Tuesday, June 30, 2009

I thought with the aggressive agenda being pursued by the president...

...that the U.S. Senate had no time on its hands. It appears I was wrong: check out what the Senate is planning for next week.

Office move -- update

"Tweeted" this a moment or two ago:

Office move 99% complete. Looking outside and seeing the sun shine on Pittsburgh. Watching the rain clouds roll in earlier was cool, too.

"Maria" wasn't the only one

Sort of.

Give South Carolina governor Mark Sanford credit for coming clean on his personal life. It might destroy his political career, but it is refreshing (perhaps a poor choice of words) for a politician to acknowledge extramarital affairs.

The governor has remained steadfast that after considering his options that he has no intention of resigning his position. But the political pressure on him is sure to increase.

To be Frank(en)...

...it's about time.

A good friend of mine who lives in St. Paul missed by one month. He guessed it would be May before the contested U.S. Senate race in Minnesota between Norm Coleman and Al Franken would be decided.

It took about 30 extra days, but now it is over. Franken has won.

The unanimous decision by the Minnesota Supreme Court in favor of Franken means the Democrats have a 60-40 advantage in the U.S. Senate. That figure 60 is important because it would allow them to cut off any filibuster attempts by Republicans.

Franken's rival -- Norm Coleman -- has conceded, putting a formal end to a legal fight he had little chance of winning.

Sarah Palin...on and off the political trail

This article is worth your time.

Unlike many others in recent months that portray Palin as a political weakling who survives more on style than substance, this Vanity Fair report offers a more complete look (though not necessarily fully favorable) examination of her role in the 2008 presidential election and her prospects for future national political success.

Fight the world...starve your people

This very well could be the legacy of North Korea's "Dear Leader" Kim Jong-il.

How sad.

The Korean peninsula has been an unsettled place since the 1950s, but the recent spasm of military activity and hostility displayed by the North Koreans doesn't bode well for the short-term needs of the people. Nor does it necessarily ensure that the long-term health of that country will be improved.

Meeting you, with a view to a...

...parking garage?

With apologies to Duran Duran ("A View to a Kill"), I am slowly getting settled into my new office. The comment about the parking garage is only half true. Yes, it does dominate the view out of one of my two office windows (had none before!), but there are other things I can see.

I'm sure a psychologist can more fully explain this, but being able to look outside makes the entire world seem more connected to me. Instead of knowing things were happening "out there," I can now hear cars zipping by and the occasional voice from the street. (The office is on the 9th floor.)

The boxes containing my books come by this afternoon, and I appreciate the amazing work the movers did this morning. They cleared out items in this office that were not wanted, and they also hauled away various items that had been left behind from the previous faculty who occupied these offices.

So far, so good.

What (non-)drama

In a sure sign that Iraq has become an afterthought in mainstream media coverage, the commencement of the pullback of U.S. forces from Iraq received far less reporting than expected...or that was deserved.

When you consider the heated (and, yes, nasty at times) debate that took place in this country about America's role in Iraq, it surprised me that Iraq has not been a bigger story over the past 48 hours.

Granted, the lingering protests in Iran, the death of Michael Jackson, the sentencing of Bernard Madoff and other "right now" stories overshadowed Iraq, but I maintain that the pullback is a bigger story than the media are making it out to be.

Monday, June 29, 2009

I'm just wondering

Do those people who hammer away at the liberal mainstream media really believe the media want South Carolina governor Mark Sanford to resign? Seriously? The media want him to resign...why?

Sometimes my attempts at being funny just don't work

Consider this Facebook exchange between a guy I used to work with, and me:

(Name deleted by me)
dreading having to paint the nursery tomorrow...I don't even know her name yet!

Anthony Moretti at 9:00pm June 29
Just call her "mine." Everything else will take care of itself :-)

Anthony Moretti at 9:01pm June 29
And I mean you as "mine." Not mine as mine...I realized after I sent that message that I meant to be funny and really, really failed. Gadzooks, what a mess.

Anthony Moretti at 9:03pm June 29
Wait, not you as mine...uh, it's a good thing we worked together at ONN so you know what a GREAT sense of humor I have. I think.

(Again, name deleted) at 9:03pm June 29
that made it even funnier! Well done

Anthony Moretti at 9:04pm June 29
Just call her yours. I'm going to stop acting stupid now.

(Name deleted) at 9:09pm June 29
I will do that...I'll call her yours, yours as in mine, not yours as in yours, but mine...not yours, she's all mine!

Anthony Moretti at 9:12pm June 29
Right.

See what I mean? Sometimes my humor allows me to shove both feet squarely, firmly and fully into my mouth!

They won't need to wait until 2012

Interesting report on Politico.com about the future intentions of former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney. The story notes that the people who helped him run for president in 2008 are at the ready, should be want to try again in 2012.

I suspect Romney will be among the first Republican hopefuls to announce his candidacy. What are his chances?

I had a lengthy conversation with an astute political mind who disagreed with my opinion that Romney is quickly moving to the head of the GOP class.

As I see it, the party's noticeable (and unfortunate, in my opinion) shift to the right disables any legitimate chances that a moderate Republican would have. The list of conservatives is long, but the realistic chances of at least two of them right now is nil. Alaska governor Sarah Palin has become a political caricature, and I don't believe she can overcome that in time to make a serious bid for the presidency.

Meanwhile, South Carolina governor Mark Sanford, already seen as a bit quirky for his position on federal stimulus money, absolutely shot his political wad because of his extramarital affair. (Romney was asked about Sanford in a recent television interview.)

I remain dubious about the prospects for former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. I don't think Huckabee, as a Baptist minister, is electable nationally, and I see Gingrich as damaged political goods.

Therefore, right now it is Romney who sits at the head of the potential Republican nominees.

The person with which I shared this information sees it differently. That person described Romney as another politician who's already had his chance and didn't win. Moreover, the person with whom I spoke says that Romney's Mormonism will hurt him in various places.

We now know what is not too big to fail

Would you believe, the state of California? If it were a stand alone nation, it would have the eighth largest economy in the world. But as Politico.com's Victoria McGrane notes:

'With California's state government deadlocked over a $24 billion hole in its budget, the Golden State is hurtling toward financial apocalypse. Washington's response? Deal with it yourselves.

'California is the world's 8th-largest economy, home to one out of every eight Americans and the holder of 55 electoral votes. The state enjoys incredible sway on Capitol Hill - witness Friday's passage of the climate change bill championed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) - and it may hold the key to President Barack Obama's re-election: California's fiscal pain could imperil the economic recovery of the entire nation. But the Obama administration and the state's powerful congressional delegation say they just can't hold the state's hand through this one.'


And now you begin to see the concerns I (and many others had) about bailouts. It's not that the banks or the auto industries didn't deserve them, it's that once the door was opened it would become difficult to close it.

How can the federal government justify telling Sacramento and the rest of the state that it can't offer any help after doing everything necessary to ensure the banks and auto industries didn't tank? The slippery slope just got slipperier.

What is happening in sports departments in Buffalo...

...is not atypical. The challenge for those of us in journalism education is to ensure that our students are (among other things) versed in more than just the ability to tell scores and show highlights.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Deciding Michael Jackson is not the top story

Kudos to a group of newspaper editors and publishers who realized that in their communities, the death of Michael Jackson was not the most important story.

Let me make clear: his passing is news, and the relevant events that follow from it are newsworthy as well. But telling your audience that everything taking place in the aftermath of his death requires detailed reports and multiple minutes of analysis is, in my opinion, irresponsible. The audience is too sophisticated and intelligent to buy it.

This is what Iran fears (UPDATE)

1st UPDATE: 4:44 p.m. EDT: And here is your new president, someone undoubtedly a lackey for the military.

ORIGINAL POST: The military turning on the government and overthrowing it.

The New York Times offers additional information into the ouster of the president of Honduras.

When you make a celebrity a national story... (UPDATE)

...you enter into an impossible situation. Because the media have lusted after every detail of the Michael Jackson story so far, they are now obligated to report every nugget of information.

