Admit it…do you watch Jerry Springer?

NB: Boy, did I mess up yesterday. I gave the impression that Obama’s 100th day was today. Actually, it won’t be until next Wednesday. So on top of not keeping track, I can’t even count! Mea Culpa.

So I was thinking the other day about my television viewing habits, and why I watch what I watch. I began this exercise by trying to figure out which stations I watch most frequently. If I’m honest about it, movie channels seem to pop up most often. Not the HBO and Showtime pay variety, but Turner Classic, IFC, and Sundance. TCM shows some really great old stuff, and IFC and Sundance (though they repeat stuff way too many times) also have film fare worth watching. And oh yeah, Sundance is home to my favorite series, Shameless.

I then realized that for someone who follows news closely, I don’t watch a lot of cable news programming. The talk shows and banal and/or infuriating, but even the regular news broadcasts don’t hold my attention. I tend to follow the news arc on computer instead. For some reason it seems faster, even if it’s not.

Then I began to delve into the darker, less logical areas of my TV viewing. What could explain my pathological affection for “The Jerry Springer Show?” Most folks think it’s the dregs of the medium, but I find it wildly hilarious. When I told Jerry on meeting him for the first time I was a fan of his show, he looked at me with pity and said “You have my deepest sympathy.” Then there’s my love/hate relationship with reality television. Most reality shows I won’t watch. From American Idol to Flava of Love to Real Housewives of Wherever, I find most of them to be totally useless.


Yet a closer examination of what I watch makes me out a hypocrite. I actually have watched more than one episode of Dog the Bounty Hunter. Yeah, I should know better. I also find Manhunters: Fugitive Task Force oddly compelling. After all, those folks are based here in the New York area. And then there’s Cheaters. Trash TV at its worst, yet I’ll still catch it now and then. My wife and daughter, Idol fans both, are quick to point out the contradiction of trying to be high-minded and yet attracted to junk at the same time.

Much as I hate to admit it, they’re right. And never mind sports on the tube. I spend hours on Saturday morning yelling at the footballer on the Fox Soccer Channel, especially if there’s a game on with my favorite team, Arsenal.

Am I the only person whose tv watching doesn’t always match up to my ideals? How about you? Come on, admit it!
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Are you overdosing on Obama's First 100 Days?

Yes, in case you haven’t been paying attention, it’s tomorrow!

Barack Obama’s first 100 days in office…that is.

Is it me, or have we been counting these days since, well, January 20th? Certainly the state of the nation’s economy has contributed to the deep scrutiny of this president’s every move. That, and a cable news netherworld which feeds on little else. We’ve learned so much about Barack Obama and his family it’s a wonder we have time for anything else.


Barack’s basketball skills, Michelle’s gardening skills, Malia’s fashion sense, Bo the dog, Michele’s clothes, Barack’s smoking habit…we know so much! It’s all been delivered with the same deadly earnest with which news anchors discuss the economy. Maybe we should have expected this, what with the whole first black president thing. Still, shouldn’t we expect more from the media?

One thing is for sure. When it comes to actual policy, Americans and the cable networks might as well be in two different worlds. The faces of hosts like Glenn Beck, Bill O’Reilly, and Sean Hannity are mingled with Republican retreads like Karl Rove, Newt Gingrich, and Dick Cheney to create a near seamless anti-Obamathon.

This is doubtless where their bread is buttered, but the problem with their collective analysis of Obama’s first 100 days (coming tomorrow to a tv near you) is the idea they speak for America.

After all, if they didn’t have Obama to bash, what in the world would they talk about? Oh yeah, I forgot. Carrie Prejean , the Craigslist killer, and Susan Boyle. Mike Lupica of the Daily News ran a column the other day that made a whole lot of sense. Why not just let Obama do his job? Why the constant examination of all things Barack?

To be sure, not all the analysis of the president’s first 100 days will be trivial , nor should it be all positive. Is it too much to ask that it be measured? Probably. Thoughtful? Nah, doesn’t sell. Accurate? That only matters if someone gets caught playing fast and loose with the facts.

How will you handle the coverage of Barack Obama’s first 100 days? I may be an aging cynic, but it’s getting to the point where I’m scared to watch for fear of throwing something at the television. My one comfort? Almost nobody covers a presidents second hundred days like they do the first.

You tell me. Will you overdose on Obama’s first 100 days?
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How Should Obama Deal With Torture

As President Obama approaches his first hundred days, the issue of what to do about alleged Bush Administration abuses of various treaties and  conventions on the subject have taken center stage. In a way, it’s sad to see Obama get caught in a quagmire that was not of his own doing. On the other hand, maybe he didn’t handle it as well as he could have.

It certainly made sense to release CIA memos on the torturing of certain “enemy combatants”.

Cia Memos

That’s the sort of fresh air his administration promised to deliver. Yet it was a mistake to seemingly offer blanket immunity to those who oversaw America’s detour into thuggery.

Now that it’s become apparent that “we’re moving on” wasn’t working for the president, there are broad hints from the White House that it might convene a bipartisan commission to investigate possible abuses.

This comes as new reports say  no one had even bothered to look at the history of brutal interrogation techniques like waterboarding before they were approved. Nice work, GW.


The Obama flip-flop could have been avoided had someone in the new administration lobbied for a truth and reconciliation commission like the one convened in South Africa to probe the abuses of the apartheid system.

Now, after the president told CIA workers just the other day they were home free, he appears to be backtracking. And below it all is the specter of the increasingly vocal yet irrelevant former Vice President Dick Cheney.

He now says Obama should release CIA memos showing the success of waterboarding in wringing actionable intelligence from its victims. This tells us a couple of things.

First, Cheney must have been in the loop on the original decision to torture. Okay, how about he might have actually been the architect? Second, and just as important, this person believes the end justifies the means, that torture is okay if it works.

Leaving aside for the moment the howling of some former CIA officials at Cheney’s claim, he must know that one good turn deserves another.

If the US tortures people, why would any enemy hold back on doing the same to Americans?

But the central issue is this. President Obama must take firm action to assure the world that America rejects the use of torture, and will investigate and bring to justice people in power who think otherwise. How about he starts with Dick Cheney?

What do you think?
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Mark Riley : News, Views and Progressive Opinions

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