Thursday, September 30, 2010

I stand to lose everything...

...by coming here to see you today.

A powerful statement. The woman who made it was testifying about a for-profit institution in Pittsburgh and what she says are its questionable recruiting practices.

Ecuador

Stunning. What is happening in that country tonight appears to have unruly police officers at its root.

Raw video from the AP shows just one snippet of the chaos.

For what it's "worth"...

...you might find this story interesting.

The facial expressions...

...are priceless.

Wouldn't you love to know what the men in this picture are thinking?

Ah, North Korea. So, um, what's the word? Odd. Yes, that works.

Katie in the morning...

...but not in the evening...and not a super time.

Could good ol' Katie be back in the morning time? Maybe.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Their credibility is shot

The latest Gallup poll offers the latest piece of evidence that the mass media have lost their most important attribute -- their credibility. Fully 57 percent of people who responded to the poll say they have little or no trust in the media to provide full, accurate and unbiased information.

Great. Just great.

But can you blame the public for feeling this way? No.

And more damning -- can you suggest one prominent domestic news agency that you believe is committed to providing information lacking in spin, a political agenda or an overt bias?

If you suggest the Associated Press, I will agree with you. And as far as I am concerned, it stops right about there.

Sure, I pick on the cable "news" networks named FOX and MSNBC, but let's not be naive here -- newspapers such as the Columbus Dispatch, the New York Times, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal are just four that engage in (ahem) trying to influence (ahem) your opinion.

The bias might be less overt at local television stations, but what passes for "news" on too many "news" programs these days makes you wonder where priorities are. Unsolved crimes, fires that cause no injuries and countless other stories suggestion your community is falling apart dominate such newscasts. Absent are consistent stories that penetrate local government, educational institutions or other important local entities that influence our lives in ways that some innocuous fire never can.

Yes, I know what at least some of you are thinking as you read this -- there goes Moretti pontificating again. You're right. I demand a level of professionalism from the news media in this country that I too often don't see. If that makes me a snob, so be it. If that makes me out of touch with reality, so be it.

But I know it doesn't make me wrong.

And that's why when the poll mentioned above, and other stories like it, are brought to my attention, I react with the anger I do.

We as a citizenry should respect our media. But when they fail to deliver what we need from them, we are compelled to say what nearly 6 in 10 did in the aforementioned poll: The media have lost our trust.

Twenty percent of the world's population is lucky

They live in some part of the world where water resources are not scarce.

The problem is that 80 percent of the world's population does not. The potential ramifications should give us pause.

When you consider that politicians in this country and others argue over who can be legally married, whether religion should be part of a public school and how best to define a family, the absence of serious conversations about our critical but not limitless resources seems particularly short-sighted.

But when leadership is collapsed into 12-second sound bites and when media care more for celebrity over substance, we get what we deserve.

When a teenager tells you "I know where I am going to college"...

...then perhaps you ought to pay attention.

Intriguing, isn't it?

Bye-bye Baseball!!

A stunning announcement from the University of California. It will cut five of its men's and women's NCAA teams, effective next season.

Among the cuts -- the baseball program.

Are economic pressures behind the decision? Of course.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

If the sky is the limit...

...then Skyy might have gone beyond the limits?

You decide. And as you do, please remember that Skyy already has won -- consider the media coverage and social media blabber that will follow.

Like father...

...like son?

When it comes to North Korea, who really knows.

The son is Kim Jong-un and, with North Korea hosting only its third all-party Congress in more than 40 years, he's about to become the (next) man ruling the country. And that means the myth-making is about to begin.

And myth-making might be all there is. There remain legitimate questions about who Jong-un is.

Yes, you might think North Korea means nothing to you. But I would advise you to remember how connected the world is.

Sacked!

You've got to love Russian politics -- if you are the president, and you don't like a mayor...get rid of him.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Do you really know Jack about... (UPDATED)

1st UPDATE: 4:35 p.m. EDT: North Korea's state-run media report that delegates began arriving on Monday in Pyongyang for the conference. Am I the only one impressed that all of them can walk in such a straight line coming off a train? Does anyone do that in the U.S.!!!

The state media also report that Kim's youngest son has been promoted to military general, a move seen as the clearest indicator that Kim Jong-un will succeed his father.Military general? I see.

ORIGINAL POST: ...Kim?

Read this. Then decide.

I did, and I know the answer -- nope. And I'm not sure I want to.

Kudos to one Pittsburgh institution...

...that is not often in the news.

Chatham University is one of six schools from across the country selected to be part of a pilot program to introduce study-abroad programs and opportunities in Indonesia.

The only airline that knows what it is doing...

...is getting bigger.

Southwest is buying AirTran and that should mean you and I will have an even easier time flying around the country.

Southwest does it right. Keep it up, SWA!

Attention, young Americans

Your president is again calling upon you to help him.

Will you?

I remain intrigued by the dwindling enthusiasm I see among the young people I see for the Obama administration. No, I'm not saying every student feels that way. No, I'm not saying that every student I see was a supporter of Mr. Obama when he ran for president two years ago.

Instead what I'm suggesting is that the zeal and exuberance I saw in America's 18-24 crowd has waned. I don't have a definitive explanation for it. Possible answers are: they were never that interested in politics to begin with; this president has let them down; they have other priorities; or they believe they did their job by getting him elected.

If young people reject the president's call to turn out at the polls this November, then there will be much more written about what has happened to those young voters. And the president himself will have to explain how he turned the rabid support of young voters in 2008 into something that now borders on collapsing.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

No Steelers "news" for me

Okay, I'm prepared. I've got the remote in hand. And I'm waiting for the many, many, many, many, many stories that local "news" stations will devote over the next few weeks (and longer) to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

I am prepared to click.

Now, let me make a couple of things clear:
1. I don't think an athletic team -- college or pro -- belongs in the "news" portion of a newcast unless there is something news, not sports, related that happens. For example, if a player is accused of irresponsible behavior, we've got news. But we don't have news if the players are chatting about the next opponent. If the team is in serious talks about a new stadium, we've got news. But we don't have news if the audience is being told to watch the game on the local station this weekend.

You get the idea.

2. Local news operations -- in Pittsburgh and elsewhere -- sacrifice their integrity when they pass off meaningless sports drivel as news. Sure, it allows them to keep the viewers and to therefore generate ratings, but it also demonstrates their disregard for institutions and people who execute policies that have real effect on a community.

Frankly, I could care less what anyone of the Steelers thinks about their next opponent. I would, instead, like to know more about the important topics in the city -- government, education, etc. But those stories are "hard" to cover because they require a serious commitment to doing news.

I'll stop right there.

If you are a sports fan, then you know Pittsburgh's beloved Steelers are 3-0 and have dominated their opponents. The team has the look of one that will make it deep into the playoffs and that could win the Super Bowl.

That's great. But what will happen as this city's lust for any morsel of information remotely related to the Steelers is that legitimate news about Pittsburgh's businesses, government, educational institutions, non-profit agencies and other institutions will be ignored. Steelermania will take over local newscasts.

And if you think this is a Pittsburgh-only phenomenon, forget it.

If I were writing this from Denver, it would be Broncomania that I would be criticizing. If I were in Dallas, it would be Cowboymania. In New Orleans, I would bemoaning Saintmania. Pick almost any city in which an NFL team exists and that is winning, and you will have that mania.

News anchors -- some of whom don't know a football from a soccer ball -- in this city will pontificate about the Steelers and present the story pertaining to the team with an exuberance that will annoy the serious news consumer. Of course, the serious news consumer might already have turned away at that point.

Click can be a beautiful thing. Unless of course the other news station is passing off the same useless dreck as news.

I'm expecting it. I can't stop it. But I sure won't watch it.

50 years ago today...

...America witnessed the televised presidential debate between the Republican vice president Richard Nixon and the Democratic senator from Massachusetts, John F. Kennedy.

Some important historical lessons about that debate are contained in this op-ed piece that appeared in the New York Times.

It's Steve Burke

Who?

Steve Burke.

Who?

Stop that! This from the Los Angeles Times:
Comcast Corp. and General Electric Co. announced today that Steve Burke will become chief executive officer of NBC Universal when the merger between the two companies is complete.

Burke, 42, will succeed Jeff Zucker, who announced on Friday he would be stepping down when Comcast assumed control of the company, which was expected early next year. The two companies are awaiting regulatory approval of their joint venture. Comcast will control 51% of the company; GE will retain 49%.

