I find television about as entertaining and informative as freeway traffic; watch all day and something mildly amusing may happen. As with traffic, someone else (nobody, really) is in charge of the timing and frequency of whatever occurs of any interest. And when anything worth seeing does happen, a traffic-watcher, like a TV watcher, is likely to be gazing at something else.

Apart from some sophisticated humor now and then, for me the only somewhat useful category on TV in recent decades has been the news. Even though Cable News Network brought a refreshing new look to TV news a generation ago, and Fox News has been the most refreshing thing on television since the Smothers Brothers, every network has capitulated to the same assumptions about what the public wants to hear. I submit that those assumptions are gravely wrong.

Now we’re once again in a Presidential election cycle. For one whole year out of four, television news is adulterated with moment-by-moment reporting of accusatory drivel and vacuous poll results. It’s interrupted only long enough to bring us new celebrity shenanigans and useless speculation about the latest nationally-sensationalized murder of some pretty girl.

Fox News pays the most insulting lip service to real news – (talk about mixed emotions, though; I leap at the chance to catch it once or twice a week) – with “Around the World in 80 Seconds.” Eighty seconds! I beg of you now, Fox: Free the real news from the eighty-second compression, and squeeze John [Kerry] & John [[Edwards] & Howard [Dean], Michael & Janet, Scott & Lacie, Britney & JLo, Kobe, Martha, all of their ilk and all of their “news” into an 80-second burst. I could just about stand that much of the lot of them together.

I don’t even care what Washington is up to. It will be news if Congress and the courts scrape the guano off the Constitution that they've shat on for generations and start following it. It will be news when “the President said...” something instead of “the White House said...” It will be news if 300 federal agencies stop bothering us, turn off the lights, and go home for good. Otherwise there is no news from the Capital.

I know how ineffective this letter will be. So I realize my only real hope is that a network will materialize – (and not soon afterward be sold to Ted Turner or RJR-Nabisco or Xu Ming) – that will treat politicians and celebrities to the obscurity they deserve. (If PBS/NPR were all news, it might at least set a weak example. But its political sanctimoniousness already negates its public mandate.)

Things are happening in the USA and elsewhere in the world. Thank God for The Weekly Standard, which knows of places like Taiwan, Ukraine, and Rwanda. But all of the networks have conspired in a lockout of that information, which helps assure the continued provincialism and ultimate dumbing-down of America.

Sent to 10 February 2004