Tuesday, September 30, 2008

No lolly-gagging here

If you're in (NPR)...then you're in. No questions asked.

We should demand the best possible information from our media

But we also should not endorse any government action designed to prevent it. I think you'll agree that whatever intention the good folks of Minnesota had with this idea pales in comparison to the need for accuracy.

A prediction

More people will watch the vice presidential debate on Thursday night than did the first presidential debate.

Why? Simple. A Friday night debate in the fall goes up against high school football -- something that is going to take people outside the house. No such conflicts exist for families on Thursdays.

My two cents

The bailout plan failed...get over it.

The worst thing you can do at this point is panic. Congress will get together again in a few days and try to come up with a new and acceptable deal.

But set that aside for a moment. Here is what I think is the lesson from yesterday -- the "little guy" told the "fat cat" that he wasn't going to bail him out. Why? Because if the roles were reversed the "fat cat" would have no regard for the well-being of the "little guy."

If deregulation (which essentially means the law of the jungle) is the rule...then sometimes even those who seem to benefit the most from it are going to get hammered by it. The hammer came down yesterday. And, funny, most of the media missed that angle to the story. They were too caught up in the beltway mentality that suggested the sky was going to fall if this deal didn't go through.

Just great

And just when you thought the media fascination with Barack Obama couldn't get any worse:

Mary Hart to Senator Obama on 'Entertainment Tonight': 'If you don't get elected, you could be my co-host.'

Kudos to Mike Allen of Politico.com for catching this gem. Would the esteemed and oh-so talented Mary Hart say the same thing to John McCain? What about Sarah Palin? No, she wouldn't dare ask Palin -- wouldn't want someone "better" than you on that show!

Meet the (new) Press

The plans are not finalized...though there appears to be a strong consensus about the future of Meet the Press. Here are the details.

Monday, September 29, 2008

A cold Canadian wind blows in

Now, after reading this I can understand why the CBC has chosen to apologize.

I have just one question -- why did it take almost three weeks to offer that apology?

777

Boeing, I understand, makes a great airplane with those numbers. But when the Dow Jones falls by that amount...well, you can forget about retirement for awhile!

Now for a dose of reason -- the bailout package that was proposed by various political and other leaders was not sufficient in its protections for the American consumer. We might have won some kind of short-term victory if today's bill had passed...but in the long run, we've have been facing similar concerns.

Media coverage to this point has focused on two themes -- who's blaming whom (a healthy strategy for all politicians, especially presidential candidates, to follow) and what comes next.

One Washington Post columnist suggests that all of us -- politician or private citizen, banker or bartender -- are in this together. Maybe. There is another way of looking at today's events -- the bill was a bad one to begin with and common sense eventually took over.

What does strike me is the change in tone among the Democrats. Just last week they were suggesting that even if the House Republicans chose to not go along, some version of a bailout bill would pass. Now they are hammering away at George Bush, John McCain and every other politician with an "R" attached to his or her name. Great idea.

Stay tuned, folks. This bumpy ride is not going to smooth out any time soon -- I'm not sure Boeing could fly us out of it with a 777 or any other type of aircraft.

57 million

That's the estimated number of Americans who tuned in to Friday's presidential debate involving Barack Obama and John McCain. While these numbers are good, they don't come close to matching the largest audience figures from past presidential debates.

Perhaps the "don't have it on Friday because that's high school football night" was a legitimate concern. If you watched the pre-debate interviews, then you are aware that the Commission on Presidential Debates was hoping to match the audience record of 80 million.

Remember Myanmar (or Burma)?

One blogger says the international community shouldn't forget that the need for help remains...and the government also remains an inconsistent player in the recovery.

Looking ahead to Thursday

In a typical presidential election year, the debate involving the two vice presidential candidates would be considered an afterthought. Not this year.

The close race between Mr. McCain and Mr. Obama PLUS the attention afforded one of the vice presidential candidates PLUS the percentage of undecided voters ensures that Thursday's debate involving Gov. Palin and Sen. Biden will be watched.

The Washington Times offers a few more details in this report.

And then there is this commentary from ABC's George Stephanopoulos:
'She's become a problem for Senator McCain, no question about it. ... The buzz on Sarah Palin has gone all bad. .... When you become a punch line in politics, it is one of the worst things that can happen, and that is what's happening to Sarah Palin now. ... A major mistake on foreign policy would be absolutely fatal to her candidacy. ... Watch for her to be aggressive against Barack Obama -- to call him out as liberal, so that Joe Biden in the debate will have to answer for Obama.'

Funny, but I disagree. It seems to me that the attacks on Palin have not changed -- is she ready? what does she stand for? remain the consistent questions. What has changed is that the initial rush of enthusiasm for her as waned. But we fully expected that. She was the flavor of the week -- and the audience relished her. Now, however, she's being viewed by the public in a more critical light. This is not a bad thing. In fact, this is what should be happening. But for Mr. Stephanopoulos to suggest that Gov. Palin has become a "problem" for McCain is nothing more than offering spin. Listen to the public -- there remains strong support for her among conservatives.

The larger question is where to independent and swing voters fall? That group will be critical in determining the winner in November.

They might not approve of the content...

...but they will approve the messages delivered on network newscasts.

They, of course, are Barack Obama and John McCain, who have both decided to run campaign ads on the signature network newscasts.

In an era in which seemingly all journalistic standards are being questioned AND in which the news programs are required to be money makers, should we be surprised that the networks have caved in and allowed this to happen?

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Interview on KDKA Radio

I just completed a great hour on the radio (and as I remember from my days as a radio journalist, the hours go by awfully quickly when you are producing or reporting on that wonderful medium) discussing the first presidential debate.

The host -- Dmitri Vassilaros, a columnist for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review -- and I shared thoughts about the points scored by Sen. McCain and Sen. Obama; the power of television and the debate process; how the audience's political opinions influence how they "see" the debate; and, most importantly, we heard from callers.

I tell my students to never forget the importance of Joe and Josephine American in their story telling. Joe and Josephine are the people most affected by political and legal decisions, tuition increases and other real world issues. They too often are left out of media discourse, which almost always is dominated by "talking heads" who attempt to shout down anyone who disagrees with them.

Nothing like that happened tonight. The callers were split right down the middle -- half thought the debate was "won" by Mr. McCain; the other half thought it went to Mr. Obama. A couple of callers also disagreed with points I made -- hey, that was great. I plead with my students to defend the points they make about any aspect of the media OR to challenge me when they disagree with something I say. Who knew two people I never met and don't know would do just that.

Radio is a fantastic medium. I jokingly tell people that radio was my first love...unless you count some girl named Lori whom I adored when I was 10 :-)

Who won?

The question the media are incessantly attempting to answer today...one day after the initial presidential debate.

TIME suggests that in multiple ways, Sen. Barack Obama got the better of Sen. John McCain.

In a front-page story, the Washington Post suggests that both men scored relevant points.

One New York Times analyst delivered a rather down-the-middle analysis...until the very end when she let her opinion sneak into her piece.

And this summary from Mike Allen of Politico.com:
Obama won: George Stephanopoulos, Frank Luntz, John Dickerson, Mark Halperin, CBS News instant poll and CNN post-debate poll.

McCain won: Roger Simon ('The Mac is back'), Nina Easton, William Kristol, Fred Barnes, Fox News Texting Poll, Drudge online poll and Terry Moran (sorta).

Tie: Mike Murphy (to anchor David Gregory on MSNBC: 'No game-changer and we're going to have a rematch.').


Interesting, isn't it? Perceived or actual Democrats or liberals think Obama won; perceived or real Republicans or conservatives think McCain won. I'm stunned by this. Absolutely shocked that there is a perfect correlation between one's political ideology...and the determination of who won last night's debate.

Glad to see all these people refused to allow their personal opinions to cloud their judgment. Keep it up, folks.

Job cuts come to Pittsburgh

This time, it's the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that is trimming people. Not good.

An important ethical question

Should Andrea Mitchell -- married to former Fed chairman Alan Greenspan -- be covering the financial bailout? A sound article from the Columbia Journalism Review provides important thoughts and answers.

Friday, September 26, 2008

A victory in the courts

Kudos to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court for its decision involving a Scranton newspaper reporter and a challenge to reveal confidential sources.

Debate recap (additional comments now added)

I'm not going to engage in a partisan discussion here...I'll leave it to you to determine who "won" the just-completed presidential debate at the University of Mississippi.

Instead I want to highlight some issues that might have slipped under the radar, as you perhaps were counting the political points Mr. McCain and Mr. Obama scored tonight.

Here we go:
1. The former television producer in me would have loved to have had my hands on this debate. I read in the weeks leading up to this debate season that the presidential candidates were allowing a much freer, more back-and-forth format to be on display. They did...and it was wonderful to watch.

Gone (and I hope forever) was that multi-panelist, each person asks 3 or 4 questions session. They prevent the candidates from interacting with the moderator, each other and the audience (especially the television audience). Both men tonight benefited from the ability to go beyond the standard 2-minute answer with a short follow-up. If they benefited by being able to dive more completely into their thoughts, plans and counter-arguments...then the American public benefited as well.

It took the presidential candidates time to engage in the back-and-forth that moderator Jim Lehrer sought, but once it happened...to borrow a phrase from the broadcast world, it was "great television."

I do understand that the vice presidential debate scheduled for next Thursday is going to be a more traditional format...the McCain campaign reportedly insisted upon it. Too bad. Do yourself a favor next week and compare what you SAW (not heard!) tonight to what you will see next week. (And take off whatever partisan glasses you have on!!)

2. Related to point one were the multiple opportunities the television cameras had to catch the reactions each man had of the comments made by the other. Mr. Obama consistently looked at Mr. McCain as the Arizona senator spoke; Mr. McCain, on the other hand, continued to look forward (or down as he wrote notes) and almost never at the Democratic nominee.

I was reminded of Mr. Obama's legal background as I watched him tonight. He seemed almost lawyer-like in his demeanor on stage -- confident, strong talking points and a crisp attentiveness to what the other person was saying.

