they assaulted her. Oh boy. There's a surveillance video, but all it really shows is her pushing other customers' items back at the counter.

Three years later, Ellis is now facing 15 years in prison, which I have to say, regardless of her guilt seems a little extreme. As for that guilt, things aren't looking so great. I'm the first one to be wary about statements from cops, but when you have all those people saying the same thing against I said, doesn't look good. Plus, I think I'm a bit biased by my former retail experience. Because customers? They're craaazeh! This story almost seems tame to me. I mean, I once saw our loss prevention guy get mowed down by a shoplifter fleeing via vehicle, fly over the hood of the car, and then pop back up to continue the chase. Just a regular day in retail. Lesson we can learn from all this? Don't shop at Wal-Mart.

Also? I absolutely loved Gary reading the profanity-laced testimony of the customers (who were quoting Ellis): "One of them was Albert Fisher, who testified, 'She told me I was a stupid mother blanker.' He added, 'She let me know I didn't know who I was blanking with.' And then he says, when he asked her name, she said, 'My name is Donna blanking Duck'" When she said, 'If you try to arrest me, I'll kick your blanking blank,' according to the cop, he arrested her." My blanking blank? Gary! Such language! Oh, my innocent ears...

Next up, we learn that the government panel that issued the new mammogram guidelines did some clarifying today. Except, not really. Because their clarifying sounds suspiciously like what they said before. Help us, Sanjay Gupta, help us. Never fear, the doctor is here. And he recommends still getting mammograms starting at age 40. The Gupta has spoken. Case closed.

The "shot" tonight is done by Tom Foreman because it features Anderson. It seems the Silver Fox and Wolf Blitzer both have cameos in Stephen King's new book. And what better way to commemorate this fact than to have members of the crew do a dramatic reading? I think the last guy deserves an Oscar. As for the actual passages, out of the two anchors mentioned, I find it hilarious that it's the Wolfbot, ahem, "Wolfie," that ends up being the crush object. That Stephen King is never one to go with the pack, is he?

I thought the show was fairly good. Talking to Seacrest seemed a little excessive, but there's no way this show wasn't going to be all over the Oprah story. They love (to report on) her so! Abbie's series continues to be very well done. With tomorrow being Friday, I'm not sure I'll have a full review, but I do plan to blog the final segment and my thoughts. So until we meet again.

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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Senate Announces Health Care Bill, Palin Continues To Haunt My News Viewing, And Killings At The Canal: The Army Tapes Part Two

Hi everyone. We're kicking things off tonight with big BREAKING NEWS: the Senate has a health care bill! And no member of Congress was harmed in its creation. Yet. The Democrats claim the plan will cover 94 percent of Americans AND cut the federal deficit by $127 billion over 10 years. Impressive. Republicans, you might guess, are already essentially going all Joe Wilson on Democrats, declaring there is no way the $849 billion price tag (over 10 years) won't put us further in the hole. Even Conservadems aren't so sure. CNN just received the 2,000 page bill, so I shall refrain from my bitching about fact-checking. Don't ever say I can't be fair.

But Dana Bash HAS been able to get a little more scoop. She joins us live with the news that the bill will cover pre-existing conditions, contains mandates, and does have a public option of which states can opt-out. I say it sounds pretty good; Dana says the public option part is basically dead on arrival. Bah. Such a Debbie Downer. Ooh! A Dana Downer. As for how they're going to pay for this thing, there'll be a 40 percent tax on high cost insurance plans, a slight Medicare payroll tax increase for families making over $250,000, and a five percent tax on elective cosmetic surgery.

Dana tells us that last item has already been nicknamed "Botax." Punny! "A lot of people are going to be surprised about that, but you won't be able to tell, because, you know, they won't show expressions," says Anderson Cooper. Bwah! He'll be here all night people. Try the veal. Anyhoo! Dana continues to bum me out with regards to abortion funding. Then Candy Crowley comes in and tells us that basically the Democrats are just trying to keep this bad boy moving forward. They're like the little engine that could. They think they can, they think they can.

Next up, 360 continues to force us to watch Sarah Palin's every move. Her latest book-pimping visit was to Fox News' Hannity. Oh, do not want! After that clip, we cut to a pre-recorded discussion with James Carville and Ralph Reed, apparently, already in progress. It seems we missed something quiet HILarious, because the guys are cracking the hell up. I guess it will remain a mystery. Also? Why is Ralph so orange? I swear, I can't ever look at that guy without thinking of Jon Stewart pondering if he sleeps in a vegetable crisper. Oh, and then there's that whole Abramoff thing. Seriously, why again is this guy still allowed to be on the TeeVee?

So anyway, James gives Palin all these compliments, which leads Anderson to ask the following: "Are you intentionally saying good things about her, so that the Republicans will keep her around as much as possible? Is there some sort of secret strategy on your part?" ZOMG, the super-secret code has been breached! Anderson is on to the Democrat's diabolical plan. All joking aside, I know many a liberal who would love for her to be the Republican nominee for 2012. Ralph notes that Palin energizes the grass roots and gets out the vote, so we shouldn't be laughing too much. Point taken.

Transitioning now to part two of the special series"Killings at the Canal: The Army Tapes" with correspondent Abbie Boudreau. This segment mostly focuses on the interrogation and confession of Sergeant Michael Leahy, which we see on the tapes. For background, check out my previous post. It's really fascinating to see the actual interrogation. Sergeant Leahy initially claims to have shot one Iraqi, but even though he admits to firing two shots, it takes quite a bit of coaxing for him to explain why the second shot occurred.

Apparently, he shot a second Iraqi as well, but this man did not immediately die, and instead fell to the ground gurgling. Sergeant John Hatley then delivered the fatal bullet. Leahy was hesitating and being vague because he did not want to point fingers at another soldier. In another segment of tape, an interrogator talks about the potential public relations mess. Kinda makes you wonder how often the Army abandons their own people in order to avoid controversy. I'm not saying that's what I believe happened here, but it's something to think about.

In this segment we also meet Leahy's wife, Jamie. The couple were married in a civil ceremony, but they had planned to have a wedding with the works later. That never happened because Leahy is now serving a 20 year sentence at Fort Leavenworth. Following her piece, Abbie joins us to talk about the wives of the men now serving time. Kim Hatley is remaining strong for her son who is now fighting in Afghanistan. But Johanna Mayo is legally blind with three young children. She depended on her husband for everything. So sad for all involved. According to Abbie, no one ever reported the four Iraqis missing. You can watch more here.

Abbie then sticks around for more discussion and were joined by former Army Staff Sergeant David Bellavia and former military psychologist Larry James. There's a lot of talk about interrogation methods. Then David makes the point that as a soldier, you're forced to live in the moment. Basically he's saying they don't have the luxury of extensively weighing consequences. Larry agrees with David, concluding that the men were caught up in the "fog of war." But he also notes that there are thousands of soldiers out there right now dealing with the same tough circumstances as the men in the piece, and they're doing so without breaking the law. Good discussion.

Moving on now to Gary Tuchman live to preview his reporting that is, unfortunately, coming up in the next hour. Bummer. Because I won't be watching. Gary Tuchman should never be relegated to hour two. Just sayin'. Anyway, of note in the "360 Bulletin" is the news that a federal judge has ruled that "gross negligence" of the Army Corps of Engineers led to the flooding of New Orleans. Pretty big. Is it weird that the first thing (person, actually) I thought of was Harry Shearer? The show should have him and Ivor Van Heerden on to talk about the story. Look at me, I could be a booker. Yeah, I know, not that easy.

