Saturday, November 17, 2007

My New Hero

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My friends, I am pleased to announce that today I have a new hero. Her name is Anita Esterday.

She's a waitress at a Maid-Rite restaurant in Iowa, where she serves up some of that chain's famous "loose meat" sandwiches. (I've always thought "loose meat" sounded vaguely disgusting, but Midwesterners apparently eat them by the truckload, so maybe they're good).

Anyway, Ms. Esterday was working behind the lunch counter at the Maid Rite in Toledo, Iowa, when Hillary Clinton and her campaign staff rolled through. Little did she know that, when she was assigned to wait on the group, she was on her way to becoming the center of the kind of much-ado-about-nothing kerfluffle that has become the trademark of the so-called "liberal" media's coverage of Democratic candidates.

The day after Hillary mentioned Esterday, a single mom, in her stump speech, National Public Radio reported that she'd said in an interview that Clinton didn't leave a tip.

I have to confess: When my wife and I heard the story on NPR's "Morning Edition," we looked at each other and winced. "Ooh," we said, "that's gonna hurt." I even opined that that was going to be 2007's version of "the Scream," that endlessly hyped, over-the-top oration that served as the death knell for Howard Dean's campaign. Not because I thought it meant anything, but because I know the media.

After all, what do a candidate's positions on the issues really matter, so long as he or she did something to give the guys on late-night TV something to make fun of? Let's not bicker and argue about Clinton's constant attempts to have things both ways on subjects like withdrawal from Iraq and immigration. The real issue is how good or bad a tipper she is.

I mean, if she wins, how are we going to be able to have any international credibility if we invite Vladimir Putin to a state dinner and Hillary stiffs the waiter?

With depressing predictability, the story spread like wildfire, being picked up immediately by online scandal monger Matt Drudge. Soon ABC and NBC were carrying the tale, because God forbid some right-wing shill on the Internet should cover a story and the major networks not flock after him, bleating like sheep.

Even The New York Times got into the act, calling it a "potentially embarrassing mini-scandal." The only thing that surprises me is that some idiot hasn't dubbed it "Tip-gate."

By the way, is anyone in the "liberal" media following Rudy Giuliani or Mitt Romney or Fred Thompson around and recording how much they tip? I certainly haven't heard anything about it if they are. Is it because when a prominent Republican treats a working-class person like dirt, it isn't news, it's what everyone expects? Seems a bit unfair to the Republicans, don't you think?

I'll give the Clinton campaign this, though: They're savvy enough to realize that there is no charge that's too silly or too devoid of substance for the national media to spin up into an issue that dogs a candidate for weeks. And rather than make the Kerry mistake of hoping the stupid thing will just dry up and blow away, they've decided to wade right into the mud and fight back.

To that end, they've established a "rapid response" team, complete with its own Web site called The Fact Hub, to debunk stories like this.

Hillary stiffed a waitress? Not so, they said. The bill was paid by a campaign staffer, who did leave a tip. In fact, they said, the staffer left a $100 tip on a $157 check, a whopping 64 percent. So, of course, Fox News' E.D. Hill found something to criticize about that. Calling Clinton a typical "Learjet liberal," Hill sneered about how the alleged big tip showed "what people say about the Democratic Party -- that it's out of touch with reality."

Let's review: Hillary didn't leave a tip, she's a hypocrite and mean to working people. Hillary tips too much, she's a "Learjet liberal" out of touch with reality. Maybe Fox should change its motto from "We report, you decide," to "Heads we win, tails you lose."

Then the hard-hitting investigative journalism really began. The manager acknowledged that a tip was left, but didn't say how much. Esterday insisted in a followup call that she hadn't seen any of it. (One wonders if perhaps the manager may have pocketed the cash).

But then, my friends, is when Anita said something that made her my new hero. "You people are nuts," she told one of the dozens of reporters who'd been plaguing her. "There's kids dying in the war, the price of oil right now -- there's better things in this world to be thinking about than who served Hillary Clinton at Maid-Rite and who got a tip and who didn't get a tip."

Anita, you rule. Maybe NPR should put you in charge.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Copy Edits

The copy edited MS of BREAKING COVER arrived today.

I've done a quick review. Jesus, how did I MAKE some of those mistakes? Not only did I make them, I missed them in THREE SUBSEQUENT DRAFTS.

Repeated words and phrases, dropped punctuation, etc. etc.

Apparently, I am no longer competent to write in my native language. I need to learn to lay brick or something, because I sure as hell can't put a sentence on paper anymore without embarrassing myself.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Writer's Strike: Take This Video Viral

So the networks say they won't make any money off the Internet to share with the writers? Funny, that's not that they said in these interviews. The Les Moonves quote at the end is is especially devastating.

