Archive for January, 2010

news and notes on Paul Harvey

Monday, January 25th, 2010


For the better part of six decades, Paul Harvey spun tales on the radio in his staccato baritone, entertaining up to 24 million listeners a day with folksy vignettes ending in unexpected twists.

Previously confidential files show that Harvey, who died last February at 90, enjoyed a 20-year friendship with FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, often submitting advance copies of his radio script for comment and approval. Harvey wrote Hoover and his deputies regularly. Hoover, in turn, helped Harvey with research, suggested changes in scripts and showered the broadcaster with effusive praise.

Okay, I’m not that shocked.

And then Joe Stephens describes the “Meet Cute” moment of the Romantic Comedy that is the story of Paul Harvey and his toolship as Bureau propagandizer, skiddadling past what you have to call an act of Journalistic Dishonesty on Paul Harvey’s part.  Moving right along.  Or, if you want to go to the hack newswriter cutesy quip being used for this story, now page 2.  (I myself already blew that line by not starting this blog post with something like “And now the rest of the story.”)

In 1956, Harvey sent tips about “known Reds” at a Texas Air Force base to McCarthy and his witch hunters, whose paranoiac anti-communist crusade destroyed the careers of federal bureaucrats, Hollywood intelligentsia and others before McCarthy’s demagoguery was challenged and exposed by pioneering CBS News correspondent Edward R. Murrow.  (In charater, naturally, and actually nothing particularly outlandish.)

In 1959, Harvey and the FBI colluded to go after author, psychiatrist, and educator Bruno Bettelheim after he had been critical of Hoover as well as U.S. law enforcement’s handling of juvenile delinquents.

Meat to the bones”, we say.

Insert Bose Radio commercial.

“I think your words portray us very well but, as you requested, my staff has added a little ‘meat to the bones,’ ” Baker wrote. The resulting commentary, also distributed as Harvey’s syndicated newspaper column, included the FBI’s suggestions word for word.

Truth be told, this is all ancient history.  His most recent career is marked less by any odd government collusion, and more of the reading of carrot encrusted right wing forwarded email, in the evolution of the Urban Legend he sort of served as a conduit for for oh so many years.

Einstein and libertarianism

Sunday, January 24th, 2010

It was on, I think both, the goofy libertarian Mises Rand freak website of and the blog for Reason, though a quick search only shows up the lewrockwell item, that I saw this oh so provocative question “Was Einstein a Libertarian?”

At least he admits the ridiculousness of affixing Einstein into a predisposed idea.  But to review, so much as his politics can be looked at.

He tended to dodge from totalitarian or bureacratic governments en route for Scientific Inquiry.  He hated War, and was signatory to what was an aborted petition stating the fervent desire that once hostilities around WWI ended (whatever the hell this fight was about), everyone across nations would b e able to commence forward in the great inquirous quests of Humanity.  He was horrified by the specter of Hitler, and to that end let Roosevelt in on the power of the Atom lest the Allies lose an Atomic Race to the Axis Powers.  And he warned that targetting a civilian city for destruction would indeed constitute a War Crime.  After the war ended, he was terrified by the prospects of the Cold War in this New Nuclear Age, and hitched his name to the presidential bid of One Worlder and Soviet Accomodationist Henry Wallace.

Oh, and also he made a snide comment about the incomprehensibility of the Income Tax.

A bit stuck at the spectre of the Henry Wallace Libertarians, I can’t quite figure out what the point of this “Einstein was a Libertarian Exercise” was.  Does this illuminate anything at all?

a cynical thought to “On Ethics”

Sunday, January 24th, 2010

Watching the basic thrust of the Health Care debating, and the rather easy manner some things get politicized in the most weirdly warped manner, within a legislative process laid bare to a root of fragility…

the focus of the why bother here gets lost.  Here’s an example of perhaps not the most hard scrabbled case, but mundanely relatable nonetheless.

My son was dropped from our family’s employer-sponsored health insurance shortly after graduating from college in May. While filling out the application for a new policy, he asked me how to answer a question about his marijuana use in the past year. I said, “Honestly.” He checked a box indicating he smoked very occasionally and was denied coverage. Now he is uninsured while countless pot-smoking liars have coverage. My husband thinks I gave our son foolish advice. Do you agree? — M.H., Montclair, N.J.

