Sunday, October 31, 2010

Playing amateur psychologist can lead to terrible judgments...

...but as I continue to watch the professional career of Brett Favre wind down, I am finally convinced he has held on for too long.

In the fourth quarter of today's game between the Minnesota Vikings and the New England Patriots, Favre was stunned by a tackle made by a member of the New England defense. With the help of the training staff, he walked (wobbled?) to the sideline. Moments later he was carted off to the locker room with what appears to be a chin, jaw or mouth injury.

Just six nights ago, Favre suffered two broken bones in an ankle. He managed to play through the pain and almost brought his team back from a deficit.

Favre, as you know if you are regular readers of this blog, can count me among his many fans. But including his recent off-the-field chasing skirt controversy, Favre has been bloodied on the field and off. He seems to me -- and this is where the amateur psychologist comes into play -- to be a man desperate to hang on to the career he has.

And that leaves me to wonder why. What does his life lack that would lead him to pursue a woman almost 15 years younger than he (and please spare me the sarcastic comments) and to continue to play football with what at times looks to me like a manic determination?

If it's time to move on -- and that time might have come sooner than this season -- then Favre ought to do it, confident that he will be recognized as one of the best to ever play that position. (And that position might be the most demanding of any in professional sports.) However, if he retains a compulsion to play, then the possibility exists of a serious injury that could undermine his future.

Favre is 41 years old, and that means he's often chased around the field by men who are almost 20 years his junior. They possess the freshness in body that someone at 41 cannot have. And they also possess a determination to begin establishing their career that Favre had almost 20 years ago.

Is it time for Favre to retire? I don't know. But I do know it is time for him to significantly address with himself and with his family what is going on inside his head.

When you abandon manufacturing...

...you abandon your role as the world's economic leader.

So says the Washington-based correspondent for one Middle East newspaper.

Blow up cargo planes?

It seems preposterous; but as the investigation continues into the latest (apparent) terror threat emanating from the Middle East, the evidence for now is pointing to a deliberate attempt to blow up the cargo planes containing the bombs.

The New York Times reports:

John O' Brennan, the president’s chief counterterrorism adviser, said Sunday that American authorities believe now that the two bombs found inside cargo packages were designed to blow up the airplanes carrying them, even though they were addressed to locations “associated with synagogues” in Chicago. (Here is the full report.)


In Britain, the investigation also includes a vexing question -- how did security at one U.K. airport fail to find the bombs?

Perhaps even more disturbing is a statement from Qatar Airways that its passenger jets carried the bomb-laden cargo in the initial legs of its journey to the West.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

You've got to love America

In what other country would legitimate, mainstream media devote hours of coverage to a conservative bloviator and then two comedians-cum-"journalists" as they host rallies in the nation's capital?

Now, don't misunderstand me, I'm not saying what Glenn Beck, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert have done is un-American. Nor am I saying they don't have the right to do it.

Rather, I am asking why these pseudo-events have generated the kind of attention they have. Are the media that starved for "news" that they would provide live, multi-hour coverage of Beck's blather and Stewart/Colbert's silliness?

On the eve of a political election in which at least one house of Congress could switch party control and in a political climate in which the public remains angry (and I'm still not sure exactly at whom or what), what does it say for our media that gibberish can be so newsworthy?

I was fortunate to be in Washington on Jan. 20, 2009 when Barack Obama was sworn in as President of the United States. That was a news event. That was important. And, so, at the risk of offending the bazillions of people who gathered in that wonderful city for either Beck's bloviating or for Stewart/Colbert's silliness, I say I hope you had a good time.

Cotton candy and a lion were all you needed to complete the day. And to the media...oh, never mind. They're not listening. They're patting themselves on the back for covering a circus.

Dirty pool

What one McDonald'd franchise owner in northeast Ohio appears to have done not only is a gross violation of professional ethics but also of state law.

Dirty pool, plain and simple.

Friday, October 29, 2010

A pattern?

The Madrid bombings took place just before an election there. The attempt to bomb an airport in Scotland took place at election time. Now, today, there is this cargo plane incident.

Granted, the first two were carried out. This one might be nothing more than a hoax. But is it a coincidence?

US television networks broadcast more violence than other countries

Ah, ain't it grand!

Read more here, and as you do make note of what al-Jazeera does.

A new tide rolls in

Was it really just two years ago that the mainstream media were telling us that with Democratic gains in Congress in 2004 and 2006, and with the election of Barack Obama as president in 2008 that the political tide in this country was changing? And perhaps for a generation or more?

(And then Alabama went out and won the college football national championship -- that sure as heck cemented the new tide. No?)

Uh, well, hmmm, that prognostication doesn't seem to be coming to fruition.

In fact, (another) new tide might be about to crash upon America's shores, heartland, big cities, small towns and everywhere else.

Consider the evidence. First, this summary line from the Rothenberg Political Report:

Democrats seem likely to lose at least 50 seats, but the GOP's ceiling for gains is much harder to predict. With close to 100 Democratic seats in play, GOP gains of five or six dozen seats are not at all impossible. House Democrats appear headed for a historic bloodbath, with losses probably exceeding 1994's 52 seats. We estimate likely GOP House gains at 55 to 65 seats, with gains at or above 70 seats possible.

Then there is the rebirth of Rush (and, no, I'm not referring to the band from Canada). Rush Limbaugh is the cover image of this week's Newsweek. Wasn't it just two years ago that his message was tired and stale? Wasn't his voice losing resonance with the American people? Wasn't he so yesterday?

Then there is the reality that it is -- again -- the voter who appears ready to speak loudly and clearly. The message -- Democrats: You aren't getting the job done.

All of this reminds me of how managers sometimes over-manage during the baseball playoffs -- swapping one pitcher for another or a quicker runner for a slower one without perhaps fully considering how the game might play out.

It appears certain that come Wednesday, Republicans will control the House of Representatives and will have dented the Democrats' majority in the Senate. They will have the momentum and will be pressing hard for more gains (including the White House) in 2012.

How Mr. Obama responds to this will dictate whether his presidency unravels, cementing a GOP push for even more gains. His play-it-cool approach has not worked; he wanted to come off as above the political fray of Washington, in an effort to change the political culture of that city.

Oops.

Instead he's going to have to engage in the barroom brawl tactics that most Americans are sure to say they don't like, but they have come to not only expect but perhaps demand of their political leaders. And then we wonder why individuals who potentially could make a difference take a look at politics and turn away in disgust.

That is the tide that had better change. Because if it doesn't, we will continue to infect politics with a win-or-else attitude that dilutes every political issue into its most base characteristics.

Who could blame the voter for being angry? They been promised roads of gold for too long.

Traditional media as we currently know it will no longer exist in 10 years

Pardon me while I laugh.

I'm not criticizing the public for holding that opinion, but does anyone truly believe the traditional media are going to be assigned to the ash heap of history?

Seriously? Come on.

Media companies have found ways to adapt to changing times. A study of media history will show you that the print media (a broadly used term here to encompass everything from books to newspapers) have been warned of their demise numerous times. (I hear the "kid cried wolf" as I write that.)

The movie industry also was going to die a torturous death because of the rise of the broadcast media.

And broadcasting was supposed to go completely to you-know-where because of the advent of cable.

My point: The traditional media are not going to die in 10 years. Sure, individual newspapers here, radio stations there, etc. will not make it. But the industry as a whole -- albeit transformed, and we don't yet fully know how -- will still be around.

Yup, it must be Obama's fault

This from Politico.com:

The economy continued to tread water in July, August and September, growing at an annual rate of 2 percent. The results were no help to President Barack Obama and Democratic candidates who have gotten most of the blame for the struggling economy. 

Here is what baffles me about our media's discussion about the economy -- too many news organizations appear interested in setting it up as "who is to blame, or who benefits from the information" instead of identifying the critical elements -- the fundamentals, future prospects, etc.

I could care less which political party benefits from a good economic report because I know American business and consumers will.

But there I go being naive again.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

You say good-bye...

...and I say hello.

The "you" is Cincinnati; the "I" is Knoxville.

The point? A prominent cable programmer says it's time to move its operations.

A lawsuit waiting to happen

This is a complicated issue -- who is to blame when a young man is sent up on a hydraulic lift in wind conditions that might be unsafe?

I'm not asking for you to answer that question, but it certainly is one that Notre Dame officials -- including those from the football team -- will need to address in the aftermath of an accident yesterday that killed a 20-year-old student.

