Saturday, December 31, 2005

Bush Administration Investigates Leakers When It Should Look At Its Own Misdeeds

The fruits of the pointless and unconstitutional inquisition into the press in the Valerie Plame CIA leak case are now seen in the announcement by the Justice Department that it is undertaking a second leak investigation into the recent New York Times report of warrantless wiretapping by the National Security Agency under the orders of President Bush.

What we see here is that the Bush Administration is quite willing to see the jailing of Judith Miller and accept the special prosecutor's attempt to crack down on freedom of the press, but it is unwilling to investigate its own illegal acts.

The President lied when he said he was seeking a warrant, as required by law, for all wiretapping. Now, his Justice Department and personal flunkey, the Attorney General, are going after not him, for these critical violations of the Constitution, but the press for writing about them.

The situation grows more and more disagraceful, especially since we have learned the NSA wiretapping has not been confined to al Queda suspects, but is much more broadranging, delving into international communications of many innocent American citizens who have nothing to do with al Queda. But Congress clearly subjected even al Queda wiretapping to approval by a special court, so the al Queda wiretapping too has been illegal.

This Administration has sunk into such a morass of illegality that it has put the whole War on Terror, which I have always felt is necessary under the circumstances, under a terrible cloud. By forfeiting public confidence, the President has compromised his own efforts amd further imperiled the country. He has sacrificed his own integrity.

This follows the weakness of such liberal media writers as Tim Rutten and Jim Rainey of the L.A. Times, who were critical of Judith Miller and hot to endorse the Plame investigation without realizing that it would set the stage for an even more devastating attack on freedom of the press.

The First Amendment in the Bill of Rights says no law shall be made to restrict the press, yet more and more it is becoming clear that under this Administration, supported by many appointees in the corrupt U.S. court system, freedom of the press is directly threatened.

It is a sorry spectacle when freedom of the press, an essential foundation of other American liberties, is compromised by the weakness of many journalists themselves, unwilling to stand up for press freedoms, not realizing that freedom to publish must be accompanied by the use of confidential sources and the delving into government impropriety on all levels when it is found to occur.

Even Bill Keller, executive editor of the New York Times, failed in the end to stand by Miller, his own heroic reporter. Now, he may personally reap the reward of his own weakness in dismissing her after she had stood so gallantly by the paper.

The press must stand up for its own rights under this Administration. Under the circumstances, it cannot cooperate with the new investigation, no matter what the cost.

Friday, December 30, 2005

A Decent LAT Editorial Page For Once Extolls Some Heroes

The L.A. Times editorial pages for Thursday, Dec. 29, show that editorial pages these days need not always be dirges of negative rantings about the Bush Administration and the war in Iraq.

In two editorials in particular, the Times extolls the virtues of some unexpected heroes, and on the Op Ed Page, there's a sensitive article on state politics by the editorial page writer and Pulitzer Prize winner the Times should never have fired, Bill Stall.

The heroes are the President of Indonesia and two Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies.

The Indonesian president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is given appropriate credit for everything he did in the wake of last year's tsunami to end the long insurrection in Aceh, the province on the northern tip of Sumatra.

"It is difficult to find silver linings in devastation such as last year's tsunami, which struck the Indonsian island of Sumatra with sickening fury," the Indonesian editorial begins. "When the ocean receded, the water was thick with bodies, trees and debris. More than 100,000 were dead, many of them children. But the waves and water accomplished what years of halfhearted negotiations had not. They stopped the violent, decades-long campaign for the independence of Aceh..."

The tsunami marked the occasion for the Indonesian government to open Aceh to foreign rescue workers, including the U.S. military, and now the rebels have abandoned their campaign and will join provincial elections.

As the Times editorial says, "Much credit for the peace agreement with the rebels is due Indonesia's president...who in September granted a blanket amnesty to the rebels, including those imprisoned for treason. Yudhoyono took office not long before the tsunami; a former general, he faced the difficult task of overruling onetime colleagues who wanted to continue hunting the Acehinese guerrillas..."

"Nothing can bring back the tens of thousands who died or erase the horror endured by millions more. But with their response to the tsunami, Indonesians have shown the world what can be accomplished through common sense, determination and a shared sense of purpose." Amen!

In another editorial, the Times pays tribute to the two young Sheriff's deputies who raced to the scene of a Watts fire and rescued two small children from the burning second floor of housing in a tough section often not friendly to the police. One of the deputies, Jeff Kim, a Korean immigrant, caught the youngsters when they jumped from the window, at some injury to himself. The other, Annmarie Matusik, helped extinguish flames impeding the rescue.

And the fire wasn't even in the jurisdiction of the Sheriff's Dept. It was just outside. A trucker had flagged down the deputies' vehicle and pointed to the fire.

"There's nothing like a hero for the holidays, and the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department has a pair of them," the Times editorial remarks. "Their story may help the public understand that there is more to the department than budget troubles and jail mismanagement...

"The actions of Kim and Matusik a more complex and human picture of policing."

Then, on the Op Ed Page, Stall's article, "Schwarzenegger's second act," there is a sophisticated article by Stall looking at the disappointing past and perhaps more promising future of the Schwarzenegger Administration, if only there is a less partisan spirit in Sacramento.

It shouldn't be too late for Andres Martinez, editor of the editorial pages, to undo one of his worst mistakes and tell Stall he is welcome to stay on the Times staff.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Anti-Democratic Developments Roil Iraq, Gaza and Egypt

Nothing is more discouraging in the Middle East today than the unwillingness to accept peace and/or democratic results by recalcitrant groups, who through sheer prejudice or refusal to practice elementary civility compound any attempts to bring progress.

We see this in three countries in just the last week.

IRAQ: Finally, there was a fair representative election, as declared by the United Nations and other unbiased groups. The Sunnis voted, along with the Shiites and the Kurds, and, as has been known for a long time, the Sunnis emerged about a 20% minority. Rather than accept this and negotiate for the best they could get in a new government, the Sunnis took to the streets, immediately revived their bombing campaign, and demonstrated once again that the only Iraq they want is one they are tyrants over. This, more than anything, is the fundamental cause of the war in Iraq. A more draconian approach to the Sunnis seems merited and may, in fact, be the only course realistically open to us.

GAZA: When Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon orchestrated an Israel pullout of settlements from the Gaza strip, widespread hopes were expressed that it would usher in a more benevolent era of government there and the Palestinian governing authorities called for a cessation of unpeaceful acts, such as the rocketing of nearly communities in Israel. Instead, there has been an upsurge of extremist activity, a growth of the terrorist Hamas organization, and an intensification of the rockets. All since just August. The Israelis have now been constrained to declare a buffer zone in northern Gaza from which the rockets are fired, and warn that anyone going there risks being attacked. A reoccupation of the area by the Israeli Army cannot be foreclosed. The fact is that whenever Israel has tried a tentative for peace, the Arab response has always been violent. As the poet W.H. Auden once wrote, "You and I know what all school children learn, those to whom evil is done do evil in return." It is one thing for the silly Steven Spielbergs of the world to tell the Israelis to turn the other cheek. The fact is that in order to preserve their state in the Middle East, the Israelis are required to respond to hostile acts by military action. So, it has been since creation of the Jewish state in 1948. Nothing that has happened since leads one to any conclusion other than that the Israelis are there by force alone. Peace, peace, the well-meaning liberals cry, but there is no peace, nor the likelihood of any.

EGYPT: The U.S. initially this year hailed Hosni Mubarak, president of Egypt, for opening the way to marginally more democratic elections. Now, in the wake of an openly fraudulent process, in which it was demonstrated that Mubarak is fundamentally a tyrant and that his strongest opposition is radically Islamic, in other words has Fascist tendencies, the Mubarak government has jailed one of the few liberal opposition leaders, Ayman Nour, on clearly specious charges. The New York Times in an editorial today properly called this "a kangaroo court case," and it suggested it might be time to start thinking about withdrawing the $2 billion a year that the U.S. has been giving the Mubarak government. The only trouble with that is that if we did not have Mubarak, we might have in Egypt the same kind of fascists that rule Iran.

It certainly would be tempting to declare the Middle East ungovernable and withdraw American and other Western forces, were it not for the reliance of the West on Middle Eastern oil, and the prospect that a withdrawal would lead to a terrorist takeover of major parts of the region with all the threats that would compound for the world.

We may be there, as the Israelis are, by force alone. Still, the alternatives to our presence appear to be worse. This is the grim truth, which much of the American media would prefer to ignore.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Lopez Column In L.A. Times Sees Greed and Graft in 2005

Steve Lopez, the L.A. Times columnist, used to work for Time magazine, and it's good he left the magazine, because he has a steadier, more sober view of world affairs than Time has.

This is demonstrated once again by Lopez's column today, Dec. 28, "No Dearth of Greed and Gfaft in 2005," as contrasted by Time's pie-in-the-sky view in its "Persons of the Year" issue out last week.

Time is very pro-entreprenurial. It is always telling its readers of the latest gadgets, the latest trends and generally it takes too upbeat a view of what is happening.

Lopez is more realistic. There is a no-nonsense quality to his writings which is refreshing.

Today's column, with its mentions of the Vioxx debacle, the 25% increase in drug prices the last five years, the extravagant wages paid CEOs, and sundry other scandals is far more typical of 2005 than the charitable work done by Bono and Bill and Melinda Gates, which laudable as it is, was not, as Time claims, really the keynote of the year.

Right next to Lopez's column in today's paper, however, is a truly heartwarming story by Hector Becerra about how a Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy, Jeff Kim, saved the lives of two children he caught when they jumped 15 feet out of a burning building in Watts. This was a lovely Christmas week story.

Time, however, is too impressed, too often, with sunny personalities, who, if the real story is known, turn out not to be as wonderful as advertised. With such optimistic writers as Nancy Gibbs it often presents too glitzy a view of what's happening.

And, besides, Lopez has a very good sense of humor. Time and Newsweek are not nearly as witty.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

FitzSimons Answers MoveOn.Org On Tribune Co. Cutbacks

Dennis FitzSimons, the CEO of the ill-conceived Tribune Co., may not have been willing to meet with or acknowledge MoveOn.Org's criticisms of Tribune cutbacks at a recent New York investors meeting. But he has finally responded in an e-mail reported in the New York Times.

In it, FitzSimons hints that it was not only about layoffs at the L.A. Times and other Tribune newspapers, but it was also about getting rid of deadwood and hiring a better staff.

This helps explain why, right after the layoffs, the L.A. Times is already hiring again, although not in great numbers.

For instance, last week, it became known that the LAT had hired Dawn Chmielewski, a tech columnist at the San Jose Mercury, as a multimedia writer. This is in accord with past Times layoff and buyout practices. Several times now in recent years there have been such moves, only to be followed by a creep back up in terms of numbers of Times staff.

Of course, in this case, the Times has dropped more than 250,000 in circulation, so the staff levels may stay down more than they have in the past.

But in his e-mail to MoveOn.Org, FitzSimons denied its charges that in releasing staff at all its papers, the Tribune Co. is opening the way to reduced quality of its product.

The New York Times story by Katharine Seelye, appearing Monday, Dec. 26, quotes FitzSimons as saying:

"Outstanding journalism isn't just about staffing levels," going on to say in the NYT paraphrase, it was about having a talented staff.

Since the layoffs canned, among others, at least one Pulitzer Prize winner, and transferred others, FitzSimons' view of what constitutes a talented staff may differ from yours and mine. What he apparently seems to mean is a bland staff.

"Tribune's commitment to quality journalism and to serving the readers and advertisers of its local communities hasn't changed one bit," the FitzSimons e-mail continued. "But the media environment is changing and we have to change with it.

"Tribune's edge is its unique ability to cover its local communities like no one else can. In order to keep that edge, we have to remain financially strong."

That's the argument the Tribune executives have been using for cutting back all their papers. Of course, to maintain that the papers haven't been harmed by the cutbacks is ridiculous, and the L.A. Times in particular just isn't the paper it was under Otis Chandler.

But at least FitzSimons has begun to respond to his critics. Now, if he will only, lay off himself, the response may be meaningful.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Sappy Steven Spielberg Ignores The Lessons Of History

Edward Rothstein, in an article in today's New York Times "Arts" section, has a critique of Steven Spielberg's movle, "Munich," that puts Spielberg's foolishness in careful perspective.

As Rothstein points out, the Spielberg argument that retaliation for terrorism, fighting the terrorists, only begets more terrorism, is not, as far as Israel is concerned, accurate.

He quotes from Aaron J. Klein's new book, "Striking Back: The 1972 Munich Olympics Massacre and Israel's Deadly Response," as demonstrating from the historic record that Israel's retaliations resulted in "a steep slide in the frequency of terror attacks against Israelis and Israeli institutions abroad from 1974 to the present."

The same is true in suicide bombings. Israel is the only place where the number of such bombings has been sharply diminished in the last three years, pursuant to a strong Israeli policy of going after the people who have organized such bombings with a well-directed policy of targeted assassinations.

When Israel, by contrast, has retreated in a show of peaceful intentions, such as from Lebanon, or, more recently, the Gaza Strip, the reaction has only been more terrorism. Now, Israel is faced with the necessity of striking back against new rocket attacks from Gaza, and, as in the past, it will soon get around to doing so.

A failure of Israel to respond as it has would long ago have led to the destruction of the Jewish state. People will not continue to live in a place where murderous assaults go unanswered.

At the end of his movie, which I believe should be boycotted in every way possible, Spielberg shows a picture of the New York World Trade Center, as if to suggest that its destruction on 9-11 somehow proceeds from the Israeli retaliations for the murders at the Munich Olympics.

This is a variation on the argument from the ignorant Left that somehow the New York victims of the terrorists acts were responsible for them, that they were an appropriate retaliation for imperial American policy in the world.

It is the same kind of argument that the pernicious Spielberg movie makes, that terrorism is somehow justified as a response, that it is legitimate. This is utterly wrong and will lead only to destruction of our way of life.

As Rothstein points out in the New York Times today, neither the Munich massacre nor the 9-11 attacks came in isolation. They were part of a series of escalating attacks on democratic values in Israel and the U.S., and it seems clear that unless the attackers are resisted effectively, they will only escalate their offensive to the use of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons.

You can't stop psychopaths by turning the other cheek. That's where the Spielbergs of the world are so wrong.

I'm not surprised, incidentally, that the Rothstein argument has not yet found its way into the L.A. Times Calendar section, because the director of that section, John Montorio, is a liberal of the Spielberg, Bob Scheer type, and his section is a constant apology for mistaken liberal views.

However, Nick Goldberg, editor of the LAT Op-Ed page, ran a pointed critique of Spielberg and "Munich" by columnist Max Boot on the editorial pages Wednesday, Dec. 28.

I am surprised that Time magazine called "Munich" a masterpiece, because Time has been fairly constant in its support of what the U.S. is trying to do in the War on Terror.

The Spielberg argument is specious. It can only lead to the destruction of the West, as Rome was once destroyed by the barbarians, and the plunging of the world into new and protracted Dark Ages.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Steven Spielberg Deserves Censure For His Movie, Munich

The producer Steven Spielberg has delivered a contemptable product in his movie Munich and it should be boycotted by all those who support the U.S. and Israel in their War On Terror.

In his turn-the-cheek liberalism, which is such a frequent result of Hollywood and its lack of moral values, opposition to terrorism and appropriate revenge for terrorist acts, is consistently denigrated.

The result is to leave the field clear for more terrorist attacks and the destruction of the democratic states and all they value. In the end, we can no more abide Spielberg than the British could abide Chamberlain or the French Laval.

With Spielbergs view prevailing, the Nazies would have won World War II and the Islamic fascists will win this struggle. It is the people like Spielberg who would not resist Hitler, Stalin and Osama bin Laden that allowed these monsters to get away with their murders. It took the Churchills and de Gaulles, and the millions who fought with them, and Franklin D. Roosevelt, to stop them.

In addition, the Spielberg film is poorly based on one discredited book and may not be very consistent with the facts in the struggle growing out of the massacre of 11 Jewish athletics at the Munich Olympics.

However, when Israel did retaliate for the murders, it was justified in doing so, and the U.S. response to 9-11 is justified as well. Spielberg is trying to sap that vitality. His movie sides with the enemies of civilization, is a cravenly appeasionist product and deserves retaliation in the form of a boycott.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Iraqi Election May Only Presage New Problems

Iraq has been a tyranny since the days of Nebuchnezzar and I'm afraid the latest "election" presages only more of the same.

As might have been expected, the religious Shiites seem to have won the most votes, if not a majority, in the new parliament. Put them together with the Kurds and that would be a majority, but that might not be possible, because the Kurds have little in common with the Iran-leaning religious Shiites. Specifically, the Kurds have nothing in common with the Iran, which might come to dominate the new Shiite Iraq government.

The secular Shiites and the Sunnis clearly lost the election. It seems hard for the Sunnis to believe. They have been behaving with the greatest possible barbarism now for hundreds of years, lording it over the Shiites and the Kurds through one despotic regime after another. Now, they are telling themselves and the world that any election that does not put them in charge is fraudulent. They are not about to accept being a minority.

As usual, both the American government and the press are urging a course of benevolence on all sides. If the Shiites, now holding a plurality, only behave with magnanimity, it is suggested, everything will be well.

Is this realistic? Not at all, I fear.

There is every prospect instead that the insurrection will go on, the Sunni extremists will continue to slaughter the Shiites, the Shiites will respond in kind, and the American Army will be in the middle.

There may be a token American withdrawal, as mentioned by all the wishful thinkers in both the Bush Administration and the press. But the likelihood is that the fighting will go on, and that Democracy will be no more successful in Iraq than it has ever been.

We see much the same thing in Egypt, for that matter. The Muslim Brotherhood, which showed increased strength in the recent less-than-free elections there, but is no where close to a majority turns out to be like the religious Shiites in Iraq. It is profoundly against the West. Should the Mubarak repression end, and the Brotherhood come to power, it would clearly be less friendly to us, and to the Israelis, than Mubarak has been.