Randy Cohen gives the answer, with one dangling sentence lying about.

And so, were I filling out that form, I’d lie without remorse. (All right, with some remorse. Accompanied by resentment. I blame my upbringing. And my inept, albeit imaginary, therapist.) But I could not advise my child to lie — even an older child, even to an insurance company. I would feel a parental duty to teach integrity and encourage civic engagement. So I would urge him to supply an honest answer on that form and write an urgent letter to his elected representatives, particularly those working on health care reform. The real solution here is to guarantee access to medical care to all people, not just those pot-smoking liars.

What?  Are you nuts?  The elected officials are really going to introduce recreational drug politics into a debate already blasted apart at the seams by auxiliary and tangental policies of — Joseph Wilson’s “You Lie!’ regarding goddamned immigration policy, and Stupak entering the fray against Abortion.

late night wars, final thoughts

Sunday, January 24th, 2010

Event Television for a slice of a certain age group, it would seem.

Not only would that be by far the biggest rating in that age group for any kind of show at any time Friday night (if it holds up as a national rating and it will probably decrease only slightly), it is also a better number than almost every prime-time show that has appeared on NBC this television season.

In the current television week, only three entertainment shows on television — “American Idol” on Fox and CBS’s two Monday comedies, “Two and a Half Men” and “The Big Bang Theory” — have exceeded a 4.8 rating in that younger adult group.

Or maybe not.  It’s not like “Two and A Half Men” is “Event Television”. 

Nonetheless, this ratings item is strking.  And it is probably something that makes no sense to, say, my parent’s generation.  Just as it makes no sense that Jay Leno might have been this fresh personality back in 1990.  Some things  need a bit of sense in context to explain.  Sample Conan back in 1993 and 1994, and the impression is probably not all that great.  Your twenty-something demographic came to it as it developed, out of sight a tad.

To be fair, Jay Leno’s Tonight Show beat Conan in even this demographic.  Until these last couple of weeks.  To be further fair, everyone’s ratings were sliding — including The Tongiht Show with Jay Leno.

The word being floated about with Conan’s “Goodbye” speech is “classy”.  I myself had thought he would thank Jay Leno, but then again the classy thing to do there would be to leave that name out and avoid the ensuring chorus of boos.  I don’t quite understand it.  The entire gist of the last two weeks’ of programming was a comedicly exaggerated classlessness.  They insult the venetration of the “Venerable Institution” of “The Tonight Show” by putting on the “Masturbating Bear” — smuggled from what he had thought was retired at the end of his Late Night Run, and that is the joke.  (Not quite on this wikipedia list, though.)  I gather everyone is on the joke here except Leno, see Letterman’s surge of Leno and NBC jokes.  But here, Conan has an advantage: his “burning down the house” has a natural time limit of his final prgoram — Letterman just has to fade away his current running gag eventually.

Watching the montage sequence — to Cheap Trick’s “Surrender” — heavy on what was arguably the most memorable skit of his short run of his program, the very first one — and the search for visual humor.  An odd mark of Letterman’s old show sits there — that “Human Bowling Alley” has a strange similarity to, say, Letterman’s “Human Sponge”.  The Monster Truck destroying a Giant Pumpkin is oddly similar to Letterman throwing Watermelon out the window.  Odd, given they’re too very different personalities.  (But then again, these things were Stolen from Steve Allen, as he says.)
Visual gags.  But  nary a Pimpbot in there.

I have a tough time imagining Jay Leno piecing together a montage of visual humor and cues of similar kinesis.  Then again, the same might be true of Letterman CBS.  With Jay, it’s a distorted face to a “Brain” character, a distorted face to a “Jock” character, and a continuous loop of him asking Hugh Grant “What the Hell Were You thinking?”

Which is fine.  These shows are, at the end, merely entertainment promotional vehicles.  Leno will return to The Tonight Show, ratings leader.  Here I’ll toss in one irresponsible suggestion  The NBC brass will promote it with something that has eerie echos of the “Great Silent Majority” behind the beleagured Leno, similar to his “America is Standing Up for Jay” ad campaign.  So, if you want to continue in the great George Wallace — Richard Nixon — Jay Leno tradition, Go for it — who am I to stand in your way?

Trees Falling in the Forest and the final death of Air America

Friday, January 22nd, 2010

If a tree fell in the forest and nobody was around to hear it, did it make a sound?

