December 18, 2012

Although the event at Newtown was still top center of the news cycle, I just couldn’t go through day four of talking about the fate of the victims.  Will was glued to the giant chess game that was the to and fro of the changing policy and politi-speak emerging from the White House, the gun lobby, far right Christians and Second Amendment fanatics that I predict won’t be overtaken by the news cycle until some other topic strikes the fancy of the media. I don’t and can’t imagine what it will be from where I am sitting now.

A frightening story emerged from Syria that involved one of our colleagues Richard Engel who is the chief foreign correspondent for ABC news.

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Richard was kidnapped five days ago along with his cameraman and producer while traveling in Syria with a group of Syrian rebels. In what is one of the few times in which members of the media closed ranks and agreed to a blackout of the story at the urging of NBC,  Richard’s identity wasn’t revealed to the kidnapper’s who could have used that information as valuable bargaining chips to achieve their goal. I can tell you that there is no scarier nightmare than a kidnapping scenario for any reporter. Thankfully all went well and Richard and his crew were released in what I am sure will be an evolving story.

In the newsroom Maggie, who incidentally was quite hungover this morning, was a bit more frazzled than usual and couldn’t quite manage the day. The undertone of sexual tension between Mags and Jim can be a tad unbearable at times so I mentioned to Jim that he should just ask her out for lunch. He listened and politely declined to follow my advice, again.

Finally in financial news, Sloan was talking up a blue streak that the looming fiscal cliff would definitely be averted and that she had inside information from one of Boehner’s aides that a compromise is imminent.

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It is late, I am exhausted and going home.

December 17, 2012

As the country continues to reel over the events of the Newtown shooting, compassion has surfaced in the form of Christmas trees. Someone sent a tree for every life lost on Friday.

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Will and Charlie have been going back and forth on a soliloquy that Will is writing about gun control in America and how to implement change without treading on the Second Amendment rights of the people whose belief is entrenched in this right. Some good news, Walmart, the largest seller of guns and ammunition in America incidentally and always up for a public relations advantage, removed a similar assault rifle as the one used in Newtown from its virtual shelves.

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Full disclosure here, I loathe Walmart for its long term and repeated labour practices of keeping employees at poverty level wages and of course the total disregard for safety at their factory in Bangladesh which led to the fire and tragic death of 112 workers. Additionally, the New York Times broke a story this afternoon of a culture of bribery that Walmart utilized to supersede local zoning laws in Mexico to build a huge distribution plant within a mile of the ancient pyramids at Teotihuacán which is blatant disregard for the treasure of the people of Mexico. With this standard policy and procedure in place I have trepidations that once this tragic crisis has moved off the headlines Walmart will remove this rifle permanently from their offerings to their consumer. Time will tell if they will put aside profit for the greater good but I wouldn’t hold your breath.

November 29, 2012

Will dared me that I couldn’t unplug for 48 hours so for the last two days I have been in the blissful world of no electronics. Loved every minute and didn’t miss devices a bit. I read an actual book, took long walks without the panic of constant phone interruptions and had lovely meals during which actual conversation took place. I am seriously leaning toward unplugging one day per week just to recapture the ability to spend genuine time with myself and others without the distraction of the “season”. Bah Humbug to the virtual world, I want to experience real contact.

Of course Will was hoping that it would be a permanent change in my lifestyle but Charlie was apoplectic without having the ability to contact me when not at work so I reluctantly turned the Blackberry back on.

News a tad slow this morning, so much so that a story on our vice president hit the wires. Biden apparently had to do some shopping at Costco accompanied by a slew of reporters.

He seemed a bit stumped by such a wide variety of bakery choices. Was there really nothing else for the Vice President of the United States to do today other than shop for bakery goods at a Washington DC Costco? 

George H. W. Bush was hospitalized in Houston, Texas, for bronchitis. At 88 years of age a potentially serious health issue for the former president. 

In other news, fast food workers attempting to organize staged a strike in New York City at McDonald’s, Burger King, Domino’s, KFC, Taco Bell, Wendy’s and Papa John’s. The workers are fighting for a reasonable wage increase from the federal minimum of $7.25 to $15 and protection from the verbal abuse and the commonly used retaliation for complaint of reduced working hours that is prevalent within the industry. Across the nation, fast food jobs have increased 55% since 2000, most probably due to the extended recession and lack of better paying jobs that has forced workers into minimum wage jobs just to survive. Over the past four years, profits for the fast food industry have risen 130%, a bounty not enjoyed by the mostly part-time workers who are unable to accrue enough working hours to trigger legal protection or health care. We are closely watching this story and are cheering on the workers in their struggle for workplace dignity, not due to Will’s interest but Charlie’s. Needless to say this is not Leona’s cup of tea and thankfully Charlie makes the decisions for News Night and labor is a topic close to his heart. 

