Tuesday, August 31, 2010

If the coach likes you...

...you have a chance to see the team.

What in the world is going on at the University of Tennessee? This is the institution that canned a successful coach because Georgia and Florida had (apparently) surpassed it in superiority in the SEC's Eastern Division, then hired a hot shot young coach who seemed to want to play fast and loose with NCAA rules. That coach then said "see y'all later" and left for my alma mater (which has me just thrilled...not!).

Now, the new coach -- the third in three seasons -- is giving preferential treatment to journalists who treat him with a deference he believes he has earned.

Great. Just great. Someone needs to check out whatever is blowing from Good Ol' Rocky Top, because whatever it is has turned reasonable people into irrational beings.

If it's the economy, stupid...

...and Barack Obama is a smart man, then what do you think ought to overwhelmingly define the next few months of his presidency?

I like him, and I appreciate that he's offered a demeanor different from his predecessors. (For what it's worth, I would define Mr. Obama as "cool", Mr. [George W.] Bush as "stubborn", Mr. Clinton as "determined", and Mr. [George H. W.] Bush as "cautious.")

But that cool attitude, to me, comes off too often as aloof; this president cannot afford to be aloof. Whether he is, is not the point. He cannot afford to appear that way.

I understand that a president can only do so much to repair the economy. And this economy is a mess.

If President Bush was undermined, in part, by a national perception that he didn't care about the economic well-being of average Americans, then this one might very well be undermined by a perception that he doesn't care enough about getting his hands dirty and fixing the problem.

President Obama has sought some noble (no pun intended) international goals -- repairing relations with the Middle East and Russia are at the top -- and he delivered some important speeches in various international locales. That's all well and good, but I wonder if Americans really care about those efforts.

More importantly, they might not reward him for it.

Mr. Obama is correct in reminding us that patience will be required -- this economic morass was many years in the making and cannot be repaired with a short-term solution. But a, dare I say it, stubborn and determined approach to addressing the issue is required.

That would be prudent. Because it is the economy, stupid. And the mission is not accomplished.

Islam is a religion of hate and death

Meet the man espousing that filth...and as you do consider where he is attempting to deliver his message.

Anyone else care to know when the protests against him will start?

This is a strategy?

From Politico's Martin Kady II:
The question for Democrats over the next nine weeks must be this: How do they turn things around?

The polls are as bad as they've ever been, prognosticators across the board are predicting a GOP wave and a good shot for a Republican House takeover. And the enthusiasm gap continues to grow between likely Republican and likely Democratic voters.

Democratic aides say the main hope is for their candidates to grind out victories one district at a time based on local issues and the strength of local candidates, while distancing themselves from the national mood and national Democratic leaders.

It makes for a long September and October, but the local strategy may be the best bet for Democrats.
The Democrats' inability to build on the political victories of 2004, 2006 and 2008 (most especially) is stunning but not surprising. The chronic infighting among members of that party combined with a stalled economy, an angry electorate and media technology that allows the political opposition to incessantly beat their message into their supporters have led to this.

What a mess.

Acting presidential

Kudos to President Obama for doing the right thing -- calling President Bush to outline his address to the nation tonight about the war in Iraq.

In the politically immature climate that is Washington, it's always encouraging to see someone stand out from the nonsense.

And while we're at it, perhaps it is time to acknowledge that the surge in troops worked. I'm just saying, that's all.

Monday, August 30, 2010

The cost of doing business?

An important article for you to consider, and it comes from the Washington Post: Do you want to pay in order to secure an internship in a competitive environment such as Washington D.C? An equally interesting article comes from the Yale Daily News, which discusses the (supposed) merits of an internship.

Full disclosure before I move on: I have been a faculty leader at four academic seminars put on by The Washington Center, which is discussed in the aforementioned article, and I know many people who work there. You're not going to find a stronger advocate for TWC and the opportunities it provides its students.

Perhaps the unwritten but certainly implied statement associated with the Post's article is that of personal and family income. My sense is the newspaper is suggesting that programs such as TWC's cater to suburban and well-to-do families. And if they are, then the further implication is that such programs reinforce the differences in class that exist in the U.S.

If that's the point, then the newspaper has done a disservice to these programs. Granted, it takes a considerable amount of money to take part in such programs. Granted, the opportunities will not be available to all students. But that shouldn't in any way be taken as an exclusionary or elitist program.

If I've misread the purpose of the article, so be it. And I certainly welcome any interpretation you have.

Day one of the semester...

...means no chance to blog during the day. Will do so tonight.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

An open letter to my students

If I had the chance over the next day or two to address the students -- especially at the freshmen -- in the School of Communication at Point Park University, I'd tell them something like this:

I hope like me, you are experiencing a few butterflies in your stomach and a real anticipation about the new academic year. Each year that I've spent in higher education -- and I'm going on 10 of them now -- I approach the new academic year wondering about the possibilities.


What will be accomplished this year? What unexpected opportunities will present themselves? What "a ha" moment will strike? And when?


But most importantly I approach each year reminding myself of the contract, for lack of a better word, that we as faculty make with you as students. It goes something like this --


We will work as hard as we can -- we'd better work as hard as we can; mailing it in isn't going to cut it! -- to provide you with the skills you need to continue to develop your academic and professional potential. We'll never promise you that you will get a job in the communications world simply because you took one of our classes, but we will promise you that you'll increase your chances of that happening if you give as much energy and commitment to your classes and chosen profession as we give to ours. 


A job in the communications world -- whether you want it as a journalist, a graphics designer, a public relations practitioner, a photographer or any other of the many possibilities -- is becoming increasingly more difficult to get and to keep. I think it's fair to say that you have to work harder than my generation did when we were in college in order to get that communications career up and running.


But in some ways you have it better than my generation. That's because the rapid development of technology allows you to be independent professionals in ways we couldn't have been. However, if you get caught up in the technology -- pushing this button here, clicking on that thing there -- you will get trampled by thousands of other people who continue to understand that the fundamentals of the communications world have not changed.


In fact, they've not changed for many generations. Those fundamentals include being able to write clearly and concisely; to understand how to practice communications ethically and legally; to be smart enough to recognize the sources you need to tell your story well; to tell interesting stories about interesting people; to remain independent of various pressures that will attempt to influence your integrity; and to know what is taking place in your field, your city, your state, and your world. The list can go on from there, but I think you get the point.


So today your challenge to yourself should be to make sure that each and every day you are honing your craft. That you are becoming more confident as a writer, a story-teller, an advertising campaigner or whatever is relevant to your area of future expertise.


No, you don't have to do that each day. But please remember that someone -- perhaps in this room, perhaps at another university, perhaps both -- are improving themselves. By doing so, they are positioning themselves to get the job that you want.


You decide if that's what you want.

Trying to understand Glenn Beck

Is he attempting to become the new head of the Christian conservative movement in the United States? Considering some of the language he used during his (it's really not a political) rally yesterday in Washington, there is at least some evidence to suggest he is.

Beck, of course, had a competing rally yesterday, but it was subsumed by the sheer attention-grabbing ability of the talk radio and FOX News personality.

But let's get to the point -- is Beck attempting to more fully than ever align himself with the Christian right? Let's accept as a baseline for discussion that Beck:

1. has always espoused the same philosophy he is advancing, meaning those who think he is somehow "changing" is missing an important point
2. gained a powerful ally when he moved to FOX News. CNN's agenda is not the same as FOX's, where a you're-responsible-for-yourself philosophy is gospel
3. is using the angst that has powered the Tea Party to also power his popularity

In an era in which FOX News and other "news" organizations openly espouse a political philosophy in their interpretation of "news," people such as Beck can move out of the "news" studio and into openly political waters without fear of being sanctioned.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Open or closed? (UPDATE)

UPDATE 8-29-2010, 12:45 p.m. EDT: I mistakenly listed the cost of the new high school at $130 million. I thank Josephine Posti of the Mt. Lebanon School Board for catching that mistake and notifying me that the cost cannot exceed $113 million.

ORIGINAL POST: An intriguing conversation in one room takes place while an intriguing protest takes place outside. Is this a problem?

That question was at the forefront of an invitation-only town hall meeting that took place this morning. (Full disclosure: I agreed a few days ago to step in as the moderator for the town hall after the originally scheduled moderator had to cancel because of a death in the family.)