Pretty much the rest of the hour is Obama's press conference live from South Korea. The show was fairly good, though I still do not understand the Palin obsession. I hope Abbie's special gets a lot of viewers when it's aired over the weekend. It deserves them and let's face it, CNN's shows aren't doing too hot in that area right now. Tonight I was surprised to learn that two of my long-time 360-watching friends have pretty much tuned out. And no Jon Klein, the fact that you don't do opinion has nothing to do with it.

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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Discussion of New Mammogram Recommendations, Killings At The Canal: The Army Tapes, Palin Book Tour Continues, And Hasan Update

Hi everyone. We begin tonight with more focus on those confusing new mammogram guidelines, the general question being: What is up with that? For discussion, we're joined by Dr. Kimberly Gregory, who was a member of the task force that issued the guidelines, and Dr. Daniel Kopans, one of the world's leading experts on mammography screening. Honestly? We don't really get much further than where we were yesterday. Dr. Gregory urges women to talk to their doctors about their own personal risks, while Dr. Kopans states there is no science to support that screening high risk women will save lives. According to him, 75 to 90 percent of women who develop breast cancer are not at increased risk, which makes the guidelines pretty ridiculous.

Dr. Gregory also does some talking about the "net benefit" of screenings and that just makes me think this is about rationing and money. Exactly how many lives need to be saved before a "benefit" is determined? If it's somebody you love, that number is one. The question of whether or not this will affect insurance coverage of screenings is brought up, and Dr. Gregory isn't going to touch that responsibility ball. "We don't make recommendations for insurance coverage," she says. "That's just ignoring what the fallout is going to be," says Dr. Kopans. Exactly. I'm still suspicious as to how this all came about. If there's a story to be uncovered, as they say, follow the money.

Transitioning now to the first segment of Abbie Boudreau's investigative series, "Killings at the Canal: The Army Tapes." CNN was able to obtain 23 1/2 hours of interrogation tapes of three Army sergeants. First Sergeant John Hatley, Sergeant 1st Class Joseph Mayo, and Sergeant Michael Leahy have all been convicted of the execution-style murders of four Iraqis in a canal in Baghdad in March 2007. This story was brought to CNN's attention by Private 1st Class Joshua Hartson, who was there, but not charged with any crime. He believes the convicted men are heroes.

This all came about on a routine mission that was halted when shots were fired. The men subsequently found the four Iraqis--the shooters--along with a haul of weapons. Initially there was nothing out of the ordinary. The Iraqis were blindfolded, zip-tied, and loaded into the vehicle to be dropped off at a detainee housing area. But one of them spoke English, and when Hartson asked him if he had killed Americans, the detainee laughed, which Hartson took as an affirmative. Believing these Iraqis would just be immediately freed to kill again, the men decided to take matters into their own hands. The detainees were then lined up and shot execution style, their bodies left in the canal.

The secret was kept for nine months. I'm guessing its revealing will be covered in forthcoming segments. I'm also imagining that we'll be seeing more of the actual interrogation tapes in the coming days, as this segment pretty much just set the scene. Taking on investigations like this one really is CNN at its best. For some background, you can watch Abbie answer a few questions. I think I'll wait until I've seen the entire series before I fully weigh in, but tonight I'll leave you with something Michael Ware once said. From a profile of him in Men's Journal (emphasis mine):
Of the many stories that haunt Ware when he closes his eyes but can’t sleep, this one singes a little more because he caught it on film and CNN refused to air it: It was spring 2007. He was in Diyala province, in a village north of Baghdad, embedded with a U.S. infantry platoon conducting a sweep for insurgents. By the time they arrived at daybreak, the insurgents had fled. The whole thing looked like a bust, but then there was a shot. An American sniper had seen an armed man running toward the platoon and put a bullet in the back of his skull. The soldiers went to look for him. Was he dead? Was he still a threat? When they found him, alive, they dragged him to a secure area.

“Then, for the next 20 minutes,” Ware remembers, “all of us just stood around and watched this guy’s life slowly ebb away in painful, heaving sobs for air, rendering him absolutely no assistance or aid. If that had been an American soldier, he would have been medevacked out and in 20 minutes would’ve landed on an operating table. Once an enemy combatant comes into your custody, you’re obliged by the Geneva Conventions to render that wounded prisoner all aid. Even I — with my rudimentary medical training, I don’t think his life could’ve been saved — but even I could’ve eased his passing.

“Instead a towel was laid over his face, making his breathing much more labored and painful, the taunts continued, and we just sat around and watched him die.

“And for some bizarre reason, it was just me and this platoon of soldiers, and I was able to see the dispassion of these kids in the way they just watched his life slip away. I was filming and worrying about the best composition of the shot, and I realized that I too was watching just as dispassionately. There’s no blame to be laid here. That guy was a legitimate target who was rightfully shot in the head. But it made me realize, just once more, that this kind of dehumanization is what happens when we send our children to war.

Following Abbie's piece, we're joined by former Air Force attorney Scott Silliman and former Army Staff Sergeant David Bellavia, who fought in the Battle of Fallujah. While Scott notes that what the soldiers did violates the law and Geneva Conventions, much of the discussion is focused on what David describes as a "catch-and-release program for terrorists." Abbie explains how incredibly hard it was to obtain enough evidence to hold detainees, which confuses me a little, since I've read so much about Iraqis being scooped up just willy nilly. But it's implied that the policy changed following Abu Ghraib, so maybe that's the discrepancy. Wouldn't it be nice if these kind of intricacies got the same level of coverage as, say, balloon boy? Anyway, good discussion.

Transitioning now to the continuing Sarah Palin press tour. Next stop: Barbara WaWa! Oh 360, why you gotta do me like this? Going so strong and then...Palin. Le sigh. So anyway, for those keeping score at home, the former Veep candidate is asked about Obama and the word "dithering" comes up. Twice! Anderson Cooper explains that the interview was because Palin has a new book out, "In case you haven't heard about it..." Yes, I've heard about it. Because you won't let me not hear about it! Damn you, Silver Fox! Damn your piercing blue eyes and...wait, what was I saying?

So anyhoo! Tom Foreman is back to do some more fact-checking, but I don't really even care. Palin has even sucked away my enthusiasm for facts! One thing that's kinda funny though, is that she's been caught in a contradiction (two dueling soundbites) about the occurrence of a "family vote" regarding deciding to run for Veep. She's now lying about things that no one cares about, and which could never have been disputed in the first place. Good lord. Also? Tom sorta throws Katie Couric under the bus when he states that Palin is right when she claims Couric went easier on Biden. The evidence? Gaffe-tastic Joe claimed Roosevelt went on TV when TV didn't exist. That doesn't necessary mean she went easier, but it is a MAJOR case of follow-up fail.

