Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Star Jones was right – Walters didn’t have her back

Note: this post has been updated. Please scroll to the end.

I never thought I would see the day when I took the side of Star Jones – the Bridezilla grifter and slavering fan of Hillary Clinton – but alas, that day has arrived. I am marginally – marginally – on the side of Jones, in the imbroglio over her departure from the View and the hiring of Rosie O’Donnell to replace Meredith Vieira.

As I recall, and as Jones reminded the public on Ryan Seacrest’s radio show this morning, the View announced the hiring of Rosie O’Donnell to replace Meredith Vieira the same week that O’Donnell publicly dissed Jones: O’Donnell said that Jones should fess up to having had gastric by-pass surgery. (Yes, when I am looking for someone to keep it real, I always think of Rosie O’Donnell, who was pretending to be straight and in love with Tom Cruise when she last had a daytime talk show in the 90s.) From the Drudgereport.com:

Star Jones fired back on Ryan Seacrest’s morning radio show in Los Angeles, PerezHilton.com reports.

Star told KIIS FM: “I’m not trying to be emotional about this. I understand it was a business decision. I understood it was a business decision when I was told then. But then in that same week, I was told they were adding a new co-host and it was Rosie O’Donnell. And that was the same week that she had been so nasty and vicious towards me. Rosie insulted me. She tried to damage me professionally and personally...

“It’s a little shocking to me that Barbara feels betrayed. I was really surprised that Barbara feels betrayed. If you watched me yesterday, I said that she was the most amazing mentor and I thanked her for the most amazing opportunity. My departure was orchestrated some time ago. And while I can accept any business decision, it’s hard to accept the manner in which it was handled during the last two months. But, if you use words like betrayal, if anyone should be betrayed, it should be me! Barbara didn’t have my back...

I recall that, instead of defending Jones against O’Donnell’s criticism, Walters was reported to have said that if a problem were to emerge on the View after O’Donnell’s arrival, it would not be because of O’Donnell. (Take that, Star!)

Walters’ choosing to defend the incoming O’Donnell over the not-yet-outgoing Jones was telling, and surprising, considering that of all the View co-hosts, Jones has been the most reliable and notorious braun noser of Walters.

True, after O’Donnell’s hiring was announced, Jones apparently did float some items in the gossip columns about looking for other work. Why shouldn’t she, after Walters had already taken O’Donnell’s side? And Jones' outburst yesterday should not have been unexpected.

Further, Walters’ story is that ABC made the decision to fire Jones (or, in their words, not renew her contract). Are we to believe that if Walters had opposed that decision, she was helpless to reverse it? ABC Daytime was nowhere until Walters came along and created the View. She is also the View’s co-producer. If she really wanted Jones to stay, she probably could have made it happen. Instead, she is hiding behind the ABC suits.

Walters’ claim that she has been trying to protect Jones is not credible, in light of the facts that (1) she apparently made no effort to challenge ABC’s decision to dump Jones, (2) she and her co-producer hired someone who had publicly trashed a current co-host and (3) she publicly took the side of O’Donnell over Jones.

Frankly, I am baffled by the hiring of O’Donnell. She doesn’t have Vieira’s gravitas, and her addition to the View table seems redundant: Joy Behar already amply fills the mold of the fat, angry, menopausal, New York liberal.

And speaking of angry, O’Donnell is a very angry woman. During the trial of the suit against her by the publishers of McCall’s magazine – the demise of which followed O’Donnell’s becoming its editorial director – some very ugly testimony was heard about O’Donnell’s behaviour. She told Cindy Spengler, head of marketing of McCall’s, that her silence in a meeting of the magazine was tantamount to lying. Spengler quoted O’Donnell as saying, “You know what happens to people who lie. They get sick and they get cancer. If they keep lying, they get it again.”

Ironically, O’Donnell was caught in a lie herself, when she admitted having lied in a deposition that she never made the remark.

Check out this link for more stories of Rosie’s public tirades.

I don’t envy the View’s staffers. Methinks there will be some serious resume-polishing going on over the summer.

O’Donnell is reportedly returning to TV to bolster her own fading celebrity, having whinged that she recently had to wait in line for a table at a restaurant. Oh, the humanity.

I don’t know that I’ll be watching the View regularly when O’Donnell joins the table in the fall, but I’m definitely looking forward to see what Saturday Night Live does with the new lineup and Jones' absence from it.

Addendum: Part of the Walters camp’s spin is the claim that ABC had done audience research that found viewers had been turned off by Jones’ weight loss and wedding. I guess that’s possible, but I’d love to see the research – if any – on O’Donnell.

After her ugly lawsuit over McCall’s, same-sex wedding in San Francisco (which, like all the others performed there, there was nullified because cities can’t change marriage laws), same-sex family cruise line, regular attacks on Bush (sorry, but some of the View’s audience supports him – why else do they let the inept Elisabeth Hasselbeck defend him on occasion?), etc., could O’Donnell have a better image among the View's target audience than Jones? I doubt it, which lends more weight to the theory that Walters was behind dumping Jones – not the suits at ABC.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Another Liberal stinkbomb disguised as a flower

Roses are red, violets are blue, the Ontario trillium is white – right?

Not if you were a Liberal in Ontario in the late 1980s. To adorn the cover of the government's 1988 budget documents – the first budget after winning their huge majority in September 1987 – Liberal treasurer Robert Nixon chose a red trillium. Soon it came out that the red trillum differed from the traditional white one in more than its colour.

The red trillium emits a noxious smell – not unlike the stench left by the 1985-90 Peterson government that jacked up welfare rates, the size of the civil service, and taxes (33 separate tax increases!), leaving their successors in the NDP government of Bob Rae with a time bomb, instead of the balanced budget they claimed (but it was Rae who put the Liberals in power in 1985, so there was a sort of poetic justice to him having to clean up their mess).

Now, as if their 50-plus broken promises weren’t enough, the McGuinty Fiberals have dropped another Liberal-scented stinkbomb on unsuspecting Ontarians. From today’s Toronto Star:

The Liberal government has quietly replaced the traditional Ontario trillium logo dating back to 1964 with a version of the flower similar to the party’s trademark.

In a move opposition critics blasted as “a waste of money” at a time when Premier Dalton McGuinty’s administration is running a deficit, the stylized trillium has been radically changed.

Gone is the classic T-shaped rendition of the official provincial flower introduced by Progressive Conservative premier John Robarts 42 years ago.

In its place is a more detailed A-shaped trillium that is eerily similar to one that appears in the dot on the “i” in the Ontario Liberal Party’s three-year-old logo.

Bensimon Byrne, a Liberal-friendly advertising firm, designed the new provincial logo at a cost of $219,000. The agency’s Peter Byrne created the Liberals’ 2003 election ads, including the now-infamous spot featuring McGuinty saying: “I won’t raise your taxes.”

(For the full story, you’ll have to go to TheStar.com and find it – posting the Star’s links never seems to work for me.)


So what appears to be an innocent “rebranding” of the Ontario government is really (1) an attempt to subliminally equate the Ontario government with the Ontario Liberal party and (2) another reward to the Fiberals’ favourite ad agency. I guess you could call the new logo a Trojan flower.

But who is surprised, really? The arrogance symbolized by the phrase “l’├ętat, c’est moi” is deep in the marrow of the Liberal party. Appropriating government symbols to meet the Liberal’s party’s ends – which ends are, after all, questioned only by bigots and Bible-thumpers – is merely one of the more innocent manifestations of their manifest destiny. The sponsorship scandal is one of the more guilty ones.

Another memory of Peterson-era arrogance: after they brought down the Miller PC government in June of 1985, a Liberal banner hung from the front of the Ontario Legislature – for the entire summer. I’m not kidding.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

John Kerry*: in favour of withdrawal by year-end before he was against it

Kerry used to be funny. Now he’s just pathetic. From the Boston Globe:

Senator John F. Kerry is pushing back by six months the deadline he wants to set for removing combat troops from Iraq, as he seeks to build support in the Senate for his plan for troop withdrawal.

The proposal to be offered by Kerry today would require President Bush to remove nearly all US troops from Iraq by July 1, 2007. The Massachusetts Democrat's initial plan -- to remove troops by the end of 2006 -- received just six votes in the Senate last week, and the later date is intended to build support for the proposal, said April Boyd, a Kerry spokeswoman. (Hat tip: Lucianne.com)

Sure, maybe Kerry’s latest gambit is a thoughtful attempt to get more than the six votes he got for his original cut-and-run plan. Or maybe he’s just a dangerous idiot. The fact that he chose to propose this on the day the mutilated bodies of two American soldiers were found in Iraq would suggest the latter.