Was today's event exclusionary of those who differed with the Mt. Lebanon commissioner who called it? That's going to depend in part on where you fall about the primary issue that drew the protesters -- the potential for building a new high school to the tune of more than $130 million.

I'm sure someone is thinking -- wait a minute, Anthony is a free speech advocate. How can he possibly explain away this decision to prevent free speech by one local politician?

Ah, but he didn't prevent free speech. He didn't seek to move the protesters -- there were perhaps 15 of them when I last saw them -- who gathered immediately outside the municipal building. He didn't speak ill of them at any point during the meeting. He never said they had no right to show up at the same time his event was taking place.

At the end of the meeting, I mentioned to the commissioner that if he wanted to do a similar event in the future, he ought to invite even more people to attend. But you shouldn't read anything into that; it was merely a recognition that democracy works best, in my opinion, when all voices are heard.

Do I think today's event was exclusionary? No. I would like to see more of them in the future.

Friday, August 27, 2010

A Saturday in August in Washington D.C.

Yes, that is the PERFECT time for someone seeking media attention to get it.

This time the media's spotlight will shine on one of their own -- Glenn Beck. And why not?

Beck has had weeks to generate among his listeners and viewers an almost desperate commitment from them to show up in Washington. He's also allowed his detractors to call him out for what he's doing. Mind you, Beck is not advertising his event as a political rally, but instead as an opportunity for Americans to celebrate their heroes.

Uh, huh.

Beck and his supporters can call it anything they want; but you and I know better -- it's a political rally. And there's nothing wrong with a political rally. It bothers me -- but doesn't surprise me -- that Beck would attempt to back-door the purpose of his event: to give his fans, Tea Party supporters and anyone else who sides with him an opportunity to express their frustration with America's direction and leadership.

They might have a point there.

So, if they exercise their right to speech and assembly within the parameters of the law, then there's no problem. But they have no right to prevent their critics from their determination to ensure that Beck knows he's not everyone's favorite.

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

got a new job today: mom.

Congrats, Erin. Nick and you will be great parents.

Big changes at...

...the USA Today.

Way to go, Dana!

Dana Canedy challenged Point Park students today to focus on their dreams, never give up hope and continually strive for success.

Ms. Canedy -- the author of A Journal for Jordan -- was the keynote speaker at the university's convocation ceremony.

I mentioned last night that Dana spoke to several members of the Point Park administration, faculty and staff. My sense is that everyone left the room amazed at the optimism and confidence of a woman who could easily have taken her tragedy and turned inward, shutting out the world.

Instead she has worked hard over the past 18 months to turn negative into positive, and at the same time to inspire people to think about their lives, what they want out of it and how they opt to live it.

Way to go, Dana!

I saw at least a half-dozen students approach her at the reception that followed the convocation. If they saw her as a role model or mentor, they were making a wise choice.

Growth is shrinking!

From the New York Times:
Economic statistics released Friday offered the clearest sign yet that the recovery in the United States had slowed to a crawl. The government lowered its estimate of economic growth in the second quarter to an annual rate of 1.6 percent, down from an initial estimate of 2.4 percent issued last month.

The revision is a significant slowdown from the annual rate of 3.7 percent in the first quarter and 5 percent in the last three months of 2009.

The news follows dismal statistics this week on July home sales and factory orders. Economists are now concerned that the outlook for job creation, which has been spluttering all summer, could deteriorate further.

Because forecasters had expected an even worse growth estimate, the markets reacted positively in the first few minutes, as traders awaited a policy speech later on Friday morning from the chairman of the Federal Reserve, Ben S. Bernanke.
 It must stink to be running for national office as a Democrat. Of course, the Republicans shouldn't be smiling -- their wonderful stewardship of the economy means they don't deserve to be considered reasonable alternatives. 

Jimmy Carter comes home...

...and not empty handed.

At this point, the Pyongyang regime is down to only two other living ex-presidents -- both with the name of Bush -- if it wants to use that route to get any future American prisoners released.

I can't see either of those men making a trip to Pyongyang. And that's not because they wouldn't want to as a humanitarian gesture, but because they won't be invited in.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Surprise (not!)

This from the Los Angeles Times:
A spokeswoman says North Korea has granted amnesty for a Boston man jailed in the communist country since January after former President Jimmy Carter worked to negotiate his freedom.

Carter Center spokeswoman Deanna Congileo said late Thursday that the former president will return to the U.S. with Aijalon Gomes. She says Gomes should be in Boston by Friday afternoon. North Korea news agency KCNA says Carter has left Pyongyang.
While Mr. Carter's "success" should come as no surprise, I am scratching my head as to why the North Korean government didn't make more of Mr. Carter's visit. As I mentioned the other day, I expected a full-blown propaganda blast from Pyongyang.

It never materialized. Perhaps it's because "Dear Leader" Kim Jong Il is away. I read a report earlier today indicating he has traveled to China to explain to the Chinese government the likely succession strategy for leadership in his country.

I met a fascinating woman tonight

Dana Canedy has written a powerful memoir, and her "A Journal for Jordan" has been selected by Point Park University as it summer reading book for incoming freshmen.

Tonight, Ms. Canedy had dinner with various members of the university's administration, faculty and staff. I was fortunate to be among the invitees.

What an amazing woman. Dana, and I use the first name because she had everyone call her by that name, shared her personal and professional history, her commitment to writing the book, what she has learned by writing it and perhaps most importantly why its so important that she and her son continue to grow from it.

Tomorrow, Dana will meet with the university's incoming freshmen, speak to the honors program students and then address everyone who attends convocation. And her commitment to sharing with young people was apparent to me tonight. She told our group -- and yes this really caught my attention -- that she now supervises the internship program at the New York Times, where she had previously been a reporter and editor.

I mentioned to Dana tonight that her discussion about how she investigated her boyfriend's death in Iraq was to me the most important part of the book. I say that because to me it provides a host of important issues that journalists need to consider. They include:

1. When do you know you have enough information?
2. How do you go about seeking information from sources that are not going to quickly or comfortably open up to the media?
3. Whether the details of the death of an American soldier should be made available to his or her family?

The questions can, of course, continue.

Indeed, what a fascinating woman. I told her at the end of the evening as she signed my copy of the book that it must have taken a tremendous amount of coverage to offer up such a personal account of one's life, the death of a loved one and to allow your young child to instantly become a public figure.

I'm honored to have met her.

Don't quit your day job (if you still have one, that is)

This from the Los Angeles Times:
The Dow Jones industrials closed below 10,000 for the first time since early July after stocks sank on continuing concerns about the direction of the economy.

The blue-chip gauge finished down 74.25 points, or 0.7%, to 9,985.81 after rallying early in the session on a better-than-expected weekly report on unemployment claims.  
Helping to push stocks down was word of a second straight quarterly increase in newly delinquent home loans, which could foreshadow a new spurt of foreclosures.
Yes, if I were a Democrat and running for election (or re-election this year), I know I'm going to have a hard time. Many of them are worried about their individual prospects for success and for their party's chances of retaining both houses of Congress.

He's corrupt...but he's one of ours!!

Let's see how the White House and the CIA attempt to explain this (which comes from The New York Times):

The aide to President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan at the center of a politically sensitive corruption investigation is being paid by the Central Intelligence Agency, according to Afghan and American officials.

Mohammed Zia Salehi, the chief of administration for the National Security Council, appears to have been on the payroll for many years, according to officials in Kabul and Washington. It is unclear exactly what Mr. Salehi does in exchange for his money.

Mr. Salehi's relationship with the C.I.A. underscores deep contradictions at the heart of the Obama administration's policy in Afghanistan, with American officials simultaneously demanding that Mr. Karzai root out the corruption that pervades his government while sometimes subsidizing the very people suspected of perpetrating it.


Ah, yes, he's corrupt. But he's one of ours! And that makes it a-ok! (Insert laugh track here.) 

Lovely, just lovely

The Iranian government continues its efforts to toss down the memory hole any concept of a political opposition in the country.

Government by legitimacy. Hmmmmmm.

Colorado considering shuttering its J-school

What? If you're guessing for budgetary reasons, you are correct.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Chinese are coming!

I anticipate that the increased number of Chinese students attending American colleges and universities will concern some people.

In fact, there's more than 25,000 of them at American colleges big and small. I also call to your attention a plan by almost a dozen colleges in and around the Pittsburgh area to reach out to all international students.