For discussion of Palin (oh yes), we're joined by Bill Bennett and Donna Brazile. Says Anderson Cooper: "Sarah Palin has obviously gotten a huge amount of attention. The A.P. devoted a lot of time to fact checking it. We've done fact checks, as well. Is that fair?" WTF kind of question is that? Yeah media, cut it out with your unfair fact-checking and information gathering! C'mon, is there not some kid in a flying object you could be telling me about right now? To be fair to our anchor, I think (hope) he was talking more about the amount of attention Palin is getting. But um, she's courting it. She has a book to sell. So...yeah. Good rule of thumb? Fact-checking is always good. Erm, unless you're talking about a comedy skit. But what kind of network would do something idiotic like that? Oh, wait...

Moving on (yeah, I'm done with Palin) to an update on the case of the Fort Hood shooter, Major Nidal Hasan. Apparently, he was trying to get some of the soldiers he counseled investigated for war crimes. To talk about this, we're joined by Eugene Fidel, a military law attorney and president of the National Institute of Military Justice. Anderson is really focused on doctor-patient confidentiality, but Eugene believes there's a plausible argument Hasan was "under obligation to report" possible crimes. A war crime is a very, very serious thing. Though many soldiers kill and witness killing; that's not the same thing as being involved in a war crime. A war crime is wrong and punishable--hence the crime part. I guess we'll have to wait and see what happens.

First it was snakes on a plane. Now the "shot" tonight? Goats on a bus. Then they whip out the infamous "bear on a trampoline" video. Just cuz. "Don't you love having bears on the trampoline video, just standing by? Do we have the "who the hell is Wolf" standing by?" asks Anderson. Hey, where's the love for Seaman Ship these days? Also? Earlier in the show, there was a story related to Facebook that allowed Anderson to display his technological cluelessness. He goes back to the subject now: "And by the way, I do know that I have many friends on Facebook. I just don't have friends in real life." Awww. I will be your friend, Anderson! We can play Scrabble. Good times will be had.

The show wasn't too bad. Much of the awesomeness obviously coming from Abbie's excellent report. I'm wondering how much more Palin we've got in store for us. The media's obsession with her is crazeh! By the time 2012 rolls around her career could be completely dead. I mean, remember Fred Thompson? I wish they'd take a pill. I'll give Palin the Newsweek cover though. That was pretty uncool. Anyway, until tomorrow.

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Monday, November 16, 2009

Sarah Palin Again Makes Headlines, Congressional Crooks, New Mammogram Recommendations, And Stupak Amendment Discussion

Hi everyone. Happy New Week! And oh what a new week it is. Hide your wolves, people. Because the Quitta from Wasilla? She's baaaaacck! Back in the headlines, anyway. It seems Sarah Palin wrote a book. And I use the word "wrote" in the loosest way possible. But anyway, mediagasm! The former governor's first stop at pimping out that fine piece of literature? None other than Oprah Winfrey herself. Let's see, one of 360's obsessions being interviewed by another of 360's obsessions. You think we'll have discussion of this? You betcha!

We begin with a piece from Candy Crowley that lays down the background. We know the basic rub here, right? Though adored by conservatives, the majority of Americans are just not that into the former Veep candidate when it comes to actually leading. Gee, I wonder why.

Next up, we're joined by Tom Foreman, the poor sap who had to spend all day reading the book. Though CNN claims to be an objective network, this incident proves they are clearly pro-torture. I think Tom probably needs a hug right about now. Anyhoo! His suffering was not for naught: fact-checking was performed. Apparently, Palin is trying to play off the whole disastrous Katie Couric interview as something that was pushed by adviser Nicolle Wallace to give Couric a self esteem boost (wha?). Wallace claims the convo never happened. Given that I witnessed Wallace spin her way throughout the campaign, this is a bit of a tough-y regarding picking who's probably telling the truth.

We learn from Tom that Palin also got her facts wrong about the recession under Reagan and issues related to her ethics. In fact, the Associated Press is doing a big fact-check on the book, something Palin calls "opposition research." Supposedly there are 11 reporters dedicated to checking the book out. All well and good, but as Markos at Dailykos noted, gee, wouldn't it have been nice if they would have had 11 reporters investigate Bush's WMD claims? Priorities I guess.

Also mentioned by Tom, is that Palin brings up John Kerry's botched joke from three years ago, and calls him a "loon" for saying kids who don't do their homework will end up in Iraq. From Tom: "Kerry a long time ago explained that he was not disparaging our troops in those comments, but was making a joke about President Bush suggesting that he was not too bright for getting us into that war, Anderson." Irony alert! We're getting the no BS line tonight, but that is SO not how 360 played it back then. That's right, I remember. I often rail against CNN's stupid fake "balance," but that was one of the most egregious instances I had ever seen, and one of the few times I have ever questioned this show's objectivity.

Panel time (with bonus Oprah clips)! Keeping the seats warm are Republican Dede Scozzafava of New York 23 fame, Mary Matalin, and David Gergen. They talk about Palin making money and her political future, I so don't care. Of note is Anderson Cooper's observation that Palin is like a Rorschach test. I just found that kind of funny because I often view CNN the same way. I also loved Anderson basically saying that facts don't matter to Palin's supporters. It's true! This segment is followed by an oddly placed "Beat 360," because apparently they want to confuse me.

On now to the news that William Jefferson will be going away for 13 years. You might remember him as the Congressional dude who thought he could put $90,000 in his freezer. Them's some cojones. This segues us into a Joe Johns piece on how all these Congressional crooks still get to keep their pensions. Outrage! Except, um, I don't understand the point here. See, two years ago Congress passed the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act to prevent the collection of pensions of criminals.

The problem is people like Jefferson committed their crimes before the law was passed. Joe tells us that the constitution says you can't apply these things retroactively, so again, what's the what? Why is 360 telling me things that piss me off when there's nothing that can be done about it? Actually, they're not telling me at all--they're reminding me. With the exception of the new Jefferson info, this whole piece was pretty much a retread of the extensive reporting they did on this issue two years ago. At that time I repeatedly praised their commitment (check my archives). I guess now I don't understand how they're "keeping them honest." Is there actually something that could be done about the retroactive rule?

Transitioning now to the rather shocking news that the U.S. Preventative Services task force is now recommending that women wait until they're 50 to begin routine mammograms, rather than the previously advised 40. To complicate matters, a whole bunch of cancer experts are disagreeing. You know who's coming, doncha? Yep, Sanjay Gupta--the doc with the 1000 watt smile--is here to explain. Bottom line? These task force people aren't oncologists and you should listen to your own doctor (who will most likely say 40 to avoid being sued--just sayin').

Normally I think the whole "Text 360" thing is idiotic on several different levels, but tonight we got a great question: "Will insurance companies be able to claim that they will not pay for routine mammograms for women under 50 because it is no longer recommended?" Obviously they picked it because that's the angle they were going for, but duuuuuude. I didn't even think of that. That is totally what's going to happen. Now I have lots of questions. Who are these task force people? Can they be lobbied? Is this really about rationing? Go 360! There is honesty-keeping to do!

Next we have a preview for the Army tapes investigation, which is finally scheduled to start airing tomorrow. It looks really good.

Moving on now to discussion with Jeffrey Toobin about the Stupak abortion amendment, which was added to the House health care reform bill. Jeff has penned an interesting piece for the New Yorker that posits abortion is being marginalized. Which, it is. Says Jeff, "abortion is not treated like any other medical service." He then goes on to explain that though the Hyde amendment already prohibits public funds being used for abortions, Stupak is different in that individuals will be using their own money to buy their insurance policies. But because a percentage will be subsidized, their abortion rights will be off the table. Jeff estimates this will affect 20 million women.