At first blush, there will be temptation to blame head coach Brian Kelly. But he might not be the one responsible for such decisions. I don't mean to sound dismissive of the video crew, but the head football coach will not be making such decisions. Granted, and to borrow a tired cliche, the buck stops with the head coach, but to solely single him out is incorrect in this situation.

Let's allow the university to conduct the thorough investigation this accident demands before any of us starts to point fingers. We frankly don't know enough information to make such judgments at this time.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Oh, no...Oh, no...OH, NO!!!

This story gets worse and worse as you read paragraph by paragraph.

And speaking of totalitarianism

The push for a freer media in China continues. 

As you read that story, reflect on another post I made about governments trying to restrict the free press and how a former professor told me such restrictions are becoming more difficult (and perhaps futile) as "new" technology becomes more ingrained in nations all over the world.

The man who (however inadvertently) opened up the Soviet Union...

...says his political heirs are attempting to return Russia to totalitarianism.

Let's give Mikhail Gorbachev credit -- the man is not afraid to speak his mind, and he has over time become a kind of moral authority in Russia. His criticisms mentioned above are among the strongest I've heard.

As a casual observer of the country, Russia is a fascinating country, motivated by decades of decay to reassert itself as a regional and international power. Prime Minister Putin has tapped the nationalist vein quite well, but often that rhetoric comes with a price -- freedom.

Mr. Gorbachev's message is one the world's leaders would be wise to pay attention to.

FOX tells Cablevision to...

...uh, reconsider what it's going to take to get a new deal.

This fight has lasted far longer than I had expected, and because of that I have been proven very wrong; I thought the dispute would last only a couple of days and that Cablevision would cave in.

The cable provider's willingness to stand up to FOX could set an example that other providers could attempt to match when they are the ones dealing with a cable network.

I still think FOX holds the upper hand in this battle, but Cablevision has shown it is a worthy adversary.

The President of the United States...

...according to the many, many, many political ads I've seen on television in the past weeks is either:

1. Responsible for something called ObamaCare and/or
2. Incapable of standing up to the runaway train that is Nancy Pelosi and/or
3. The cause of America's economic collapse and/or
4. Providing stable leadership for the country and/or
5. Selling out America to the Chinese and/or
6. Paralyzing America's economic growth and/or
7. Working hard for American families and/or
8. An ally in America's economic recovery and/or
9. Turning the presidency into a do-nothing office and/or
10. Failing miserably

Wow, if I paid attention only to political ads, then I'd be packing my bags and moving to Canada or someplace else before all he** breaks loose in the good ol' USA.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Yes, he's running

This from Politico.com:

House Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence (Ind.) is considering stepping down from his post in the GOP leadership in preparation for a possible bid for president or governor in 2012. Pence, who won the 2012 presidential straw poll at the Values Voter Summit last month, is currently No. 3 in the House GOP hierarchy.

And in the blue corner...

You knew this would happen. You knew that FOX News would take an otherwise unimportant story and blow it up and at the same time out of proportion.

Why should we have doubted that the "news" network would attempt to make Juan Williams, canned by NPR for an inappropriate comment about Muslims, into a cause celebre?

The latest effort is to find NPR's CEO Vivian Schiller on a public street and demand answers. And as you listen to the words Bill O'Reilly uses as he introduces this story, see if you had the same "a, ha!" moment I did. He notes that Ms. Schiller will not appear on FOX News' air to defend the dismissal of Williams. Am I the only one who finds it ironic (insert laugh track here) that Sarah Palin will not appear on any other network EXCEPT FOX to explain her political positions, discuss the current economic climate or otherwise take questions?

But just be asking I'm sure that "proves" I'm some sort of liberal looney-tune professor.

According to Jim Romenesko, Ms. Schiller has expressed through her Facebook page appreciation for those who have stood by her:
It's times like this you find out who your friends are. Thank you to those who have offered a kind word. Something so simple means more than you could possibly know.
What I want to know is what exactly Ms. Schiller has to defend? And I'm not trying to sound naive here. It was Juan Williams who derided Muslims. It is now the same Juan Williams who is not doing what a professional should -- tell FOX News to call off the dogs. And it is the same Juan Williams who can merely claim his words were taken out of context.

So, let me see, the next time I walk past a group of (fill in the blank ethnic or religious affiliation here) and then publicly state that I get nervous being around them, I should claim that I didn't really mean to say that, and therefore that my employer shouldn't properly address this issue with me.

I like it!

If you are a fan of the Toronto Blue Jays, as I am, then read on.

If you are not, I understand.

The Blue Jays have a new manager, and John Farrell could turn out to be a brilliant choice.

I like the move.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Is NPR caving in?

Maybe. Maybe not.

You decide after reading this.

$3.6 million in one day

What!!!

That's how much outside groups spent on political ads in one day in an attempt to assist Colorado voters in making up their minds in their U.S. Senate race. (And did you catch the sarcasm associated with the word "attempt"?)

And if you think that's an anomaly, well, think again. The New York Times reports this morning that

The anonymously financed conservative groups that have played such a crucial role this campaign year are starting a carefully coordinated final push to deliver control of Congress to Republicans, shifting money among some 80 House races they are monitoring day by day. 

A vivid picture of how outside groups are helping Republicans across the country can be found here in central Florida. The incumbent Democrat, Representative Suzanne M. Kosmas, had a nearly four-to-one fund-raising advantage over her Republican challenger, State Representative Sandy Adams, at the end of September. 

Ms. Adams, low on cash, has not run a single campaign commercial. But a host of outside groups have swept in to swamp Ms. Kosmas with attack ads, helping establish Ms. Adams as the favorite without her having to spend on television.

And if you still aren't troubled by this orgy of money, consider that three Republicans have spent almost $250 million among them to win races in their states.  

No, I'm not saying what is taking place is illegal, but I am saying is it not time for our country to have a significant conversation about how we want political campaigns to be paid for?

If you want to study Islam...

...you might not be able to do it any longer at UCLA.

That's what a group of UCLA students fear could happen.

Let's give UCLA officials the benefit of the doubt here and accept that they are working at keeping the program. The challenge for them is not necessarily political as much as it is economic. A program akin to Islamic Studies will not generate significant income; and with universities more cognizant than ever about the profitability of their academic programs, sometimes difficult -- and not necessarily politically palatable -- decisions are made. 

A widening scandal?

Maybe.

And if it is, FIFA has a problem that cannot be solved by simply ousting the people associated with any vote-rigging. It will require a top-to-bottom review of practices, codes of conduct, selection of potential sites, the nomination process for members and an external review of what has taken place.

Does FIFA have the courage to do it?

Sunday, October 24, 2010

After the Dallas Cowboys...

...which NFL teams are next in enjoying a national following?

My top ten list:

10. Oakland Raiders: Beyond explanation, but you know I'm right

9. Chicago Bears: Lots of history, mystique of Monsters of the Midway

8. New Orleans Saints: But once the empathy for New Orleans abates, can this team maintain its national stature?

7. New York Giants: Because they're from New York

6. Denver Broncos: Probably too high; but they are my favorite team, so deal with it

5. Indianapolis Colts: They win quietly and consistently. They have a nice guy quarterback. What's not to like?

4. New England Patriots: You either love them or hate them. But you watch them.

3. Cleveland Browns: Empathy, sympathy, whatever it is, but the Browns are America's lovable losers.

2. Green Bay Packers: Small-town team image resonates across the country

1. Pittsburgh Steelers: You can't escape them, especially in the 'Burgh.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

After Notre Dame...

...which college football teams come closest to being a "national" name?

In other words, which programs have a strong enough name and reputation that you can find a sizable fan base (almost) everywhere you are?

Here's my top ten --

10. Boise State: America loves an underdog, and the Broncos still are.

9. Miami: The name isn't as sexy (or corrupted and out of control) as it once was, but as the Hurricanes continue to inch their way back into the national conversation they remain popular.

8. Florida State: See Miami, without the corruption and out of control characteristics.

7. Michigan: Another name that isn't as dazzling as before, but the Wolverines still have cache.

6. Texas: The 'Horns are often plenty good, and there are enough people inside and outside that state who will tell you all about it.

5. USC: Not sure how long the Trojans will remain in the top ten. Too much damage has been done to the image because of greed, corruption and incompetence.

4. Alabama: Bandwagon is pretty full these days.

3. Penn State: JoePa, JoePa, Joe Pa.

2. Ohio State: What's not to like (unless you can't stand this team)?

1. Nebraska: It's understandable why there are so many Nebraska fans across the country -- they got the heck out of there.

