Monthly Archives: June 2009

Shepherd Smith Strays from the Talking Points

Sometime last year, I remember when Shepherd Smith, Frank Luntz (the guy who does the focus groups), and some political consultant were the guests on a Fox News show. They were talking about Guantanamo Bay. Smith and Luntz both spoke very strongly against keeping people imprisoned indefinitely at Gitmo. Smith said it was a violation of the US Constitution.

Well, that really surprised me.

Now there’s a video in which Shepherd Smith talks about the email he receives from Fox viewers. He describes it as really scary stuff.

Shepherd Smith better watch himself. He’ll get himself fired.

There’s another video on Youtube in which Chris Wallace really goes after those three brainless anchors on Fox & Friends, whom I affectionately refer to as Gomer, Legs, and Squirrelly. He criticizes them for what he describes as two hours of Obama-bashing over something he felt they were taking out of context. Wallace, fortunately, has stature and credibility to spare, and could easily land somewhere else. I’m not so sure about Shep.

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If Guys Planned Baby Showers


L-r: Jonathan (brother), me (uncle), Tom and Paula, someone else, DJ (Stu and Joyce’s foster son), Dad (soon-to-be great-grandpa), Benjamin (brother), Stu (soon-to-be-grandpa).

This afternoon I attended my first baby shower. Yes, a co-ed baby shower.

It was for Paula Merkle, my niece (my brother Stu’s daughter). She’s a bit on the unconventional side, at least thinking-wise, and evidently didn’t want to exclude her three brothers. They’re all close, and I’m sure she figured any event is more fun when her brothers are involved. As it turned out, oldest brother Curt had to work, but Ben and Jonathan were there. And, of course, her supremely beloved Uncle Steve.

Tom and Paula were married two years ago, and live near Convoy, Ohio. Tom is an electrician in Van Wert, and Paula manages “The Bridge,” a Christian bookstore in Van Wert. Paula is a very aggressive volleyball player. Tom is…tall.

I, of course, held certain reservations about attending a baby shower. Like: games. Or, as women who attend baby showers normally say, “stupid games” or “silly games.” While these games may ultimately produce some laughs, I deeply doubt that women head off to baby showers excited about the games. I’m certain Pam doesn’t. The games are something they must endure. Something they mindlessly feel must be done, else it’s not a real baby shower.

I suspect that husband Tom, Stu, or the collective brothers vetoed the games. “If I have to play silly games, I’m not coming,” I can see any of them threatening. On the other hand, I don’t see Paula being particularly excited about games, either. And she would be one to question tradition. “Is there anything in the Bible that demands that you have games at a baby shower?” she might ask.

So there were eight guys at this shower. I don’t know if we ruined the event for the ladies. Or maybe, without the games, they too found it tolerable and less stressful.

Actually, since Paula’s having a boy, guys SHOULD be there. Don’t you think?

In fact, perhaps the whole baby shower concept needs a remake with a male twist. If guys were in charge of planning a baby shower, it would look something like this:

  • No games.
  • More food, but nothing homemade. Instead: lots of pizza delivered.
  • Money, instead of gifts. Except maybe for a super-soaker, for when the kid is 7.
  • No Hallmark cards. Absolutely not.
  • A televised football game playing in the corner.
  • Okay, the women can bring dessert. We need dessert.
  • Random burping and grunting.
  • Nothing pink or baby blue in sight.
  • In fact, no decorations whatsoever.
  • Boisterousness.

Would that be so bad?

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Books: Man Who Smiled, The James Deans


Just finished Henning Mankell’s “The Man Who Smiled,” an Inspector Wallander mystery. Started out a bit slow, with Wallander agonizing over having killed a really bad guy in the previous book. He finally works through his emotional trauma, after months and months, and goes back to work.

The Swedes are very squeamish. Spencer, in good American fashion, would just shoot a baddie and go on with life. Wallander gets all introspective and is ready to quit the force. Wallander’s emotional fragility gets old. For me. Nevertheless, Mankell’s books are nearly always excellent. 

I’ve read eight Wallander books now. This wasn’t among his best. THE best was still “The White Lioness.” That was a masterpiece. 

Before this book, I finished “The James Deans,” by Reed Farrel Coleman. It introduced me to a private eye named Moe Prager. An interesting kind of guy, former New York cop (most private eyes are ex-cops). The plot was kind of a two-parter: solve one case, then solve it again. It was enjoyable, but I probably won’t bother reading another Moe Prager book. Too many other mystery protagonists I care about more.

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Whatever Happened to Mark What’s-His-Name?


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Benefits of the Doubt for Iran

As much as I would like to despise Iran, I can’t help but think they aren’t quite the Picture of Evil that we commonly see portrayed in the United States.

