Now Cough

Tuesday, June 28, 2005


At Open Source...

I'm sitting here in the control room at WGBH where a new public radio program, Open Source, hosted by the incredibly talented Chris Lydon, is being produced.

Seven people crammed into a modern control room, dominated by a large, demanding clock. On the TV monitor above the mixing board you can see Chris in a t-shirt with two guests at a table. The rhythm of the staff members contrasts with the action in the studio--imagine two teams of people who appear to be doing completely unrelated things, but they are actually both working together in a digital harmony.

The slight, tiny Katherine is screening phone calls, crisply saying "Open Source, what's your name and where are you from?..." She takes very fast and sloppy notes, urging gently for the caller to focus a bit on one thing and to please turn down their radio and "hold please..."

She turns to the director "Peter on 2..."

An intern, linked to all of the activity only by a headset is typing obsessively in a laptop--her job is to keep track of every caller, summarize the comments and the list of Summer books recommended by callers and guests...The topic for this evening.

Chelsea is keeping track of the posts on the Open Source bloc. And Brendan is switching from screen to screen on his laptop, standing at the ready with a headset equipped with a mic. Chris says " ...And now our blogmeister Brendan Greeley, what's the chatter on the blog..." And Brendan reads part of one post about the novelist Thomas Mann and a bit of poetry.

The web and radio come together. I can see the red sweep second hand on the big clock arcing toward the top of the hour--only minutes to go.

Laughter about some of the comments, nodding about David Sedaris..In the background on the cue speaker the engineer is previewing music beds for the director. Jazz? A trumpet riff?

Chris is deftly now moving from the conversations with two authors in the studio to Dennis Johnson, a writer and blogger in Hoboken. He artfully re-introduces guests and callers like an uber-salon host. Never breaking a sweat.

Chris asks--where are the international authors?

This is a very exciting hour...Smart, demanding in its range and subjects...It is expected you read and went to college and can't stop learning. Hungry for information and connections. As distant from the Limbaugh's as Earth is from Alpha Centauri.


Sunday, June 19, 2005


Missed him by that much

From TIME magazine in their interview with Porter Goss, head of the CIA:

WHEN WILL WE GET OSAMA BIN LADEN? That is a question that goes far deeper than you know. In the chain that you need to successfully wrap up the war on terror, we have some weak links. And I find that until we strengthen all the links, we're probably not going to be able to bring Mr. bin Laden to justice. We are making very good progress on it. But when you go to the very difficult question of dealing with sanctuaries in sovereign states, you're dealing with a problem of our sense of international obligation, fair play. We have to find a way to work in a conventional world in unconventional ways that are acceptable to the international community.

IT SOUNDS LIKE YOU HAVE A PRETTY GOOD IDEA OF WHERE HE IS. WHERE? I have an excellent idea of where he is. What's the next question?


"Until we strengthen all the links we're probably not going to be able to bring Mr. binLaden to justice." NOW he tells us. In order to get the man responsible for the bloodiest terror attacks on US soil we have to fix our intelligence and anti-terror efforts

George Tenet, Mr. Goss' predecessor, suggested fixing the CIA could take 10 years or so.

All this prognostication comes as the former members of the 911 Commission are publicly saying the Bush administration and Congress have not done enough to address the recommendations in their final report. We are less than 90 days from the 4 year anniversary of Sept. 11.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Profiles in Courage. NOT

Deafening Silence

Well, so now the guns are trained on the money going to public broadcasting. Looks like the House and the Senate will come to some sort of compromise on money that goes to stations, PBS, NPR and ITVS...but there is a strong sense there could be deep cuts as a result:

Public Broadcasting Targeted By House
Panel Seeks to End CPB's Funding Within 2 Years

By Paul Farhi
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, June 10, 2005

A House subcommittee voted yesterday to sharply reduce the federal government's financial support for public broadcasting, including eliminating taxpayer funds that help underwrite such popular children's educational programs as "Sesame Street," "Reading Rainbow," "Arthur" and "Postcards From Buster."

In addition, the subcommittee acted to eliminate within two years all federal money for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting -- which passes federal funds to public broadcasters -- starting with a 25 percent reduction in CPB's budget for next year, from $400 million to $300 million. Full article (reg. required)

Is anyone surprised?

Public radio and public TV have been quiet over the last few years as they were characterized by the right as liberal, left-leaning, biased and inaccurate. Do you ever see Kevin Klose on Meet the Press? Nope. Do you ever see any top public radio people debating the merits of public broadcasting (except for Terry Gross going mamma to mano with that hack Bill O'Reilly--and even then she was undercut by NPR's ombudsman!)?

So, this is how that silence ends up. Very, very late to the party in terms of public discourse about public broadcasting. I really don't know what public broadcasting has been doing--or getting--for all of its alleged 'government relations.' Controlling the message and the debate is critical. In this day and age what public broadcasting does everyday is simply not strong enough. In fact, that argument is naive to the extreme.

The clock is ticking. Let's see if public broadcasting can smartly marshal its forces, arguments, political acumen and message to turn this serious challenge around.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Facing the Brownshirts

What would YOU do

I don't think it is too much to claim that once again the American democracy is threatened by the evil within. People who wrap themselves in flag and faith while gnawing at every civil right we have.

We've seen this all before.

Only weeks after I was born (ahem) the nation watched in rapt attention as Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy continued on his relentless, brutal and destructive drive to weed out Americans who held political views that did not match him, or his supporters.

Finally, 51 years ago this week...

