Monday, November 30, 2009

Dirty politics?

This excerpt is from The Seattle Times newspaper, and it appeared on Mike Allen's daily Playbook on Politoco.com:

'Maurice Clemmons, the 37-year-old Tacoma man being sought for questioning in the killing [Sunday] morning of four Lakewood police officers, has a long criminal record punctuated by violence, erratic behavior and concerns about his mental health.

Nine years ago, then-Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee granted clemency to Clemmons, commuting his lengthy prison sentence over the protests of prosecutors.

'This is the day I've been dreading for a long time,' Larry Jegley, prosecuting attorney for Arkansas' Pulaski County said [Sunday night] when informed that Clemmons was being sought for questioning in connection with the killings.

Clemmons' criminal history includes at least five felony convictions in Arkansas and at least eight felony charges in Washington. The record also stands out for the number of times he has been released from custody despite questions about the danger he posed.

Huckabee, who ran for the Republican presidential nomination last year, issued a statement ... calling the slaying of the police officers 'a horrible and tragic event.'

If Clemmons is found responsible, 'it will be the result of a series of failures in the criminal justice system in both Arkansas and Washington State,' Huckabee said.

He added that Clemmons' release from prison had been reviewed and approved by the Arkansas parole board.'


Mr. Huckabee might not be a presidential candidate in 2012, and for the moment it is not relevant. I ask one question: Is it fair to dredge up a nine-year-old clemency and link it to a horrible crime committed a few days ago? Or is this fair reporting, considering the "Willie Horton" ads during the 1988 presidential campaign?

The name will change...

...but let's hope the commitment to news excellence does not.

The "News Hour with Jim Lehrer" is changing its name to "PBS NewsHour."

We don't like him...but we don't think we like you

What a mixed message, and it is one the Republican Party has to grapple with as it attempts to create a national election strategy that goes beyond "we're not Obama."

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Touchdown

Kudos to Los Angeles Times' columnist Bill Plaschke for delivering an excellent assessment of the final minute of the USC-UCLA football game.

Regular readers of this blog know I'm a graduate of USC, which won last night's game 28-7. It was the final Trojans' touchdown in the final minute of the game that caused a ruckus. Plaschke's editorial validates why that touchdown was necessary.

Was Osama bin Laden within reach?

A Senate report suggests the American military had a chance to capture Osama bin Laden just three months after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks but did not put together the forces necessary to complete the task.

The report is sure to reignite the explosive conversation of how valuable a target bin Laden is (was), how effective U.S. intelligence is (was) and how the mistakes of the Bush administration continue to haunt America's political and military climate.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

What Tiger Woods and Charlie Weis can teach us about...

...media speculation.

Over the past three weeks Notre Dame football coach Charlie Weis has been the subject of the dreaded "he's going to get canned" rumors. With the exception of Notre Dame's athletic director, no one at this point knows if those rumors have any merit. The Fighting Irish ends its regular season tonight, and the expectation is a clear statement from the athletic director will come within the next few days.

Over the past 24-48 hours, professional golfer Tiger Woods has been the subject of intense speculation. The circumstances surrounding his early Friday morning car crash could have a simple explanation, but in the absence of a conversation with police no one can know that. As you probably know, Mr. and Mrs. Woods changed their minds and didn't talk to police today, despite assurances yesterday that they would.

Notre Dame is not like any other college football program; whether you like the Fighting Irish is irrelevant, you have to admit that the school generates more media and fan attention than any other program.

Tiger Woods is not like any other professional golfer; whether you like him, you have to admit that Woods generates more media and fan attention than any other golfer (and maybe any other professional athlete).

How responsible the media have been in covering these stories is a debatable topic: one person's level of acceptable media responsibility is an unacceptable level to another person. In the opinion of this media educator and former journalist, the media deserve a passing grade for their reporting of the Weis situation, and a below average grade for how they've dealt with the Woods story.

The Weis story remains a sports story and is a classic "he's gone" theme. Multiple stories in the past couple of weeks have created a rationale why Weis will be canned, and perhaps most telling to me is that at no point has the Notre Dame athletic director come out with a serious, believable statement of support for his embattled coach. "We'll talk when the season is over" or similar platitudes are consistent with an athletic director who is leaning toward dismissing Weis.

The Woods story has become clouded with rampant rumors, driven largely by what I'll call the entertainment media. Unfortunately, too many "news" media organizations are succumbing to the "reports today indicate..." feeble reporting that validates they either lack their own information or are so determined to cover any angle of this story that they will turn any little (potential) nugget of information into "breaking news."

Tiger Woods is far more a media celebrity than Charlie Weis, and that helps explain the intense focus on this story.

So, too, do the circumstances -- why was Woods leaving his home around 2:30 on a Friday morning? Was he arguing with his wife? Is he having an affair? Did she cause his injuries? While the Notre Dame story is a one-question issue (will Weis be fired?), the Woods story has overlapping questions that remain unanswered.

Finally, there is Woods himself. He's a man who has created (and the media have been a tremendous help in this regard) an image of intensity, perfection and invincibility. While it's not fair to say selected media organizations are attempting to rip apart that image, it is fair to say that Woods is putting that image to the test by the (as yet unfounded) rumors that he's engaging in an extramarital affair.

I'll leave it to you to decide whether such a question ought to ever be part of media discourse.

So what are we left with? A football coach left to sway in the wind, as the media define what his future will be. A professional athlete left to sway in the wind, as he fails to define and explain the circumstances surrounding what could be nothing more than a simple car accident.

If I report it...it must be true

So...

1. Tiger Woods is having an affair with the woman who crashed the White House State Dinner...and

2. That woman's husband was there to talk to Oprah about getting the exclusive interview after he was named the new football coach at Notre Dame...but

3. Oprah was there in an attempt to secure her place on the next reality program "The Real Non-Housewives of America"...and

4. The executive producer of that show will be Nancy Pelosi, who is in serious negotiations with the Swedes to provide a spin-off "The Real Non-Housewives of Sweden"...but

5. The Swedish prime minister was miffed that he wasn't allowed to attend the State Dinner...so

6. He asked Mrs. Woods, because of her Scandinavian ancestry, to "send a message" to Mrs. Pelosi about how the Swedes feel slighted.

Now it all makes sense!

And now it's time to smear the Woods family!!

Hooray...it took less than 24 hours for one "news" organization to suggest that Tiger Woods and his wife are no longer in domestic bliss and that he is seeing another woman.

Fantastic. Just great.

Look, I have no knowledge of whether Mr. Woods is having an extramarital affair, and frankly I could care less. What I find troubling is how quickly the mainstream media -- which are largely responsible for crafting this Tiger Woods phenomenon -- has shown little restraint in accepting the idea that Woods is having an affair and that a fight between his wife and him led to the "accident" early Friday morning.

Instead of searching for their own information, they are touting the typical baloney line "reports are surfacing..." that allows for a "story" to gain traction before it should (if it should at all).