The problem is that there will be times that what happens is not news. Consider Jackson's personal doctor. Every move he makes relating to the legal and medical discussions about Jackson's death will be news. And you and I know that shouldn't be.

UPDATE: 4:50 p.m. EDT: Neither should it be when publicity-seeking reverends step forward to lust after their place in the spotlight.

But, and I reiterate, once you make the mistake of going overboard, you are all in.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Ah, kids

My 5-year-old returns from a week with his grandparents and sees I'm no longer wearing an aircast. He asks: "When did your ankle get unsprained?"

More than 1 in 3 say more than 50 percent are doing it

A recent survey indicates more than one in three people believe a majority of members of Congress are having extramarital affairs. That's not a healthy opinion of the men and women elected to represent us.

A few truths

1. There is no such thing as "minor" surgery if you are the patient.
2. Mosquitoes. No problem. Mosquitoes that bite you. Problem.
3. If the world's problems were piled into one haystack, you would still dig through to find yours.
4. Nothing and no one stops time.
5. Unless you learn from everything you've experienced in life, you're cheating yourself.
6. Education never stops.
7. A broken watch is correct twice a day.
8. We need professional journalists more than we know.
9. If you dislike something, work within the legal system to change it.
10. All children are cute. The ones that belong to you are cuter.
11. Institutions are not infallible, but in the whole they are good.
12. No one is perfect.

If you want to add to this list, let me know.

It's time to execute those protesters

That's the opinion of one of Iran's religious clerics. I repeat, a cleric is calling for the execution of people.

Say what?

If the protests were viewed as a game, then there would be no question the government has won it. By unleashing the police, refusing to allow protests, preventing international journalists from reporting from the streets and instilling a sense of fear in the people, the Iranian government -- and in this case the religious establishment is the more correct term -- has effectively told its citizens that they need not consider themselves to be living in a country that remotely pretends to be democratic.

The international community will protest, but there is little that will affect.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Climate change is coming...maybe

This blurb comes from Politico.com:

The House has passed, 219 to 212, the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009, a sweeping climate-change bill that is one of President Obama's top legislative priorities. Eight Republicans backed the bill, and 44 Democrats voted against it.

For additional details, see this report, also from Politico.com, or this story from The New York Times.

This week in news

The following is "borrowed" from my Facebook page:

Anthony Moretti says if you want to know why being in a newsroom is so exciting, then look at this week. Monday was protests in Iran. They "Beat It" from the top of the headlines by S. Carolina Gov. Sanford. He was Wednesday's news. He was "Thriller"-ed about being forgotten when Farrah Fawcett died. She was able to tell us to "Leave Me Alone" when we learned Michael Jackson was "Gone Too Soon." Leaves you "Speechless," doesn't it?

My favorite Michael Jackson song

Enjoy.

The Specter of Arlen...not in the Senate?

It seems far-fetched, but a variety of reports this morning indicate the Pennsylvania voters have the lowest positive ratings of Sen. Specter in almost 20 years.

Specter continues to fight on and acting as a proud Democrat (and that could be part of the problem -- voters might be viewing his recent party switch as an attempt at political survival). Consider this report from Politico.com's Martin Kady II:

Party switcher Arlen Specter is speaking at union rallies and backing public health care – getting used to his new party's base. From the Allentown Morning Call: 'Sen. Arlen Specter told a boisterous crowd of union activists today that he backs a public health insurance option as part of the health care overhaul Congress is debating.

'I know you are very interested in the public component and I think Senator Schumer has the right idea about having a public component,' Specter said at a rally held at the Capitol City Brewery near Union Station. The shift -- Specter opposed a public option only months ago -- comes as Specter faces a potential primary opponent next spring in U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak and as a new poll shows his favorability rating at a 17-year low.'

A student journalist exposed as a fraud

Shame on the former editor of the University of Hawaii student newspaper for creating fake sources for more than two dozen stories he wrote.

May he enjoy a fruitful career writing fiction.

Michael Jackson

The death of Michael Jackson -- apparently from cardiac arrest -- ends, in my opinion, a tragic life.

I speak here entirely from opinion; and if any reader has first-hand information to expose incorrect comments I make, please do.

I am of the opinion that as a child Jackson was used by his family to advance their financial ends. He was cute, precocious and talented. In other words, he was the perfect musical star. But somewhere along the road to maturity and independence, Jackson rebelled. Whether it was from rejecting what his parents wanted, or rejecting what society thought of him, or never clearly grasping what he wanted to be, Jackson began a downward spiral from which he never could come out.

The attention he lavished on children was overly excessive, but perhaps it was his flawed effort to give them something he never had -- a normal childhood. No, I'm not defending some of his actions, but I am saying that there might have been an underlying goodness to what he wanted to do.

No one can question the man had a gift for singing and dancing that rivaled anyone of this or any other generation. The height of his professional success came at a time that I was most interested in music -- my college and young adult years. I wasn't a fan, but I also couldn't deny that watching him could be captivating.

I wonder if for Jackson music was both his release and his prison. It freed him from the critics who couldn't see past his personal flaws and odd behavior. But I'm also forced to wonder if music became the cage from which he could never be freed.

Consider Farrah Fawcett, who passed away on the same day as Jackson. She moved from being a poster babe to a television actress to a movie star, and somewhere on that road she became more than just a pretty face. Her public struggle with her cancer compelled society to no longer think of her as just "Farrah." We saw her as more dignified and strong.

Jackson never had that chance. And he never will.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Walter Cronkite is seriously ill

A message delivered by his family suggests the 92-year-old legendary newsman is in failing health.

Mrs. Sanford

An interesting piece about the wife of disgraced South Carolina governor Mark Sanford.

Kudos

A great group of high school students completed their newscast today. It will be shown at the closing banquet for the 2009 High School Journalism Workshop tomorrow night.

Tonight this group, their print journalism colleagues and a couple of the Point Park School of Communication faculty are heading to the Pirates-Indians game at PNC Park. Let's hope Mother Nature chooses to be kind to us; the forecast for late this afternoon and into this evening is a bit unsettled.

Why journalism matters

Because when it's not there, you can't have an accurate report of what has taken place. And that is something the government in Iran wants.

This is an important conversation to have in our classes this summer, in the fall and beyond. The interplay between governments and media is a tricky one when the former doesn't trust, want or need the latter.

Geez!

North Korea is threatening to evaporate the U.S., and Iran is asking us to stop interfering in its internal affairs.

Gadzooks. Sounds like a few "leaders" need a discussion in diplomacy and tact.

And here come the unnecessary details

Well, that didn't take long. Less than 24 hours after South Carolina governor Mark Sanford admitted he was involved in an extramarital affair, the salacious details are starting to come out.

E-mails between the governor and his Argentine friend Maria were shared in newspaper reports this morning.

My wife also caught Good Morning America this morning and said a reporter was in Buenos Aires, where the media also are covering this story.

Wonderful. Just wonderful.

There are some "legitimate" stories that deserve your attention this morning. The Washington Post reports that Sanford's admission adds another mark of woe for the Republican Party that is still reeling from its recent election losses.

The State, the leading newspaper in South Carolina, notes that Sanford needs to set aside whatever presidential ambitions he might have had in order to determine if he can lead his own state. He has 18 months remaining in his second term as governor; there is no guarantee he can whether this political storm.

Focus on these kinds of stories and avoid the nonsensical gossip, rumor and junk masquerading today as news.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Gov. Sanford (3 x UPDATED)

3rd UPDATE: 4:25 p.m. EDT: Bald-faced politics here: I'm reading a few comments in the blogosphere from people suggesting that as former New York governor Eliot Spitzer did, Sanford should resign because of his admission of an affair.

Based on what we know right now, that is ridiculous. Mr. Spitzer was involved with a prostitution ring. Mr. Sanford -- again based on what we know right now -- had an affair with a private citizen, in this case from Argentina.

Come on, people. If you're going to go for the jugular, at least make sure you're concentrating on valid arguments. Drawing specious comparisons won't work.

