Sunday, May 31, 2009

"Hey, dad...it's 32-0" (UPDATE -- at bottom of post)

When I heard my son yell those words to me, I thought he was pulling my leg.

Hey, after leaving his lacrosse cleats where he did, which led to me stepping on one of them and spraining my ankle...I wasn't going to put it past the kid :-)

Then I walked into the living room and saw the score: Florida State 32, Ohio State 0. The game was in the top of the 5th inning, meaning there was still time for more carnage to be inflicted by the Seminoles' offense.

No, neither my son nor I had been watching the game, so the score was doubly shocking to us. And my immediate reaction was that there was no justification for Florida State to be pounding Ohio State as it was.

The context of the game is this: The two teams are playing for the right to advance in the NCAA baseball playoffs, which operate on a double-elimination system at this point. Ohio State already has one loss; the one it suffers today knocks the team out of the playoffs. Florida State's win ensures it advances to the next round.

There is no question that based on overall record, level of talent and tournament history that the Seminoles are the better team. But do they need to embarrass Ohio State in order to validate that point?

I know none of the players in the game, and I know nothing about the Seminoles' coach, Mike Martin.

The little I know about Ohio State coach Bob Todd comes from the years I lived in Columbus and Athens, and he seems like a genuinely nice man. I don't know him personally, though I believe the sports program I produced when I was at the Ohio News Network had him on as a guest. I wouldn't have conducted the interview.

This disgrace of sportsmanship and professionalism exhibited by Florida State is unacceptable.

As I write this, I'm reminded of a story (for which I believe I have all the details correct...but if something is incomplete or inaccurate, please let me know) involving former Notre Dame head coach Lou Holtz.

His Fighting Irish football team was among the nation's best the year it played a woeful Southern Methodist team. The Irish could have scored 70 or more points that day, but Holtz (to borrow a phrase) called off the dogs. He told his players that if another Notre Dame player scored a touchdown that the entire team would run multiple extra laps in practice during the next week. Going from memory, the score was 45-3 at the time.

Holtz's point was clear -- we've won the game; there is no reason to embarrass an opponent. Yes, the back-ups who were in the game wanted to score a touchdown; the competitive juices ensured that. But Holtz's message was more important -- individual achievements sometimes need to be eliminated.

On that Saturday, Holtz was correct. Today, Florida State's Martin and his team are wrong. Shame on you.

UPDATE: The final score was 37-6.

My new favorite picture...

...of my 10-year-old.



His 3rd/4th grade lacrosse team had their first practice/scrimmage at the local high school on Saturday. My favorite quote came from the kid who said to his dad: "Man, that's a big field."

The politicians versus the protesters

The G-20 leaders will be in Pittsburgh in late September, and so, too, will the protesters. And that means security for this important international event has two critical components -- keeping the government officials protected, but also ensuring that the free speech rights of the protesters are not violated.

Of course, the second part of that statement gets mushy when the protests turn violent, as many of them did during the 2008 G-20 Summit in London.

Those responsibilities are handled by local, state and national law enforcement. But the image of Pittsburgh also will be under the microscope during the G-20 Summit, and at least one local columnist thinks the "spin" associated with this city needs to be put under a more critical eye.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Push...pushback

North Korea continues to act like my sprained ankle -- a little pinch here, a little ache there...and unless it is really taken care of, nothing good will happen.

But while I have the luxury of an aircast, ice, and the ability to prop up the offending limb, North Korea seems to care little for doing the right thing. As a result, it becomes ever more isolated.

Today, U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates , in my opinion, the most powerful statement about North Korea since that nation began its recent spate of military tests. He said the U.S. will not allow Pyongyang to go nuclear. Left unsaid in those remarks was whether Washington is prepared to authorize a military strike in and against North Korea. In separate meetings with defense officials from other nations, according to media reports, Gates laid out potential military options.

Mr. Gates' remarks come with the backdrop of another potential missile test by the North Koreans.

My two cents...

...about the current state of the NHL.

The author of this piece, Tim Puko, and I spent a considerable amount of time on the topic when we spoke yesterday. I got the sense he enjoys hockey as much as I do.

Friday, May 29, 2009

The G-20 and Pittsburgh

Not surprisingly, the good people of Pittsburgh are already stepping up to offer their help to ensure the G-20 Summit will be a huge success.

Pittsburgh is a great place, and its national reputation is improving. If you know little about the 'Burgh, I think you're going to be pleasantly surprised by what you see.

Oops

When a newspaper apologizes for an advertisement, you know it's bad.

Will a repeat of the teams mean a repeat in the ratings?

Tomorrow night, the NHL Stanley Cup Finals begin. The two teams -- the Detroit Red Wings and the Pittsburgh Penguins -- each enjoy a rabid fan base in their city and a strong national reputation. But will that translate to television viewers?

Consider this chart, which highlights the U.S. television ratings for the Stanley Cup Finals over the past 13 years. In 2008, the Wings and Penguins met for the Stanley Cup, and it marked the first time in several years that the ratings went up. The intriguing question is whether a repeat of the teams ensure a repeat of the ratings.

There are a couple of reasons to suggest "yes":
1. The frustration that hockey fans felt about the lost year of 2005 is over
2. The Penguins' Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are two of the three brightest young stars in the league
3. There are two U.S. teams playing for the Cup, and they play in two strong hockey markets
4. The ratings throughout the playoffs have been solid

However:
1. If there is "Detroit fatigue," then the ratings could drop. The Wings have been one of the best teams in the NHL for many years, and they are a regular Finals participant
2. A short series would be a ratings disaster
3. The ratings for hockey continue to dwarf the television numbers for the NBA

Remember, the only time NHL commissioner Gary Bettman wants to hear the word "drop" over the next 7-15 days is when "the puck" comes right after it. In any other context, the news won't be good.

Another day, another test (UPDATED)

1st UPDATE: 4:33 p.m. EDT: If North Korea does intend to declare war on the South (and doing so would be met with a swift international response), then expect that attack to commence with a land assault.

It amazes me that the idea of an invasion is being discussed. I cannot believe the North Korean leadership is irrational enough to consider a declaration of war, no matter what the West does to its ships. (For details about that, review earlier posts on this blog and stories from the mainstream media.)

ORIGINAL POST: You've got to give those North Koreans credit -- they have perfected "not getting it."

Today, Pyongyang launched another short-range missile, as it continues to tell the world it has no intention of listening to or taking part in rational conversations about its military aims.

A sizable number of Chinese fishing ships pulled back from the waters near North Korea this morning. Though there remains uncertainty as to why, the message was clear -- "we don't think we're safe in this spot right now."

There is an interesting editorial in today's Christian Science Monitor that is worth your attention. It suggests that President Obama ought to ramp up his rhetoric about North Korea if for no other reason than to reassure Japan and South Korea that the U.S. remains committed to the defense of these nations.

Just how do you deal with a government determined not to listen, knowing that a military strike is not considered a viable option? What a conundrum.

What they're saying about Judge Sotomayor

A good summary (and you can find the stories on your favorite mainstream media sites) of what the media are reporting about Judge Sonia Sotomayor, President Obama's nominee for the Supreme Court, from Politico.com's Martin Kady II --

The criticism of Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor is picking up steam as senators prepare their return to the Capitol next week after a short break.

Virtually every story in this news cycle focuses on something negative about Sotomayor – her sharp tongue, her comments on race, her involvement in liberal Puerto Rican advocacy group. But the pushback is also under way, as Republicans become more and more wary about their standing with Hispanics if they attack too hard.


Another Politico reporter, Ben Smith, suggests the lack of diversity at Princeton University, where Ms. Sotomayor received her bachelor's degree, is critical to understanding how she has acted as a judge.

It is reasonable to say that unless there is a "skeleton in the closet" Judge Sotomayor will be confirmed by the Senate and become a Justice of the Supreme Court. The Democrats advantage ensures that. But that doesn't mean that a robust discussion about her judicial philosophy can't and shouldn't be had. However, and I reiterate from posts delivered earlier this week -- suggestions that she's "racist" or intolerant have no place in deciding her merits for the Supreme Court.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

I'm not sure what to make of this

Over the past month or so, I've received "Younger Women Seeking Older Men" advertisements on my Yahoo! mail site.

I never knew I had become an "older" man. Sure, I might be 41 but when exactly did that become old? And there's no way I'm touching that "younger women" subject. Actually, I am. Considering my wife is "younger" than yours truly, you could say I've already got that covered.

So, Yahoo!...take that offensive advertisement (and the company paying for it) and send it to someone who will fall for it.

