Keith Olbermann … fired again

Here’s a reason why the left can’t get its act together:

Keith Olbermann is out at Current TV after little over a year with the network. …

There had been numerous reports in recent months about friction between the cable network, which counts former Vice President Al Gore as one of its backers, and Olbermann, who also had a tempestuous breakup with MSNBC.

Current confirmed the dismissal in a statement issued Friday that read, “Current was also founded on the values of respect, openness, collegiality, and loyalty to our viewers. Unfortunately these values are no longer reflected in our relationship with Keith Olbermann and we have ended it.”

Olbermann fired back at the network in a series of tweets Friday afternoon, indicating plans to sue the network and insinuating that Gore and another founder of the network, Joel Hyatt, behaved unethically.

“In due course, the truth of the ethics of Mr. Gore and Mr. Hyatt will come out,” tweeted Olbermann, who indicated he planned to take legal action against them. “For now, it is important only to again acknowledge that joining them was a sincere and well-intentioned gesture on my part, but in retrospect a foolish one.”

Since we’re all outside the bubble of the decision makers at Current TV, we don’t know what’s really going on, but bottom line is we shouldn’t care. Current TV was billed as a progressive counterpoint to Fox News, so in order to give the network instant impact, the money men behind it went for Olbermann, who was the voice of progressive newscasting during the Bush administration.

But we do know that Olbermann doesn’t get along with his bosses. His departures from ESPN and MSNBC were less than amicable. Lots of finger pointing and name calling. And there was a lot of that at Current.

He clashed early and often with Mr. Hyatt, and especially with David Bohrman, a former CNN executive who was installed as president of Current last summer. The clashes became visible when Mr. Olbermann started anchoring his program, “Countdown,” in front of a funereal black backdrop, apparently out of frustration about technical difficulties.

Mr. Olbermann also declined Current’s requests to host special hours of primary election coverage in January, causing lawyers from both sides to intercede. Eventually an election coverage plan was cobbled together, but in January and February, he continued to miss many days of work, as he himself acknowledged on his Twitter page. He attributed some of his absences to throat problems.

Now I’ve been a fan of Olbermann. He was the only broadcaster I could listen to during the Bush administration and at least inspired the left to speak up. But his tantrums have been REALLY ANNOYING.

So MSNBC dumped him and Current TV, looking for immediate clout, picked him up. They gave him a contract valued at $50 million over a five-year period. So he’s one of the one percent. And he refused to do the work? Screw him. When you’re getting what averages out to $10 million a year, you get on the air and broadcast even if the studio’s on fire around you. That’s a ridiculous amount of money to offer one person at a network startup, no matter how much star power that person provides.

But we see daily that television isn’t about informing the public. It’s about ratings and stars. Fox News gets ratings because it has carved out a specific audience. It gives its viewers what they want, and they want their biases confirmed. If Rupert Murdoch saw that he could make more money appealing to the left, he’d turn on a dime and give that audience what it wants. Fox already has shown that it can completely reverse course depending on who’s in office. Look at its coverage of responsibility for high gasoline prices.

But successful network startups like Fox and ESPN got their start by picking up cheap talent from around the country, giving them a format to follow, letting them loose and seeing who produced the most and drew the most viewers. Now their juggernauts.

Here’s a novel concept: If Current TV was going to give one guy $10 million a year, why doesn’t it now take that money and hire 60 progressive journalists at $150,000 a year each (spending $1 million less than it’s spending on Olbermann) and do some real work? Get them out across the country covering the states and understanding what’s going on in every legislature in the country. Have them serve as the counterweight to the lies of Fox News.

Doesn’t Current TV realize how many people in smaller markets across the country would jump at that offer and work their asses off? Journalism today has changed. Reporters today don’t just write for a newspaper or broadcast for a television station. They’re putting together video. They’re putting together audio. They’re writing for the Web. They’re Tweeting. They’re blogging. There is no such thing as a television reporter or a newspaper reporter anymore. They are now multiplatform providers.

And they’re being paid crap. If you’re a progressive reporter in a small market, you’re living large if you’re getting $60,000 a year. You give $150,000 a year to 60 people and they’re not going to complain about backdrops, call in with “throat problems” or refuse to cover politics in a crucial election year. They are going to produce important journalism. And if you’re a startup looking for ratings, you start doling out the bigger checks when the numbers go up.

Serve the public. Don’t bother with satisfying the whims of some intemperate egomaniac.

The Final Four: Splendor in the bluegrass

There is nothing more important in Kentucky than basketball.

University of Louisville script "L" logo

University of Louisville logo

There. I’ve said it.

You can say, “Oh, no! There’s the Derby and bluegrass and bourbon.” But the Derby’s once a year and it doesn’t take much skill to look at bluegrass or drink bourbon. The residents of the state live for basketball, and this weekend, in the NCAA Division 1 men’s Final Four, the University of Louisville and the University of Kentucky are going to have it out for a shot at the championship game, and more important, the designation as the state’s best basketball team.

The rivalry is like Ohio State-Michigan, or Army-Navy, without having to cross state lines.

If you take a statewide poll, an overwhelming majority are going to be rooting for UK. Mainly because they consider Louisville Sodom on the Ohio River. I’ll be rooting for Louisville because that’s home, now, and that’s where my son goes to school.

When I worked at the newspaper in Louisville (a lifetime ago), I remember the complaints we got during basketball season when we wrote about the teams. If Louisville story was an inch longer than the Kentucky story, fanatics would threaten to end their subscriptions because of our big city bias. If the Kentucky story was an inch longer than the Louisville story, fanatics would threaten to end their subscriptions because our managing editor was a UK graduate and was bias.

