Saturday, September 1, 2012

This Summer's Salmagundi

Salmagundi: [sal-muh-guhn-dee]
1. a mixed dish consisting usually of cubed poultry or fish, chopped meat, anchovies, eggs, onions, oil, etc., often served as a salad.
2. any mixture or miscellany.

In my last newsletter, I promised  I'd do my next blog on the best & worst new TV shows of 2012.   Due to health issues though, I've neglected this blog during most of this summer, and there are a few other things I want to talk about as well.  Thus, this entry will feature said reviews, but will be a hodge-podge, or salmagundi, of topics which will serve as a summer wrap up.  Hopefully, I'll be able to  post on  more consistent schedule this fall, which is practically already upon us.
Best New Show:

Undoubtedly, the best new show, or at least the most intelligent new show, is HBO's The Newsroom, created and written by Aaron Sorkin, creator of the politically charged drama, The West Wing. The series chronicles the behind-the-scenes events at the fictional Atlantis Cable News (ACN) channel. The show features Jeff Daniels as anchor Will McAvoy, who, together with his staff set out to put on a truly informative news show in the face of corporate and commercial obstacles. 

Being a prime time show on a premium cable channel, the show, of course, features a juicy love triangle and a story of true love denied.   Beyond the heartbreak of unrequited love however, is the more intriguing story of a news team who just wants to educate the public, ratings be damned.

What makes this show a delight to watch is  Sorkin's use of real news events and issues within each episode.  From the New Orleans oil spill, to shooting of Giffords, to the Presidential Primary Debates the show attempts to explore how each story should have been handled in order to provide the American people with the most accurate information.

On a final interesting note, The West Wing was often accused of "Republican bashing" during its tenure on NBC.  Perhaps in an attempt to avoid such criticism this time, Sorkin has made his new hero,  McAvoy, a Republican, albeit an extremely moderate one with many of the creator's liberal leanings.
Worst New Show:

I need to start this section by explaining that I have absolutely no use for, so called, Reality TV unless it's somehow food related.  I find most reality shows to be extremely low brow and insulting to anyone who is indeed smarter than a fifth grader.  NBC's Stars Earn Stripes is certainly no exception.

Don't misunderstand, I'm the biggest flag waving son of a biscuit eating Uncle Sam you're ever likely to meet.  I'm all for supporting and honoring our troops.  That's not what this show does.  Eight celebrities each team with a special ops specialist to compete in a series of live fire exercises as a concerned general watches a live video feed from his tent, and paces back & forth.

Yes, the competitors are shooting real ammo at prearranged targets.  However, NOBODY'S SHOOTING BACK!  To compare these games to actual live combat, especially when we actually have real soldiers harm's way, is incredibly tacky.  It devalues actual sacrifices being made by our troops by making it look like any buff actor or female wrestler can do what our troops do every day.
The 2012 Summer Olympics:

This year, I eagerly watched The 2012 Olympics, well the first week of them anyway.  By the second week, I was pretty much Olympicked out.  The opening ceremonies were a brilliant summary of the history and culture of The British Isles.  I didn't even mind Paul McCartney opening the games, which stress anti-doping rules, with a diddy about LSD.  Yet, as I watched the games themselves, I found myself grow increasingly frustrated by bizarre officiating.

Being primarily a boxing fan, one glaring example of bizarre officiating comes immediately to mind.  Azerbaijani boxer, Magomed Abdulhamidov, started the third round of an elimination bout with a two-point lead.  In the third round, he touched the canvas, was knocked down, six times by Satoshi Shimizu of Japan. Rather than delivering a minimum three standing eight counts and scoring the round in favor of Shimizu, Referee Ishanguly Meretnyyazov, from Turkmenistan, waved off all six knockdowns and the judges scored the round with mysterious 10-10 tie score giving the bout to Magomed Abdulhamidov.