A "cute" move by Father Cutie

Not much to say about this one, except he got caught, tried to defend it and now wants to have it both ways.

Oh, how cool! (UPDATED)

Guess which U.S. city is going to host the G-20 Summit in September. You bet...the 'Burgh. Yes!

UPDATE: New details on the September meeting of the G-20 in Pittsburgh.

Saberi speaks

She's home. She's free. She's talking. Here's the NPR story (with link to the full interview) on Roxana Saberi.

Twitter -- a good thing or a waste of time?

This editorial highlights the crux of Twitter -- it can be used as a relevant information dissemination tool, or to highlight the trivial.

Sadly, I've seen nonsensical ideas and people on the site. And it amazes me how many spam-like groups and individuals prowl and seek to have you follow them. 'So, he's fed up with Twitter,' you think.

No. As with anything Web-related, you learn to sift through the legitimate from the ridiculous.

North Korea, today

No surprise here: U.S. and South Korean military are operating on a higher alert level today, in response to the North Koreans threat of military action if their ships are searched in international waters.

Meanwhile, the U.N continues to examine its options, as the international community examines the diplomatic response it should take against Pyongyang. The U.S. also is taking a proactive position in these discussions.

The underlying issue in all this (and perhaps I'm seeing this from a naive position) is how do you bring a determined isolationist government into fruitful conversations with the international community?

What happens if...

...the local newspaper folds?

An uncomfortable question, and one that will be tackled in a major American city this week
Yes, the answer is starting to be determined in other cities where the local daily has folded (or been morphed into an online-only publication). But in reality, the ramifications will not be felt for 5-10 years.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Farrah Fawcett

Though I could be wrong in this case, the information for stories such as this one are released when a person is in the final days (hours?) of life.

If I'm correct (and I hope I'm not), then Farrah Fawcett's death likely will come soon. Cancer has spread. Three terrible words.

A racist (UPDATE)

1st UPDATE: 7:50 p.m. EDT: Yes, in this brief editorial, Joe Klein of TIME magazine questions Gingrich's motivations. Yet, as you read it, note that he doesn't castigate Gingrich for stating Judge Sotomayor was a racist.

ORIGINAL POST: Am I the only one surprised that there hasn't been more media and public scrutiny of talk show host Rush Limbaugh and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich using the term "racist" to describe Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor?

I'm in favor of a reasonable discussion of what Sotomayor could mean to the Supreme Court and to critical legal issues. And in my opinion the mainstream media and the blogosphere are doing a great job of that. But to label her a "racist" is beyond the pale. So, why the absence of outrage?

Specter to be challenged in Democratic primary (UPDATED)

1st UPDATE: 8:53 p.m. EDT: Additional details from Public Radio Capitol News on the decision by Congressman Sestak to challenge Sen. Specter in the Democratic primary.

ORIGINAL POST: No, outside the state of Pennsylvania the name Joe Sestak won't resonate. But the Pennsylvania Congressman says he's going to challenge incumbent Democrat (and former Republican) Arlen Specter in the 2010 Senate primary.

A long-shot candidacy? Of course. But it is far better, in my opinion, to have any incumbent challenged in his or her primary.

The rhetorical battle before the nomination battle (UPDATE)

ORIGINAL POST: Well, it didn't take long for the "partisan conversation" (is that a diplomatically acceptable phrase?) to begin. And considering we're only about 24 hours into the nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the U.S. Supreme Court, can you imagine what the "partisan conversation" is going to look like in a few weeks?

From the Democratic/liberal side of the aisle, there are these pearls of political punditry:
1. New York senator Charles Schumer says the GOP will challenge the judge, but it will do so at its "own peril."

2. "Radicalbytes" offers this "tweet" -- It's hilarious that old straight white men in the congress are suddenly "concerned" about race an gender bias from Sonia Sotomayor.

3. The White House offered this statement from one of Sotomayor's Yale Law School instructors: “She’s always a very forceful and powerful judge. She has, not on an insignificant number of occasions, caused me to change my mind.”

And from the Republican/conservative side of the aisle, there are these pearls of political punditry:
1. The Judicial Confirmation Network suggests she has a "personal political agenda."

2. Alabama senator Jeff Sessions believes Judge Sotomayor "has serious problems."

3. The National Right to Life Committee suggests "(p)ro-life concerns are reinforced by the knowledge that Judge Sotomayor has been nominated to the Supreme Court by a president who himself criticized the Supreme Court majority for upholding the ban on partial-birth abortion."

4. At least one Libertarian group argues that "on the hot-button issues of affirmative action and Second Amendment rights, her record suggests a decidedly illiberal vision of constitutional law."

5. Finally Newt Gingrich offers this "tweet" -- Imagine a judicial nominee said "my experience as a white man makes me better than a latina woman" new racism is no better than old racism

Perhaps the voice of reason belongs to Republican strategist Mark McKinnon.

UPDATE: For an important "bigger picture" discussion, consider Mike Allen's comments on his Politico.com Playbook:

Veterans of Supreme Court battles will remind you that they often take surprising turns. And Senate Republicans are keeping their options open, with plans to turn over all the stones they can find. (One option being considered is a focus on Second Amendment cases.) But Republicans tell us privately that Judge Sonia Sotomayor was a smart pick that may leave them relatively little to work with. Obama is picking a fight he has already won. She has no abortion opinions, and Bill Frist and Rick Santorum voted to confirm her as a federal appeals judge in 1998. In an overnight appeal to supporters, Tony Perkins, president of the conservative Family Research Council, stopped far short of opposition: 'Contact your two senators today and urge them not to rush to judgment on Sotomayor or approve her based on her biography.'

Republicans recognize that the party has to do better with Hispanic voters if it has any hope of winning a national election, and party officials know that waging holy war against the first Latina nominee to the High Court carries high risk. Worst-case scenario: cementing of stereotypes, and further minority alienation from the GOP. So there'll be lots of posturing and theater and phony outrage. (One veteran tactician explains that both sides use these fights to set markers and send signals for the next pick.) And of course lots of conservative groups are depending on a 'fight' to raise money and jump-start the movement. But barring one of Rummy's unknown unknowns, White House officials expect a relatively painless and swift confirmation, with a bunch of Republican votes. It even looks likely that they'll get it on the president's timetable. Although Senate Republicans are not yet committing to a confirmation before the August congressional recess, our high-level soundings found little appetite for dragging out what looks like a foregone conclusion. As conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt told us: 'I don't believe in charging up a hill when you're going to be completely mowed down.'

Oh, really?

North Korea says it will attack South Korea, if the U.S. carries through with plans to search any North Korean ships in international waters.

Here is the diplomatic and military initiative behind the U.S. possible action.

Compounding any U.S. attempt to deal with Pyongyang is the lingering uncertainty about the health of "Dear Leader." It is plausible to suggest that Kim Jong-il does not hold the absolute power he once did; lingering questions about his health underscore this possibility.

Posting later today

Well before I sprained my ankle, I committed to helping out at "Field Day" at my son's school. So most of today (unless the weather goes south or my ankle turns in a direction it shouldn't!!!) I will be supervising activities.

Look for my blog to fire up later today, unless the weather goes south or...uh, no that one is too painful to repeat :-(

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Again? (UPDATED)

1st UPDATE: 10:35 p.m. EDT: A separate South Korean news agency notes that spy satellites indicate the North Koreans might have restarted its nuclear power plant.

ORIGINAL POST: A South Korean news agency reports that early Wednesday (in Asia), North Korea launched another missile.

If this information is validated, it would mark the second consecutive day of missile launches and the third straight day of military-related activities.

I'll update as necessary.

Iran does the right thing

Now, there's a statement you don't read everyday. Of course, what it has done is more symbolic than anything else, but it is important. Today the Iranian government reversed its ban on the popular social networking site Facebook.

A "reverse racist"

Now, the temptation to dive into the mud and muck in which talk show host Rush Limbaugh apparently lives is great, but instead of offering obnoxious comments about what he must be I'm going to let his words do that for me.

Today, Limbaugh called President Obama "the greatest living example of a reverse racist." He labeled Mr. Obama's Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor with the same terminology.

There will be individuals from all over the political spectrum who will dismiss Limbaugh's comments as "typical Rush." Be my guest, and that's the nicest thing I'll say.

Michael Steele, the head of the Republican Party, which Limbaugh claims he cares so much about, noted today that Republicans should be "careful" as they scrutinize the record and professional aptitude of Judge Sotomayor. Limbaugh either got that message too late, ignored it, or doesn't think Mr. Steele represents the Republican Party to which Limbaugh belongs.