Please remember that it was less than 24 hours ago that one Florida television station triumphantly announced it had broken the news of the "serious" injuries Woods sustained when the SUV he was driving slammed into a fire hydrant and then a tree.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Brass one's, no doubt about it

The following "tweets" (combined here into one post) comes from Politico's Jonathan Martin:

This from crasher "publicist" to CNN -- "We will begin doing press and media next week providing exclusive interviews and press junkets...If you would like to be considered in our media circuit we request that you hold your proposed published profile until then."

Give the so-called crasher couple credit: They are working the system for everything it can possibly give them. They are telling the media when they will be available, and they've thrown down a not-so-subtle threat to any of news organization interested in talking to them -- publish something about us and we might not talk to you.

I remain hopeful that the mainstream media will do the correct thing and tell these media-hungry, values-barren individuals to go to (ahem). I doubt it will happen.

Tune to us for all your news, weather, traff...uh, not that

Regular readers of this blog know I grew up in Southern California, where a regular and reliable traffic report was as much a part of the day as a meal.

But times and economics are changing, and the amount and type of traffic reports also are changing.

The decision by some radio stations to abandon traffic reports seems short-sighted, but in an era in which every decision appears to be judged by whether it is a money-maker we should not be surprised.

Stop the presses

Literally. And after they've been running for only three days.

He called out the media...

...and the bloggers responded.

You knew this would happen, didn't you? Just a few hours after Pittsburgh's mayor announced his separation from his wife, his attorney announced that any attempts at spreading rumors about the mayor would lead to a lawsuit.

Well, those rumors have started: The blogging community is accusing the mayor of drinking milk out of a carton, being the cause of Oprah Winfrey canceling her daytime talk show, and overcooking the Thanksgiving turkey.

Silly? Perhaps. But there is certainly a message behind all of it -- no attorney can really believe he's going to blunt the long-standing and accepted tradition of criticism of public officials. Of course, there is a responsibility that comes with that freedom, and perhaps the bloggers are taking their comments a bit too far. Nevertheless, unless the Pittsburgh media are the biggest pack of lapdogs you've ever met, they already are looking into those rumors of the mayor and extramarital affairs.

So, what is Barack Obama on the international stage?

The Economist explores whether the president offers strategic, credible leadership, or if he is somehow weak and naive.

(Image available at: http://www.economist.com/printedition/displayCover.cfm?url=/images/20091128/20091128issuecovUS400.jpg)

The newspaper's editorial begins with a less-than-positive statement: "At last Barack Obama seems to be starting to make up his mind." Of course, the editorial is referring to the apparent decision to increase U.S. troop deployments to Afghanistan.

I'll offer a more complete assessment after I get through the issue.

What's in a name?

Plenty, if you are female and have the last name of Houston or Spears. Now imagine you are teammates.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Improving U.S.-Russia relations...

...takes more than nice photo ops. A former official on the National Security Council offers concrete ideas that Washington and Moscow ought to consider, as presidents Obama and Medvedev determine the short- and long-term future of their governments' dealings with the other.

I've seen this script before...

...and it reads as poorly now as it did then.

The media's benign (at times approaching humorous) coverage of the idiots who crashed the White House State Dinner the other night is inappropriate. They were not on the invitation list, which means they had no business being there. Plain and simple.

For the media to see this story any other way is wrong.

Wasn't it just five weeks ago that another moron decided to stage an event in order to boost his family's chance of becoming part of a reality television program? Well, guess what? The other night the couple who thought it would be a great idea to sneak into a State Dinner did it to boost their reality television opportunities. They had network cameras following them, which leads to questions about Bravo's potential involvement in any legal action that might follow.

The Washington Post notes that this couple has over time aggressively tried to promote themselves. If any network puts these values-barren geniuses on its air, then it deserves the backlash that will follow.

Let's be blunt here: What the parents of "balloon boy" did was illegal, and they continue to deal with the fallout from their desperate and idiotic act. This blogger hopes the "dinner crashers" face the same issues.

The more serious story associated with these people is how the Secret Service protocols were breached.

Another reminder that journalism in other parts of the world...

...is a deadly proposition.

A different RNC Litmus Test?

A friend sent me the "other" version of the RNC Litmus Test...this one (here's the full link) is funny.

(1) Punching hippies is a legal form of expression.

(2) The moon should be declared hostile and nuked.

(3) The average American should be armed like Neo from the lobby scene at all times.

(4) Nachos are awesome.

(5) The federal government needs to stop wasteful spending. Also, researching giant war robots and dinosaurs with rocket launchers on them is not wasteful.

(6) America owns Antarctica.

(7) It’s not good diplomacy unless the foreign leaders are kneeling before us.

(8) Vampires shouldn’t sparkle.

(9) The fact that we torture terrorists isn’t horrific and is actually kind of funny.

(10) Biggest problem facing our nation: Too many sissies.

Those details continue to be leaked

You have to wonder: for a president who has been bothered by leaks concerning the discussions about crafting an Afghan policy, what does he think about all those leaks surrounding his address to the nation on Tuesday night to outline that policy?

Here's another one.

One year ago today...

Do you remember the brazen attacks in Mumbai? The Indian people certainly do.

And you thought governing would be easy!!

What thoughts must go through President Obama's head as he crafts domestic and international policy. On one hand, he knows the Republican Party will attempt to remain as unified as possible, and that's always easy when yours is the minority party.

But on the other hand, the president deals with a fractious Democratic Party, whose membership must weigh being loyal to the White House and always listening keeping in mind that the constituents in their district might be less than enthusiastic about those presidential plans.

The discussion about increasing troop deployment to Afghanistan is the latest example with a bit of a twist this time: It will be hard for the GOP to voice displeasure with Mr. Obama's plans to increase America's military presence in Afghanistan (yes, I know...too little, too late; why did he wait so long, etc. etc.). But it certainly won't be hard for some Democrats to say their disappointed.

Of course, when the conversation turns to climate change, so, too, do the loyalties. Here the president is sure to hear fierce opposition from Republicans and consistent support from Democrats. Those criticisms and compliments are sure to grow in number and volume as the president moves closer to his December trip to Copenhagen, site of an international conference on climate change.

As for health care...oh, never mind. You know what that's been like!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The RNC Litmus Test

Text from Jim Bopp's resolution, as circulated among several RNC members (and in my case "borrowed" from here):

"THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the Republican National Committee identifies ten (10) key public policy positions for the 2010 election cycle, which the Republican National Committee expects its public officials and candidates to support:

(1) We support smaller government, smaller national debt, lower deficits and lower taxes by opposing bills like Obama's "stimulus" bill;

(2) We support market-based health care reform and oppose Obama-style government run healthcare;

(3) We support market-based energy reforms by opposing cap and trade legislation;

(4) We support workers' right to secret ballot by opposing card check;

(5) We support legal immigration and assimilation into American society by opposing amnesty for illegal immigrants;

(6) We support victory in Iraq and Afghanistan by supporting military-recommended troop surges;

(7) We support containment of Iran and North Korea, particularly effective action to eliminate their nuclear weapons threat;

(8) We support retention of the Defense of Marriage Act;

(9) We support protecting the lives of vulnerable persons by opposing health care rationing and denial of health care and government funding of abortion; and

(10) We support the right to keep and bear arms by opposing government restrictions on gun ownership; and be further

RESOLVED, that a candidate who disagrees with three or more of the above stated public policy position of the Republican National Committee, as identified by the voting record, public statements and/or signed questionnaire of the candidate, shall not be eligible for financial support and endorsement by the Republican National Committee; and be further

RESOLVED, that upon the approval of this resolution the Republican National Committee shall deliver a copy of this resolution to each of Republican members of Congress, all Republican candidates for Congress, as they become known, and to each Republican state and territorial party office.