Sure, there is no guarantee that these international students will remain in the United States after they complete their education. But why should they be required to stay here? When they attend college in the U.S. they are not asked to make a commitment to stay in this country, and that's the way it should be.

The concern that people have -- and I've heard it expressed to me on more than one occasion -- is that international students will "come here to learn from our brightest people" before going home.

This is a bad thing? They not only will learn from our college professors but they also will learn about our culture, our way of life and our best asset -- our people.

Welcome to the 21st century.

It's what he does that makes this surreal

Read this report carefully. Then shake your head. Often.

And still I wonder why

The point, if you ask me, of this long piece from The Atlantic is that sexual orientation matters.

Why?

I'm not trying to be flippant. Rather, I'm still trying to understand why our society cares about the sexual orientation of any one individual. I know part of the answer is because some people have a deep-rooted fear or hate of people they define as "different."

Why?

I also know that part of the answer is that the media turn to stories such as a person's alleged or real sexual orientation in order to drive controversy and boost ratings or circulation.

Why?

And I suppose part of the answer is that homosexuality engenders a debate about whether it is genetic or learned.

Why?

I work with people who are gay. I work with people who are straight. I work with people who undoubtedly have their sexual orientation questioned because of the way they act or dress or because "they're that age and have never been married."

Why?

A "Major" change

A surprise announcement today -- a White House correspondent is leaving that beat and television news.

Journalism professors are liberal and biased!

Ah, the old charge is being made again -- this time by a soon-to-be graduate of the Medill program at Northwestern.

I haven't polled my colleagues at Point Park University, and I have no interest in doing so. But I can tell you that most of them are Democrats. But that political preference is in part a reflection of the city in which they work. Pittsburgh is, and this is not a good thing, a one-party town.

On the other hand, I previously taught at Texas Tech University, located in rock-ribbed Republican Lubbock. And I can tell you with a healthy degree of certainty that several of my colleagues there were Republican. Lubbock is, and this is not a good thing, a one-party town.

But does the Democrat label for many of my current colleagues and the Republican label for many of my former colleagues mean that the former are liberal and the latter are conservative? More importantly, does the label suggest that any of these colleagues are biased in their dealings with students?

Here's my point -- unless someone has a legitimate gripe that they were harassed, humiliated or in any way treated unfairly by a professor and that unfair treatment was a result only of a difference of political opinions, then what a professor is, is not an issue.

I'm sorry if I come of as naive or something else here. The bottom line is that my colleagues -- current and former -- are free to hold any political ideas they want. They can express them as freely as they wish. As long as their students are being treated fairly, there isn't an issue.

Grown-ups in charge?

This blurb from Mike Allen of Politico.com:
JOHN BOEHNER, in his Speaker audition in Cleveland: “[I]f I were fortunate enough to be Speaker of the House, I would run the House differently. … I mean differently than it's been run in the past under Democrats OR Republicans. That means challenging the old ways in Washington, getting to the bottom of what drives people crazy. … As one citizen put it, … 'just get out of the way.' … It's time to put grown-ups in charge. … These are the values I learned growing up with 11 brothers and sisters, and these are the values I have passed on to my daughters.”
Those "grown-ups" certainly couldn't be Republican, Mr. Boehner. We know the great job those "grown-ups" did in running the economy for about a decade. (You know, deregulation?)

Alright, all kidding aside. Mr. Boehner makes one relevant point -- personal and professional responsibility is a must in everything we do. But let's not use that as a tool to somehow suggest one political party has exclusive understanding of it. The reality is that both political parties have demonstrated a remarkable lack of maturity over the past two decades.

The propaganda begins!

Former President Jimmy Carter has arrived in North Korea, where he is undertaking a humanitarian mission to bring an American home.

From the moment the president arrived on North Korean soil until the moment he leaves, he will be used as a propaganda tool by the government there. The people who greet him through to what he says, his actions will be used by Pyongyang to validate its strength, its commitment to peace and its international stature.

Don't by into any of it.

Mr. Carter will succeed in gaining the release of the American citizen because Dear Leader wants it that way. There's no other reason. It allows him to be seen (again, just as he was last year) on the world stage with a former American president. It allows him to use the state-run media to validate his credentials as a statesman and a humanitarian. It provides for pictures loaded with symbolic imagery.

So, let's give Dear Leader his moment in the spotlight. Let's bask in his glorious wonder. Let's acknowledge what a great man he is. And then he'll go back to being the despot he is.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Just remember...

The problem with having an iEverything is that you forget the importance of we...as in a human community

What kind of democracy do you want?

The professional politician.

The spinning of information to suit selected political agendas.

A lack of local voices.

A media system catering to the loudest of the loud.

Are these the characteristics that you think should define democracy? If not, then ask yourself what you are doing to make it better.

Right now, it is hell on Earth

It is Pakistan, where floods have led to death, misery, starvation and destruction of homes. But why is it that the world appears to not be reacting to the devastation in the same way it did Haiti (for example).

Mosharraf Zaidi, a former adviser to the United Nations, has some thoughts.

I've watched BBC reports over the past three nights from Pakistan, and I'm reminded of how humanity is connected (and for reasons that go far beyond technology). But that connectivity appears both elastic and at times forgotten.

Abundant care and concern is offered when selected nations suffer great losses, but those traits aren't always on display. Why is that?

Three characteristics of a university's strength

Yesterday, Point Park's president -- Dr. Paul Hennigan -- addressed perhaps 100 university administrators, faculty and staff on a variety of topics. One issue in particular caught my attention, and it is one that you should consider about your institution (regardless of whether you are in higher education or simply an alum).

He noted that in these continuing difficult economic times, three characteristics have been identified across higher education to determine how strong an institution is. Mind you, strong in this case doesn't mean historical legacy, name recognition, or anything like that. Rather, it means how well the university is coping with the economic uncertainty.

Those three characteristics include: how many job cuts have been needed, how many people have been asked or required to take a pay cut and whether enrollment continues to grow.

Dr. Hennigan noted that over the past three years (dating to the start of the recession), no university employees have been fired or let go, no one at the university has had to take a pay cut, and enrollment has grown about 1.5%.

Sure, you might think of Point Park as just another institution in Pittsburgh. But speaking personally I think our administration deserves recognition for a sound approach to guiding a ship through an economic storm.

Getting a Ph.D. in political science?

Then expect a somewhat tight job market.

Well, now

This from the Washington Post:
House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) will call for the mass firing of the Obama administration's economic team, including Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and chief economic adviser Lawrence Summers.

In a speech later today, Boehner will say the "writing is on the wall" for the aides as November's midterm elections shape up as a referendum on sustained unemployment.
And a Happy Tuesday to you, too. 

Monday, August 23, 2010

The world's two pre-eminent sports events...

...could be in England before the end of this decade.

The Summer Olympics are heading to London next summer. Now, the British government is making a strong push to bring the 2018 World Cup to England.

The bid is a strong one, but it could be undone by one dreaded phrase -- the connection of politics and sports.

No, Britain would not be alone in hosting both events in the same decade. Consider that Germany hosted both the Summer Olympics (1972) and the World Cup (1974) in the same decade. The United States did it in the 1990s (World Cup, 1994; Summer Olympics, 1996) and Rio de Janiero also will do it this decade (World Cup, 2014; Summer Olympics, 2016). France is the only nation to pull the Winter Olympics (1992) and World Cup (1998) in the same decade trick.

Meet Tassy

And as you do, kudos to my colleague and friend Jesse Colaizzi, who has made two trips to Haiti in recent months to document the devastation following the earthquake.

President Carter is heading to North Korea

It appears his trip -- as a private citizen -- is designed to secure the release of an American citizen.

If Mr. Carter does make this trip, he will, as the aforementioned link notes, become the second U.S. president to make a humanitarian trip to Pyongyang in as many years. President Clinton made a visit there last year, when he did secure the release of two Current TV journalists.

The inevitable question that comes up in such situations is whether America's former presidents should be used in this way. Despite the "they're going as a private citizen" rationale, there is little question these men are making such a visit as a representative of the U.S. government.

Moreover, they're called upon when it appears no other avenue for "rescue" has proven successful. They will meet with -- and certainly be required to take photos with -- North Korea's dictator Kim Jong Il. Such a photo provides rich propaganda value for a regime that treats its people with disdain.