I end this post with this thought: Would you have the guts (or be ignorant enough, you decide) to call your boss, a colleague, someone you know or anyone else for that matter "a reverse racist?" If you did, what do you think would happen to you?

Now decide if "oh, that's just typical Rush" is acceptable.

There is professionalism...

...and then there is this.

If he's a student in my class, he'd have lost any chance at a grade higher than a "C." And that might be generous.

A chuckle or two to help you through your day

My wife and I are babysitting a friend's daughter for a couple of weeks. Today, we took our younger son and Lily to the local pizza shop for lunch.

The precocious little girl dropped these gems on me:
1. "My mom and dad couldn't decide whether to name me Lily or jewelry."
"Do you mean Julie?" I asked her.
"Yeah, that's what I meant. Julie"

2. Many of you know I sprained my ankle on Friday.
"Gosh, I really hope you don't sprain the other ankle," Lily said to me.
"Me, too," I said.
"Yeah, that would really hurt."

3. "My mom and dad are going to let me go swimming when we get home," Lily told me.
"I don't know," I said. "It's raining and kind of cold for the swimming pool today."
"That's okay," she responds. "As long as it's not thunder and lighting. Then I'm the tallest thing in the water."
"The tallest thing?" my wife asked.
"Yeah, if I'm the tallest thing in the water, then I need to get out."

Okay, time now to return to your "serious" adult life :-)

Stunning statistic

Carefully read this "tweet" from the Los Angeles Times: U.S. home prices fall by record 19.1 percent in Q1. Los Angeles area prices were down 41% from 2006 peak

Think about that -- 41% in three years.

Progress is being made in Iraq

At least when it comes to freedom of the press. A symbolic but important conference took place in Baghdad over the weekend. It provided evidence that Iraq is moving toward a press system that allows for critical reporting of government, business and society.

Here is the statement that was agreed upon.

Aung San Suu Kyi trial continues

This story will be swallowed up in the media conversation today because of the Supreme Court pick and the situation in North Korea, but the trial of Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi continued today. Important details are provided by the Financial Times.

Justice Souter's replacement will be... (7 x UPDATED)

7th UPDATE: 3:45 p.m. EDT: Hmmm, Justice Sotomayor "brings to the confirmation experience the kind of rich personal story that has always been deeply gratifying to Americans, the journey from humble beginnings to a respected position of great influence."

I'll let you decide if this piece from The New York Times (from which the above quote is taken) is objective journalism or another example of that liberal bias that critics suggest is evident everywhere in mainstream media coverage. Keep in mind that Judge Sotomayor is from New York, ensuring a kind of "hometown girl makes good" theme to many stories from the New York media.

Now before you go overboard on that, keep in mind that theme is seen almost every day. It's especially evident in sports stories, though I'm not equating the importance of sports events to nominations to the Supreme Court. But I am saying that "boosterism" is part and parcel of media coverage when it comes to stories about local people or teams that "make good."

Is that wise? Is it ever justified? Remember, if you suggest "boosterism" is never appropriate (a standard to which I subscribe), then I ask you this -- what did you call that media coverage in the immediate aftermath of 9-11 and the commencement of the 2nd Iraq War in 2003?

Of course, if you want to argue shades of gray regarding "boosterism," then you are opening a Pandora's box. Because then, one person's "boosterism" is another person's "bias."

And away we go.

6th UPDATE: 3:29 p.m. EDT: Do yourself a favor and ignore the "rbs" (rhetorical b*** s***) that is passing for "substantive analysis" of President Obama's decision to nominate Judge Sotomayor to the Supreme Court.

Instead take time to find reasonable voices representing the many political philosophies in this country. One such thought-provoking argument is made by a strong conservative -- Gary Bauer.

5th UPDATE: 11:30 a.m. EDT: In what can be interpreted as a "hey, I'm going to run for president in 2012," former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee has offered a rebuke of the president's nomination. His statement here was taken from TIME magazine:

The appointment of Sonia Sotomayor for the Supreme Court is the clearest indication yet that President Obama's campaign promises to be a centrist and think in a bi-partisan way were mere rhetoric. Sotomayor comes from the far left and will likely leave us with something akin to the "Extreme Court" that could mark a major shift. The notion that appellate court decisions are to be interpreted by the "feelings" of the judge is a direct affront of the basic premise of our judicial system that is supposed to apply the law without personal emotion. If she is confirmed, then we need to take the blindfold off Lady Justice.

4th UPDATE: 11:25 a.m. EDT: Here are Judge Sotomayor's remarks after being nominated by President Obama.

I think the most important line is this one: "I strive never to forget the real world consequences of my decisions on individuals, businesses and government." That can be interpreted in a variety of ways, and I anticipate the screamers on the right will have a field day with it.

3rd UPDATE: 11:07 a.m. EDT: If history repeats itself, the GOP will split down the middle on endorsing Judge Sotomayor for the Supreme Court. Why? Check out how those Republicans in the Senate in 1998 and still there today voted then on her nomination to the Court of Appeals. Kudos to NPR Ken Rudin for this report.

Meanwhile, we can expect those same partisan battles in 2009.

2nd UPDATE: 9:07 a.m. EDT: In advance of the announcement, Sen. Pat Leahy, who chairs the Judiciary Committee, has been working with his Republican rivals to smooth out the process for the hearings. This excerpt was taken from Martin Kady II's "The Huddle" on Politico.com:
John Stanton reports in Roll Call: 'With the Senate preparing for the first Supreme Court confirmation of the Obama era, Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) is already trying to smooth the process, making peace offerings to ranking member Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) and urging colleagues to avoid a partisan war. Since Supreme Court Justice David Souter announced his retirement last month, Leahy has held lengthy discussions with President Barack Obama on the process for moving the nomination and has held a number of talks with Sessions to set the basic ground rules for the hearing.'

And, yes, in case you are wondering: North Korea has been blown right off the media's radar because of the impending Supreme Court announcement. Wonder what "Dear Leader" thinks of that? You know he knows.

1st UPDATE: 9:05 a.m. EDT: An interesting "tweet" tidbit from CBS News White House reporter Mark Knoller about Judge Sotomayor:
As a child, Sotomayor was a fan of Nancy Drew and wanted to be a detective, but was ultimately inspired to the law by Perry Mason.


ORIGINAL POST: ...announced at 10:15 a.m. EDT. And media reports indicate it will be Sonia Sotomayor.

If Judge Sotomayor is approved by the Senate, then she'll become the first Hispanic to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court. And at 54, she would stand a realistic chance of being on the Supreme Court for at least two decades.

Here is a short bio of Judge Sotomayor, from C-SPAN:
AP is reporting that Appellate Judge Sonia Sotomayor (2nd Dist. Court) is to be named to succeed Justice David Souter on the Supreme Court. Judge Sotomayor was born in the Bronx, NY, graduated from Princeton and Northwestern Univ. She would be the first Hispanic woman on the Supreme Court if her nomination were approved.

Looks like they did it (2 x UPDATED)

2nd UPDATE: 11:20 a.m. EDT: A great lead to this USA Today story about the situation in North Korea.

1st UPDATE: 11:00 a.m. EDT: When the Russians and the Chinese are mad at you...man, it cannot be good. But does anyone really think that will do any good?

ORIGINAL POST: The North Koreans have launched two short-range missiles this morning, following through on threats made just last evening to do that.

In an overt case of bombast, KCNA, the state-run media agency, added this: "Our army and people are fully ready for battle." (The quote was on TIME magazine's home page this morning, under its "Quotes of the Day" section.)

Of course, the launch of the missiles adds to the international outrage aimed at Pyongyang, as it comes just a day after North Korea conducted an underground nuclear test.

The pressure on the United Nations to "do something" is sure to increase, but what can it do? (And the same challenge is placed squarely in the lap of President Obama, and his aides acknowledge the grim reality -- there is little the administration can do.) North Korea's neighbor South Korea seems the most angry of all nations, and with good reason.

Consider Iran and North Korea, the two countries determined to bolster their nuclear capabilities. Though he is no diplomat, the president of Iran is at least meeting with other world leaders and attempting to engage the international community. (Don't misunderstand me, I'm not endorsing what he has done; I'm merely saying he is at least not isolating himself.) Compare Mr. Ahmedinajad to "Dear Leader." It's likely he's suffered a stroke in the past year. He's shown no interest in meeting world leaders. He's offered no indication he wants to place his country in the international community.

So, at the end of the day, which nation is the more unstable?