Spread this video far and wide...

Hat tip to Tod Goldberg

Monday, November 12, 2007

Quote of the Week

George P. Pelecanos, quoted in Patrick Anderson's Triumph of the Thriller:

"All the novels, to some degree, attempt to humanize and illuminate the lives of people who are typically underrepresented in American fiction. I mean to leave a record of this town, to entertain and to promote discussion. My method is simple: to present the world as it is, rather than the way readers want it to be."

Damn right. I'm putting this up above the computer.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

The Dusty Awards, Part II

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We're back, my friends, with Part 2 of the nominations for the Dusty Awards.

As you may remember from last week, I hope to establish the "Dusties" as a sort of anti-Pulitzer Prize, a celebration of the truly ridiculous, absurd, and just plain wrong in media.

This week, we have the nominations for a category I've named the Princess and the Pea Award.

This one is named after the fairy tale of the princess who was so sensitive that she couldn't sleep on a stack of mattresses and bedding because a tiny pea underneath the whole pile felt like a boulder to her royal tushie. "They saw at once," the story goes, "that she must be a real princess when she had felt the pea through 20 mattresses and 20 feather beds. Nobody but a real princess could have such a delicate skin."

This award goes to journalists or commentators whose thin skin and delicate constitution leads them to try to create the most mortal insult to truth, justice and the American Way from the smallest incident.

The first nominee is, once again, our old friend Glenn Beck of CNN. Ol' Glenn managed to work himself into a lather over, of all things, the upcoming G.I. Joe movie, because Joe, says Glenn, "has now been discharged from the American military, and Hollywood now has him answering to some bullcrap international force like the U.N. We all know that the U.N. is a toothless bunch of pansies. They don't deserve somebody like Joe, even the little plastic version."

Glenn, Princess, there's something called a "life" you might look into getting. It's G.I. Joe, Glenn. It's a stupid movie based on a stupid cartoon based on a stupid -- OK, well the toys weren't stupid. In fact, they were pretty awesome. But still, lighten up. Joe's made of plastic. You can't insult plastic people. Well, maybe Paris Hilton.

The second nominee is the right-wing "news" Web site WND founder Joseph Farah, among others, got his knickers in a wad over a Google Doodle.

What's a Google Doodle, you may ask? Well, the online search site Google occasionally puts up little lighthearted pictures -- "doodles" -- into its logo: a pumpkin for Halloween replacing the "o" in "Google," a shamrock for St. Patrick's Day, etc.

When the 50th anniversary of the launching of the Soviet satellite Sputnik rolled around, the folks at Google put a little picture of the cosmic traveler in the logo. Shouldn't be a big deal, right? The launching of Sputnik was a historical event of major significance. It jolted the U.S. out of complacency and kick-started the space race that led us to eventually put men on the moon. So why not commemorate it, however whimsically?

Enter the Princess Farah, his tender sensibilities bruised beyond his ability to bear. Why, he sputtered, should we "honor" the accomplishment of those dirty Reds, especially since Google didn't put up a doodle for Veterans Day or Memorial Day?

"When they ignore Veterans Day and Memorial Day," Farah writes, "I think they're telling us something about the way they view America."

This ignores the fact that Google always puts up patriotic Doodles for the Fourth of July. Not to mention the fact there are no real cutesy pictures to put up for somber holidays like those, at least not without sending the Princesses into another fit of high dudgeon.

Nominations for this award, by the way, will stay open until the end of the year. After all, November and December are the prime months for conservative pundits to lash themselves into a teeth-gnashing frenzy over some store putting up "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas" in its window.

Seriously, what is wrong with these people? Why the obsessive need to take minutiae and try to inflate them into national crises?

Well, I have two theories. The first is that the 24-hour demand for news, and the proliferation of commentators, means that people like Beck and Farah are desperate for something, anything, that will provide them with material to fill those long and empty hours. The other theory is that they're all just a bunch of weenies. You make the call.

Meanwhile, the Senate just approved a nominee for attorney general who says he can't decide if waterboarding is torture, even though we called it a war crime when the Japanese did it.

Oh, and said nominee for the nation's top law-enforcement official also thinks the president can simply ignore laws that Congress passes, so long as he can claim it's for our own good. Haven't heard Messrs. Beck or Farah issue a peep over this real outrage.

But hoo-boy, let Barack Obama fail to wear a flag pin in his lapel, and listen to the Princesses squeal.