The big insider news today was that Mitt Romney accepted an invitation to join Obama at the White House for lunch today. Kind gesture on the part of the President but nonetheless has to be a rather humiliating experience for Romney.

The lunch which took place in the private dining room and lasted 1 hr and 13 minutes had no specific agenda according to the White House however a rumour ran through the newsroom that he would be offered Post Master. Fairly confident that was a joke. 

We got a tip from a reporter that after the lunch with Obama, Mitt stopped by a McDonald’s for some real food.

Although the photo appeared genuine we could not verify that this photo was taken today or if Romney crossed a picket line. 

November 16, 2012

News was fairly slow this morning, the most talked about story was the closing of Hostess and that production of Twinkies would be halted as a result. Jim and Maggie launched into a discussion of which sugary treat was their favourite growing up. Jim preferred Ding Dongs, Maggie’s favorite was Twinkies. Then a story came in that an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico was on fire and four people were injured due to an explosion.

The rig was identified as “West Delta 32” owned by Black Elk Oil according to the Coast Guard and is located 25 miles southeast of Grand Isle, Louisiana. As the story developed we learned that two people had died and two were missing. 

The aggression in Gaza raged on today with 500 rockets fired into Israel and almost  500 targets hit in Gaza. As of this writing, 23 Palestinians have died and three Israeli’s while Egypt’s prime minister, Hisham Qandil, after visiting Gaza called for and international effort to end violence. However, Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy clearly stated that he would continue to support Gaza against Israel. “We assure them [Israel] that the price will be high for continued aggression, and [we tell them] you have to bear the responsibility,” said Morsy. We have a reporter in the region and continue to monitor the situation. 

For a bit of comic relief, the GOP has found another scapegoat in the Romney fiasco and his name is Zac Moffat who was the digital guru for the campaign and earned $17 million for his social media company, Targeted Victory. 

This guy isn’t the first and won’t be the last to be targeted, pardon the pun, by the GOP in their quest to determine why their candidate, Mitt Romney, failed to capture the White House. 

November 14, 2012

I took a break during the election from writing here because we all got caught in the campaigns and burnout was rampant for me at any rate.

As we waited for President Obama to begin his presser today, there was a lot of buzz about the Patreus scandal and the Israeli air strikes that killed a leader of Hamas.

The President made brief remarks before opening to questions.

Most of the presser was devoted to the “fiscal cliff” and the determination to eliminate tax cuts for the top 2%. Broad immigration reform was addressed through the significant increase in the Latino vote across America which indicated a more powerful coalition. The primary point was that he believes that immigration should include a pathway to citizenship.

Leave it to Chuck Todd to bring up Patreus again, almost sounding like a reporter for the Enquirer.

Obama looked exhausted and was rather dis-jointed in his responses as well as surprisingly vague. For his first press conference since he was elected Obama was not making any definitive policy statements which frankly surprised me but perhaps he has been advised to dial down any provocative rhetoric for fear of a negative reaction by the stock market. We shall see over the next few days just how Wall Street feels about what was discussed or not discussed more to the point.

October 1, 2012

"The life of the creative man is lead, directed and controlled by boredom. Avoiding boredom is one of our most important purposes.
Susan Sontag 


Well we were certainly directed by boredom today in the newsroom. Everyone was bored to sobs because, frankly, there were no major news stories and by news stories I mean the election. It is the calm before the storm, neither campaign wants to do anything disruptive prior to the debates.  The president stopped off at Henderson, Nevada to give a pep talk to volunteers in the Obama office.


I repeat, Henderson, Nevada. How much more obscure can you get?

The Supreme Court began a new term today. Here is a look at what cases are coming up and what could be heard this year:

RACIAL PREFERENCES – In Fisher v. University of Texas, to be argued Oct. 10, the court will weigh Texas’ limited use of race to help fill out its incoming classes. The outcome could result in a major cutback in the use of racial preferences at the nation’s colleges.

ACCOUNTABILITY FOR HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES – The justices will consider whether American courts may be used by foreign victims to sue over human rights violations abroad. The case of Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum, to be argued on Monday, concerns claims the oil giant Shell was complicit in atrocities committed by the Nigerian government against its citizens in the oil-rich Niger delta.