Monday, May 25, 2009

More North Korea (UPDATED)

1st UPDATE: 9:25 p.m. EDT: This "tweet" from ABC's Jake Tapper --
POTUS spoke on phone w/S. Korea President Lee Myung-bak + Japanese PM Taro Aso about N Korea nuke. Reassured US commitment to their defense

ORIGINAL POST: There have been a variety of reports and notes about North Korea already today, so as I look at the stories being disseminated (or at least being posted to the Web) tonight I thought it wise to start a new thread on the topic.

The Wall Street Journal offers another in a line of analysis pieces examining what the regime of "Dear Leader" might be looking for or to do, in the aftermath of last night's (EDT) nuclear test.

Arizona senator John McCain, one of this country's most astute international observers, has added his voice to the list of those critical of North Korea. He says it is important that China influence Pyongyang to act responsibly. That would seem to be wishful thinking, unfortunately when you recognize that the North Korean government appears unwilling to listen to any reasonable ideas about its nuclear program.

You might want to extend that to its entire military arsenal. An Australian news agency is reporting that all signs point to North Korea test firing short-range missiles within the next 24 to 48 hours.

As might be expected, Asian stock markets are reacting negatively to the test.

So, yet again, "Dear Leader" and his cronies have managed to put the world on notice that they are going to... And therein lies the conundrum; we can't be quite sure of how to complete that statement.

And not to be forgotten... (UPDATED)

1st UPDATE: 2:15 p.m. EDT: While the diplomatic ice between the U.S. and Iran appears to be getting colder, the sporting ice might be thawing. A report suggests the U.S. and Iranian national soccer teams could meet in a friendly/exhibition match later this year.

ORIGINAL POST: ...Iran. That nation's president said today there will be no negotiations about his country's nuclear ambitions.

North Korea and Iran appear determined to one-up the other in attempts to draw the ire of the international community. But that raises a more important question: is a destabilized East Asia more or less important than a destabilized Middle East? Of course, the answer is that in neither place can the international community afford to have perceived or real "nuke nations." I'll be curious to see what comes out of the U.N.'s emergency meeting later today about the North Korea situation. In part that's because it almost certainly will face the same series of discussions a year or so from now with Iran.

Is Greta on the way out?

Interesting report in the New York Times that notes Greta Van Susteren could find herself on the rocks at FOX. The professional relationship her husband has had with the family of Alaska governor Sarah Palin is considered in this report as one of the issues weighing down Ms. Van Susteren.

A potential replacement, according to the story, is Megyn Kelly, who is the current co-host of "America's Newsroom" on FOX. I don't think she owns any professional clothes that reach below her kneecaps. Watch her on FOX in the morning; you'll see a lot of her legs. (For what it's worth, if one of my students wanted to go on the air showing that much leg...uh, nope.)

Aung San Suu Kyi trial continues

Media reports indicate the courtroom will again be opened to international observers on Tuesday. This is important because Ms. Suu Kyi is expected to take the stand in her own defense.

H1N1

What you should know, from TIME magazine. Worth your time.

"Escalating belligerence" (6 x UPDATED)

6th UPDATE: 6:30 p.m. EDT: The U.N. Security Council has aggressively condemned North Korea. But there still is the question of what sanction or idea will bring North Korea into compliance with the U.N. and as a respected member of the international community.

When it comes to the former idea, the ideas seem limited. When it comes to the latter, the possibilities seem nil.

5th UPDATE: 4:20 p.m. EDT: What does Pyongyang want? It seems a relevant question as governments and other defense/military experts analyze why North Korea conducted a nuclear test late last night (EDT).

But perhaps the more relevant (and maybe ominous) question is this: What does Pyongyang intend to do with its nuclear capabilities? The Associated Press looks at those possibilities in this report. At the same time, the New York Times notes there could be indications of how North Korea will conduct foreign policy after "Dear Leader" is no longer in that role.

span style="font-weight:bold;">4th UPDATE: 10:42 a.m. EDT: Comments from President Obama: World "must take action." North Korea is deepening its "international isolation." Strong words from Mr. Obama, but the larger question is what the U.S., other foreign governments and the U.N. will actually do about it.

3rd UPDATE: 10:09 a.m. EDT: And there is this also from Mike Allen:

The WashPost final edition (M2) has a bylined Blaine Harden story out of Tokyo with North Korea confirming the test. But, perhaps because of holiday deadlines, the paper didn't remake the front page and stuffed the story at the bottom of A16, with a tiny A1 refer. The N.Y. Times remade A1 to lead with a full story under the 1-col. hed, 'North Korea Says It Tested Nuclear Device: Defies U.N.'s Warnings – South Korea Calls for Emergency Meeting to Address Crisis.'

The New York Times made the proper editorial judgment, while someone at the Washington Post has some explaining to do.

2nd UPDATE: 10:00 a.m. EDT: An excerpt from a Reuters report (taken from Mike Allen's Politico.com "Playbook" --

'The latest test will confound the international community, which has for years tried a mixture of huge aid pledges and tough economic sanctions to persuade the impoverished North to give up efforts to build a nuclear arsenal. It is also bound to raise concerns about proliferation, a major worry of the United States, which has in the past accused Pyongyang of trying to sell its nuclear know-how to states such as Syria. Analysts said the test will also serve to raise North Korea's leverage in any negotiations with the United States. It comes as speculation has mounted that leader Kim Jong-il, his health uncertain after reports of a stroke last year, wants to strengthen an already iron grip on power so he can better secure the succession for one of his three sons.'


1st UPDATE: The U.N. will hold an emergency meeting today at 4:00 p.m. (EDT) to discuss the situation in North Korea.

One thing to consider as you follow this story: Because today is a national holiday, a story such as this will rapidly move up the media's coverage plans. With the federal government closed, almost all businesses also closed and attention focused on the holiday activities, a story such as this will get more play than it might under typical conditions.

ORIGINAL POST: That's how the Washington Post describes the nuclear test conducted by North Korea late last night (EDT).

Of course, one person's "belligerence" is another person's defense of sovereignty, which is how the North Korea's defined the test.

South Koreans, reeling from the suicide of former president Roh Moo-hyun, are among the nations, governments and peoples criticizing Pyongyang's action. The test would seem to ratify what international intelligence officials and defense experts stated just last month: North Korea is a full-fledged nuclear power.

The international community must now discuss how to respond to the "belligerence" or the "sovereignty." Additional economic sanctions seem inevitable, and those will be "spun" in North Korea in an intense propaganda campaign. A military response? Forget about it. It's what's in between the economic and the military that will be worth watching.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

North Korea -- nuclear test (UPDATED)

1st UPDATE: 11:27 p.m. EDT: The BBC is reporting that North Korea has confirmed the nuclear test.

ORIGINAL POST: I'll have much more about this on Monday, but The New York Times is reporting that North Korea conducted a nuclear test in the past few hours. If so, the pressure on the international community to respond appropriately (but not in panic) will be immense.

Tom Ridge is running for president (2 x UPDATED, reflecting Colin Powell and Karl Rove)

2nd UPDATE: 1:30 p.m. EDT: Meanwhile, the latest installment of "I'm a better Republican than you" played out on America's television screens this morning. Former Secretary of State Colin Powell dropped a few verbal bombs on talk show host Rush Limbaugh and former Vice President Dick Cheney.

And as Mr. Powell was offering his opinions, so was another key member of the former president. Karl Rove says that if "had to pick between the two," he choose Limbaugh over Powell, though he added because neither man is running for any political office the point about who was the better Republican was unimportant.

Listening/watching/reading these Republicans reminds me that while the Democrats are leading the country (and you can insert whatever opinion you want about their decisions), the Republicans are still arguing petty, partisan politics that does nothing for their image or the country.

1st UPDATE: Already this morning the blogosphere is filling with people criticizing Ridge. In the mind of one person, he's a "total dud."

ORIGINAL POST: No, he's not made an official announcement, but once you read this story (and I'm looking for others to supplement this post) I think you'll agree there is no other conclusion to draw.

But here is the problem Ridge is facing -- the most vocal within the GOP have indicated his brand of politics is not what they want the party's standard-bearer to have. Ridge is a moderate, in case you haven't figured that out yet.

Sadly, Jeffrey Toobin is correct

The Republicans -- at least some of them -- are going to blame the president for any new terror attack against the U.S. Here's an excerpt of Toobin's New Yorker piece, which appeared in Mike Allen's Politico.com "Playbook":

'The speech was, as politicians say, a marker-a warning to the new Administration. ... Cheney's all but explicit message was that the blame for any new attack against American people or interests would be laid not on the terrorists, or on the worldwide climate of anti-Americanism created by the Bush-Cheney Administration, but on Barack Obama. For many months after the 9/11 attacks, Democrats refrained from engaging in the blame game with the Bush Administration. Cheney's speech makes it clear that, should terrorists strike again, Republicans may not respond in kind. Cheney's political acumen is not to be underestimated, notwithstanding his image problems. ... The President gave a persuasive speech last week, but it proved only that he has a lot more persuading to do.'

So, let me see if I understand this correctly: It was inappropriate, the GOP said, for anyone to criticize the Bush administration for 9-11 and how it handled the war on terror, but Dick Cheney now says the Obama administration is fair game for any future domestic terror attack.

Hmmm.

Let's talk more about...

...the health of the newspaper industry.

There is a one-day conference planned in Washington this week that is attracting some heavy hitters from the newspaper world. Note that the conference also is open to the public, and that the registration fee is not onerous.

If you are in the nation's capital, or can get there, this conference is something you ought to consider. And regardless of where you can make it, you ought to re-examine some of those myths about the newspaper world.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Why Dick Cheney?

It is still baffling to me that former Vice President Dick Cheney has become so outspoken in defending the Bush administration's record and policies on terror while dismissing what President Obama is doing.

Why is it Cheney who is delivering this message? Is he the only one among the former top Bush administration officials who really believes it? Is he simply continuing his snarly dog act that so seemed to dominate his time in the White House? Is he placing himself in the hierarchy (if not at the top) of the current GOP leadership discussion?

When you compare how former First Lady Laura Bush gracefully exited the stage, Mr. Cheney's attack dog style becomes ever more intriguing.

I maintain, as I have in other posts, that until the GOP determines a solid message and a set of messengers to deliver it, it will be hamstrung by people like Cheney. They are going to use the leadership and message vacuum to their benefit, regardless of how the public reacts to it.

On one of the Sunday talk shows, Colin Powell is going to be interviewed. I suspect he will be asked (cajoled, prodded) to respond to the recent diatribe Mr. Cheney offered up about Mr. Powell. If we watch, we'll see how Mr. Powell responds; if we don't, we can count on the media to offer an interpretation and analysis of the interview.

A former professional colleague who remains a friend said the other day that he couldn't understand why the media were so interested in what Dick Cheney was saying. He wondered why it was that the former vice president continued to be a news maker while others who had preceded him in that office have all but disappeared from the public eye. (Consider Dan Quayle, as an example. Would you recognize him if he walked past you today?)

Yes, Mr. Cheney is benefiting from a GOP that lacks a leader and a cogent message. He's going to continue to beat the drum about how well he believes his former boss fought the war on terror, and he'll keep beating it until someone else pushes him off the stage.

I, for one, hope that time comes soon.

Facebook is out in Iran

At least temporarily (we can hope). Why?

Come on, of course it is because the government is afraid that in the lead up to next month's elections that the reform candidate will use it for his benefit and therefore to the detriment of the current leadership.

In fact, it is the wife of that reform candidate who is generating attention in Iran. And what's she doing would be considered "typical" in the context of American elections. In the context of the Iranian elections, however, she is "unconventional" and therefore dangerous.

A 3-year BA program?

On the surface this idea makes financial sense for families, but college is supposed to be about more than getting a degree.

I am concerned that adoption of this idea will stifle a student's academic exploration -- in order to complete a program in this amount of time, the diversity of general education offerings and/or the number of hours needed to complete the bachelor's degree will be cut. Neither is a winner for students.

Kudos to South Hills Scouts

A great job by all South Hills Scouts who took part in the "Flags In" at the local cemetery. To learn more about that, and to read about these fantastic area Scouts, please read this story that appears in today's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Friday, May 22, 2009

A College Democrats club is not welcomed at...

...Liberty University, located in Lynchburg, VA.

You can look at this decision in at least two ways:
1. Liberty is a private/religious university, and therefore it can sanction whatever groups it wants
2. Liberty is demonstrating a myopic view of what is free speech.

I'm inclined to say the latter. I am the product of a Catholic high school, and I did my undergraduate work at a private university. I could not imagine either denying it students relevant expressions of their beliefs.

Waterboarding is "torture"

My conclusion? No (but actually yes).

In this case, however, the opinion is that of a conservative radio talk show host.

My 5-year-old is really mad at me

A few days ago, we completed a baseball game in our backyard. Nicky was the permanent batter, and in this game the Braves beat the Pirates, 22-21. The low-light of the game was one pitch I threw. It hit Nick in the head.

No, nothing serious, but he's reminded me from time to time of it.

Today (and before I had my ankle mishap, which had nothing to do with playing baseball), we were practicing. One inadvertent bad pitch caught him in the fingers as he swung the bat.

Now, as we sit in the living room (me with an aircast wrapped around my ankle; he with a glass of water in his hand) Nick decides its time to give me a piece of his mind.

"First, you murdered me in the head. Then you murdered me in the fingers. Where else can you murder me?" he said, staring right at me.

And just to finish his harrumph: "You are a bad pitcher."

If he keeps this up, just wait until I'm ready to pitch again. Hehehehehe.

More bad news from Mexico City

Various media are reporting a (preliminary) 5.7 earthquake in Mexico City.

There was no slight

Before anyone gets their undertoos twisted too tightly, consider this "tweet" from Toby Harnden of the (London) Daily Telegraph:

RT @jaketapper: if any1's wondering why POTUS didnt mention @johnmccain or graduating son at Annapolis 2day, was at request of mccain family

Change has come to Washington!

Uh, Anthony, you say -- a little slow on the uptake. Obama's been in office for more than 100 days.

Nope.

This is the change we can believe in: pooling newsroom resources has arrived in Washington!

Setting aside the jocularity, this pool system is more than a trend; it is going to become a dominant feature of local news coverage.

Doing the right thing

Guantanamo.

The detention center in Cuba has become one of the most powerful symbols of the Bush administration. To some, it represents an image of America's failure to follow international law. For others, it reflects an appropriate place to keep individuals perceived to be the most dangerous people in the world.

I'll let you decide which argument has more merit.

Looking to the future -- in which one question must be answered: Does GITMO stay open? -- consider this:

Victoria McGrane reports in today's POLITICO: 'If President Barack Obama is going to turn the page on Guantanamo, he may need help from two of his old rivals: John McCain and his sidekick, Lindsey Graham. While Senate Republicans have shown a united front on Guantanamo, the Arizonan and the South Carolinian are among a handful of GOP senators poised to break away from their party if the White House offers an appealing plan for dealing with the detainees and closing the prison.'

'McCain, who has always spoken out against torture, believes that keeping the facility open hurts America's standing abroad, and Graham, a military justice expert, is also working with the White House on Guantanamo proposals.'


For his part, President Obama has said that the issue of what to do with the GITMO detainees if the facility is closed is a tricky one. Congressional leaders are playing (the often childish game of) NIMBY, and this position doesn't assist the conversation.

Underscoring (or undermining) the debate is the suddenly very vocal Dick Cheney, who offered a competing version of what is appropriate in defending the U.S. As I've read about and listened to the former vice president, I've been struck by something: Why is George Bush remaining silent on this issue?

Well, ain't that special! (UPDATE)

1st UPDATE: Suu Kyi claims innocence. Will it matter?

ORIGINAL POST: One day after opening the doors to the trial of Aung San Suu Kyi, the military junta that runs Burma changed its mind and slammed them shut.

The U.N. is about to get involved in this situation. Good luck. If the leadership of the nation turned its back for a long time on international assistance in the wake of last year's monsoon, then what makes anyone think it's going to listen now?

Message in a...rocket?

It is not a stretch to suggest Iran's missile launch earlier this week had both a military and political message, as TIME magazine correctly notes.

The discussion about Iran's nuclear ambitions would seem to start (and perhaps stop) at this point -- what right does a sovereign nation have to bolster its military capabilities in order to repel real and potential threats?

But as you consider that, then also consider this: It is completely illogical to suggest that either the U.S. or Israel would launch an aggressive attack on Iran, as a means of starting/escalating the tension in the Middle East.

So, where does that leave the conversation among Tel Aviv, Washington and Tehran?

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Facebook and Twitter scams

If you use either Facebook or Twitter as a social networking tool (or for any other legitimate reason), then this is a story you should consider.

"Yeah, I know...and I don't even know what that means"

Yes, another dad moment:

Our 5-year-old was determined to try his new backpack (that he'll take to school with him when he starts kindergarten in the fall), so today he takes it out the door with him because my wife and I were running a couple of errands.

