Wednesday, October 30, 2002

The Ultimate Negative Campaign

Is it just me, or have politicians' campaign ads become even more negative this year than ever before? It's gotten to the point where they don't even bother to tell you what they stand for. Whatever positive message they hoped to imbue has long since been abandoned for a full-scale attack strategy.

Here in Missouri, the commercials in the Senate race are the worst I've ever seen. The listener/viewer is left with nothing but an intense dislike of everyone involved, which will probably lead to even lower voter turnout. Yet the candidates and their staffs don't seem to realize that their viciousness is turning so many people off. They always have that nasty tone in the voiceover, too, provided by either that deep-voiced sarcastic guy or the harsh, accusatory woman.

I wonder how far they think they can go down this vitriolic path. I don't think it's beyond the realm of possibility that they'd go so far as to run commercials like the following (if you prefer, insert the name of your favorite weasel candidates):

"Jim Talent's campaign commercials contain numerous falsehoods about Jean Carnahan, and he knows it. We don't want to say Jim Talent is a liar, but we do know that his pants are on fire. Vote for Jean Carnahan."

"Mel Carnahan died in a plane crash and Jean Carnahan took his job in the US Senate. Now, Paul Wellstone has died in a plane crash and Jean Carnahan's asking you to send her to the US Senate again. Is it a coincidence? Vote for Jim Talent."

"Jim Talent once kicked a puppy. Right in its side. And he didn't even say he was sorry. Vote for Jean Carnahan."

"Jean Carnahan just bought herself a new pair of shoes. But she has plenty of shoes in her closet already. If she does that with her own money, imagine what she'd do with yours. Vote for Jim Talent."

"You know those annoying telemarketing calls you always seem to get at dinnertime? Jim Talent is the one making those calls. Vote for Jean Carnahan."

"Surveys show that half the population of Missouri never wears a dress. But Jean Carnahan does. Vote for Jim Talent."

"On Halloween last year, Jim Talent gave trick-or-treaters a handful of lint, and the year before he handed out bags of rocks. Jean Carnahan would never do that. She always gives the kids candy and a crisp new $10 bill. Vote for Jean Carnahan."

"Jim Talent's father died, and Jean Carnahan didn't even go to his funeral. She probably wouldn't go to your father's funeral, either. Is that the kind of person you want in the US Senate? Vote for Jim Talent."

"Jim Talent says he's concerned about the needs of every man and every woman in the state of Missouri. But we hear that he always leaves the toilet seat up. Ladies, is that the kind of Senator you want? Vote for someone who always leaves the seat down. Vote for Jean Carnahan."

"Leadership is tough, just like football. If you were picking a team in difficult times like this, would you pick the girl? Vote for a guy. Vote for Jim Talent."

"Jim Talent once tried to bake a cake, but it tasted like crap. Vote for Jean Carnahan."

"Jean Carnahan told me that she hates you. Are you still going to give her your vote? Vote for Jim Talent."

Ugh! Now, here's an early projection, based on the results of exclusive HarrisOnline.com exit polls -- with none of the precincts caring at all, 100% of the population wishes each and every one of these political worms would just shut up and go away.

Friday, October 25, 2002

Not So Expert After All

It was not the best week for TV pundits and "expert profilers."

In all the hours filled on all the telecasts dedicated to the sniper story, not one of them predicted that the DC sniper might turn out to be two black men driving a blue 1990 Chevy Caprice.

None of their analysis led them to a converted Muslim ex-military man. Not one of them said, "it's likely that we're looking for a homeless drifter who lives in his car with a teenage boy he's not related to."

Still, the media, particularly the 24-hour news channels, won't hesitate to call on those same "experts" next time we have a similar story. Never mind that their speculation couldn't have been more off-base. Never mind that the same faces showed up in the same places repeatedly (yes, I'm talking about you, Bo Dietl, who I saw on all three news channels within a two-hour span one day this week!).

What matters is that they were able to fill air time. You'll notice that none of them has been invited to explain why they were so completely wrong, but perhaps it explains why so many are "former profilers" and "former detectives."

The low point was when Fox's Rita Cosby contacted David Berkowitz (a/k/a The Son Of Sam) for insight into what might be going on in the sniper's mind. She's obviously watched "Silence Of The Lambs" once too often, and thought Berkowitz would be her Hannibal-like intuitive genius. Of course, he offered nothing more than blather, which she -- and several newspapers that quoted her story -- reported with a straight face.

I take that back. There was something even lower.

It was another amazing assertion from Sylvia Browne. She's one of those people who claims psychic ability, but has never proven anything more than a talent to sucker people into believing that she has a supernatural gift of some kind. Among the suckers are Larry King and Montel Williams, who have wasted far too much airtime giving her free publicity without holding her claims up to the light of reason.

Take a look at this transcript of a chat session on msn.com last night (10/24), in which Sylvia was no doubt promoting something or other:

Digital Dish Diva says:
Not to start off on bad note but we have so many people asking about the men who were caught this morning. Are they the snipers?

Sylvia Browne says:
Yes, they are. I can't say much about it, but I did work on this case.

Unbelievable, isn't she? Yet I don't seem to recall her going on the record before the arrests with any kind of prediction about who the suspect might be, do you? While we're on the subject, why didn't John Edward or James Van Praagh use their self-proclaimed powers to find out from any of the murder victims who had "passed over" something about the circumstances of their death that might have helped the investigators?

My other favorite part of Sylvia's chat, while unrelated to the sniper story, was this, which began with a question from someone online:

I'd like some help for my sister if it is possible. Someone is INVADING her privacy and she just wants it to stop.

To which Sylvia replies, and I quote:

I would get a PI on this and call anything that has to do with communications like the FTC. It's a man and a woman bugging her. Have the PI sweep the place for bugs.

The people at the FTC will be surprised to get that call, since the Federal Trade Commission has nothing to do with communications. She might have meant the FCC, the Federal Communications Commission, but they also would have absolutely no jurisdiction over an invasion-of-privacy matter -- unless it took place on a TV or radio broadcast.

Ah, but why bother with accuracy when you're just throwing random darts and you don't care where they land?

My point is that too many people are allowed to escape accountability, while being given far too much free access to cameras, microphones, and newsprint. Blame must be placed on those who make baseless claims they can not prove -- but even more blame must be placed on the media outlets that allow them to promulgate.

While I'm at it, I still haven't heard a cogent explanation of why you would want to catch a duck in a noose. I've never heard a single duck hunter say, "Quick, Charlie, I see one, get the rope!" But I bet I can find four people on TV to tell me what kind of duck it is -- and a psychic who can read its mind.

Wednesday, October 23, 2002

Graham Nash

Classic rock legend Graham Nash was back on my show today to serve as the lifeline for the Harris Challenge, talked about working with Jimi Hendrix and the Beatles, and explained how he wrote one of his hit songs. Listen.

Graham has made several appearances on my show through the years, including on the final day of the CSNY2K tour (4/19/00), when we talked about how he discovered music on the radio as a young boy, how he first met Joni Mitchell, and what his very personal song "Someday Soon" is about. Listen.

You can also read a transcript of our conversation on May 22, 1997 -- and then check out the transcript of my interview with Henry Diltz, the classic rock photographer who did the cover photo for the first CSN album.

Thursday, October 10, 2002

Catherine Crier

The Court TV personality, a former judge and district attorney in Texas, was on my show today to explain what's wrong with the American legal system and how to repair it, from judges to lawyers to politicians to frivolous lawsuits and more. We also talked about her book, "The Case Against Lawyers."

Listen.