Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Anderson Cooper Has Had Enough Of Your Birther Bullshit

Update 4/27/10: Hello all. I didn't ditch you. I've been slightly under the weather these past few days and decided to take it easy. The last thing someone like me needs is to become full-blown sick. So extra sleep it is! But I did watch Sanjay Gupta doing hosting duties last night. If we can't have Anderson, I like that we get someone so fancypants (a doctah!). Did you notice that Sanjay has the same intense-yet-slightly-confused listening face as the Silver Fox when it comes to financial news? Hilarious. Finally evidence that he too is a mere mortal like the rest of us.

Anyway, hopefully I'll be back to reviewing by Wednesday or Thursday. For now, be sure to check out this great piece from James Poniewozik on CNN's moderate bias. Pull quote:

Today, with technology making raw news a commodity, the challenge for consumers is sorting out politicized counterclaims on everything from health care to meteorology to security. Viewers want someone to cut through the kicked-up partisan dust. They want to hear, flat out, when someone is full of it. CNN too often gives both sides, then shrugs. A CNN anchor interviewing two party hacks and leaving us to decide who we should believe doesn't cut it.

Hi everybody. Guess who's baaaack? Well, technically the birthers never went away. You can stomp on them, but they'll just pop up again somewhere else. Like roaches. Tonight we learn that Arizona is jumping on the crazy train in an official capacity. Republican lawmakers in the state are trying to pass a law requiring candidates to show a birth certificate in order to get on the presidential ballot. OhMyGodICan'tBelieveWe'reStillTalkingAboutThis! *Deep breath*

Anderson Cooper takes us over to the Magic Wall to show us the evidence, once again, that Obama was in fact born in Hawaii. We're also informed of a seriously depressing poll that states that one in five people think Obama is Kenyan, and that another 23 percent aren't sure. The 23 percenters are testing my patience, but okay, maybe they're just not up on the basic information related to the leader of the free world. I mean, you know, American Idol is on and everything, so one gets busy. But the 20 percenters who think he is Kenyan? Can we vote them off the island?

This relaying of facts is followed by an interview with Arizona Republican State Representative Cecil Ash. And it is glorious. I have to say, if Anderson would have fake balanced this thing, I think that would have been it for me and him. But he did not. Instead, he did his job, and he did it very well. Our anchor starts off with the obvious question: "Do you believe Barack Obama is an American born in Hawaii?" Ash says what he's seen points to yes, but you can't believe everything you read on the Internet. What kind of answer is that?

Anderson wonders why he voted for this bill then, and Ash starts talking about the people who think Obama was born in Kenya. "But those people are wrong," says our anchor. "He is a U.S. citizen." Thank you! "Well, you're telling me that they're wrong. I have never investigated that. If he is, then he has nothing to fear," replies Ash. "There are some people who don't believe it, but there are also some people who believe that the moon is made out of cheese. And you can say you have never investigated it, but I think you would probably say the moon is not made out of cheese," says Anderson. So much win.

Our anchor then starts ticking off things Ash told his producer, starting with all the calls pertaining to the issue the representative allegedly gets from constituents. "Isn't it your job as a leader to actually lead, not to throw up your hands and say, well, who knows what's real or not on the Internet...?" More untruths are then brought up, including information that Ash had obtained from a fake April Fool's Day story. Oh good Lord. The representative's response to all of this is that he can't make concrete statements because he hasn't personally investigated. What about gravity? The roundness of the earth?

You know Cecil, I'm a bit concerned about this rumor on the Internets that you eat babies. Where on the Internets? Right here; you just read it! Now, I know you can't believe everything you read online, but I haven't personally investigated your baby eating. So, in the name of quelling controversy, I think we're going to need to make a law that no one can hold office as state representative in Arizona unless they sign a pledge not to eat babies. That sounds fair, right?

Anyhoo! Back in the interview, Anderson steers things to what it's all about: Obama and partisanship. Then he starts quizzing Ash on the birth places of prior presidents, and the guy is either clueless or shocked dumb at being called on his ridiculousness. You don't even know Hope, Arkansas? C'mon. This is pretty much where things wind down, with Anderson simply reiterating all his prior points. Man, that was cathartic. I really, really hate that it had to happen in the first place, but still cathartic. Somebody give our anchor a cookie. Facts: 1, Crazy birthers: 0. (Watch the video!)

This is followed up with discussion with Roland Martin and John Avlon. It's basically a pile on. Roland calls the Arizona lawmakers stupid, while John talks about partisanship. Anderson brings up race (though notes he hates to do so) and how Obama is viewed by some as "other." Of note from John: "Everyone's entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts." Amen! And from Anderson: "It's one thing for people to understandably be confused about it or have formed some opinion. But it's another thing for legislators to actually act on it and use taxpayer time and money to focus on this kind of stuff." Yet here we are. This is why we need constant fact-checking from the media.

Transitioning now to the latest on that Iceland volcano (which I have lovingly renamed Stan). Now there's news that another volcano might become active. Dun dun dun! This other volcano is named Katla (I suppose I'll let this one keep its name), and in a subsequent report we watch Gary Tuchman drive--yes, drive--across a glacier to get to the peak. "We are now on the very top of Katla," says taped Gary. "If this volcano were to erupt, this is where it would emanate from." Dude! Then what are you doing there?! Should I add another "dun dun dun!"?

After his piece, Gary joins us live to talk more about Katla. He also notes that it's noisy there in Reykjavik because tomorrow is a holiday for the first day of summer (even though it's flippin' cold--oh, those crazy Icelanders). "Reykjavik is kind of a big drinking town, as I recall, isn't it?" asks Anderson. Gary confirms that it's a party town, but that he's going to sleep after talking to us. Suuure. Partay!

Next up, we have Chad Myers for the weather stuff and I zone out a bit. Love ya Chad, but I'm not a huge meteorology fan. However, my ears perk up when I hear the word "volcanologist" used. Um, what now? And I should have known that it would stand out to our anchor as well. "You have been talking to Vulcans?" he asks. From Chad: "I have, yes fly and be free, burial at sea." Again, um, what now?

We next transition to a Joe Johns piece that's like Terry Schiavo II, though thankfully without the death by feeding tube removal. About four years ago Abbie Dorn had triplets, but after the delivery she began to internally hemorrhage, resulting in brain injury. She's now in a kind of persistent vegetative state, being cared for by her parents, who claim she communicates by blinking her eyes. They say she wants to see her children, but Abbie's now ex-husband doesn't want them to see her because he's been told she has no cognitive function and is incapable of interaction. Now both sides are entangled in a legal battle over visitation. Sad situation.

Following the piece, Sanjay Gupta and Jeffrey Toobin join us for the medical and legal aspects of the case. Sanjay talks about the difficulties of assessing cognition and Jeffrey notes that with cognition a person has more legal rights. I was wondering why Anderson seemed to be so into this story and then he said this: "I had a dad who died in the hospital when I was 10 years old and wasn't able to go see him in a hospital and will, you know, never forget that." Oh. And aw.

I've used up my time, so I'm skipping ahead to the "shot," which is video of a wasted guy at Coachella Music Festival trying to put on his flip flops. I love Anderson's narration. Also? That video reminds me of this for some reason. That'll do it for me. The show was definitely more interesting to watch tonight than the rest of the week. Yay for smacking down ridiculousness--I just wish it didn't exist in the first place.

