Fred was on my best friends in high school and for a few years afterwards. One day, towards the end of high school, we decided to learn how to play tennis. Which meant that we went to the local tennis courts and started playing. And playing. And playing. Through the varied weather of Sacramento — bundled up in sweats in the winter and shirtless (by the way, when I first typed that word it came out as shortless) in the mid-afternoon 100 degree heat of Sacramento summers — we played constantly for years. He eventually got too good for me and moved on to bigger and better tennis adventures, while I struggled to find players at the same skill level as me. At some point, as these things do, we grew apart. He married and had kids a few years before I did, there was a little bit of this and a little bit of that that got between us.
We remained in sporadic contact, however. An occasional beer and conversation, his family was on my holiday letter list. But, that growing apart. Once it starts, it’s hard to stop.
Fred has two kids. One is in college and doing well. The other has autism. Severe autism. This morning Fred sent me this. I don’t know why these things hit me as hard as they do. Maybe because it’s just about life. The most basic aspects of it. And, it’s about somebody I knew and should have known much better than I did over the last twenty years. It’s about the lost opportunities we all have, but that I regret so much as the years go by and I look back and see these things I missed along the way. How do you avoid regret?
I wonder if people realize just how crappy and uninformed most news reporters are. (Please note, that is not a stereotype: I said most.) When you live in the middle of a story that is reported in the press, you begin to realize how limited most reporting is. I first learned this years ago. Fresh out of law school, in my first job, one of my roles was to supervise law students who conducted hearings for people appealing their parking tickets.
At the time, the newest thing was large fines for people who violated the laws related to handicapped parking. Almost twenty years ago, the fine was $275. While I was in that job, the local paper ran an article about how outraged ticket recipients were at their fines. What amazed me was that every single complainer acknowledged something that made clear they were in violation of the law. For instance, “I just parked on the line of the space and I got this stupid ticket for which I’ll have to pay almost $300. It’s just not fair.” But the article didn’t make clear that parking on the line was a violation or why. (Here’s why: when you’re disabled, a lot of times, you need to be able to swing your car door completely open to be able to get in and out. If the car parked next to you is on the line, that’s pretty impossible without giving everybody involved a door ding and making life for the disabled person pretty miserable.)
Or there’s this. “I was only in the space for a couple of minutes waiting for my grandfather, who is really old and doesn’t walk very well.” Yes, but he doesn’t have a handicapped parking placard and, in those few minutes, what if a legitimately disabled person needed the spot.
I learned then that reporters have agendas just like everybody else. That they report only a fraction of the story, typically one that fit into the agenda they went into the story with. This lesson has been confirmed far too many times since then.
On a different scale, I saw a couple of things this week that made me marvel at just how poor the state of information distribution is in this country — masquerading as journalism, commentary, or whatever. And most people don’t have a clue just how limited the information is that they get from their news sources. (No, I’m not going to talk about Fox News, here. That would be too easy.)
First up is Bob Woodward. The veteran journalist who did an incredible service to this country by exposing many of the Nixon White House’s abuses. He wrote a piece for the Washington Post in which he claimed to have been threatened, threatened I tell you, by the Obama White House over a piece he was going to write. Other opinion writers chimed in and screamed their outrage at this horrible threat. Invariably none of these pieces provided the full text of the “threat,” choosing instead to selectively quote from it — in a manner that supports the claim of a threat. It’s evidence of Obama’s thin skin and the inherent evilness of his administration.
Well, maybe not. Here’s a Huffington Post piece that provides more detail about the actual content of the email exchange that included the “threat.” Anybody who reads the exchange knows that it isn’t a threat, what it is a poorly worded attempt to point out that Woodward’s concept of the issue was wrong and if he went ahead with it, he wouldn’t look good. Not because Obama’s goons were going to kneecap him, but because he was, well, just wrong.
But, you know, when a President is in his second term, strange things begin to happen. People start looking for chinks in the armor. It’s easier to write a story about him threatening the venerable Mr. Woodward, then it is to actually point out there really, actually wasn’t a threat at all.
Finally, there was this wonderful little tidbit this morning. The stupid morning radio show the rest of my family listens to in the morning was blaring in all rooms of the house as I got ready for work. Prior to playing a song, the DJs talked about how Sacramento’s mayor believes he has a plan that will guarantee the Sacramento Kings (the local NBA franchise) will be staying in town instead of moving to Seattle. Breathlessly, they discussed how Katie (the female third of the whacky morning triumvirate) had heard a report that morning that could completely destroy the mayor’s belief. They then played a song and came back.
And, here was Katie’s bombshell. She had read somewhere that one of the wealthy investors the mayor was trying to lineup to put in a bid for the Kings had been reported to have been involved in a whale-hunting expedition and actually harpooned a whale. Here’s the station’s website with the actual audio of this. OK, it’s pretty much a morning DJ show — maybe this was some kind of scripted thing for which they wanted to make a point. But, listen to it, I don’t think so. A “whale” is a wealthy investor. Sacramento leaders were hunting for whales — as in looking for wealthy investors. And, this idiot DJ turned that into the potential investors are harpooning whales, and there was no effort to vet this idea before they even put it on the air. Before they got to the truth and their jokes, I have no doubt that the Twittersphere and the Blogosphere was lit up with people who were listening to the show tweeting and posting about how the Kings investors were whale abusers.
This is the problem … the standards for the mainstream media have slipped. Or maybe they were never that high in the first place. Meanwhile, idiots like morning DJs put crap out there without any thought for what people might actually believe or not. And far too many people are sponges for it — they either don’t have the time, the brain power, or the inclination to challenge the accuracy of this stuff and become believers. Like, you know, that Obama was born in Kenya, McCain has a third nipple, Kim Kardashian is really a man, etc.
It’s too bad that those who have the power to inform prefer to pervert that power for different purposes.
And, so with all of that serious stuff out of the way, I offer you a song for the day: