Archive for the ‘The human condition’ Category

Robert Latimer: Justice gone awry

December 4, 2010

After 10 years in jail for the mercy killing of his severely disabled daughter, Robert Latimer begrudgingly, but finally will receive full parole on December 6th.

Latimer applied for and was denied early parole in 2007 because, in the opinion of the members of the National Parole Board, he didn’t exhibit sufficient regret for his actions. Latimer, answering their questions honestly, said that he still thought he had done the right thing when he killed his daughter.

In 2008 the B.C. Civil Liberties Association filed an appeal on Latimer’s behalf on the basis that the NPB had violated its own rules by requiring to admit to wrongdoing in order to qualify for parole and by ignoring the fact that he was a very low risk for re-offending.

In actual fact he was probably a no-risk case.

In February 2008,a review board overturned the NPB’s decision and granted Latimer day parole in Ottawa beginning that March.

The sad thing is, if the jury and the judge who heard the case had been allowed to do their job, Latimer would have been out of prison in a year’s time.

However the case became a cause celebre with various disability rights groups, some church groups and others who argued that unless Latimer was dealt with the full severity of the law others would be encouraged to rush out and kill other disabled people.

Even the Maclean’s columnist Andrew Coyne argued that the NPB was within its rights to deny Latimer parole because he didn’t express regret, because doing so without that requirement might encourage others to do the same.

All of which is patently nonsense.

Robert Latimer took a life and for that he had to answer to the law. But he shouldn’t have had his case effectively arbitrated by groups that have agendas that have nothing to do with justice or fairness but are meant to advance their advocacy.

Justice is never even handed and I don’t think was ever meant to be. Every case has its own story and its own specific set of facts. But when you look at Latimer’s sentencing and his treatment by the National Parole Board knowing that this man was caught up in his own moral dilemma but also knowing full well that he was absolutely no risk to the community, and then again look at other cases and how the sentencing came down, I think there is reason to wonder.

Cases in point:.

Regina teen gets 3 1/2 years for fatal May long weekend shooting

Jodie Lynn Bryant was enjoying a campfire in a Regina backyard on the May long weekend when a stranger in a passing car smiled, lifted a stolen rifle and took the 21-year-old’s life with a single pull of the trigger.

Asked by his friend what he was doing, the 16-year-old murderer replied, “Oh, just having fun.”

On Friday, he was sentenced to 3 1/2 years in a youth facility on top of the six months he’s already served since his arrest, followed by three years in the community under a conditional supervision order.

“That’s a dangerous man. In three years Regina, be scared,” Bryant’s aunt Elaine Severight told the Leader-Post.

A killer, admittedly 16 years old, callously kills a girl in her own backyard in a drive-by shooting, “just having fun”. He gets 3 1/2 years in prison and then they throw him back into the community under ‘supervision’.

And among various mercy killings in Canada, a few examples.

Doctor gave potassium chloride to a dying patient who was suffering intractable pain.

1990 – Unidentified city in Quebec, possibly Quebec City – Unidentified doctor gave potassium chloride injection to dying patient who was suffering intractable pain
Charge: None (president of Quebec College of Physicians defended doctor’s action and Quebec Minister of Justice decided against laying charges)
Reference:
“Euthanasia: Quebec considering charges for MD’s role in AIDS death”
Ottawa Citizen, June 20 1992, Page A3

The case of Dr. de la Roche

In Timmins, Ontario the forty-nine-year-old chief of surgery at St. Mary’s General Hospital, Dr. Alberto de la Rocha, administered an injection of morphine and potassium chloride to his seventy-year-old patient in 1991. Mrs Mary Graham was suffering from terminal cancer of the cheek, mouth and lung. It was clear that during much of her remaining time she would have to endure great agony. As Nicholas Ionides reported in the Globe and Mail of April 5, 1993, her forty-six-year-old son, George, testified at the trial of his mother’s doctor that he and his brothers regarded his mother’s death as being “very peaceful, very dignified, and very humane,” and that it was “a beautiful experience.”

The doctor’s motives were clear — to save his patient the pain, suffering and humiliation of protracted illness. His community recognized this when they rallied to his support, as did many of the hospital staff and de la Rocha’s other patients. Initially, the doctor was charged with second-degree murder, but the charge was later reduced and he pleaded guilty to a much lesser charge, of administering a noxious substance. He received a three-year suspended sentence and was not banned from practising medicine.

Cheryl Myers and Michael Power

1993 – Halifax, Nova Scotia – Cheryl Myers and Michael Power  euthanized Myers’ father who was dying badly
Charge: Second-degree murder, reduced to manslaughter
Result: Suspended sentence

It would appear that a (brief) case  study would indicate that the only certain thing about mercy killings is that if the victim is old and in pain it is ok to put them down. It seems to me that the organizations looking out for the welfare of the aged should be very concerned.

What I do think is that in the end, between advocacy groups howling for his head on a plate, a prosecutor that seemed strongly motivated to extract the severest sentence possible and his trial being turned into a media event, Robert Latimer never had a chance of finding any compassion from the courts.

There are many who still think that Latimer deserved no compassion.

I think his 10 years spent incarcerated was wrong and a waste of a decent man’s life.

Golf is a mind game

October 17, 2010

As I have said before (probably too many times), golf is a funny game, played to a large degree in the head.

I was again reminded of this by the play of Brittany Lincicome in the LPGA‘s CVS/Pharmacy event this week.

Lincicome shot a 61 on Thursday, to put her at the top of the leaderboard at 11 under and then went out on Friday and beat her way around the course to finish the day with a 4 over par 76.

We high handicappers have a tendency to look at our best scores as our benchmark and then beat ourselves up when our next game balloons into the stratosphere.

But when you see a top ranked professional in the game take a 15 shot swing from one game to the next it puts the whole process in its proper perspective.

Quiting your job the JetBlue way

August 22, 2010

The big hype on the JetBlue flight attendant, who cursed out an  unruly passenger and then grabbed a couple of beers and slid down the emergency chute to fame, possibly fortune and a chance at jail time, has subsided in the media.

It appears that he is still facing charges for reckless endangerment and criminal mischief. Although I would be curious to know just what that means. By exiting the plane in a somewhat unconventional manner he probably ran afoul of some federal law pertaining to airport safety or U.S. terrorism laws or whatever. There seem to be enough laws on the books these days to cover every possible situation. I read earlier that he was also being charged with theft – I presume for the two beers that absconded with – but that may or may not be the case. However police have been known to pile on the charges initially on a ‘just in case’ scenario or possibly to simply intimidate the miscreant.

As to the fame and fortune he now has a publicist.

Quitting your job usually leads to bookmarking Monster.com on your laptop and watching M*A*S*H DVDs in your underwear, not fame and fortune. Of course, if for your final act at said job you lay down an expletive-laced tirade over an intercom system and exit via an emergency escape tube, the way former JetBlue flight attendant Steven Slater reportedly did, the standard rules may not apply. After a week of his story saturating a strangely obsessed media, on Sunday Slater procured the services of top publicist Howard Bragman to help deal with media relations and manage the numerous offers said to be coming his way.

Can a book and a movie be far behind?

But then again Slater might not be the pure folk hero that the media initially made him out to be.

JetBlue flight attendant Steven Slater may have been drinking long before he grabbed a beer and made a dramatic exit from a jetliner by opening an emergency slide to the tarmac at New York’s Kennedy Airport, police said today.

Witnesses have also told police that it was Slater who was rude to passengers, and the cut on his forehead came at the beginning of the flight, not during an altercation with a surly passenger after the plane landed as Slater has claimed.

Nor does it appear that he actually quit his job when he made his dramatic exit. So it wasn’t really a glorious ‘take this job and shove it’ moment.

A flight attendant accused of cursing out a passenger on an airplane passenger-address system, grabbing some beer from the galley and exiting on an emergency slide was suspended Tuesday. The attendant’s lawyer said a rule-breaking passenger provoked him.

There is more often than not a lot more to a story than initially gets on the front page.

More interface with Shaw Cable: Or, it only hurts when I pound my head on the table

July 12, 2010

Just when I was starting to have semi-fond feelings for the technical staff at Shaw Cable – at least the ones who work with the business accounts (don’t even talk to me about the residential account people) – I was brought down to earth.

Over the years I have had my ups and downs with Shaw over various things. But after I realized that because my e-mail was a business account and not residential (how I got there is a story in itself) and started dealing with the technicians in that department I thought I had reached Nirvana. The business technicians seemed much more technically competent and helpful.

Then came the reckoning.

For the past 15 years or so I have sent out a little e-mail ALERT, under the name of the BC Wildlife Federation, to about 450 people; a list that I have accumulated over that period. I forward articles, etc., that I think will be of interest to most of the group (you can’t please everyone all of the time or, more correctly, any of the time).

However, recently a nasty problem has raised its head.

A while back, I sent out an ALERT and it just disappeared into the black hole of the internet. I send out the emails with my recipients listed as blind copies and nothing came back to me and nothing went to anyone on my list. It was just gone!

I contacted Shaw and discovered that after all of this time I had been tagged as a spammer. When I tried to determine why, after all of these years, I had suddenly been blocked I was given a number of reasons: Too many addresses on an e-mail, although I was within the limit set for me by Shaw. Inactive addresses that I had not deleted from my list, of which I was guilty.The fact that I was blind copying the addresses on my list,which according to the technician raised the spam suspicion level (this seemed ridiculous to me).

So I reduced the number of addresses per e-mail, which meant that I had to send out more e-mails to cover my list. I deleted the old inactive addresses from my book but I continued to blind copy my list as I didn’t want to have everyone’s e-mail address out there for all the world to see.

I was back on line and everything went well for a while. Then I was closed down again.

This time I was told that I needed to put a line on my posts that told the recipient how to opt out of receiving the ALERTs. I was naive enough to think that anyone who wanted off the list would simply hit reply and ask to be removed – which various people had done over the years. So I added this information and eventually was able to get off the blocking list.

Then the other day it happened again. I sent out an ALERT and it disappeared.

I called Shaw and this time I was told that there had been complaints about the list being spam. I asked them for the nature of the complaint and who had made the complaint(s) so I could remove them from the list. They said they couldn’t do that, although they did indicate that they did have that information (whether or not that was actually true, I don’t know).

I pointed out to them that their handling of this was similar to being tried in court and not being allowed to know what the charges were or who was making the accusations. This argument did not resonate with them in any way – obviously not civil libertarians.

The told me that it was my problem and it was up to me to fix it and they did this to protect their customers. I pointed out to them that I was their customer and they should be trying to help me. Again they were unmoved by this venture into logical discourse.

What they now told me was that I needed to contact everyone on my list and get confirmation from them that they wanted to continue to receive the ALERTs. (This was not a short conversation as I tried the patience of a technician close to the breaking point – although he gamely managed to stay civil – and then did the same with a supervisor. None of which gained me any ground in my attempt to get them to assist me in solving my problem).

Knowing when I was whipped I decided to go the route of getting ‘opt-ins’ from my list.

In my first attempt I wrote up a note asking the recipient to give me a ‘yes’ or’ no’ answer to the question of whether they wished to continue receiving the ALERTs. I put 70 addresses on one email and sent it. Of course it also disappeared into the blogosphere. Now I was in a catch-22 situation. I had to contact my list but Shaw was blocking me from doing so.

So I phoned back to Shaw.

Now if anyone has ever had the need to phone into a call-in centre you know it’s not a process for the impatient. There is a wait (although admittedly Shaw has a call-back process that works fairly well if you choose to use it). But by now this was about 11:00 PM so I opted to just hang on to the phone and eventually I got another technician.

I gave him a ticket number I had received from Shaw some time back which (I presume) explained the history of my problem and I would hope all that had happened since. I told him about my problem with trying to follow their instructions about sending out an opt-in request.

His solution? Send individual e-mails to each of the 450+ list members. I said that bordered on ridiculous. It could have been a serious suggestion, but I think it was a standard call-in centre ploy to try and get your customer off the phone and out of your hair in the quickest time possible. However, that may just be me being cynical.

He then went away and studied further on the situation and came and told me that my e-mails had now been limited to 20 addresses each. At this point, being late and my frustration level set at maximum I hung up. Rudely, I’m afraid.

Then I decided, OK we will play by the new rules. So I set up an e-mail and, playing it safe, put on 18 addresses. It disappeared, presumably into Shaw’s spam folder. I tried it again with 18 different addresses with the same result. I then tried to send an e-mail with 5 addresses, again with the same result.

At that point I gave in to the inevitable. But it is an interesting conundrum.

Shaw shuts down my service because they have tagged me as a spammer. The can’t or won’t reverse their decision when I explain the situation but tell me that I have to fix the problem on my own. Then to complete the circle, they won’t let me even try to fix the problem.

For this I pay them money.

Welcome to the new world of customer service.

On poverty and crime

May 24, 2010

I wish I had written this. An old link but still worth reading.

The canard that “poverty causes crime” is the  product of lazy correlation. We associate crime with poverty  because criminals are so often poor. However, the association is an inversion – people don’t become drug-addicted thieves because they’re poor – they’re poor because they’re drug-addicted thieves.

If poverty were a root cause of crime, the six-figure executive wouldn’t embezzle, the limo-driven politician wouldn’t defraud. There’d be an income threshold at which crime was no longer “necessary” for survival. Poverty and ruin are simply possible consequences when high-risk, high-return windfall economics trump morality, honesty and the work ethic.

What the white-collar criminal and inner-city gang member have in common is something quite different, and it’s unrelated to birthright or economic misfortune.

What they share is a sense of entitlement. They have convinced themselves (through varying measures of rationalization and socialization) that they are entitled to our money, our property, our lives.

2010 Masters’ Championship: Great Theatre

April 12, 2010

I pretty much glued myself to the TV for the 4 days of the Masters’ tournament. And good TV golf it was, with Tom Watson at 60 showing good form on day one, although he faded as the tournament progressed. Freddy Couples looking like a champion on Thursday, taking the first day lead by shooting his lowest ever one day score at the Masters, then dropping back on Friday but rallying on Sunday to look like a contender for a brief moment.

Contrary to all of the speculation about hecklers it appeared that Tiger received a pretty warm welcome from the fans patrons. After the first day it looked as though he had a real shot at winning the tournament, but by Sunday ended up tied for 4th place with KJ Choi while playing with what increasingly looked to be his ‘C’ game.

It seemed as though he had hacked his way out of the tournament by going 3 over by the 5th hole, then he holed one from the fairway on the 7th for an eagle and then went birdie/birdie on the 8th and 9th for a 1-under front nine. The back nine had another eagle and two birdies, only to be marred by an unbelievable 3 putt on the 14th where Woods stepped up to his short par putt and stabbed it by the hole. I was surprised that he didn’t simply self-immolate on the spot. The anger and frustration absolutely radiated from the TV screen. What was incredible to watch was Woods’ ability to continually recover from what appeared to be tournament ending shots, particularly off the tee.

Not that others, including Mickelson, didn’t put themselves in less than perfect spots and make amazing recoveries – particularly Phil’s recovery on the 13th, playing off pine needles and with a small gap in the trees to the green. He then proceeded to stick it on the green with a very real chance at an eagle putt (missed, but what the hell).

But for all of their skill and their experience it was an education in the mental aspect of the game to see what happens on the final day of a major tournament where winning means so much more than just the dollar value of the tournamen: Where they are playing for a place in the history of the game.

KJ Choi who had played like a well-oiled machine blew back-to-back bogeys on the 13th and 14th, then birdied the 15th, but his chance was gone.

Lee Westwood who looked invincible up until Sunday went 1-over par on the front nine but steadied down to shoot a 1-under for the day, which was a far cry from his 5-under on Thursday, his 3-under on Friday and is 4-under on Saturday and not enough to hold off a charging Phil Michelson who finished off his pressure packed Sunday with a bogey-free 5-under par.

Then it looked for brief moment that Anthony Kim might come on as a spoiler, starting on the 13th with a birdie/birdie/eagle/birdie run that at the end put him in 3rd place with a wonderful 7-under par 65 and a 12-under total for the tournament. This is a guy that could really blow away the competition at some point. Not just because he shot a 65 on Sunday-at-the-Masters.  On Thursday, beginning on the 10th hole, Kim went 3 bogeys in a row, recovered with an eagle on the 13th and then took another bogey on the 14th and still ended up shooting a 4-under 68. Having won the previous week’s tournament and with his showing in the Master’s Kim may be on the cusp of achieving his real potential.

But at the Masters Mickelson never backed off. Shooting a 67 on Friday, ‘blowing’ to a one-under par 71 on Friday and then a pair of 67s on the weekend for a 16-under final score and finishing strong with a birdie on the 18th. A marvelous and exciting performance.

A great Masters, even though it sucked away 4 days of my life.

Tiger Woods: Everyone is an expert

March 30, 2010

I have almost reached the point of feeling sympathy for Woods over his personal problems. I say ‘almost’, as his problems were all caused by his own arrogance and lack of personal discipline and quite frankly – stupidity. Not that those are failings exclusive to Mr. Woods.

Contemplate briefly Bill ClintonJohn Edwards, Kobe Bryant, Jesse James, Mark Sanford, and sundry other high profile philanderers. All of them, with much to lose, and who seemed to think that they could act out their sexual fantasies free and clear of any media intrusion.

What were they thinking – if they were thinking at all?

But back to the Tiger.

What has begun to generate some sympathy, at least on my part, is the schizophrenic commentary that has become the norm when writing about the trials and travails of golf’s number one player.

If you read any amount of the tripe that has been written it becomes apparent that no matter what decision that Woods might make regarding his return to golf it will be wrong in someone’s eyes.

It was the opinion of some that the timing of his press conference during the Accenture golf tournament was  obviously to punish Accenture for dropping him as a client.  Some punishment. Accenture got more publicity in the MSM than they ever could have hoped for from the sponsorship of the golf tournament.

Of course there has been the ongoing debate of when Tiger would come back and when he should come back. There were those that argued that he should stay away from the game for an extended period until he had somehow been purified. I got the feeling that some thought that he should retire from the game permanently as being proven unworthy of treading the fairways alongside of rest of the tour players who no doubt had been vetted and approved as his moral superiors.

They were further offended when Woods showed up practicing at Ilseworth as if that showed a further flaw in his character.

After all of the debate as to when he would return and the various speculations about which venue he would choose, he announced that he would return to play the 2010 Masters at Augusta.

Whoops! Wrong decision again. Making his debut at the Masters would be too disrespectful to the event with all of the media hype that would be involved. Ignoring of course the massive television coverage the tournament would generate.

But then it was felt that he should have shown some loyalty to Arnold Palmer and played in Palmer’s Bay Hill tournament prior to the Masters. Of course if he had, the criticisms would have been the same as for his decision to open with the Masters.

For the most part, the personal opinions emanating from professional golf writers has been bad enough, but the Tiger soap opera has morphed into such a major event (no pun intended there) that everyone with a computer has turned into a sports writer. Most of them not knowing a wedge from a wedgie.

An example of the previously mentioned schizophrenia is brilliantly manifested in an interview with Peter Arliss the British golf commentator (the pointer thanks to Geoff Shackleford, who, since the beginning of the Tiger debacle has bounced between being a golf journalist and a gossip  columnist).

Arliss can’t seem to make up his mind where he stands with Tiger.

“I’m surprised, in a way, they are letting him play there,” Alliss said. “It either shows they have a desire to be helpful or a weakness. It would have been rather grand — but would have perpetuated the stupidity of it — if they had said, ‘Sorry, we don’t want your sort here.’

Although -

… Alliss dismisses the notion that it is disrespectful to the other players for Woods to bring his circus to town in Masters week.

But -

…. he was withering in his condemnation of the 14-times major champion for choosing the middle of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship in February to make his first public statement since November, that cringing mea culpa. “Ernie Els was right when he used the word ‘selfish,’ ” Alliss said. “It was thoughtless and I didn’t like it.

Then again -

“But we’ve all done stupid things. If you are a red-blooded male and you’re chatted up by a decent-looking bird, it’s very hard to not say yes. It was a lot easier in my day. I remember some very famous golfers who used to book into hotels as Mr and Mrs.”

Does this mean that what Tiger did was not really wrong? Just bad timing?

And -

If anything sticks in Alliss’s craw it is doing daft things in your own backyard. He recalls an old-timer telling him never to “get tiddly” at a golf club. Little wonder, therefore, that he remains unimpressed with the behaviour of two of Great Britain’s finest golfers.

“My lasting memory is seeing Ian Woosnam come out of the front door at Augusta p***ed with Sam Torrance,” he said. “Both of them fell in the bushes and it wasn’t a very good sight. I thought, ‘Boys, boys. Get a couple of bottles and go home. Don’t get p***ed here.’

OK, so if Tiger has taken his adventures out of the country???

And on it goes.

As far as I’m concerned Tiger’s tragedy is in his own hands. If he doesn’t want to bare his soul to the ravening press then more power to him. All he really needs to provide us with is the opportunity to watch him play his spectacular game of golf.

I hope he come back strong to the game of golf and I hope he dominates the sport again. In fact I hope he wins the Masters in April.

But what I would really like to see is a swelling of applause for Woods the golfer as he steps onto the first tee.

Wouldn’t that make the naysayers choke on their morning toast.

Tracfone reactivation. Service Call Centres. Incompetence.

March 12, 2010

There is one rule to follow when you are forced to phone into a call centre for technical assistance: You need to reconcile yourself to phoning back as many times as necessary until you eventually find someone with enough technical knowledge to solve your problem.

Unfortunately, this may take some time and an incredible amount of patience.

I have been around the track on a number of occasions with Shaw Cable and Telus to name a couple but I just had an experience trying to re-activate a tracfone, add time and change its area code that  almost broke my spirit once and for all. I should have kept track of the actual time spent on the phone but overall it was a minimum of 5 hours and possibly as high as 8 hours.

I initially phoned in and talked to one of the representatives based in some far off country. I explain that I want to change the phone’s area code from 206 to 623. That apparently isn’t available, but they can use 602, which is satisfactory to me.  I give the phone serial number as requested and she keeps going away for “2 minutes” and has me typing in codes and finally says that I should turn off the phone and turn it back on in one hour and my phone will be as requested. I am elated.

One hour later I turn my phone on and nothing has changed. So, being an eternal optimist, I leave it over night and turn it on again the next morning. No magic.

So I phone again, and get another person, probably at another call centre, in some other far corner of the world and we go through the same routine. Serial numbers and codes. We have some trouble with the code.  She can’t seem to differentiate between 206 and 602. By this time the phone is actually activated and the time added. We are simply down to the area code change. She transfers me to another person/department to do the job. No information is passed on so I again go through the explanation and give the serial number and we type in codes. This time I am told to turn off the phone and turn it back on in 15 minutes. We have reduced the time frame!

But unfortunately, 15 minutes later we still have the 206 area code.

As my wife points out, at this point I could let it drop and live with the old area code. But they said they could change the code and I will persevere. So I call again and go through all of the same procedures – serial number, type in codes, turn phone off and on. No change. After well over an hour of this I get a busy signal and I am cut off from the call centre.

I phone back, but at this point I ask to talk to a supervisor. Of course I go back on hold until someone is available and am on hold long enough that I am beginning to suspect that they are hoping that I will give up and go away. Finally I get the supervisor, but there has been no information forwarded to him and of course we go through the same stuff all over again.

He works away on the problem and lo and behold the 602 area code shows up on my phone. I am ecstatic. I feel as though I have won the game. I thanks the guy for his hard work and for solving the problem. We hang up. I am pumped.

Then I try the phone. I can’t send or receive calls.

I phone back and again wait until someone becomes available in some far off country. And we do everything again but he can’t make the  phone work. He transfers me to a supervisor and we do the dance again. After a while he says he has it fixed and that I should turn my phone off and wait a short time and all will be well. I tell him that my confidence level in their capabilities has been severely diminished and that I don’t think that I have ever worked with such an incompetent group in my life. He tells me that he is sorry that I feel that way, but I doubt his sincerity  and suspect that he has heard this before.

But I did the man a disservice. When the phone gets turned back on its new area code is 480, which is also satisfactory – and the phone sends and receives. Problem solved. I’m exhausted. I feel as though I’ve gone 9 rounds and lost.

