Monday, 23 April 2007

SHERYL CROW AND PERSONAL HYGIENE

Ken Berwitz

You can't make this stuff up.

Remember Sheryl Crow?  The self-proclaimed environmental expert I just blogged about?  She and Laurie David have been "on tour" for the environment over the past couple of weeks, and have been blogging during this time.

Here, straight from those blogs, are a few of Ms. Crow's solutions to the environmental problems that bedevil humankind.  See what you think of them (bold print is mine):

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Crow (4/19, Springfield, Tenn.): I have spent the better part of this tour trying to come up with easy ways for us all to become a part of the solution to global warming. Although my ideas are in the earliest stages of development, they are, in my mind, worth investigating. One of my favorites is in the area of forest conservation which we heavily rely on for oxygen. I propose a limitation be put on how many squares of toilet paper can be used in any one sitting. Now, I don't want to rob any law-abiding American of his or her God-given rights, but I think we are an industrious enough people that we can make it work with only one square per restroom visit, except, of course, on those pesky occasions where 2 to 3 could be required.

Crow (4/19): I also like the idea of not using paper napkins, which happen to be made from virgin wood and represent the height of wastefulness. I have designed a clothing line that has what's called a "dining sleeve." The sleeve is detachable and can be replaced with another "dining sleeve," after usage. The design will offer the "diner" the convenience of wiping his mouth on his sleeve rather than throwing out yet another barely used paper product. I think this idea could also translate quite well to those suffering with an annoying head cold.

Crow (4/19): This next idea I have been saving but I will share it with you if you promise not to steal it. It is my latest, very exciting idea for creating incentive for us all to minimize our own personal carbon footprints. It's a reality show. (I feel pretty certain NO ONE has thought of this yet!) Here is the premise: the contest consists of 10 people who are competing for the top spot as the person who lives the "greenest" life. This will be reflected in the contestant's home, his business, and his own personal living style. The winner of this challenging, prestigious, contest would receive what??. . . . a recording contract!!!!!

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Let's take these one by one.

----  First there is the utterly brilliant idea of a woman using one square of toilet paper to clean herself after urination or defecation.  One square.  Oh, wait, maybe two or three squares for "pesky occasions" (I would take that to include diarrhea). 

Maybe this is why Karl Rove didn't want Crow to touch her.  Dry cleaning a suit jacket can be expensive and fumigation is extra.

----  Then there is the equally inspired concept of a "dining sleeve" so that you can wipe the spaghetti sauce, or pesto oil, or drawn butter from your lobster on your sleeve and just remove that part of the sleeve afterwards.  Or, as Ms. Crow suggests, you can blow your nose into your dining sleeve, so that in addition to the sauce and a couple of half eaten spaghetti strands, you can have some snot hanging off of it too.  How appetizing for the people at nearby tables.

Whoops, did you accidentally brush against that lady's gown with your sleeve arm?  Oh well, such are the vagaries of conservation, Crow-style.  But be on guard for when she tries to slam your head with her Judith Lieber pocketbook while calling you names that put your ancestry into question.

----  Finally, we come to the "exciting" idea that you have to promise not to steal:  Ten people compete to have the "greenest" lifestyle", and the winner gets....a RECORDING CONTRACT. 

In other words, if you, for example, cut down to using a half square of toilet paper when you crap, and never forget to wipe your food waste and blow your nose on your arm, Sheryl Crow is going to bring you into a studio and put you on a CD. 

What's that?  You don't play an instrument and can't sing?  Who cares, you're an environmental SUPER-STAR!!!  Your record will go platinum...or maybe recycled paper, which is far more desirable because of how eco-friendly it is.  Besides, if you don't like the recycled paper award, you can save it for your next bout with "one of those pesky occasions".

Sheryl.  Please just sing and wear revealing clothes. Don't blog.  Ever again.  We're begging.

UPDATE:  I don't often quote Rosie O'Donnell, but here she is, courtesy of tmz.com: Rosie took a moment on this morning's "The View" to express her incredulity at the supposedly enviro-friendly suggestion. "Have you seen my ass?!" bellowed Rosie, and Barbara Walters was good enough to warn viewers not to use their sleeves, another of Crow's helpful suggestions.


KATIE CARWRECK: SLOUCHING TOWARD THE INEVITABLE

Ken Berwitz

By the time Dan Rather left as its anchor, the CBS evening news was well back in 3rd place among the network news shows.  If there were, say 137 networks that would have been pretty impressive.  But there are three.  So bye-bye Dan.

