Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Pouty Palin and LA's Fall Fault

Complaining About Reporters is an Unbecoming Ploy

So, Sarah Palin doesn't like CBS News anchor Katie Couric?

Well, neither do I. Couric makes no pretense of disguising her liberal bias on the air, her droning voice is annoying, and she talks like she has marbles in her mouth. Like many media stars, Couric enjoys a high-flying Manhattan and Hamptons lifestyle, yet pretends, with far less success than her other network peers, to be a common person attuned to how the news affects the rest of us.

None of this, however, grants Palin license to censure the press if she decides to run for President. Which, of course, is a race she's already decided to run; her aw-shucks cave-in to supporters who want her to run just needs to be timed right. Palin may not like certain members of the press, but most politicians don't get to pick who interviews them.

On today's Sean Hannity talk show, Palin claims to live in a different reality:

"As for doing an interview, though, with a reporter [Couric] who already has such a bias against whatever it is that I would come out and say? Why waste my time? No. I want to help clean up the state that is so sorry today of journalism."

(And yes, that last sentence is verbatim, according to CNN and Time magazine. I'm not exactly sure what it means, but Palin's supporters probably do, and that's not a compliment.)

Granted, Palin's past experience with Couric has not been stellar. And nobody's saying Palin doesn't have the right to dislike her. But come on folks; Palin's dislike of Couric stems from those painful interviews during the McCain presidential campaign when Couric lobbed curveball questions to Palin like, "what newspapers do you read?" to which Palin absurdly replied, "all of them."

Or any Supreme Court decisions, other than Roe v. Wade, with which Palin disagrees. Palin couldn't think of one.

Or about Hamas winning an election in a bitter setback for Arab-Israeli relations. Palin mumbled something about respecting democracy, appearing to endorse an organization the United States considers a sponsor of terrorism.

Come on, Palin! It's not Couric's fault when a vice presidential candidate can't answer basic political questions from a former morning talkshow host. And to simply dismiss Couric as a non-reporter unworthy of asking any questions of Alaska's former governor displays a laughable misunderstanding of the Bill of Rights.

Sometimes I suspect Palin's 15 minutes of fame has been extended in part by the very news media that holds her with such contempt. Palin is media gold, particularly because she doesn't realize the joke's on her.

Unfortunately, with Hannity and the other right-wing windbags continuing to give her air time, Palin has plenty of opportunities to trip herself up. At first, I found the possibility of a novice vice president somewhat intriguing. But the intrigue has now worn off, and if Palin continues to masquerade as a viable national political candidate, she needs to learn the issues and memorize facts instead of sound bites. That way, she won't have to be as concerned about marble-mouthed Couric.

Otherwise, she might do more good for Democrats than Republicans in 2012.

Bad Parenting Allows Toddler's Death

Two-year-old toddler Lucas Tang fell to his death Sunday evening in Los Angeles' Staples Center at the end of a Lakers game. After posing with his parents in a luxury box with a balcony, Tang was left to look after himself as his mother and father reviewed the just-taken photos on a digital camera. Thirty feet later, Lucas was splayed across the plastic seats below, and died at the hospital.

Now, since I am a single, never-married male, I try hard to refrain from commenting too harshly on peoples' parenting skills. Faith, politics, governance, economics, and culture exist as human experiences and theaters in which my perspective holds as much validity as (almost!) everyone else's. However, out of respect for people engaged in the intensive activity of parenting, I try to keep my own opinions on the subject to myself. Most of the time.

But this isn't one of those times.

How many wrong things manifest themselves in Lucas Tang's tragic story?

First, at 2 years old, should his parents have taken him to an NBA game? Where is the common sense? Particularly if they were enjoying the game from a luxury box, they probably had the means to pay for a baby sitter. They should not have assumed that watching a basketball game from a luxury box is the same as watching a basketball game on TV in the comfort of your living room. Although Staples Center is a modern building which meets all city building codes, it is not McPlayPlace.

