Archive for March, 2012

Lotto Fever- Lobster Everyday and an Island (But I’ll Give Most to Charity)

Someone please explain to me why everybody plays the lottery when it reaches half a billion dollars- but no one really cares when it’s, say, at $70 million.

So you’re going about your life and if you’re a regular, normal, ‘ol person and you’ve got just enough for rent or a mortgage, groceries, cable TV, and maybe a vacation or two if you’re lucky- how much difference is there really between $600 million and “just” $70 million?

Are you kidding? I’d consider $10K to be a gift from heaven. Hell, most people would be thrilled to find a $5 bill on the street.

The psychology in connection to all this is rather interesting. Suddenly, co-workers who get along just great, but who are now pooling their money together to buy a couple dozen tickets, start thinking like lawyers and certified public accountants. “Well, if Jane Doe put in $5 but Mary Jane only put in $2, clearly, Jane’s share of the mega-million lottery would be 2 and half times as much- an extra $60 million for a mere $3 more in initial investment- Hey that’s not fair!”

My girlfriend, who actually borrowed $5 from me to buy a handful of tickets, insisted that if lightening strikes at our particular Seven-Eleven in Pentagon City, she should get a larger share because her family is bigger. I disagreed somewhat vehemently to this approach. Don’t make me hire a lawyer, honey.

Then there’s all the math that’s being thrown out there. You could buy $170 million worth of lottery tickets, for example, and in picking every possible number, you would be guaranteed to win nearly $300 million after taxes. Except it would take you 28 years to actually mark all 170 million game tickets. I saw this in two different newspaper articles…in the same paper! And it was not helpful.

And the time people spend thinking about things like:

“Well am I going to take it all in one lump sum or split it up into 26 annual payments?”
“Which continent will I visit first, Europe or Asia?”
“I wonder how much an island costs?”
“This means I could eat lobster every single day.”
“I would give almost all, half, some, a little bit to charity.”

There will, of course, be millions of very, very disappointed people this weekend. The TV news guy will be announcing that a collection of 20 workers at a plastics factory in Medford, Oregon managed to win it all and we’ll all be going- “Medford, friggin’, Oregon??? Figures. Stuff like this never happens here in River City, dammit.”

And then the next day all 20 employees from Medford, Oregon will be sitting there at the press conference with the gigantic cardboard check behind them, flashing those toothy grins we all want to wipe off their faces.

There will be the story of the one incredibly cheap, thrifty worker who decided not to join his colleagues in shelling out a few bucks and misses out on the whole thing. Most of them will leave their jobs at the plastics factory in a matter of hours, except for one really wholesome, goodie-two-shoes guy who doesn’t want to be changed by the whole experience and decides he’ll stay at the factory.

Five years later will come the newspaper articles that report all 20 workers from the plastics factory in Medford, Oregon managed to go broke.

So good luck to you all. If the winner happens to be a friend or a family member, I remind you now that a mere 1/600th of your winnings will be more than enough to take care of me and my progeny for the rest of our lives and we will be extremely appreciative and will certainly have a place for you in our hearts until the end of time, ‘ol buddy, ‘ol pal.

Politically Correct NCAA Bracketology and Why I’m Voting For Hank the Cat

Posts about NCAA bracketology have the most general appeal, of course, early in the college basketball tournament when everyone still has a shot at glory. At this point, most brackets have been destroyed beyond recognition and few are left who really care anymore.

As for myself, there was no office pool this year because the young lady who had been administering it in past years is on maternity leave, which left me entering brackets on websites going up against hundreds of thousands instead of, say, 20. Had we had our normal pool, I would be in position to take this thing for the 2nd time in three years.

I have three of the Final 4 and if Ohio State wins it all, there’s little doubt victory would have been mine. But, no….I entered ESPN’s bracket game and the good news is that according to the little meter at the top of my brackets page, I am in the 92.8% percentile of all entrants. Impressive, no? Except there are literally over 5 million entrants, so even though I’m currently in the top 7%, that also means I currently rank 465,033rd.

George Allen’s Brackets

But I’m doing a hell of a lot better than Republican Virginia senate candidate, George Allen. reveals that his home-state pandering has resulted in the strangest brackets ever publicized. You can see them for yourself here right on his George Allen for Senate web site.

For a guy running for a Virginia U.S. Senate seat, it would be quite the conundrum, for example, to pick a second round match-up between Virginia and Norfolk State, both teams located squarely in the Old Dominion. So who does he have winning this intra-state contest? Why— Missouri. Huh?