Mind you, those errands were dropping off something at a friend's house, making a quick stop at the post office and another at the bank. We then were going to lunch.

"We're not going to be long at any of those stops, kiddo," I told my 5-year-old. "Are you sure you want to take that backpack?" (Yes, he had stuffed it with a book or two, two or three crayons and a stuffed animal.)

"But, dad, what happens when I get bored waiting for my food?" he asked.

"Nicky boy," I responded. "You are precocious."

"Yeah, I know...and I don't even know what that means!"

Want to see a staged trial in person?

If you can make it to Burma, then you might be able to catch a glimpse of the case against Nobel Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi. In a somewhat unusual move, the secretive military junta running that country is allowing foreign diplomats and journalists to see the proceedings.

Suu Kyi stands accused of violating terms of her house arrest after an American citizen visited her home.

In a separate issue relating to fair trials, The New York Times notes this morning that groups that advocate for overturning wrongful convictions are worried that cuts in newsroom jobs could affect their work. Why? Many of those journalists did investigative pieces that could lead to exonerating those who didn't commit crimes.

My Point Park colleague Bill Moushey is passionate about this issue. He runs our Innocence Institute, which through his work and his supervision of students who undertake these kinds of cases has led to multiple wrongful convictions being overturned.

Former Vice President Dick Cheney will say...

...a few complimentary things about President Obama, ABC News reports.

The dueling dual speeches about national security begin in the 10:00 (EDT) hour. Mr. Obama is scheduled to speak at the National Archives at 10:10, with Mr. Cheney following at 10:45 from the American Enterprise Institute.

And it still wouldn't surprise me if the White House makes an "important" announcement around 10:45. Call it politics. Perhaps it will be related to the arrest of 4 people in New York on terrorism charges?

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

What are the chances...

...that at 10:45 a.m. tomorrow, the White House will make an important announcement? Why at (or right around) that time? Simple...steal the spotlight from someone.

This is the message the GOP wants to deliver? (2 x UPDATED)

2nd UPDATE: 8:04 p.m. EDT: Whatever attempts the GOP is making to reinvent itself (or to scream at the Democrats), the childish behavior demonstrated by Rush Limbaugh, Dick Cheney and Colin Powell (among others) is getting in the way. At this point, all three men should "shaddup."

span style="font-weight:bold;">1st UPDATE: 7:35 p.m. EDT: The GOP offered another example of its apparent strategy -- call Democrats the "s" word. It's a shame to see one of America's two-major parties reduced to this.

ORIGINAL POST: Attack the president? Stop gazing at your navel? The Washington Post is one of multiple news organizations highlighting the speech Republican National Committee chair Michael Steele gave yesterday to members of his party.

I understand the need to rally the troops, but Mr. Steele comes off as more interested in attacking the White House than in coming up with a concrete series of proposals and policy items to counter the Democrats' agenda. His message of focusing on the future in the context of attack suggests the GOP has no new ideas to bring to the American people. That's a shame.

Iran and Israel (UPDATE)

UPDATE: Well now, this is unexpected: An aide to Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanhayu calls the U.S. focus on a two-state solution "stupid." Hmmm, tell me what you really think.

ORIGINAL POST: It seems impossible to separate one from the other in today's news cycles. And this day is simply another example of that.

Iran's state media is reporting that country successfully launched a missile with the capability of reaching Israel. That announcement raises the stakes on the Italian government, as it plans a diplomatic mission today to Tehran.

As you know, Israel's prime minister, Benjamin Netanhayu, met with President Obama this week to discuss Iran's nuclear ambitions as well as the two-state solution in the Middle East. The Washington Post reports Mr. Netanhayu appears to have found a favorable reception to the concerns he outlined. (See my posts from earlier this week for a brief outline of those positions, but consult mainstream media sources for a complete assessment.)

Is Iran being an aggressor by launching that missile? It's easy to argue "yes," but the larger issue is what right does a country have to protect itself? Do I think the Iranian action has a potential aggressive component to it? Absolutely. And that's the problem Iran has created for itself -- even if the missile is designed solely for defensive purposes, the actions of the Islamic Republic of Iran over the past 30 years suggests that it is hard to take what it says at face value.

It could rival the genocide in Rwanda

That's what United Nations officials are warning is taking place in the Swat region of Pakistan, where people continue to flee the fighting involving Pakistani forces and the Taliban.

Mind you, the U.N. is not saying that people are being killed as they were in Rwanda; instead, it is referring to the humanitarian crisis. For its part, the U.S. has pledged more than $100 million in relief.

If you have any doubt that the situation in Pakistan is perhaps the most pressing international crisis today, then you need to only consider the two stories offered above.

Local news stations sharing content

I've periodically mentioned on this blog that I think the pooling of local television news operations' resources is going to be one of the trends in future news coverage.

There is simply no need for three television stations (in a hypothetical three-station market) to each cover the same event, and this ineffectual placement of critical personnel is highlighted by the on-going cuts to newsroom staffing.

An article in TVNewsDay offers an in-depth analysis of this pooling trend, and it also indicates that it is happening in medium and large markets.

In the mythical good ol' days when budgets were fat and newsrooms were teeming with people, a sense of proprietary ownership of everything existed. Under such an arrangement, the competition was given nothing; if it failed to cover a story that was its problem. Those days are gone.

Sounds like "NIMBY" to me

Not sure why there is controversy over the Senate's decision to deny the president the money he wants to close GITMO. It sounds like a simple case of those 100 august leaders of the country telling Mr. Obama they don't want any Guantanamo detainees placed in their states (at least for now...and maybe for a lot longer).

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

This one could open up a (religious) can of worms

What is happening in Frisco, Texas, is sure to have repercussions in that school district but also in many others across the country. There, the district has been hamstrung in its attempts to keep the Gideons from proselytizing near its schools.

The result? The Gideons have succeeded in getting Bibles placed on tables throughout the schools. The parents who are angry are justified -- a student who attends a public school should go knowing that no group, regardless of its intent, should be able to spread its message to them.

The Gideons might very well have won this battle, but what complications might arise from it?

Quote of the day

Political analyst in Pittsburgh tonight, on a local television station's Webcast of election night: "The Democrats have been in control of Pittsburgh longer than the Communists ran Moscow."

A bigger rift than we first thought?

An article in a British newspaper notes that the divide between Russian president Dmitri Medvedev and prime minister Vladimir Putin might be wider than first thought.

One blogger says the answer is clearly "da."

But the larger question is what does it all mean? One possibility -- if Mr. Medvedev was supposed to be a token president and fill the seat for four years until Mr. Putin returned to it, then something has changed in the president's mind. Perhaps he's more independent thinking? Perhaps the former president was moving Russia in the wrong direction and the current president intends to fix it?

A real-world case of media ethics and "shield" laws

This newspaper account offers a fascinating glimpse into whether journalists ought to be compelled to produce information that would help the police solve a crime (in this instance, murder).

As you read it, consider the ethical and legal implications associated with the actions undertaken by the police, the student and the journalism department.

Obama-Netanhayu meetings (UPDATED)

1st UPDATE: 2:00 p.m. EDT: Prime Minister Netanhayu spoke to Congressional leaders today, and he reiterated that a nuclear Iran is the biggest international issue his country faces. It seems unlikely that Mr. Netanhayu can be persuaded to discuss a "two-state" solution until there is a clear international plan to deal with the Israelis' fears about Iran.

ORIGINAL POST: Wall Street Journal reporter Gerald Seib offers today an important editorial about how to interpret the word "state."

You'll recall yesterday I noted what words President Obama used (and didn't use) and what language Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanhayu used (and didn't use) as they discussed with the media the details of their meetings at the White House.

Mr. Seib's editorial is another relevant example of how you should listen to what people say because the message being delivered often comes from words that are not stated.

Important story in The Washington Times

The newspaper highlights some of the hiring and financial decisions made by Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele.

You should draw your own conclusions.

One of those moments that makes being a dad memorable

I was flipping around the TV dial a few minutes after 11:00 last night while "tweeting" and blogging. (Yes, I know all about the woes of multi-tasking.) I saw a "tweet" from Dan Shelley, a great guy who works at CBS in New York.

He had just seen someone on PBS' American Experience program highlighting the Kennedy family who had jogged his memory. I flipped to the show. Not five minutes later I hear the pitter-patter of 5-year-old feet coming down the hallway. The younger of my two children was no longer asleep.

He walked over to me, grabbed my glass of ice tea and took a healthy sip. He then climbed into my lap and joined me in watching the show. And he stayed right there for the next 45 minutes.