A man without a home

A complex man. That's my description of Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks and a man who for the foreseeable future will not be able to call any place home.

There's no doubt Mr. Assange is making enemies; the Iraqi government is the latest to voice its strong disgust for what WikiLeaks has done.

As I read more about what WikiLeaks and Assange are doing, I am struck that because no one is questioning the authenticity of the documents he is releasing, the zeal to stop him is based on keeping the secret secret. So, for me, what WikiLeaks is doing comes down to one question -- are the decisions being made by Assange a legitimate way of exposing governments?

Have fun answering that one.

Let me see if I get this straight...

Political opiner Juan Williams criticizes Muslims...and is fired by NPR.

He immediately receives an even more generous contract than he had before by Fox News -- 3 years, $2 million is the amount I read.

The Right goes into a frenzy over what NPR did, with some going as far as saying that Congress should stop funding the public radio network.

NPR did something wrong by...doing what exactly?

And Williams deserved $2 million by...doing what exactly?

I must be naive.

Trying to do journalism is much easier...

...when the government isn't breathing down your back.

And in Egypt, the government's breath is hot and heavy. But the government, journalists, bloggers and others are finding that technology often can overcome heavy-handed pressure.

Journalists also are being more aggressive -- witness their protest to the jailing of an editor.

As I read those stories, I was reminded of a conversation a group of students (and I was one) had with former Associated Press reporter Terry Anderson, who taught for a time while I was getting my Ph.D. at Ohio University. (And as an aside, the next time you see my better half, ask her if she remembers the time Mr. Anderson called our house and the reaction she had to it.)

He told us that technology breaks down barriers real and imagined. He noted that totalitarian or otherwise oppressive governments would eventually have to adapt to being unable to control information as they once could. How they did it would go a long way to determining how political change took place in that country.

Something to think about

If Juan Williams had talked about Blacks, Asians or Hispanics instead of Muslims would his firing be criticized by the Right?

How you answer that goes a long way toward you determining whether his dismissal by NPR was justified. More importantly, it goes a long way toward you determining how honest the Right is being in its scathing criticism of NPR.

Friday, October 22, 2010

WikiLeaks strikes again

This from the New York Times:

A huge trove of secret field reports from the battlegrounds of Iraq sheds new light on the war, including such fraught subjects as civilian deaths, detainee abuse and the involvement of Iran.

The secret archive is the second such cache obtained by the independent organization WikiLeaks and made available to several news organizations. A close analysis of the documents helps illuminate several important aspects of the war.


More details can be accessed through this story, this report and this article, all from the Times.
The BBC adds its summation here.


You can expect the same response from the U.S. government that you read the last time WikiLeaks released previously confidential documents -- what WikiLeaks has done has done damage to U.S. intelligence and put any number of U.S. intelligence or military personnel in danger.


First amendment advocates will argue that WikiLeaks is simply doing something that has been a tradition of the media in the U.S. and other Western democracies -- uncovering government wrongs (real or perceived).

Violence is appropriate!

I expect, hope, demand (you pick the term) that the media are going to use their persuasive powers and react appropriately to the comments made by a Dallas-area "pastor" who stated in a political debate that a violent overthrow of the U.S. government is appropriate if it isn't responding to the needs of the people.

Here is an extensive excerpt of a report in today's Dallas Morning News:
In a rambling exchange during a TV interview, (Stephen) Broden, a South Dallas pastor, said a violent uprising "is not the first option," but it is "on the table." That drew a quick denunciation from the head of the Dallas County GOP, who called the remarks "inappropriate."   
Broden, a first-time candidate, is challenging veteran incumbent Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson in Dallas' heavily Democratic 30th Congressional District. Johnson's campaign declined to comment on Broden.

In the interview, Brad Watson, political reporter for WFAA-TV (Channel 8), asked Broden about a tea party event last year in Fort Worth in which he described the nation's government as tyrannical.  
"We have a constitutional remedy," Broden said then. "And the Framers say if that don't work, revolution."
Watson asked if his definition of revolution included violent overthrow of the government. In a prolonged back-and-forth, Broden at first declined to explicitly address insurrection, saying the first way to deal with a repressive government is to "alter it or abolish it."
"If the government is not producing the results or has become destructive to the ends of our liberties, we have a right to get rid of that government and to get rid of it by any means necessary," Broden said, adding the nation was founded on a violent revolt against Britain's King George III.
Let's imagine for a moment in our current over-the-top fear of Muslims in this country (especially when they wear their "Muslim garb" -- are you listening Juan Williams? -- if a Muslim political candidate had used those words. FOX News would have gone into an absolute lather, insisting that this was a significant piece of evidence that Islam is out to destroy America.

You know and I know such talk would be nonsensical and designed only to pander to that element of the population who believes such drivel.

But if there is no outrage because a Christian said it, then what exactly are we saying about double standards and hypocrisy?

Mr. Broden belongs in the same category of "pastor" as the one in Florida who advocated for burning the Koran. Free speech? Absolutely. Under the First Amendment, calls for government overthrow and burning the Koran are legal. But if you agree with me that the freedom must be used responsibly, then these "pastors" are irresponsible. And that's a kind description.

Remember Anna Chapman?

The Russian spy was uncovered in the United States...and she's pretty much uncovered in Russia as well.

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

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Juan Williams, part 2

NPR said "see ya"; FOX News said "you will, on our air."

Interesting 24 hours for Juan Williams, who was canned by NPR for less-than-complimentary remarks about Muslims and now has an expanded role on FOX News. Williams says he was not making any bigoted statement when he told FOX News' Bill O'Reilly:
'Look, Bill, I'm not a bigot. You know the kind of books I've written about the civil rights movement in this country. But when I get on a plane, I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous.'
Now, let's take Mr. Williams at his word -- his words were not a demonstration of bigotry. Then what exactly were they? Poorly chosen? Ill-timed? Misinterpreted?

They might have been. Consider this report from Slate, which notes that Mr. Williams' words were more elaborate than reported. Reading this story could lead you to argue that he's being used as the left's political football, and especially convenient now with the midterm elections around the corner and liberals seemingly losing their zeal for heading to the polls on Nov. 2.

Let's acknowledge that one of the reasons Mr. Williams was canned is that in our "right now" mentality, organizations are going to act (or react) immediately. Whether that is the proper decision can only be considered after additional information comes to light.

I suggested earlier today that Williams' dismissal was appropriate. I stand by that point, and I urge you to read as much as you can as you make your decision.

Wonderful. Just wonderful.

This from the New York Times:

Prudential Financial sent in a $2 million donation last year as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce launched a national advertising campaign to weaken the historic rewrite of the nation's financial regulations.

Dow Chemical delivered $1.7 million to the chamber last year as the group took a leading role in aggressively fighting proposed new rules to tighten security requirements on chemical facilities.

And Goldman Sachs, Chevron Texaco, and Aegon, a multinational insurance company based in the Netherlands, donated more than $8 million in recent years to a chamber foundation seeking to limit the ability of trial lawyers to sue businesses.

These large donations -- none of which were publicly disclosed by the chamber -- offer a glimpse of the chamber's money-raising efforts, which it has ramped up recently in an orchestrated campaign to become one of the most well-financed critics of the Obama administration and an influential player in this fall's Congressional elections.

And now for our latest (non) scandal...

...we're going to get all fired up about whether Sarah Palin signed an autograph on the U.S. flag!

Anyone who wants to make a case out of this is doing so just for spite.

I might not approve of Ms. Palin's political positions on most issues, but to suggest that she is something other than a celebrity masquerading as a politician is wrong. In this "autograph" story, seeking to damage her credibility, embarrass her or in any way call attention to what was done is done so simply to try to score a political point.

Let me make clear: I am not advocating that all of us go out and sign our names to every American flag we can get our hands on. And I am not suggesting that debasing the flag is correct and something we should attempt to do.

What I am saying is that the context of every action needs to be considered. And in this case I am giving Ms. Palin a pass. Signing the flag was not done in a malicious spirit. If it broke a law, then let's seek an appropriate legal decision. But let's not make this something it is not.

Let's move on to more important matters.

Fired...and rightly so

NPR has done the correct thing in firing Juan Williams.

Bigotry has no place in the discussion about politics, religion and similar institutions. Yes, it exists; don't misunderstand me. But we cannot move forward with a real conversation about Islam if people who see people dressed in "Muslim garb" (Williams' words, not mine) are suddenly going to feel frightened.