Chief Sponsor:
James Bopp, Jr. NCM IN

Sponsors:
Donna Cain NCW OR
Cindy Costa NCW SC
Demetra Demonte NCW IL
Peggy Lambert NCW TN
Carolyn McLarty NCW OK
Pete Rickets NCM NE
Steve Scheffler NCM IA
Helen Van Etten NCW KA
Solomon Yue NCM OR"

You WILL do it our way

A great lesson in responsibility and maturity has been delivered by a Chicago-area school board to a group of high school journalists. Yes, indeed...VERY responsible. VERY mature.

Pittsburgh's mayor and his wife have separated

No, this post is not going to be some voyeuristic, tabloid-like sleaze on the personal lives of Mayor Luke Ravenstahl or his wife, Erin, who announced yesterday they are separating. I despise when the mainstream media engage in that kind of behavior, and I won't fall prey to it.

However, I do want to highlight some interesting elements of the story, which broke as part of an interview the mayor gave to a local Pittsburgh television station. In that interview, he deflected questions about extramarital affairs, suggesting that the separation was based largely on his wife's discomfort with being in the public spotlight.

The wives of recent Pittsburgh mayors have indicated there is some merit to those emotions. They note that rarely is a mayoral family given a chance to be a typical family, and that lack of privacy can at times feel suffocating. (For those who do not know, the Ravenstahls have been married for five years, and they have a 1-year-old son.)

The mayor also has hired an attorney who will handle the inevitable marital infidelity questions that will come up. In and of itself that is not surprising; in fact, the aforementioned interview Mr. Ravenstahl gave is the only one he said either he or his wife will give on their personal situation.

The attorney has made no secret of his intentions. In an interview with one local newspaper reporter, Richard Sprague said, "Tell your editor you publish something based on rumors, and I will see you in court. That's my livelihood."

And there is lies the crux of the mayor's problem: He has in essence told the media, local or otherwise, that they should not go looking for "the other woman." (And for all I know there could be more than one.) What he's saying is not quite the equivalent to Gary Hart's "go ahead and look, you won't find anyone" claim that blew apart his presidential ambitions.

In this case, the mayor is saying something more blunt: don't look.

I hope the mayor is more savvy than that. He cannot really believe that his demand coupled with retaining an attorney is going to put the brakes on any media-driven investigation of his personal life. I've maintained many times, and I'll reiterate it here, that the private lives of public figures deserve to be respected. Of course, too often the media choose not to do that.

I think there is a critical difference here: To borrow a phrase, there is smoke (which often means fire), and the mayor is telling the media the smoke is not worth checking out. That's a recipe to ensure the media will dig deeper, harder and with more determination than it might have under different circumstances.

The mayor has enjoyed generally strong and positive relationships with the local media. In part, in my opinion, that strength was based on his ease of availability, his optimistic message about Pittsburgh, and his youthful energy and ambition. He would be wise to not throw that good will away like some unwanted scrap of trash.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

If you are a father...

...then you'll appreciate this story.

If you are a hockey fan, you'll appreciate it.

If you like good storytelling, you'll appreciate it.

And if you just want to read something that makes you think, you'll appreciate it.

Before he tosses them all back across the border...

...he apparently wants them to think he cares about them.

You've got to give Lou Dobbs credit...the man wants to play the political game.

If there was any doubt in the past...

...there is none now: Afghanistan will become a signature definition of the presidency of Barack Obama.

(Map available on U.S. State Dept. link: http://www.state.gov/p/sca/ci/af/)

However fair it might have been, President Bush's success (and therefore his legacy) was defined by a single event: what the American troops did in Iraq. While at this point Mr. Obama's legacy will not be defined solely by what happens in Afghanistan, there is no question that the increase in troops as part of a concerted effort to eradicate the Taliban from that country will be his international statement.

A legitimate argument can be made that Mr. Bush saw his political party lose its majority in Congress and its general support of the nation because of the pretense under which the U.S. went into Iraq and whether that nation was a threat to the United States.

Though a direct comparison to that situation and the one being faced now by Mr. Obama is not appropriate, there are enough similarities for the aforementioned "legacy" comments to be valid.

Much more will be said about this in the weeks and months to come because it appears that sometime last night Mr. Obama, to borrow a poker phrase, chose to go "all in" with Afghanistan.

“We’d rather have fewer people coming to our Web sites, but paying.”

You're thinking that Rupert Murdoch had to be the person making that comment. And if you are, then you are 100% correct.

In fact, I should have send Bing, you're correct!

Ugly...and ugly

How the disgusting history of Nazism might be alive (and well?) in parts of the Middle East.

A pro-life Democrat is at the center...

...of the health-care debate.

I'll preface this post with my bias: although I don't personally know Pennsylvania senator Bob Casey, I admire him because of the pro-life stand he and his father have taken today and in the past.

That position likely derailed his father's political career. For the son, that position makes him one of the most important figures in the U.S. Senate as it moves forward with a health care bill.

An Afghanistan decision in prime-time?

It looks like President Obama is moving toward a final decision about whether to increase U.S. troop deployments to Afghanistan.

In a move that is becoming common for this president, he's expected to announce what he plans to do in a prime-time television address.

The tension such previous prime-time press conferences and other addresses has caused between the television industry and the White House has been noted in this blog, with those reports coming from the mainstream media outlets.

While such tension is not likely to exist this time, because of the nature of the information he's expected to deliver, there nevertheless will be plenty of analyzing and predicting in the days leading up to Mr. Obama's (likely) Tuesday night speech to the nation.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Noooooooooooo!

Lou Dobbs...presidential candidate in 2012. It could happen.

Part of the conspiracy?

I'm sure I'll hear the criticism that a story such as this is designed to again demonstrate the media's bias against former Alaska governor Sarah Palin.

Baloney.

I've mentioned multiple times on this blog that the media's treatment of Mrs. Palin during the 2008 campaign was too often, in my opinion, unacceptable. It is my belief that her personal life and certainly that of her children needed to be treated with more deference. However, when it comes to issue about political policy or another professional issue, questions are legitimate. The aforementioned story is one of them.

This could be the end...

...for embattled South Carolina governor Mark Sanford. He's now accused of 37 ethics violations.

I can understand his determination to remain in the elected role he's in, but I cannot see there being significant support from people below him (not to mention the voters) to keep him there.

Are you the new Oprah?

As is the case whenever an iconic figure leaves the stage, the question too rapidly and almost always unfairly becomes who replaces that figure?