I also was reminded of Mr. McCain's military background as I watched him tonight. He appeared to be standing at attention, surveying what was in front of him prepared for any possible trap or threat, and also confident that he was aware of the moves his allies and adversaries were making.

My point is that such camera shots allow for "great television." But they also come at a risk for the candidates.

Those who have followed the presidential debate process know that it has been these "cut-away" television shots from past debates that resonated with the American public. Perhaps the all-time worst gaffe came in 1992, when President Bush looked at his watch. That image -- lasting no more than 2 seconds -- affirmed in the minds of many voters that Mr. Bush was indeed disinterested in what his challengers were saying, and, worse, that he had little regard for the chance to talk to the American people.

3. Jim Lehrer performed very well. He was involved when he had to be but more importantly he stayed out of the way. I hope you had the chance to watch C-SPAN in the moments before the debate began. Mr. Lehrer spent perhaps 4 or 5 minutes talking to the audience, reassuring them that they were seeing history unfold before them...but also challenging them to remember that they had an important duty to not in any way disrupt or attempt to influence the proceedings.

He took that message and held himself to the same standard.

And again in the absence of a moderator being cognizant of getting all the questions in that were prepared by multiple panelists...and a moderator being compelled to cut off discussion in order to move on to the next question, Lehrer's job was made easier and the audience was the beneficiary.

I'll be expanding upon these points and others Saturday night at 6:00 Eastern time, when I'll be a guest on KDKA radio here in Pittsburgh. I hope if you are in town, you'll tune in. If not, check out the conversation on the Web at http://www.kdkaradio.com.

Debate is on

As suggested this morning, Sen. John McCain will be in Mississippi tonight. The first presidential debate is on. But here's something to think over...

Can the "foreign policy" focus planned for tonight go forward? Logic (and there isn't enough of that in politics these days) suggests that the conversation involving Mr. McCain, Mr. Obama and moderator Jim Lehrer should be about domestic financial issues. But the theme for tonight had been approved many weeks ago by the candidates, their staffs, and the Commission on Presidential Debates.

As I see it, the format should remain the same, but the content should be altered.

Stay tuned!

Expect McCain in Mississippi tonight (UPDATE)

Republican presidential nominee John McCain -- by multiple media accounts -- came across as lacking interest and/or unable to provide substantive ideas during yesterday's financial bailout meeting at the White House.

He needs to do something to erase that image from the minds of the frustrated American electorate.

McCain cannot afford to cede the national spotlight for too long to a topic for which the American public is likely to blame his party for causing.

He needs to do something to erase that idea from the minds of the frustrated American electorate.

McCain cannot allow the idea to dominate media discourse that he's either not for or not aware of the contents of a bailout plan that most Democrats and Senate Republicans appear to favor.

He needs to do something to force the media to talk about him...and in the terms he would prefer.

With that in mind, you can expect John McCain to be in Oxford, MS tonight for the first presidential debate.

UPDATE: If McCain is not there, Obama will be...and here's a look at how the "debate" might look.

Bush on the bailout talks

"We need a rescue plan."
"We've got a problem"
"We need to move quickly"

Those were among the first remarks made this morning by President Bush, as he addressed the media this morning. Mr. Bush spoke for perhaps one minute and then walked away. He took no questions from the media.

"There is no disagreement that something substantial must be done," he said toward the end of his remarks.

I find nothing reassuring in these comments. He stated what many people -- inside and outside of government -- already have. He offered no suggestion that he's prepared to deliver new proposals. His comments came off almost as lecture-like.

Not a good start to today, as far as I see it.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Bickering and belittling

You figured it would come to this, didn't you? You anticipated that any proposed deal to bail out the banks was going to be scuttled by political infighting, didn't you? You were waiting for the proverbial other shoe to drop in these negotiations, weren't you?

Well, it appears you were right. And you just knew it.

Don't gloat. It's not a good time for that.

Here's how I see it: The legislative process is never easy, but it almost always exists away from the glare of the media spotlight. In such an environment, the give-and-take and disagreements that are inevitable go unnoticed. Moreover, legislation rarely must be completed immediately (whether that be perceived or real). These conditions aren't in evidence now.

With the president calling the two men who wish to succeed him (not to mention others who would like to succeed him) to the White House, the media spotlight was going to shine as brightly as possible. Set aside the decision made by Sen. John McCain to suspend his campaign so that he could work on finding a solution to this crisis (if it is indeed one). Whether you interpreted his decision as posturing or presidential is irrelevant; his choice was magnified -- and required a response from Sen. Barack Obama -- once President Bush summoned these men to Washington.

Tonight the first reaction comments suggest that the meeting involving these three men and various Congressional leaders was a failure. That environment will be amplified by the media's insatiable appetite to cover this event...moment by moment. And cable television's overt political nature will enhance this idea that Washington is a volatile cauldron tonight. One network is sure to blame McCain, the Bush administration and conservative Republicans (all of whom in a warped, twisted way will be linked together as being one cohesive unit). One network is sure to suggest that Democrats are attempting to use the crisis to advance Obama's chances for success on Nov. 4.

Any and all of this could be true. But in periods of unceasing media coverage combined with genuine uncertainty among American citizens this kind of bickering and belittling will continue and will generate attention.

It also makes it harder for the real work to get done. And that's ultimately what's wrong with it. Who can blame the American people for having such a dim view of Congress, the presidency, the media and other necessary democratic institutions.

As I said, don't gloat.

The state of Alabama bans illegal immigrants...

...from its community colleges. The vote was 4-0...but it was not unanimous.

Or perhaps fire (at) him?

Democrats are certainly doing all they can to make clear that one member of their caucus is no longer welcomed. But, of course, they're going to wait until after the elections before moving forward on this.

Fire him?

An interesting dilemma is facing NBC News executives -- do they can a person who made a dumb statement? Remember, the person who made that dumb statement has his last name to thank for the job he has.

The $00000-lympics

Whichever network gets the rights to the next set of available Olympic Games is going to spend a lot of zeroes.

Let's give NBC some credit for demonstrating how "new" media could be a vital player in delivering the Games into America's homes and onto their computers.

Reckless...or presidential?

It's been an interesting almost 24 hours for the media -- as they dissect the reasons behind John McCain's decision to suspend his campaign and to call for a postponement of tomorrow's first scheduled presidential debate.

This New York Times report offers one side of the media's analysis. It suggests McCain is adopting a "crisis" tone to ward off any linkage of him to his party. In other words, the more McCain campaigns...the more people are apt to tie his political party to him. If the GOP is seen as having failed the American people (not a difficult argument to make these days), then McCain could easily get swept up in that.

The "crisis" comments about the financial situation in the banking community suggested by President Bush don't aid Mr. McCain's camp.

Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal says it's too soon to determine if McCain is making the correct decision.

Also, consider this from Politico's Jonathan Martin:
'Regardless of how much actual involvement he has in the final legislation, McCain wants to be able to say he not only helped get a deal but also that he ensured the flawed Bush legislation was improved to guard taxpayers. In this, he scores points for ending the stalemate and picks up a talking point to help create some more space from the president.'

I sensed over the past couple of days that the national electoral tied was turning in Mr. Obama's favor. I am even more convinced of that now. This blogger believes that Mr. McCain is facing three distinct problems -- and all three have to be overcome if he is to win in November: 1. He needs to somehow separate himself from an even-more toxic Republican brand; 2. He needs to avoid being tagged, even remotely, to this entire financial "crisis"; 3. He needs to convince voters that he is the "safer" agent of change. Right now, I don't think he can do those three things in the 40 or so days remaining before Nov. 4.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Now here's a bitter reality

The media were too interested in the presidential campaign to due adequate coverage on the economy. This editorial is spot on.

Friday's debate imperiled

Sen. John McCain says he wants to postpone Friday's planned presidential debate...so that he can focus on the crisis in the banking industry. He says he'll suspend his presidential campaign. He's also urging Sen. Barack Obama to do the same.

Even for a maverick, this is unorthodox. But there are political points to be scored from this -- if McCain can come across as presidential (and/or putting the needs of the country ahead of his own) while Obama comes off as too interested in himself.

But this also has the real potential to blow up in his face. His campaign has lost some steam with the American public (I promised you it would), and he's in danger of being linked to the Republicans with this one.

This is all well and good, but...

...it does nothing to assist us in striking a deal to save/fix/rescue the financial crisis we're in. Republicans can be as mad as they want to be at the vice president (and you can only imagine what Democrats think!), but this kind of "bloodbath" is political posturing at this point.

I think there are some larger questions in this financial morass that need to be answered:
1. Will the CEOs of these brilliantly run corporations be paid by the taxpayer, now that we essentially "own" these banks?
2. Is there any real way that the American taxpayer will see a financial benefit from this takeover mania?
3. How long will it take before the first class-action lawsuit is filed on behalf of the U.S. taxpayer? Who's going to file it?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

This is not "miscommunication"

This is a message. You messed with us...and now we're going to mess with you. Today is but another example of the preference of the McCain camp to dictate terms of media coverage.

Current and former journalists (educators, too!) might not like it...but the message has been sent. Now, let's see if either side agrees to back off.

The information in this story is accurate...

...but incomplete. Read it here, and tell me what's missing.

Tooting our own horn

Point Park creating school of communication

Monday, September 22, 2008

By Bill Schackner, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Point Park University will create a school of communication to accommodate growth in its programs in journalism, broadcasting and communication, campus employees were told today.

The new school is expected to be up and running for the 2009-2010 academic year, campus president Paul Hennigan said in an internal communication this afternoon.

Point Park, whose enrollment is 3,600, already has a School of Arts and Sciences, School of Business, and Conservatory of Performing Arts.

Helen Fallon, currently the chair of Point Park's journalism and mass communication department, will be interim dean as the school's structure is developed and a national search for a permanent dean gets underway.

The journalism and mass communication department has 10 undergraduate degree programs and one graduate degree program. A total of 500 undergraduates and 100 graduate students are enrolled in the program, including advertising and public relations, broadcasting, journalism, digital media and photojournalism.