2nd UPDATE: 4:20 p.m. EDT: Another valid question about Sanford, and it is asked by NPR's Ken Rudin: Does he have the political capital to serve out the remaining 18 months of his term as governor?

1st UPDATE: 3:05 p.m. EDT: Gov. Sanford also announced today that he is stepping down as head of the Republican Governors Association. Left unsaid, and only time will be able to give an answer, is whether his admission of an affair dooms his presidential aspirations. Because of his initial strong dislike for the so-called "stimulus bill," the governor was seen as a champion of the right.

ORIGINAL POST: Now we know. And I doubt there will be any surprise. South Carolina governor Mark Sanford admitted today to an affair with a woman from Argentina.

Every time a story such as this happens, I remind myself and readers of this blog that once the "story" comes out, the personal life of any political figure should again be off limits.

I don't know Mark Sanford, and I've made no secret on this blog that his political positions are ones I don't subscribe to. But I will say that after today he and his family are entitied to the privacy and time they need to repair the damage that has been done.

Unfortunately, the media won't let that happen. They will continue to dig for other stories about other women. That's a shame.

The "story" now is what mistakes Sanford made by not putting any emergency procedures in place when he opted to leave town over Father's Day weekend to meet the woman he identified only as a "dear friend" during his press conference. Mr. Sanford put his state in jeopardy by not endorsing any plans for who was in charge in case of an emergency. I don't know what South Carolina law says about this, but at minimum a sanction of some kind could be forthcoming.

I don't think Gov. Sanford will be asked to leave political office. I also doubt he would be recalled.

There also will be legitimate questions as to whether Mr. Sanford was asked about his personal life when he was considered as a running mate for John McCain during the 2008 presidential election. My guess is if Mr. Sanford acknowledged such an affair that he would have been removed from Mr. McCain's list of potential vice presidential nominees.

If Iran wants to wipe Israel off the map...

...then so too does North Korea, when it comes to the United States.

Don't you just love responsible, practical and reasonable leadership?

The first signs of a comeback?

Maybe. And if they pan out, no one should be surprised.

The Republican Party appears to have found a message or two it can stay on and that resonate with the American electorate. Whether this political message will remain strong enough to help the party win back some of its lost seats in Congress remains to be seen, but you must keep in mind the cyclical nature of politics.

Right now, the Democrats are riding high, and they are using that political advantage to push through their agenda (which includes the environment). For the most part the media have been kind to the Democrats (you can call that media bias if you want), but more importantly the voters are still endorsing those plans. However, there are legitimate concerns out there (i.e. the costs associated with health care reform), and the Democrats would be wise to remember that leadership is not simply doing what you want.

Regardless of what the Democrats do now, the political pendulum will at some point in the future swing again. And it will eventually swing back again.

So, yes, the Republican Party will at some point find itself out of the political wilderness. I've made no secret on this blog that I believe a two-party system is not sufficient for the complex country in which we live. But right now that's all we realistically have. With the GOP in a morass, we therefore really only have one.

That's not good, regardless of where you fall on the political spectrum.

Of course

Iran's supreme leader says there is no way the government will bow to the internal and external pressure it is dealing with, in the aftermath of the disputed presidential election.

What else could he possibly say? If the government backs down now, it's out.

Uh, just where was he?

Now it turns out the governor of South Carolina, Mark Sanford, was not hiking the Appalachian Trail as his staff told journalists and other state politicians.

No, the governor was not even in the U.S. He decided somewhere more "exotic" was worth his time.

Gov. Sanford, a piece of advice. Stay in South Carolina. Please don't attempt to run the country in 2012.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Graduate school

I came across this quote tonight from a friend of a former student of mine who is now getting her master's degree. If you've ever written a thesis or dissertation, you will immediately understand these words. If you haven't, then get yourself in graduate school!

Here it goes:
Writing a master's thesis is like getting kicked to death by bunnies....it takes a really really long time.

This is Mark Sanford's idea of leadership? (UPDATED)

1st UPDATE: 8: 37 p.m. EDT: Yes, indeed, Gov. Sanford might be a bit too quirky to be a serious presidential candidate.

ORIGINAL POST: If so, let's hope he has no intentions of running for president in 2012 or anytime after that.

Doing away with 2 + 2 in favor of 3 + 1?

Arizona higher education officials are being asked to consider an important change to undergraduate education at their three public universities. If approved, students in selected majors could take three years of course work at a community college and their final year at the four-year institution.

The students benefit from lower tuition costs over the life of their education. The four-year schools in the state -- already at or very near to capacity -- would not see their resources strained further.

But the issue has some legitimate questions, and many of them are addressed in the aforementioned article.

Is Iran in the throes of revolution?

This editorial (and its checklist) suggests if it is not, it soon will be.

I also am pleased to see more media reports in the past 24 to 48 hours examining what happens once the daily protests fade. And they will, primarily because of the heavy-handed actions of the police. But the legitimacy of the Iranian regime has been significantly damaged, and its ability to do more than simply survive (i.e. North Korea) is a reasonable issue to discuss.

There also is the international reputation that Iran needs to consider, and the diplomatic efforts will be tedious. The religious clerics ought not be forgiven for what they have authorized, but at some point they will need to properly deal with the international community, unless it wants to become North Korea.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Mousavi's past...

...is less than that of a stalwart supporter of democratic reform.

Unfortunate, but true

An assessment here that is spot on -- too many university educators fear doing media interviews. Why? Some of the reasons are mentioned here.

52,000 people have contracted H1N1

And more than 200 have died from it, according to the World Health Organization. Yes, those numbers seem large, and they are. But when you consider that an estimated 36,000 people die each year from the flu, H1N1 doesn't seem as virulent -- right now -- as you might think.

For what it's worth

On the day my older son turns 11, the 2010 Olympics begin in Vancouver.

Maybe, just maybe...

...the rules of how to cover international eventstaking place inside countries with repressive regimes are being re-written.

Think about it this way: Prior to social media, the Internet and other forms of "new media," any video (and yes it was something else in the past!) from inside a repressive regime was almost impossible to get. That ensured that the broadcast media relied upon American government sources to largely frame how the story was told.

Now Twitter, YouTube and other sites are allowing for video to come out. Yes, there are legitimate concerns about the legitimacy of these reports and media need to be especially careful in their efforts to verify the information they receive. Nevertheless, the video, "tweets" and other social media applications allow for compelling stories to be told, provided they are legitimate.

Almost 7 of 10 people say...

...it's more important to be involved in community service projects rather than political campaigns.

If I were one of the survey respondents, I would have sided with this majority. I think anyone who reads this blog knows I have a deep affinity and respect for the political process, but I also am bothered that in too many cases politics becomes defined as nothing more than winning and losing. In that context, robust discussion and compromise are lost in rhetorical messages.

Volunteers are not a perfect lot. Far from it, in fact. I'm well aware of the petty (and sometimes serious) arguments that develop among people who give of their time and talents for no pay. But the winners in the volunteer game are the young people with whom you work, the unseen people who need a warm meal and anyone in between.

Get out of the pool!

Broadcasting and Cable writer Michael Malone warns that the fad in local television news involving the "pool" camera coverage is appealing but comes with unintended risks.

As Monday evening arrives in Iran... (3 x UPDATED)

3rd UPDATE: 10:49 a.m. EDT: This "tweet" from TehranBureau offers a sense of how state-run media are reporting the Iranian protests:
national tv showed scenes of saturday - only scenes of protestors attacking security forces

2nd UPDATE: 10:23 a.m. EDT: This "tweet" from ABC's Lara Setrakian:
People btwn 1000-2000. they're preventing others from joining. As soon as they gather somewhere they attack, so they run away & regroup

1st UPDATE: 10:00 a.m. EDT: Defying the government's call to stop all protests, people reportedly have gathered in Tehran for another rally against the government.

The Associated Press reports the government responded as it said it would -- with force.

ORIGINAL POST: ...it becomes clear that Iran is in deeper crisis at the beginning of this week than it was at the end of last.

The Iranian Revolutionary Guard is the elite security force in the country, and as the BBC reports it is prepared to crackdown hard on any further street protests. In one sign of this, state-run media say almost 600 people were arrested over the weekend.

The government has acknowledged voting irregularities in some areas, but that has not changed its contention that the election was legitimate.

I'm trying to watch as much television coverage from Iran as I can, and I've noticed three interconnected issues:
1. There are fewer reports from Tehran, and this is an indication that the government is succeeding in keeping the media off the streets
2. Social media reports -- almost none of which can be independently verified -- are becoming more consistent in mainstream media coverage
3. Images from the protests are declining

Too legit...to twit(ter)?

Interesting assessment from PBS' Julie Posetti regarding how Twitter can (or should) be used by professional journalists. The notion that social media has been embraced by all news organizations is a mistake, and Ms. Posetti's report illustrates why.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

An annual summer event begins

Point Park University's School of Communication is hosting its annual high school journalism workshop this week. The program began Sunday afternoon and runs through Friday.

The broadcast journalism workshop includes 10 students, and two of them are from Kansas. I don't recall any student in the 4-year history of the broadcast workshop coming to us from that far away. The corresponding print journalism workshop includes about 25 students.

The "broadcast kids" will complete a radio and television newscast before the week is over. Today they received their story assignments, learned some interview techniques, practiced at the anchor desk and began to appreciate the differences between print and broadcast journalism.

A full day of activity awaits them on Monday.

Iran's government structure (UPDATED)

1st UPDATE: 10:25 p.m. EDT: I'm adding a couple of "tweets" I posted this evening about Iran. Yes, they are more opinion than anything else:

The Iranian government is targeting Britain, not the U.S., as being culpable for the unrest in Iran. Is that an excuse to boot the BBC? Hmmm.

Comparisons between Iran and Tiananmen Square miss an important point: Social media can assist in telling the story. It didn't exist then.

ORIGINAL POST: I hope you saw CNN's John King and his visual representation of Iran's government structure on his State of the Union program today. If you didn't, this story (though lacking the excellent graphics that accompanied King's discussion) will help you understand how the government operates in that country.

Just asking (UPDATED)

1st UPDATE: 5:10 p.m. EDT: Apparently kicking journalists out of the country is not sufficient for the Iranian government. Now it is ordering the arrests of other journalists. Today, a reporter for Newsweek has been detained.

ORIGINAL POST: The Iranian government is kicking journalists out of the country, arresting selected family of political rivals, and shooting its own people. This is consistent with Islam?

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Regarding Iran, President Obama should...

...and it's when you try to finish that sentence that you see the conundrum and the reality: The United States can do little at this point.

Anyone who attempts to finish the sentence with "send in the military" is totally off base. I ask one question: under what pretense? Because people are being fired upon in the streets? If that were a valid answer, then why were troops not sent in to central and eastern Europe during the Cold War? I agree that no two situations are ever perfectly comparable, but in this case the last thing the U.S. needs is for its military to be seen in another Middle East country.

Anyone who attempts to finish the sentence with "impose economic sanctions" also misses the point. Once again I ask: under what pretense? The situation in Iran is an internal issue and there is no way the U.S. economic sanctions will change that.

The president should have spoken out more forcefully sooner on this situation. But right now his options beyond that are zero.

Is this the evidence? (UPDATED)

1st UPDATE: 5:35 p.m. EDT: The most damning evidence that the Iranian government lacks credibility was evident again today. The death toll from today's protests has been put at almost 20 by official sources but the unofficial count is much higher.

Meanwhile, if you are on Twitter, you are advised to follow TehranBureau, an independent information source for another look at the hell that has become Iran.

ORIGINAL POST: This story suggests that the people who have been looking for the evidence of fraud in the Iranian presidential election might finally have something to point to.

Every time I take part in or return from a Scout camping trip, I'm reminded...

1. how powerful and peaceful Mother Nature can be
2. a campfire can lull you to sleep
3. an evening breeze sneaking into your tent feels really good
4. a Daddy-longlegs will be your tent mate
5. being free from the Internet and e-mail for a few days is not a bad thing
6. kids go from "I'm don't think I can" to "hey, I did it"
7. trying but not completing is not failing
8. you always forget to bring something
9. teenagers can be great teachers
10. smores taste oh so good but glue themselves to my stomach and waist

Sportsmanship?

I came across this piece from ESPN's Rick Reilly, and I thought it was worth sharing.

The coach at the center of this controversy seems to know nothing about sportsmanship. Winning, it would appear to me, is the only thing she worries about.

I'm b-aaaaaaaaaaaaaaa-ck

Home from three super days of camping with my son. Be sure to visit my Facebook page to see the many pictures from our experience.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Time to take a break

My 10-year-old and I are off to Cub Scout Camp this morning. I won't be posting from there. Look for new posts again over the weekend. Have a great rest of the week, and thanks as always for keeping up with http://ajmbroadcasteducator.blogpsot.com.

Anthony

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Sad, but true

On the day another politician admitted to an extra-marital affair came the news that another baseball player tested positive for steroids in 2003.

I suspect my reaction was similar to that felt my many people: so what? In this case "so what" shouldn't be interpreted as hinting at defiance. Rather, at least for me, it hints at a tired reaction. Whether as a society we've come to expect such information and therefore are now immune to it or whether we no longer see such actions as wrong, the "news" about a political figure and a prominent baseball player doing something wrong seems unimportant.

Of course, we never should forget that these stories involve real people whose lives, images and persona have been forever changed. But it does seem more and more difficult to feel empathy for the loved ones of these individuals. They are suffering from hurt and doubt.

Should we care about how they feel? Probably. Do we? Maybe.

No one is perfect, and the purpose of this post is not to criticize Sen. Ensign or Mr. Sosa. Nor is my purpose to chastise them as if I were somehow perfect, or someone who had never done anything wrong. Rather, my goal here is to point out my contention that the seemingly daily dose of information covering topics such as this erodes our sense of community and dulls our ability to have empathy for those who deserve it.

A friend in the White House

With the International Olympic Committee about 4 months away from deciding which nation will host the 2016 Summer Games, the IOC learned (again) today that it has a friend in the White House.

Now, Mr. Obama's efforts in this area wold have nothing at all to do with Chicago being one of the four finalists for the 2016 Summer Olympic Games. Right?

Wise editorial decision...or selling out?

Critics on the right are pouncing on ABC News for its scheduled one-hour special on health care. It's not the topic that has stirred anger. Instead, it's the network's plans for the show, which some people and organizations on the right see as a puff-piece for the Obama administration.

ABC has strongly defended itself against charges of puffery or bias.

The absence of a prominent critic adds fuel to the critic's fire (so they say). The location of the event -- the White House East Room -- adds to the anger on the right.

The program, which airs next Wednesday, includes questions submitted by people chosen by ABC.

If the network does indeed have the full editorial control over the program, then it ought to include sharp questions and stories. I cannot imagine a television network would surrender such control, so let's examine what is behind the program:

1. A president is able to control the news agenda unlike any other individual in the country; he makes news simply by delivering a speech, meeting another head of state, or through policies pursued at home and abroad

2. Health care reform is one of the most important items on the president's domestic agenda

3. Concerns about how health care reform will work were not satisfied in the president's speech on Monday to the American Medical Association

4. Fear (a common element preyed on by the left and right, when it benefits them) about what health care will do for all Americans ensures the topic will attract attention

ABC is not obligated to offer equal time to the opponents because it is presenting a legitimate news program. And with that, fade to commercial and cue the local news.

The Pennsylvania state sales tax could be going up

The governor has proposed a temporary hike to head off the economic crisis in the state.

There are moments of "oops"...

...and then there is this.

Circumstantial evidence (7 x UPDATED)

7th UPDATE: 6:45 p.m. EDT: One of Iran's most important religious clerics says he doubts the validity of last week's presidential election.

These comments are important but keep in mind the first post on this topic today -- there is no concrete evidence to validate the claims of fraud.