CBS was (in their minds) thrilled to score Katie Couric from the Today show as Mr. Rather's replacement.  There were two reasons:  1) They felt she would give their news show a major ratings boost and 2) they also felt that the Today show would take a hit once she was gone.

During the interim between Rather and Couric, CBS filled in with the venerable standby, Bob Scheiffer.  I suppose they could have asked Mr. Rather to continue until Couric showed up but I think he is on a life assignment to prove those documents were real (the computer typeface is easily explained by the use of a word-processing time machine).  If he can do this, he might also prove that President Bush really did miss a couple of national guard meetings almost 40 years ago.  What could be more important than that? 

Interestingly, though not surprisingly, ratings increased somewhat during Mr. Schieffer's abbreviated tenure.  Of course after Rather, Ren and Stimpy probably would have shown some audience growth.

Then, with absolutely wall to wall PR coverage for over a month to herald her, there was Katie Couric.  The first woman news anchor.  Guaranteed to make CBS' ratings soar.  You GO girl!!!

Well, after a year at the helm, those last three words may well have gone from encouragement to policy.  Ms. Couric has become Ms. Carwreck.  Read this, from today's Philadelphia Inquirer:

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Gail Shister | CBS evening blues

Katie Couric hasn't redeemed the No. 3 newscast. Can she survive as anchor?

By Gail Shister
Inquirer Columnist
CBS executives deny it, but there's a growing feeling within the network that Katie Couric is an expensive, unfixable mistake.

So unfixable that Couric - the first woman to anchor a network nightly newscast solo - may leave CBS Evening News, probably after the 2008 presidential elections, to assume another role at the network, CBS sources say.

Despite her A-list celebrity, her $15 million salary, and a promotional blitz worthy of a Super Bowl, the former star of NBC's Today has failed to move the Nielsen needle on No. 3 Evening News since her debut seven months ago.

In a bottom-line business like television, that's a cardinal sin. Already-low morale in the news division is dropping, says a veteran correspondent there.

"It's a disaster. Everybody knows it's not working. CBS may not cut her loose, but I guarantee you, somebody's thinking about it. We're all hunkered down, waiting for the other shoe to drop."

Seven correspondents, producers and executives at CBS and other networks interviewed for this story spoke on condition of anonymity, given the sensitive nature of the Couric situation.

Couric and CBS were a bad fit from the start.

"From the moment she walked in here, she held herself above everybody else," says a CBS staffer. "We had to live up to her standards. . . . CBS has never dealt in this realm of celebrity before."

Media experts predict Couric's ratings won't improve anytime soon, given that news viewers tend to be older and averse to change.

Couric, 50,draws fewer viewers than did avuncular "interim" anchor Bob Schieffer, 20 years her senior. Much of the feature-oriented format she debuted with is gone, as is her first executive producer, Rome Hartman.

"The broadcast is an abject failure, by any measure," says Rich Hanley, director of graduate programs at the School of Communications at Quinnipiac University.

"They gambled that viewers wanted a softer, less-dramatic presentation of the news, and they lost. It's not fair to blame Couric for everything, but she's certainly the centerpiece and deserves a fair share."

CBS Evening News this season averages 7.319 million total viewers, down 5 percent from the same period a year ago, according to Nielsen Media Research.

Couric's viewership has dropped nearly 30 percent since her Sept. 5 premiere week, when she averaged an inflated 10.2 million viewers and led CBS News to its first Nielsen win since June 2001.-

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The article goes on to say that the CBS brain truss....er, trust deny Couric is on the way out.  Using that logic, if her ratings drop some more she'll be offered a piece of the network altogether.

Oh, by the way, Today replaced Katie Couric with Meredith Viera, and the show remains just as strong as ever.

From a personal standpoint, if I were going to start a morning show, the first person I would think of would be Katie Couric.  She has major positive attributes, every one of which works wonderfully for the "get dressed and get to work" time slot.  A great personality, a winning smile, the ability to conduct a very decent interview (I'm skating by her obvious Democratic/liberal bias here) and a willingness to talk about and even try offbeat things on air.

But, significant though those attributes are, which of them make her a news anchor?  There's the rub.

If CBS were smart, they would be working overtime right now to convince Ms. Couric to do mornings again, to go head up against Today.  That's certainly what I'd be trying if I were them.  But what has CBS done to convince anyone that they are smart?