Pakistan, bombing follow-up

If you've been following MSM and blogger reports from and about Pakistan, it's clear to you that the hotel that was bombed was NOT the target of that insidious attack. Instead those responsible were trying to kill the country's newly installed president.

The fallout from this bombing is already starting to be felt, as corporations reassess how they will do business in the country. British Airways is one example, as you'll see in this report from the Washington Times.

Among the larger questions now that the political leadership faces is how to respond to these terrorist attacks (that almost certainly will continue).

He loves it...he loves it not. He loves it...he loves it not.

"He" is John McCain. "It" is The New York Times.

Barack Obama inches ahead...again

From Politico.com, quoting Karl Rove:

Karl Rove writes on Rove.com that he is poised to move Senator Obama into a projected electoral-vote lead, though NOT clinching: 'Indiana (11 EV) ... has flipped from McCain to toss-up based on three new polls ... the two states where the parties' conventions were held: Minnesota (10 EV) went from Obama to toss-up and Colorado (9 EV) went from toss-up to Obama. ... McCain continues to hold a slim lead over Obama, with 216 electoral votes to Obama's 215, with 107 as a toss-up, but if the movement toward Obama in national polls continue to percolate down to the states, we could see an Obama lead later this week.'

Note the source of this information...it is not a single poll. Instead it comes from a political analyst, and although most of what he stands for politically makes me uncomfortable, who is astute understanding what is happening.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Implosion video

Regular readers of this blog know that I enjoy implosion videos. The latest comes from Miami, where the old Miami Arena was brought down on Sunday.

The Pakistan bombing...from the perspective of bloggers

The pictures from Saturday's deadly car bombing attack in Islamabad tell only one part of the story.

Bloggers tell another one. And it's an equally potent message.

One blogger has suggested that within his country, some people see the attack as Pakistan's 9/11. Sure, more people died in the events of seven years ago, but the powerful blast shocked the Pakistani people.

Another blogger notes that this attack is just the latest in a series of tragedies that have befallen the country and its people.

It appears that at least two Americans died in the bombing.

More job cuts

This story suggests that at local and national news stations...job cuts remain a fact of life.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Worth watching tonight

This comes from Mike Allen's Politico Playbook:

CBS' '60 Minutes' devotes the full hour to John McCain, who talked to Scott Pelley in Wisconsin, and Barack Obama, who talked to Steve Kroft in Nevada. The CBS-released preview: 'Both presidential candidates agree the nation is in a recession.' AP: 'Forty years ago '60 Minutes' founding producer Don Hewitt gave the same treatment to candidates Richard Nixon and Hubert Humphrey, although they didn't get the whole show.'

Now race is in issue

If people opt to vote against a candidate simply because of his or her race...that, in my opinion, is offensive. And this excerpt from an Associated Press story indicates that might be happening. But it's the "who" in this case that is newsworthy.

Deep-seated racial misgivings could cost Barack Obama the White House if the election is close, according to an AP-Yahoo! News poll that found one-third of white Democrats harbor negative views toward blacks

I'm not surprised at this sentiment, though the depth to which it appears to exist is stunning. In fact, just the other day two colleagues and I were discussing the factors that we believe have led to this much-closer-than-first-anticipated presidential race. We acknowledged rather bluntly that there remain pockets of people -- across the entire political spectrum -- who will not vote for Barack Obama because of the color of his skin.

I'm comfortable with any person who can tell me they will vote for John McCain over Barack Obama because McCain is the better candidate. I will support those who say that. I'm comfortable with any person who can tell me they will vote for Barack Obama over John McCain because Obama is the better candidate. I will support those who say that.

But basing a vote on skin color bothers me. Offends me, actually.

If you don't like them...ban them!

Happening in China? (Yes, but not in this case.) North Korea? (Same song, next verse.)

No, in this case the banning is being done by a U.S. college president, who doesn't like the fact that the student journalists at his institution are acting like...journalists.

Get used to it, pal. It's called freedom of the press.

And, yes, at times faculty appear to be willing to practice this onerous policy, as well. Check out what has happened to one student journalist at NYU.

Uh, it's called freedom of speech. Try it. You might like it.

A cover-up?

An interesting...though I think misguided...question posed by The Nation, regarding why Republican presidential nominee John McCain has pushed legislation that keeps the records of Vietnam POWs classified.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

What are the chances...

...that you'd see a book titled "Probability" at a college football game?

Well, believe it or not...today, I did.

In a spur of the moment decision today, my wife, our boys and I took in a Division-3 football game matching Carnegie Mellon and Hobart. A young man near us had a textbook tucked under his arm. No, he never read it as the game progressed. But you can guess what the title was. (And it was one of those thick ones...serious studies await when you crack open one of those books!)

I write this moments after watching the LSU-Auburn game on television. There is perhaps no greater contrast in college sports than those two scenes -- Division 3 college football and Division I college football.

There might have been 1,000 fans at the game today, which ended with the visiting team winning by five. Whatever the capacity is of Jordan-Hare Stadium at Auburn...it was met tonight, with the visiting team winning by five. (Got any "probability" numbers for that?)

Something about the day at Carnegie Mellon today felt a bit more...realistic?

Friday, September 19, 2008

Shocking news!

I'm stunned...never did I think I'd read a story suggesting that repression in China is on the rise. Amazing.

Gosh, I really thought that the Olympic Games were going to herald a new day, a new season of openness within Chinese society. (Oops, sorry...I was thinking like many members of the International Olympic Committee. Talk about being duped. Or naive.)

No charges

It appears that no journalist arrested at the Republican National Convention will be charged with any wrongdoing.

Funny, but I told you that once the stress of the convention went away that common sense would take over. Now can we end the talk about Minneapolis-St. Paul being a police state during the convention.

If you were there, you know that wasn't the case. If you weren't...trust me.

Unfortunately, in other parts of the world...common sense never takes root.

12 (or so) down...

...more to go?

We can hope the answer is "no," as ABC News cuts about a dozen people from its Washington bureau.

Does it make sense to trim staff, as the economic situation demands more coverage? Does it make sense to trim staff, as the political elections demand more coverage?

I'm just asking. Of course, I don't have access to the "books," which almost certainly would justify (wink, wink) the need for additional cuts.

$1 trillion

Astounding. But a bailout of that amount of money is what it might take just to prevent a meltdown of the U.S. financial industry.

Disgusting. How the leaders and the American people allowed this to happen is simply disgusting. Making loans available to people who couldn't afford them is reprehensible. Failing to adequately oversee and regulate such acts goes beyond showing leadership. And, yes, accepting such loans knowing that repayment was going to be difficult is asinine.

A perfect storm. Greed. Incompetence. Ignorance. Did the mainstream media do enough in their coverage of economics to spotlight these issues?

And for a dose of reality, here's an excerpt from an editorial in the Wall Street Journal:

John McCain has made it clear this week he doesn't understand what's happening on Wall Street any better than Barack Obama does. But on Thursday, he took his populist riffing up a notch and found his scapegoat for financial panic -- Christopher Cox, the chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission. ... In a crisis, voters want steady, calm leadership, not easy, misleading answers that will do nothing to help. Mr. McCain is sounding like a candidate searching for a political foil rather than a genuine solution. He'll never beat Mr. Obama by running as an angry populist like Al Gore, circa 2000.

Better learn fast, gents. For one of you, the economy is going to be a huge problem starting Jan. 21, 2009.

Well, that didn't take long

Let's give the young man the benefit of the doubt and presume him innocent, but it sure didn't take long to track down who might have hacked into the personal e-mail account of Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin.

I'm disturbed at how brazen this young man appears to be, though I'm not prepared to accept the argument that he might have done this to advance the presidential aspirations of Barack Obama.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

She's out...now she's out

Confused? Well, let me try it this way -- one day after Sen. Hillary Clinton backed out of a planned anti-Iran rally at the U.N, organizers uninvited Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin.

Am I the only one who thinks these organizers need a lesson in event planning?

Keeping the media away

The Obama and McCain campaigns want favorable coverage, and they want their stories to be delivered through the media. But...they're also proving quite adept at keeping the candidates as removed as possible from the media.

You've got to love that. That's a bit like financial institutions blowing your money...and then making you pay for it. (Nothing like that, of course, has ever happened in American history!)

I have a copy of this DVD

I first read about this program at the Republican National Convention, though I can't remember from which media organization.

However, now that the DVD has been made available to a wide audience...one group is especially upset at how Islam is portrayed in it. I've not yet seen the program, though this newspaper story reminds me I need to.

No felony charges...

...but two journalists arrested at the Republican National Convention in Minneapolis-St. Paul are not out of the (legal) woods yet.

A limit on Internet usage!

What! Preposterous, you say? Oh, think again.

Good ol' Time Warner is experimenting with such a plan. Let's hope this experiment is a huge disaster.

Vote early...and often

Yes, that old joke about Chicago politics rears its head at this time of year. But in 2008, the VOTE EARLY message might be an important one. (And, yes, if you haven't guessed yet...voting often is not allowed!)

Let's hope that the potential Election Day ballot and voting issues don't result in problems. This country neither wants nor needs anything resembling the 2000 election. At the same time, let's hold the media's feet to the fire...let's make sure they cover these issues completely NOW and not just AFTER the fact.

And now panic has set in

This Washington Post report highlights the secondary danger associated with the financial morass we're in -- companies with solid balance sheets could get swept up in the fear of financial ruin.

Come on, people. Let's think rationally here. Companies with solid economic balance sheets are not going to collapse. Is it the media's responsibility to get that message out?

And on a slightly related note...where does the Federal Government go from here? In other words, once the bailouts of various financial companies are agreed to, does the government have an obligation to assist in strengthening of other industries -- say, the airlines?

Imagine this scenario -- one airline (let's say one of the legacy carriers such as American) announces it's going to cease operations. The government let's that happen. What could happen to airline prices? They go up. Why? One less player is in the game.

Yes, this "slightly related note" sees counter-intuitive to the don't panic theme of the first part of this message. But then again so does Sen. Joe Biden's call for wealthier Americans to pay more taxes...as a form of patriotism. Huh? Am I missing something here?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Introducing my son to the world of blogging

My older son is using a blog at his school to do book reviews for age-appropriate books that the students like. As I write this, I'm showing my son how easy it is to blog.

He tells me that as the year goes on the teacher is expecting my son and his classmates to use more words in their posts. Eventually she wants the students to be able to write as many as 4,500 characters (not words) for a post.

Sounds ambitious...but I bet my favorite 9-year-old can do it :-)

Tom Friedman follow-up

Wow, what a great night.

Tom Friedman delivered more than I expected in his near 90-minute address last night. He outlined the premise of his new book "Hot, Flat and Crowded" (HFC).

Friedman advanced his theory that 5 problems are causing HFC: an increased demand for energy and natural resources; "petro-dictatorships"; climate change; energy poverty; and biodiversity loss. He added that whichever country steps up and uses its governmental authority, business and innovation acumen, and its most important resource -- its people -- will be the country that wins the "Energy Technology" race.

Mr. Friedman suggested that the U.S. is the country that should win this race, but to do so it must first regain its "groove." He said that 9-11, a government that got lazy after winning the Cold War, and the belief that government could/should solve problems allowed nations such as China and India to blow past us and win the "IT" race.

He equated America's sclerotic effort in IT to the space shuttle taking off -- the thrust from below is the innovation of American businesses; the leaky booster rockets (government bureaucracy or inaction) prevent the shuttle from reaching the highest possible orbit; and while this is happening the astronauts (government leaders) argue over a flight plan...instead of how to fix the real problem.

At the end, Mr. Friedman challenged the U.S. to be more like a DEMOCRATIC CHINA -- relying on its people to advance the society -- and less like a BANANA REPUBLIC. In his words, BANANA is an acronym for BUILD ABSOLUTELY NOTHING ANYWHERE NEAR ANYTHING.

My wife and I had plenty to talk about on our way home.

Petty...plain and simple

That's my reaction upon learning that New York senator Hillary Clinton has skipped out on plans to attend an anti-Iran rally at the UN. Why? Partisan politics.

It appears Mrs. Clinton has stepped out...because Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin also has agreed to be there.

Now that's just plain silly.

The government likes AIG?

Maybe, but this TIME magazine report makes it clear why the Feds weren't going to let AIG collapse.

What a (financial) mess we're in. And as I see it, what a way to discredit the policies of the Bush administration. This blogger often has made clear his dissatisfaction with the current administration, but I also believe that no one benefits by attacking now. Set aside whatever opinions you have of this leadership, we still need it to be proactive in assisting the financial community in putting itself back on solid footing.

Get ready to compare

CBS News has announced that Katie Couric has landed the second one-on-one television interview with Republican presidential nominee Sarah Palin.

It's inevitable -- there will be comparisons between what ABC's Charlie Gibson asked and the questions Couric proposes. There also will be comparisons to the tone/respect the anchors show Mrs. Palin.

However, those comparisons, in my opinion, are of secondary importance to something else -- how well does CBS edit and report its interview? You know I was not impressed with ABC's effort in this regard. Let's hope CBS does better.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Tonight ought to be interesting

Because of a little luck, I was able to get two tickets to hear New York Times' columnist and author Thomas Friedman speak tonight in Pittsburgh.

Friedman is in town to assist in the launching of the Pittsburgh Middle East Institute, which hosts its kickoff event this week.

An added benefit to tonight -- the wonderful woman who has put up with me for more than 11 years of marriage is joining me. I anticipate offering some comments to Friedman's address either late tonight or (more likely) tomorrow.

Stay tuned!

Efforts to expand the reach of citizen journalists

...are generally going to be well-received by this blogger. My hopes were raised after reading this account from another blog.

As a reader, I'm offended...

...that a reputable magazine would allow for the manipulation of photos. In this case, The Atlantic Monthly is under the gun...and apologizing to a presidential candidate.

In case you are wondering, I'm more offended at the deliberate manipulation of photographs than I am at deliberately over-the-top caricatures. To manipulate a photo is to take some original and doctor it. An excessive caricature (i.e. the Muslim Obama in the White House that was the cover of The New Yorker) is made from scratch and therefore it is clearly a figment of someone's imagination.

Ah, priorities

I came across this blurb on Politico.com's "The Huddle":

CANCELLED: Treasury Secretary HANK PAULSON ditches a planned appearance before the Senate Banking Committee. A committee aide notes, unhappily, that Paulson somehow has found time to speak at Brookings today instead.

It's so nice to know that our leaders have their priorities in place.

I wonder if the MSM will have the courage to call out Mr. Paulson on this one. Some news organization, I presume, will be at the Brookings Institution awaiting his arrival...and then asking why a speech to an advocacy group was more important than addressing Congress about the financial meltdown that afflicted the country in the past 24 hours.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Just great

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 500 points today.

This news -- and whether it was panic or logic that led to the sell-off is irrelevant -- reaffirms what I stated earlier this morning: Let's see which of the presidential candidates is first to offer concrete, relevant plans for stabilizing the crisis in the financial and banking communities and getting America's economic house in order.

Russian journalists should get in line

That's the (not very subtle) message Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin is delivering.

Let's remember that with Putin appearing to enjoy strong support within the country (not to mention a lock of control on almost all national media) that his message will resonate with the people. We can hope that the journalists who choose to not advance the Kremlin line remain vigilant.

Running a political campaign...

...in a fractured media environment.

This is a fascinating story -- it highlights how campaigns are struggling to get their message out because of the overwhelming amount of media available to the public.

A test of leadership

It would appear to me that the presidential candidates have an opportunity in the next few days to begin outlining in concrete details how they are going to repair the battered financial and banking community...and not only for the sake of the stockholders, but for all Americans.

A presidential campaign that has begun to bog down in negative advertisements, lipstick, criticisms of resumes and other tangential issues needs immediately to focus on issues that matter. Let's see which presidential candidate demonstrates his ability to grasp the magnitude of the problem and a plan to fix it.

It also would appear to me that the laissez-faire, "let the market sort it out" mentality of the past 8 years has been an amazing success. Just look at how strong this country is right now. What a legacy to leave behind -- unless the current administration also acknowledges it can and should do something.

It might not have been very good...

...at least in my opinion, but a lot of people certainly watched the ABC News interview with Sarah Palin.

Good, let's hope people learned something from it. The shenanigans that were past off as news in the past few days was obnoxious. Can we please start talking about issues again?

Saturday, September 13, 2008

The Palin interview

As is too often typical in the media today, the hype did not match the substance.

I was disappointed in the ABC News interview with Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin. Consider the following as you form your own opinion...

1. Uneven editing. The interviews were shot in at least three different places, but the viewers saw mostly one interview -- the one done inside the Palin home. Why was there only one soundbite of Mrs. Palin and Charlie Gibson, for example, while she wore a dark skirt and he had a red tie? (Forgive the incomplete descriptions of what they were wearing, but these were the clothing items I remembered.)

2. Too many commercial breaks. My suspicion is ABC sold out its inventory, for this program. And it showed. The bad news for the viewer was that as the flow of the interview started to gain some momentum, it was stopped short by a break.

3. The analysis section. This three-person section should have been eliminated. Yes, it was more civil than most such exchanges (especially on cable news programs), but I wanted to hear more from Mrs. Palin...not what people thought about what she said.

4. Excerpted to excess. Many of the excerpted sections heightened the anticipation for the interview, but I didn't see many of those segments. For example, there was significant media discussion on Friday about the foreign policy questions proposed by Gibson. I didn't hear any of those questions on 20/20.

The educator in me would have given the 20/20 program a B-. Much more could have been done with the interview (including offering more of the excerpted sections), and there was no need at all to have the analysis.

In the end, how well Palin performed will be viewed through your political prism, if you are aligned with one of the main political parties. Democrats are sure to pounce on the times she appeared to dodge certain questions; Republicans are sure to focus on the confidence she often displayed.

One final thought -- the taped segment from the ABC News reporter covering the hurricane also was poorly done. An event such as that -- with new information coming in almost every minute -- demanded a live report.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Is your time worth $6 million per minute?

Outrageous, you say? You could dream of being so arrogant, you wonder?

Well, when it comes to one football game...common sense goes right out the window.

Free speech? What free speech?

Concerns, expressed by this blogger and many others like me, that free speech would be given lip service by the Chinese authorities during the Olympics...and completely ignored after them are coming true.

Way to go, International Olympic Committee. Nice job getting duped. Remember that it's the Chinese people suffering, not you.

She didn't do well

That's the media consensus this morning, as the MSM offered a less-than-glowing review of Gov. Sarah Palin's interview with ABC News.

The Associated Press noted that Mrs. Palin "sidestepped" some questions. Along the same lines, the Chicago Tribune is suggesting that she "brushed off" questions dealing with her ability to be the vice president. The New York Times indicated that her interview with Charles Gibson at times seemed "tense."

I did not see the excerpts of this interview on ABC News last night. However, I do plan on watching the extensive interview on 20/20 this evening.

I also think that ABC News has painted itself into a bit of a corner. It MUST run the Palin interview because of the hype and scrutiny surrounding it. However, the real news of today is going to be the intense hurricane preparing to batter Texas. How ABC juggles its commitment to cover that story -- and it must, in my opinion, devote significant time and attention to it on ALL its news programs with its much-hyped Palin interview will be relevant to consider.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

He got his BA from USC and his MA from Ohio State

So which team is he rooting for in Saturday's huge football game?

Allow him to make this simple. He claims allegiance to the University of Southern California. He has no such feelings of loyalty to that alleged institution of higher learning in central Ohio.

How a university in a capital city can gut a journalism department, run off tremendous faculty, treat an interim director with zero respect and have the audacity to ask him for any kind of support...let me see, how many ways can he say no. After almost 10 years, you'd think the folks in Columbus would get the hint that asking him for anything -- especially money -- is a bad idea.

He doesn't like to be insulted like that.

How low can you go?

If you are a stock with XM/Sirius attached to you...you can go under $1.

This is stunning news. Yes, I've made no secret that I thought the merger of XM and Sirius would be a bad one for consumers, and I maintain that position. However, little did I think that there would be such negative optimism about the future of satellite radio as a whole.

An editorial...with two missing details

I have mentioned in other postings that I thought much of the criticism directed at the security operations at the Republican National Convention was misguided. So, too, does one Minneapolis television station.

There's only one problem -- KSTP didn't tell its viewers the entire story as to why it supported the actions local and other police agencies took over the four-day convention.

For a different opinion as to the actions taken by the security departments, you're encouraged to read this editorial -- it argues that the media were unfairly targeted for arrest.

A legitimate news story...or pandering for ratings?

I noticed with some interest this morning that ABC News has chosen to turn its interview with Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin into a special 20/20 airing in prime time.

Now, I'm just asking -- is this "prime time" designation a reflection on Palin as a news maker...or as a ratings grabber?

If I were an ABC News executive (and as a kid and young adult I occasionally dreamed that I would be some day), I would have made the same decision -- put her in prime time. I would have justified it as Palin as a news maker. (And I would have also admitted to myself that it was a shameless attempt at winning the ratings hour.)

I'll be watching. I bet many of you will be, too. And I suspect the editorial board of The New York Times will be, as well. The group has some questions it hopes Palin will answer.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Seven years ago (UPDATED)

On Thursday, America marks the seventh anniversary of 9/11. I remember that in each of the past six years (and most especially from 2002 through 2005) I could find people talking about that terrible day in 2001, as the anniversary approached.

I don't hear those same conversations this year, and I have a few thoughts as to why:
1. Americans appear more engaged in this presidential election than any in recent memory
2. The grip of economic uncertainty remains palpable almost every place you turn
3. The visual images from that day are almost entirely gone
4. Declining media reporting of the event and interest in identifying the anniversaries as news
5. Time has begun to heal the stinging wounds
6. UPDATE: And you can add at least one more reason, as this Washington Post article suggests -- the presidential candidates are making terrorism less of an issue in 2008 than their predecessors did in 2004

I read today that the memorial at the Pentagon is going be unveiled -- and it's the first completed memorial to the victims. That's baffling to me -- why does a country so pained by what happened to it need seven years to finish its first memorial?

I can understand the Twin Towers site not being ready. But in the more than three years I've lived in Pennsylvania, I've been at times dumbfounded by the negative tone that has surrounded the planned memorial where Flight 93 went down. There has been progress of late, but what remains in Somerset County is not, in my opinion, appropriate to the men and women on that flight.

A wee bit o' humor

I was forwarded this by a colleague...and thought it was too good not to share. Enjoy.

Here is the Washington Post's Mensa invitational which once again asked readers to take any word from the dictionary, alter it by adding, subtracting, or changing one letter, and supply a new definition. Here are
the winners:

�1. Cashtration (n.): The act of buying a house, which renders the subject
financially impotent for an indefinite period of time.

�2. Ignoranus: A person who's both stupid and an (expletive).

�3. Intaxication: Euphoria at getting a tax refund, which lasts until you
realize it was your money to start with.

�4. Bozone(n.): The substance surrounding stupid people that stops bright
ideas from penetrating. The bozone layer, unfortunately, shows little sign
of breaking down in the near future.

�5. Giraffiti: Vandalism spray-painted very,very high.

�6. Sarchasm: The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the Person
who doesn't get it.

�7. Inoculatte: To take coffee intravenously when you are running late.

�8. Osteopornosis: A degenerate disease.

�9. Karmageddon: It's like, when everybody is sending off all these really
bad vibes, right? And then, like, the Earth explodes and it's like, a
serious bummer.

�10. Decafalon (n.): The grueling event of getting through the day
consuming only things that are good for you.

�11. Glibido: All talk and no action.

�12. Dopeler Effect: The tendency of stupid ideas to seem smarter when they
come at you rapidly.

�13. Arachnoleptic Fit (n.): The frantic dance performed just after you've
accidentally walked through a spider web.

�14. Beelzebug (n.): Satan in the form of a mosquito, that gets into your
bedroom at three in the morning and cannot be cast out.

�15. Caterpallor (n.): The color you turn after finding half a worm in the
fruit you're eating.


The Washington Post has also published the winning submissions to its
yearly contest, in which readers are asked to supply alternate meanings
for common words. And the winners are:

�1. Coffee, n. The person upon whom one coughs.

�2. Flabbergasted, adj. Appalled by discovering how much weight one has
gained.

�3. Abdicate v. To give up all hope of ever having a flat stomach.

�4. Esplanade, v. To attempt an explanation while drunk.

�5. Willy-nilly, adj. Impotent.

�6. Negligent adj. Absentmindedly answering the door when wearing only a
nightgown.

�7. Lymph v. To walk with a lisp.

�8. Gargoyle n. Olive-flavored mouthwash.

�9. Flatulence, n. Emergency vehicle that picks up someone who has been run
over by a steamroller.

�10. Balderdash , n. A rapidly receding hairline.

�11. Testicle, n. A humorous question on an exam.

�12. Rectitude, n. The formal, dignified bearing adopted by proctologists.

�13. Pokemon, n. A Rastafarian proctologist.

�14. Oyster, n. A person who sprinkles his conversation with yiddishisms.

�15. Frisbeetarianism, n. The belief that, after death, the soul flies up
onto the roof and gets stuck there.

The perils of doing journalism...

...in places where journalists are not respected.

It's stories such as this one that reflect the immense power that journalists have in this country...and why that power is feared by so many people in other countries.

The Palin Phenomenon...

...hasn't shown signs of fading yet.

I have noticed over the past couple of days a new thread of discussion about Palin -- she's a polarizing figure. And I think there is a significant amount of truth to this. I noted in a posting a few days ago that liberal and Democratic women would be less likely to support Palin because of her social conservative ideas.

Ultimately, I argued, Palin's success in November will be judged by whether she alone was responsible for getting Independent voters to side with McCain-Palin over Obama-Biden. The question those voters are going to ask themselves is this -- could I be comfortable with Palin as a commander-in-chief? Now, this is not to say that this is the most important question they will ask; however, it is going to be a relevant issue. What happens if something happens to the president? Can he/she (meaning the number two) step in at a moment's notice? If the Independents are comfortable with Palin...they could be swayed to select that ticket.

It's still to early to determine whether this will be the case because I believe the Palin Phenomenon will recede between now and Election Day. If it doesn't, then the Republican ticket likely will win the White House.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Food -- for thought...and for ethics

One Boston television station has some explaining to do -- it's promoting the heck out of a local restaurant. Why? Well, ownership might have something to do with that.

This is one of those stories that makes me cringe. There is no news value associated with the opening, and there is no civic pride or engagement taking place.

As you know, I was in Minneapolis-St. Paul for two weeks, and most of my time there overlapped the annual State Fair. The local television (and at least one radio) station were there, broadcasting on a regular basis.

Hokey? Maybe. But the civic engagement angle justified such a decision.

Did journalists have their rights violated at the political conventions?

According to this editorial, the answer is yes.

Now, I can only compare what is being addressed here to my experience at the RNC. No one in the media corps that I was surrounded by complained about being ill-treated or having their rights violated. I certainly did not.

Granted, I did not cover the protests taking place outside the convention. However, because of the police presence in and around the XCel Center I interacted with various security officers on multiple occasions. Never once was I not greeted with a hello or some other polite comment, and I never was treated rudely.

Getting out...sort of

You have to love the diplomatic tap dance Russian president Dmitri Medvedev is doing with other world leaders. He says his country's troops will -- sort of -- move back from its positions within Georgia.

Funny, but as I see it...you send your military into a foreign country as an occupier or as a peace keeper.

Meanwhile, the Bush administration, which would know a thing or two about occupier status, says it's ruled out taking any unilateral action against Russia to protest what the Kremlin is doing in Georgia. I guess in this case the pot knows better than to call the kettle black.

Drowning in poll numbers!

About the only bad news I can find from a tightening presidential race is that more attention is being paid by the media to the latest polls. Ugh.

Come on, gang...we all know that these polls fluctuate. And we can, with a healthy dose of confidence, predict that these numbers today are not going to look like the numbers we see next week.

Let's summarize these current poll numbers and put them into some context:
1. McCain has closed the lead on (or taken it from) Obama. Sure, we would expect that -- it's called a convention bounce.
2. Several swing states are even closer than before. Same song, next verse. And we can also add the excitement that Sarah Palin has brought to the campaign.

We can anticipate that for at least the next week (unless a political bombshell happens before then) that the current numbers will remain relatively steady. By then, the initial rush of excitement about Gov. Palin will dissipate and McCain's convention bounce will no longer be a factor.

In the meantime, let's hope the media can focus on the issues. But maybe that's too much to ask in this poll-driven, horse-race analogous media environment.

Ya think?

Liberal bloggers are angry at MSNBC for yanking Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews from its political anchor desk.

At first blush, you might think a journalism educator would react to this by saying: Serves them right...they weren't being objective. And that's true -- they weren't.

However, as I've maintained in other postings, the issue of objectivity has been thrown into doubt in the current cable news environment. It's easy to argue that MSNBC was pandering to ratings, but I think that's a short-sighted argument. Moreover, if you're going to assail MSNBC for seeking a ratings grab, then doesn't the same criticism have to be directed to FOX News?

Here's my point -- it might very well be time for us to re-think our expectations of what cable news is. If objectivity isn't being practiced...then why are so many people still watching?

Monday, September 08, 2008

More signs that the Democrats are scrambling

The woman whom you would expect to lead the attacks against Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has made it clear she won't do it (and she admits she's not been asked).

Meanwhile, Barack Obama says there are legitimate questions about Palin's foreign policy experience (and I believe this is an area the Democrats ought to attempt to exploit). The Washington Times (and let's acknowledge that if The New York Times has a political agenda, so too does this newspaper) says that women continue to flock to Palin and see her as a role model.

And therein lies the crux of the problem that Obama and the Democrats are facing -- for as long as this honeymoon between Palin and the electorate (and more specifically women) continues, the harder it becomes for them to attack her. It becomes problematic to go after someone's foreign policy, economic or other political experience when the public likes whom it sees. (The general reaction to policy criticisms is "yeah...so?" Right now, it looks at Palin very favorably.

The Democrats need to pay attention to that (and they are) while also attempting to counteract it. It doesn't help their cause that the media's perceived (real?) attacks on Palin during last week's RNC provided a sense within some quarters that they were attempting to do the dirty work. This was not the case, but the Republicans masterfully turned the media's questions and criticisms into a message of the "elite" going after this new face on the political scene.

The journalism crunch hits college campusues

Two college newspapers are planning to reduce their print schedule from 5 to 4 days a week. The economic climate is the cited reason.

This "news" provides some important talking points in our classes, but it is more important to remember that independent (of their universities) newspapers printing 4 times per week is better than a funded-by-the-university paper that prints 5 times per week but rarely, if ever, can tackle the unpopular stories on campus.

I'm reminded at this moment of a college president (whom I won't name) at one university (that I won't name) that was disgusted that the student-produced newspaper was not providing more positive reports about the university. In a perhaps not-so-subtle attempt to bully the editors, he reminded them that the paper was operating in a university-owned building.

"And we pay rent for this space," one of those editors replied.

And that's the way it should be.

Bowing to reality...or political pressure?

MSNBC's decision to drop Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews as anchors of live political events raises some important questions:

1. Did the network bow to reality? Both men made their opinions well known
2. Did the network bow to political pressure? If the answer is "yes," then from whom did the pressure come?
3. What does this decision mean for both men, looking down the road? It would seem to me that the message sent to both is to either tone it down or be doomed to never getting out of the studio.

Be sure to examine MSM coverage of this news throughout the day. My guess is that the network will be criticized for blunting free speech and also putting into question the relationship it has with Olbermann and Matthews, two of its most consistent ratings grabbers.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

An editorial decision...or a political statement?

In today's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, there is a story detailing how the presidential candidates are targeting specific states in this election. As you read through this post, consider what, if any, implications there are based on the choice of words...

The story was written by a pair of New York Times reporters, and in today's local paper "The New York Times News Service" is identified beneath their names. Something I saw in this article (which I cannot find on the P-G Web site) caught my attention.

Here is a snippet of that story (which is on A-14 of the Sunday final), and the words that I want to call to your attention are in bold italics:

"While fortified turnout from this base is probably not enough to ensure victory for Mr. McCain, strategists said, it would be very difficult for him to win without it.

"In that sense, Ms. Palin's presence on the ticket -- if her candidacy holds up under the scrutiny it is receiving -- could be vital."

Now, I call your attention to the original article, which was published Saturday, and I again pull out this section. The difference in word usage is again highlighted in bold italics.

"While fortified turnout from this base is probably not enough to assure victory for Mr. McCain, strategists said, it would be very difficult for him to win without it. In that sense, Ms. Palin’s presence on the ticket — depending on how her candidacy fares under the scrutiny it is receiving — could be vital."

Before I go any further I want to compare this editorial decision to one made at another newspaper. Here is what the Minneapolis Star-Tribune did with these two sentences.

"While fortified turnout from this base is probably not enough to ensure victory for McCain, strategists said, it would be very difficult for him to win without it. In that sense, Palin's presence on the ticket could be vital."

Now, consider what the Rutland (Vermont) Herald did here. Again, the critical words are in bold italics.

"While fortified turnout from this base is probably not enough to ensure victory for McCain, strategists said, it would be very difficult for him to win without it. In that sense, Palin's presence on the ticket — if her candidacy holds up under the scrutiny it is receiving — could be vital."

Returning now to the Post-Gazette story (and the language in that story matches what appears in the Rutland Herald), there is a clear difference in my opinion between "IF HER CANDIDACY HOLDS UP" and "DEPENDING UPON HOW HER CANDIDACY FARES." The first statement implies that Palin is in danger of being removed from the Republican ticket, and that implication requires evidence that neither local paper nor the original source -- the New York Times -- supplies (probably because it doesn't exist?); the second statement (which, again, is the original) implies that there remain doubts about Palin's credibility.

It would appear that the original story was changed. But by whom? And why? Regardless of how you interpret "IF", there is an implication in today's newspapers that Palin's status is threatened.

So was this word change an editorial decision or a political statement?

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Oprah is making a mistake...and others are, too

CNN reports that a group of Florida Republican women are boycotting the Oprah Winfrey Show.

Why? Because the group believes Oprah is making a clear political statement by not booking Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin as a guest between now and Election Day.

Oprah says she doesn't want her show to become a platform for the presidential race. Of course, she says that NOW and AFTER she so passionately endorsed Sen. Barack Obama.

And while this is going on a person once (and possibly still) connected to the Obama campaign says that Gov. Palin is putting her political ambitions ahead of her family's needs by serving as Sen. John McCain's running mate.

And this individual knows this...how?

It's stories such as these that embolden the Republican Party, unite its members ever more tightly behind the McCain-Palin ticket, and serve as evidence (to GOP members) that the media and the Democratic Party are not treating the GOP ticket and especially the vice presidential candidate with respect.

Let's face it...at this point (and that's critical to remember because the political fates can change quickly) Palin IS the draw. She's the one that has rekindled interest in McCain as a candidate.

And never forget to examine how all of this Palin bashing looks to Independents, especially women. If they begin to see that a woman is being unfairly treated by established, elite groups...then there's a chance for them to rally to her side. McCain would be the beneficiary. He knows that. So, too, does Obama.

Clinton vs. Palin?

The New York Times is suggesting that these two women -- neither of whom is running for president -- could be decisive in determining whether Barack Obama or John McCain is the next president.

I reiterate here something I suggested yesterday -- sure, women voters will be an important sub-plot to this 2008 election, but I think too much is going to be made of Clinton vs. Palin.

There is a good dramatic angle to this story, but let's see if the media can resist highlighting that and instead can focus on the messages these powerful, interesting and intriguing women deliver.

Now that's a lot of viewers!

Would you believe that MORE people watched John McCain's speech from the RNC than Barack Obama's from the DNC?

Here's a summary report from Bloomberg News, citing Nielsen numbers:

Bloomberg News – 'McCain attracted a record 38.9 million television viewers to his acceptance speech ... The total exceeded the 38.4 million who watched Obama accept the Democratic nomination in Denver on Aug. 28, Nielsen Media Research said ... (Alaska Gov. Sarah) Palin drew 37.2 million on Sept. 3 ... The last night of the Republican gathering ... was seen in 28.3 million homes, breaking the record of the 27.7 million who watched Obama's speech at the Democratic National Convention. McCain's ratings are the highest for a political convention since Nielsen began collecting data in 1960.'

These ratings reinforce the need for the television media to never forget that their principal function is not to entertain...but to be a public servant. Sure, I'm old fashioned in this regard, but I see it as the media's obligation to surrender prime-time hours to the political campaigns. And one hour per night is not enough.

The arguments that the conventions are scripted and that no real news comes from them don't hold water, in my opinion.

Friday, September 05, 2008

3 airports...3 states...and home

I left Minneapolis this morning still sorting out the “what’s next?” in the presidential race. But before I get to that, a couple of what I think are interesting/funny/worth mentioning vignettes from today…

On my flight from Minneapolis to Milwaukee I was seated close to a man and woman who attended the RNC. Though it was obvious from their conversation that they didn’t know each other, they had two common bonds – being Republican and being at the convention – that drew them together. Her words suggested she was a delegate though I wasn’t sure of his role at the RNC.

She got in what was the funniest line, when she told him that she and her husband had six kids.

“Wow,” he said.

“Yes, three Democrats and three Republicans,” she replied.

He laughed, and then he laughed even louder when he heard her say, “And you know, I tell that husband of mine that I just can’t figure out what we did wrong with those three.” It was clear which three she was speaking of.

The second vignette

I was sitting in the terminal waiting to board my flight from Milwaukee to Pittsburgh when good ol’ Wolf Blitzer struck again. (How does he manage to do this so many times?) CNN aired a report about black Republicans who are feeling conflicted as the election approaches – do they support the man from their party, or do they recognize the importance of the first black presidential candidate and side with Barack Obama?

At the conclusion of the report, Blitzer interviewed two analysts. At one point, he noted that there was no question that the Democratic National Convention included a more diverse delegate base. He described that base as representing “every color, shape and form.”

Color? Shape? Form? I ask you to help me sort that one out.

The third vignette

Seated in the same terminal in Milwaukee was a woman and her husband who also were on the flight to Pittsburgh. Blitzer was referring to the challenges Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin will face in matching the foreign policy expertise of her Democratic counterpart Joe Biden. Blitzer wondered (and I believe it’s a legitimate question) if Palin’s inexperience in this area might be especially evident when she and Biden hold their vice presidential debate.

As her eyes continued to stare at the monitor, the woman mumbled, “Stick a sock in it.”

Care to guess what her political persuasion is?

And now back to the presidential election race (already in progress)

Which Democratic woman do you think is about to reassert the importance of selecting Obama on November 4? I could give you 18-million hints, but something tells me you’ve figured that one out. There’s no question that Hillary Clinton will assume a larger role over the next 60 days than Obama would have liked her to…because Palin has made an impression on women, is drawing attention wherever she goes, and appears to have weathered the media storm about her personal life and professional shortcomings. (Oh, you liberal media…how dare you ask the difficult questions about policy. Shame on you for not covering the fluff stuff.)

There is a danger here, though I doubt it’s a huge one – Clinton could pull more women into the Republican base if she comes off as shrill and preachy. Independent women could very well see in Palin the kind of woman they aspire for their daughters – committed to a loving family relationship while finding professional success.

As I mentioned in a post last evening, liberal women are going to vote for Obama more than McCain; the conservative message (including his party supporting a “culture of life”) will raise alarm bells in these women, and they will look past the chance to put a woman in the White House. (These women also are inclined to accept that because of the openly political role Mrs. Clinton played in her husband’s presidency that a woman already has made a mark – though not a complete one – on the executive branch.)

Clinton also will rally Republican women (and after the past 48 hours they don’t need much more rallying) to Palin; they will see any attack on her as yet another example of the liberals (media and politicians) ganging up on their candidate.

And that brings me back to the Independent women – how they react to Clinton’s message will be worth paying attention to. Let me reiterate, I’m not implying that these women will decide the election; however, I am saying that if they perceive that Obama is using Clinton as a mechanism to rip into Palin then they could move to the GOP side.


And now for something completely different

I’m picking Dallas to beat San Diego and win the NFL championship this year. I'd offer you a full set of reasons why but I just got some good news...my flight is about to land in Pittsburgh.

After two weeks I can report the best news of all...I'm home.

The GOP is in trouble in one swing state...

...if this news about a U.S. Senate race also is a harbinger of how the presidential race will turn out in New Mexico, you can add five Electoral College votes to Barack Obama's tally.

FOX's Brit Hume begins to wind down

Last night, Hume said "good night" for the final time from a national political convention.

Hume has been a leading political reporter for two decades. Considering our industry also lost Tim Russert earlier this year, there is a real void on network and cable television.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

The final night of the RNC (periodically updated)

All times are CDT

From second place...to the 7:00 hour. That's the reality facing Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty tonight. He reportedly was John McCain's second choice for vice presidential nominee.
So last night Sarah Palin got the prime time slot; Pawlenty got to watch. Tonight, he gets his chance...but with his address scheduled for around 7:15, will anyone be paying attention?

.....

Just about one hour after Pawlenty, one of Sen. McCain's closest friends takes the stage. Former Pennsylvania governor Tom Ridge is expected to devote almost all of his address to McCain. At one point Ridge is expected to say that his friend never surrenders to any challenge: "Where some people see adversity, John McCain accepts a challenge. Where some people see a crisis, John McCain creates an opportunity. Where
some people see defeat, John McCain insists on victory."

Needless to say, Ridge will add that in the race to become the next President of the United States, McCain is best suited to lead the country: "I am so very proud to say, 'That is my friend, John McCain.' The next president of the United States. The next commander-in-chief. Ready to lead.
Ready to serve. Ready to deliver."

.....

4:50 p.m.: There's an uneasy feeling tonight, as the final night of the RNC prepares to be gaveled to order. Already there have been several arrests near the Minnesota State Capitol, which is located about one mile from the XCel Energy Center. It is at the Capitol where protesters are gathering for (at least) one more rally against the Iraq War. In anticipation of a disruption of traffic (or worse), state employees have been sent home early.

Riot police can be easily spotted outside the XCel Center. A large fire truck is stationed near one entrance, and its ladder is extended and at the ready. It would not be a surprise to see a water cannon used if the protesters get too violent or approach to close to the security barriers.

Now, there is no stereotype to the kind of protester here. In fact, earlier today a group of high school students left their schools to protest against military recruiters on their campuses.

At the same time, local businesses have complained that their hoped-for convention payoff has not played out. They say that the constant protests and arrests have kept led many people to limit the time they spend near the XCel Center.

.....

5:25 p.m.: I was interviewed about an hour ago by a University of St. Thomas (St. Paul, MN) television crew. The reporter began by asking me about the pregnancy of Bristol Palin and if it was a legitimate news story. As you might guess, I told that I believed the children of politicians should not be fair game.

We then discussed Mrs. Palin's speech, and I reiterated that it gave the convention the kind of spark it seemed to need, while also allowing her to introduce herself and her family to the delegates and national audience.

The reporter also wanted to know how the McCain campaign would attempt to attract younger voters. I reminded her that the Obama campaign has a huge advantage here, in part because it has worked for that vote for many months and younger people are more inclined to vote for him this year.

I added that it wouldn't surprise me if the campaign uses vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin to help with getting young voters. She's younger than McCain, has younger children than McCain and is better suited to relate to the needs of teenagers and young adults.

.....

5:56 p.m.: Closing in on the start of the final night of the RNC. The first hour is rather bland. The aforementioned Tim Pawlenty ought to be the most interesting second hour act. The momentum will build in hour three, when Tom Ridge and Cindy McCain speak. And then it's Sen. John McCain's turn in the 9:00 hour.

.....

6:01 p.m.: Excerpts of Mrs. McCain's speech have been released. She'll relate how her husband's ability to forgive the Vietnamese for the brutal way he was treated as a POW is a sign of being a leader: "Forgiveness is not just a personal issue: it's why John led the effort to normalize relations with Vietnam retrieve the remains of our MIAs... to
bring closure to both sides. That's leadership - national leadership. And it's leading by example."

She'll conclude that her husband is a proven leader, a believer in bipartisanship, a man of character, and "a man who's served in Washington without ever becoming a Washington insider...who always speaks the truth no matter what the cost...a man of judgment and character...a loyal and loving
and true husband and a magnificent father!"

.....

6:22 p.m.: Excerpts of Mr. McCain's speech also are now available. The Arizona senator will warn the Washington culture that when he and Sarah Palin take over the White House, long overdue reform will soon follow: "And let me
offer an advance warning to the old, big spending, do nothing, me first, country second Washington crowd: change is coming."

McCain will repeat this theme of change on more than one occasion. Later, he'll tie it to the need for extending a hand across the aisle -- and this can be interpreted as tacit acknowledgment that the Democrats will increase their advantages in the House and Senate. McCain will suggest that working with the opposition is no big deal: "Again and again, I've worked with members of both parties to fix problems that need to be fixed. That's how I will govern as President. I
will reach out my hand to anyone to help me get this country moving again. I have that record and the scars to prove it. Senator Obama does not."

Finally, McCain will wrap himself around the flag, a favored choice of Republicans, by admitting that it was when he was in Vietnam that he learned to fully appreciate the United States: "I loved it not just for the many comforts of life here. I loved it for its decency; for its faith in the wisdom, justice and goodness of its people. I loved it because it was not just a place, but an idea, a cause worth fighting for. I was never the same again."

.....

7:01 p.m.: Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty is about to speak to the convention...at least that's what the schedule indicates. But as of now I've seen no excerpts of his address. This is odd, perhaps most so because almost every other speaker who will talk tonight as had his or her comments delivered to the media.

Pawlenty before today had been the subject of at least one story per day within the local media. Early in the week, those stories focused on the "what might have been?" question. Again, as mentioned, Pawlenty -- who admitted yesterday that he had been vetted -- was considered among the finalists as the McCain camp moved toward selecting a vice president Toward midweek, the Pawlenty story had more to do with how he was working for the McCain-Palin ticket. For what it's worth, there were no stories about Pawlenty in one of today's local papers -- the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

.....

7:06 p.m.: Pawlenty takes the stage. He begins with a question -- "How do we measure someone's character?" (Funny, I think your favorite blogger posed that question last evening! Hmmm...any chance that the Pawlenty people are readers of this blog!)

Pawlenty does in this speech what he's done all week -- been a loyal soldier for McCain. He's provided the typical rhetoric about McCain has a man of duty and honor, and someone who's always put country ahead of self.

Pawlenty contrasts McCain's toughness with his compassion by suggesting he understands the problems every day Americans face. This leads to a two-pronged economics discussion -- that McCain will work to make the dollar of all Americans stretch further while also supporting the needs of business.

.....

7:12 p.m.: Six minutes later, Pawlenty is done. Polite applause follows. He's gone...wow, what might have been.

.....

7:36 p.m.: Tonight resembles the first full night of the convention -- sluggish. The absence of a "name" thus far in the program has ensured that the convention delegates are not energized. Now, I understand that McCain (male and female) is the name of the night, but a parade of speakers -- all talking for perhaps 5-8 minutes -- gives them no time to build a connection to the audience. Nor does it offer them a chance to do more than provide one or maybe two talking points.

.....

7:40 p.m.: A video is now being shown to the delegates -- it examines how America was held hostage for 444 days from late 1979 through early 1981 after Iran took over the American embassy in Tehran. It then moved to Sept. 11, 2001 and the devastating images associated with it.

The end of the video led to the (predictable) chant of "USA!"

Why this video at this point? It preceded a couple of Congressmen who spoke little about radical Islam, the never stated but clearly understood antagonists in both events, and preceded short talks by a 2008 U.S. Olympic gold medalist and NFL Hall of Fame coach Joe Gibbs.

Strange placement. No real set up. Set up nothing.

.....

7:50 p.m.: Gibbs equates football to life...with God as its coach. He suggests that John McCain is the candidate capable of ensuring that solid Christian values (though that term is never used) are affirmed in America.

.....

7:53 p.m.: A track and field gold medalist sets up a football coach (and NASCAR owner), and he sets up...a musical interlude. The oft-heard (and kinda cool if you ask me) "Put Me in Coach" -- a baseball song -- entertains the audience.

Yes, this is a schizophrenic sequence.

.....

7:57 p.m.: And it becomes even more so as "Danger Zone" from 'Top Gun' follows.

At this point, we can't get to the top of the hour and more speeches fast enough. Right now, this convention is off track tonight.

.....

8:00 p.m.: Another of McCain's best friends -- South Carolina senator Lindsey Graham takes the stage. Not a moment to soon. Let's see if he can get this party started.

"This speech is for the troops," he says, as he begins his address.

Graham reviews the progress the U.S. military has made in Iraq. (I can only imagine what the protesters outside would be thinking if they were hearing this.) He says that everyone "except Barack Obama and his friends at MoveOn.org" is aware that the Americans are winning, and by extension Iraq is becoming a safer place.

.....

8:06 p.m.: Graham suggests that McCain offered the wisdom and had the confidence to stand up to say the U.S. was doing the correct thing by increasing its troop levels in Iraq.

.....

8:07 p.m.: The "red meat" is starting to come out tonight. Sen. Graham tears into Sen. Barack Obama, suggesting that he gives little more than lip service to American successes in Iraq. While McCain works for the troops, Graham says, Obama offers bold speeches but nothing more.