Playing the blame game won't work

Oh, it's easy to blame --
1. the media for concentrating too much on the controversies and not enough on the substance
2. the political parties for caring too much about winning and too little about leading
3. the voters for wanting too much entertainment and not enough about information

Doing any or all of those detracts from the fact that unless all three groups are working in concert to ensure the strongest possible democracy we can have, we will continue to have media focusing on the nonsense, political parties emphasizing posturing and the public wondering which celebrity is heading for the slammer.

As I write this, I am reminded of one of the priests at the church my family attends. He often ends one of his homilies with a reminder that our ears are a precious gift, but only if we choose to use them. Think about it.

Good.

And let's hope this works.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

It's a celebration!

Point Park University is celebrating its 50th anniversary this weekend.

The downtown campus is rapidly filling up with alums -- some young, some still young but not as young as they once were -- are enjoying a day-and-a-half of reunions with faculty, fellow students and various friends.

Mother Nature is cooperating with us -- it's going to be about 65 and sunny in the 'burgh today.

Not bad if you have to make Saturday a work day.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Sports radio takes a hit in Pittsburgh

And a big-time hit.

Ouch.

I can stop the whole country from having sex

No, I've not gone off the deep end. And, no, I've not established some crusade.

Instead I call your attention to this story and the embedded video.

Read the story and watch the video. Carefully.

The woman with the long, dark hair is Christine O'Donnell, the affiliated with the Tea Party movement candidate who won the Republican primary for the U.S. Senate seat in Delaware. A careful reading and viewing of this tape leaves somewhat ambiguous, in my mind, whether she was stating affirmatively that she intended in 2003 to try to stop the whole country from having sexual relations.

Now, let me be clear. I don't know Christine O'Donnell. I don't support Christine O'Donnell. And I'm in no way advocating for the positions she was espousing in this video. Instead I am challenging you to carefully evaluate what is being passed off as a story suggesting that one woman was prepared to stop the WHOLE COUNTRY -- that's more than 300-million people! -- from having sex.

It's apparent to me that Ms. O'Donnell's political beliefs are going to be difficult for the mainstream to accept. It's also apparent she faces a difficult challenge in winning over the Delaware electorate.

But I don't want potentially shoddy journalism to be used (as it might have been in this case) to further undermine her credibility.

Your opinion is welcomed.

Big changes (also) at NBC

This from the New York Times:
Jeff Zucker, the chief executive of NBC Universal, told the company's employees in an e-mail Friday morning that he will step down from his position upon the completion of the takeover of NBC by Comcast.

The fate of Mr. Zucker, the longest-serving senior manager at NBC, has been the subject of widespread speculation since Comcast agreed last December to purchase 51 per cent of NBCU from its long-time corporate owner, General Electric. The deal is expected to close at the end of the year, following regulatory approval.

In an interview in NBC's executive offices, Mr. Zucker, who is 45, said the decision to leave the only employer he has ever worked for -- a decision he acknowledged he was not his own choice -- became inevitable after a meeting two weeks ago with Steve Burke, Comcast's chief operating officer.

Big changes at CNN

Jonathan Klein is out as head of CNN. Much will be written over the next couple of days about what his departure could mean.

If you ask me, I think it opens the door -- wide -- for CNN to become opinion-talk. Just what we need. Another cable "news" network bloviating day in, day out.

The chances of the "Pledge for America"...

...amounting to little more than nice, intriguing end-of-the-summer political rhetoric? Politico has the answer

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Dirty Sexy Liar?

You decide.

Maybe a lesson in personal ethics is in order?

The Pledge for America

The GOP has done it -- two years into the Obama administration. It has outlined what it believes the governing principles of America ought to be.

The Pledge for America is sure to be tossed around like all political footballs are in Washington, where Republicans are sure to tell us that it is long overdue, and Democrats will be quick to point out that it is nothing more than political rhetoric.

It sets up something more important -- the real potential for gridlock, if Republicans do indeed grab control of the House following the November midterm elections.

What you should do is take the time to see if the pledge has value to you and whether it is consistent with your political, social and economic beliefs. Please don't let the media or any one blogger (me included) convince you that you ought to support or reject the Pledge for America.

Read it. Discuss it. Argue it. Draw your conclusions.

It's not hard to see why

The Los Angeles Times reports that Iran is far from enthusiastic in its support for its (controversial, in the eyes of the Western world) president.

It's not hard to see why President Ahmadinejad is unpopular -- he is the symbolic face of power to a government that almost certainly stole an election more than a year ago and continues to apply pressure on its opponents in an attempt to sanction free speech.

The Iranian government might be moving in the right direction in at least one area -- it is ready to continue talks with international agencies about its nuclear program.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The new Contract on (oops, I mean for) America?

From Politico.com:

House Republicans on Thursday will release a "Pledge to America," an ambitious and sweeping set of proposed changes to domestic and security policy, including promises to freeze most federal government hiring, cut Congress' budget, place hard caps on domestic spending accounts, prevent the phase-out of tax cuts that are set to expire in 2011, and "repeal and replace" the new health care law.

I believe this marks the first attempt by Republicans to promote anything resembling a political agenda since 2008. Sure, dismiss the "pledge" as political chicanery (and if you do so, please admit that both parties are so very good at playing that game) but let's at least acknowledge that it offers a foundation for conversation about how a GOP-led House would contrast with a Democratic-led House.

Talk, people. Talk!

Get a good book!

I couldn't resist...USC gets something that had been at UCLA.

This from the Los Angeles Times:

The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books will move its weekend-long celebration of the written word to the USC campus next spring after 15 years across town at UCLA, officials announced Wednesday.

The change of venue to USC's main University Park campus south of downtown Los Angeles will offer a more central location, better access to public transportation, easier parking and the use of newly expanded university facilities for the annual event, leaders of the newspaper and USC said. 


The 16th Los Angeles Times Festival of Books is scheduled for April 30 and May 1, 2011. It will feature the traditional array of talks by authors, book signings, musical performances and sales booths that have made the festival a major event in the city's cultural life and the nation's largest public literary festival. Last year, an estimated 140,000 people attended the event at UCLA's campus in Westwood. 


"After 15 years on the Westside, we are very excited to move the Festival of Books to its beautiful new home and have the opportunity to work hand in hand with USC to ensure we grow bigger and better in the future," Times Publisher Eddy Hartenstein said in a statement. "Attendees and exhibitors can expect more to see, do and experience in addition to great access and a refreshing change of scenery."

Ten percent of news/talk radio stations have no...

...radio journalists on staff.

Huh?

That's one of the findings of a new survey that examined the top 50 media markets in the country.

I'll leave it to you to tell me how a news/talk station operates without local journalists.

I'm ditching the national media!

No, not me (although there definitely are programs I won't watch). Instead, Tea Party candidate Christine O'Donnell says she won't do any more national media interviews as she continues her Senate campaign in Delaware.

The local media are the ones that can help her, she insists.

Bizarre? Not necessarily. In fact, you could say it is consistent with the idea that the national is bad and the local is good. (Big government is the problem. Washington is the problem. You get the idea, don't you?)

Will it work? Uh, well, um...call me skeptical.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

I'd have sentenced him to even more time

Unfortunately, the judge couldn't. But he did give a former television news director the maximum sentence for his years of illegal activity.

My "favorite" part of this story is that the soon-to-be jailbird wrote about media ethics. Whatever knowledge he had of media ethics certainly didn't translate to personal ethics.

Enjoy the slammer.

Give me a "heads up" when you are about to publish...

...something controversial.

Uh, oh.

That's the charge being leveled against the dean of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Colorado.

This report comes less than a month after a story indicating the the journalism program at CU is in danger of being discontinued. It isn't a stretch to suggest that right now the morale in Boulder is not good.

Now the fun starts

The Tea Party has had a few moments of insurrection -- derailing the political establishment in (among other places) Kentucky, Delaware and Alaska.

Now the fun starts. How can Tea Party go from a movement to a viable political force? Can it generate the money necessary to run full-force campaign? Can it get enough candidates elected to become a legitimate policy force on the national stage?

Yes, the naysayers are having their own fun as they suggest that the Tea Party lacks sustainability. I'm inclined to agree with them. But if we are wrong....

Who?

Mike Pence.

Who?

