I hope you can appreciate the friggin' irony of the first presidential debate for the 2004 election is going to be hosted by the University of Miami, whose sports team name is the Hurricanes.
I'm still cleaning up the mess from the last evil winds to hit us and now we have more swirling hot air about to make landfall in Miami. Like the other four in recent weeks, this wind will blow through the rest of the country in the coming days, too.
Media coverage of the debate itself and then the subsequent soundbyte fallout is likely to be heavy with such a close political race for the top job. ABC news thinks that foreign policy will be the key issue.
If you don't think four more years of Bush World will simply inspire war-mongering neocons, here's a telling quote concerning foreign policy in the first debate by Bush strategist, Karl Rove, "There's an opportunity for him to ... talk about his vision for the war on terror, describe the way forward in Iraq and, more broadly, in expanding freedom and liberty throughout the greater Mideast."
Hearing things like that from a bloated chicken hawk neocon, like Karl Rove, pisses me off. Excuse me, Mr. Rove, where exactly in the constitution of the United States does it say that we should wreck our economy, export jobs overseas, burden our grandchildren with trillions of dollars of debt, and engage in nation building anywhere in the Middle East, or the world, at the expense of our own welfare?
I'm fairly interested in the presidential debates. However, polls show that only about 25% of likely voters will consider the candidates' performances during the debates as something that would affect their voting preference in November.
I'm trying my best not to be too cynical about the debates themselves, but it's not easy. Given the fact that the debates are so structured, and manipulated, and produced, I'm not looking forward to much more out of the debates than both candidates trying to stay 'on message'. I fear it will simply turn out to be nothing more than a 90 minute political informercial -- just a longer version of the same stupid propaganda that we hear from both candidates over and over and over and over again in 30 second political advertisements already airing on televison.
Comedians and political pundits will be watching the debates. They will likely be poised in front of the television, pen in hand, ready to scribble down any infamous quotes, zingers, or blunders by either candidate. Since we may not get any substance from the debates, perhaps a few good sound bytes is the best thing for which we should hope.
Speaking of sound bytes, I made another MP3 for you to download (5.1 mb). It's a techno/industrial dance groove called Dancing with the Dubya. It can be your presidential debate theme song.
Hurricane Jeanne is gone. The fourth tricky hurricane was no friggin' treat. I know you'll be relieved to know I found my green plastic halloween jack-o-lantern that was previously MIA. I hung him back up on the the 20-foot horizontal tree-half left from hurricane Frances. I put the jack-o-lantern on the branch as a safety warning to hopefully help some distracted person from walking into the trunk that hangs down about head height, like a broken letter Y now. After hurricane Frances, I used my HFD machete to remove all the branches with any leaves on them. Even though I was worried about Ivan at the time, it was hurricane Jeanne's winds that removed the top of the tree on the other side of the house. I was worried that this horizontal branch would have crashed into the house had it still been full of leaves, if the strong winds were able to take hold of it. As it turned out, the other tree bit it. Only the jack-o-lantern went airborne.
I went around the neighborhood and took a few digital pix for your gawking pleasure. Below are my web-litter style thumbnails. Unlike normal thumbnails which are typically miniature versions of the larger image, such as your operating system may automatically generate, I like to manually make my own thumbnails once in a while.
I do it just to torture you for my own amusement. Next time you're sitting on the toilet, doing your business, and reaching for the toilet paper only to find the roll is empty, you'll be thinking of me. Close one eye, and put the empty cardboard toilet paper tube up to your other eye. Look around the bathroom, like a pirate looking through a spy glass, for that fresh roll of toilet paper. That's how I like to make my image thumbnails. I'm just a dumb-ass bricklayer, but I'm sure there's a graphics design teacher somewhere that calls them spy-glass or tunnel-vision thumbnails, or something official.
The mouse-over text should tell the story. Click on it to view the entire photo.
Since our power got turned on so quickly, I spent the evening in the studio and made a happy-happy MP3 for you to download (5.89 mb). It's got some over-powered and over-amped guitar. So, if you like the sound of an electric guitar, you might like this MP3. Just click on the link below. You know the drill. Feel free to add some gnarly lyrics and let me hear it.
Hurricane Jeanne hit the Florida coast a little before midnight about the same place where hurricane Frances made landfall.
[0100 hrs] I made an animated GIF of Hurricane Jeanne Hitting Florida from NWS service radar images out of the Melbourne center. I'll try to update this blog entry as long as I can stay online this morning. Back to scurrying around the house.