Mr. Carter will, in my opinion, be remembered more for his humanitarian work once he left the White House then for his single term in it. I'm not sure that traveling to Pyongyang and returning with an American citizen will bolster his credentials, but I am sure that there will be vocal critics insisting that the government is sending Mr. Carter on a mission that is akin to talking to terrorists.

When does innocence end?

I mentioned during a couple of posts yesterday that my son's Boy Scout troop enjoyed a weekend at Shallow Falls in Oakland, MD. During our time there, we saw countless number of people dive perhaps 16 feet from a rock and into the water below.

As one father (not from our troop, but instead there taking pictures of his kids as they jumped from the rock) and I watched person after person climb up and then jump down, we wondered when innocence ended.

We agreed that if we were teenagers (as at least one of his children was), we would have thought nothing of getting on that rock and diving. We would have done back flips, front flips and all sorts of jumps. But when would we have no longer done it? Or at least when would we at minimum have had second thoughts about what we were doing?

The father noted that he was perhaps 17 when a group of his friends one day began jumping from large limb to large limb and from tree to tree. And that's when one of his friends took a nasty tumble and was rather seriously hurt.

"I reminded myself that could have been me," the father relayed to me on Saturday afternoon. And that's when he knew he was no longer invincible.

I couldn't remember my "oh, I need to think about what I do" moment. But I do know that by time I was in college, I made a decision to avoid circumstances that could lead to unfortunate consequences.

So, when does innocence end?

This is not your father's Republican Party

A well-written editorial from the Washington Post's E.J. Dionne that points out the inconsistencies between the current brand that is the Republican Party and the one that existed just a generation ago.

I think more needs to be said about the ability of these alleged Republicans to spread their message because of popular media figures such as Glenn Beck and, of course, new and social media. I look at people such as Beck and Sarah Palin, and I too often come to the conclusion that what they are doing has little to do with political persuasion and more to do with ego enhancement.

No, I'm not suggesting that Democrats are a noble, altruistic lot; their party also is filled with loud mouths who, I think, are more interested in seeing themselves on television than in bringing about meaningful policy change. What I am saying is that I cannot believe (don't want to believe?) that legitimate, rock-ribbed, true Republicans are willing to sacrifice the virtues of the party just to win an election come November.

Tell me I'm correct. 

My "kids"

Regular readers of this blog know that I "adopt" the broadcast students at my (current or former) institution. And as the new academic year is about to begin, I'm reminded of some of the fantastic personal and professional things some of my current and former "kids" have done over the past year or two.

In no particular order --
1. Five are either engaged or very soon to be married
2. One is applying for a news director's position
3. One continues to shine on the Good Morning America weekend crew
4. Several completed internships this summer and received glowing reviews
5. One was hired at a Nashville television station
6. One is about to become a mother for the first time
7. One shines as the social media coordinator at the World Bank's offices in Washington
8. One (among the five mentioned above) also is an executive producer at an eastern Ohio television station
9. One (also among the five mentioned above) begins this fall the MA/MBA program in communication and business at Point Park
10. A whole bunch of them remain in touch with me

Yes, you could say I'm one proud "dad."

Our top story this evening...

Sex. Scandal. Money.

In other words, Tiger Woods and Elin Nordigen are divorced.

Dinesh D'Souza is a college president

Nope, I'm not kidding. The author is now a college president. The press release from The King's College can be accessed here.

You're wondering my opinion? Not bothered by it at all. His philosophy meshes well with the college's philosophy. And I hope that regardless of your religious persuasion that you endorse those who live their convictions as best they can. I would suggest that Mr. D'Souza is one of those individuals. 

Harvard prof update

This update from InsideHigherEd.com:

Harvard University announced Friday that its investigations had found eight incidents of scientific misconduct by Marc Hauser, a prominent psychology professor who recently started a leave, The Boston Globe reported. The university also indicated that sanctions had been imposed, and that Hauser would be teaching again after a year. Since the Globe reported on Hauser's leave and the inquiry into his work, many scientists have called for a statement by the university on what happened, and Friday's announcement goes much further than earlier statements. In a statement sent to colleagues on Friday, Hauser said: "I am deeply sorry for the problems this case has caused to my students, my colleagues, and my university. I acknowledge that I made some significant mistakes and I am deeply disappointed that this has led to a retraction and two corrections. I also feel terrible about the concerns regarding the other five cases."
 I acknowledge I made some significant mistakes. That's a fancy way of saying "I wish I hadn't been caught."

Defending the Pittsburgh Pirates

Needless to say, the reports about the financially successful though on-the-field disaster Pittsburgh Pirates is causing a bit of a stir in this city.

Now, let's keep something in mind -- the team also prices its tickets at perhaps the lowest level in Major League Baseball. Frankly, I'm able to take my family to more than one game per year because of the ticket prices. But more importantly the team's front office works to make sure that its fans have a great time at the game.

No, I'm not endorsing the losing. But I am saying that showing appreciation for the little guy is appreciated -- at least by your friendly blogger.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Blogging in Philadelphia? Pay up.

I know the city of Philadelphia is attempting to make money anyway it can, but this is an intriguing one -- tax bloggers.

Pardon me while I stifle a laugh.

Don't misunderstand me -- I'm not criticizing the city for wanting to collect appropriate business taxes. Nor am I suggesting bloggers ought to be exempt from meeting their financial responsibilities to their communities. But even if the amount of "money" some of these bloggers are making places them below the threshold of "taxable income", the city runs the risk of people "cheating" by simply not reporting this massive amount of income.

Personal versus corporate/governmental responsibility

A few of the leaders on the Boy Scout trip my son took over the weekend got into an interesting debate last night -- it centered around personal versus corporate/governmental responsibility. (And I lump the last two together because the conversation covered both entities simultaneously.)

The issue came up because the falls where his troop visited was very slippery in places. Each of the adults recounted seeing at least one person take a nasty tumble, with the rocks acting like ice would in winter -- one wrong step and down you went.

Perhaps the most harrowing fall occurred when a young father tumbled while holding onto to his baby. One of our leaders recounted watching the man twist his body as he fell so as to ensure he was between the baby and the rocks. For the record, and for what it's worth, your favorite blogger had a hard time keeping his balance and he wasn't moving with near the speed or purpose of the people around him.

And so the issue developed -- what responsibility did the state of Maryland (we were visiting a state park) have to ensure its visitors were safe? One strand of argument went this way: There were signs at various places (for the record I don't recall seeing one but that's not to suggest they were not there) indicating that everyone who entered the water did so at their own risk.

That strand of argument was met by this one: No matter how much signage is there, couldn't the state be considered negligent for not providing a safe place for its visitors?

One leader -- who fell into the personal responsibility camp -- noted that the legal structure in the United States has moved toward protecting the lowest common denominator. Hinted, though not stated, in that message was that the least intelligent/cautious/responsible in our society were benefiting from laws that were preventing millions of people from enjoying themselves.

In other words, in an effort to not be sued, a variety of corporate and governmental entities were significantly reducing or all together eliminating activities for the public.

Nonsense, the other side argued. Laws were there to ensure that the public was not taken advantage of by entities with deeper pockets or more committed people representing them. For this side, the issue came down to the state (or any other hosting agency) had to provide reasonable safety for its guests, no matter how many signs were posted.

I think there is a parallel here, and read through the end of this section before drawing a conclusion. Say I am walking through a dark parking lot during a winter month and following snow. If I slip on ice that had formed that day, am I responsible for my "accident"?

"The water on those falls and the rocks that are with them and everything else associated with them are acts of God," one of the leaders said last night. "Whatever is causing people to slip is not caused by man. You can't hold him responsible."

So, who is correct? Is the moss, or whatever it is, causing the slippery conditions at those falls the responsibility of the state to clear up? And if it can't, then what should it do? Shut it down?

And then consider my question about ice. Who would be responsible for any injury from my fall?

A stroll down memory lane

Which is the most timeless advertising slogan (even if it's not used today): 

A. Rice-a-Roni, the San Francisco Treat; 

B. Have a Coke and a Smile; 

C. Don't Squeeze the Charmin; 

D. Smith-Barney. We Make Money the Old-Fashioned Way. We Earn It.

Here's to open-minded thinking!

Kudos to the Iranian government for displaying yet again its commitment to openness and proactive thinking.

Not!

Fantastic display of leadership.

