Monday, March 04, 2019

How to improve your life

Here’s a quick and easy way to improve your life:

Stop watching pundits on cable news channels.

This goes for whichever side you’re on, whichever network you normally watch.

Y’see, here’s the thing: they’re usually wrong. They’re speculating while all the facts are still not known. And every time a new fact is revealed it suddenly changes the scenario and they have to speculate in an alternate direction.

All the while your anxiety level continues to rise.

And Jesus, isn’t the current political climate stressful enough?  Last week alone.

Now you could say, well, I have to be informed. And I say yes, but that’s not what this is. This is just guesswork mixed with rumor flavored by bias and spin. Nothing in your life or the world is going to change by not watching talking heads you don’t know break down legal and political issues they don’t know.

Free yourself. Don’t sit in your room. Go outside and play.

I know it’s tempting when a story comes along that could advance your side. You want assurance that things are as good or bad as you are hoping for. But these explosive “bombshell” stories come every day now. It’s exhausting.

Look, in 2016 I was glued to my screen. I had to hear the analysis from every debate, every step of the election. I checked the polls, I read the articles, anytime I saw three people sitting at a round table talking I watched. I’d check out the opposing news channel to know what their pundits were saying. I was a walking Wonk.

And you know what? They were ALL WRONG. All the analysis, all the predictions – DEAD WRONG. I wasted a year listening to these nimrods.

So by not watching them now I don’t believe I’m missing anything.

It’s a trap, a time suck, and only ends with you taking fistfuls of Lexapro and eating gallons of ice cream. 

In 1949 slugger Ralph Kiner had a big season for the Pittsburgh Pirates. He was surprised when team president Branch Rickey did not offer him a raise for the following season. “But I hit 54 home runs,” Kiner exclaimed, to which Rickey replied, “Yeah, but the team finished last. We can finish last without you.”

The world will turn whether you watch roundtables or not.

It’s a brand new week. Get out and enjoy it. You’ll thank me.

(Coming up in the next half hour, four experts will debate this blog post.)


Anonymous said...

Branch Rickey had a hard time with the Pirates for a while but he found an outfielder who could hit and throw a little, some pitchers and a double play combination and it paid off in 1960, when Casey Stengel decided not to use his ace Whitey Ford until Game 3

Kosmo13 said...

So you're saying: don't be Patricia Breslin and William Shatner in the 'Nick of Time' episode of "The Twilight Zone."

VincentS said...

You have a point, Ken. I ignored the punditry and focused on the polling which was why I was not surprised at Trump's win (and, no, I am NOT a Trump supporter). The polling said Hillary Clinton was going to win the popular vote by 3% which she did but that she was clearly in trouble with the electoral vote: She was behind in Ohio and Florida and it was a statistical dead heat in Pennsylvania. The night of the election Nate Silver said to George Stephanopoulos that she was "one state away from losing." And you may disagree, but the main reason for the election result was that Hillary Clinton ran a horrible campaign (something the pundits are determined to drown out) as chronicled in the excellent book SHATTERED. She ignored the progressive issues and she broke the three rules of competition: Never underestimate your opponent, never take for granted you're going to win and never play your opponent's game unless there's no alternative (when half the workers in this country make $30,000 a year or less with no benefits, who cares if Trump called Miss America fat?). William Goldman's adage about Hollywood can certainly be applied to politics: Nobody knows anything.

Cedricstudio said...

Couldn’t agree more. Well said.

Tom Asher said...

Ken, your suggestion also applies to Hot Stove coverage... we Phillies fans thought we were out of the running the day before Harper signed, after being told by the media that we were the favorites. Highs and lows, ebb and flow... enough to drive a person crazy!

Steve Bailey said...

Unknown said...

(Coming up in the next half hour, four experts will debate this blog post.)

Official transcript:

HOST: Welcome back to Pundit Pile. Earlier this morning, Ken Levine posted a bizarre and at times rambling manifesto telling his followers among other things, to "play outside" and called experts "nimrods". Thoughts?

PUNDIT A: That's not what he said. He said--

PUNDIT B: Why are we giving air time to this socialist whack job?

HOST: Ken Levine is a socialist? I didn't--

PUNDIT A: --completely quoted him out of context, which is why--

PUNDIT B: (unitelligible) Benghazi, AOC, caravans. We need more wall, not socialist rants like--

HOST: Wait, are you saying--

PUNDIT A: --hit job. Cut his mic.

PUNDIT B: --free speech getting trampled. Cut his mic, see how he--

HOST: Nobody's cutting anyone's mic. I am asking if--

PUNDIT C: Why isn't anyone asking for the phone records?

(Repeat until the infomercials start around 1 AM.)

Glenn said...

Couldn't agree more, Ken. All of the talking heads, regardless of what side they're on, only add to all of the division.

Pete Sutcliffe said...

Great post Ken. I know you avoid being political on the blog, but this is absolutely great advice. If you wanna see something hilarious(ly sad), this video clips together all the times the news channels have declared "bombshell, beginning of the end, the walls are closing in" over the last two years -- and like you said, good evidence that you gotta ignore this stuff and get out for air.

miller langhorne said...

as the saying goes... Sir, you doing the Lord's work here, bless you!

Matt said...

Spot on, Ken.

I turned off cable news about ten years ago. I have never gone back and my stress levels are so much better because of it.

Additionally, I deleted my Facebook account a little over a year ago... same impact. Who needs that in their lives?

Grab a beer. Sit in the sun. Watch a ballgame. Read a book. Go to a movie. The possibilities are endless for enjoying life. CNN and FoxNews aren't necessities to life, they are meaningless distractions.

Barefoot Billy Aloha said...


Jeff Maxwell said...


Remedy = The Golf Channel. Especially if you don’t play golf.

Michael said...

When I teach, I use powerpoint, and one day, to talk about something in American history, I had photos of eight people. I looked and said, in class, Jesus, this looks like a cable news panel. Most of the class got it.

I quit watching cable news, and rarely watch network news. Walter Cronkite is dead, and I don't feel so good myself.

kitano0 said...

I will check out Nicolle Wallace's show about twice weekly, and Katy Tur at times, particularly during REAL breaking news. What I don't watch is what I call horserace talk. All the speculations about the Dem candidates, the polls etc...that's the stuff that's proven totally specious. It's already begun, and it's a total waste of time to watch it.

VP81955 said...

Spielberg re Netflix is the old man seeing kids on his lawn. Times have changed, sir, and unless you want loud superhero blockbusters to dominate the Oscars for the next decade, you'd better change too.

Orwell said...

Finally, I agree with you, Ken, about a news and politics post. All of the 24-hour "news" networks "report" things that are not investigated, not verified, and not true. They all pander to their viewers.

But even worse than the miss-truths, half-truths, speculation and unsubstantiated opinions is that 24-hour news networks are like crack for viewers. I know people on the left and right who are addicted to watching the news and getting all worked up day after day. They get worked up about events happening halfway across the country, or halfway around the world that have no real relevance to their lives. They get worked up about politics, which is a rigged game run by the elephant and donkey parties. I watch and read about one-tenth of the news I used to, because I simply don't believe most of it, and I can't do anything about the rest of it.

Joseph Scarbrough said...

Personally, I never follow any of these outlets anyway, I choose to use my own powers of observation of what's going on in the world around me . . . and man, is this economy tanking right now: paychecks getting smaller, prices going up, I haven't even done my taxes yet, but I don't expect to get much this year since I lost my health insurance for much of 2018 because I couldn't afford the price hike in my premium from $20 a month to $536 a month - even now, my new plan has a $137 a month premium . . . still a lot more than $20, but at least it's not $536.

Of course, Fox News would probably either say I'm lying or that I was paid by Hillary to say that, and say the economy is booming, is the strongest it's ever been in American history, and that Trump is the second coming of Jesus; all the while, CNN will say Trump is a cotton-headed ninnymuggins.

cjdahl60 said...

The same strategy can and should be applied to Facebook and other social media. These channels have WAY too much influence with the masses who are not very savvy in applying critical reasoning to what they are reading.

Coram_Loci said...

Easy to do if you have something to fill the vacuum.
Work, family, religion — these are a just a few places where many people fill the vacuum and find meaning.
For some, politics is the be all and and all. Everything intersects with politics.

People get upset with awards shows and late night talk shows because the haven is now just another frontline. “Give it a rest, already” is replaced with “And another thing.”

Escape is made almost impossible with the rise of identity politics. You can't escape your identity. Once trained to to look for it in yourself you will also notice it others. Suddenly, the crooked car mechanic is a crooked white car mechanic; the slow waitress is the slow lesbian waitress.

You will then take the next step to look for a pattern, for a social explanation, for a political response. Which brings you right back to an expert pundit.

This won't get better until our linterests get broader.

blinky said...

So true! I used to watch Rachel Maddow all the time but now I never do. Shes great but who needs the aggravation? MSNBC is a essentially the same show for 24 hours a day.And it ALWAYS has BREAKING NEWS....ALWAYS. And don't get me started on FOX.

Dave said...

This also applies to most online articles that talk about a political event rather than reporting the news. I had to learn to identify which sources tend to just speculate on what MAY happen as a result of yesterday's news, and which ones are reporting what HAS happened. Speculation is great if you're just looking for confirmation bias, but 99.99% of the time it's just going to lead to disappointment (and, by the way, drive you to seek out more of these same articles to get another hit).

Frank Beans said...

The 24-hour televised "news cycle" is yet another stupid American institution that needs to go. I don't like to keep carping on this, but some things in our cultural life are not just junk, they are harmful junk. And cynical junk as well, only to get ratings, page clicks and ad revenue, at the expense of civil discourse and actual news reporting--and democracy. This monster has been unleashed for decades, and gets worse all the time. And you can guess who profits from it, and it isn't anyone here.

Maybe teach people how to read again? Because it seems like capacity to think is only going down.

Douglas Trapasso said...

It's probably a sweet gig if you're one of the "regulars" producers can call or text to appear on their show ASAP. But I always wish the producers would consider adding more variety to a panel. Why not add a teacher? An EMT worker? A call center rep? You get the idea. Folks like this are part of the U of S A too. And if their opinions don't lock in with yours one hundred percent, that's not the worst thing in the world.

J Lee said...

Back in the old days, news divisions didn't have to be profitable when there were no stand-alone new channels. It was great if a show like "60 Minutes" did get ratings, but the news divisions were seen as public service loss-leaders, which would be subsidized by the news and sports divisions of the networks.

Not anymore. As stand-alone new channels and the news divisions on the broadcast networks are expected to pay their own way, which means they have to be as ratings-driven as the entertainment and sports divisions. So you can no longer simply report the news, especially during prime-time -- you have to 'tell a story' with your show host and their talking head guest of the moment, where the story line can pivot at a moment's notice, and the audience isn't suppose to see the new channels insulting their intelligence by flipping their stories 180 degrees from what they might have been a day earlier, if the actual facts have changed.

(i.e. -- If you were Fox last week, it was great that Trump was going to make a deal with Kim on Wednesday and then great that he walked away without a deal on Thursday, while for CNN and MSNBC, Trump was going to give the farm away to Kim on Wednesday if he made a deal and then had hurt the U.S. position on Thursday by not making a deal. It reminds me of how Yankees and Red Sox fans' opinions of Roger Clemens changed depending on whether or not Roger Clemens was pitching for the Red Sox or the Yankees. He was the same miserable SOB at both places, but he'd get defended if he was your miserable SOB....)

Johnny Hy said...