I wonder if they think about the series of mistakes they have made with Katie Couric when they tell us how many President Bush makes in Iraq (and everywhere else).  Bush is trying to fight a war.  CBS is trying to exploit a media giant who already has a major following.  Which do YOU think is easier to get right?


YOUR EDUCATIONAL DOLLARS AT WORK

Ken Berwitz

I post this without commentary.  You can supply your own:

Kids Fear Global Warming More Than Terrorism, Car Crashes, and Cancer, According to National Earth Day Survey

NEW YORK, April 20 /PRNewswire/ While recent polls show that American adults are most concerned about the war in Iraq, terrorism, and healthcare, a survey of more than 1,000 middle school students across the country found that kids fear global warming more than any of these issues. The survey was conducted by BrainPOP, a New York based educational provider.

Some of the most intriguing findings from the BrainPOP global warming survey include:

Nearly 60 percent of children said they feared global warming and environmental disasters-such as hurricanes, tornados and flooding-more than terrorism, car crashes, and even cancer (22.3 percent feared terrorism most; 14.6 percent cancer; 5.9 percent car crashes).

Nearly one-third of children reported thinking about global warming a lot and worrying about how the effects of global warming will change the planet and directly impact their lives. Another 41.2 percent think about it sometimes and say that they are somewhat worried.

Roughly 60 percent of children surveyed believe that more needs to be done in their community to help the planet and stop global warming.

When asked what effect of global warming worries them the most, the majority of kids surveyed are most afraid of the toll it will take on the lives of people.

"We were not surprised in our survey to discover that children are really worried about global warming. We have received thousands of emails from children expressing their fears and asking what they could do to help save the planet," said BrainPOP CEO and founder Avraham Kadar, M.D. "Given the media attention from things like Hurricane Katrina and the tsunamis in Asia, its no wonder that children are curious and concerned about the impact of global warming. Although we have addressed the issue in the past with movies on things like global warming and pollution, this year weve added a special movie about the human impact on our environment to help kids understand what they can do to help out."

BrainPOP, a Web-based educational company with more than 600 animated shorts on topics ranging from allergies to word problems, has produced numerous movies about the environment. In honor of Earth Day, BrainPOP is making 14 of its environment-related shorts, including "Global Warming" and the new "Humans and the Environment," available for free for the months of April and May. To see the special Earth Day section, users can go to http://www.brainpop.com/earthday. In particular, BrainPOPs "Global Warming" movie explains the nuts and bolts of this issue, while the "Humans and the Environment" movie discusses some of the many things children can do to contribute in a positive way to the health of the planet, including conserving electricity, participating in neighborhood cleanups, and making their voices heard.

BrainPOPs survey was conducted by Survey Monkey.com, from April 2nd - April 18th, with a total of 1,023 middle school participants. BrainPOP solicited participation through a newsletter sent to a network of about 20,000 teachers nationwide, in which teachers were invited to have their students take part in this online survey.


R.I.P. DAVID HALBERSTAM

Ken Berwitz

David Halberstam is dead.  He was the passenger in a car that was broadsided in Menlo Park, California this morning. 

Our politics didn't coincide for the most part.  But I respected him as a magnificent writer who could take you to another place on a variety of subjects.  He wrote about politics.  Civil rights. The auto industry.  Even Baseball.  He was a literary giant.

So sorry to see you gone.  Rest in peace. 


THE THREAT OF RADICAL ISLAM

Ken Berwitz

I just read a very insightful, analytical, and chilling assessment of radical Islam by Amil Imani.  He is described as an Iranian born American citizen and pro-democracy activist.  This means that every day he is not assassinated by the people he so bravely writes about is a triumph -- both for him and for us.

A month or so ago (March 25th to be exact) I wrote a piece on Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, another brave Muslim in the USA who will not be scared off by these profaners of his religion.  You might want to read about him there.  Because people like Jasser and Imani demonstrate that the Muslim and non Muslim world can coexist peacefully.  As with anything, all it takes is good will, understanding and tolerance. 

So easy to type, so hard to accomplish.

Mr. Imani has a website, http://www.amilimani.com/, on which he challenges radical Islam along with its tacit acceptance by "moderate Muslims".  I urge you to read it regularly.  Meanwhile, here is the article I mentioned above. 