6th UPDATE: 10:32 a.m. EDT: Another "tweet" that shows the levels to which the Iranian government is going to prevent media coverage of the protests:

jimsciuttoABC #iranelection Iran has banned all foreign journalists from reporting on the sts.

The British newspaper The Guardian has additional details.

The removal of journalists is done with one purpose in mind -- to attempt the prevention of the most complete story being documented and told to the world. Without question, the Iranian government fears the images being shown to the world. There will be some bloggers and media professionals who will attempt to draw parallels to what the Chinese government did in Tiananmen Square 20 years ago.

5th UPDATE: 10:29 a.m. EDT: A "tweet" from ABC News' Lara Setrakian suggests a new protest appears to be building at this moment:

A Tehrani contact: "Massive number of people starting to march from Vanak, and another very large group coming from Parkway"

4th UPDATE: 10:23 a.m. EDT: Will the proposed recount of the electoral votes be legitimate? BBC reporter John Leyne, in Tehran, has his doubts:

The more I see this announcement about being willing to recount ballots, the more I think it is just a political ruse to try and wrong-foot the opposition. They have offered a recount, but they have not said who is going to carry it out. Maybe the same people who did the election count to start with.

In any case, the opposition says there were so many other irregularities, that a recount alone would not satisfy them. For example, many more ballot papers were issued than counted, they say. Some people did not get enough ballot papers so they could not vote in areas loyal to the opposition. Polling stations were closed early, and so on and so forth.


For the full BBC report, link here.

3rd UPDATE: 10:15 a.m. EDT: As the tumult swirls around him, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadenijad is attending an economic and political meeting in Russia.

2nd UPDATE: 9:54 a.m. EDT: Complicating the discussion about democracy rising and confirming electoral fraud is the death of protesters. Seven more are reported to have died Monday night.

1st UPDATE: 9:45 a.m. EDT: The Financial Times reports that the chicanery surrounding the election and the violence that has followed it does not mean democracy will fail in Iran. TIME magazine echoes that sentiment, noting that even in the current situation the value of voting has been affirmed.

ORIGINAL POST: That appears to be what the critics of the Iranian elections have going for them. Sure, the signs of a flawed or rigged election are there, but finding the evidence or the proof isn't going to be easy.

A lot of dollars, a lot of uninsured people

That's the summation from the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office. The following information is taken from Politico's Martin Kady II --

Leave it to the non-partisan wonks at the Congressional Budget Office to cause the biggest problems yet for the President Obama's health reform plans.

The cost: $1 trillion. The problem: millions would leave private insurance and millions more would remain uninsured. The political fallout: A field day for GOP critics.

The report released Monday now gives critics some real numbers to hang on, while Democrats scramble to get their bill to committee and win over reluctant moderates on both sides of the aisle.

You must be kidding me

WNBC in New York is ditching its 5:00 p.m. newscast for a lifestyles program. Yes, you read that correctly -- a local television station in the nation's largest media market is dumping local news in the 5:00 hour for a lifestyles program.

Shame on you, WNBC.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Iran -- protests and deaths (7 x UPDATED)

7th UPDATE: 9:40 p.m. EDT: A relevant background story about why the presidential election is in such dispute.

6th UPDATE: 7:20 p.m. EDT: If you are wondering why at least one U.S. television network is relying on the British to provide its reporting, it's because the U.S. reporter was told to leave Iran when his visa expired. This tweet from Howard Kurtz: NBC had to rely on British reporter in Tehran bec Richard Engel forced to leave when the regime wouldn't renew his visa.

5th UPDATE: 6:47 p.m. EDT: Britain's Channel 4 has video evidence of militia firing on protesters in Tehran. It is relevant to point out that the gunshots were fired in response to the crowd setting fires.

4th UPDATE: 5:30 p.m. EDT: This "tweet" has information that is not yet confirmed, but the source is legitimate: A source from the Washington Times is reporting that foreign press has been “kindly asked” to leave Iran.

3rd UPDATE: 5:07 p.m. EDT: The German government is calling for a meeting with the Iranian ambassador to that nation and asking him to explain the disputed election results.

2nd UPDATE: 5:02 p.m. EDT: Reporters Without Borders is indicating that more than 10 journalists (most of them Iranian) have been arrested for covering the protests or for offering independent reporting since the unrest began over the weekend.

1st UPDATE: 5:00 p.m. EDT: Recognizing that the protests are continuing and becoming more defiant of the government, there is a growing acknowledgment that what is happening in Iran has not been seen in 30 years.

But does this yet constitute a revolution?

ORIGINAL POST: On the heels of the AP report cited earlier on this blog and noted in various media, updated reports indicate that at least 12 students also may have died in clashes between government (and perhaps extra-military) forces and protesters.

The media reports I followed today seem to find a similar conclusion: there appeared to be an informal agreement reached between the religious clerics and defeated presidential candidate Mir Hussein Mousavi, and it has broken down. Why is the big question.

That agreement appeared to involve a review of last week's election result in exchange for a tamping down of the vocal protests.

Obama and the AMA speech (live blogging)

All times EDT

1:00 p.m.: IMPRESSIONS:
1. The president offered strong ideas but few specifics
2. There was little in the way of specific dollar amounts that will be saved
3. Mr. Obama stated three times that for some Americans reform will mean nothing more than lower costs; they can keep your doctor and/or health plan, if they are satisfied with them.
4. The speech sounded too much like a stump speech, and not enough like a policy address. I recognize that in a 45-minute address no one can fully discuss the intricacies of every aspect of this complex idea, so I'll hold off saying more on this knowing that over the next days and months more will be said on how it will work.
5. The president made clear that he wants and needs the support of the AMA in order to make reform happen.
6. The loudest ovations (as best I could tell while watching on television) came when the president spoke of removing the onerous condition that allows for the denial of coverage based on pre-existing conditions; reminding the AMA attendees that medicine is a profession, not a business; and pushing for reforms in malpractice lawsuits.

12:43 p.m.: The president reminds doctors that they are considered the most important health care person in the lives of all Americans. Because they are trusted, people will do what they are told.

He adds that the fear of malpractice lawsuits undoubtedly forces doctors to order tests and to perform procedures that might not be necessary. He also says that caps on malpractice lawsuits will not be part of this reform, but Mr. Obama wants doctors to be part of discussions into how to reduce the likelihood of such cases.

12:25 -12:45 p.m.: How do we bring down costs:
-Those Americans who have the health care plan and/or doctor they want, will keep them.
-Electronic system of record keeping has to replace the paper system; the president quotes Newt Gingrich about Americans being able to track a FedEx package more easily than their health records
-Invest more money in preventive care policies and wellness programs; individuals must also take more responsibility for their health, and to "cut down on all the junk food" that is leading to an epidemic of obesity
-Cutting down on spending that doesn't really help people; treatments that aren't needed or can do potential harm are nevertheless put to use because doctors and hospitals benefit from costly procedures. The president suggests that with this current system, medicine moves from being a profession or a calling into being a business. (I think this is the first standing ovation the president has received, 12:38 p.m.)
-A more clear identification of what treatments work for patients and getting that information to doctors and therefore to patients.

12:24 p.m.: Comprehensive reform has failed because groups cannot come together to agree on what needs to be done and because lobbying has been effective in scaring people into believing "socialized medicine" was around the corner.

12:21 p.m.: "Health care is the single most important thing we can do for America's long term fiscal health."

12:19 p.m.: President uses the legacy costs associated with GM and Chrysler as yet another example of the need for health care. The president says that America cannot run the risk of becoming GM: Paying more...getting less...and going broke.

12:17 p.m.: When president began speaking, the Dow was down 202 points for the day. How much is that drop predicated on what the president will say in his call for significant health care reform?

12:16 p.m.: Health care is a "ticking time bomb" for the U.S. economy

12:15 p.m.: "One essential step" in the journey to economy recovery is the spiraling cost of health care, and the American Medical Association (AMA) needs to be a partner in that plan.

And the numbers start to get thrown around

The victory parade to celebrate the Pittsburgh Penguins' Stanley Cup victory has begun in downtown Pittsburgh. And along with the hyperbole that often comes with recognizing a championship team comes the dreaded "how big the crowd is."

