What's All This Then?

commentary on the passing parade

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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Even though my post-op R&R is getting busier - I start physical therapy next week - there’s too much going on for me to stay away from blogging - so, for a few days at least. I’m going to try to catch up with what’s been going on.

Now that Tim Russert has been buried, I feel that it’s no longer inappropriate to comment on the reaction to his sudden and unexpected demise. In plain words - not to beat around the bush - it was overdone - way over the top. It was the sort of response you’d expect at the death of a president - or someone of similar stature. I appreciate the fact that Russert was well liked by his NBC colleagues - and by many of his contemporaries from other networks - and I understand that having MSNBC at their disposal, the NBC powers that be could give him a send off that would not be possible for a colleague at another network who died suddenly. But canceling hours of programming for endless discussion of the life and times of Tim Russert - not just on the day he died but for days beyond was bordering on silly. Even yesterday, flipping around channels - there was the memorial service for Tim Russert.

I have to admit that I was no particular fan of Russert. I watched Meet The Press on occasion - but not on a regular basis. It depended on the guest line up. I must admit that Tim’s Sunday morning approach was unique - a semi-confrontational game of "gotcha!!" Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t - but that was his primary stock in trade. When he wasn’t using the gimmick, he wasn’t that great an interviewer. I once criticized Russert on these pages when I thought he’d fallen down on the job of being an incisive interviewer - able to ask the right questions without the benefit of having something the interviewee said in the past up on the screen.

Many of the people contributing to the memorial for Russet described him as someone to whom members of the viewing audience related in some personal way. Maybe it was because they knew him personally, but in all the years that I watched him perform - on Sundays and at other times - I never felt drawn to him on a personal level. People do imagine those kinds of relationships with media figures that they don’t know and will never meet - but it’s more often found with the more intimate medium of radio and usually with some local morning man.

I don’t mean to be disrespectful of Russert. He will be hard to replace and it wasn’t inappropriate for his death to be the lead item on the news on the day he died. But the rest of it struck me as inappropriate reporting.

I feel the same way about the television reporting of another tragedy- the destructive floods that have struck so many areas of the Midwest. It’s a continuing story and we need to keep seeing those pictures of towns completely submerged and of people who have lost everything. It’s a national disaster calling for national aid - which may be hastened by the constant showing of the destruction And it’s entirely appropriate to have reporters on the scene to better convey the flavor of what they’re describing. What is not appropriate in my view - what is even silly - is to have these reporters standing in water - sometimes up to their ankles, sometimes up to their knees - and I have even seen some in water above their knees. I suppose they think it adds drama to their reporting - but how much more drama do you need than rooftops poking out from an expanse of water? Television has long been guilty of reporting in this manner - a crime story being reported from outside police headquarters - a winter weather story being reported by a reporter freezing in the snow - as though viewers wouldn’t understand the nature of a blizzard without seeing someone braving it on their behalf. I have no argument with the ancient adage about a picture being worth a thousand words Here’s a perfect example of that truism which I think is worth sharing with the world as I return to the blogosphere.

Could you make something like this any more meaningful by having a reporter stand in front of it to describe what you’re looking at?

Now for something completely different. The other day I wrote about the price of gasoline being a direct result of speculation in the oil futures market - an opinion which is now being shared by elected officials and people in the oil business. Part of the problem can be attributed to unregulated electronic trading - the so called Enron "loophole" - but there is plenty that can be done in areas that are regulated - and so far, nothing is being done except for the disingenuous suggestion that all our troubles can be solved by allowing off shore drilling in areas other than ones in which leases are already held by oil companies. It’s not only disingenuous - it’s cruel - leading people to believe in a fairy tale scenario - "it’s our oil , we can charge what we like and the price of gasoline will go down." Apart from the fact that any drilling started today would take years to yield any oil - that’s just not the way that oil is priced. No matter where the oil is being extracted from the ground or beneath the sea bed, the pricing will still be determined in the futures market. Without some intervention by authorities, the futures price isn’t going to fall back to where it was years ago. - just as the costs of other things aren’t going to fall back to where they once were. I paid in the low thirties for my house many years ago. An identical house on my block just sold for $448,000. My top-of-the-line 1973 Pontiac which I held onto for sixteen years, cost me $4,800. That might be a down payment on a similar model today. The point is that we have to get used to the idea that gas is going to cost a lot more than we’d like to be paying for the foreseeable future. But it doesn’t have to be as high as it is at the moment.

If we can get the speculation out of the oil futures market, we might see a reduction in gas prices below four dollars - maybe even under three. But we can drill from here to Timbuktu and it won’t bring us back to ten times what I was paying to fill up my ’73 Pontiac in 1973. What we need is to take the action that can be taken - not the disingenuous pronouncements of presidential candidates willing to say anything or adopt any position that they think can win them some votes.

More catching up anon.