Posts from June 28, 2005

Look beyond the headlines

Look beyond the headlines

: On tonight’s Anderson Cooper 360, he urged us to “look beyond the headlines” and you will see that “some things have improved on the ground in Iraq.” Well, yes, considering that the headlines are all bad, you’d have to look beyond them. He hands over to CNN’s Jennifer Eccleston for “that side of the story.”

JENNIFER ECCLESTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The big day has arrived for Piras Odisho and —. Despite the daily disruptions to life in Baghdad, a rising number of young couples like them are taking the plunge.

PIRAS ODISHO, GROOM (translator): Life must go on. There must be marriages and happiness.

ECCLESTON: Marriages are up 30 percent since Saddam’s overthrow and the judge signing their wedding contract thinks he knows why.

GHANI AL-ISAA, JUDGE (translator): There is an increase since the income of all sectors of Iraqi people has gone up.

ECCLESTON: Measuring Iraq’s economic health is not an exact science, but those in work, like the 350 judges trained in the past two years, are better paid, thanks to U.S. subsidies.

The Iraqi dinar holds its value. Gone is the rampant inflation of the ’90′s. There are more goods in the shops, in part, thanks to low import duties and a thriving black market.

It’s estimated that there’s five times more traffic on Baghdad’s roads than there was pre-war and then, there is, what some call, the freedom index. In January, nearly 60 percent of Iraqis voted, choosing from a wide variety of parties. The assembly they voted for is meeting and is beginning to frame a new constitution for Iraq and 25 Sunni delegates are participating.

Internet cafes, unknown under Saddam, have sprung up in Baghdad. There are more than three million telephone subscribers, compared to fewer than a million before the war and many of them are on cell phones. Some 170 independent newspapers and magazines offer competing opinions and there are 80 commercial radio stations.

Wealthier Iraqis have satellite dishes and watch channels from around the world, a luxury unthinkable three years ago. Much of the country away from the Sunni dominated north and west is not racked by sectarian violence and some 150,000 Iraqi security forces are trained, equipped, and playing a larger role in battling the insurgents.

Well, bravo, at long last, major media concedes that the agenda it has set in Iraq — of unrelenting doom — has another side. But they can’t leave it at that. She returns to say:

Now, despite the undeniable progress in Iraq, one year after the handover of sovereignty, the grinding violence, the lack of personal security, the hardships of day-to-day living, not enough power, not enough water, inadequate sanitation, this limits most Iraqis ability to believe their governments and American assertion that life is indeed improving…

Yes, we couldn’t just balance months of dire coverage with a moment’s good news without returning to the dire.

Faith in the White House

Faith in the White House

: I happened by the religious PAX tv tonight — for some odd reason, it’s channel 3 on my cable system — and they’re broadcasting the most incredible hagiography I’ve ever seen: George W. Bush: Faith in the White House. I wish I had the energy to live blog the thing but I’m too damned drunk on demon rum.

Bad taste on bad taste

Bad taste on bad taste

: I was nonplussed (yes, it’s possible) when I listened to this week’s On The Media and heard a parody of cable networks devoting themselves to missing white women. In a bit borrowed from thePoorMan.net, they create a new network called Where the White Women At. Now that would have been funny after the attack of bridevision but right now when the missing white woman of the week is a teenager presumed murdered on an island… well, this was in uncharacterically bad taste, I’d say.

Googlewood

Googlewood

: Google put up its new video service but I’m not on it. As soon as they announced they were taking submissions weeks ago, I put up a vlog just to see how it worked. Now Google’s video service and player are up but I can’t find it. No idea why: Not up to Google’s high standards (“Love ya, babe, but your dialogue needs some work”)… pissed off Google… need a new agent. Doing the latest new ego search, it did find two videos that mentioned me… but those videos, from PBS, are not available, only searchable. Drat. And I was so ready for my close-up.

Dell hell, continued: Self-service

Dell hell, continued: Self-service

: So Dell knows that my hard drive is broken but after two days, I still haven’t received a reply to the latest email, in which they said they’d set up a service call to get it replaced, whatever that means.

I was thinking about this service process, in which Dell and other computer makers make us suffer through service with them. They take some S&M glee in making us wait on hold and talk to their people for hours (costing them money, by the way).

In what other consumer product or service do we have to have such a role in service?

When my car breaks, I drop it off and tell them what’s wrong and leave. They fix it. They verify it’s fixed. They don’t make me get into the greasepit with them.

When my electricity goes fritz at home, I call in the electrician and tell him what’s wrong and he fixes it and tests it and I pay him and thank him. I don’t have to hang out with him and hand him wirestrippers.

But with computers, we are expected to suffer through the process; we aren’t allowed to say, “Just fix it: The machine you made is broken so fix it and make sure it’s fixed.”

Why the hell do we tolerate this?

Film at 11… and 12… and 1… and 2…

Film at 11… and 12… and 1… and 2…

: Every TV news outlets played and replayed the tapes of the BTK killer coldly recounting his crimes yesterday. I watched it on MSNBC. After I left there last night, I listened to it in my car (via Sirius) on Fox and CNN, where Anderson Cooper devoted his entire show to the confession, saying that we would learn something.

But would we? What do we learn from the sick and evil?

I had the same reaction when I first watched Oz and as a result gave it a bad review in TV Guide… though I confess that I did end up watching the series, became riveted by it, couldn’t stay away.

Not to trivialize them by comparison, but we do the same with the perpetrators of massive crimes.

What is it about watching the worst in us? Is it merely sensationalistic voyeurism? Is is relief that we’re sane? Is it bad taste?

So I’m not sure what I think of last night’s instant obsession with the BTK video. I certainly don’t think it was educational. I did think there was something wrong about intruding on this last moment of truth for the victims and their families. I was a little bit ashamed of us all for showing and watching the tapes. But I can’t help but be chilled by the dead-cold soul of this man.

Did I listen to his words passively as producers packed them into the shows I tuned into? Yes.

Did I understand the judgment that went into playing these sickly compelling scenes? Of course. I’m a tab editor myself. I preach “impact.”

But here’s the new question: In a new world of get-the-news-I-want-when-I-want-it, would I have clicked on a link to watch the confession if I knew what I would hear? No, I don’t know why I would have.

So when we become our own editors and producers and pick the news we really want instead of the news others think we want, will we still be voyeurs? Or will we reveal the tabloid editors and producers to have been right about us all along? Who will end up having better or more sensational news judgment: the people or the press?