News is news

news is news

Recently I wrote about young George Stephanopoulos on “Good Morning America” and his (evident) impression that two men kissing was newsworthy.

Well, it got me thinking. What do we mean – what do I mean – by “newsworthy”?

There’s an excellent show on Sunday mornings called “Reliable Sources,” hosted by Howard Kurtz, which tries to answer that question. It examines the news of the week – not for itself, but for the way it’s been covered. It asks: are we getting the news correctly? And, just as importantly: Are we getting the right news?

This last Sunday, Kurtz and his guests examined the relative importance of this week’s big stories: President Obama’s State of the Union address, the crazy California policeman who killed people and then got killed himself, Marco Rubio’s drink of water, and the Carnival cruise that stalled in the Caribbean.

Obviously the State of the Union was the most important story of the four: it will have the most lasting implications, over the coming months. But the networks were apparently thinking about split-screening it with the Jonathan Dorner siege, if it came to it.

Well, wasn’t the Dorner story news? Yes, in a way. It was certainly important to Californians, as it impacted their own safety. It also reflected on the inner workings of the police force, and how they react to attacks on their own. But it wasn’t as weighty a story as the State of the Union. And the standoff at the mountain cabin was pure theatrics. And – imagine – the networks thought about split-screening it with the State of the Union!

The Marco Rubio story was purely fluff, naturally. However: like Dan Quayle misspelling “potato,” and like Howard Dean’s unfortunately Muppetish scream in 2004, it showed him to be maybe less than Presidential timber. So it was probably half a story, at most.

The Carnival cruise? One “Reliable Sources” guest quoted statistics on the number of Americans who take cruises, and it’s a significant number. And Carnival is based in Panama, and sails under Bahamian flags, and has offices in Miami. This raises serious questions about management and organization. How many times over the past few years have Carnival cruises come to grief? Several, including (most tragically) the Costa Concordia in Italy. This is a real story. (But it’s a story about a mismanaged corporation. It’s not a story about how badly the passengers suffered. They ate a lot of vegetable sandwiches, and used smelly toilets for a couple of days. They weren’t transported forcibly to Somalia.)

I love “Reliable Sources.” It grounds me. It reminds me of a passage from the Analects of Confucius (chapter seven, verse 21): “The Master did not speak of anomalies, feats of strength, rebellions, or divinities.”



In other words: flashy stuff is fun, but it’s not really worth your serious attention.

So how ‘bout them Kardashians?

The 2016 Presidential election


With what joy did I greet the day after the Presidential election! No more shrill television advertisements telling me that this candidate was a criminal and that candidate was a liar!

There was a very cute Facebook meme circulating that day and the next: a picture of a box full of kittens, with the caption: “Okay, Facebook! The election’s over! Time to get out the pictures of cute kittens!”

But it wasn’t more than a few days until we were told that Marco Rubio was visiting Iowa (for a friend’s birthday, naturally).

And Chris Matthews was talking about Hillary Clinton, and how she’s going to spend the next few years preparing for the 2016 election.

And then there was Fox News, which immediately began talking about the 2016 GOP hopefuls. (Stephen Colbert, drinking a cup of chamomile tea, did a wonderful spit-take over this, but I can’t find a clip of it.)

Well, who do you think (apart from Marco Rubio) would make a good GOP candidate?

Hmm. Someone tough-talking. Maybe a Northeasterner, which would (hopefully) screw up the Democratic lock on New England and the Northeast. Someone nationally known.

Who but New Jersey governor Chris Christie?

Yeah, I know. He doesn’t scare me much either. He’s a local flavor: he plays well in the Northeast, but maybe not so much in the South and West. He’s too noisy and angry, which aren’t really presidential traits.

But he would love love LOVE to be President.

Last week, when Hostess went out of business, he was asked about this. He blustered about it endlessly. Imagine, he said, what Saturday Night Live would make of it! Imagine how many laughs they’d get out of the fat Governor of New Jersey making comments about Cupcakes and Ding Dongs!

“You know,” Partner said prophetically, “he went on too long about it. He wants SNL to do something about it.”



And was Partner right?



In a big way.

Not only did Christie get mentioned on SNL, he appeared on SNL. (I wish I could show you the clip, but NBC is very proprietary. Follow this link to Hulu, and you’ll get there.)

Christie was very cute: funny and natural (more natural than some of their recent guests and hosts).

If I were a Republican, and the 2016 Presidential election were today, I’d vote for him.

But – geez – a lot of things can happen in four years.

So let’s just wait a bit, and enjoy our Facebook kittens and our cup of chamomile tea, shall we, kids?

The Presidential campaign: an update


I don’t write about politics very often. It doesn’t win me many friends. The people who agree with me still agree with me, and the people who disagree – well, they can just shut their pieholes.



But I cannot resist commenting on the past week’s Presidential-campaign events, which have been truly delicious.



The overture was Mitt Romney’s speech to the NAACP. “ROMNEY IN THE LION’S DEN!” trumpeted any number of commentators. See? Mitt is the prophet Daniel, and the NAACP were the lions, or the Persians, or the Assyrians, or something. Anyway, it didn’t take long to see that Mitt was using this as an opportunity to show his (white) supporters that he isn’t going to take any backtalk from any (nonwhite) minority groups when he becomes President. It reminded me of those wonderful moments in professional wrestling when the villain grabs the microphone from the scrawny announcer and begins to berate the audience. He knows they hate him. That’s what it’s all about.



This is an interesting campaign strategy, trying to win the Presidency with not a single minority vote. (Mitt might still pick a ringer for VP, like Marco Rubio, but I doubt it; it’ll be a whitey like him and me, like Pawlenty or Ryan (well, Ryan sounds Irish, so I don’t know), or that guy from Ohio that no one’s ever heard of. Absolutely not a woman. Not Sarah Palin, and not Condi Rice. She’s pro-choice! She’s been on “30 Rock”! She’s black!)



Then there was the call for Mitt to release his tax returns. He will not, will not, do it. (Do you wonder what’s in them? So do I. I’m not normally eager to read other people’s tax returns, but these I’ll take a glance at.) Speculation is running wild. Were there years in which he paid no tax at all? Quite possible. Would the itemizations yield up interesting facts about the Romney fortune? Also quite possible.



There was a day or two of Mitt looking strangled and hopeless over this issue. Then the GOP figured out its riposte: OBAMA ISN’T AN AMERICAN!



Yes, you heard me.



Mitt called his policies “foreign” in a speech a day or two ago. John Sununu said that he wished “Obama would learn how to be an American.” (John Sununu, by the way, is an Arab-American. You would think – wouldn’t you? – that an Arab-American would realize that this kind of rhetoric can be inflammatory.  Apparently not.) Sununu said lots of other unkind things. Obama’s team are “liars” (because the Obama campaign has said – with perfect reasonableness, and in the absence of any extenuating evidence – that, if Romney lied about his status at Bain on his tax returns, it might have been a felony. Naturally this can be disproven if Romney were to release his returns.). Also: Obama has “demonized success.” (Not at all. Would that we could all be as wealthy as Mitt Romney! Of course, he inherited part of his fortune, and his handsome sons will inherit even more, from all those fat Swiss / Cayman bank accounts.)



Most deliciously: Rush Limbaugh has decried the new Batman movie, because the villain’s name is Bane. Obviously this is a reference to Bain Capital. (One Tumblr wit pointed out that, since the Batman villain Bane is a fat drug user who was popular in the 1990s, you’d think that Rush would like him.)



Oh, it’s all pretty funny.



So why am I not laughing?


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