However, to add insult to injury, at one point while trying to change the area code, one of the people asked me for the area code where we were. Then he asked for my street address and my email address. I was trying to figure out  what value this info was to him in solving the problem. When I was dealing with the final person, he also asked me for my email address. But by this time I am way bent out of shape and  asked him why the hell he needed my email when he wasn’t sending me any messages anyway. Well, he said, ‘you don’t have to give it but we will send you out promotional material’. At which point I came unglued. I had been on the phone phone for so long with these yahoos that my ear was becoming deformed and he wanted to send me promotional material! And I was dumb enough to give them the mailing address as well.

I can only plead mental exhaustion.

Isn’t technology wonderful.

Tiger Talks. Media Whines

February 21, 2010

Tiger stood at the podium Friday morning and gave a prepared speech to a limited and question-restricted audience in which he spoke at length about his problems and his path to redemption.,

Although Woods had been criticized for months about his disappearance from public view and chastised in the media for not making a public statement the criticism did not abate with his planned appearance at the PGA headquarters.

Firstly he was slammed for timing his reappearance with the Friday of the Accenture World Match Championship, one of the sponsors that had dropped him early into the scandal, with the feelings that his timing had upstaged the event. Some opined that it was an act of revenge for being dropped by the sponsor. I liked David Feherty’s comment in a CBS interview, that if Tiger was looking for revenge he would be out there winning the Accenture tournament this week..

Then they didn’t like the idea that Tiger would make a statement and there would be no question and answer period afterword. Which breaks their little hearts, but why the hell would Woods set himself up for a bunch of questions that would be provocative in nature and not really relevant to anything other than prurient curiosity.

Prior to the Friday event, Alex Miceli who works as a commentator for the Golf Channel was asked about Tiger’s press conference and went off on a stupid rant about Tiger manipulating the press and being gutless and selfish and how he owed the world an explanation for what he had done.

He owes the world an explanation? What an unadulterated load of garbage. He’s not who he is or where is in the golf world because anyone voted him into the position. He’s there because of his hard work, talent and dedication. He may owe some people an apology and an explanation, but it certainly isn’t Alex Miceli or any of the other media  types, and it certainly isn’t “the world”.

There was a lot of crying about the timing of the press conference, in that it was on the Friday of the Accenture tournament and how it took away from that event. Hell, Accenture probably got more publicity in the media that they ever could have hoped for if Tiger had made his appearance the following week.

Actually the timing was pretty brilliant. To begin with, if you want to limit the damage you put out your news on a Friday, where it dies away over the weekend and is old news by Monday. Governments have been doing that with bad news for years. Next, the Olympics are in full swing and much of the major networks’ television time are into that spectacle and there is no time to chatter on about Tiger Woods. The final benefit about going public at that time was that only Letterman is live right now and he’s not doing too many jokes about other peoples’ infidelity problems. Leno’s not back on the air, The Daily Show is on re-runs as is Saturday Night Live. I can’t believe that Tiger’s camp didn’t take a lot of this into consideration.

Manipulative and controlling? That’s supposed to be a crime when you’re dealing with your personal life? They’re all just burned because Woods doesn’t play their game.

Tiger’s biggest challenge will be the first tournaments that he enters when he decides to come back. There will be rabble in the crowds and an embarrassing questions in the press room. But what interest me more is whether that sheen of invincibility will have been removed and whether there will still be that psychological edge against opponents when he is coming down the stretch on Sunday.

The aftermath of the late night wars

February 1, 2010

I am somewhat puzzled by the fact that Jay Leno has apparently turned out to be the villain in NBC’s debacle over the Tonight Show.

It seems to me that the only villain here is the NBC decision makers and I suspect they’re less villain than incompetent.

How did this all play out?

1. Five years ago Leno’s contract comes due with NBC at the same time that Conan O’Brien is making noises about leaving the Late Night Show and taking his act somewhere else. NBC doesn’t want to lose O’Brien and see him go to another network, so they promise him the Tonight Show in 5 years if he stays where he is. O’Brien agrees.