Okay, I'll stop now. Mike Pence has gained a bucket of media attention over the past 24 hours because he won a straw poll over the weekend. Now, let's be clear -- I am neither questioning the validity of the poll, the people who voted or the man who won it.

Rather, I am amused that the media continue to remain fascinated to the point of hysteria over the results of one straw poll. But knowing how the media operate these days, the bigger question is why am I surprised.

Don't answer that.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Ugh

Sent from a former television colleague who remains in the business

Kid...Why is all the media here?
Me...The Vice President is here today
Kid...who is that?
Me...The vice President of the United States?
Kid...Yeah, I don't know who that is.
Me...It's Joe Biden. What's your major?
Kid...Political Science

This is an actual conversation, the name of the student is not being identified due to the fact that he's an idiot

I hope you are as concerned as I am. 

I completely agree

TIME's Mark Halperin hits a home run with this piece about Sarah Palin.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

If he's made it there...

...perhaps he wants to see if he can make it anywhere?

New York mayor Michael Bloomberg is here, there and seemingly everywhere as he attempts to press a moderate political agenda, in advance of the midterm elections. And as he talks up non-Tea Party, non-liberal politicians from both sides of the aisle, one of the underlying questions is whether Mr. Bloomberg is preparing his own political run -- for president -- in 2012.

Mr. Bloomberg would almost certainly have to run as an independent in 2012, but his financial wealth makes him able to fund such a venture. He also has the media pulpit that is New York. And if the GOP pushes through a candidate that the American public can't tolerate, then the pieces could fall into place.

And this is exactly why I stay home

If you are a fan of the National Football League, and time and again surveys show professional football is the most popular sport in the U.S., then you face an important dilemma if you live in a city in which there is a team -- do you attend a home game?

This Washington Post story tells us more and more people are saying "no." In an economy that is at best stagnant, many people are making the prudent choice and remaining home to watch the NFL. Exorbitant ticket prices, for example, here in Pittsburgh prevent me from taking my family to a Steelers.game.

And, no, I'm not ripping the Steelers; almost every team in the league prices its tickets at a level that makes it very hard for families such as mine to see a game in person. And frankly why would I want to fork out that much dough for an in-stadium experience that the NFL cannot convince me is superior to watching the game at home?

Better late than never

Though if this had never happened, it would have been better.

From the Los Angeles Times:
BP's blown-out oil well in the Gulf of Mexico has finally been killed once and for all, nearly five months after an explosion sank a drilling rig and led to the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history.

Retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, the federal government's point man on the disaster, said today that BP's well "is effectively dead."
The well might be effectively dead, but the environmental issues are not. And neither is the question of how the people who lost so much can recover. But I'm sure if the government were to somehow get involved then it would be guilty of practicing socialism.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

As goes Alaska...

...so goes the nation?

Highly unlikely. But a couple of prominent (current or former) politicians from Alaska used a quiet news day to generate some interest in their political fortunes.

First, you-know-who was in Iowa telling the Republican Party that it had better come together in time for the November midterm elections. You-know-who also couldn't resist taking a shot or two at her favorite targets -- President Obama and the national media.

Meanwhile, Lisa Murkowski -- who lost the Republican primary vote for Senate -- says she's going to pull a Joe Lieberman and run as an independent, write-in candidate in the general election.

Ms. Murkowski and you-know-who have never been significant political allies, so the coincidence of what has taken place might, in fact, not be a coincidence. And it further demonstrates that the Republican Party's pursuit of a majority in either the House or Senate (or both) might be undone by the uncertainty that voters have about the influence the Tea Party is having with voters on the right.

4,759 miles...uh, no

International travel can be filled with all sorts of trials and perils. Of course, when you never leave the country and still face all sorts of travel headaches, that means a planned 4,759-mile (one way) trip gets scuttled.

As you know a group of us from Point Park University was scheduled to travel to Presov, Slovakia, where we were meeting with several people from the University of Presov to discuss possible faculty/student exchanges or study abroad options.

That trip is going to be made at some point in the near future, but it certainly would have been nice to have had it yesterday. A combination of factors got in the way. Here they are, and I report them in as close to the actual time in which they happened.

12:15: I arrive at Pittsburgh International Airport and check in for a Pittsburgh to Newark flight. It is listed as "on time."

1:45: Our group learns that our scheduled 2:13 flight on Continental is delayed because of heavy air traffic in the New York area. A 3:30 take off time is suggested to me, and the gate attendant assures me that we will arrive in Newark in time to make the Lufthansa flight to Frankfurt.

2:45: We learn that 3:40 is now the likely take off time. My group of three is reassured we can still make it. It's also at this point I do some double-checking and find out that Lufthansa has only one more flight to Germany after the one we are supposed to be on. It's overbooked!

3:00:  The problems compound. The flight time is moved to 4:04, and the gate attendant offers a less than confident "I think you can still make it" remark to my colleagues and me.

3:14: We board. But don't taxi until 4:00.

4:04: The time we were supposed to take off instead finds us sitting on the runway because, we are told, of continuous traffic problems in the New York area. (Apparently there were storms earlier in the day and those led to clogged air traffic; I'm inferring from bits and pieces of information, and that statement was never made to me.)

4:08: We take off. I keep my fingers crossed.

5:20: We land. But we cannot go immediately to the gate. Instead we sit for a couple of minutes waiting for the gate crew to go through the steps needed for an arrival.

5:30: We step off the plane and pick up our bags (this was a small plane with limited overhead room). A Continental gate attendant tells us he cannot call Lufthansa, located in Terminal B, because that airline is in a different terminal. We are out of luck in our request to ask for Lufthansa to wait for us. Instead, we're off to Terminal B..

5:33: We enter Terminal B (the international terminal) at Newark, where we quickly learn that we must go through security! (I have no idea, and please don't get me started.)

5:50: The time that the Newark-Frankfurt flight is due to take off finds us just about through the security process. "If we are lucky," I say to one of my colleagues, " we might be able to talk our way onto the flight."

5:56: We are through security and running toward the gate. The optimist in me is confident we are going to make it. Maybe I'm naive.

5:59: We get to the gate and told we cannot get on board. The plane's doors had been closed about one minute earlier. I demand to talk to a supervisor, and the woman at the gate tells me she is, in fact, employed in such a position. "There's nothing I can do," she tells me. Mind you, the plane is still sitting there.

6:10: A Lufthansa ticket agent says it is not her airline's responsibility to rebook us. Yes, Continental and Lufthansa are code sharing the flight we had just missed, but it was Continental's responsibility to fix the problem. "They're flight arrived late," the nice lady tells us. "We were on time."

6:30: We spend the next hour with perhaps the most helpful airline employee I have ever met. She tries every sort of combination to get us to Europe. However, this Continental employee admits that with every Lufthansa flight on Saturday and Sunday overbooked (there's that word again!!), there is no way she can get us on a plane until late Monday. And remember we were returning to Pittsburgh on Thursday.

7:30: She gives us three tickets on a Continental flight to Pittsburgh, which is scheduled to leave at 8:50. As I walk away, I think she is more disappointed than anyone at the turn of events my group had gone through over the past five hours.

8:15: We pass through security (again!) in Newark and find out our 8:50 flight has been...delayed! The new take off time is 9:06. Later that becomes 9:22.

9:05: We board. The pilot tells us we will be pushing away from the gate at 9:22 but we will have a 20-25 minute taxi time because of...you bet...heavy traffic.

9:45: We take off.

10:45: We land. My wife, unlike anything else on this day, is on time in picking us up.

11:30: After dropping off one of my colleagues at his house, my wife and I pull into our driveway.

My group will follow through with our planned trip to Slovakia soon. We were not going to set a date last evening. And as I drove home, I felt worse for our colleagues in Presov who were rolling out the red carpet for us. I hope they know we remain interested in visiting the University of Presov.

Friday, September 17, 2010

4,759 miles

That's what ahead for three of my Point Park colleagues and me today. We are traveling to Presov, Slovakia to explore potential faculty/student exchanges or study abroad opportunities for our students and the faculty and students at the University of Presov.

I've never been to Slovakia, and I confess the wanderlust in me is excited to see a new place on this fragile, wonderful place we call Earth.

Will I be able to blog while I am there? I certainly expect to. The challenge is likely not the one you are thinking -- technology. Remember, we are meeting various people who could become friends and colleagues at a university setting! Logging onto the Internet won't be a problem.

