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Monday, February 21, 2005

This is Even Cheesier Than Rice-a-Roni

Like many of you, the Bloogeyman enjoys his Sundays. He likes to sleep in and then wake up to read the Sunday newspaper over breakfast. Which paper does the Bloogeyman read? Well, I tried reading the New York Times – the print is too small and too much of the paper seems to be filled with weird New York-centric articles. The Wall Street Journal? Well, the Journal has to be about the most boring wide-circulation paper in the country. It’s funny, because the more you read the Journal, the more you actually start to like it. The Bloogeyman had a job once where part of his every-day activities was to read practically every article in the Journal (mainly for news on the market and its potential effect on positions). The Bloogeyman got to the point where he could go through the whole Journal – article by article – in about 2 hours and it wasn’t even that boring. But when it comes to leisurely Sunday morning reading the Journal is about as relaxing as an S&M session with an economist.

What about all of the other regional or national papers – New York Post (do these guys even pretend to be journalists?), San Francisco Chronicle (a paper so slim on content that I could breeze through everything worth reading in 15 minutes), or USA Today (These guys are just trying to be funny, right? Recent headline: Why NHL fell through the ice - After a 154-day lockout, hockey is the first pro sport to call off an entire season - Analysis, reaction, commentary, 1, 2, 4C. Good lord, who fucking cares? I mean if you guys spent that much time and space investigating something actually worth investigating (WMD? 911? Iraq? Iran?) you might be considered a real newspaper in my book). What’s left? The Los Angeles Times. The great thing about the LA Times is that you don’t have to live in LA to get it (plus they don’t print in microprint!).

I guess people consider the LA Times to be one of the preeminent large-circulation liberal papers. Apparently, these days if you engage in even a modicum of question asking you’re considered extremely liberal. But I’m not sure they are that liberal – yes the editorial board is pretty liberal, but you only have to open up the opinion section to get a good idea of the kind of mix of columnists they keep.

The Sunday Opinion section is usually a pretty good read – the articles are generally well researched and tend to present interesting, if not always water-tight, arguments. Since I like reading the Opinion page on Sunday I figured I’d start putting up a post every Sunday or Monday talking about a particularly interesting opinion piece. Sometimes it will be a thoughtful look at a though-provoking piece. Sometimes it will be an extension of a premise or discussion of a policy framework that was presented in the context of current events. Sometimes the Bloogeyman will couple a unique socio-economic framework theory with metaphysical philosophy. But mostly the Bloogeyman will just shamelessly ridicule some idiot writer who apparently slipped through the basic sanity/quality screen that I’m sure the LA Times has in place.

The opinion page does seem to have the now industry-standard brainless support-administration-policies-no-matter-what-guy©. Take editorial cartoonist Michael Ramirez for example – I don’t know much about this guy (except that he’s won a Pulitzer or two and his artwork is very nice), but I do know that I’ve probably seen him deviate from the administration line once or twice in the past five years. That’s right – out of hundreds of editorial cartoons he’s penned he has almost never deviated from the party line. It’s like he has a magical telekinetic line into Karl Rove (or just a fax machine). Hell, he should probably be up for an Armstrong award by now (I mean, come on, now that we know that Armstrong Williams and Maggie Gallagher took payola – and I don’t even want to mention the G-man – Ramirez should be at the top of anyone’s suspicion list).

I’m pretty sure that even if the Bush administration announced a new policy in which anyone with the last name ‘Ramirez’ instantly gets deported to Guantanamo Michael Ramirez would quickly pen one last cartoon supporting the policy before he was dragged off by the feds shouting “Viva Bush!”. But I digress, suffice it to say that even though the LA Times has a reputation of being a ‘liberal’ paper, there are plenty of different view points expressed in the opinion pages.

Yes, the LA Times has got all kinds of columnists – conservative, liberal, libertarian, social democrat, fascist – but lately I’ve noticed that they’ve started adding a new class of opinion columnist: retarded.

This last weekend the Bloogeyman opened up the Opinion section to see the first headline ponder: “A Second-Term Shift?”. “Ok”, the Bloogeyman thinks, “an in-depth analysis of possible shifts in foreign policy and tactics?” – noting that the illustration shows a simian George Bush reaching across the globe towards Europe as a gap-toothed Condoleezza Rice glares on. Oh, and look at this, this opinion piece is written by “Nancy E. Soderberg, a senior national security advisor in the Clinton administration”…she should have an interesting take on what’s been going on thinks the Bloogeyman.

Now the Bloogeyman reads the first line: “Let me be the first to say it: Condoleezza Rice may be in line for a Nobel Peace Prize.” Wait a minute…WTF?!? Did you just say that Kinda-phoney Rice might be in line for a Nobel Peace Prize?!? WTF?!? Ok, breath deeply, let’s just relax and think this through for a second…lets think about and enumerate the things she’s done as Secretary of State that might warrant consideration for the Nobel Peace Prize. 1) Ok, she’s gone to Europe and…uh…she’s talked about…uh. Wait a fucking minute here…she hasn’t done anything! I’m pretty sure I haven’t been in a coma or anything since she was confirmed like just-last-fucking-week, but maybe I’m missing something. Let me think…nope…she hasn’t done one fucking thing! Yeah, she’s talked a lot – but hell, doesn’t everyone talk a lot – what matters is what you do. Look at this excerpt:

Going into the lion’s den of France earlier this month, Rice spoke of the need for “an even stronger partnership based on common opportunities” and laid out threats both countries face – terrorism, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, regional conflicts, failed states and organized crime. Over the last four years, we have lost ground in combating these threats. If she and her boss succeed in restoring America’s place as persuader, not just enforcer, dramatic progress is possible.

Where do I even start? Wow, going into the ‘lion’s den’ that is France was pretty fucking courageous – I think she deserves at least a Medal of Honor for that. And she “spoke” about this and that – blah, blah, blah. She still hasn’t done anything. But wait, “over the last four years, we have lost ground in combating these threats” – last I remember, she had something to do with what’s been going on these last four years – so she’s actually been doing a really bad job these last couple years? But maybe a ten minute speech promising big things that you have no intention of ever actually doing warrants a Nobel Peace Prize. Hell, if that’s the criteria, wait till Nancy Soderberg hears all the things I can promise. The Bloogeyman hereby promises …blah, blah, blah. Hey Nancy, will you be nominating the Bloogeyman for the Nobel Peace Prize?

Oh, and I’m pretty comfortable in Nancy’s assessment of Condoleezza Rice’s performance as Secretary of State given her firm grasp of reality in the context of other events. How about this quote:

…the recent elections in Iraq came off better than even the administration had hoped, with 8.5 million Iraqis voting despite insurgent violence. And they voted for a secular – not Islamic, Iranian-style – government.

Wow, I’m sure glad that the elections came off “better than even the administration had hoped” – but wait a minute…haven’t you heard of lowering expectations? I’m pretty sure the Bush administration had actually hoped that the elections were a fucking disaster, whew, good thing they turned out better than the administration hoped. And, hey, guess what? They voted for a “secular” government(!) – I didn’t know that. I’d think that when the party that got 51% of the seats in the new parliament was backed by the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq they’re pretty fucking non-secular. But, hey, I’m not a real journalist like you…I’m sure you did your homework and understand the situation better than me. Well, than explain me this – why the fuck is the leader of winning party (and now de facto leader of the Iraqi government) called Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani?!? Um, ok, I’ll do a Google search and see if I can dig up some information on this guy. Maybe the first name his mom gave him is ‘Grand’ and he really is just a secular kind of guy. But wait, according to this CNN article “Al-Sistani is known to be in favor of declaring Islam as the official faith of the country”. It’s pretty fucking sad when CNN out-journalizes and out-fact checks you.

Or, how ‘bout this little gem of gullibility:

…if the administration's newfound fondness for building partnerships and diplomacy holds, it has a chance to make significant progress in stemming the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

The administration has a newfound fondness for building partnerships? Funny, you wouldn’t really get that idea from reading the news lately and actually looking at the administration’s actions instead of taking everything they say at face value like you just fell off the turnip truck. Good lord, I thought journalists were supposed to think about things, analyze, investigate, and not just parrot anything thrown their way like some dumb little puppy dog wagging his tail and waiting for a pat on the head! What the hell has happened when the readers have to fact check everything and do all the investigating themselves? Maybe I should just red-line the whole column and send it in to the editor so I can get paid for doing all the fact-checking. And does the editor of a paper even have to fact check an opinion article (or is it just an opinion so you can say whatever the hell you want)? Really, I’m not sure about that – if I become a syndicated opinion columnist does that mean I can really say anything I want without regards to fact?

The writer also mentions that “In his first term, Bush doubled aid to Africa, including $15 billion to fight HIV/AIDS”. Ok, did that even happen? Really, I don’t know. Yeah, everybody remembers the State of the Union address when he announced it and how everybody patted everybody on the back for being so benevolent, but really – did Bush even send any of the money? I’m pretty sure that he hasn’t sent even a significant portion of the $15 billion, another empty promise, but, frankly, I’m too tired to even Google it. *Sigh*, there was a time when being a journalist or an editor was actually a job – you actually had to work – but now it seems everyone is just a glorified press release transcriber.

Well, I got to get going; the Bloogeyman’s going to be writing his acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize. Nancy, you’ll nominate me, right?