Saturday, February 28, 2009

Why journalism matters

The daily drip-drip of news indicating that newspapers are closing, various media are cutting costs, journalists are being laid off, and the "traditional" media are in crisis doesn't seem to resonate with the public.

On one hand, I can understand why. Considering the millions of people who are being laid off from other industries combined with the fears of the economy that all of us feel (or should feel), it's easy to grasp why the public cannot see the various crises in the media industries as being worthy of their concern. In this period of near-universal uncertainty about job security and retirement losses, why should the plight of one group of professionals matter?

I hope you'll indulge me as I attempt to explain why. I'll admit, I might not convince anyone to change their minds and make them understand that all of us should be concerned with what is happening in today's mainstream media. But I'm going to try.

Journalism matters because:
1. the freedoms under which the media operate under in this country are the envy in many places of the world. Credible journalists know they cannot be called such if they write, analyze, report and cover stories under the threat of censorship or repression. Yes, cable news operations in the U.S. are too often influenced by covert or overt bias, but that is not the same thing as lacking the freedom to do what the job requires of them.

2. the journalists who are leaving the business these days are among the most experienced, qualified and knowledgeable in the newsroom. Their departures mean that so-called institutional memory also walks out the door. Consider this analogy -- when family members pass away, the knowledge they have of a family's history goes with them. Unless that knowledge has been fully shared (and far too often it's not), it's lost forever. To whom do younger journalists now turn as they seek the nuggets of information that make them better understand a source, a story or a complex issue?

3. governments cannot be trusted to do the right thing. I'm not implying I'm anti-government. Nor am I suggesting that government is inherently evil. But only the most naive person will say that politicians and administrations always do the right thing for the people they represent. Can you say "influential lobbyists"? A vibrant and free press, unencumbered by the threat of political repression, can be the check that must be placed on government.

4. sports scores are irrelevant, celebrity "news" regularly is not, and talking heads spewing opinions should not be considered newsworthy. However, these items become news when there aren't enough reporters in the newsroom but the need to fill 24-hour news cycles remains. Consider this: medical evidence tells us that a healthy diet is one way to make your body stronger, but we all fall victim to not eating right. The repercussions are evident -- we become overweight, lack energy, and increase our chances of short- and long-term health risks. Now take this same metaphor and apply it to information, which I am convinced is a form of being healthy. If your information diet is filled with sports scores and highlights (let's call these hot dogs), celebrity "news" (let's call this chocolate cake), and blabber mouths attempting to force their agendas upon you (let's call this soda pop), then you're going to be sickly. A sufficient number of journalists does not eliminate the potential for an unhealthy information diet, but it does reduce it.

There are other reasons I could add to this list, however I think the point has been made -- our society is better informed, better able to understand government, and more likely to comprehend what is happening around them when sufficient numbers of journalists are on the streets, in the meeting rooms and poking around the halls of power.

If you agree, then I hope you too will be disgusted with the general malaise that accompanies the latest round of news telling us that another newspaper has gone out of business or that another group of journalists has been tossed to the street.

And if for some reason you don't agree with me, then I plead with you to look around the world and tell me of one country that thrives under a repressed or weak media. You're not going to find one. Do you see the ramifications for the United States?

Can I get an editor, please?

This is the "tweet" to alert you to something from President Obama:

The President's Weekley Address: "Gearing up for a fight"

I wonder what the "dailey" comments are like.

The wife is right...

...and a good laugh can be had because of it.

She reminded me that when I entered my Ph.D. program in 2000 (when I also began teaching) that I very well could have been the older brother to many of the students there. And in some ways I think the students saw me in that role; I was amazed at the number of them who came to me to talk about things they wouldn't talk about with the professors. I called them "my kids" but in reality they weren't. They were more like siblings.

Now, it's 2009, and my wife has reminded me I could very well be the father of the students I deal with on an everyday basis. (Do the math. I'm 41.) Yes, the students still come knocking on my door, and I treasure the fact that they feel comfortable doing that. But I've found that over the past year or so that I do think of them as "my kids."

Does this mean I'm getting, you know, older?

Twitter overload?

Cutting through the failed attempts at humor and the sometime snide comments, this New York Times article makes a valid point: what has information become, in this era of social networking, instant messaging, texting and other forms of (supposedly) instant communication?

As readers of this blog know, I like Twitter and use it. For me, it's an opportunity to follow many news organizations; to be directed toward analysis or commentary from relevant political and academic figures; and to hear from private citizens. (In fact, a "tweet" from journalist Karen Tumulty alerted me to the Times' article mentioned above.) Yes, I also use it as a mechanism to attract new readers to this blog.

However, I also see too many "tweets" that are blabber. In my opinion, and I think a number of "important" (like the sarcasm?) journalists fall into this trap -- they "tweet' because they can, and they "tweet" often with no purpose in mind.

This is the danger with any kind of communications tool -- you cannot regulate who uses it, but you also cannot deny anyone the privilege of having it. It's easy to say that it's the public's responsibility to cut through the gibberish and find what they want and need. I can accept that, but I also am of the opinion that it is the user's responsibility to communicate what is beneficial to society.

Am I naive? Probably. Am I crying out for some kind of utopia? Probably. But I have always believed that the POWER of communication means it must be used wisely.

Friday, February 27, 2009

This is a great read

No matter your opinion of former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, he is a politician and a thinker that should be studied. I know you will find this New York Times piece about him to be worth your while.

Sure, I think you'll find especially intriguing the conversation about whether Gingrich is planning a presidential run. But I encourage you instead to pay close attention to what he says through the article; his knowledge of history and the passion he has about thinking and promoting new ideas is where I think the depth and complexity that is Gingrich shines.

It also is worth remembering that Gingrich is a national politician, and yet he has held no office that wasn't linked to one Congressional district in Georgia. This is not a criticism of the man; rather, it identifies that there is more than one road to political power.

Can a moderate Republican win in this environment?

I am reminded yet again this afternoon that the most vocal within the Republican Party appear determined to move their party to the right. As the Conservative Political Action Conference continues in Washington, I see where speaker after speaker has railed against excessive government waste, big spending and restrictions on free enterprise.

Mind you, my concern (if that's the correct term to use) has nothing to do with my opposition to much of the conservative platform. Rather, it would appear to me that a conservative GOP is swimming against the tide of public opinion. I also wonder how well a conservatively dominated GOP meshes with the majority thinking of people within that party.

In much the same way that I read story after story hinting at the death of the newspaper industry, I also seem to find the drip-drip-drip of stories indicating that the GOP will move further right.

If this is true, then where does that leave GOP moderates such as Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty? He's viewed as a potential presidential contender in the future, but in a hard-right GOP what chance does he have of being among the front runners for the nomination? (As an aside, I'm not advocating for Gov. Pawlenty, I'm simply using him as an example for my point.)

We're already seeing signs suggesting that a conservative Republican will be the party's nominee in 2012. A new poll from CNN suggests that Alaska governor Sarah Palin is right now the favorite among Republicans. Sure, I'll accept that the fascination with Palin (somewhat deserved in my opinion) and her former status as vice-presidential nominee helps her...in 2009. It's still a long way from 2011, when the race really begins.

If the party moves right and if that means it is moving away from the U.S. political tide, then the absence of a legitimate moderate voice in the political discussion appears to doom the party's chances for returning to majority status in either branch of Congress or of winning the White House in 2012.

And while the Democrats would be the beneficiary of this, in reality the loser is the American people. A two-party system in the U.S. is a party or two too few, but if one of those parties is essentially the "minority" party then where does that leave the country?

Citizen (New York) Times

Kudos to The New York Times for its important decision to accept citizen journalism.

And now the left is about to howl

Imagine the horror -- their guy changed his mind and turned his back on a political promise.

Get over it. He didn't; and if you think he did, you're wrong.

The reality is that the president's decision today to end ground operations in Iraq by August 2010 (but to keep a residual force in place through 2011) is based on political and military reality. "The responsible removal of our combat brigades from Iraq" is how the president called it today, and it goes hand-in-hand with the Iraqis being positioned to take over full control of the country.

Let's put it another way: No, we shouldn't have gone in there in 2003, but we'd better not get out of there until we can have some reasonable assurance that Iraq is moving toward something better. As a country we cannot in good conscience say that because we made a mistake going in that we're up and leaving so as to somehow make right the wrong that took place six years ago. The burden is on Mr. Obama to oversee the final pieces of an operation that began under ridiculous pretenses, but it still needs to be finished responsibly. What he announced today is a firm step in that direction.

This announcement does not mean that what Candidate Obama "promised" during the campaign is being ignored. He told the country that he would have all troops out of Iraq within 16 months of his inauguration. The "reality" is to do that is not practical and could imperil any stability that is brought to Iraq by then. If you want to quibble with his argument, go ahead. Yes, we are going to have American troops there for a longer time than Candidate Obama promised. So?

