Monday, April 26, 2010

Shame On Eliot

Former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer, who resigned in disgrace in 2008 after being caught in a prostitution scandal, is trying very hard to reemerge on the public scene. But he made too many powerful and wealthy enemies who will stop at nothing to keep the "Luv Gov" down.

The "Untitled Eliot Spitzer Film" was shown Saturday night at the Tribeca Film Festival before a nearly full auditorium that included some of New York's leading figures. Notably absent were Eliot Spitzer and Ashley Dupre.

This important film is the work of Academy Award winning documentary director Alex Gibney, who announced that he was still tweaking the movie. The film is being portrayed as sympathetic to Spitzer by those whole disliked him. Nonetheless, it candidly tells the story of a brilliant man with great potential who attacked corruption and cronyism on Wall Street and in Albany. But Spitzer was a brash and arrogant bully who tried to steamroll his opponents before suffering a humiliating downfall.

Perhaps the fact that Spitzer participated in the film, he was interviewed four times, is a sign of how desperate he is to put his sins behind him. And in a surreal twist, Spitzer call girl Ashley Dupre did not participate in the documentary because she wanted “total editorial control,” according to Gibney. Of course, Dupre is now a New York Post columnist, a frequent guest on the Fox News Channel and she will be featured in the May edition of Playboy Magazine.

One of Spitzer's powerful enemies who did appear was former Republican Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno, who is facing federal corruption charges. Another, billionaire businessman and former New York Stock Exchange Board member Ken Langone, who was targeted by Sptizer for giving Dick Grasso, the former head of the NYSE, a giant pay package in 2003. Langone has relished in Spitzer's fall, once saying, "We all have our own private hells. I hope his private hell is hotter than anybody else's." It is clear he will do all he can to stop Spitzer from rising out of the ashes.

The movie raises questions about why the United States Attorney focused so heavily on investigating Spitzer. Could it have been because the Bush Justice Department was under attack from Democrats for earlier firing several U.S. attorneys for political reasons? Did Langone have then Governor Spitzer under private surveillance? Or was it really a coincidence that Langone knew someone standing in line at the post office while Spitzer purchased $2400 in money orders? Is News Corp's Rupert Murdoch doing all he can to counter program Spitzer's comeback efforts? What role did Republican strategist Roger Stone have in Spitzer's fall? After the screening Stone said, "It's completely biased, the filmmaker has a number of key facts wrong."

Throughout the movie one can't help but feel sympathy for Spitzer's family. His wife Silda has shown enormous courage and strength throughout this painful ordeal. When the former governor resigned he vowed to turn his focus to his family. Yet, barely two years after dragging his family through such a difficult and embarrassing period, why is Spitzer increasing his public exposure? He would certainly say he is qualified to make a contribution to reforming Wall Street. But isn’t there a less public way to make a difference?

At one point Spitzer says, “Not to mince words, my view is I brought myself down… I did what I did, and shame on me.” Are these the words of a man who has learned from his mistakes?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Get Over It Bernie

Former CBS News correspondent Bernie Goldberg is still bitter about the way he was treated by CBS News. A talented writer and skilled broadcaster, he had a severe falling out with former CBS News President Andrew Heyward and anchorman Dan Rather. Even more painful for Goldberg was the fact that 60 Minutes did not want him. He was too volatile, too temperamental and too much of a self-promoter for journalism's greatest news magazine. You see, despite what Goldberg claims, politics didn't enter into any decisions about his career. Now, nearly twenty years later, he continues to bear a grudge against CBS News.

Here are Goldberg's comments from his appearance on the Fox News Channel Monday night: "I worked with these liberal elites for 28 years at CBS News, and they were always throwing around the term white trash, by which they meant poor southerners who didn't go to Harvard. I'm not sure why that makes them trash. As far as the middle of the country is concerned, you know, this was flyover country where people flew the flag on the Fourth of July and went bowling and ate at Red Lobster. You know, they were a bunch of hicks. But even all liberal elites don't think that. So I am saying I was wrong, Jon Stewart is right."

Goldberg's rant was part of a counter attack against Comedy Central anchor Jon Stewart who had earlier surprised Goldberg with an attack on him. Goldberg has very thin skin, so he quickly snapped back at Stewart and dragged CBS News into the argument. Goldberg is a terrific writer; he is clever and witty. But his specialty is anger and hate, and he has made a lot of money off of his bile.

