Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Only In America

The year is 2009 and there are a couple of events that took place in this country that will be remembered for a long time. On January 20, 2009 – Barack Obama became the first black American to take the oath of office as the President of the United States. Millions of people descended upon Washington, D.C. to witness this historic occasion and billions of people around the world had a front seat to history being made when they watched the swearing-in ceremony live on television.

Another television event took place in 2009 that some people never thought would ever happen. After years of planning and discussion – broadcasters in America finally converted from broadcasting an analog television signal to broadcasting a digital signal.

One of the reasons that broadcasters made the switch to digital was because of America’s need for more frequencies for cell phones and emergency services – frequencies that were being used by the television industry. One of the selling points for the switch to digital was the promise of a clearer picture and more programming choices….but the switch wouldn’t be easy. To get these new digital signals meant that we would have to purchased a new digital television set or a converter box that would allow us to watch the digital signals on our analog television sets.

Not everyone can afford to go out and plop from $399-$1500 on a new television set and our government knew that – so Congress funded a program that would give all Americans who asked for them – not one, but two coupons (valued at forty dollars each) for a digital converter box. You had to have been living under a rock if you didn’t see your favorite television station advertising the switch to digital and how you could get your free digital converter box coupons. Over $1.3 billion dollars was spent on providing these coupons so that America could continue to enjoy watching “free TV”.

Recently, I got a chance to see one of free digital converter boxes that was purchased with one of the two free coupons that a friend of mine received in the mail. One of the first things that surprised me was seeing how small this converter box actually was – I have read books bigger than this box was.

The other thing that surprised me about this converter box was actually something that was written on the cardboard box that it came in. There was a warning on the box about not returning the converter box to the store where you “purchased” it with the coupon should it be defective – because of the box was a part of a government-financed program. I could see millions of people using the free coupons, buying the boxes and then trying to bring them back for a cash refund – so that warning made sense to me.

What really surprised me about this digital converter box were the three little words that followed the warning about not returning the box to the store it was purchased…those three words:


What! Congress allocated more than $1.3 billion on digital converter boxes made in China! Don’t you think that someone in Washington could have put some sort of stipulation on who manufactured these converter boxes and had them made in the good ole U.S.A.? Imagine how many jobs could have resulted had they stipulated that the boxes be manufactured in America. Well, that’s Washington for you and another one of those “Only In America” stories that has us screaming at our elected officials – “What in the hell were you thinking?”

Saturday, October 17, 2009

A Twitter Picture

The woman in the picture above isn't country music star LeAnn Rimes -- although she looks a little bit like her. Nope, this woman just happens to be the daughter of a U.S. Senator and last year's Republican candidate for President of the United States. Ladies and Gentlemen, thanks to her posting this picture on her Twitter page, let me introduce you to Meghan McCain. Nice picture, huh?

Why did she post this picture? Good question and one she answered a couple of days later in her column at thedailybeast.com.

Meghan writes:

"Could it be it's because I have breasts? Because for those of you who didn't know, I have two. They're larger than some women's and not as big as others. I don't usually show off my cleavage—as I did in the photos I posted—which I will admit is not the smartest thing I have ever done.

For years I have struggled to accept the fact that the way I look in a tank top comes off more “sexual” than a flat-chested woman. And once again I was reassured by the media that someone with my cup size should always be covered up. Or what, I’ll be seen as a slut? It’s pathetic we can come so far in so many ways, but when Rep. Aaron Schock or Rep. Jeff Flake post pictures of themselves without their suits on—and their shirts, for that matter—they are proclaimed “hotties.” But put me in a tank top and I am suddenly an embarrassment to the Republican Party and women everywhere. The double standard is infuriating.

It's amazing what you can learn. And I've certainly endured my share of harsh comments from those who follow me. But yesterday was the first time it really wasn't fun. It's not easy to be called a slut. But I'm not giving up my Twitter just yet—I'm just going to be more judicious in how I use it. At the end of the day, I am a work in progress. I am not perfect and have never given anyone the assumption that I am. I turn 25 next week and I am still adjusting to the glare of the spotlight and making mistakes.

This is the last time I’ll ever address this non-scandal but at the very least I hope other girls can learn from this episode before they post any kind of photo online. I know I have learned a valuable lesson about the Internet and the boundaries between personal and public use with social media.