Time might be. Our schedule is compact with many meetings each day. But I want to share my experiences, thoughts, pictures and anything else that I can. So, keep your fingers crossed.

Today began in Pittsburgh. It will eventually take me to airports in New Jersey, Germany, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, where my group will arrive midday Saturday (European time). The airlines report that will be almost 16-1/2 hours of flying time and cover 4,759 miles.

Got melatonin?

Thursday, September 16, 2010

What? No igloo?

Pittsburgh is facing one of those choices -- what to do with the "old" arena, now that the new one is open? At least for now, the answer is clear: Mellon Arena (aka: "The Igloo") is heading for implosion!

Tea! Give me tea!

My, oh my. What the Tea Party (still not officially a party, still without a leader, still without a platform) has done to the political establishment in 2010.

And what it could do in the future is still being determined. But for now the media's fascination with the Tea Party is represented by their non-stop coverage of Christine O'Donnell, the Delaware woman who earlier this week upset the political apple cart by winning that state's Republican Party primary race for the U.S. Senate.

Remember all that attention Rand Paul received when he won the Kentucky primary? You haven't heard much from and about him of late, have you?

The critics of the Tea Party are ramping up their rhetoric, with one columnist suggesting that moderate Republicans are quickly being relegated to the ash heap of history. Chill out. There is no evidence to indicate the Tea Party will have the staying power of America's two big political parties (but let's be honest -- America needs more than two major political parties).

Few in the television media appear ready to dissect the significance and long-term potential of this manifestation of political anger. Perhaps that's not a surprise; they seem too interested in the "oh, my God...look at what is happening now!"

Barack Obama is the most antibusiness president in a generation

My opinion?

Not a chance.

That sentence commences a Forbes magazine story about the president that has led to a furious response from the White House.

Read it...then decide where you stand.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Uh oh

Pacific Gas and Electric...you appear to have a MAJOR problem on your hands. This from the Los Angeles Times:

State regulators in 2007 gave Pacific Gas and Electric Co. the go-ahead to spend $5 million of ratepayer money to replace a 62-year-old section of the same pipeline that exploded last week in San Bruno.

But the work never was completed as scheduled in 2009, and this year, the utility asked for another $5 million to do the same job by 2013, according to documents submitted by PG&E to the California Public Utility Commission as part of a general rate-hike request.  
"There's no excuse for deferring maintenance of potentially compromised pipelines that run under customers' homes, businesses and schools," said Mark Toney, executive director of the Utility Reform Network. The San Francisco ratepayers' group monitors electric and gas company regulatory activity.

Revenue...

...Texas A&M style.

An important follow up -- and kudos to The Chronicle of Higher Education -- to a recent story noting that Texas A&M was instituting a policy that would rate a professor's effectiveness on the amount of money he/she generated for the institution.

I repeat now what I said then: That's not a way to run a university.

A spot of Tea?

More than a spot. In fact, last night the Tea Party's tea runneth over, as its candidates (and let's remember it has yet to form itself into an actual party) in Delaware and New York won Republican primaries.

Those victories might not sit very well with the Republican establishment, but they have given Democrats renewed hope that its clubbing at the hands of the voters come November might not be as brutal as once feared.

Which brings me to Sarah Palin. (And, yes, too much of politics brings us to her these days.) She has to some extent crashed the (Tea) party and in doing so has likely reduced her chances of being the (mainstream, if there is such a thing these days) Republican Party nominee in 2012.

Somehow I doubt she cares.

I might want to know where you are

The "I" is the government, and it might very well be able to...if you carry a very popular piece of technology.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Someday

A fascinating study will be written someday about the motivations of voters who opted for Tea Party candidates in 2010. Not now. Someday.

We're too caught up in the wrath of the voters in this election cycle to fully explore why the Tea Party is doing what it is doing. Wait. Be patient. Because no matter what you think of the Tea Party, it is important to understand what has allowed it to gain a foothold in American politics.

Will it be a fad? Maybe? Will it have staying power? Maybe. Will it end up on the fringes of the right, much like the Green Party is on the fringes of the left? Maybe.


The answers will come. Someday.

Turnover!

If you asked me, Reggie Bush shouldn't have surrendered the Heisman Trophy he won in 2005 when he recognized as college football's best player.

But today the former USC great (full disclosure: I am a USC graduate) did just that -- returning the trophy following a lengthy NCAA investigation that put Bush at the center of an athletic program lacking proper oversight, identified boosters who seemingly ran amok around USC athletes and has caused USC to receive stiff sanctions for its football and men's basketball programs.

To some extent, Bush's trophy -- and remember USC removed its copy of Bush's award from its Heritage Hall athletic facility -- is the last remnant of a period in which the Trojans dominated college football and began to build a nationally recognized men's basketball program. The former football coach is gone; he quit and ran to the NFL. The former men's coach is gone; he quit and remained in the shadows for a couple of years. And the former athletic director was tossed overboard as part of a house cleaning.

So, why do I think Bush ought to keep the award? Plain and simple -- there is no after-the-fact morality or legality clause associated with the Heisman Trophy. Never has been. Hopefully never will be. End of story.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Boom...

...with Chinese characteristics.

Get ready for...

...WiFi on steroids!

Attack...and deny

An interesting pair of articles in the New York Times. One notes that interest groups aligned with Republican policies are spending lots of money in an effort to gain support for their preferred candidates, in advance of the November midterm elections.

The second analyzes Democratic Congressional candidates, many of whom are not linking themselves to their party.

These stories -- more so the second one -- provides anecdotal evidence of the developing toxicity of the Democratic label.

Where are you...

...when you are not on campus?

This is a fascinating story -- does a public university have the right to know what its faculty does when they are not on campus?

I agree with the Texas Tech (full disclosure: I taught there for two years) provost that public institutions must operate with an openness that for-profit institutions also should be required to follow. But I also ask if there is a significant privacy issue here that is being overlooked in the zeal to get to his answers.

Slowing down the momentum

An Illinois federal judge says "whoa, wait a minute" to the push to provide colleges and universities the ability to limit the freedom of student journalists.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Is it time to forgive Michael Vick?

As my sons and I watched the second half of the Philadelphia-Green Bay football game today, my older son's anger toward Michael Vick was palpable.

"I can't forgive a guy who was so mean to dogs," he grumbled, as we watched Vick almost bring his Eagles back from a huge deficit. In fact when Vick was stopped on the Eagles' final offensive play, my son jumped out of his chair and screamed "yes!"

Mind you, that reaction was in part his lingering hostility toward Vick and also because his favorite team -- the Packers -- was going to win the game.

I watched Vick perform today and a thought more than once came into my head: Is it time for Michael Vick to be forgiven for what he did? And at the same time, does Vick deserve to be respected for his stunning athletic ability?

Over the past couple of years, my older son has become increasingly aware of the destructive behavior of various athletes. No, Vick was never among his personal favorites, but even at his tender age he could appreciate Vick's greatness. He's unsure what to make of Barry Bonds because of the chronic allegations he used performance-enhancing drugs to build his awesome career stats. And I've noted on this blog on more than one occasion that my son's adoration of Tiger Woods has ended, and with it also has gone his interest in watching golf.

Vick destroyed his image because he thought it was a good idea to abuse dogs. Bonds destroyed his image because he wanted to be the best no matter the ends to that mean. Woods destroyed his image because he couldn't keep his pants on.

Let's leave Bonds out of this because baseball still hasn't fully come to grips with its culpability in the steroid era. Too many smart people looked the other way for blame to be laid only at the doorstep of a select number of players. And let's also leave Woods out of this conversation because a legitimate argument could be made that he did nothing illegal. Morality is an individual choice, on the other hand, so society could eventually determine that Woods' stupidity was a personal transgression. Forgiveness, in my opinion, is easier when a legal issue is not involved.

Vick is a more complicated matter because he broke the law. Shattered it, in fact. He paid his penalty both to society (jail time) and his profession (his extended suspension). He's been back in the league for two years now, and he played sparingly but successfully for the Eagles last season.

He remains the team's back up quarterback, and he was pressed into action today because the starter went out with a concussion. It's possible therefore that Vick could start one or two games for Philadelphia as the starting quarterback recovers.

And with that background, I return to the central premise of this post -- is it time to forgive Michael Vick? Under my roof, the answer is a resounding "no." There is an 11-year-old who made his feelings known today. There is a 6-year-old who loves animals with a kindness that young people often don't have. My wife and I see Vick's situation plainly and simply: How could he have acted with such recklessness and stupidity, and in doing so likely permanently damaged his personal and professional reputation?

