Thursday, September 18, 2003

Dyersburg: The Aftermath

Normal blogging will resume on Friday afternoon, but today I'd like to devote to wrapping up last night's big story.

The Memphis Commercial Appeal surprisingly only has a single, bare story this morning. It contains little that wasn't mentioned below or isn't available from other media sources, including a comment by a family member that Kilpatrick suffered from bi-polar disorder (manic-depression, in the old term). And it wasn't written by a regular news reporter, but feature wanna-be Bartholomew Sullivan. I will allow them the possibility that the story wrapped too late last night for much to be written, and they are spending Thursday researching and interviewing before tackling more stories. Still, it's very nearly inexcusable for the Mid-South's "newspaper of record" to be this off-handed. Tomorrow's paper will tell the tale.

The Dyersburg State-Gazette has a full-front page, three-photo splash, as this is the biggest thing to hit that community in a while. They have a 1996 high school photo that makes him look much better than the crime photo most venues are using. The photo says "1999" but this appears to be a typo, as he's a 1996 graduate of Dyersburg High School.

Memphis media outlets have been sloppy in reporting how shots got started, implying it was Kilpatrick firing wildly into the hostages, but this story clears up that misrepresentation by making clear he shot twice in warning. One television station last night (I can't recall which today) said that one hostage used some confusion to escape, which set off Kilpatrick who fired two warning shots to the remaining hostages to make clear his threat.

Read this:
Lisa McDowell, DPD public information officer, said one student who was held hostage fled from the administration building immediately before shots from the assailant were heard. Those actions, according to authorities, may have prompted Kilpatrick to begin the subsequent shoot-off.

“I grabbed her and put in her in the car,” said McDowell. “Then I heard the shots fired.”
While I understand the visceral desire to live, I also can't help but think that this unnamed woman sparked off the final confrontation. What guilt to live with.

The State-Gazette also addresses reasons for the incident:
Questions remain as to why Kilpatrick chose the DSCC classroom; however, the assailant’s uncle, Milton Burns II, told the State Gazette he had applied and was ultimately rejected for financial aid at the institution shortly before he took the classroom hostage.

Relatives also believe a history of mental illness, along with a lack of medication for the ailment, may explain the man’s actions.

“He is a manic depressive,” said Carolyn Reed, Kilpatrick’s cousin. “He has not been able to take his medication for nearly two years.”
So, there you go. FOX13 in Memphis tonight said that he was said to have blamed the State of Tennessee's government for his being denied aid, and may have conflated that with DCSS. That would explain why he went to the administration building on campus -- Eller Building.

The other S-G story has more on the families of the hostages and a bit more on Kilpatrick. It also provides more detail on what was transpiring inside the classroom. One passage stands out:
According to John's father, Harold, who spoke to his son in the emergency room following the fatal shootout, Kilpatrick was violent at this time.

"At first, he was throwing chairs around and behaving erratically," Harold said.
That was early in the incident. It also squares with the FOX13 interviews with his fiance, Jamaica Lemons, (whom I misidentified last night) who told tales of his violent nature. These included running over her with a car, knife attacks, and trying to run her off the road with his car when she had young children in hers. She implied that a very bad childhood had left him very angry and that he'd never learned to cope with the anger nor deal with it.

The S-G stories answer why he left Memphis for Dyersburg. He was apparently from the region and had family roots there still. He seems to have moved to Memphis out of high school and lived here for a few years. Angry and panicked after missing his court appearance and now with five felony warrants for his arrest, it seems believable that he'd go to a place of safety for himself.

When I first scanned the early morning Memphis news shows Thursday, two things stood out. During the hostage taking, a couple of television stations mentioned Kilpatrick's "lengthy criminal history." That's a quote from one station. No one this morning, or this evening, detailed that history. I'm hoping the Commercial Appeal will see fit to print it.

The other thing was a comment by a WMC, Channel Five, on-the-scene reporter, Brooke Sanders, that Kilpatrick's body was still in the classroom where he fell. At six AM, nearly seven hours after his death! A FOX13 reporter also mentioned that the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation had only just arrived on the scene to begin the investigation. If true, this is shocking. Where were they last night and what took them so long to arrive? This point demands follow up.

One other thing: flash or concussion grenades were used when the police stormed the room, as was documented by ABC24 cameras. No mention was made of the effect these might have had on Kilpatrick or the hostages when police entered the classroom. Stunned, frightened people might have been staggering around, possibly into the line of police fire. There is still no word today on who actually shot the two hostages who were wounded, one critically enough to be flown by helicopter to Memphis.

Last question is about Kilpatrick's mental health. His fiance was surprised he was out on the streets. She apparently had expected him to be in a facility, undergoing treatment. FOX13 alluded to a mental exam as part of the five charges that were pending on him. There are dribs and drabs being let out, but no effort is being made to really get clarity here. Confidentiality laws play a part in researching this kind of information, but his family seems to be voluble on the topic.

As it stands, there's a nebulous, sensical timeline out there. To casual news watchers, it just makes enough sense in a sad way. But there are some gaps in history, motivation and events that need to be filled. I'll be watching to see who, if anyone, fills them in.

Again, I must commend the Dyersburg police for their conduct. Kilpatrick left behind a note that police say that made clear Kilpatrick intended to kill people. They had to take that threat very seriously. Chief of Police Bobby Williamson gave his officers clear instructions, including to storm the classroom if shots were heard, while still making good-faith efforts to keep negotiations open. He doesn't appear to have done anything to provoke Kilpatrick, nor to have mounted ill-conceived operations behind his back. The whole of the Dyersburg Police Department needs to be properly thanked.

One last observation. Hostage situations unfortunately arise in America all the time and make the news, too. Remember a few months ago, the guy who walked into the Mississippi factory and killed all his coworkers? While Memphis and Mid-South media seem to have been on the story to varying degrees (ABC24 going wall-to-wall late in the evening. WREC, Channel Three not so much, not even interrupting prime time.) the story doesn't seem to have gotten much of a national blip. It rated a page three, two-paragraph blurb in USAToday this morning. But none of the national morning shows seem to have taken it up.

Why? Well, for one thing there was Hurricane Isabel making landfall and the major nets having a significant investment in people and equipment in that story. Just as the Summerstorm of 2003 got overshadowed by the deaths of Saddam Hussein's sons on July 22, while the earlier Jackson tornado, with its shocking destruction, was part of a larger story on widespread damage from that night already being covered. It's just the luck of timing.

As I said, I feel a certain amount of sadness for Kilpatrick. It appears he had a nasty, brutish, short, angry and confused life. I don't absolve him of his actions and their consequences, but I do grieve that he seems to have had little help or support in his abbrieviated journey. Go back to the State-Gazette story and look again at the face in the high school picture.

He was, as they say, someone's son, brother, friend. His life derailed early, it seems, and he pinballed around until he landed at Dyersburg State Community College. Now his game's over.

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Dyersburg Tennessee Hostage Situation

[NOTE: I am appending updates directly to this post. Hit your "Refresh" button to see the latest entries farther down.]

NEW! See Harold Kilpatrick, Jr.'s jail photos. Includes the booking number for a previous arrest. Apparently, this is the photo many media outlets are using.

A man is holding up to twenty people hostage at Dyersburg State Community College as of 5PM local time. Dyersburg (set Zoom to 7) is a mid-sized town roughly 80 miles north of Memphis. It's a very nice place, a sleepy Southern town.

The standoff started shortly after lunch. So far, no one is known to be injured or killed. The man is believed to be armed with a handgun and is talking to police. SWAT teams are there, but no word on State or Federal assistance yet.

The Dyersburg-area paper can be found here.

