Diner Discussions

This was originally going to be called “Dinner Discussions,” but when I made the type to “Diner Discussions,” I realized it fit better.

I got a call this afternoon from my friend Farrell. He and his wife were in Connecticut at Mohegan Sun Casino. Actually, I think Farrell called out of a sense of boredom because casinos were not built for him!

I asked when they were driving back to New Jersey. When it seemed like a reasonable time, I asked if they’d like to stop for dinner in New Haven?

Farrell said he was in jeans and I didn’t feel like shaving&#185, so we decided to meet at the Greek Olive. The Greek Olive is a diner located right off I-95 at Long Wharf in New Haven. It’s about 15 minutes from here and under an hour from Mohegan Sun, but on the way home for them.

Tony and Anna who own it, used to own the luncheonette next to the TV station. I’ve known them and their daughters for years. I eat there two or three nights a week.

I drove to Long Wharf, getting there before Farrell, his wife and sister (who lives in Derby and was invited to join us). It was reasonably crowded, but someone was leaving a circular table tucked away in a corner of the dining room and Anna asked if we’d like it.

I know this blog is read all across the world (that continues to completely stun me), so I should explain the concept of a diner. They will make pretty much anything – from prime rib down to scrambled eggs and everything in between. The service is fast. The portions are generous. The coffee is never ending.

Though I’m not eating desserts at the moment, diners are known for their amazing baked goods – and this place is no exception. As you walk in, it’s tough to miss the huge cakes sitting in a refrigerated, glass walled case.

I have known Farrell for nearly 25 years. He was responsible for me getting my first TV job in Buffalo. I try not to hold that against him.

Everyone sat down, and the small talk began. It wasn’t long before we began to talk politics and the election. There is no doubt in my mind that the interest in this particular presidential election is just as great, maybe greater, than any in my lifetime.

I don’t think the country has been this divided Nixon – McGovern in 1972. By that I mean the supporters of either candidate find it difficult to understand how anyone could vote for the other guy. Back in 1972 the two side were also far apart in policy but very mismatched in strength. Nixon was a juggernaut in that election.

This time the lines are again well drawn, but the supporting camps are more evenly matched in size.

After a little while Tony walked by, pulled up a chair and sat down to join the discussion. It was great.

Really good discourse of any kind (but especially political) is a lot of fun. It is to your brain as exercise is to your muscles. It made a good meal with friends even better.

I watched Jon Stewart of the Daily Show on Crossfire on CNN a few days ago. He criticized the hosts (Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson) for using dogmatic arguments or quotes out of context or just plain spin to promote people they supported. Stewart claimed this ‘ends justifies the means’ method of political argument seen so often on cable TV does our country a disservice.

I agree.

That’s why this discussion, which was so free wheeling and open was so much fun.

I don’t agree with everything everyone said… in fact I disagree with lots of what I heard. I was just glad to have the workout and suspect everyone there was enjoying it too.

What I expected to be a terribly lonely night, in the house by myself, turned out better than anticipated.

&#185 – If Helaine found out that I shaved on a Saturday while she was away, she would call for an investigation – and be justified doing it.

Stop the Spin, I Want To Get Off

I watched the debate. I won’t comment on the content or the candidates. This blog is not the place for that&#185.

It held my attention. I’m glad of that. I am anxious to see how many Americans watched it. There seemed to be a lot of buzz beforehand. I don’t speak to too many people after work at 11:35 PM, so I can’t tell now how many actually did watch.

Whether it changes anyone’s mind or not, what a tribute to our way of life that this free and open exchange takes place.

I was curious to see how the debate was received by others, so when I got home I turned the TV on and read a little on the Internet. I’m no babe in the woods here, but I am astounded by all the spin… and astounded that networks and websites depend on it.

If Sony just announced a new line of TVs, I wouldn’t bring on Sony’s sales manager to tell me how they rate. Isn’t that exactly what is being done on TV and in print? Where is the value in partisan’s slavishly praising their boy?

I’m going to use Robert Novak and Paul Begala as examples. This has nothing to do with who does or doesn’t support the president. I just happened to read Novak’s blog on CNN’s website first.

Novak made comments every few moments as the debate progressed and each and every one of them was critical of Kerry. Again, it’s not what Novak is saying that I object to. The question is, where is the benefit in using commentary from someone so intransigent that he only sees one side of the issue?

Didn’t Kerry do anything right? Did Bush do anything wrong? Not to Novak.

Novak’s counterpart, Paul Begala gave George Bush credit for one small point… and everything else went to Kerry. I suppose his giving Bush any ground is a surprise. Still, Begala could have pretty much written this before the debate began.

Being balanced doesn’t mean having two diametrically opposed pundits face off. Balance means using people with open minds who are willing to make observations based on what actually happened, not preconceived positions.

Sometimes your guy is good. sometimes your guy is bad. Hey, that’s life!

I want to read what’s written from your gut, not your doctrine. We’re talking about the presidency. Isn’t this too important for politics as usual?

&#185 – Earlier this evening, a thoughtful reader of this blog posted a comment with his opinion of the debate. I respectfully removed it. This smacks of censorship, because it is. I think it is incredibly important that this site not contain any partisan politics. That decision, right or wrong, is mine alone to make and I hope the commenter understands.