Now Cough

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Not Yet March

Winter Blah

Quit yer complainin'.

Oh sure, wiping the snow and scraping the ice off the car is getting to be a real drag now. What started as a seasonal, 'pretty' snow has devolved into a freezing cold chore. I especially hate:

* boots dragging snow indoors and the puddles of filthy wetness
* the sweaty humidity that comes from exerting in this weather
* the 'where the hell are my gloves' routine
* the 'which damn coat did I put the my keys/sunglasses/inhaler in' routine
* the nasty gusts of cold air that shoot through the smallest crack in the house
* my skin that starts to feel like the scales of a snake because it is so freaking DRY
* Groundhogs as prognosticators

But if you want to really feel smug, check out the reports from Kyrgystan by my friend Benjamen Walker who flew there earlier this week. His blog, Theory of Everything gives witty accounts of what grimness is really like. He also explains how the widespread use of concrete put the 'bloc' in the former Soviet bloc.

Back in the USSR

Speaking of the Soviet Union, isn't that the place where they used to--gosh, still do-- put journalists in jail? And it sure felt reassuring to hear the president admonish The Putin for being undemocratic (though the former KGBer got in a snarky comment about our own Electoral College..heh heh).

But then prexy is Lenin in the Russian direction, too, with a federal prosecutor aiming to throw Judith Miller and Matt Cooper in jail for l'affaire Plame. Now, Ms. Miller never even WROTE about the outed CIA agent. And Matt Cooper only posted a small item about this on the Time web site. Whereas the colonic columnist Robert Novak who actually DID identify Ms. Plame as an agent--a federal offense--is, apparently not facing any jail time whatsoever. Nor, apparently, is whoever leaked her identity to Novak or the gay-male-escort/pretend White Corrrespondent Jeff Gannon or whatever the hell his name really is.

Ann Cooper of the Committee to Protect Journalists was on NPR this morning drawing the appropriate conclusion: other countries are watching what the US is doing in regard to press freedom. If we throw members of the Fourth Estate behind bars, everyone else will think this is ok. Sort of like ignoring the Geneva Convention. Or torture of political prisoners. Or whitttling away democratic principles when they are no longer convenient.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Spaced Out

Say it Ain't So

ABC News has jumped the shark.

On Feb. 24 the network will run a Peter Jennings special on...UFOs. Usually this stuff is found on one of the cable channels. It's the sort of subject that I stopped paying attention to in 6th grade. Really, how many fake photos and videos of UFOs in Brazil does it take before you say 'I have something better to do with my time.'

Peter, who can be seen doing hard hitting reports on the Middle East, violence, religion, is now going after flying saucers.

Now, many UFO sightings aren't UFOs at all. People living near Bakersfield, CA and other semi-remote areas see lights and shapes zipping by in the sky and conclude, correctly, it is some new military wonder.

Which leads us to the next item...

Eyes in the Sky

The Bush administration is sending surveilllance drones over Iran, looking for proof of nuclear arms development.

"The drones were first spotted by dozens of Iranian civilians and set off a national newspaper frenzy in late December over whether the country was being visited by UFOs." Learn more in the Washington Post (reg. required).

"In late December, Iranians living along the Caspian Sea and on the Iraq border began reporting sightings of red flashes in the sky, streaks of green and blue, and low, racing lights that disappeared moments after being spotted. The Iranian space agency was called in to investigate, astronomy experts were consulted, and an agreement was quickly signed with Russian officials eager to learn more about the phenomena."

"But the mystery was laid to rest by Iranian air force commanders, some of whom were trained more than 25 years ago in the United States and are familiar with U.S. tactics. They identified the drones early last month, a senior Iranian official said, and Iran's National Security Council decided not to engage the pilotless aircraft."

Maybe ABC News will go after these UFOs...which are no longer unidentified.

The Crucible in Cyberspace

There is much gloating and high fiving in the blogger world about the aggressive outing of Jeff Gannon (real name James Guckert), the right wing Internet reporter for Talon news and a GOP web site, who was becoming a regular visitor to the White House press room.

The WH press room is occupied by professional reporters. But everyday, plenty of new faces show up whom the pros don't know. Maybe they are from newsletters, web sites or obscure radio stations---but you can find them there most days.