Folks, it didn’t matter. We were just trying to get the stories to fit on the pages.

The Washington Post sent a reporter out to Kentucky this week to capture the insanity. He wasn’t disappointed, coming up with this snippet of insanity:

These two schools don’t like each other. Never have. The game is still a couple of days away and tension is already heated. Local police, in fact, had to respond to a fight earlier this week — at a dialysis center, of all places.

“I didn’t talk to him about the ballgame,” one of the combatants explained to WKYT-TV. “I was talking to another guy about the game. He was meddling and told me to shut up and gave me the finger!”

Rick Pitino, the Louisville coach who actually won a national championship as UK’s coach back in 1996, said last week that if Kentucky loses, they’re going to have to build fences around bridges so people don’t jump off. John Calipari, the current Kentucky coach, said of his team’s fans:

“They are piranhas. . . . If you’re going to attack Kentucky, just be right. . . . I’m just telling you, piranha — womp, womp, womp,” he said, using his hands to bite the air in front of him. “They’ll come and eat your yard, your house, these people are nuts.”

UK Basketball logo, recreated in SVG format, u...

UK Basketball logo

This is one of those games where politicians have to weasel their way around, not directly answering questions on who they’re rooting for. Gov. Steve Beshear and Lt. Gov. Jerry Abramson (the former Louisville mayor) are going to the game and one will sit with Kentucky fans and one will sit with Louisville fans for the first half, then they’ll switch seats in the second half. C’mon guys, take a side!

I remember years ago in New York, when the Yankees and the Mets met in the World Series, and politicians wore hats that had half Yankee symbols and half Met symbols. I admired Rudy Giuliani when he essentially said, screw the hat, I’m a Yankee fan.

That was a profile in courage.

Anyway, come Saturday, I’m going to be out of pocket for a couple of hours watching the game. And I’m not worried about fences over bridges.

The Hunger Games: race matters

Cover of "The Hunger Games"

Cover of The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games” was a decent movie. I knew nothing about the story when I went to the theater Friday. All I knew was it was about teens hunting each other. So I was pleasantly surprised to see it was an amalgamation of “The Running Man,” “Gladiator” and “Winter’s Bone” (which also starred Louisvillian Jennifer Lawrence as a backwoods girl protecting her family). I’ll even recommend it even though two significant events were matters of life and death and made absolutely no sense. (I won’t say what they were because then I’d spoil the movie, though you’re free to comment in case you saw the same things.)

For me, and I’m guessing for a lot of people, the most moving sequence in the movie and probably in the book involved the development of a minor character named Rue, a 12-year-old participant in the games who is not an odds-on favorite to win. I’m not going to get into details. If you read the book or saw the movie, you know what happened to her. The rest of you can buy tickets.

But I wasn’t prepared to see that kids were tweeting this about Rue:

And this wasn’t an uncommon reaction. It got pretty rabid:

Now the site Jezebel has an excellent take on this. It quotes the character’s description in the book:

On page 45 of Suzanne Collins‘s book, Katniss sees Rue for the first time:

…And most hauntingly, a twelve-year-old girl from District 11. She has dark brown skin and eyes, but other than that’s she’s very like Prim in size and demeanor…

And so, it all comes down to …

How stupid can these people be? The book says “dark brown skin and eyes.” That means “NOT WHITE.”

What? They’re expecting no minorities in the future? This isn’t 1950s science fiction, you guys. Like in “When Worlds Collide,” when they loaded up the space ship to save some sample of the human population, which happened to be very pale and light haired. Like at a certain rally in Nuremburg.

I now understand that there is a significant part of the country that thinks black people are supposed to wear hoodies and look menacing with their cans of iced tea and Skittles. This is all connected. This is how insane people have gotten in the “post-racial America” where conservatives insist they’re being persecuted.

And this is why instant messaging is a bad thing. Because there’s no filter. Whatever idiot comment pops into someone’s brain, it’s instantly broadcast for all the world to see. As Jezebel notes, once the idiots realize everybody knows they’re idiots, here’s their recourse:

As of 7:00 PM, it looks like the vast majority of these insightful folks have either shut down their Twitter accounts or made them private. Au revoir.

Home is where I want to be

Last week, I made reference to temperatures in Louisville reaching the 80s. Now I’m in D.C. and it’s going to get in the 30s tonight.

I don’t know why, but it makes me think of this Naive Melody:

We have a lamp that kind of looks like the one David Byrne is dancing with. But if I ever tried that, it would fall and smash and I would be in big trouble.

I only have eyes for the Hirshhorn

This is what I see when I ride my bike home in Washington at night:

The work is “Song 1” by Doug Aitken, and it’s being projected on the outside of the Hirshhorn Museum, completely around the circular building, every night until mid-May from dusk to midnight. It’s about 40 minutes long.

If you’re in the city, you’ve got to check it out.

Dick Cheney’s new heart: the people tweet

The Twitter reaction to Dick Cheney‘s new heart has been, let’s say, a little less than compassionate.

Joan Rivers@Joan_Rivers

Rather surprised Dick Cheney got a heart after lasting all these years without one.

Confused by news of Dick Cheney‘s heart “transplant.” That implies he had one before.

Dick Cheney gets heart. Bush to meet The Wizard about brain this afternoon.

These can be described as the kinder ones. Here’s the link.