.....

8:10 p.m.: Graham finishes by introducing a video on Sarah Palin, who earlier this evening was formally nominated and chosen to as the GOP's vice presidential nominee.

.....

8:14 p.m.: McCain's friends continue to own the 8:00 hour, as Tom Ridge takes the stage.

McCain is a "proven leader," "a warrior;" and he fights for the "most vulnerable" of America's citizens, Ridge says, at the beginning of his address.

In terms of policy, there has been nothing to this point. The rhetoric has ratcheted up in this hour, but no one has offered a policy idea. I don't expect Ridge to do it, and I'm even more convinced that Mrs. McCain won't.

My point is this -- while sharp distinctions were drawn between the Obama-Biden and McCain-Palin tickets last night...tonight has been about promoting McCain in well-used terms -- experienced, stable, wise, leader, etc. Yes, there have been critical statements of Barack Obama, but style without substance has been on display so far.

.....

8:27 p.m.: The warm-up acts have had their time. Now it's time for the GOP's new first family to take over -- expect Mrs. McCain, speaking in about two minutes, to speak glowingly of her husband.

It's interesting to me that her speech is not considered important to this convention, when compared to the address Michelle Obama had to give to last week in Denver.

Why is this? If the country knows little about Mrs. Obama, it also knows little about Mrs. McCain, even though her husband has been a national political figure for more than 20 years.

So, why is the wife of one presidential candidate delivering an address that is (frankly) an afterthought...while the other delivers one viewed as essential? Is it ONLY because Mrs. Obama made a controversial comment about when -- and how long -- she loved America?

You know, maybe it's because of where they went to college. Of course, Mrs. McCain earned her B.A. from the University of Southern California. That gives her all the credibility she needs :-).

.....

8:35 p.m.: Here she comes. And she's with her entire family (except for Mr. McCain).

.....

8:36 p.m.: It appears she's going to begin speaking not in front of a podium, but next to the children. Yes, she does.

.....

8:37 p.m.: No podium! Will she do this for the entire address?

.....

8:39 p.m.: Her first applause line -- America can better if the federal government "gets itself out of control and out of our way."

.....

8:41 p.m.: She appears stiff. She's making use of her teleprompter as a crutch...her address doesn't feel free-flowing.

.....

8:44 p.m.: Now the loudest ovation -- as Cindy McCain tells the audience that having a "woman at the wheel" and sharing the ride with a man is a great thing. That woman -- Sarah Palin.

.....

8:50 p.m.: The speech has improved. She seems more comfortable speaking of what she sees as her most important roles -- wife and mother.

Quick thought -- Mrs. McCain and Mrs. Palin provide two visions of what a modern woman can be. Which version are you going to suggest is "right"? Should Mrs. McCain have done more because she was a woman of wealth? Should she have sought more than being what she is -- a philanthropist, wife and mother?

Or is Mrs. Palin "right" because she chose wife; mother; and professional success?

Do you see the problem with criticizing Mrs. Palin for what she is and for the choices she and her family have made? What is wrong with what she's chosen to be?

But do you also see the problem with going after Mrs. McCain for what she is and for the choices she and her family have made? What is wrong with her life's choices?

This is an argument you can't have...because you can't win. It's a family choice. Enough said.

.....

8:55 p.m.: Much better speech at the end than at the beginning. The nerves gave way to a confident, comfortable woman. No podium. I like it. It paves the way for the type of talk Mr. McCain will give -- an informal talk with the American people.

.....

8:59 p.m.: The closing act of the RNC is next.

.....

9:01 p.m.: Mrs. Palin received a near 3-minute ovation when she took the stage last night. I'm using a clock again tonight to determine how long Mr. McCain must wait before he speaks.

.....

9:04 p.m.: The video introduction begins. Get the clock ready. And let's see if this video is better -- I've commented elsewhere that the quality of the videos prepared for McCain have been of below average quality.

.....

9:07 p.m.: This video is better; it doesn't offer the rah-rah optimism of the Obama video, but instead it represents his dignity and strength. No one will dispute the images these two men have of themselves and how they are presented to the United States. One displays excitement, vigor and youth; the other displays experience and stability.

.....

9:12 p.m.: Here he comes...start the clock.

.....

9:15 p.m.: About seven seconds less than Palin's. Hers was a louder and more raucous ovation. His was one more of appreciation.

Initial reaction -- McCain was dreadful using the teleprompter in New Hampshire and in the early part of the primary and caucus season. He's practiced...he's more comfortable with it.

.....

9:18 p.m.: I'm surprised McCain is using a modified podium. Will he move away from it and take advantage of the long walkway constructed today and designed to put him closer to the delegates?

.....

9:21 p.m.: A brilliant statement toward Sen. Obama -- he acknowledges that "we will go at it" over the next two months, but he respects him because both men are Americans and that means more than anything else.

.....

9:23 p.m.: How do the protesters continue to get into this building? They got in last night and disrupted Gov. Palin. Now, again tonight, it's happened.

Security here has been very good, and despite what the protesters will tell you St. Paul has not been turned into a police state over the last week or so. In fact, I mentioned to a student today as we walked into the XCel Center that it amazed me that it was a smoother security operation here than it is in the nation's airports. But the level of security has somehow failed and allowed a particular group of protesters to get into the XCel Center.

I'm sure you'll hear much more about these security breaches later tonight and tomorrow. The brief disruption last night was almost an afterthought, as Palin delivered a brilliant address. Tonight, however, it has been different. McCain was compelled to stop and acknowledge (and he did it well, by the way) them. Let's see how these groups and their efforts to disrupt the convention are analyzed in the MSM.

.....

9:30 p.m.: Loudest ovation to this point -- McCain acknowledges that the surge led to the changing situation on the ground in Iraq.

.....

9:34 p.m.: Have you noticed McCain has referred to people in battleground states -- Michigan, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire? Don't misunderstand me, I'm not saying these people don't need to be discussed. What I am saying, however, is that they are being talked about because of where they are from. There are others like them in New York, Alabama and North Dakota. But those states are not where the 2008 election will be decided.

.....

9:38 p.m.: He's getting revved up. So is this crowd. The delegates like the conservative "red meat" issues McCain is referring to -- lower taxes, non-activist judges, and "a culture of life," among them.

.....

9:41 p.m.: Community colleges, re-training, some government assistance -- these are among the ways McCain says to which America will turn in an effort to ensure that people who have lost their jobs find new and good ones. "Education is the civil rights issue of this century," McCain said.

He follows up by indicating that school choice and ridding public schools of bad teachers will be hallmarks of a McCain presidency. Answering to "parents and students" and not to bureaucrats will be his goal, McCain says.

.....

9:44 p.m.: More "red-meat" -- energy. More drilling ("we'll drill them now"), construction of new power plants, use of wind, solar, clean coal and other options are all on the table, McCain says. "It's an ambitious plan," he says, but Americans are ambitious and can answer this call to lead the world in moving away from oil. (Truth is, the United States would be wise to acknowledge that many Scandinavian countries already have taken bold steps; no matter what we do, we're behind them.)

.....

9:48 p.m.: Time to move to international issues. "I know how the world works," McCain says, and he'll work to make sure that America can remain safe, have good diplomatic relations with as many countries that want to have it, and contain its enemies.

.....

9:53 p.m.: People who go to Washington to work for themselves explains why the federal government is broken, McCain says. Good point. He adds that he has "the record and the scars to prove" that he's been an agent for change, but his opponent doesn't.

.....

9:54 p.m.: McCain continues to hint at bipartisanship, noting he'll bring Democrats and Independents (Sen. Joe Lieberman???) into his administration, and he won't care who gets credit for the successes it enjoys.

.....

9:56 p.m.: Powerful stuff here...as McCain talks about how his imprisonment and his treatment taught him humility, and how his cellmates saved his life. Intense audience. This would be a poignant campaign ad...as is.

.....

10:04 p.m.: 49 minutes.

.....

10:05 p.m.: Wow, I wish I had the word power that great speech writers do.

.....

10:05 p.m.: McCain delivered. No, there shouldn't be (though you know there will be) comparisons to the oratory abilities of Mr. McCain and Mr. Obama; they are about as far apart here as Arizona is to Illinois.

.....

10:22 p.m.: Took a break to take a bunch of pictures -- my mother-in-law would have been terribly upset if her "happily registered Independent" didn't bring home souvenirs and pictures. Well, Patty...your son-in-law did good :-)

.....

10:25 p.m.: Many Republicans I spoke with over the past few days were tentative. And I thought they had good reason to be. They came here to the Twin Cities knowing that the Democrats had enjoyed a successful campaign; that the Democrats had a candidate who was young and energetic; that their "maverick" presidential candidate had selected an unknown running mate; that an unpopular president remained a drain on their party; that a hurricane in the Gulf was bringing back memories of an ineffective (or worse...uncaring) Republican administration; that the economy was hanging on by a thread; and that the Republican brand was under attack.

As the week unfolded, these Republicans began to get energized. They were "on message" -- the liberal media were out to get their vice presidential candidate; McCain was not going to entirely abandon conservatism; and Obama remained a candidate whom their party could define.

And in the last 24 hours, they have begun talking about and believing in -- winning. Now, there's a difference between saying you're going to win...and thinking that you can. Tonight, the Republican voters believe that their man can fight one more good fight, overcome the odds, and win in November.

The change in the attitude of the delegates is palpable. I believe that those who were hesitant about McCain will work for him. The Republicans, in fact, are unified -- or at least they are more unified than the Democrats. (If you don't believe me, think two words -- Hillary and women.)

McCain will get a bounce from this campaign; and even if it is as little as Obama got, we're looking at a race that is a dead heat.

If you live in Ohio, Michigan, Florida, Colorado, Nevada or Virginia (and to a lesser extent Pennsylvania, New Mexico, New Hampshire and North Carolina), then get ready...the candidates, the political advertisements, spin doctors and more are going to bombard you over the next 60 days. Your states -- 10 in all -- are likely the decisive ones, come November.

Enjoy the ride.