By special reader request, we're presenting another edition of Fine-Tuned Gut Feelings (FTGF). It's been a few months since we ran this feature, so here's a quick reminder of what it's about: Since columnists are human (except Charles Krauthammer, a well-known cyborg from Planet Neo-Con), we have gut reactions to news stories like everyone else. The trick for columnists, of course, is to fine-tune those gut feelings into readable, reasonable columns (Ann Coulter excepted).
I feel that now and then, in the interest of full disclosure, readers should be able to look "behind the curtain" and witness the Herculean efforts needed to sculpt a fine column out of the raw clay of gut reactions. So here is a series of recent news items, followed in each case by my immediate gut reaction, and then by the final, carefully crafted version. Yes, the gut reactions could conceivably be seen as being more honest, but hey, I'm just playing by the rules of the columnist game.
Item: Dick Cheney furious about Bush's refusal to pardon Scooter Libby.
Gut reaction: Screw him. The "Dicktator" is lucky he's not busting rocks on a chain gang, so if he's smart he'll keep that crooked mouth of his shut.
Final version: The former vice president may want to consider tempering his comments in this area, especially since it has been widely reported that a substantial number of Congress members are eager to look into his role in the Bush administration's use of torture.
Item: County Commissioner Bill James rails against domestic partner benefits for gays and lesbians; and ultra-conservative group Focus On Family holds a conference in Charlotte to "convert" gays away from "living homosexually."
Gut reaction: These backward jerks would fit right in with the Taliban.
Final version: The only things that distinguish the anti-gay phobias of America's religious right from those of Muslim fanatics are the Americans' money and modern clothing; otherwise, bigotry, no matter how self-righteous, is still bigotry. One can easily imagine groups like the Taliban handing Bill James and Focus On Family trophies for their "good work against Satan."
Item: President Obama announces a $75 billion anti-foreclosure plan that could help "as many as nine million American families."
Gut reaction: There's no way that's going to be enough.
Final version: Although Obama's plan is a bracing break from Bush's non-action, and will help many distressed U.S. homeowners, it does not provide enough funds to deal with the 13 million homeowners whose mortgage balances are higher than their property value.
Item: Local media outlets lose their minds over the opening of a new IKEA store.
Gut reaction: OK, OK great, it's IKEA! I get it. Now how about some real news, you bozos?
Final version: It's both amusing and disconcerting how quickly local media jump on the bandwagon for any new big commercial enterprise. Considering their limited budgets, it would be nice to see reporters covering important local issues more thoroughly.
Item: Many Republican members of Congress, who voted unanimously against President Obama's stimulus package, are lining up to be sure their districts get money from the plan.
Gut reaction: No, you're kidding! I am so shocked.
Final version: No, you're kidding! I am so shocked.
Item: Two corrupt judges in Pennsylvania were found guilty of receiving millions in kickbacks to send more than 2,000 juveniles to private prisons. They even jailed some young offenders despite the objections of their probation officers.
Gut reaction: Godalmighty, are you kidding me? I hope those kids run into the judges in the prison's showers.
Final version: The brazen abuse of power and arrogance shown by these two judges are deserving of the harshest penalties possible.
Item: "Octo-Mom" brings eight more children into the world, to go with her previous six, while living in poverty.
Gut reaction: Christ, what a freak. Who in hell approved this insanity?
Final version: This obviously disturbed woman's quest illustrates why the practices of fertility doctors need to be overseen more thoroughly.
Item: Starbucks, which has recently closed hundreds of stores, will soon begin serving breakfast value meals and selling instant coffee.
Gut reaction: [Bad country music singing voice:] "Turn out the li-i-ights, the party's O-ver."
Final version: It appears that Starbucks is trying to change its focus, but will probably wind up merely "watering down" its own brand.
There you have it; I hope I've given you an idea of the hard work and talent, not to mention the restraint, it takes to bring you the columns you love. See you next time, and have a good week!