[0300 hrs] I've been watching local WKMG TV weatherman, Tom Sorrells, all night. You guys from the Detroit area may remember him. I think his was on WDIV. We've been in between feeder bands here, for about an hour now. I took a quick-but-relaxing hot shower and shaved. From my experience with the power outage from Frances, it could be days before we have hot water again. The reports of power outages are moving north toward my area.
New hurricane drinking game rules: you not only have to do a shot when someone says, Hunker Down, but you also have to kiss the person next to you when someone says, Feeder Band, and remove an article of clothing when someone says, Eye Wall. Well, now that you're drunk and we're both naked ... Muahahaha! Okay, fine. I'm getting dressed again.
The radar is pretty clear right now, but the sustained winds are picking up strength. The current projected path of Jeanne is a straight line from Fort Pierce, on the Atlantic coast, straight through Disney and then turning north as it nears the gulf coast. They're predicting Jeanne to still be a category 1 hurricane as the eye cuts through the southern part of our county, later this morning.
They're supposed to lift the curfew at 6am, but I guess that depends on whether they can safely patrol. Local6 (WKMG) just showed six different traffic cams around Orlando and Orange county that showed absolutely no vehicles on any of the freeways. Brevard county just had a report of a roof ripped off an elementary school used as a special needs shelter. They had to evacuate 320 physically disabled people sheltered there to the community college. That has to be just craptastic for those folks. I'm back to scurrying around the house again.
[0500 hrs] I've been chilling out for the past two hours. The worst of the hurricane is supposed to start around dawn and go into the afternoon in our area. The sustained winds have been growing in strength and I think we're now in the constant rain event, too. They're predicting 5-10 inches of rain. Gusts are sounding a little unnerving but I haven't heard any loud crashes of branches or trees yet. Power has been browning out and the winds have knocked the dialup connection offline multiple times. If the power remains on after day break, I'm going to check out some web cam sites, but it's likely they could be down and offline from lack of power in their area. Less scurrying now. My evacuation gym bag is packed, but I think I'll likely just stay at home and deal with it.
[0700 hrs] Helleena got off to work okay. The weather is like one loooong, strong thunderstorm for several hours now. Power flicked off, but (obviously) it's back on. For how long? The wind and rain are constant and getting more horizontal. The gusts are gustier. I'm hearing some thunks and clunks of some debris hitting things outside now. I can't decide whether to stay awake and be quietly stressed out or just give in to fatigue, fall asleep, and wait for a crash-bang to wake me up to something exciting or important.
[1700 hrs] Well, as you might have figured out, Jeanne made her way into my area and the power finally got knocked out this morning. The weather people predicted the worst hurricane winds and rain were going to begin in my area around daybreak and go on all day as Jeanne made her turn north. Since I'd been scurrying for the previous 24 hours, around 11am I just decided to ride out the brunt of the storm by sleeping through it.
Luckily, I wasn't stirred awake by any of Jeanne's crash-bangs. Oddly, what woke me was the surreal digital female voice of the answering machine as it initialized itself when the power came back on. I was more than just a little disoriented for a few minutes there. Was I awake? Check. Still at home? Check. Daylight? Check. Oh, now I remember ... there's a hurricane still raging outside. Maybe I should put some clothes on and hobble around now? Good idea.
Then the power winked back off. Crap. Somehow sensing I was awake, Helleena called her cell phone. Her nursing home residents were a little frazzled, but everything was okay so far. I explained that I had just woken up. That is a code phrase that we both use with each other. It means: Don't expect me to be coherent, or pleasant, or remember anything you tell me. After a few minutes, I was awake enough to realize that I had neglected to make any coffee while the power had still been on last night and fill up my thermos pitcher. Crap again.
[1900 hrs] Before it got dark, I decided I should do some recon and make a sitrep should Helleena call back before coming home later tonight. I looked out the Florida room stormdoor and noticed the bright green plastic jack-o-lantern I had hung on the horizontal half of France's tree last week was MIA. I wanted to look for it. Branches were still falling out of the sky, though.
I also had an immediate obstacle to overcome. The top of another tree was laying in front of the stormdoor. We must have been in between feeder bands (kiss-kiss) because it wasn't raining, but the winds were absolutely howling through the trees. Part of my open carport was a bit torn up from the treetop coming down. I put on my bricklayer's hardhat, hacked up the treetop with my machete and hobbled the branches down to the empty lot next to me.
Now that I had cleared the door, my driveway, and the street in front of the house from branches, I hoped I could go look for my poor little missing jack-o-lantern. Clearing the debris away reminded me of the many, many times I had to start at my door and dig through a foot of freshly fallen snow to make a path to the outside world in the Detroit area. Putting the situation into that kind of perspective, combined with the knowledge that tomorrow will likely be a fairly typical and pleasant, 80-degree day, put me in a fairly happy and positive frame of mind.