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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

South Park Creators Threatened, More On The Iceland Volcano (Otherwise Known As Stan), And Michael Douglas's Son Charged With Drug Dealing

Hi everyone. Tonight we're kicking it off, I don't exactly know. Glee ran long and I was distracted by its complete awesomeness. When I flipped over, Drew Griffin was on my screen. Yay? And they were talking about South Park. Um, what? Okay, from what I can make out, in continuing their quest to absolutely piss off everyone they possibly can, Trey Parker and Matt Stone put the prophet Mohammad in a bear suit. It was a compromise with Comedy Central. Yeah.

Now a radical group has laid down a kind of fatwa on the South Park creators because they feel it's highly offensive for the prophet Mohammad to be shown--even, apparently, in a bear suit. It's a bit of an exercise in passive aggressiveness, actually. The group's website is like, this isn't a threat, but you're probably going to end up like Theo van Gogh. Not a threat. It's like an FYI. With stabbing.

I have a question: is 360 really leading with a story about South Park? Yeah, yeah, it's not really about the show. I know. But the whole radical-Muslims-going-nuts-over-portrayals-of-Mohammad thing isn't new. Anyway, for discussion we're joined by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the writer of Theo van Gogh's film. I'm just going to assume you're familiar.

I'm not exactly an Ali fan. I'm with her on her views of freedom of speech; not so much on Islam. She doesn't seem to make any distinction between the moderate and radical factions of the religion, and thus alienates some of the very people who would normally be on her side. It bugs me a bit that she's allowed to go on these news shows and come off much more sympathetic than she would if her past statements were revealed. But you can't deny she's led quite a life. You can check out profiles of her here and here.

Transitioning back to that volcano in Iceland, which I have renamed Stan. Yes, I wield that kind of power. Our intrepid correspondent Gary Tuchman is still on-the-ground, and in a report from him we get to see, well, what he didn't see. Zero visibility looking out from inside of the car. Ash, ash, everywhere. We're also shown footage from Gary's helicopter ride. Craziness. I like how he tells us their pilot was "a very good one." That's what I would have went with too.

Then we're on to Chad Myers talking about, you know, weather stuff. Says Chad: "I'm going to call it the E-15 volcano -- because I can't say it." Apparently he hasn't heard we're now calling it Stan. Also? I love his description of the volcano's lightening: "It's like a million little people rubbing their feet on the carpet, making shocks and making sparks in the winter time when the humidity is low." From now on I'm totally going to think of teeny little feet every time I see lightening.

Now time for the business side of the story with Richard Quest, who unfortunately for him, is still stranded. The good news is that a lot of planes are flying again, thanks in part to adjusting the levels of what's deemed safe to fly through. I dunno. Seems like the Civil Aviation Authority might be bowing to pressure from the airlines. In any regards, if you don't have to travel? "They're barking mad if they actually go anywhere near an airport and you don't actually have to get on a plane," says Richard. You heard it here.

Moving on to a Randi Kaye piece about Michael Douglas's son Cameron, who has been charged with dealing drugs. Meh. This is followed by discussion with Jeffrey Toobin and addiction specialist...Dr. Reef Karim? What have you done with Dr. Drew?! Yay for at least having on someone else, though if it were up to me, this entire segment wouldn't even exist. I mean, here we have a legal expert who wrote a freaking book on the Supreme Court, and instead of discussing today's decision, we're focused on some celebrity's kid. Because that makes sense. You're kinda killing me here, 360.

That'll do it for me. I didn't look for the "shot" because I think we've seen enough mascot falls. Again, not their best night. Gary has pretty much been carrying the show for the past two days. South Park. Cameron Douglas. WTF? I hope they're going back to Haiti soon. Perhaps I'm being unfair because 360 had the unfortunate experience of being sandwiched between what were truly great episodes of Glee and The Daily Show. Still. They can do so much better.

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Monday, April 19, 2010

More Volcanic Ash In Iceland Causing All Sorts Of Problems, Conspiracy Theorists Continue To Exist, & Seriously, Screw Goldman Sachs

Hi everyone. We're kicking things off tonight with Mother Nature gone wild. I don't think we've seen this much craziness out of Iceland since Bjork. Apparently, the volcano there has been angered, because today it spewed out even more ash. Perhaps it's upset that no one can pronounce its name correctly. Eyjafjallajokull? C'mon! You can hurt yourself saying that. None of the 360 kids even try. They're just going to pretend like it doesn't have a name, I guess. Also? Are we absolutely positively sure that the whole 2012-world's-gonna-end thing isn't true? Because if you'll look to your left, there's freaking lightening coming out of a volcano. I mean, I'm just sayin'.

Anyway. Gary Tuchman is still on-the-ground in Iceland and Anderson Cooper informs us he actually got caught in an ash cloud. Did he ever. Take a look at the picture of Gary that I stole borrowed am using to promote his awesome blog post (heh). He looks like he's broadcasting from post-armageddon. I am very happy to see the mask, but I'm a bit worried about Team Gary's lungs right now. And of course, this isn't just about a news crew bringing us cool images--farmers live there and now their livelihood is covered in ash. God knows the long term effects of breathing the ash. Seeing as though it can stall a plane engine, I'm thinking not good.

Gary also talks to us live by phone (satellite went down) about the extremely poor visibility in the ash. At one point they just had to stop driving because they couldn't see anything. Then when the ash cleared a bit they discovered they were on a collision course with another vehicle. So basically? Danger, danger, everywhere. Oh, and Gary went up in a helicopter to check out the volcano too, which I imagine was both awesome and terrifying. Hopefully this volcano--which I think I'm going to refer to as Stan--will calm down soon.

After Gary, we have Chad Myers live to talk about the ash and the millions of travelers who are stuck. One such traveler is CNNI's Richard Quest, and he joins us in studio since, well, I guess he has nothing better to do. Actually, Richard is pretty relevant to this story given his business expertise and the financial implications on the airlines of all these grounded flights. Yet I still can't help laughing every time I see him. If that end-of-the-world thing does happen, they should totally have Richard anchor. It won't seem quite so bad.

Transitioning now to an acknowledgment that today is the 15th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing; a day when 168 people lost their lives. Today was also a day of pro-gun rallies and protests against the government, which segues us into a Drew Griffin piece on some of these like-minded people. The first person we meet is Catherine Bleish of the Liberty Restoration Project. Drew asks her if Obama was born in the U.S. "I don't know that, but everyone should question that at this point," she replies. Oh. My. God. His birth certificate is on the Internet, independent fact-checkers have held the original, a birth announcement was published in the Honolulu Advertiser...what more do you people want?!!

Ahem. I'm okay now. Okay, so thing is, best I can tell, conspiracy theorists don't really want you to "question," but rather to believe their craziness. Because anyone who questions Obama's citizenship will quickly find the proof they need to confirm he's an American. One of the other whoppers thrown at us is HR-645, AKA the "Oh my God, they're going to throw us in FEMA camps!" bill. Drew notes that it's stalled, but that's pretty much where the reporting ends. He does even tell us the introducer, much less call them for the context.

Anyway, that Catherine person seems nice and all and I'm down with her desire to work together for the good of the country, but I don't see that happening when there are people who refuse to accept simple proven facts. (Also, Obama doesn't want to take your guns, people. In case you haven't noticed, he's kinda busy right now.) This is all followed by discussion with centrist dude John Avlon. It's noted that April 19th is also the anniversary of Waco and Lexington and Concord. These are big dates for violence. Virginia Tech was April 16th; Columbine April 20th. As T.S. Eliot said, April is the cruelest month.