The answer is “yes”, and with that I breeze right past an old chestnut of a Zen riddle.

The analogious question concerns the news that broke yesterday.  Air America Radio is now dead.  So it is every conservative talk radio host will get in one last dig, and other than that nobody noticed.  The quote-in-quote “Progressive” talk radio format, such as that is, long moved past “Air America”.  The most viable hosts on that channel long moved past Air America.  Al Franken is in the Senate, Rachel Maddcow is on the television, Thom Hartman has a different syndicate, Randi Rhodes is with Clear Channel, and Mike Malloy self-syndicates.  Today’s KPOJ programmer faces the daunting task of replacing programming for the hours of 6-8 pm and 11 pm -3 am.  I imagine the 6 to 8 slot will be filled in with something temporarily, in the expectation that Ron Reagan will be picked up by someone shortly — similar to what they did with Randi Rhodes.

As for 11 pm to 3 am… whatever moves the meter.  Hey!  They have Alan Colmes!

The weekend schedule is where they face a task… and you know, for what that’s worth.  Its broadcast of “Air America” programming seem as much a dumping ground as anything else. I imagine that they’ll slot in Stephanie Miller broadcasts for Sunday, as they currently do on Saturday.  Er… Alan Colmes on Saturday, as they currently do on Sunday.  After that, I have no idea.  They have to find something to replace Lionel.  Lionel, I never understood.  He was with WOR and syndicated from there, then he made this weird career move and signed with Air America.  That career move never made much sense to me, and maybe it doesn’t any more for him either.

Maybe they can put on a new local show with host Heidi Tauber.

time to change political parties

Thursday, January 21st, 2010

Good lard, the Democratic Party sucks.  They lose a Senate seat, and decide to pack it in.  If the feelings we have surrounding this party is apt, I suggest they put it to a vote right now on who should organize the Senate Caucus, and hand title of “Majority Leader” over to Mitch McConnell — holder of now 41 seat, 42 if you toss in Lieberman for making his usual coy comments.

The Democratic Party Reaction is, if asked, I am liable to identify myself as a member in good standing of the Whig Party.  The Whig Party has a few things going for it.   Henry Clay had a decent and workable vision for uniting the nation — “The American System”.   The party ditched the idea of bothering with platforms, and just ran beloved Generals.  We had William Henry Harrison.  Zachoray Taylor did not disgrace himself in his 14 months of office.  At the mid-point of the twentieth century, the nation decided to give the Whig Party another whirl, and elected Dwight D Eisenhower — who gave us the Federal Highway System.  Harrison, Taylor, Eisenhower.

There is a strange quality to the current deliberations.  Politically it’s probably best for the Democratic House to pass the Senate bill, as much of a Rube Goldberg Device as it is (and it is a Rube Goldberg Device because it’s a contraptiond designed for 60 goddamned votes), and sell it as that flawed foundation we’ll get back to in the years ahead.  This has the advantage of being less noisy in the process, and it’s the noisiness of the proecess that’s killing everyone.  Policy-wise, I long desired that that thing is too far gone that the pared down items to be gotten through Reconciliation and 50 goddamned votes — your Medicare Buy-in down a decade and a few Insurance Reforms — probably makes for better actual policy.  Modest in some ways, more radical (I hate that word when describing these reforms) in other ways.

Unfortunately, watching the party I will go ahead and change registration to “Whig”.

For a time, I’ve had this generalized theory of how a throughline of a more or less  successful Obama Presidency, of two terms, would look — success being I can look back at it and think more highly of it than Clinton.  And the throughline throws as a given substantial losses in 2010.  It’s generically that pattern that holds for previous presidents — I see someone has unearthed what should be more widely understood about Ronald Reagan‘s presidency.  Actually, Reagan held three periods of popularity — coinciding with the 84 and 88 elections that they may, and a lot of area of unpopularity.  Likewise, Gallup lets us in that Obama has a lower approval rating at this stage in his presidency than anyone since Eisnenhower.  No, seriously.  A Political Life is not something for the squemish.  But the throughline gives us, though, the requirement of a Big Ticket Item in the first two years.  The Democrats seem bizarrely giddy to blow it.

… And, you know, not that I am a Democrat.  I am a member of the Whig Party.