For example, my generation has had the opportunity to see the greatest basketball player (Michael Jordan) of all time, and the greatest-ever hockey player (Wayne Gretzky). Those sports have attempted to promote and create replacements, but the reality is no one can be the next Jordan or the next Gretzky.

Now, the entertainment television world seeks to find the next Oprah.

Two questions

I posted this on my Twitter and Facebook pages this morning. I'm curious to see the responses I'm going to get:

When was the last time a politician attracted this much attention for a book? And what does it say about our current political climate?

The Beanpot Tournament is alive and well...

...but the college football programs in Boston are dropping like flies.

A few years ago, it was Boston University that disbanded its football program. Today, it is Northeastern.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes coming to the college curriculum

The University of Tennessee's College of Communication and Information is moving forward with changes to its curriculum.

The changes need to be approved by other academic groups within the campus community, but typically those approvals are pro forma.

Communications programs continue to grapple with keeping curriculum fresh and relevant, while at the same time being cognizant of fundamental skills and technology. If that process appears taxing from the outside, the various small and big issues that result from being on the inside do indeed make this process a challenge.

Bing!

Microsoft might have scored a couple of points in the browser war with Google. But the real winner might be the newspaper industry.

When politics and faith collide

This is a stunner. It comes from the Providence Journal, and it is reported today by Mike Allen and his daily Playbook on Politico.com:

'Providence Bishop Thomas J. Tobin has forbidden Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy to receive the Roman Catholic sacrament of Holy Communion because of his advocacy of abortion rights, the Rhode Island Democrat said Friday. 'The bishop instructed me not to take Communion and said that he has instructed the diocesan priests not to give me Communion,' Kennedy said in a telephone interview. Kennedy said the bishop had explained the penalty by telling him 'that I am not a good practicing Catholic because of the positions that I've taken as a public official,' particularly on abortion. He declined to say when or how Bishop Tobin told him not to take the sacrament. And he declined to say whether he has obeyed the bishop's injunction. Bishop Tobin, through a spokesman, declined to address the question of whether he had told Kennedy not to receive Communion. ... This latest exchange between Bishop Tobin and Kennedy, the only remaining public official in the nation's most prominent Catholic family, escalates their heated public debate over how the eight-term congressman's work for abortion rights bears on his standing in the church.'

Saturday, November 21, 2009

What the Senate did tonight...

...was to advance the health care debate. The vote does not ensure the Senate will pass a health care bill; although with the numerical advantage the Democrats have, it seems unlikely such a bill will not eventually be approved.

However, the potential for a Republican-led filibuster remains, as at least two Democrats who voted "yea" tonight have indicates that any bill that includes the so-called public option will cause them to support any efforts toward a filibuster. In other words, the party unity that was on display tonight is not guaranteed in the weeks to come.

The debate will begin after the Thanksgiving break.

You'll recall that two weeks ago the House passed its version of health care reform, and essentially on party lines. (One Republican broke with his party to vote for it; 39 Democrats voted against.) If the Senate can get its version passed, then the committee discussion begins as the two bodies reconcile the differences in their respective pieces of legislation.

So, despite the media hype surrounding what took place tonight, the reality is only a small step forward was made this evening. A significant amount of work remains.

Even through a veil of censorship and propaganda, the Chinese people managed a clearer view of Obama's visit than the US media did.

My words?

Nope. But the idea behind them is worth considering.

In my opinion, the failures of international media coverage are exacerbated by not enough foreign correspondents and a national media attitude based upon promoting the personality over the substance.

Changing the media culture in Japan

This is fascinating. The arrogance of the "elite" media in Japan is surprising, and as described in this news story obnoxious.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Another FOX error

I didn't know Sen. Joe Lieberman had become a Republican.

Our school is perfect, a place where nothing wrong happens

It must be. How else to explain why administrators at one Illinois high school prevented the distribution of the school's newspaper because it contained stories that were not consistent with the school's image.

The Chicago Tribune also reports this controversial issue was not the first one published by the school's newspaper staff.

As Oprah prepares to say "see ya,"...

...local television stations wonder how the queen of daytime television will be replaced. And more importantly what will her removal from daytime mean to their ratings?

Because of the business relationships their parent companies have with Oprah, CBS and ABC are expected to be especially hard hit by Ms. Winfrey's decision.

And her decision is a bit of a gamble for Ms. Winfrey; she's expected to move her program to a cable network she is forming. But will her loyal audience move with her from (guaranteed to see) over-the-air, local television to (not everyone gets) cable?

Local stations could turn to their most lucrative programming, local news, in an effort to make up for the program. But in an era of newsrooms already stretched too thin, will there be issues of quality?

Intriguing questions, and none can be answered immediately.

A military base opens up...to the media

Why in the world anyone at Fort Bragg thought it would be a good idea to bar the media from covering Sarah Palin's visit to that military facility is beyond me.

A reverse of decision has been announced, and the media will be allowed in.

Bad sportsmanship wins out

Today's decision by soccer's international governing body, FIFA, that it will not allow a replay of the controversial France-Ireland World Cup qualifying match is unfortunate.

My argument here is not that the French have benefited from the handball by one of its star players. No, my point is that sportsmanship has taken a hit. The player in question has admitted to illegally touching the ball with his hand, a decision that ultimately led to a goal that pushed the French past the Irish and into the World Cup.

Of course, FIFA is correct in arguing that its rules state that decisions made by the on-field referee are final. But this begs the question: what happens the next time a player breaks a rule that leads to his team winning a game?

I've already heard many people argue that FIFA ought to institute video replay, akin to the various systems in place in professional sports in North America. Really? I can only imagine the arguments that would take place as the various national governing bodies, the referees' representatives and FIFA hashed out what circumstances would allow for a video replay.

In this case, let's for now acknowledge two realities: A French player broke the rules and got away with it. FIFA is not willing to break its rules to assist in making amends for that error.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

O, no!

O, yes.

Oprah Winfrey reportedly has decided that her popular day-time show that bears her name will end in 2011.

The move is not surprising, as Ms. Winfrey is launching her own cable network that year.

Do the right thing

There's no question what should happen in this case -- the important World Cup qualifying match between France and Ireland should be replayed.

End of story.

Here's your bill -- and it's up by 32 percent

Another blow to the national reputation of the University of California higher education system -- tuition will go up next year...by 32%.

Sen. Lieberman is holding firm...

...and he knows that by doing so he might get tossed aside in 2012.

I find Sen. Lieberman refreshing, and someone who appears comfortable not simply siding with one political party because he's supposed to. It certainly took some form political conviction to show up at the 2008 Republican National Convention, where he endorsed the presidential bid of his long-time friend and Senate colleague, John McCain.

Now, Lieberman is tweaking Democrats again, telling them that any attempt to force through the so-called "public option" into a health-care reform bill will lead him to filibuster it.

Palin and Prejean -- one in the same?

I've been uncomfortable with the media's fascination with (and in my opinion multiple bashings of) Sarah Palin and Carrie Prejean. But one cannot deny that each is using the media to advance whatever personal or professional agendas they have.

And so this Financial Times editorial is well worth your time. I think it compels you to ask if the criticism being heaped on them is perhaps more justified than you might have first believed.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Uh, oh. Did someone get the story...wrong?

This blog was one of many that noted its frustration with Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy's requirement that he get to approve any story connected to a school newspaper's coverage of his visit.

But...

It looks now as if there was a significant misunderstanding. I'm going to give Justice Kennedy the benefit of the doubt on this one; I think his years of service on the bench and his recognition of the importance of a free press demonstrate that he would not seek any authorization for reporting connected to his visit.

President Obama's conundrum

The following excerpt comes from Mike Allen's Politico.com "Playbook." He is quoting New York Times' reporter Matt Bai, whose full report will be in the newspaper's Sunday Magazine:

'Public support for each of Obama's signature initiatives, including health care, remains lower than support for the president himself. In other words, without a sustained sales pitch to the voters, Obama has yet to convert his personal good will with the electorate into corresponding enthusiasm for his agenda. And as anxious congressmen study poll numbers and look toward their own re-election campaigns next year, that's bound to become a more pressing problem for the White House. Lawmakers may yet be persuaded to enact the president's ambitious agenda, coattails or not, but only if he gives them something else to which they can cling.'

He won't back down

Nor should he.

Northwestern's David Protess, whose being asked to turn over student and other records to the Cook County district attorney's office, says there is no way that will happen.

Mr. Protess and the prosecutor's office began butting heads after an investigation by some of Mr. Protess' students into the conviction of an Illinois man.

Too much...too fast

That's the message Democrats are hearing from many Independent voters (see, we DO matter). What the party must consider because of those concerns is how to adjust its political program in 2010 and beyond.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

11 people...1 book

Depending upon your political perspective, FOX News' report highlighting the Associated Press' decision to use 11 people to fact-check all 432 pages of Sarah Palin's book "Going Rogue" is either an example of good journalism or just more of the same ol' thing.

People of Europe...I send you the rainbow of Wasilla!

'Uh, oh,' you are thinking. 'Moretti has really gone over the deep end now.'

No, I'm not borrowing a line from Evita in jest. Instead, I encourage you to read this Washington Post column and decide if, as the its author suggests, America has created its own Evita Peron.

More from the "What a Mess" file

Check out what is taking place at the Washington Times, paying special attention to how the former editor was treated over the weekend.

And once again the media are being used

Isn't it interesting that Sarah Palin wants media attention when it comes to selling her book; but when it comes to delivering a speech at a private university the media can go (ahem) not rogue, if you catch my drift.

So go ahead media. Lust after the Palin interview. Promote the heck out of it when you get it. Build it up as something amazing.

Then remember that like so many personalities in the past, she has used you.

No, don't blame Palin. Blame the celebrity-saturated idea of what is news.

This is what happens...

...when ineffectual political leadership meets a country determined to rid itself of its critics.

(Photo accompanies Financial Times story)

What a mess.

A "Haley" Mary Pass?

Mississippi's governor, Haley Barbour, has an idea that already is meeting stiff resistance, and it was floated only recently -- to merge some of his state's public universities.

A ridiculous idea, you are thinking. Perhaps. But in an era in which public dollars are stretched too far and the pressure to ensure a quality education for students remains vital, all ideas (including ridiculous ones) need to be considered. No, I'm not a fan of this idea, and I doubt I could be convinced to become one; but we ought to at least acknowledge that Gov. Barbour is attempting to do something.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Mrs. Clinton...meet Mrs. Palin

Oh, come on, admit it: if a meeting between Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former Alaska governor Sarah Palin took place, you would want to be there.

If you consider yourself a political junkie and would refuse to be part of that conversation (even if you were just watching it), then you are not a political junkie.

Laughing with Leno?

Uh, not so much. News directors and managers at various NBC owned-and-operated or affiliate stations are not laughing as they watch the ratings for Jay Leno slide. That's because in almost every case that means their local news ratings are going down the tube at the same time.

I remind my students that one of the reasons Oprah Winfrey is such a potent television force is because she delivers rating success in her hour but also in the news hour that in many markets immediately follows her program. Leno, at least to this point, has not been the same force.

Publisher of gay/lesbian newspapers shuts down

No, no organization is exempt from the economic crisis hitting the newspaper industry.

How the decline of the news media could affect higher education

Some interesting ideas from intriguing people. My only criticism: I think the article would have been strengthened by adding outside-the-academy opinions. But that's a small quibble.

Only a very small number of Chinese were able to hear his answer.

And therein lies the rub: China remains a society in which a denial of information is normal, and carefully scripted events pass for news. And the latter is true even when the President of the United States is a visitor.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Well now, that's not very nice

I suppose this must be hospitality with Chinese characteristics?

(Map available on the Missouri State University Web site: http://international.missouristate.edu/china/)

How else to describe the decision by the Chinese government to arrest dissidents on the eve of President Obama's visit to Beijing? The choice also could have the unintended consequence of compelling the Obama administration to discuss China's human rights record during the president's visit.

Young adults

I have one of the best jobs in the world -- I get to work on a daily basis with aspiring journalists and communicators. Frankly, the roughly 18- to 24-year-old crowd whom I teach, learn from and do television with make going to Point Park every day a lot of fun.

I feed off their energy and enthusiasm, and I try (and usually fail) to grasp what passes for music for this age group :-).

Point Park also hosts two media days for high school journalism programs, and it also delivers a one-week summer workshop. In short, young people surround me.

Beginning in 2007, I've also had the chance to spend about 48 hours on a November weekend with even more high school journalism students. Their enthusiasm is even more infectious, as they ready themselves to charge out of the starting gate and into the communications world.

Yesterday I hosted two sessions at the 2009 Journalism Education Association fall national convention, which this year is in Washington, DC.

Two young women really caught my attention. One approached me after my initial session and asked how detrimental a speech impediment was to someone who wants to get into the business and what resources are out there to help deal with that.

Later another young woman asked how I thought she could balance her two academic interests: journalism and pre-med. It was at that moment I wished one Pittsburgh television reporter was with me; she is both a journalist and a doctor.

I've told many people multiple times that I'm a dream builder. It's my job to make sure each young man and woman I teach is prepared to the fullest in order to have the chance to enter the communications world. Yesterday, I was reminded of the optimism that comes with being a dream builder.

Friday, November 13, 2009

When news is made

Today was yet another example of how political leaders can manage when and how news is made.

I'll leave it to you to argue whether the Obama administration's decision to allow five men accused of being involved in the Sept. 11 terror attacks to be tried in an American courtroom is a good one. But what you cannot forget is that the choice of when to make the announcement public was no accident.

A decision in which the government wants to distance itself (as best as possible) from any ensuing controversy will be released at a time when the public's attention is likely to be low, and a Friday is a good example of that. As the weekend approaches, Americans will turn their attention away from the news of the week and toward time with their families, preparation for the holidays and other personal pursuits.

And in this case, the announcement by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder also came when President Obama was as far away from Washington as he could have been. Of course Mr. Obama will be questioned by the press corps traveling with him to Asia; however, those questions will be subsumed into the story of the president's important visit to the region.

The point I'm trying to make is not that the Obama administration is doubting whether its decision is the correct one. Rather, what I'm suggesting is that the full force of the controversy will be muted because of when that announcement was made and where the president was at the time.

If Mr. Obama had been in Washington it would have been he announcing what his administration had decided, and he would have had little opportunity to avoid hearing about and responding to the controversy.

Indeed, managing news is an important tool available to political leaders.

Watching the media hype about the upcoming release of Sarah's Palin's book...

...I'm struck by a few things:

1. John McCain is being put in a no-win situation. If he supports Mrs. Palin, then he will be criticized for at minimum simply defending his former running mate, or at worst not grasping reality. But if he attacks her, he adds to the opinions that she is burning bridges when she ought not be

2. Mrs. Palin is apparently demonstrating in her book what she regularly did as a politician: leave no doubt where she stands and carrying little for the potential ramifications

3. As best I can tell, no one who has discussed the book has actually read it. That makes substantive analysis of it somewhat difficult (or not fair)

Of course, any hope that a reasonable discussion of Mrs. Palin's book is tough to have in our political climate. But defining what it is now (about a week before its release) is typical. And wrong.

Ice...on the moon

I think this is so very cool.

A guilty plea

The parents of the so-called "balloon boy" have agreed to a guilty plea. And as you read this story, you'll understand why that is a prudent decision.

Thus, at least for now, we can put the legal issues associated with the Heenes behind us. But the spectacle remains, and I maintain that a network interview or two will follow. And then probably a book.

That's unless the media agree that these imbeciles do not deserve any more fame (or is it infamy?).

It's time to party like it's 2009

Or something like that.

(Getty Images photo, appearing in the Financial Times)

Give credit to Russian president Dmitri Medvedev, who is giving a public voice to a very necessary message: If Russia wants to be a full-fledged member of the international community, it needs to think 2009, not 1989 (or 1979, or 1969). It was "cold" back then.

“Everybody out there ought to just shut up.”

Well now, that's blunt.

The man making the statement is the Secretary of Defense. From his perspective, Robert Gates might see his concerns about the number of leaks surrounding the president's upcoming decision about increased military for Afghanistan as unfortunate. However, Mr. Gates is astute enough to know how Washington works, and how the media work.

In this political atmosphere in which a military decision is being made, it is inevitable that leaks will follow. And if Mr. Gates were not the source of some leak during his time in Washington, I'd be very surprised.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

"We screwed up"

You can't get much more blunt than that. And when you consider why FOX News' Sean Hannity said it, you'll agree with me when I say he's correct.

Back in...the capital...again

This time the annual Journalism Education Association national convention has brought me to Washington, where a colleague and I will remain until early Saturday.

Last weekend, I was able to enjoy some down time while I was here and my family and I spent a fantastic evening at the Washington Capitals' game.

No fun on the agenda this time. I have two sessions at this high school journalism convention tomorrow -- one on jump starting a broadcasting career, one on differences between broadcast and print writing -- and later in the evening I'm serving as a judge for one of the many contests that high school students have entered.

On Saturday morning my colleague Helen Fallon has her session, and then we're on our way home.

John King replaces Lou Dobbs

In other words, a real journalist replaces a gas bag who was more interested in generating controversy and advancing his own agenda than he was delivering legitimate news reporting.

A fantastic move by CNN.

Someone is in deep trouble

I received this from a former TV colleague who is still in the business:

This morning our competitor's brand new sat truck is sitting at the bottom of a local river... allegedly with its dish up... picture to come later today.

Oh, this is not good. Not at all.

One general says yes...another general says no

What a mess Afghanistan has become, and I'm talking about the political situation in which President Obama must decide whether to authorize more troops to the region.

The latest "uh oh" to that conversation has come from the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan. Gen. Karl Eikenberry believes the chronic corruption within President Karzai's government makes it impossible to say that an increased U.S. military presence would indeed solve the problems that seem chronic to Afghanistan.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

For what it's worth

November 12 is an interesting day in the history of the Soviet Union.

In 1927, Leon Trotsky was expelled from the Communist Party, clearing the path for Joseph Stalin to assume power of the Soviet Union.

In 1982, Yuri Andropov became the general secretary of the Soviet Communist Party, succeeding the deceased Leonid Brezhnev.

You are welcome to sort out the significance of both events.

Dobbs is done at CNN (UPDATED)

1st UPDATE: 10:08 p.m. EST: More on the Dobbs departure, including the question of who might replace him and how that could signal a change in CNN's overall direction.

ORIGINAL POST: Lou Dobbs will have to take his message of populism and whatever else elsewhere. Tonight he announced he is leaving CNN, where he has worked for 30 years.

Do not count me among the disappointed.

Either the prosecutors are desperate...

...or one educator at Northwestern is a moron.

That's about the only conclusion I think you can come up with after reading this story.

At least for now, I'm putting my money on desperate prosecutors trying to cover up past mistakes.

Does a private institution have a legal right to bar a blogger from campus?

One such institution in Florida believes the answer is yes.

Indeed, it appears Ave Maria University is on firm legal ground. But whether it wants to be associated with preventing critical voices from appearing on its campus is not a legal question, but one more of principles. In this area, the university is failing, in my opinion.

In such a case, one is left to wonder if students who are critical of the school's policies (or of the Catholic faith associated with the school) will also feel unwelcome on the campus.

Should a university president interview...

...potential tenure candidates?

I'm probably going to be in the minority among my many faculty colleagues and friends, but I think what is being planned at the University of Toledo is a good idea.

I say that attempting to sound neither naive nor "selling out" my professional interests. (Whether I've been accused of either is irrelevant right now.) I would expect that a university president ought to know what his or her faculty are doing in terms of teaching, research and service.

Moreover, a faculty member ought to be responsible for ensuring that the administration is aware of those same efforts.

I'm going up for tenure at Point Park this year. Granted, because of our size, my university president knows me on a first-name basis, and my faculty colleagues and I have more access to him than would be typical at a bigger institution. If he wanted to talk about my tenure application, I'd have no concerns.

But then again I'm probably naive. Or a sell-out.

Pre-approval to print

Asinine.

And when a Supreme Court justice ties such a requirement to a visit to a high school, it's even more asinine.

Another black mark for Blackwater

Nothing like paying people $1 million to shut them up. Great.

Surreal

I find it surreal that the memorial service for the military killed at Fort Hood took place one day before the recognition of Veteran's Day.

That's not a criticism. It's just an observation that today newspapers are going to include photos of grieving parents, spouses and children; and tomorrow those same newspapers will include photos of the proud men and women who fought in war's past.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Another sign of just how deep...

...the problems are in California's higher-education system. Faculty at one institution are less than impressed with a request that they voluntary give up stipends they receive for teaching selected freshman-level seminars.

There are no bad guys in this scenario. Instead, what is happening in California is a reflection of policy decisions that have gone wrong, political leaders who have not ensured their public education system remained at an elite level, and a nationwide financial morass that has eroded finances.

As someone who grew up in California and knows the level of excellence the University of California system regularly reached (with the California State system not far behind), it saddens me to see faculty being asked to give up so much and institutions being asked to cut everywhere.

And you thought you had a tough job

Consider Senate majority leader Harry Reid, who is facing a bruising re-election campaign while attempting to bring a meaningful health care plan to the Senate floor.

This excerpt comes from Politico's Martin Kady II:

Harry Reid has a heck of a mess on his hands as he tries to thread the needle on health reform.

Pro-life Democrats like Ben Nelson want sweeping Stupak-like abortion language in the Senate health bill, yet 40 liberals in the House say they'll vote no on the final version if it comes back from the Senate with those restrictions on abortion. President Obama says he doesn't support the Stupak language, but he doesn't want the whole bill to go down over abortion. Reid, who is anti-abortion but understands that the great majority of his caucus is pro-choice, is trying to figure out how strong to make the abortion language without upsetting the delicate compromise that came out of the House.

Reid says he may start debate by Monday, but he's far from consensus on what his bill will look like.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Your privacy -- at least at one Ohio university -- is yours again

A wise decision by the University of Akron, which has backed down on what I think was a terrible idea -- collecting a DNA sample as part of the employment process.

What 20 years has done to Europe

The images -- for those of us old enough to remember them -- remain indelibly etched in our minds: the grotesque Berlin Wall small chunk by small chunk reduced to rubble and with it the seeming strength of the Soviet Empire dying with it.

How has Europe changed since then? This report from the New York Times describes some of them. Of course, history continues to be written about the collapse of Communism. You would be wise to read as much of it as you can.

How about I get paid a dollar...

...and you get paid 79 cents. And we do the same job. Sounds (not) fair to me.

A Republican has the most important job in the broadcast world

Meet the new head of the National Association of Broadcasters.
(photo: National Association of Broadcasters)

His name is Gordon Smith, a self-described born as and will die as a Republican.

That's a complicated combination in Washington right now -- a Republican in a Democrat-dominated town, and someone committed to the best possible future for the broadcasting world.

A couple people I know who have met Mr. Smith like him, and they speak highly of him.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Kudos to a colleague...

...and one of his colleagues.

Andy Conte, a reporter at the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and an adjunct professor in the School of Communication at Point Park, and one of his newspaper colleagues have won a prestigious award for their investigative reports on liver transplants.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

At 11:07 and on 11-07

The moment should not be lost -- the House of Representatives voted tonight to support health care reform. And it is almost eerie in its symbolism that the critical 218th vote for the bill, the vote that ensured its passage, was cast at 11:07 P.M. EST and on 11-07.

Cheers broke out from the public gallery, which C-SPAN noted was full on a Saturday evening (has that ever happened before in American history?). The final tally was 220 for, 215 against, which a jubilant House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced at 11:15 P.M. EST.


(From C-SPAN.org)

A total of 39 Democrats broke with their party and voted against the bill, and only one Republican split from his party by voting for it.

There will be much to say about this decision in the days to come, and that certainly will play out on the blogosphere, within the mainstream media and, of course, within the partisan political organizations.

Of course, the vote tonight does not mean we will have health care reform. The Senate must approve its own bill, and then the reconciling of both the House and Senate version must take place.

Labels

I was a guest on Rob Pratte's radio program on KDKA this morning, and I thought one of the more interesting elements in our discussion was what to call the shootings at Ft. Hood in Texas and in Orlando.

You know the details of both, so I'll leave them out here.

But the purpose of our conversation included this: What if the people who the police believe perpetrated these attacks had been reversed? If a NON-Muslim in the military had gunned down his comrades, would it be so quickly identified as terrorism? And would the media and public be calling the Orlando shootings terrorism if a Muslim had been responsible for what has happened?

As you consider your answer, consider also the media environment in which we find ourselves. In this era in which it is acceptable to substitute pithy analysis for news analysis, acts of terror can easily and always be linked to Muslims. Are we seeing that in these cases?

I think so. But I welcome your comments.

Friday, November 06, 2009

20 years ago

As I read various media reports (here's one) this week discussing the tumultuous events of 20 years ago -- when Communism began its final crumble in Eastern Europe -- I am still amazed.

The fall of Communism, hastened by the decisions that Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev made, was thought to be the end of legitimate political, social and economic ideologies that would threaten the West. The rapidly changing map seemed to solidify that capitalism and democracy would enjoy a steady progress across the world.

But 20 years later, how much safer is the world? The nuclear holocaust -- in retrospect a ridiculous fear -- that cast a pall over the West (and presumably Eastern Europe) has been replaced by an evil more difficult to pin down and more difficult to defeat. The potential for more nefarious killing of innocent people was demonstrated on a September day eight years ago. And America's position as the world's unquestioned leader is put into question by the growing economic power within China.

So, is the world indeed safer than it was 20 years ago?

One person's bias...

...is another person's "correct" position.

And, yes, no matter where you fall on the political spectrum, you are biased.

Reality...in so many forms

It struck me today during a very successful High School Media Day at Point Park that at various points in everyone's life reality means something different to so many people.

As my colleagues and I discussed various aspects of the journalism world, military families were grappling with how and why one of their own would kill their own. Then a short time later came the news of another killing spree, this one happening in Florida. And in the middle a colleague boarded an airplane to go visit her mother-in-law who has been battling cancer.

Yes, reality can mean so many things to so many different people. And a reminder as well that if you have your health, you have everything you need.

Blogging later today

It's high school media day at Point Park. Lots to do...lots of people for my colleagues and I to meet. Will blog some additional ideas later today.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Is Ohio's NHL team pulling a "power play" on the city?

If you think so, I urge you to be a bit more cautious. Typically greedy (sorry for my bluntness) owners of professional teams are quick to use the threat of leaving one city for another as a means of extracting significant financial concessions from their current "hometown.'

But what is taking place right now in Columbus is -- at least on the surface -- something different.

Spin from the left...and spin from the right

U.S. News and its daily political bulletin attempt to sort through the mess:

The White House is pushing the line that Tuesday's electoral defeats were unrelated to the President and unlikely to impact the President's agenda. The AP reports, "The White House says that Republican wins in two governors' races were not referendums" on President Obama, with White House press secretary Robert Gibbs telling reporters that the races were decided by "very local issues that didn't involve the president." Politico reports that Gibbs "argued the twin Democratic defeats [in Virginia and New Jersey] wouldn't scare off moderate Democrats that Obama badly needs to carry out his legislative agenda on everything from health care to climate change."
However, media analysis is generally seeing trouble for the President. The CBS Evening News said that while Gibbs downplayed the impact, "the fact is, Democrats lost in two states where President Obama won last year." ABC World News, in its lead story, said "voters who had supported the President just a year ago, well, they still like him, but they abandoned him in droves." NBC Nightly News, which also opened with the story, said the results could be "an ominous development for the year-old Obama Administration," adding, "There is evidence of an angry electorate out there."

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Iran's Revolutionary Guards...

(Map from FoxNews.com)


...are preparing to enter the media business.

Going Rogue is coming to...

(Photo from SarahPac.com)

...nearby Washington, PA.

Just days after her book is released, former Alaska governor and 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin will be in Washington, PA, located about 30 minutes south of downtown Pittsburgh.

The journalist as expert

A story worth your time, as it asks at what point does a journalist qualify as an "expert" in a particular topic, country or region?

30 years ago today

(PHOTO: AFP)

A group of Americans was taken hostage at the U.S. embassy in Tehran. The crisis doomed the presidency of Jimmy Carter, but the effects in American-Iranian relations have never recovered.

Remember the Independents

(Photo: Politico.com; Virginia's Bob McDonnell, the state's governor-elect.)

They broke solidly for Mr. Obama in 2008. But in 2009...well...check out this excerpt from a report by Politico's Jonathan Martin and John Harris:

'Independents took flight from Democrats. They suffered humiliating gubernatorial losses in traditionally Democratic New Jersey, where Obama lent his prestige in a pair of 11th-hour campaign rallies Sunday, and in Virginia, which had been trending leftward and just last year was held up as an example of how Obama was redrawing the political map in his favor.

Tuesday night's trends were emphatically not in Obama's favor. Among those paying closest attention are dozens of Democrats who won formerly Republican congressional districts in 2006 and 2008 and are up for reelection in 2010. Many of these pick-ups that powered the Democrats' recapture of Congress came in Southern and Border states, or the Ohio River Valley, where political conditions are similar to those in Virginia.

Obama now faces a much tougher challenge persuading these mostly moderate Democrats to put themselves further at risk by backing such liberal priorities as expanding government's role in heath care or limiting greenhouse gases.'

Pay as you go (sort of) at the Olympics

With the international discussion taking place about climate change (including the cowardice in which some political leaders have shown on this topic), this blog post about the Vancouver Olympics and its commitment to offsetting all carbon emissions is refreshing.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Looking to get a flu shot in Pittsburgh?

Unfortunately, you're going to need to look elsewhere.

And another election night awaits

One of my favorite nights as a professional journalist was an election night. The anticipation of who would win, whether voters would turn out in the numbers expected, how the candidates would handle their successes and failures, and whether there would be any controversy are never far from the surface.

My favorite election night story occurred when I was a field producer, assigned to cover Ohio's Democratic candidate for governor. As Lee Fisher delivered his concession speech, a woman cut through the curtain behind Mr. Fisher and appeared on stage.

Soon after, her inebriated and frustrated state took over. She blasted Democrats for being in any kind of celebratory or concessionary mood. Using some flowery language, the woman went on for perhaps one minute before security escorted her away.

Tonight the most visible expression of democracy plays out again, as the media recount how the electorate voted and why. There will undoubtedly be a surprise or two tonight, as well there will be some member of the media who goes off on a rant as he or she invalidates his or her journalistic credentials in favor of opining.

Of course, the years in which a president is elected media attention is at its highest. And after the rush of emotions associated with last year's election, it is inevitable that there is a significant falloff this year.

As an example, two of "my kids" were on the streets today trying to generate a couple of stories about the local races (Pittsburgh is holding a mayoral election this year, and four of its nine city council seats also are on the ballot). They spent more than an hour on the streets, and they were coming up empty. Interest in the election was low, almost to the point of being nonexistent.

In 2010 that won't be the case. The highlight will be the senatorial race that might include incumbent Arlen Specter although there is no guarantee Sen. Specter will survive his party's nomination. Disgust with Sen. Specter is palpable throughout Pennsylvania, and it could carry over into next year.

But that's next year. Tonight, it's about a few contested gubernatorial races that have attracted national attention, and special elections in various Congressional districts. No, the emotion of 2008 is not apparent this year, but I hope you will take time to appreciate America's latest indication of its support of democracy.

Republicans at war with the right?

It could happen. And no matter what you think of the Republican Party, it would not be a good thing. Politico's Charlie Mahtesian and Alex Isenstadt report:

'In what could be a nightmare scenario for Republican Party officials, conservative activists are gearing up to challenge leading GOP candidates in more than a dozen key House and Senate races in 2010.

'Conservatives and tea party activists had already set their sights on some of the GOP's top Senate recruits - a list that includes Gov. Charlie Crist in Florida, former Rep. Rob Simmons in Connecticut and Rep. Mark Kirk in Illinois, among others. But their success in Tuesday's upstate New York special election, where grass-roots efforts pushed GOP nominee Dede Scozzafava to drop out of the race and helped Conservative Party nominee Doug Hoffman surge into the lead on the eve of Election Day, has generated more money and enthusiasm than organizers ever imagined.

'Activists predict a wave that could roll from California to Kentucky to New Hampshire and that could leave even some GOP incumbents - Utah Sen. Bob Bennett is one - facing unexpectedly fierce challenges from their right flank.'

Was it really one year ago?

Am I the only one who thinks the past 12 months have flown by? Consider that one year ago...

1. U.S. voters elected their first African-American president
2. The economy was in really bad shape
3. Hamid Karzai appeared to be our firm ally in Afghanistan
4. Sarah Palin had just been cleared of an ethics violation and was still governor of Alaska
5. Proposition 8 eliminated same-sex marriages in California
6. A second bailout of AIG was in the works

Much has changed in the past year.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Which newspaper editors have assigned their reporters to cover the World Series?

The answer is 31, or just slightly more than 50 percent of the newspapers that assigned reporters to a baseball beat during the regular season.

There are a variety of reasons associated with this (prudent, in my opinion) decision -- and economics underscore almost all of them.

What is your area college president worth?

An interesting annual report, considering that no one on the list tops $1 million per year. But that raises a different question -- should a college president be paid seven figures in one year?

"I don't give a c**p about [the Republican] party"

From Politico's Jim VandeHei and Alex Isenstadt:

'The conservative coup in upstate New York did much more than lay bare the power of conservative activists: It exposed how little control GOP officials hold over this surging and formidable political movement.

'In the wake of conservatives' role in forcing liberal Republican Dede Scozzafava out of Tuesday's special election in New York's 23rd District, GOP officials are trying to make it seem as if they are helping to stoke the passion - and can harness it to upend President Barack Obama and Democrats. They didn't - and they can't. Many of the activists who helped knock out Scozzafava told POLITICO that the passion is building despite - and sometimes to spite - Republican leaders in Washington.

'I don't give a crap about party,' said Jennifer Bernstone, a tea party organizer for Central New York 912, which helped to lead the anti-Scozzafava charge. 'Grass-roots activists don't care about party.'

Karzai wins

In what can be described as a hollow victory (if in fact it is a victory at all), incumbent Afghan president Hamid Karzai was declared the winner of his country's presidential election today.

The decision is not surprising; in fact what other option did the electoral commission have once his challenger, Abdullah Abdullah, yesterday pulled out of a planned runoff election.

The method by which President Karzai "won" also continues to complicate his and his country's relationship with the United States.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

More Afghan angst

A disappointing, though not necessarily surprising, decision made today by the challenger to Afghanistan's president Harmid Karzai.

Fearing that the runoff election will be as fraudulent as the initial election (which international observers said should not have been won by President Karzai), the challenger has pulled out of the runoff.

This decision serves to place more stress on the credibility of Mr. Karzai's government, and it certainly adds a pressure point to the Obama administration as it considers whether to increase America's military presence in the country.