You’ll wonder where the gray went

I’m thinking of coloring my hair. Just a bit. To get the gray out.
What color do you think?

Bye, Bob

It was a typically understated farewell from Bob Edwards this morning, with grace and class… but a twinge of annoyance in his voice when he mentioned several times that he’d been with Morning Edition 24 years and 6 months — tacitly pointing out the timing of his ouster when they could just as easily have let him finish 25 years. As a consolation of sorts, NPR has created a special Bob Edwards: 30 Years section on their website.
I’ll miss Bob every morning. I’m sure that I, like most people, will get used to a new “team” of anchors in the morning, but it won’t be relaxing, and it won’t be soothing.
I hope that we’ll hear from Bob often.
Here’s what Baxter Black has to say about Bob.

Born in a log cabin, Bob served as a joke writer for presidents Lincoln, Wilson and Coolidge. He served honorably in the army as Gen. Westmoreland’s personal trainer. Later he was appointed ambassador to Labrador, served as a spelling consultant at the Dan Quayle/Lloyd Bentsen debate, and as special prosecutor at the Lisa Marie Presley/Michael Jackson merger.

The cast of this thrilling epic includes “the one previously known as Prince” in the starring role as Bob. His three sidekicks Walter Cronkite, Regis Philbin and Sandra Day O’Connor are played respectively by Donald Rumsfeld, Whoopi Goldberg and Milton Berle.

The movie, originally titled Into Thin Air, and later, The Perfect Storm, has been compared to Gone With The Wind. It climaxes with the carving of Bob’s face on Mt. Rushmore between Tip O’Neill and Ted Turner, the erection of his statue in the rotunda astride his faithful horse Sonny, sword upright, riding in to the Final Four to rescue Louisville. And his inclusion on Consumer Guide’s best-dressed list.

The touching epilogue shows Bob wearing a burka and a hardhat on location with Sylvia Poggioli (somewhere dangerous), recording a public radio solicitation spot for Pledge Drive Week.

Among the retrospective is a recording of the broadcast on the morning of September 11, 2001. It’s a full hour and a half, bringing back memories of the confusion that reigned that morning. Usually, at that time of morning I would have been listening, but on September 11 I was at a staff retreat early, in the National 4H Center in suburban Maryland where we saw the events on television. Frankly, now that I hear Bob Edwards broadcasting the story, I realize that he managed to bring an element of calm to the morning by not giving in to hysteria and keeping himself in check… unlike the television broadcasts.

From the “unsurprising” file

A headline in today’s Post:

Cheney Praises Fox News Channel
Vice President Calls Network ‘More Accurate’ Than Others

Really, it’s over

As I get ready for bed, I look over at the clock radio wistfully realizing that when Bob Edwards nudges me awake with his soothing voice, it will be the last time.
I’ll have to wake up extra early so I can hear his last show repeat from 5am to 10am. Perhaps by the 3rd tape delay, I’ll be sick of hearing it and ready to move on with my life.

The party’s over

There’s only one word to describe “Will & Grace” this season, and it’s doubly true with tonight’s season finale:

C’mon, everyone’s doing it

The big meme of the day:

1.Find your 23rd post (or closest to).
2.Find the fifth sentence (or closest to).
3.Post the text of the sentence in your blog along with these instructions.

No interrogation, no demonstrating that my PowerBook was real and not a bomb, no sniffing my sneakers.

Marching on Washington? Try Surfing.

A group is installing free WiFi access here in D.C. on the National Mall, around the Capitol, and on the steps of the Supreme Court:

Members of the Open Park Project already have set up a wireless access point covering the Supreme Court and the Capitol and say they hope to extend wireless broadband coverage across the capital’s monument-filled core within a year.

Greg Staple, a director of the group, said free Internet access for anyone using a wireless-equipped laptop would enhance the traditions of free expression and democracy embodied in the public buildings and monuments that line the two-mile grassy strip.

Ratings grab or war statement?

The pleasingly snarky Lisa deMoraes in the Post comments on an upcoming Nightline:

ABC News’s “Nightline” will devote its entire broadcast on Friday to reading the names of the more than 500 U.S. servicemen and servicewomen who have been killed in action in Iraq.