Memphis television is all over this, obviously. You can find information at:

WREG Newschannel Three (CBS).
Memphis Commercial Appeal
WREC AM600 NewsRadio has a live webcast at this link.

The story is now on its own index page at CNN.
FOX has the story here.

INSTANT UPDATE -- 5:15PM Channel Three is now saying that the man is claiming to be Al Qaeda and he is on a suicide mission! Waiting for confirmation on this one. Also, the number of hostages has been lowered to 12 - 15.

INSTANT UPDATE -- 5:30PM WMC is also reporting the Al Qaeda/suicide angle now.

INSTANT UPDATE -- 6:00PM The hostage-taker has been identified as Harold Kilpatrick, 26; he is apparently not a student there, but recently moved there from Memphis. Hostages are now believed to number between 9 and 13.

INSTANT UPDATE -- 6:20PM More information on Kilpatrick: he had three Memphis warrants issued earlier today for aggravated assault, aggravated kidnapping and reckless endangerment with a dangerous weapon, before he left for Dyersburg. Hostages are now numbered at 16. His family is now saying he has been "troubled" for the past several days.

INSTANT UPDATE -- 6:30PM Family is now talking with television. A photograph of Kilpatrick is now being shown.

INSTANT UPDATE -- 6:35PM All local television has returned to regular evening broadcasting. They promise to break in if events warrant.

INSTANT UPDATE -- 6:40PM ABC24 is reporting that Kilpatrick left a suicide note and has a live interview with some of his family on the scene. Several of the hostages have cell phones and are talking to police, but Kilpatrick is refusing to talk directly. Apparently, messages are being passed through the students.

INSTANT UPDATE -- 6:45PM The FOX news story can be found here. Sorry for the delay in posting the link.

INSTANT UPDATE -- 7:00PM Some more links:
Google News search
Dyersburg SORT (Special Operations Response Team) [Bottom of page has links to various City of Dyersburg Police Departments
An Associated Press story, via Kansas City Star
ABC News story
MSNBC story

INSTANT UPDATE -- 7:30PM No television updates happening, but this wouldn't be unusual in a hostage situation, which can go on for hours and hours.

More links:
Jonesboro, Arkansas, television station, KAIT 8, across the Mississippi from Dyersburg, has this story from early in the afternoon.
The UPI story from earlier today. [Note: The WashTimes home page has both AP and UPI Breaking News links.]
The Jackson Sun home page. Jackson is mid-way between Memphis and Nashville, along I-40, and southeast of Dyersburg.

INSTANT UPDATE -- 7:45PM Predictably, several print outlets have run with the Al Qaeda angle, but it is beginning to appear that this may have been a ruse by Kilpatrick to get instant attention.

INSTANT UPDATE -- 8:00PM It must be a big story, as all the television news outlets now have graphics with titles like "School Showdown" and "Hostage Crisis."

Some media outlets are reporting language from the suicide note Kilpatrick allegedly left. From WMC TV5:
Williamson added that the gunman left a suicide note at his sister's house, which said he "wanted to kill some people and die today." Kilpatrick also said in the note that he didn't like Americans and had spoken with al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.

Williamson added that the subject claims to have ties to an international terror organization. The FBI has been called in, but Williamson said authorities have no reason to believe the claim. Justice Department officials in Washington also said they had no evidence to corroborate the man's claim to be a member of al-Qaida.
And as reported above, even though the Al Qaeda link is being pooh-poohed by the Justice Department in Washington, all local media outlets are still reporting it breathlessly.

INSTANT UPDATE -- 8:30PM As of this time, ABC24 has a picture of Kilpatrick on its home page.

INSTANT UPDATE -- 9:10PM FOX13 News, see link above, is reporting that the situation is settling in. Kilpatrick has ordered pizzas and cokes for the hostages. They are also reporting he has a "lengthy criminal record," though no details were given.