When a perhaps 75-year-old man jumps off an approximate 16-foot cliff...

...lots of people watch.

And applaud him when he does it successfully.

Over the weekend, my son's Boy Scout Troop enjoyed an end-of-the-summer weekend camping trip to Shallow Falls and Deep Creek in Garrett County, Maryland.

Yesterday (and before the rains came and soaked my son's tent!!), 21 Scouts and their 8 leaders made their way to the water. Late in the day people of all ages were jumping off an approximate 16-foot rock and into the water below. (For the record, Boy Scouts of America rules prohibit any Scout from partaking of that activity.)

One person eventually caught everyone's attention. A perhaps 75-year-old man began the climb. The anticipation developed, as perhaps 100 people turned to look. Would he do it?

Sitting near me was the man's son-in-law, who had been taking pictures of his kids as they had taken their turns over the past 30 minutes. "He's going to do it," the man said to me.

Sure enough, the elderly man took his turn. A loud roar of appreciation and applause followed him.

He went at least once more that afternoon. And no matter how young or old anyone else was, no one earned the attention of the other summer revelers as he did.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Progress (we hope)

From Politico.com:

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says she's invited Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to Washington on Sept. 2 "to relaunch direct negotiations to resolve all final status issues which we believe can be completed within one year." President Obama has invited President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt and King Abdullah II of Jordan to attend as well because of their "critical role in this effort," Clinton said at a news conference. Obama will have bilateral meetings with the four leaders on Sept. 1 and will then dine with them, she said. Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, a Quartet representative, has been invited as well.
Additional analysis is provided here.

It is perhaps coincidental, but the announcement from Secretary Clinton comes on the same day that the New York Times (and other news organizations) reported that the U.S. has convinced Israel that an imminent attack against Iran for its planned nuclear program is not necessary.

Too much time on my hands?

This gem from CBS News' White House correspondent Mark Knoller:

“This is Mr. Obama's 9th vacation since taking office. … [H]e has spent all or part of 38 days on 'vacation' away from the White House. He has also made 14 visits to Camp David spanning all or part of 32 days. It brings his total time away to all or part of 70 days. It's less than the 'vacation' time taken during the same period by his immediate predecessor. (Former President George W. Bush gets the quotation marks, too.) As of this point in his 1st term, Mr. Bush had made 14 visits to his Texas ranch spanning all or part of 102 days. He also made 40 visits to Camp David spanning all or part of 123 days. His 'vacation' total at this point in his presidency was all or part of 225 days away.”
For the full report, click here.

Is the removal of combat troops from Iraq the right thing to do...right now?

This from the Los Angeles Times:
Iraqis are apprehensive and bitter about the departure of the last U.S. combat brigade amid the growing violence and political divide in their country.
Iraqis danced in the streets when U.S. troops withdrew from their cities a little over a year ago. After the last American combat brigade trundled across the border into Kuwait early Thursday, reversing a journey that began more than seven years ago, there was no rejoicing.
For the full report, click here.

The problem with any discussion about Iraq is that the war there began with a dubious (at best) justification from the Bush administration, and what has followed over seven years is a segregating of opinions that have become so hardened that no reasonable conversation about Iraq can be had.

As an example, as I watched MSNBC's coverage the other night as the last combat troops left Iraqi soil, I saw an overt glee to Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow that didn't surprise me but still disappointed me. To see the two of them almost lustfully celebrating this important event was unprofessional, and it equated to the nonsensical display of patriotism seen on FOX News when the war commenced.


Yes, I know, I have a standard for journalism that is going to be deemed outdated or passe. If I'm guilty of that, I accept the verdict. I don't want journalists telling me what emotions I'm supposed to feel, and I sure don't want them showing off whatever feelings they have.


Unfortunately when you combine a false pretense for war with partisan media, the chance to discuss what America's role in Iraq ought to be gets lost.

One of my "kids" is engaged

found out on Facebook this morning that one of my "kids" -- Kelly Johnson, a 2010 Point Park graduate, is engaged. Any you need to see the video of the proposal.

Yo, Nick...you'd better treat my "daughter" well. Or else.

 

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The more you know

Interesting editorial in the Chronicle of Higher Education noting that Chinese scholars, leaders and students know less about the United States than you might think.

I am struck by the deficits identified in the aforementioned article and how much of what is said here doesn't apply to journalism education. One organization of which I am a member -- the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication -- has a thriving Asian membership, and without evidence to support this my sense is that they are involved in almost every division within the organization (there are almost two dozen).

Of course, a healthy contingent of Asian scholars in one organization shouldn't lead us to dismiss the ideas presented in the aforementioned editorial. I especially see merit in the recommendations, most especially the short- and long-term academic relationships, and the role journalists can play in this process.

China's importance is obvious to all of us; and with it now having the second-largest economy in the world, the importance of each side knowing the other more fully than before becomes more critical. 

Another baseball player, another problem

This from the New York Times:
Federal authorities have decided to indict Roger Clemens on charges of making false statements to Congress about his use of performance-enhancing drugs, according to two people briefed on the matter. An announcement is expected in the near future.

The indictment will come nearly two and half years after Clemens and his former trainer, Brian McNamee, testified under oath at a 2008 hearing before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, directly contradicting each other about whether Clemens had used the banned substances.
Major League Baseball's ignorance -- deliberate, if you ask me -- about the rampant use of performancing-enhancing drugs especially during the 1990s and early 2000s continues to come to roost. But let's make clear that Clemens' problems are not with the game he cheated because of his cheating. Instead he has a federal indictment coming at him akin to one of the near 100-mph fastballs he threw.

I'm not in favor of striking from the record books the accomplishments of Clemens, Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire or any other likely user of steroids or other such drugs. No, I'm not condoning what they did; but I am saying that if the (woefully ignorant) commissioner's office refused to address the "growing" problem when it should have, then there is little that can be done now.

After the fact morality doesn't work.

I provide you with what I think is a relevant parallel -- I had the opportunity to interview International Olympic Committee member Anita DeFrantz several years ago as part of my dissertation research. I asked her about the use of steroids and other such drugs by Soviet and other Communist-bloc athletes (though let's remember they were not the only ones), and whether because of that use the accomplishments of those athletes are tainted and by extension should be erased from the IOC's records.

She emphatically said no. Unless the person accused of cheating is caught on that day in which he or she competes, it is unfair to later suggest that the achievement is no longer valid, she told me.

You are free to disagree with her, but I, for one, think she is spot on.

Yes, there is a problem here

This is a fascinating story. Now, I accept that it is one side of the story, and my reading suggests there are at least three sides to it.

Nevertheless, it does point up that academic research (and all research for that matter) needs significant internal and external checks before it is released to the public. And on those occasions when one researcher is accused of stepping over that line of ethics and professionalism, questions need to be asked.

I don't know any of the people involved in this story, for what that's worth.

1 in 3 Republicans are wrong

Sorry if that offends anyone, but a new poll indicating that almost 1 in 3 Republicans thinks Barack Obama is Muslim indicates that they need to smarten up.

But I think there is a more important question -- what if he were? Would that really matter?

I'm always fascinated when I read or hear about the panic that some Americans felt when John F. Kennedy was running for president. The belief that the Pope was going to run the White House was apparently firmly accepted by many people in the run up to that election.

People had a lot to learn then. It appears some still do now.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

They left in the middle of the night

Granted, the departure of the final combat troops from Iraq is symbolic but nevertheless important -- it provides a milepost to indicate that America's military role in that country is coming to an end.

But if you are watching the coverage of what is taking place tonight, I am curious if you, too, are wondering why the decision was made to "move 'em out" in the middle of the night in the Middle East which corresponds to late in the evening on the East Coast of the United States.

I think I have the answer.

Perhaps orchestrating it to take place at this time is recognition that this president doesn't want to call attention to the move? Maybe. Iraq was not his war, and that war remains more controversial than the one taking place in Afghanistan. The last combat troops exiting under the cover of darkness ensures that while there is media attention, it is left to the less-watched cable news networks to cover America's troops live while the more-popular over-the-air networks are providing comedies and dramas.

Or perhaps it's designed to not make obvious what is painfully obvious -- there remains uncertainty in this country whether the money, resources and lives that were devoted to Iraq were worth it? Maybe. There never was and never will be justification for this war for a sizable percentage of people in this country, and one of those Americans is the man who occupies the White House. You might note that the White House has made it clear that President Obama will not deliver an address to the nation tonight or tomorrow about the departure of the combat troops.

