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By Jeremy Schiffres, Daily and Sunday Freeman, Kingston, N.Y.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The King is dead

I used to enjoy Larry King's hourlong talk show on CNN. He generally interviewed interesting and newsworthy people who discussed interesting and newsworthy topics, and only on rare occasion did he cross the line to celebrity gossip.

But for the last two months, his show has been "All Michael Jackson All The Time," featuring Jackson family members and friends, various doctors, celebrities who knew Jackson, people who are hawking books about Jackson, alleged "experts" speculating about the cause of Jackson's death, and so on.

A journalist who once was ranked among the great interviewers in broadcast media, King now has stooped to the level of Nancy Grace, Geraldo Rivera, "Entertainment Tonight," "The Insider" and TV Guide Network.

How disappointing.


Sunday, August 23, 2009

Bill update from Cape Cod

We had rain last night.
There's still some drizzle this morning, and a light breeze.
Nantucket Sound is calm - not a single wave crashing on the shore.
Hard to believe we survived.


Saturday, August 22, 2009

A lot of bull about Bill

A headline on AOL's home page this afternoon says "East Coast braces for Hurricane Bill."

Don't believe it for a second.

The part of the eastern United States that stands to be impacted most from Bill - which, by the way, will stay hundreds of miles out to sea - is Cape Cod, where I am right now.

The sun is shining. The south-facing beach at the hotel where my family is staying is packed with people. Boats are out, and there's a parasailer above the water just off-shore. Restaurants, shops and miniature golf course are busy. The sidewalks in places like Hyannis, West Dennis and Chatham are teeming with tourists. And everyone I've encountered today appears to be relaxing and having a good time.

The only thing we're "bracing" for is the possibility that, if we dare venture out tonight, some passing rain showers may force us to carry umbrellas and watch out for puddles on roads in the area. It'll be tricky, but I think we can handle it.


Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Warrantless spamming

I'm getting quite a chuckle over Republicans in general and Fox News in particular screaming "INVASION OF PRIVACY!!" over the Obama White House apparently obtaining e-mail lists and sending pro-health care reform messages to people across the country.

Sending an unsolicited e-mail to someone is an invasion of privacy but listening in on people's private phone calls isn't?

These people either have very short memories or think the rest of us do.


Monday, August 17, 2009

Seasonal eyesores

Ah, August - the month when two of the ugliest things known to man start sprouting up on lawns: crabgrass and campaign signs.

The beauty of summer was nice while it lasted.


Saturday, August 15, 2009

Town hall tirades

I've been off from work for the past week, so I've been paying a bit less attention to the news than usual, but one thing that's caught my attention is the TV coverage of these "town hall" meetings regarding national health care reform.

If you watch CNN, MSNBC or Fox News - especially Fox News - you've seen the clips ad nauseum: angry (usually Republican) constituents who fear they'll lose their existing medical coverage screaming at the top of their lungs at the House members and senators (mostly Democrats) who allegedly are conspiring to ruin the lives of these average Americans.

It all makes for good theater - and mark my words, much of it is just theater - but it would be wise to keep this in mind: These tirades are the exception, not the rule. And they tend to be carried out only by people who know TV cameras are pointing at them. Most of the town hall meetings being held across the country during Congress' current summer recess - including the ones conducted by President Barack Obama - have been polite, low-key events in which opinions are voiced at acceptable decibels and dissatisfaction is expressed respectfully.

You won't see any of these non-confrontational sessions on TV, mind you - because news directors would rather eat broken glass than air segments that lack drama - but rest assured: The vast majority of the public debate on this issue has been carried out in a manner that your mother would find acceptable.

... unless your name is Trig and your mother is Sarah Palin.


Friday, August 7, 2009

The twits couldn't tweet

Twitter went down Thursday morning, and Facebook was running slow for several hours.

... and worker productivity undoubtedly reached new heights.


Order in the words

The Associated Press reported on Thursday that Sonia Sotomayor "won confirmation as the nation's first Hispanic Supreme Court justice."

The United States has a Hispanic Supreme Court? Gee, we have a come a long way!

"The first Hispanic justice on the Supreme Court" would have been a more accurate way to phrase the thought.