Sadly, Les Smith is reporting this story and is injecting a whole lot of opinion and "feature writer" type comment into the story. It's sloppy and deprecates the story.

They also interviewed a "former fiance," whose name I didn't catch (Jamaica Brown?), who said she thought he was still in a mental institution and wasn't aware he was out.

INSTANT UPDATE -- 9:20PM See Harold Kilpatrick's warrants, including his Dyersburg address and date of birth, here! Enter his name as above in the fields and hit "Submit." He now has five!

INSTANT UPDATE -- 9:45PM FOX13 now reporting that all police surrounding the Eller Building have stormed it. There are reports of shots fired. Two hostages were released about five minutes ago, then an ambulance gurney went in. Shortly afterward, the police went in.

INSTANT UPDATE -- 9:45PM Only UPN30 (a rebranded ABC24 news broadcast, see link above) is now live on the scene with FOX 13. The major nets are still broadcasting regular prime-time programming.

Ah! ABC24 just went live as well. And now WREG Newschannel Three is briefly reporting the hostage situation is "over" before returning to regular programming.

INSTANT UPDATE -- 9:50PM ABC24 is now reporting that an ambulance "with oxygen tanks" is leaving the scene. They are also saying that an ambulance backed up to the front of the Eller Building and then a "flash" (possibly a stun grenade?) was seen.

INSTANT UPDATE -- 10:00PM Harold Kilpatrick was killed. The hostage situation is over. A news conference is underway right now.

Police Chief Williamson is saying that negotiations with Kilpatrick "broke down" and "he [Kilpatrick] began to shoot," at which point "his team [police] went in" and "we took him down."

INSTANT UPDATE -- 10:10PM ABC24 reporting two hostages were injured; they are not sure who was responsible as of yet. Both were female and one was shot in the leg.

FOX13 is reporting, through Kilpatrick's aunt and fiance, that he was off a medication he was supposed to be taking.

WMC is reporting that a woman hostage was having heart problems, which may have agitated Kilpatrick. A stretcher was called for and then shortly afterward the situation broke.

INSTANT UPDATE -- 10:15PM WMC now reporting that shots were heard in the classroom, at which point police entered the room firing. Kilpatrick was shot several times, though it's not clear if he had shot himself first.

Interesting note: No one else -- especially ABC24 which has been in full coverage mode for almost an hour -- except FOX13 is reporting the mental health angle, which seems to be coming from family. No has a clue yet why Kilpatrick went to DSCC, as he's not a student or employee there and seems to have no known connection.

FINAL UPDATE & SOME THOUGHTS -- 11:00PM The situation seems to have reached a resolution. Kilpatrick is dead; only reported injuries to two hostages do not seem severe. No reports of police injury.

There are some questions that beg answers tomorrow:
1. Why did Kilpatrick choose Dyersburg State Community College?
2. Kilpatrick had five warrants issued today in Memphis after he missed a court appearance. See the link above. What were the circumstances of the charges? When did they occur?
3. What was Kilpatrick's "lengthy criminal record?" What does it tell us about precursors to this situation? Was there any discernable warning?
4. Why did he flee Memphis for Dyersburg?
5. There are reports from family and a fiance that Kilpatrick was on medication and had been under the care of a mental health institution. How does this, if true, connect with his behavior today?

Check the Memphis Commercial Appeal on Thursday for early details. You can also try the Dyersburg State-Gazette. The Memphis television stations will have video archives of the final police action, especially ABC24, WPTY.

Kudos to WPTY for having the most coverage of this story. They went live around 9:30 and kept it up until 11:45; they also had an hour's coverage this afternoon when the story first broke. Other stations only had news-time coverage, choosing not to break prime-time. Shame on them.

Shame also to the Commercial Appeal whose only story online on the situation all day has been a rewritten version of the original AP story by Woody Baird! Even now, at 11PM, it's still all they've got. Can't anyone there manage to write up something, anything, in the eight hours since the story broke? Jeez.... The electronic age is just going to steamroller those green-eye-shaded old men at their ancient Smith-Coronas.