CBS News and elite are not really congruent. The late CBS News anchorman Walter Cronkite was born in St. Joseph, Missouri, and dropped out of college to cover World War II. Dan Rather came from a small town in Texas, and attended a nearby teacher's college. CBS Newsman Bob Schieffer is from Ft. Worth. The late former CBS News President Fred Friendly was a Nichols Business College graduate. His successor, the late William Leonard, attended Dartmouth College during the Great Depression and served in the Navy during World War II. Former CBS News President Van Gordon Sauter is a native of Ohio and graduate of Ohio University. Former CBS News President Ed Joyce attended the University of Wyoming. Former CBS News President Sir Howard Stringer came from Wales and Oxford and left CBS News for a while to serve a tour of duty in the U.S. Army in Viet Nam. Former CBS News President David Burke graduated from Tufts, and former CBS News President Eric Ober Yale. Yes, Andrew Heyward is a Harvard graduate.

I met and worked with every one of these men. None of them used the term "white trash." None of them ever disparaged the middle of America or the South. These men were hard working, self-made professionals, who became respected journalists. The fact that Goldberg is not qualified to walk among them does not make them elite.

In fact, CBS News is not made up mostly of "liberal elites." CBS News has always been a collection of Americans from all around the country who are passionate about journalism. Some hail from small Southern towns, some went to Midwestern colleges, some served their country in war. They are Americans, they are parents, they coach little league, many bowl and many even go to the Red Lobster. The many thousands of people who have worked for CBS News over the decades have been motivated by their desire to provide an important public service.

Of course, no institution is perfect and CBS News has made a few mistakes along the way. But its employees have always worked hard to maintain the highest standards of journalism and quality story telling.

Bernie, get over it, please.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Chicago Sports Woes

Well Chicago teams are struggling in all sports. The Cubbies are off to a slow start because of a lack of hitting and inconsistent pitching. The White Sox are making the Cubs look good. The Bulls just dropped their second game to the Cleveland Cavaliers and now return home for game three. The Black Hawks, who dominated most teams during the regular season, are getting a tough fight in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Solution: don't look at the sports pages again for a couple weeks. Prediction: Bulls out, Black Hawks advance, and the Cubs and Sox still can't hit!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Obama the Thinker

President Barack Obama has been the target of endless attacks and tirades from the Republican opposition, nonetheless, the president has remain poised as he has made progress on a wide range of important issues. But will the "Yes we can!" voters of 2008 be energized enough this fall to overcome those whose rallying cry is "Hell no!"?

The incumbent party almost always loses House and Senate seats in a midterm elections, and that will certainly be the outcome this coming November. While the president's decline in popularity may be a factor, these races are largely decided on local issues. Also, it appears that an "anti-Obama" spirit, especially in the South, has galvanized Tea Party members and conservatives.

Conservative leaders, like Mississippi Governor Haley Barber, know just how to tap into the emotions of their state's voters. Take the controversy over Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell's declaration of "Confederate History Month" without mentioning slavery. Governor Barber was blunt; "It's trying to make a big deal out of something that doesn't matter for diddly." Count secessionist Texas Governor Rick Perry's cries for "limited government," and maybe it's time to dig that Confederate money out from under the mattress because the South will rise again!

The Republicans, supported by right-wing talk show hosts, are accusing the president of a government takeover, socialism, and, even worse, arrogance. The deep hatred of President Obama seems largely personal and is often based on lies and deceit and not facts. Regretfully, some Americans don't want to know the truth, they only want to hear what they want to believe. This is great for entertainers like Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh who can make big bucks fanning the flames of divisiveness.

Yes, President Obama's popularity has fallen below the 50% mark, as those who disapprove of his performance are now at about an equal number. But polls are a snapshot of feelings over a finite time period, and they often lag behind reality. At a similar time in his presidency Ronald Reagan had about a 35% approval rating. Further, how would President Obama do today if he were placed up against former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, Texas Congressman Ron Paul, former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin or former House Speaker Newt Gingrich? In fact, by Republican standards, Romney's pro-choice and universal health care record makes him a socialist!