Yes, sometimes the memories of being a dad come from big events, but at other times they come from the simple moments. And last night was one of them.

By the way, he wants to watch the Buffalo Bill show when it airs. (I'd better remember...or else!)

H1N1 (3 x UPDATED)

3rd UPDATE: 2:10 p.m. EDT: No, there is no guarantee that this flu outbreak in Phoenix is directly related to H1N1, but commonsense tells you that it cannot be anything else.

2nd UPDATE: 11:00 a.m. EDT: You won't believe the location of the latest feared outbreak of H1N1 -- a state prison.

1st UPDATE: 10:45 a.m. EDT: The World Health Organization has announced it will take longer than expected to get an appropriate vaccine to combat H1N1.

ORIGINAL POST: The number of confirmed H1N1 cases is about to cross 10,000, and that figure -- absent any context -- is sure to raise fears that the flu is spreading out of control.

An (unfortunate, in my opinion) story from TIME magazine will fuel those fears. It reports that in the U.S. there will not be enough surgical masks to go around if the virus does indeed reach a pandemic level. However, keep in mind that those masks offer only temporary help; they must be replaced regularly.

The New York Times asks if the closing of schools is a necessary step in preventing the spread of H1N1. The underlying question -- if my child's school is not closed, then does that mean he/she is at risk of catching the flu? While closing a school is not recommended, there is no denying that the strange pattern of this flu has many districts simply erring on the side of caution.

For what it's worth, Canada's public health agency has said that no Canadian citizens should be concerned about traveling to Mexico, where the H1N1 appears to have originated.

However, keep in mind that there are approximately 5,000 cases of H1N1 in the U.S., and we are a nation of approximately 300-million people.

Monday, May 18, 2009

What they said...and didn't say

Here is the transcript of the remarks offered by President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanhayu, who met today.

A few things that I caught (and these comments are deliberately brief; I recognize the absence of context or explanation in every case.):

1. The president mentioned Iran before he discussed a Palestinian homeland. I don't think this was an accident. On one level, it reinforces the American and Israeli political position that Iran's nuclear ambitions are the preeminent threat to any lasting peace in the Middle East. On another, it tells the Iranian government that if it is sincere about being a member of the international community, then it needs to rethink its plans for a nuclear weapon.

2. The president went to great lengths to indicate while there has been no timetable established for Iran to step forward and make clear its plans, Iran will not be given forever to do that. But the president never offered an indication of what the sanctions might be if Iran refuses to go along with American and Israeli wishes. Underscoring that is the question of whether the U.S. would use its military against Iran. There was nothing said today to indicate it would, and that compels Israel to determine whether it would go-it-alone in any military operation. We can presume the military issue was discussed in the meetings between the president and the prime minister, but the key point here is what was said on-the-record (for lack of a better term). But the president's suggestion that 30 years of distrust between the Americans and the Iranians cannot be wiped out in just a few months provided an important hint that diplomatic, not military efforts, would be the hallmark of the current U.S. administration.

3. The president used the words "two-state solution" and thus reaffirmed the U.S. position that there should be a Palestinian state in the Middle East. However, Mr. Netanhayu never used those words. He carefully noted that the Israelis want a long-term and stable peace with the Palestinians, and that his country does not want to govern the Palestinian people. Therefore, he never officially endorsed the two-state concept.

4. Mr. Netanhayu also sought to ease any concerns Israelis might have about the president's diplomatic agenda in the Middle East. As he began his remarks, he complimented the president, saying: "I was particularly pleased in your reaffirmation of the special relationship between Israel and the United States. We share the same goal and we face the same threats."

Be sure to check out a variety of media reports over the next few hours (and of course various print outlets tonight and tomorrow) for more complete analysis.

A flu pandemic might be unfolding

Ominous words, but that is the sentiment of the head of the World Health Organization. Dr. Margaret Chan noted that the rapid spread of the H1N1 flu strain over the past few days in Japan is the latest telltale sign of what could happen. (Here is the text of her speech.)

You should note as you read the aforementioned story that the conference where Dr. Chan made her remarks was cut short so that the attendees could return to their home countries and monitor the spread of the flu.

Many Western nations urged the WHO to be careful about raising the flu pandemic level to 6, the highest on the scale, because of fears that it could spark irrational behavior. So far, WHO officials have acquiesced to those concerns.

And that is a valid point: I'm sure you've noticed over the past couple of weeks that your worries about catching H1N1 have eased. Sure, more people have contracted H1N1 since the media frenzy ebbed, but that doesn't mean that you are in danger. Be cautious, yes. But don't run out to your local pharmacy and buy every surgical mask you can find.

A silent Saberi -- at least for now

Interesting report by the Associated Press (and picked up in this case by the Washington Post) noting that journalist Roxana Saberi, recently released from an Iranian prison, is not ready to talk about her ordeal.

Spin...or truth?

Oh, the liberals and conservatives are going to have fun with the recent Gallup Poll that found -- for the first time -- that more Americans consider themselves pro-life instead of pro-choice.

Here's one attempt at discussing what the results might mean, and I confess that after reading it I thought the author was struggling mightily (and not especially successfully) to make her points.

Of course, Nancy Gibbs will not have the only interpretation.

The prime minister and the president

History has recorded the powerful relationships various prime ministers and U.S. presidents have had. Perhaps none in recent memory was more important than Britain's Margaret Thatcher and America's Ronald Reagan.

Typically, when these government leaders are of a same mind, results follow. But that doesn't mean opposite minds automatically mean little of substance will result.

That quasi-theory will be put to the test this week, as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanhayu meets with President Obama. No, the two men don't see eye-to-eye on many issues associated with the Middle East, but that doesn't necessarily mean there will be no progress.

Perhaps the most important issue is the so-called "two-state" solution, in which a Palestinian homeland will be created. The president's support for such a solution, his outreach to Iran and other recent efforts have the Israeli public unsure about what to make of Mr. Obama.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Remember H1N1?

The media coverage has abated, but the concern about its spread has not. In fact, a spike in cases over the weekend in Japan has led to a strong likelihood that the World Health Organization will raise the pandemic level to 6, the highest on the scale.

New York also recorded its first death as a result of H1N1 on Sunday. More schools in New York City have been closed.

Aung San Suu Kyi

The trial of human rights advocate Aung San Suu Kyi begins in just a few hours. It was just three days ago that she was arrested for violating the terms of her house arrest after an American citizen purportedly entered her home.

The trial is not expected to be quick, but considering the military junta's reaction to last year's monsoon there is only one verdict you can expect. What happens to the American is almost equally certain.

Obama's commencement address at Notre Dame

The full text is available here.

I'm also attempting to track down the full text of Judge John Noonan's speech. He delivered the Laetare address. The 2009 Laetare honoree, Mary Ann Glendon, refused to accept the honor and to speak to the graduating class as a means of protesting the decision to invite President Obama to campus. Judge Noonan was the Laetare recipient a few years ago.

Meanwhile, at least 40 people were arrested as part of various protests on and around the campus.

Obama, Notre Dame, graduation and the protesters (MULTIPLE UPDATES DURING DAY)

4:24 p.m. EDT:
In regard to whether President Obama should have received an honorary degree, I offer this thought: The problem I have with the discussion about the honorary degree is that it presumes every person who earns it believes every Catholic tenet espoused by Notre Dame. I doubt the university's leadership asks each potential degree candidate to verify his/her support for Catholic teaching. If such a litmus test is not asked of other people, then how can we know the president is the first individual who doesn't (for lack of a better word) deserve it?

4:17 p.m. EDT:
Time. That is what it will take to come to centrist positions that the president says he wants the country to move toward. (And, of course, that statement is made believing that the president indeed wants that to happen.) What he's done at this point is to overturn at least two positions that could easily be called "reactionary." (That label is used in response to those critics who say the president has endorsed a "radical" view of social policies.) However, it is the use of those labels that derail the conversation society needs to have about abortion, stem cell research, etc.

3:40 p.m. EDT: Immediate reactions:
1. The president made a powerful case for why dialogue is the best way to address differences that divide social issues
2. Powerful and persuasive arguments being made about why the president should not have been invited to the campus continue to deserve to be heard in the mainstream media coverage
3. The few protesters who attempted to disrupt the commencement address should be recognized for exercising their freedom of speech; any tendency to want to ostracize them would be a mistake
4. The attention during the commencement ceremony deserves to be focused on what is taking place in the ACC. However, the people protesting on and around the Notre Dame campus should not be ignored in media coverage. Sure, there will a preference (for lack of a better term) to highlight what the president said, but the potent message being offered outside is equally newsworthy

3:39 p.m. EDT: The bald-headed man behind the president is a Secret Service agent. That explains why he is not applauding.