Army counsel Joseph N. Welch confronted Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy during the Senate-Army Hearings over McCarthy's attack on a member of Welch's law firm, Frederick G. Fisher. Said Welch: ``Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?'' (This transcript of that confrontation captures the ugliness--and Welch's calm courage.)

And that was the beginning of the end for McCarthy. So, where are the Welch's of today? Where are the people of standing and public respect of any party will say publicly--and finally--what any rationale person knows in their gut: the madness we're living in now must come to an end.

Which brings me to my email to the media web site Romenesko today. I just had to put a line in the sand about the deceptive messages from the right against the media.

Jonathan Alter from Newsweek also takes on the jerks who would dare challenge his integrity.

Monday, June 06, 2005

That's Cold!


"Coldplay, the most insufferable band of the decade..."

Yes, that is how critic Jon Pareles put it in the Sunday New York Times (reg required)

Now, these lyrics from the hit song 'Clocks' do have a lot to be desired:

Lights go out and I can’t be saved
Tides that I tried to swim against
Have bought me down upon my knees
Oh I beg, I beg and plead
Come out of things unsaid
Shoot an apple off my head
And a trouble that can’t be named
A tiger’s waiting to be tamed..

Shoot an apple off my head??


Still, I like the music and no, Pareles, I am not among "moony high school girls and their solace-seeking parents, [by] hip-hop producers who sample its rich instrumental sounds and [by] emo rockers who admire Chris Martin's heart-on-sleeve lyrics."

Fake War on Terror (continued)

Gottta hand it to the 911 Commission--they just won't let up. Someone needs to keep the pressure on because the Bush administration is not smartly preparing the nation to resist a terrorist attack nor is it waging the war in any clever, intelligent and effective way.

Has the threat diminsihed in the last year?

Lee Hamilton on Nightline this evening: "Not fundamentally...terrorist actively has actually picked up..."


* Effective congressional oversight
* Poor distribution of Homeland Security money to the most critical areas
* Lack of support for first responders

And Osama is still alive somewhere...

History Shmistory

Nixon's Ghosts

Credibility is in short supply---from journalism to government to former inmates ('I'm innocent I tell ya!')

As Newsday columnist Martin Schramm writes:

Richard Nixon's ex-convicts - who did jail time for their crimes against democracy and then profited from their crimes by writing books and becoming celebrities - had returned to work one more con. Nixon's former senior White House assistant, Charles Colson, and the Nixon team's burglar-in-chief, G. Gordon Liddy, worked the cable news circuit, expressing moral indignation that the FBI's former deputy director, W. Mark Felt, was Deep Throat.

He was the source who had blown their cover by feeding facts to the Washington Post's Bob Woodward - truths that helped land many in jail and drove Nixon from office.

"I was shocked because I worked with him closely," Colson said on MSNBC. "And you would think the deputy director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, you could talk to with the same confidence you could talk to a priest." Then on CNN: "I was shocked, because ... I talked to him often and trusted him with very sensitive materials. So did the president. To think that he was out going around in back alleys at night looking for flowerpots, passing information to someone, it's . . . not the image of the professional FBI that you would expect."

Ah, image. Conjure Colson, with Nixon and others in the Oval Office, as Nixon orders a burglary at the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank.

Meanwhile on CNN, Liddy tells Paula Zahn: "I view him [Felt] as someone who violated the ethics of the law enforcement profession." Then, back on MSNBC, Liddy brags that not only had he plotted the burglary of the Democratic Party's Watergate offices but, "I planned the Brookings break-in." It wasn't done, Liddy said - "too expensive."

When the face of Nixon's speechwriter Pat Buchanan appeared on our looking-glass/screens, some viewers might have expected a refreshing, ruminative literary perspective about Felt and the Watergate era. Then Buchanan spoke: "I think he's a snake."

"Here is an individual," Buchanan explained, "sneaking around at night leaking things to damage the president of the United States in the middle of a campaign. And I don't see what is heroic about ... that."

Sneaking around at night, can't be trusted, shocked at confidences being used against you...did these jokers NOT work with Nixon, he of the secret taping system, the anti-Semitism, the drunken ramblings, the erasing of tapes, the maniacal hatred of the Kennedys?

Like with Vietnam, there is a whole right wing mentality that hasn't learned one damn thing about history, or propriety or humility in the face of their own complicity in crimes. Crimes against the Constitution.

Liddy, Colson, Buchanan are almost the Manny, Moe and Jack of treason. They would be funny if they weren't really regarded as a) credible by a patsy media and b) certain policymakers who keep re-hiring their ilk (John Poindexter working for George Bush, Ollie North for Fox News and God knows who else.)

And with other lessons not learned, I'll jump on the bandwagon about the press. Much in the same way no one wants to use the Vietnam analogy with the quagmire in Mesopotamia, the press likes to revel in the myth of Woodstein but not launch into a new era of investigative reporting. John Mitchell apparently lives beyond the grave and the wincing fear of 'getting their tit in a wringer' has chilled the press.

Finally, where are the other Mark Felt's in this administration? Those who see a duty to country and truth beyond their present careers, standings and comfort?

Foreign Affairs

Think well of two good friends now spending some time abroad:

David Lee Preston of the Philadelphia Inquirer. He is teaching journalism to students in Beijing over the next few weeks. He reports ample food, spartan university and internet facilities but warm and engaging hosts.

Janet Steele from George Washington University who is in Indonesia wrapping up a book and then off to Bangladesh. Janet is a throwback to another time, an intrepid and fearless correspondent in the original meaning of that term.