Whew! Long night tonight and a longer workday tomorrow. I hope this blog event was of some value to you, my cherished readers. Thank you for the opportunity to serve you.

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

Movie Review: Cube and Hypercube: Cube II

*MASSIVE SPOILER ALERT*This is a discussion of the movies Cube and Hypercube: Cube II. It contains all kinds of spoilers. You have been warned!

I saw Cube without any fore-knowledge. I'd seen mentions of it, usually with strong recommendations, on various sites and blogs, but didn't know much when I rented the DVD. That lack of foreknowledge, I think, was to my benefit. Sorry to ruin it for you.

A group of people wake up inside a three-dimensional, maze-like series of rooms. Each room is 14 X 14 x 14 feet, with a sliding hatch in the middle of each wall, floor and ceiling included. Each room connects to another room that is identical in all respects except the panel coloring. They have no idea where they are or how they got there. They try to find their way out and learn that the Cube is deadly, too. After a while, they notice there's a mathematical solution to their predicament. They start to make real progress in getting out until emotion gets in the way and tragedy results.

Cube is stylish as all hell. The rooms are neatly designed and colored: red, green, gold, blue. It seems that the very small, tight budget forced the director and producers into a lot of creative choices that paid off handsomely.

Casting proved another boon. There is no "star" in this movie, so there's no clue to who might survive or not. The closest recognisable faces are Nicole DeBoer (of Deep Space Nine and Dead Zone) and Maurice Dean Wint (lots of smaller films and parts). The fact that the movie is essentially played out on one set (the rooms are identical, remember?) forces us to focus on the characters as well, and makes for fever-hot interactions.

Our first introduction to the movie shows one character being killed in a swift and grisly way, letting us know immediately that the Cube is deadly. Once we start to meet the others and they begin to explore, we know the stakes for them. Then, we meet one character who seems to have found a way to get out. It works, for a while, until he dies, too.

Finally, DeBoer's character, a math student, notices that every threshold between rooms has a number. She quickly figures out that there's a mathematical basis to whether a room is deadly or not, speeding up their exploration. And that also sets the theme of the movie and the underlying message.

Cube is, at heart, a warning that we must all learn to work together, or we'll die. After the characters have been interacting for a while, we start to learn something about each. It turns out later that the group has all it needs in terms of skill sets and personality types to survivie the Cube. There's the cop, the natural leader; a doctor; a prison escape artist; a math student. Each has a piece of the survival puzzle to contribute.

Then there's the guy, a clueless office drone who worked on a part of the Cube's door, who gives us a deliberately murky overview of the Cube itself. He thinks it's a government project that somehow got orphaned but still survived somehow and is still kept going by folks like him who don't know why they're doing their jobs or to what purpose, but keep doing them anyway. The Cube becomes a metaphor for life. None of us can see the big picture, so we just keep doing our part and hope for the best.

There's the message that life (ie. the Cube) can be puzzled out and some direction taken if we use reason as our guide. If we can only learn and recognise the underlying rules in the game/life, we can survive. It also strongly shows that we must work together and know each other in order to make it. The cop organises; the doctor treats; the mathematician leads the way. As you can see, there's a strong bias to Reason (capital R) that's later explicitly spelled out when emotions run too high and things fall apart.

But there's another part of the movie I kinda found odd. The cop, after a while, begins to place his own survival above the rest. At one point, he finally turns a corner and goes mad, killing one character who he perceives as a threat to his survival. He then herds the others, instead of leading. His power -- police authority -- drives him to insanity; power corrupting absolutely. It's a message about placing the self above the group, which I find to be Socialist and anti-capitalistic in context. It also says something about power placing some people above others when the ideal is the even-level group. Hey, the movie was made in Canada, so what do you expect?