As I see it, I'd rather stay a little longer and make sure we finish off as best as possible something we should never have started rather than simply ducking out by a date promised a few months ago.

Your thoughts, as always, are invited.

I agree

This editorial from the Kansas City Star (came across it in a "tweet" from McClatchy News) highlights why Republican governors face a difficult decision if they follow through on their initial calls to turn down some of the "stimulus" money.

The money -- if used properly -- could improve the overall educational experience of young people. As a college educator and as the father of an elementary school student (with another heading there next year), I cannot imagine why any responsible politician would deny that. But perhaps governors such as Mr. Sanford in South Carolina don't care about that?

NIMBY

The usual group of Republicans, conservatives and domestic oil groups have a problem with this decision made by Interior Secretary Kenneth Salazar (excerpt taken from the Washington Post):

SALT LAKE CITY -- In his second reversal of a Bush administration decision, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said Wednesday that he is scrapping leases for oil-shale development on federal land in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming.

Salazar rescinded a lease offer made last month for research, development and demonstration projects that could have led to oil-shale exploration on 1.9 million acres in the three states.

It was the second time Salazar has reversed the Bush administration. He also halted the leasing of oil and gas drilling parcels near national parks in Utah this month.

A trade association of independent oil and natural gas producers criticized Salazar's decision. "It's part of a pattern of decisions by the secretary that are detrimental to all sources of domestic energy," said Kathleen Sgamma, government affairs director for the Denver-based Independent Petroleum Association of Mountain States.


Uh, so? After eight years of an indifferent attitude toward the environment, protecting America's natural beauty and pursuing legitimate non-oil energy policies, it's about time decisions like this were made.

Investigating torture

From Greg Miller, reporter from the Los Angeles Times:
'The Senate Intelligence Committee is preparing to launch an investigation of the CIA's detention and interrogation programs under President George W. Bush, setting the stage for a sweeping examination of some of most secretive and controversial operations in recent agency history. The inquiry is aimed at uncovering new information on the origins of the programs as well as scrutinizing how they were executed -- including the conditions at clandestine CIA prison sites and the interrogation regimens used to break Al Qaeda suspects, according to Senate aides familiar with the investigation plans.'

My cards on the table -- this is a good idea IF the goal is to make sure that any policies inconsistent with the historical aims of the U.S. are not repeated. (Please spare me the 'we are in wartime' argument. I'm not listening.) However, if the goal is to parade members of the Bush administration to Capitol Hill in a McCarthyesque attempt to find the bad guys, then what the Intelligence Committee is doing is plain wrong.

Newspapers: Evolve or die

Another day, another suggestion about how to save the newspaper industry. What makes the editorial highlighted above particularly interesting is that it comes from Europe, where newspapers also are in need of change.

Consider the three significant body blows that the newspaper industry has suffered in the past couple of months -- a bankruptcy in Chicago, a bankruptcy in Philadelphia and the shuttering of a paper in Denver. Couple that with daily reports of one newspaper or another trimming staff, and the picture is indeed bleak.

I've heard and read multiple ideas. Some are good; some seem irrelevant. So, I'm attempting here to put together a sort-of top-five list of some of the ideas, and the better the idea (in my opinion) the higher it is placed in order. Of course, your thoughts are invited...

1. Give it away for free. This concept offers the best chance to increase readership, attract advertisers and promote strong reporting.

2. Junk the hard copy in favor of online-only distribution. The only reason I don't place this at #1 is that everyone doesn't have access to the Internet. Moreover, the older generation -- which remains the most consistent newspaper reader -- is less likely to own a computer.

3. Go non-profit by partnering with educational institutions. As an educator, this one is the most intriguing; and I suspect some of you thought I'd place it first. But the for-profit model of the newspaper and the non-profit model of higher education wouldn't be an easy marriage. Moreover, I'm not convinced that anyone has come up with the management structure to make it work.

4. Drop the print edition to 5 or 6 days a week. Sure, and let's stop news from happening on those one or two days, then I'm all for it. The only way this works is if the online version of the paper comes out in full on those missing days. And the money saved from doing that isn't convincing, in my opinion.

5. Become partisan. Oh, please. To borrow a line from a former president: "That's just plain poppycock."

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Republican red-meat

I'm not in Washington right now, but wow...the political red meat that is coming from that city tonight (and for the next couple days) makes the political junkie in me wish I were.

No, I'm not talking about the sometimes vitriolic debate between the White House and Capitol Hill. That seems almost benign in comparison to the goings on at the Conservative Political Action Conference.

If you enjoy rhetoric ripping moderates, liberals and any other political group that is not "right," then the CPAC sounds like the place to be. Consider that today "Joe the Plumber" (!) was, according to Politico.com, "getting the rock star treatment." Are you kidding me?

Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee also fed the red-meat need by suggesting that "socialist republics" were being formed in the United States. According to the Washington Post, he then indicated that "Lenin and Stalin would love this stuff." (Lenin and Stalin!)

Finally, the ghost of Reagan was everywhere, according to FOX News.

Alright, now I've made no secret that the conservative ideology is something that, for the most part, I reject. (And, yes, as regular readers of this blog know I also largely reject the liberal ideology. That's what makes me a "Happily Registered Independent.") However, I think events such as CPAC are fantastic exercises in democracy.

I'll not deny that I would have a hard time not laughing out loud if I were in the room when much of the CPAC rhetoric was released. But I also would find it very interesting to hear some prominent political minds outline why they believe conservative values matter. And if I had the chance to sit down for a few minutes with some of them, I'd enjoy it.

Yup, you can take the journalist out of the newsroom, but you can't take the journalist bug out of me. And, yes, the educator in me would enjoy the intellectual conversation.

Lenin and Stalin?

A moment of levity...but think about it!

I'm just wondering: if Twitter is so '09, Facebook is so '08, and blogging is so '07...then how did we survive from '06 back to the beginning of time?

Ratcheting up the rhetoric...will that be all?

An unsettling story from ABC News, which reports that the U.S. military has indicated it is ready to shoot down any missile shot by North Korea.

As the story notes, the only thing standing in the way is an approval from the president. I, for one, hopes that authorization doesn't come. I can envision the following ramifications:

1. China and Russia call for an international rebuke from the United Nations;
2. North Korea provokes the South Koreans, further escalating the tension.

Neither is a good option. And frankly with the U.S. military already in need of repair after the difficulties of fighting in the Middle East for almost six years it doesn't need someone like the "Dear Leader" to do something that would cause troops to be sent to Asia.

The Fairness Doctrine is NOT coming back!

No matter how many times I try to convince my conservative friends that the Fairness Doctrine is not some boogie-man that's going to sneak up on them and scare them to death...I have to yet again try to convince my conservative friends that the Fairness Doctrine is not some boogie-man that's going to sneak up on them and scare them to death.

Today's "news" is the latest example. I mentioned in the previous post my disgust with FOX News and its one-sided interpretation of the latest "oh, my God...it's the Fairness Doctrine! It's back. It's alive!" nonsense. Moments later, I read about a Tennessee Congresswoman who tried to gird the troops for the Fairness Doctrine war (that isn't going to happen).

Yet I hear in various places this angst about Illinois senator Dick Durbin and his call for diversity in media ownership. "It's a backdoor entrance to bringing back the Fairness Doctrine," at least one "tweet" has told me. Durbin's amendment is designed to reaffirm (repeat, reaffirm) existing law that indicates the government should seek diversity in ownership.

Where exactly does one find the reaffirmation of existing law to bringing back the Fairness Doctrine? How can one equate ownership to content? I fail to see the connection.

Let me make this as clear as I can -- the Fairness Doctrine is not coming back. Not in 2009. Not in 2010. There is zero political support for it, and there shouldn't be.

But let me also ask a question to those who are fearful of Sen. Durbin's amendment: Is there something wrong with promoting diversity in ownership? If so, what?

The problem with this story...

...is that it's one-sided. As you read it, note that there are NO sources explaining Sen. Durbin's amendment, or defending it.

Come on FOX News, you're better than that.

Rocky Mountain News to close

This one comes as a stunning surprise -- the Rocky Mountain News has just announced (2:05 EST) that it will close. Tomorrow.

That's right...after tomorrow, the RMN is no more. It looks like a fire sale -- the newspaper's masthead, Web site and archives will be sold as separate entities.

In the end, and I'm sad to say, it's another "name" newspaper to fold under rapidly changing tech times and horrible economic times. We will continue to see these earthquake-type reports in the coming months. Remember the prediction made by many media experts: 2009 would be the year when major metropolitan newspapers are shuttered.

Michael Vick (almost) out of prison

Disgraced NFL quarterback Michael Vick is about to be let out of prison.

Now before your hackles get raised, keep in mind that this decision, based on my understanding of the law, is consistent with what other criminals would receive in similar cases. In other words, Vick is not getting any preferential treatment.

Vick is about to do his time for the dogfighting conspiracy charges that led to his imprisonment, but I still read with more than a bit of disgust the potential opportunities that could await him in the NFL. Vick will soon have completed the penalty he owes the law, but I suspect that the public is going to take more time to forgive him for what he did. And teams such as the San Francisco 49ers and Minnesota Vikings are risking a backlash if they bring Vick to their teams.

The U.S. and the Middle East

Complex findings from a new study about Muslim attitudes toward the U.S. and the West.

I think the most important statement (on the home page highlighted above) is this one: Steven Kull, director of WorldPublicOpinion.org, comments, "The US faces a conundrum. US efforts to fight terrorism with an expanded military presence in Muslim countries appear to have elicited a backlash and to have bred some sympathy for al Qaeda, even as most reject its terrorist methods."

Therein continues to lie the rub -- how does the U.S. use its power to promote stability and peace in the Middle East without coming across as attempting to instill democracy? Moreover, how does it create an image in which the people see the Americans as a "force" for good?

Extra! Extra! Read all about it!

Laid-off journalists start online-only publication!

Going to happen in more places and more often than you ever thought possible.

A "reluctant" vote?

Reluctant? Hmmm.

As you read this story, I remind you of a comment I made in an earlier post from today -- how you interpret this story likely will be based on the political lens through which you view the world.

That being said, as much I like Sen. Specter, he should have known better. A "reluctant" vote rings hollow to me.

Mitt Romney, GOP standard-bearer?

Very interesting reports from Politico.com today suggesting that Mitt Romney is taking some important first steps that could very well make him the Republican Party's nominee in 2012.

In one report, Ben Smith notes that Romney will be in Washington over the next couple days for a series of meetings. Smith also notes in his report: Romney’s Washington visit comes after he’s made a number of eyebrow-raising moves of late that suggest he’s at least considering another bid.

In another article, Smith suggests that Romney is right now the favorite to be the party's nominee.

What do these stories suggest to me? Romney is giving strong consideration to running again. Romney would be given a long look by the conservative wing of the Republican Party. More moderate candidates are going to face a difficult task cobbling together a coalition of voters that can generate enough delegates to secure the nomination.

However, this is only 2009. There is plenty of time.

Saying "no" (UPDATE)

There are two ways to interpret the GOP's near-unanimous opposition to anything proposed by the Obama administration: the party is remaining true to its values OR the party is refusing to work with the president.

Yesterday was another day in which a near total "nay" was heard from the Republicans in Congress.

How you determine whether the opposition is "values-based" or "refusal-based" almost certainly will be based on the political lens through which you view the world. However, let's also consider the bigger picture: the GOP's "no" can easily be misinterpreted by the public, which remains in support of the president. And it seems to me that most Americans also will accept Obama's plan to compel the rich to pay more taxes. Additional details of the proposal are expected today.

And how does the GOP intend to react? Politico's Mike Allen offers this:

HOW REPUBLICANS WILL PUSH BACK – House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio): 'Everyone agrees that all Americans deserve access to affordable health care, but is increasing taxes during an economic recession, especially on small businesses, the right way to accomplish that goal? Given the size of our $1.2 trillion deficit, a proposal costing up to $1 trillion must raise troubling questions.'

Tooting the horn of a few Point Park photojournalism students

Point Park photography professor Chris Rolinson should be a proud man this morning. He has his photo students turning out great work, and starting this weekend some of that work will be on display at a local library.

Way to go, one and all!

Dispeling myths, opening doors

Now this is something more groups should consider...and more people should take advantage of.

A Minneapolis mosque opened its doors last night to the public. What a fascinating opportunity to learn about religion, culture and history. In our current times in which select groups and religions are under fire for the actions of the extremes who claim to represent that faith, this open-door policy is a smart one.

As you know I spent two weeks in Minneapolis in late August and early September, when I was a faculty leader at The Washington Center's Republican National Convention Seminar. "Somalitown" was located about two blocks from one of the hotels where I stayed. It was interesting to me to hear the diverse opinions about that relatively small part of the city. Some people loved the food and culture they could get there, while others warned me not to go anywhere near the place.

50 "volunteers" needed...so far, no takers

The Boston Globe is the latest "big-city" paper desperately trying to fix its bottom line. To do so, it has asked 50 people to accept a buyout. Not enough takers to this point, and if that continues significant layoffs are coming.

My thanks to former student Heidi Dezayas who offered an important comment to my recent suggestion that making the newspaper free might be a way to salvage the industry. She suggested that while the idea sounds good in the abstract sense that problems can persist. She offers a few examples in her comment.

A clarification...or admitting a lie?

A provocative question. You decide, after reading the news that the British government is admitting it handed over an Iraqi to the U.S. military.

Mind you, this happened during the Bush administration, meaning that the chances of rendition and torture are applicable questions.

As an aside, ABC's Terry Moran asks/"tweets" an important question:
If Iraq slips into chaos again as oil income falls,what responsibility does the US have to stop it?What's our national interest in Iraq now?

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

So much time online

It's a question parents of teens should be asking -- what is my child not experiencing because of the amount of time he/she spends online?

Yes, it's an important question, and considering that I'm the father of 10- and 5-year-old boys, it's one that also hits close to home.

I'm not an expert in this area of sociological research, but I will use my own teenage years as an example of how communication has changed and what the implications might be.

1. The Internet opens up a world of research possibilities, but it should not be a substitute for getting into the library. It is in the library that trained professionals can assist students in finding (with more precision) what they are looking for. But I see far too many college students who insist that they can find whatever they want on the Internet. When asked if they know the Web site is credible, the look I get too often suggests "what are you talking about?"

2. The ability to text ensures that many young people will tune out, even when they shouldn't. I can only assume that high school teachers refuse to allow cellphones to be on while in the classroom; regardless when students can use them, they do. What this means is that the usual interaction that comes with talking is lost. Sure, sometimes you say nothing of importance but I can still remember the short snippets of conversation with my high school friends. Those conversations were face-to-face. Do those kinds of conversation happen as much now? Nope.

3. The sometimes awkward times of teenage life include picking up the phone...to talk to a member of the opposite sex. (Yup, failed miserably on more than one occasion in this area.) But it is through these experiences that a young person becomes more confident speaking to anyone. Texting a "hey, you want to go to a movie with me?" message is not the same thing as picking up the phone...or...(my God, no!) walking up to the other person and asking.

4. Finally, the larger society would seem to lose. Young people in the teenage years are already self-absorbed by those things they think are important to them. But now they can largely shut out any groups they choose to. You cannot become aware of the community in which you live, its leaders, and simply the people who know the people who live near you.

Interpersonal communication. You can't live without it. And that's why I'm wrapping this up, shutting down the computer and spending the final few minutes of my day talking to the fantastic lady I call my wife.

Uh, Keith...be careful what you say

This "tweet" from CQPolitics:

Olbermann: You can't spell Twitter without twit.

Uh, Keith, you would know something about twits, wouldn't you?

If localism matters to you...

...then consider using this letter to let your national representatives know it.

Hey, wait a minute...

...I never read this in the Financial Times. Why would that great newspaper not report about itself when it is relevant?

Nothing wrong with a healthy difference of opinion

Newt Gingrich "tweets" the following:
Bobby Jindal got a good national launch out of last night. His story is compelling. His values appeal to most Americans

Now, I'll confess that Mr. Gingrich has a better grasp of politics than I, but I respectfully disagree with the former Speaker of the House. My sense is that Gov. Jindal appeared almost overwhelmed by the role he had undertaken.

For what it's worth, the analysis I've read throughout the day has suggested the same thing.

Dumb decision...smart reaction

I'm sure you'll feel that same as I, after reading this.

Significant job losses at two papers

The job cuts at the Providence Journal should come as no surprise, as they are (sad to say) expected in the current state in which newspapers find themselves.

On the other hand, notifying people BY PHONE that they have been laid off is unacceptable. But that's what has happened at the Hartford Courant.

That, my friends, is just plain wrong.

Mrs. Obama's wardrobe...

...should not be a MSM "news" story. So will someone please tell me why what she wears repeatedly is discussed in news discourse? Her "sleeveless again" choice is reviewed in today's New York Times.

It smacks of sexism.

Please tell me there are more important items that the MSM and the blogging community can discuss.

Profiling Jindal

Good story in today's WP profiling Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal.

Unfortunately, as I read the piece, I couldn't get past the governor's uneven speech delivered last night. I'm still attempting to grasp why he gave what I equated to a Political Science 101 lecture on the values of conservatism.