Ken, you are so right. I have been recommending this to my clients no matter their political persuasion for the last two years. All they trying to do is cause tension to increase viewers. They will start complaining about how bad the world is and I'll ask them "But how is your life?" Pretty much the answer is "Never better" "Then don't worry about what some talking hairdo is talking about trying to get you riled up enough to come back after the break. With the gains in medicine and technology, life has never been easier. Just compare it to the life our parents lived just 40 years ago. Sure, stay informed and vote but this should not be a 24/7 endeavor. Go enjoy your life" Everyone I follow up with a few months later tell me it was the best thing they ever did and they find themselves much happier

DrBOP said...

I'm interested to see the first couple of weeks of MLB attendance this year (beyond opening day sell-outs) , because that seems to be at the heart of the hot "new" (read under 30 yrs old) sports wonk topic: Are the millenials turning away from baseball because it's boring?
Wondering if this is becoming a feedback-reinforcement-viral-loop, because it certainly is coming up repeatedly.

The part of that discussion that relates to your topic today, is that suggestions of reading a book, watching a movie, etc., instead of sucking up the sickening brew, is that whatever alternatives to baseball or fakakta news they choose, they will most likely remain "on-line" as they choose alternatives. The way they take in news, or pretty well ANYthing else is just a click away.....from glorious to meh! Not too hard for them to be drawn back in with an AI-assisted "grab'em-by-the-eyeballs" click-bait headline. And an easy way to watch the 5-minute ball game wrap-up, instead of the actual game.

And a question for anyone who has the goods. A buddy of mine remembers seeing a noir-ish b&w film when he was a toddler, where the main character has a dream about being in some dark room with a particular tune being played in the background. Cut to the finale, and he is in a similar room in real life, and he knows there is danger afoot, because the song he heard in his dream begins playing in an adjoining room.
Ring any bells?
Thanks muchly!

Jeff Boice said...

We're reverting back to the Yellow Journalism days of the early 20th century when every large city had a number of newspapers which all printed news that was slanted to fit the owner's political views. And people bought the newspaper that best fit their own view. Or maybe they just bought the paper which carried their favorite comic strip. It's hard to tell.

Carla Tortelli said...

You are spot-on correct, Ken.

TURN IT OFF! No matter which side you are on, TURN IT OFF. Look around you at this be-yoo-tee-ful world. Try to make it better; help those in need right next to you. The news pundits have been proven wrong so many times, and is it really worth wasting time watching them gaze/rub their erroneous political crystal balls?

I turned off the news about 6 months ago. In the LAST 12 YEARS, I can't remember being this consistently CONTENT.

I don't have my head totally buried in the sand, but I'm learning that the world keeps turning whether I'm annoyed or not, so I might as well enjoy the ride. "News" isn't news, anyway. As Demetri Martin said, "it shouldn't be called 'NEWS'. It should be called 'WHAT'S WRONG!', and local news should be called 'WHAT'S WRONG NEAR YOU!'."

I had friends discussing the Jussie Smollett "thing" over the last few weeks. Everyone was upset, either because they believed the guy who "cried wolf", or because it was faked. EVERYONE WAS PISSED! Who needs it?

I am loving life without NEWS. I'm learning that being more content makes me able to give more and be a more decent human being to the people I encounter every day. Each of us is given only so much time in this life. Why go through it angry and annoyed?


MikeN said...

I agree Ken. I used to love Bill O'Reilly and Hannity & Colmes when the network started, but eventually got sick of the constant interrupting by O'Reilly and eventually Hannity went solo. Now it is just nonstop 'remember X which leads to Y, which means Z...' and also interrupting his guests.
Still enjoy Special Report which actually tries to have a diversity of views on their panel, though Bret Baier just can't talk as fast as Brit Hume or Chris Matthews.

I don't think you should limit it to the pundits. Rachel Maddow is fairer than the supposed objective news reporting of the rest of MSNBC.
CNN 3 years ago was Anderson Cooper haranguing viewers with stories of why they just can't vote for Trump(latest woman accusing Trump of...), and it has been that way ever since.

Totally agree with Dave. Find sources you can trust, be open to other sources that contradict your point of view, and think for yourself. I find I can get more news from Twitter than a nightly broadcast.

Liggie said...