As anchor Ted Koppel reads the names for the entire half-hour, viewers will see photographs of those killed since March 19, 2003, as certified by the Defense Department.

In its announcement yesterday, ABC News said the program was its way of paying tribute to the dead. And “Nightline” executive producer Leroy Sievers called it the program’s way to “remind our viewers — whether they agree with the war or not — that beyond the casualty numbers, these men and women are serving in Iraq in our names, and that those who have been killed have names and faces.”

That is good to know because otherwise we might be left thinking that Friday’s broadcast, which ABC will simulcast on its Jumbotron in New York’s Times Square, is a cheap, content-free stunt designed to tug at our heartstrings and bag a big number on the second night of the May ratings race.

Koppel, also in the announcement, acknowledged that Memorial Day might have been “the most logical occasion” to do the program. Ya think?

“But we felt that the impact would actually be greater on a day when the entire nation is not focused on war dead,” he said.

Ah yes, and, of course, Memorial Day falls outside the May sweeps, when viewer levels are used by the networks to set advertising rates. Memorial Day is also traditionally a day of very low television viewing. He forgot to mention that stuff.

Sievers and others we spoke with at ABC News insisted they did not realize that the May sweeps start tomorrow.

Additionally, he told Poynter Online yesterday that the idea came out of a brainstorming session and Koppel was all for it, as was the management of ABC News. Imagine, nobody at ABC News stopped to think that telecasting this thing on the second night of the May sweeps might appear like an unseemly sweeps ratings grab.

Who’d have thought that the only people in broadcast TV with no awareness of ratings sweeps periods all work at ABC News? I mean, what are the odds, really?

Update, April 29: Surprise, surprise! The right-wing Sinclair Broadcast Group has ordered it’s ABC-affiliated stations to pre-empt the Nightline broadcast. They say it’s “contrary to the public interest.”
Well, it’s certainly not in the public interest to look into the faces of the more than 700 servicemembers killed fighting a poorly conceived war started by the political party that the Sinclair Broadcast Group gave $50,000 to.
Update, April 30: The story continues:

By way of supporting its contention that the “Nightline” broadcast is an antiwar statement, Sinclair noted that Koppel will not be reading the names of “the thousands of private citizens killed in terrorists attacks since and including the events of September 11, 2001.”

“We do not oppose an honest and sincere effort to honor those who lost their lives in Iraq, but it’s important at the same time to inform people about why we’re there, leading to the loss of life,” Faber told The TV Column.

But ABC News noted that all of its programs, including “Nightline,” have reported “hundreds” of stories about the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and that on the first anniversary of 9/11, ABC News broadcast the names of the victims.

“The average viewer who watches the show [tonight] is not going to remember that,” Faber shot back.
Regardless of whether the Nightline broadcast was initially designed to garner high ratings, Sinclair has assured that it will be a bigger event than intended. And Sinclair is really coming off badly with its churlish statements. And frankly, like the Bush administration they support, Sinclair’s protest simply bolsters the arguments of the left, making it obvious that they don’t want the American public to contemplate the losses in Iraq.

Ted Koppel responded to Lisa deMoraes’ snarkiness in a letter to the editor today. Read it in the extended entry.

Not a Ratings Stunt
Friday, April 30, 2004; Page A28

I’m sorry that Lisa de Moraes has such a low opinion of my “Nightline” co-workers and me [TV Column, April 28]. If she were correct in alleging that we are using the names and images of our Iraqi war dead to artificially inflate our ratings, I would have a pretty low opinion of us also.

We have been doing little but covering the war in Iraq for more than a year now. For most of that time, we have ended each broadcast with a segment titled “In The Line of Duty.” In it, we refer to those U.S. troops who have been killed and wounded that day.

There are ways to artificially boost Nightline’s ratings and they could involve a list of names. Kobe Bryant, for one; Scott and Laci Peterson seem to attract a lot of viewer attention, as, of course, does Michael Jackson.

But that’s not what we do. It’s not who we are.

Frankly, I will be surprised if our ratings go up tonight when I read the names of our war dead in Iraq. Either way, though, it will all average out over the rest of the month when we continue to devote the lion’s share of our coverage to the ongoing war and its implications.