Something much more fiery was needed. Something that could have suggested there was a viable alternative to the big government approach (however temporary it might be) that had been offered up by President Obama.

Now, I'll also remind you -- the star linked to Gov. Jindal has not died out; he will continue to be a "player" in the GOP, and he's almost certainly going to remain on the supposed short list of presidential candidates. But he had a fantastic opportunity to grab the spotlight last night, but he missed that chance. There's no guarantee it will come around again soon.

Rupert Murdoch...newspaper hoarder?

My first reaction when I read this report indicating that Rupert Murdoch might have an interest in both The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times was one of disappointment.

However, then I thought more about it, and...

I'm thrilled that someone actually cares enough about the newspaper world to actually want to buy into it. (Oh, how my liberal friends are going to hound me for this. Their fears that I've sold out will only intensify. They really need to relax.)

Let's face it, I'll raise legitimate arguments about the political philosophy espoused by Murdoch, and I'm no fan of what he's done with FOX News. However, the man invests in high-profile, reputable newspapers. So, instead of ripping the man because we don't appreciate his political ideology, let's applaud him for caring about elite media. And he's offered subtle hints that News Corp. will be growing, and soon.

And, yes, my liberal friends can now return to bashing me.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

If this was Jindal's coming out party...

...the balloons burst. All of them.

My principal criticisms of Gov. Jindal is that I saw no message, no purpose. His speech seemed designed more to preach to the conservative wing of the Republican Party rather than reaching out to the country and offering a precise, different plan for getting America out of the economic mess it is in.

The contrast between the point-by-point emphasis made by President Obama was striking. While the president seemed determined to acknowledge the problems (caused by politicians, bankers, other professionals and everyday Americans), refuse to cast blame and then move forward, Gov. Jindal seemed determined to bring up the same-old-GOP rhetoric.

Why?

Obama speech, reaction (4th update complete)

Immediate reactions:

1. President Obama hit the right tone tonight -- positive/reassuring but also cautious. He cannot promise the moon, but he also must make sure that people see a sense of hope.

2. He's going to need to find success in working with the Congress to make what he wants come off as more than a sledgehammer on the GOP minority. At the same time, the GOP must show it's willing to give on something. A stubborn unwillingness to give in on anything will not work.

3. Areas where the administration and the GOP will have almost no chance to find that desperately sought bipartisanship: health care reform, business taxes.

4. Areas where bipartisanship might be seen: education reform, saving auto industries.

5. Granted, the focus on the international situation was not essential to his address; however, he delivered a powerful message to various parts of the world that the tolerance of torture no longer applies. Furthermore, he also made it clear that the country is prepared to be a team player, not a controlling owner, in seeing that our allies get what they want...and that our foes will be frustrated. This area of his speech might very well have received the longest, loudest applause.

<><><><>

1st update: Bobby Jindal beginning his response. More details to come.

<><><><>

2nd update: Jindal echoes the "no challenge we can't overcome" theme. His comment about working with the president seems hollow -- why should a Republican governor be offering that line?

Jindal was on shaky ground with his comments about Hurricane Katrina -- it smacks of the worst example of the Bush administration. Even though he turned that comment into an Americans-know-how-to-solve-their-problems line, it still was a risk. For what it's worth, I'd have left that out.

Jindal also hit on another familiar Republican theme -- solve-the-wasteful-spending argument. Again, what does that say about the Bush administration? Keep in mind that a good chunk of the people who abandoned the Republican Party in 2008 are not likely to return to the party with suggestions about individualism and cutting spending.

<><><><>

3rd update: The comments about Louisiana ridding itself of its dark history of political corruption will be a theme of a Jindal presidential run.

<><><><>

4th update:

Jindal offered nothing that I would call "new" or "different." Instead he returned to the (tired?) themes that the GOP is about empowering the American people, wants sensible change and recoils at the thought of government being proactive in making change.

However, I saw nothing that provided another blueprint for tackling the problems facing the country. To me, this is a critical shortcoming. While Obama talked policies; Jindal offered platitudes.

I'm "tweeting" about Obama's speech

Join in the conversation at twitter.com/morettiphd.

Lunch with the president

No, I'm not that lucky. But some interesting conversation was had with President Obama and a handful of television journalists today. Take a look at Katie Couric's blog.

I agree

As I've made clear at other times and in other postings, the idea of the Fairness Doctrine being revived is a waste of time. Here's another argument to support that position.

As I see it the bottom line is this -- the "right" has done a far better job of delivering a message that the audience wants. The "left" either stood by without a coherent message (save for complaining) or offered a product and message that the public rejected.

Plain and simple, equality can't be mandated all the time. And this is one of those times when it definitely shouldn't be.

The discussions were so exciting...

...he fell asleep! Who did? Here are the details.

Now here's something you don't see everyday

A local television anchor moving to...the local newspaper. Preposterous, you say? Oh, think again, my friend. Because what is happening at one West Virginia media market is something more local newspapers ought to be considering.

And speaking of criticizing the government

News from Russia, where various freedoms also are under fire.

First, one-time Russian business tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky has been moved from Siberia to Moscow (hey, at least it's warmer there) to face new charges. This time the government is accusing him of theft and embezzlement.

Today, the Financial Times offers a suggestion as to how the U.S. and the West ought to move forward with relations with Russia. Firm, but flexible is perhaps one way to describe the theme of the editorial.

Burris survives...it appears

From POLITICO'S Manu Raju: 'The campaign to oust Sen. Roland Burris from the Senate seems to be losing momentum as Democratic leaders are likely to avoid for now a high-profile showdown with the rookie Democrat from Illinois. The positioning comes ahead of a pivotal meeting Burris is holding this week with the senior senator from Illinois, Dick Durbin. ... Reid's spokesman, Jim Manley, suggested that calls for Burris' resignation should await investigations that have been launched by an Illinois prosecutor and the Senate Ethics Committee into the circumstances surrounding his Dec. 30 appointment to Barack Obama's former Senate seat.'

Too bad. A tainted former governor and a tainted current senator. A real shame that he has the seat once used by the current president.

Desperately seeking free speech in Iran (UPDATED)

Two reports -- one from today, the other a few days old -- suggest that freedom of speech still exists in name only in Iran.

The BBC reports today that a group of Iranian students was picked up after leading an anti-government protest in Tehran. This comes on the news from a few days ago that two Websites promoting the candidacy of presidential candidate Mohammad Khatami were blocked within Iran.

This information stands on its own (lack of) merits -- Iran has a long way to go before anyone within the country can feel comfortable challenging government authorities.

UPDATE: Underscoring this free speech question is how the West and Israel will react to another recent news item -- that Iran is closer than first thought to possessing a nuclear bomb.

Monday, February 23, 2009

It's a "communications" satellite

North Korea's state-run media announced tonight that the country soon will launch a "communications" satellite. Read additional details here.

Anything the reclusive state does is suspect, so it's hard to accept on face value that the satellite is either going to be launched, or if it is that it will be for the purpose identified by the North Koreans.

It also is interesting to me to see this announcement coming on the heels of the rumors that the North Koreans were planning a missile test that Western nations were quick to identify as a "provocative" action.

Meantime, there was an interesting story in last weekend's Financial Times that outlines what might be next for North Korea's future political structure. It might be worth considering the satellite launch as a political/propaganda statement designed to impress the domestic and international audience about North Korea and its "Dear Leader."

Let's see what other MSM have to say about North Korea in light of the news about the satellite and in the run-up to the March elections.

Why?

A few of my students were vocally or silently asking that question today, as we learned that a Point Park student was struck by a car last night.

Fortunately, the student is going to be fine, but she does have surgery scheduled for the morning. (Yes, I'm leaving out various details here in an attempt to respect whatever degree of privacy I can for this young woman.)

The "why" is relevant because the reports we received today indicated that the driver who hit her backed up and drove away. What leads someone to compound a mistake by doing something amazingly stupid is hard to fathom.

Sure, I especially want this person caught because of who was the victim. But justice is relevant no matter who might have been involved.

Media bias?

Kudos to Politico.com's Mike Allen for finding this one --

SECRETARY CLINTON, IN THE EYE OF THE BEHOLDER:

-- AP's Matthew Lee: 'Candid Clinton: charm, candor scores in Asia'

--WashTimes' Nicholas Kralev: 'Candid Clinton off script


So, which was it? And is either news organization biased?

Twick...or tweet?

As you know, I've been introduced to...and quickly become a fan of...Twitter. (Looking for me? Go to: http://twitter.com/morettiphd). But who are the more influential "Twitterers" out there? The list might surprise you.

Keeping the tuition increases as small as possible

Carnegie Mellon University, one of the great institutions in this country, has announced a less than three percent tuition increase for the next academic year.

This story -- tuition increases -- is one that the MSM should continue to follow throughout the coming months. All universities, including the one where I work, is struggling with the question of how to deal with costs, tuition, salaries, etc. At best I'm at the periphery of those talks, but I'm trying to take in as much as I can. I hope you are, as well.

First, Chicago...now, Philadelphia (UPDATED)

A newspaper chain in another large media market has filed for bankruptcy.

As I've stated before, the drip-drip-drip of bad news is not going to change, and there are times, such as with this story, that the drip will seem like a flood. The newspaper industry continues to seek ways to make itself economically viable and information heavy, in this perilous economic climate coupled with decreased readership of the hard copy of the newspaper.

Interestingly, I had a short conversation with someone as we awaited the bus this morning. We thought out loud about newspapers going to the "give it away" model, in which the daily newspaper and the online product cost the consumer nothing. The hope (and perhaps we're naive?) is that readership would go up, and thus advertising sales might as well. No, neither of us thought through the ramifications of such a policy, but it is one of the options that need to be considered.

Of course, no one seems to think that the newspaper is "too important to fail." That's a shame. Perhaps Washington will enlighten me on that narrow-minded thinking someday. I doubt it.

IMPORTANT UPDATE: Word from Arizona is that the Tucson Citizen will close in March. Gone will be 138 years of newspaper history. A sad day. And others will follow. Expect more newspapers to shutter their doors this year.

Stimulus today...election possibilities 4 years from now (UPDATED)

An interesting dilemma awaits the Republican governors who are planning to run for president in 2012 (though of course none of them will admit to having any plans to run!) -- how do they respond to the stimulus money heading toward their state?

Acceptance opens them up to political criticism. Not accepting opens them up to political criticism. Obama can use the "hey, he/she agreed to work with me back in 2009 by using the money from the stimulus bill" OR he can use the "see, he/she is typical of the do-nothing mentality that permeates the GOP."

My two cents, for what they're worth -- accept the money if you believe it's going to benefit your state.

UPDATE: Politico.com's Martin Kady II provides a concise overview of where the economic discussions stand:

The partisans attending today's White House fiscal summit include die hard fiscal conservatives, energized liberals, and plenty of middle-of-the-road balance budget types.

No matter their ideological bent, the participants all realize big government is back – they're just debating how big at this point. Right now, Citigroup is asking for partial nationalization, President Obama is projecting record-shattering deficits, and even Senate Republicans are still pushing a massive government subsidy for housing loans.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

The world as it is...or as we want it to be?

The former is realistic, but also frustrating; the latter is noble, but also impossible. The Obama administration seems to be giving subtle (and not-so-subtle) hints that it likes the former.

It's easy to understand why the world seems to appreciate this approach to democracy. Perhaps the most important reason is that the Americans are no longer going to enter the international community telling it how it ought to be doing business.

We're all idealistic on some level, but that becomes a bit dangerous when an administration decides it has a duty to make the world as it wants it to be.

Set the standards...then have the conviction to enforce them

When I glanced at this editorial in today's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, my first reaction was that I was about to be lectured to about how we need to more fully understand the complicated lives that college students live these days.

Man, was I wrong. And am I ever glad I was wrong.

The author reminds all of us in the academic world that it is not enough to tell our students what our standards are; instead, we must be honest enough with them (and, yes, with ourselves) to actually enforce them.

This essay is a worthy read for anyone who teaches...and loves doing it.

Don't forget to vote!

Scroll down three or four postings to the "new nation's capital?" post. My son wants as many people as possible to vote! Come on, help out the kid!

One of my "kids" is a blogger!

Meet Kyle Hause, a Point Park alum who is now in law school. He's been bitten by the blogger bug (and, sorry, there is no antidote for this!). Kyle was a great student, and he'll do well in law school. And he'll also be a great blogger. Check him out.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Promote from within?

Here's a new take on an old maxim, and one person says that by keeping the local in mind that journalism might find a healthier future.

Did good journalism lead to an arrest?

Poynter, one of the leading news education and analysis centers, asks if the strong investigative reporting undertaken by the Washington Post led to the apparent imminent arrest of a man accused of killing former Washington intern Chandra Levy.

Meanwhile, another Poynter article reminds journalists of how well (or not so well) they covered the story when it first broke in 2001. And one of the mistakes in 2001 was the hyperfocus on California congressman Gary Condit, who admitted to an affair with Levy but who also maintained he had nothing to do with her death. Today, FOX News is the first news organization to ask if Condit is owed an apology by the mainstream media.

I'll answer that -- yes.

A new nation's capital? (UPDATED)

The conversation began with a question:
From my 10-year-old: "Dad, if you had to choose a new nation's capital and couldn't pick DC, which city would you pick?" I had no immediate answer, so I suggested I'd think about it.

That wasn't good enough for him. One minute later:
My son says he's coming up with a list of 9 cities, then he's taking the list to school and putting it to a vote.

End of story? Nope, soon thereafter he came up with his final list of 12. So, while he's taking his list to his elementary school this week and holding that vote, how about my blog readers vote as well.

Here's the list:
NYC; Boston; San Francisco; Philadelphia; Phoenix; Chicago; Guthrie, Ok ("the land rush happened there!"); Dayton; Oklahoma City; El Paso; Buffalo; and West Point.

You vote...I'll tabulate. I'll also let my son know. The voting runs from this morning until next Saturday.

UPDATE: Dominic reminds me to tell you that the top three cities will be posted on this blog. You are now free to vote!

Ready, aim, fire...problem!

Many reports this morning indicate that North Korea is about to engage in some good ol' fashioned saber-rattling. Or perhaps in this case it should be called missile-firing.

The Associated Press says the launch could come within days, and if that happens the ramifications are still to be determined. Certainly the Obama administration's idea of resuscitating the Six-Party talks will be imperiled, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke about those talks less than 24 hours ago.

The North Koreans are setting up the justification for any action it undertakes, accusing the U.S. of war-mongering. Yes, Secretary Clinton did offer some strong words earlier this week, but to equate that language with war is beyond the pale.

Will North Korea launch the missile? In my opinion, yes. The diplomatic outrage will be intense and immediate, and then attention will turn to the United Nations. Remember, China holds one of the permanent seats, and it is the most likely country to attempt to defeat or water down any international condemnation of the North Koreans.

Keep this story on your radar.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Politkovsaya -- urgent

A Russian judge has ordered that the investigation into the death of Russian journalist Anna Politkovsaya be re-opened.

Let's not rush to judge anything here, but the decision is important in at least one area -- it does suggest that the judiciary in Russia has some legitimacy. I'm sure that activist groups within and outside Russia are going to suggest that their cries of protest influenced this decision. Perhaps they did, but I think we'll get a better sense as time passes.

And we're surprised...why?

Anyone who wants to criticize former journalists who now work for government agencies, politicians, or other groups they once covered is missing the point.

Let's put the cards on the table -- if their employer gets rid of them ("downsizing") and efforts to land jobs at other newspapers aren't successful (these are mid-career professionals who suddenly "cost too much"), then they've got the right to feed their families any way they want. Loyalty exists only when it is evident from both the employee and the employer.

If the journalism industry was stupid enough to dump these professionals on the street, then it has no right to ask why they're now working elsewhere.

The traditionalist in me doesn't want this to happen

The realist in me says it probably should.

Let's face it, information is a commodity, and if the Associated Press or another news organization needs to include this so-called "pay wall" in its budgeting operations, then it has to.

Da*n. (UPDATED)

That's my reaction to the news out of Russia, where three suspects have been acquitted in the killing of a prominent investigative journalist.

UPDATED: Here's the problem with the verdict -- it provides further evidence that Russia cares little for Western-approved international norms of decency and openness. Journalist Anna Politkovskaya is viewed as heroic, in a Western concept, because she ultimately lost her life in an attempt to expose corruption or other wrongdoings within the Russian government and throughout its important industries.

The acquittals (and if you can gain access to the hard copy of today's Financial Times, there is a fascinating picture on the cover of one of the defendants) reinforce the idea that Russia is indeed corrupt. More damaging is the perception that somehow the Kremlin orchestrated the trial so as to ensure the verdict it wanted. (That image stirs memories of the darkest days of the Soviet era.)

But I think it's also important to note that if there had been a guilty verdict, the supposed ills of modern Russia would not somehow have magically disappeared. In fact, there certainly would have been people who would have suggested that the verdict was designed to turn the international spotlight away from Russia.

In short, perception is dangerous. And the perception of Russia today has been dinged a bit more than it was yesterday.

A win for Benjamin Netanhayu

If you're surprised at the news that the president of Israel has given Benjamin Netanhayu first crack at forming a coalition government, you shouldn't be.

