Dick McMichael Weblog

This Blog Ends, but Dick’s World Begins. The new URL is dicksworld.wordpress.com.

June 9th, 2008

The site, newsmanbook.com, goes off the Internet on June 26th, 2008. My new, and more personal blog, starts soon. In fact, it’s already on line, but it’s a work in progress and not fully developed yet. I should have it up and running in about a week. The URL is dicksworld.wordpress.com. I hope you’ll include it in your favorites. If you do drop by for a visit now, please feel free to click comments and say hello.

Thanks to all of you who have been visiting newsmanbook.com since it started about two years ago. Your comments have been illuminating, interesting, and, at times, entertaining.

And thanks to my son Rick who set this site up for me and administered it. Not only does he help this old guy with computer stuff - he has a degree in the field - but he and his lovely wife Marian provided me with two fine grandson who, to no one’s surprise, know a heck of a lot more about computers than I do.

Best Places to Shop for Gas

June 7th, 2008

Here is a useful site. You enter your zip code and it tells you where you can get the lowest price for gasoline. Just click on this link.

The National Confrence for Media Reform Opens in Minneapolis

June 6th, 2008

A few thousand media reformers are meeting this weekend in Minneapolis to once again excoriate the “mainstream media.” The fact that this issue has attracted an organized group of people willing to come from all over America gives us a good idea of the scope of disillusionment with the media.
You can read the opening address to the National Conference for Media Reform by Josh Silver, who is Executive Director of Free Press, a national organization formed to engage citizens in media policy debates and “create a more democratic and diverse media system,” by clicking on this link.

He will explain why he thinks the future of the media does not belong to Murdoc, but to you and me.

They Put Atlanta in the Wrong Place

June 5th, 2008

Billy Turner brought it home to me again Wednesday after he spoke to the Rotary Club of Columbus, Georgia. Turner, who is president of the Columbus Water Works Board, told me that Columbus, which has a population of 276 thousand in the metro area, easily has the water resources for a city of 6 million people. The Atlanta metropolitan area has a population of more than 5 million and is really hurting for water.

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Billy Turner

That hurting is not going to get any better this summer, according to the weather predictors. In fact, the Georgia drought has already started and it’s going to get worse, already spreading to South Georgia. David Stooksbury, of the University of Georgia ‘s College of Agriculture and Environmental Services, says Georgia is abnormally dry for early June.

And you won’t be a lot cooler if you head for the mountains. He says temperatures could reach into the upper 90’s there this summer, while the piedmont bakes in the low 100s, coastal plains temperatures up to 106 degrees “may not be out of the question,” he says.

I know the holdouts, who are still in denial, will say there is no proof that global warming has anything to do with this. I agree with the scientists who say it does.

A Full-sized V-8 That Gets 31 MPG on the Interstate, if…

June 4th, 2008

I drive a 2001 Mercury Grand Marquis, a full-sized, luxury, V-8 engine car that gets 31 miles to the gallon on the highway.

It was hard for me to believe, but it happened. I filled up in Columbus and drove to Cumming to visit with my son, daughter-in-law and grandsons. I filled up again and computed the mileage and told my son about it, saying I must have figured it wrongly.

“Did you top off the tank?” he wanted to know.

“No. I just let it stop automatically both times.”

Going back home, I filled up again and this time topped it off. When I got back to Columbus, I topped off the tank again. It wasn’t a mistake. I did get a little over 31 miles per gallon.

This experience brought home to me what I have been hearing for a long time: how you drive makes a big difference. I set my cruise control at 60 mph both ways and varied very little from that speed. SUV’s and pickups that couldn’t be getting more than 15 miles per gallon were whizzing by me like I was standing still, probably getting less than that.

Watching a network newscast a few nights ago, I saw a report about a man who was getting 50 miles per gallon with his Honda Accord. He was going to extremes, not running his air conditioner, shutting off his engine at traffic lights, coasting a lot, driving so slow in city traffic that everyone was honking and yelling at him, and, on the highway, never exceeding the speed limit. Yes, you can get a lot better mileage than even the manufacturers’ claim if you are willing to make a real effort at doing it.

A friend of mine said recently, “We could solve this gas problem overnight if people just had the discipline to do it.” I agree. Cutting demand drastically could make a big difference. And it can be fun seeing just how much better mileage you can get by slowing down, coasting a lot, putting on brakes when going around corners as rarely as safely possible, and never making jackrabbit starts.