There's a difference between hard news and punditry. I'll watch when a big story is breaking, like a plane crash, a Brexit-like vote or a legitimate investigative piece. Otherwise, I ignore the pundits trying to push their agenda, which IMO is all TV MSNBC and Fox News are focused on. (At least their websites do publish straight reporting, and CNN does have reporters on the ground in hotspots like a Middle East civil war.) Otherwise, I just read basic articles on Reuters, the Christian Science Monitor and the like, and even prefer watching the CBC, BBC, and the English news services on (Germnay's) Deutsche Welle and France 24.

Off-topic: I found a story about the late Luke Perry, Ken and his fellow writers would love. During a Writers Guild strike, some guy was yelling his disapproval at the picket lines. Perry was so mad at him, he grabbed one of the picket signs and smashed the guy's car windshield with it. Good to see an actor standing up for the writers.

PolyWogg said...

Thanks for a great laugh today Ken. Not your post, but the responses.

I love the people who say, "Well, I don't watch the news anymore, and I'm so much happier." There's a reason for's called "Ignorance is bliss." Literally there is nothing to challenge your world view, so of course they're content. That wasn't what Ken was suggesting -- he was saying avoid the talking heads who debate and speculate, not report.

Equally, saying you're stressed out by your FB feed? On FB, you see the posts of people you choose to be friends with...if their posts are freaking you out, that's not FB, that's YOUR FRIENDS WHO SUCK. If you don't like what they share, unfriend them. I have lots of people who want to friend me, but I don't invite them into my home if I don't like them enough to do so. If I wouldn't be thrilled to have dinner with them while they`re in town, why would I want their crap in my FB feed? Social media is blamed for the hyperbole and the ugliness, but only if you welcome everything into your life like a fire hose. It's kind of like saying you go to the restaurant, and they served you meat but you didn't like it because you're veggie...soooooo, did you order the meat? Well, yeah, it sounded nice. But I don't like meat, so they're scum. Umm, okay...I hold myself to 100 friends that I actually know in person, and I have no trouble deleting someone if they start posting crap or having passive aggressive reactions to things.

Curation isn't that's how people find Ken's great posts in the firestorm of the internet.


Matt said...

Yep. I quit watching cable news ..."news"... a while back. Nothing substantive, ever. Turn on any cable "news" channel and you will see people strangely consumed by politics/president/politics/congress/politics/president/politicspoliticspolitics...blah.

I've even trimmed my facebook of all "politics" anything. I'm tired of it. Tired of hearing about it. Tired of reading people who are obsessed with it. I worry about things which impact my life, like "did I close my garage door?" and "do we have enough celery?"

Peter said...

Something that people should definitely watch is Leaving Neverland. It's long overdue that the world learned what a disgusting predator that freak was. I was a fan my whole life but I'm done. Discovering what a prolific child rapist he was is sickening. I regret ever having felt sad when he died. It's just a shame he never went to prison.

And he was also good friends with Trump. Of course.

John Nixon said...

Personally I never started watching political stuff on a news channel in the first place other than occasionally. I use news channels to see if black boxes have been found or to see miners being rescued or to look at damage from powerful storms, things like that. When I was in high school it was drilled into our heads that we should beware of succumbing to propaganda. And that we shouldn't believe everything we read or are told. It seems like once the internet came around people turned in the other direction and did start to believe everything they are being told. I suppose it didn't help either that the news started using more frightening 'horrifying' and 'terrifying'. "We'll show you video from the horrifying scene right after these words from our sponsor". There is a lot of fear because of this. People think awful things are happening all around them all the time. They're buying guns for protection and installing video cameras on their front doors. I'm in my 60s now and since after high school when I went on my own to this very moment nothing has really changed. I go to work in my car on the weekdays, buy groceries on the weekends, play golf and go to the movies on occasion, get my hair cut, read books and watch TV. I do all the things the same way I always have. And I don't know anybody...or anybody who even knows anybody...who has had had masked robbers invade their home or experienced crime first hand in any way. I know that some people have experienced bad things the rest of us haven't but it is a rare event. A very rare event. There really is nothing to be afraid of and if we ignore the stories that keep us scared and angry all the time we can find that life really isn't much different now than it was 40, 50, 60 or more years ago. It feels good to live a relaxed life.