* The French-looking Massachusetts senator, who by the way served in Vietnam. He didn’t learn anything, but he still has the hat (hat tip: OpinionJournal.com)

Monday, June 19, 2006

Reporter bites owner

A newsboy cap tip to David Giles for steering me to this scathing op-ed in the Saskatoon StarPhoenix penned by Les MacPherson. It is a bracing – to put it mildly – corrective to the adoring obituaries of Lord Thomson in the wake of his death last week:

What the obituaries don't mention, however, is Thomson's pathological greed. His celebrated media empire was built on monopoly newspapers that treated their employees like dirt while providing a third-rate product to captive subscribers.

I speak here from personal experience. I worked for the Prince Albert Daily Herald for a few years back in the 1970s, when it was part of the Thomson newspaper chain. This was the meanest, cheapest organization I've ever known.

What follows are anecdotes of filthy offices, staff working unrecompensed overtime hours, and reporting standards that would only fly in a one-newspaper town. And here’s MacPherson’s take on the writing-instrument policy at Thomson Newspapers, which apparently was even worse than the lore I had heard:

It was in Moose Jaw where reporters had to take notes with pencils because pens were deemed too expensive. To get a new pencil, they first had to turn in the old pencil stub. When the photographers exceeded their film budgets, editors were told to run old pictures until next month. This at a daily newspaper. That's how Ken Thomson got to be the wealthiest man in Canada.

Friday, June 16, 2006

The dog that didn’t bark

I am somewhat confused by the unadulterated praise for the late Ken Thomson, citing his (a) business acumen (b) philanthropy (c) common touch (d) love of art (e) love of dogs, in particular walking his own among the common folk of Rosedale (and seeing to the scooping personally).

Not that any of this tribute is untrue or undeserved, but where are the oft-told tales of the legendary parsimony at Thomson Newspapers, the bits of grit around which the pearl necklace of the Thomson empire was built?

Where are the anecdotes related by reporters who had worked on Thomson papers, poured into the credulous ears of journalism students such as myself? Anecdotes such as reporters being required to turn in a dry ballpoint pen before being issued another. Black humour (no pun intended) along the lines of: if Thomson managers could figure out how to use both sides of a piece of toilet paper, it would be company policy.

Perhaps over the past decade or so Thomson has been eclipsed by Conrad Black as the gold standard of malevolent media ownership, allowing Thomson Newspapers’ bean-counting to fade into the mists of memory. And to be sure, having to beg a supply clerk for a 25-cent Bic hardly compares to being described by your owner thus: “My experience with journalists authorises me to record that a very large number of them are ignorant, lazy, opinionated, intellectually dishonest and inadequately supervised.” (My favourite epigram about Conrad Black has always been former Saturday Night editor John Fraser’s observation that “If Conrad Black didn’t exist, journalists would have to invent him in order to have someone to be fearful of.”)

But for there to be almost no mention of the penny-pinching at Thomson? Odd.

Reading Thomson’s obits, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the initial flurry of obituaries after Richard Nixon’s death in 1994, which highlighted his achievements after leaving the White House in 1974, and the regard in which he was held at his death. Within days there was a bit of a push back from boomer journalists and commentators along the lines of, “Er, sorry to spoil the wake, but didn’t this man try to subvert the constitution, and resign in disgrace after the House Judiciary Committee recommended that he be impeached?”

I wonder if there will be any similar correctives offered on Thomson. Only time will tell.

Unpopular views test tolerance limit

Letter published in today's Toronto Star, on Ryerson University's award of an honorary degree to ethicist Margaret Somerville:

As a Ryerson graduate, I commend the university for standing by its decision to award an honorary degree to Margaret Somerville. The academic council committee put it well in its statement that says, in part, "If we withdraw the award, then we demonstrate that as a university we show tolerance for some contestable views but not others."

In recent years it seems that many in the gay community — having now checked off most of their own agenda items — have forgotten the meaning of tolerance. They also seem to have forgotten that it is unpopular views that test the limits of tolerance and that their views were once in that category.

Joan Tintor, Toronto

Postscript: I heard on CFRB yesteday that Ryerson had no idea about Somerville's "controversial" views on same-sex marriage. Not doing a news database search on people being considered for honorary degrees is a bit careless and it reflects badly on Ryerson that this basic due diligence was not done.