Moving on now to Anderson at the Magic Wall, giving us info on those douchebags at Goldman Sachs. This is important and everything, but I kinda got distracted with breaking news (on Twitter) that Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert will be staying put through 2012. Yay! I don't know how I'd get through an election without my boys. They're my longest news relationship! Anyway, back to my second-longest news relationship (360 got bumped after I "broke up" with Countdown), we've got Michael Lewis and David Gergen and Alexis Glick, but meh. I'm not in the mood.

The "shot" tonight is Willie Nelson on Larry King. Again. Actually, it's Joe Johns' reaction to the edited clip, except he doesn't realize it's edited. I'm not nearly as amused by this as the Silver Fox. "I can't believe you thought that's what actually happened," he says. Well dude, you are supposed to be the most trusted name in news.

I wasn't all that interested in the show, if we're being honest (and I kinda always am). The stuff Gary brought us was amazing. Other than that? Eh. Sorta boring. Tomorrow is another day.

Volcano photograph by Marco Fulle, Barcroft/Fame Pictures

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Friday, April 16, 2010

Two Shows, One Blog Post: Interview With Dr. Jack Kevorkian, Scary Ash Plume In Iceland, & More!

Hi everyone. Well, not even a week after saying I wasn't going to blog Fridays I am blogging a Friday. To make up for skipping out on you Thursday, I'm smooshing the last two night's shows into one post. Not a review, exactly, but review-ish.

Thursday, being tax day, brought us some Tea Party-related coverage. Our friends at 360 began by showing us that, historically, taxes are fairly low right now. In fact, most Americans have seen their taxes go down under this administration. Yet people are angry.

Jessica Yellin spent some time at a Tea Party protest and reports that the crowd was well-behaved with no signs of racism. It sounds like they've gotten more image conscious. Maybe I've missed it, but why does it seem like the media never actually talks to the protesters? I'd like to see a journalist do what this guy is doing. Obviously the videos at the link are edited; obviously the group has an agenda. Does that mean they're out of context? I don't know. I've never seen a journalist do similar questioning.

Anderson Cooper noted that though taxes are down now, many people are worried about the future when the Bush tax cuts expire. Thing is, Obama campaigned on that very issue and was elected with a strong mandate. The majority of the country wants those cuts to expire. Elections have consequences. Anyway, Tom Foreman also had a nice breakdown of how our taxes our spent. This overall segment wasn't bad.

The top of Friday's show brought us the news that Goldman Sachs has been accused of fraud by the SEC. Ali Velshi tried to further illuminate the situation by replacing the financial firm with an antique car dealership. Not bad, but in the battle for most original analogy, I think I'm going have to give the prize to Rachel Maddow and her poisoned donuts. It makes more sense if you watched. One of my faves, Matt Taibbi was a guest to talk about the situation, so yay for that.

Back to Thursday, the news broke that Obama had ordered the Department of Health and Human Services to establish a rule that would prevent discrimination against same-sex couples when it came to hospital visitation. Anderson interviewed Janice Langbehn, and we learned the heart-breaking story of how Jackson Memorial Hospital in Florida denied her and her children the right to see her partner Lisa on her deathbed. During the next broadcast, Anderson told us that the hospital had called to dispute Janice's story. I'd probably rather believe that one woman was lying, than that a whole group of health care professionals could be so heartless, but sadly I'm betting that's not the case.

On Thursday we also got this kinda weird taped segment with Chad Myers about the fireball seen in the Midwest (if you're wondering, no, I didn't see it), and the volcano in Iceland. It was nice to see Chad, but the segment felt out of place to me.

We had additional Iceland coverage on Friday--this time with Gary Tuchman reporting from on-the-ground. I know Gary's a traveling man, but it seems like he's really getting around lately. Just thinking about his frequent flyer miles makes me tired. As for the story, that is one crazy-huge plume of ash. Gary talked to a nervous farmer who has already had to deal with flooding because the volcano erupted under a glacier and it melted. Now they're worried what happens when the ash comes. Scary.

Before Gary's piece, Anderson had noted all the grounded flights in Europe. In a Randi Kaye report, we learned why it is a very bad idea to fly though ash. Apparently, ash contain glass, which will melt on an engine and cause it to stop working--which is exactly what happened to a flight in 1982. National Geographic did a reenactment. Everyone survived, but that's not an experience I'd want to have.

Friday also contained a debate between Chris Hitchens and Tony Perkins, regarding the National Day of Prayer. I have to admit, when I heard their names, I burst out laughing. Because really? Please. These people are so entrenched in their ideals that there's no way anything enlightening could come out of a conversation between the two. What's the point? I find these segments controversy-driven and wish they'd save it for HLN.

Both nights we had segments of Anderson interviewing Dr. Jack Kevorkian. It was interesting, though to be honest, when Anderson tweeted for us to send him questions, I couldn't think of a single thing I really cared to hear him answer. I'm not familiar with every person Kevorkian helped die, but I really don't have any issues with him ending a terminally ill person's suffering. Mental illness? A handicap? That gets more complicated.

Kevorkian is right in that doctors play God all the time. I disagree with his belief that the "death panel" controversy during health care reform was about religion. I think that was strictly about politics. Anyway, like I said, the interview was fairly interesting, but I have a strong aversion to promotion disguised as news. Let's cut the crap here; HBO is airing a film on Kevorkian (we're even joined by stars Susan Sarandon, John Goodman, and director Barry Levinson) and their parent company, Time Warner, is also the parent company of CNN.

That children, is why these interviews occurred. That's not to say 360 wouldn't have jumped at the chance to interview Kevorkian anyway. It just leaves a bad taste in one's mouth. Also, it was weird to watch the actors talking about him when he was sitting right there. Sarandon made a good point regarding upping a patient's morphine. She's right, it happens a lot, yet it's never become an issue.

On Thursday, Anderson interviewed comedian Lewis Black...for like a minute. Seriously, it was comically short. Lewis didn't even get a chance to get his blood pressure up! I'm assuming it was cut for the breaking news on the Obama order. Otherwise, why bother? The "shot" contained Lewis in the green room, so there's that. Also? He tells us that Wolf Blitzer used to be a werewolf. Silly Lewis, robots can't be werewolves.

The "shot" on Friday was a clip of Willie Nelson admitting to Larry King that he had smoked pot before the interview. Dude, I'd smoke pot before an interview with Larry King as well. I kid! Anyway, those jokesters at 360 have edited the clip to make Willie appear really stoned. Anderson thinks this is HILarious. Laugh it up, Silver Fox. What if someone edited clips of you to make you look drunk? Oh, wait.

The shows weren't too bad. I still have no idea what's going on with the second half of the broadcast. Is the "Big 360" interview always a celeb? Because you can't have Chelsea Handler one night and then, say, Bill Clinton the next. You're going to give your viewers whiplash, 360. Also, the celeb thing is going to get old real quick. I guess we'll see what next week brings.

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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

China Earthquake, Wall Street Reform Politics, Investigating The Sons of Confederate Veterans, And Interview With Demi Moore About Haiti

Hi everyone. I got distracted with something and am starting this post way later than usual, so I'm sorry to say you're going to get the mostly-abbreviated version tonight. We begin with the dreaded "breaking news" graphic, which they are using for the China earthquake that happened many hours previously.

We've got John Vause coming at us live from on-the-ground, and you have to hand it to CNN, this is where they kick their competitors' asses and live up to that whole news thing. Earthquake in China? We've got a guy live in a remote region where Buddhist monks are digging for survivors. I just don't understand why they only use these resources when something huge is happening.

This story, obviously, is horrible. Almost 600 dead and counting. To my knowledge, earthquakes are not increasing by year, but admittedly I'm beginning to feel a bit of a "the universe is pissed off" kinda vibe. And we haven't even hit hardcore hurricane season yet.

Next up, we have a Tom Foreman piece that uses the Magic Wall to bring us a bit of awesome honesty-keeping. The real kind. See, Chris Dodd and Mitch McConnell are having a spat because the latter is calling financial reform legislation "tax-payer funded bailouts." Tom then plays us their statements and tells us the real deal with context and everything. Wow. Can we maybe do this again, like, EVERY NIGHT?

Are you feeling pundit depleted after that mad fact-checking? Fear not! It's time for some pontification with Paul Begala and Alex Castellanos. They talk about Frank Luntz, Republican word manipulator dude, and how he came up with the "tax-payer funded bailout" phrase before Dodd's legislation was even released. Classy!

Blah, blah, blah. Anderson Cooper, who I don't think I've mentioned yet (he's there, sometimes I just forget to add him in!) calls Alex out for using buzz words, so kudos for that. But the pull clip would be when Paul demonstrates McConnell's ridiculousness by presenting us with his (Paul's) receding hairline. Perhaps I should elaborate. "I actually have a thick and lustrous head of hair. So, the question is, what are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes?" ask Paul. Get it? Oh that Begala...

Then he adds, "Maybe I should put that on my forehead. This is not a bailout, Mitch." This was made extra amusing for me because I initially thought he said, "This is not a bailout, bitch." For a good second or so my jaw was on the floor and I was wondering why Anderson was not wearing his shocked face. How do you think that would have gone? Would Alex have been like, "oh no you din't!" Also? Dear Crash the Party, if you actually exist, you are asshats and totally not helping.

Moving on now to a Joe Johns piece that delves into that Sons of Confederate Veterans group. You know, the ones who think the Civil War wasn't about slavery. The verdict? The Southern Poverty Law Center says they're not a hate group, though they are keeping a watchful eye. I'm not really sure why 360 keeps coming back to this story, but I have no complaints with this piece. They are 100 times better when they are reporting, rather than letting two yahoos pointlessly yell at each other.

The "Big 360" interview tonight is with Demi Moore, who just returned from her first trip to Haiti. She talks about the DNA Foundation, which she co-founded with Ashton Kutcher to end sex slavery. The restavec system is noted. I honestly don't know what to think about this interview. I'm always down with attention being brought to these causes--even if it has to be done with a celebrity--but most of this was about Haiti and she's been there all of one time. It became about her experiences. (Note: I have absolutely nothing against Moore and think she's doing a good thing.)

This isn't like with Sean Penn who is running his own camp and can bring us actual on-the-ground updates. Also, doesn't CNN have anyone in Haiti? At the top of this I praised their resources, but this segment just makes me confused. Does 360 think we'd rather see celebrities than reporting from journalists? I feel like they're not giving us enough credit. Reading CNN's recent press and then watching the network is a weird experience. I read a quote from Anderson about reporting and then he's interviewing comedian Chelsea Handler. I don't know what they're doing anymore. Do they? An entertainment segment (say once weekly) designated as such would probably make stuff like that less weird.

Finally tonight, Randi Kaye has a crime piece, but I'm skipping. Sorry Randi.

The "shot" tonight is a kitty investigating an iPad. Yesterday they showed a dog attacking his own shadow. "It's only fair that if we show dogs, we show cats, as well," says our anchor. The balance has even seeped into their adorable animal videos! That'll do it.

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Monday, April 12, 2010

Adopted Russian Child Sent Back, Calling Out Conservatives On Nuclear Arms Reduction Treaty Ridiculousness, & Re-Debating The Civil War

Hi everyone. My regular readers have probably noticed I've recently been doing a lot of slacking on Fridays. There was a period of time where I didn't blog Fridays at all and barring anything special, I think I'm going to go back to that. I don't like having a post hanging over my head when the weekend rolls around, especially if the show wasn't that interesting to me, which unfortunately it hasn't been lately.

We begin with the story of the Tennessee family who sent their newly-adopted seven-year-old back to Russia. By himself. Because they didn't want him anymore. Classy. I'm actually going to skip all of this because I haven't been keeping up with the story. Sounds pretty messed up though. For those keeping score at home, the segment included discussion with Dr. Jane Aronson (otherwise known as the lady with the blue glasses) and Lisa Bloom.

This moves us into an update of Gary Tuchman's prior run piece about the Ranch for Kids. Or actually, maybe it's just re-cut? I don't remember the part about the family visit, but it seems to be hardcore winter, so I dunno. Anyway! Young Alec gets a visit from his family and everything looks good on camera. Unfortunately, we learn Alec is still threatening violence to people and therefore is not ready to return home. I hope he gets there soon.

Next up, Anderson Cooper logs his (apparently) required time at the Magic Wall. The subject? Nuclear arms. See, Obama just signed a treaty with Russia to reduce the weapons, which you would think would be a welcome announcement. Commence Republican freak out. Says nuclear expert Sarah Palin: "No administration in America's history, I think, would ever have considered such a step." Orly? Well, Sarah, thinking it doesn't make it so.

We're then played a clip of Ronald Reagan--conservative idol--calling for a reduction of nuclear arms. That's an "oh snap" from beyond the grave! Very nice, 360! Of course, a guy with a comedy show beat you to it, but still, yay for calling out the BS.

For discussion of this, we've got James Carville and Ed Rollins. Meh. A bit of amusement, as you may know (or, um, not), John McCain has himself a primary fight with crazy dude J.D. Hayworth for his senate seat in Arizona. Well, everyone's favorite presidential loser has put out quite the interesting web video: A Special Message From J.D. Hayworth. Oh McCain, if only you weren't willing to turn your back on everything you believe in at the drop of a hat, you might actually be likeable.

The ad contains tried and true conservative issues, like Obama's Kenyaness and man on horse relationships. Says our anchor: "On the one hand, he seems to be tacking right, and then, in this, he is making fun of J.D. Hayworth on issues which some on the right take very seriously." Yes, Anderson, man on horse marriage is very serious! Is anyone else suddenly wondering what Rick Santorum is up to these days?

Anyhoo! So hey, you know that whole Civil War thing we fought some years back? Well, I guess we're not done. When last we met our controversy, Virginia governor Bob McDonnell had declared April "Confederate History Month," but neglected to mention that slavery thing. He's since done some backtracking. Problem solved? Not so! Enter Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour telling Candy Crowley that the slavery omission wasn't a mistake. Oy.

Remember that really awful debate we had between Brag Bowling and Roland Martin about this whole topic? We get to hear it again! Um, kinda confirming my original ratings pimping charge there guys. Also? If you want to hear something crazy, I woke up the morning after that debate to find that my post had been excerpted on the National Review Online of all places. I have infiltrated them with my commie liberalness!

All this is followed by discussion with historian Douglas Brinkley and Joe Johns. Douglas endears himself to me right off the bat by calling this "idiocy" and noting it's really about a southern strategy for Republicans. Well, duh. The rest of the conversation goes on as so. Not bad.

Randi Kaye had a crime piece at the end of the broadcast, but I'm skipping.

The "shot" tonight was some awesomeness courtesy of Tina Fey and Saturday Night Live. Sarah Palin is a wealth of comic material, I'll give her that.

The broadcast was pretty meh, in my opinion. Nights like these, I'm not sure this is the news show for me anymore. That's not to say it's bad exactly--just more controversy-driven for my tastes. I dunno. They're all over the place right now, so I'm not going anywhere. Two weeks from now we'll probably be getting something different. I'm very much getting a "let's throw stuff at the wall and see what sticks" kinda vibe from CNN these days. I'll guess we'll just have to see.

To my regulars, there probably won't be a review tomorrow night. The TV Gods have decided to run the premiere of Glee at the same time as the broadcast. Anderson's cute and all, but unless he's planning on singing and dancing tomorrow, he's going to lose the battle for my own personal ratings. Them's the breaks, Silver Fox. That'll do it.

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Thursday, April 08, 2010

DA Claims Teaching Sex Ed Could Result In Prison Time, Tea Partiers Form A National Federation, Battling The Rainy Season In Haiti, & Too Big To Fail

Hi everyone. I'm just going to cut right to the chase. Tonight we begin with the news that Scott Southworth, a district attorney in Wisconsin, is warning teachers that they could face prison time if they use a sex ed class that was approved by the state government. A weird bit of trivia that is probably neither here nor there at this point: Scott was a 2007 CNN Hero. So okay then.

Anderson Cooper gives us more details at the Magic Wall, like how the program mandates Orgy Thursdays. I kid! Yeah, this is your standard sex ed class. What's there to say? The DA is Republican, it was passed on a partisan Democratic vote. These stories aren't new. There's always someone out there screeching, "ZOMG, they're teaching our children to have the sex!"

Enter said screecher: we're next joined by Southworth himself. He calls the class "a radical program to sexualize kids." He also says that any sex had by children is illegal because they cannot give consent and teachers could be liable--I guess by encouraging them with their sexy facts. Meh.

Lisa Bloom then joins us to pretty much call BS on all this, and she does it well. She says DA dude has no legal ground to stand on, much less sane ground. Bottom line: no one is saying let's teach kids to have sex, but they do need facts to protect themselves. Then we're shown a teen pregnancy PSA featuring Bristol Palin. I am not kidding.

Moving on now to Tea Party talk (oh how I love the Tea Party talk!) with David Gergen, John Avlon, and Candy Crowley. Before I begin though, remember how I've previously noted that John comes across as a fake person? Well, apparently he's a fake writer too! Okay, okay, that characterization might be a tad unfair of me. Poor attributor would probably be more accurate, assuming the Gawker and Salon accounts are true. What can I say, I'm bemused.

Anyway! It seems that 20 Tea Party groups are banding together and forming themselves a federation. Yay? Truth be told, I think it would be awesome if these people really started their own party. The Republicans would pee themselves. The Democrats would just have to do sit back and watch everyone else implode around them. Of course, they'd probably still find a way to screw that up.

The Gerg brings up some polls that are completely meaningless without context and everyone seems to agree there's a real movement going on here--one that's frustrated with how they've been portrayed in the media. "And fair enough on that, and I include myself on that probably early on," says Anderson. Whoa. That's a significant admission.

We all remember our anchor's (admittedly hilarious) off-handed comment about tea-bagging all those months back. While other anchors devoted whole segments to mocking the term, that was Anderson's one and only mention. Yet for some reason, the Internets made him the poster child for Tea Party dismissiveness. It's not hard to assume what that reason might be, but whatever.

I bring this up, because I've noticed something lately. Suddenly, CNN is all about the Tea Party movement. They've been heavily covering the Tea Party Express national tour, and have been relentlessly promoting this piece from an African American producer, which shows the movement in a mostly positive light.

Personally, I found the piece really annoying, not because of the positiveness, but because it's another example of a member of the media acting like they're not a member of the media. It begins with a summary of what we"often see in the coverage of Tea Party rallies." Well yes, because that's what you people showed us for months and months on end. Hello!

Now I guess CNN is trying to correct what they perceive to be an error. They want to be friends with the Tea Partiers (and they really want their ratings!). They're even reaching out to conservatives to tell them about the awesomeness of their coverage (and how they're pissing off the left in the process).

Perhaps this kind of thing is just business as usual, and perhaps Anderson's comment tonight was just a coincidence. But I have to say, all of it has left a very bad taste in my mouth. Dear CNN, Foxification won't help you, and I really hope you're not stupid enough to think it will.

For the record, as someone who's been watching, I don't disagree with our anchor's comment. Protest movements are generally not given all that much respect by the media. Just ask the anti-war crowd. The Tea Partiers shouldn't feel special. Though I personally find the movement ridiculous (and childish), there's a small part of me that sympathizes with what they're doing (even if I think they're dead wrong).

I remember those days back in 2003 and wonder how different it might have been if the media had listened. Is the Tea Party right about initial dismissiveness from the media? Yep. Do they deserve the amount of coverage they're getting now? Nope. Is the movement all crazy extremists? Nope. Is there an undertone of racism among some members? Yep. Will the media ever report this story with accurate context? To be determined (but probably not).

Transitioning now to a Gary Tuchman piece on the rainy season in Haiti. Well, it's here. And the camp he's reporting from is located on a steep hillside. Not good. The plan is to actually move people out of Port-au-Prince to a safer place they've designated outside the city--a big change for people who've lived there their whole lives. Moving everyone is a huge undertaking. Sunday is the target. Let's hope they succeed.

We then go to Sean Penn live and Anderson asks him about the test run they did today, but no straight answer is given. There's a lot of talk of government and aid organization bureaucracies. Sean also notes that hospitals are being closed because they're running out of money while aid organizations are spending their time evaluating how to spend money. Frustrating. Anderson asks Sean what he's learned so far. "I think that in disaster, over-caution kills people is the likely lesson," he replies.

Now some levity: I've discovered that Anderson has "going to the Magic Wall" body language. I can't really explain it. But as they cut back to him at the anchor desk, something seemed off, and then it hit me: "You're about to go to that frickin' wall again, aren't you?" Plus then I noticed it wasn't live, so yeah, kinda a give-away. The topic is Citigroup execs who testified on Capitol Hill today.

This is followed by an interview with Andrew Ross Sorkin, the author of "Too Big to Fail." It's a decent segment and I'm glad they're giving this stuff some coverage. But I'm wrapping things up because I'm tired.

The "shot" tonight is this bizarre Family Feud clip about Ellen DeGeneres. Apparently, she doesn't like our country very much, which is just as surprising to her as I'm sure it is to you. Seriously, WTF? And yes, all the people clapping is probably the most disturbing thing about that clip.

The show was okay. Weirdly, I actually found the last half better than the first this time. It seems like they're trying to lead with sensational controversies now (sex ed, Confederate month, doctor who posts sign against Obama). They're legitimate stories I suppose, but it feels like a ratings ploy. I'm glad we got some Haiti coverage. That'll do it.

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Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Virginia Governor Declares April Confederate History Month, The Republican Party's Identity Problem, And A Breaking News False Alarm

Hi everyone. So okay, kind of a weird broadcast tonight. We had some potentially scary breaking news that turned into a reminder of what one should not do while traveling on a plane. I'll briefly address it at the end, but I think I'm just going to leave the updates out of the recap. They are now what you would call moot. Also, before I get going, I gotta highlight the phrase "Bachmann-Palin overdrive," which Anderson Cooper used in the tease up top. Clever. You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet!

Anyway! Did you hear? Virginia governor Bob McDonnell has made April Confederate History Month! Um, yay? You know, sometimes I think these politicians must sit in a room just thinking of things to piss people off. McDonnell has succeeded quite well with that on this one. Because apparently a whole month is just not enough time to mention that little slavery situation we had going on in this country. That's right, the good people of Virginia have been instructed to reflect on the sacrifices of everyone except the group who one might argue sacrificed the most.

This news has Anderson on his feet and at the, where else, Magic Wall. Hey, can we just all agree that this technology stuff is getting rather stupid? I mean, I'm watching our anchor trying to like, center, this document on the screen, and I'm thinking, you know, words just used to pop up for us with no problem. No fuss, no muss. Can't we go back to that? Because apparently Anderson isn't even comfortable messing with this crap live. (One can't exactly blame him for being technology shy given the embarrassing virtual pizza pie chart debacle of 2008.)

We're next joined by Roland Martin and Brag Bowling, the commander of the Virginia division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, for a batshit insane spirited debate of the governor's declaration. Oh boy. Gee, I wonder how this is going to turn out. Yeah, we've got all kinds of train wreckiness going on here. Brag tries to dismiss the slavery aspect of this controversy, saying it was just an omission that he would have no problem including. According to Anderson, it's also an omission on the homepage of his website, where it says the Civil War was about "preserving liberty and freedom." Okay then.

For his part, Roland manages to equate Confederate soldiers to Nazis in record time. Seriously, did I miss the memo that says every cable news debate must have a Nazi/Hitler reference? Then Brag starts saying that we're seeing some of the same issues today that we saw back then, but he backs off when Anderson asks if he's comparing the Republicans of today to Confederate soldiers. Brag also tries to say that by not having this month we're whitewashing history and then we're automatically Russia. Of course.

Also? When Brag brings this point up, Anderson's all, "Well, let me just give you my answer." What? But you never give your answer. You are opinion-less sleeves man! Anyway, our anchor goes on to tell us that he has both Union and Confederate ancestors and he visits the graves of the latter in Mississippi, but that doesn't mean you whitewash the cause of the war. Okay, that wasn't so much an opinion as it was a semi-genealogy lesson. Still unexpected. That Silver Fox is just full of surprises. And since I'm talking about him anyway, I love that he's wearing his "this guest is so bullshit" look on his face throughout a good portion of this segment.

This basically wraps up with Brag lamenting all the horrible things the Union soldiers did to those poor southerners, all the while Roland has a coronary. "Do you even hear how you sound?" asks Roland. "I think I sound perfectly rational," says Brag. And that, boys and girls, pretty much says it all. Oy. I don't really know what to say about this discussion. In theory, I like that they let it have room to breathe (it lasted almost a third of the show). The thing is though, there was no where for this to go. An exercise predictably doomed for failure.

C'mon, did anyone really think anything enlightening would come out of a discussion with these two, much less a consensus? It's pointless. It's theater. How is this the news alternative to the bickering on the other two cable news nets? If they were going to do this story, they probably should have just had Anderson interview Brag alone. Instead, we got something that smelled suspiciously like a ratings ploy.

I'm going to skip ahead now to the talk with Ed Rollins and David Frum about whether or not Michael Steele needs to step down. This is mean, but when Frum appeared on screen I burst out laughing. Man, apparently ostracizing yourself from your party really wears on a dude. Usually these beltway guys freakishly look like they're stored in a box or something. But Frum's sporting a more life-like, slightly disheveled look. Plus sad face. A friend of mine speculated that perhaps grooming was part of his benefits back at the American Enterprise Institute. Oh snap. It's a hard knock life. And yeah, that's all I'm saying about this segment. I am a terrible person.

So okay, about that breaking news. First everyone was like, ZOMG, shoe bomber the sequel! Then, well, not so much. Hey there air travelers, if you're going to smoke on a plane, first of all, DON'T. But if you do, when asked what you were doing, maybe don't joke that you were lighting your shoes on fire. Just a suggestion. Also? If this had been real, the terrorists are like the stupidest people ever. They try it in the shoes and that doesn't work, so they try it in underwear and that doesn't work, so then they go back to trying in in shoes? C'mon.

The show was just meh. There seemed to have been very little news in the news. I didn't even mention the conversation about Nike's newest ad featuring Tiger Woods. The 360 kids can't be faulted for breaking news that turned out to be not much of anything, but as for everything else, it broke down to about five minutes news and the rest chatter. Not their best night for quality. That'll do it.

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Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Rescue Attempt Continues In West Virginia, Sketchiness Of Don Blankenship, Baby Jenny Reunited With Parents, Michael Lewis Interview, & Mining Illness

Hi everyone. Anderson Cooper is coming at us from the studio tonight, which actually is the last place I would have expected. I guess with the unpredictability of the breaking news they just ultimately decided to have him sit tight. Hopefully he'll head to Haiti within this next week or two.

We begin with the latest out of West Virginia. The search is still on for the four miners that remain missing, but it's not looking all that great. Eleven of the 25 dead have been identified. As per usual, we've got the Magic Wall action going on--tonight it's being used to preview what's coming up in the broadcast. We see a shot of Tom Foreman at his own Magic Wall. A wall within a wall. I think they just blew my mind.

Gary Tuchman has our first piece of the night, which focuses on the family of Ricky Workman. They're holding out hope that he's one of the four missing and will be found alive. The majority of the rest of the piece consists of footage from 2007 when Gary went down into the Crandall Canyon mine in Utah--the site of another horrible disaster.

That accident ended with six miners never being recovered, and worse still, an additional collapse during the effort to save them resulted in the death of three rescuers as well. I remember Gary's coverage at the time. To this day I still sporadically get people searching this blog for news of what happened to those miners. To lose a family member in that way is horrible in of itself; I can't imagine what it must be like to have to leave them in the mine forever.

Next up, Joe Johns and Jeffrey Toobin join us to discuss Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship. He sounds like a real piece of work. Of note is that he donated $3 million to defeat a West Virginia State Supreme Court justice because there was a $50 million dollar case before the court that impacted his business. Joe actually just gives us these two facts and says they don't want to imply intent, which is kinda comical. So, yeah, must be nice to buy your own justice.

Tom Foreman is at his Magic Wall now, doing a little demonstrating, and showing us the mechanics of coal mining. (Inside joke shout out to my fellow longtime watchers: mantrip!) Then we're on to safety violation talk with Mark Radomsky, director of the Miners Training Program at Penn State University.

Transitioning now to an Elizabeth Cohen piece that follows up on Baby Jenny. You might remember that the infant was separated from her parents during the Haiti quake. She was found alone and injured, causing her rescuers to believe she was an orphan. Given the new name Patricia, she was transported to the United States for intensive care.

Meanwhile, back in Haiti, Nadine Devilme and Junior Alexis were frantically searching for their little girl. Eventually they discovered she had been taken to the United States, but without a passport or visa, they were unable to see their daughter. They didn't even have proof she was theirs, and subsequently spent the next two months trying to convince authorities.

A DNA test ultimately proved their claims and they were eventually allowed into the U.S. to be reunited with Jenny. They have been granted permission to remain here for one year while Jenny receives care. The couple themselves will be assisted by the International Rescue Committee. Good story. Yay for relatively happy endings.