The segment wraps up with this great quote, again from our senior legal analyst: "And one of the interesting things, as you study this around the world, is that abortion rates really don't change much if abortion is illegal. Brazil, abortions are illegal totally. But there are more abortions per capita than there are in the United States because women have abortions. They get them one way or another, either legally or illegally." So why not make them safe, legal, and rare?

For the "shot" tonight we get a clip of a dog welcoming home his soldier master. The Silver Fox makes the appropriate "aw" noises. I'm just going to go ahead and lay the whole mother lode down on you. If you can get through all those videos and not shed a tear, well, you don't have a soul.

The show was alright. I mean, you know, Palin. But I suppose we knew that was coming. Good info from Sanjay and Jeffrey. The show is at its best when they're investigating or being informative. The pundit chatter and political musings about non issues worked for them during the campaign, but that time is long over.

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Thursday, November 12, 2009

Fort Hood Shooter Warning Signs, Abortion Rights And Health Care Reform, A Priest With A Secret Son, Palin On Oprah, And Oscar The Grouch Visits 360!

Hi everyone. No blog for yesterday because I wasn't able to watch. Tonight we kick things off with the news that Fort Hood shooter Nidal Hasan has been charged with 13 counts of murder. This moves us into a Brian Todd piece regarding the warning signs that were missed, or which never received proper investigation. Hasan's former colleagues are speaking out--anonymously, it should be noted--and two former classmates blame political correctness regarding his religion as the reason the obviously troubled Major was able to skate by for so long.

We're then joined by former military prosecutor Thomas Kenniff to further explore this angle. Though Kenniff does push the political correctness line, it also sounds like Hasan's rank and his profession as a physician might have had just as much to do with people not wanting to come forward and make trouble--possibly jeopardizing their careers. Obviously there were individuals who had reservations about the man, but in those situations you can never be sure you are right. So, as with Hasan's potential connections to terrorism, as of yet, I'd say there is no definitive there there when it comes to why warning signs were missed.

Moving on to a Tom Foreman piece that explores the Stupak-Pitts amendment, which was added to the House health care reform bill. Severely limiting abortion rights, the amendment now poses a big problem for the senate. Take it out and they lose pro-life votes; keep it in get the picture. And it's getting dirty: A Rhode Island bishop wants representative Patrick Kennedy to leave the Catholic faith because he didn't vote the "right" way. Yeesh.

For discussion, Candy Crowley and David Gergen are keeping us company. Nothing hugely of note, though the Gerg does point out that "women's groups also feel very strongly that, as in the past, when there have been conflicts over women's rights vs. other preferences, that women often come last and that men push it." Yes. That is very annoying. Then from Candy we learn that Democrats are pretty much just trying to keep the legislative process rolling and fix the bitter pills as they can. That might make me feel better...if they weren't so incompetent.

Transitioning now to a Gary Tuchman superduper two--yes, TWO--part investigation. The subject? Henry Willenborg, a Franciscan priest who also happens to be a secret baby daddy. Oh yes. This is so going to be the plot for Lifetime's next movie of the week. But this story isn't just about scandal; there's a tragic twist as well. The "baby" (Nathan) is now a 22-year-old with brain cancer who has only weeks to live. Let's back things up. Once upon a time, devoted Catholic Patricia Bond had an affair with, and became pregnant by Willenborg. Instead of having the priest take responsibility for his child, the church had Patricia sign an agreement of silence in return for quiet financial support. Feeling intimidated and vulnerable, she went along with the deal.

Now with her son's illness, she has had to resort to begging the church for money for his care. Besides $1,000, they basically said no, claiming they have paid her about $233,000 over 22 years. Well, Gary can do math, and it turns out that's less than $11,000 a year. Plus, isn't there that whole moral thing? I thought those priest guys were big on that. Perhaps not. Gary then tracks down Father Robert Karris, the lead negotiator of the agreement. The idea is to find out why there was ever an agreement in the first place. Gary asks why they didn't kick Willenborg out and make him take responsibility for his child on his own. Says Karris: "It would have been the best thing. But that's not the reality." Um, yeah. Because you made it not the reality.

Then we find out that Willenborg just got suspended from his current Wisconsin church because of new allegations regarding an affair with a minor. Wow. Protected by the church, and now he's doing it again--this time to someone underage. Now no one knows where Willenborg is, so Gary came here to St. Louis where he apparently used to live. I am simultaneously excited that Gary was here and annoyed that my city just got dragged into this mess. But anyway, to wrap things up, the Franciscans have agreed to pay 100 percent of Nathan's internment expenses, which is good, and completely morbid at the same time. And if you need one more tragic twist, here you go: Patricia was just diagnosed with cancer herself.

So...that was all pretty messed up, huh? I suppose there's an argument to be made that Nathan is an adult and his father would no longer be legally responsible regardless, but I think the main point of this story is the cover-up and secretiveness. We all know the Catholic church has an, um, history. To talk about this, we're joined by Barbara Blaine, founder of the Survivors' Network for those Abused by Priests (SNAP), and William Donohue, president of the Catholic League. Donohue has been on the show before. Gotta say, not a fan. And why must he talk so loudly?

Barbara hits on the power imbalance that occurs when a woman has an affair with a trusted member of society such a priest, likening it to a doctor-patient relationship. Donohue thinks the church blew it, but then he tries to somehow equate it with the David Letterman thing, giving us all a collective WTF? Barbara helpfully points out that, uh, yeah, Catholic officials and late night talk show hosts don't exactly hold the same moral ground. Seriously, is this guy really the best they can do as a spokesperson?

Next up, two of 360's favorite obsessions collide to make one horrifying segment. Ladies and gentleman, I give you Sarah Palin on Oprah. The thing hasn't aired yet, so we're just getting clips. Can't say I care much. I like it when she says that her family "don't really like the drama." Really? Because every time I see you, drama seems to be hanging out nearby.

Finally tonight, Anderson Cooper and Erica Hill get to chill with one very special visitor: Oscar the Grouch! No, really! In honor of Sesame Street's 40th Anniversary, the cranky Muppet who lives in a trashcan stopped by the 360 studio to talk about going green and getting healthy. Fun facts: Oscar was originally orange and prefers a blueberry instead of the cliched blackberry popular with the newsies. And...that's kinda all I got. This was both cute and awkward, though mostly cute, so I'll call it a winner. Now, when is Count Dracula stopping by?

The show wasn't bad, though I'll admit to being totally biased when it comes to Gary Tuchman's reporting. I'm probably going to miss tomorrow, so don't do anything too awesome, 360! I'll try to maybe blog something again before next week. Until we meet again.

Edited to add: Happy trails and congrats to Ted Fine. AC360's behind-the-scenes Silver Fox (ahem) is moving on up to an EP position at Bloomberg TV.

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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Fort Hood Shooter Narrative Changes, Radical Muslims On US Soil, D.C. Sniper Executed, And Carrie Prejean Has A Book (Oh, yes)

Hi everyone. We again begin with Nidal Hasan, and why he would commit such a horrible crime. Drew Griffin has the piece. Funny thing? Last night, the coverage leaned heavily on possible terrorist connections and information that sounded like it could potentially be terrifying. Tonight? New narrative! The lone wolf motive, to be exact. It's explained that if Hasan was really a jihadist, he would have hid his religion. Plus, um, the dude allegedly went to strip clubs and I kinda thought that's frowned upon.

So, as Drew says after the piece, "The red flag the FBI, the Army, and even the local imams may have missed was possibly a middle-aged, isolated Army major facing an internal crisis and about to snap." Yep. Or, um, not. It's still way early. But it's nice to get a little more context, given that there are already people out there calling this the worst terrorist attack since 9-11. Yesterday, I was fairly critical of 360's coverage, though admitted I was sure they were being more responsible than outlets like Fox News. Perhaps I should have said ABC News instead. Yowza.

I'm actually not sure I explained my prior post well enough. I've been doing reviews of this show for about three years now, and it is a completely different viewing experience than just simply watching. I was reminded of this when I took my hiatus from blogging over the summer. When I am reviewing, I am paying attention to everything--truly taking in all information reported. The normal viewer does not do this. The normal viewer is channel surfing or chatting on the net or glancing at the TV while on the phone and so on and so on. Does anyone really just sit and watch the news anymore?

My point is that when it comes to a story that has the potential to inflame, I think it is the responsibility of the news organization to be extra careful with everything (graphics, chyron, copy, etc.). Because chances are, the viewer is only truly taking in about half of what's reported. Drew's piece yesterday may have had caveats, but c'mon, the viewer hears "9-11" and foreign names, and connections are made that Drew never even stated--especially when the reporter is saying one thing and the words on the screen are saying another. I suppose one could argue that the public's interpretation of their reporting isn't a media outlet's problem. But is there any harm in being extra cautious when you know you don't have all the facts?

Anyway, we move on to another piece from Drew on radical Muslims in New York City, which is actually a repeat (though I don't think I blogged it). Basically? These asshats were born and raised in the US, but are preaching love of Bin Laden and praising terrorist attacks. Awesome. One guy tells Drew, "We're commanded to terrorize the disbelievers." Oh really? What about the idea that killing one innocent is equal to slaughtering all of humanity? I'm guessing he skipped that Quran verse. Like I said, asshats.

For discussion of this, we're joined by Jeffrey Toobin and Peter Bergen. The topic of free speech and where to draw the line is brought up, with Jeff noting the courts have struggled with this for years. The Skokie case comes to my mind. Free speech is one of the things that make this country great, but these radicals present a potential very real danger. I think we're all hoping that the FBI is on top of them and other equally dangerous groups.

Transitioning now to the news that earlier tonight the D.C. sniper, John Allen Muhammad, was executed. This then segues us into part two of the special report from yesterday, with more news clips of that terrifying period in 2002. I'm slightly amazed by how much I remember of this footage. Back then I was mostly shunning regular CNN (it sucked big time), but watched Headline News (at the time the channel actually did, uh, news) all the time. Following the piece, Anderson Cooper talks with Jeanne Meserve, who interviewed Muhammad in 2004. She describes a pretty bizarre experience, noting that he tried to intimidate her and wouldn't talk about the murders at all. Scary how just a couple of guys can terrorize so many people.

On now to a story with a much happier ending. In Boston, a drunk woman stumbled onto the subway tracks", but thanks to arm-waving bystanders and a quick-thinking driver, she was able to emerge from the incident unscathed. The driver's name is Charice Lewis and she is tonight's "Big 360 Interview." Ooh, the same spot as Oprah. You go girl! So basically? Drunk girl falls in, people wave frantically, Charice realizes what's happening and quickly stops the train right in the nick of time, and drunk girl pulls herself off the ground and smiles. Lesson? Um, maybe don't get wasted and go walking around subway tracks.

Next up, Gary Tuchman tells us all about the piece he's going to have on Thursday. Dudes, spoilers?! Kidding.

Finally tonight, Randi Kaye has the super-important news that former Miss California, Carrie Prejean, has a book out. Time to get that puppy out there and apparently 360 has decided to help with this feat. Why guys, why?! Poor, poor Ms. Prejean has had quite a time of it. Randi tells us that the book claims the beauty queen was "publicly labeled a bigot and another word that starts with the letter 'B.'" We're left to figure that one out for ourselves. Oooh! Oooh! Beelzebub? And then there's that little matter of a sex tape. In which she's alone. Oh my.

Anyway, blah blah blah...hypocrisy! Do we really care about any of this? Anderson tells us he hasn't had a chance to look at the book. For a second there, I soo thought he was going to say he hadn't had a chance to look at the tape, which would have hurt my brain in several different ways. And why does he need to look at the book? Dude, seriously, you can slack on this one. It's okay. But hey, how's that troop increase in Afghanistan going?

For discussion of this (seriously?!), we're joined by Lisa Bloom. Oh guys, c'mon. Yesterday Lisa was tweeting about the death penalty. Now that would have been a worthy discussion. But here we are. Anderson thinks that it was pretty sleazy for the boyfriend (or whoever) to leak the tape and I would have to concur. "But-- now that it's out there, even kind of talking about it just kind of -- it's like supporting somebody who's..." and then our anchor's thought train just kinda derails. It's okay, Anderson. We get it. Well, sort of. But if he thinks talking about it is "inappropriate" then, um, why are we talking about it?

The show was okay again. I think I'm still on-board with bulldozing the format. By the way, one of my chat friends reminded me that this week we were supposed to be getting a special series about army tapes. So what's up with that? Per my friend: "Why does this show lie to me so much? I feel like I'm in an abusive relationship." I'd make a Brokeback Mountain "we just can't quit you" joke, but, uh, a lot of regular viewers have quit you.

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Monday, November 09, 2009

New Info On Fort Hood Shooter, Health Care Reform Passes House, D.C. Sniper Timeline, And Oprah Interview About Her Latest Book Club Selection

Hi everybody. Happy New Week! We're kicking things off with the latest on the horrible shooting at Fort Hood. I have to say, the coverage tonight and Friday (which I didn't blog) has made me somewhat uncomfortable. It is still SO early regarding finding out what exactly happened, yet there seems to be a narrative already forming in the media. Is it correct? Possibly. But remember, it's only recently that we learned that almost everything we thought we knew about Columbine was so very wrong.

Okay, so from Drew Griffin we learn that last year the FBI was actually investigating Major Nidal Malik Hasan because he was communicating with someone else they were investigating. The Army did their own investigation, finding that the person was a radical Muslim cleric in Yemen, but determined the communications to be research for his job as an Army psychiatrist. Then Drew's piece delves into a bunch of terrorism stuff, but if I'm understanding correctly, there are no smoking guns here. For example, two 9-11 hijackers attended services at the same mosque where Hasan had his mother's funeral. Maybe this is something. Or maybe this is just some sort of weird game of Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.

It would be unfair for me to say there are no caveats here. From Drew: "There is no evidence Nidal Hasan attended the mosque regularly at that time, nor that he ever met with or was influenced by the cleric al-Awlaki, who left the United States a year later." And: "...a federal law enforcement source very close to the investigation says, don't discount the idea this may be a disgruntled employee, a person who may have had some kind of jihadist views." And from Anderson Cooper: "'s perfectly possible for someone to do something in the name of a cause without being an actual member of a cause or in touch with people in that cause."