The shift to the right in the Israeli elections of last week provided an important indicator that Mr. Netanhayu would have an easier path to forming a government and thereby making him the next Israeli prime minister. Forget for the moment that his party, Likud, finished with 27 parliamentary seats while his principal rival, foreign minister Tzipi Livni and her Kadima Party finished with 28.

Likud is more in line with the other Israeli parties to the right of it, and, perhaps more importantly, it would have to offer fewer onerous concessions.

No, Mr. Netanhayu's victory (yes, I'm presuming he'll form that government) is not disastrous for the Middle East peace process. However, he will not be as fierce an advocate for the so-called two-state solution, in which both Israel and Palestine would exist.

Public relations, diplomatic style

An interesting report in the Washington Post noting that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is doing as much listening as she is talking on her first international trip.

I've noted at various times on this blog that one of the messages the Obama administration wants to be delivered is that it will conduct international affairs differently from the Bush administration. That tack will include respecting the issues important to other nations. And sometimes that respect will rub Americans the wrong way. Case in point, this report, also from the Washington Post, in which Mrs. Clinton makes clear that China's human rights record -- terrible by Western standards -- cannot get in the way of discussing other important bilateral issues.

Here's another important issue to the Obama administration -- getting North Korea to work within the international system on the issue of nuclear power. It appears that message did not resonate in Pyongyang. And speaking of the nuclear issue, a report in the Financial Times is certainly worth following -- Iran apparently has more uranium than needed to build a bomb. No, Iran is not one of the nations Mrs. Clinton is visiting. But that doesn't mean she and her boss don't have it on their radar.

Come on, Sen. Burris...do the right thing

The more we learn about you and your interest in becoming a U.S. senator, the less honest you look.

For the latest installment, here's a synopsis from Politico.com's Martin Kady II --

The Chicago Tribune's Rick Pearson and John Chase report this morning that 'a former top official then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich said Thursday he got a 'courtesy call' from Roland Burris last fall noting Burris' interest in a vacant U.S. Senate seat-a contact Burris failed to mention to lawmakers in his evolving testimony about how he got the job. John Filan, former chief operating officer in Blagojevich's administration, also said Burris called him later-after Blagojevich's Dec. 9 arrest on federal corruption charges. Filan said Burris asked him to put in a good word with then-Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn if Quinn became governor and inherited the power to make the Senate appointment.'

This information not only gives further credence to the "Burris lied" argument, but it also makes him appear almost lustful in his attempt to reach the hallowed halls of the Senate.

Find the truth...don't punish the guilty

It sounds preposterous (though not to me). TIME magazine suggests that to simply gloss over the actions of the Bush administration and deny/forget what it did was wrong. But the magazine also contends that to punish also goes too far.

This middle ground might be a good idea, if the country can accept that abuses (likely) were tolerated by the White House but because much of what happened took place in a time of war the cry to hold someone accountable is mitigated.

Legalise here? Perhaps.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The senator's visit went well

A great day for my "TV kids," who took advantage of having Sen. Arlen Specter on campus to deliver great television.

The highlight, without question, was a live, 2-minute interview that my students did with the senator just after his town-hall meeting ended.

Sen. Specter took about 12-15 questions and I was not surprised that some of them were pointed. One person asked him about universal health care. Another asked him about whether the president and members of the former Bush administration should face trials for their actions. I thought there would be more questions about the stimulus bill and the current economic situation, but that was not the case.

I think that within the next 2-3 days the senator's visit will be posted on the Point Park University web site. If/when that happens, I'll post the link.

Mr. Specter comes to Point Park

This should be an exciting day. Pennsylvania senator Arlen Specter is on campus later today to conduct a 1-hour town hall meeting with the university community and the general public.

The event starts at 4:15. What is particularly exciting for me is that a group of my "TV kids" are covering the event live. Our live coverage -- entirely student-produced -- begins at 4:00.

We've got a Specter bio piece, an interview with a university political science professor and an interview with the local League of Women Voters planned for the introductory program. After the town hall, analysis and interviews are planned.

My "TV kids" have taken ownership of this show, and this is just what I want to see happen.

Twitter...me

Alright, I'm in. Find me on Twitter...and then twitter me.

If I were a betting man...

...and I'm not, for what that's worth, I think you'll see Roland Burris announce within the next 72 hours that he's stepping aside as one of Illinois' senators.

The man has no support from his fellow Illinoisans. He has no support among his fellow Democrats. And perhaps most damaging, he appears to be rapidly losing support among African-Americans.

Sure, the Senate is not likely to expel one of its own. But does anyone in Washington really want this situation to come down to whether Democrats would have to vote to boot one of their own? Burris couldn't be that narcissistic, could he?

Politics, Kyrgyz style

Before you make a joke about buying a vowel, keep in mind that what the parliament in Kyrgyzstan has done has important ramifications coming just two days after President Obama ordered an increased U.S. military presence in Afghanistan.

It's easy to say that the Kremlin's fingerprint is behind this decision, and it probably is. But keep in mind that Russia will continue to seek ways to demonstrate that it is a vital geopolitical power. This is one way to do it.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

See, I told you

Okay, my Republican and conservative friends can all breathe easier -- the president has made it quite clear he has no plans to urge that the Fairness Doctrine be resuscitated.

Poor FOX News. It thought it might have had a story to really galvanize its viewers. And poor Rush Limbuagh. Oh the fun he was ready to have with this "issue." Common sense, instead, rules the day.

Fewer dogs, less bite

Not a good thing when you consider the "journalist as watchdog" metaphor.

Facebook does the right thing

Sure, the company caved in to the intense pressure. Let's be honest and call it that. But it has done the right thing.

Uh, well...no.

That's the answer. Here's the question.

Look, let's face it...journalists are more likely to consider themselves Democrats/liberals than Republicans/conservatives. That political leaning contributes to why those reporters have left the journalism world for jobs within the Obama administration. But I think it's more than that.

These people are, generally speaking, also in the same age bracket as the president. Thus, they are more likely to be comfortable around him -- they see him as a contemporary and someone who is dealing with many of the same issues as they are.

Sure, the loss of these people is not good to the journalism world because they take their experiences and depth of information with them. However, I would rather they be using those skills in the political arena than, for example, in the public relations world.

No, I'm not criticizing the vital work done by public relations practitioners. Instead I'm noting that the political information these former journalists possess can be used more effectively through the administration than through other employment means.

Bingo!

Politico.com's Glenn Thrush says it so well...

Honesty is such a lonely word in Illinois.

Sen. Roland Burris' is now admitting -- sure, so what -- he tapped donors on behalf of disgraced ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich after denying he'd done so before an Illinois legislative panel.

That revelation has sparked calls for his resignation from Democrats and editorial boards and a pair of career-threatening probes – one by the Senate Ethics Committee, another by an Illinois state's attorney to see if Burris committed perjury.

Yet with embarrassment comes opportunity: If Burris's detractors can somehow convince him to step aside, new (and as-yet untainted) Gov. Pat Quinn gets to appoint his own Obama-Burris replacement, one who would presumably have an easier time winning re-election against a Blago-emboldened GOP next year.


Come on, Senator Burris. Do the right thing. Step aside. You were tainted to begin with. Now you are running the risk of hurting your party even more than you already have.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Check out the language in this report

Alright, I've made no secret of my dislike for most of what passes for news at FOX and MSNBC. (And I've also made it clear that I have no idea what CNN is attempting to do these days.)

But FOX appears to be reaching for a story that is not there. As you read this report, check out some of the loaded language that appears in it. In my view, FOX is attempting to raise fears of government control of the media and of an attack on free speech.

Here is the blog report from The American Spectator (scroll to the second story). Draw your own conclusions.

I keep reminding readers of this blog that there will be no effort to revive the Fairness Doctrine. And I'm not at all worried about the Democrats trying some end-around in an effort to enact legislation that smacks of the Fairness Doctrine while not calling it that.

Relax. Breathe. There is nothing to worry about here.

Roland Burris...the saga continues

Remember my post from yesterday, when I suggested that more than a few Democrats might be in favor of seeing Roland Burris out of the Senate and back in Illinois. Well, today an important step was taken to (perhaps) make that happen.

In normal times (though I don't like the word normal), Burris might have survived the cloud that hangs over him. But these are not normal times in Washington. Consider the mess that has surrounded three of President Obama's appointments and the even bigger mess that surrounds how Burris was named to the Senate and you have the recipe that likely will lead to Burris being ousted.

The guru of capitalism is now the champion of nationalism?

You'll never guess (Alan Greenspan) who has hinted (Alan Greenspan) that the federal government ought to take over the banks at least for a short time.

Attention, Facebook...