Even with the six knockdown blows being ignored, one could theoretically accept the round having been scored 10-10 if one could only point to the ten scoring blows which Abdulhamidov supposedly landed in the third round.  Nobody seems to be able to spot those blows while watching the tape however.  While this particular bout was later over turned, and Referee Ishanguly Meretnyyazov was expelled from the game, erroneous results of bout after bout featuring; mystery points being awarded, legitimate points being ignored, and Teddy Atlas throwing spastic hissy fits from ringside; were allowed to stand.

Additionally, Gymnast Jordyn Wieber did not advance to the all-around final due to the rule limiting participating countries to two competitors in the all-around final, even though her scores were greater than many of her foreign competitors.  Yes, rules are rules, but the rule in question strikes me as being a politically motivated rule, designed to keep certain countries from dominating an event, rather than a sporting rule, designed to find the best competitor within the sport.

Sure, many athletes legitimately won their events.   Misty May-Treanor & Kerri Walsh Jennings are the women's beach volleyball champs.  Missy Franklin is a champion swimmer and seemingly a complete sweetheart.  Ashton Eaton is a gold medal decathlete.  I'm not knocking any of them, or anyone else who trained, sacrificed, and brought medals back to their country.  I'm simply saying that bizarre officiating and politically motivated rules have taken the wind from my Olympic sails, and I probably won't be as gung-ho to watch it four years from now.
The National Election - Economics:

I'm an unapologetic liberal.  Thus, I was going to steer clear of talking about the election this year simply because when I correct something Romney  said, or give Obama a thumbs up, my liberal bias shows and people tend to write my points off as predictable.  Fair enough.

Yet, I keep hearing people who should know better saying that Romney's plan to cut tax rates for corporations and the wealthy is the best way to fix the economy.  The argument is that tax cuts free up money to create jobs.

That sounds good until you take into account the fact that it's never worked before.  It didn't work under Reagan or either Bush, Sr. or Jr., and there's no reason to believe it will magically work under Romney.  Trickle down economics fails every time because the tax savings trickles into bonuses for top executives then stops before the money reach levels where it can fuel the economy with new jobs.

Of course, if they're referring to capitol gains tax cuts, partner run financial advising companies, which have no employees other than a few secretaries, stand to make millions in tax savings without creating a single job.  Thus, those millions are denied to local, state, and federal budgets while society as a whole sees no return on that sacrifice.

The Institute On Taxation And Economic Policy conducted a study comparing states with the lowest income tax rates to states with the highest income tax rates.  According to the study, the states with higher tax rates have much more robust economies across the board.  One likely explanation for these numbers is that when businesses look for states to move their employees to they look for areas with healthy infrastructures; roads, schools, police, mass transit; which are supported by tax dollars.   Hence, the areas with the most tax dollars in the kitty can build the strongest infrastructures which thereby attract new businesses.

Bottom line, I'm not sure how Romney's plan to give corporations more than a trillion dollars in tax cuts is going to work in paying off the deficit, unless he's planning to make sacrifices to infrastructure and cut essential services; medical care, food stamps, heating assistance, etc...;  from people who need them to survive.
The National Election - Hoppy Tactics:

I have to say, Obama is a bit of a crafty fox.  For the last few weeks, he's appeared on The Today Show, and other news shows, talking about the White House's line of craft beers; Honey Ale, Honey Blonde, and Honey Porter.   Meanwhile, newspapers are being fed stories about citizens clambering for the recipe, and they're being reminded of The Beer Summit which saw our president calm racial tensions between black Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. and white Cambridge, Mass., police Sgt. James Crowley over pints of the frosty beverage.

What makes this so cleaver is that Romney has no obvious counter move, since Mormons don't drink alcohol of any kind.  Obama alone gets to sell himself as someone who'd have a beer with the guys.  "He's one of us, he drinks beer," is the message the DNC wants us to internalize without anyone actually verbalizing it.

It's brilliant!
One Final Note:

 Mr. Todd Akin, rape is rape.  'Nuff said.

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