But as I said before, I'm still uncomfortable about this media narrative forming, because so far, it seems devoid of real facts. And 360's whole "did the Army make a deadly mistake?" framing isn't really helping things. Seriously, just because you stick a question mark at the end, doesn't suddenly make a statement objective. For the life of me I do not understand why they cannot simply report facts. Everything has to be sensationalized. To be clear, I absolutely think it's warranted to look into that question, but there's a difference between holding people accountable and simply framing your segment.

We then move on to a piece from Ted Rowlands and learn that Hasan's former classmate Val Finnell was very disturbed by his proclamation that he was a "Muslim first and American second." That could definitely be a red flag, but I'm also wondering if some people might find it less disturbing if you swapped Muslim with Christian. Hasan had other problems as well, and the co-founder of a mosque referred to him as "incoherent," so it's looking like there were definitely lots of signs something was up. Why this man was promoted will surely be a much investigated subject in the future.

Anderson does the "360 Bulletin" tonight. Hm, weird. Technical difficulties?

On to an interview with ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, Republican Pete Hoekstra. I was fully ready to hear some of that good old Republican fear-mongering we all know and love, but Hoekstra was, dare I say, practically rational. There's a lot of back and forth about briefings, which is kinda neither here nor there. Apparently all that stuff we heard from Drew earlier was somehow leaked to the media and now Congress is catching up. So...that's not good in a myriad of ways. I'm not sure I embrace the Congressman's statement that "... there's indications here that this is more of an act of terrorism than just a criminal act or someone cracking." But his warnings about jumping to conclusions were quite refreshing.

Transitioning now to Randi Kaye at the wall. My God, what has she done with John King and Tom Foreman?! Anyhoo! The topic? Health care. As it turns out, there are more uninsured people in red states than blue states, with Louisiana, Texas, New Mexico, and Florida being in the worst shape. But guess whose Republican senators are going to vote against the public option? Yep. Randi breaks it all down for us. This was a good segment. More please, 360.

On now to discussion with David Gergen and Candy Crowley. Saturday night the House passed its version of the health care reform bill (yay!), so now things move on to the senate. However, a very un yay part of that bill passage was the addition of the Stupak amendment, which limits abortion rights. President Obama has already indicated he wants to see that changed. The Gerg also talks about whether or not Harry Reid has 60 votes. This kinda drives me crazy. If he has 60 votes for cloture, we only need 51. Are Democrats going to vote against party on procedure? There's a question I'd like answered.

Also, to be filed under "well, that was odd," right when Candy says "the public wants some form of health care," we hear clapping in the studio. Um, I'm guessing that's a no no. Probably not even related to what Candy said, but I bet Glenn Beck can make a whole segment out of it if he really tried.

Next up, we have a timeline of the D.C. sniper shootings that took place in 2002. I'll admit, that when I first saw this advertised on the blog, I was not at all enthused. I didn't know why they were retreading through old material (turns out John Allen Muhammad will be executed tomorrow) and I fully expected it to suck. It did not. What we got was a very well done trip in the way-back machine, complete with CNN's own news footage and interviews with those who covered the story. There's even a clip of Anderson subbing on NewsNight. Aw, I miss NewsNight. Confession: I probably watched that show more than I did the previous version of 360. Regarding the show rearrangement, I guess it all worked out for everyone in the end, though I do miss learning the weather in Chicago.

But back to the piece, we hear a lot from Joe Johns who covered the story for NBC News, and admitted he feared being the next victim. I don't think I knew Joe came from NBC. News peeps jump around so much, it's hard to keep track. Anyway, he tells us the motive for the sniper attacks is still unclear. It sounds like the guy is mentally ill. His accomplice remains in jail, probably for life.

Finally tonight, we have the "Big 360 Interview" with none other than Oprah. See, the Queen of Daytime and CNN and Facebook all got together to do this big book club webcast. Synergygasm! And our own Silver Fox took part. Are you really surprised? It's no secret our anchor has some mad (platonic) Oprah-love going on. Yeah, I may have done some mocking through the years. Anyhoo! The book is "Say You're One of Them," a collection of short stories told through the eyes of African children. It sounds good, actually. I'll probably read it, despite my Oprah snobbery. My two waiting-to-be-read books on Rwanda ("Shake Hands With the Devil" and "We Wish To Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families") are going to be mad if I buy and read this new one before them.

I tried to watch the webcast for a bit, but it kept freezing on me and I gave up. You can watch the whole thing on CNN's site, which is something I stupidly didn't think about. I should have just waited. It's not like I wanted to participate in the chat. There's not that much to say about the interview. Oprah talks about her school and Anderson comments a bit about the students' resiliency. Two things: First, why all the short story hate? Both Oprah and our anchor say they aren't usually fans. Even David Sedaris?! C'mon, you gotta love David Sedaris. Also, I couldn't quite tell because of the freezing feed, but it looked like they had some pieces on Africa from CNN correspondents. Is there some reason we can't get that coverage on 360? It's pretty sad when you know a network's international correspondents because of Twitter, and not because you've seen their work on air.

The "shot" tonight was the fall of the Berlin Wall. Twenty years. Man.

The show was okay--not a real winner; not terrible either. I'm not sure what to think of their Hasan coverage. I'm guessing they're being much more responsible than, say, Fox News, but I expect more caution from 360. There are real consequences for Muslims in the military here (or hell, just Muslims period). I certainly don't proclaim to know what went down. Hasan might be more involved in terrorism than anyone has reported. But we don't know that yet. Anyway, Randi's segment and the D.C. Sniper timeline were the highlights of the night.

Also? I think my theory about election night ratings panned out. CNN saw a pretty good bump with the Fort Hood shootings. The brand still has it.

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Thursday, November 05, 2009

A Little Levity After A Horrible Shooting At Fort Hood

Hi everyone. This was a pretty terrible news day. The Army reports 12 dead and 31 wounded in a shooting rampage at Fort Hood in Texas. As a general rule, I don't blog "breaking news" because 1) it's too hard and 2) there really is no point. Some of what was reported today won't be true tomorrow. I learned long ago that you can watch hours of news coverage of a breaking story and literally only learn five minutes of actual facts. This isn't a criticism exactly; it I'm not sure how you get around that.

Yesterday I mentioned that CNN is the network that people turn to when news happens. I guess I should note that, in this regard, I'm more of an opposite kind of viewer. Though I'm a news junkie, I tend to purposely avoid cable news (unless the story has a strong visual component) whenever a big story breaks. I like facts. I loath speculation. I prefer to wait until people actually know what they're talking about before I tune in. But that's just me. For 360's sake, I hope I was the exception. The show went for two hours tonight, but I only made it through about an hour. From what I saw (and I admittedly wasn't watching that closely) it seemed to be decent coverage.

My thoughts and prayers go out to those affected. As a distraction from the horrible news--and because I didn't give you a real review--here's a video that always makes me smile:

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Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Political Spin, The Maine Same-Sex Marriage Decision, And New Report On Phillip Garrido

Hi everyone. Welcome to the post-election glow. Well, if there was a glow, which there is not. Pop a Dramamine kids, because this might get dizzying. On the Democratic side, Nancy Pelosi is all "yay!" about the New York win. While Republican head Michael Steele is crowing about the pickups in Virginia and New Jersey. You spin me right round, baby, right round, like a record, baby, right round, round, round.