I just wanted to get that off my chest."

What more can I say? I would never in my life call Meghan McCain "a slut", but posting that picture is probably one of the dumbest things that she has ever done. Meghan, you of all people know how politics and the media works and you should have known that posting a picture like this just gives the media a reason to get you off of any other message that you wanted to get out to the public.

And I'll be honest with you -- I'm a normal guy and I enjoyed looking at the picture -- but it sure was stupid to post it on your Twitter page. Lesson learned and life goes on.

Come Back To CNN, Ted

Ted Turner, the founder of the world’s first twenty-four hour news network CNN, was recently interviewed on the Bloomberg business channel about CNN and some of the other properties he once owned. In this interview – Turner said that he would love to be able to run CNN again – because he would run things a lot differently than what’ is being done now and you want to know something – I would welcome the return of Ted Turner to CNN – but it’s not going to happen.

I miss the old days of cable news. I miss being able to go to CNN and actually watch a newscast where we would actually see reporters in the field reporting the news all around the world. News reports where the reporter actually has to cover a story – get the interview with the people in the news – and put it together in a package piece to air in a news cast. And if someone blurted out some fact -- the reporter actually had to fact check what was said before they aired it. We don’t see those kind of newscasts on CNN or the other two cable news networks – MSNBC and Fox News – and we probably never will again.

Today – with few exceptions – what the cable networks call news is just non-stop talking heads and so-called experts yelling and screaming at each other hour after hour. It’s the same people each and every day bitchin’ about this and bitchin’ about that and Monday morning quarterbacking – not reporting – what’s happening in Washington every single day of the week.

I don’t care if it’s Chris Mathhews or Sean Hanniety, Glenn Beck or Rachel Maddow, Keith Olbermann, Lou Dobbs, or Bill O’Reilly – cable news viewers are getting more volume and vitriol than we are the news. Every day and every night – these “so-called news hosts” ride the same trick pony of punditry. Some are going to call Obama everything other than the President of the United States and leader of the free world; and the other guy is going tell us that if the other side wasn’t such God-fearing homophobic racists this country would be a better place to live.

I have this to say to all of them at CNN, MSNBC and Fox News: Enough is enough! All of these networks have a news slant and a news bias – it’s just that at a couple of these networks the bias is a lot more obvious – and none of them are really doing news. CNN, MSNBC and Fox News are doing “talk TV” and the talk that they’re doing is more divisive than it is informative. It’s time that all of these networks actually started to report the news of the day and quit turning the information we need to know into some screaming town hall sound bite. I’m sure if Ted Turner could come back and run his old news network – we would truly have a twenty-four hour news network – but that’s not going to happen anytime soon – and I’m sad to say – the anger and the volume on our so-called cable news networks isn’t going to go away any time soon.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Is There A Doctor In The House?

About five or six years ago, I was watching a news program, something like “60 Minutes” or “20/20”, and they did a really long piece about the day in the life of some politician in Washington. This politician, whose name I can’t remember, talked in great detail about the frustration of his job. His frustrations weren't what you would think they’d be -- nope -- this politician was saying that once you get elected to an office a lot of your time is consumed by making sure that you stay in office. He mentioned that it seems like a day doesn't go by that he doesn’t have to attend some fundraiser for himself, his party or one of his colleagues – which means a lot of those $200-$300 a plate benefits with constituents and who knows how many meetings and get-togethers with the lobbyists or the political action groups that helped him get elected.

Now, let’s go forward to what’s happening today in Washington, D.C. with health care reform. I can’t tell you if that politician that I watched years ago is even in office today, but I’m sure things haven’t changed when it comes to what a politician has to do to stay in office today; and that's to continuously raise money for the next election campaign.

And when it comes to health care reform – it’s a safe bet that these politicians aren't listening to the people who voted them into office – they’re concentrating more on the special interest groups that put them into office. You know who these special interest groups are – the insurance companies, the drugs companies, lawyers, etc. – all of those people that have a vested interest in making sure that they things don’t change and they can continue making money hand over fist while more and more people are losing medical coverage or going bankrupt trying to finance hospital and doctor bills.

I want to scream every time I see a politician in Washington being interviewed on one of the cable news channels that says that there isn’t a health care crisis in America and there are a lot of politicians out there who believe that. Who in the hell are they fooling? They should get away from their comfortable office in Washington and away from their staff (who I'm sure are handsomely paid and who's job gives them fantastic medical coverage to boot); and they should stay far far away from the lobbyists and influence peddlers and take a up close and personal look at America’s broken health care system.