Next up, Anderson interviews Michael Lewis, author of "The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine." Basically it's about how Wall Street screwed us over...and how they're showing no signs of stopping. I loved Michael's point about how the right wing is always lamenting the so-called entitlement mentality of the lower classes (welfare, etc.), yet there's not a more entitled bunch out there than Wall Street execs.

I really liked this interview. Very Daily Show-esque--almost literally, given that Lewis appeared on there as well. I wish they'd do this more. Find interesting, maybe not necessarily conventional authors, and have a relaxed conversation. But don't chop it all up! This one was actually pretty good. Too often though they only give us a few minutes, making it feel hurried and ultimately pointless. I don't know why cable news is so terrified to let conversations go longer than sound-byte length.

Our final piece of the night is from Sanjay Gupta, who like Gary, is also in West Virginia. He spends time with Lorelei Scarbro to give us a sense of what it's like to come from a mining family. There is a whole cemetery filled with relatives of Lorelei who died of mining-related causes. One of the dead is her own husband, disabled by black lung disease in his early 50's. Chronic conditions, accidents, there's a lot to worry about when you send a loved one off to spend a day working in the mine.

The miners will talk to Sanjay about their concerns, but not on camera. They're afraid of Massey Energy. A particularly chilling quote from Lorelei: "This could happen again today. And we're disposable commodities here. And, you know, this is the only game in town." These mine companies know their workers will put up with safety concerns because there's no where else for them to go. Not even 24 hours after the worst mining disaster since 1984, some of them were back in the mine working. Seems wrong, doesn't it?

The show wasn't bad. I hope they really go indepth on Massey Energy in the future. Or at least have on someone really knowledgeable about the specific situation, like maybe a local reporter. It seemed like Radomsky's expertise was more general, though it was hard to tell. The company needs to be held accountable. That'll do it.

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Monday, April 05, 2010

A Tale Of Two Disasters: West Virginia Mine Explosion And Haiti

Hi everyone. No review tonight. As per my usual policy with breaking news, I'm skipping the recap because the initial information of a story is too fluid and often even inaccurate. Very sad case in point: when Anderson Cooper signed off from the show, there were seven confirmed fatalities due to the explosion at Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia. As of this blogging, that number has unfortunately risen to 25, making this the worst U.S. mine disaster since 1984. At least four others are still missing, but the search is currently suspended due to underground conditions. So sad.

Like many others, as soon as I heard of this current tragedy, my mind immediately went to Sago. I'll probably never forget that night in January 2006. Though not the same caliber of tragedy as Hurricane Katrina or 9-11, it resides alongside them in my memories of unbelievable live television moments due to the way it played out. The explosion happened on January 2, 2006, and Anderson was there anchoring live that night. He remained at that live shot for a good part of the next day as well. Then came that night's show.

Back in those days, 360 was always live for two hours, so I was used to watching until midnight (EST). That night they went past that time because there was a feeling that something might happen. I actually hadn't planned on staying up. Then suddenly they were cutting back from commercial early and there was an out-of-breath man at Anderson's live shot. Choking up, the man told us that they had just learned the miners were all alive and okay.

It was an amazing moment, not only for the great news, but because that news was being broken in real time to everyone--even our anchor himself. This would not be the last time that night this would happen. At that point I wanted to stay up and watch. I don't have to tell most of you that 2005 was a truly sucktastic year. So sucktastic, in fact, that Rolling Stone deemed it "the worst year ever." That night in 2006 I stayed up because I wanted to see something good for a change. Sure, I knew the family reunions would be run the next day. But they would be taped and packaged and produced. I wanted to see the raw joy. So I waited. And waited.

Hours ticked by, but it really didn't feel that long. People were just so excited. Anderson, who hours before was showing the signs of clear exhaustion, was practically bouncing on the balls of his feet. Everyone was grinning from ear to ear waiting to see these men walk out. Eventually there was an ambulance and we were told that one of the men was unconscious (he would turn out to be the only survivor). At the time, I had a fleeting thought--a worry--that a disappointment was on the horizon. Looking back, I think everyone involved just wanted it to be true so badly that no one stopped to put all the information together.

We all know how Sago ended. In the wee hours of the morning, a resident of Sago named Lynette Roby, ran up to Anderson's live shot with her children, Kiki and Travis, and told the world that all remaining 12 men had died. To call it a sucker punch would be an understatement. I remember one writer would later say our anchor looked like he had been smacked over the head with a two-by-four. That's pretty much what if felt like watching. The community was devastated, obviously. The raw moment of joy I had been waiting for turned into a raw moment of absolute sorrow mixed with white hot anger.

Later, we would learn of miscommunications. Many papers the next day even had headlines proclaiming the miners alive. Anderson got a lot of unfair flack for what happened. As someone who has been pretty critical of him in the past, I can say he did nothing wrong. He used qualifiers for everything that was said at his live shot. His only crime was being harder working than a good many of his colleagues--the last man standing in the wee hours of the night. Sago was one of the few times I've ever sent the show feedback. I like to counteract when I know they're being slammed for something unfairly.

Unfortunately, once the drama of Sago was over, 360 spent as much time updating us on the eating habits of the survivor (seriously) than they did investigating the mine company's safety record. I hope they do better for this current disaster. Upper Big Branch mine is owned by Massey Energy Company and they're already looking pretty shady. Tonight 360 started to delve into their safety violations and I hope this continues.

The rest of tonight's show consisted of Tiger Woods coverage and a live interview with Sean Penn from Haiti. The former just made me laugh. It's like playing a game of "which of these things is not like the other." Oh, 360. As for Haiti, the major fear is still the rains and how ill prepared the country seems to be. Teams Gupta and Cooper were set to follow up in the country Tuesday. With this mining disaster things seem to have changed. At this time, I know that Sanjay's producer is already on the ground, but the good doctor has been diverted to West Virginia. I've heard Gary Tuchman is on his way to the mine too. Whether he'll end up there for sure, I couldn't tell you. As for Anderson, who the hell knows. He'll pop up somewhere. My thoughts and prayers go out to the families in West Virginia.

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Thursday, April 01, 2010

Interview With Superintendent Gus Sayer, RNC Gets Even More Hilarious, Investigating Scientology Part IV, & April Fool's 360-Style

Hi everyone. I hope you all made it through April Fool's Day without too much annoyance. I'm not really a fan of April overall, so there's that. We're kicking things off tonight, as usual, with Anderson Cooper giving us a preview of the forthcoming Scientology piece. Then we're on to our real top story: bullies and the heartbreaking suicide of Phoebe Prince.

Strangely, Anderson begins by somewhat defending their coverage of the story: "Now, I know some people say look there's always been bullying and kids just have to suck it up." Who's saying suck it up? Please tell me people aren't emailing that. He goes on to say that the advent of the Internet age has made bullying all that more intense, which is a good point, and one I didn't think of in my muddled headache-y state last night when I blogged some ponderings.

Also, remember last night how I said I wasn't sure I could think of anything worse than for a parent to find their child hanging? Says our anchor: "Phoebe hung herself in the stairwell of her family's apartment building. Her younger sister found her, if you can imagine the horror of that." I stand corrected. God almighty.

Like clockwork, we're taken to the Magic Wall where we find a timeline of the events surrounding the bullying that Phoebe endured. I have to say, it's a little creepy. I can also tell you that I know I am not the only person who had that initial reaction. This is one of those times where I think our CNN friends got too caught up in the mechanics of their job and didn't really stop to think about what they were doing. It was very off-putting.