Monday, August 3, 2009

Pardon my absence

It's been about two weeks since my last post. Sorry about that, faithful readers (all four or five of you). Summer tends to be the busy season at work - not because the pace of the news picks up, but because people in my office take vacation and those of us left behind have more to do - so blogging has taken a back seat.

Had I done any blogging since July 20, I probably would have said some of the following:

* Michael Jackson has been dead for more than a month now. Is there really nothing more important for cable TV news to be covering? And how many times is MSNBC going to rerun Martin Bashir's 2003 interview with Jackson (the one in which Jacko famously defended sharing his bed with young boys and denied having multiple plastic surgeries)? I don't think it's an exaggeration to say I've come across reruns of this thing more than 20 times since Jackson died in late June. Enough already! And enough of airing allegedly "new" stories about Jackson every night. Nobody cares anymore ... except, of course, the cable TV news outlets.

* Do these ridiculous Obama "birthers" really think they're gaining political traction by alleging the president was born in Kenya (a bogus allegation that's been debunked over and over again)? They're embarrassing themselves and probably hurting mainstream Republicans (who are as mortified by these people as the rest of us are). They do, however, make for some entertaining television, with none being funnier than convicted former Nixon aide (and former Dutchess County prosecutor) G. Gordon Liddy saying he knows Obama was born in Africa because there's a signed affidavit to that effect from the president's step-grandmother, who claims to have witnessed the blessed event. Never mind the president's Hawaiian birth certificate and his 1961 birth announcement in a Honolulu newspaper. If G. Gordon Liddy says Obama is a foreigner because some long-dead woman allegedly swore to it, then it must be true.

* So it turns out David "Big Papi" Ortiz was juicing in 2003 and quite possibly was on steroids when the Red Sox reversed their 86-year curse and won the 2004 World Series. I can't say I'm surprised - I mean just look at Ortiz's arms! - but I'm also not ready to cry foul and demand that Boston's title be wiped from the books. With steroid use undoubtedly rampant in baseball at that time, doesn't it seem likely that several players on teams the Bosox beat during the regular season also were using? And isn't it possible that at least some members of the Angels, Yankees and Cardinals - the three teams Boston beat in the postseason that year - were on the stuff, too? My point being: Perhaps all the cheaters offset each other, making the playing field more level than one might think. That isn't meant to justify the behavior - I still think players who use banned substances should be thrown out of the league forever - but it does lend credence to argument that at least some records from baseball's so-called Steroid Era should be allowed to stand.

* Central Hudson Gas & Electric Corp. wants to raise rates again? The company just imposed huge increases in the amounts it charges customers for the delivery of electricity and natural gas, and now it's asking to impose additional hikes starting about 11 months from now? Un-freakin'-believable ... and arrogant beyond description. If the utility truly is having financial problems (a claim that I don't find very convincing), then it needs to find ways to cut costs, just like most businesses do when money is tight. Making customers pay more is not the answer.

* I can't write an entire concert review in the confines of one paragraph, but let me just say this: Green Day is the best live rock act on the road at this point is popular music history. I saw the band at Madison Square Garden a week ago, and I was absolutely blown away. These guys have a sound that's built on pure energy. They have a front man (Billie Joe Armstrong) with incredible stage presence. And the band's songs, despite alternately masquerading as punk and heavy metal pieces, are, at their core, just great pop tunes with infectious melodies. I've known about Green Day since it stormed onto the world stage with its infamous "mud fight" performance at Woodstock '94 in Saugerties 15 years ago, but I didn't really start paying attention to the band until my son, who's 15, started listening to its albums a few years ago. I went to the MSG show (unfortunately without my son, who's at summer camp) more or less to see what all the hype was about. I expected to come away with a "no big deal" attitude, but instead, I walked onto 7th Avenue at 11:45 p.m. on July 27 a true convert (much the same way I didn't truly appreciate Bruce Springsteen until seeing him live in December 1980). I'm sold on Green Day, and I truly believe that anyone else who sees this band live for the first time will feel the same way. Billie Joe and the boys have wrapped up the Northeast leg of their current tour, but when they come around again - whether later this year or on their next road trip - spend the money, take the time, and see them in concert. You won't regret it.

OK. That catches me up, I think.

I need to go cut my grass now. And you probably have more important things to do than sit in front of a computer reading my ramblings.