Turns out his initial instincts were a first round pick of Missouri beating Norfolk State. I’m thinking one of his political aides noticed this and said, “Sir- you’re picking a home-state team to lose.” So you can see he’s scratched out Missouri and written in Norfolk State. And, I might add, it’s not gently scratched out, it’s harshly scratched out with heavy black marks- almost angry black marks as if to say, “Jeez, how could I have been so stupid?”

Except he forgot to adjust his third round pick accordingly and so that’s how he has Missouri winning the Virginia/Norfolk State game. He also did it with Davidson which he initially picked to lose to Louisville. Davidson is not in Virginia but it is in neighboring North Carolina. And so George Allen has Davidson upsetting Louisville—but in the third round, the winner of the Davidson/Long Beach State game is—Louisville!

Every politician panders- that is not exactly a state secret. But wouldn’t you think the pander should be a bit more subtle and not quite so overt? And what kind of campaign staff does Mr. Allen have that would allow such a thing to be published on his actual campaign web site?

Well, obviously not the sharpest staff in the tool box- because apparently they don’t read either. The result being that even though this exercise in blatant pandering has the full light of the media spotlight on it—the picks, their heavily scratched out amendments, and the bizarre results- are still on the campaign web site for all to snicker at!

Hey, my NCAA picks may not have been perfect, but at least no one’s pointing their finger at them as an object of ridicule. For that, I have my own crack staff to thank- Bernstein, the cat and Suki, the dog. And this, my friends, is why I’m voting for Hank, the cat this November in the Virginia Senate race. You can buy his T-shirts here.


Confession: It’s Not Just Mad Men

March 26, 2012 1 comment

I have noticed that my life has been increasingly taken over by various television series and I suspect I am not alone in this. After an 18-month hiatus, Mad Men returned Sunday night- but that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

First, a tremendous amount of catching up occurred over this past winter and fall. The discovery of every single episode of Mad Men on Netflix was the epiphany. Watching them back-to-back-to-back like that was great fun. Then as you start closing in on the last couple of episodes- a strange sort of depression sets in- like- “Oh my God- what are we going to do now- no Don, no Betty, no Peggy- until…when?”

For Mad Men fans it would be a year and a half of contractual complications with the cast. They made it up to us with a 2-hour season debut Sunday that reminded me all over again how I got addicted to the series in the first place. I am not interested in writing an analysis of the show- but perhaps the most important take-away is that the actress’ name is Jessica Pare, she’s French Canadian and her version of Zou Bisou Bisou is being released on I-tunes today. Ahem- as I was saying– Mad Men was the mere tip of the iceberg.

Game of Thrones filled the Mad Men void for an entertaining couple of weeks but, alas, ended all too soon and led directly to an addiction to Spartacus which was fascinating in its explicit violence and sexuality but also quite sad after learning that the actor who played Spartacus (Andy Whitfield) died after the last season succumbing to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma at the young age of 39.

Downton Abbey’s first season soon came to the rescue for a good month’s worth of viewing. Season two did not seem to be available anywhere for free so I felt the need to make a contribution to PBS and had the thing mailed to me.

Homeland, Alcatraz, Smash and Touch have also been extremely helpful in filling the between-seasons voids of Dexter, Weeds and True Blood.

Sometimes, these series all run together in my mind and I can’t remember which character was on what show but this is not a big concern to me during waking hours.

My dreams, however, are extremely odd; gladiator-vampires riding shape-shifters, rushing to the rescue of French-Canadian versions of Marilyn Monroe who is fleeing crazed terrorist Broadway actresses who sell weed on the side to British servants who are investigating the serial killings of escaped convicts from the early 1960’s.

If you followed that at all- welcome to my sick but thoroughly entertaining world.

Whatever happened to Jeremy Lin (and Tim Tebow)?

Clockwise: Beanie Babies, Cabbage Patch Dolls, Pokeman Cards, Hula Hoops

I first broached this topic a little more than a month ago in a post entitled Jeremy Lin and Tim Tebow: Celebrating the Art of the Passing Fad. I did not expect they would have faded this far in just a few short weeks.