Moving on to a live interview with Gus Sayer, superintendent of South Hadley Public Schools, which is where Phoebe Prince attended. This is one of those 'what did they know and when did they know it' kind of situations. Anderson presses pretty damn hard, but this guy is all over the place. I'm not even going to bother picking out all the contradictory statements, but at one point he denies seeing the district attorney's report (an investigation of the incident was performed) and then goes on to talk about what the report contains.

Maybe the guy is just a really poor interview and doesn't explain himself well. I don't know. I found it pretty distasteful to speculate that Phoebe didn't kill herself due to bullying. I'm not going to completely deny the possibility, but you can't tell me he didn't throw that out there just to save his own ass. Skeezy. Also of note is Anderson pointing out that the school's investigation was done by the principal...who would be the guy who would be directly at fault. That's a page from the Bush Administration playbook there.

For his part, the superintendent is not happy with this line of questioning. He accuses Anderson both of not letting him finish and of being unfair to the principal. For a second I thought our anchor was going to apologize, but when the defensive rant from Sayer ends, he just wraps up the interview. Good for him. He did a really good job here. After this interview there's discussion with Lisa Bloom and anti-bullying consultant Barbara Coloroso.

Transitioning now to a huge bizarre graphic accompanied by a voice booming: "Dispatches From Planet Washington." Oh, WTF? Are they kidding me here? So anyway, what comes next is some hilariousness courtesy of Congressman Hank Johnson, who is apparently very concerned about Guam becoming so overpopulated that it will tip over and capsize. Now, normally I would never believe that someone could say something quite so stupid, but this a member of Congress, so no, I am not shocked.

For his part, Johnson claims he meant he was concerned that adding marines to the island could result in a tipping point for its infrastructure. Right. Yeah, that is totally what you meant. By the way, when they were playing that clip, they had it split screened and Anderson was for some reason scribbling random numbers on the Magic Wall. Don't go Glenn Beck on us, Silver Fox. After this train wreck, we get that loud big-ass graphic again. Seriously, that was an April Fool's joke, right?

Keeping on our Washington theme, we move on to the news that the RNC is getting more and more hilarious by the day. Remember how I was a bit underwhelmed by their bondage-themed strip club scandal and was hoping for a little something more to up the amusement? Well, ask and ye shall receive! Now one of their fund-raising mailings directs people to a sex line. Awesomeness. Although to be fair, sex line mishaps can be bipartisan. Hillary Clinton knows what I'm talking about.

Even worse for the RNC and head Michael Steele, their troubles don't begin and end with the subject of sex. They've got bigger fish to fry, like being shunned by Sarah Palin and Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council. Not the Family Research Council!! For discussion of all this, we're joined by James Carville and Michael Gerson. Nothing hugely of note here, though James does accuse Tony Perkins of being a hypocrite because he endorsed David Vitter and now he's clutching his pearls over the bondage club.

Vitter, you might remember, had a bit of an infidelity problem. Less widely reported is the rumor that he likes to wear diapers in front of his prostitutes. Oh yes. I actually checked out the sourcing of this rumor back in the day and found it to be a bit sketchy, so I've always been hesitant to do any repeating. Carville is not so hesitant and totally throws Vitter under the bus. Dayum. Also, Anderson starts to ask a question that he says he's asked of "a lot of people," but then Carville interrupts and suddenly the segment is over. Well, great. Thanks, James. Now we will never know what he was going to ask!

Scientology time! See my prior posts for all the background. Tonight's segment mostly focuses on what happens when one leaves the church. Anderson speaks with Jeff Hawkins, who claims he was abused by leader David Miscavige and subsequently left in 2005. I've been trying not to be ultra judgy up to this point, but what he's describing sounds soo much like a cult. When he left Scientology he had no job, friends,...he even divorced his wife.

Plus he was given the label of "suppressive person," which is how church members describe Scientology enemies. According to Hawkins, the church has a policy of "disconnection," meaning to basically break ties with anyone deemed to be suppressed. His ex-wife calls this an "absolute, utter, total lie." She should really try not to be so subtle. The church calls it a lie too, but adds that a Scientologist wouldn't want to be around anyone who disparages their religion anyway. Another former member, Chrisy Collbran describes it more as a manipulation than any official policy. Like I said, culty.

Finally tonight, Anderson throws it to Tom Foreman to give us some headlines before the "shot, but who does he find instead? Rick Sanchez! "Oh, my good lord. Rick Sanchez," exclaims our anchor. Bwah! Exactly. That is how everyone should react to unexpected Sanchez. I actually had a slight inkling that something like this was coming since a little birdie made a tweet, though no details were given. Anyway, Mr. Twitter King is here because he has a beef with the Silver Fox--that beef being the absolute glee our anchor gets playing the taser video over and over. Also? Rick Sanchez is very bad at acting mad. Yeah, you know what's coming: April Fool's! (Update: video!)

I enjoyed the little trip down memory lane that Sanchez gave us: "You sent me on all these wild and crazy stories. I went out in the middle of the ocean. I went in a boat. I got sunk in a canal. I did the tase thing. And now you make fun of me." Don't forget about the time you were in the fire! For those unaware, Rick actually used to regularly contribute reports to 360 and they made him do some massively messed up things, leading to this bit of awesomeness from Jon Stewart back in 2006.

I cannot tell you how much time other long-time viewers and I spent mocking him in those days. Our theory was that CNN was secretly--or not so secretly--trying to kill him. But if it wasn't for Rick I wouldn't know that a single candle can heat a freezing car to 50 degrees. So there's that I guess. Anyway! Back to the Silver Fox, his trauma of the night is more than just having to endure Rick's presence. It's time for clips of Anderson looking stupid! The whole time this is going on, Sanchez is bizarrely trash talking him in this over-the-top accent, causing a puzzled look on our anchor's face that is pretty clearly saying, "WTF is going on right now?"

The clips start with Anderson's big Indiana fail, where he can't identify the state on a map. "Duh," says Rick. Dude, you thought the Galapagos Islands was Hawaii. I wouldn't be getting on that Geography high horse. Our anchor once again claims he was tired. At least he's sticking to his story. The next clip is the Silver Fox's momma stopping by to embarrass him on his birthday. I like her ability to make him go from 40 to 12 in under 30 seconds. Finally, there is Anderson's recent Jeopardy disaster. "Cheech, Cheech. I hear that in my sleep," says our anchor. Yeah, I'm not touching that one.

So...that was fun and hopefully not too traumatic for the Silver Fox. For those who actually wanted to see the "shot" that was previewed and subsequently never shown, you can check it out here. Single Ladies devastation! Aww! I love the look on the middle girl's face. It totally says, "oh way to go, dad." But he was very sweet about his blunder and not "horrible" at all.

I found the show pretty engaging tonight throughout, which these days can sometimes be a rarity. It really does make a difference when the anchor is actually invested in what he's reporting. There are still clear problems with the show overall (as with the network), but it'd be a lie to say they're not making any changes. There is a noticeable difference from where 360 was last year at this time when it resided in Suck Town.

Regarding the network overall, they haven't had a good week press-wise. Everyone and their mother is writing about their ratings problems and how to fix them. Many of these links you can find on my Twitter page if you're interested. Tonight The Daily Show did another rather brutal take-down, giving CNN a new slogan: "CNN: We have no idea what the fuck we are doing." Ouch. I'll try to remember to tweet the link tomorrow. That'll do it.

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