Listening to the commentary, it was fun to see that the director and producers had a vision and stayed true to it. They consulted a mathematician about the Cube and did their best to stick with his rules. They had a design for the Cube and never let production design considerations override it. They consciously chose not to reveal much about the whos and whys of the Cube, keeping viewers completely in the dark, which only added to the mystery and dread of the experience. We are simply dropped into the Cube and we're off. The plot and narrative continue until a resolution is reached, but no answers are really given. It's up to us to figure out what it all meant, just like life.

It's smart choices all around, coupled with respect for the intelligence of the audience, that make the movie so enjoyable. You're plopped into a claustrophobic thriller, answers are few and far between, luck plays a big role, death is a very real possibility. The tension starts to drive everyone a bit mad, including the audience, until one guy goes over the top. Now you have to not only survive the Cube, but your partners. This is one taut, gripping movie.

I guess word of mouth audience response and critical praise led someone to realise that another movie should be attempted. And here is where Hollywood steps in and ruins it all by making all the wrong choices.

Every choice that the original producers made, for good reasons, is tossed out in Hypercube, for bad or wrong reasons. It's a new Cube: solid white all around. Our first introduction to the movie is quick, jittery cuts of people being prepped in some strange, sinister medical facility -- obviously connected to the Hypercube. It's lazy shorthand for a bad corporation or military group with an evil agenda. The first characters we meet aren't just Everymen and Everywomen, but a military man who knows where he is and how bad it is (telling us, instead of showing as the first movie did; a common error in the second movie) another man who is pretty clearly a killer, again lazily throwing in unearned danger instead of creating it through characterisation and plotting.

In this movie, it turns out that it's not a collection of skills and personalities that have been brought together with a group survival test in mind, but a disparate group who all have a connection in varying degrees to a corporation that seems bent on killing them. Each character has a piece of the puzzle to contribute, but we only get it when it's conveniently needed. There's lots of talk of some mysterious, unseen other character who is obviously being hyped for the audience so their appearance later can have a payoff. It's a cheap tactic by lazy writers, as I've already noted.

And then there's the Hypercube. The characters tell us as they go along that this maze has NO RULES. It's all very random, but still deadly. There's explanatory mumbo-jumbo, what they call in Star Trek "technobabble," so we learn that this is a four dimensional Cube (hence the name) that's going very wrong. But in this film we have one character who is privy to a lot of background, which he gladly shares for us when the time is right.

I really dislike that, the Hypercube having no rules. It means nothing they do or try really matters. Death will be random, their actions' outcomes based largely on chance and not merit. In the first movie it was life and death; in this one, eh, shit happens.

Like the first movie, the killer character begins to murder folks, but there's no tension to it, he's not driven by the death and claustrophobia but is just a killer. Geraint Wynn Davies plays that character, and since he's the "star" (from the darkly stylish vampire series "Forever Knight) he deforms our expectations. Plus, he's just physically wrong for the part he's given. He's got a middle-age spread that's pretty bad and pasty skin. Hardly scary.

The first movie had messages buried inside it. This one doesn't; it's straight scary movie with blood chaser. And the ending, which I can't spoil, is so left-field and terrible as to make you leave the film not asking "What just happened?" but "What the hell?" It's a sudden turn so not-set up, and it still confirms everything they've been saying earlier, but then it makes everything up to the end all pointless, undercutting the viewer's identification with the survivor. It had no precedent and hence has no payoff, no earned punch. It's a sucker punch and pisses you off the same way.

Final round-up: Cube is great. Taut, stylish, keeps you guessing. Yeah, it's based on a mathematics that's over the heads of most of the audience, but it's based on something and sticks with it. Hypercube is lazy and cheap in the narrative sense. It ignores the setup of the first movie to re-invent the premise a screenwriter's idea of bad guys and danger. No payoffs because it has no pay-ins.

There's word that a Cube III is about to go into production. I'm gonna give it a pass, I think.
No, No Bias Here. Nuh-Uh.

