Friday, February 27, 2015


  I follow the news on the Internet or the newspapers instead of television so it should be no surprise that I’m always dumbfounded by the reverence and trust television viewers hold for their favorite local and national news anchorpeople. I never thought the news was any different whether Tom Brokaw or Dan Rather or Walter Cronkite or Peter Jennings or Katie Couric was reading the news from the teleprompter. I always thought the best anchorman were like the best sports referees or the best chess tournament directors for that matter – unnoticed. But to get big ratings and big paychecks anchorpeople have consistently tried to become more and more opinionated and appear more like the newsmakers than the news reporters. Bill O’Reilly, Rachael Maddox, Rush Limbaugh, and even comedians like Steven Colbert and Jonathan Stewart have become cult figures whose followers take most of their utterances as gospel without even realizing that they are more like actors playing a part than objective news reporters.

  NBC Evening News anchor Brian Williams was recently suspended for six months when he either at most told tales of being in an Army helicopter in Iraq that was hit in by a RPG (rocket propelled grenade) and forced down in the desert or at least didn’t correct anyone that made the assumption. As I read the CNN timeline it seems as if there is a lot of wordplay going on to make it seem as if Williams was actively lying about whether his helicopter was actually fired upon and hit by a RPG.

  I’m sure Williams is very embarrassed at being caught out but at least his explanation is semi plausible, unlike the many politicians of late that lied about military service in order to impress the electorate or donors. In 2012 Democrat Ken Aden lied about being in the Green Berets even though the 10 year veteran who served in Iraq should have very little to prove in the military service department. In 2010, Illinois congressman Mark Kirk claimed he won the ‘Navy Intelligence Officer of the Year’ award while locked in a Senate race. Even this paled to 2010 Senate candidate Richard Blumenthal repeatedly claiming he served in Vietnam when in reality he received five deferments and was in the Reserves. It’s not just a guy thing either. In 2008, Hillary Clinton reminisced about evading sniper fire during a 1996 landing in Bosnia and having to run across the tarmac. She said this in order to demonstrate something or other about her foreign policy experience but had to back off her statements when a CBS news video showed her being greeted by a young girl and no snipers.

  I can understand a news anchor like Williams wanting people to think he was in harrowing combat near-death experiences but I’ll never understand why politicians would make up fables of military service. Can you name the last veteran to be President? It was George Bush, who was a pilot in World War II. Since then we have 24 years of presidents that haven’t been in combat (George W Bush was in the Reserves) and in their 6 elections defeated two World War II veterans (Clinton defeated Bush and Bob Dole) and three Vietnam veterans (W. Bush defeated Al Gore and John Kerry while Obama defeated John McCain). I’m not saying that these 5 candidates that served overseas (Gore was a journalist but the rest were in combat to varying degrees) didn’t help but they certainly didn’t help enough to get them elected. In the heartland state of Iowa, Iraq veteran Joni Ernst won her Senate seat over Bruce Braley and her military service undoubtedly helped but I’m of the opinion that Braley’s video to the Texas lawyers had much more to do with his defeat than his lack of military experience. Not only is military service not a guarantee for winning an election false claims of military service easy to disprove and make a mockery of the candidate.If I was a political candidate I'd start telling tales about sewing quilts before I tried to lie about military service.

  In my opinion, Williams is being unfairly castigated. He WAS in a group of helicopters over Iraq and they WERE fired upon and they DID have to land. Making up stuff is not so good but as someone who nearly threw up when a plane going from Des Moines to Denver took off I have to give Williams credit for being in Iraq in a helicopter that could be shot down at any second. Not as much credit as the soldiers who were actually operating the helicopters and staring at getting fired upon every day but credit nonetheless.

  I think Williams biggest crime was his fame as a network anchor. I’m not excusing his lies or mistruths but he is just a guy on the television that reads the news and not a newsworthy person in and of himself. Any power he has is conferred upon him by the viewing public that trusts him and believes him. He has betrayed their trust but I have to question the wisdom of anyone that hangs on the words of a talking head on television with unfettered belief and trust.

  I doubt I’ll ever be a network anchorman but if I ever become one instead of lying about my military experience I’ll probably have to fabricate some stories about my great basketball picks since I went 1-2 last week to run my record to 1-5 and am down $450 mythical dollars. I could have been 2-1 but with two seconds left and his team leading by two points, Timberwolves forward Kevin Martin missed two free throws that kept the team from covering the 2.5 point spread against the Suns. Bad breaks are part of sports predictions but so are good breaks some of which I'm overdue for when picking tonights NBA games using the lines as listed on the Yahoo Sports page for entertainment purposes only with no real money is being wagered.

Milwaukee Bucks at Los Angeles Lakers
The woeful Lakers have won two games in a row including a road win over the red hot Utah Jazz but I predict the streak will end against the visiting Bucks who will easily cover the 5.5 point spread.

Orlando Magic at Atlanta Hawks
The Eastern Conference leading Hawks rebounded nicely from last Friday's home blowout loss to Toronto with double digit wins on the road to the Bucks and at home against the Mavericks. The Magic's three game winning streak crashed on Wednesday when they lost a game to the Heat when they were ahead by 8 points with a minute left. I'll pick the Hawks to cover the 11 point spread against the hapless Magic.

Charlotte Hornets at Boston Celtics
These two teams are on the periphery of the Eastern Conference playoff race. The Celtics have won two in a row since their embarrassing loss to the Lakers while the Hornets just broke their four game losing streak by beating the Bulls in an impressive road win. I like the Celtics pickup of Isiah Thomas to have his way against the injury depleted Hornet backcourt and will pick the Celtics to cover the two point spread.