Or perhaps it's indicative that our combat troops exit Iraq without knowing if they and their allies have indeed prepared the country for its future? Maybe. Let's recognize that 50,000 U.S. troops remain on Iraqi soil for another couple of weeks and beyond, and their job is to continue to provide the support the Iraqi government needs as it strengthens itself.

I am sure someone is going to read that last paragraph and jump to the conclusion that I am bashing the troops. Spare me. There is no polite way to say this -- there is no guarantee that Iraq has the fundamental civic, social, judicial and political organizations in place to sustain whatever semblance of democracy exists there.

So, perhaps that explains why this Commander-in-Chief is saying nothing while watching his combat troops exit Iraq. Not only are troops still there, but the mission is not over.

Better said, Mission (Is Still Not) Accomplished.

And with the president about to go on vacation with his family for 10 days, it indeed will be awhile before Mr. Obama says anything about the symbolic end of America's involvement in shaping the new Iraq.

Considering all of this, yes, tonight was the perfect time to "move 'em out."

In 2003...

A few trivial and perhaps not so trivial items covering 2003, when U.S. troops entered Iraq. As you probably know, the last combat troops tonight exited the country:

1. Facebook didn't exist
2. Neither did Twitter
3. Barack Obama was a member of the Illinois State Senate
4. Sean Hannity was on radio as a talk-show host but not on television
5. Alabama football coach Nick Saban was at rival LSU
6. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers won the Super Bowl, which the New England Patriots had won the year before and would win again in 2004 and 2005
7. The National Hockey League did not have a salary cap
8. The Department of Homeland Security was christened
9. The Space Shuttle Columbia exploded
10. Hu Jintao became the president of China
11. Martha Stewart had never before been indicted
12. Valerie Plame was still an undercover CIA agent
13. Arnold Schwarzenegger was elected governor of California
14. Rush Limbaugh admitted he was addicted to painkillers
15. Mission Accomplished was declared

More conservative journalists?

Not necessarily, but certainly more journalists working for a conservative news operation. This comes from the New York Post:

Christopher Ruddy, the founder of the right-leaning Newsmax Media, may have been thwarted in his bid to buy Newsweek from the Washington Post Company, but his 12-year-old company is still going to aggressively expand its editorial brand.

Newsmax, which has a fast-growing monthly magazine and a booming Web site aimed at the Republican-leaning heartland audience, has a $2 million war chest that it intends to pump into expansion of its editorial staff, primarily with additions to its New York and Washington DC offices.
Ruddy says he wants to expand the New York office from four editorial employees to 24 to 25 over the next 18 months and to add about a half dozen in Washington DC.
He said revenues last year were in the $34 million range and he expects them to hit $50 million this year, all by aiming at an audience of Republican-leaning consumers in the 50-plus age bracket. As part of his expansion, the company just hired Matt Belvedere, who had been running the video group for US News & World Report, to be in charge of its video news operation out of Washington DC.

200 troops are going to guard the California/Mexico border

California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is making a small (and perhaps symbolic albeit meaningless) effort at stemming the flow of illegal immigration into California.

This from the Los Angeles Times:

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger Wednesday said he was sending more than 200 national guard troops to the California-Mexico border.

After a tour of the border Wednesday, Schwarzenegger said he plans to have 224 troops in place by Sept. 1.
“These men and women will provide much-needed assistance to help secure our border, but it’s important to remember that this is only the beginning," Schwarzenegger said in a statement Wednesday. "We must find a permanent solution to our broken immigration system. We need the federal government to step up with even more manpower and funding, and I will continue to push President Obama and Congress for action.”
The governor is correct in asserting that "a permanent solution [must be found] to our broken immigration system." But is his plan sending the proper message that his state or the federal government really cares about finding such a solution?

What's the matter with...

...South Carolina.

No, not Kansas, although I am well aware of the book with that title.

South Carolina needs a favor from Congress. If it doesn't get it (and based on my reading of the story, Congress is under no obligation to grant the favor), then more than 2,000 teachers in the state could be canned. Why is South Carolina in this predicament?

Would you believe...an earlier refusal to accept federal stimulus money.

I appreciate that South Carolina's political leaders want to send a message to Washington. But I'm not sure what they've done is the best example of that. Perhaps it should instead set its sights on Alaska, whose leaders appear more than happy to gorge at the federal trough.

BY-see-U later?

The earthquake that is shaking up conference alignments in collegiate-level sports just delivered it s first aftershock -- it appears Brigham Young University is going to leave the Mountain West Conference.

What you should find especially interesting in the aforementioned story is BYU's plan to be independent in football but connected to the Western Athletic Conference in other sports. There is a definite comparison here to what Notre Dame has done for many years.

Can BYU pull it off? I don't see why not.

The football program has traditionally done well, and it is not at all uncommon to see the Cougars ranked in the Top 25. The rabid support the program enjoys ensures that the school ought to be able to negotiate favorable home-and-home football series contracts with other schools. It also will be positioned to line up a prominent national opponent on a somewhat consistent basis.

Underscoring all of this, of course, is that if the Cougars do indeed continue to post those winning seasons, there is always the chance of snagging a BCS-bowl berth and the fantastic amount of dollars that come with it. If BYU were to do that as an independent, then it would not have to share the revenue with any other school.

A presidential wannabe who...

...is focusing on a real issue?

Mitt Romney must be, like, weird, man. He's talking about the economy and job growth while a host of other Republicans are rambling on about the proposed Manhattan mosque.

Something to consider

From my colleague and friend, Jesse Colaizzi:

Since March 2010, I have been collaborating with my good friend, travel partner and client, Ian Rosenberger, on a self-initiated relief project in the earthquake ravaged Port au Prince, Haiti. Our Project:

Meet Tassy Filsaime…
He’s 19, and somehow he survived the deadliest catastrophe in the history of the Western Hemisphere, but a cancerous tumor in his cheek is surely going to kill him, simply because he was born poor, in Haiti… unless we do something.

On August 26, you, your readers and followers can help save his life.
Thanks to the incredible generosity of Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh, PA, Tassy has a chance to receive the two surgeries that will save his life for a fraction of their normal cost. We need to raise $30,000 to make it happen. One night, one cause, one life. Join us, and make the difference in the life of a boy.

Join us for “A Night With Tassy Filsaime.”

Date: Thursday, August 26, 2010

Time: 6 to 9 p.m.

Place: The Grand Hall at Pittsburgh’s Priory
614 Pressley Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15212

Event includes heavy hors d’oeuvres, cash bar, Haiti photo exhibit and sale, silent auction, and entertainment by local and regional artists.

Purchase tickets at anightfortassy.eventbrite.com. $50 advance tickets / $65 at the door.

Recommended attire is business professional.

Visit meettassy.org
Twitter: @meettassy
Facebook: search “Meet Tassy”

For more information email us at anightfortassy@gmail.com or call Laura Kelly at 814.327.4346.

An early Happy Birthday greeting to...

...the League of Women Voters.

The following is an e-mail with details from Sue Broughton, the fantastic woman who heads up the Pittsburgh chapter of the LWV:

In July, 1848, a convention of about 260 women and about 40 men was held in Seneca Falls NY to organize a campaign to eliminate laws that made women’s property -- and the women themselves -- the legal property of their husbands. Elizabeth Cady Stanton, supported by the former slave Frederick Douglass, convinced the group that without the right to vote, no rights won by women would be secure. Thus was born the women’s suffrage movement. Only one signer of the Seneca Falls Declaration of Sentiments issued by the convention lived long enough to cast her ballot. She was in her 90s by the time the right to vote was granted 72 years later in 1920.

History remembers the names of the women who started the movement, including Stanton and Susan B. Anthony. But it was finished by the next generation: women that many people have never heard of, among them Carrie Chapman Catt and Maude Wood Park. These women founded the League of Women Voters in 1920 to give newly enfranchised women some guidance in voting. The League began inviting men to join in 1974, and elected the first man to our national board in 2008 – our version of cracking the glass ceiling.