If you haven't done so already, you can ready the following on my Facebook home page:

Anthony wants to believe Facebook's execs who say they won't misuse his content. He doesn't. If they changed the controversial terms of use agreement, he'd feel better.

I doubt the Facebook executives are reading that, but you do have to wonder why a company that attempts to be so user-friendly wouldn't bag the controversial terms of use agreement and start with something more, well, user-friendly. A blog posting urging people to not worry isn't going to cut it.

A new tack on U.S. military involvement

The president is authorizing an additional 12,000 troops to be sent to Afghanistan.

This decision should surprise no one. President Obama made it clear during the campaign that he thought America's military efforts in the Middle East and South Asia were misguided, and that more attention needed to be paid to Afghanistan. I expect the usual howls of protest from certain political circles and groups.

Some good news (finally) for Sirius-XM

No, the ling-term future of the industry doesn't look like it has changed, but the short-term prospects for the health of Sirius-XM brightened today with a cash infusion.

China, Tiananmen Square, and democracy

Read on, and feel free to join in the effort to bring about change:

Netizen Gathering for 20th Anniversary of Tiananmen Massacre 紀念六四二十周年網絡大召集

Members Netizen fighters:

New Year began with the gloomy economic crisis. Fewer and fewer politicians will care the democracy in China other than the economic troubles, which makes the Chinese Communist evil regime seems more complacent.

But the responsibility is on us, the netizen fighters, who are the people and stand only for the people, not the politicians. Raise the torch of freedom and keep the flame of democracy on in the dark cold night. we will never stop fight for the dictatorship.

The Tiananmen massacre is approaching it twenty anniversary closer and closer. The executioners still rule the country with the largest population with an iron fist instead of being brought to justice. They try all the means to empty the memory from people twenty years ago.

But we, the netizen fighters will not forget. We will not stop asking how the face the innocents that have not rest in peace, how to face the aged mothers who have been deprived of the right to weep for their lost children.

Please contribute the cause for freedom no matter how much you can; please invite your friends to join this group no matter how many they are; please organize meaningful event to memorize our martyr no matter what from it is.

We will also ask the officers of the group to act a leading role in this commemoration. Please begin to gather people around and host town hall meetings. Eventually we will join the series of rally around the world on July 4.

Thanks
Jianyue Su

Netizen Gathering for 20th Anniversary of Tiananmen Massacre 紀念六四二十周年網絡大召集

http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=29740762122

What did you know...and when did you know it?

Illinois senator Roland Burris is doing his "best" to forget that important political maxim -- and by ineffectively bobbing and weaving he's hacked off enough people in his own party. In fact, some Democrats are hoping Burris actually throws in the towel, now.

Of course, the president cannot put his direct imprint on any ethical standards to which he's trying to hold his Cabinet and other appointments to the Congress, but wouldn't you like it if President Obama picked up the phone and told Burris to straighten up.

Now it's the liberals who say they won't give in

Don't you just love it when politicians can get along...with the president...when that president is from their party!

Alec MacGillis reports in this morning's Washington Post: 'As President Obama prepares to sign a $787 billion economic stimulus package today amid gales of Republican criticism of its cost, he is also facing quieter misgivings from liberal Democrats who say the bill does not go far enough -- and who are already looking ahead to future legislation that they hope will do more. ... Some say Obama must aim higher next time, so that compromises produce a more satisfactory result. Some say he needs to take greater control of drafting legislation, instead of leaving it to Democratic congressional leaders, and needs to adopt a harder line with Republican legislators.'

Monday, February 16, 2009

If you are conservative...

...you listen to Rush. Surprised? You shouldn't be. But as this Pew Research Center study finds, the percentage of listeners who are conservative and listen to Rush is among the most positive correlations in talk radio.

Well, that's not very nice

The Chinese government is planning to blacklist domestic journalists who do not follow the state's reporting rules, the Associated Press notes.

So, here we are some six months after the Beijing Olympics and it's safe to say that China has made marvelous strides (wink, wink) in improving its freedoms of the press, speech and assembly. At this rate, Chinese society will be fully versed in American freedoms in about...oh, 4 centuries.

Shout it...shout it...shout it oud loud!

ABC's Sam Donaldson is pulling back from full-time news work.

I confess a certain melancholy. Regular readers of this blog know that I was a regular watcher of ABC News while I was growing up, and one by one the men and women who inspired me to want to be a journalist (though I never sought the same positions they held) are gone from (or leaving) the stage.

Let's hope that the next generation is being inspired by real journalists, not the loud mouths who use the label journalist to advance their own agendas.

Working as a team

More television stations are (and should be!) planning video pool arrangements with their one-time competitors. The latest example comes from Cleveland.

Anyone with objections to this kind of arrangement is stuck in the 1980s. Let's face it, the days of the fully-staffed newsroom are (at least temporarily) gone, and with that reality news operations have to consider how they can best cover the news that takes place all around them.

Working as a news pool -- much like national television networks do when it comes to covering events from Washington -- is a great way to ensure that everyday news events are reported...and that resources are freed up to offer more in-depth news reporting.

Sure, it would be nice to have it both ways. But you and I know that's not going to happen. Not today. Not tomorrow. Maybe not ever again. That philosophy is like...so 1980s.

The CIA is playing both sides

But in this case, I think the decision was a good one. Specifically, I'm referring to the Washington Post's report that the CIA shared information with India and Pakistan as it developed its investigation into the Mumbai terror attacks.

Pakistan certainly has some important answers that it must provide the international community about the November attacks. My sense is that after an initial set of denials that the government is attempting to come clean and to acknowledge that significant portions of the planning took place within its borders. Now the necessity of cleaning up the corruption within the government and paramilitary circles is even more critical.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

As my sons and their cousin played (and played) this weekend...

...I found myself asking 'what will become of their lives?' Last night, I was playing a computer game; and because I was scoring an unbelievable 1,000,000+ points on Bookworm, the three boys kept coming by to watch. Before long, my nephew (who's 4) was hanging all over me waiting to see when "Uncle Anty is going to blow up."

If you've played Bookworm, then you know how it ends. If you haven't, well then you're going to have to find it on Yahoo! Games so that you'll be able to learn why my nephew was waiting to see when I would go boom.

As I saw, heard and sensed the boys around me, I also found myself reflecting on my own life. My parents' ugly divorce was completed when I was young, and I've not seen my father in more than 30 years. Because of his own stupid behavior (and I could write far more "interesting" language), he never knew how his son turned out.

So as this weekend comes to an end, I wonder what will become of these three boys who can be so loud, so funny, so entertaining, so loud, so happy around each other, so loud and so fanatic about Star Wars. Once the Star Wars craze fades, then what is next? And more importantly, as the oldest of the three, who is now 10, moves ever closer to that time of life when being a boy is no longer possible but being a man is still a few years away, I'm curious what he'll start planning for himself.

At least I plan on being around to see it. My father, wherever he is (presuming he's still alive) would have been wise to have considered that more than three decades ago. Too bad for him that he didn't.

If it's the "Super Bowl of NASCAR"...

...then why can the Daytona 500 end, as it did today, because of rain?

I'm just asking, but wouldn't it make more sense to celebrate "The Great American Race" by ensuring that all 200 laps are run?

Saturday, February 14, 2009

After almost three weeks of an Obama presidency

Sure, it might be unfair to determine anything after just three weeks, but here are a few things to consider...

1. The GOP is going to dig in whenever possible. But don't take that statement as a sign that the Republicans alone are to blame for the absence of a bipartisan spirit in Washington. That's because...

2. The Democrats appear determined to suggest to the nation that their party is led by two people. And if Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi wants to keep up that attitude, then she can deal with the repercussions in two years. That's because...

3. President Obama is learning quickly that being a former member of Congress means nothing when it comes time to making deals with that august body. That's because...

4. While the president has to answer to the nation in 4 years, all 435 members of the House will answer to their districts in two years, and one-third of the Senate will face the same issues in 2010.

And so we wait to see if the political situation improves in the next few months, as the White House pursues other costly and powerful initiatives.

How do you foul up the transition to digital television?

Simple.

You combine:
1. Bureaucracy
2. Political sniping
3. Unwarranted fear
4. Procrastination

The Washington Post picks up the story.

Did the stimulus fight teach the Obama administration a valuable lesson?

No question about it. Read on:

Politico's Mike Allen and Jonathan Martin: The president has been roughed up a bit, but advisers see no reason at all to dial back on huge plans. He will plunge right into financial re-regulation and a budget that lays the groundwork for sweeping health care reform. A big lesson learned is that the president is more useful and comfortable building public pressure on lawmakers -- and support for himself -- than worrying about whether a few Republicans like him. His call for change and compromises was rejected by both sides quicker than anyone envisioned, and his campaign-style approach may be the only successful tack in a town as divided as ever. A top adviser points to the country's 'appetite for action,' and a senior West Wing official says: 'We're going to sign the bill [early next week] and we're back on the road. We're not stopping to taking a breath, and he's not taking his foot off the gas. ... You gain political capital by getting things done.'