But I'm sure there are others who will argue that Vick has paid his dues and it is therefore time to move on. He deserves (a word that always should be carefully used) a second chance -- as any person released from prison does -- to establish the kind of person he will be.

Adding to the complexity is Vick's potential to lead a team to victory. Lots of them, in fact. And in the world of the NFL, dog killers get a second chance. But only if they have the potential to win. Here in Pittsburgh, we watched the Steelers' starting quarterback nearly throw his career away because of an alleged sexual assault in Georgia. (We'll set aside a potential similar offense that took place in Nevada.)

If Ben Roethlisberger were the Steelers' third-string quarterback or some other less-than-valued reserve player, his sexual escapades in Georgia would have sent him to the unemployment line. So let's not deny the Steelers kept him because they know he can win. And along the same lines the Eagles signed Vick because of his athletic ability.

Do we forgive people such as Michael Vick because they have the ability to make our team number 1? All I can say is this -- if my favorite team, the Denver Broncos, had picked him up I'd have been terribly disappointed. And I likely would have reconsidered my affinity for that team.

They love him...they love him not.

I'm not sure how many of the voters actually loved Barack Obama when they voted for him in November 2008, but they certainly saw him as the best choice to be the president of the United States.

Are they regretting that decision now? Perhaps. Perhaps not. But as the Los Angeles Times notes this morning, there is no guarantee those critical swing voters will turn up at the polls again this November to assist the president's party in holding on to its majorities in both houses of Congress.

President Obama might be able to do something about that, but it will require him to do something he's so far shown little interest in doing -- fight like hell.

Will he?

What choice does he have? Consider what he can bring to this fight (and I use that term carefully):

1. The bully pulpit that is the White House. Let's face it, when the president does something -- anything! -- it is news. He can drum up the rhetoric about failed GOP economic policies and be assured of instant media attention.

2. His ability to resonate with young people. If folks in that age group (and for purposes of this post, I consider that to be 18-24) want to see the momentum from 2008 continue, then Mr. Obama had better fire up the e-mail, Twitter, MySpace, Facebook and texting machines, and they'd better go non-stop from now until Nov. 2. If he can rally their support and bring them back to the polls, his party stands a chance on Election Day.

3. W. The GOP continues to lack a leader (Sarah Palin? Come on!), so in the absence of one, the president ought to use his underlings to bring back the Democrats' favorite Bobo Doll -- George W. Bush. Imagine an argument like this -- "He and his party are the reason we got into this deep, deep mess to begin with. Do you really want them to be involved in fixing it?"

Mr. Obama swept into office in part on his promise of not doing business as usual. That "hey, I'm cool" attitude worked but only for a short time. He now has to admit that was a mistake and come out fighting. Just like his predecessor did -- because regardless of your opinion of George Bush, he certainly engendered respect (or hatred) because you knew exactly where he stood.

It's time for this president to do the same.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

"A hatchet job"?

Read this...then you decide.

Remembering 9/11

No, this is not going to be a "here's where I was and here's what I did on Sept. 11" kind of post. Instead, I'm reminding you to accept and appreciate those people who offer such reflections.

All of us reacted in different ways to the events of that day, and all of us had our plans for that day altered. For some, the memories are much more raw -- 9 years later -- than they are for others. But no one among us should read the comments someone makes today with sarcasm or derision.

And those who don't post their "here's where I was and here's what I did" responses are not somehow less sympathetic, reflective or compassionate about that day. They either don't want to share or don't think it's important. That's acceptable as well.

For what it's worth -- no, you are not going to read any "here's where I was" kind of post from me today, on this blog or anywhere else.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Perspective

"Yes, but what's in your bibliography?"

The question caused me to raise up in my chair. I couldn't decide if it was the most ridiculous question I'd have ever been asked or something that was going to me memorable.

It was memorable.

I was in my mid-20s and sitting in the media dining room at Dodger Stadium when the question was asked. To my left sat an elderly gentleman and fellow radio reporter. His name was Biff Elliot, about whom you might want to learn more. And the wisdom behind his question resonates with me still today.

What he was asking me -- but what I was not keen enough at the time to understand -- was this: What had I read, seen, experienced, touched, felt and otherwise learned that had helped shape who I was. And what I knew.

At least once a year I relay the aforementioned story to my students because it is one that crystallizes what I want them to do -- constantly strive to learn more about the issues that appeal to them and to the issues they need to know about.

Tuning out politics because it is messy, because the parties care more about self-interest than governing, or because "I just don't care about it" erodes the strength of our country.

Ignoring what corporations do because "they're all corrupt (expletives)" does no one any good. In fact, such an attitude allows for even greater potential for corruption; if no one is paying attention to them, then why be worried about following the law?

Suggesting that important news events taking place throughout the world can be dismissed because "I don't live there, so why should I care?" closes your mind to places that do matter to the United States and to you as an American citizen.

We all have our favorite pastimes -- sports, music, art. And we should dive into our passions with the intensity we believe they require. But we should devote the same intensity to being a civic-minded citizen.

Thanks, Biff. I'll never forget what's in my bibliography and what needs to be added to it.

You can choose...

...only one of the following to see in person. Here are your choices:

1. Super Bowl involving your favorite team
2. White House State Dinner
3. Personal tour of the Vatican from the Pope
4. Game 7 of the World Series involving your favorite team
5. Personal tour of the Kremlin by Russian president Medvedev
6. Daytona 500
7. Changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace
8. New Year's Eve at any location you select
9. A private dinner with the Dalai Lama
10. An opening ceremony of the Summer or Winter Olympics
11. Other (name it)

Which did you pick? Why?

Read this

Professional athletes are often too quickly characterized as egotistical or arrogant. But what happens when one is so misunderstood that happiness and peace are never possible?

Perhaps you can better address that after reading the aforementioned story.

Unless he meets with me... (UPDATED)

1st UPDATE: 9:30 a.m. EDT: Pastor Jones has given his solemn word that his "church" will not burn the Koran tomorrow. However, he didn't close the door on it never happening.

Okay media, there is your opening -- he's not doing anything tomorrow. Now leave him alone. Forever. Don't give him the "pulpit" he wants. 

ORIGINAL POST:...I'm leaving open my options of burning a holy book.

This is leadership? This is moral authority? This is a positive example?

Perhaps it is time for the media to call off all reporting about "Pastor" Terry Jones and let him do whatever it is he wants to do. The nerve of one man to suggest that unless another (and in the case of the imam a real one) religious figure meets with him, he will burn reconsider plans to burn the Koran.

Yes, the pastor can do what he has threatened to do under the guise of free speech. And the media can do the professional thing as well and ignore him.

Remembering Brezhnev

Ah, good ol' Leonid Brezhnev. Remember him? Russians certainly are these days, and many of them are doing so with little enthusiasm about the past. (Can you blame them?)

Money, money, money...uh, Canadian money!

Canadian cities from east to west are ready to gorge at the federal trough in an attempt to build multi-purpose stadiums.

Be careful, Canada. The payoff often isn't as great as you think it is.

John who?

Politico's Martin Kady examines the White House's attempt to make the House Minority Leader the face of the GOP:

President Obama mentioned John Boehner eight times in his Cleveland speech earlier this week - which is eight more times than most presidents mention the minority leader of the lower chamber of Congress in big political speeches.

Will Obama go after Boehner again in his press conference today, when questions will inevitably turn toward the gloomy outlook for Democrats and the possibility of a Speaker Boehner? For the White House, it's all about finding a political villain within the Republican party, since there is no obvious leader.

Boehner's office, meanwhile, seems to be loving the elevation, since it's giving a largely unknown political leader a national platform. 


Why not? If the GOP does take over control of the House, America will be fully introduced to a bulldog of a politician -- and that shouldn't be read as a criticism. And attempting to derail Boehner and the Republicans is one of the reasons the president intends to hit the campaign trail -- hard -- this fall. One of his favorite places of late -- Wisconsin. And he's putting his money (okay, technically donated money) where his mouth is.

And the dirty tricks that often come from political advertising also are being ramped up by groups allied with the Republican Party.

Yup, you can tell Labor Day has come and gone. Kids are back in school. Temperatures are moderating. And politics is red-hot.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

You'd better not ask...