3:38 p.m. EDT: Obama wraps up 30-minute address. Standiong ovation ensues.

3:34 p.m. EDT: Obama: "When people set aside their differences...all things are possible."

3:32 p.m. EDT: Obama: "If there is one law we can all agree upon...it is, of course, the Golden Rule -- the call to treat one another as we would wish to be treated."

3:30 p.m. EDT: Obama challenges the graduates to "restore" the economic vitality of the country without forgetting the social good. "Hold firm to your faith...and remember too that...His wisdom is greater than our own."

3:26 p.m. EDT: He offers a stunning commendation to the graduating class for its maturity in how it has handled the controversy surrounding his visit. This receives a loud applause.

3:24 p.m. EDT: Obama: "No matter how much we want to fudge it...some of the views of the two sides are irreconcilable."

3:23 p.m. EDT: As president speaks of abortion, am I hearing a baby crying in the audience? He calls for a reduction in abortions and unintended pregnancies, for an increase in adoptions, and for more social services for women who do deliver babies.

3:16 p.m. EDT: Obama: "Even bringing together people of good will...can be difficult." Uses stem cell research to highlight how the a person of faith and a parent of an ill child can agree on the importance of saving life. "How do we work through these conflicts? Is it possible for us to join hands in common effort?"

3:15 p.m. EDT: CNN showing a protester; he appears to be in the top deck of the ACC. It also appears he quietly left the arena when police/secret service approached him. Knoller (via "tweet"): He was yelling "stop killing our children."

3:13 p.m. EDT: The second of two protesters who attempted to shout down the president yelled "abortion is murder," according to CBS News reporter Mark Knoller (via a "tweet")

3:11 p.m. EDT: 1st protester attempts to shout down the president. Student body shouts "We Are ND." Note that by using the Notre Dame TV feed, there were no cutaway shots (at least not on CNN).

3:10 p.m. EDT: Obama notes he's only 1 for 2 in getting honorary degrees. Ouch, that's ripping Arizona State!

3:09 p.m. EDT: Obama: "I am honored to be here today...and I am grateful to all of you for allowing me to be part of your graduation."

3:08 p.m. EDT: Obama thanks rev. Jenkins for his "eloquent" introduction.

3:07 p.m. EDT: Obama steps to the podium. Look at the faces of the people behind me. Some relish him being there. Others would rather be somewhere else.

3:03 p.m. EDT: Rev. Jenkins: "We welcome President Obama to Notre Dame." (Applause.) "His appeal powerfully transcends race." (Louder applause.)

3:02 p.m. EDT: Rev. Jenkins: "President Obama is not someone who stops talking to those who differ with him."

2:59 p.m. EDT: Rev. Jenkins: "We will listen to all views...and we can be a primary and privileged place...As we all know, a great deal of attention has surrounded President Obama's visit to Notre Dame...Most of the debate has centered on Notre Dame's decision....less attention has been focused on the president's decision to accept." (Applause follows.)

2:58 p.m. EDT: Rev. Jenkins comments on faith, forgiveness and understanding is classic Catholic commentary (and one that I fully endorse as a Catholic), and it offers a stunningly clear justification for why President Obama was invited.

2:57 p.m. EDT: Rev. Jenkins: "As we serve the Church we can persuade people by both faith and reason."

2:53 p.m. EDT: Rev. John Jenkins speaking. He is he president of the university. Did you notice he mentioned President Obama first in the names of people he mentioned as he began his short remarks? Rev. Jenkins: "The world today is torn by division...differences must be acknowledged and in some cases cherished."

2:49 p.m. EDT: Perhaps 3 minutes until the president speaks. (Oops...forgot about the university president's remarks and introduction of Mr. Obama.)

2:46 p.m. EDT: Miles Brand is one of the 8 recipients. Brand is the sometimes controversial academic figure who has insisted that university athletic programs become more in line with the academic missions of those schools. I don't always agree with his policies, but I do admire his stance. Dr. Brand is very ill and is not there. It is possible this will be the last significant award he receives in his lifetime. I hope the issues he has raised remain important in the academic community.

2:43 p.m. EDT: The president speaks after all 8 honorary degree recipients get their recognition. Why is the president flipping through the commencement program instead of paying more attention to what is happening around him?

2:40 p.m. EDT: Multiple honorary degrees are being handed out. Mr. Obama to be first. Loud applause has the president receives his degree.

2:38 p.m. EDT: Bollman's 10-minute address was excellent.

2:36 p.m. EDT: Valedictorian: "We can transform our world...So, thank you Notre Dame for your gifts."

2:35 p.m. EDT: Valedictorian: "Let's notice the people too frequently ignored and have a conversation with them."

2:30 p.m. EDT: CNN anchor Fredricka Whitfield attempting to advance an agenda -- anyone opposed to Notre Dame's invitation is out of touch. I don't think she's actually used those words, but you can hear it in her questions. I don't care where you fall on this debate, but for a journalist to do this is inappropriate. That's not her job.

2:28 p.m. EDT: Valedictorian Brennan Bollman begins by acknowledging the president is there. You can read anything you want into that, though going from memory I read a story she was in favor of the president's invitation to campus.

2:27 p.m. EDT: Standing ovation for the valedictorian. She's an impressive young lady.

2:24 p.m. EDT: CNN anchor Fredricka Whitfield attempting to bait a representative of Eternal Word TV. How crass.

2:21 p.m. EDT: Ridiculous to see CNN and FOX interrupting their live coverage with analysis of what is happening. That can be done after the fact.

2:19 p.m. EDT: Nothing about the Obama visit to Notre Dame was said in the Mass I attended this morning. In fact, the highlight of the Mass was 4 young people who made their First Holy Communion.

2:17 p.m. EDT: Note that about half of the commencement party behind him is NOT applauding.

2:16 p.m. EDT: Wild applause for the president as he enters the ACC.

2:13 p.m. EDT: President should be entering the Joyce ACC very soon.

2:12 p.m. EDT: See how many people have a yellow cross and yellow baby's feet on their mortarboards. These are the students offering a silent protest. CNN reports they are urged to not applaud, stand for any standing ovation or otherwise indicate an endorsement of Mr. Obama's appearance there today.

2:05 p.m. EDT: Moment of humor: My 10-year-old watches the administration and faculty marching in to commencement. He asks me: "They look old to be graduates. Why are they coming in?"

I tried to explain who and what they are. I'm not sure he's convinced they belong there. (I didn't have the guts to ask him what he thought about me attending the Point Park graduation each year as a member of the faculty!)

2:03 p.m. EDT: CNN reports president will not ignore controversy surrounding his visit; his speech is still embargoed so reporters cannot quote extensively from it.

2:02 p.m. EDT: I can't help but think the graduation ceremony has been subsumed by the president being there. That's a shame.

1:59 p.m. EDT: Olympic Fanfare as administration, faculty and others enter the Joyce ACC. Quite a contrast from the "From All the Saints"

1:56 p.m. EDT: Student being interviewed on FOX News. She says commencement address goes too far in fostering the dialogue that university should be having about abortion, stem-cell research, etc.

1:53 p.m. EDT: Music playing now I know as "For All the Saints" from Sunday Masses.

1:50 p.m. EDT: Live video of graduates' procession available on CNN.com.

1:45 p.m. EDT: Knoller offers an updated "tweet:
Graduating students have just entered the arena. some wearing mortarboards with models on top of Washington Monument et al. Fun.

1:35 p.m. EDT: Found this -- a Notre Dame theologian supports the university's invitation and awarding of an honorary degree to President Obama. Also found this: Republican National Committee head Michael Steele says Notre Dame should not have invited the president. Mr. Steele offers nothing new to the conversation.

1:30 p.m. EDT: Media coverage today to this point appears to be in "let's just remind you of what has happened so far" mode. That should begin changing momentarily.

1:27 p.m. EDT: CBS News reporter Mark Knoller offers this "tweet":
"(J)ust arrived univ of notre dame. flight on AF-1 was uneventful. Obama encountered no protesters on the drive to the campus."

Kaboom! Implosion video!

Readers of this blog know I really enjoy implosion video. And the latest comes from Pittsburgh, where an apartment complex was brought down this morning.

What makes this video equally important to me is that one of my recent students put together the story. Justin LaBar graduated in May, and he's doing some multimedia work for one of the city's local newspapers.

Three...two...one...kaboom!