DRUG-SNIFFING DOGS – Two disputes involving drug-sniffing dogs will be heard by the court on Halloween. In one, the question is whether a dog brought to the front door of a home to sniff for marijuana amounts to a search. In the other, the court will consider a dog’s reliability and qualifications as a drug-sniffing animal in a case involving a traffic stop and a warrantless search that found the ingredients for making methamphetamines in a pickup truck.

FIGHTING TERRORISM – The government is trying to shut down a constitutional challenge to a law that lets the United States eavesdrop on overseas communications. Lawyers, journalists and human rights advocates filed a lawsuit that objected to the latest version of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The issue at the high court, to be argued Oct. 29, is whether the law’s challengers are entitled to make their case in federal court.

The following issues probably will be heard this term:

GAY MARRIAGE – The justices are expected to take up gay marriage in at least one of the many appeals pending at the high court. Several lower federal courts have struck down as unconstitutional a provision of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act that denies federal benefits, including favorable tax treatment and health benefits, among many others, to legally married same-sex couples. The court almost always has the last word when federal laws are struck down. A separate appeal involves California’s ban on gay marriage, ruled unconstitutional by federal courts.

VOTING RIGHTS ACT – Several appeals ask the court to invalidate a cornerstone of civil rights era legislation, a provision of the Voting Rights Act that requires all or parts of 16 states, most in the South and all with a history of past discrimination, to get approval from the Justice Department or the federal court in Washington before instituting any changes affecting elections and voting. Some justices expressed skepticism about the need for this measure in a 2009 decision that sidestepped a definitive ruling.

The news was so slow today that even Will got into a discussion about tonight’s football game even though the Dallas Cowboys or as most everybody refers to them as, the Dallas Crackheads are playing the Chicago Bears on Monday Night Football. Will was rather combative when conversation turned to yesterday’s Jets game which was mildly amusing to watch. 
Most conversation was focused on the debates and endless speculation about what will happen, what won’t happen and who will win. If we have to go through another day like this tomorrow with no news and constant debate patter I will go mad! Naturally the temptation to assume the personalities of the subjects that some in the newsroom prepared for our mock debate proved irresistible. We were all subjected to an endless stream of hilarity as Don and Jim went back and forth all day being Romney and Obama respectively, as Neal hurled debate questions at both of them in his portrayal of Lehrer. If they were attempting to drive everyone mad it is too late, that was accomplished last week when in another long spell of boredom they enlisted Neal and Maggie to join in and portray Hollande and Cameron respectively for a mock SNL skit that continued throughout the entirety of the week! The debates will bring a welcome break to all of this.
Of course there was some minor relief with the Scott Brown/Elizabeth Warren debate tonight. People were lined up down the block, and when I say people I mean paid volunteers holding signs:
Rather large venue so it looks like it will take all of the volunteers that both sides can find to fill the seats:
This debate will distract us for a little bit but no doubt won’t hold our attention for very long. I have to commend the volunteer coordinators and field staff of both campaigns, the venue is full.
36 days until the election, we are hoping that the October surprise is a good one. We found out from financial campaign reports that the down ticket GOP races are starting to see an uptick in donations and that donations are falling away from Romney which is a traditional sign that the party does not expect the top of the ticket to be strong enough to carry the bottom through. 

September 17, 2012

"History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people." Martin Luther King, Jr. 


The Chicago teacher’s strike enters its second week with Rahm Emanuel filing an injunction to end the walkout of 26,000 teachers effecting 350,000 students, the third largest school district in the nation. At or about 1 pm, we got word that the judge continued the case until Wednesday so that the other side, the teachers union, could be heard. One of our reporters in Chicago called and said that the situation is deteriorating for the over 350,000 students, many of whom are unsupervised while their parents are at work. Things may get settled on Wednesday when both sides are scheduled for court. 

Occupy Wall Street celebrated its first anniversary with protests that resulted in over 100 arrests by noon today. 

The movement seems to be organizing better and has amassed a rather large cache of cash for bail money and the like. There doesn’t seem to be any positive metrics on the effect of these protests or perhaps none have been released but they would be interesting to see if they exist at all. The banking industry is no doubt suppressing any positive outcomes of the movement. 