Don’t get me wrong. Iran is no knight in shining armor. At least some elements of Iran are helping the insurgents in Iraq kill US troops (though, in the 1980s, we helped underground groups assassinate numerous Iranian politicians). Iran is the force behind Hezbollah, which is a big threat to Israel. They have human rights issues. And they’re trying to develop The Bomb. 


1. Iran, I read some time ago, has one of the world’s highest proportions of blogs. Blogs are a sign of free speech, a vehicle for dissent and robust discourse. How authoritarian can you be when you allow so much free speech? When so many of your citizens roam the internet? 

2. Prior to 2002, when George Bush placed Iran in his Axis of Evil, Iran was pursuing a moderate course and was helping the United States. Dick Cheney, according to David Sanger’s “The Inheritance,” continually shot down any attempts to reach out to Iran (others in the administration favored reaching out, but Cheney, in those early years, held virtual veto power).

3. The current presidential election shows a vigorous democracy, wrapped in an Islamic package. Ahmadinejad is on the ropes, his political life coming to an end against a more popular opponent.  “His reformist and conservative opponents alike have criticized him publicly for spending too much time agitating the U.S. and Israel and not enough trying to fix the crumbling economy,” writes Middle East expert Fawaz Gerges on 

Plus, Ahmadinejad is losing both the youth and the women’s vote. Half of the country’s eligible voters are women. His opponent promises to loosen restrictions on women, and pretty much publicly mocks those restrictions.

Now, Ahmadinejad’s role is mostly domestic. He’s not the commander in chief, not the country’s top executive. It’s a different role than being president in the US. But it’s still the top job subject to the will of the people, and the president is the face of the country to the rest of the world. (David Sanger’s book includes one chapter about Iran. While it focuses on Iran’s efforts to build nuclear weapons, he also tells some stories about Ahmadinejad that confirm how much of a total idiot he is.)

4. This is worth repeating: Half of the country’s eligible voters are women. So don’t call them a fundamentalist Islamic state. There is a very strong women’s movement in Iran. Iran does not like being described as an Arab state or being lumped in with other Arab states.

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Book: Robert Parker’s “Resolution”

resolution.jpegYesterday, after returning from National Conference, I finished Robert Parker’s western, Resolution. I started it just before heading off to the conference, and read about 100 pages while there. It’s a pretty quick read, and reads fast. You don’t lose interest.

Resolution is a sequel to Appaloosa, which was made into a movie starting Ed Harris and Aragorn…I mean, Viggo Mortenson. They are a team of freelance lawmen who hire themselves out to towns as sheriff and deputy. It’s not what they do in Resolution, but it’s what they’d done for 15 years.

The books are told first-person by Everett Hitch, the sidekick, a graduate of West Point and veteran of the Indian Wars. Mortenson played him expertly in the movie. Parker strictly follows the first-person approach, not alternating between first- and second-person, ala Richard Patterson. Hitch is in every scene, and you see nothing that Hitch doesn’t see. (Appaloosa actually started with a second-person back-story scene, but once Hitch appears, it’s all his point of view.)

Ed Harris played the part of Virgil Cole, the truly expert gunslinger–a very quiet, introspective fellow. He is an utterly fascinating character.

I’m trying to remember how I mentally pictured Virgil Cole when I read Appaloosa, Because throughout Resolution, I could only see Ed Harris. That’s one of the curses of Hollywood. I could only picture Viggo Mortensen as Hitch, too. I initially had trouble seeing Ed Harris in that role, but his performance redeemed it. 

I’m sure Resolution will become a movie, and I hope Harris and Mortenson return. Parker has written a third book, Brimstone, now in hardback. This raises the possibility of a western movie franchise. When has that happened last? John Wayne did two Rooster Cogburn movies. Before that, you had Clint Eastwood’s Spaghetti Western flicks, where he basically played the same character. It would be great to see a 21st Century western series. I don’t imagine Westerns are expensive to make. 

Resolution makes many references back to Appaloosa, particularly regarding Virgil Cole’s lady friend there. Since “Appaloosa” religiously followed the book, I would imagine they would do the same in Resolution. I just hope they can get Ed Harris and Viggo Mortenson back. They played their roles in an appropriately understated, but convincing, way. I’m sure that when I read Brimstone, I will again be picturing them.

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I’m Feeling Cranky

Yesterday, once again, the Office Depot at Covington didn’t have what I needed. And once again, they offered to order it from their website. Several times, it’s been computer monitors (even though they had plenty of those slips which indicate that they’ve got extras in the back). Once it was a laser printer (again–plenty of slips). Yesterday, it was color toner cartridges.

News flash: there’s a reason I make a special trip to your Big Box. If I want to order from a website, I won’t GO TO THE STORE.

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