Friday, April 20, 2007

violence

There was a lot that I wanted to post on this week. However, the tragedy at Virginia Tech overwhelmed anything else.

And there was sad, senseless violence in many other places as well (e.g. - 180 killed in Iraq in one day).

I've been searching for a noun. None have seemed to fit. What do we call someone who slaughters schoolmates? Murderer seems inadequate somehow. Perhaps the term is overused on television cop and lawyer shows..... Madman? True, but also insufficient. I've settled, dissatisfied, on psychopath...

Having lived a number of years in Virgina, and having visited the Va Tech campus a few times, I know a number of alumni. It is a very solid school, where middle class families send their daughters and sons to study computer science or engineering or in some agriculture program. There is still a bucolic hint in Blacksburg, even though the area has grown steadily in recent years. One can be in farm country with only few minute drive from the campus.

I can't imagine the pain of the families. No one expects - or really should - outlive their children. All because of one psychopath...

There will be plenty of time for recrimination, second guessing, time line analysis and so on. At this moment, we should simply offer any comfort to any family affected in the best way we can.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Donald Imus

The confluence of factors that caused Mr. Imus to lose not one, but two jobs, and the media attention that resulted, and continues, are an amazing commentary on life in America in 2007.

What matters..

First, and I've blogged on this before, is our increasing self-absorption. Last week, there was a significant new twist in the Iraqi conflict - car/truck bombs attempting to blow up major bridges. Did you know? While it was reported, it was drowned by our focus on ourselves and the increasing importance of avoidance of speech or writing which might hurt someone else's feelings.

His statement was worse than most of his insults, and perhaps more insensitive. I've been a listener for a decade or so, and would observe that his harshness is usually personal. That is, singling out some individual for attack - a politician, say, or the head of some business that Imus felt wronged or slighted by. Some of the kerfuffle here probably stems from the fact that Rutgers women were essentially innocent bystanders that Mr. Imus, in a sophomoric attempt at humor, insulted.

Somehow as a society we've become much more interested in these trivial events - who's the father of Anna Nicole's baby? Is Brad and Angelina's marriage already in trouble? than in world events, societal shifts and matters of (at least in the view of this writer) more substance.

Speaking of matters of substance, Imus must be recognized for his frequent interviews with a variety of leaders - politicians, writers, musicians. The politicos lined up: McCain was a frequent guest, as was Chris Dodd; he gave an early national stage to Harold Ford Jr., even VP Cheney showed up, despite being the object of derision. Chuck Schumer recently took a direct hit on failure to adequately oversee Veterans' hospitals. Personally, I'll miss those interviews. They provided a good current events education.


And the judges are:
And who are the arbiters now of acceptable speech? I guess that I shouldn't be surprised that some broadcasters turned to Al Sharpton. But I was nonetheless disappointed. How does he, and old Jesse Jackson, still deserve a microphone?

I was pleased to see some blacks distancing themselves from those two - e.g. Juan Williams on Fox News Sunday who took a principled, and well-presented, stand that Imus deserved what he got. John Saunders of ESPN came at it from a father of daughters view, which I thought totally appropriate. Others too were critical of Imus, agreed that he should be fired, but didn't go out of their way to align with Jesse or Al. (BTW - I refuse to use the term "black community" - I can't imagine how that exists today any more than a "white community" exists...).

The best line of all on this was comedian (and Rabbi, I think) Jackie Mason on Michael Savage's radio show; "going to Al Sharpton's radio show to ask for forgiveness for a racial slur is like going to Bill Clinton to ask for forgiveness for adultery".

There are certainly many who'll be glad he is off the air. Some of the politicians probably felt pressured to appear, and are now relieved. Others that he turned on - I thought he was vicious with John Kerry - are probably elated.

Whether the children?
In the midst of all this though, we must ask about the children that have benefited from his charity raising efforts. I only noticed a few talking heads mentioning that - Al Hunt in particular on Bloomberg TV. While I'll be the first to say that Imus behavior frequently was boorish, and he could be a total jerk and a bully, Pam and I discussed yesterday that the Lord does indeed work in mysterious ways, and that Imus has been doing some of that work for a variety of charities supporting severe childhood illnesses - cancer, SIDS, and so on. Recently he also was instrumental in raising funds for Veterans' hospitals.

Who will carry this on? I didn't get to listen this am - but the news over the weekend was that CBS would at least temporarily broadcast WFAN's Mike and the Mad Dog sports talk show. While I feel that it is the finest sports talk show in the U.S., it is NYC sports centric; and while the hosts do raise some charity $$$, it is a long way from Imus.

Is that all there is?
Would Imus just walk away from this - falling from the top (MSNBC was gaining AM share on CNN and Imus was MSNBC's top rated show)? Satellite radio on the surface looks possible, but the XM/Sirius merger limits the opportunity, and Stern got to promote his satellite show for months on terrestrial radio before the move. I'd look for something creative from Fox - I think Imus will now have scores to settle and something to prove....

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Democratic strategy

I'll admit to being mystified by the Democratic party strategy on Iraq.

What is there to be gained by forcing a withdrawal timetable now? If the new strategy begins to be successful (early results are promising, but we've seen improving conditions deteriorate there before), then they look foolish. If the new strategy fails, then the Republicans were going to take the blame anyway.

It seems the only winning outcome for them is a failure that let's them say "I told you so". "I told you so" is usually not a popular phrase even among people who agree.

Why didn't they just stay on the sidelines a little longer? If the new plan worked, they could jump on the bandwagon.....

Pat Summit

I'm not a University of Tennessee sports fan.

However, I am a great admirer of Pat Summit.

Ms. Summit: congratulations on another championship.

For those of us college hoops fans who thought there would never be another John Wooden; we were wrong - there is - and her name is Summit.

She knows how to create a culture of performance and accountability. And, based on a number of observed facial expressions, I would say she knows how to give direct feedback....

congrats again.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Presidential race continued #4

Former Health and Welfare Secretary and four time Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson formally announced his candidacy for President on George Stephenopolis' show Sunday morning. And, before I could organize my post, Colorado Congressman Tom Tancredo launched his bid on Monday. With Vilsack out for money reasons, my count is now eleven declared Republicans and seven declared Democrats. However, I think both Newt Gingrich and Al Gore are running stealth campaigns, so I now call it a whopping 19 candidates. Have there ever been that many? I wonder....certainly not anything like that in my memory.

The last couple of weeks have brought some interesting, if very predictable, developments. First, Obama's poll numbers have stalled. Second, all the possible Guilani negatives are coming out. Both of these are predictable; as candidates get some momentum, the press begins snooping for any scandal, or just anything. Guilani's third wife seems to be the news generator on that side (after all, everyone already knew he is "pro-choice", so attempts to generate some religious conservative opposition don't seem to have gone very far). I'll admit that I only knew of two of the wives. Busy man.

Apparently Obama had his share of drug experimentation, which is beginning to surface.

At the end of the day, I could care less about either of those issues. I do continue to think that Obama is too much too soon.....

And Hil is raising money like a hedge fund.

Mitt isn't doing too shabby on the fund raising front either. He made a lot of millionaires at Bain Capital, and generated hundreds of millions in fees for Ropes and Gray, Price Waterhouse and Goldman Sachs. So he has some big IOUs to call in.

This looks to me like a tough time to run as a small state politico - e.g. Huckabee and Biden.

Nonetheless, I think this is more wide open than most people think ( and that I thought a few weeks ago...)