On the positive side, President Obama's base has reason to be happy. The president courageously enacted a federal stimulus bill that slowed job loses. For the first time in nearly two years Americans have some hope the economy will get better. President Obama also continued government intervention in the banks that has stabilized the financial markets and earned the feds a profit. The president also intervened in the failing auto industry with generally positive results.

President Obama scored a historic victory with passage of health care reform legislation. Here he did what every president since Roosevelt failed to accomplish, and he has put in place a good package that will cover thirty-two million more Americans and will be further improved in the years ahead.

President Obama has taken the lead on the global stage as well. The president has implemented a well thought out plan to deal with Afghanistan and its erratic leader that has shown some promise. President Obama has intensified drone attacks on al-Qaeda bases. He is also continuing to draw down American troops in Iraq.

This week President Obama convened a meeting of leaders from 47 nations in Washington D.C. to deal with the proliferation of nuclear weapons. President Obama warned the possibility of a terrorist organization obtaining a nuclear weapon is, "The single biggest treat to U.S. security." He went on to say that al-Qaeda would have "no compunction against using them." In an important step the Ukraine said it would give up nuclear material, a long sought after goal of the United States.

In a major breakthrough, the White House announced that China would support tougher sanctions against Iran for its nuclear policy. The president had earlier negotiated the support of the Russians. Now a new set of U.N. Security Council sanctions could be ready within "a matter of weeks." This comes days after the presidents of the United States and Russia announced further reductions in their existing nuclear arsenals.

President Obama faces many difficult challenges, including an exploding federal deficit, high unemployment and the threat of a terrorist attack on American soil. He will also have to deal with financial and immigration reform in the coming months as well as the incoming fire from the right. Nonetheless, President Obama's accomplishments to date are laudable.

Is this the work of an arrogant man? Hell no! To quote Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, "The most important thing that distinguishes him from many other people, I won’t name anyone by name, he’s a thinker. He thinks when he speaks."

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Cubs Bat-less

Cubs need a few bats if they expect to win. Once again it appears that the Cubs lack of hitting will cost them a pennant. Soriano, Ramirez, and Byrd, what's up with you guys? Lou, play Colvin, a rookie with great promise, and sit Soriano or Byrd. That'll get someone's attention.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Opening Day

It's been more than 100 years since the Chicago Cubs won the world series. Yet the team has remained one of America's most storied franchises.

If you are a Cubs fan you don't expect too much each season but you hope for the best. There is no reason, on paper anyway, that the Cubs shouldn't win their division this year. No billy goat or black cat should stand in their way. Sure, a couple early season injuries may slow their step a bit but they should prevail.

Do you believe in omens?

Yesterday was opening day for the Cubs and the Atlanta Braves. The Cubs were in their familiar travel blues and the Braves their home whites. The Atlanta stadium was packed, the largest opening crowd in memory for the Braves.

The Cubs jumped off to a 3-0 lead in the first inning thanks to two home runs. But in the bottom of the opening frame Atlanta struck, make that blooped and blasted their way back. Cub ace Carlos Zambrano gave up a walk and then several bloop hits. And Atlanta's rookie young phenom Jayson Heyward cleared the bases with a blast over the center field wall. Zambrano gave up 8 runs in the first inning.

Later in the game the Cubs had a runner on first when newly acquired center fielder Marlon Byrd, who homered in his first Cub at bat, drove a line drive to center field. In a diving attempt the Braves center fielder grabbed the ball in his glove but dropped it as he hit the ground. The center fielder then quickly retrieved the ball and threw it into the infield. The Umpires ruled the error a catch and the Cubs were doubled up. Their manager Lou Piniella put up an mild arguent but the umpires stood by their mistake.

Cub relievers went on to give up 8 more runs, and a lot of walks, as the game ended in a 16-5 rout at the hands of the Braves. Oy, this will be a long season.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

I-Pad mania

It is not the same craziness as when the I-Phone came out. We have already gone through a few of those.

But delivery of our I-Pad has caused quite a stir in out house as we are all crowded over this device. It's kind of like having a new baby. I mean everyone is ooohing and aaahing, even our dog Cleo.

Bigger then a Kindle, the I-Pad is about 91/2" by 7" and weighs a couple of pounds, but the screen is much brighter and in color. It will be interesting to see how this latest bit of technology integrates into our family.

I gotta go now, it's my turn!