They can see what health care in America is really like by visiting a free clinic. The free clinic in the area where I live is only open three days a week from 8 am until noon. Although the doors to the clinic open at 8 am – there are people lining up outside the door at 3 o’clock in the morning so that they can hopefully be seen by a doctor or be given the medications that they need to live. It doesn't

matter if it’s the middle of the summer or some of the coldest days of winter – people still line up outside of the clinic at 3 o’clock in the morning. The people know that if they get in line at 3 o’clock in the morning – there’s a good chance they’ll be seen – if they get to the clinic any later – their odds diminish because the clinic can only take twenty or so people each day. When the doors open at 8 and you’re number 21, 22, 23, 24….they’ll tell you that they’re sorry and invite you to come in tomorrow and play the waiting game again, but there are no guarantees that you’ll be seen if you’re stuck being number 21+ again the next day.

The people that you will find waiting in line at the free clinic aren’t bums or drug addicts. Some of the people that come to the free clinic work and have jobs but can't afford health care. Some of the people who come to the clinic have just fallen on hard times and the free clinic is their last resort and hopefully their key to feeling better. I’m sure that some of the people feel bad about having to come to a free clinic for medical attention – but they soon discover that the volunteers and the doctors who work there have an incredible amount of love and compassion for their patients and they are treated more like a person than they would have had in any other doctor's office. Patients at a free clinic discover that there is someone that cares about them and their health care needs.

One of the drawbacks about this free clinic and probably others around the country is the waiting. Because of the demand for health care and the need to see a doctor -- you have to do a lot of waiting. On top of waiting in line outside to get into the clinic – there’s more waiting once you get inside to see a doctor – and once you see the doctor – there’s the additional wait for you to receive your medications. A visit to the free clinic can begin at 3 in the morning and end some nine hours later and although the hours of waiting can be long – the patients at the free clinic are grateful for everything. How do I know? I was one of those patients for nearly a year and I don’t know what I would have done without them.

I just wish that all of the politicians who are deciding what changes that need to be made to our health care system would take a break from their special interest groups and lobbyist friends and visit a free clinic. Let them see first hand what people with no insurance, no job or money has to do to get relief from pain and sickness. And these politicians shouldn't be allowed to be whisked in to the clinic for a quickie visit with the doctors and volunteers – nope, they should wait outside for four hours or so with everyone else – trying to keep warm when the temperatures are in the teens. And, I wonder how that politician would feel after waiting for hours on end to be told that the clinic had reached their quota for the day and would have to come back again tomorrow. Once they had to face something like that -- maybe, just maybe they would find it hard to deny that America’s health care system isn’t broke and actually work to fix it.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Late Night TV

I'm sure that you heard the news that David Letterman was being extorted for some $2 million by a CBS news producer -- it's been in all of the papers -- and there have even been a few people joking about Dave's situation (except for the ladies on "The View") and it kind of makes you wonder what Johnny would have done. Naturally, I'm talking about the original king of late night TV -- Johnny Carson.

Much like Letterman has been doing since he made the announcement that he was being extorted and his life has been turned upside down, I think Johnny Carson would have put a humorous spin on the situation just like Letterman has done. I mean, how many times did we get a chuckle or two from Johnny's numerous divorces and talk of alimony payments? It's got to hurt like hell to have the steamy side of your life played out in the public eye -- but if your job is to make people laugh at other people's goofs and missteps -- you've got "man-up" and make the jokes about yourself.

As of this writing -- it should be noted who hasn't made any jokes about Letterman. Amazingly -- Comedy Central's titans of fake news and views -- Jon Stewart and Stephan Colbert have made no mention of David Letterman's problems. Jimmy Kimmel has remained silent, too. Conan O'Brian (who is being beaten in the ratings by Letterman) hasn't made any comment on his show -- even when one of his guests (Drew Carey) made some mention of the Letterman situation. I truly feel that had this happened to some other talk show host -- those silent comics would have been joking and dropping the jokes like napalm bombs -- but Dave, like Carson, is a television icon and pioneer and the way I see it -- it's kind of hard to throw dirt on your heroes.

Hang in there, Dave.