This year is the League’s 90th birthday. In Pittsburgh, the League will be celebrating in Mellon Square, downtown, from 11:30 to 1:30 on Women’s Equality Day, August 26th, the anniversary of passage of the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution granting women the right to vote. In case of rain, we will move to the lobby of the Regional Enterprise Tower, 425 Sixth Ave. There will be period music (1920's to more recent), funky outfits and hats, refreshments, a few speeches, and information about voting and the League. A flyer about this event is attached. Everyone is welcome to come and help us celebrate 90 years of civic involvement.

I hope you will be able to drop in on this celebration.

If you are a conservative...

...you should read this.

Yes, I'm going to attempt to find the research paper (later today).

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

"My" values are better than "your" values

Is that what our country wants to project as our image? Really?

Think about your answer as you examine the battle right now for the hearts and minds of Americans.

One issue that divides us is whether gays ought to have a Constitutional right to marry.

The other is whether a house of worship can be built near (not on) what over the past 10 years has become defined as sacred ground.

If you accept that gays ought to have a right to marry, then your argument essentially is defined as completeness. You don't believe that the long-time legal definition of marriage between a man and woman is a complete one. You are not attempting to destroy that traditional definition, you will argue, but instead you are attempting to expand it so that it finally encompasses all people.

You are sure to argue at least one historical precedent -- that voting was not complete in this country until everyone had the chance to do it. Or perhaps you will claim that gay marriage is one of the final pieces of the 1960s' civil rights movement.

But if you oppose legalized gay marriage, you also are going to use history as your guide. You will note that cultures and nations the world over have believed that marriage is indeed validated only when a man marries a woman. You have a legitimate religious argument -- does not Scripture suggest that man leaves his parents and unites with his wife? You will assert that the best family is the nuclear family.

You will recognize the comparison to voting rights as persuasive, but your response is seeing as specious any attempt to equate overt racism or sexism with the fundamentals of religion. In other words, men can change laws made by other men, but no man should change laws proscribed by God.

Faith should be one of the hallmarks of that aforementioned nuclear family, your argument will continue. In fact, a marriage ceremony in a house of worship is more -- and here comes that word again -- complete, real and legitimate, in your eyes. God, in whatever form He exists, is supposed to bless that union of one man and one woman.

I am struck by a few things as this hypothetical conversation takes place. One is the underlying attitude on both side that "my" values are better, more important, more sacred, more open-minded or otherwise superior than and to "your" values. I'm not sure how close to arrogance that comes, but it would seem to come pretty close.

Allow me to speak personally. The man who is half responsible for the creation of the person writing this blog post was not the nicest guy in the world. His vices triumphed over his virtues and any chance he had of enjoying a relationship with his son was ruined by his tipping back of alcohol, a fiery temper and acts of utter stupidity that need not be repeated here. Father has not laid eyes on son in more than 30 years, and as a result the son was raised -- quite well, thank you very much -- by his mother and one of his aunts.

In no way did that child enjoy a nuclear upbringing, but for anyone to argue -- and I would dare them to do it -- that somehow my childhood was wrong would be unwise. It was certainly different from the one I am giving my sons, but who am I to say that it was necessarily worse?

My boys have the love, support and presence of their father. I lacked all of those when I was a child. But does that mean that what my mother and aunt (and to be fair my other aunts and uncles) gave me was inferior?

One of the virtues my family taught me was to be proud of my faith. But never was I supposed to believe that being Catholic somehow made me better than someone else. I continue to be a Catholic, and my wife and I (who were married in a Catholic Church even though she was not Catholic at the time) are raising our boys in that faith.

Our next door neighbor was born Catholic but then converted to Judaism when he married the woman he loves. Does that decision make him, dare I say, less important than my wife in God's eyes? She, after all, was Methodist before converting to Catholicism.

If we accept (and I hope we do) that no faith has the right to claim superiority, then how can our society seek to deny any one faith the chance to establish appropriate houses of worship? I will never accept, no matter how many Republicans or others attempt to shout it from the rooftops, that Islam equates to terrorism. Please explain to me how the actions of a small group of idiots who destroy and kill in the name of Allah represent Islam.

And as you attempt to explain that, then also identify how the construction of a mosque near Ground Zero will violate that sacred ground. If a Catholic Church were being built there, that would be acceptable. Right? If a synagogue were being built there, that would be acceptable. Right? If a high-end shopping mall were being built there, that would be acceptable. Right? If a palatial athletic arena for a professional sports team were being built there, that would be acceptable. Right?

Islam is therefore akin to gay marriage and my upbringing -- inferior. Not because I say so, but because the values you hold say so. Are those values ones you should be proud of?

Please don't misunderstand what I am saying -- I'm not arguing that people should not have values. But what I am suggesting is that all of us should be very careful when we attempt to convince people that "my" values are better than "your" values. Or that "my" faith ranks higher than "your" faith. Or that "my" definition of marriage is superior to "your" definition of marriage.

Bomb, baby, bomb?

A report in today's Jerusalem Post and the cover story of the current Atlantic have increased awareness as to when (or if) Iran's plans for a nuclear weapon could lead to a military strike by one of its enemies.

The question is -- which enemy?

The newspaper and magazine reports indicate the Obama administration appears to be talking a strong talk but not walking a strong walk when it comes to preventing Iran from building a bomb. They also raise the specter of what could happen if Israel were to deliver the strike that would knock out Iran's ambitions.

Let's presume for a moment that an attack is ordered. Now consider the ramifications of which nation's leader makes that decision. Would President Obama be considered a powerful leader who made the necessary choice to protect (in order) a long-time U.S. ally, the Middle East and the United States? Or would he be considered just another American president who used his nation's military power to determine the short- and long-term future of the Middle East?

Would he, in other words, be seen as "Just Another Bush"?

For now, let's acknowledge that the image of the president is less important than whether a strike-Iran decision is required.

Is it?

39 percent to 18 percent

The Goldwater Institute -- and remember it is always critical to identify the sponsor of any poll or report -- indicates in a new report that university administrations across the country are bloated.

The report (embedded in this link) suggests that for every 100 students enrolled between 1993 and 2007, full-time administrators grew by 39 percent while new faculty hires advanced only 18 percent.

In the executive summary, the authors state:
A significant reason for the administrative bloat is that students pay only a small portion of administrative
costs. The lion’s share of university resources comes from the federal and state governments, as well as private gifts and fees for non-educational services. Th e large and increasing rate of government subsidy for higher education facilitates administrative bloat by insulating students from the costs. Reducing government subsidies would do much to make universities more efficient.


Yes, the report names names (and you can find those in the link to Appendix B). For example, the authors contend that Baylor University increased by almost 150 percent its number of administrators while increasing its faculty lines by about 10 percent. On the other end, Clark Atlanta University increased its administrators by about 10 percent and added about 33 percent more faculty.

A political copout?

Am I the only one who smells a rat here?

This smacks of a certain political leader (we won't name him, but for sake of argument let's suggest he lives in, oh, Washington) calling another political leader and asking that the latter bail out the former.

I hope I'm wrong.

Is the mosque the "Ground Zero Mosque"?

The identification of the controversial and proposed mosque in New York City has been given labels. To many news organizations, it is the "Ground Zero Mosque", reflecting that it is located about two blocks from where the World Trade Center towers fell on Sept. 11.

But the New York Times is perhaps the most prominent news organization to see it differently. It is using the term "Park 51 Project" to refer to the proposed construction.

Yahoo.com explores the intrigue associated with names and titles, and why they matter.

Of course, the division over what to call the potential mosque might seem trivial. But the division it has caused among Democrats is not.

John McEnroe has never played professional tennis

'Uh, Anthony...you are seriously losing your mind,' you are thinking?

Nope. I know exactly what I'm talking about. For the evidence, click here.

Lou Gehrig's Disease might in fact not be...

...Lou Gehrig's Disease.

This from the New York Times:

A peer-reviewed paper to be published Wednesday in a leading journal of neuropathology suggests that Lou Gehrig's demise -- and that of some other athletes and soldiers given a diagnosis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease -- might have been catalyzed by injuries only now becoming understood: concussions and other brain trauma.

Although the paper does not discuss the Yankees slugger specifically, its authors in interviews acknowledged the clear implication: Lou Gehrig might not have had Lou Gehrig's disease.

Oops, Politico goofed

A minor (but important) error in today's "The Huddle" by Politico's Jake Sherman:

Jeremy Herb of the Star Tribune's D.C. bureau has House Majority Leader Boehner in Minnesota campaigning for Randy Demmer, Rep. Tim Walz's (D-Minn.) Republican challenger. 