As for our friends at CNN, well, they've got some spinning of their own to do. Despite going all out with their super-special election coverage, the network came in a devastating last place in the ratings. Embarrassing? Hells yes. But I'm not sure this is actually the death blow some are making it out to be.

We all know that CNN has a lower base viewership than the partisan networks. They get their viewers when news happens. Last night was supposed to be one of those signature viewer-getting events, but was it really? Let's face it, CNN totally forced this election coverage, hoping to recreate 2008. In reality, most of the public wasn't even paying attention. And even of those who were invested, the most energized were the conservatives and CNN will NEVER get them.

I maintain that the network has major problems and I don't believe their current model is sustainable, but it's also not all going to come crumbling down in less than a year (I'm measuring from 2008). The brand is too strong. I'd be curious to know though if the brand is viewed the same by all generations. I suspect it's not. I suspect the younger crowd is more apt to hit social networking sites for "breaking news," rather than turn on CNN. Now THAT'S worth worrying about.

Anyhoo! Tom Foreman is here to talk about the "sea change" among independents. Ooh, there were changes in the seas! Meh. You know, I blogged the whole 2008 election season (all two years of it!) and the media was so spectacularly wrong on so many occasions, I tend to only hear the Charlie Brown teacher voice when they start talking independents and what they mean. Of note though is Tom telling us poll percentages of people who are "scared" or "angry" or whatever. The numbers are high, BUT just last night, Soledad noted that the numbers from last year were actually higher. Ladies and gentleman, we're experiencing a bit of context-fail tonight--please buckle your seat belts.

Moving on now to an interview with Liz Cheney to talk politics. Oh joy. Were the Bush twins not available? What do the Gore kids have to say? Despite the last name, is there any reason we should be listening to anything this woman says? The Wikipedia says she has State Department experience (which doesn't really apply here) and worked on the campaigns of Fred Thompson and Mitt Romney. Thompson and Romney--now there's some resume boosters. Did Thompson's campaign ever even get off the ground? Dun-dun!

You've probably guessed that I have no interest in what she says, though I will note that she got in an ACORN reference right off the bat. These people are hilarious. She also talked about "nationalized" health care, which isn't even on the table. Anderson Cooper didn't follow up on that one, but he did fairly okay with the overall interview.

Next up, we have an interview with Obama campaign manager David Plouffe. Yes we can...sell a book! Aw, I kid David. Sorta. He is selling a book and that's why he's doing the show circuit. I'd wager he's also the reason we got saddled with Liz Cheney. CNN and their lovely forced "balance." This is definitely one of the network's top problems. The show wanted to have on Plouffe, but felt they couldn't without matching him with a Republican. Thing is, Obama campaign manager DOES NOT equal Fred Thompson campaign worker.

The whole left/right match up is getting very tired. Have on the news maker of whatever party and hold them accountable. Yes, if a guest is allowed to do a monologue and then there's no one from the other side, I'm going to be peeved, but otherwise? It's okay. Of course, I'm probably one of the few people left that think 360 at least strives to be an objective show, so perhaps I'm not one to go by on this issue.

As for the interview, the only thing of note to me was when Anderson was asking where all the grass roots organizing went, noting the tea party protests. "Well, the tea party protests were loud and irresponsible, so they got coverage on shows like yours," says David. Oh snap! Ouch. But not untrue.

Transitioning now to the equality defeat in Maine. Don't make me put you on my "list," Maine. Alaska is on that list. Just sayin'. Anyhoo! So we gotta debate this sucker out. Joining us to do just that are Evan Wolfson, founder of the organization Freedom to Marry, and...Tony Perkins. When Perkins was introduced, I had to crack up. I had been chatting with some long-time 360 viewers and during the run-down at the top of the show, one commented: "Dear God, if Tony Perkins shows up I'm turning the channel." Show up he did, and channel was changed by many of my chat-mates.

My point in relaying that little anecdote, is that it really shows just how stale 360 has become. We know the guests before they even announce them. We know the conversation before we even hear it. I'll admit that personally I'm into this story, so these debates usually hold my interest. But I can completely understand why others would go for the remote, even when they care about the topic.

Where's the unconventional thinking? Instead of the same old debate, why not actually send someone to Maine to speak to the voters? Why not show us a gay family and the real consequences decisions like Maine's have? I know stuff like that requires more time and effort than talking heads in a box, but people are sick of the talking heads in a box.

Moving on to Randi Kaye who has details of a damning report recently issued related to the Phillips Garrido case. I'm going to wrap this up, so I'm leaving out the numbers, but pretty much the authorities and parole agents failed in, like, every way possible. Unbelievable. Jobs should be lost over this. After Randi, we get legal analysis from Jeffrey Toobin and Lisa Bloom.

Erica Hill has the "360 Bulletin" and we learn that one-time
Miss California USA, Carrie Prejean, has a sex tape. In which she's alone. Oh my. Jesus will not be pleased. The "shot" tonight is a dog massage video. Yes, it sounds weird, but I'll admit it made me giggle. The show was...uh, I'll get back to you.

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Tuesday, November 03, 2009

A Super Important Election Night (At Least That's What CNN Wants You To Think), Plus Anderson Cooper Is A Lego & Jack Gray At The 140 Conference

Hi everybody. So hey, did you hear there was an election tonight? That's right. CNN whipped out the Magic Wall, gathered up the pundits, and put extra batteries in the Wolfbot, all in preparation for a long night in the Election Center with the Best Political Team on Television (BPTOT). Compared to the awesomeness that was 2008, this year was a real snoozer. I can't say I was all that invested. Oh, but CNN was--in an eye roll worthy way.

Honestly, I didn't pay that much attention to the coverage. After a while, all the pundits tend to blend together. But I've managed to squeeze out a few bullet points for you. Nostalgia! First though, the business: Republicans saw wins in Virginia and New Jersey, Democrats picked up a long-time Republican seat in New York, Michael Bloomberg's money almost wasn't good enough to buy a mayorship, and equality took a hit in Maine. Yeah, there was other stuff too, but seriously, do we really care all that much? On to the bullet points!
  • I'm over the Magic Map/Wall. Do we really need all that technology just for John King to write numbers on a screen? Just get a dry erase board, and with the money you save you can hire an extra reporter or two. Or, you know, stop laying off the ones you have.
  • Hey, BPTOT, stop telling me you have "surprising" results to report (I'm looking at you Anderson Cooper). I'll be the judge of whether or not I'm surprised.
  • And while I'm yelling at you, this is not one big referendum on Obama. His presidency is not in peril because of a couple of piddly elections. Capiche? Is the Election Center a context-free zone? Remember how different things were a year ago? Yeah, well, they could be just as different (for good or bad) a year from now. My point is that the midterm elections are A YEAR away. Chill!
  • Soledad O'Brien told us that over 60 percent of the American people think things will be better in the country in the next year. Then she told us that this number sounds good, but is actually possibly problematic depending on if Obama can deliver. Oh. My. God. Stop trying to report on nonexistent future news! Yes, next year things could be not better. Or they could be even better than anyone imagined. Hell, maybe next year Obama will give everyone ponies. Please, people, stick to news happening in the present.
  • Anderson Cooper made a reference to the "liberal media." I'd like to know his definition of that term. I also wonder if he realizes that basically every conservative would count him (and CNN) a member.
  • Election night and 360 is still doing the "shot." Interesting. And a little out-of-place.
  • You know, I couldn't care less about a single thing any pundit says. Yeah, I like some of them more than others (I know in the past I said I loved them equally, but, uh, I lied); I still don't particularly want to hear their opinions.
  • Anderson Cooper brought jokes to the Election Center. He told us that the most note-worthy thing about a member of Boyz II Men getting swine flu was that the group still exists. Zing! Also? In his opinion, Michelle Obama should get a medal for surviving a Miley Cyrus concert. Booyah! He'll be here all night, folks! Or at least until the suspender-ed one takes over.
  • I hope Scozzafava is laughing her ass off at the tea partiers. How's the Beck crowd going to spin this?
  • Maine, you suck. That is all.
Now for a few extras. My artist relative has been having some fun with Legos lately. Check out her latest. Lego Silver Fox!