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April 23, 2007

The Missing Moderate Muslims

By Amil Imani

"I am already against the next war," read the bumper sticker on a car ahead of me. I long to tell the driver: the next war is already here; Islamists are waging it in every corner of the globe and the "moderate Muslims" are either actively supporting them, placing the blame on the West, or simply looking the other way. This war aims to wipe out everything that free people cherish, including the right of expressing their sentiments. Banishing war has been the perennial dream of mankind's best, while its worst have been frustrating its realization. To renounce war unilaterally and unconditionally is surrender and death.

Humanity has suffered horrific wars in the past. Yet, the present multi-form and multi-front war waged by Islamists has the potential of inflicting more suffering and destroying more lives than any before it. Ruthless Islamic forces are advancing rapidly in their conquests while those of freedom are acquiescing and retreating. Before long, Islamism is poised to achieve its Allah-mandated goal of cleansing the earth of all non-Muslims. Any and all means and weapons are to be enlisted in the service of this final holy war that aims to establish the Islamic Ummeh.

But Islam is a religion of peace and the great majority of Muslims are not party to any plans and actions of the radicals, so claim academic pundits, leftist journalists, and hired Islamic apologists. The incantation of these "authorities" is the lullaby that puts the people into a sleep of complacency. For an average free human busy with all manner of demands on his time and resources, would hardly want to worry about the threat of Islamism when those he believes are "in the know" emphatically claim that there is nothing to worry about. Some of these advocates of Islam go further by accusing those who sound the alarm as racist, bigot, hatemonger and much more.

But where are all the peace-loving moderate Muslims that supposedly are in great majority? The Muslims who are neither jihadists themselves, nor do they support them? I and others, time and again, have been calling upon them to stand up and show the world that they oppose the fanatical Islamists. It is small comfort even if the vast majority of Muslims are not fanatic radicals, when they do nothing to demonstrate their position. It is instructive to recall that it is invariably a minority, and more often than not a very small minority, that launches a campaign of death and destruction.

Perhaps it is wishful thinking on the part of the non-Muslims to believe that one can be a Muslim moderate, given that Islam is radical at its very core. To be a moderate Muslim demands that the person explicitly renounce much of the violent, exclusionary, and radical teachings of the Quran. By so doing, the individual issues his own death warrant in Islamic countries, is condemned as apostate if he lives in a non-Islamic land and may even earn a fatwa on his head.

It is deadly, in any confrontation, to assess the adversary through one's own mental template, because the two templates can be vastly different from each other. People in the West are accustomed in relativistic rather than absolutistic thinking. To Westerners, just about all matters range from black to white with an array of gray shades between the two poles. Absolutist thinking is enshrined in the Quran itself. When the starting point for a Muslim is the explicit fanatical words of Allah in the Quran, then the faithful are left with no choice other than literally obeying its dictates or even taking it to the next level of fanaticism. Good Muslims, for instance, do not shake hands with women, even though the Quran does not explicitly forbid it. Although the Quran stipulates that men are rulers over women, good Muslim men take it upon themselves to rule women not much better than they treat their domesticated animals.

All extreme systems operate outside of the constraints of checks-and-balances and according to the principle of negative feedback loop. That is, once it starts, the extreme becomes more and more extreme until self-destructs and takes the larger system down with it. Cancer is a case in point. It begins with only a few cells. Left unchecked, the few cells continue expanding and stop only with the death of the host.

Fanatical Islam may indeed be a minority. Yet it is a deadly cancer that has metastasized throughout the body of the world. Urgent confrontation of this advancing disease is imperative to stave it off.

Dozens of Islamist shooting wars of lesser and greater bloodletting are presently raging in the world, aided and abetted by the "moderate Muslim" majority. The so called moderate Muslims, even if they exist, are complicit in the crimes of the radicals either by providing them with funds, logistics, and new recruits or by simply failing to actively confront and unequivocally renounce them.

As is the case with cancer cells, it is the malignant minority that is death-bearing.

In Germany of the 1930s, for instance, very few people were Nazis and most Germans dismissed them as a bunch of hot-headed fools. Before long, the hot-headed few cowed in the dismissive masses and as a result millions lost their lives.

The tentacles of the Islamist hydra have deeply penetrated the world. The Egyptian-based Muslim Brotherhood poses a clear threat in Egypt with its large block of representatives in the parliament, but also wages its deadly campaign through its hundreds of well-established and functioning branches all over the world.

The Wahabis finance thousands of madressehs throughout the world where young boys are brainwashed into becoming fanatical footsoldiers for the Petrodollar-flush Saudis and other emirs of the Persian Gulf.

The end-of-the-world believers of the bomb-aspiring Iran's Khomeinism are busy establishing the Shia hegemony in an arc extending from the Gulf of Oman to the Mediterranean Sea.

