Saturday, July 31, 2010

Sometimes an evening doesn't go as planned...

...and what results is more than acceptable.

The Morettis headed off to an unnamed event tonight that I especially thought held out some promise to be fun and engaging for all of us. The initial part of the evening turned out that way, but the entire program I expected to unfold didn't. There was a real chance for the evening to be a bummer.

A few minutes later the boys and I grabbed a football out of the trunk, found a large open grass field and proceeded to enjoy one of those timeless moments -- playing catch.

Soon thereafter my wife began a near one-hour conversation with a fellow mom who prior to tonight she had known but only peripherally.

By the time the Morettis piled into the car and headed home we had had the enjoyable evening we had expected, but it certainly didn't come off as planned.

But will we be outraged?

The Wall Street Journal has published a damning report on the length some Internet Websites will go to track what you do online.

You should be upset after reading the story. Granted some companies are assisting you in trying to rid yourself of this onerous practice, but it's the fact that not enough people will react as they should to this.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Is Boy Scouting still relevant?

Of course it is, though The New York Times notes that recent legal issues have highlighted the struggles the Boy Scouts of America organization has had in attracting young men to and then keeping them in the program.

This is the 100th anniversary of the founding of the BSA, and as a result this should be a period for the organization to celebrate the many good things it has done, the positive lessons it has taught, and the many good people who are part of it.

That is happening, but there is an undercurrent of trouble. The question about whether to admit girls, to me, is a media-created controversy. Speaking personally, I wouldn't be opposed to it but neither am I going to make a passionate argument for it. (One can perhaps see a consistency with the conversation about whether the Catholic Church should permit women to become priests -- it's a non-issue within the hierarchy of that institution, and similarly I see no real push within BSA to bring girls into its ranks.)

But the need to ensure that the registered adult leaders, who are the lifeblood of the organization, are not pedophiles or facing other legal challenge is paramount. A case in point: Earlier this month my son attended Boy Scout camp. While I was with him, I updated my Youth Protection status, something I'm somewhat embarrassed to say I did four years ago and never did since then.

BSA made it clear to everyone associated with the program that they couldn't continue in positions of leadership without completing or updating their Youth Protection. As a Cubmaster for my younger son's Pack and as an Assistant Scoutmaster in my older son's Troop, I had two important reasons to validate my leadership credentials.

Of course, no 60-minute program in and of itself is sufficient. But Youth Protection is not the be all and end all. Instead it ought to be seen as an initial set of multiple training efforts that leaders should avail themselves of.

If you've not yet figured out, I'm very proud of my sons' affiliation with Scouting, and I'm also proud of my position as a leader. To the many Scouts who are celebrating the 100th anniversary of this fantastic institution, I say enjoy every second of it. That message also goes out to my fellow male (and female) adult leaders.

Studying abroad

If you are involved in higher education -- or just have a general interest in study-abroad programs -- then you should find this report interesting.

I've become a bigger proponent of study-abroad programs as I've spent more time in higher education. In fact I make it a point to mention the option to incoming freshmen students and insist that they consider it because of the global connections associated with our world.

The economy taps the brakes...

...and because of it the GOP will accelerate its criticisms of the Obama administration.

The New York Times reports:

The United States economy expanded at a 2.4 percent annualized rate in the second quarter of this year, slowing significantly from the revised 3.7 percent rate of the previous few months, the Commerce Department reported on Friday.

Gross domestic product, a broad measure of the total value of goods and services produced in the economy, has been expanding for the last year, leading many economists to believe the recession that began in December 2007 is technically over.

But G.D.P. growth in the last quarter of 2009 was much more robust than it has been this year, which, coupled with disappointing job creation, has led to worries that the recovery is losing steam. Many economists expect growth rates under 2 percent for the remainder of the year.

Dear Ms. Clinton

(An open letter to Chelsea Clinton) --

As you prepare for that most important day in your life -- your wedding -- I want to challenge you to rethink who you are.

Because of your parents very public life, Americans have had the chance to watch you grow up. Despite having the best of everything, you never did drugs, wrapped your car around a telephone poll, called any ethnic group by some slur, had an abortion, spent time in jail, pulled a gun on a police officer, sought freedom on the Appalachian Trail, cheated on a college exam or otherwise acted "stupidly" in public.

This behavior undoubtedly has left the mainstream media, the blogosphere and a host of others tremendously disappointed.

Please consider whether you really want the above actions and behaviors to define who you are. They obviously reflect on the values your parents taught you and on who you want yourself to be.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The classic battle has begun

In this corner... the military and political leadership, arguing incessantly that the release of almost 90,000 classified documents by WikiLeaks has put American lives and the lives of some of their allies in danger.

And in this corner... the First Amendment and the power of the media to report free of government interference.

It likely comes as no surprise to you that I side with the groups allied with the First Amendment. I do so with a healthy degree of respect for the military and political powers. They on one hand have to argue that the documents in and of themselves are harmless to national security while on the other hand remain adamant that the documents can harm important people.

The side I'm on simply has to say that WikiLeaks and other news organizations that also chose to publish the documents operated within the legal and ethical climate they know. There is no "it's not a big deal but it is a big deal" confounding argument here -- the decision was appropriate.

I have maintained on this blog that freedom of the press comes with a responsibility to use that freedom wisely. I believe that WikiLeaks did.

End of story? Of course not. One person's opinion is just that. A persuasive argument can be made that the documents were released to embarrass the United States and to undermine its efforts in South Asia. But that argument will not come from me.

A Mississippi college reverses course

Sort of.

Remember that strange story about a community college student who was sent to detention by his instructor because he used an expletive while reacting to a grade he received?

The college has backtracked but not as fully as it could have.

Maybe Britain and India need... of those reset buttons that the U.S. gave Russia soon after Barack Obama became president. The Financial Times reports:

David Cameron will leave India without meeting Sonia Gandhi, the president of the Congress party widely regarded as the most powerful person in the country, in a blow to his efforts to forge a “special relationship” with New Delhi.

The UK prime minister was scheduled to meet Mrs Gandhi on Thursday in one of the customary courtesy calls made by visiting premiers and heads of state, but the meeting was cancelled without explanation on Wednesday night.

Awkward? To say the least.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The illegal immigration debate...

...just got hotter. And you can credit or blame one judge for making that happen.

Late this afternoon a federal judge in Arizona threw out some of the sections of that state's controversial law that seeks to crackdown on illegal immigration there.

In her 36-page ruling, Judge Susan Bolton said she would not declare legal a provision that would have compelled police to check the immigration status of people they had checked for other possible legal violations.

The law goes into effect tomorrow, so today's ruling is sure to complicate an already unsettled situation in Arizona. For her part, Gov. Jan Brewer says she will not give up the fight to bring immigration reform to her state. However, the judge's decision is unlikely to ramp up or tamp down the immigration debate in Washington.

As is too often the case, the necessary conversation about the need for immigration reform (and let's not deny that a serious discussion must be had) cannot take place in a charged climate. Right now, our country is not prepared to talk about what should be done with immigration. Hot heads and loudmouths on both sides of the political aisle will dominate the conversation and ensure that rhetoric and bombast dominate the headlines.

That's too bad because Arizona deserves to have a chance to argue that what it has done is correct. (And don't forget that a majority of the country supports reforms along the lines of what is now law in that state.) But right now that is not going to happen.

Hey, mom. Dad got pulled over.

Ah, but not for the reasons you might think.

My older son and I were heading home tonight from a Boy Scouts event when yours truly did indeed get pulled over. Considering I had just made a (very legal) left turn and was therefore well under the speed limit, it couldn't have been for speeding. I think I had my blinker on, so I would have been surprised if it had been for that.

The officer soon approached.

"Good evening," he says to me.

"Good evening, sir. How are you?" I ask.

"Fine," he tells me. "You do know you don't have your lights on, don't you?"

Somewhat dumbstruck, I tell him I didn't know and proceed to flip the necessary knob to make that happen.

He smiles, asks to take a quick look at my license, returns it to me, wishes me a good night and heads off.

"Oh, I'm sooooooo telling mom when we get home," my son blurts out. (Mind you, we are perhaps 1/4 mile from the house when all this happens.

When he did relay the story, a hearty laugh was had by both boys and my better half.

An unlikely source for a war of words

It's not unusual (and not necessarily wise) for a player or even a coach to say something that ends up as "bulletin board material" in a rival team's locker room.

But when a university president purportedly rips a traditional rival, that's really unusual.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

97 great colleges... work for.

Of course any such list is sure to raise debate (and doubt), but the Chronicle of Higher Education explains how its rankings were prepared.

Baseball's relentless pursuit of...


Perhaps tonight but certainly soon, New York Yankees' superstar (and less than admirable) third baseman Alex Rodriguez will hit his 600th career home run. The national sports media are anticipating this feat with their usual over-the-top reminders of the symbolic demonstration of baseball immortality. And numbers.

Let's make no mistake, 600 home runs is stunning, and Rodriguez deserves to be recognized for the accomplishment. But the media's incessant interest in waiting for "the moment" serves in my opinion to lessen it.

Baseball is defined by numbers more so than any other sport. Perhaps it is the length of the season with games happening almost daily from late March through late October. Perhaps it is the country's fascination with using easy-to-understand numbers to help explain otherwise complex situations. Or perhaps it's because it's just fun. Whatever the reason, a batter's AVG-HR-RBI statistics are as important to a baseball fan as a pitcher's W-L-ERA.

Now with 24-hour cable sports networks, 24-hour sports talk radio, the Internet, chat rooms and a host of old and new media, baseball fans are drowning in numbers. As a result, the quantity of sources has created a lower quality of conversation about numbers and how they define my favorite sport. In an environment in which seemingly everyone can have an opinion, the opportunity to reflect on what is taking place in the game is lost.

No, I'm not arguing for a return to the 1980s (which some of us consider to be the good ol' days) when there was a real "Baseball Game of the Week" and when studying the box scores in the morning paper brought tremendous satisfaction and relaxation. But I am saying that in a situation in which so many sources are available, the numbers associated with baseball are used more often (and too often not wisely) by people who think they have something important to say.

Right now, the non-stop conversation is about Rodriguez, known as A-Rod throughout the sports world. But once his 600th home run is hit, the lust for discussing numbers connected to another player or another team will begin. And I'm not convinced I really want to pay attention to much of those conversations.

If Prime Minister Putin likes you...

...then you ought to have a future in Russia. Even if you are in Russia because you performed rather poorly as a spy.

And a wise choice it is

Smart thinking by the faculty at one journalism program, which will no longer require an old-fashioned public-affairs reporting class for its students.

Developing skills that anticipate the needs of tomorrow's industry is essential to college education, and that's true regardless of the discipline being studied. I am as firm a believer in "the fundamentals" as you will find, but I also accept that there are multiple ways to obtain those skills.

"That's the way we've always done it around here" is not a standard for future success. What is taking place at the University of Montana reflects the necessary rejection of the status quo.

Monday, July 26, 2010

What a tangled Wiki we weave

As expected, there is a rush by the mainstream media to analyze the how and why relating to WikiLeaks' decision to publish about 90,000 classified documents about the war in Afghanistan, the fight against the Taliban and more.

Of course the White House is deeply angry, suggesting that countless men and women are now put in danger. The documents, which I've not yet read, portray the situation in South Asia with more complexity and uncertainty than the Bush or Obama administrations publicly stated (no surprise there), and the pressure is mounting on Mr. Obama to more clearly define the U.S.-led mission there.

What is the president doing about that? Acting presidential by taking his message on the road, which will include a guest appearance on "The View". (Is he that desperate?)

As you consider the merits of what WikiLeaks has done, I encourage you to also consider an intriguing editorial in today's Financial Times. It asks why the world's leaders seem so determined to save Afghanistan but not other places on the map that seem to have Kabul's characteristics -- corruption, poor and a haven for terrorism (and you can add to that list). But also remember something from this TIME magazine report -- in and of themselves, the documents tell us nothing new.

You also might examine what various newspapers are writing on their editorial pages. The Guardian offers a sobering assessment of what the documents indicate is taking place in and near Afghanistan. Perhaps the most damning sentence is this one:

We today learn of nearly 150 incidents in which coalition forces, including British troops, have killed or injured civilians, most of which have never been reported; of hundreds of border clashes between Afghan and Pakistani troops, two armies which are supposed to be allies; of the existence of a special forces unit whose tasks include killing Taliban and al-Qaida leaders; of the slaughter of civilians caught by the Taliban's improvised explosive devices; and of a catalogue of incidents where coalition troops have fired on and killed each other or fellow Afghans under arms.

Newsweek's Andrew Bast recognizes there will be comparisons to the controversial release of another set of papers in another era and relating to another war. He says for now those comparisons must be carefully made.

Certainly there will be talk of this journalistic moment’s likeness to the publishing of the Pentagon Papers in 1971. Not only did an epic legal battle ensue, but the damning revelations of the war in Vietnam mark a sea change in the way that the American public viewed the war. If the revelations here are as consequential remains to be seen. And, of course, the Pentagon Papers were an official history ordered by Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara. What we have here, instead, is granular, scattered dispatches from the ground, much of it clouded by the fog of war.

I wonder though if at this point the media have gotten so caught up in the political discussion that they've not yet reviewed the journalistic discussion. Is what WikiLeaks has done equivalent to the Pentagon Papers? Is WikiLeaks able to stand behind the banner of a free press? So far, I've not seen significant conversation about this.

Now might be a good time.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Catholicism, journalism and change

Whether it be in the mainstream media, in the blogosphere or elsewhere in the social media universe, or in personal conversations, I am at times reminded that the Catholic Church needs to adapt to the changing times.

One person will say the church needs to allow priests to marry. Another person will argue the church needs to allow women to become priests. Still others will suggest that the church needs to update its position on any issue relating to sex and sexuality.

I find myself a bit amused when the people making these arguments are the same people who will claim the journalism industry is damaging itself by adapting to the times.

Journalism cannot remain strong if it too quickly follows the technological fad of the moment, the argument goes. Journalism is going to hell-in-a-handbasket because television is the public's preferred news choice, the lament goes. Journalism will not thrive until multiple news people are again allowed to roam the streets covering government, education, business and the other important institutions in our country. (And of course those reporters can only report through one media platform.)

I might be oversimplifying in what I've said above, but I hope you see the point: It is baffling to me that one incredibly important organization needs to move into the 21st century while another incredibly important organization needs to retain an operational model linked to the 20th century.

Why is that? Is it possible that the Catholic Church is out of touch because it refuses to modernize and the journalism industry is out of touch because it has chosen to modernize? Can one person be consistent in arguing forcefully for change in one circumstance but against change in another?