For your viewing pleasure, the YouTube finally got a hold of Jack Gray's appearance at the 140 Character Conference. Enjoy:

And his bossman, Jon Klein:

I haven't finished watching all of the Klein video, but I am already quite in a tizzy over them showing those clips of the CNN birther debunking and then NOT bringing up the Dobb's radio show controversy regarding that issue. Dood, you have Klein right there. Maybe I'll expand on that tomorrow. But that's all tonight. Until we meet again.

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Monday, November 02, 2009

Noisy Politics With A Dose Of Offensive Insanity, Generic Coverage Of Women At Work, And Nicholas Cage? Oy.

Hi everyone. Tonight Anderson Cooper returns to claim his rightful place in the anchor chair. And...that is really the only good thing about this show, unfortunately. I don't particularly enjoy being a Debbie Downer. It's just that I usually only have time to watch one full hour of news and nights like these I feel like I chose poorly. I actually considered having my review consist of only three simple words: the show sucked. But I suppose even I'm not that harsh. So let's bulldoze over this thing, shall we?

We begin with politics! See, there's a few key races going down tomorrow and CNN is hilariously going all out. What's that smell? I do believe it's possible ratings. Any chance at recreating last year and they are so there. Anyway, Tom Foreman tells us about New York's 23rd Congressional District. Historically Republican, GOP candidate Dede Scozzafava was favored to win. But wait! That was before the angry conservatives. Mwahaha!

Actually, this kind of song isn't all that unique. I'm sure you can guess the tune: the Limbaugh/Palin wing of the party starts screaming RINO and endorses the conservative. What is interesting is that Scozzafava actually suspended her campaign. So now 360 has this all framed as a big moderate versus extreme wing thing because God forbid we have a story without conflict. But hey, fine with me. My view? Go Team Conservative! Go ahead, take over the party. You're gonna do awesome in the generals.

For discussion of this, we're joined by tea party guy Mark Williams and Roland Martin. Oh man. C'mon 360. Is there any conceivable way that this segment isn't going to end in disaster? What's funny is that Mark always goes on the show and then trashes them later on his blog. Yet they keep inviting him back. I think CNN is a little self loathing. So, okay, yes, let's put two loud yell-y people together and see what happens. This is totally a good idea.

Mark does not disappoint. Upon his very first opportunity to speak, he connects the moderate candidate to ACORN. Wow, well played. Eek, ACORN! Boogity boogity boo! By the way, if you'd like to learn more about ACORN, Mark has a helpful link on his blog located under the title "21st Century Nazis." There you can find info about former president Jimmy Carter as well. I love how eager Mark is to inform. Also? Apparently conservatives embrace constitutional values, while "liberal, by definition, is an enemy ideology to this country."

So, what a hot mess, huh? At one point Mark wants to know why he's considered "fringe." Obviously he does not actually listen to anything that comes out of his mouth, otherwise he'd know the answer to that. The only solace here is how bad he is at what he does. Most wingers are smart enough to keep the crazy in check when they're on the national TeeVee, but not this guy.

I guess I should note that Roland says a bunch of stuff too (and Anderson sorta kinda does a little accountability-holding), but it's nothing of note. Our anchor also does his usual routine of asking us to give our opinion on the blog. For some reason I'm guessing my suggestion that Mark go Cheney himself would probably not make it out of moderation.

Transitioning now to some estrogen-heavy coverage. Being a woman, I know I should probably be pleased about their special girl power segment, but mostly I am meh. It starts with an Erica Hill piece about how the world is a boys' club. Obama's sports-playing and stuff like that is mentioned, but what really caught my eye was the part about Letterman. It's portrayed like we're supposed to be surprised that a late night comedy show would be a tough place for a woman to work. Um, duh? Obviously I don't agree with the work environment, but isn't the fact that it exists pretty well-known?

On now to our all-woman panel. Four guests all in boxes. It's like Hollywood Squares: Girl Power! Occupying the squares are Suze Orman, professional poker player Maria Ho, former White House press secretary Dee Dee Myers, and neurosurgeon Katrina Firlik. I don't have anything against these women (though some socio-economic diversity might have been nice); there's just nothing of note here. Women are less aggressive than men and downplay their accomplishments. Wow, that's really ground breaking. C'mon, we've heard this all before. Where's the provocative angles? I'm not saying be sensational, but must we retread on stuff I'm sure Oprah did five years ago?

On now to a Randi Kaye piece on Nicholas Cage getting swindled by his business manager. Oh good God, I give up. After the piece, Anderson says this: "We should point out, with millions of Americans out of work, a lot of people are going to find it hard to sympathize with a Hollywood star who loses track of his tax payments and his multi- million-dollar fortune." You think? Yet they still went with the story. AND had discussion with Lisa Bloom and business manager Evan Bell. When the most interesting thing about a segment is that one of the guests has a phenomenal porn 'stache (did you see that thing?!), you're probably in trouble.

So hey, when you combine Ewoks, Halloween, and the humping of Al Roker's leg, what do you get? Why, you get tonight's "shot." Um...yeah. Apparently some Ewoks got out of control live on the Today Show. Were they drinking? 360 got to the bottom of it, y'all. No, they were not. The Silver Fox is just all in a tizzy over his love for this clip. "I love Ann Curry's face in it. She's just like, 'I've been to Darfur. Why am I doing this stupid segment?'" I'd just like to point out that our anchor is now reporting on that stupid segment.

Anyway, the banter with Erica Hill seems to go on forever (seriously, time to kill?). Pictures are shown. Blah blah blah. The Ewoks might not have been drinking, but it sorta seems like someone has been. I might enjoy the inanity if it didn't follow such a bad show. Oh 360, I don't know what to do with you. Lately I've been talking to some viewers who have been watching for years--well, had been watching for years. Most barely watch anymore. None have anything nice to say about the state of the show. Le sigh.

Just to throw a little bit of extra weird into this post, I caught a couple minutes of Rick Sanchez's show today. He had on Scott Ritter and talked about his smearing by the MSM even though he turned out to be right on Iraq. Remembering that time well, it was a bit cathartic to watch. Man, I never thought I'd see the day where I was trashing 360 and promoting Rick Sanchez. This truly is an upside down world. Hopefully we'll get flipped back over tomorrow.

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