House Majority Leader? Majority? I didn't know the GOP already had taken over the House!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Is it too much to ask for...

1. Media that cover news and not opinion
2. Reporters who remember they are never to be part of the story
3. News organizations that spend more time finding legitimate sources who are not other journalists
4. A decline in the use of the same ol' faces spouting the same ol' thing
5. A legitimate discussion about real issues in which pandering is not allowed
6. Less attention to what FOX and MSNBC loud-mouths are saying
7. More attention to what the average Joe and Josephine American think
8. Context, context, context to stories
9. Recognition that Americans don't belong to just two political parties
10. Fewer female television journalists showing off their long legs?

Alright, I'm done.

Who?

You don't know Jang Song Taek, but he's now the second most powerful man in North Korea.

Granted, it's always difficult to understand what the North Korean government is doing, but this move as the aforementioned Washington Post story notes throws into some question how the transition of power in that country is going to take place.

Obama-Clinton

What? Yes, I doubt I'm the only one perplexed by the growing undercurrent of conversation suggesting that President Obama ought to ditch his current vice president and replace him with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Today, Financial Times columnist Clive Crook, one of my favorites for what that's worth, examines the reasons behind such a potential move. 

Maybe I'm naive (and I've been accused of being that, and worse, over time), but I cannot see that happening. What I could see, however, is Mrs. Clinton taking over as Secretary of Defense, presuming the current secretary, Robert Gates, follows through on his plans to retire next year.

That would provide her a more prominent office as she positions herself for a possible presidential run in 2016.

I used my campaign dollars for my MA degree

No, it wasn't me. Instead a western Pennsylvania politician found a convenient way to cover his educational expenses.

I can't decide if I'm fascinated or appalled.

The mosque that won't go away

And now the Democrats are being forced to defend something that needs no defense -- the president's endorsement of freedom of religion.

This comes from Politico's Jonathan Allen:

Look for lawmakers and their campaign-trail challengers to start having to answer tough questions this week about how they would handle the Manhattan mosque.

Democratic aides say the debate is an unwelcome distraction for incumbents who would like to spend the summer months talking about local issues rather than major national controversies.
Indeed, many Democrats in tough districts are finding it difficult to run on their party's legislative victories -- unless they voted against those laws -- or its agenda. So, they're running away from them.
How embarrassing. The Republicans are sure to make this a so-called wedge issue, and TIME's Mark Halperin urges them to do just the opposite. I doubt they will heed his message.

Meanwhile the Washington Post has provided a video link of President Obama's full remarks made on Friday night, when he offered his support for the construction of a mosque near Ground Zero.

I remain convinced this "mosque controversy" is not a controversy, unless as a country we want to claim that religions have a hierarchy and that one is therefore more important than another.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

If almost everyone is picking Alabama to play Ohio State...

...then almost everyone could end up being very wrong.

Or not.

But here is the Moretti Pre-Season College Football Top -10 (just in case you care)

10. Nebraska. Sure, just what the Big-10 (Big-11? New Big-12?) needs -- another powerhouse
9. TCU. No more flash in the pan. Could run the regular-season table, setting up another BCS bowl
8. Iowa. I still think the next Penn State football coach can be found in Iowa City
7. Oklahoma. Am I the only one who thinks that every Sooner was picked in the 1st round of April's NFL Draft?
6. Florida. All of you who loved to pick on Tim Tebow, shut up. 
5. Virginia Tech. Last year, the season was ruined by a blowout in week one to Alabama. This year it could be...
4. Boise State. I love the blue turf
3. Texas. A championship game repeat? Could happen, except that the Big-12 is much tougher than the Big-10 and the Longhorns might not be as good as the 'Huskers at season's end.
2. Ohio State. The Buckeyes will steamroll the Big-10, one of their players likely will win the Heisman Trophy, and the legacy of championship game disasters will be discussed starting Sept. 1
1. Alabama. Every other team has bigger questions or bigger names to replace.



Indianapolis will beat Dallas

The Moretti Fearless (and likely seriously flawed) NFL predictions:

NFC West: Arizona, San Francisco, Seattle, St. Louis
The skinny: Matt Leinart finds a way to throw more passes to his teammates than to the opposition

NFC South: New Orleans, Atlanta, Carolina, Tampa Bay
The skinny: The New Orleans area is an environmental and humanitarian disaster, but the Saints are not

NFC North: Green Bay, Minnesota, Chicago, Detroit
The skinny: A 20-something Aaron Rodgers is better than a 40-something Brett Favre

NFC East: Dallas, New York, Philadelphia, Washington
The skinny: Tony Romo had better put up...or else

AFC West: San Diego, Denver, Oakland, Kansas City
The skinny: The Chargers had better put up...or else

AFC South: Indianapolis, Houston, Tennessee, Jacksonville
The skinny: If this were soccer, it would be the Group of Death

AFC North: Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Cleveland
The skinny: Hardest division to project

AFC East: New York, New England, Miami, Buffalo
The skinny: My, the hype machine is working overtime these days

Playoffs:
NFC Wild Card: Green Bay over New York; Minnesota over Arizona
AFC Wild Card: Pittsburgh over San Diego; Baltimore over Houston

NFC Divisional: Dallas over Minnesota; Green Bay over New Orleans
AFC Divisional: Indianapolis over Pittsburgh; New York over Baltimore

NFC Championship: Dallas over Green Bay
AFC Championship: Indianapolis over New York

Super Bowl: Indianapolis over Dallas

Focus on the core business

Whether two prestigious, private institutions in New York City offer a realistic example for the rest of the country is not the point. What is, rather, is that each university has planned aggressive expansion plans at a time when the economy is not strong, university endowments are shrinking and the financial pressure on families and students to get someone through college is growing.

One member of the Columbia University's faculty chastises his university and nearby NYU for what he thinks are mistaken priorities.

Is he correct?

Let's acknowledge his identification of just one program -- philosophy -- is important. First, he provides no numbers to indicate the strength of each program (how many students, how many faculty, scholarly work, grants received, etc).

He also fails to address whether his program -- religion -- also ought to be considered for merging with NYU. Of course, I have no numbers to validate my claim, but I doubt that the numbers are strong.

Third, he doesn't offer any indication what the elimination or merging of any one program would mean for Columbia's bottom line. Moreover, he doesn't offer any indication of what the overseas programs he identifies cost.

Don't misunderstand me, I agree with the premise of the aforementioned editorial. But I think the author could have made a much more persuasive case. As it is written, he's picking on a convenient straw man.

It's a start

Some good news about real, independent journalism from China.

It's happening.

Granted, there is still along way to go before all journalists in China can operate without fearing that their next controversial story will land them in jail (or worse). And, no, I'm not naive -- I recognize that under the current Communist regime that a free press is not going to be allowed.

But let's applaud those journalists who are taking a stand for freedom of the press, knowing that there is little historical or legal standing for them to enjoy.

Bashing Islam

Now we begin to see ever more clearly why President Obama was correct in his defense of religious freedom and the potential building of a mosque near Ground Zero.

Key Republicans are shifting the discussion away from any potential project and toward a larger definition of Islam as inconsistent with peace. They should be ashamed of themselves.

The media are spending more time examining the president's backtracking on his earlier comments supporting the mosque.

Politico's Mike Allen offers an interesting blurb on what went into the administration's decision to support the mosque. He reports:

A White House official says an aide raised the “Ground Zero” mosque with President Obama during a meeting on other topics last week and Obama said: “This isn't one the president of the United States can duck.” The official recalled: “There wasn't a lot of debate because he made it clear that he WAS going to take it on.”

A top official tells us the White House knew the polls were decisively against the mosque: “We had no illusions about this. He didn't take this on as a political strategy. He took it on because it was a matter of fundamental principle. One of the reasons we work for him is that he doesn't sit there with a political calculator on these big, tough issues that come along. There was never any hesitation about the decision, and he has absolutely no regrets about it. He understands the emotions swirling around it and the horrific events that occurred there. But he doesn't believe shifting from our moorings as a country on questions like religious freedom -- treating one faith differently than another -- is the right answer. It would be a betrayal of who we are.”

As you decide for yourself what Islam is, please also consider reading this story that examines how one man is creating an MTV-like network that follows the tenets of Islam in the Middle East.