I cannot wait (insert laugh track here) to see how Mr. Williams is going to attempt to talk his way out of what he said. The "my message was understood" line is sure to come out.

And that's why it's called a PUBLIC street!

A victory for freedom of speech (and perhaps more importantly a validation of the freedom of the press) -- a court has ruled that no person can be arrested for taking pictures or videos on a public space in front of a federal court.

Forgive me if I sound sarcastic here, but did anyone really think it should be any other way?

"A big risk to democracy"

That's what one observer says is taking place right now in his country -- Ukraine.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The tension between the old standards and the new technology

Students in one of my classes presented their "media interviews" assignment today, and once they were done there were a couple of interesting themes that resonated with the interviewees.

The interviewees ranged from a high school media educator, an adjunct college instructor, a local television reporter to a Web content editor and more.

One of the themes: the never-ending debate about how new technology puts stress on the old journalistic standards. In the "old" days, journalists prepared a single story a day. They had time to locate their sources, do the necessary research and (hopefully) delivered a quality news story at the end of the day.

But now journalists are expected to blog, tweet and otherwise engage with the audience through social media; often report more than one story per day; and work with fewer resources. Their writing often is fact-checked or copy edited by fewer people, who also are likely to have less years of professional service than their past colleagues. The potential -- and it's real -- that quality reporting suffers weaved through many of the students' presentations.

The second theme: the corporatization of the media. Earnings reports, anticipated and then actual, dominate media coverage as news divisions, subsumed by larger corporate giants, must be profitable. The insatiable appetite among the media to report these earnings reports exacerbate the pressure to make a buck (or millions of them).

Generating profits for news divisions means hiring fewer people then paying them less, and cutting expensive parts of that division. International news bureaus are one of those. Investigative reporting units are another.

Investigative reporting is perhaps the hallmark of journalism in a democratic society. Sadly, too many reporters are being removed from that assignment because of the time and effort it takes to create one story or a series of them pertaining to one topic.

Into this breach has come various non-profit partnerships, including one that was announced earlier this week between the Center for Public Integrity and the Huffington Post Investigative Fund. In and of themselves, these partnerships shouldn't be dismissed as poor substitutes for the real thing, but there is no guarantee they will have the staying power of stand-alone units formerly part of national news entities, print and broadcast. 

Hearing these various individuals report the same things I have said numerous times this semester -- principally that technology is changing at a rapid pace and the broadcast world has not been able to fully understand it -- was important; I believe it is essential that students not hear the same thing from the same person.

Today they definitely did not.

I don't get a kick out of...

...learning that FIFA has suspended two of its executives as it continues to investigate allegations of vote selling.

We shouldn't be surprised when professional athletes, judges, officials or similar figures cheat. It is part and parcel of a system in which winning equates to big bucks. In an environment in which everything appears to be for sale and winning overshadows sportsmanship, cheating will take place. Plain and simple.

It is more difficult for me to understand why those who are part of a cheating scandal try to weasel their way out of the problem. As one example, I read with absolute disgust earlier this year Pete Carroll's comments that he was unaware of the illegal activities taking place around the USC football program he coached during  most of the 2000s.

We can only imagine how the FIFA executives mentioned at the beginning of this post will attempt to explain away their purported actions. 

In such circumstances, claiming "I knew nothing" smacks of being a liar or an idiot.

I also have little tolerance for athletes who do the wrong thing and then fail to own up to their mistakes. Such an incident took place in Pittsburgh today, where Steelers' linebacker James Harrison said he might retire after he was fined for two flagrant hits during a game on Sunday against the Cleveland Browns.

Harrison is not going to go through with that. You and I know that. But his melodramatic response to being fined for his overly aggressive behavior highlights the point I'm trying to make -- if I do something wrong and get caught, I'm going to blame someone else. In this case, Harrison is bemoaning that the NFL is cracking down on those whose actions on the field could damage the health and well-being of other athletes.

The NFL's decision seems reasonable, if you ask me. And long overdue.

And so we await the next athlete or coach or official who will skirt the rules in an attempt to win. Sadly, it won't take long for it to happen. 

How sad

The President of the United States is skipping a previously planned visit to the most revered place for Sikhs.

Why? Out of fear. The White House knows the president would have been required to wear head gear associated with being Muslim, and it didn't want to reinforce those (ridiculous) opinions that he is Muslim.

Amazing. Our country would rather have our leader potentially offend than be respectful of other religions. Just great.

The BBC is freezing...

...the tax paid by British citizens for the next six years.

But while the BBC is not raising more revenue it also is committed to not lowering standards.

The BBC remains, in my opinion, the best news organization in the world. Let's hope the promises that are being made can be kept.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

As I read more and more about Democratic political candidates...

...subtly (or not so subtly) bashing the White House, I wonder how these same candidates (if elected) are going to be able to then rally support and campaign for President Obama in 2012.

I'm just asking. That's all.

Monday, October 18, 2010

If you use Facebook...

...you are going to want to read this.

The blame game is well underway. I'd rather the problem be fixed, and those who had their personal information breached be alerted.

But that's the kind of person I am -- fix the screw-up, don't suggest that 'it's not my problem.'

If (or when)...

...the dictatorship in North Korea ends, there will be celebrating across the world as freedom swoops in on the Korean peninsula.

But as this column from Fareed Zakaria notes, there will be some troubling issues for the leaders of the U.S., China and South Korea. How they deal with them, and the answers they come up with, will dictate their trilateral relationship for many years.

You knew this would happen, didn't you?

It has taken less than a week for the 33 rescued miners -- who spent 2-1/2 months trapped underground in Chile -- to seek financial fortune in varying sums.

But before you question the motives of these men, consider the media environment in which we live. Many news organizations (not necessarily American-based) are willing to pay for interviews. You can question those professional ethics all you want, but can you blame these men for seeking their bite of the financial apple?

And get ready, because more stories like this one will come out. The miners remain a hot topic; their rescue (captured live on television), their spirit, their humility and their story are too good for the media to ignore. Or exploit.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The head of Pittsburgh's public school system...

...moves on.

Here's the update from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Read the story through to its end; it perhaps indicates how determined Mr. Roosevelt was to get out of this city. Or does it say something else? (Mind you, I'm asking; I don't have any inside information.)

News headlines...

...that really would be newsworthy:

"Obama, GOP Agree: Both Parties Must Solve Nation's Problems"

"Year Passes with No Athlete Scandals"

"Jobless Rate Holds Steady at Under 6 Percent"

"Fox News Finally Fair and Balanced"

"Local News Reduces Coverage of Crime, Increases Stories about People Doing Good Things"

"China Delivers on Promise to Increase Personal Freedoms"

"Americans Abandon Reality TV, Watch More News Programs"

"MLB Sets Kid-Friendly Playoff TV Schedule"

"Americans Vote in Record Numbers, Again"

"Moretti Is NOT Naive"

Back to the mine

This must have been impressive -- some of the miners who were rescued in Chile the other day returned to that spot today for a religious service.

Could a professional male athlete survive...

...a sex scandal if it involved another man?

Imagine the scenario: Big-time professional athlete is photographed in multiple places with different men. At least one of those pictures involves that athlete in a romantic situation.

Could his career survive?

Before you jump to conclusions, consider the role the media could play in this.

Too many professional journalists lean left, let's not deny that. Because of that, there is a tendency among journalists to accept homosexuality. (Let me make clear: All liberals do not accept it, and by extension not all conservatives are opposed to it. And whether "accept" is required is another story. Why anyone should care about the lifestyle choices of another person is beyond me.) So, the internal challenge for the journalist is to grapple with the "ethical" question associated with any affair (if the athlete is married) with the tolerance for homosexuality.

We have seen how the media have salivated over the "sex scandals" involving Tiger Woods and Brett Favre. In Woods' case, the evidence was overwhelming; in the Favre case, the evidence is powerful but at this point not necessarily conclusive. Countless news organizations used these men to generate ratings and sales of their publications, all the while adopting a "how dare you!" and a "what were you thinking?" approach.

Of course, if either man were single, the scandal would be gone. Non-existent. Woods or Favre, in fact, might be celebrated for their machismo, their manliness, their playing of the field in an attempt to find the right mate. They would be men.

But what if that single man were chasing other men? What would make a single man chasing another man a story? What would make it a scandal? What, in other words, would make it wrong and therefore newsworthy?

Set aside your personal feelings about homosexuality; what those are are neither my business nor that of anyone else. What exactly would be scandalous about a professional male athlete seeking a relationship with another man? ("I don't tolerate that kind of behavior" is not an answer. "It's disgusting" is not an answer.)

Woods and Favre have been ripped largely because they violated the vows of marriage, but let's keep in mind that neither man appears to have broken any laws. And one man who might very well have -- Ben Roethlisberger -- escaped because a prosecutor in Georgia said he couldn't determine whether Roethlisberger sexually assaulted a young woman last spring. Roethlisberger is single (and for what it's worth I think any woman right now who would want to marry him should have her head examined).

Here's my point: The media would assist in creating the storyline around Athlete X and his romantic interest in men. They could ignore the story -- as they would if the athlete were chasing women -- or they could turn it into a morality play -- as they have in the Woods and Favre cases.

You tell me what you think they would do. How you answer that will determine if Athlete X's professional career is salvageable.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

If I give a lecture...

...and you take notes, then who owns that information?

A fascinating question that is being asked in California, where one young man's entrepreneurial interests might be running afoul of state law. 

Just a guess here -- if this goes to court, the entrepreneur is going to win. But if what he is doing is deemed legal, that doesn't mean it's ethical. And let's be clear -- it isn't.

Another sports scandal?

The arrogance, lack of honor and tolerance for corruption that consumed a few members of the International Olympic Committee in the late 1990s might have been transferred to a couple of members of international soccer's governing body -- FIFA.

The (London) Sunday Times is reporting that two of its reporters -- posing as representatives for an American company -- were offered the vote of at least one FIFA member. (I would link to the actual story but the newspaper requires a paid subscription. Here is the newspaper's homepage.)

The BBC has summarized the paper's investigation.

At its root this was the equivalent of pay-for-play -- the Americans would give the FIFA member money to support his domestic soccer plans in exchange for a vote for America as host of the 2018 World Cup.

It is perhaps a coincidence that just yesterday the USA Bid Committee dropped its bid to host the 2018 World Cup.

You'll recall that the 2002 Salt Lake Olympics were tainted after an investigation determined that IOC members accepted money and other gifts from members of the Salt Lake Olympic Organizing Committee in exchange for voting for the U.S. city as the site of the Games.

There was legitimate debate whether the Games should have been held in the U.S. as a result of the scandal. Fortunately, no such discussion will need to take place in soccer circles; the willingness to cheat appears limited to only a couple of people. More importantly, there is no evidence that any bid city has tried to influence the vote through bribes.

Remember, this story developed from an investigation by a legitimate media source.

If money were no object...

...and I could therefore buy 4 (if I don't include the wife and boys, then I deserve to be called "you something-or-the-other idiot") season tickets to see any professional sports team, I would buy:

10. Montreal Canadiens -- oh, come on, the history. The tradition. All that time we would spend in the city.

9. New York Yankees -- see number nine, except for the city. New York? Yuck.

8. Pittsburgh Steelers -- then I'd sell them to some a Steelers fan who really would want to see this team in person. (I would then have money to buy season seats to two different teams!!!)

7.  Washington Redskins -- because I love Washington, my favorite city in North America.

6. Oakland Raiders -- just making sure you're still paying attention. Let's go with any team from the Boston area. My family and I have been there twice and we like the place.

5. Toronto Blue Jays -- my favorite baseball team. And, wow, all that time in a great city.

4. New York Rangers -- my favorite hockey team. And, yes, I still say New York...yuck.

3. Green Bay Packers -- my older son's favorite football team. Probably his favorite team (unless you count Notre Dame).

2. Pittsburgh Pirates -- my younger son's favorite baseball team. No question, his favorite team.

1. Pocket the money and take the family on the vacation of a lifetime.

And now for something completely off the wall

You see them on cars -- license frames indicating that the driver is the (fill in team name here) number one fan.

You see them on clothes -- t-shirts indicating that the wearer is the (fill in team name here) number one fan.

You can see them on television -- people often doing the most idiotic and stupid things in order to "prove" that they are the (fill in team name here) number one fan.

Well, meet Eric Barr. What he did will test your belief that you are THE number one fan of (fill in your favorite team here).

Ah, FOX...you do love to play hardball!

And because it does, baseball fans in New York and Philadelphia might be left without the sport today.

Confused? Don't be. The answer is as simple as understanding one giant playing rough and tumble business with another. And as usual, in the short term, the consumer loses.

Examining the past and present

The stain of fascism remains one of the darkest periods in the history of the 20th century, and it will forever be linked to Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany.

Note it should not forever be linked to Germany, which has acknowledged its mistakes and moved forward to be one of Europe's powerhouse nations. But an exhibit that has opened in Berlin is causing Germany and its people to once again assess how much of what happened in the 1930s and 1940s was caused by a lack of willingness to prevent Hitler's rise.

Communism is another political/economic theory shown to be deeply troubling, but unlike fascism it continues to hold firm in a few countries. One of them is China, where questions are being asked about the nation's human rights efforts.

An affirmation of the power of personal freedom, government representing (not dominating) the people, tolerance and similar "democratic" values is, in my opinion, at the root of the two stories highlighted above. The Germans get that. Some courageous Chinese do as well.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Not again!

Another Latin American country.

Another mine accident.

Do you really doubt...

...that one of the reasons we continue to see such "interesting characters" (ahem, that's a euphemism for something else, ahem) entering politics is because too many people of real character have decided they want no part of it?

And if you agree, then also take it a step further -- what does that say for the health of our democracy that people such as (fill in whatever name you want here) IS front-and-center in the political process while (fill in whatever name you want here) is NOT?

Do you see the problem?

Those on the right run into real trouble when they tell you they want the government to get out of people's lives...but they also want the government to legislate morality.

Nope, you can't have it both ways.

Those on the left run into real trouble when they tell you they want the government to be proactive...but that the government has no right discussing abortion or same-sex marriage.

Nope, you can't have it both ways.

Go ahead, folks, tell me how both sides are going to worm their way out of this one.

Sure, let's make an "exception" and require the government to be less involved AND allow it to legislate morality. You're telling me that's fair? You're telling me that's the only exception -- because God (!!) wants it that way.

Okay, let's make an "exception" and require the government to be more involved BUT let's not allow it to re-examine abortion and same-sex marriage. You're telling me that's the only exception -- because America ought not be a land where rights are denied and bigotry is tolerated.

I see.

Now that I've royally hacked off the right and the left, I'm done with this post. But not done listening to reasonable arguments about the government's role in our lives.

Doing the right thing

Kudos to the National Republican Senatorial Committee for making the correct call. This from Politico's Mike Allen:

The National Republican Senatorial Committee fired Jamestown Associates, a media consulting firm, and apologized to West Virginia voters after committee officials learned that the firm was responsible for the derogatory term "hicky" in the casting call for an ad. The NRSC also said committee officials had unknowingly made "inaccurate statements" when a furor arose over the ad, which has been pulled from the air. POLITICO revealed last week that the casting call for the ad had called for actors with "a 'hicky' blue collar look ... think coal miner/trucker looks." The NRSC said in the statement firing Jamestown: "When originally confronted last week, they flatly denied having anything to do with the unacceptable language, and we took them at their word." 

I'm a bit biased on this one -- my wife's family is from southeast Ohio (and close to West Virginia) and as a result I've seen first hand over the past 15 years the warmth, generosity and kindness of many from the Mountain State. You can call them hicks, if you want; but please spare me the stereotypical baloney. I'm not interested in offensive characterizations.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

“I had the privileged position to put the cameras where I wanted"

The man who brought into your living room or onto your computer the rescue of the 33 miners in Chile is a long-time television producer.

This is his story.

An estimated one billion television viewers!!!

If 33 miners had been trapped for 69 days in the United States...

...then you could have counted on:

1. Republicans blaming the Obama administration for not doing enough to get them out
2. Democrats blaming Republicans for putting petty politics ahead of the country
3. Liberals hammering away at deregulation for causing gross negligence in the protection of all workers
4. The religious right carrying through a non-stop prayer group at the mine site
5. 24 hour-a-day verbal nothingness from the cable networks
6. Multiple lawsuits having been filed on the first day of the collapse
7. One media network promoting FOREVER that it was the first to report live from the scene
8. The television media demanding that they be allowed to broadcast the conversations between the miners and their families
9. Each major professional sports organization holding a "collection for the miners" day before one of its games
10. Sarah Palin reminding us that such accidents never happened in Alaska when she was governor

Don't rush...don't ask, don't tell!!!!

This from Politico.com:

The Obama administration has asked for an emergency stay of a judge’s order banning worldwide enforcement of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” law banning gays in the military. The Justice Department vows to appeal the ruling, and argues that President Barack Obama favors an ‘orderly’ legislative repeal of the 1993 law.

Fascinating

Let's hope the world never has to experience a near 3-month ordeal in which miners are trapped underground. But if it does, the lessons learned from Chile are vital.

And as the celebration in Chile continues (and the celebration could become even more intense if the miners are released from a hospital as early as today), I imagine that medical schools, doctors, psychologists, nutritionists and other medical-based professionals are getting ready to bone up on a wealth of new data that come from 33 men who are now free.

Amazing.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Chile...

...

let the party begin!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Chi-chi-chi-le-le-le!!!!

Uno mas!!!

Uno mas!!!!

Think about this

Sometime later tonight (ET), one of the rescue workers will be the last person to see the inside of the mine in Chile where 33 miners have spent almost 2-1/2 months. He will be the final person lifted out of the mine, though he obviously will not be lifted to freedom.

I wondered at one point today that if I were him, what feelings would I have during those approximate 45 minutes when I will be truly alone. Sure, there will be communication with the crew above, but what would I feel, think and see as I awaited the cylindrical capsule that would bring me to the surface and end (at least for a few days) the fascination with the 33 miners.

Perhaps I would thank God for caring for the miners. Perhaps I would look around in amazement and wonder how those men lived there for those many days. Perhaps I would try to pick up a few things that I thought (or knew) would be precious keepsakes for one or more of the miners.

What about you?

ABC to air special on Chile's rescue of miners

It will air tonight at 10:00.

Think back to 1986, when the space shuttle exploded (on live television, at least if you were watching CNN). Granted, cable was a "player" at that time, but America -- psychologically, if nothing else -- turned to the over-the-air networks for analysis and an understanding of how that tragedy could have happened.

Now? Not likely. I suspect that because ABC is "first" among the networks to present such a program, ratings will be strong. But gone are the days that we immediately turn to ABC, CBS or NBC for that understanding, information, etc. associated with a major event.

Is this the right thing to do?

The state of Georgia will bar illegal immigrants from attending many of the state's public higher education institutions if certain conditions are present.

Good idea? What's your opinion?

A beautiful day

Perhaps never before has that U2 song seemed so appropriate for the world.

As the rescue of 33 miners continues in Chile (as of 1:00 p.m. EDT, 17 have been pulled to the surface), the wonder and amazement at the operation also continues.

The first of the miners was lifted to freedom just after a new day began (Chile time). It is expected that it will take slightly more than 24 hours to get all the men back to the surface, which they haven't seen in 69 days.

The capsule -- called the "Phoenix" -- that is carrying the men to freedom has worked as it was designed. If you have watched any of the coverage dating to last night (and I hope you have), then you are perhaps also taken comfort in how relaxed and happy everyone at the rescue site appears to be.

There could be some tension later today (and ABC News' news judgment perhaps needs to be called into question) as one of the miners could be greeted at the surface by his wife and his mistress. ABCNews.com's headline for the story is a bit too salacious for my taste, but you might see it another way.

The story of the trapped miners remains almost innocent at this point, but I wonder what will happen once all 33 men get their legs under them. Will the potential for fame and money undermine their collective solidarity? Will they tell tales in an effort to sell books?

We can hope they don't.

Nancy Pelosi is such a drag...

...on Democrats as the 2010 election nears.

My opinion? Nope. Here is an excerpt from a report in today's Politico (and appearing in Jonathan Allen's "The Huddle":

'In the home stretch of the 2010 campaign, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, more than even President Barack Obama, is emerging as the heaviest drag on Democratic hopes ... [F]rom Florida's Gold Coast to central Ohio, in the Ozark Mountains, on the Minnesota prairie and in retiree-laden Arizona, Pelosi's face, plastered on billboards, recorded in video clips and emblazoned on mailers, is casting a pall ... 

[P]olls show her image has been transformed from a barrier-breaking politician into something less lofty, a Democratic Newt Gingrich,' we write. 'The pressure to break with Pelosi is intense. Along I-95 in South Florida, massive billboards depict Rep. Ron Klein as a marionette with Pelosi as puppeteer. ...

The list of those threatening to withhold their votes for a return Pelosi engagement is growing by the hour: Reps. Heath Shuler of North Carolina, [Bobby] Bright of Alabama, Gene Taylor of Mississippi, Peter DeFazio of Oregon and Scott Murphy of New York. ... It's enough to raise the question of whether Pelosi can hold the speakership in the event Democrats maintain control with a narrow margin ... 

'If you like what you're getting from this administration as a general matter, and this Congress -- Speaker Pelosi in particular -- then don't vote for me but for my opponent,' [Republican Tim Griffin of Arkansas] said, 'because you'll get more of that.' ... 

It's not hard to see why Ms. Pelosi is out of favor. She, even more so than the president, is viewed as a champion of big government, and her almost defiant attitude in terms of getting big-ticket legislation passed has set her up as Republicans' (current) public enemy number 1.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Use whatever adjective you want...

...what you are witnessing if you are watching the rescue of the miners in Chile is the humanitarian story of the year. And because of it, in a world in which we fight over religion, politics, taxes and who ought to legally be married to whom, tonight can we simply come together and celebrate our humanity.

Perhaps what is taking place in Chile is a miracle. Perhaps it is a testament to technology. Perhaps it is a result of the force of will.

It doesn't matter. Enjoy it. Celebrate it. Share it.

Who knows when the world can celebrate its humanity again.


As Chile (hopefully) celebrates... (UPDATED, 11:13 p.m. ET)

12th UPDATE: 11:13 p.m. EDT: The tears from that little girl -- that is your photograph of the year.

11th UPDATE: Here he is!!!


10th UPDATE: 11:00 p.m. ET: Perhaps 10 more minutes.


9th UPDATE: It will take perhaps 15 minutes for the miner to reach the earth. Away he goes! His name is Florencia Avalos.

8th UPDATE: It appears the first to-be-rescued miner has entered the cylindrical tube that will lift him to safety.


7th UPDATE: The video of the men gathered around a rescue worker -- how quickly before that video becomes one of the iconic images in television history?

6th UPDATE: The rescue worker has reached the miners! Hugs and laughter can be seen. Wow. Just wow. Amazing. He is now speaking to them.


5th UPDATE: The rescue worker has begun his descent down the shaft.


4th UPDATE: The rescue worker who will be sent down the rescue shaft to examine the shaft is about to enter the cylindrical tube that will eventually carry all 33 miners to safety. After the rescue worker is sent down and then up, the final steps before the capturing of the first miner will begin.

As the worker climbed into the tube, television images showed his colleagues breaking out in song and cheers.


3rd UPDATE: As that precious and almost rudimentary-looking contraption enters the earth and dives deeper on each test, I find myself wondering what members of the 33 miners must be thinking. Imagine you are the family of the miner who will be pulled out first; you know that about 2 hours from now (it's 9:45 ET), the man you love will be hoisted to freedom. You will see him, touch him, hug him.

And if you are the family of the 33rd and final miner -- a foreman -- you know that those feelings cannot be felt by you until perhaps Thursday morning.

2nd UPDATE: Good report here from The New York Times. It suggests the lives of the 33 men who are expected to be freed between late Tuesday and Thursday (ET) might never be the same again.


1st UPDATE: Here is the order in which the miners will be released. This BBC report also offers a profile of each of the 33 men.


ORIGINAL POST:...I wonder tonight what many, many families in nearby southeast Ohio and West Virginia must be thinking.

They couldn't be blamed if they didn't feel a sense of amazement but also resentment that 33 miners trapped for 68 days in Chile are likely to be freed within hours, all the while knowing that too many of their loved ones have died in mining accidents close to home.

I have said on multiple occasions over the past days that I firmly believe what is taking place in Chile must be considered the humanitarian story of the year. And perhaps longer.

No, I've not followed the progression of this story with anywhere near the intensity I would have had one of those 33 men been a loved one or a friend. But tonight, I confess to being mesmerized. No baseball. No hockey. Tonight is a night in which I want to see the human spirit rewarded.

I am watching live coverage from CNN.com, and as I do I am excited to see the smiles and positive energy being exhibited by the rescue team. Those men (and I see no women among them, so forgive me if there is a female that I am neglecting) are not actors; I can only assume that their emotions are genuine.

In a few hours (perhaps around midnight ET), the first of the 33 miners is expected to reach the surface. And a celebration will begin in Chile that should extend for days.

I can only hope that too many families in Ohio, West Virginia and elsewhere will take comfort in what they are seeing. But their tears will flow.

A change in Washington

The Washington Post is reporting that the controversial head of the Washington public school system is resigning.

The move comes as no surprise, according to the paper, and it marks the end of one of the most aggressive attempts to make Washington's chronically failing public schools more accountable.

Michelle Rhee's decision comes just days after the head of another school system -- Mark Roosevelt, in Pittsburgh, announced he is stepping down. His tenure was not as controversial, but he, too, attempted to buck years of tradition (and that's a poorly chosen word, I admit) and demand more from the city's school leaders.

That must be a thankless job.

De-duplication

De-what?

An interesting discussion is taking place in Ohio, where librarians are doing away with books. Now before you get into a lather (or start thinking Fahrenheit 451), read this to find out why.

Do I like the idea? No. But as state governments continue to pare, often to the bone, anything viewed as extravagant is going to be in financial limbo.

Don't ask...

...don't tell.

Seriously. Don't ask. Don't tell. This from The New York Times:

A federal judge ordered the government on Tuesday to stop enforcing the "don't ask, don't tell" policy, ending the military's 17-year-old ban on openly gay troops.

U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillips's ruling was widely cheered by gay rights organizations.

Department of Justice attorneys have 60 days to appeal. Legal experts say the department is under no legal obligation to do so and could let Judge Phillips's ruling stand.



Why do I think the culture war over this issue has only just begun?

Tonight...

...if all goes according to plan, the first of the 33 trapped Chilean miners will be freed.

The humanitarian story of the year, my friends.

The reality of local television news...

...is (often) that when a new general manager comes in, a current news director heads out.

Such is the case in Minneapolis.

Fair? Perhaps not. But that is part of the business. And you know that risk going in.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Journalism is starting to look like sports...

...where a cast of role players serves as a platform and context for highly paid, high-impact players.

That, for me, is the take-away line from this interesting story from David Carr

As you read it, you, too, should consider the implications of brand-name journalism.

You can argue with me...but you'd be wrong

I'm open minded about most things. Most things.

I welcome a good argument about most things. Most things.

But there are a few things (and this is not the complete list) on which you won't get me to budge:

1. Dislike military policy all you want, but you had better appreciate the service of that person in uniform
2. Free speech is protected, but that legal nicety doesn't mean you should abuse the right
3. Don't vote...don't complain (or praise)
4. Petty politics is a recipe for eventual failure
5. Those who want to see failure are not team players
6. Steroids have no place in sports, no matter the level at which you are playing
7. No religion, no country, no person can claim superiority over another
8. Education is among the most special gifts you can give another person
9. A personal choice is no one's business, unless a law is being broken
10. Mess with the environment, mess with your heir's future

A plug for a television program

God in America.

PBS.

Monday through Wednesday.

Why not watch it? I will.

Haven't I seen that logo on...

...(fill-in-the-blank) college or professional team?

Yes, in fact, you have. And whether the use of the familiar logo is a violation of trademark rules is clear, but that misses the point. What causes some college programs to pursue trademark violation (usually through cease-and-desist orders) and many professional teams to look the other way is the intriguing element to this story in today's Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

There are two ways to view this story: Is imitation the most sincere form of flattery? Or is imitation the most insincere form of plagiarism and sending the wrong message to teenagers?

I'm siding with the second one. You are invited to chime in.

Are the media playing Favre-ites?

It was inevitable -- at some point the question of whether the media are treating Brett Favre differently (and more kindly) than they did Tiger Woods was going to be asked.

As you probably know, the Minnesota Vikings' quarterback is at the center of what I call a "woman scandal"; he reportedly repeatedly contacted a former New York Jets' employee, escalating his attempts at getting her attention by sending unacceptable photos. The young woman is no longer an employee of the NFL team, but the NFL is still obligated to investigate what might have happened. This scandal developed about two years ago when Favre was a quarterback for the team, but it only became public knowledge a few days ago.

The inevitable comparisons to Woods are expected. The similarities (we are supposed to accept) include a famous, married athlete, who also is a father, who also is supposed to be a role model, who also...you get the idea. Yet, the "how could he?" kind of reporting that followed the initial hours of the unveiling of the Woods' scandal has not been foisted on Favre. (At least not yet.)

You already can hear the "reason" -- the color of the athletes' skin.

To that, I say spare me.

Let's acknowledge some important differences:

1. The initial stories about Woods developed after he was involved in a single-car accident; in other words, a "legitimate" news story, heightened by Woods' refusal to answer any questions about it, ensured that Woods already was on the media's radar

2. The Woods' scandal also developed over a holiday weekend and when the PGA season was over; in other words, he filled a void -- the media needed a story and there were no PGA events to attract media coverage

3. Favre is a special athlete, who deserves to be considered among the best to ever play his position, but the NFL remains a "team" sport; in other words, media attention to any one NFL player will be somewhat muted in comparison to sports such as golf and tennis, which are "individual" sports

4. Woods assisted in creating the idea that he was the perfect man; in other words, when the media and the public learned what kind of scumbag he was, it came as much more of a surprise than it would have if he had not tried to be so different, unique and superior

Am I defending the media? No. Am I suggesting that what Woods did is worse than what Favre is accused of doing? No. What I am saying is that the "these stories are similar" story lines are inaccurate.

While we are at it, let's also acknowledge that Favre could turn out to be as big a scumbag as Woods is; but at the end of the day, both men (presuming no laws were broken by Favre) are guilty of nothing more than using incredibly stupid judgment. Let's move on to more important stories.

It's a parade!

And being the good dad, Kim Jong Il took his son to see it.

As you look at the video, notice that father and son act so lovingly toward each other. They demonstrate such a caring image for the people they lord over, oops, I mean, lead.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Viva la Chile! (UPDATED)

1st UPDATE: Good story from CNN about the miners' health, physical activity and lifestyle. And let's remember that reaching them is not the same as pulling them out.


ORIGINAL POST: And if I've obliterated the Spanish language in using those words, I apologize. But let's continue to acknowledge that THE humanitarian story of the year continues to unfold in Chile.

This from the Los Angeles Times:

A powerful drill broke through on Saturday to 33 miners who have been trapped nearly half a mile underground for more than two months, completing a hole for them to be hauled to the surface, according to the Associated Press.

But a rescue will still be days away, and officials warned that the operation was entering its most dangerous phase.

Friday, October 08, 2010

My 11-year-old is not going to be happy... (UPDATED TO CORRECT FACTUAL ERROR)

...if the allegations are true.

Granted, no professional athlete is perfect, but the public is not asking them to be that. We are asking them to act in a responsible way. Whether that's fair is not the point -- the public expects it.

I could care less what any athlete does in his personal life, provided that none of those actions violates any law. (Thus, while Tiger Woods is a major-league jerk, his actions cannot be compared to those that Ben Roethlisberger was accused of. But neither man can regain whatever respect I once might have had for them.)

Let's assume for a moment that the aforementioned story is true and that Brett Favre wanted to engage in a little hanky-panky with a former New York Jets' employee (original identified her as a television sports reporter). Presuming everything he did was legal (remember, let's not count ethical or moral), then he becomes just the latest of a long line of professional male athletes who wanted to play on a field they shouldn't have stepped on.

Unfortunately, as the father of an 11-year-old who really thinks the world of Brett Favre, I'm going to again have to have that conversation about why men sometimes do really stupid things.

Adios, PBS

This one caught me by surprise: KCET, the long-time PBS-affiliated station in Los Angeles, has chosen to sever that relationship.

The following comes from the Los Angeles Times:

KCET, the PBS affiliate in Los Angeles, has decided to break away from the public broadcasting network and become an independent station. Station officials intend to replace such PBS series as "Charlie Rose" and "NewsHour" with news and documentaries from Japan, Canada and elsewhere, along with old feature films. 

A story worth following. 

Meet Matt Casey

Who?

Matt Casey is likely not a familiar name to you, and that might be true even if you were a die-hard lacrosse fan. But it's what Mr. Casey does during the off-season that makes him someone worthy of your attention.

Oooh, China is mad!

When a nation fails to hold itself to internationally accepted practices regarding human rights, then it should expect that various attempts will be made to poke that nation, metaphorically, in the eye.

Today, the Nobel committee did just that by awarding its Peace Prize to jailed Chinese activist Liu Xiaobo. China reacted harshly to the decision, which saw to it that the announcement was not made available to its people.

