Friday, January 29, 2010

Last licks for the week

*Obama visits the Republican retreat. Like my grandma's chicken soup, it couldn't hurt. I look forward to watching a replay tonight.

*I'd be less concerned about the Yankees breaking ways with Johnny Damon if I thought they had a better replacement than the Brett Gardner-Randy Winn tandem.

*I'm looking forward to seeing Martin Scorsese's next film, "Shelter Island", but I'm not bowled over by the trailer. It can't be a good sign that the film's release was delayed until Feb. 19, rather than late 2009, when studios like to unveil what they think will be Oscar contenders.

*Devices like the IPad may be lifesavers for newspapers, but only if newspapers produce content people want to read. For now, I'm off to a publisher's meeting next week. I'm bringing my laptop and my IPod.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The speech

I turned off the TV last night shortly after the president's State of the Union speech. (I did stay with it long enough to see the usual posse of congressional camera hogs - like chief hog Eliot Engel of the Bronx - who annually stake out their places on the aisle early in the day to shake the president's hand and get their mugs on television.)

The president gave a good speech, I thought: firm where it needed to be; taking blame where it was deserved, but pointing the finger at others as warranted (including the Supreme Court, much to the obvious disdain of Justice Alito).

Obama was grim, but hopeful, stern, but with an outstretched hand. Should get a pretty good bump in the polls and maybe even some grudging admiration from political foes, is what I concluded as I clicked off the set.


First thing this morning the commentators and Republicans I heard were on the attack. The outstretched hand was figuratively swatted aside.

Maybe this is the way Democrats acted when Ronald Reagan's first-year numbers were even worse than Obama's. But Reagan had deal-making Democratic leader Tip O'Neill with whom to govern. Nobody on today's Republican roster can stand in O'Neill's shoes.

Maybe Obama will have better luck this weekend when he speaks at a Republican House retreat. But I wouldn't bet on it.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Rainy day words

*It strikes me that The New York Times is giving Harold Ford Jr. an inordinate amount of space (including an op-ed column this morning) for someone who hasn't officially declared as a candidate for U.S. Senate. Incumbent Kirsten Gillibrand has some work to do. (And we aren't even yet sure who will emerge to represent the interests of the other party.)

*Typical "Today Show" lineup: bad weather somewhere - featuring Al Roker in a funny hat; "exclusive" interview with the parents of a missing child; political story followed by interviews with John McCain or Barney Frank; "exclusive" details about Tiger Woods. Dave Garroway, where have you gone?

*I've never seen a quarterback more animated at the line of scrimmage than Peyton Manning. After watching Manning rip apart the Jets' No. 1 defense, I'm convinced the Saints may have to score 60 points to win the Super Bowl.

*If Brett Favre is finally ready to retire - and who believes he is? - it's fitting that his last pass was intercepted.

*"...A lot of Democrats who ought to be preparing to take the field in November seem to be running for shelter. In Illinois and Connecticut, the best candidates available have announced that they’re running to be the state attorney general. These days, everybody wants to be an attorney general and cuddle up and sue dairies that sell curdled milk until the political weather improves. It is very hard to be unpopular when you’re an attorney general. Even Martha Coakley was a popular attorney general." That paragraph by Gail Collins of The New York Times
should resonate throughout the Empire State, as Andrew Cuomo's momentum builds and the memory of Eliot Spitzer remains fresh.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Bill of sale

*Sen. John McCain told Don Imus yesterday that no major piece of legislation in the nation's history has ever passed without support from both sides of the aisle, and that the president didn't reach out to Republicans on health care reform. I'd have to do some homework to speak to the first point, but how can the senator allege the latter with a straight face? Of course there was an attempt to get Republicans' input on health care, but the obstructionist party wouldn't bite. Republicans could have helped make a better bill, but didn't. It finally became clear that Senate Democrats would have to go it alone.

*Just saw the president speak at a town hall meeting in Ohio. His comments on health care were notable. Too bad he didn't "campaign" sooner and more forcefully around the country, rather than wait as 435 congressmen and 100 senators were thrashing around.