As in Algeria and other countries where there have been tentatives at free elections in the Muslim world, it either proves impossible to assemble a working Democracy, or, when one sees where the assemblying majority stands on the issues, it means only more violence or a virulently anti-Western attitude. There was a civil war in Algeria after "free" elections, and that could happen in Iraq, Egypt, and even Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia, should they ever manage a democratic election. In Turkey, as democracy has increased, so has the drift toward a more fundamentalist Islam.

This is not good news for either America or the other Western powers, or Russia.

A peaceful, democratic Muslim state really seems out of question in the Middle East, leaving the question, what next? Nothing good, I'd venture to say.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Michael Kinsley Proves Once Again He Is 'Jerk Of The Year'

There seems to be something about the holidays that compels some people to prove time and again, as if people can't remember, what jerks they have been in the course of the year.

This is certainly the case with Michael Kinsley, a flat failure as editorial pages editor at the L.A. Times, a man who entered into discreditable disputes with a number of persons, introduced goofy reforms, purged honorable people from his staff, and finally got canned unceremoniously by the new publisher, Jeff Johnson, perhaps on orders from alarmed Chicago Tribune executives.

Regardless of all this, Kinsley can't stop blabbering away at what he considers idiotic or ridiculous at the Times.

The latest sign that this man is unstable comes in an article in Slate in which he assails MoveOn activists who have been protesting the removal of the leftwing activist Robert Scheer from the Times Op-Ed page.

"As it happens, I was bounced a few months ago from the job of running the L.A. Times opinion pages. So I am enjoying the fuss (over Scheer) from afar," Kinsley writes. "But it's still ridiculous. The premise is that the op-ed columns and other opinion pieces are not exercises in persuasion but simple counters: If you have more of them, you win. There is no room for the notion that reading something you disagree with might change your mind, or simply be more enjoyable than repeated ratifying of what you already believe."

It's not a bad point, but Kinsley is gone now and, thank goodness, will be forever. He ought to let other people make it.

Just for the record, I approve of Scheer's ouster from the Op-Ed Page after many years of being a Johnny-one-note always opposed to American policy in foreign affairs.

But not everyone agrees. More than 6,000 letters were written protesting Scheer's removal, and MoveOn and other progressives and liberals have come also to Scheer's defense. They have every right to do so, since this is a free country.

As for Kinsley, it remainds me of Sen. Stephen Young of Ohio, who used to reply to some letters by writing back: "I thought you ought to know, before I inform the FBI, that some nut is writing me letters under your signature."

Kinsley, the ersatz liberal, perhaps should be committed, and I don't necessarily mean consistently of one view. Maybe committee to an asylum until he can simmer down.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Nick Goldberg Named Editor of "Current"

Nick Goldberg, editor of the daily Op-Ed Page at the L.A. Times, has been assigned to also edit the Times' troubled "Current" section on Sundays after the departure from the editorial pages of Bob Sipchen, and it may actually mark an improvement.

The only real objection to Goldberg is that he tries to have it both sides on the Arab-Israeli conflict. Like the movie producer Steven Spielberg in the disappointing "Munich" film, he practices a policy of moral equivalence on the issues between Israelis and Palestinians, managing only to alienate both sides.

But at least Goldberg has displayed a simple competence in both design and editing that may bring an upturn of quality in Current. It could hardly have been worse than it's been in the first few months since it was converted from the Opinion section.

Goldberg is a survivor. Like Mikoyan and Molotov in the Stalin regime, he seems to have managed to exist beside various powers-to-be, in this case Janet Clayton, Michael Kinsley and Andres Martinez, without being purged, which was true with few around the Times editorial pages.

This move gives him new authority, and he must now be given a chance to see what he can do. Current can't be worse and may be quite a bit better.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

NYT's Michael Slackman Weak On Mideast Extremists

Certainly, it's one of the jobs of foreign correspondents in the Middle East to explain the region and its standards to the folks back home. But Michael Slackman, a former L.A. Times correspondent in Cairo and now a New York Times correspondent in the Middle East. is too much of an apologist for Middle Eastern excesses.

On Iran and Syria, Slackman in recent months has been far too prone to excuse the diatribes of Iranian President Mahmound Ahmadinejad, whose nuclear ambitions threaten Israel and the West, and too ready to take the Syrian government side on the issue of complicity in bombing murders in Lebanon.

Slackman has been an apologist for Ahmadinejad since his highly suspicious election victory last June. Although both LAT correspondent John Daniszewski and Slackman, in the Iranian capital at the time, raised questions initially whether the election had been fixed, and both noted that Armadinejad claimed victory when the initial official count had him behind, Slackman abandoned that tack, and any suggestion of a tainted election by the next day.

Since then, Slackman has been noticeably softer on Armadinejad than other Western correspondents. On Tuesday, December 20, in a New York Times article headlined, "Iranian's Oratory Reflects Devotion to '79 Revolution," Slackman joined local correspondent Nazila Fathi in cravenly proclaiming, " should not have been a surprise when he {Ahmadinejad) quoted Ayatollah Khomeini and called for Israel "to be wiped off the map," then labeled the Holocaust a legend that was the fault of Europeans and said Israel should therefore be moved to Europe."

Later, he added, "Some Iranian analysts say that by increasing the world's hostility, Mr. Ahmadinejad is hoping to reproduce (a) sense of internal unity.

"Iranian analysts say he is also trying to satisfy, and perhaps distract, supporters who have begun to feel disappointed that he has not provided financial relief. Throughout his campaign, Mr. Armadinejad promised to try to distribute the nation's vast oil wealth."

"His comments are more for domestic consumption," said Saeed Laylaz, an Iranian political analyst.

Slackman's article is just like the comments of appeassment advocates in the 1930s that Hitler was not really so anti-Semitic, that he was just saying these things to rally support in Germany.

Slackman concluded this article by another paragraph seeking to softpedal Armadinejad's statements: "I don't think there is anything new in what Armadinejad said," said Mosayeh Naimi, editor of Al Vefagh/Al Wefaz, an Arabic daily published by the official Islamic Republic News Agency. "He expressed his view on historical events. The Holocaust is a historical event; either it took place or it didn't. If it didn't take place, then it is a fabrication. If it did, it wasn't the Arabs who did it; it was the Europeans. Why then should the Palestinians pay the price of what the Europeans did against the Jews?"

Right under this silly ending was a small dispatch from Tehran, not by Slackman, reporting that Amadinejad has banned all Western music from Iranian radio and television stations.

A Los Angeles Times editorial this morning says everything that need be said about Amadinejad in its very first paragraph: "Iran's President is a menace. In October, he said Israel should be "wiped off the map." Last week he called the Holocaust a "myth." A nation led by Mahmoud Ammadinejad needs to be kept as far from nuclear weapons as possible."

Slackman has not only emerged as a major apologist for this fanatic, but also for the Syrian regime of Bashir Assad.

In a recent article, he discounted the value of a United Nations investigation conducted by Detliv Mehlis placing likely responsibility for the assassination of former Premier Rafik Hariri in Lebanon last February on high figures in the Assad regime.

Basically, Slackman took the position that many Arabs lie to investigators, so the people who told the U.N. investigator that the Assad regime threatened Hariri and then was responsible for setting up the killing could not be relied upon. Since the investigator was a German and not a Middle Easterner, he would not have understood this, the reporter claimed.

Bushwa! Slackman is either catering favor with unsavory characters like Ahmadinejad and Assad to save his own skin, or because he habitually leans over too far to be understanding of the Persian and Arab positions.

In any case, he should be put on home leave.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Time, Inc. Lays Off Some Top Executives, And Tribune-Times Could Too

When the layoffs come, Time, Inc. is certainly not the first to axe some top people. You might recall that the French Revolution climaxed with the director of the guillotining, Robespierre, being guillotined himself. And Goebbels murdered his own children at the end, undoubtedly because he loved them so much he couldn't bear them going through de-Nazification.

So when Ann S. Moore, chairwoman and chief executive of Time Inc., in the words of David Carr of the New York Times, "moved with shocking swiftness, aiming at chiefs more than Indians, because that's where the money is," she wasn't the first executive to do in so many top people. She was following Stalin's technique, but she probably did so for far better reasons.

Among those removed, just before Christmas, when all the best cutbacks are implemented, at Time, Inc., were Jack Haire, chief of corporate sales, a 28-year-employee, Richard Atkinson, a former chief financial officer who was heading the company's news and information group, and Eileen Naughton, president of Time magazine "and one of the rising young stars in the business." You don't suppose she was such a rising young star that Moore perceived her as a possible rival.

And, moving on to Time's bureau chiefs, Moore wisely picked some with no union protection, including the chiefs of the Moscow, Beijing, Seoul and Tokyo bureaus. Perhaps she had dined at them all and not always been satisfied by the fare.

