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Media Points, 12-14-2003

December 14th, 2003

He was not exactly Thomas Jefferson, but he did have an illegitimate child by a black woman. No, I’m not talking about Bill Clinton, I’m talking about Strom Thurmond. Apparently, about 79 years ago or so, Strom, then about 21, had a bit of a thing with the family maid. About a quarter of a century after that, Thurmond reportedly took legal responsibility for his child, giving her financial support since 1941–though publicly, he revealed nothing.

Apparently, Thurmond was not segregationist about everything, like DNA and stuff.

Nobody needs to tell me that PowerPoint can make you dumb. I teach the darn program to my students, and the first thing I point out to them is how dull, insipid and meaningless those presentations can be if you allow yourself to get boxed in by their style. I don’t even teach the templates or ready-made slides, rather I make them begin with blank presentations and slides upon which they much build it all themselves, which helps to foster creativity and diversity in their projects. I also carefully monitor their subject matter, letting them know that not every subject is helped out by a slide show.

While I did not suspect that Bill Gates’ bloated program was responsible for the destruction of the space shuttle, I must say I am not too surprised.

Coming back to the U.S. just now, I was of course concerned about the flu, and figured it might not be a bad idea to get shots. Yeah, right–if you’re able. Pretty much every last person in the U.S. seems determined to get shots right now, and few if any physicians have any vaccine left. Meanwhile, the media is whipping the public into a frenzy about how many people have the flu and are dying from it. We love to frighten ourselves, don’t we?

In lighter news, Dave Letterman and Oprah Winfrey seem to be overcoming their long, simmering feud–all Dave’s fault, you gotta admit. I recall one bit many years back when Oprah was losing weight in which Dave introduced a gag game called “pin the tail on the Oprah” which presented an ever-increasing challenge as the ‘target’ diminished. More recently, Dave has targeted “O” Magazine, as well as Oprah’s “former husband,” Dr. Phil.

But now, though few take seriously Dave’s proposed “Super Bowl of Love” in which Dr. Phil would counsel Dave before Oprah came on stage and the “love would explode.” But Oprah, more reasonably, wants Dave to come as a guest on her show (she has, after all, already done his). Dave, very seldom a guest on someone else’s show, is not too hot on the idea, saying, “here’s what would happen: I would go on the Oprah show and I would break down and sob like a little girl.” So time will tell.

That didn’t stop Julia Roberts from getting the best of Dave. Having gotten “deeply” married herself, she both congratulated Dave on his new son, and teased him endlessly about not marrying “the mother,” as she was then referred to, Roberts noting how inappropriate that sounded. Dave, trying to change the subject, asked Julia how her married life was going. ““You know,” she replied. “You’re married . . . oh wait, no you’re not.”

Finally, Josh Marshall points out how completely hollow Bush’s promises to crack down on Halliburton’s overcharging are. “If there’s an overcharge, like we think there is, we expect that money be repaid,” he told reporters. Like he cracked down on Enron? Let’s see, Ken Lay, Bush’s biggest donor, still has his stolen billions, and the shareholders are still out in the cold.

But Bush is serious this time! “[The Pentagon’s] investigation will lay the facts out for everybody to see,” he said. Just like John Ashcroft’s investigation into the treasonous Valerie Plame affair? Marshall is perhaps the only American journalist who is pointing out that a senior White House official is boasting about having buried that investigation.

Despite his current promises to clean things up, there are a few things you can be assured of: Halliburton is doing far worse than is being revealed, Bush’s “investigation” will be weak and ineffective, and the press will dutifully forget all about this in a week.

And Marshall points out how this playing: Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz gutted Congress’ plans to oversee fraud in the use of the $87 billion Bush demanded for his failure of a war. So if things like overcharging occur with this new cash deluge, we won’t know about it, thanks to the Bush administration.

Par for the course.

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