*If you don't wear an American flag lapel pin, does that make you less patriotic than those who do? I think not.

*Remember the James Taylor benefit concert for Haiti can be heard live tonight at 8 p.m. on WAMC Northeast Public Radio.

*The Mets got Gary Mathews Jr. today in a trade with the Angels. Is it too soon to order World Series tickets?

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Names in the news

*Was the John Edwards paternity admission so important that it took "top story" status on this morning's NBC "Today Show"? I think not.

*Sorry to hear of the passing of John Halligan, former PR man for the New York Rangers, who recently worked out of the National Hockey League office. Halligan - and his wife/assistant, Janet, who survives - were particularly helpful to an upstate community newspaper's young sports editor when he needed press credentials for Madison Square Garden.

*Politics aside, would a woman who once posed nude for a magazine have a chance at election for U.S. Senate? Unlikely. Yet that's in the background of Massachusetts' Sen.-elect Scott Brown.

*Disappointed to discover our paper didn't carry an obit for Robert B. Parker, author of the "Spenser" detective novels. He was major figure who shouldn't have been overlooked. Same with Kate McGarrigle, the well-known singer also died earlier this week.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Wednesday worksheet

*James Taylor is doing a pair of benefit concerts in Great Barrington, Mass., to raise money for Haiti. WAMC Northeast Public Radio will simulcast the Friday show and have volunteers ready for phone pledges. Learn more here.

*I promise I'd say the same thing if the Republicans had a big majority in Congress: It doesn't seem appropriate that the Democrats' ability to forward legislation falls apart because a 60-40 margin has become 59-41. If a presidential candidate won an election by 59-41 it would be considered a landslide. (Yes, political scientists, I know about filibusters.)

*The inability of our representatives in Washington (and often in Albany) to come together on the major issues of the day will do long-term harm, it says here. Our polarized country is in a mess and it will take statesmen, not talk show hosts, columnists, bloggers or those on the fringes, to rise up and be heard.

*Forget possible Democratic challenger Harold Ford Jr. as a threat to Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand. If a Republican can win a Senate seat in Massachusetts, who says some little known GOP candidate can't beat Gillibrand in New York?

Monday, January 18, 2010

Radio, TV, movies

*Haven't heard The Media Project on WAMC? Check out this week's episode here.

*Other than a couple of sportswriters and local TV anchors (notably Bruce Beck on Channel 4) do you know anyone who calls the New York Jets "Gang Green"? Have you ever heard a fan say, "I hope 'Gang Green' wins today"? Unlikely.

*The Golden Globes show was breezy, in that it filled the allotted three hours without running over. And Ricky Gervais was humorous, albeit not nearly as outrageous as the frequent NBC commercials suggested he'd be. But it was nowhere near the wild and crazy party of years past, which means it was pretty much just another awards show.

*Glad to see Jeff Bridges won a Globe. Haven't yet seen "Crazy Heart" but he's been quite good in other films. I particularly liked him in the little known "Hearts of the West" with Blythe Danner, Alan Arkin and Andy Griffith.

*Call me stubborn, but I won't see "Avatar", just like I never saw "E.T.", or any of the "Star Wars" or "Indiana Jones" movies, among others that scored big at the box office. I generally prefer movies with less bells and whistles and more intelligent dialogue and good acting. Speaking of which, "Up in the Air" is all it's cracked up to be, "It's Complicated" a little less so.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Friday finishers

*Reading and watching news and photo/video coverage from Haiti is a reminder of journalism and journalists at their finest.

*Rest in peace, Teddy Pendergrass, wonderful soul singer, who spent the last half of his life in a wheelchair after an auto accident, yet never stopped making beautiful music.

*Jimmy Kimmel is emerging from the midnight shadows and coming up big in the wake of the NBC-Leno-O'Brien fracas. Kimmel scored on his own ABC late night show with a Leno impersonation, then guested on Leno's program the next night with more biting material.

*If you thought the U.S. Senate moved at a snail's pace last month, when the Democrats held a 60-40 edge, imagine what it will be like if the Republican wins next week's special election in perennially liberal Massachusetts.