So, I got to thinking, why not implement such layoffs at the Tribune Co. and the Los Angeles Times? After all, what is good for the goose is good for the gander, and rather than get rid of everyone who has ever disgraced the company by winning a Pulitzer Prize, why not go on to a more glorious list?

So, just in the spirit of Christmas week, here's my list. It's not meant to be all-inclusive.

At the executive suites of the Tribune Co., we could get rid of Dennis FitzSimmons and Scott Smith.

At the executive suites of the L.A. Times, how about Jeffrey Johnson, Andres Martinez and John Montorio?

I don't want to cut too deeply, because the Lord knows, we need somebody to run the company and do the editing.

But what about David Lauter and that exciting Times columnist, Ron Brownstein?

That's enough for now. After all, there will be other Christmases, and once the trend is set, we could do this every year. And there are other holidays, like Thanksgiving and the Fourth of July.

And, as Robespierre found out, sometimes the guillotiner gets guillotined. So what about Anne S. Moore at Time, Inc? Couldn't happen to a nicer lady.

Monday, December 19, 2005

The Newspapers Don't, but Maybe The People Are Cutting Bush A Little Slack

The press, if you forgive me saying so, has blown its cool on President Bush and the war in Iraq, plus the War on Terror. But, judging from the most recent polls, Bush's counterattack has won him back a little ground. Some people are willing to cut the Administration a little slack.

It's only a little. The U.S. military is going to still have to show some definite progress on the war in the next few months, or, I suspect, the Democrats will score sizable gains in the Midterm elections, maybe even winning back control of Congress

But in the meantime, the President's counterattack has won him a little space. He's up from 35 to 40% in the polls, and if the Iraqi elections show some sign of putting a more stable government into power, those poll ratings may continue to climb.

Read the New York Times and the L.A. Times these days, and you'd think the President is trying to be a dictator. A certain number of people are getting sick of this steadily-critical press coverage.

The New York Times broke, a year late, its story about the President authorizing the wiretapping of a few national security risks, mainly Muslims keeping in touch with their friends in the fundamentalist camp abroad.

You'd think, for all the furore, that Bush had done something no other President ever had. But compared to World War II, this Administration has been positively tame. The Roosevelt Administration had a few secret executions. It interned thousands of Japanese-Americans who had never done anything wrong. The governor of California, Earl Warren, supported the incarcerations.

Compared to this, Bush has done very littie. If, the country were to be subjected to a new round of terror, I'd be surprised if the country, including many Democrats, wouldn't want more to be done.

It all requires a little perspective. The Democrats, like most liberals, don't understand or have much patience with war. They are clearly defeatists as the President suggests, just as the Democratic leadership was during the Civil War. Senators like Harry Reid of Nevada, the Senate minority leader, and Carl Levin of Michigan are among the worst of the lot, but John Kerry and Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts aren't far behind.

Even Israel, we have to acknowledge, has a lot of such people. Before Prime Minister Ariel Sharon unleashed a crack down on the suicide bombers, which he has accomplished with considerable affect, some of these people were talking about giving up on Israel altogether. Sharon's predecessor, Barak, would have given up half of Jerusalem.

Thank goodness, Israel found some fighters, and so, in the Bush Administration, did we. So the war will go on for quite awhile yet, and we may start doing a little better.

In the meantime, Bush is trying hard. And regardless what a few columnists write, this is still a free country. The critics exaggerate worse than the President.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

A List, By Birthdates and Positions Of 45 Laid Off At L.A. Times

Like other classic purgers, the Tribune Co. has stuck to the law and actually issued a list of the unfortunate victims it laid off in the latest purge at the L.A. Times. There aren't names, but they are listed by birthdates and positions, and many will be able to figure out who they are.

Also, some staffers were invited (read, forced) to take the buyout. So this is not a comprehensive list, but it may serve some purpose if I give it here, which I'm doing below.

Friends have mentioned to me the caees of the loyal secretary and the helpful computer technician who were laid off, bludgeoned, left to fend for themselves as they approached retirement age, treated miserably by this unfeeling collection of corporate asses. I called one or two of them to seek permission to use their names, but have not heard back, so in the interests of decency, I'm not going to do so. But I think many will know who they are.

Our sympathies should go out to all those caught up in the holiday massacre, the latest proof of how a once-humane institution has gone to hell.

In any case, here's the list of those "selected for involuntary termination as a result of the reduction in force cost savings initiative," as the corporate bureaucrats call it:

Job Title Birthdate
Spcist, Adv Rptg & Analysis 08/25/41
Secretary II 08/17/53
Dir, Advertising Marketing 07/28/63
Dir, Operations Single Copy 11/14/69
Asst., Staff II 07/19/65
Secretary II 09/26/61
Dir, Adv Sys Ping & Intgrtn 06/01/47
Anist, Date Base Assoc 01/21/62
Coord, Magazine Lead 05/10/66
Writer, Editorial 02/21/37
Cartoonist, Editorial 05/11/61
Writer, Editorial 12/23/41
Designer, Artist II 03/12/65
Engineer, Systems 10/23/58
Operator, Computer III 11/05/53

Admin, Database Sr 12/31/58
Anist, Applications Syst Assoc 11/20/57
Admin, Information Technology 07/03/61
Rep, Customer Service Sr 09/28/45
Lead, Business Systems 02/13/46
Anist, Business Systems Sr 04/04/54
Anist, Applications Syst Assoc 12/18/52
Techn, Desktop/Ntwk Supp II 01/17/71
Techn, Desktop/Ntwk Supp II 05/24/50
Techn, Desktop/Ntwk Supp II 07/25/49
Techn, Desktop/Ntwk Supp II 03/23/44
Techn, Desktop/Ntwk Supp II 12/01/41
Engineer, Network 05/12/52
Anist, Applications Syst Assoc 01/28/61
Supv, Advertising Operations 02/28/52

Secretary II 11/09/72
Mgr, Multi Media 04/20/67
Mgr., Special Events Vendor 05/25/57
Clerk, Admin Sevcs I 07/05/58
Clerk, Admin Servs II 11/15/65
Dir, Operations - Recycler 10/08/63
Sales Rep. Restaurant 12/02/62
Account Exec, Circ Retail 03/16/68
lead, Call Center Sales Rep 01/07/80
Rep, Times In Educ 01/13/53
Rep, Times In Educ 04/28/80
Rep, Verification 08/24/64
Rep, Verification 02/23/68
Rep, Verification 12/19/80
Rep. Verification 05/26/64

Saturday, December 17, 2005

On Torture, Tim Rutten Takes High Ground, But On Smoking LAT Editorial Doesn't

On the question of torture, L.A. Times media columnist Tim Rutten strikes a note of victory this morning, as Sen. John McCain triumphs in the Congress with his anti-torture package and finally claims President Bush's support.

Rutten feels strongly about this, and his column today in the Calendar section makes the case well, especially since he acknowledges there are extraordinary moments in which an anti-torture policy in the War on Terror would need to be overridden, such as a direct atomic bomb threat.

The way Rutten frames the issue, it is foolhardy to take exception. The U.S. really cannot afford to do less, as great majorities in Congress clearly agree.

On another issue -- this one involving tobacco -- the L.A. Times editorial page, however, does not hold the high ground. The editorial pages, unlike the Calendar section, are under the control of the Tribune Co. owners and the new lowbrow publisher, Jeff Johnson, who apparenly fails to appreciate that the high moral ground has much value.

Friday, the editorial page sympathized with the tobacco industry prevailing in the Illinois Supreme Court.

That editorial is a shameful example, I daresay, of everything that is wrong with Tribune ownership of the Times. In railing against "nonsensical litigation" against cigarettes with low tar and nicotine content, the Times sympathizes with smoking when all smoking is dangerous and there is no grounds to do so. For shame!

So, this morning, we can honor Ruiten, but we ought to proceed with riding Johnson and editorial page editor Andres Martinez, two bums, out of town on a rail.

I also notice in Friday's paper a laughable full-page advertisement for the bland new line up of columnists on the Op-Ed Page.

Martniez and Johnson orchestrated the moves that resulted in three Pulitzer Prize winners' removal from the editorial pages staff, plus the provocative leftwing columnist Bob Scheer and the rightwing cartoonist, Michael Ramirez, all as a means of dumbing down the pages. The apparent aim was to try to stem Times circulation losses by making the editorial pages less controversial.

Now, these ugly characters have the gall to advertise that their new lineup represents "Provocative. Unconventional. Entertaining. (Writing)...Prepare to have your preconceptions challenged daily."

They can't fool the Times readership so easily. No wonder, the Times has lost 30% of its circulation, when the Chicago toadies, Johnson and Martinez, are in charge of even part of the paper. Editorial policy can't explain all the circulation losses, but it certainly contributes to them.

Not all the uplifting writing and editing of Tim Rutten and Dean Baquet can overcome the malevolent influence of Johnson and Martinez.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Freelancers, Even Infusions By Google Or Yahoo, May Help Keep Newspapers Alive

John Carroll, the former editor of the L.A. Times, has signed up for research and a major address under the auspices of the Kennedy School at Harvard on the future of newspapers. He says the focus will be on finding ways to keep them going, possibly by developing more revenue streams on line. "My topic is an urgent one, nothing less than the fate of journalism," Carroll stated.

Another trend, as explored in an Aug. 14 article on the New York Times Op-Ed page by the paper's public editor, Byron Calame, is the use of more freelancers and other outside writers to supplement regular staffs.

Calame found that as the NYT has added special new sections, such as Thursday Style, or Escapes, it has been using more and more outside writers, illustrators, etc., and he was concerned that these people be admonished more definitely to follow the newspaper's ethics rules, to avoid conflicts of interests.

Calame cited such problems the New York Times had encountered as protestors writing articles about protests they had joined. It is against Times rules for reporters to write about events in which they participated, for obvious reasons. He also found that while the NYT has been passing out copies of its ethics rules to freelancers, they have not always been reading them and editors have not always been diligent about enforcing them.

In short, Calame was concerned that in bringing in outside contributors, the NYT's standards are being compromised.

At the same time, he recognized the advantages.

"The absence of employee benefits for outside contributors makes them financially attractive compared with full-time staffers," Calame observed. "That's why freelancers can be an important consideration when any newspaper, not just The Times, seeks to innovate or expand amid increased financial constraints."

So, it's clear we have to recognize that there is also opportunity here to make papers better, more comprehensive, than they are now. In bringing in outsiders. papers are finding more expertise, are making themselves more comprehensive.

It has certainly occurred to me that as such firms as Google and Yahoo grow by leaps and bounds on the Internet, there are opportunities that should not be lost to find a synergy between newspapers and these elaborate search firms.

Would it be feasible, for instance, for Yahoo, which is based in the Los Angeles area, or Google, which is based in the Bay Area, to buy the L.A. Times and then, either, inject their own staff work onto the pages of the LAT, or use the Times' foreign and national bureaus to supplement their own offerings? Certainly, this would be a more desirable situation than the LAT finds itself in presently with the lackluster Tribune owners constantly cutting the paper back.

Already, years ago, the development of Op Ed pages was recognized as a way of bringing in outside expertise, or allowing former or retired staffers to continue to make contributions to a newspaper's content.

Just today, for example, the Los Angeles Times Op-Ed page offers a thought-provoking article by former editorial page staff member Jack Miles on developments in Turkey whereby that Neareastern nation is beginning to come to grips with the Armenian genocide and better relations with the Kurds.

The problems with ethics and conflicts raised by Calame are real, no question about it, but the opportunities he sees for broadening newspaper offerings must not be neglected, either.

In fact, a silver lining of recent Times layoffs is that in some cases, the paper has raised the possibility of using articles by former personnel. It's my understanding, for example, that it was suggested by LAT editorial pages editor Andres Martinez, to Bill Stall, a Putlizer Prize winner, that Stall might sign a contract to provide 15 articles on California issues to the Op Ed pages.

I feel confident that in his lectures, Carroll will flesh out such ideas and maintain the helpful attitude that newspapers aren't dead yet.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Time Magazine's "Person Of The Year" Is Not As Realistic As It Used To Be

Next week, nearly two weeks before the end of the year, Time magazine will name its "Person of the Year," but this popular feature is not as realistic as it used to be, and Time is not the tough, no-nonsense publication it used to be.

It used to be that Time named as its "Man of the Year," the person who had, for good or evil, been the most important human being of the year. So, for 1938, Time named Adolf Hitler its "Man of the Year," and its cover showed an unkempt Hitler pounding away at an organ, and the caption was the most pointed, and appropriate, in the long history of the award, "An Unholy Organist Plays A Hymn Of Hate." That was the year Hitler seized Austria, outwitted Chamberlain at Munich and in Kristalnacht initiated the violence against the Jews that led to the Holocaust. That was truly a terrible and significant year.

And, for 1979, Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini was named "Man of the Year." By then, Time had dropped the cover caption, but the headline on the article still captured the spirit: "The Mystic Who Lit The Fires of Hatred." That was the year, Khomeini took power in Iran and seized the American hostages, initiating the aggression of Islamic extremism which we are fighting today, a quarter century later.

Of course, where the central motife of the year was more positive, Time named good guys. For 1940, the "Man of the Year" was Winston Churchill and the caption was, "Blood, Sweat, Tears...And Untold Courage." That was the year Churchill and the Royal Air Force stopped Hitler for the first time, in the Battle of Britain.

And for 1942, the "Man of the Year" was Joseph Stalin, and the caption was, "He Took All Hitler Could Give...For The Second Time." That was the year, Stalin stopped Hitler at Stalingrad, the turning point of World War II.

Even for 1958, Time's choice was appropriate. It was Charles de Gaulle, returning to power, to deal with the French crisis in Algeria and save French democracy. The operative phrase of that article was, "Glory came to Charles de Gaulle."

And Time wasn't off base either when on Jan. 1, 1990, it selected Mikhail Gorbachev as "Man of the Decade" for the 1980s, the decade in which the Iron Curtain fell.

By these high standards, Time should have named Osama bin Laden "Man of the Year," for 2001, the year of 9-11. But by then, the editors of the magazine had turned softer and more politically correct. Didn't they think Americans could take it? They named New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani instead. They were finessing history, and not reporting it.

Who will they name next week for 2005? With Hurricane Kristina, it could be Mother Nature, but that is not a person, and the great Asian tsunami actually took place at the end of 2004.

No, if Time magazine were truly gutsy and reporting history, the "Man of the Year" or "Person of the Year," would be Abu Mousab al-Zarqawi, the terrorist who this year has thrown the U.S. for a loop and dominated the world scene with his terrorist outrages. Despite the Iraqi elections, this is still a year of ascendent extremism.

But this week Time has an article on al-Zarqawi, and the headline is, "The Rise of an Evil Protege." If Time were doing its duty this year and naming the man who struck the tone for the year, it would not have had that article this week.

Just as Time's "Person of the Year" for 2004, President Bush, (Time's ridiculous caption then was "American Revolutionary"), was a miss, and a bad one at that, so Time's editors are probably for 2005 going to miss again.

If Time is an American institution, doesn't all this mean we are having a hard time taking it as a nation these days? We're fighting a war without the President calling upon the American people for any meaningful sacrifice. We're ducking the challenge of New Orleans. And Time has become a magazine more interested in the latest gadget or marketing invention than the sweep of history.

I wonder who the "Person of the Year" will be. Not the Tribune Company's Dennis FitzSimmons, thank goodness, but I'll bet it's a disappointment nonetheless.

(Time really did cop a plea and it was a disappointment, as I had expected. The Time editors didn't even name a single person. They named three of them -- Bill and Melinda Gates and the rock star Bono -- for their charitable giving, their good works. So the same weakening institution that gave way on journalistic principles of protecting confidential sources in the CIA leak case, gave way on this and named non-consequential persons of the year. What a disappointment! How politically correct!)

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

L.A. Times Moves In The Wrong Direction By Killing Last National Editions

As its circulation has nosedived, the L.A. Times has been moving in the wrong direction. While the New York Times built circulation slowly, increasing home distribution of its national edition, the LAT constricted its regional circulation and killed off its national edition.

The final step will come Dec. 22 when the LAT terminates the last 2,000 copies of a truncated national edition it began faxing East when it closed down the full national edition last year.

Even at its height, the LAT's national edition was no match for the New York Times national edition. So often with the LAT, its efforts to grow in recent years were half-assed. The paper's editors and business managers only made a small effort. They never really sought to build Northern California circulation with a decent distribution system. Years ago, even when it had what it called a full national edition, the LAT didn't even try to match NYT circulation in such meccas for Southern California tourists as Yosemite Valley and Ashland, Ore.

Why hasn't the LAT followed through? Time and again in recent years, even before the woebegone California-hating Tribune Co. took over ownership of the LAT, the Times would launch expansions, such as to a San Diego edition, without sufficient efforts to really make them a success.

Even staff layoffs and buyouts have been grossly mishandled. No sooner were a hundred staffers induced or forced to leave that the paper would start hiring again, creeping back up. So the professed object, a smaller total editorial staff, remained elusive, while the human costs to those forced out increased.

It's already happening again. Janet Clayton, the head of Metro, is even now looking for three new staffers to replace valuable staffers who are leaving, Larry Stammer, David Rosenzweig and Claudia Luther. It's clear when one thinks about this that the idea was mainly to get rid of higher-salaried people with experience and replace them with people they didn't have to pay as much.

Quality has nothing to do with what is happening. It's all to save money, even though the termination costs in severance and benefits is considerable.

Meanwhile, certain important beats, like covering the critical gang problems on the South and East Side, have been dropped. The Times has had quite a few gang stories in the last few days, as the Tookie Williams death penalty case focused attention on the gangs. But it's never replaced Jesse Katz on the fulltime gang beat.

I was having lunch last week with Fran Rothschild, long time Superior Court judge on family matters, who has recently become a State Court of Appeals Justice. She was saying that one of the striking impressions she has formed on the Court of Appeals is the huge number of gang cases that take up their time.

