Wednesday, December 28, 2005

John? Done.

Way back when I was in high school and was convinced that John Demjanjuk was Ivan the Terrible (an infamous Nazi death camp guard), my mother said something to me that, given that her brothers fought in World War II, surprised me. She said that you do things in war you wouldn't do any time else and it was time to let it go. I don't believe she was right at the time she said it, but I believe she's right now.

To recap those of you who were not living in the Cleveland, Ohio area in the 70s, 80s, or 90s, Demjanjuk is a retired auto worker who was found to have lied on his entry papers to the United States and was given to Israel for trial as the aforementioned Ivan the Terrible. After being found guilty and sentenced to death, the Israeli Supreme Court found that he was not Ivan the Terrible as was claimed. So back he came to Ohio and U.S. citizenship. The Justice Department then asked for deportation again, now having linked him to being a Nazi camp guard at a different place.

He has once again been found guilty of lying on his entry papers and on 28 December 2005, John Demjanjuk was ordered deported to the Ukraine, which is all the U.S. can do in the matter. Was he a death camp guard? Well, the Federal Courts seem to think so, but they also thought he was Ivan the Terrible. Demjanjuk is (as of 28 December 2005) 85 years old. When you're that old, a life sentence could mean twelve minutes. And just who is the Justice Department satisfying and protecting with this? Israel has not asked for him to try him and last I checked, there weren't any secret death camps down by Parmatown Mall. So what's the point?

Only he knows for sure who and what he is, but he'll be meeting his maker really soon to iron all that out. If he should somehow win his appeal of deportation, I think it's time the Justice Department leave him alone. And if they really need something to do, I understand there are some long distance calls from Al Qaeda that need analysis.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

What Is News?

On March 3rd CNN radio reported that the U.S. Army didn't meet its most recent recruiting goals. While this is a mildly interesting fact, the fact that it is news is one of those things that a conservative like me sees as media bias. It's more of a who cares item for anyone not intimately involved with the armed services. However, the war has become a political issue and therefore anything to do with the war has become a political issue. And judging from the Op Ed pages, there is a movement among a segment of the intelligentsia for a return of the draft. A story such as this is fodder to emotionally (not intellectually) support this.

The attempt of some to recreate the Viet Nam is a subject for another day, but the fact that this story gets prominent play hints that someone who assigns the stories for CNN is thinking along these political lines.

Being a radio veteran, I understand the slow news day problem, but on a day when a man completes a solo round the world flight without refueling, the 30 seconds they took for this story did have somewhere to go, perhaps to the Bush barnstorming of Social Security reform which was reported something like this:

Announcer: President Bush will begin a multi-state barnstorming tour to support his reform of Social Security, starring in New Jersey and finishing in Maine. Cindy Expert of the Institute Against Republicans says it won't work.

Cindy: Social Security is fine. There is no problem. The president is lying. The stock market is evil.

Announcer: The Government Accounting Office says benefits will have to be cut in the future, as soon as 2040.

This looks fair and balanced, but look a little more closely. Do you get the president or the announcer first laying out the president's case before it gets rebutted? No. Rebuttal without an argument is a very clever to tell one side of a story without telling the other. I do however admit surprise that the GAO information was even mentioned. Yes, I know the purpose was to show how far in the future before a problem will arise, but at least it concedes there is a problem, unlike Cindy Expert.

After all this, I'm not going to call for any changes in the news world. There will always be bias, no matter how the news is prepared and presented. In my mind, where there needs to be change is in how we listen.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Don't Take My Money, Please

As a former ad man (I wrote radio commercials for many years) I pay attention to commercials on a different level than most, sizing them up for how well they accomplish their missions. And I have noticed a strange thing in at least two commercial campaigns: the commercials are telling you not to use the product. I don't think the creators mean them to do that, but that's what they do.

The first is a credit notification commercial which has a man being harassed in his kitchen, car, and bedroom by a notifier telling the man that his credit rating is fine and his identity hasn't been stolen. At one point the service wakes him from a sound sleep to tell him this information. This commercial, while funny, delivers the message "Our product will annoy you." Now while some of us will intentionally annoy ourselves for potential benefit, it usually isn't in the arena of credit watching.

The second one is on both radio and television. It is the travel site with the lawn gnome, where they debunk travel myths. The ads announce what they consider is a myth about booking travel and then give the benefits of their service. However, they immediately follow it announcing a myth such as "it's bad to touch jellyfish" followed by the gnome getting stung by the jellyfish. It, too, is funny, but says "We're lying" or at least "you can't trust us."

You can be funny in an ad without destroying the message you want to send. The travel site's ads could be altered slightly to "Truth or Fiction?" giving the same travel point saying that the myth is fiction, then doing the jellyfish bit with the gnome getting stung, saying that was true. The fix on the credit commercial could be something like a guy not being able to do anything because he's worried that his identity has been stolen. Then, after he gets the credit service, he's calm and serene.

At any rate, whenever delivering a public message designed to persuade, you must take a look at what you're saying under the surface, or else, like the jellyfish, it could come back to sting you.

Monday, February 07, 2005

He's Just a Bill. Yes, He's Only a Bill

First, congratulations to Bill Belichick on winning his third Superbowl. His team, while as boring as he was during his tenure with the Browns, knows how to win and does just that.

That said, I was surprised to find Cris Collinsworth even mentioning that Bill coached in Cleveland and what a disaster that was. But he did, saying that people in Cleveland must be scratching their heads at the success he's having now.

Well, this expatriate (no pun intended) isn't scratching his head about Bill's success now. What pretty much all of greater Cleveland was scratching their head about was his coaching in Cleveland. With hindsight a plenty, these days most Clevelanders will say they wanted Bill Cowher, but at the time sentiment was split between Cowher and Belichick as choices for head coach, because Bill B. was young and was thought to be something of a defensive genius. And yet his some of his football moves with Cleveland just didn't make sense.

History has proven him more right than wrong about Bernie Kosar's diminishing skills (which was more a PR disaster than a football disaster.) But "Metcalf up the middle" became literally a running joke in Cleveland, mocking Belichick's penchant for trying to run the slight Eric Metcalf up the gut, especially when the more durable Leroy Hoard was available for such duty. But looking back at those times, one must conclude that Belichick was trying to win with, let's face it, a less than stellar football cast.

The teams of Art "The Great Satan" Modell while in Cleveland drafted horrendously. (It must be something in Lake Erie, because Carmen Policy didn't do any better.) The unsung hero in Boston is the Patriots' general manager (so unsung, in fact, that I have forgotten his name.) But even there, Bill had a hand. In much of a similar replay to Cleveland, Bill benched the popular Drew Bledsoe for the boring, workmanlike Tom Brady, who, to paraphrase Al Davis, just wins, baby.

So Belichick has vindication (if he wants it,) and yet another Superbowl. It's nice to see that somebody got the Belichick we'd hoped we'd get all along. And, yes, his teams are still boring. But I'll take boring and winning every day and especially twice on Sunday.