It started with a Peter Johnson column in USAToday on Monday. Well, it started before that, with Tina Brown's television show, Topic A With Tina Brown, but no one watches that show, so Christiane Amanpour's comments might have disappeared but for his snagging them and putting them before the millions who read USAToday.

Normally, I'm pretty dismissive of Johnson. He's pre-blogosphere it's sad. As recently as a few years ago, his sage, serious, journalism professor tone might have been taken seriously, upholding the news as a solemn and hallowed profession of great gravity peopled by folks who take their sacred duty with great responsibility. Breaches of the profession he takes as great, but isolated, failings that are scrutinised by the watchdogs of journalism to make sure they are stopped.

Not any more. He sounds past his sell-by date. Thanks to blogging, and also to conservative talk shows that have fact-checked the journalists and pulled together the kinds of information that otherwise would never have been made public. Any number of bloggers have a more realistic approach to journalism, akin to the kind of reporting that once took doctors off their pedastals. Johnson, to continue the metaphor, still adheres to the old paradigm, and it just looks silly.

His reporting on television news is so CNN-centric it's an embarrassment. CNN is impartial, "hard" news, without bias; FOX is always described with adjectives that emphasise its conservative nature. I'm not sure he'd admit to it, but it's very, very clear. Read this post of mine and follow the story link to see it in action.

Ahhh...anyway. Enough rant. In the most recent column, Christiane Amanpour, Johnson's darling, says this:
Said Amanpour: "I think the press was muzzled, and I think the press self-muzzled. I'm sorry to say, but certainly television and, perhaps, to a certain extent, my station was intimidated by the administration and its foot soldiers at Fox News. And it did, in fact, put a climate of fear and self-censorship, in my view, in terms of the kind of broadcast work we did."

Brown then asked Amanpour if there was any story during the war that she couldn't report.

"It's not a question of couldn't do it, it's a question of tone," Amanpour said. "It's a question of being rigorous. It's really a question of really asking the questions. All of the entire body politic in my view, whether it's the administration, the intelligence, the journalists, whoever, did not ask enough questions, for instance, about weapons of mass destruction. I mean, it looks like this was disinformation at the highest levels."
What a giant pile of ass-covering, self-serving, apologetic CRAP! Yeah, you know, those military and political people just made us, afraid! Yeah, that's it! With their dismissive manner and rude answers and intimidating looks and the hypnotic hand-waving and the golden tongues, yeah, that's it. And those flunkies at FOX, those fifth columnists making it hard for us to break out of the pack, we just couldn't ask the real questions and get the real truth.

All those hundreds of reporters out in the field? Yeah, they were only shown what the military wanted them to see. All that rah-rah patriotism that the networks engaged in? Yeah, that too. All their fault.

Amanpour seems to think that since things went the "wrong" way despite the media's best effort it must be the military and government's fault. After all, the people are too stupid to think other than what they tell them and since they don't believe what we do, they must have been given bad information. That can't be our fault, so it must be theirs. Yeah, that's the ticket.

Well, the story's now gone larger. The Drudge Report took it up, along with more links, including this one about Amanpour's dressing down for her remarks. Her boss says that Amanpour "speaks for herself," but that's the problem. She obviously has an agenda; she has a prominent reporting role in that region of the country. Are we supposed to believe it doesn't show in her reporting?

Yeah, right.

Even Chris Muir's Day By Day comic strip gets into the act.
Showing His True Colors

Charles Krauthammer has a column in the latest Time magazine where he looks at the roots of Democratic Bush-hating and what it portends for 2004. But the very first paragraph is what caught my attention:
Bill Moyers may have his politics, but his deferential demeanor and almost avuncular television style made him the Mr. Rogers of American politics. So when he leaves his neighborhood to go to a "Take Back America" rally and denounces George W. Bush's "government of, by and for the ruling corporate class," leading a "right-wing wrecking crew" engaged in "a deliberate, intentional destruction of the United States way of governing," you know that something is going on.
Switch politics. Can you imagine a Republican trying this and then being taken seriously as a news broadcaster?