...you'd better not tell.

This from the Los Angeles Times:

A federal judge in Riverside declared the U.S. military's ban on openly gay service members unconstitutional Thursday, saying the "don't ask, don't tell" policy violates the 1st Amendment rights of lesbians and gay men.

U.S. District Court Judge Virginia A. Phillips said the policy banning gays did not preserve military readiness, contrary to what many supporters have argued, saying evidence shows that the policy in fact had a "direct and deleterious effect'' on the military.


Phillips issued an injunction barring the government from enforcing the policy. However, the U.S. Department of Justice, which defended "don't ask, don't tell" during a two-week trial in Riverside, will have an opportunity to appeal that decision. 


And with that, the Koran-burning story will recede from the media's headlines. Why? Simple. The latest media-driven distraction!!! 

And now he wants to be part of the conversation (2 x UPDATED)

3rd UPDATE: 8:49 p.m. EDT: For what it's worth, and it probably means nothing -- today is Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. You can link that to today's events in any way you think is appropriate.

2nd UPDATE: 8:33 p.m. EDT: And speaking of people who want to bully their way into the conversation (drum roll please), Donald Trump!

Perhaps two, maybe three days ago, the story associated with this ridiculous idea to burn the Koran changed. Whatever pretense there was of seriously reporting it was subsumed by people determined to steal or share the spotlight. Trump is merely one example of a group of people who see an opportunity to push themselves into the national discussion about Islam.

Sad. And expected.

1st UPDATE: 8:18 p.m. EDT: Rev. Jones says the Koran burning might be on again. "We are a little back to square one," media reports are quoting him as saying.


ORIGINAL POST: Let's hand it to the "pastor" of that "church" in Florida. He parlayed a threat to burn the Koran into pushing himself into the conversation about the so-called (and inaccurately so) Ground Zero mosque. This from the Los Angeles Times:
The leader of a small Florida church that espouses anti-Islam philosophy says he is canceling plans to burn copies of the Koran on Sept. 11.

Pastor Terry Jones said today that he decided to cancel his protest because the leader of a planned Islamic center near ground zero has agreed to relocate it. The agreement couldn't be immediately confirmed.  
President Obama, the top U.S. general in Afghanistan and several Christian leaders had urged Jones to reconsider his plans. They said his actions would endanger U.S. soldiers and provide a strong recruitment tool for Islamic extremists.
The imam in New York (perhaps you saw his interview on CNN last evening) almost certainly is a more reasonable, kind, humble, religious and adult than the Florida "pastor." And that means even though the latter deserves no place at the table in the discussion about the New York mosque, the former will be generous and invite him.

Thank the Lord there are people such as him.

A controversy or...

...an overblown minor issue?

This one is intriguing -- three players on the New York Mets' baseball team failed to show up the other day when the team visited Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington.

The trip was not mandatory.

The controversy, if there is one, stems from the players who didn't make the trip -- the three appear to have already ostracized themselves from their teammates and management.

So, the question -- are the absences of three baseball players at a voluntary event a controversy? Or an overblown minor issue that became a national story because it involved the New York media?

Because of the times in which we live -- the military continues to be held in high regard for the continuing sacrifices its men and women make in Iraq and Afghanistan for American citizens -- these players will have a hard time finding people to support them. And it doesn't help that they are held in such low regard by their employers.

But are those criteria enough to make this a controversy?

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

(Haven't) been there...(haven't) done that

In no particular order, 10 non-American cities I've not visited and 10 things I've not done, and all of which I want to--

1. Rome
2. Montreal
3. Moscow
4. Vancouver
5. Munich
6. Jerusalem
7. Tokyo
8. Beijing
9. London
10. Barcelona

1. Fly my own plane
2. Drive 100 or more MPH (and legally)
3. Walk the field at Notre Dame Stadium
4. See the bulls running in Pamplona
5. Celebrate Christmas Mass in Vatican City
6. Ring in the New Year twice...in the same day
7. Stand on the Great Wall of China
8. Visit the Kremlin
9. Get a bulls-eye in archery
10. Shake the hand of a current or former U.S. president

Why a transfer of power in...

...North Korea should be of interest to you.

A "slick" move...

...or solid evidence?

This from The New York Times:

The oil giant BP said Wednesday in an internal report that multiple companies and work teams contributed to the Gulf of Mexico spill that fouled waters and shorelines for months.

In its 193-page report posted on its Web site Wednesday, BP described the incident as an accident that arose from a complex and interlinked series of mechanical failures, human judgments, engineering design, operational implementation and team interfaces.

The report was generated by a BP team led by Mark Bly, the company's head of safety and operations.

The report is far from the final word on possible causes of the explosion, as several divisions of the federal government, including the Justice Department, Coast Guard and Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, are also investigating.
BP doesn't have much credibility in the eyes of the American public, but it does deserve to have its report given a full and fair hearing. Let's see what materializes. 

"Burning" for a story

It's a sordid tale -- how one man, leading a group of 50, captured media headlines by planning to do something vile, idiotic and stupid. (You want my opinion, right?)

As one "church" in Florida moves forward with plans to burn copies of the Koran this Saturday -- the 9th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks -- the military and political gears in Washington and around the world continue to move into overdrive.

The condemnation -- absolutely justified -- offers us important questions to consider. They include:
1. How would the media reaction be different if this "church" were instead a "radical Muslim mosque" or "radical Jewish synagogue" planning to burn the Torah or the Bible? How would the public reaction be different?

2. However vile this Koran burning is, is it not free speech? Before you jump to that conclusion, answer this question -- can someone legally burn the U.S. flag?

3. Is this "pastor" gaining unjustified media attention because his planned act is so far beyond mainstream? In other words, would we all be better off if he were ignored?

4. What exactly is the "news" associated with this story?

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Doom and gloom

An extensive excerpt from Mike Allen's "Daily Playbook" on Politico.com:

New data make it clear that Democrats could lose bigger on Nov. 2 than they did in the Republican revolution of 1994:

--Gary Langer analysis of an ABC News/Washington Post poll out at midnight, “A Revolt Against the Status Quo Gives the Republicans a Record Lead”: “Ninety-two percent of Americans say the economy's in bad shape. A mere 24 percent believe it's improving. … A majority, 52 percent, now disapproves of the way Obama is handling his job overall, another first in ABC/Post polls.”

--Another first in the ABC/WP poll: More people said Obama's economic plan was making the economy worse (33 percent) than thought it was making the economy better (30 percent), while 36 percent said his programs were having “no real effect.”

--WSJ's Gerald F. Seib, on an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll out at dawn - “Get Ready for an Anti-Incumbent Wave”: “[A]mong those who appear most likely to vote, … the Republicans own a dramatic 49% to 40% advantage [on whether respondents prefer that November's vote produce a Congress controlled by Democrats or by Republicans]. If that kind of lead holds, Republicans would almost certainly take back control of the House.”

--NBC/WSJ finds that “Recovery Summer” was a bust: In May, 40 percent of respondents said the economy would get better in the next 12 months. Now, that figure is 26 percent.

--Stuart Rothenberg moves 20 House races toward Republicans -- “Wave builds for GOP in the House”: “National and local polls continue to show further deterioration in Democratic prospects. Given that, we are increasing our target of likely Republican gains from 28-33 seats to 37-42 seats, with the caveat that substantially larger GOP gains in the 45-55 seat range are quite possible. The next few weeks will be crucial, as Democratic incumbents seek to drive up Republican challengers' negatives and strengthen their standing in ballot tests.” http://bit.ly/bNxOUN

--At this weekend's annual meeting of the American Political Science Association, three of the five forecasts predicted that Republicans would gain majority control of the House of Representatives, Huffington Post reported.


I fully recognize what the polls are saying, and there is ample reason for the electorate to be angry. My sense is the 2010 election is less about the Democrats and more about the frustration over an economy that won't get better (and let's acknowledge that many economists forecast that the economy was going to need time to straighten itself out).

But I'm struck by something else -- my sense also is that the electorate is tuning out this president. Whether the voters are simply tired of listening to him (or perhaps have decided they don't like him), I'm picking up anecdotal pieces of evidence here and there that tell me the president doesn't command the same authority he appeared to have one year ago.

If that's true, then the Democrats' problems go far deeper than a bad economy.  

Sometimes, Sarah Palin is correct...

...and when the media royally screw up a story about her, that's one of those times.