World leaders see it differently, suggesting that Mr. Liu's award is in fact a legitimate commentary on what he has done to advance human rights in his homeland. 

Sorry, China. You had this one coming.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Now you begin to see why...

...being labeled "biased" can haunt you.

Check out what the New York Times says is being considered by NBC Universal and Microsoft about the website msnbc.com.

Yes, my friends, liberal or conservative, a perceived or real bias is not good.

Hey, let's stereotype West Virginians!

Sure, that would be a GREAT idea! (Not!)

So why exactly did the Republicans do it?

They might have had more success painting the president as too eager, too quick to broker a deal between the Arabs and the Israelis. But I'm sure they figured West Virginians would be too stupid to understand international diplomacy.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

A no-hitter in baseball's post-season

Hey, what more needs to be said? Kudos, Roy Halladay!!!

ABC and Facebook

The place to turn for your election coverage? This November, the answer is yes.

I'm sure men and women who have spent considerable time in the television news business are mortified that a television icon would partner with a social media outlet to provide election-night reporting. (And I can only imagine as they sit together in heaven what David Brinkley and Peter Jennings must be saying to each other right about now. Oh, come on, you would want to be part of that conversation if it were taking place down here.)

Who knows, some of those old-timers (a term of endearment, in this case) might agree with me (and, no, that doesn't make me an old-timer, thank you very much) that partnerships such as this one are logical and practical based on the changing media environment in which we live.

Like it or not, the media business is still that -- a business. Yes, the corporate owners of today's media agencies care too much about profit, but let's not forget they have as much right to make money as any other business.

If a working agreement with Facebook drives more traffic to ABC News (and vice versa), then that's a win for both companies.

If a working agreement also ensures that ABC News will be able to deliver more coverage of election night, then that is a win for the public.

Now if only I could have met with Mr. Jennings before he passed away.

You must be kidding me

The "news" that President Obama is considering asking Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to be his running mate in 2012 sure is generating interest among news organizations.

But to this point it is generated off one person's reporting; and while there is nothing wrong with a single reporter developing a story, it seems to me that the reputation of the author is the reason behind the swirl of interest. Is Bob Woodward still such a paramount name inside the beltway that everything he writes sends news organizations into a lather?

Does that same sentiment exist outside the beltway?

Mind you, I'm not questioning the credentials of Mr. Woodward; I consider him a journalism icon and would love to meet him one day. But, come on, let's not go overboard with this.

Oh, wait, the story is "released" in September and at a time when the fortunes of Democrats remain murky at best with the midterm elections. So, maybe...nah, this story wouldn't have been planted so as to distract the media and the public.

Big changes at the... (UPDATED AT BOTTOM)

ORIGINAL POST: ...Pittsburgh Public School system.

Surprise, at least to me -- Superintendent Mark Roosevelt will announce today he is stepping down after 5 years on the job.

1st UPDATEMore details from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on where Mr. Roosevelt might be heading.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Call me a fan...

...of those NHL teams that are returning to their "old" uniforms.

Nothing wrong with trying to change with the times, but sometimes change for change sake doesn't work. When it comes to uniforms for various sports teams, "old" is still cool.

Among my favorites (and in no particular order):

1. St. Louis Cardinals
2. Dallas Cowboys
3. Boston Celtics
4. New York Yankees
5. Montreal Canadiens

Because you can (legally)...

...does (or doesn't?) mean you should -- (for each of the following, offer your yea/nay vote and an accompanying explanation)

1. Burn the flag
2. Protest U.S. military policy at a military funeral
3. Attempt to shout down a politician delivering a public speech
4. Openly debase religions to which you don't adhere
5. Post hostile words on the Internet

Okay, vote.

Sanchez was not only foolish...

...he was wrong.

Bravo, Rick Sanchez. Nothing like saying something ridiculous, getting fired and then getting called out on what you said.

This goodbye has me saying...HELLO! (Not)

You're surprised by Howard Kurtz opting to leave the Washington Post for the Daily Beast?

Why?

I mean no disrespect to America's newspaper industry -- and certainly none to the Washington Post -- but as a career decision, this was a good one.

The president is again reaching out to...

...young people.

And kudos to Politico's Mike Allen for digging up this exclusive:

Viacom will announce today that its cable networks BET, CMT and MTV will air a one-hour, commercial-free youth town hall with President Obama at 4 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 14. "Let's Talk: A Conversation with President Obama" will air live before an audience of approximately 250 young people, representing a broad cross-section of backgrounds, interests and political viewpoints. It's a production of MTV News and BET News and will be hosted by MTV's Sway Calloway, BET's April Woodard and CMT's Katie Cook. Obama will answer questions from the studio audience as well as from viewers who submit questions via Twitter.

You're a...political...candidate?

If you are surprised to see your political candidates on television these days, you are not alone. Politico's Jonathan Martin reports that candidates from both parties, but more so Republicans, are dodging the media as much as they can. Here's an excerpt:

So rather than present the opportunity for an encounter that might later surface in an opponent's TV ad, the candidates prefer to risk an image of them fleeing cameras and shouted questions as protective aides whisk them into the safety of a waiting car. Call it the political equivalent of Dean Smith's 'Four Corners' offense: As the election grows near, and some of the media-shy candidates draw close in the polls, they're effectively running out the clock.

The full report can be accessed here.

Sad. Very sad.

But the joke is on us, the voters, if we allow such a strategy to germinate and take hold in subsequent political races. It's our democracy, America, that is being sacrificed.

Monday, October 04, 2010

An Olympian's death...

...was an accident. And brought on by his inexperience as a luger.

Thus ends (for now) the terrible story of Nodar Kumaritashvili, the 21-year-old Georgian who died on the eve of the Vancouver Opening Ceremonies after a horrible accident on the luge track.

You'll recall that at the time there was an intriguing debate about the decision by some national network news programs to show the final seconds of the practice run, including the ending during which Kumaritashvili pinballed off the track and into a steel pillar.

He died instantly.

Now the larger question is how do the media use the video (and the accompanying still photos) to assist them in reminding their audiences about the accident. No, I wouldn't recommend to any of them that the video be used.

You are invited to disagree.

Ah, Rupert

You do like America and you do like Britain. And you definitely like using the laws of those nations to advance your media holdings and political agenda.

Ah, how lucky we are to know you.

Let us remember, as well, that you probably support Murdoch if you also support the notion of as little government involvement in business as possible. And you certainly must love Murdoch for corralling as many Republican presidential aspirants as he can.

Now just imagine what might happen if one of those Fox employees (spouting the usual fair and balanced approach to news) at some point becomes the President of the United States.

You are a college student...overseas

So is it time to panic?

College administrators are doing their best to convince those young men and women not to panic over the State Department's travel alert about Europe.

The students might listen. Will their parents?

Big (bum) Ben is back

All appears well in Pittsburgh.

The weather is starting to resemble fall. A new arena already has had intriguing acts and welcomes the beloved hockey team later this week. And the even more beloved Steelers are playing well.

Topping off the enthusiasm is the return of the immensely talented Ben Roethlisberger. The quarterback has completed his four-game suspension brought on from his stupid behavior in Georgia, where he stood accused of an improper encounter with a young woman.

Roethlisberger could have faced fare worse than the four-game penalty he could have received; in fact, he could have spent several years in prison and watched his career come to an end.

Of course, there are many, many Steelers' fans quick to forgive (but we won't ask about forget) because "Big Ben" is their guy. These remain the same people who couldn't possibly forgive and definitely not forget Michael Vick, another gifted and troubled quarterback, who almost threw away his career because he thought it was a good idea to kill a few dogs.

These also are the same fans who can't possible forgive (and they will never forget) Barry Bonds, the best baseball player of this generation if you ask me. Bonds began his career in Pittsburgh before heading to San Francisco, where his father and godfather spent most of their professional careers.

So, what's the point? Simple. If Roethlisberger was on another team, he'd be hated in this town. He might be a sleaze-bag, but he is Pittsburgh's sleaze-bag.

Sure, go ahead and root for him, people. But if you again call him a hero, the joke is on you.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Note shredding in Arkansas

Chill out, Republicans...this is not some long-ago skulduggery involving the Clinton administration.

Instead, the question surrounding this story is whether a search committee at a public institution acted properly when it had its notes from a presidential search meeting shredded.

I can answer that one with one word -- yes. (Based upon the information available in the aforementioned story, there is no other answer conclusion you could draw.)