There is an intriguing consistency to these organizations -- the leaders of the Catholic Church and the heads of the conglomerates and much smaller companies that own news media organizations are doing what they believe is best for the people they represent. You can decide whether they are indeed making good business decisions, but there is little doubt that the leadership is confident in what it is doing.

There is another more problematic link between the Catholic Church and the journalism industry -- a growing public distrust of each. There has been no worse blow to the Catholic Church than the sexual abuse crisis involving priests, in my opinion. And in this case the cover up might have been worse than the crime, and in no way am I attempting to downplay what took place. Rather I am saying that if a pro-active response then and now had been made, the crisis would not have become as wide and as devastating. Instead, the sins of the priests combined with the impossible-to-defend decisions of the church hierarchy to create a terrible crisis in confidence.

There has been no worse blow to the journalism industry than the rampant opinion-as-news conversation that has developed in recent years, in my opinion. It is easy to point the finger of blame at FOX News in this case, but I advise you not to do that. FOX did NOT start the opinion-masquerading-as-news presentation. Instead it took full advantage of the changes in technology, the public's growing distrust in government and the financial deep pockets of its owner to create a media opinion giant. But bias existed before FOX promised to be fair and balanced.

The effect of these problems (I'm deliberately not using the word scandal) is that people are turning away from the church and from the mainstream media. I'll get my faith from somewhere else, you will hear, or my information from a source I think I can trust.

That's an operational model no organization can sustain.

That's one opinion

I can accept some of Seth Godin's criticisms of higher education, but I think he ultimately fails in the aforementioned post because he provides neither the many benefits to higher education nor does he suggest there are ways for institutions to combat the problems he outlines.

Let's consider a couple of them:
1. What data are available to him to suggest that there is no significant payout to a college education? He provides no link, no source to allow you to independently verify his contention.

2. The U.S. News rankings he indicates as being important is seen as dubious at best to a host of colleges and universities. Why? At the risk of oversimplification -- they refuse to pander to ratings. For Mr. Godin to suggest that countless numbers of institutions are rejecting students in order to inflate their "best" status once again appears specious minus any supporting evidence.

3. Accreditation is much more about meeting federal mandates than in-house requirements. Whether we in higher education like it is irrelevant, the movement toward more rigorous and documented accreditation standards began under the Bush administration and has continued under the Obama administration. For Mr. Godin to not acknowledge that colleges and universities must play to new standards undermines that portion of his argument.

There is no question that higher education needs to continually and critically assess its mission, and I will be among the first to admit that there is much to higher education that ought to be debated fiercely. But for one man to throw as much muck as he can is counterproductive.

You are encouraged to agree or disagree with me.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

My personal favorites from 3 days in Annapolis

You can add Annapolis to my short list of favorite cities. The Moretti family heads home tomorrow after three fun days in this city, and I thought I'd provide you with my list of things you should see or do if you ever visit here.

Keep in mind this list includes places to see located in Annapolis, so locations such as the nearby state beaches and the famous Bay Bridge, about 10 miles from here, are not included.

1. The Naval Academy. Yes, I know, an obvious choice, but if you appreciate tradition, history and higher education, as I do, what else would you put at the top of the list? Specifically be sure you see: Bancroft Hall, Preble Hall, John Paul Jones' crypt, the Chapel, and when you get to Dahlgren Hall be sure to ask about the unusual cut out on the floor of the facility. If you want to know the answer, send me an e-mail and I'll tell you.

2. History Quest. It's at 99 West Street. It's free. It's air conditioned.

3. Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. If you are so inclined, find an open gate and head down to the field. If you have the Morettis with you, we'll definitely take that walk with you!

4. The Scenic Overlook located on Maryland State Route 450. It includes a World War II Memorial and offers a fantastic view of the city.

5. Historic Annapolis. I saw less of this area than I would have liked because of the excessive heat and humidity that has gripped this part of the country this week. A self-guided walking tour is a must the next time I am here.

I know it will not take much convincing to get the better half or the boys to come back here with me. I wonder what my chances are of making the trip in the fall, say on a Saturday when the Navy football team is at home?

Another day, another reminder

The Moretti family took a tour of the U.S. Naval Academy this morning and two of the members of our group were a mother and her son.

They began the tour with us but soon headed off to another part of the Academy grounds to take part in a "candidate orientation." Yes, he, like the young lady I told you about in one of my Friday posts, is considering attending the Naval Academy.

During the tour, our guide noted that all Midshipmen must take boxing, wrestling and judo during their Academy career. They also regularly swim, and they also must compete in a team sport (at the varsity or any level) on a yearly basis.

Later, over lunch, my wife and I discussed this athletic lifestyle with our older son. He is like too many children his age -- often viewing physical activity as a kind of punishment for, like, something! -- and so we wondered what he thought of perhaps six hours a day of such activity.

"I don't know," he said. "But I think that sounds pretty cool."

The young man I mentioned at the top of this post obviously was nowhere to be found at this moment; he and his mother were somewhere else learning much more than my family and I had about the Academy. I never could ask him his thoughts on six hours of daily exertion, but I doubt he would have been here this weekend if he was bothered by it.

The plebes -- the first-year Midshipmen and akin to college freshmen -- are about one month into their six-week boot camp. They can be found all over the grounds, and their full white uniforms distinguish them from everyone. It struck me that it was only one year ago that they were making the decision about where to attend college.

And in case you are wondering, the Naval Academy receives about 17,000 applications each year, and perhaps 1,500 of them are accepted. Of those, around 1,200 will attend.

I might never know if the young woman on the shuttle ride or the young man in the tour group will be one of the approximate 1,200 who enroll in this wonderful institution one year from now. But I do know they have my respect for considering it.

Friday, July 23, 2010

140 characters...

...but not for the four of the most important years of a young person's life.

Twitter remains a bit like the iPad -- strange name and a less-than-certain "why I need this" idea.

You know I am a "tweeter" but for me it is the least important social media tool in my toolkit. I once asked a group of students if they had to give up two of the three -- their blog, their Facebook page or their Twitter account -- then which would they be. The almost unanimous answer was Facebook would stay.

When asked why, they noted the ability to provide links to stories, insert photographs or videos, and the ability to comment about something a friend had done. When I told them they could do all those on their blog, they reminded me that a blog was often too serious or demanded too much attention. Facebook, on the other hand, was fun.

Earlier this week I read a research paper about television news organizations and their use of Twitter that will be presented at a journalism and mass communication convention I will soon be attending. One of the findings was that news stations continue to struggle with how to use their Twitter page. In many cases, those pages have become nothing more than headline-like services that call attention to a story. Clutter can easily develop in that kind of environment.

What do we make of Twitter? It can inform. It can entertain. It can provide links. But the microblogging site must find a way to become distinct and relevant in a social media system that appears to roll out a new "you've got to have this" service each month.

If it can't find a place, then it is destined to be a kind of cool, kind of hip (for some) tool for people. But nothing more than that.

They have a point, but...

...I don't think either Kyra Phillips or John Roberts, both of CNN, are the ones to lead a national discussion on the merits of and possible oversight of the Internet.

Their comments about blogging would make more sense -- and carry more weight -- if either was considered an authority on blogging or the importance of new media.

Phillips is a cookie cutter anchor, someone who has yet to distinguish herself from the cable news female crowd. Roberts is a solid anchor, but he is at his best when he sticks to interviewing and reporting the news.

Perhaps the only current CNN anchor who I believe deserves a chance at leading such a discussion is Anderson Cooper. And that's not because I think he has any special knowledge of new media but rather because he has at least made a commitment to incorporating it into his program.

Don't misunderstand what I am saying: I agree with Phillips and Roberts that blogging cannot thrive and be given the respect it might deserve if the persona of "the guy in his pajamas banging away on his computer from his basement" remains a viable characterization of the medium.

But let's agree that the person who leads this conversation needs to possess the proverbial "chops" in order to do it. The aforementioned Phillips and Roberts don't count.

For fun...and for duty

It should come as no surprise to you that the Moretti boys (yes, all three of them!) found their way to and inside Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium today. You can access some of the photos on my Facebook page.

Today is one of the final days of the Moretti family vacation, so of course our visit to the stadium and to other places in and around Annapolis and Chesapeake Bay is for fun. But on the shuttle bus back to our car, I was reminded of the duty so many young men and women assume when they come to this fantastic and historical city.

Sitting on the shuttle across from me was a young woman intently reading the material she had with her. They included a booklet on becoming a Midshipman and what appeared to be a course catalog or similar publication that outlines the academic commitments a Midshipman undertakes.

Certainly for that young woman today in Annapolis was for far more than fun. I glanced over at my boys for a moment and wondered 'what if.'

It's a start

The federal government has taken a cautious first step toward ensuring that students who attend for-profit colleges don't get stuck with degrees that won't pay off for them.

The larger issue is whether the law will include significant regulatory follow-up to ensure that what is supposed to happen actually does.

Um, well, I...learned a lot

Not exactly a ringing endorsement.

But a somewhat typical response when students are asked to discuss how a study-abroad semester or year benefited them.

So, at least one university is being proactive in trying to assist students in developing their communication skills when it comes to reviewing a semester or year spent somewhere else.

Perhaps the most salient point in the aforementioned report is the lack of willingness of potential employers to accept the study abroad as relevant. That's a particular danger point for students because that part of their educational experience ought to be the most compelling section of their resume.

Several of my Point Park students have completed study-abroad programs, but I've never taken the time to discuss with them how to "sell" (a word I use carefully) this opportunity to employers. The aforementioned article opened my eyes and ensures that I can do more to help my students fully develop answers to why studying abroad was important to them.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The United States Naval Academy

I've never visited the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, and it's worth the visit.

My wife, our boys and I took an informal walk around a small portion of "The Yard" and a more complete tour is in the works for tomorrow.

I've uploaded a couple of the pictures we took to my Facebook page, so if you have "friended" me you can see them. If you haven't, then perhaps it is time you did that!

A must-see

If you like military aviation or just want to learn more about the fascinating world of the use of helicopters, fighter jets and more during war time, then you need to visit the Wings of Freedom Aviation Museum located in Horsham, PA.

The Moretti family came across this wonderful facility by total accident this morning. We were driving from Pittstown, NJ, where we had been visiting a friend and her boys, to Annapolis, MD, where we are spending a few days.

Our boys found the facility as we drove down the road. One big shout of "oh, let's got there!" and one U-turn later and we were set.

There is a small souvenir shop with prices competitive if not better to what you'll find at places such as the Smithsonian Air and Space Annex in Virginia.

Financial sensibility at CBS News?

Considering the recent rash of lay-offs at CBS News, it is not hard to understand why the network might be looking at ridding itself of the hefty contract paid to Katie Couric.

Couric has made a difference at CBS, but it is becoming more and more difficult for the network to justify paying Couric $15-million per year with declining viewership for network news.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

An athlete worth respecting

In an era in which too many professional athletes think it is perfectly acceptable to sexually assault women, fire guns in any and every location, do drugs, verbally berate fellow athletes or officials, or a host of other examples of great behavior comes David Lee.

It's a shame that the New York Knicks opted to ship off this gentleman in order to bring in another player cut from the same mold as other high-profile, me-first athletes.

Just listening

I'm catching up on some e-mails (and yes my blogging!) at a fast-food establishment in Clinton, New Jersey. And I'm also savoring the conversations taking place around me.

If you think that means I'm snooping, you're wrong. If you've spent any time in a McDonald's, Burger King or similar place, then you know people sit close enough to each other that it is easy to overhear what people are talking about.

To my right, one young man just learned that his younger sister stole one of his pancakes when he went to the restroom. He didn't quite know whether to kill her or admire her. Considering she walked out of here, I think we know.

To my left, a young family is enjoying a late breakfast before they head off somewhere with a precocious little boy. I'll guess he's 2, and he's hilarious.

Behind the counter, a young woman is being trained. The message from her supervisor is to remember to keep up on the drink orders and to know which cash register placed that order. (I didn't know cash registers placed orders, but we won't go there!)

An older couple is bemoaning the heat (and I feel their pain), but they're both nursing a cup of hot coffee. As they do, a teenage girl is enjoying her orange juice with a paperback romance novel. (Seriously?)

Sometimes real life can be refreshing. And considering the difficulties of earlier this week (see my Sunday post about family and illness), the chance to see and hear "normal" feels pretty good.

But will they work?

Probably not.

The U.S. has announced yet another new round of sanctions against North Korea, but the larger issue is whether such penalties will actually serve their purpose.

Kim Jong Il is no more accountable to the North Korean people than I am, and he has built his political state upon repression and fear. Those who work for Dear Leader know that any failure will lead to their imprisonment or worse.

As you consider the sanctions issue, also note that it appears most Asian leaders will not sign off on a stinging rebuke of Pyongyang for its purported role in sinking a South Korean naval vessel earlier this year.

Hello from...

...Pittstown, New Jersey.

My wife, our boys and I arrived here yesterday and we are spending 1-1/2 days with a good friend of ours who used to live on our street.

She is the new pastor of the Bethlehem Presbyterian Church, which is a wonderful, old church located about 15 miles inside the Pennsylvania-New Jersey state line.

I love old buildings and the church certainly qualifies. It was built in the 1830s and as we walked the halls yesterday I tried to imagine how times have changed. 'If these walls could talk' was one thought that kept running through my head.

As we looked out the dining room window of our friend's house last night a hot-air balloon was in descent on the horizon. The blues and yellows were a contrast to the otherwise green and browns of the farm fields that fill this area.

Tomorrow we leave. But I suspect we'll return some day. Our boys and our friend's sons are good friends, and they've had a terrific few hours playing Lego Star Wars, video games and those other games that make being a kid a lot of fun.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Is it time to loosen the rules?

An interesting discussion is taking place at Guantanamo where the military and various media organizations are attempting to work out whether the rules that have governed their relationship there should be changed.

Whether the rules are changed s perhaps the lesser of the two stories here. The bigger one, as I see it, is that the conversation is actually taking place. I doubt such talks would have (or could have) been held in the aftermath of the disastrous period that immediately followed the Abu Ghraib scandal.


An important shift in the popular book-publishing business has taken place at Amazon, which in the past quarter sold more e-books than hardcover books.

The aforementioned Financial Times story outlines some of the reasons behind this growing popularity of e-books.

I wonder at what point the shift will take place with college textbooks. A recent Nieman Reports issue examines the digital landscape for media on a variety of levels, including noting in one story that students continue to prefer the hardcover books.

I doubt that will continue. The portability of an e-reader, the ever-improving quality of these items and the lower cost of e-books almost certainly will soon tip in favor of using them more often in college classrooms.

I'd be an early adopter, in fact, if I knew more students would purchase a Kindle or similar device upon entering college.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Unless the media agree with me...

...then I'm not going to let them interview me.

What a healthy attitude to have, but a growing number of conservative politicians are opting to abandon the (perceived or real) liberal media and instead are talking only to news organizations deemed friendly to their politics.

Unless you belong to the Republican Party or to the growing Tea Party movement, you have to see that this policy is fraught with problems. Allowing only "friendly media" access to your message ensures that the difficult questions will not be asked and audiences beyond those you consider in your corner will not be exposed to your message.

Of course there will be people who see this as a good thing -- and I'm not referring to those people mentioned in the aforementioned story. Democracy is not built upon me talking only to people who think as I do, and our media system is not predicated on partisanship.

If you espouse the idea that friendly media are all I should be talking to, then you are seeking to undermine our political system.

Political rhetoric masquerading as...

...common sense.

As the Internet and the blogosphere have developed, they've become repositories for people and organizations determined to spread their message with disregard for the truth.

Consider our last two presidents. If you listened only to the left during the Bush administration, you would have become convinced that Mr. Bush was destroying the international image of the United States to such an extent that it will take generations to repair the damage.

Now if you listen only to the right while Mr. Obama is in the White House, you rapidly will become convinced that he is destroying the internal health of the United States to such a significant degree that it will take generations to repair the damage.

If these examples of rhetorical nonsense are to accepted without question, then what follows is that the power of the President of the United States is so potent that he alone can dismantle more than 200 years of political growth.

A gung-ho Texan and an all-too-cool Illinoisan clearly have bamboozled the Congress and significant portions of the voting public. And only the reasoned arguments of various bloggers can set the record straight.

As Russian comedian Yakov Smirnoff so eloquently said, "What a country!"

It's getting "cold" in Russia

So cold in fact that some opposition political leaders believe the Kremlin is trying to bring back KGB-era programs.

Frantic and fatigued

I couldn't help but conclude after reading this article that there appears to be a tinge of jealousy within the New York Times over the rapid success and never-say-die attitude at Politico.

Sure, the reports that Politico's management works its people hard (and therefore turns over at a perhaps higher than typical average) are valid, but I would also ask you to think about which news organization you are more likely to turn to in order to grasp what is happening right now in national politics.

Frantic and fatigued? Sure. But the industry leader? If it's not, Politico is certainly in the discussion.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

It's not easy...

...watching family members age and also deteriorate before your eyes. As this year continues, my wife and I are grappling with more than one example of this.

One family member is likely in the worst condition. She's 87 and the diabetes that she was able to keep in check throughout her adult life has started to get the better of her. Other medical conditions have weakened her and made it harder for her to remain as independent and healthy as she had been over the past 10 to 15 years. Despite her wish to remain in her home, she requires the care of those who are closest to her. Living alone is something I doubt she'll ever again enjoy.

Another family member is almost certainly suffering from dementia. There has been no official diagnosis, but there are multiple signs to suggest this crippling disease is taking over her life more and more each day. As I watch this disease sap her of her memory and it appears her strength, I am reminded how I had appreciated her smarts and her common sense when I was younger. Neither of those attributes has been on display in recent months, and there is little evidence to suggest either will be in the future.

Dementia or Alzheimer's is also taking its toll on another family member. I don't know enough about this disease to know which person is suffering more, but the symptoms are evident -- lack of short-term memory, a chronic repeating of questions, signs of forgetting the people around them, a forgetfulness that at times seems to frighten them; and thus it comes as no surprise that there has been a conscious decision by their loved ones to not leave them alone.

No person is guaranteed tomorrow, the adage tells us. That's true, but certainly people who are not facing the end of life or who are defined as "old" by society believe they will have tomorrow and many more thereafter. I suppose with that hope for tomorrow also should come a real attempt at taking care of yourself so as to prevent as much as possible the evidence that Father Time is rapidly catching up to you.

Three Cups of Tea...

...and one piece of advice.

Kudos to the U.S. military for recognizing that people such as Greg Mortensen -- whose efforts in building schools for girls in Afghanistan became widely recognized in the fascinating book Three Cups of Tea -- can be valuable resources for helping to understand Afghan society.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

It could be Mitt

A solid piece of analysis here from TIME magazine examining which of the likely GOP presidential contenders is in fact a contender and not a pretender.

Perhaps the most important sentence in this report is the one that recognizes Sarah Palin is right now such a polarizing figure that she could lead to the Republicans getting trampled in 2012.

Enjoying some R-and-R

Some down time for me this week and a few days to enjoy with the family. I'll be posting somewhat infrequently over the next week.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Bashing the Bush administration, Canada style

During tonight's TSN coverage of the Montreal-BC game, there was this:

Play-by-play announcer noted that the Montreal Alouettes did not win a game in Vancouver against the BC Lions during the length of the Bush administration. "They went 0 for the Bush administration," he said.

His colleague immediately follows up: "Some people might say the Bush administration went 0 for the Bush administration."


Does it matter? Really?

After reading this, you decide.

The news business is notorious for the "we've got to be first" mentality. On one hand such aggressiveness is good -- it keeps journalists on their toes. On the other hand it can also foster a rush-it attitude that can lead to mistakes.

But more importantly, I think the issue is whether the public really cares about which news organizations are first to report important news. My guess is the public could care less which agency is the first to get a big news item on the air or on the wire, provided that the network that says it is first also is correct.

So, in this case, let CNN and the AP argue over whether CNN's delay in reporting the death of George Steinbrenner is actually significant.

I'm not bashing Cleveland (I promise)

Cleveland's sports fans are angry that LeBron James has bolted northeast Ohio for south Florida.

I want you to think about that geography for a moment, then ask yourself if you had the choice would you do the same. For what it's worth, I wouldn't. Miami and its blistering heat and humidity has about as much appeal to me as gastric distress. Granted, winters in Cleveland are no fun. But Miami? You can take it.

But the point to this post is not to review geography. It is instead designed to debate whether Cleveland's sports fans should be upset that James, perhaps the NBA's best player, has bolted his home for the chance to play alongside two of his best friends.

When you dissect their anger, Cleveland's fans essentially are accusing James of adding yet another layer of embarrassment on the city's doorstep. This is the city that has endured misery upon misery over the past six decades.

The beloved Browns have come so very close to winning NFL titles only to be sucker-punched at almost the last second by other teams. (This Denver Broncos fan will forever relish "The Drive" and "The Fumble", but I choose to never discuss them with my Browns friends. I'm not one who enjoys "rubbing it in.")

The adored Indians were a joke for many decades before almost reaching the mountaintop during the 1990s. (In fact, James' departure to Miami marks the second time in 13 years that south Florida has ripped out the heart of a Cleveland sports fan; you do remember the 1997 World Series, don't you?) They have recently returned to less-than-mediocre, and it could be several years before another championship run is ready to be made.

Then there are the Cavaliers. Good enough at the tail end of the 20th century to have Michael Jordan leave their fans screaming "no!!!!!!!" Good enough to never make it to the NBA Finals, in other words, before James got there.

LeBron James entered the NBA seven years ago as the sure-fire next Jordan. Wearing Jordan's number (23), James was an 18-year-old prodigy who the always over-the-top national sports media told us was sure to do for Cleveland what Jordan had done for Chicago -- win multiple championships and leave a legacy on a city that would be hard for any individual athlete to match.

Think of it this way -- no recent athlete in Cleveland enjoys a place in the city's sports pantheon. There is no Jim Brown or Bob Feller among the athletes who have called the city home in recent decades. Bernie Kosar perhaps comes closest, and he is loved more because he too is a northeast Ohio native then he is for his playing ability.

James, though, was going to change all that. He was the local kid who was going to make good.

And he was good. He was the NBA's most marketable athlete. He won a bunch of games. His team went to the NBA Finals. Once. And lost. The Cavaliers had the league's best regular-season record this year before the Boston Celtics whacked them in the playoffs.

Whether James would ever have brought a championship to Cleveland will never be known. Because just one week after the NBA's free-agency period opened, James announced he was taking his talents to Miami. There he'll play with two of his best friends -- Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.

Bosh, by the way, also bolted his former team, the Toronto Raptors, but no one in that city is calling Bosh anything but what he is -- a mercenary. Which is exactly what James is.

James' loyalty is to himself. He left to play with his friends. He opted to go where he thought he could win more titles. He saw more promotional and marketing opportunities for himself in the land of sunshine.

Sure, Cleveland, go ahead and be angry. But remember that few athletes will do what Joe Mauer of the Minnesota Twins did -- sign with the hometown team, decline to go somewhere else and value the importance of home over anything else.

Blood might be thicker than water. But it often is not thicker than ego.


It has viewers who have never watched it.

It can accurately predict events that will never happen.

It is so full of itself, it can't get out of its way.

It is...the most self-absorbed network in the world.

Keep watching, my friends.

Is it news... (UPDATED AT BOTTOM)

...when professional baseball players do not attend the funeral of a legendary public address announcer?

It is when it involves the New York Yankees.

UPDATE: 5:00 p.m.: What are the ingredients that make this a story? Consider these:

1. Mr. Sheppard achieved iconic status in New York; he was far more than a public address announcer. In a city where seemingly every personality is magnified, he earned a rightful place in the celebrity hierarchy.

2. Derek Jeter, above all other current Yankees' players, should know better. Remember, it was Jeter -- not prone to acts of selfishness or arrogance -- who asked that it be a recording of Sheppard that introduces him each time he steps to the plate at Yankee Stadium. That request -- granted by Sheppard and the Yankees -- should have been repaid through attendance at Mr. Sheppard's funeral.

3. The media in New York will hop on any story that generates controversy. Clearly the absence of every Yankees' player is going to be viewed through a critical lens.

Put these together and you have a story.

Doing journalism in Sudan... not easy. At least it's not when you are seen as opposed to the government.

Yet another reminder of the importance of freedom of the press and how many governments see it as hostile to their efforts.

Replacing Robert Byrd (UPDATED)

1st UPDATE: 10:49 a.m. EDT: From the Washington Post:

The AP reports that Gov. Joe Manchin is tapping his former chief counsel and a member of a prominent West Virginia family, Carte Goodwin, to succeed the late U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd

From (and Roll Call)

A new senator will be sworn in from West Virginia on Tuesday - and he'll quickly get to vote with Democrats (in all liklihood) on unemployment. From Roll Call: “The successor to the late Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) will be sworn in Tuesday afternoon, and the chamber will then hold a procedural vote on an unemployment insurance measure, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Thursday.

“The Nevada Democrat had been waiting to proceed with the bill until a new Senator had been installed. The swearing-in will be at 2:15 p.m., Reid said. West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin (D) will name his appointee to succeed Byrd at 2 p.m. Friday, his office announced in a statement Thursday. The appointee will be present for the announcement and will give remarks.”

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The nominees are

I didn't watch the ESPY Awards (please, the last thing I need is more examples of ESPN blowing its own horn and creating the aura of its incredible brilliance). I guess you could call that my "decision" to not watch the program.

In fact, I am fully confident we can come up with our own Halfway Through 2010 Play-of-the-Year in sports.

Here are my nominees (and they come to you in no particular order) --

1. Sidney Crosby scores in overtime, wins the gold medal for Canada in Olympic hockey
2. Scott Fujita picks off Peyton Manning to wrap up the Saints' Super Bowl win
3. Landon Donovan's gold at the end of the U.S.-Algeria World Cup game
4. Armando Gallaraga's perfect game dream is shattered on a bad call at 1st base
5. Andres Iniesta's goal wins the World Cup for Spain
6. Sarah Mclachlan's performance at the Opening Ceremonies of the Vancouver Olympics
7. Dallas Braden gets the last out of a most-improbable perfect game
8. Bosh, Wade and James raise the Heat in Miami
9. Super Saver has a super upset at the Kentucky Derby
10. 5th set 70-68

Okay, vote!

Winning and losing

If his predictions hold true, then NPR's Ken Rudin says 7 gubernatorial seats held by Democrats will go Republican later this year. But five seats held by Republicans will move to the Democratic side.

Such is politics.

The president and the Democratic Congress...

..have delivered another important piece of legislation. This from the Los Angeles Times:

The Senate on Thursday approved a sweeping set of financial reforms, delivering a major victory to President Obama two years after the mortgage meltdown and the worldwide credit crisis staggered the economy.

The vote ends a year of bitter partisan battling between Democrats and Republicans over which party was more committed to ending future bailouts and was standing up for average Americans against the powerful interests of Wall Street

The House passed the 2,300 page bill last month and Obama is expected to sign it into law next week.

So, let me guess -- the Republicans will blast the bill as a big-government initiative, and Democrats will scream and yell at each other.

Show me the money

From Mike Allen of

FEC reports to be filed today by potential 2012 challengers to President Obama reflect a swarm of behind-the-scenes activity, with top Republicans more convinced than ever that the president is vulnerable if they can find a strong horse. Mitt Romney led the money race from April to June, raising $1.8 million for his Free and Strong America PAC, compared with SarahPAC's $866,000 and Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty's $723,501.

But it's not just fund-raising: Those three also have extremely active political operations. Romney has pledged to do events this summer for the New Hampshire GOP, New Hampshire State Senate PAC and New Hampshire State House PAC. His Free and Strong America PAC has endorsed over 150 candidates this year, in Arizona, California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah and Virginia. And the PAC's 2010 contributions to conservative candidates and causes are over $400,000.

You are surprised...why?

China continues to demonstrate a healthy appreciation for freedom of speech. It has shut down some of the country's most popular blogs.

Of course it could have been worse -- they simply could have tossed into prison those bloggers.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Would you air this commercial?

CBS and NBC spokespeople say their networks won't.

The advertisement equates the building of a mosque on the Ground Zero site as tantamount to endorsing what happened on Sept. 11 and welcoming it happening again.

See Sarah...

...see Sarah run.


Ah, the fascination with Sarah Palin continues. Now it is reading the tea leaves in an attempt to determine if Ms. Palin will make a run at the White House in 2012.

Of course as she mulls that over, there are ample columnists, bloggers, journalists and others who are more than ready to offer their two cents about Palin and her strategy for success. One person today is suggesting she is more than happy to play the (subtle) race card if she thinks it will benefit her.

Let's face a few realities here:
1. Neither Ms. Palin nor any other Republican interested in being president has to announce his or her plans for many, many months.

2. Palin is red meat for the media: She's a polarizing figure who is loved or reviled, adored or disdained. But she attracts media attention.

3. Palin has reached the point where her celebrity outweighs herself. She is, in other words, almost like Jack Bauer for Kiefer Sutherland.

4. In the absence of something substantive to report about Palin (or any other politician), the media will gravitate to the "oooh, check this out" mode of reporting. In such an environment, it becomes breaking news (just ask CNN) that Palin's daughter has announced an engagement to the father of her child.

5. The media are waiting for her next "can you believe she said that?" moment.

6. With 24-hour media cycles anything she says can be repeated, discussed and analyzed over and over and over and over and over again.

Let's move on.

The charge of racism... easy to make but more difficult to prove.

What is happening at one historically black college in Georgia is but the latest example. This story -- taken only by itself -- provides the information to suggest that four white students and one white former coach are being treated unfairly because of their skin color.

But as you evaluate the aforementioned story, ask yourself if the information in it answers your questions. Does it, in other words, "prove" the charge of racism (and let's not kid ourselves, that is what they are alleging)?

If you believe that outstanding questions remain, then consider where you will go to get those answers.

If you value press freedom...

...then what is taking place in Honduras should concern you.

Any country in which at least 9 journalists have been killed in less than one year should be required to help determine why. Unfortunately asking those kinds of questions in such an environment too often sets you up to be the next victim.

The GOP is celebrating the National League's All-Star victory

Here's a gem from

“According to an analysis by University of Minnesota professor Eric J. Ostermeier, who writes the Smart Politics blog, a National League victory in the Midsummer Classic has preceded every election with double-digit GOP House gains since 1950."

The full report is available through this link.

A veil of deceit?

If the left in French politics is to be believed, then the French government is pursuing a "ban the veil" policy for distinctly political reasons.

Will this make for a Happy Bastille Day?

The Dirty Dozen?

The U.S. has deported another person accused of being a spy for Russia. That makes 12 sent home to Russia in recent days.

Am I the only one who thinks it would be fascinating to see what happens to this group now that each has been returned home?

The new Larry King is...

...almost certainly going to be this guy.

Doesn't matter who is selected. I won't be watching.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

A win for the broadcast networks

This from the Los Angeles Times:

A federal appeals court on Tuesday struck down the government's longstanding prohibition against indecency on broadcast television and radio, ruling the policy was "unconstitutionally vague" and creates a "chilling effect" that violates the 1st Amendment protection of free speech.

The ruling by a three-judge panel of the U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in New York is a major victory for the broadcast TV networks, which jointly sued the Federal Communications Commission in 2006 in the wake of a tougher crackdown on indecency over the airwaves. The suit stemmed from an FCC ruling in March 2006 that unscripted expletives uttered impromptu on live broadcasts violated indecency rules and were subject to fines.

Note that the FCC's draconian or necessary (you decide) polices about indecency developed during the Bush administration and the FCC chairmanship of Michael Powell.

You can expect more to be said about this ruling in the mainstream media (and of course the blogosphere) as the afternoon progresses.

An important lesson in...

..swallowing your pride.

I noted on this blog a couple of weeks ago my disappointment at the imminent closing of Dana College in Nebraska.

My disappointment is heightened upon learning that there might have been a way to ensure the future of the school -- a merger with a similar institution located just 25 miles away. That option was not pursued, and the lessons for Dana, that other institution and higher education in general are outlined in this article.

I appreciate that administrators and faculty (not to mention alumni and students) consider their institution to be unique and somehow hallowed. But I wonder what that uniqueness and hallowed status means once the doors are closed?

This might be drama

The lede paragraph to a Washington Post report states:

Public confidence in President Obama has hit a new low, according to the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll. Four months before midterm elections that will define the second half of his term, nearly six in 10 voters say they lack faith in the president to make the right decisions for the country, and a clear majority once again disapproves of how he is dealing with the economy.

Here's the full report.

The poll comes at a time that Democrats remain unsure as to whether they can hold onto their majority control of the House after November's midterm elections.

There is an irony, as's Martin Kady II notes, in the Democrats' popularity problem. He reports:

Democrats are suffering from a disconnect with voters - even as they rack up legislative accomplishments on the Hill, their polls continue to drop.

Today's headlines tell the story: Democrats are celebrating getting the likely 60th vote on the biggest overhaul of financial regulations since the Great Depression, yet they are bottoming out - along with President Barack Obama - in polls. Even as Democrats actually move major chunks of the agenda they promised in 2008, most voters now say they want someone else to control Congress.

The perceptions about the economy and the party in charge, ahead of the mid-terms, are starting to harden, which is why more and more Democrats are fretting about losing control of the House.

Perception. Indeed.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Will CNN and CBS News get married?

Sort of. Maybe. We think.

It seems inevitable that CNN will merge with a major broadcast network. It won't be FOX and it won't be NBC. Right now, CBS looks like the more logical choice, but government regulators could set up some provisions before any deal is made final.

RIP James Bond??????????

What in the name of Her Majesty's Secret Service is going on here?

Show me the money!


Sarah Palin’s political action committee, Sarah PAC, raised $866,000 in the second quarter – substantially more than it had in any previous three-month stretch since the group was former in January 2009 – according to a report it filed Sunday afternoon with the IRS. The report, which also shows Palin’s largest-ever round of donations to candidates, indicates that for the first time since the 2008 campaign she has a political operation on a scale befitting someone considering a presidential run.

Make fun of this woman all you want, but if you fail to take seriously the connection she has with the "right" part of the electorate then you are going to watch her laugh at you.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The week at Boy Scout camp

The week at Boy Scout camp is over, and my older son and I are still digesting the many great things (and a couple of not-so great ones) that took place during our time "in the woods."

Watching the maturation in my son was something very neat to see; he loves Scouting, but I think any parent would tell you that they never know how their son will react to being at camp for a week until he actually goes through it. I think if Dominic could have remained at Heritage Reservation for the entire summer, he would have.

I reminded him at one point he needs to be 14 in order to be a Counselor-in-Training, which would allow him to work Summer Camp. He told me he wasn't interested, but the smile on his face told me something else.

I've loved the time I've spent in Scouting with Dominic, but I was reminded twice this week that not all parents can or choose to make the same commitment I have to be part of the Scouting experience.

Two boys -- one Dominic's age and the other a year or two older -- at separate times and locations said they wished their dads were with them at camp. The boys said it in my presence, and it mattered to me more than they will ever know. I joked to one of them during the week that in the absence of his parents he could consider me his dad. He told me that was a super idea.

The low light of the week for me was heat exhaustion. I suffered from it on Tuesday and Thursday. During that second experience, three different Scouts came up to me to ask how I was feeling. That's an attribute Scouts should emulate. I intend to tell their parents of their sons' comments when I see them at our next troop meeting.

My son earned three merit badges and one rank during the week we were away. He also is close to completing another merit badge and the next rank. Those are tangible recognitions of the effort he is putting into Scouting. But the intangible benefits -- having fun, social interaction with others, maturation and such -- also are important.

When the king abdicates

Ah, what a tangled web is being woven as the sports world continues to digest the news that LeBron James, perhaps the best player in the NBA, has left Cleveland for Miami.

The interview that James gave to highly acclaimed (though I've never known why) reporter Jim Gray has been criticized by many media experts. The primary criticism -- Gray went to easy on James, who has opted to leave his native northeast Ohio for south Florida.

What happened on Thursday night is precisely the kind of television drivel you will get when a non-event is turned into newsworthy. Let's face it, James controlled the message and how it was delivered. He was news-maker and news-controller at the same time.

Not bad for a guy who couldn't deliver a championship.

That spy swap

I'm catching up on the various details associated with the Russia-U.S. spy swap that was completed a few days ago. (Here are a few details on the 10 sent packing from the U.S.) The New York Times reported it this way on Friday:

One of the biggest prisoner swaps since the cold war unfolded on the tarmac of Vienna's airport on Friday as two airplanes -- one carrying 10 accused Russian sleeper agents and the other with four Russians deemed to be spies for the West -- traded their human cargoes and took off into the bright clear sky.

An American official confirmed the exchange had taken place, hours after the 10 accused Russian spies were whisked out of the United States on a charter plane. The American and Russian airplanes landed and departed in what appeared to be a clockwork operation on a remote part of the runway in Vienna, once a hub of clandestine East-West maneuvering.

The exchange was part of a deal with Moscow to put a quick end to an episode that threatened to disrupt relations between the two countries.

For the Obama administration, the swap is evidence of the "reset" in Russian-American relations. But at least one critic sees it differently, suggesting that there are still some important issues to be addressed. And that view is shared by at least one former Russian operative.

The Russian government also is saying all the right things, and the media reports from that country also suggest the Kremlin simply wants the issue to go away.

But with families still attempting to understand what has happened, it is unlikely that will happen.

I'm baaaaaaaaaaack!

One week at Boy Scout camp and one unexpected overnight trip to Ohio (the wife's van had its manifold explode while she was there over the weekend) are done. It's time to get caught up on a whole bunch of things!

Saturday, July 03, 2010

See ya

Time for me to take a break.

My older son and I are off to Boy Scout camp. We leave Sunday and return Saturday.

Here's hoping you have a great week, and don't let that love of reading AJM's Blog disappear because fresh material won't be here for a few days. I'd miss you :-).

Friday, July 02, 2010

A Journal for Jordan

It's rare that I read a book in about one day, but today I completed A Journal for Jordan, which has been selected as the summer reading book for incoming freshmen at Point Park University.

The book, as you might already know, is a personal story about a woman, the military man she loves, his death, their child and the journal the father writes for his son while he is stationed in Iraq. You could describe it as a love story, but it also contains a robust discussion about personal values and commitment.

It's an easy read, and one that I hope will resonate with our students.

I confess I was far more interested in Dana Canedy's discussions about journalism, which not an essential element of the book is nevertheless relevant to understanding who she is and how she handles the death of Charles King. (For those who don't know, Ms. Canedy is a senior editor at the New York Times).

I think the reader who also cares about journalism will find chapters 15 and 16 especially relevant. Ms. Canedy is told by the U.S. military that Mr. King died instantly when an IED exploded directly under the tank in which he was riding. That answer is not sufficient for her, and she takes a leave of absence from the newspaper to learn more about Mr. King's death.

What she finds becomes the basis of some important questions, and these are the kinds of questions I intend to ask my students in the fall. They include:

1. Why is it important to know the details associated with a soldier's death during war?

2. Does Ms. Canedy's position with the New York Times allow her access to military officials that many other people don't have? If so, is this fair?

3. Is it appropriate for her to draw her own conclusions about how Mr. King died?

4. How does the way she attempts to resolve the discrepancies told to her about the moments after the explosion that killed Mr. King explain the importance of journalism?

5. Do we appreciate the value of the truth because of what she does to learn about the death of Mr. King?

6. Is the book important in helping the reader learn the full story about the invasion of Iraq?

7. What is in the book that will relate to 18-year-old students who in many cases have never experienced the death of anyone close to them?

If you've not read A Journal for Jordan, I think you will enjoy it.

The doors are closed

The news that Dana College in Nebraska will close is terribly disappointing. Not surprisingly, a geographical competitor doesn't find anything positive about Dana's demise.

None of us should.

The college was engaged in a sale to a for-profit agency, but the requirement to go through an entire new accreditation process was too much for the potential buyer. (I find some solace in that demand; my concerns about for-profit institutions have been shared at other times on this blog, and I wonder why the for-profit agency wasn't willing to do all that it took to get the deal done. I think I know that answer, but I won't go down that road.)

Of course, it's the people who are affected most by decisions to shutter any organization. In this case, students, faculty and staff, the life blood of any organization, are left in limbo. So too is a community that has been part of the college's life for more than 100 years.

In fact a host of unanswered questions surrounds the college.

Financial pains are a familiar item in many U.S. households, and they also are evident at many colleges and universities. My current school, Point Park University, was known as Point Park College when it faced a wrenching decision about whether to be taken over by another local institution. It made it through those economic miseries, but the conversation every now and then among the most senior of our faculty turns to the "don't you remember when...?" theme.

How sad that those conversations can never be had by those who spent many years at Dana College.

Don't tell us!

A persuasive argument that cameras ought to be admitted into federal courtrooms.

Whether it will make a difference is another story.

Katie...the new King?

At least one television analyst says the idea that Katie Couric could replace Larry King at CNN.

Preposterous? Read the article. I don't think it's as crazy as it might seem.

Spin the latest unemployment report any way you want

This comes from The New York Times:

The path to economic recovery remained a twisted one on Friday as the government reported a net loss of 125,000 jobs in the American economy last month, driven by the evaporation of temporary Census jobs, the Labor Department reported.

The unemployment rate, meanwhile, fell to 9.5 percent from 9.7 percent in May.

The job loss was in line with expectations. And with the anticipated loss of hundreds of thousands of Census jobs -- jobs that had accounted for almost all the growth in the labor market in May -- economists were focused in particular on the change in private-sector hiring. There, the news was better but muted, with 83,000 new jobs created.

And keep in mind that the economic situation is no more certain in the U.S. than it is elsewhere. No, we are not yet out of the global morass of two years ago, and you shouldn't have expected us to be.

Turning up the heat...on the AC

No matter how much Anderson Cooper attempts to deny the rumors that he's not the most popular guy at CNN right now, that strand of conversation appears to not be going away.

Cooper's problems are not unlike those who are (or soon will be) gone -- lackluster ratings, an absence of identity and a sagging name brand.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

It was...

until it wasn't?

Fascinating study by researchers at Harvard University about the media's characterization of waterboarding before and then after the Abu Ghraib scandal.

I do have some quibbles with the study. I think the methodology is a bit weak, and I'm not sure I support the idea of comparing three newspapers that have long histories alongside one that is relatively new. Moreover, the authors do not clearly identify the hypotheses or research questions that guided their study. The conclusion section could have been strengthened as well.

Setting these issues aside, the study is a damning piece of evidence suggesting the American media backed off a historical linkage of waterboarding with torture because the U.S. government was employing the practice. Absent a justification for such a de-linkage, we are left to conclude that the media muted their criticism because of a need to defend those accused of doing it.

That's not watchdog journalism.

I'd pick Minneapolis

Of course the decision is not mine, and there's no way the Democrats will go to the Twin Cities after the Republicans did so in 2008.

But Minneapolis is one of the finalists to host the 2012 Democratic National Convention.

The news...

...with Chinese characteristics.

Would you watch a 24-hour, English-language version of the Chinese state-run news media? You're about to have that chance.

One day you are (accused of being) a spy...

...and the next you are the rapidly becoming the fascination of the media.

So, let me see if I understand this -- Anna Chapman could have spent all of her adult life attempting to undermine the U.S. but because she is good looking and might have engaged in some nefarious activity, she could cash in through the media in the country she's accused of spying on?

Are the media that desperate for a "story" that this "femme fatale" can become the next "story"? (Actually, don't answer that. I think we already know the answer.) Perhaps the more interesting story (though not nearly as sexy as Ms. Chapman) is what happens to the children of these accused spies?

Oh, but I forgot, this is now not a story about what's important, it's about what will generate ratings. Silly me.

The Russian government has admitted that the 11 accused spies are indeed Russian citizens, and I think that will only add to the "wow" factor associated with this developing story. More importantly, the Kremlin ratcheted down some of the initial rhetoric about the case, but still left unanswered is whether there will be retaliation.