Gannon is a bit of a different breed. He had a White House press pass, wore his conservatism on his sleeve, reprinted WH press releases verbatim as 'news' and also had ties to the aforementioned Republican web site. Gannon also got a classified document related to the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame. How'd he get that? Was Gannnon a shill for the WH? A pretender? A propaganda plant whose job was to toss softballs in a friendly game of catch with press secretary Scott McClellan? He certainly did that during a recent QA session in the pressroom. That's when the blogger community smelled blood.

Within a few days, Gannon was discovered to be using a pseudonym, found to be the owner of web domains with gay related themes, and revealed to be a guy who couldn't hold a job. Plus he had a web site on AOL with a photo of him shirtless and buff. He resigned from Talon this past week.

I have mixed feelings about all of this.

Friends argue that it is time to take the gloves off in the fight against the Republicans. There is a role for vigorous partisanship, but I think partisanship without conscience is a slipppery slope. Let's face it, Jeff Gannon defines small fry. I wonder if any of the bloggers who went on the attack ever considered the impact of publicly attacking him on his family. Did anyone try to interview him? He is not in the same league as public figure Armstrong Williams.

The ferociousness of this story is cynical, too. All the 'news professionals' hate Matt Drudge (talk about a 'journalist' created by the Internet) but they dare not miss reading his site everyday. He's clearly a right wing shill. So, in the world of journalism and the Internet, he's ok. Gannon is not.

Attacking and derailing Gannon seems to me a distraction from the real issue at hand. Yes, we're all appalled by the Bush administration's use of fake spokesmen and news reporters to carry its messages. That is wrong and should be revealed. But the focus of attention should be the president, Dick Cheney and those who are in the upper echelon of this administration.

The blogging community is a valuable and original voice. As it matures, I hope the members take a close look at its behavior in l'affaire Gannon. I'm sure the frenzy would be a familiar one to Arthur Miller.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

The Cat is on the Roof

If anyone thought the public version of the 9-11 Commission Report was the end of the story, you got a rude reality check today.

Numerous reports confirm that an edited, previously undisclosed report shows the FAA had issued many warnings about Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda in the months leading up to the 911 attacks.

This latest report was filed by the Bush Administration in the National Archives. Talk about hiding in plain sight. The document had many sections blackened out, according to a variety of news stories. But what is most disturbing is the pattern of detailed warnings that resulted in no substantive, aggressive procedures on the part of the FAA, nor the airlines nor by other parts of the national security apparatus.

Failure of imagination? Ha. Just try Failure.

Passengers and airlines were more concerned before 911 in arriving on time than arriving alive.

Those who have closely followed the 911 investigation will note that the FAA was initially portrayed as jumping at lightning speed on that tragic morning, with the head of the FAA ordering for the first time in history that all air traffic in the US be grounded.

Lest we too quickly label those actions 'heroic,' this report shows the true keystone cops attitude of the federal government to a growing, terrorist threat.

The FAA has its own security force and they warned specifically about the threat posed by Osama and Al Qaeda. They raised the possibility of hijackers who would be willing "to commit suicide in a spectacular explosion."

But as we now know, people don't talk to each other in the federal government, especially when they are working on the same threat to the national security. The FBI and the CIA don't talk, the FAA doesn't talk to the White House or the State Department, the State Department gets the cold shoulder from the Pentagon when it comes to the veracity of Iraqi nuclear weapons and even on the day of the 911 attack, the president did not speak directly with the Secretary of Defense after learning of the tragedy.

Now, the Bush White House, which controlled what from the 911 Commission final report was made public, has hidden this FAA report card away in the archives. Convenient this now emerges after the election, after the inauguration, after the deadline has passed for 911 survivors to sue the government or the airlines, and while the public has moved on from terror to Social Security.

What else don't we know? What else IS known except by the public?

You won't find the answer on CNN, that's for sure. It was obsessed today with the impending marrriage of Prince Charles and the horsey-faced Camilla Parker Bowles.

Sunday, February 06, 2005


Sir Paul?

What were they thinking?

Last year's Jacksonian debacle has now been whiplashed into pop purity. Beatle Blandness. Paul McCartney's half-time show was overproduced, safe nonsense.