And this, too...

Politico's David Rogers, 'Early setbacks test Obama's cool': 'The $789 billion recovery package is a major accomplishment less than a month after his Inauguration. But it's smaller than Obama had hoped it would be just days ago, and it comes even as his chief economic point man, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, is also under fire for raising expectations but putting too few chips on the table. Add in Thursday's announcement that Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) is withdrawing as Obama's nominee to be commerce secretary, and this week is a real test of the president's famous cool - and ability to take the long view.'

Friday, February 13, 2009

WCMH in Columbus revamps its 5:30 news

I'll be curious to see how this approach to local news works. I confess, I'm intrigued by it.

More on Sen. Judd Gregg

The media are in overdrive today analyzing Sen. Judd Gregg's decision to remove himself as the potential Secretary of Commerce.

As I see it, there are three ways of interpreting his decision:
1. He stiffed the president. If you accept this premise, then Gregg (whether intending to is irrelevant) embarrassed President Obama in an unprecedented and unacceptable way.

2. He reversed course, knowing he had made a mistake initially accepting the offer. If you accept this premise, then Gregg did the right thing because he ensured that although causing The White House and himself grief, the best person for the job will still be found.

3. He was in over his head. If you accept this premise, then Gregg somehow saw the move to the Commerce Department as a great promotion. But within a short time he realized he wouldn't be able to handle the job.

Do I know which one of these is correct? No. If we take what Gregg says at face value, then there could be some degree of truth in all three statements. Regardless, today the White House is in retreat on this issue. And Gregg returns to the Senate, where he says he'll remain until his term ends in 2010.

Is it better to forget -- or re-live -- the past?

As you consider your answer, check out what is happening in Germany, where reprints from newspaper accounts from the 1930s are creating incredible tension.

Yes, without question the Nazi era was one of the darkest in modern world history, and it is perhaps the darkest stain on the amazing land that is Germany. Obviously I was not alive during this period, and equally obvious I've never lived in Germany. Thus, I cannot appreciate the depth of feeling taking place in the country.

However, as an outsider, I think it is critical that as full a presentation and discussion of the good and the bad always take place. Perhaps I am alone in saying this, but I'm uncomfortable with the idea that attempts are being made to quash the distribution of these news accounts. To me, that smacks of the refusal to tolerate other opinions that is part and parcel of despotic regimes. Germany clearly is not led by such rulers today, and I hope they understand the value of free speech...even if the message being disseminated is an ugly one.

They keep trimming at the Tribune

More job losses and two news bureaus are closed, in the latest rounds of cuts by the Chicago Tribune.

There's no question that these kinds of stories will remain a steady drip, drip in news coverage. Looked at as individual units is a mistake because its the aggregate loss of jobs, experience, news gathering abilities and other items that come with being a veteran journalist that tells the real story.

Saving Sirius XM

There's no question that Mel Karmazin faces a difficult (maybe impossible) challenge in saving Sirius XM from bankruptcy. He's trying to find new business partners, but in this economic climate plus the lack of previous viability of satellite radio make his prospects difficult.

I've acknowledged in the past on this blog that my experience with satellite radio was not a good one. That being said, I'm very disappointed that the industry has struggled the way it has. I'll remain optimistic that Karmazin can pull off a deal that brings Sirius XM economic stability and the chance at a solid future. But I won't hold my breath.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The return of the Fairness Doctrine?

I can't believe that the Democrats would actually spend precious time and devote attention to the potential of resuscitating the Fairness Doctrine. As I read this report, I remain unconvinced that the Democrats will go through with such hearings.

I've maintained in other posts on this blog, while I don't think the tenor of American politics is enhanced by the overabundance of conservative talk on the radio I am not a proponent of bringing back the Fairness Doctrine. Here's my rationale -- the liberals have had opportunities to develop and promote their brand of talk radio, and those efforts have failed.

If the market will not support a liberal political agenda, then why should Congress mandate it? Put more bluntly, conservative talk radio has marketed and promoted itself, and delivered a better product. Liberals should get over it. So, too, should former President Clinton.

Sen. Judd Gregg tells President Obama...no.

This is a shocker. New Hampshire senator Judd Gregg has removed himself from consideration to be Secretary of Commerce.

A tax problem? No. A personal scandal? No. A philosophical difference with the president is the correct answer.

Wouldn't you like to wonder if the negotiations about the stimulus bill, and the apparent lack of bipartisanship associated with it had anything to do with Gregg's decision.

Whoa, hold off on those "historic" references

A thought to ponder about the compromise reached on the so-called "stimulus bill", from The New York Times' Richard Stevenson --

'While it hammered home the reality of bigger, more activist government, the economic package was not the culmination of a hard-fought ideological drive, like Lyndon B. Johnson's civil rights and Great Society programs, or Ronald Reagan's tax cuts, but rather a necessary and hastily patched-together response to an immediate and increasingly dire situation. On the domestic issues Mr. Obama ran and won on - health care, education, climate change, rebalancing the distribution of wealth - the legislation does little more than promise there will be more to come.'

And there also is this reminder from Politico.com -- there isn't much bipartisan spirit on display, in Washington.

My two cents (and with the economy in the shape it's in, I think those two cents are actually worth 1.2 cents) -- the stimulus bill is beginning to look like an expansion team from a professional sport: You've got a little of this and a little of that, and your hoping that stable leadership will help the team overcome its obvious flaws. Nope, the stimulus bill is not championship caliber, just like an expansion team is not. But at this point it's all we've got to root for. (So why am I not excited about that?)

A financial lifeline for Sirius XM?

One cable giant is strongly considering purchasing the financially strapped Sirius XM, according to The New York Times. But as the newspaper report highlights, the deal could be complicated.

Wheelin' and dealin', Israeli politics-style (UPDATED)

Media coverage continues to dissect the delicate political situation in Israel, where the Kadima and Likud parties seek out potential coalition partners.

In this political environment so-called "minor" parties are worth watching, as the decisions they make will influence whether Kadima or Likud will hold the leadership posts.

Also worth noting is that the votes that are yet to be tabulated are not expected to change the dynamics of the race, meaning that Kadima should hold a one-seat edge over Likud. However, that advantage comes no where close to making it a majority.

UPDATE -- An important story from TIME magazine, which notes that there is a renewed sense among some Palestinians that the Israel war in Gaza coupled with the shift to the right in the Israeli electorate could mean that Arabs become more militant.

TIME's Joe Klein also notes that in the intense focus on how a coalition government might be formed that there is little conversation about the decimated left in Israeli politics.

My older son is 10 today

And don't ask where the time has gone. When you are about to become a parent, you know that someone will always tell you to enjoy them while they're young because they grow up in the blink of an eye. And I know that's true, and I still can't believe that my older son is 10 today.

My wife reminded me last night that she vividly remembers her father and one of her sisters coming driving through a storm so they could see Dominic for the first time. She told me how clearly she could still see her father holding his first grandson, and how proud he looked. I must have been sneaking in a nap; I can't remember that moment :-(

I remember almost 2 years ago when he made his first Holy Communion. There was this almost 8-year-old standing next to his father in church, and most of the time I was thinking 'is he really this old already?'

Now, it's almost two years later. Dominic is 10 today. Unbelievably fast.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Uh, oh

From today's New York Times:

'Federal prosecutors are looking into the possibility that a prominent lobbyist may have funneled bogus campaign contributions to his mentor, Representative John P. Murtha as well as other lawmakers, two people familiar with the investigator's questions said Tuesday. ... In the first half of 2007, the PMA Group and its clients contributed more than $500,000 to three congressmen, Mr. Murtha, the Pennsylvania Democrat who is chairman of the House defense appropriations subcommittee, and his close allies on the panel, Representative James P. Moran of Virginia and Representative Peter J. Visclosky of Indiana.'

And from Politico.com's Martin Kady II:

Charles Rangel remains under investigation by the ethics committee but the House rejected a Republican-driving resolution to revoke his Ways and Means chairmanship. The House vote was 242-157.

What is it about politicians and their "amazing" abilities to be linked to financial or other forms of wrongdoing? It wouldn't have anything to do with them feeling as if they were above the law, would it?

Her party won...but she could still lose

Plenty of media reports today outlining the still muddled political situation in Israel, where the centrist Kadima Party, headed by foreign minister Tzipi Livni, has won the most seats in Parliament but might not be able to form a ruling coalition.

Also imperiled is the prospects for a stable Middle East peace process, if the right-wing Likud Party is successful, as many suspect, of forming a coalition.