But her reaction to a recent Vanity Fair article has opened some eyes. And mind you she made her comments to Sean Hannity, demonstrating once again that unless it involves FOX News, Ms. Palin is unwilling to be interviewed by other news sources. (Of course, after the Vanity Fair piece, maybe she has a reason?)

Monday, September 06, 2010

Big change coming at ABC News

ABC News president David Westin has announced he'll step down at the end of the year.

Surprise (not!)

Guess who is likely to run for president in 2012? Oh, be careful, you don't want to be "Russian" to answer that question!!

Feeling the intensity

The boys and I spent a few hours today at one of our favorite places in Pittsburgh -- Carnegie Mellon University.

On this holiday, the university's offices were closed but access to Gesling Stadium and the football field was as easy as ever. We tossed around a couple of footballs for a couple of hours, ducked inside for lunch and then returned for a little more fun at Gesling Stadium.

What strikes me each time I'm at Carnegie Mellon is the intensity of the place. Its students are seemingly always in action -- exercising here, hooked to a laptop there -- and I enjoy every chance I have to be around them.

CMU is one of Pittsburgh's treasures.

On the road again

This from Politico.com:

Seeking to bolster the sluggish economy, President Barack Obama will use a Labor Day appearance in Milwaukee today to announce a new infrastructure plan designed to expand and renew the nation’s roads, railways and runways. A White House official tells POLITICO: “The president will work with Congress to enact a new up-front investment in our nation’s infrastructure – an investment that would help jump-start additional job creation, while also laying the foundation for future growth. This initial investment would fund improvements in the nation’s surface transportation, as well as our airports and air traffic control system." The measures include the “establishment of an Infrastructure Bank to leverage federal dollars, and focus on investments of national and regional significance that often fall through the cracks in the current siloed transportation programs," and “the integration of high-speed rail on an equal footing into the surface transportation program.”

Call this big government if you wish, but if you have spent any time on America's roads or transportation systems then you know that repair and upgrade is necessary. That need becomes even more apparent if you spend time in other countries that have made important investments in their roads, bridges, and transportation modes.

Yes, the president's detractors will have a field day with this idea (can't you already here "this is another stimulus package!"?). Let them. This time they're as wrong as they can possibly be. In fact, inaction at this moment would be a big mistake. 

But what is more interesting to me is how Republican gubernatorial incumbents and candidates will respond to the idea -- their states would benefit from such programs, and potentially in big ways.

The anger of the American populace at our government and its frustration with a stalled economy is certainly going to come down on the Democrats this November. A pummeling at the polls is now seen as a given. This is the party that provided a necessary economic stimulus, significant change to health care and a plan to improve our infrastructure. Think about that for a moment.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Name the place...

...you have visited that is most important to you.

On the heels of the "most important event" question that led to my previous post, our 6-year-old asked if his parents and his older brother could identify the one place we had visited that "was the best in the whole galaxy."

Alright, the galaxy might be a bit much, but I can come up with a few on Earth that resonated with me.

They are:

10. The Liberty Bell and Constitution Hall. You can't go far in Philadelphia without finding something historic. Is there one more symbolically important than this one?

9. The National Mall. Do you want to pick a single place from this geographical place?

8. Notre Dame. No, not the university in South Bend, IN (I've never been there); instead I'm referring to the cathedral in Paris.

7. Niagara Falls. If you've been there, you'll agree; if you haven't, you need to go.

6. The United States Military Academy and the United States Naval Academy. If you ask why, you really don't know me as well as you think.

5. St. Francis High School. The most personal place on this list. My only disappointment about living so many miles from California is not being able to return to my alma mater.

4. Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Consider what has taken place within this facility before dismissing it as historically important.

3. St. Matthias Church. My visit to Budapest in 2001 was delightful and this was the building I remember most.

2. Capitol Hill. It remains my favorite building in Washington.

1. Texas State Book Depository. Few places have left me completely speechless. This was definitely one. History was made -- the ramifications of which have perhaps never been fully understood -- on the street below on Nov. 22, 1963.

Name the one historical event...

...you wish you could have seen in person.

What a fascinating question, and it was the q-and-a item highlighted on the video board at PNC Park during today's Major League Baseball game between Pittsburgh and Washington. I offer my perhaps feeble attempt at answering the question.

Below are my top 5 answers, and I list only those that have happened in my lifetime...

5.  The explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger. Sure, I, like many people, saw it happen on television, but I can only imagine what it must have been like to have been in Florida. America had grown so confident of its shuttle program that the thought of something going wrong seemed impossible to fathom.

4. The destruction of the Berlin Wall. The speed by which Communism was pushed aside in Central and Eastern Europe had no more symbolic image than when the wall came tumbling down. The raw emotion as decades of lusting for freedom boiled over must surely have been an unforgettable moment.

3. The Moon landing. Here again the symbolism perhaps outweighed the actual event. The one small step for man was not only a giant leap for mankind but also put the U.S. ahead in the space race.

2. The Miracle on Ice. Historically important? Certainly not when compared to the other items on the list; but without question for someone who appreciates the Olympic Games, this hockey game was a chance to appreciate amateurism triumphing over professionalism.

1. Election night 2000. A strange choice, you say. Probably so. But the utterly disastrous performance by the media ("Gore wins Florida," "Bush wins Florida") still demands the attention of the media and the public.

Honorable mention (and in no particular order):
-The assassination attempt on President Reagan
-The Opening Ceremonies of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games
-The resignation of President Nixon
-New York City on Sept. 11, 2001
-The assassination of Martin Luther King, Junior
-The death of Princess Diana
-The massacre at the Munich Olympics

Here are our political choices

Picture it as a boxing ring...

In one corner -- in the red trunks, of course -- is the Republican Party. It has demonstrated over the past 30 years a phenomenal disregard for the common man (and woman) and a corresponding high regard for corporations, businesses and unreasonable spending cuts.

In another corner -- in the blue trunks, obviously -- is the Democratic Party. It has demonstrated over the past 30 years a phenomenal ability to fight among themselves. The liberal wing of the Democratic Party resembles the Christian right of the Republican Party -- interested more in celebrating non-mainstream policies than in actually working to enhance its party.

In another corner -- in the black trunks, for now -- is the Tea Party. It has demonstrated over the past year or two a phenomenal ability to be angry, and nothing else. Its membership can be encapsulated into one sentence: "Get the government the hell out of my life." Noble, perhaps, but also shortsighted.

And in the final corner -- in multi-colored trunks, for now -- are a host of smaller parties all desperate for media attention and voters. They range from the Libertarian Party on the right to the Green Party on the left. Absent media attention, any attempt these parties make to become a relevant part of the political conversation is lost.

There you have it, America. And until we as a people demand -- and then follow through with those demands -- more from our parties and their politicians, the longer we will "enjoy" this sclerotic political situation.

Meet a budding doctor

I came across this story in today's Globe and Mail, and it seemed too good to not share.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

If I could control the college football season...

...then you would see the following:

1. USC winning all its games (hey, get over it...I graduated from the school)
2. Boise State playing for the (alleged) national championship
3. Ohio State not playing the Broncos
4. Someone on the periphery of the Heisman Trophy discussion winning that award
5. Teams other than Alabama and Florida playing for the SEC title
6. The Civil War game deciding the Pac-10 championship
7. Duke, Northwestern, Rice and Vanderbilt all having winning seasons
8. No conversation involving how old Joe Paterno is
9. Ohio winning the MAC Championship (hey, get over it...I got my Ph.D. there)
10. Buckets of underdog teams winning in September
11. The BCS being eliminated immediately
12. One of the sports' good guy coaches having a big breakthrough season
13. Texas Tech rolling everyone in the Big-12 (hey, get over it...I taught there)
14. Michigan returning to the elite of the Big-10
15. Improving graduation rates across the board
16. More analysis from Lou Holtz
17. Less analysis from just about everyone else
18. A sunny, 70 degree day for the Rose Bowl
19. UCLA not being at that game
20. A team from the Big East being in the national championship conversation
21. The SEC not being represented in the national championship conversation
22. The Orange Bowl including the Pitt Panthers
23. The Chik-fil-A cows sponsoring everything
24. A team named Tech winning the ACC championship
25. You and I enjoying every minute of it

What matters to you?

I am always intrigued by people who espouse their values as correct for an entire society. I cannot finalize in my head though whether that confidence (insert laugh track here) is a product of arrogance or ignorance.