Hundreds are being murdered every year in L.A. County and thousands jailed as a result of gang activity, it is a major preoccupation of thoughtful judges, not to mention police and prosecutors. But the L.A. Times, other than occasionally deploring the gang culture, isn't giving the issue nearly the attention it deserves.

Half-assed effort, before finally doing in the last national edition. Half-assed effort on the San Diego Edition. Half-assed effort on the gang story. Half-assed is too often the modus operandi of the L.A. Times. That's too bad. It reminds one a little of the half-assed relief effort the government has been making down in New Orleans.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

LAT, Especially George Skelton, Provides Good Coverage of Tookie Williams Case

The Los Angeles Times this morning shows how capable it is of providing varied, timely coverage of a major issue on deadline in the execution of Stanley Tookie Williams, founder of the Crips gang. Since the execution was only culminated at 12:35 a.m., it is particularly impressive that the paper was able to get it into the homes of so many readers Tuesday morning.

Even the editorial pages, on this occasion, deserve some commendation. In the usually woeful Current section, there was a pungent debate on the subject in the weeks leading up to the execution, and there was an editorial consistent with the Times' traditional challenge to capital punishment in the newspaper today.

However, a really good editorial page would have taken a position beforehand on whether the execution should go forward. The Times editorial page is not really good, unfortunately.

But, for my money, state political columnist George Skelton, in particular, deserves the highest compliments for staying with this topic, arguing persuasively his implicit support of capital punishment in the Williams case, and not allowing readers ever to be fooled into thinking that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger was likely to grant clemency in the case.

On the day before the execution, Skelton, who usually is well aware of the lay of the land in California policy and politics, astutely noted that Williams' steady claim of innocence in the case "makes it tough on a governor weighing clemency. The condemned man won't say he's sorry for killing his (four) victims. And there's no real doubt of his guilt."

Skelton had, earlier in the column, declared himself, "'s a cold-blooded killer who's begging for mercy while refusing to admit his guilt. He isn't expressing any remorse for blowing away four innocent helpless people with a shotgun in two cheap robberies 20 years ago."

And, he quoted former Gov. Pete Wilson as observing, "Clemency is very difficult to earn. If you've been guilty of a brutal murder, it seems to me you're called upon to pay for it with your life. There is a very slippery slope that would encourage simulated redemption and good works to escape that penalty."

Skelton declared, also, in advance that he would be surprised if Schwarzenegger granted clemency because "if there is one thing Schwarzaenegger seems to firmly believe in, it is that a governopr should follow the people's will.

"Californians in 1978 voted to reinstate capital punishment, fitting it with new Supreme Court guidelines. And they still overwhelmingly favor it," he observed.

We're very lucky Skelton neither took the buyout, nor was laid off, like his friend in the Sacramento bureau, Bill Stall. We need Skelton at the paper, just like we need so many people who have been cavalierly dismissed by the Tribune Co. and the new publisher, Jeff Johnson.

Having said all this, I still was rather surprised yesterday to run into the legislator Mark Ridley-Thomas at the memorial service of Marvin Braude and to have learned from him that the governor did not do the courtesy of telling key black legislators of his decision against clemency in advance.

Since this was a big issue in the black community, and the governor has declared he is reaching out to all parts of the state's political establishment, it would have been appropriate had he talked to the black legislators about it before announcing his decision.

The governor's statement was compelling, and perhaps the Times should have published all of it, but it did publish extensive excerpts. In the parts published, Schwarzenegger viewed Williams' so-called redemption as hollow and said he did not believe him.

The Times' coverage in the days leading up to the execution, and then this morning in its wake, was massive, as it should have been. Maybe, the Tribune Co. doesn't appreciate California sensitivities, but it's clear the newspaper's editor, Dean Baquet, does.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Both LAT and NYT Delving More Into Global Warming

Global warming is becoming a more prominent subject in the news media, as the Bush Administration tries to fight off pressure from many other countries to do something about it.

One trouble is that the Administration blindly refuses to admit that it exists.

Yet it is fair to say that through the rest of the political world, it is widely presumed it does exist, and scientific measurements certainly indicate the world has, on the average, been heating up. Projections show that in the next century, global warming could threaten many countries.

Three major stories over the last week have dealt with the subject. First, were meetings in Montreal that once again examined, over the objections of the U.S., cutting back the hydrocarbons believed by most scientists to be a primary cause. Little concrete was accomplished, because of the objections of the U.S. delegates, the principal at one point actually walking out, because he didn't like the character of the proceedings. Former U.S. President Bill Clinton spoke to this meeting, gently suggesting that the Bush Administration shouldn't be such obstructionists, to no avail.

Second was an excellent story by Robert Lee Hotz, a LAT science writer, looking at how the Netherlands and Italians in Venice are trying to safeguard noted low lying areas from a slow rise of the sea. Hotz reported, for instance, that Venice is now flooded by tidewaters 100 times a year, much more than it was in the last century.

And third was the New Orleans story. In an editorial Sunday, "Death of An American City," the New York Times declared, notably, "We are about to lose New Orleans. Whether it is a conscious plan to let the city rot until no one is willing to move back or honest paralysis over difficult questions, the moment is upon us when a major American city will die, leaving nothing but a few shells for tourists to visit like a museum."

The NYT identified an unwillingness by the Bush Administration and Congress to live up to past assurances of aid, and an unwillingness to face up to the need to repair the levee system as the main causes of the lack of progress. "At this moment the reconstruction is a rudderless ship," it said.

The NBC Nightly News, under Brian Williams, has repeatedly reported much the same. NBC created a New Orleans bureau to follow the post-Katrina cleanup, but it has become a very sad story.

It may be that fixing the levees, as the seas slowly rise due to global warming, is beyond the resources of the U.S. But if it is, it is time to admit it and undertake to rebuild New Orleans somewhere else, further inland, not to mention evacuating Florida. In all likelihood, it would prove cheaper to do something to stem global warming.

The L.A. Times too has had many stories on the subject, but, it's my impression, fewer editorials. Under the Chicago-toadying new publisher, Jeff Johnson, the paper's editorial pages have moved toward the right and toward blandness.

However, the editor of the LAT, Dean Baquet, is from New Orleans, is interested in what happens to it, and proud of Times coverage of Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath.

Perhaps Baquet might take a leaf from Peter Ueberroth's book when he was directing the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee. When Ueberroth was dissatisfied with how an employee was doing, sometimes he would see to it that when the man got back from lunch, everything that had been in his office was piled up outside his door. It was a signal he had been fired.

The same thing might be done at the office of Jeff Johnson. Since it's quite evident he works only for the Tribune Co., and not for the wellbeing of the L.A. Times, it's time for his belongings to be packed up and placed outside his door. A little like the famous Boston Tea Party, Californians need to show forcefully that the Tribune Co. must sell out and get out. Baquet could help advance this process, even though he might, frankly, lose his own job in the process.

And a powerful political message must be sent to the Bush Administration by those who care for the future of the Planet: Start cooperating with efforts to do something about global warming -- NOW!

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Memories of Sen. Eugene J. McCarthy, Dead At 89, And Of Covering His Campaign

Two days after the 1968 New Hampshire Presidential primary, I was assigned by the L.A. Times to cover the candidacy of Minnesota Sen. Eugene J. McCarthy, who had surprised President Lyndon J9hnson by nearly defeating him in the Granite State.

It was the beginning of six months spent following McCarthy to 35 states during an anti-Vietnam war campaign that spelled the political end of Johnson but ultimately ended in the defeat of McCarthy as well, and the election of Richard Nixon to the Presidency. Nixon falsely claimed to have a plan to end the war.

The year was also marked by the assassinations of The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, who emtered the Democratic primaries after New Hampshire.

Covering McCarthy was one of the highlights of my career, and I was sufficiently impressed by his candidacy to have personally voted for him in the California primary, which ended tragically that night with the Kennedy assassination. I can remember, fresh as if it were yesterday, Paul Conrad's great cartoon on the assassination, showing a stack of 1.6 million California ballots cast for Kennedy, and one bullet, and the ballots all flying away. The foul assassin, the Palestinian terrorist Sirhan Sirhan, remains in prison until this day.

I had been opposed to the Vietnam engagement by the U.S. since its inception, and I admired McCarthy for being the first to have decided to challenge Johnson. Having been educated in my junior year in college in France, during that country's Algerian war, I always viewed Vietnam as a continuation of the colonial wars that had afflicted France, and I never thought the U.S. had a good strategic reson for being in Vietnam. I had a $100 bet with my father, a U.S. Navy Admiral, that we would not win the war.

Since, I had been discharged from the U.S. Army reserve in 1965, after serving in the six months-seven-and-a-half year plan of Army service, I had no persopnal stake in opposing the war, as so many other young people did, but I had sympathized with the anti-war movement, and written about it at a time when the L.A. Times supported the war and was paying very little attention to it. That was probably why I was assigned to cover McCarthy, because the Times editors wanted someone who was fairly independent and would give McCarthy a fair shake.