Second, this was an evening game, and little Lucas fell shortly after 9 pm. Maybe I'm old-fashioned, but shouldn't 2-year-olds be in bed at that hour? Am I wrong in suspecting that poor Lucas, after surviving the sensory overload of a Lakers game, was by now over-stimulated, over-tired, and over-cranky? Even if his parents were paying him a fraction of the attention he needed in that open-air luxury box, Lucas probably had little energy for - or interest in - obeying them.

Third, Staples Center is designed for watching events like basketball games, not defying the laws of gravity. Anybody who claims Plexiglas barriers and low railings are unsafe in a modern, American area needs to keep in mind that for places like the Staples Center to be 100% idiot-proof, you wouldn't be able to see the game. It's like building the world's safest car: it can be done, but it isn't, because nobody would buy it. People with common sense use a building in a manner commensurate with its purpose. Once again, Staples Center is not McPlayPlace.

Fourth, most media reports describe how the parents had just been posing with their 2-year-old near the railing of their luxury box. One assumes the person taking the photos was facing into the arena to capture the view from their perch. So everybody knew how high up they were. Doesn't any of this translate into the need for caution with a toddler in the same luxury box? Did his parents not realize Lucas could climb? Isn't climbing a major activity for 2-year-olds? Remember, I'm not an expert here, since I'm not a parent, but I have four nephews and one niece, and I can distinctly recall that when they were that age, they liked to crawl and explore. It's what 2-year-olds do. This reality should not have been lost on Lucas' parents, should it?

Of course, at number five, wimpy parents will, by now, be protesting, saying it's impossible to keep your eyes on your 2-year-old 100% of the time. To which I say: "YES! You are exactly right! Which is why you need to use discernment as to the environments into which you allow your toddler." You should be able to distinguish environments which are appropriate for 2-year-olds, and which are not. For example, do you turn your back on a toddler near a bridge railing? Are escalators suitable substitutes for playgrounds? Do parents use kiddie fencing to keep their 2-year-olds IN the kitchen?

Obviously, looking at just-taken photos is not a crime. And would a quick glance at the camera by the parents - the natural thing to do after having a digital picture taken - have given the toddler enough time to climb upon the balcony? If the 2-year-old was that quick at acrobatics, wouldn't his activity have caught somebody's attention out of the corner of their eye? Something tells me the parents were ignoring their child a lot longer than the time it takes to look at a camera screen. But now I'll admit I'm starting to speculate. What I don't need to speculate about concerns whether the parents should have brought their toddler into that environment to begin with. I think common sense says they should have known that too many variables would be out of their control, even in such a modern arena.

Despite all of these proofs for why Lucas' parents displayed shoddy parenting skills, Child Protective Services will probably give them a pass. His death remains a horrific story about being oblivious to risks, yet who's going to get hit the hardest? Chances are, Lucas' parents will try to sue Staples Center for big bucks, and a jury of their peers - which means 12 equally-feeble-minded people - will award those big bucks out of sympathy rather than logic.

The insurance company covering Staples Center will have to pay out, even though the fall was no fault of their own. And although the parents whose multiple failures actually precipitated the environment suitable for this tragedy will, of course, be haunted by the loss of their son, are we satisfied that is sufficient punishment? I can't help but wonder why they shouldn't be subject to some sort of civil penalty. After all, wouldn't Lucas be alive today if his parents took his well-being a bit more seriously? How much culpability do they bear for this awful event? Lucas needed a disciplined parent to provide enough discipline to keep him off the railing. Can it be argued that his fall was at least partly the fault of his parents?

Yes, accidents will happen. But was this really an accident? I'm a firm believer that people should be licensed before becoming parents. It may sound harsh of me to say, but Lucas' parents make my case for me.

I don't have any kids of my own, but I shudder when I think of the weight of responsibility parents have - and how many don't seem to realize it.

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