I know that folks like Sean Hannity have television programs while they are active in Republican politics. Same with James Carville, for that matter. But these folks, and more like them, are commentators, purveyors of opinion on talk shows. Viewers know immediately that there is no pretense of impartiality and neutrality in these programs.

Moyers is a slippery slope. He's not The News Hour, PBS' evening news show, but he functions much like, say 20/20 or Dateline with a harder news edge. And none of the anchors or reporters on those shows have overt political attachments. His viewers do approach him as a neutral and inquiring mind, passionate but fair. His comments above put the lie to that. How can his viewers watch his programs with any expectation of balance and fairness now?

Or do they? He does have a following among many because he is seen as providing the necessary balance not otherwise found in the "big" networks news shows, albeit a very far Left balance as opposed to a conservative antidote like Fox News. Some believe the major nets are as compromised and conservative as the Right thinks they are leftist liberals. But would these people be bothered by say, Dan Rather appearing at a Democratic fundraiser, as he did once. Rather later apologised, claiming he'd accepted his daughter's invite not knowing, because he sensed the appearance of inappropriateness. Would Moyers say the same, if questioned?

Monday, September 15, 2003

Weather Update

Expansive blue skies. Balmy breezes. Bright sun. Gotta go.

See y'all tomorrow.

Sunday, September 14, 2003

Hobbs On The Job

Tennessee has been running revenue surpluses for a while now. Surprised? Well, if you depend on the major State newspapers you would be. They haven't reported it. I guess it's not as important as Shane Battier's wedding two months ago. But Bill Hobbs has been on the tax tip for quite a while now. Read the post, and the linked one.

My question is: Does this mean we can expect the Legislature to look at reducing the "highest in the nation" sales tax in the next session, taking the onerous burden off the poor and working poor of the State? I'm not betting on it.

Governor Bredesen's serious stewardship of the budget, the continued smooth functioning of goverment after the budget cuts, the resounding defeats for tax measures around the country (something else that Hobbs keeps watch on), and now the modest surpluses in a still-weak economy should all make crystal clear to Tennesseans that the Armageddon scenario that Naifeh, Sundquist and the daily papers tried to paint was just so much partisan lying. We as a State are pretty healthy and looking at a huge revenue rebound once the economy picks up steam, which is the economic forecast for next year.

Having gone through such a scare and survived, will legislators continue to exercise their newly gained fiscal discipline? Again, I'm not betting on it.
Clinton Spies Spotlight; Hogs It. No One Surprised.

It was your typical Iowa campaign function, until the Clinton MeMeMe Show took over. Then the fun really began.

Look at the article and you'll notice that Clinton dominates over the candidates until nearly three-fourths of the way through. Then each gets a one or two sentence blurb, or a notation that they ran away from Clinton while he was still President. Clinton also rails against the tax cuts while eliding his own benefit from them. Ask him what he did with the check.

He also pulls this whopper: "I never had a nickel until I left the White House." Sorry pal, but your Presidential income puts you well into the top 5% of earners in America. And let's not forget the missus' not-insignificant income and investment returns. Poor, my ass.

Bold as brass; brazen like a New York hooker. The Clintons just can't stop it, can they?
Drunk John Kerry Alert #2

It's like something from "A Mighty Wind"!

My caption: "Abraham, Martin and John...."

Leave yours in the comments.
It's The Spikes

While the post itself is silly writing of the "Bush is evil" stripe, the Hellblazer blog has this chart (Scroll down a bit.) showing Bush's raw approval rating numbers from a variety of polls over time. You'll notice two huge spikes in the numbers, followed by a steady drop. I sincerely hope no one in the Bush camp has made the connection.