I threw myself into the campaign, at one point writing stories for 56 consecutive days, but I slowly became somewhat disillusioned with McCarthy, especially after he failed to oppose the Soviet intervention to crush the Czechoslovak reform movement against Communist rule in August, 1968. Later that year, foolishly accepting the notion there was a "new Nixon," which Times editor Bill Thomas warned me there wasn't, I voted for Nixon for President in the November, 1968 election.

The McCarthy campaign was my initiation into two decades of political reporting for the Times. I had majored in government and po0ltical science at Dartmouth, at the Institut D'Etudes Politique in Paris and at U.C. Berkeley, where I got a Master's degree in Political Science, so I had plenty of training for what turned out to be many political assignments.

The death yesterday of McCarthy brings back many memories, but I long ago lost most touch with the former senator and had not spoken with him in several years.

McCarthy, I found, to be finally a rather mordant, uncharismatic man, who may have been too proud to admit, in the end, that it really mattered to him whether he was elected President or not.

He was anything but a great speaker, and one of the truest passages in the Times obituary by Art Pine this morning was the quote by poet Robert Lowell, in which Lowell said of McCarthy, "The last thing he wanted to do was to be charismatic. He was a mixture of proud contempt and modest distaste...Usually the cheers were greater when he came in than when he finished speaking."

Nonetheless, I admired McCarthy for having had the political smarts to recognize that Johnson was vulnerable and the courage to get into the race at a time when no one else in the Senate was ready to challenge him.

I've never believed the Vietnam war was analogous in any way to the present war we are fighting in Iraq and against Islamic terrorists throughout the world. It has always seemed to me we have a valid strategic interest in the present war, while there was no good reason for us to be fighting in Vietnam.

During the time I was covering the McCarthy campaign, my immediate supervisor at the L.A. Times was Edwin Guthman, then the paper's national editor. Guthman had worked years as press secretary to Robert Kennedy when Kennedy was at the Justice Department as Attorney General, and he was a tremendous admirer of Kennedy. Yet in all the time I covered McCarthy, I never detected from Guthman any desire but that I should be fair to McCarthy. In a great demonstration that one could be devoted to one political candidate while supervising the coverage of others, Guthman simply had too much integrity to ever shade the coverage. Working for Guthman was one of the greatest experiences of my life. Nearly 40 years later, I remain one of his many admirers.

The L.A. Times was in its hay day at the time I covered McCarthy. It was a privilege to be associated with the paper at a time when Otis Chandler, the publisher and Nick Williams, the editor, were determined that the Times should be one of the finest, if not the finest paper, in the country.

I also had many other wonderful experiences in the McCarthy campaign, seeing the U.S. and becoming acquainted with many fine journalists, such as Ned Kenworthy, who covered the McCarthy campaign for the New York Times, and television correspondents Sam Donaldson and David Shoemaker. Certain McCarthy staffers, such as Parker Donham and Mary Davis, became fast friends, and I even appreciated the Life magazine columnist Shana Alexander, who may have become McCarthy's mistress during the campaign and who was the first to tell me that McCarthy would not endorse Hubert Humphrey in the fall campaign, which he managed to avoid doing until very close to the end and then never did wholeheartedly. Shana Alexander died earlier this year.

I remember how terrified I was, when I first joined the McCarthy campaign coverage in Green Bay, Wis., that I would lose out on that night's story, the visit of Sen. Edward Kennedy to McCarthy to tell him that Sen. Robert Kennedy would join the campaign the next day. I couldn't match Kenworthy, a longtime campaign insider, that night, but, as I recall, I did all right with my story.

Later, as the campaign went on, Kenworthy and I became good friends and when we heard about the shooting of Robert Kennedy, while we were with the Mccarthy campaign at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, the two of us contacted the Beverly Hills Police Department and asked that they send guards to protect McCarthy, in case there was a conspiracy afoot.

Travel was cheap in 1968. The most expensive hotel I ever stayed in during the course of the long campaign was the St. Regis Hotel in New York, which cost me $34, while the cheapest was a hotel in Bismarck, N.D. that cost $4. I stayed repeatedly at the elegant Manager Hay Adams Hotel in Washington, D.C. for $16 a night.

The Times Washington Bureau was rather jealous of my McCarthy assignment, and like many Washington bureaus rather disdainful of any politician challenging the White House. Washington staffers, I found, were usually inclined to believe the White House commanded more power and influence in the country than it really did.

Eugene McCarthy long ago lost any decisive influence over American politics, but beginning with the New Hampshire primary, for several months in 1968, he was part of American history. It was a great privilege and responsibility for me to cover his candidacy as well as American politics in general.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

A Foolish LAT Op-Ed Page Article Suggesting Israel Give Up Nuclear Weapons

In the present circumstances in the world, a unilateral decision by Israel to give up nuclear weapons could well result ultimately in the destruction of the Jewish state and the murder of millions of Israelis.

So I cannot view with equanimity an article by George Bisharat Friday on the Op Ed Page of the Los Angeles Times suggesting U.S. pressure on Israel to give up such weapons, supposedly in the interest of Middle East peace.

Bisharat should also have been more completely identified than simply as "a professor of law at Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco and (a man who) writes frequently on law and politics in the Middle East."

The fact is that on the Internet Bisharat identifies himself as a Palestinian whose grandparents lost their homes in Jerusalem in the 1948 war. He has repeatedly sought a "right of return" of Arabs to Israeli territory and advocated other action that would have the effect of destroying Israel.

Nick Goldberg, the editor of the L.A. Times Op Ed Page, once served as a correspondent in the Holy Land. While assuming the guise of a neutral in the Arab-Israeli conflict, there is more than a tinge of pro-Palestinian attitudes in his views of this conflict.

Normally, in recent weeks, Goldberg has been willing to go along with an overly bland Op Ed Page in the L.A. Times as apparently wanted by the Tribune Co. owners of the newspaper and the publisher they sent out from Chicago, Jeff Johnson, to direct the editorial page. Under Johnson and editorial pages editor Andres Martinez, the editorial pages, including Goldberg's operation, have been dumbed down considerably and three Pulitzer Prize winners formerly on the staff have either been moved elsewhere in the paper or laid off. A leftwing columnist, Robert Scheer, whose presence on the Op Ed Page had long been supported by Goldberg, was terminated (as is being, it should be acknowledged, a rightwing cartoonist, Michael Ramirez).

Under all these circumstances, the least we can expect is that if a provocative article like Mr. Bisharat's is to be run on the Op Ed Page, the author be precisely identified so all can see how his ideas may be derived.

It may appear to be a seductive idea that Israel give up its nuclear weapons.

But this would create more, not less, danger in the Middle East at a time when the new president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has been making vicious anti-Israeli statements, suggesting that Israel "be wiped off the map," denying that the Holocaust occurred in World War II and suggesting that Jews in Israel be moved back to Germany or Austria. Even Saudi Arabia and many Iranians have objected to Ahmadinejad's statements.

If Iran were to obtain nuclear weapons and the Israelis were to give them up, one can only imagine what this thuggish leader might do. I certainly would not want to rely on Mr. Bisharat's suggestions that all would be well.

No, under the present circumstances, Israel, which has pledged it would never be the ones to start using nuclear weapons, must keep them as a deterrent, just as the United States should.

And it is not enough to say that Israel can rely on the United States to support it. In 1967, when Nasser blockaded the Gulf of Aqaba, sent UN peacekeepers packing, and put pressure on Israel, the U.S. waffled in its response. It took Israel's courageous attack in the Six-Day War to save Israel from a possible deadly assault. Past lessons such as this one show that Israel cannot afford to allow its security to become hostage to outside guarantees.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Frank Sotomayor, A Correction

In a November 27 blog giving the names of some of the people leaving the L.A. Times, either by buyout or layoff, I referred to Frank Sotomayor, who is taking a buyout, as director of the Met Pro program.

This was a mistake. Frank is the deputy director of the program. The director is Efrain Hernandez. My apologies to both.

Frank, who is 62, informs me that the Met Pro program, a two-year training system for minority journalists which has developed such distinguished journalists as Somini Sengupta, Hector Tobar, Ginger Thompson, Henry Chu and others, will continue, despite the present Tribune Co. cutbacks.

Frank is one of many people leaving the Times who, in my view, the paper can ill-afford to lose. He has been with the paper for 35 years, was part of the team that won a Pulitzer for articles on the Latino community, was an invaluable editor in many ways, and was once my own editor. I always greatly appreciated his talents and friendship.

He tells me he plans to seek employment as a teacher on the college level or for a non-profit. But he will return to the Times briefly in February to help with the last workshops for high school journalists under a project started by John Carroll which is being eliminated by the Tribune.

My view is that anyone who would allow Frank Sotomayor out the door needs to have their head examined.

Marvin Braude, Distinguished L.A. City Councilman, Dies

There is sadness today at the news of the death Wednesday, Dec. 7, of one of the great, independent and courageous Los Angeles City Council members, Marvin Braude, at the age of 85.