Chris J said...

True enough, much of this about punditry. I am fortunate to live outside the USA and following the progressive and the conservative networks and their spew is truly unavailable to me. And I don't miss it at all. Hell, FBook is a complete enough of a timewaster as it is, why would I add bullshit punditry to the mix? Here in the Philippines, I don't even have any cable service, just the occasional DVD, quasi-legal bootleg download so. I just sit back and watch Daily Show, Colbert, and John Oliver snippets on youtube for my laughs.

Chris J said...

PS...your verifier where I click on little squares of images to confirm I'm an actual person rather than a bot is, well, typically annoying. Will it ask me again for this one? Very offputting, but maybe you can't help it. Does not inspire participation is all I'm saying...

Steve Lanzi (formerly known as qdpsteve) said...

Joseph Scarborough: NINNYMUGGINS?!!????!!!!!!!?? All right that's it!! Pistols at dawn, buster!! ;-)

But seriously folks...

Ken, I probably disagree with you about a lot of political (and other) topics, but I couldn't agree more with this post. Thank you!

I stopped watching the channels you mentioned, *and* stopped listening to political talk radio, years ago once I realized that I didn't need to hear any of the hosts I normally listened to, to know EXACTLY what they would say about any new topic/controversy.

Life is too short.

Edward said...

It was not that long ago that CNN's evening schedule had the following shows:

1. Moneyline With Lou Dobbs (Business)
2. Crossfire (food fight politics)
3. News at 8PM
4. Larry King Live (Entertainment)
5. News at 10PM
6. Sports Tonight (Sports)

Now its 5 straight hours of talk shows with pundits barking unconfirmed speculation and slander

YEKIMI said...

I don't watch any of the cable talking heads because......I don't have cable! But even more infuriating to me is the local "news" may lead off with a couple of news stories but then devolves into fluff pieces or promoting the "new show that will be debuting tonight" with an interview of some actor/actress/farm animal that may be starring in it. As one person said, I usually end up watching BBC News, France 24, Deutsche Welle which actually covers news, science, etc. and what's happening in the rest of the World. If you just watch ABC, CBS, NBC nightly news you would think that the only land mass that exists in the world is The U.S.A and the rest of it is just covered by water unless we're at war with it.

Jeff said...

I too miss the old CNN where it was just non-stop reporting of what is going on around the US and the world, and then Larry King at 9 pm. I suppose today's budgets don't support the old style CNN. It's cheaper to have a revolving panel of talking heads arguing about politics then to actually have to send reporters and cameramen all over the place.

McAlvie said...

I watch a bit of news in the morning to get local headlines, then I scan headlines for a major newspaper, maybe read a few things on NPR. I try to avoid talking heads altogether because so few can just report the news. They can't seem to resist putting a touch of drama in their voices, usually at inappropriate moments, and most were hired for their toothy smiles and perfect hair. I want Cronkite back! I used to watch for traffic reports, but then they switched from big, detailed maps with a voice in the background to smaller maps with less detail and some woman (and its always women, make of that what you will) walking back and forth in front of the map and pointing vaguely in the direction of the flashing red problem areas.

Janet said...

Did you hear Harper's first day in Philly...and promptly put his foot in his mouth? He said how much he was looking forward to winning a pennant in DC. Oops.

Jen from Jersey said...

For me, social media is much worse than the 24 hour news cycle. I can’t believe the number of people (mostly young men of all ethnicities and political persuasions) who hate Israel. This terrifies me. I get into these debates and arguments and it leaves me stressed all day. My kids go to Israel quite often and my oldest will be there this summer. My husband tells me to avoid social media but I know these people still exist.

Jen from Jersey said...

I really needed your advice and I’m going to save it and reread. I’m obsessed with the doom and gloom to the point where I panic.

Ringo said...
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