One television anchor has surmised that the crowd could top 250,000 people. Now he offered no evidence to support this contention. Then he added that the crowd could actually top the total attendees for the Pittsburgh Steelers' Super Bowl parade from February. Going from memory, that parade drew 350,000.

Hey, that's only a difference of 100,000. Let's not allow a wee-bit of math to get in the way of the revelry.

A rally is called off (UPDATED)

1st UPDATE: 1:10 p.m. EDT: CNN is reporting that one person has been killed as protests continued today.

ORIGINAL POST: Defeated presidential candidate Mir Hussein Mousavi called off a planned rally by his supporters in Tehran, but the reason he did it deserves attention.

He did appear later in the day, at about the same time Iran's supreme (religious) leader called for a probe into last week's election.

The Financial Times also notes the increasing commentary and disbelief emanating from political blogs. The percentage of the vote received by incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadenijad remains the crucial issue in this contested election.

The president remains defiant, insisting his victory is legitimate. Yesterday, he said his win was a “blow to the oppressive system ruling the world,” as he held a press conference.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Is history going to repeat itself?

Open elections (that really aren't) -- CHECK
Crackdown on protesters -- CHECK
Disdain (or worse) for free media -- CHECK
Basic freedoms lacking -- CHECK
Political power born from violence -- CHECK

We know what this recipe did for the Soviet bloc. Hello? Iranian clerics? Do you know that adage about history repeating itself?

The U.S. has 1,000 nuclear weapons in South Korea

Okay, once you stop laughing, you should access this link and realize that North Korea is using such propaganda to advance its political and military ambitions.

President Hussein Obama

Those three words in combination should alone be enough to attract your attention to this rant...uh, I mean blog post.

Flag Day 2009 -- Cub Scouts

My family and I spent the morning at Flag Plaza, the "home" of the Greater Pittsburgh Boy Scouts. My son was one of perhaps 100 Scouts from the region who took part in the festivities to celebrate Flag Day.


During the ceremony, my son was invited to read the American's Creed, which was written in 1917.







A wonderful Abraham Lincoln impersonator (whose real name is Rick Miller) was in attendance, and he offered historical vignettes to the Scouts and their families.

Iran -- today (2 x UPDATED)

2nd UPDATE: 6:20 p.m. EDT: The absence of a powerful statement from the Obama administration is sure to fire up the right, but at least one blogger believes the silence emanating from the White House at this point is the proper one.

1st UPDATE: 6:10 p.m. EDT: And in a further sign that the Iranian government is losing domestic and international credibility (and at the same time validating the argument that the presidential election was rigged), the Iranian and international media are being hampered as they cover this on-going story.

Whatever authority the religious clerics and other governmental authorities are claiming they have is eroding. If the protests continue, the government will need to respond appropriately. Sending in the police -- with more force -- is one way, but I wouldn't recommend it.

ORIGINAL POST: The unrest continues in Iran with angry protesters disputing the legitimacy of the presidential election results.

Huffington Post blogger Nick Pitney's work deserves your attention; he's been providing updates since late last week.

Iran's re-elected president, Mahmoud Ahmadenijad, continues to defend the results, adding that his country is about to undergo a "new beginning" because of his successful re-election bid. New York Times reporter Bill Keller offers a different assessment, in his "Memo from Tehran."

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Mousavi under house arrest? (UPDATED)

1st UPDATE: 9:40 p.m. EDT: How interested are the U.S. news networks in comparison to their European colleagues in the story from Iran? The answer shouldn't surprise you.

ORIGINAL POST: The Los Angeles Times is reporting Mir Hussein Mousavi could be under house arrest. If this is true, in my opinion it indicates the Iranian government is scared that the protests surrounding yesterday's presidential election could spread.

But attempting to muzzle Mousavi will not silence the protesters; it will serve only to embolden them.

North Korea is hacked off

Pyongyang says the recent increased sanctions approved unanimously by the U.N. Security Council is an act of war. As a result, the North Korean government says it must move forward with its nuclear ambitions.

The Korean peninsula now must be considered as politically and militarily unstable as South Asia. Bear with me as I make this argument.

The North Korean government is perhaps more defiant to international norms as any (and this includes Iran). Regardless of whether it is attempting to play cat-and-mouse, Pyongyang is showing no signs of acquiescing to the United Nations' request that it abandon its nuclear ambitions.

On top of this, the secretive nature of the political regime makes it difficult to interpret the decisions emanating from the country. Kim Jong-il is still in charge, but his health and his working relationship with the military remain unclear.

Next, and closely related to the previous point, is the confusion about the health of Kim and the corresponding plans for political succession. Little is known about his youngest son who appears to be the heir apparent as head of government. The last known picture of the young man -- he's now in his mid-20s -- was when he was 12.

Finally, publicly there is no discussion about a military strike against North Korea. But at some point that has to come into play. On the road the international community and North Korea is traveling right now, it is impossible to deny that a military response, under the auspices of the U.N., will need to be considered. There is little evidence to suggest that China or Russia will endorse such a move, and therefore a military conversation becomes muddled in uncertainty: Would the U.N. act with a split-vote among its Security Council members? Would China or Russia come to the aid of North Korea? How will South Korea be protected?

In case you are interested...or even care:

My Facebook site: http://www.facebook.com/morettiphd.

A landslide win for Ahmadenijad (5 x UPDATED)

5th UPDATE: 8:25 p.m. EDT: More signs tonight of the onset of a political crackdown in Iran.

4th UPDATE: 6:42 p.m. EDT: The depth of the anger continues in Iran, where the incumbent Ahmadenijad has proudly accepted the results of the election.

3rd UPDATE: 1:00 p.m. EDT: Uh, oh. This "tweet" from ABC News reporter Jim Sciutto offers a hint of the growing tension in Tehran: police confiscated our camera and videotapes. We are shooting protests and police violence on our cell phones

2nd UPDATE: 12:50 p.m. EDT: "It is not possible!" That's the cry offered by protesters in Tehran, where reports of tense standoffs between protesters and police continue after Friday's disputed presidential elections.

Meanwhile, Politico's Ben Smith notes the Iranian elections, in which the government announced incumbent president Ahmadenijad won more than 60% of the vote, throw cold water on the idea that President Obama was bringing about an era of change in the Middle East.

1st UPDATE: 11:50 a.m. EDT: Relevant (as always) "tweet" from CBS News White House correspondent Mark Knoller: WH struggling with how to react to Iran elections. Supports moderate but doesn't want to be seen interfering in Iran's internal affairs.

ORIGINAL POST: The voting is over. The vote count is over. And now the controversy begins.

Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadenijad was declared the winner in the country's presidential election. That might not have necessarily been a surprise. But the announcement by the government that he won in a landslide is going to trigger deep concern within various political circles.

More ominously, the police already have moved in to break up protests led by supporters of the primary presidential opponent, Mir Hussein Mousavi. He had claimed victory yesterday and was quick to point up his contention that the election was rigged or stolen so as to prevent him becoming the nation's next president.

You should consult the many media reports available to you this morning for more information. But the general consensus is that a landslide victory for Mr. Ahmadenijad is suspect, at best, in the eyes of international political observers.

Friday, June 12, 2009

What the Washington Post could look like...if...

The perils of the newspaper industry have been highlighted on this blog and in multiple other locations. But what do job cuts, reduced advertising budgets, fewer readers and the other litany of problems really mean?

The ombudsman for the Washington Post asked various Post employees to share their (confidential) thoughts. The answers are stunning.

Just for fun

Play along with me here: The Pittsburgh Penguins win the Stanley Cup on a Friday night. The victory parade is likely to be Monday. Saturday and Sunday are non-work days for most people. Can you say seriously lubricated people by time the parade rolls around?

Whoa, wait a minute

Check out this "tweet" from MSNBC's David Shuster: More proof that intelligence and compassion are missing from CA pageant finalists. Shame on Tami Farrell [for announcing she, too, prefers marriage between a man and a woman].

Am I to take what he is saying to suggest that ALL people who believe in and support "traditional" marriage are lacking in compassion and intelligence? If so, then President Obama is a heartless moron. And so am I.

In case you are not aware of what Shuster is suggesting, Ms. Farrell replaced Carrie Prejean as Miss California earlier this week after Prejean was fired for reportedly not following through on the terms of her contract.

Following the Iran vote (4 x UPDATED)

4th UPDATE: 9:38 p.m. EDT: The Associated Press is reporting that President Ahmadenijad has won 61% of the vote, and therefore he has been re-elected to another term.

There will be significant concern about the legitimacy of this result in the West. Remember that there were no international monitors or outside agency reviewing the voting process. Moreover, moderate challenger Mir Hussein Mousavi voiced his belief that irregularities were possible, especially because of the dubious character of the current president.

3rd UPDATE: 8:58 p.m. EDT: The BBC reports that 70% of the votes have been counted and President Ahmadenijad continues to hold a commanding lead. The latest estimate is that he has won 66% of the vote.

2nd UPDATE: 8:05 p.m. EDT: The Wall Street Journal points up why the "he's winning, but I won" scenario in Iran poses multiple problems.

1st UPDATE: 6:54 p.m. EDT: The votes continue to be counted and the percentage advantage enjoyed by incumbent president Ahmadenijad remains strong. If these numbers don't change, the cries of voter fraud will be heard loudly.

ORIGINAL POST: The early vote counts points to a strong electoral showing for incumbent Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadenijad, and that news is raising eyebrows in the camp of his political rivals.

Interestingly, both sides are continuing to claim victory. (You are advised to see my posts -- "The electorate is turning out..." -- from earlier in the day about Iran to see why the moderate candidate, Mir Hussein Mousavi, might have pulled his own political slight of hand by asserting he had won.)

Tit-for-tat? (3 x UPDATED)

3rd UPDATE: 2:45 p.m. EDT: This "tweet" from the New York Times' Nicholas Kristof: North Korea had the "Great Leader," then the "Dear Leader." Now his son is anointed "Brilliant Comrade."

2nd UPDATE: 2:25 p.m. EDT: The U.S. ambassador to the U.N. has acknowledged that the U.N.'s actions against North Korea are sure to provoke Pyongyang into additional belligerent acts.

ORIGINAL POST: The United Nations has done it -- in a unanimous vote, (update here -- includes link to a story not yet posted to Internet when my original post was made)the Security Council has voted to increase sanctions against North Korea for its recent nuclear test.

Pyongyang has said any such U.N. action would lead to another such test.

Fired...for asking about his job status?

Interesting, but troubling story from InsideHigherEd.com about an adjunct faculty member who apparently asked for a clarification (and possible improvement) of his employment status, and was fired.

The moment of reckoning is coming

A good article in today's New York Times, which suggests the "we inherited these problems" argument from the Obama administration is losing steam.

Of course, for some of his most vocal critics on the right that moment arrived the moment he was sworn in on Jan. 20. Since then, at least according to one such critic, the president has spent more time making himself quasi-divine than he has fixing problems.

One issue the president picked up from the desk of his predecessor was the situation at Guantanamo, where potential, real and suspected terrorists remain. The Washington Post reports today the president has abandoned any previous plans to move those prisoners to U.S. soil once Guantanamo closes.

Another "virus" the president is attempting to fight off is the growing deficit, and as the Wall Street Journal's (excellent) reporter Gerald Seib notes the deficit could derail much of what Mr. Obama wants to do.

The electorate is turning out in large numbers in Iran (5 x UPDATED)

5th UPDATE: 3:04 p.m. EDT: Another "tweet" from ABC's Setrakian: Mousavi declares he is 'definite winner' in #iranelection, Reuters reports

Mr. Mousavi's statement is critical; it gives him a public relations argument if the results do not turn out as he expected. Fairly or not, it gives credence if he were to say that his political defeat was a result of election fraud.

4th UPDATE: 2:42 p.m. EDT: Al-Jazeera is reporting that perhaps 70% of registered Iranian voters went to to the polls today.

3rd UPDATE: 2:33 p.m. EDT: ABC News' reporter Lara Setrakian "tweets" the following: Mousavi and Karroubi claim voter fraud, hold press conference shortly

2nd UPDATE: 1:15 p.m. EDT: The polls have been closed for approximately two hours. Presumably the votes are being counted at this hour.

1st UPDATE: 11:45 a.m. EDT: BBC and other media note that because of the huge turnout, polls are staying open an extra two hours.

ORIGINAL POST: And that is good news for democracy...but more importantly that should be good news for moderate candidate Mir Hussein Moussavi.

Throughout the day, I'll be updating the media reporting as the votes begin to be counted.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The dangerous game of tit-for-tat

United Nations: New, tougher sanctions against North Korea
North Korea: More nuclear tests

Prepping for election day

As you know, the voters in Iran go to the polls Friday to elect their next president. This report from the BBC offers background information on the leading candidates.

Meanwhile, the New York Times offers an assessment of why the incumbent, Mahmoud Ahmadenijad, finds himself in a real political battle.

For what it's worth, reports are surfacing tonight that SMS systems (such as Twitter) are not working in Iran. This information comes on the heels of recent reports that Facebook was shut down in Iran for about 24 to 48 hours.

In the discussion about the shooting at the U.S. Holocaust Museum... (UPDATED -- see internal link)

...it is important to remember that no matter how sick and perverted the accused shooter is, as the FBI investigator in this story correctly states the man is allowed to believe what he wants. He acted on those beliefs in a completely unacceptable and despicable way, and there is no way to defend his actions.

There will be intense questions in the next few days about why the FBI didn't arrest James von Brunn sooner. The reality is in this country you cannot be arrested for what you believe, no matter how disgusting your views might be.

We can assume because investigators already were aware of (update here)his hate that they would have moved against him if there was evidence that he was preparing to do what he did yesterday.

Another issue that will be developed over the next few days is whether the Holocaust Museum was the place von Brunn wanted to attack. Politico's Ben Smith is reporting the address for The Weekly Standard was found in von Brunn's car. Moreover, von Brunn had spoken in the past of his disdain for neo-conservativism, which is often espoused by TWS.

Americans are expected to continue migrating South

An interesting projection of population for America's top-10 cities moving forward from 2009 through 2025.

The trend that you'll quickly see -- the South and Southwest are the places Americans are moving.

For a look at the projections for the 250 biggest population centers, take a look at this chart.

Your baseball stat of the day

From today's Washington Post, referring to the Washington Nationals --

Since May 10, Washington is 5-24.

H1N1 is now a pandemic (2 x UPDATED)

2nd UPDATE: 9:12 p.m. EDT: Call it politics, or call it dirty pool (and sometimes those terms are interchangeable). Whatever you call it, the Democrats are putting the Republicans in a bind: They are using money earmarked for flu treatment as part of a larger, war funding bill.

1st UPDATE: 2:10 p.m. EDT: Additional details on what prompted the World Health Organization to announce a pandemic.

ORIGINAL POST: The World Health Organization took the expected step this morning in declaring the world's first flu pandemic in more than four decades.

The campaigning is over...

...the voting is about to begin.

On the heels of President Obama's well-received speech from and about the Middle East and the success of pro-Western political groups in Lebanon's parliamentary elections, there is anticipation in the U.S. and the West (and other places likely as well) that voters in Iran also might provide another blow to extremists.

That might not happen. Iranian voters head to the polls in the next few hours to select a president. The candidates are as different as night and day. The incumbent, Mahmoud Ahmadenijad, has spoken out against the Holocaust and has repeatedly questioned Israel's legitimacy. The challenger, Mir Hussein Moussavi, is open to better relations with Israel and the West, and has been given the "moderate" label. Though he has some unexpected allies, Mr. Moussavi is no sure bet to continue to anti-extremism tide begun by President Obama and furthered by Lebanese voters.

President Ahmadenijad urged calm and restraint as voters prepare to do their civic duty, but the Washington Post reports that his message was left in a shroud of uncertainty because of the comments of another government official.

Iran's human-rights record also is an element of this election, says a former Nobel Prize winner.

Meanwhile, comments made about Iran's uranium-enrichment program by an influential U.S. senator will raise eyebrows in various quarters. Sen. John Kerry said Iran has the right to continue uranium enrichment, even though he recognizes such a program could be used to create a nuclear bomb. (Here is a transcript of Sen. Kerry's interview with the Financial Times.) In an (unfortunate, in my opinion) essay in today's Wall Street Journal, former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton suggests that if Iran does pursue a nuclear bomb, Israel could be left with no option but to attack.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

How do you talk to...

...North Korea?

When the issue is trying to get two American citizen journalists released from that country, the answer is...well...it's got to be...uh, well...hmmm.

Who's to blame...who can fix it?

Politico.com's Mike Allen notes today that the rhetoric about the deficit contains significant problems. He points out an article in the New York Times; the excerpt he offered in his "Playbook" is repeated here:

'There are two basic truths about the enormous deficits that the federal government will run in the coming years. The first is that President Obama's agenda, ambitious as it may be, is responsible for only a sliver of the deficits, despite what many of his Republican critics are saying. The second is that Mr. Obama does not have a realistic plan for eliminating the deficit, despite what his advisers have suggested. The New York Times analyzed Congressional Budget Office reports going back almost a decade, with the aim of understanding how the federal government came to be far deeper in debt than it has been since the years just after World War II. This debt will constrain the country's choices for years and could end up doing serious economic damage if foreign lenders become unwilling to finance it. ... The story of today's deficits starts in January 2001, as President Bill Clinton was leaving office. The Congressional Budget Office estimated then that the government would run an average annual surplus of more than $800 billion a year from 2009 to 2012. Today, the government is expected to run a $1.2 trillion annual deficit in those years. You can think of that roughly $2 trillion swing as coming from four broad categories: the business cycle, President George W. Bush's policies, policies from the Bush years that are scheduled to expire but that Mr. Obama has chosen to extend, and new policies proposed by Mr. Obama.'

In short, the blame for the debt belongs at the doorstep of former President Bush and the current feeble attempts to fix it belong on the doorstep of President Obama. The typical American voter, for now, is likely to forgive Mr. Obama for swelling the deficit. But how long will that patience last?

Miss California is out

FOX News is reporting that controversial Miss California Carrie Prejean has been canned. If the reasons as noted in this story are valid, then it appears the decision was the right one.

The Taliban did it

That's the conclusion already being drawn in the aftermath of the deadly bombing at a Pakistani hotel.

An editorial in the Financial Times notes that the selection of a hotel as a target is not new -- there have been at least four such attacks in India or Pakistan in less than a year. But the important shortcoming to this editorial is that it offers no compelling conversation about the larger issue of terror in South Asia.

Terror attacks carry multiple meanings, and in this case one of them could be the nearby Pakistani population. It, according to the New York Times, is growing more bold in its disgust with the Taliban.

A hostile North Korea means...

...the potential for another war in the Koreas? A troubling question, and one that is tackled today by TIME magazine. TIME notes that the chances are small, but the uncertainty surrounding the health of North Korea's leader, the plans for succession in that country, and the recent bellicose actions by Pyongyang have military officials planning.

The United States also is concerned, in part because the number of international crises it is dealing with needs not to be added to. The United Nations appears ready to increase sanctions against North Korea, which likely will respond to such actions with claims that the international community is attempting to provoke it into a response.

The growing din of calls in the blogopshere for military action against North Korea should not be listened to. The argument that such action would knock out the Communist regime misses a larger point: It would lead to a larger war in the region, bring China into the field as an ally of North Korea, undoubtedly lead to war in South Korea, and in the end perhaps be not winnable.

What if no qualified group steps forward?

The New York Times Co. announced today it would like to sell the Boston Globe. That would be a difficult proposition in good economic times, but the combination of a soft economy and the woes of the newspaper industry make such a sale tricky, at best.

The Times already has made clear it has no plans to close the Boston newspaper, but I think there is a more intriguing question -- what happens if no qualified ownership group or individual steps forward?

More posts later today...

...lengthy faculty meeting to commence at 10:00. More posts -- Pakistan, North Korea and more -- later today.

What we watched...and didn't watch

Demonstrating (again) that anything Obama will do well in the TV ratings, NBC's two-night look inside the Obama presidency and White House was a ratings grabber.

But, as the same highlighted article mentions, the ratings for the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric continue to slide.

This information should not be something to celebrate, for it offers another piece of evidence that personality trumps content. No, I'm not a regular viewer of the CBS Evening News, but it should concern serious consumers of news that a puff-piece of journalism was a ratings bonanza.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Ready to go on the offensive

North Korea remains confident its military and defense capabilities can be used to counter an attack. But in an important rhetorical change, Pyongyang said today it also would be prepared to take aggressive action against potential enemies.

The official statement carried in state-run media could have been in part of response to South Korea's decision today to impose financial sanctions against its northern neighbor.

Then again, it could have been a reaction to Kim Jong-il's eldest son announcing in a rare television interview that he has no interest in succeeding his father. I encourage you to read this link to the end, as it discusses rumors that the son could be considering defecting.

Such rhetoric from North Korea, regardless of the reasons, serves no international purpose, except to make the United Nations' efforts at condemning North Korea easier.

Not again (2 x UPDATED)

2nd UPDATE: 7:28 p.m. EDT: The evidence is already convincing that a terror attack took place today in Pakistan.

1st UPDATE: 5:10 p.m. EDT: The latest reports indicate more than 10 people are dead in the explosion.

ORIGINAL POST: Unfortunately, it appears that it has happened again: The media are reporting a powerful explosion at a luxury hotel in South Asia. This time it apparently has happened in Peshawar, Pakistan.

It was just last November that a coordinated terror attack by extremists linked to Pakistan struck Mumbai, India. While it is presumptive at this point to suggest today's attack in Pakistan is retribution, it is not presumptive to say that some terror group -- either domestic or foreign -- is behind today's Peshawar events.

How should we deal with Russia?

This editorial in the Washington Post offers important ideas to consider.

This must be...

...censorship with Chinese characteristics.

H1N1 and you (IMPORTANT UPDATE)

1st UPDATE: 3:30 p.m. EDT: The World Health Organization is apparently very close to declaring the H1N1 a pandemic.

Don't take this information to suggest that the flu is spreading out of control. Rather, the decision is based on the steady increasing number of cases and WHO's effort to contain it as best it can.

ORIGINAL POST: Interesting story on the InsideHigherEd.com Web site noting that the H1N1 flu (or a variant of it) could pose stresses on college campuses throughout the fall and winter.

This could be a good early year story for journalism and mass communications students to cover.

The fascination with her continues

I continue to doubt the intentions of the mainstream media as they cover the every move, word and action of Alaska governor Sarah Palin. In other words, count me among the cynical.

Her on-off-on-off-finally on appearance at the GOP House and Senate members' dinner is but the latest example of the media's fascination with the 2008 Republican vice presidential candidate. (Here's some background on the story.)

Of course, Mrs. Palin was not given a speaking role at the event, a curious (or maybe not) decision by the GOP considering she remains one of the party's leading presidential candidates in 2012. According to the Washington Post, though stiffed as the keynote speaker she was warmly received by those at the event.

And as the media were covering that story, they also were finding time to question the political relationship Gov. Palin has with one of Alaska's two U.S. senators. You'll note in this story that Democrats in Alaska are scoring political points with the obvious national intentions Mrs. Palin has.

In case you are wondering (or care), the keynote address was given by Newt Gingrich.

Sprained and broken ankles

I caught a few pictures last night of Supreme Court-nominee Sonia Sotomayor and the knee-to-toe cast she was wearing for her broken ankle. Those images reminded me once again that the sprained ankle I suffered two weeks ago is a mere nuisance.

I hope we all take time periodically to sort out the really difficult moments in life from those that are mere inconveniences.