Letterman goes ahead and OWNS his bitterness

Wednesday, January 20th, 2010

So, here’s how the Old Gray Lady, The New York Times, decides to give some background on the current woes at NBC, itself background for the Late Night adjustments with Leno and Conan.

When David Sarnoff, the founder of NBC, then a part of the Radio Corporation of America, stood at the New York World’s Fair in 1939 in Flushing Meadows to introduce television to the world, he said: “It is with a feeling of humbleness that I come to this moment of announcing the birth in this country of a new art so important in its implications that it is bound to affect all society. It is an art which shines like a torch of hope in a troubled world. It is a creative force which we must learn to utilize for the benefit of all mankind.”

With that moment, Mr. Sarnoff ushered in not just a new communications form for the masses, but also the first broadcast network, NBC, which would become a cultural force in America. At that same World’s Fair, Americans got their first televised glimpses of a president, Franklin D. Roosevelt. Later that year, an NBC station broadcast major league baseball for the first time.

They could have reached back earlier for this troughline, couldn’t they?  The evolution of joke-tellers from back when we had storytellers at the campfire?  Pompousity thy name is crafting the “Late Night Wars” into a broader context.  Granted, a lot of reaction in the comments section to stories relating to this are to the effect of how it pales in relation to actual news, such as Haiti.  Not a terribly penetrating insight.

It could be different, I suppose.  This has been making the rounds.  “NMA”.  They made that Tiger Woods simulation that was making the rounds a month back.  I’m beginning to think someone is pulling a fast one on us, that NMA News is a practical joke from someone playing with their Sims game.

Letterman is digging in good, and going for broke and doubling down with his Jay Leno mocking, apparently quite ready to shrug off the suggestion his Bitterness is Showing.   (Final word to the NY Times quoting an NBC Sports Executive of “professional jealousy” on why he’s keeping at Jay (skip to 4:00)– “I’m really enjoying it.  I don’t know.  It’s just fun.”)  Tonight’s program is apparently going to air this thing , with Jay Leno asking that pointed question  “What the Hell were you thinking?” to Richard Nixon.   This comes off of the heels of the “Future of the Tonight Show” — and note that it ends with “Time for Headlines”, which I suppose is a bit of an easy reference.
… Referenced as “Stolen” in the bit he did about Leno the next night. (That link isn’t all that amusing.)

The best one might be the piercing of Jay Leno’s self serving and pompous “Don’t Blame Conan” “straight talk” address.  Toss in the expression that “What we’re seeing is Vintage Jay”, and I guess we just have to say that if Dave is going to react in this way, he may as well Just go right ahead and Own the thing. 

This will fade to black pretty soon.  The drama will end.  It probably says something that Letterman and Conan are entertaining when they’re feeding off of this sizzle, and not really particularly “appointment viewing” otherwise.
Incidentally, before there was Jimmy Kimmel, there was Chris Elliott.  Curious to note that he seems to be riffing of a TV Guide wade through bit and this in particular, but I gather there were fewer items with which to research to do a Jay Leno at that time — just a smattering of Letterman and Carson appearances.

And then God Wrought

Wednesday, January 20th, 2010

The other day, there was this man on The Max.  He was either “Fellowshipping” or “Praying with slash for” a sympatico mother and child of his same general religious bent.

“And GOD… He has his ways.  It doesn’t matter what the condition of the shoes on your feet are, or the shirt on your back, or what your circumstances are.  He’ll guide you through and he has his purpose.

It went on basically like that for another few rounds.  I wasn’t much paying attention.  While I mildly frown on such a scene, any demonstration of my displeasure is not worth the effort.  But things got weirder.

“And God’s Plan… is the DESTRUCTION OF Portland at the end of the year!  Halleluia!”
“Wait.  I don’t agree with that part.”

The man across from me, who was visibly chaffing before, because irate.  “That’s It!  Where’s the Emergency?”

“See.  He is the ANTI-CHRIST Force we must shield against!”

I got off at the next stop.  So did Mister Apocalypse Head.  The Anti-Christ Spirit was talking with the conductor, pointing to Apocalypse Head.  I don’t know what happened after that.

I do suffer this generalized fear that this brand of End Times Religious represents a larger segment of the population than is comfortably tolerable.  You’ve seen the preachers on TBN, read this or that, have met them on some level.  They’re out there.