*Now that the Jets are in the NFL playoffs, Gotham TV newscasters become cheerleaders, not reporters. Same as when any of the other New York teams make the post-season.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Rush, too, of course

Yesterday I mentioned Pat Robertson's out-there comments on the earthquake. I missed Rush Limbaugh's predictable take.

Here's how CBS News relays it:

"In the face of utter devastation across Haiti following a huge earthquake, conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh took to the airwaves yesterday to blast President Obama for his response to the crisis.

"The disaster enables Mr. Obama to highlight his 'compassionate' and 'humanitarian' credentials and to 'boost his credibility with the black community,' Limbaugh said.

"He also decried the White House's promotion of charitable organizations through which people can contribute to the disaster relief. 'We've already donated to Haiti,' he said. 'It's called the U.S. income tax.'

"White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs at his daily press briefing today criticized Limbaugh's remarks.

"'I think in times of great crisis, there are always people that say really stupid things,' Gibbs said. 'I don't know how anybody -- I don't know how anybody could sit where he does, having enjoyed the success that he has, and not feel some measure of sorrow for what has happened in Haiti. I think to use the power of your pulpit to try to convince those not to help their brothers and sisters is sad.'"

CBS reported that Obama's initiatives have bipartisan support in Congress.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Grab bag

*If you ever wanted to program your own radio station, now's your chance. Give it a look if you're not one of the 43 million already clued into Here's a feature about it in today's USA Today.

*Nobody knows for sure if Harold Ford Jr. will mount a campaign against Kirsten Gillibrand for U.S. Senate from New York. As noted yesterday, Gillibrand shouldn't be underestimated and likely would win, given her backing from most of the major players in the Democratic Party. But let's not roll out the carpetbagger claim against Ford, the former congressman from Tennessee. He may not be Bobby Kennedy or Hillary Clinton, but they cleared the way for newbie New Yorkers to represent their adopted state in Washington.

*Remember when we laughed at the funny programs on NBC? Now we laugh at the funny programmers who run the network.

*According to Pat Robertson, he of the far right religious point of view, Haiti "swore a pact to the devil" two centuries ago, thus the devestating earthquake that leveled the capital city. What's more frightening, that he said it, or that his followers might believe it?

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


*Snookie: Of all the famous people who live in Ulster County, it's a sad commentary on the times in which we live that this young woman from Marlboro, who has become part of the pop culture via MTV's "Jersey Shore", has become a a celebrity.

*Harry Reid: Unimpressive United State senator? Yes. Racist? I doubt it. But in today's round-the-clock talk radio/talk TV/blogosphere nation, it's too easy to make political hay out of an ill-advised remark. Just ask all the Republicans who have been pounced on by Democrats in much the same manner as Republicans have pounced on Reid.

*Kirsten Gillibrand:She's been little more than Chuck Schumer's caddy so far in her brief time in the U.S. Senate. But unless a particularly formidable candidate emerges, either within the Democratic Party for a primary, or in the general election against the Republican candidate, don't underestimate her ability to prevail on Election Day. First, she's already banking plenty of campaign cash. Second, she plays rough. Just ask former Congressman John Sweeney.

*Rudy Giuliani: Wasn't it on his watch that New York City was attacked on Sept. 11? I'm just sayin'.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Weekend words of wisdom

*I'm a late convert to HDTV. My old TVs produce bright, sharp pictures. Sure, HDTVs are better. But not that much, I've always declared. Then, over the holidays, after seeing even newer, brighter, sharper HDTVs, I made the jump and bought a couple. They'll be delivered next week. I'm set, no? Maybe not even for a couple of years. Now they're starting to push 3D-TVs. Mark it down: Not interested. I hope I don't have to eat my words ... again.