Anchor and Managing Editor
ABC News Nightline

Watch your mouth

Here’s what Bush advisor Karen Hughes had to say when asked about the Pro-Choice March on Washington. I won’t editorialize, it’s up to you to decide what she’s saying about the marchers. I will, however, point out that you should note the way all the Bush staff carefully work September 11 into every subject they talk about:

Asked by host Wolf Blitzer how big an issue she thought abortion would be in this year’s presidential election, Hughes responded: “Well, Wolf, it’s always an issue. And I frankly think it’s changing somewhat. I think after September 11th the American people are valuing life more and realizing that we need policies to value the dignity and worth of every life.”

The former White House counselor then noted that President Bush has urged Americans to “be reasonable” about the issue and to encourage a reduction in the number of abortions performed each year in a variety of ways, including by encouraging more adoptions.

“And I think those are the kind of policies that the American people can support, particularly at a time when we’re facing an enemy, and really the fundamental difference between us and the terror network we fight is that we value every life,” she added. “It’s the founding conviction of our country, that we’re endowed by our creator with certain unalienable rights, the right to life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Unfortunately our enemies in the terror network, as we’re seeing repeatedly in the headlines these days, don’t value any life, not even the innocent and not even their own.”

Someday the press will ask about the President’s dog or something, and the response will include a reference to September 11.

Top Republican Fights Marriage Injustice

Here’s what Trent Lott had to say about an issue swirling around marriage:
“A looming injustice that must be eliminated forever.”

Nope, he’s not talking about the fact that marriage is denied to one segment of American citizens. He’s talking about the fact that some married couples, through a quirk in the tax code, may pay more in taxes than if they filed separately.

Thank goodness the right-wingers are so concerned about injustice.

Lock up all the scientists

Remember the sci-fi miniseries “V”? The one where the aliens rounded up scientists who could have exposed them?
From Scientific American:

In February his White House received failing marks in a statement signed by 62 leading scientists, including 20 Nobel laureates, 19 recipients of the National Medal of Science, and advisers to the Eisenhower and Nixon administrations. It begins, “Successful application of science has played a large part in the policies that have made the United States of America the world’s most powerful nation and its citizens increasingly prosperous and healthy. Although scientific input to the government is rarely the only factor in public policy decisions, this input should always be weighed from an objective and impartial perspective to avoid perilous consequences…. The administration of George W. Bush has, however, disregarded this principle.”

Doubters of that judgment should read the report from the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) that accompanies the statement, “Restoring Scientific Integrity in Policy Making” (available at Among the affronts that it details: The administration misrepresented the findings of the National Academy of Sciences and other experts on climate change. It meddled with the discussion of climate change in an Environmental Protection Agency report until the EPA eliminated that section. It suppressed another EPA study that showed that the administration’s proposed Clear Skies Act would do less than current law to reduce air pollution and mercury contamination of fish. It even dropped independent scientists from advisory committees on lead poisoning and drug abuse in favor of ones with ties to industry.

Let us offer more examples of our own. The Department of Health and Human Services deleted information from its Web sites that runs contrary to the president’s preference for “abstinence only” sex education programs. The Office of Foreign Assets Control made it much more difficult for anyone from “hostile nations” to be published in the U.S., so some scientific journals will no longer consider submissions from them. The Office of Management and Budget has proposed overhauling peer review for funding of science that bears on environmental and health regulations–in effect, industry scientists would get to approve what research is conducted by the EPA.

None of those criticisms fazes the president, though. Less than two weeks after the UCS statement was released, Bush unceremoniously replaced two advocates of human embryonic stem cell research on his advisory Council on Bioethics with individuals more likely to give him a hallelujah chorus of opposition to it.

Blind loyalists to the president will dismiss the UCS report because that organization often tilts left–never mind that some of those signatories are conservatives. They may brush off this magazine’s reproofs the same way, as well as the regular salvos launched by California Representative Henry A. Waxman of the House Government Reform Committee and maybe even Arizona Senator John McCain’s scrutiny for the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. But it is increasingly impossible to ignore that this White House disdains research that inconveniences it.

I got the power

This explains it: for a month or so since I’ve had an 800 number, I’ve gotten a few calls that are hang ups. Today, I got a call from a chatty lady who informed me that the operator had given her my 800 number as the business office of Commonwealth Electric.
I might get myself a post office box for people to send their payments to.