 

September 14, 2012

“The purpose of separation of church and state is to keep forever from these shores the ceaseless strife that has soaked the soil of Europe in blood for centuries.” 
James Madison

The day began with news that protests throughout the Muslim world have broken out against the bloody douchebag Nakoula Basseley Nakoula’s tasteless film ,”Muslim Innocence.” The result of this despicable misuse of our First Amendment right is the mass suffering of potentially thousands of innocent people.

There was a poignant moment during the transfer of the bodies from our consulate which was covered by every network. 

Romney made a rather alarmingly out of touch with real America statement that the annual income of middle America equaled between $200,000 and $250,00. According to the last census, the average middle income is $50,000 which Romney could no doubt find in his couch cushions. 

Will was impossible to deal with due to a puff piece on how amazing he is that was released mid-day but granted us the privilege of doing the news in our presence. Every time one of these articles comes out he is barely tolerable for a minimum of a week. I don’t begrudge him the coverage and am glad that it lifts his spirits so that we don’t revisit what happened after Brian’s regrettable publication, however, his head swells so large he barely fits into the studio. 

Ah, Friday has at last arrived so I will have the weekend of distance between me and Will. I am planning to do some research on the Middle East, finish up a book on politics and perhaps catch a film. I pray that Maggie doesn’t do anything embarrassing like tweet Don as she did this week which made national news. 

September 12, 2012

Whenever men take the law into their own hands, the loser is the law. And when the law loses, freedom languishes.”  John F. Kennedy

The newsroom was a flurry of activity due to the brutal and tragic attack on the US consulate in Libya and subsequent deaths of diplomat Chris Stevens, Sean Smith, the IT manager and two other Americans who died last night. The cause? A piece of rubbish video that mocks Mohammed through tasteless satire. 

The President and Hillary addressed the press and the nation:

The tone was measured and appropriate and Obama called for flags to be at half staff for the remainder of the week. They then shook the hands of the members of the State Department thanking them for their service.

The Libyan Ambassador to the US held a presser stating his deep sadness over the events last night:

Mitt Romney also held a presser,taking full political advantage during which he attacked Obama for a foreign policy that is weak in its approach to express compassion rather than rattle the sabers as GWB did after 9/11.  Romney left with a smirk on his face. Within 30 minutes his spin team was attempting to mitigate the damage caused by his craven attitude and misguided remarks that made him seem even more inept at foreign policy than we all suspect.

Later in the day, the people of Benghazi took to the streets to let America know that they do not want violence. 

From what Romney was saying earlier today, had he been in charge these people would have been bombed by sundown. 

September 11, 2012

The direct use of force is such a poor solution to any problem, it is generally employed only by small children and large nations.”

David Friedman

As the day began the events of September 11, 2001 dominated the news cycle and the above quote by Shelley seemed appropriate. Danny Concannon was a bit miffed, and I don’t blame him, that the coverage of that horrible day on the other networks was more about revenge than redemption. He called it disaster porn. Will was absolutely livid that one network while covering the event, also included some dribble of the Kardashian mother commenting on some aspect of the real morons of Beverly Hills or whatever that ridiculous show is called. How could anything about these silly people have any pride of place in the coverage of 9/11? News Night has a lot of work to do.

Eerily, the day today was much like it was on that Tuesday 11 years ago.

The teacher strike in Chicago entered it’s second day.

Lots of photo’s coming in from our reporters covering the strike.

And later today the strike only seemed to escalate

There is no getting around it, from this point until the November election we will be covering the presidential race including all of the cock ups from both sides. Paul Ryan will begin airing his ads for re-election in Milwaukee tomorrow, to me it looks like he is covering his bets in case things don’t work out with Mitt. 

According to a poll, Romney is losing his base with 38% of white, bible belt, men less likely to vote for a candidate that has immense wealth. This story is bound to snowball as more and more information about Romney and his material holdings comes to light and who knows what will surface about his goofball running mate, Paul Ryan. 

A fundraising appeal revealed an air of desperation in their messaging:

Will, who was on a rip yesterday practically attacking everyone in his path, was unusually quiet today spending all of his time, with the exception of attending the rundown meeting, in his office. I am not sure if it was how the day started, which, for all intents and purposes, could be described as a series of memorials and remembrances from that day of horror 11 years ago, but there was a distinct pall over the newsroom that lasted practically all day. Maggie came to the rescue when she and Tess broke the mood by forgetting the Skype feed that Christiane Amanpour who using with a reporter in Syria. A bit embarrassing for the ACN team to be sure but everything worked out and Christiane checked it herself just to be sure: