Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Your top sports stories of the year

As with any such endeavor, there is a hefty amount of "you must be kidding!" associated with this list. So, as you read on, be prepared to tell me I'm off "base" or not "stick"-ing to things I know. Of course, you are invited to tell me if you got a "kick" out of this list, too.

10. The New Orleans Saints wash away years of ineptitude and frustration by winning the Super Bowl. A city in real need of a pick-me-up gets one.

9. UConn't touch this. The UConn women's basketball team completes another undefeated season by winning the national championship. The Huskies are approaching 90 straight wins.

8. A college football dynasty comes crashing down. USC learns that it must vacate wins and a national championship earned during the time Reggie Bush played there. Bush also gives up his 2005 Heisman Trophy, becoming the first person to hand back college football's top prize. The team's head coach scampers off to the NFL, claiming his innocence at every opportunity, and the school's athletic director is shoved out the door.

7. JJ JJ JJ JJ JJ. In an era in which a two-time champion is suddenly thrown into a discussion of "the best ever" comes Jimmie Johnson, who in late 2010 won his fifth consecutive NASCAR championship.

6. Spain finally wins soccer's World Cup, which for too many people will be remembered by the vuvuzelas that blared through various South African stadiums.

5. Manny Pacquiao defends his welterweight title in March, then wins the super welterweight title in November. In doing so, he becomes the first boxer to win championships in eight different weight classes.

4. No, no, no, no, almost no, no, no. Major League Baseball's pitchers throw no-hitters seemingly every night, including two by Philadelphia's Roy Halladay with one coming in the post-season. But it's umpire Jim Joyce's blown call that costs Detroit's Armando Gallaraga his perfect game. The professionalism displayed by Joyce and Gallaraga overshadow the terrible moment.

3. Tiger Woods' fall from grace. Combine arrogance with years of narcissism and you get a man who for too long became convinced he was better than everyone and therefore could do what he wanted. Woods could end up winning the most major championships of any professional golfer, but his image can now never match those of golf's elite.

2. The USA and Canada gold medal game at the Vancouver Olympics. If you watched it, you loved it (even if you are American); if you didn't watch it, that's a shame.

1. 6-4, 3-6, 6-7, 7-6, 70-68. John Isner and Nicolas Mahut play a truly epic fifth set at Wimbledon.

Hillary Clinton "should resign"

Okay, you can stop laughing at this point. No, really. Come on, stop.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange attracted more attention to himself today, but for something he did. Rather, it was for something he said:
 
"...she should resign if it can be shown that she was responsible for ordering U.S. diplomatic figures to engage in espionage in the United Nations, in violation of the international covenants to which the U.S. has signed up. Yes, she should resign over that."

Assange made his comments to TIME, and you can read more of what he said here.

Assange also suggested today that a prominent American bank will be the next target of his responsible/irresponsible tactics to uncover secrets that governments (and apparently businesses) would rather keep hidden. In an interview with Forbes, Assange said the document release will come early next year.
 
If he is to succeed, he might have to move more quickly than that -- Interpol made an announcement of its own today, telling the world that it has added Assange to its wanted list for sex crimes.

Assange could go to Ecuador, a country that says it will accept him without reservations.

Whether he intended to, Assange has turned the story about WikiLeaks into one about him. That arrogance could undermine his quest (if that's what it is) to force governments (and businesses) to come clean about their activities. He would be wise to retain as low a profile as possible, recognizing of course that he cannot hide for long.

Watch FOX News if...

...you want to see the Republican presidential aspirants attempt to bolster their chances for success.

My opinion? No. Instead it is political strategist Dick Morris making that claim. At one point, Morris writes:

The quarter finals will not be waged in the cornfields of Iowa or the former mill towns of New Hampshire. They will be held in the living rooms of America among the Fox News audience!

The share of the GOP electorate that watches Fox News has become so dominant that the early stages of the Republican nominating process will be held on its air waves. It is there – not in the early morning handshaking at factory gates in Iowa and New Hampshire – that we will meet the candidates and come to choose our favorites.

Our favorites? Our?

Morris does make a valid point -- no Republican can afford to bypass the loud megaphone that is FOX News. In fact, it is a terribly inexpensive way to reach a wide audience. Sure, being on FOX News won't allow any candidate to tailor a specific message to a specific state, but he or she will be able to lay out the credentials that he or she believes are necessary to be president.

I've been thinking...

...and, yes, I know -- that can be a dangerous thing. You should see the smoke coming from my ears; the gears inside my head are straining at this point.

Seriously, play along with me here for a minute --

1. China (among many nations) is tipped off by the U.S. that the WikiLeaks release is going to include embarrassing disclosures

2. China knows some of those cables indicate it is not as powerful an ally as North Korea wants and needs it to be

3. China warns North Korea that the world is soon to learn about this

4. North Korea fires missiles at South Korea to force China's hand -- are you with us or against us?

Am I thinking too hard about this one?

It's a little too little...it's a little too late

If you are old enough to remember that line from a Pat Benatar song, then you might want to sing it as you walk past the White House today.

The Obama administration is now clamping down on the sharing of information within various governmental agencies, a move that stems from the release of about 250,000 confidential cables by WikiLeaks. That's just one of many moves the White House is making as it attempts to soften the blow from the information contained in the WikiLeaks release.

There appears to be significant work to be done in this area.

Various documents pertaining to North Korea continue to dominate mainstream media coverage, including a report in the Financial Times that suggests China might be less of an ally than Pyongyang might have first thought. That story begins this way:

A progressive new generation of Chinese officials is telling international counterparts that Beijing could ultimately accept the Korean peninsula unifying under Seoul’s control....
 
And there is something else to consider -- will WikiLeaks continue its non-stop effort at demanding openness by attempting to find secretive Chinese documents? At least one critic doubts that. 
You could make that two, if you like.

Monday, November 29, 2010

An iPad-only newspaper

It's coming...thanks to Rupert Murdoch.

This report comes on the heels of one critic suggesting that the newspaper industry's belief that digital devices such as Kindle and the iPad is shortsighted.

Good evening...

...topping our news tonight:

A fire which hurt no one but is amazingly important to us here at Brainless News because we have great video of flames! Let's go live to our reporter Bubble Brain for more on this story!

....

Thank you, Brain. City police made an interesting discovery when they arrived at this house on Main Street around one o-clock today...this cute furry little guy.

His name is Fuzzy, and Fuzzy might very well have used up one of his nine lives after accidentally setting off the house alarm. Police captain Rock Johnson tells us Fuzzy's owners won't be ticketed for the false alarm.

....

City police say they really need your help to figure out why two men ran off with 15-hundred dollars worth of shaving cream. The still unidentified bandits robbed Johnson's Pharmacy on First Avenue two nights ago -- you are looking at video of their brazen break-in that took place in the dead of night -- and made off with the cream. Nothing else was taken.

....

Tonight's gonna be a good night...for Black Eyed Peas fans. Will-I-Am...Fergie and the rest of the absolutely incredible band is in concert tonight at the Downtown Waiting For A Corporate Name Arena. And that's where our reporter Non Sense can be found.

....

Yes, my friends...local news sometimes can be so incredibly interesting. And important, too!

If North Korea collapsed...

This from the New York Times:

With North Korea reeling from economic and succession crises, American and South Korean officials early this year secretly began gaming out what would happen if the North, led by one of the world's most brutal family dynasties, collapsed, according to a cable from the American ambassador.

However, the cables on North Korea, part of a cache of secret State Department cables obtained by Wikileaks and made available to a number of news organizations, are long on guesses and short on facts, even when containing the thoughts of diplomats from China, the North's ally.


But there was at least one particularly interesting nugget -- a hint that China might be prepared to dump its long-standing and almost non-critical support for Pyongyang.

Various American officials might be short on facts but they weren't short on rhetoric today, as Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton led the barrage of attacks against WikiLeaks for its release of more than 250,000 confidential cables. President Obama went a step further, suggesting that a criminal case against WikiLeaks is possible.

As the Washington Post notes, the problem with trying to keep so many secrets is that whenever they are leaked, they become instead like a flood. 

With WikiLeaks continuing to anger and confound the U.S. government (not to mention others), you can expect that it will be emboldened in its efforts to make public the kind of information the White House and other governmental organizations would like to keep hidden. 

$90.50

If you want to see Glenn Beck in person in Pittsburgh, you'd better have deep pockets.

Ah, greed is good.

I'll TCU in the Big East

Now this comes as a surprise -- Texas Christian University is joining the Big East Conference.

The move goes into effect in July 2012, and it offers the latest shakeup to the major and mid-level conferences that make up the NCAA. Consider that with these recent changes:

1. The Pac-10 and Big-10 grew
2. The Big-12 lost two key members
3. The Mountain West gained...and lost...members
4. The Big East will be (at least) a 9-team football conference and 17-team basketball conference

And don't be surprised if more changes happen in the next year or two.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

WikiLeaks has done it...again

At this point, WikiLeaks falls into one of two camps -- you either admire it and its founder, Julian Assange, for its determined effort to uncover secrets that governments would rather stay hidden, or you think Assange and his cronies ought to be tried for treason (or some similar offense).

WikiLeaks earlier today -- and as promised -- released more than 250,000 formerly secret cables sent from various U.S. embassies. The information will embarrass the United States, as this New York Times story notes, but will they necessarily put anyone in danger as the U.S. government suggests?

The mainstream media are sifting through the Wikileaks treasure trove, and the Los Angeles Times suggests the various cables pertaining to Iran offer a compelling storyline that suggests various Middle Eastern governments fear a nuclear Iran.

The Telegraph notes the U.S. has been paying special attention to the head of the U.N., Ban ki-Moon, and that entire organization.

Don't allow the larger issue to get lost here. And that is that technology can be a force for good (so to speak) or bad (so to speak). And what you think about WikiLeaks likely will influence over the next couple of days what you think about the power of technology.

A "pretext for aggression"

The rhetoric from Pyongyang continues to ramp up in the aftermath of its attack on a South Korean island.

The North Korean government called the beginning of planned military exercises between the United States and South Korea an aggressive act, and one that "could ignite a war."  Increasing the confusion are reports that North Koreans living and working in eastern Russia have been called home.

China, to this point slow to do anything to cool the tensions, has met with South Korean officials and is expected to do the same in a day or so with representatives from North Korea. Japan -- not a diplomatic player in this recent crisis -- nevertheless remains keenly interested in what is happening.

Complicating the situation is a growing determination among South Koreans that some form of retaliation is necessary for the attack that killed four people. For the people who lived on the island that was attacked, their emotions are different -- fear. Many have fled to the mainland, fearing another assault by North Korea, and at least one foreign government has said the obvious -- no one should consider the area a tourist destination.

We know that North Korea is interested in ratcheting up the domestic propaganda in order to ensure that Dear Leader's son -- the heir to the throne -- is seen as a competent, determined leader. Moreover, the "we are under siege from the U.S. and South Korea" drumbeat fuels the nationalistic cries emanating from the government. 

However, firing a missile or two into the Yellow Sea as a sign of strength is one thing. Firing them in the direction of people is quite another. I wonder if that has yet been grasped. And if the ramifications were considered.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

A good man...

...tries to heal a tarnished academic department.

For a variety of reasons, including that I graduated from USC, I want to see Pat Haden succeed. But the job won't be an easy one.

Now, what? (2 x UPDATED)

2nd UPDATE: 10:06 a.m. EST, Nov. 28, 2010: One more look at the projected bowls; a minor tweak here and there, and I'm presuming the favored teams win next week's various games:


ROSE BOWL: Wisconsin against Texas Christian. I learned this morning that there is a contractual obligation requiring the Rose Bowl take any non-automatic qualifying team, and this year that is Texas Christian. So, the ripple effect begins. This is the second-best bowl game of the season. Wisconsin and its stunning offense against Texas Christian and its punishing defense. Don't be surprised if this is the #3 Horned Frogs playing the #4 Badgers.

ORANGE BOWL: Virginia Tech against Connecticut. Geography plays a role here. The Orange Bowl could and likely would want to take Stanford over Connecticut (better team, better record, higher ranking), but bowl game officials like full stadiums. It's a lot easier to sell tickets to Miami to people from Connecticut than it is to those in northern California. The Orange Bowl really wants Ohio State but that won't happen because...

SUGAR BOWL: Arkansas against Ohio State. ...the Sugar Bowl picks the Buckeyes first. And when it comes to selling tickets, few college programs do it better than Ohio State. Sugar Bowl officials also want an SEC team here, so this game matches the ethically challenged Bobby Petrino against the ethically upstanding Jim Tressel. 

FIESTA BOWL: Oklahoma against Stanford. Remember all that red that I thought would be filling the Rose Bowl? Well, shift it to Arizona and change the tint of one of those reds. Will this be Jim Harbaugh's final game on the Stanford sidelines?

BCS NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME: Nothing changes here -- Oregon against Auburn. The over/under for this game ought to be set at around 175,000.

So, what if:
1. Oregon loses to Oregon State? Then switch Oregon and TCU from the above projections.

2. Auburn loses to South Carolina? Get ready...move TCU into the title game, Stanford to the Rose Bowl, South Carolina to the Sugar Bowl (moving Arkansas out), Auburn to the Orange Bowl and Connecticut to the Fiesta Bowl.

3. Both Oregon and Auburn lose?
I think we're looking at an absolute mess (and one that again punches significant holes into the credibility of the BCS, so let's wish for this scenario):
ROSE BOWL: Ohio State and Oregon

ORANGE BOWL: Virginia Tech and Auburn


SUGAR BOWL: South Carolina and Stanford

FIESTA BOWL: Oklahoma and Connecticut

BCS NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME: Wisconsin and Texas Christian


1st UPDATE: 11:53 p.m. EST: As I said, the predictions below were based on there being no upsets. And what happened on Saturday? There were two of them. So, here are my revised projections, and again they are predicated on no upsets.


FIESTA BOWL: Oklahoma (or Nebraska) against Connecticut. It's a shame that Oklahoma and Nebraska can't go their separate ways in this game. Instead, they'll settle their rivalry next weekend in the Big-12 championship game. Oklahoma should get the nod in that game over Oklahoma State and Texas A&M because they will be the highest ranked among the three.

ORANGE BOWL: Virginia Tech against Ohio State. The biggest winner when Boise State turned up a loser was the Big-10, and I'll have more to say about this at the end of this post.

SUGAR BOWL: Arkansas against Texas Christian. I thought about leaving Louisiana State in this spot, but the Tigers will fall deep after losing to Arkansas. There will be an SEC team here, and the Razorbacks -- at least for now -- look like the second best team.

ROSE BOWL: Wisconsin against Stanford. Picture it -- the ROSE bowl with two teams whose primary color is RED. Third-best bowl game.

BCS NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME: Oregon against Auburn. The over/under for this game ought to be set at around 175,000.

ORIGINAL POST: So, one of the darlings of the college football world -- Boise State -- (unfortunately) has taken it on the chin. The Broncos' loss to Nevada last night dumped the 4th ranked team from any chance of winning the (alleged) national championship or of playing in a lucrative BCS bowl game.

With that loss, here are my latest projections about those BCS games, and they are based on an important assumption -- no further upsets.

FIESTA BOWL: Oklahoma State (or Oklahoma or Nebraska) against Connecticut (or West Virginia). You'll watch because there will be nothing else worth watching at the time.

ORANGE BOWL: Virginia Tech against Ohio State (or Michigan State). The biggest winner when Boise State turned up a loser was the Big-10, and I'll have more to say about this at the end of this post.

SUGAR BOWL: Louisiana State against Texas Christian. Second-best bowl game. Fantastic matchup.

ROSE BOWL: Wisconsin against Stanford. Picture it -- the ROSE bowl with two teams whose primary color is RED. Third-best bowl game.

BCS NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME: Oregon against Auburn. The over/under for this game ought to be set at around 175,000.

I wanted to see Boise State run the table and have a chance to play for the national title. Granted, for that to have happened, either Oregon or Auburn also would have had to lose. And Auburn almost blew it yesterday before rallying against arch-rival Alabama.

It's ironic that its loss allows a second team from the Big-10 to make it into the lucrative BCS games. You'll recall it was just a few days ago that Ohio State's president E. Gordon Gee made arrogant comments suggesting that neither Boise State nor Texas Christian deserved a chance to play for the sport's top prize because their schedules were not comparable with the top conferences, including the Big-10 which includes Ohio State.

So, Gee will get to see his Buckeyes (or the Michigan State Spartans, depending upon who finishes higher in the final BCS rankings that come out next weekend) play in one of the big games.

Bummer.

Hey, it's a party...

...and you can throw it only once every four years.

That certainly must explain why those plainning the 2012 Republican National Convention are spending money (open) hand over (greedy) fist!

Sure, there are concerns about such lavish expenditures, but the planners might have supporters elsewhere in the world. They need to only look to Ireland where people are taking to the streets to protest new austerity measures brought on by the recent EU bailout of the country.

All kidding aside, the organizers of the convention need to be responsible in what they are doing. If there is concern about lavish spending, now is the time to address it and correct any problems. The GOP doesn't want "check out how much the Republicans spent" theme underscoring their convention, especially when the politician at the top of the ticket will be using the U.S. deficit and the lavish spending approved by the Obama administration as factors in his or her "please vote for me" platform.

If it's news...

...then no one "owns" it, correct?

Maybe not. This editorial from McClatchy offers an intriguing discussion about when information can, in fact, be owned by the individual or news organization that releases it.

As I read through it, I found myself sliding on that slippery-slope that often makes me uncomfortable. The idea that information can be a commodity adds to my disappointment and concern about modern media that see themselves as profit centers first and information providers second. In the context of the editorial above, a news agency could -- and this is not far-fetched -- release the information it wanted to so as to protect its ownership of it.

In other words, a kind of drip-drip release of tantalizing information so as to ensure that the competitor is always a step behind. (WikiLeaks, to some extent, operates on this principle, except that when it has mountains of information, it releases it in one "dump" -- a terrible news industry term, I admit.) The "owner" of this information profits in various ways, but what does such a policy do to the news consumer?

The problem is compounded by the plethora of information sources that would rather poach news from another news agency rather than invest the time and resources to do its own journalism. One of my concerns about news aggregators is that they compile information that (you think) is important to you while leaving out streams of content that adds to your understanding of the world. And if I'm beginning to sound preachy, I stand guilty as charged.

Then you have the accusation of "bias" that allows anyone to identify a news organization or journalist as such. You might have noticed just a few days ago that Sarah Palin said she would never again agree to an interview with Katie Couric because in Palin's opinion Couric is a real "b"..."biased" journalist. And if you are a fan of "The Simpsons", then you might have caught the not-so-subtle jab the creators of that show delivered to FOX News.

The charge of bias is akin to the charge of being soft on Communism -- one used in the past to keep the pressure on news organizations to offer consistently one-sided and harsh coverage of the Communist world even when the "facts" didn't point in that direction.

Lest you think this commodity idea is limited to news, consider what Facebook is attempting to do -- trademark the word "face." The social networking site wants to do that for one reason and for one reason only -- ensure that it makes as much money as possible from its brand.

You can call that capitalism, and you would be correct. You also could call that greedy, and you would be correct. Do you want Facebook to be able to trademark "face?" I certainly don't. And I certainly don't want any news organization to be on firm legal footing when it attempts to own the "news."

Friday, November 26, 2010

You cannot speak ill of...

...the dead or of Russian politicians.

And at least one person says these days, it's hard to tell the difference. (The story has an embedded link that will take you to the speech.)

I need a job!

Those four words when said by recent college graduates frustrate me perhaps more than any other. And over the past couple of years I've heard more people utter them.

This story from the USA Today offers some solid advice for anyone seeking that important job.

Read it. Study it. And remain positive.

And, yes, I know I'm not the only person saying that.

OMG!!

So, students report they text during class. This is news? Why?

Look, if a student finds a class boring, then he or she absolutely has the right to whip out the cell phone and send someone a note.

And if a faculty member hands out a less than stellar grade to a student who has not paid attention during class, then he or she has the right to do so.

If I cast my vote...(UPDATED)

1st UPDATE: 7:40 p.m. EST:  Newton, in my opinion, cemented the Heisman Trophy today as his Tigers rallied to beat arch-rival Alabama, 28-27. Newton's stats were not his single-game bests for the season, but his determined leadership was on display when his teammates needed it most.

No, the questions about Newton and whether his family pursued money from any institution as a guarantee that he would play for that program will not go away. And Newton still must guide his Tigers past the University of South Carolina in order to play for the (alleged) national championship.

But today Newton showed why he is an incredible talent worthy of winning the sport's most prestigious prize.

ORIGINAL POST: ...for Auburn quarterback Cam Newton for the Heisman Trophy, then what am I saying?

On the other hand, if I don't, then what am I saying?

Today, Auburn plays its archenemy -- Alabama. The Iron Bowl is one of the most heated rivalry in college football, and the potential for Auburn to take another step toward the national title (which Alabama won last season) and for Newton to inch ever closer to winning the Heisman Trophy have turned this year's game into a must-see for college football fans. 

There is no question that Newton has been the most exciting, most valuable and best player in college football this season. He has moved a good Auburn team to the brink of a national championship, and he's done so with a dominance that reminds long-time college football watchers of some of the game's best.

He has earned every vote he gets from people who vote for that award. (And, for the record, I'm not one of them. I doubt anyone thought I did, but the title of this post could have led to some confusion.) However, there is significant concern that voters will pause before selecting Newton as this year's Heisman winner.

The reason: The incessant rumors that his father demanded money from any institution that was interested in Newton playing for it. Let's make clear that at this point there is zero evidence that the Newtons demanded, were offered or took money from anyone associated with Auburn. Moreover, let's also make clear that the media have created this uncertainty about Newton's credibility based on anonymous sources.

So, what is a voter to do?

Selecting Newton as the Heisman recipient is based on at least two rationales:
1. He's been the best player in college football all season long
2. There is no evidence to bolster the rumors surrounding pay-for-play

However, placing someone else atop the Heisman ballot is based on at least two rationales:
1. The Heisman Trophy was significantly tainted this year after the 2005 award to Reggie Bush was vacated because of the unethical activities surrounding him while he played for USC; no one associated with the game wants a potential repeat of this embarrassment if, if, if it is shown that the rumors are true
2. No one associated with the Newton family has made a powerful, clear "we are innocent" type statement

The serious voter -- in other words, the person who acknowledges that there is prestige and responsibility in selecting the honoree -- must pause before making a decision. And in the end, I believe he or she must...

...vote for Newton.

The Heisman Trophy is given to the most talented player in the land. It is not given to the most honest, moral, decent, sure-to-be-an-honorable man. It recognizes what that player did on the football field.

So, today and for the rest of the season, let's savor the talent that is Cam Newton. (And let's also prepare for watching him in the NFL one year from now.) And let's hope the smoke surrounding his family and him is based on envious people and not family greed.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Nyet to the New York Times

A Russian court says the American newspaper needs to retract a story about purported police corruption.

How do you play nice...

...when at least one other country doesn't want to?

That's the dilemma facing the Obama administration as it continues to find the right sanctions against North Korea, which attacked neighboring South Korea earlier this week.

On one hand, there is North Korea itself, determined to poke the Americans and South Koreans as often and as provocatively as it can. For one analyst, the reality is clear -- until the latter two nations meet act with appropriate act, the Pyongyang Poking will continue.

The U.S. is about to begin joint military exercises with the South Koreans, but in reality that is just for show. At the same time, it tries to persuade China to support its sanctions efforts. And those military exercises begin as South Korea's defense minister resigns, taking responsibility for what happened the other day.

But China, at least for now, seems unwilling to play.

The longest war in U.S. history...

...shows no sign of ending.

In fact, it's possible the war in Afghanistan could carry on for another four years. And considering that the current Karzai government is fighting over recent election results, there might be legitimate questions as to whether four years will be enough to figure out the problems devastating this nation.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Arrogance, plain and simple

You've got to hand it to Ohio State president E. Gordon Gee -- his arrogance is legendary throughout higher education.

Gee demonstrated his superiority again by suggesting that college football programs Boise State and Texas Christian do not deserve a chance to play for that sport's (alleged) national championship.

It is Gee's opinion that only the major conferences ought to play for the championship. His logic -- none of those schools play a weak schedule. Specifically, Gee said
We do not play the Little Sisters of the Poor. We play very fine schools on any given day.
Needless to say, Gee's comments didn't sit very well with the people associated with Boise State or Texas Christian.

Boise State's president suggested in a story in the Idaho Statesman that Gee's comments highlight the double standard in college athletics.
Presidents who stand up and talk about values and truth and fairness and access and equity speak with forked tongue when it comes to athletics — and it makes no sense to me how they can be so absolutely wrong and know it and yet stand up as the pillars of moral rectitude.

TCU's athletic director noted (full report here)
I sat back and just thought about our football program and our coach and realized that to start throwing stones at your house, they must be jealous. We have a phenomenal football program. ... And someone now starts taking shots at TCU? That means we've arrived.
Full disclosure here -- I was at Ohio State as a graduate student at the time Gee was systematically dismantling the school's journalism program. Therefore I confess I have little regard for this man. His disdain for critical media coverage of him leaves little doubt that Gee is interested in journalism as puffery instead of journalism as independent and vibrant.

There is, in my opinion, a similarity here: Gee is again more interested in ensuring that he associate only with fellow elitists who believe their obvious intellectual prowess and ability to raise hundreds of millions of dollars validate that their club be few in number.

A wonderful example of arrogance, Gee is.

He blatantly abused the rules

Now he faces the penalty.

This from the Associated Press and appearing in the Washington Post:

Former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay - once one of the most powerful and feared Republicans in Congress - was convicted Wednesday on charges he illegally funneled corporate money to Texas candidates in 2002. 
 
Jurors deliberated for 19 hours before returning guilty verdicts against DeLay on charges of money laundering and conspiracy to commit money laundering. He faces up to life in prison on the money laundering charge. 

After the verdicts were read, DeLay hugged his daughter, Danielle, and his wife, Christine. There was no immediate comment from him or his attorneys. 

A reminder that no man, even one who thinks he can set rules applicable only to himself, is above the law.  

Your top international stories of the year

Presuming that no "wow" event takes place in the year's final five weeks (and that's a dangerous presumption to make), here is one person's list of the top international stories of the year:

10. Still no peace in the Middle East. Despite public and private efforts by the Obama administration, there is still no tangible sign that the Arabs and Israelis are closer to a peace accord.

9. Canada and South Africa successfully stage international sports events. In an age in which discussions of terrorism and security overshadow international (and national) gatherings, the Winter Olympics in Canada and the World Cup in South Africa are remembered for what the athletes did.

8. Air crash claims most of Poland's political leadership. The terrible irony is that the group was traveling to Russia for a World War II remembrance event.

7. Dirty air. Volcanic ash over significant portions of Europe frustrates air passengers for more than one month.

6. Maelstrom in Mexico. The bad guys have more and more powerful weapons than the good guys. And they can scare the heck out of the people. That's not a good combination.

5. It's (still) the economy, stupid. With a bailout of Ireland and chronic under-performing economies almost everywhere else, this year served as a powerful reminder that economic recovery is still a work in progress.

4. WikiLeaks. Julian Assange is a fierce advocate for free press and preventing governments from hiding its secrets. Or he's a zealot, knowingly putting hundreds, maybe thousands, of innocent people at risk as he practices his form of independent journalism.

3. A pain in the Pyongyang. North Korea regularly reminds the world that its leadership is either absolutely nuts or crazy like a fox. And it's because no firm answer can be offered that the world needs to be concerned.

2. The hell that is Haiti. A devastating earthquake in January and a cholera epidemic in November.

1. 33 are saved. The live rescue of 33 trapped Chilean miners offers the world a reminder that when mankind uses its intelligence and creativity for good, humanity is enriched.

When political leadership is vacated...

...situations such as this one happen.

I ride the bus to work each day because it is far more convenient for me to do so instead of driving. But that means mass transportation for me is a luxury; sure, I could do without it, but it sure is better to have it around.

Now consider the number of people -- and I don't have a figure to provide that would be a baseline for conversation -- in Pittsburgh and its surrounding communities that rely on mass transportation as their only form of getting from here to there.

When you do so, the woeful leadership provided by the men and women who (claim to) represent Pennsylvania becomes even more apparent. Shameful. Absolutely shameful.

The U.S. needs China...

...if any meaningful U.N.-backed sanctions against North Korea are to take root.

The U.S. continues to do the right thing -- assume the lead in pushing for sanctions against Pyongyang after its attack on South Korea that led to the deaths of two South Korean soldiers. But will China, North Korea's strongest (and perhaps only) ally allow those sanctions to happen?

There is certainly no reason for anyone to be optimistic that Beijing will easily accept any U.S.-led and U.N.-sponsored penalties. That fact puts the U.S. in a tougher bind than it already is, although it has authorized moving forward with joint military exercises.

Former President Jimmy Carter has written an op-ed in today's Washington Post in which he outlines what North Korea might be seeking -- to be seen as a relevant and influential player in shaping the future of the Korean Peninsula.

And so yet again Pyongyang has managed to kidnap the international political agenda through a brazen act. And we continue to think that Dear Leader and his cronies are crazy?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Journalism is too passe...

...to be the only part of the name of one of America's great college journalism programs.

So, check out what is happening at Northwestern's Medill School of Journalism.

Enormous retaliation

Let's give South Korea's political leadership credit; it won't let a good rhetorical opportunity pass.

How else should we react to the call for "enormous retaliation" after today's attack by North Korean forces against the South?

President Obama has made clear the U.S. will support South Korea, although it certainly doesn't want to see further tension on the Korean peninsula. The British are saying the same thing.

There seems little doubt that Pyongyang is using today's provocative action for domestic political propaganda -- namely, the attempt to bolster the credentials of the future leader -- the son of Kim Jong Il.

If you ever visit...

...Prague, you must see--

1. The Prague Castle
2. St. Vitus Cathedral
3. The Observatory Tower at Petrin Hill
4. Wenchelas Square, at night when it is lit up
5. The National Museum
6. The overflowing with history old part of town

...Presov, Slovakia, you must see--

1. The charm of this central European town
2. The churches and synagogue
3. The nearby Tatras mountains, which can not be appreciated in just a few days
4. The generosity of its people

And in both places, enjoy the local cuisine (and in doing so just remember that the exercise regimen will return when you get home).

And please bring a camera. Document your memories.

Two-thirds of the people...

...couldn't possibly be wrong, could they?

Well...maybe.

After going through security at two European airports and two American airports over the past two weeks, I can tell you that America has some important questions it needs to ask itself about getting onto airplanes.

A new poll suggesting that as many as two-thirds of the public supports those controversial full-body scanners only complicates the conversation.

Consider what my colleague Chris Rolinson and I dealt with at the following airports -- Newark, Pittsburgh, Prague and Frankfurt:

The longest lines were in the United States, although because in one case that happened last night at Newark could be a pre-Thanksgiving holiday factor.

The friendliest agents were in Frankfurt, where Chris had his bag searched by someone who took the time to explain what the problem was and chatted with him during the process.

The easiest security was in Prague, though the fact that we entered that airport at 7:00 a.m. could have influenced the short lines and supportive agents.

What strikes me about the hysteria about full-body scans in the United States is that they are largely reactive decisions. They are brought about by a near-pathological fear of being part of a terror attack.

Look, let's be blunt here -- there are people claiming to represent Islam that are hell-bent on destroying the West. They believe they are acting in the name of Allah in conducting their work. They are warped.

So, why are Americans willing to sacrifice their personal liberties and their privacy for these people? Why? The more America surrenders its freedoms because of these people, the more they will be emboldened to carry on.

Forget the rhetoric...

...this time, North Korea and South Korea have exchanged artillery fire.

The Financial Times notes that as with everything Pyongyang does, there is a calculated effort to irk the West, which -- again -- seems to have limited responses available to it.

Tension in the Korean peninsula obviously has ramped up, as the fallout from the provocative action begins to be felt.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Home...

...and that says enough for today.

We'll return to the pressing matters of the world tomorrow. I'm tired after a near 33-hour journey.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

No, you should never let the "facts"...

...get in the way of a good story.

Isn't it amazing that apparently only one journalist -- CNN's Anderson Cooper -- thought it wise to check out the "facts" about President Obama's recent trip to India.

Now, I'm just wondering -- if it had been a Republican president accused (for lack of a better term) of spending nearly $200 million each day on a visit to another country, how would the "right" media reacted? Who would they have blamed?

But do they have the guts to admit they goofed on this one? More importantly, do they have any plans to make sure they don't make the same mistake again?

Feeling humbled and blessed

I mentioned in one of my Saturday posts that Chris Rolinson and I were part of a group that had a chance to do some exploring.

One of our stops left me humbled and blessed.

We visited the Christ the Pontiff Institute in Zakovce, Slovakia, which is located northwest of Presov and in the direction of the High Tatras mountains.

The institute began several years ago after a local priest took in a homeless person. Soon word spread and more and more people began to come by. The institute is now made up of nearly 200 people, mostly men, who are homeless, recovering from addiction, or otherwise the so-called forgotten people (a term I despise and in this context means someone who has fallen through society's cracks and no one has picked them up).

As our host outlined the work done at the institute -- farming, building, etc. -- I thought about me and how fortunate I was to be sitting where I was at that time.

Americans are like people from all over the world in at least one unfortunate trait -- we complain about what we don't have. A lot. We complain about people who annoy us. A lot. We complain about that which we somehow deserve simply because we say we deserve it. A lot.

Indeed, come to the Christ the Pontiff Institute and walk a mile in another man's shoes.

No, this posting is not going to be some kind of soapbox statement. Instead, it is simply going to let you know that yesterday I walked out of the institute's gates thankful for everything I have. And I felt humbled and blessed.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

When in Presov, Slovakia,,,

...you've got to get out of this city of about 90,000 people and see some of the UNESCO historically recognized locations within a 2-hour drive.

Today, which represents our final full day here, Chris Rolinson and I were joined by a group of five Norwegian educators here for a two-day conference being hosted by the University of Presov on a wonderful sightseeing opportunity.

You can find almost three-dozen pictures I took today on my Facebook page, which include a couple of photos of Presov, the historical city of Levoca, the High Tatras region, the town of Spisska Sobota and some group photos taken over lunch.

I encourage you to do a Web search on some of the areas mentioned above and learn more about them.

Sunday begins our journey home. Chris and I leave on an overnight train to Prague before a multi-flight journey back to the United States. For us, this trip has included important professional development, multiple opportunities to further develop the international presence of Point Park University, and allowed us to make new friends.

A successful 10 days, indeed.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Do as I do...

...and get the punishment I get, too.

I apologize for the tortured English, but MSNBC has again suspended one of its anchors after learning that he contributed financially to a political campaign.

This time it's Joe Scarborough, who, like Keith Olbermann before him, is suspended for two days. Here are additional details from Politico:

MSNBC president Phil Griffin said he is suspending “Morning Joe” co-host Joe Scarborough for two days because of campaign contributions Scarborough made without prior approval from the network.

“I apologize to MSNBC and to anyone who has been negatively affected by my actions,” Scarborough said in a statement. 


You know what I think of all this.  

A good fun (half) day in Presov

After a series of great meetings this morning and early this afternoon with various faculty at the University of Presov, Chris Rolinson and I had a chance to see some of Presov.

You can find a few pictures on my Facebook page, and this weekend a couple of sightseeing opportunities have been planned for us and a group of Norwegian academics who are here for a conference that begins on Monday.

Of course, the content of the meetings is confidential, but I came out of them impressed with the university's commitment to potential study abroad opportunities.

CU later, journalism

The decision should come as no surprise, but a University of Colorado committee has recommended that the university's School of Journalism and Mass Communication be discontinued.

There is one small part of the report that, for me, gets at the heart of this decision: The "structural tension" that exists “between the research-centered mission of the university and the professional focus of the journalism school.”

This "tension" is consistent with the research demands at various communication schools, especially at locations where federal and non-profit grant dollars are becoming akin to the mother's milk of the institution. Simply put, there are not enough large grants out there.

Moreover, journalism schools do train practitioners; there is no denying that. We don't expect the majority of our students to move into research or graduate work. We don't expect them to become world-renowned experts in some sub-field of science. We do expect our graduates to be professionals in a field that too many in higher education still see as a trade.

Do we lament what has happened at Colorado? Yes, because it is the state's flagship university. But, no, because there are close to 500 other options for young men and women who want to enter the communications world.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Our video from the High Tatras

Time for you to enjoy a small part of the day Chris Rolinson and I spent in Strbske Pleso and at the base of the High Tatras mountains.

Friday will be a work day, followed by an evening folk concert involving college students.

I fell in love today with...

...the High Tetras.

What, you were thinking something else? You certainly weren't thinking someone else, were you?

For Chris Rolinson and me, our first day in Presov was actually spent in nearby Strbske Pleso, where the High Tetras mountains can be found. If you access my Facebook page, you can find some of the pictures I took. (And, yes, Chris and I are working on another video from today; we hope to have it posted by the end of the evening here in Presov.)

We were in Strbske Pleso because the University of Presov was announcing a partnership with the Hotel Grand Kempinski in which teas made by the university would be sold by the hotel. Some of the photos in today's album are from that event.

But the real highlight was the tour of the hotel. The rain and fog that blanketed the region all morning cleared out in time for us to have a spectacular view of a beautiful area.

Tomorrow, a series of meetings are held as the conversation about possible faculty/student exchanges pick up.

A final video from Prague

Chris Rolinson and I completed this one somewhere between Prague, Czech Republic and Kysak, Slovakia.

The drip is about to become a flood

If you thought the pressure to come clean about an alleged pay-to-play scandal at another university was on Auburn quarterback Cam Newton before, it has now reached crisis level.

A prominent Mississippi State booster has provided information to the NCAA that he suggests makes clear that Newton's father demanded money before his son -- considered by almost all college football experts to be this year's front-runner for the Heisman Trophy -- would play at that institution.

Of course, Newton never did, but the allegations raise questions about what the elder Newton demanded and might have received from Auburn.

I have suggested on more than one occasion that the younger Newton can continue to dodge these questions for only so long; and the longer he takes to state what he knows and what arrangements were being considered, the better off he will be.

If money changed hands, then Newton's dream season -- and Auburn's too -- goes up in flames. Moreover, the Tigers' football program would face significant sanctions if any one of its supporters gave money to the Newton family.

What a mess.

It wasn't the Midnight Train to Georgia...

...but it was the 10:00 train to Kysak (pronounced Key-sock) that delivered Chris Rolinson and me to Presov.

We pulled out of Prague last evening and within minutes left the bustling capital city for an overnight ride through the rest of the Czech Republic and then into Slovakia.

Kysak is located about 20 minutes south of Presov. We were met by a representative of the university and taken to a fabulous hotel -- the Bella Sicilia. (I promise I had nothing to do with the selection, but I'm not complaining about it!) We'll call it home for four days, but in reality the schedule that we are expected to have suggests that we'll do little more than sleep and get cleaned up here.

Presov is in the northeast portion of Slovakia, and if you were looking for it on the map you would find Poland to the north and Ukraine to the east.

Ahoy from Presov, Slovakia

Chris Rolinson and I arrived in this northeastern Slovakia city this morning, and we will be here through the weekend.

The primary purpose of our visit is to continue the discussions about possible faculty/student exchanges involving Point Park University and the University of Presov.

Of course, Chris and I hope to sneak in some sightseeing, and we've been promised by our hosts at least one visit to the nearby High Tatras mountain range.

I'll update you as best and often as I can over the next four days.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Thank you, Prague

Tomorrow, I leave this fantastic city and move on to Slovakia, where a colleague and I continue conversations about possible faculty/student exchanges, with a university in Presov.

I return to Prague in May 2011, when the School of Communication's international media class makes a near two-week visit here. That group will consist of about 20 students and a couple of faculty, and we will explore various communication organizations in this capital city.

Of course, we will do some sightseeing, and all of us will have the chance to take in the culture of Prague.

I was struck over my five days here by the number of ex-pats who now call Prague home. Whether they've been here for a couple of years or more than a decade, my sense is that none of them came here planning to stay many years, but Prague's beauty and bright future captivated them.

I met with the management and staff of four media organizations, and I like the vibrant English-language media available here. I hinted at internship possibilities at each organization -- knowing the students on this trip might have the same idea in mind! -- and the reception at each location was positive.

The sites my colleague Chris Rolinson and I saw during our stay here were many, and there is a natural tendency to want to pick "the best" or "my favorite. I suppose if I had to do that, I would choose the majestic St. Vitus Cathedral, which along with the Prague Castle we visited today. (You can find some pictures on my Facebook page.)

But to single out one place suggests a certain inferiority of other places, and that is not my point at all. I look forward to seeing the reactions on my students' faces when they see many of the same sites I saw. I anticipate them to be the same as mine have been.

So, thank you, Prague for five days of learning, exploring, seeing and enjoying. Let's do it again in May.

They were correct

The nearly half-dozen people who told me that today's 21st anniversary of the Czech Republic's Velvet Revolution would pass with almost no fanfare were absolutely correct.

My colleague and friend Chris Rolinson had a morning meeting with the editor of the Prague Post, and from there we made our way to the famous Wenchelas Square, where 21 years ago Communism's collapse in this country began. A few short weeks later, it was dead.

The police attacked students who had gathered on that day to appeal for government reforms, and that response ushered in waves of additional protests that grew louder, stronger and more numerous.

Today, Chris and I went to the location where the students were attacked, and we found nothing and no one to commemorate the event. We had been told there would be a Mass at a nearby church; when we got there, we found the church locked up and it didn't look as if that was going to change.

Different reasons had been suggested to me over the past couple days to explain why the anniversary would be met with little fanfare, despite it being a national holiday. The country's poor economic conditions make people less eager to celebrate, one person told me.

It's been 21 years, another one said, and people have moved on.

Still a third person thought the potential for rain (which never materialized but Prague has been overcast and chilly all day) would keep people away.

A fourth person noted that the coalition agreement signed by two prominent political parties to share authority over Prague's city government has frustrated many people. There was talk of a possible protest about the deal late today.

Lacking a chance to create a story about the Velvet Revolution, Chris and I instead took in the Prague Castle and St. Vitus Cathedral, and I've posted some pictures on my Facebook page.

No, not the way we had planned to spend our final day in Prague (we move on to Slovakia to continue conversations about possible faculty/student exchanges with the University of Presov), but for history buffs like us the castle and the cathedral were wondrous sites. Someday, we both need to bring our wives and our kids to this brilliant city and country.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Ted Koppel stands up...

...for the practice of objective journalism and gets ripped in the process.

Let's examine what Koppel wrote in last weekend's Washington Post:

The commercial success of both Fox News and MSNBC is a source of nonpartisan sadness for me. While I can appreciate the financial logic of drowning television viewers in a flood of opinions designed to confirm their own biases, the trend is not good for the republic.

Do we Americans not want our news organizations to celebrate their investigative and truth-telling reports instead of their bloviating program hosts masquerading as journalists?

[W]hen our accountants, bankers and lawyers, our doctors and our politicians tell us only what we want to hear, despite hard evidence to the contrary, we are headed for disaster. 

Indeed, anyone who has allowed their financial, legal, medical or other diet to basically go to hell knows that hearing the truth hurts. Unless they are too pig-headed to want to know. Don't believe me? Ask me about the changes I had to make to my diet and exercise levels and about the lectures from my doctor about why.

Much of the American public used to gather before the electronic hearth every evening, separate but together, while Walter Cronkite, Chet Huntley, David Brinkley, Frank Reynolds and Howard K. Smith offered relatively unbiased accounts of information that their respective news organizations believed the public needed to know. The ritual permitted, and perhaps encouraged, shared perceptions and even the possibility of compromise among those who disagreed. 

Though true, Koppel's comments here are waxing a bit nostalgic; moreover, one could infer from these words that cable news organizations are not capable of delivering such programs. It's not that they are not capable; rather, they prefer not to so as to make significant profits.

The transition of news from a public service to a profitable commodity is irreversible... Broadcast news has been outflanked and will soon be overtaken by scores of other media options. The need for clear, objective reporting in a world of rising religious fundamentalism, economic interdependence and global ecological problems is probably greater than it has ever been. But we are no longer a national audience receiving news from a handful of trusted gatekeepers; we're now a million or more clusters of consumers, harvesting information from like-minded providers. 

I've been saying much the same thing in my classes and on this blog. The implication of Koppel's words have not been fully considered by the American public.

And now, here come the naysayers. Slate's Jack Shafer leaves little doubt that he thinks Koppel is guilty of simply not being able to keep up with the times. Bill O'Reilly (!) said what he says best -- prove that I've lied. In other words, attack the messenger and cloud the message. Keith Olbermann said what he says best -- how dare anyone suggest that MSNBC and FOX News belong in the same breath; his network, of course, practices traditional hard-hitting and objective journalism, while FOX News is loaded with propaganda masquerading as news. In other words, attack the messenger....

I'm standing alongside Koppel. If that makes me old-fashioned, out-of-touch or holding on to dead definition of what news ought to be, then so be it.

When in Prague...

...you gotta eat.

But something tells me that some of these places have prices that might give me indigestion :-).

Woo, hoo...we have our (non-)story of the day!!

A couple of hours ago I was completing my tour of the Radio Free Europe-Radio Liberty newsroom when the words "Breaking News" flashing on one of the television screens caught my eye.

CNN was playing up the engagement announcement of Prince William to his longtime girlfriend, Kate Middleton.

Now don't go around calling me some curmudgeon -- I'm happily married and I hope the prince and his lady enjoy a lifetime of love and happiness. But I knew what was going to happen next -- multiple stories about the engagement.

Now you start calling me a curmudgeon. That's because there is no need to make this announcement a major news story. But...

...fast forward a couple of hours. I returned to my hotel (after productive meetings!!) and flipped on CNN International, the only English-language news source available to me. On its world business program -- I repeat, world business -- I immediately was subjected to TWO (still) breaking news reports on the engagement.

World business?

One report discussed the nuts and bolts of the couple. The second one (drum roll please) was an interview with a bookmaker (!!!!) who was touting the various wagers that could be made about the wedding, the length of the train on Ms. Middleton's wedding dress and a few other sure-to-blow-your-money options.

I can only imagine (insert laugh track here) how much play the wedding announcement will get in the U.S.

Congratulations to the couple. And my condolences to the serious news consumer, who will be subjected to this chocolate cake for the next few hours.

A Tuesday morning in Prague

The rain fell overnight and into this morning, and the forecast indicates that could be the case all day long.

In other words, the fantastic weather that greeted Chris Rolinson and me over the weekend is gone, and Prague-like weather for November is here.

But the weather cannot dampen what, for now, has been an exciting and positive trip. Today, I hold two more meetings with media organizations that I hope will host my Point Park international media class that visits this wonderful city in May. While those meetings are taking place, my colleague continues a couple of his meetings in Bratislava about potential faculty exchange/study abroad options.

I was aware of the bi-lingual nature of this city through comments made to me by various friends who have been here, but it nevertheless is still stunning to see it in person -- my very unscientific guess is that less than 5 percent of the people I have met in this city, even those to whom a question about directions was asked, don't speak English.

We Americans should take comfort in the importance that the English language has around the world, and at the same time we should be more than a bit embarrassed at our own deficiencies in understanding more than our mother tongue.

A Point Park student could comfortably handle a semester here in Prague, and I expect that most Czech university students would be equally as comfortable with a term-length stay in the U.S. But those are not necessarily comparative statements; the ability of one of those groups to speak a non-native language is essential for their success.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Nope, that won't work

In 2001, I was in Hungary. There, I came across a 1970-something Charlie's Angels program on television. Forget for a moment that the show was well over 20-something years old.

It was in Hungarian. It didn't work.

I couldn't understand a word of any imported or domestic program while I was in Budapest, but at least I knew the domestic ones were made for that audience.

Tonight as I flipped through the Czech television in my hotel room and tried to find something, anything to watch, it happened again.

Family Guy in Czech.

Giggity, it was not.

If you spend a lot of time with American television, well I feel sorry for you. But that's not my point. What is, is this -- consider the various U.S. cultural references in each American program. Now, tell me how exactly you translate those into another language.

Sure, you can literally translate, but do you really think word-for-word works?

Moreover, how many times have you heard someone say something like this: "Well, that word in (fill-in-the-blank country here) really doesn't have an exact translation into English." If that statement holds true from (fill-in-the-blank) language into English, then you know it also works the other way, as well.

Nevertheless, America exports lots of television programs to various parts of the world and those shows are translated into many languages. The ability of U.S. television producers to establish a cultural reference is strong, but it is not hard to understand why that reference often fails to make sense elsewhere. And why it has the potential to offend.

Let me offer you an even more basic example. If I were in the U.S. today and walking to the meeting I had had, I would have looked typical -- navy blazer, white shirt, tie, khaki slacks and dress shoes. But as best I could while on mass transit and then walking to the Anglo-American University, I took notice of the number of men dressed as I was.

I saw exactly one.

Sure, any social scientist would tear up that argument as not representative of the population (among other things), but consider that most of the men I saw wore no tie (including the three professionals I met at my two meetings).

So, how do you think I'm going to dress on Tuesday, when two other meetings are on my agenda?

The next time you watch your favorite television program, ask yourself how many you see from other countries. Then ask yourself how you would react if many of your program options were imports. Sure, you like that nation. You admire its people.

But perhaps you'd like to see more of your nation's television programs.

Uh, do you see a problem here?

An excerpt from this Politico piece written by Marin Cogan, who reviewed the first day of orientation for new House Republicans:

At check in, they were greeted with Dell laptops and BlackBerry Bolds and canvas bags filled with thick manuals on congressional ethics and guides to life as a House member. Even before the official orientation began, new members were learning the nuts and bolts of congressional life.

Hmmmmm.

And now the legacy is tarnishing

He will remain part of the any conversation that attempts to identify the all-time best NFL quarterbacks, but it also is impossible to argue that Brett Favre has stuck around one season too many.

The likelihood that he will have his shoulder examined is just the latest sign that this will be Favre's final season, and this season won't be one he'll want to remember. Nor is it one that the talented Favre deserves as his final one...

...except that he brought some of these problems upon himself.

The injuries can't be helped, except that the ankle, chin and shoulder injuries are dramatic signs that Favre's body is failing itself; at the time of year when he needs it to be strongest, his body, instead, appears to be held together by will and the occasional pain medicine.

But the worst issue -- the "skirt chasing" of a then-New York Jets' employee while he was with that team -- offers the most symbolically important indicator that Favre doesn't know when it is time to stop thinking about himself and start thinking about what he wants out of life.

Now, it's too late. The legacy is tarnishing. And he won't have the luxury (if that's the correct word) to fix it in the place he knows best -- the football field.

Of course, there is a larger issue

Yes, it is understandable why NBC executives and NBC news personnel are at odds over the far-too-short suspension handed down by the network against Keith Olbermann.

But the reality here is that as long as high-priced, opinionated "journalists" are perceived as the face and the voice of a "news" network, you are going to have this issue periodically arise.

Blame Olbermann for being ego-maniacal if you want. But remember that he is merely benefiting from a system in which, to paraphrase a movie line, greed is bad for the news viewer. Until all the networks -- cable and over-the-air alike -- end their policies that require the news division to be a money maker, this situation will go on.

Granted, the Olbermann situation is an extreme example, and in this case the person involved certainly should have acted with more professionalism than was shown, but it is an example nonetheless of the unfortunate need for "journalists" to drive viewers to their programs so as to inflate ratings and make money.

Somewhat ironic, isn't it, that after I finish this message, I make my way to Radio Prague, where later today I am meeting with one of the (real) journalists in its English-language service.

The car...

...to the plane...to the next plane...to the next plane...to the taxi.

To the bus...to the Metro.

Today I added the tram.

I think I have successfully covered every mode of transportation over the past couple of days. And I was reminded again this morning (as I was the night before) that quality mass transportation is incredibly important to a large city.

Obviously I am a stranger to Prague; prior to arriving here on Saturday I had never been in this city before. However, the modes of mass transportation -- all of them to this point efficient, on-time and operating -- available to locals and tourists ensures that you can get from wherever you are to wherever you need to be. And with little wasted time.

I've also seen too many American cities struggle with such ideas. I grew up in southern California, where driving -- with no one else in the car -- was taken as a fact. Perhaps it was the (ridiculous) notion of being cool, but the number of Californians who refuse to surrender their right to be behind the wheel is stunningly high. (Okay, I'll admit -- when I was a teenager and a young adult, I fell into that culture.)

But consider the number of U.S. cities that also are mass transportation deficient or who could use a significant upgrade in such services. Is the political will necessary for such expensive capital outlays there? You and I know the answer to that.

Such projects take millions of dollars, lots of time and lead to traffic tie-ups that last for months. Not the best combination if you are a politician seeking to secure your short- or long-term political future.

Pity.

Good morning from Prague

The comfy walking shoes and the jeans have been set aside. The dress shoes, slacks and tie are out.

Yes, it is time to go to work in Prague. Today, I meet with representatives from the Anglo-American University and make a few phone calls to arrange some other meetings. As fun as the just-gone weekend? No, the educational opportunities for students and teaching opportunities for colleagues is what brought me here.

My colleague Chris Rolinson holds similar meetings over the next two days with a university in Bratislava.

Wednesday is our final full day here, and it happens to be the anniversary of the Velvet Revolution. Chris will be back to take some pictures, and I have just one meeting. We'll try to piece together a video later that day before we head off to Presov, Slovakia.

More later!

Can you blame them?

A South Korean government agency is reporting that at least 20,000 North Koreans have defected to the South.

It's not hard to wonder why.

Meanwhile, Pyongyang appears to be taking its next propaganda move -- trying to call attention to its potential nuclear ambitions.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Prague, video blog Sunday

Here it is...Sunday's video blog from Prague!

Great work by Chris Rolinson!

Thank you, we are leaving

Five words that no health ministry or equivalent national medical organization wants to hear from its doctors.

But as I learned today, many doctors in the Czech Republic are ready to open their mouths.

Prague, Sunday

On our final sightseeing day before beginning the "work" part of our trip to the Czech Republic and Slovakia, my colleague and friend Chris Rolinson and I walked...and walked...and walked around Prague.

Back home, today would have been described as a "Chamber of Commerce" day -- bright sunshine, temperature near 60, and locals and tourists all over the place. And so it was in Prague.

We began close to where we were last evening -- near the Prague Museum -- but from there, we took in the area near the National Theatre, the Charles Bridge, and Petrin Hill. We had hoped to take the city's fenicular up the mountain and to Petrin Hill, but it is not functioning for two weeks.

So we hiked up the perhaps 1-mile high that twists and turns with wonderful views, plenty of smiling people and dogs. My boys would have had a great time petting the poodles, beagles, greyhounds, occasion Dalmatian and other breeds that also were roaming around. 

The highlight on the Hill was the Observation Tower, which was built in 1891 and (intentionally) bears a resemblance to the Eiffel Tower. Chris and I took the near 300 steps up to the top and the near 300 steps back to the bottom. (And don't bother asking how jelly-like my legs were when we reached the apex of the near 200-foot -- or 60-meter -- tower.)

But the view was stunning, and Chris and I took multiple photos. In fact, you can access my Facebook page for a variety of pictures from our day out. (Later this evening, he'll be done editing our Sunday video blog.)


Once Petrin Hill was behind us, we headed for Prague's Old Town, where, as you might guess, history and wonderful architecture ooze out of every corner. On at least two occasions Chris and I joked that "they don't make 'em like this any longer;" and if you've had a chance to visit any truly "old" place, then you know what we were referring to.


Finally, with ideas to share with our students and friends, picture worth well over a thousand words and tired feet, we shuffled off to the Metro and back to our hotel.

Tomorrow, we get down to business. I've got meetings with a local university and at least one media agency, and Chris is off to Bratislava for discussions with a university in that city.

Prague -- a video blog

Kudos to my Point Park University colleague and friend Chris Rolinson...he did most of the work as our (not quite) daily video blog from Prague and later Presov, Slovakia comes together.

This is that first day blog, which was completed late last night (Czech time).

Chris and I are getting ready to edit and post today's blog. Look for it later.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Prague is definitely worth...

...Czeching out.

Oh, come on...you knew I couldn't resist.

We arrived here early this afternoon and after a couple of hours of catching up with e-mails (and lost sleep!!) we headed toward the downtown area tonight. On my Facebook page, you'll find a few of the photos I took tonight.

Of course, I'm not a professional photographer (and not much of an amateur one!), so don't expect top notch work. I think the highlight of the evening for me was visiting...the Museum of Communism. No, not your typical first-day stop in Prague, but considering my appreciation for history, my research into the Soviet Union in general and its Olympic program specifically, and the fact that it was open late on a beautiful Saturday evening, it was too good to pass up.

When you travel...

...a few things I've learned from being on the road:

1. Airline schedules make sense, if you understand their desire to have high on-time percentages
2. You never feel fresh coming off an airplane, and the longer the flight...well, you know
3. All hotels are close to Metro stops, even if they aren't
4. You can never give yourself enough time getting to the airport
5. A new city had better be exciting to see, or you shouldn't have gone there in the first place
6. I still am amazed at being able to sit on an airplane for about 6 hours and arrive in Europe
7. Buckle up in a taxi cab
8. You can forget a sport coat, you can forget a tie, but you had better never forget your ID
9. The road is often a great place to be, but...
10. Nothing beats coming home

So, um...that was different

My colleague and friend Chris Rolinson and I have made it to Prague. But not without one of the more surreal short flights I have ever taken.

Our flight from Frankfurt to Prague was delayed by almost an hour because of strong winds throughout Germany. As our plane taxied down the runway, we found out just how strong they were.

The plane swayed (not strongly but enough that you knew it) from left to right on at least one occasion. And as we went up, we had that sensation of the ground giving way beneath you -- you know, the one that leaves your stomach somewhere by your feet?

That was the first few seconds of the flight.

Less than five minutes after takeoff, and with the gusts still periodically blowing, the fasten seat belts sign went off. Within seconds, the flight attendants began their beverage and snack service. As I glanced once in a while at them, I had the real sensation of knowing that if this had been a U.S.-based flight, that crew would have remained seated and a beverage service might never have happened.

So, I'm left to wonder -- are the FAA rules for flying unnecessarily strict in the U.S? Or do the Germans have a rather liberal interpretation of safe flying conditions?

Friday, November 12, 2010

I have arrived!!!

In New Jersey!

But unlike the last time I was here -- mid-September -- there remain positive indicators to suggest a colleague and I will be en route to Frankfurt (and then on to Prague) in a few hours.

Of course, travel hangups are expected whenever you fly; sometimes the fault lies with the airline, sometimes it is because of weather, and other times you can blame it on something else. In the end, and after you come down from the emotional frustration of the moment, you realize there is little you can do about it.

You should smile and move on.

And that leads me to today. In a couple of hours, we will board a plane that takes us to Frankfurt, where we will then transfer to Prague. If all goes according to plan, a series of meetings will begin on Monday that could prove beneficial to Point Park University.

Now I just need to get there!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

One woman was not wanted...one woman is not liked

For different reasons -- but with the same effect -- women are not likely to have prominent roles in the new Congress.

Two excerpts from today's "The Huddle" by Jonathan Allen:

Republican leaders are averting a fight for the No. 4 job of Conference chair, as Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann has dropped out and paved the path for Rep. Jeb Hensarling of Texas. 'Even though Bachmann's bid only lasted about a week, it serves to illustrate the headwinds a tea party candidate could face in official Washington. Hensarling worked hard to show he was the true conservative in the race and that he was a tea party sympathizer. But Hensarling also played the insider game effectively, rounding up and announcing key endorsements day after day to send the message that the had the race locked up,' Fast Break reports. 'Bachmann said she had support from the tea party movement, not to mention conservative talk show host Glenn Beck, but it never appeared to gain traction with House Republicans.'

And,

Nancy Pelosi is struggling to stand her ground as the effects of last week's Democratic debacle shift the political earth beneath her feet. ... At least 15 Democrats have said publicly that they have lost faith in her ability to lead - a number backed up by as many as two dozen more who are indicating the same thing privately, while others haven't yet taken sides. Liberal Reps. Peter DeFazio (Ore.) and Marcy Kaptur (Ohio) sent a letter to colleagues asking them to support a plan to forestall leadership elections until December,' Jonathan Allen and John Bresnahan write for POLITICO. 'If she's able to stay atop the Democratic Caucus, she won't be in control of it - at least not the way she used to be. 

Do we make anything of this?

Drip...drip...drip

Another day, another drip of information pointing to a potential scandal involving Auburn quarterback Cam Newton.

Today, the man who says he was trying to get money in order to get Newton to sign a college football letter of intent put a price tag on those requests. Kenny Rogers -- who played football at Mississippi State University (one heck of a great representative of that fine institution he is!) -- asserted that Newton's dad told him he wanted between $100,000 and $180,000 before his son would sign with Mississippi State.

Obviously, Newton didn't sign with the Bulldogs, which leads one to believe that no amount of money changed hands. Instead, Newton agreed to play at Auburn, which has rocketed to the top of the college football world this year because of Newton's sensational skills.

So far none of the allegations involve Auburn, Newton and money; and Rogers says he was no longer working with the family after it decided Newton wasn't going to Mississippi State. But that misses the point -- in the often sleazy world of recruiting, the link from the Newtons wanting money from one school meaning they wanted money from another is a solid one. More importantly, Auburn's athletic officials at some point will need to clear the school of any ethical or legal wrongdoing.

Tomorrow undoubtedly will provide another drip, and one can only imagine the deluge of drips that will come Saturday, when the Tigers play Georgia. Newton can only hide behind "I'm not saying anything" for so long before the torrent of questions could wash away his credibility and his team's championship dreams.

Consider the week of drips and you begin to come to one conclusion -- Newton, not his father, needs to step up and make a powerful, decisive and clear statement that might help stop the flow of scandal surrounding him. That is, unless he knows that making such a statement of innocence will later be destroyed.

Can you afford a $1.4 million home?

If you can't, then you probably don't want to apply for a faculty job at Stanford University.

This is a fascinating report; it examines the median housing price at college and university cities across the country.

In case, you are curious, Palo Alto, California, home to Stanford, has the highest housing -- almost $1.4 million. And the lowest is Muncie, Indiana, home to Ball State University, where the average house will run about $105,000.

As I said, the report is fascinating, but I think it is flawed. Granted, a 4-bedroom, 2-bath home is a reasonable home to compare, but if you have lived in any of the near 120 cities compared in this study, you'll know that $200,000 here is not the same as $200,000 there.

Consider, for example, what you can buy for $200,000 in Columbus, Ohio, where I have lived, and what you could buy for that amount in Lubbock, Texas, where I also have called home. If you are looking right around the campus area, you are fooling yourself; you don't want to live near Ohio State (and that's not a criticism of the institution), and you wouldn't have to live near Texas Tech because of the fantastic communities within a short distance of the campus.

But live too far away from Ohio State and the traffic could drive you nuts. Would it be worth a near $200,000 home in that case?

And trust me you won't need to spend anywhere near $200,000 to get nice digs in Lubbock.

My point? Sure, pay attention to the report, but don't think it tells you everything you need to know.