Oh, and buying one of those new airplane looking cars that can get 300 miles to the gallon would help a lot, too.

Finally, This Blog Has Been Attacked on TV… Thanks, Al

June 2nd, 2008

Al Fleming warned me that he was going to do an editorial on this blog. His editorials run on Rise n’ Shine on WLTZ. I told him, “Fine. I don’t care what you say as long as you super the blog address on the screen.” He did, but I wish he had left it on the screen longer.
On the editorial, he said the blog reflected my liberal views and called me and Don Nahley “flaming liberals.” Don, Al and I, all broadcasting buddies from way back, have lunch together about once a month and, though we make feeble attempts to avoid it, end up discussing politics.

Al characterizes himself as a “moderate conservative,” which is amusing. You can listen to his ignore-the-facts commentaries to decide for yourself.
As far as my being a “flaming liberal” is concerned, I’ll tell you some of what I stand for and you can decide if I am a “flaming liberal.”
I stand for freedom of speech, the press, and religion. Yes, that includes Al’s rants.
I support the capitalist system, but realize that corporations have to be regulated to prevent monopolies and protect the public from abuse. I also support labor’s right to collective bargaining.
I am for fiscal responsibility and am appalled by the 9 trillion dollar national debt caused by borrow-and-spend Republicans. Lowering taxes in time of war is insane and that insanity is destroying the dollar and causing economic chaos.
I support free public education.
I am for equal opportunity for all citizens.
I am a democrat, small “d’ and big “D.” But, I have voted for some Republicans. Nobody’s perfect.
I support a strong military and the troops – not just when they are fighting for us as we go merrily on our way, but when they come home. I am for a GI Bill as good as the one we had for WWII and Korean War veterans. I benefited from it myself. Too bad George Bush, John McCain and Saxby Chambliss don’t support that.
If those positions make me a “flaming liberal,” then, that is what I am and proud of it.
Again, thanks for the “plug,” Al. Looking forward to our next lunch date, especially since it’s your turn to pick up the check.

How You Can Tell People What They Already Know and Make Millions

May 29th, 2008

It’s interesting that a former White House propagandist is charging that the Bush White House used propaganda to sell the Iraq war to the American public. Scott McClellan’s book What Happened gives us that revelation plus a lot of others that we already knew.

Of course propaganda was used to sell the war. As Tom Brokaw said on the NBC’s Nightly News last night, administrations have always used propaganda to sell wars.

Propaganda, which is often composed of misleading information and downright lies, is not, however, by definition, necessarily untruthful. It is the marshaling and disseminating of information and ideas to help or damage a cause, institution or a person, according to Webster. That information may be true or untrue. What’s given propaganda a bad name is that deception and lies have been used so often.

How many of us have been saying all along that the war was started by feeding the American public misleading information, if not downright lies? Or, that the media was too easy on the administration during the run-up to the war, not asking the hard questions, acting as a conduit for White House propaganda?

You can keep on ticking off all of the criticisms if the Bush administration about the ill-advised war and, from the reports I have seen and read, you’ll find those are now McClellan’s position.

So why is the book such a shocker? Why is it the lead story on network newscasts and on the front pages of the nation’s papers? Because, an insider, one who worked daily with President Bush and Karl Rove and Vice President Cheney, is now confirming it. Why is he confirming it? The easy answer is that the book will probably make him a multi-millionaire. Or, it could be that his conscious dictates to him that he has to finally tell the truth.

He says it’s because he wants to help stop the political game of deception that is used on the American people. That could be true. Only he really knows.

What is true, I believe, is that his feeling now that the war was a huge mistake is right. I said it was a mistake at the time. The Afghanistan military action made a lot of sense and I supported it, as did most Americans. Using the terrorist threat as a reason to divert our military resources from Afghanistan to Iraq was more than dishonest, it was criminal and probably America’s second greatest foreign policy blunder, with Vietnam possibly being the first.

“John Adams” Proves, Once Again, that HBO Makes the Best Movies

May 28th, 2008

I just finished watching the HBO series on John Adams, which was inspired by David McCullough’s book. It was excellent. The acting, directing, production values were of Oscar quality, and the incredibly realistic recreation of life in the late 18th and early 19th centuries was stunning. I’ll be surprised if the series doesn’t take all of the big Emmys for 2008.
We have to really be thankful for HBO. It gives us what, with very few exceptions, we can’t get in the movie theaters any more, quality historical movies. “Amazing Grace” and “Flags of Our Fathers” are the only exceptions I can think of in the past few years. They were indeed in the same league as the HBO docudramas.
Again, thanks HBO. May your tribe increase.

Still Putting the Rabbits in Charge of the Lettuce

May 27th, 2008

A lot of people are turning to glass instead of plastic baby bottles. And it’s not just baby bottles you have to worry about; it’s any plastic container or any metal container lined with bisphenol A. Canada has just declared the chemical a toxin and has banned the importing, manufacture and sale in Canada of baby bottles made with the chemical. CVS has just joined Wal-Mart, Toys “R” Us and bottle-maker Nalgene in pulling the bottles off store shelves.
You can thank the tenacity and dedication of a team of investigative journalists at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for this. Last year it spent a great deal of time trying to find out why the federal government’s Food and Drug Administration, which had been mandated by Congress to test chemicals that can disrupt the endocrine system eleven years ago, had not conducted any tests, though it had spent millions of dollars on the program. It turns out the FDA was taking the word of industry financed tests and ignoring independent tests. Disrupting the endocrine system can cause cancer. It has caused cancer in lab rats.
After all of the uproar this series of reports caused, including a Senate hearing, the National Toxicology Program finally issued a statement that bisphenol A could pose a health risk. Still, no government testing has taken place, but, according to a report on Bill Moyers Journal, it has now lined up 70 chemicals to test – that’s 70 out of tens of thousands. These things take time, federal officials told the Journal Sentinel. Really, 11 years, then why do we already have industry and independent tests?
After airing a report on this case, Moyers did a report on a large number of cases where agencies ruled by political appointees were not doing their public protection jobs, for political and ideological reasons. Can you think of a better way to stop regulating industries than putting people who won’t do it in charge of the agencies assigned the task?
Would even the staunchest libertarian want to close down the federal Food and Drug Administration? Would he not want the public protected from distribution of lethal food and drugs? I wouldn’t think so, but I could be wrong. Of course, he could make the case that since the agency isn’t doing the job it’s getting paid to do, why have it? Because, it is better to make sure it does its job.

Why We Suffer the Endless Tedium of Graduation Ceremonies and Love It

May 26th, 2008

It was long, drawn out, and hot, and I wouldn’t have missed it for all of the Coke in Atlanta. I estimate the crowd at the Cumming Fairgrounds at about three thousand. But, there was only one face in that crowd that had brought me there, my grandson Benjamin McMichael. He was there to pick up his Forsyth Central High School diploma.
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As usual, the school’s principal asked everyone not to clap or yell or blow horns for their favorite graduate as he or she picked up his or her diploma. (It used to be a lot simpler when you could just use the male personal pronoun for both sexes. I know, I know, some will say, then, why not settle for the female personal pronoun? Don’t be absurd.) When the first three or four graduates picked up their diplomas, the crowd restrained itself, but I knew it wouldn’t last; some rednecks would yell and clap anyway. Sure enough they did and from then on most of the kids heard hoots and yells and clapping from at least a couple of people when they grabbed their sheepskins. (Wonder if sheepskin is actually ever used for a diploma.) Not Benjamin. I looked over at his dad, my son Rick, right before Ben’s name was called and asked, “Are you going to yell?” He said, “Probably not.” I said, “O.K.” Decorum prevailed in our family and I still feel guilty.
Benjamin, one of my five grandchildren, is a joy – not that they aren’t all joys, but Saturday was his day. From the time he was able to walk and talk he has never known a stranger. Put him in a crowd and he’ll make friends with someone before you can snap your fingers. And he can converse intelligently on just about any subject. Add to that his sense of humor, his outstanding ability to sing (the Forsyth County High male quartet, of which he is a member, won the state championship two years in a row), his ability to play fine trumpet (his huge high school band wins top ratings every year), and I have great hopes for him to go far in this world.
Now, he goes to college to learn to be an architect. He wants to design roller coasters – hey, somebody’s gotta do it. He also has a very cute, pretty, talented and adorable sweetheart, but I won’t get into that, except to say she is one heck of an artist.
Maybe, as the school’s valedictorian challenged in his “Why Not?” speech, he’ll even help the world become a better place. I have to say that I felt better about the future after leaving that ceremony. That feeling may even last a couple of days … if I don’t watch the news.