Here’s what happened to Jeremy Lin: the New York Knicks stopped winning. As soon as their injured superstars came back into the line-up, they went on a steep losing streak. Their coach got fired. The Lin phenomena ended abruptly. Poor kid not only had to deal with the harshness of the New York media spotlight, but, as a point guard, the quarterback of the Knick offense had to figure out how to divvy up the ball to keep all those superstar egos from having tizzy fits, lest they not get all their shots at glory. The Knicks are a mess. Lin deserves to be on a better team with less baggage and a media market with lower expectations.

Here’s what happened to Tim Tebow: Peyton Manning. The future hall-of-fame quarterback has decided he wants to go to Denver following his post-neck-injury release by the Indianapolis Colts. It didn’t take the mania long to focus on a new darling in the mile-high city.

Denver Post columnist, Woody Paige, pronounced it in his first sentence this afternoon:

Tebowmania ends. Manningmania begins.

And Paige concludes:

There is much to digest and assess in a short time, but the Broncos beat out all the spurned suitors and helped Manning find a new home. Tebow must find a new home of his own.
Tim Te-bye.
But mania goes on in Denver.
It has a new name attached.
Manningmadness. Peytonpassion. Horsepower.

Ah, already trying to coin the new phrase for the latest fad in Denver. And it’s been less than 12 hours since the Manning news broke.

Easy and obvious lesson, if you ask me. No one ever lives up to the hype. It’s not humanly possible. Take note, Mr. Manning.

Tragedy in Afghanistan

Uncle Sam Crying by James Corcoran

In a span of just a couple of months, we have now seen video of American soldiers urinating on the dead bodies of Taliban fighters, American troops mistakenly desecrating the Koran and causing riots and now a deeply disturbed U.S. Army Sergeant appears to have systematically murdered women and children in two rural southern Afghanistan villages.

This is not us. This is not America. This is not our military. We are not represented by these acts and we shouldn’t be defined by them. But they do speak to the horrors of war and how it breaks people and causes them to behave in ways that are completely antithetical to our values. We are the good guys- not….this.

When I have met and talked to members of our armed forces, I am always impressed by their civility and decency in big ways and small. It’s always the guys in their desert uniforms on the Metro at the Pentagon station who are the first to give up their seat to a pregnant woman or an elderly person. Those were U.S. Navy men and women who rescued Iranian sailors from Somali pirates a few weeks ago. How many acts of unpublicized kindness have been committed by our troops in war zones in Iraq and Afghanistan? I would venture to say thousands.

Our fighting men and woman have rebuilt schools, distributed food to the hungry, and given hugs to children orphaned by war. And that’s when they’re not putting their own lives on the line as the target of a sniper or an IED placed on a roadway. But it is hard when confronted by the acts of broken people, hardened and twisted by tour after tour after tour of duty- to not feel a deep sense of sadness and shame over the kinds of events that have occurred in Afghanistan recently.

Polls show Americans are weary of war. Solid majorities now think Afghanistan is not worth the cost in blood and treasure. Certainly, history has taught the British, the then Soviet empire, and now us, that taming this country by military occupation is a fool’s errand at worst, and indescribably difficult at best.

How we extricate ourselves from this decade-long conflict is complicated. It was in Afghanistan that the Taliban gave shelter to Al Qaeda as the terrorist organization trained to wage war on civilized society. It’s the Taliban who have oppressed women in ways unimaginable to most of us.

It’s up to our leaders to figure this out because, surely, they are now seeing the current course seems to be completely counter-productive to our stated goals of building trust with the Afghan people so that we can train their military and their government to do what they must eventually do for themselves.

Loose talk about military action in other countries ought to be sobered by events of the kind we have seen lately in Afghanistan. There is nothing glamorous or magical about the military option. And maybe for the sake of our own brave men and women who’ve sacrificed so much over the past ten years- and for our own collective sanity and self-respect- maybe war ought to once again, become the last possible option- and no longer, instinctively, the first.

I’ll Never Say Anything Bad about Dan Snyder Again- If He Does This:

Peyton Manning and Robert Griffin III- Get Them Both!

If Redskins owner, Dan Snyder wants to finally win the respect of fans- and turn the team into a true contender- it all starts with an audacious strategy that’s finally beginning to leak out as a possibility. It’s not an either/or. Get ‘em both. Sign Peyton Manning and trade up in the NFL draft and get Baylor’s Heisman award-winning quarterback, Robert Griffin III.

Then with Manning under their belt, they can more easily sign at least two of the best wide receivers available in a free agent market that’s packed with them- including guys Manning has been throwing to for years like Reggie Wayne.

With what’s left of your draft picks, you take offensive linemen to protect the quarterbacks and defensive backs which are really the only remaining weakness in what is currently a great nucleus of a strong defense.

I actually don’t think the Redskins are as far off from playoff contention as many think. When they were healthy last year, they got off to a 3-1 start. They then lost 9 starters to injuries and it revealed the team’s really obvious weakness- lack of depth at almost all positions. That’s what you address in the draft and with some additional forays into the free agent market.

The Manning/RGIII tandem is fascinating on a number of levels. Griffin, who has the speed of a wide receiver and ran a jaw-dropping 4.3 second 40 yard-dash at a recent scouting combine- also has brains and a strong arm. And with Peyton Manning, a hall-of-fame quarterback for a mentor. Concerns about Peyton’s four neck operations and overall physical condition is alleviated by knowing RGIII is available, even as a rookie, to take Manning’s place in case of injury.

But wait—there’s more! The Redskins would have to rebuild their offense to accommodate Manning and along the way, they could draw up a few plays where Manning and RGIII are on the field at the same time- a kind of Wild Cat option that would blow people away. If he’s got wide receiver speed- well, by golly- use him as one every now and then.

But beyond the x’s and o’s…think of the public hysteria that would be unleashed by such a move. Acquiring one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history and a Heisman-trophy winning, charismatic kid who runs like the wind and throws a football like it was launched out of a cannon.

This is not akin to signing a lazy egotist like Albert Haynesworth or a bunch of marquis has-beens like Deion Sanders and Jeff George This would take gobs of money- but for once- well-spent. You can never go wrong loading your team up with star quarterbacks.

And as they negotiate with Peyton Manning over the next few days, Mike Shanahan, whom Manning likes and respects for his proven history of managing great quarterbacks, should promise Peyton the moon. Better pass protection? You bet, Peyton—we’ll get two in the draft another two in the free agent market. Wide receivers? We’ll get whoever you want- write up the list and we’ll go buy ‘em. Guaranteed contract? Yes, sir- anything you want, Peyton, sir.

Then give up whatever it takes to get RGIII, make up for some the lost draft picks you’ll have to give up with free agents and then sit back and watch something amazing happen. Winning football and a previously snake-bitten franchise that will once again own Washington, D.C.

Danny- this is it. This is the best opportunity you’ll ever have to take us back to the Promised Land.

Wow- What a Romney Win- America: Hold on to Your Hats

That’s the headline Matt Drudge and some guy named Keith Koffler would like all mainstream media to write this morning following last night’s Super Tuesday primaries.

A suddenly developing theme today among the establishment representatives of the conservative media is that there’s clearly bias if we don’t all report what a wonderful night Mitt Romney had.

Well, he didn’t. It was an o.k. night, a night that tells us what we’ve known all along- that the guy with the only professional political operation among the remaining field of candidates is probably going to end up getting the nomination. But, jeez, he’s doing it in such a painfully slow manner, it may yet be months before we are all finally able to declare the inevitable.

Drudge, hilariously, has a one-word headline under a picture of Mitt Romney holding an Olympic torch, standing with hand over his heart and the caption is FINALLY. Finally, what? Finally, Super Tuesday is over? Finally, all four remaining candidates move on to the next excruciating round of inconclusive primaries? Finally, the Drudge Report makes it inescapably clear that it is supporting the candidacy of Mitt Romney?

Drudge links to this fellow Koffler who outlines the conspiratorial thinking of the mainstream media in denying Romney his due for having vanquished all opposition last night. Except he didn’t. Rick Santorum took three states and nearly defeated Romney in Ohio having been outspent by the Romney Super Pac machine there by more than 10 to 1. The Romney people thought they were going to win their first truly contested southern state- Tennessee. They had internal polling showing Romney closing in fast. Santorum ended up winning by 9%. Romney finished 22% behind Newt Gingrich in Georgia. Exit surveys find Romney unable to make a dent in the evangelical or Tea Party vote, his negatives are sky-high, and poll after poll finds he is not connecting with blue-collar voters.

But Romney did take the lion’s share of the delegates available last night. His opponents are so well organized that except for Ron Paul, they couldn’t even manage to get themselves on the ballot in Virginia. And Rick Santorum’s operation is so amateur hour that even in counties he won big last night in Ohio, the campaign failed to field slates of delegates.