Had they found the news stories about her testimony before Parliament and decided not to honor her because of her position on gay marriage, I would have had no quarrel with that -- there is no "right" to receive an honorary degree and universities are free to base them on whatever criteria they wish.

But Somerville is being honored for her academic work, not her views on same-sex marriage, and rescinding the degree after it had already been publicly announced would have been unfair to Somerville and sent the wrong message, as per the quote from Ryerson above.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Channelling “Carrie” on a Thursday morning

I was waiting in line this morning to buy a coffee. The guy ahead of me had brought his own mug, a blue glass job bearing the unmistakeable logo of OPSEU – the Ontario Public Service Employees Union. Silently I cursed OPSEU and all public sector unions.

I looked away for a few seconds, then heard a loud “pop” and breaking glass. The OPSEU mug had exploded into several large pieces after its owner filled it with fresh coffee. No one was injured, but I suspect my look of contentment might have put Mona Lisa to shame.

One of the coffee shop staff pointed at me jokingly, saying “she did it.” Well now, maybe I did.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Pitfield says take back our public services – on second thought, never mind

I was surprised to hear a report that Toronto councillor and mayoral candidate Jane Pitfield had argued in favour of phasing out the unions that deliver Toronto’s public services such as transit and garbage pickup:

"The unions are stronger than I have ever seen them," Pitfield said. "It's not healthy for the city. Perhaps it's time to start phasing out unions."

Pitfield seems like a smart woman and a common-sense pol, but she has never struck me as particularly visionary or bold – which any politician who dares question the existence of public sector unions would have to be.

By close of business yesterday Pitfield had issued a clarification:

"I wish to state clearly that organized labour can have an important role to play in municipal government and do not believe that they should be decertified or eliminated," she wrote. "However, this is clearly distinguishable from the increasing influence that unions have currently, which in my view is threatening the ability of our city to function to the best of its ability."

One of the few remaining contracts not handled by the unions is garbage pick-up in Etobicoke and York. City staff prepared a report saying it would cost $21 million extra for the city to take over those routes.

Pitfield said she'd like to sit down and speak to the heads of the city's unions about how the union contracts are stressing the city's operating budget. [insert laugh track here]

My regular readers (all five of them) will know that ”taking back our public services” is one of my most cherished hobbyhorses. While I continue to hope that some gutsy politician(s) will take up this fight someday, it’s obvious that Jane Pitfield is not going to be the one to do it.

Monday, June 12, 2006

California voters reject Meathead’s universal preschool plan

This story is several days old, but I didn’t see it reported in the Canadian media, despite the parallels to the debate here over the federal Liberals’ child care scheme – a scheme to which many Liberal leadership candidates remain firmly wedded.

Last week California voters rejected a proposition that would have provided “free” preschool to all 4-year-olds. The measure was spearheaded by director Rob Reiner, who first rose to fame as Mike “Meathead” Stivic on the 1970s TV series All in the Family. (My fellow geezers may also recall that Reiner alternated with Canadian actor Stuart Margolin in the role of “Snake” on the Partridge Family; Snake was a biker and would-be suitor of Laurie Partridge.)

As the Los Angeles Times reported last week:

Voters rejected a ballot measure that would have taxed the wealthy to provide free preschool for all California 4-year-olds, while a $600-million library bond issue appeared headed for defeat early today.

Proposition 82, the universal preschool proposal created and bankrolled by Hollywood filmmaker Rob Reiner, was designed to raise an estimated $2.4 billion annually by taxing individuals who earn more than $400,000 and couples who earn more than $800,000.

Shortly after 10 p.m. Tuesday, Reiner acknowledged to a crowd at Los Angeles' Westin Bonaventure Hotel that Proposition 82 was not faring well.

"But it doesn't matter," he said. "Win or lose, we have raised the profile of the importance of early childhood education and preschool in this state, and it will never go away."

To those who didn't like the initiative, Reiner said: "Help us come up with another way."

The measure envisioned free half-day preschool at public schools and private learning centers for all children, regardless of family income. Opponents, who raised about half as much money as supporters, argued throughout the campaign that the measure was well-intentioned but fatally flawed.

The billions of dollars it would raise would be better spent on the state's public schools, they said, instead of providing a subsidy to the middle-class and well-off who can afford to pay for preschool.