Does any one person really believe that his or her values are guaranteed superior? Really?

Where does this come from?

Religion teaches us to be humble of what and who we are. So it couldn't possibly come from that.

Family teaches us to be proud, confident, friendly and never arrogant. So it couldn't possibly come from that.

Good friends should share our values. So it couldn't possibly come from them.

So then from where?

Friday, September 03, 2010

Up on the roof

The dean of the School of Communication and his girlfriend hosted a start-of-the-academic-year get together at their apartment tonight. As the evening progressed, something struck me -- how international our party was.

Among the faculty from the School of Communication there was one woman from Russia and one man from South Africa. My dean's girlfriend is a native of Finland, and one of her colleagues at Robert Morris University -- a woman from Denmark -- also was there.

As we moved the party from the apartment to the rooftop patio, our group moved into various topics of conversation. At one point the Danish woman shared some interesting insights about teaching. She has a 17-year-old son, and she relayed how she's begun to really see her son in the students she teaches each day.

They share many of the same interests and goals. They want the same things. It apparently has been an eye-opening experience to see how her students are so very much like her son, who I believe was born in the U.S. though I never asked.

I was reminded how I feel that same connection to many of my students. It's a good feeling.

It is my opinion that we as faculty are fortunate when a student is comfortable enough with us to see us as a substitute family member, a confidant or someone who can be turned to at any time.

That, of course, also means we get to celebrate their personal and professional milestones -- weddings, births, new jobs and the like.

A responsibility, yes. But one that should be accepted with humility.

"The bad guys get away with stuff" (UPDATED)

That's one of the effects when fewer investigative journalists are working in newsrooms.

Sound business practice? Perhaps. Sound journalism practice? Uh, no.

UPDATE: Mind you, anytime a news organization cans staff, it demonstrates it's lack of commitment to journalism. (Yes, I understand that no business ought to be asked to financially fail; nevertheless, absent evidence that such a situation is taking place, canning people seems an awfully convenient way to do business these days.) Check out what is happening at one newspaper.

Alright!!

Received this e-mail from one of my "kids" this morning (and I apologize for the formatting not being as I want it):

Hi Anthony,
Hope the beginning of the school year is going well for you! I just wanted to let you know I got a job reporting at WDTV in Bridgeport, WV and I start on the 13th. I got the same position (name deleted by me) had when she started down there. I just found out this morning and wanted to let my professors know before I started telling a lot of people. Thank you soooooo much for all your help over my four years of college that got me there. I couldn't have gotten this job without everything you taught me, especially with the newscast.

Thank you again!

Now, that's how you cap off the first week of the semester!



If you don't know Xinhua...

...you soon will.

I can't wait to see how the Western media react to the monster that is awakening in China -- the Xinhua news agency is going global.

The criticisms -- justified, of course -- will go something like this: "Xinhua isn't really a news agency; it's a propaganda tool for the government. The people who work there aren't journalists; they're merely interested in spouting the official government line and making sure they overwhelm media flow with their fake news."

I see. Think about that line of argumentation for a minute or two. Then get back to me.

The latest unemployment news...

...is not good.

This from The New York Times:
The unemployment rate rose in August for the first time in four months as weak hiring by private employers wasn't enough to keep pace with a large increase in the number of people looking for work.

The Labor Department says companies added a net total 67,000 new jobs last month, down from July's upwardly revised total of 107,000.

Overall, the economy lost 54,000 jobs as 114,000 temporary census positions came to an end. State and local governments shed 10,000 positions. The jobless rate rose to 9.6 percent from 9.5 percent in July.
You can blame the Republicans. You can blame the Democrats. You can blame corporate greed. Or you can ask yourself if realistic policies are being put in place to fix the unemployment problem. That answer -- if it is a reasonable one -- should influence how you vote in the November midterm elections.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

I support it...sort of

Wishy-washy has not often been used to describe New Yorkers, but they certainly appear to have earned that title tonight.

A new poll suggests almost two-thirds of them prefer the planned (and controversial) mosque project planned for New York City, but they don't want it built close to the site where the World Trade Center towers stood.

Isn't that a bit too much like "I was for it before I was against it"?

Come on, either you support religious freedom fully and unequivocally, or you don't. 

The question of where the mosque might be built could soon be replaced by another: Will it? The Washington Post reports the developers are facing significant financial problems as they press ahead with their plans.

Bogus. Plain and simple.

Texas A&M has reached a new low in determining the value of its faculty. Literally.

The university is formulating an accountability system in which a faculty member's value (and there is a clear double meaning to that term) will be based on his/her salary, how much external grant money he/she has brought in and how many dollars are generated from his/her teaching.

That's bogus.

Here's why: Faculty member A teaches in the equivalent of a School of Journalism, where research often is based on scholarly papers not grants. Faculty member B teaches in the equivalent of the School of Medicine, where large grants form the basis of research projects.

Which faculty member is more important to the university?

Do you see how this system unfairly favors academic units where million-dollar grants are the norm? Those grants involve financial income to the university and a national respect that comes with being a pre-eminent research institution. But if your department doesn't contribute in that way....

Tear down this...program?

If you are involved in journalism/mass communication education, are a graduate of such a program, are currently in such a program, or simply care about the future of journalism, then this article is mandatory reading.

One of the most challenging questions any journalism/mass communication program must address (and the addressing must be constant; a once-every-ten-years approach will not work) is whether students are getting the best possible education they can...for right now. But the answer also must recognize whether those skill sets will serve them five or ten or more years down the line.

Yes, the idea that what is taking place at the University of Colorado offers a chance at a fresh start (perhaps) is encouraging, the more troubling issue that I see is how the program became as "dysfunctional" and "hopeless" as one critic has suggested it is.

I recall visiting Northwestern's nationally recognized Medill School of Journalism three years ago. There, the school's dean told four of my Point Park colleagues and me about the program's transformation, which had an expressed purpose of seeing that students who were graduating from the program were prepared to be communicators ten years or more down the line.

Impressive, yes. But there's also a danger -- what happens if technology, business strategies or some other linchpin moves in a direction no one predicted? Could such a shift undermine the "let's train them also for the future" approach?

Perhaps.

I find these kinds of issues inspiring, challenging, daunting and amazing. And I want to be part of the fantastic group of people currently in higher-education communication programs who are addressing them.

I hope you do, as well.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

And the demise of college football is complete...

...or not.

I think the people who are going over the cliff at the news that Ohio State and Michigan will be placed in different divisions once the Big-10 expands to 12 teams next year need to relax.

Really relax.

One of the greatest rivalries in college football is not about to be obliterated. It is not about to become perverted beyond repair. It is not going to be ruined.

The Buckeyes and Wolverines have played their final regular season game against each other for decades. Often that game has decided which team is crowned as conference champion. The doomers-and-gloomers tonight are wailing. They are trying to convince you that because the teams are in different divisions and as a result could play against each other earlier in the season that somehow the rivalry will mean less in the future.

Hogwash.

In fact, the teams could continue to play their last regular season game in either Columbus or Ann Arbor, but no matter it will not be for a championship. Granted, the winner could go on to play in the conference's championship game but because of the two divisional alignment that team has no guarantee of winning the title.

When you consider the elite rivalries in college football, that game belongs in the conversation. So, too, does USC and Notre Dame, and I mention these schools for an important reason -- when the game is played.

When the Trojans host, it takes place at the end of the regular season (and typically on the Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend). But when the Fighting Irish are hosts, the game falls smack-dab in the middle of the college football season -- the third Saturday of October.

I never hear anyone crying that the October date minimizes the importance of the game or detracts from the national championship aspirations of either team. Moreover, I never hear anyone suggest that the November date enhances the game's importance.

That's because the date doesn't validate the rivalry -- the long-standing traditions and histories of the programs make the rivalry great. For every great moment that a Notre Dame fan can relish and rub in the face of a USC fan, there is one for a USC fan to remember and rub in the face of a Notre Dame fan.

That's the way it should be.

I suppose the "political" pressure to schedule the Buckeyes and Wolverines will be so great that some inane politician in either Ohio or Michigan will introduce legislation mandating a November meeting. As soon as that happens, I'll be among the first to support the man or woman who seeks to replace that politician in the next election cycle.

I could care less when the Buckeyes and the Wolverines butt heads. I'll likely be watching it. That's because I'm a fan. If you are, too, then you'll agree with me.