2. The NBC execs tell Leno that they will give him a 5 year contract and at the end of the contract – even though his show is currently number one in late night – he has to leave the Tonight Show and let O’Brien take over that time slot. They apparently think that by the end of the 5 years, Leno’s rating will have slipped away.

3. Leno agrees, and at the end of his 5 year contract – even though he is still holding the Tonight Show in its #1 spot – Leno steps down and turns the show over to O’Brien. Leno actually steps away before his contract is over.

4. Leno asks to be released from his contact with NBC but NBC decides now that it doesn’t want to lose him either, knowing that he will probably be picked up by another network and become a competitor to their existing shows.

5. NBC then asks Leno to step into the prime time 10 PM time slot and do his show there. Leno accepts, even though he must know it is a risky move to try and put a talk show in that time slot. But NBC says they have done the research and besides, it is far cheaper for them to run than a drama or a sitcom. The affiliates aren’t happy, but NBC thinks it will work.

In hindsight, there are people second guessing Leno’s decision to accept this show. They seem to feel that he should have refused the offer from NBC. But why would he? NBC wouldn’t release him from his contract, have offered him the challenge of trying to make his show work in prime time, enabled him to keep his staff employed and have ensured him that their research says that the concept will work. Why would he feel compelled to turn that down?

6. Now seven months down the road, Conan O’Brien’s Tonight Show is down on the rating scale, having lost Leno’s #1 position. Leno hasn’t captured a big enough market at 10 PM – even though the show is making a profit for the network -  and the affiliates are about to rebel. Now NBC has another problem. Forced to cancel Leno’s show or lose affiliates, they have the option of dumping Leno and keeping O’Brien, who doesn’t have the ratings they want. But NBC, true to its corporate self, wants to have it both ways. They want to find some way to keep both men rather than lose one of them -either one – to some competitor. So they come up with their next brilliant idea.

7. NBC comes to Leno and tells him that they are thinking about giving him a half hour show at 11:35 PM and moving O’Brien and the Tonight Show back to 12:05 AM.

If Leno made a mistake anywhere in this process, it was here. He should have picked up the phone, called O’Brien and said, “what the hell’s going on here? Are you OK with this”? But he didn’t. He says he asked if Conan was alright with this and the network said that he would be, and he left it at that. A lot of his own problems might have been alleviated if he had just made that call.

Conan’s reply to NBC was, in effect, stick it in your ear and it all went further downhill from there.

8. NBC drops Conan O’Brien from the Tonight Show and asks Jay Leno to step back in and Leno accepts. Now Conan is the martyr and Jay is the villain.

But if NBC had confidence in O’Brien, they would have capitulated at that point, left him in the 11:35 slot and started negotiations with Leno to release him from his contract. The network had the option at that point of who they wanted to keep and who they wanted to let go. They made the decision that, rightly or wrongly, Leno was the one they needed to keep.

So should Leno have turned down their offer to return to the Tonight Show? A lot of people seem to think that he should have. By why would he? This was now a business decision, both on NBC’s and Leno’s part.

Leno gets to return as the host of the highly desirable Tonight Show franchise and he gets to keep his long time staff employed. Should he have walked away from the offer in some kind of high moral dudgeon? He could have done that, especially with how he had been jerked around by the network brass, being moved from his job while he was leading the field in the ratings and then being put into a high risk time slot with only 4 months, as it turned out, to make the show work.

But I think that Leno recognized that there was no logic in doing that. He would have put his staff on the unemployment rolls and for what? Would NBC have kept Conan anyway? Maybe and maybe not. Or would the Tonight Show franchise have simply crashed and burned? I think he made the only decision that made sense for him.

The question now will be whether he can return the show to its former glory. NBC has done him no favours by giving him back the chair. If he takes it back to #1 he will be a hero, but if he can’t bring the ratings back up he will be chewed up and spit out by the critics – which in this case is a good chunk of the North American viewing public. He has a major job ahead of him and I am sure that he knows that all too well.

But for all of those noble people out there who think that Leno should have gotten on his high horse and ridden off into the twilight, is that what you would do if you were offered your dream job at the miserable sum of $30 million a year?

Yeah, sure. Get a life.


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