Sunday, December 7, 2008

BEYOND THE HEADLINES: The Rest of the Story

In this rapid fire,minute-to-minute culture of ours, today’s BIG story is very old news by early evening. That is unfortunate, since the follow-up story is often so much juicier than the original headline. As promised, Greenberg Rants is keeping up with the follow ups to some recent headlines. Juicy, juicy – you’ll see:
Eliot Spitzer more or less disappeared after it was revealed that during his tenure as Governor of New York he liked to have sex with his socks on, and…oh, yes, generally with a $1,000-an-hour call girl named Ashley Dupre. In March, Spitzer stepped down, and away from the spotlight. This week he re-emerged, sort of. Spitzer is the new financial columnist for, one of the earliest and most successful online publications. Said the editor-in-chief, Jacob Weisberg: “It was not an epic negotiation…I don’t portray this as something we had to coax him into.” Uh, probably not – Spitzer remains persona non grata in both political and business circles.

Oh, and it is unlikely he will write much about a Bronx jury’s December 5 decision ordering his father, Bernard Sitzer, to pay $1.3 million in an employee discrimination suit. Four employees at one of Bernard’s buildings claimed they were fired because they were black – and they won. Is this a lovely family or what? The Thanksgiving table talk had to be something. And as for Ms Dupre, well, it seems since her high profile fleshy transactions with the Governor, she has been approached by ex-Hollywood Madam Heidi Fleiss to tell her story for Fleiss’ publishing house. This is disturbing on so many levels, not the least of which is Fleiss trying to be a publisher. Oh, yes, and let’s not neglect to mention that Ms.Dupre is now dead set on going all show biz. According to recent reports, Ash wants to warble for the masses.

William Jefferson has been described as the Congressman with the least power in the House of Representatives. This, even though he served nine terms as a Representative from Louisiana. If you are not a Louisianan, you may recall the name anyway. In 2006 and beyond he made national and prolonged headlines when FBI agents found $90,000 stashed in his freezer at home.

Finally, last week, Louisiana voters showed their collective wisdom and sent Jefferson packing. He was defeated in a runoff election by Anh Cao, who will forever be distinguished as the first Vietnamese American to ever be elected to the U.S. Congress.

It would appear Mr. Jefferson has a tough year ahead of him. Already under Federal indictment on 16 charges of corruption, his seat in the House was widely perceived to be his bargaining chip with the Feds. Had he been re-elected he could have offered to resign in return for leniency. But now, as a private citizen, he has no leverage. He could conceivably be the next in the long line of Louisiana politicians to spend long years in prison.

The real footnote here is Cao, who came to this country in 1975, unable to even speak English. Is the American dream alive and well? It appears it is. Cao fled South Vietnam in 1975 with his mother and two siblings. He went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in physics and a master’s in philosophy before earning a J.D. in 2000. The moral of this story? Anything….ANYTHING is possible. Congratulations Congressman Cao.

Sunny Von Bulow died on Dec. 6, after spending 28 years in a coma. The Von Bulow name is carved into the public consciousness due to the trial of her husband, Klaus Von Bulow. Klaus was convicted on two counts of trying to kill his wife by injecting her with insulin in the early 1980s, but his convictions were overturned on appeal. A good percentage of the world’s population continues to believe Klaus is guilty. His trials were le scandale of the 80s, and now and then Klaus still pops up in the headlines. Sonny’s children never bought their stepfather’s package of innocence, and tended to her until the end, when she died in a nursing home.
You couldn’t make anything up as dramatic as this case, but Hollywood managed to concoct a respectable motion picture out of it, “Reversal of Fortune,” with Glenn Close and Jeremy Irons (1990). Irons won an Oscar playing Klaus.

If you’re a good, loyal Greenberg Rants reader, you’ll recall our November 11th piece, “Extra, Extra! Scroll All About It!” in which we examined the current struggles of the newspaper industry. Last week, it was revealed the Rocky Mountain News, Colorado’s oldest newspaper is for sale. The paper is 149 years old. That would be news enough, were it not for the further shocker that across the country more than 30 dailies are currently for sale. And, remember you heard this here first: The buzz in the industry is that the Miami Herald is for sale, as well. And if you can keep a lid on that, I'll dish further: Just this past weekend The Chicago Tribune revealed it is lumbering under a $13 billion debt and considering some type of bankruptcy proceeding. The big daddy of them all, the New York Times, citing "tighter credit and shrinking profits," plans to borrow $225 million against its Manhattan headquarters building, according to a report in Monday morning's Wall Street Journal. As we mentioned in November, this has everything to do with your slow but sure transition from an allegiance to print to a hunger for the immediacy of digital media. We still maintain that newspapers have a future in our culture. They will shrink in size and decrease in frequency (more weeklies and bi-weeklies than dailies will be the standard), but the presses will continue to roll. As for me…well, I’ll continue to dabble in both print and online. If nothing else, I have provided more black and white, grammatically-correct fish wrap for the masses over the past couple of decades than anybody I know of. Consider it a public service.

And finally, wondering whatever happened to Joe the Plumber? His 15 minutes went quick, right? Well, not exactly. Get this: Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher was back in the headlines last week when an Ohio state employee revealed she was directed to run a records check on the plumber in the final weeks of the presidential race, and after that a manager dictated an email from her address ordering a coverup of the act. Reportedly, the manager of the Department of Job and Family Services entered the employee’s office and demanded that she take down the cover up memo word for word and send it out. The records check was technically an improper access of confidential personal information. About her boss, the employee told the House State Government and Election Committee, "He appeared very upset, his neck was bright red, and he was shaking." The upshot of all of this is that an Ohio politician has now introduced legislation to be known at the “Joe the Plumber Bill,” which would provide greater safeguards for citizens’ private information.

Meanwhile, average, bald, middle-aged Joe has an agent, has written a book, has a web site, and reportedly has fielded numerous inquiries from plumber-hungry single women and men nationwide. After all, is there anything hotter than a man with a plunger and a fresh can of Drano? Oy vey. Welcome to America, right?

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