Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Being at CNN right now...

...must be a real treat.

Larry King is taking his microphone and suspenders and going home. The search for his successor already is under way.

Anderson Cooper might be "keeping them honest" at another network. Like him or not, Cooper, as the highlighted article notes, is the only sure-fire ratings grabber CNN has in the important prime-time block.

FOX News continues to hammer CNN (and MSNBC) in the ratings.

Of course, underscoring King's departure is what exactly CNN wants to be.

The network has steadfastly refused to this point to play the liberal or conservative game. It might have to. Or it could make a serious commitment to covering national and international news. That would be an expensive proposition.

It also might be the one that best serves the public.

Yes, they were typical

And that is what made them so important to the Russians.

As you are aware, the FBI has picked up 11 people and charged them with spying for the Russians. Today's Los Angeles Times picks up on a tired but familiar theme to stories about seemingly ordinary citizens who do something wrong -- the neighbors and the "we never suspected anything" angle.

Of course they didn't, and that's exactly the way it was supposed to be.

One of the alleged spies -- Anna Chapman -- is becoming an instant Web celebrity as photos of her from a Russian social networking site have gone viral. Her seemingly complete embrace of social media is one of the intriguing sidenotes, so far, to this developing story.

The U.S. and Russia now begin a delicate diplomatic game -- how to continue formal political relations while the spy story begins to dominate news coverage about the two countries.

In a few days, especially with the holiday weekend approaching, the sturm-und-drang of this story will begin to dissipate. Then a more robust analysis of what these people are accused of doing can more fully begin to be addressed.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

It's about time

That's probably not the response you might have expected from me upon learning that Larry King is ending his nightly talk show on CNN.

King couldn't be counted on to deliver ratings, which is the reason (unstated, of course) behind the decision. But let's also acknowledge that King regularly offered style over substance.

His departure comes shortly after Campbell Brown gave up her CNN slot. These decisions afford CNN the best chance it has had in half a decade to revamp its prime-time lineup and to become a realistic ratings provider during that lucrative day part.

After Joe Paterno, who?

No, this post is not going to examine who might replace Joe Paterno as Penn State's football coach once he opts to step aside. I'll leave it to others to offer an opinion as to who that might be.

Rather, I was struck by something as I scanned this list the other night -- with the possible exception of Frank Beamer at Virginia Tech, there is no current Division-I college football coach so immediately linked to his program as Paterno is to his.

Paterno became Penn State's head coach in 1966 (and he was an assistant before that). Beamer signed on at Virginia Tech in 1987. Those two have a combined 67 years at their respective schools. Incredible. (And, no, in case you are wondering I had no idea that Troy's Larry Blakeney was third on the longevity-at-one-school list.)

Of course, Paterno has achieved a status that might never be repeated in college football (at least not on the Division-1 level). It is impossible to think of the university without thinking of him. Despite my deep appreciation for college football, I'm not sure it is ever a good idea for a football coach to be a primary linkage to any institution of higher education, but that tie is tight when Penn State and Paterno are considered.

The "coaching carousel" is a popular discussion item when each college football season comes to an end, as media, bloggers and others begin to obsess over who will replace whom at which schools. Coaches opting to leave one school while under contract and go to another school is one of the more onerous elements of college sports, but the absence of loyalty certainly cuts both ways -- look at that aforementioned list again and see just how many people have been in their current places two or fewer years.

It's a simple arithmetic really -- win, and now, or get canned. It makes you wonder if Paterno would have made it through 43 years at Penn State if he had been hired today.

Yes, I think I know that answer.

His successor will be my predecessor

At least that's the plan West Virginia governor Joe Manchin has in mind as he figures out who to appoint as the (temporary) successor to the late senator Robert Byrd.

Manchin needs to find someone ready to step into Mr. Byrd's shoes now but also ready to step aside in two years to allow Manchin to make his expected run for that seat.

I remind you it was just two days ago when I noted that a Pittsburgh newspaper was discussing Manchin's apparent interest in succeeding Byrd. The irony is just a few hours after that story was published, Sen. Byrd passed away.

Monday, June 28, 2010

The Incredible Huck?

Of course, the mainstream media are looking for any and all indications that the expected Republican presidential nominees will indeed make a run for the Oval Office.

There are renewed signs today that former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee will be one of those candidates.

Huckabee's folksy brand of conservatism resonated well especially in the South during the 2008 presidential election, but he failed to make a consistently strong showing at other times and in other places. He comes off, in the opinion of this observer, as genuine but someone who is too easily labeled the "Christian guy."

It's one he appears comfortable with, but with the expectations of a second presidential run growing can such a label sustain itself through a grueling set of national primaries and caucuses? I doubt it. Moreover, the likely presidential nominees appear to be courting the same kind of voter -- social and economic conservatives who see the country being swallowed by big government and excessive secularism.

The expected candidates (with one notable exception) all wear the same title -- former governor. There's Romney (Massachusetts), who fairly or not must fight off the "Mormon guy" label, Pawlenty (Minnesota), who recently spoke to top Republicans in Tennessee, Palin (Alaska) and, of course, Huckabee (Arkansas, as mentioned).

The exception is Newt Gingrich, who has the name recognition the others don't and who, at least for now, would be the preferred candidate of Republicans in an important state.

For now, we can presume that all five (and more) will be presidential candidates in 2012. If Palin is seen as damaged goods, Romney as not electable, Gingrich as past his prime, and Pawlenty not ready for prime time, then Huckabee could remain in it for the long haul.

But those are a lot of ifs. Too many, in my opinion.

Um, about that "reset" button

Perhaps U.S.-Russian relations will need to reset the reset.

Spying? Really!

"Dumbness"

Kudos and loud applause for the "journalists" who thought it was a good idea to mock Sarah Palin. It turns out their verbal harangue was caught on tape, including one saying that "dumbness doesn't just come in sound bites."

Congratulate the on a splendid display of professionalism.

You and I, and everyone else, including journalists, can hold whatever personal opinion we want about Ms. Palin or any other politician. However, unless we can leave that opinion at the door when we cover that individual, then we don't deserve to call ourselves journalists.

In fact, that very "leave your opinion at the door" message is the one I deliver when speaking to high school journalists or incoming college freshmen. I remind them that journalists are not robots; it is natural to have feelings of empathy, support, dislike and a host of other emotions for the people they cover. But I also tell them that if they cannot leave their personal biases out of their work, then they owe it to their employer and their audience (and not in that order) to step aside and let someone who can, do that job.

If those brilliant souls who thought it was wise to rip Ms. Palin while on the job get fired, then they've brought their professional misery upon themselves. I have no tolerance for their "dumbness."

The death of a giant

This from the Los Angeles Times, on the passing of Sen. Robert Byrd:

Sen. Robert Byrd of West Virginia dies at 92

Byrd, the longest-serving member of Congress in history, died at a Washington-area hospital. He fell ill late last week with what was believed to be heat exhaustion and severe dehydration as a result of hot weather, his spokesman said, but other unspecified conditions developed.

Byrd, a Democrat, served in Congress for 57 years -– six in the House and the rest in the Senate. The West Virginia governor, also a Democrat, is empowered to appoint his successor.


I've lived close enough to West Virginia for eight of the past 10 years to know that it doesn't take long once you enter that state to see how often Sen. Byrd delivered for his state.

What I find terribly ironic about his passing today was that just yesterday while being interviewed on a Pittsburgh radio station, the conversation about Byrd and his lengthy political service came up.

I made the point that too many politicians stayed around for too long in my opinion, and in doing so they tarnished their reputations. I added that it was time for Sen. Byrd to step away from the Senate and allow a younger person to replace him. What prompted the question from the show's host was a story in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that noted the state's current governor, Joe Manchin, was quietly building a strategy that would position himself to run as Byrd's replacement if Byrd had opted not to seek re-election in 2012.

Will Gov. Manchin name himself as Sen. Byrd's replacement?

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Scouting

The sun beat down on a group of adults...
Each a friend to the other...
But what they were doing on this day...
Would benefit many another.