Al Qaeda and dozens of its like-minded jihadists relentlessly carry their barbaric campaigns in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kashmir, the Philippines, the former Soviet Union republics, the Russian federation, Somalia, North Africa and parts of Europe, as well as other lands.

I keep hoping that the purported peace-loving moderate Muslims are indeed the great majority who would prove me right by demonstrating their peacefulness and moderation in action. Thus far, only a faint murmur of equivocation is all that I hear from these people.

Is "moderate Muslims" an illusion? The only viable alternative for peaceful people of Islamic background, therefore, is to leave the bondage of violent Islam altogether and join ranks with humanity's free.

The selected puppet president Ahamadinejad boasts that Iran's mullahs' nuclear train has no reverse gear and lacks brakes. He should harbor no illusions. The non-Islamist masses of Iranians will not docilely submit to the mullahs' maniacal plans. It is the unmatched force of freedom that has no reverse gear and it is the force fully capable and determined to bring the mullahs' train to a screeching halt before it is armed with the Armageddon nuclear weapons they so doggedly pursue.

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SHERYL CROW, LAURIE DAVID & THE CELEBRITY FANTASY WORLD

Ken Berwitz

If the accountant down the street decided he was an expert on everything - not just accounting but everything - you'd dismiss him as a neighborhood nutcake.  Ditto for the butcher, the baker, the Yankee candle franchisee (doesn't have the same cachet as "candle maker", does it?) or anyone else. 

So why is it that people who achieve celebrity, either because they are successful singers or because they are married to successful writers/performers, think they DO know everything about everything?  Why do they expect anyone besides their adoring fans to listen to anything they say?

Personally, I do not give a flying rat's buttocks if Sheryl Crow thinks she can solve the environmental problems of the world.  She's a singer.  Just a singer.  And one, by the way, whose music was used on commercials that sold an awful lot of Subaru Outbacks (oh, you expected CONSISTENCY from her?  You're kidding, right?).

Similarly, I do not consider Laurie David's marriage to Seinfeld collaborator and "Curb Your Enthusiasm" star Larry David to make her a visiting expert on environmental matters either, though I do wonder what the energy usage of Larry and Laurie's house must be.  It isn't like they live in a three bedroom split level in the next development over.

Simply stated, being immensely rich does not confer blanket expertise on anyone.  Nor does it eliminate gross hypocrisy.

With that in mind, let's go to Saturday night and the White House correspondents dinner (how many of these things are there, anyway?).  Crow and David were in attendance, as was Karl Rove.  Ms. Crow and Ms. David decided that this was a fine opportunity to educate and reprogram Mr. Rove.  So they accosted him, for the purpose of conferring some environmental wit and wisdom.  Given their attitude toward the Bush administration and a level of self righteousness rarely seen outside of pampered celebrities who think they are experts on everything, I can only imagine how "pleasant" this ambush was. 

Mr. Rove did not react well to being given an impromptu lecture by people who hate his guts, at what was supposed to have been a social event.  Who would have?  This, predictably, made Ms. Crow and Ms David even more self-righteous with even more of an attitude.  Here is Ms. David's account of what happened next:-

In his attempt to dismiss us, Mr. Rove turned to head toward his table, but as soon as he did so, Sheryl reached out to touch his arm. Karl swung around and spat, "Don't touch me." How hardened and removed from reality must a person be to refuse to be touched by Sheryl Crow? Unphased, Sheryl abruptly responded, "You can't speak to us like that, you work for us." Karl then quipped, "I don't work for you, I work for the American people." To which Sheryl promptly reminded him, "We are the American people."-

"We ARE the American people"????

There you have it, folks.  Sheryl Crow and Laurie David are the American people.  Your unelected representatives, there to tell off Karl Rove on your behalf.  What arrogance.  What self-importance.  What hubris.

And let's not forget the unbelievably delusional "How hardened and removed from reality must a person be to refuse to be touched by Sheryl Crow?". 

How completely removed from the real world must these people be to think that being in the presence of a successful singer should somehow override everything else.  Mr. Rove was not supposed to have an opinion nor was he supposed to have the right to be left alone.  This was SHERYL CROW for god sake.  He was supposed to melt like an ice cube in a sauna.  Isn't that what happens at her concerts?  Isn't that what happened at the Subaru shoots?

These two don't need a reality check. They need a reality checkbook.  And I hope for their sake that they overdraw on it.


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