*Speaking of TV, how come everybody knew Jay Leno's shift to primetime was going to be a disaster, except the people at NBC who did the shifting? We told you in this blog the day after his debut that Leno's program was a dud. Then again, it's pretty much his old "Tonight Show", only 90 minutes earlier, and I didn't care for that either. But millions did, and they loyally tuned in every night after the late news. But NBC was too smart by half. Years ago they signed Conan O'Brien to replace Leno, figuring that by 2009, the latter would have run his course, and the former would bring in the next generation of viewers. But Leno was still at the top of his game - whatever that is - in 2009, yet he was pushed into a new and predictably vulnerable time slot. And O'Brien, while indeed drawing higher ratings than CBS' David Letterman in the youth market, overall is trailing by 2 million viewers a night. In short, NBC created its own mess. Now it appears Leno may go back to his old slot, but only for a half-hour, pushing O'Brien (and Jimmy Fallon behind him) to post-midnight. To my knowledge, no NBC executives have fallen on a sword ... yet. But it may not be long: NBC is being sold to Comcast.

*What typically sets apart the National Baseball Hall of Fame from other sports shrines is its exclusivity. Only the best and most dominant players get in. Maybe not. Take Andre Dawson, an excellent hitter-outfielder by any measurement. But who looks back on Dawson's era and says he was so exceptional as to be a Hall-worthy player? Few, I'd say. Yet there he was this week getting enough votes to punch a ticket to Cooperstown. By the way, the baseball writers/voters have to come to grips with designated hitters. For better or worse, the DH position has been part of the game for decades. Sure, DHs are incomplete players. But that's the job the American League has designed for them. So if they're part of the game, the absolute best should be cited. And in this case, Seattle's Edgar Martinez absolutely was the dominant DH during his playing days, so much so that the league's annual award for the best DH is named after him. Nonetheless, Martinez didn't come close to earning enough votes. Does that mean Mariano Rivera won't get in when the Yankees' closer's days are done? After all, he only pitches about an inning at a time. Incomplete by the voters' DH standards. No way, obviously.

* As I mentioned in the last blog, I'm not a violent man. But I'd pay for a ringside seat to see Bill O'Reilly slug it out with Keith Olbermann.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Publisher vs. mayor

I've had some heated phone calls and email swaps with Kingston Mayor Jim Sottile over the years, but it's never come to this:

In Gallup, N.M., the mayor and the newspaper pubisher got into a fist fight. Both say the other started it. And if that's not enough to raise your eyebrows, consider the dispute apparently resulted from stories linking the mayor to something that allegedly occurred in 1948!

Now, I'm the peaceful type. On those rare occasions when I lose my temper, it comes in the manner of raising my voice.

The mayor? Many consider him too temperamental. More than verbally? Can't say for sure, although there was that well-documented (and videoed) incident a couple of years ago at a downtown nightspot.

Once thing's for certain: Sottile and I aren't likely to duke it out over something that might have happened 62 years ago. He wasn't yet born and I was just making my worldly debut.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Words and pictures

*Others have already commented on this, but let me add that I, too, can't help but wonder how conservatives would have reacted had a liberal county court judge used a dictionary instead of Bible in the swearing-in ceremonies, as did Republican Don Williams the other day in Ulster County. No Bible available? Fine, no need for anything, at least not in the ceremonial ceremony, as was this one.

*ESPN has announced plans to launch 3D TV. Please keep Chris Berman off the programming. He's hard enough to take in traditional TV.

*Former Vice President Dick Cheney isn't letting go, throwing brickbats at President Obama at every turn. On the local level, looks like former Ulster Supervisor Nick Woerner is in a similar place. He's already steering people to a blog that appears dedicated to criticizing new Supervisor Jim Quigley's every move.

*Did you see the pictures of Tiger Woods in the new Vanity Fair? Taken months ago by famed photographer (and part-time Rhinebeck resident) Annie Liebovitz, the pictures show a side of the golfer that might have shocked fans had it not been for revelations about him in recent weeks.

*One more time for people who don't quite get the concept: Newspaper editorials are by definition biased. They express an opinion. They slant this way or that.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

9:30 p.m. Sunday on Fox

Fox and Time Warner Cable have settled their dispute. So there's no excuse not to tune into Channel 5 tonight (Sunday) at 9:30 to watch "American Dad."

This week's episode is called, "Don't look a Smith horse in the mouth." I've seen it. It's funny.

And did I tell you it's written by Matt Fusfeld and Alex Cuthberston?