Outside of "Joe Joe" whose gender confusion kept the stadium crowd clapping, there wasn't a hint of anything daring. Swaying happy fans waving little penlights---the ultimate cliche of a hip concert.

How many of the people there, no doubt Bush supporters, caught the irony that at one point The Beatles were tainted, anti-Christian 'revolutionaries?"

"Christianity will go," [John Lennon] said. "It will vanish and shrink. I needn't argue about that; I'm right and I will be proved right. We're more popular than Jesus now. I don't know which will go first -- rock 'n' roll or Christianity. Jesus was all right, but his disciples were thick and ordinary. It's them twisting it that ruins it for me." More

Next year's Super Bowl entertainment: Lennon X 4

Sunset for Nightline?

Is anyone surprised?

A few years back there were rumors that ABC wanted to bump off Ted Koppel by hiring David Letterman and his brand of wise guy entertainment. After all, the ratings of Nightline are much lower than the Letterman and Leno offerings from the competitors.

Now, the LA Times (registration required) reports that insiders claim a test of a redesigned Nightline was produced last week. New hosts, and, if the story is accurate, a new editorial focus---the test show covered the Michael Jackson trial.

A nation at war, the end of the New Deal, the whittling of the Bill of Rights, the fear of terror and ABC wants to kill the most serious news show on commercial television.

Brilliant. No wonder Jon Stewart, a comedian for God's sake, looks like a real journalist by comparison.

Bangalore Bound

My good pal Jonathan Oatis works for Reuters and has just been posted from the veddy civilized London to wild and wooly Bangalore. Yup, India. To follow his adventures check out his excellent blog!

Friday, February 04, 2005


Another sunny, snowy day---good time to start a blog!


If you have never lived in a city with a GOOD tabloid, you don't know what you're missing. The Philadelphia Daily News is one of the best. Word today that it's courageous, tenacious and sharp editor Zack Stalberg is leaving. Who can blame him, given the nonsense the corporate owners Knight Ridder are pursuing.


Let God sort 'em out:

"According to an audio recording of General (James) Mattis's remarks obtained by The Associated Press, he said: "Actually, it's a lot of fun to fight. You know, it's a hell of a hoot.It's fun to shoot some people. I'll be right upfront with you, I like brawling."

He added, "You go into Afghanistan, you got guys who slap women around for five years because they didn't wear a veil."

General Mattis continued: "You know, guys like that ain't got no manhood left anyway. So it's a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them."

More about the straight shooter and his wrist slapping. (NYTimes reg. required):


A bunch of Woodstein archives opened at a Texas university. And speculation that George Herbert Walker Bush (Poppy) was Deep Throat. But who really had a motive?


Oh, I'm stepping into a pile of doo now. Dave Winer, father of RSS among many other things, waves the flag for bloggers uber alles. And makes a lot of lame observations about THE MEDIA. The one that gets me is this:

Professional reporters won't criticize their employers. Ask any reporter. Could you run a story about your employer that was negative? If you can actually get them to answer the question, the answer is no. Most likely they'll deflect the question by saying something personal, about you! These are the same people who wax endlessly about accountability in politicians and leaders of tech companies. But for some reason they never seem to challenge the leaders of media companies. (Sorry for the sarcasm, they don't because they'd be fired if they did.)

Unlike bloggers, reporters for the most part are very concerned about appearances of conflict of interest. Reporting on one's employer is rife with credibility issues. That is usually the reason.

Oh and Dave should be careful about the use of the word never. Read Hard News by Seth Mnookin about how The New York Times investigated the disaster of the Blair scandal. Do all papers do this? No.

Do networks? Rarely. However, CBS did:

Excerpts from the 224-page Report of the Independent Review Panel on the Sept. 8, 2004, ``60 Minutes Wednesday'' segment titled ``For the Record,'' concerning President Bush's Texas Air National Guard service:

"The panel finds that the vetting process for the Sept. 8 segment was seriously flawed. The panel believes that this was caused in large part by the speed with which this segment was produced. The panel also believes that the vetting process was not sufficient because too much deference was given to (segment producer Mary) Mapes because of her experience and much admired history at CBS News and ``60 Minutes Wednesday,'' as well as her association with (Dan) Rather. Rather does not appear to have participated in any of the vetting sessions or to have even seen the segment before it was aired."