As I was clearing the debris away, my positive mental attitude was rewarded. The power came back on (and has stayed on so far). With my hardhat on my head and my digital camera in my hand, I hopped into my HFD electric scooter chair and quickly ventured around my block. I was glad to have thought of wearing my hardhat -- more of the same treetop came down and blocked the road that I had just cleared in front of the house. I nonetheless ventured out in the chair for a few minutes. I took the battered flag photo, above. Before I could make it around the little block though, a squall started dumping rain on me. I scootered back home as fast as the chair would scoot, without finding my missing jack-o-lantern.
I hope to get out tomorrow and take some digital pix for your gawking pleasure. One mobile home on the next street over from me, apparently owned by a snowbird and unoccupied at the moment, softened the landing of a huge tree. It's completely crunched and destroyed.
[Headphones] :: You done lost your good thing now - B.B. King
[1500 hrs] Helleena went to the nursing home to work the afternoon shift. She's scheduled to get come home tonight, get some sleep, and then be back for the morning shift at 7am. I haven't decided whether or not to evacuate and spend the day entertaining her residents yet.
[1900 hrs] It started to rain pretty heavily. I visited the National Weather Service web site. 'Eye' definitely see Jeanne on the Melbourne radar, now. She is about 50 miles from shore with an eye of 50 miles in diameter. Many have evacuated or hunkered down. (Drink, Melicious!) It's going to make landfall after dark, so I'm not checking for beach web cams. I'm continuing my scurrying.
[2100 hrs] Argh. I just read this on a local NWS site:
. Hurricane warning in effect.
. Flood watch Saturday and Sunday.
. Tornado watch until midnight.
Tonight. Strong winds. Rain and isolated thunderstorms. Heavy rain likely at times. Lows in the mid 70s. North winds 35 to 40 mph with gusts to around 65 mph becoming northeast 45 to 55 mph with gusts to around 90 mph after midnight. Chance of rain 100 percent.
More scurrying. Evacuate or hunker down? (Drink, Melicious!)
[2300 hrs] Still have power. I made a fresh pot of coffee. Helleena got home okay. She's crashing out until morning. I'm on guard duty over night. I'm glad I don't have any beer or SoCo in the house. The local TV news did a man-on-the-street report in which either the reporter or the man-on-the-street said hunker down more than a dozen times in two minutes. (Drink, Melicious!) It would be worse if your drinking game required you to do a shot every time the weather man said, "Feeder Band".
The latest big news scandal should only reinforce the obvious and constant complaint coming from all the ingredients and constituencies that make up the U.S. political melting pot -- the post-World War II tradition of objective journalism is either fubar or officially dead.
If you're not hip to the military slang term, fubar, which became popular around same the time that George Dubya Bush was celebrating his short timer status in the National Guard by pretending to work for the political campaign of his daddy's friend, Alabama Senator Winton 'Red' Blount and getting fubar drunk every other night -- about the same time which these infamously fake memos cover, the Vietnam War era of tie-dye, Jimi Hendrix, and LSD, -- fubar means fucked-up beyond all recognition.
The only consumers of the American News Media Product that are surprised or disappointed by Dan Rather's Memo Gate are the 50+ year old baby boomers who grew up during the warm, fuzzy, overly-protected innocent years of American culture with the notion of objective journalism as a evolutionary reaction to the obvious government propaganda in the media during World War II.
Investigative journalists and news organizations were the government watchdog. Their job was to cut through the propaganda of government and beauracracy. It was journalism that exposed Watergate, illegal and corrupt acts of politicians in the U.S. government, and caused U.S. president Richard M. Nixon to resign. Watergate is the origin scandal, patient zero, after which all subsequent political scandals in the U.S. reported in the media have been cutely named something-gates.
Everyone else on the planet understands the obvious bias in the American News Media Product. Younger consumers, people living outside the U.S., and students of politics, media and culture of all ages are not overly surprised or outraged by memo-gate, or Rather-gate, if you prefer that name. While yellow journalism may only be a history question on a pop-quiz, it is the reality of american news media again. News media outlets around the planet carry some agenda or bias. They may be the mouth-piece of that particular government, or the mouth-piece of any political party within that government, or the mouth-piece for causes and groups not yet represented in the government. The American News Media is no different. Conservatives will tell you. Liberals will tell you. I'm telling you.
Most people that lived through those Cold War years, then the Vietnam era years, and then Watergate, would tell you that it was very disturbing and troubling. It marked an end of innocence. The U.S. goverment had won the big world war for liberty, peace and democracy. It was actively protecting the good people of the world from the Evil Empire of the Soviet Union, the communist aggressors, and the assured destruction of mankind with nuclear inter-continental ballistic missiles during the Cold War.
If the idea of objective journalism really was an evolutionary reaction to blatant government propaganda, the current psychology of the American Samizdat marks a slide backward into the slimy journalistic puddle of goo out of which it had once crawled. But, does it matter?
Journalism changed that comforting notion. A single photograph of a naked child running down a nameless road in Vietnam on fire from napalm made the average person think twice about the wisdom of the Vietnam War. Journalists exposing military lies at the highest level turned unquestioning patriotism into civil dissent. Watergate was just the final blow for goverment credibilty but it was a benchmark of sorts. While it was troubling for the people living and dying during those troubling times, most people appreciate the fact that someone investigated, someone reported, someone told them the ugly truth.
Try as I may, I am unable to conjure up a single shred of nostalgia for the once-fabled network evening news programs. Walter Cronkite is a name to me, not a symbol of reassurance or stability. Edward R. Murrow is a historical figure. As for the hallowed idea of "the six o'clock news," it means nothing: In my adult life, I've never had time to watch the daily news at 6 or 6:30, at least not with any regularity. When I watch television at all, I switch without any particular loyalty from CNN to Fox to C-SPAN, depending on who is doing the talking, and I feel reasonably cynical about all of them.
Anne Applebaum's column is worth the effort to jump through the online registration hoops at the Washington Post in order to read, no matter if your favorite media watchdog or commentator hangs out with Noam Chomsky or William F. Buckley. [Update: Watch RealVideo C-SPAN interview with Anne Applebaum discussing this topic.] But, since she makes some astute observations which just happen to agree with my own (snicker), I'll quote her conclusions here for you:
What became clear, as the story wound down to the inevitable apology on Monday night, was that Rather and his fellow network newsmen are stuck in a Vietnam/Watergate-era time warp. Most of us regard network anchors as faintly pompous talking heads, people who read other people's prose off teleprompters. But the anchors, rather extraordinarily, still regard themselves as the conscience of the nation. They aren't mere "journalists" who have to use authentic documents to prove their allegations but rather people whose fame and large paychecks and unchallenged power entitle them to some kind of automatic credibility, even if their documents are fake.
I'm sure we'll see this episode as the final collapse of network television's dominance over the news, and the final triumph of something else, something that is in some ways better, in some ways worse. On the one hand, the media are reverting to a more combative, pre-television norm, a time when partisanship was normal and you picked up your newspaper in the morning with a clear idea of the writers' opinions -- which did at least allow you to compensate for them. On the other hand, in this more competitive, post-television age, partisans expend a great deal of energy fact-checking others, and have more outlets on the Internet, on the radio, in the press and on TV for their findings. You don't like Rather? Click on www.ratherbiased.com. You don't like Fox? Read Al Franken.
Much has been made in the past few years of the networks' "liberal bias." More dangerous, it seems to me, was the fact that the networks held a virtual monopoly over the most powerful form of communication. By its nature, television news has had far greater influence on politics, particularly national politics, than any newspaper or magazine could dream of. For that reason alone, more viewers watching a wider range of channels has to be better for the political health of the country.
I expect the death throes of network news will be long and drawn out, and there will be tedious weeping and wailing while it happens. But once it's gone, think of all that might go with it: the stories that are simultaneously pompous and superficial, the atmosphere that is at once grave and silly, the too-famous faces, and the too-brief stories. With any luck, the really good television journalists will survive and migrate elsewhere -- and the rest of us can channel surf until we find them.
And surf I do. And surf you must, if you want to catch a few fish of truth swimming around in the slimy pond of yellow journalistic goo. The only thing I truly regret is the automatic disdain and dismissal of journalism by one side of the political sprectrum when it happens to come from their political opposite.
Tens of thousands of boos and jeers toward Michael Moore during the Republican National Convention may have felt exhilirating to those GOP faithful and made for a few repeatable minutes of tape for Fox News, but to me it was indicative of a sad uninformed polarization of American politics when even John McCain admitted he has not even seen the Fahrenheit 911 documentary film. No one was happy to read Woodward and Bernstein's investigative journalism about Watergate at the time when they reported and published it, either. If a movie of the week is made about this time in American politics some years down the road, maybe John Goodman can put on a hundred pounds and portray Michael Moore. I loved John Goodman doing Babe Ruth.