Tents went up...
Tarps went down...
Games and fun were put out.
It is almost time for a camp...
For a kid who calls himself a Scout.

They take no penny...
They take no dime...
For the job they do...
They instead will take their pay...
By hearing many say "thank you".

On this day...
With the sun shining bright...
They could already hear the noise...
That comes from a group of happy kids...
Better known as boys.

They say that Scouting is for kids...
And, yes, that is very true.
But please remember...
To recognize the adults...
Who make it so, now through September.

Whose truth is it?

There's an interesting story in today's Washington Post taking a look at how the U.S. embassy in Pakistan and the State Department are working to counter inaccuracies in the Pakistani media.

The report comes out at the same time that the U.S. continues to defend its use of drone aircraft in an effort to take out the Taliban's leadership. One today reportedly killed 3 people.

Meanwhile, Pakistan has announced it will begin closely monitoring seven major Web sites for material that could be considered offensive to Muslims.

The fact that the U.S. is the only nation attempting to combat errors that appear in the Pakistani media is a surprise. Knowing the tense historical relationship between India and Pakistan (and the rhetoric was ratcheted up again this week), one would think that the Indian government would adopt a similar proactive stance.

Yup, he's right (UPDATED AT BOTTOM)

Read this...nothing more should be said.

UPDATED: 10:43 a.m. EDT: There is a second, perhaps more important, issue associated with the demise of Gen. Stanley McChrystal -- why is it that America's military leadership is turning over so rapidly in Iraq and Afghanistan?

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Who is on first...

...but Hu will be at the White House.

China's leader has accepted an invitation from President Obama to make a state visit to Washington.

Well, that's that

The "oh my, we're going to win the World Cup" talk has been silenced. The "this will finally be the World Cup in which Americans fall in love with soccer" theme is also relegated to the what-might-have-been file.

Ghana 2, United States 1. The Americans are done at the 2010 World Cup.

As I have watched the World Cup unfold this year (and for the record I've been watching the tournament since 1982, including really enjoying the coverage on Spanish-language KMEX-34 when I lived in Los Angeles), I have reflected on the number of times the Americans have come up short at this tournament.

The bottom line is that since the mid-1980s (in other words, my historical reference) the American teams have fared no better than average. And in some cases, they've been worse. Owing to my profession, the teams would receive grades ranging between C+ and F. No, no dean's list coming.

Those failures (a term that is used carefully) must certainly gore the ox of Americans who think this country has some kind of God-given right to be the best at everything. Moreover, they must thrill the people in those parts of the world where America is seen as an imperialistic force determined to control other nations and people.

It's impossible, in other words, to look at this event for what it is -- the world's best national soccer teams playing for the sport's most prestigious championship. And it is an event that the U.S. is not yet prepared to win.

Of course, because the U.S. has little World Cup history of (positive) note, the disappointment and anger that might come from, say, a U.S. men's Olympic basketball team losing the gold medal is significantly tempered. And, yes, it's really hard for Americans to get riled up when the Canadians beat them in Olympic hockey tournaments. (You can read a lot into that last statement, by the way.)

The U.S. bows out of the World Cup and while the sports' hard-core fan base rues what might have been, a majority of the country sees the loss as just another example of "that sport that my kid plays but I don't really like it."

But I wonder how Americans will react when they see Mexican-Americans or other so-called hyphenated-Americans (all of them terms I don't like, for what that's worth) wave the flags of their nation of birth or preference as those teams continue to march on at the tournament.

Who says sports and politics don't mix?

Is cheaper...better?

An interesting debate continues to develop around the country about the affordability of textbooks.

I'm a proponent of making textbooks as affordable as possible. I also am no fan of authors and publishers that update their textbooks on a yearly basis simply to allow for new textbooks to be sold.

But I am not sure about a law in Pennsylvania that would require faculty to select "the least expensive, educationally sound textbooks."

The president of the American Association of University Professors has spoken against the law, arguing that it will restrict the academic freedom of faculty.

The Pennsylvania law certainly will resonate with voters (and is it a coincidence that this is an election year?), but whether it is the correct decision or political expediency cannot be determined now.

Granted, a discussion about textbooks needs to be held. Perhaps the laws being enacted in Pennsylvania and elsewhere will make it happen.

The "spin" cycle

Kudos to Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who has joined the "blame the media" game. He's using people who know him to build a case that Rolling Stone violated the ground rules for its story.

Setting aside whether that's true, there is still the UCMJ. The what? you ask. The Uniform Code of Military Justice which makes clear that uniformed military personnel cannot criticize the President of the United States, and among many military in Afghanistan it was a topic of conversation.

Meanwhile, the concern about the media and the military's relationship is on the mind of Gen. McChrystal's successor (and this comes from the Wall Street Journal) --

'Pentagon officials are concerned the military may recoil in fear and anger from the press. The chill couldn't come at a more inopportune time for the Pentagon's leadership, with skepticism about the war's progress growing among U.S. politicians and officials in Afghanistan ahead of what is likely to be the war's most important operation, the imminent move by thousands of U.S. forces into Kandahar, the spiritual heartland of the Taliban. 'If we recoil, if we go underground, if we get defensive, it's self-defeating,' said Geoff Morrell, the Pentagon press secretary. 'We need to remain as engaged as ever, if not more so because we are at a crucial point in this war.' ... Gen. Petraeus is expected to seek to keep the command relatively open, a policy he instituted as commander in Iraq.'

Let's acknowledge the root of this story -- the general's words and actions. Don't let the "yes, but" comments get in the way.

Friday, June 25, 2010

And just in case you were wondering...

I've got the following teams advancing to the quarterfinals of the WorldCup -- Uruguay (over South Korea), United States (over Ghana), Netherlands (over Slovakia), Brazil (over Chile), Germany (over England), Argentina (over Mexico), Paraguay (over Japan) and Spain (over Portugal).

And if those games turn out to be predicted correctly, then I see the United States (over Uruguay), Brazil (over the Netherlands), Argentina (over Germany) and Spain (over Paraguay) in the round of eight.

I liked Brazil and Spain to play in the Final before the World Cup began. I'm not moving off that opinion.

If you thought Arizona governor Jan Brewer was a polarizing figure before...

...imagine what you are going to think of her now.

The Arizona governor has suggested on more than one occasion this month that most illegal immigrants entering this country are "drug mules."

A professor at the University of Arizona has made a valid point -- if Gov. Brewer cannot provide evidence to support the claim, she should apologize for her comments.

Gov. Brewer also has challenged the White House for its commitment to stopping the flow of illegal immigrants into the United States.

Ms. Brewer should consider if she is using her political rhetoric wisely. While she is likely to resonate with voters in asking that more be done to combat the number of illegal immigrants entering the United States, she does nothing to bolster her credentials as a firm political leader by making statements about illegals that appear impossible to validate.

Internal problems?

The Financial Times reports there might be some palace intrigue at the White House:

Peter Orszag, Barack Obama’s budget director, resigned this week partly in frustration over his lack of success in persuading the Obama administration to tackle the fiscal deficit more aggressively, according to sources inside and outside the White House.

Mr Orszag, whose publicly stated reasons for leaving were that he was exhausted after years in high pressure jobs and also that he wanted to plan for his wedding in September, is seen as the guardian of fiscal conservatism within the White House.

Bummer in the Bayou

The latest big name university to indicate it is facing significant cutbacks is Louisiana State University.

These likely cuts are indicative of state governments that did not adequately fund higher education over many years. I see that as not providing leadership nor sustaining a resource whose value cannot often be quantified.

Viva la Mexico!

What an interesting socio-political dilemma playing out in the streets of Los Angeles (and I'm assuming in other large U.S. cities with sizable Mexican populations) where the Mexican flag is again being proudly displayed.

The flag is not being used as some kind of protest against immigration reform. Rather it is a sign of solidarity between its holder and the country of his or her birth. I fully expect there will be people who will grumble that such displays of national pride should not be endorsed in the United States.

Give me a good reason why. And the old "you live in America" line doesn't work. Because if you are going to use that line, then please be consistent and criticize those who are rooting for France, England, Italy or any other nation.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Canadian Football League

Because I'm an American...
I'm not supposed to care...
About the brand of football...
They play way up there.

But I'm a CFL fan...
I confess that it is true...
From BC east to Hamilton...
I like these games to view.

Ticats, Argos, Alouettes...
Bombers and Eskimos, too...
Lions, Riders and Riders...
Yes, those teams are two.

3 downs, large end zones...
And a C in the field...
The game is more wide open...
To me, it has appeal.

Go ahead and enjoy...
Pro football in the USA...
I'll keep on following...
The CFL through to the Coupe de Grey.

Sacre bleu!

Alles les Bleus didn't perform up to expectations at the World Cup and that means that the country's national political leadership is prepared to step in and find out why.

From the perspective of an American citizen, this could come off as a ridiculous waste of time and a circumstance in which little, if anything, of substance will come from such an investigation.

But then I ask you this -- can you imagine what the international community must think of our politicians arguing about the alignment of college football conferences and a possible national championship tournament?

In other words, it's all about perspective.

A matter of interpretation

This comes from Politico.com:

President Barack Obama said Thursday that he did not foresee an immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan in July 2011, the date he has set for the start of the drawdown of U.S. forces. "We didn’t say we’d be switching off the lights and closing the door behind us. We said we’d begin a transition phase that would allow the Afghan government to take more and more responsibility," he said at the White House, a day after naming Gen. David Petraeus his new Afghan commander. He also said he didn’t foresee any other high-level departures from his Afghanistan policy team.

An immediate withdrawal? No, but a withdrawal at that time was promised. You can interpret the president's decision as someone who doesn't understand the military situation and therefore made a rash judgment when he announced that day. Or you could interpret it as a leader who recognizes that changing circumstances require that previous guarantees need to be reconsidered.

The Boy Scouts of America won this battle...

...but the larger issue remains.

A federal grand jury has decided that the city of Philadelphia acted improperly when it opted to remove a local Boy Scouts of America chapter from a city-owned property because of the BSA policy regarding homosexuals.

However, this fight is probably not over. In Philadelphia, there will certainly be a discussion about the verdict and whether it was arrived at properly. And throughout the country, the debate about BSA's no-gays policy is likely to continue.

A political education...

...in Iran.

Interesting report about the overt political games being played in Iran to gain control over higher education.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Blame the media!!

Here we go again.

It should come as no surprise that there are people who believe the media were responsible for taking down U.S. Gen. Stanley McCrystal.

Sure they did.

Leading this pack that is out to blame the media is Geraldo Rivera. (Come on, stifle that urge to laugh.) Rivera, that paragon of investigative journalism, says that the Rolling Stone reporter who wrote about Gen. McCrystal was akin to a "rat in an eagle's nest."

Meanwhile, various "tweets" I am reading tonight suggest that CNN's Wolf Blitzer (okay, now I can't stifle a laugh) criticized the Obama administration for not allowing Gen. McCrystal to take part today in a military meeting about Afghanistan and Pakistan.

And of course the conservative blogosphere is apoplectic at the apparent double standard of the media (hey, stifle that laugh) that were quick to cover military figures critical of the Bush administration during the Iraq war but are now indignant at this general.

Let me see if I understand this correctly: A general who is leading the war effort in Afghanistan offers comments critical of his boss and it's the media that are responsible for his resignation? So, that means if I am interviewed by a Pittsburgh media organization and criticize the president of the university where I work that it would be the media's fault when I am called onto the carpet?

Please do not be distracted by those who are using Gen. McCrystal's resignation as an opportunity to blame the media, take a free shot at President Obama or otherwise make you think that somehow McCrystal's comments were benign enough to not require any penalty against him. The general deserved what he got.

Meanwhile, CNN reports the general knew before he spoke to the president this morning that his fate was sealed.

If you get it...

...you get it.

6-4, 3-6, 7-6, 6-7, 59-59

If you don't, you don't.

Good

This from the Washington Post:

President Obama has relieved Gen. Stanley McChrystal of his duties as the top U.S. military commander in Afghanistan, after McChrystal was quoted criticizing top White House officials in a Rolling Stone article, according to a White House official.

Obama will name Gen. David Petraeus to succeed McChrystal as top war commander in Afghanistan.

If the (unwritten) rule is broken...then work to fix it

ABC and NBC stand accused of blatantly violating the "don't pay for interviews" unwritten television rule.

Shame on them.

If the rule is broken in this era of anything goes journalism, then the industry, the academic community and other interested parties need to come up with new standards. But I find unacceptable for two networks to simply ignore it because they believe it doesn't apply to them.

Indeed, shame on them. Oh, just how many competent, professional journalists could have been hired with the money used to pay for those interviews?

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The story that should bring down a general

The more you read the Rolling Stone story about Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the more you come to one conclusion -- the president must fire him.

End of story.

Smart business decisions?

Consider what is taking place at the journalism school at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

The school's administration has done away with an entrance exam that did allow it to recruit better qualified candidates.

But it also was leading to fewer students entering the journalism school. The fewer students you have, the more it costs to teach them. And with the pressure on colleges and universities perhaps more than ever to be cognizant of the economics of higher education, this decision should not be surprising.

Nor should it be surprising to see what is happening at the journalism school at the University of Kansas, which is merging its campus newspaper and student-led television station. Despite the protestations made by (too many) journalists and journalism educators, the necessity for aspiring journalists to understand how to report in more than one format and through more than one medium is the future of the industry. Those programs that are progressive in their thinking are likely to continue being the ones that students want to attend.

Who is in more trouble?

Your options: Texas Rep. Joe Barton or Gen. Stanley McChrystal.

The evidence that it is Barton comes from Politico.com:

'Rep. Joe Barton's fate hangs in the balance as Republicans gather back in Washington Tuesday - and so, too, do GOP hopes of regaining their political message on the Gulf oil spill.

'One rank-and-file Republican told POLITICO that the Texas Republican's apology to BP last week was 'so harmful and so damaging to the cause and so out of touch with the rest of the planet' that it was cause for his removal. Republicans are undecided on whether to oust Barton from his top Energy and Commerce Committee slot, but some Republicans still want a vote of the critical Steering Committee, which determines committee assignments. 'If the Steering Committee [were to meet] this week, he would not hold on,' the rank-and-file Republican said.

You'll recall Barton got in an (oily?) mess after he apologized to BP officials for the "shakedown" the U.S. government was making on the oil corporation due to the explosion in the Gulf of Mexico.

But perhaps it is McChrystal. Consider this from Politico.com:

The top commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, has been summoned to the White House to explain remarks he made to a freelance writer that portrays a series of unflattering remarks McChrystal made about President Obama and other top administration officials. The face-to-face comes as pundits are already calling for McChrystal to resign.

For a more complete report on what has McChrystal in trouble, click here.

I'm voting for McChyrstal. If Barton gets sacked as a committee chair, he still retains his job. If McChrystal gets sacked, he loses a lot more. But the moral of this story is that words and actions have consequences, no matter how important a person you might think you are.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Familiar faces

One of the treats of doing the high school journalism workshop each year is getting the opportunity to welcome back to Point Park some of our alums.

In recent years, four of my television "kids" have come back to speak to at least one workshop group. But this is the first year that two "kids" have been able to make it.

Tonight the workshop students met Justin LaBar, a multimedia producer at the Pittsburgh Tribune Review (link to one of his recent stories). Later this week, Lacee Griffith, a reporter at WBOC-TV will stop by.

Great "kids" and it's always great to see them.

If you could be like Mike...

...would this be the Mike you'd want to be like?

The New Yorker story is one you ought to read. Here's my favorite line:

Huckabee does deviate from Party orthodoxy on some issues. But what makes him even less predictable as a politician is his sense of humor. At times, he seems unable to resist the force of his own funniness.

The government wants to talk to him...

...but he has no intention of making it happen.

You might not know Julian Assange, but the U.S. government certainly does. And the feds want to talk to him. He doesn't.

Assange is the founder of WikiLeaks, and his organization posted that video of U.S. military helicopter pilots gunning down almost a dozen Iraqis, two of them journalists.

The government believes Assange also has 260,000 classified documents given to him by the man it says also provided the video.

Is Assange doing the right thing keeping this low a profile?

100,000 barrels of oil a day...

...could pour into the Gulf of Mexico (and beyond) as a result of the oil-well explosion. U.S. News' Political Bulletin reports:

ABC World News reported, "There's a fresh PR problem for BP, a corporate document surfaced today in which the company warns that 100,000 barrels of oil a day could spill into the Gulf in a worst case scenario." Rep. Ed Markey: "BP has either been lying or grossly incompetent from day one. I think that they have been trying to limit their liability."

The CBS Evening News reported, "Over the past two months, the estimates have constantly changed, from 1,000 barrels a day to 5,000, then 12-19,000, 20-40,000, now 35-60,000 barrels. All the while, according to an internal company document released by Congressman Ed Markey, BP knew the worst case number could be 100,000 barrels as day. That's 4.2 million gallons of oil, an Exxon Valdez every two-and-a-half days."

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Dear BP

I wonder if you care...
About those people in the States...
Who won't have the luxury...
Of watching a yacht race.

Your boss we are told...
Needed to chill...
Off the English coast...
While people in Louisiana...
Continue to be toast.

We have been asked time and again...
To be patient as you try...
To fix a mess that has caused...
Thousands of people to ask why.

How could an oil company...
With that sunflower of yellow and green so bright...
Want to have its big shot...
See his yacht in plain sight?

We could get mad...
We could get even...
But who can we blame...
When there are those many people...
Whose lives will never be the same?

But wait, there's more...
I'm sure to know...
To this tragedy...
Because we still haven't figured out...
The damage to the sea.

And so we thank you...
For your...
Commitment to us all...
Perhaps the oil will stop flowing...
Sometime before the fall.

After all, I'm sure you know...
It's only Tony Hayward...
Whose legacy will be...
That oil going wayward.

Well-earned private time

BP has a problem. A real problem.

And it goes beyond the environmental and ecological disaster taking place in the Gulf of Mexico. It also has a chief executive who is either clueless or arrogant. Compounding that problem is a public relations team that needs a significant amount of education.

The latest evidence that BP is doing its best to destroy its reputation is this -- its chief executive, Tony Hayward, was seen off the English coast enjoying "well-earned private time" with his family while watching his yacht in a race.

What? Well-earned private time? It's no wonder the White House noted that Mr. Hayward's poorly timed decision to chill out was the latest "in a long line of PR gaffes" made by the corporation.

I'm inclined to agree with a comment made by a Friends of the Earth coordinator in this story in the Guardian newspaper:

"Personally I don't think that the bloke is particularly competent from the results that he has delivered. He obviously doesn't have the technical know-how but he should at least be managing the image of the company better."

I'd like to know if Mr. Hayward has any concern about the people in the Gulf of Mexico who definitely won't be enjoying any well-earned private time any time soon. Or if the public relations "professionals" at BP have a clue.

And if they hadn't been...

...wouldn't we have justifiably wondered why an appearance by a national political figure at a California university would not have been covered by the media?

It appeared the media were close to not being allowed the chance to cover Sarah Palin's visit to one California higher education institution. But common sense has prevailed. And Ms. Palin, who began her professional career as a journalist, should have defused this situation before it ever started.

It's perhaps unfair to blame her, but she should have known better.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

You could learn a lot from a pierogi

The lesson: If you want to criticize your employer, you'd be wise to not do that on a social media site.

One of the men who races (or shall I say used to race, you might say you can stick a fork in him because he's done) as a pierogi at Pittsburgh Pirates' baseball games can tell you all about that.

This is the latest example of people believing that Facebook, Twitter or MySpace somehow allows for free speech without repercussion. There has never been such provisions in this country. Why would it start now?

I don't want to be like Mike

He was a giant in Pennsylvania politics, but his greed and lust for power did him in. Now, Mike Veon, the former House Democratic Whip, will spend the next 6 to 14 years behind bars for his mistakes.

I followed this case intermittently, so I can't comment on whether the trial was fair or about anything associated with it, but I can tell you that I saw an unfortunate parallel -- college sports.

One of the messages that came from the judge's sentencing was that Mr. Veon's actions and behaviors demanded that he be made an example of how not to be a politician. But isn't that same "we need to make an example of this school" inherent every time the NCAA imposes sanctions on a collegiate athletics program?

And how often has that message gotten through?

Mr. Veon has a choice: He can offer to make regular speeches to political groups to warn them that unchecked power and greed can lead to what he is -- a disgraced former politician. Perhaps if he does that he can ask countless numbers of current and former college athletic directors and coaches to join him.

I'm not holding my breath.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Hooray!

Kudos to one of the great people in Pittsburgh television news. Anne Linaberger is now the news director at KDKA.

For those of us who have had a chance to work with Anne, she's a tremendous professional and a super lady.

Bravo, Anne!

An expensive trip

I understand that presidents need to get out of the White House and visit various parts of the country. But I find myself a bit uncomfortable with the trip President Obama took to Columbus today.

The president flew to Ohio's capital city this morning, delivered a speech, shook some hands, returned to the airport and flew back to Washington. He was on the ground for perhaps one hour.

CBS' Mark Knoller "tweeted" today that the trip probably cost the American taxpayers between $500,000 and $1 million, considering fuel and the myriad of expenses that come with a presidential visit.

Was it worth it?

I confess, I don't know how to answer that question.

She's picked two recent winners... (UPDATED)

...yet the caricature of her is still that of a loser.

I hope you've taken the time to read Newsweek's cover story on former Alaska governor Sarah Palin.

Yes, I already know what you are thinking. You fall into one of two camps: She's a bumbling idiot (one example to bolster your case), out of touch with mainstream America and style over substance. Unless you think she rocks because of her fierce defense of motherhood, God and country (and not in that order).

I don't care what you think (provided you are basing it on thoughtful reflection and by reading a wide variety of sources), but I do hope you are attempting to understand why Ms. Palin has resonated with parts of the American electorate dating back almost 21 months when she was selected as John McCain's running mate in the 2008 presidential election.

Ms. Palin has backed two Republican women who won their recent primaries, and she's drawing attention for it. Granted, one of those women, Carly Fiorina -- California's Republican U.S. Senate nominee, likely would have won without her endorsement, but there is no doubt Ms. Palin made a difference in South Carolina, where Nikki Haley was struggling in her campaign to win the state's gubernatorial primary. But once Palin came in, Haley's popularity surged (and with it came those still unproven rumors of marital infidelity). Interestingly, and for what it's worth, the blogger who claimed to have had an affair with her has endorsed Ms. Haley's bid.

Palin infuriates the mainstream media when she continues to appear only on FOXNews while using her Facebook page to deliver succinct political messages aimed to her supporters or at her critics.

But remember that in this era of one-sided political discussion on cable "news" television networks and with the plethora of social media, Ms. Palin can get her message out without dealing with the news organizations that she doesn't like.

That certainly, without a doubt, and soooooooooo proves she's a loser.

In other words, Ms. Palin is not a loser for using the media available to her in the way she wants. She might be a loser in other ways, but not for this. Or perhaps her use of the media proves just how smart she is. You decide.

Why Rep. Barton's "shakedown" comment...

...hurts the GOP more than you might think.

This excerpt from Politico.com's Jonathan Allen and Jake Sherman (full story here):

'It would have been bad enough for the GOP if a backbencher had accidentally strayed wildly off message, but Barton, the top Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, is the face of the party on energy policy - and his comments were intentional. So rather than talking about BP's culpability and the Obama administration's response, Washington was fixated on a Texas Republican's seemingly tone-deaf comments. The damage control was swift and the pushback severe - leaders in Barton's own party threatened to yank his ranking-member status on the committee. Gulf-state Republicans seethed, and the top three GOP House leaders were compelled to put out a joint statement saying, 'Congressman Barton's statements this morning were wrong.'

Yes, we are...maybe

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has told an Ecuadorian television station (what!!!) that the U.S. government will sue Arizona for its controversial illegal immigration law.

Unfortunately, the Department of Justice won't confirm such a lawsuit. Moreover, Mrs. Clinton is the Secretary of State and as such her portfolio doesn't include domestic issues. It's no wonder the governor of Arizona is angry and perplexed at what Mrs. Clinton said.

This scenario provides strong evidence to critics of the Obama administration that it is not in control of its political message. To allow Mrs. Clinton's comment to hang out there without confirmation is, shall we say, not the most positive example of having a consistent, unified message.

Granted, with the U.S. media covering the appearance on Capitol Hill of the chairman of BP, this Clinton story flew under the radar yesterday. I expect the heat to be turned up on the White House to provide a clear indication of what it intends to do, and to also explain why Mrs. Clinton said what she did.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Out with the old...er, I mean expensive

In with the young, uh...I mean inexpensive.

The San Diego Union-Tribune is blowing out perhaps as many as 40 seasoned newsroom employees and replacing them with "junior" reporters.

If the new landscape of college football is now set...

...then it's time to look at the winners and losers in the "Let's Play Conference Swapping Musical Chairs".

The winners:

1. The University of Texas: If y'all had any doubts that the Longhorns were "steer"-ing the Big-12 bus, then take a look at how they used the potential for a move to the Pac-10 to generate more money for themselves. And that ain't no "bull," y'all.

2. The Little 5 of the Big-12: About one week ago, Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri, Iowa State and Baylor appeared to be heading to the Mountain West or somewhere else. Instead they remain part of the scaled-down Big-12 (now 10 schools) and therefore part of a BCS conference. And Kansas' basketball program retains its top status in a top-tier conference.

3. The University of Utah: Hello Pac-12!! The Utes go from the BCS Busters to a BCS conference. No chance that would have happened if the Big-12 had collapsed.

4. The college football fan who likes the big boys playing for the big prizes. The elite of the sport have become more clear. They are either historically big-time programs or they reside in major media markets. Or both. The little engine that could winning a mythical national championship? Oh, please stop me from laughing.

The losers:

1. Western geography: How exactly are you going to divide the Pac-12 into two divisions when 7 of the 12 teams are essentially on the Pacific coast? Or knowing that the 4 California teams want to remain together? Or recognizing that there is no true east/west or north/south to this map?

2. Conference-USA: Already a second-tier conference, this now 10-team conference has seen two of its largest media markets evaporate as Memphis and Central Florida (located in Orlando) prepare to bolt to the Big East.

3. Texas A&M: Let the Aggies attempt to sell you some Texas-sized propaganda. Just don't buy it. Sure, the Aggies were talking seriously to the Southeastern Conference as a means of proving it was as mighty as Texas. That's a bunch of bull.

4. Traditional rivalries: Utah and BYU to close out the Mountain West schedule? Only one more time. Ditto Nebraska and Colorado with the winner positioned to go to the Big-12 championship game. A Rose Bowl game involving a Big-10 (now 12 teams) champion Nebraska against a Pac-10 (now 12 teams) champion Utah?

Uh, um...okay (UPDATED)

1st UPDATE: 3:45 p.m. EDT: Coming rapidly to his senses (or perhaps he was kicking his a** kicked by members of his party?), Rep. Barton has apologized for his "shakedown" comments.

ORIGINAL POST: A Texas Republican has apologized to BP executives for the White House's "shakedown" of the oil giant following the Gulf oil spill.

Rep. Joe Barton is of course entitled to hold whatever opinions he wants, but perhaps he should have considered how what is happening in the Gulf has shaken the lives of so many people.

Moreover, he might be wise to remember that BP's chief executive Tony Hayward has apologized for what has happened.

And by the way, one report already has noted that a subsidiary of BP just happens to be one of Rep. Barton's largest corporate donor. Is it fair to draw an inference? Chances are that depends upon where you fall on the political spectrum.

I didn't see this coming

Central Florida and Memphis...in the Big East?

Looks like it's going to happen, and it's just another example of the landscape of college athletics shifting with the big, power conferences looking to gain a foothold in television markets in which they currently aren't a player.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

When someone seems linked to a place...

...just the thought of leaving seems awkward to outsiders. But unless the person in question opens up and tells us what really matters to them (or if the causes are obvious), we never really know the circumstances that drove someone to leave someplace that seemed like the perfect fit.

Earlier this week, current Michigan State men's basketball coach Tom Izzo announced that he was remaining in East Lansing and turning down a phenomenal amount of money to take over the NBA's Cleveland Cavaliers.

In announcing his decision, Izzo said something that must have rang true with so many college basketball fans:

"I am going to be a lifer. This is what I'm going to be, and I'm damn proud of it."

Much like Duke's Mike Krzyzewski or Penn State's Joe Paterno, it is impossible to think of that school and that man as being separate from each other. And, yes, that applies to women's sports as well -- can you say Pat Summitt and Tennessee?

It's a bit harder to see that link on the professional level, but it does happen. Cal Ripken Junior will always belong in the same sentence as the Baltimore Orioles. John Elway goes hand-in-hand with the Denver Broncos. And Derek Jeter is carving out a career that allows him a spot in the conversation about all-time best New York Yankees.

But for others, that perfect link with an organization doesn't happen. The greatest players of their sports in this generation played for multiple teams, and one of them even tried playing two sports.

Of course, Wayne Gretzky will always be an Edmonton Oiler, but he also was a Los Angeles King, St. Louis Blue and New York Ranger. We know why he left Edmonton (an owner who believed he could no longer afford him) and Los Angeles (an owner who engaged in a variety of illegal business deals). But imagine "Number 99" forever in Edmonton blue and orange. What might have been.

Michael Jordan will forever be a Chicago Bull. But don't forget he also was a Washington Wizard. And he also was a Birmingham Baron, when he took his hiatus from basketball and took up baseball. Here again, a short-sighted owner who thought he could no longer afford Jordan and a couple of his teammates led to Jordan wearing another basketball uniform.

However it is the volunteer departures that can really sting. Imagine, for example, how Cleveland will feel if LeBron James bolts later this summer and signs as a free agent with another team. James is a northern Ohio kid and went to high school in nearby Akron. If this were a mob movie, you'd be hearing one person saying something like "A, yo. You ain't leavin'. Capeche?"

Of course, this switching of places doesn't happen only in the professional sports world, but the media attention athletes and coaches engender assure that their moves will be scrutinized and analyzed.

When it happens to people you know, it can really be a surprise. In the academic world, it happens more than you might believe. I inevitably find myself on at least one occasion at every national convention I attend reacting with surprise upon learning that someone has moved to another institution.

Sometimes the reason is obvious: a denial of tenure, a move into administration. At other times the reason is not clear. I find it uncomfortable when someone struggles to tell me why the old school wasn't good enough but why the new school can be. Maybe. Sort of. Hopefully.

Yes, linkage to a place is important. It provides us with stability. It provides us with roots. But sometimes that's not enough.

It's looking more likely

If you were wondering about Tim Pawlenty's intentions of running for president in 2012, he's offered a strong indicator.

The former Minnesota governor has opened political action committees in Iowa and New Hampshire, the first caucus and first primary state in any presidential campaign.

The Republican joins other potential presidential aspirants establishing a base throughout the country.

Another deadly day for journalists in the Philippines

The Philippines is increasingly becoming a deadlier place for journalists criticizing the corruption within the government.

This time, a radio journalist was killed for doing his job.

Blending academic research with real-world applicability

An interesting report about attempts in New York to blend academic research for a real-world media application. Check it out.

If you are the parent of a tween or a teen...

...this would be worth your time and attention. (And note the free download at the bottom of the report.)

Is the Boy Scouts of America not living up to its convictions?

A fascinating trial began yesterday in Philadelphia, where the city is threatening to revoke its $1-a-year lease of a downtown building to a local Boy Scouts of America chapter because it won't accept openly gay boys into the program.

As I read this report from the Associated Press, I found myself drawn to one conclusion -- is the desperately financially strapped city attempting to generate funds from a now convenient target?

I'll return to that point below, but for now consider this comment from this Philadelphia Inquirer story:

Jason P. Gosselin, who represents the Cradle of Liberty Council, told the jury in his opening address that the city's effort is unconstitutional, and motivated only by hostility to the anti-gay viewpoint expressed by the Scouts' national leadership policy.

I think Mr. Gosselin has missed an important point, namely that since the molestation scandal rocked the Boy Scouts of America earlier this year, the organization as a whole is viewed as overly protective of its image to the extent that it will hide sexually deviant acts involving male Scout leaders and underage Scouts. BSA's decision to fight the release of its self-described "perversion files" is not aiding its cause.

As a result and much like the Catholic Church, the Boy Scouts of America is seen as a tainted brand and one that does not deserve (for lack of a better term) a financial or other break for the good work it does in thousands of communities across the country (not to mention around the world).

If the organization were to come clean and admit that it tried to cover up disgusting acts by men who said they were interested in teaching young men lessons that would sustain and better them as they moved into adulthood, the image would improve. Then, and especially in Philadelphia, it might have some cachet when it argues that the city is unfairly singled it out for a money grab.

However, with the financial hole that Philadelphia is in, it is hard for the BSA chapter in that city to argue that it didn't like the national organization's no-gays rule while it appeared (according to the city) to instead secretly try to support it.

I think the BSA is sailing into stormy waters here, and in my opinion it will lose this case. An appeal will certainly follow, but the damage to the organization's overall reputation will be enhanced.





Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Big city, big media market, big dreams

I ran into one of my former "kids" tonight, and she told my wife, my boys and I that she was putting in place plans to move to New York City before the end of the year.

She added that another of my former "kids" was joining her and there was a chance that another former "kid" would make that journey as well.

My wife told me that she held New York City in less than high regard largely because one of her best friends from college tried to blaze that trail and had a disappointing experience professionally and personally. She eventually returned to Columbus and has carved out a wonderful professional career.

I reminded my better half that being a product of southern California, I could fully understand why a young person would seek to find that balance of professional and personal satisfaction in New York City. I probably sacrificed some of the professional success I could have had because I remained in Los Angeles doing lots of radio freelance work. I had opportunities to leave but something kept me there. At least it did until my late 20s.

Currently three of my former "kids" are in the Big Apple, and my sense is that they are having a fantastic time.

As I talked to my wife tonight I felt a sense of regret that so many of my "kids" were leaving Pittsburgh. I recognize that there are more opportunities in New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago and places such as that. And I also recognize that the kind of professional growth they must have will take them away from here. But why New York City? Why not Kansas City? Lansing, Michigan? Birmingham, Alabama?

I also was left wondering how many of those "kids" would reach a point that led them to say they had had enough of the big city with its big media market and big dreams. Would they, in other words, someday take that trip to another city with a better quality of life and more stability.

As I glanced off into the distance and admired the early evening blue skies and wispy clouds I reminded myself that an outlook on life changes dramatically from the time you are 22 to when you are 32 to when you are 42. And as my boys engaged in yet another Star Wars battle with some bad guys I hoped that no matter what my "kids" and my kids do, that they always remember that I was there to help them and to offer advice.

Such a dad.

Sanction us...war on you!

The North Koreans are at it again.

Today, Pyongyang's ambassador to the United Nations said that any attempt to condemn North Korea for sinking a South Korean warship will be interpreted as going to war.

Ambassador Sin Son Ho added that the U.S. and South Korea stood to politically benefit from any trouble in the Korean peninsula, but he did not claim either side was responsible for the sinking that killed 46 sailors.

Interestingly, Mr. Sin's comments come on the same day a new report suggests the Obama administration has not done enough to quell Pyongyang's efforts at gaining a nuclear bomb. The report suggests the White House should enter into substantive talks with North Korea about its nuclear ambitions.

Perhaps Mr. Sin scheduled his impromptu news conference today in order to distract from his nation's initial World Cup game against Brazil. The expectation was that Brazil would blast North Korea, but at the half that game was 0-0.

Great Britain's Prime Minister says he's sorry...

...for actions by British troops almost 30 years ago.

Here's an excerpt from a New York Times report:

Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain offered an extraordinary apology on Tuesday for the 1972 killings of unarmed demonstrators by British troops in Northern Ireland, saying that a long-awaited investigation into the violence had left no doubt that the shootings were "both unjustified and unjustifiable."

"On behalf of our country, I am deeply sorry," Mr. Cameron said in a speech to Parliament. "What happened should never, ever have happened."

The violent events on Jan. 30, 1972, in the Northern Irish city of Londonderry, known as Bloody Sunday, triggered three decades of bitter and sectarian strife in Northern Island and became one of the most notorious single events in the recent history of the Troubles, which claimed more than 3,600 lives.

Will Kyrgyzstan become a big enough problem...

...to draw in the United States or Russia?

TIME magazine asks that question, noting that both Washington and Moscow have much to lose if the crisis deepens.

The United Nations wants elections to move forward, but when you consider this excerpt from the report highlighted at the top of this sentence, it is hard to see how that is possible:

The southern part of the impoverished Central Asian nation has been convulsed by days of ethnic rioting targeting minority Uzbeks, which has left the country's second-largest city, Osh, in ruins and sent a stampede of Uzbek families fleeing toward the border.

Kyrgyzstan's interim government, which took over when former President Kurmanbek Bakiyev was ousted in an April uprising, has accused Mr. Bakiyev's family of instigating the violence to halt a June 27 referendum on a new constitution. Uzbeks have mostly backed the interim government, while many Kyrgyz in the south have supported Mr. Bakiyev.

It is expected that humanitarian aid will start flowing -- and largely from Russia, which could be the first indicator that Russia will be more than a player on the sideline in determining how this situation plays out.

If this story is true...

...then there is no university president for whom you would not want to work. But read the story and draw your own conclusions.

Work 20 hours a week....get paid nothing

The debate about paid versus unpaid internships has been renewed. This time an academic has chimed in on the debate.

Daniel Akst makes some relevant points in this editorial, but there is still no way around the obvious -- if internships included a "you must pay the student provision", then most internships would go away.

Is that fair? Probably not. But that right now is the way it is.



Monday, June 14, 2010

Y'all ain't gonna see a Pac-16 (UPDATED AT BOTTOM)

Well, bummer...what would have been the nation's most impressive, largest and best athletic conference will not happen.

Texas has turned down an invitation from the Pac-10 and will remain in the Big-12, according to ESPN. It is expected that the other 9 current Big-12 schools will quickly make it clear they, too, will remain where they are.

Thus, the Pac-16 will not be born, and the Big-12 will not die.

(Yes, the conference is still known as the Big-12 even though Colorado and Nebraska have announced in recent days they are bolting for other conferences. Colorado is joining the Pac-10, which also presumably will need a new name, and Nebraska is heading to the Big-10, which already had 11 teams before the Cornhuskers came on board.)

If Texas had exited the Big-12, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech would have joined the new Gold Rush heading west.

Texas is one of those elite schools that can make decisions for itself and take other schools along. You can place perhaps 7 schools on such a list, including Notre Dame, USC, Ohio State, Michigan, Florida, Alabama and Texas. Clearly if the Longhorns were not going to join the Pac-10, none of the other schools in the conference's South Division possesses the muscle to make it happen.

Texas will discuss with its 9 partners (and there is the potential to add two schools to replace Colorado and Nebraska) creating a new television deal which could include a Big-12 television network, akin to what exists in the Big-10. What will be interesting to me is to see if those dollars from any TV deal are equally divided among the schools or if Texas will get a larger pot (not to mention its own TV deal that nets the Longhorns some serious money).

Did UT play the Pac-10 against the Big-12? Possibly. But in an era in which conference loyalties are predicated on financial ties rather than tradition or geography, you can grumble at what Texas did. Or you can admit that if you were in the athletic department at that university, you'd have done the same thing: find the deal that was best for your school.

So, where does this leave the expansion of the large, most prestigious conferences? A few thoughts:

The Pac-10 will go to 12 teams, and I expect Utah to be the first school invited. (And if that happens, you think the loyalty and tradition of Utah and Brigham Young might not take a hit?)

If Utah is offered and accepts, then that reduces the Mountain West Conference (MWC) to 9 teams. Ironically, it expanded just last week when Boise State joined its ranks.

The Big-12 will need to expand to 12 teams in order for it to continue to host a lucrative football championship game. I think one of the invitations will be extended to Texas Christian, a current member of the Mountain West. (Suddenly the MWC could be looking at gaining one school and losing two in a short period of time.) But there is no clear consensus about the next school.

From a geographic standpoint, another school from Texas would reinforce that the Lone Star State is the home for that conference. So, let's eliminate any other schools from there at least for now. Moreover, no other Texas school has a national reputation.

Brigham Young would be a nice fit, but the poor MWC would get raided yet again! BYU's move would make even more sense if Utah does move to the Pac-10.

Arkansas would be a nice fit, but I don't see any reason for the Razorbacks to quit the Southeastern Conference for the Big-12.

It was just a few weeks ago that the potential seemed real for perhaps four super-conferences to be created. The likelihood of that happening has been reduced but not necessarily eliminated.

But today's news confirms what should have been clear already -- Texas calls the shots in the Big-12.

UPDATED: 8:35 p.m. EDT: There might not be an expansion in the current Big-12. The media reports I'm reading and hearing suggest Texas is happy with its own television network and then splitting any conference television pie 10, not 12, ways.

Staying with 10 also eliminates the dangerous conference championship game during which a football team could run the regular-season table and then get bumped off against a lesser-ranked school thus denying that team a chance at playing for the (mythical) national championship.

So perhaps the Big-10 adds one and the Pac-10 adds two, thus allowing each to have a conference title game, while the Big-12 cuts back.

As comedian Yakov Smirnoff so eloquently told us: "What a country!"

An appropriate sanction?

The University of California-Irvine has suspended for one year its Muslim Student Union for actions its group members took during a speech by the Israeli ambassador.

The story here from The Chronicle includes important embedded links, including video of the protest, will assist you in making up your mind on whether the penalty was appropriate.

Women!

What continues to give oxygen to the non-story of Carla Fiorina poking fun at the hair style worn by California U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer?

And where in the world is the same oxygen coming from to provide interest in the "did Sarah Palin have breast implant surgery" story?

Are we really this vacuous as a country that the hair style and chest of two female politicians is actually worth our time and attention? If we're going to take the time to discuss the merits and assets of women in the political arena, then let's consider this story from The New York Times. It offers an important examination of how Nikki Haley, who almost certainly will be South Carolina's next governor, has had to adjust her personal background to be palatable to her constituents.

Then let's consider this excerpt (appearing on Mike Allen's Daily Playbook) from a Politico.com report examining how often female politicians appear on the Sunday television talk shows:

'According to American University's Women & Politics Institute, female lawmakers have composed 13.5 percent of the total Sunday show appearances by all representatives and senators this year... Some academic researchers and press secretaries for women in Congress say the network bookers have a men-in-suits mind-set that leads to familiar faces appearing over and over ... The shows' producers bridle at the criticism, saying that, despite their strong interest in booking more women, the shows must be topical and reflect the reality that men still hold more of the most influential and newsmaking positions in Congress. And they say some congressional women - Nancy Pelosi chief among them - do not help the cause by making themselves so difficult to book. Most producers say they try to recruit female lawmakers nearly every weekend but receive a steady stream of rejection slips. 'I've probably asked her 25 times. She is just unwilling to do it,' Betsy Fischer, executive producer of NBC's 'Meet the Press.' [Pelosi prefers to tape interviews in her office, and 'Meet' wants guests on-set.] ... Women make up 17 percent of the membership of the House and Senate ... Thus far this year, the five major Sunday shows -- NBC's 'Meet the Press,' 'Fox News Sunday,' CBS's 'Face the Nation,' ABC's 'This Week,' and CNN's 'State of the Union' -- have had 148 appearances by congressional lawmakers. Of those, 128 were men and 20 were women.'

My point is simple -- hair styles and breasts are irrelevant in helping us determine the merits of the women who aspire to be political leaders. Let's make our substantive comments about their policies and plans, not their figures.

One of my (former) "kids"...

...is moving up in the world.

Congrats to Amanda Barren!

BP isn't going to win...

...any public relations battle with the U.S. government over the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. And, in my opinion, the angrier, more aloof or any emotion displayed by its executives will continue to undermine its popularity and respect among U.S. citizens.

One of the best columnists out there -- Clive Crook of the Financial Times -- correctly argues that BP ought to take the lead in also convincing the British people to stand down in this fight.

Granted, the perception that President Obama is directly or indirectly attacking Britain in his criticism of how BP is (mis-)handling this crisis exists in the United Kingdom. The call for a multi-billion dollar escrow fund to pay for damages relating to the oil spill is likely to exacerbate those feelings. But let's not forget this IS a British corporation.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

$1 trillion

If you thought Afghanistan was an intriguing discussion before, consider this from The New York Times:

The United States has discovered nearly $1 trillion in untapped mineral deposits in Afghanistan, far beyond any previously known reserves and enough to fundamentally alter the Afghan economy and perhaps the Afghan war itself, according to senior American government officials.

The previously unknown deposits -- including huge veins of iron, copper, cobalt, gold and critical industrial metals like lithium -- are so big and include so many minerals that are essential to modern industry that Afghanistan could eventually be transformed into one of the most important mining centers in the world, the United States officials believe.

Blow it out?

If you've been watching the World Cup tournament (and, yes, you should be) then you've been introduced to the vuvuzela.

Think the swarm of angry bees sound that has dominated the background noise and you've got it. If you've not yet gotten it, you'd better hurry -- the vuvuzela might be outta here rather soon.

There have been complaints by various players and teams, but the only argument I see as valid for banning the plastic trumpet from the various stadia is because of the potential for hearing damage. That is mentioned briefly in this story.

To gain an appreciation (I hope) for this intriguing instrument, consider this report from al-Jazeera.

If you ask me (and you haven't), I believe that they who don't like the noise emanating from the stadium need to blow it out.

Do you know where Kyrgyzstan is?

If more than 2 percent of the U.S. population could locate Kyrgyzstan on the map, I'd be amazed. For some help and some relevant background information, I encourage you to access the CIA World Factbook on the country.

Regardless of whether you can find it on the map, I hope you are following the domestic unrest that is happening there. That violence might seem to be taking place in a remote country that is of no importance to the United States. That would be an incorrect assumption.

This excerpt from this CNN report offers just one reason why you should care:

Kyrgyzstan hosts a U.S. military transport base that is vital for supplying its troops in Afghanistan. It also has a Russian military base and strategically important natural gas pipelines.

It appears that at least 100 people are already dead, but at this point Russia has said it will not send military troops to the former Soviet republic.

Al-Jazeera notes that the unrest should not have been a surprise -- the overthrow of the government earlier this year did not quash the political tempest. (For more on April's overthrow, please consider this al-Jazeera report.)







Pakistan and the Taliban

I've regularly encouraged readers of this blog to find as many non-American sources as possible for their news and information.

That's not an indictment on the U.S. media (at least not entirely) as much as it is a recognition that you need to understand the world through other cultures.

With that in mind, The Times reports on the intimate involvement of the Pakistani ISI in the day-to-day operations of the Taliban.

The timing of the report not surprisingly coincides with the release of a Harvard University report that provides substantive evidence of the two organizations and how they work together.

Meanwhile, al-Jazeera examines who make up the Taliban.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

If this is by design...

...it sure isn't intelligent.

If you had doubts before that cable television "news" has opted to pursue ideology over information, then this editorial will eliminate any of the uncertainty.

A network that seeks consistency in its "news" programming does not deserve the title "news organization."



New look...

...same blog.

The changes to the look of this blog do not mean that the content or purpose of it has been altered. The attention on the media, politics, sports and a host of other issues remain the focus.

Let me know your thoughts on the new design.

Saudi Arabia willing to assist Israel?

It might sound absurd, except keep in mind that Saudi Arabia has little regard for Iran.

That's why this story from The Times detailing the Saudi Arabia's willingness to give Israel access to its airspace should it opt to bomb Iran's nuclear sites should have credence associated with it.

Yup, he's right

This excerpt from an interview President Obama completed with Politico's Roger Simon on Friday:

'I think it's fair to say, if six months ago, before this spill had happened, I had gone up to Congress and I had said, 'We need to crack down a lot harder on oil companies. And we need to spend more money on technology in case of a response -- to respond in case of a catastrophic spill.' There are folks up there, who will not be named, who would have said, 'This is classic, big-government over-regulation and wasteful spending.' And so, as we come of out of this, the main thing that's important to understand is, is that there are a lot of things government should do, a lot of things government can do, but there are some things that government has to do. And one of those things is provide effective oversight and regulation to big companies that can do tremendous damage to a lot of people if they don't do things in the right way.'

So, America, the next time you wish to place blame for the oil spill at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, think about this comment.

Seoul will become a "sea of flame" (UPDATED)

1st UPDATE: 10:58 a.m. EDT: South Korea also is dealing with its second cyberattack this week. It appears China is behind it.

ORIGINAL POST: Uh, oh, Dear Leader has unleashed the propaganda machine again, and isn't it convenient that the latest threat from Pyongyang was announced on the same day South Korea played its first World Cup soccer game.

Kim Jong Il really has a problem when any other nation has the spotlight. Shameful.

When a Harvard student faces deportation...

...it becomes national news.

So, read this account and come to your own conclusions.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Need your help with this one (UPDATED)

Big-10 Commissioner Jim Delany noted tonight that since Penn State joined the Big-10, 31 of the 34 NCAA Division-I conferences have undergone some change.

I know that the Pac-10 and the Big-10 are two of those three. Does someone know what the third one is?

UPDATE: Kudos to one of my former Ohio University students for sending me the answer. Of course, it was the IVY LEAGUE. Why I couldn't think of the answer is a mystery to me.

Do you see a problem...

...with this picture?

Really, Mr. President? Really?

Barack Obama was the darling of the media in 2008. The calls from the right that he was being treated more kindly and favorably than Sen. John McCain by the mainstream media were true.

Today the one-on-one interviews (or chances to play hoops) with President Obama are still considered a "get" interview. The public's fascination with Mr. Obama has waned, and the White House press corps has grumbled more than once about how this White House has treated them.

(Side note: Media -- the public doesn't care about your whining about access to the president. Shut up and move on.)

A report from The New York Times ought to really set off the media. It notes that this administration more than any other in history has sought to punish government employees who leak information to the media.

Moreover, the Huffington Post notes there are several reports suggesting the Pentagon wants to come down hard on the founder of WikiLeaks fearing that he's about to post more classified information.

You might say the president has found a few of those rear-ends he's been threatening to kick. His anger at the media for their criticism of how he's handled the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has magnified the apparent growing disdain this president has for and with the mainstream media.

Why? Here are some ideas.

1. The president heavily used social and new media to bolster his campaign chances in 2008. Thus one could argue he doesn't feel he owes the mainstream media anything

2. He is a Constitutional law scholar. Perhaps he has come up with a legal justification for taking on the media

3. He's simply ensuring that his administration and the Justice Department enforce the law of the land

4. Perhaps he IS a socialist and has no regard for a free press. (Okay I'm kidding here.)

How appropriate

The association that represents the for-profit colleges is holding its meeting in Las Vegas.

Iran won't give up

The Iranian government has equated new U.N. sanctions against it as "used napkins that need to be thrown in the garbage can." (Why can't the White House use rhetoric such as this!)

More importantly, the Financial Times notes that any new sanctions are not likely slow down Iran's ambitions for nuclear power (or a nuclear bomb).

The legitimacy of the Iranian government has come into question many times over the past few years, but perhaps more than ever in the past year because of the dubious nature of last June's election. Protests to mark the anniversary of that election were called off, and that has Iranian citizens unsure as to why.

Meanwhile, conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer has written a worth-your-time column in which he questions just how isolated Iran has become through its defiance of the world.



Thursday, June 10, 2010

Congratulations to my alma mater

Way to go, USC.

Thank you for once again building a national-championship caliber football team while forgetting to supervise what was going on around it. Bravo. Perhaps a class in leadership is a good idea.

As athletic director Mike Garrett, former head coach Pete Carroll and other "big shots" lambaste the NCAA, I hope they are looking in the mirror.

I have seen this act play out before in Los Angeles, and I've also watched the hypocrisy of big-time college sports (especially football) at other schools all across the country.

It sickens me.

So, USC will be prevented from appearing in bowls for two years, remain on probation for another two years, lose scholarships and almost certainly see the national championship from 2004 (one I relished because my alma mater was back on top of the college football world) vacated. (You can read the NCAA's full and damning report here.)

There's a terrible hypocrisy there as well, with the NCAA believing it can retroactively take away titles. But it's even more hypocritical for the NCAA to lament USC's failure to uphold the value of college amateurism in its criticism of the Trojans' athletic department.

The NCAA certainly has a deep concern about its student-athletes. Oh, yes. That's why it allows television and advertisers to hold such sway over the promotion of these "amateur" football and basketball players, and why it is oh-so-strongly pooh-poohing the almost certain creation of super conferences. (One of those super conferences will be the Pac-16, or some similar term, once it adds six new schools. See this blog's Tradition be damned! post for more on that.)

But to rip the NCAA misses the point -- USC screwed up, and its football program, the signature sports team at the university and one of its national selling points, will suffer. Of course, none of the players believed involved in the failure to support the good ol' spirit of amateurism are on campus today. And the head coach bolted for the National Football League a few months ago. (I'll leave it to you to decide whether Pete Carroll was running from a problem or running to a great offer -- a multi-million dollar contract to coach the Seattle Seahawks. He posted a critical response of the NCAA and its penalties against his former employer on his YouTube site.)

I expect USC apologists and haters in the Los Angeles media and elsewhere will crawl out of their holes in the next few days to defend or rip the football program. The students are already feeling the pain, and the players they will watch will have no chance to take part in a bowl game while the former coach and one of the former players -- both of whom were at the center of this NCAA investigation -- enjoy multi-million dollar contracts.

Yes, that's the spirit of college sports these days.

Interesting interview (UPDATED AT BOTTOM)

Vice magazine has posted online an interview it conducted with former Hearst reporter and columnist Helen Thomas.

I'll give Ms. Thomas credit for having opinions and not being afraid to express them.

Now, what these opinions and comments say about her bias, well I guess that's for you to decide.

UPDATED: WCBS-TV in New York has talked to the rabbi who interviewed Helen Thomas who then made the Jews should get "the hell out of Palestine" comment. I have no tolerance for the people who have written such hateful comments to the rabbi, but I think WCBS missed a very important point: It never tells us how many people have written the rabbi to support him.

Meanwhile, I am curious as to your thoughts about this editorial that appeared in a southern California newspaper. I think the writer missed the point -- no one is suggesting Helen Thomas or anyone cannot say whatever they want; Ms. Thomas was canned because she failed to remember that the right to free speech comes with a responsibility to use it wisely.

And you also should read this story, which highlights Ms. Thomas' sisters suggesting her comments were misinterpreted.

Let me see if I understand this -- a woman who spent essentially her entire professional life as a journalist needs her sisters to suggest her comments were misinterpreted? Really? Are we ignoring the bias exhibited by Ms. Thomas in the past? Or were those comments also somehow misinterpreted?