Support indie blogging--and keep it ad-free--by purchasing a G.M. book, below right.

Monday, December 31, 2007

Obama is finished

Or so says Dorothy Rabinowitz of the Wall Street Journal. On this past weekend's weekly TV "Journal Editorial Report," hosted by Paul Gigot, she and other panelists were asked to make predictions for 2008. Here is her big one, right off the transcript: "My pick? Well, I think that in very short order Americans are going to be asking, Who is Barack Obama?

"You know, this man has come forward like a Rorschach test for everybody to project this notion of what a Democratic candidate should be. He's the inkblot. And it's becoming clearer and clearer that this mass of platitudinous, high-minded expression pouring forth from Obama as--it is beginning--it's going to sit on people who are going to ask, What's he saying? What does this mean? This started at the convention speech where he gave this strange speech about no one is black, no one is white, no one is this, no one is--"

Gigot: "But people loved it, Dorothy."

Rabinowitz: "Yes, I know, they loved--exactly....Well, I can tell you that this mass of nonmeaning, nonspecific feelings, attitudes and programs is going to become unraveled very soon when people look for programs...."

UPDATE: The new, and final, Des Moines Register poll, shows Obama actually gaining in Iowa, as he opens up a 7% lead over Hillary and Edwards.

Kristol quip

No one ever said Bill Kristol totally lacks a sense of humor. But he probably wasn't kidding today when he told Howie Kurtz, in referring to his new bosses at The New York Times: "They're believers in diversity and so am I. They could use a pro-Bush, pro-war, pro-life, pro-eavesdropping opinion now and then, don't you think?"

More from Kurtz: "Kristol says he plans to 'leave the Times alone' in his own writing but told Publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. and Editorial Page Editor Andrew Rosenthal that would not be the case for his magazine [The Weekly Standard], owned by Rupert Murdoch. 'I made clear I'm not censoring the Standard in any way, and they said they didn't expect me to,' he says." Asked about detractors who say he has been discredited by years of optimistic predictions about the Iraq war, Kristol says: "Critics come with the territory."

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Huckabee's view of wife's role in marriage: You gotta serve somebody -- me

As Bob Dylan, in his Christian phase, sang, "You gotta serve somebody." And like any man, I have occasionally wished my wife would, like Jeanie, call me "master." But, gosh, I recognize that's just a passing fantasy--and I would never sign a full-page ad in USA Today endorsing the idea. Well, turns out that's just what Mike Huckabee did in 1998.

Then-Gov. Huckabee was one of 131 signatories on a full-page USA Today ad backing a controversial position on the role of women in marriage adopted by the Southern Baptist Convention: “A wife is to submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband even as the church willingly submits to the headship of Christ.” The ad Huckabee signed congratulated the convention: “You are right because you called wives to graciously submit to their husband’s sacrificial leadership.”

Where is this notion rooted? In a recent blog item defending Huckabee's view, Lee Webb, news anchor at Pat Robertson's CBN, wrote that the apostle Paul's "directive that wives should submit to their husbands and husbands should love their wives is found in Ephesians 5:22-33. Many in the church would have us to believe this passage is simply a cultural ordinance, in other words, no longer applicable in our modern, more evolved society. Read Ephesians 5:31 and you'll discover that Paul is rooting his directive back to Creation. That means it does apply to us today."

Here's Bono's view of the whole "master" thing:

The first great female war photographer


On a rainy afternoon in Manhattan today, I went to the epic show at ICP uniting the work of doomed lovers Robert Capa and Gerda Taro, who together produced some of the most powerful and familiar images from the Spanish Civil War. He went on to gain fame shooting other battles (including the D-Day invasion), while she died very young in Spain, while traveling with Republican troops -- purportedly the first woman war photog to die in action. The image above, one of her best known, features a militia woman getting ready to fight Franco.

Bill Kristol and 'Original Sin'

For more blog (left and right) reaction to the hiring of Bill Kristol by The New York Times, here's a Blogrunner link, and a memorable video of his latest appearance on "The Daily Show," this past August, when Kristol says invading Iran is "not a bad idea." Stewart reminds him, referring to his 2003 statement on Iraq, "You said Shia and Sunni would get along." Kristol admits: "I've been wrong about plenty of things." Stewart later notes, hinting broadly that this refers to Kristol's key role in promoting the invasion of Iraq, that even if things are improving in Iraq he "can't get past the concept of Original Sin." http://www.blogrunner.com//snapshot/D/0/3/the_times_adds_an_oped_columnist/

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Kristol Mess: It's Official, 'NYT' Hires New Op-Ed Pundit

A day after the Huffington Post first reported it (see below), The New York Times has announced that it has indeed hired conservative pundit, and Fox News analyst, Bill Kristol, as a new regular op-ed columnist. Liberal bloggers had been up in arms over the move. Kristol said, in an interview with Politico.com, that it gave him some pleasure to watch their "heads explode." Kristol was perhaps the most influential pundit of all in promoting the U.S. invasion of Iraq and has strongly defended the move ever since.

Times' editorial page editor Andrew Rosenthal defended the move. Rosenthal told Politico shortly after the official announcement Saturday that he fails to understand “this weird fear of opposing views....The idea that The New York Times is giving voice to a guy who is a serious, respected conservative intellectual — and somehow that’s a bad thing,” Rosenthal added. “How intolerant is that?” Of course, some would argue that Kristol is not "serious, respected," broadly speaking. Unlike the Times’ other regulars, Kristol will write only once a week, with his first column set for Jan. 7, and he has just a one-year contract.

In the July 14, 2006 issue of The Weekly Standard, which he edits, Kristol called for a "military strike against Iranian nuclear facilities. Why wait? Does anyone think a nuclear Iran can be contained? That the current regime will negotiate in good faith? It would be easier to act sooner rather than later. Yes, there would be repercussions--and they would be healthy ones, showing a strong America that has rejected further appeasement."

But opponents may take heart from this precedent: Kristol's predecessor in one of the "right" spots at the Times, John Tierney, was laughed off the page in short order.

Willie and Dylan: Men About Townes

One of the great American songwriters (some would say, poets), Townes Van Zandt, passed away 11 years ago, on New Year's Day, and if you are not hip to him here's a little intro, featuring Willie Nelson and Bob Dylan singing his best known (though not best) song, "Pancho and Lefty."

Kristol due persuasion?

Or as Jim Morrison predicted, the Kristol Ship may be about to sail. Much uproar across the blogosphere over a report on Huffington Post that The New York Times is about to name inexpert expert Bill Kristol as a new op-ed columnist. That second conservative slot has been open since wacky John Tierney got dumped. However, this "news" still seems to be in the rumor stage so perhaps people should hang on to their hats for now. But let's not forget Kristol's call for the paper to prosecuted, on Fox News in 2006, after its big banking records scoop: "I think it is an open question whether the Times itself should be prosecuted for this totally gratuitous revealing of an ongoing secret classified program that is part of the war on terror.”

Friday, December 28, 2007

When the war comes home: A soldier's story draws strong response

My recent blog post (scroll down the page a bit and look for more than a dozen comments) on a soldier who died on Christmas day -- in a "noncombat" situation -- has drawn a quite moving response, including comments from several people who knew him back in his home town. See my original post down the page for more than a dozen remarkable tributes. And I have a new piece about it at E&P. :
http://www.editorandpublisher.com/eandp/news/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1003689713

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Daniel Day-Lewis, Upton Sinclair and Me

It’s good to see my old friend Upton Sinclair back in the news again amid the raves for the new film, There Will Be Blood, very loosely based on his 1927 novel Oil!. Well, I’m not quite old enough to have met the famed muckraker, although I did interview his son for my book The Campaign of the Century on Sinclair’s amazing 1934 race for governor of California. Even though Uppie earned a nod in many of the articles and reviews of the film, which stars Daniel Day-Lewis, few have commented on the original source material.

So here’s one tidbit: The novel, one of Sinclair’s finest, was “banned in Boston,” as Catholics there objected to sexual passages, references to abortion and other heresies. Truth be told, this did not displease the author, as it provided a big boost for sales. After he journeyed to Boston, photographs of him hawking copies of the book wearing a signboard that promoted what he called the “Fig Leaf Edition” of the book appeared in newspapers around the country. Talk about manipulating the press!

But Sinclair’s most lasting contribution to modern politics came seven years later when the former socialist ran for governor of California as a Democrat and nearly won. As another campaign year begins in earnest next month, it is worth looking back at how the modern political campaign -- run by consultants and "spin doctors," with an assist from Hollywood --began, and I will do that in coming weeks. Meawnhile, here's the movie trailer:

Our man in Pakistan

A little freaky to turn on Jim Lehrer NewsHour tonight and see someone I know -- via Little League -- as the main correspondent from Pakistan tonight. He is Griff Witte, the stellar reporter for The Washington Post. To make a long story short, I coached Little League with his father, Mike Witte, and remain very good friends with him and the whole family. I even wrote about Mike and his boys in my baseball memoir, Joy in Mudville. We did a profile at E&P last year on Griff and I later wrote a column about Mike and his fears as his son was heading off to Islamabad. Stay safe Griff!

'NYT' admits: Ron Paul not a neo-Nazi

The New York Times on its Web site posted a lengthy Editors' Note last night concerning a blog posting this week by reporter Virginia Heffernan. That post had opened, "Ron Paul, our Internet president, seems to have Nazi troubles, as in they’re saying he’s one of them." The Editors' Note reads:

"A post in The Medium that appeared on Monday about the Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul and his purported adoption by white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups contained several errors. Stormfront, which describes itself as a 'white nationalist' Internet community, did not give money to Ron Paul’s presidential campaign; according to Jesse Benton, a spokesman for Paul’s campaign, it was Don Black, the founder of Stormfront, who donated $500 to Paul. "The original post also repeated a string of assertions by Bill White, the commander of the American National Socialist Workers Party, including the allegation that Paul meets regularly 'with members of the Stormfront set, American Renaissance, the Institute for Historic Review and others' at a restaurant in Arlington, Va. Paul never attended these dinners, according to Benton, who also says that Paul has never knowingly met Bill White. Norman Singleton, a congressional aide in Paul’s office, says that he met Bill White at a dinner gathering of conservatives several years ago, after which Singleton expressed his indignation at the views espoused by White to the organizer of the dinner. The original post should not have been published with these unverified assertions and without any response from Paul."

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Killed on Christmas Day in Iraq

The Pentagon revealed today that a soldier from suburban Detroit died on Christmas Day in Iraq. Sgt. Peter Neesley, 28, was from Grosse Pointe Farms. The military says he died of an undetermined cause in a "noncombat environment" in Baghdad. The military, as usual in these (far too many) cases, says it's investigating the circumstances surrounding his death. As some may know, I have written often about "noncombat" deaths in Iraq for over four years.

In the photo, Neesley is shown on a recent visit to his nephew's 4th grade classroom in Grosse Pointe Farms. The school's newsletter described it this way: "Sergeant Peter Neesley, uncle of Patrick D., visited Richard Elementary while home on leave from Iraq. Sgt. Neesley led the school in the Pledge of Allegiance and visited several classrooms answering questions from our inquisitive students. Thanks for spending valuable time with us Sgt. Neesley and don’t forget to write and keep in touch. Thanks to all the men and women in the armed forces. We are so proud of you!"

Update: There is a followup item now at the top of the home page for this blog, with more comments. It links to my new E&P article on the reaction to Peter's death, at: http://www.editorandpublisher.com/eandp/news/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1003689713

Beatles back Huckabee! Help!

Campaign video of the day belongs to these two college students who do an inspired job of adapting the Beatles' "Help!" into a pro-Huckabee commercial -- or as they sing, "Won't you please, please, vote Huckabee...Huckabee...Huckabee, ee, ee."

Hanks for that

I have to admit, I had a bit of a chip on my shoulder about "Charlie Wilson's War." About eight years ago, Tom Hanks and his partner Gary Goetzman optioned my book "Joy in Mudville" for a film for Universal. About a month later, they bought up George Crile's book about Charlie Wilson, and my heart sank. Well, it took them eight years to bring it to the screen, god bless 'em, while poor old "Joy in Mudville" remains in development hell. But I have to say, good-time "Charlie" is well worth seeing. I think the flick could have used another couple minutes on the Osama link -- I kept expecting him to appear in footage from Afghanistan -- but there's a great subtle moment near the end when the Philip Seymour Hoffman CIA character informs Hanks, outdoors at a party, that despite the Soviet defeat we were really asking for trouble in Afghanistan. As they chat you faintly hear a jetliner overhead. It's subtle, could just be ambient noise, but chilling nonetheless....

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

The War at Home

My friend Dennis Anderson, editor of a small daily in California, has written many articles for E&P -- some of the best writing about the Iraq war -- ever since he covered that conflict, as an embed, on two separate missions in 2003. Dennis has written movingly about the toll on families here at home -- and his own son fought in Fallujah. In a new piece at E&P he covers all of this terrain, and more, concluding with some fresh news about his son.
http://www.editorandpublisher.com/eandp/news/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1003688739

"Ode to Joy" -- from NYT Op-Ed to you

The op-ed in The New York Times on Monday concerning the uses of Beethoven's finale of the epic Ninth Symphony as a kind of universal anthem, at Christmas and otherwise, gives me an excuse to post Leonard Bernstein conducting the final 7 minutes here. If you haven't heard it in awhile, or never heard it, you really owe yourself a listen here...."All men become brothers".....

Monday, December 24, 2007

Ron Paul comes out against the war -- the Civil War

People are still talking about Rep. Ron Paul's appearance on "Meet the Press" on Sunday, for various reasons, including the following statement, when he came out against Lincoln waging the Civil War -- 600,000 died and slaves would have been freed in short order anyway, he said.

Another year of "Living with War"

Neil Young said it best, long before Robert Gates admitted last week that at the end of next year we will still have at least 100,000 troops in Iraq. Here's Neil's video/newscast for "Living with War."

Christmas in Fallujah

Never been a Billy Joel fan, but he's penned a great new tune, now a YouTube favorite, called "Christmas in Fallujah," sung by Cass Dillon, 21, an unknown from Billy's native Long Island. Joel said it's based on letters he's received from the troops and he wanted a young guy about the age of many of the soldiers in Iraq to sing it. Net proceeds to Home for Our Troops. Of course, he could have called it "We Didn't Start the Fire." I posted it once before, but on Christmas Eve, here it is again.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

The real Dylan: He IS There

Earlier, I posted about the travesty that is Todd Haynes' "I'm Not There." Without the Cate Blanchett gimmick I can't imagine it would have made a single Ten Best list. There's a new documentary that focuses on Dylan's appearances at Newport from 1963 to 1965 that reveals more about him -- and his shifting image -- than all of Haynes' film. Much of it has been shown on some PBS stations in recent days and it should be out on DVD soon. Here's one of the highlights, from the middle year, 1964, when Dylan was really starting to shape his star attitude. It's one of his greatest, and most poetic songs, "Chimes of Freedom," also surely one of his greatest live performances.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Suicides in Iraq: One Parent's Question

Putting politics and views on the war aside, it is my holiday wish that the media continue to draw attention to the disturbing number of suicides among our troops in Iraq. I have been writing about this for over four years, one of the few in the “mainstream” to do so. Paul Rieckhoff of IAVA has long been pushing for this also, to no avail. I penned a well-publicized column a few weeks ago asking when the media would finally focus on this issue -- and I'm grateful that there has been a flood of stories from high-level media outlets about this ever since, starting with a two-part CBS News report last month.

Just this week, we have seen (and I have cited at this blog, see below) a remarkable report in the Army Times about a mutiny among our troops that followed a sergeant’s suicide and other tragic deaths, and an in-depth AP report about a family’s quest to uncover information about the military’s mistreatment of their son, who also killed himself over there. The official total of suicides in the Iraq stands at 132, but this does not include the many cases still under investigation, others that are likely but not proven, and hundreds of others that have happened on a return home. Just this week comes word of a few more “noncombat” fatalities in Iraq, which often turn out to be self-inflicted.

I’d like to close by publishing here a comment on my Army Times posting below. It comes from the parent of a suicide victim in Iraq. The mother or father is unfortunately “anonymous,” but if you can provide any information or help (while I do my own search), please post something here. The message:

“We are dealing with non-hostile combat death in the family. The army ruled it as self-inflicted despite the fact we were in constant contact with him. Testimonies of his final hours showed no sign of suicidal tendencies, physical evidence provided was contradicting and circumstantial at best. He was getting out Iraq and the service in less than 4 months.

“I am curious about this medication comment that increases 'the likelihood of suicide ideation/gesture.’ What types of medication could be suspect that would be used for relieving stress and anxiety? Nothing else makes sense and the Army has only released the sparse information that supports their determinations.

“Greg, something stinks with this noncombat crap going on, and families like us are isolated & left to fend for ourselves. The government/Army holds all the cards and resources and know the process in which we have to navigate through to get information and the many ways to be denied. It's a job to them. For us, it's picking up the shattered remains of our lives.”

A plea at Christmas: Steve Earle's 'Jerusalem'

There's no terrific video of Steve's "Christmas in Washington" (also known as "Come back, Woody Guthrie"), but this may be even more apt. There's yet another "Don't Look Back" reference here.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Fred Thompson meets Bob Dylan!

If you can figure out where these guys and gals who have a "crush" on Fred Thompson are coming from, let me know, but until then just enjoy this mix of rock 'n roll, cigars, and Dylan "Don't Look Back" references.

Top Ten Stories of 2007

Over at E&P, my colleague Joe Strupp has picked the Top Ten stories for the newspaper biz in 2007. The list includes jailed AP Iraqi photog Bilal Hussein, and counts down from there to #1. No, Blackwater offing the New York Times' dog at its Baghdad bureau did not make the list. It's at:

http://www.editorandpublisher.com/eandp/news/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1003688108

Two Iowa College Papers Back Obama

The Daily Iowan Friday endorsed Barack Obama and John McCain for the January 3 caucuses, becoming the second student-run newspaper in the state to endorse them. “Obama’s commanding oratorical abilities should not distract voters from his policy proposals, objectives that outline a return of ‘united’ to the United States,” the Daily Iowan editorial board wrote in their endorsement. “We believe his judgment and ideas are the best fit, not just for a party but for a people.”

Each had also received the backing of the Iowa State Daily recently. Obama has actively courted the student vote — encouraging students to caucus despite the fact that many universities will still be in the middle of winter break.

The University of Iowa newspaper also had warm words for Edwards, Biden and Dodd -- but said nothing about Hillary Clinton. It cited Obama’s stance against the Iraq war, his plan for broadening health insurance and his message about curbing global warming. It said of McCain that he "has remained loyal to his message; after ignoring the horse race and celebrity status some candidates have earned, it’s clear that McCain’s vision for America stands above those offered by his Republican counterparts."

New "Obama Girl" video:

'Ghost' in the Machine

Apropos of nothing: Gary Oldman starred as Beethoven in the film "Immortal Beloved" a few years back, and I would happily trade most of those two hours for the two minutes in the video someone put together, below. It features Gary and one of the greatest pieces of music ever (this coming from an old rock and roll editor), the second movement of Beethoven's "Ghost" piano trio. Give it a listen, it just might make your day.

One of my favorite lines in Richard Dawkins' book this year was his answer to the time-honored claim that Beethoven's music proves that God exists. Dawkins wrote, no, it only proves that Beethoven existed -- and let's be thankful for that. For more Beethoven, see the Glenn Gould video bar at the very bottom of this blog.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Updated: Stephen Colbert beats out Harry Potter (and Al Gore) for AP's 'Celebrity of the Year'

Great celebrity -- or the greatest celebrity? In a surprise vote that may require a recount, Stephen Colbert, who lost a poll on this blog two days ago for favorite fake TV newsman (to his stablemate Jon Stewart) did win one lesser honor today: He was voted the Associated Press "Celebrity of the Year" by newspaper editors and broadcast producers. They claim Colbert had the biggest impact on pop culture in 2007.

He finished just a hair above J.K. Rowling, who authored the final book in her "Harry Potter" series. Finishing third was Al Gore, whose year included an Oscar, an Emmy, a Nobel Peace Prize and the global concert Live Earth. Update: Just announced tonight that Stephen and Stewart will be returning to the air in January -- sans writing staff. (Maybe Krauthammer and Kristol have time to fill in, now that they've been cut loose by Time magazine.)

Here's Colbert visiting Bill "Papa Bear" O'Reilly earlier this year.

McCain responds to Drudge rumor

We usually ignore Drudge-based rumors, such as the current one involving Sen. John McCain trying to get The New York Times to spike a story about his allegedly improper dealings with a certain (female) lobbyist, but now E&P has received an email about it from McCain's office -- and the Associated Press has a response from the candidate himself, and Howie Kurtz is also weighing in. So, for what it's worth, this has gone "mainstream" quickly. Here is the E&P report.

http://www.editorandpublisher.com/eandp/news/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1003687696

Who Needs A Key Newspaper Endorsement? Craig of Craig's List Backs Obama

Craig Newmark, the man behind Craig's List, has kicked the MSM's butt the past few years in classified sales and social networking, so the Obama folks have to hope his winning streak continues. He has now endorsed Obama, and even co-hosted a New York fundraiser, explaining on his blog, "There are lots of good Democratic candidates, but when you run most of their proposals through the sausage factory, not much differentiation. Barack offers something different in a big way."

Newmark recently said, "I figure we really need a guy who knows right from wrong, and who can remind the world that we're the good guys." Now he explains, "I'm not an American 'exceptionalist'; I'm a customer service rep, and have spoken with thousands of people in the US and overseas. Everyone wants Americans to be the good guys again. We need someone who can credibly remind and lead us back into good guy-ness, in terms of of our actions and how we're perceived everywhere. Leadership means that you need to be able to bring out the best in people.

"Barack's the guy to do that."

From 9/11 to 12/25: Rudy's Red-Nosed Reign Near?

Most of the "serious" candidates for president have followed Mike Huckabee's lead and posted or aired campaign commericals in the form of holiday greetings. Here's our wince-inducing favorite, from our former mayor, Rudy Giuliani.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Incredible AP report, with video, on suicide by U.S. soldier in Iraq

One of our boys killed himself in Iraq two years ago -- but his suicide note just showed up in his parents' mailbox. And new FOIA documents obtained by his family, and released to the AP, reveal how he had been both mistreated, and ignored, by the military. Early in his service in Iraq he had decided that he really didn't want to kill people. Video: http://video.ap.org/v/default.aspx?g=f897b4a3-c0a8-45dc-bf91-ba0757ed0065&f=vtben&fg=email%3E
Article:
http://www.editorandpublisher.com/eandp/news/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1003687325

UPDATED: Mitt and the Mormons Debate Continues -- Benson Responds to Critics

In case you've missed it, check out the comments in the post a little bit below which features a heated and fascinating debate over Mormonism, a certain candidate and a fairly prominent (and Pulitzer-winning) editorial cartoonist. You can weigh in here or down there. Also, E&P has just interviewed Benson again to get his response to the criticism. And in a guest column, a Mormon journalist/professor hits negative media coverage of the faith. They are here:
http://www.editorandpublisher.com/eandp/news/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1003687866
http://www.editorandpublisher.com/eandp/columns/shoptalk_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1003688296


Picky, picky: White House gets 'NYT' to correct Torture Tape headline

It's nothing new for the White House to hit a New York Times front-pager, but it's rare when the deck of a headline gets the most attention. Here is the latest, and below the link, a video of Dana Perino denying the president knew anything ten days ago. http://www.editorandpublisher.com/eandp/news/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1003687080

Fire in Cheney's Office -- What was he burning?

Or smoking? The fire is out in one of Vice President Cheney's offices across from the White House, though one had to be rescued off a fifth-floor ledge. Cheney was across the street at the time -- which should lead to all kinds of swell quips about what sort of evidence he had just set on fire. Did he find a CIA "torture tape" that had not yet been destroyed? Private photos of Sen. Larry Craig? The cable he sent to Blackwater ordering guards to shoot that New York Times dog in Baghdad? All memos related to Scooter Libby and Valerie Plame? Records of visits from Jeff Gannon? Copies of his $100,000 a year contract to serve as political consultant to Fox News? Or simply an electrical fire caused by an overload of activity by the shredding machines? Join in the fun, add your guesses here.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The truth about Romney -- from a cartoonist?

Can't seem to get away from the campaign after several posts on the war -- though it's tempting to do something on Blackwater offing a New York Times pet dog in Baghdad. (As that fine film once put it, They shoot humans, don't they?) The funniest thing: On the home page at the Times tonight very near where they are, finally, reporting this incident, stands the small headline, "Employees explain the benefits of bringing their dogs to work."

But I'll dwell instead at an exclusive interview earlier today by my E&P colleague Dave Astor with Steve Benson. He is the Pulitzer-winning-- and hard to pin down politically -- editorial cartoonist who also happens to be an ex-Mormon and the grandson of Mormon legend Ezra Taft Benson. He thinks Romney is telling lies about how much he REALLY would be under the sway of the church if he really took the White House. Here's the link: http://www.editorandpublisher.com/eandp/news/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1003686826

Gallup: Ron Paul Falling Behind....Alan Keyes?

While I agree that the media has been slow to cover Rep. Ron Paul’s fundraising success -– and I sympathize with his antiwar stance – the notion that the press is missing a true grassroots surge for Paul in the race for president is questionable. A new Gallup Poll out today shows that his support among Republicans nationally has actually dropped in the past month, from a paltry 5% to a pathetic 3%. This is after he did get more press and appeared in most of the TV debates. By the way, that 3% total now ties him with new entrant….the loony Alan Keyes.

Admittedly, Paul is much stronger among independents, but that won't help him in the GOP race, no matter how much money he raises. And do any of the thousands who have donated money to Paul wonder when he will actually start spending a lot of it? He was getting 3% nationally in Gallup back in July, and hasn’t gained an inch since. Anyone else suspect he wants to bank some of it for unspecified future activities -- such as an indy run?

Another surprise in Gallup: Contrary to much media coverage, it suggests that Huckabee has peaked -- his 16% is identical to what he polled two weeks ago. And Rudy not only still tops him with 27% but easily beats him (56%-38%) or Romney (57%-37%) in a one-on-one matchups.

Monday, December 17, 2007

UPDATE: Kerrey a torch?

The big 2008 campaign kerfuffle today concerns remarks About Sen. Obama by former Sen. Bob Kerrey in endorsing Hillary yesterday. He told reporters, "It's probably not something that appeals to him, but I like the fact that his name is Barack Hussein Obama, and that his father was a Muslim and that his paternal grandmother is a Muslim. There's a billion people on the planet that are Muslims, and I think that experience is a big deal." After some charged that Kerrey was only the latest Clinton backer to stab Obama -- this time with the word "Muslim" instead of "cocaine"-- he asserted that his words were only meant in praise for Obama's potential to communicate abroad. Critics came back with: Why, then, the use of his middle name "Hussein," a favorite game of the far-right? Today, Kerrey defended himself on CNN, but only complicated matters when he brought up Obama supposedly attending a "madrassa" school (which has long been discredited), again painting this in a positive light. So: What do you think? No fair or no foul? Comment below.

Also, here's the new Huckabee "Merry Christmas" ad -- with not-so-subtle cross in background and explicit mention of Christ.

'Mutiny' by U.S. troops in Iraq

One of the most remarkable stories of the entire Iraq war was published in the Army Times on Friday. While violence is down in Iraq, Americans continue to die and fall badly wounded, and suffer severe stress and trauma caused by 15-month tours of duty. The article on Friday in the Army Times is titled: "Not us. We’re not going: Soldiers in 2nd Platoon, Charlie 1-26 stage a ‘mutiny’ that pulls the unit apart." I have contacted Jeffrey McKinney's father and await a response. Here is the link to the E&P article about it.
http://www.editorandpublisher.com/eandp/news/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1003686058
Also, my friend, the great Joe Galloway, has a new column on our site which basically says, "Honor the troops -- and ride the hypocritical politicians out of town on a rail for not taking care of the injured ones back home." Here it is:
http://www.editorandpublisher.com/eandp/columns/shoptalk_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1003686171

Sunday, December 16, 2007

'Christmas in Fallujah'

Never been a Billy Joel fan, but he's penned a great new tune, now a YouTube favorite, called "Christmas in Fallujah," sung by Cass Dillon, 21, an unknown from Billy's native Long Island. Joel said it's based on letters he's received from the troops and he wanted a young guy about the age of many of the soldiers in Iraq to sing it. Net proceeds to Home for Our Troops. Of course, he could have called it "We Didn't Start the Fire." I posted it once before, but on Christmas, here it is again.

Mitt has a hole when it comes to race

Mitt Romney on "Meet the Press" today turned emotional as he recalled the day in 1978 he learned over his car radio that his Mormon church had finally dropped its full membership barriers to blacks. He may have even shed a tear on camera, or as Drudge has it in a headline at the top of his site: MITT TEARS ON MTP. He had cried that day in 1978, too, allegedly so happy the black ban had finally collapsed. You'd hardly know that, fact is, Romney had done absolutely nothing about fighting this racist barrier before his epiphany in his car.

The Mormon Church considered blacks spiritually unfit as results of a biblical curse on the descendants of Noah’s son Ham. Some prominent Mormons — including Morris and Stewart Udall -- had publicly called for an end to the doctrine, the same kind of pressure that had earlier led to the end of approved polygamy. Mitt Romney, a former missionary -- and in an influential position as son of former Gov. George Romney -- said absolutely nothing.

“I hoped that the time would come when the leaders of the church would receive the inspiration to change the policy,” Romney told The New York Times a few months ago. “The way things are achieved in my church, as I believe in other great faiths, is through inspiration from God and not through protests and letters to the editor.”

Now today he says, “I was anxious to see a change in my church...it’s very deep and fundamental in my life and my most core beliefs that all people are children of God. My faith has always told me that." But, actually, his faith -- as a Mormon -- told him the opposite. Tim Russert gave him a chance to say that his church was wrong, but Romney would only reply, “I told you exactly where I stand. My view is that there’s no discrimination in the eyes of God." Yet, queried repeatedly today by Russert, he heartily embraced the support for his candidacy by Rev. Bob Jones.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Des Moines paper registers its vote: It's Hillary and McCain

The suspense had grown with each passing day. Candidates lobbied hard. Other media covered the newspaper's quandary, and influence, most recently The New York Times in a major piece today -- which wondered if the fact that the three top slots at the paper were held by women would have any impact.

Perhaps it did. For the Des Moines Register, in editorials for its Sunday edition, endorsed Sen. Hillary Clinton and Sen. John McCain in the upcoming caucuses in Iowa. This could prove to be a lifesaver for Clinton, who has had a miserable week, and McCain, who has been a longshot in the race. The paper said its two main criteria were: "competence" and "readiness to lead." For more: http://www.editorandpublisher.com/eandp/news/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1003686030

Bill Clinton Interview: Dissing Obama

I caught Charlie Rose's interview with Bill Clinton late Friday night on PBS and I was shocked that the Big Dog was so dismissive of Obama (I guess he didn't get the memo from his wife's headquarters about easing off), even suggesting that Charlie or some other TV talk show host might be about as qualified as Obama to run for president. But he said it was up to the voters -- they could take a "risk" with Obama if they really wanted. He also said that it was a "miracle" that Hillary even had a chance to win Iowa now. When in American history have we elected a person with little more than one year in national office? Clinton asked. He hinted that they might as well choose a gifted talk show commentator. Amazing. Here's a write up: http://www.editorandpublisher.com/eandp/news/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1003686025

Friday, December 14, 2007

How My Home Boy Skirted the Baseball Drug Scandal

The "Bats" blog at The New York Times tonight presents an interview with a major league baseball player who, in 2001, inquired about taking steroids -- his potential connection was the man who shot up Roger Clemens -- but turned away. He is C.J. Nitkowski, now hurling in Japan. We have our own connection. He hails from Suffern, up in my neck of the woods, and when I wrote my book about coaching in Little League a few years ago, we corresponded -- back in 1998 he was one of the first ballplayers to "blog" (as it later became known).

We never met but, for my book, he recalled his years in Little League and some of the horrible things coaches and parents subject their kids to. I just dug out one of his emails and see that he advised me to teach the kids real "sportsmanship." I replied, and the last thing I ever told him was, "Good luck on the coming season, I hope you're not headed to Toronto in any Clemens deal." Here's my new column: http://www.editorandpublisher.com/eandp/columns/pressingissues_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1003686024

Bloggers now drive campaign coverage?

We have a major feature up at E&P right now on how bloggers at mainstream news outlets -- with their 24/7 work ethic and, gosh, links to YouTube -- are really driving coverage of the race for the White House. Good or bad? Are they only helping to guarantee that we will not just have "Clinton fatigue" but "Obama fatigue" and "Everyone Else fatigue" before the first votes are cast? Check it out at http://www.editorandpublisher.com/eandp/news/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1003685680

Pump It Up

As a former Little League manager (and author of a memoir titled "Joy in Mudville"), I suppose I should have something profound to say about the Mitchell (no relation) Report on druggies in baseball, but for now I will only celebrate Roger Clemens' demise and offer a little black humor from today's papers in New York.

The Post, of course, "injects" the funniest line, opening one article, "George Mitchell caught Roger Clemens with his pants down -- literally." Its front page shows five needles, carrying the names of abusers, shooting up a baseball, under the headline DISGRACE. The back cover pictures Andy Pettitte and Clemens under the title, SHOT TO HELL. The sedate New York Times, meanwhile, rises to the occasion on the front page of its sports section with tiny photos of dozens of IDed druggies -- in the shape of a huge needle.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Party Like It's 2005 in Iraq

The mantra emerging from the Pentagon and U.S. military officials, including Gen . David Petraeus, for the past month is: Security is improving in Iraq, violence is down, why, it’s like we’re back in 2005 – not like that terrible 2006 or awful first half of 2007. Any drop in the killing is welcome, but I decided to dig around a bit to refresh my memory on what the good old days of 2005 in Iraq were really like. You remember 2005: That year Vice President Cheney declared that the insurgency was in its “last throes.”

The Washington Post, citing Petraeus, noted last week that attacks in Iraq as of the end of November had declined to a level not seen consistently since mid-2005. Iraqi civilian deaths are at their lowest level since the end of 2005, and November had the lowest number of U.S. troop deaths since 2005.

So what was 2005 like in Iraq? For starters, 846 American troops died that year. Let’s not forget the nearly 6000 wounded. Iraq Security Forces lost over 2500 killed. In 2005 an average of 5.8 Iraqi civilians died per day in vehicle/explosions, and 25 per day in shootings/executions. Just taking those two categories gets you over 10,000 civilian deaths, according to Iraq Body Count, the authoritative site which offers lower-end numbers.

There were also 32 journalists killed. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis fled their homeland. Other highlights from 2005: On July 27, the U.S. military leader in Iraq said there would be “fairly substantial” withdrawals of some of the 135,000 U.S. troops as early as the following spring. The killing of more than two dozen civilians in Haditha took place in November.

“The violence has dropped to levels of 2005,” Leila Fadel, the Baghdad chief for McClatchy wrote recently, adding, “I still wake up to shooting outside the windows and we hear explosions that shake our desks or sometimes are just a distant boom.”

Coming in tomorrow’s edition of Time magazine, its former Baghdad bureau chief Bobby Ghosh writes, “In truth Baghdad is nothing like normal and still some distance from safe … While there’s a trickle of [Iraqi] refugees coming home, many Iraqis continue to leave Baghdad. Here are four reasons why people…are not packing their bags for home—and why the successes of the ‘surge’ could easily unravel: 1) the killers are still at large; 2) the Sunnis are still out in the cold; 3) crooked state, crooked services; and 4) there’s no political leadership.”

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The best Hollywood movie about an evil reporter

So you think you have reason to hate the MSM today? Well, take a look at Billy Wilder's utterly prescient 1951 cult classic "Ace in the Hole" starring Kirk Douglas. I previewed this in a podcast last week, and you can watch the trailer for the film a little ways down on this page. Here's the link to my new column:
http://www.editorandpublisher.com/eandp/columns/pressingissues_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1003684389
Or watch:

Huckabee Wants the Stones to Play at His Inaugural

After the AP leaked a quote from the story last night, on Mormonism, The New York Times today put up its entire mammoth profile of Mike Huckabee coming in this Sunday's magazine. Given my own background, my favorite passage is this:

"Huckabee ordered soup and a sandwich without drama or comment and began talking about rock ’n’ roll. This is his regular warm-up gambit with reporters of a certain age, meant to convey that he is a cool guy for a Baptist preacher. Naturally I fell for it, and asked who he would like to play at his inaugural. ‘'I’ve got to start with the Stones,' Huckabee said.

"The governor regards 1968 as the dawning of ‘'the age of the birth-control pill, free love, gay sex, the drug culture and reckless disregard for standards.' The Rolling Stones album ‘Their Satanic Majesties Request' provided the soundtrack for that annus terribilis. But Mike Huckabee wanted me to know that he believes in the separation of church and stage.

"The governor’s musical wish list also included John Mellencamp, who, he noted, would be welcome despite their differing political views; the country duo Brooks & Dunn; Stevie Wonder; and, surprisingly, Grand Funk Railroad. 'That’s a groundbreaking group,’ he said earnestly. 'The bass player, Mel Schacher, is very underrated.'’’ For more, see E&P link and new rockin' Huckabee parody commercial below. Feel free to suggest a Stones' song for the Huckabee inaugural ("No Expectations"?):
http://www.editorandpublisher.com/eandp/news/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1003684142

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Did Romney Speech Flop?

A new Gallup poll reveals that, after Gov. Romney's big speech last week, the same percentage of Americans claim they would never, ever, vote for a Mormon. See E&P story at
http://www.editorandpublisher.com/eandp/news/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1003683825

Monday, December 10, 2007

David Brooks: We're Now in 'Postwar' Period

The most idiotic campaign punditry in recent days has been the assertion that the Iraq war as an issue is so over. Like, so last summer. It reached a climax today, Tuesday, with David Brooks' column in The New York Times declaring that we are now in the "postwar" period. Brooks calls this suddenly "a postwar election," repeating that phrase several times. The public, he suggests, is changing from "a war mentality to a peace mentality."

Postwar? Peace? Try telling that to the soldiers in Iraq, and the families whose kids are still coming home minus a limb or part of their brain. Last I checked we were still spending billions of dollars a month Over There and I haven't heard about any bases, or the grand embassy, being dismantled. A new Gallup poll (see below) disputes the notion, anyway. Is the issue a little less "hot"? Surely. But to say it is over is an obscenity.

With rose-colored glasses still in place, Brooks takes a world tour, finding more reason to relax about Iran, Pakistan (?), even the Palestinian question. My favorite line then follows: "The world still has its problems." Gosh, you think? Later he admits, "Something terrible could happen in the world" to change the hopeful mood. As if little terrible is happening now.

This all started last week with Peter Beinart’s self-serving column in The Washington Post -- Brooks cites it today -- which flatly called the war a "non-story." He took as his main evidence that questions about the war were not being asked all that much at the Democratic and Republican debates. The fact that all of the Democrats are much in agreement against the war, and all of the leading Republicans in agreement in support of the venture, apparently did not occur to Beinart as an explanation. Of course, if any of the Democrats faced off against any of the Republicans right now, is there any doubt what would be the hottest issue? But Beinart – an original hawk on the war, like Brooks – had good reason to downplay the disaster he helped cause.

On Sunday this argument was pushed again on Sunday talk shows, and then in a Tim Russert report on NBC Nightly News. Russert went so far as to suggest that next year would likely be a “lunch pail” election with the war in the background. I guess all of the troops will be home in a few months.

Now, today, comes a new Gallup poll which, of course, reveals, as Gallup puts it, that when “asked which issues will be most important in determining their vote for president in next year's election, Americans by a wide margin say the war in Iraq, with more than one in three mentioning the war.” Only after that do they mention the economy, healthcare, and illegal immigration. Gallup said that Iraq has diminished only “somewhat” as the top issue over the course of the year. The poll was conducted Nov. 30-Dec. 2.

The raw numbers for top issue: Iraq 36%, the economy (i.e. lunchpail) 16%, health care 15%. Nearly 1 in 2 Democrats say it is the top issue and even 29% of Republicans feel that way. It's also easily #1 in every section of the USA.

Perry Jefferies, a former Army sergeant in Iraq, blogged at the Iraq & Afghanistan Veterans of America site today: "Too many commentators like David Brooks, too far removed from the heat, heroism, and hard times of Iraq try to ignore the struggle and sacrifice that our troops and families go through....They distill the deaths of Soldiers into a few numbers or a trend, draw their own only-self-supporting conclusions about it and move on to their own agenda. I think that Mr. Brooks needs a little vacation to somewhere warm to let his brain thaw out. Maybe there’s a hotel room available in Baquaba for him."
John Lennon's take on "War Is Over":

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Springsteen on the Sixties

By the time you read this you may have already watched the Tom Brokaw special tonight on 1968. The History Channel sent around a video excerpt with Bruce Springsteen (who failed his draft physical that year at age 18) talking about his musical influences. He hails Dylan, of course, but back when I knew Bruce he was almost equally into Van Morrison -- and, here's a scoop, during the recording of the "Born to Run" single, he listened a lot to the Searchers. Anyway, here is Bruce from the clip on Dylan: "I've met Bob Dylan a few times. He said, 'Hey man -- let me know if there's anything I can ever do for you.' Anything you can ever do for me?" Bruce laughs. "It's been done!"

Update after seeing the show: If anyone cares, I was one of the "Clean for Gene" college students in 1968 and was later in that crowd outside the Hilton in Chicago--but AFTER the rioting stopped. Chicken.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

News Outlets Refuse to Say: "Torture"

As the protests surrounding revelations that the CIA destroyed tapes that showed brutal interrogations by its agents, most news outlets refused to brand what the tapes likely showed as "torture." It may walk like a duck and talk like a duck but in this case -- it's not a duck.

An Associated Press article by Pamela Hess repeatedly refers simply to"interrogation" on the tapes, at one point putting "enhanced interrogation" in quotes. Mark Mazzeti in The New York Times uses "severe interrogation methods." Eric Lichtblau in the same paper uses the same phrase. So does Reuters in its lead. ABC News' web site has a lengthy piece that simply refers to "interrogations" for several paragraphs before mentioning that "critics" claim torture. If you can manage to find the story at the Fox News site -- good luck -- you will see that they use "harsh methods."

McClatchy chooses "harsh interrogation tactics." Dan Eggen and Joby Warrick in The Washington Post rely on the same phrase. They refer to one detainee having been "identified by intelligence officials as one of three detainees subjected to waterboarding," which they refer to not as torture but as "an aggressive interrogation technique that simulates drowning." The Wall Street Journal also mentioned waterboarding but does not call it torture. James Oliphant at the Chicago Tribune's popular Washington, D.C. blog The Swamp merely refers to "extreme methods to interrogate."

James Gordon Meek in New York's Daily New refers to "rough interrogations." Greg Miller in the Los Angeles Times notes the CIA's reference to "harsh interrogation techniques" but at least in his lead he observes that Democrats were indeed calling this "torture." And rare props to The Washington Post editorial page for heading its blast today: "The Torture Tapes."

Friday, December 7, 2007

Thursday, December 6, 2007

'Time' Publishes Feingold Letter Hitting Klein

Accused by bloggers and other critics of refusing to publish letters complaining about the recent error-riddled Joe Klein column on FISA, Time magazine, in its Dec. 17 issue coming out tomorrow (received by yours truly today), finally carries a longish complaint from Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wisc.). It comes at the end of the Letters section, after two other letters hitting Klein on the same issue. Feingold notes that Klein called Democrats "tone deaf" and "well beyond stupid," yet the columnist "got most of the facts wrong about the debate" over FISA. Later he declares Klein "flat-out wrong" on another aspect.

Criticism of 'Wash Post' Over Obama Rumors Gets Results

In the latest example of press criticism apparently producing results, a reporter at The Washington Post who was hit hard last week from the blogosphere -- and his own paper's editorial cartoonist, Tom Toles -- for a front page story that unfairly depicted rumors about Sen. Barack Obama, produced a story with an entirely different tone for the print edition today.

Perry Bacon, Jr. came under fire for the story that covered continuing allegations from rightwingers that Obama is actually a Muslim in disguise. Some accused the paper of not knocking down the rumors as entirely false very clearly, and upfront, in the piece. Others at the Post, such as Howard Kurtz and Toles, have said that the story was not properly edited, while Bacon and some editors replied that they produced the story in the first place to tackle the rumors.

In any case, Bacon's story today on a related matter shows that the criticism certainly did have an effect. Notice the use of "false" and "falsely" in the first two sentences. Here is the opening graf: "Hillary Clinton's campaign asked one of its volunteer county coordinators in Iowa to step down after reports surfaced indicating the person forwarded an e-mail falsely stating that Barack Obama is a Muslim. Obama is a Christian and attends Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, but chain e-mails have been circulating that falsely describe him as a Muslim."

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

If You Need a 'Daily Show' Fix....

Well, imagine how bad JON feels, with all this laugh-ready Rudy, NIE, Huckabee stuff and other rich material, set up like ducks in a row. Or perhaps, after the Omaha mall shooting today, Jon would have "joked" that we should not ban guns, just the camouflage fatigues the mass killers inevitably wear. Or what was it Chris Rock said? Don't ban guns, just charge $2000 a bullet. But if you want something to tide you over, absent Stewart and Colbert, you could do worse than consider my recent piece reviewing Jon's take down of Chris Matthews, right here http://www.editorandpublisher.com/eandp/columns/pressingissues_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1003650576

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Media Failure on Iranian Nukes: Iraqi WMD Redux? Comment Here

I have a new column up at E&P on the new NIE assessment debunking all the hysteria over an Iranian nuclear weapons program. Many in the media, of course, had been thumping the tub for an attack on Iran. It's at: http://www.editorandpublisher.com/eandp/columns/pressingissues_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1003680766

Monday, December 3, 2007

Another Iraq Suicide

As some of you may know, I have been rather obsessed, for years now, with the shocking number of suicides among U.S. troops in Iraq and veterans of that war back here at home. Today at E&P we reported on another mysterious "non-combat" death in Iraq and another horrific, and sad, vet suicide here at home. Here's a link to that story -- and to Neil Young's "Shock and Awe." http://www.editorandpublisher.com/eandp/news/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1003680285

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Open 'E&P' Thread

Anyone visiting from E&P can comment on any current story here. Thanks.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

What Changed on 9/11

I have a new column up at E&P. Everyone remembers -- and may even retain -- a front page from a newspaper on the day after Sept. 11, 2001. But a look at a front page of The New York Times from the morning of 9/11, before everything changed, may be more revealing. Take a look yourself, http://www.editorandpublisher.com/eandp/columns/pressingissues_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1003679992

My anti-death penalty e-book

My anti-death penalty e-book
Click cover to read more on history, and current debate, in America.