So here’s the real story and the accurate headline: Romney Stumbles Toward Finish Line. I didn’t copy it from the Washington Post or the New York Times or I used my very own brain which has been professionally observing American politics for over 35 years now as a news anchor, a reporter, a producer and a broadcast news executive.

And the mainstream media at large, whose headlines closely resemble the one I wrote in the paragraph above, are not involved in some massive anti-Romney conspiracy. If so many people are writing the same thing- sometimes- every now and again- it’s not because they’re reading over each others shoulders or attending a massive mainstream media conspiracy conference call every morning- it’s because we all pretty much saw the same thing unfold before our very own eyes.

Is Boycotting Rush Anti-Free Speech or the Exercise of it?

March 6, 2012 1 comment

There are free speech proponents who, regardless of the foulness of the speech involved, feel very, very queasy about economic boycotts intended to silence people.

But regardless of how one feels in the specific case of Rush Limbaugh’s remarks about Georgetown University student, Sarah Fluke last week, central to the issue of the efficacy of economic boycotts is the concept of money and the free market.

The Supreme Court has made it pretty clear that money is a vehicle for the expression of protected 1st amendment rights. In the matter of Citizens United, the high court upheld the rights of corporations and labor unions to spend unlimited amounts of money on political campaigns.

The underlying philosophical foundation would also support the concept of economic boycotts because they too involve the use of money as a means of political expression. Not the spending of it, but the strategic denial of it.

And it is, perhaps, ironic in the case of the Rush controversy, that presuming that many on the political right are extreme free market proponents, the use of the economic leverage of the boycott, really is use of the free market; manipulating it as an expression of free speech.

So whether you’re boycotting Bill Maher’s advertisers for an ill-advised and, some would argue, grotesque tweet about Tim Tebow a couple of months ago, or angry with Rush Limbaugh for his vitriolic rhetorical attack on a young female college student, looks to me like the law is- more than ever- firmly behind you if you decide to stop buying products from companies whose perceived values are incompatible with your own.

To the anti-boycott/free speech advocates- if there really is a marketplace for ideas in this country- a place where people pay through their purchases and their listening or viewing habits, to make it possible for some to shout their views from an electronic pulpit- no one is ever losing their right of expression.

The only thing affected by the power of money- is the size of the pulpit. How people choose to spend their time and money and show their attraction or revulsion to the product, determines whether that pulpit is amplified through a 50,000-watt radio or television tower, or relegated to 45 people reading the daily rants of a lonely website.

Either way, though, it’s still free expression. Nobody said you have the absolute right to get rich off of it.

CNNRadio Farewell

March 2, 2012 8 comments

I’ve written way too many eulogies over the past year. This one is to bid a fond farewell to an American radio network. On April 1st, CNN ends its terrestrial radio newscasts in the United States, no longer distributed by Dial Global, the entity that used to be known, pre-merger, as Westwood One.

I had the great honor of leading the people of CNNRadio from 1996 to 2004. We did big things. Won an Edward R. Murrow award for Overall Excellence in 2000. First rate journalists- anchors, correspondents, producers and editors- all of whom earned a total of five Murrow awards for outstanding achievement in the radio news industry from feature and investigative reporting to best newscast. It was the first U.S. network to offer audio to its affiliates via the web 10 years ago– which sounds quaint now, but was years ahead of its competitors.

I feel very badly for the folks, many of whom I worked with, who face an uncertain future. Trust me, dear friends, you are not alone- so many of us have fallen victim through no fault of our own, to the convulsions of this radically changing media environment. Easy as it is for me to say and hard as it is to imagine, there is life after this. I am living proof of that.

CNNRadio, itself, was the sad beneficiary of the demise of the venerable Mutual network about a decade ago. Almost all of Mutual’s affiliates were directed to us and turned CNN, by sheer number of affiliates- and overnight- into the 2nd largest radio network in the nation.

So, yes, a sad day, indeed. Sad for the folks in Atlanta. Sad for the radio industry. Sad for those who gave their all to the place, including those no longer here and whose passing left us staggered and numb: Former CNN Executive, Jon Petrovich, Anchor, Stan Case, Anchor/Reporter, Ed McCarthy, Anchor/Editor, Stan Nurenberger.

To all of you over the decades who covered the wars and elections, Presidents, Congress, the courts and government, 9/11, the shuttle launches and disasters, the hurricanes, the economic upheaval- the world in all its glory and heartache – a toast for a job well done and a public well served.