Braude, who represented the West Side in the Council, from 1965 until 1997, before term limits sapped many political institutions of much of their vitality, was a noted environmentalist, among those most responsible for the creation of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area and the Venice beach bikeway. He was also known for his long and ultimately successful resistance to oil drilling in the Pacific Palisades.

Braude, a vegetarian, died in Rancho Mirage of pneumonia that developed after he broke his leg during a Thanksgiving visit to the Coachella Valley. A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Monday, Dec. 12, at the University Synagogue in Brentwood. Earlier this year, Braude's wife, Marjorie, a psychiatrist, died at the age of 80. The couple had two daughters and two grandchildren.

Los Angeles owes to the Braudes' honeymoon in Yosemite in 1948 and their admiration of the mountains there a decision by the couple to move to California from his native Chicago in 1951.

In an excellent obituary in the L.A. Times this morning by Steve Hymon and Patrick McGreevy, Braude is aptly described as an unconventional politician who was not a gladhander, did not enjoy and seldom attended Chamber of Commerce events, a man known for his idiosyncrasies, such as once jumping into a car at City Hall that looked like his and driving off. He ordered polyester suits from Sears and Roebuck and frequently biked with his wife from their home in Brentwood to the Pacific.

A fragile man, Braude long suffered from low blood pressure and often required a swim to rouse himself in the morning, recalled his onetime Council deputy, Anton Calleia.

But Braude suited his district so well that in four of his eight successful election bids, he ran unopposed.

The great majority of his constituents recognized him as a man who could be depended upon to always strive for the beauty of life in Los Angeles and to vote his conscience.

As soon as he was elected for the first time, Braude launched his Council service by forcefully and successfully fighting off a proposal by then-Mayor Sam Yorty, who had few of his sensitivities, to take acreage from the heart of Elysian Park to build a convention center. He also launched an investigation of corruption in the municipal Commission of Parks and Recreation that resulted in the felony conviction of one of the commissioners.

As the Times obituary notes, it took many years before Braude was able to cobble together Council majorities for such projects as a smoking ban in public places, and some fights, such as banning billboards and gun control, he never won. But he always kept trying, year by year, winning colleagues over by persistent arguments.

Calleia recalled Friday how, when he and Charlie Brittain were Council deputies, "Marvin used to drive us up the wall" with all his many projects for civic betterment.

For those of us who covered public affairs, Braude was always an insistent presence.
But one of the fondest memories I have of the Braudes was at a dinner party long ago in which Mrs. Braude referred to her patients as "the crazies."

Braude could be a skeptic who sometimes, however, allowed himself to be won over. He provided the last vote by which Mayor Tom Bradley was able to secure Council endorsement of the contract that brought the 1984 Olympics to Los Angeles.

Many were his colleagues Friday who were quoted as expressing fondness and respect for the honest old Councilman.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said, "Throughout his life, he advocated for the people of Los Angeles with vision, clarity, wisdom and results."

And Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky declared, "He was a leader of great integrity, of uncompromising principle, in a political era when both of those are too often lacking."

Showing how great causes often take time, and demonstrating that term limits are not always facilitators of such causes, Braude first proposed a smoking ban in public places in 1973, but did not win an encompassing one until 1993. As Rick Orlov notes today in the Daily News, Braude once was a two pack a day smoker, before he quit smoking.

And so, the man who came to Yosemite as a young honeymooner so many years ago was able to serve his adopted community in so many different ways with distinction. May he rest in peace. Those of us who lived with him in Los Angeles will long remember him.

And the Times obituary was correct and proper this morning in noting the names of some of his colleagues in the Council, Ernani Bernardi, Arthur Snyder, Hal Bernson and the late Gilbert Lindsay and John Ferraro. Also, Ed Edelman should have been mentioned.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Dennis FitzSimmons and Andres Martinez Prove Their Cowardice

There's new proof today that Dennis FitzSimmons, the CEO of the Tribune Co., and Andres Martinez, the Tribune's appointee as editorial pages editor of the L.A. Times, vie with one another to see which can be the most craven coward.

FitzSimmons has been ducking the protests against layoffs at the Tribune newspapers for some time. When he initiated the cost cutbacks last year, he didn't even have the guts to actually come downtown to the Times to announce them. He flew to the Burbank Airport and summoned the top Times editors there to let them in on the bad news. He was well away from Los Angeles before the news began to spread.

Now, when representives of MoveOn.Org tried to present 45,000 petition signatures against the layoffs to FitzSimmons at meetings in New York, he refused to accept them and security men quickly shut off the MoveOn.Org microphones.

Whatever they are paying FitzSimmons, it is too much. This pathetically weak man hasn't got the courage, obviously, to face the music. He is disgracing the already weak Tribune Co. day by day, and now, like some Latin caudillo, shuts himself off from any opposition. Kind of reminescent of Lyndon Johnson at the end.

Andres Martinez is following the same policy closely. At least under his ousted predecessor, Michael Kinsley, the L.A. Times editorial letters pages were open to critical letters about how the paper was operating.

In recent weeks, however, as a firestorm mounted in Los Angeles over the cutbacks in both personnel and quality at the Times, the letters pages have become as bland as the rest of the dumbed-down editorial pages.

Just today, we learn that Barbra Streisand's letter cancelling her subscription at the Times in protest against the firing of leftwing columnist Bob Scheer was run only in very truncated form. Streisand has now published the full letter on her own Website.

Shutting off negative mail is only the latest manifestation of Martinez's unwillingness to respond to the thousands of criticisms the Times has received in recent weeks. Appearing on the Olney show, for instance, Martinez clammed up about what real reasons he might have had for getting rid of Scheer and others on the editorial pages staff.

FitzSimmons and Martinez ultimately are going to have to go, with huge severance packages, no doubt.

All of this is just digging the Tribune hole deeper. The Op-Ed page has already become one of the nation's most boring.

Meanwhile, the New York Times reports today, preliminary bidding is beginning for the Knight-Ridder newspapers, which has been under pressure from investors to sell some or all of its holdings.

If Knight-Ridder should command a decent price, maybe a Tribune sale will not be far behind.

Then FitzSimmons could move to Gary, Indiana, and help that municipality collect the garbage or perform some other task commensurate with his abilities.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

The Orange Line Should Have Been Built With Grade Separation Or Not At All

Police and politicians such as City Councilwoman Wendy Greuel have been blaming errant drivers for the accidents that continue to plague the new Orange Line in the San Fernando Valley.

But the fact is that the Orange Line should have been built with grade separation, keeping the buses on different levels from ordinary cars and trucks through bridging or tunneling, or not at all. That's the way most of these special dedicated lines are built in Europe.

There have now been five accidents and about 20 injuries since the Orange Line opened in October. Accidents continue along light rail lines elsewhere in the Los Angeles metropolitan area as well. They too do not have grade separation. There have been scores of deaths in accidents along the Blue Line, the light rail service between downtown Los Angeles and Long Beach.

When cars bump into trains, usually those hurt are in the cars, since the trains are so much heavier. But with the Orange Line, the buses being lighter than trains, often the innured are bus passengers.

This creates an intolerable situation. Almost certainly, there's going to be accidents that kill bus passengers on the Orange Line on a fairly regular basis, no matter how often the police ticket careless drivers, whether they change the crossing signs or alter the color of the buses.

Some of the safety measures announced to reduce accidents simply are not working. Soon after the first accident, for instance, it was announced that the buses would slow to 10 mph as they passed through the many intersections along the route from North Hollywood to Woodland Hills.

This would defeat the whole purpose of the line, which was supposed to introduce rapid bus transportation across the Valley. But, in any case, the rule is not being followed.

The other day, when there was an accident along the line in Van Nuys, several residents told Times reporters that they had observed buses going much faster than 10 mph through intersections. One estimated speed was as high as 55 mph.

I could easily believe this, because I saw an Orange Line bus roar through the Hazeltine intersection shortly before the accident occutred going at least 40 mph.

A New York Times series of articles last year on crossing accidents between trains and cars found that it was a misnomer to blame all such accidents on car drivers ignoring the crossing signs. Often, it found, the crossing signs themselves were defective and many of these accidents could be ascribed to the lrains going too fast.

It seems clear in Los Angeles that if the accidents are to be stopped, there's going to have to be grade separation no matter what it costs. And if there isn't, this is going to become an issue in political campaigns.

All too often in our society, we seem to think these systems can be created on the cheap. They can't, at least not without the loss of lives.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

San Fernando Valley Plant Closed; Nancy Cleeland's Labor Beat Dropped

Bad news continues to emerge about the assault of the Tribune Co. in Chicago on the Los Angeles Times, and, by extension, Los Angeles itself.

The latest is that the San Fernando Valley plant, the Chatsworth facility, is being closed and the property, in Chandler family hands since 1909, will be sold. Also, we hear that Nancy Cleeland, who shared in a Pulitzer Prize for the series about Wal-Mart, no longer has her labor beat, and the Times will not have a replacement soon, according to Russ Stanton, the section editor. In short, the Times, going back to the anti-labor positions of years ago, will not have a labor beat.

We should have known something like this would happen when the editorial pages, under the thumb of the Chicago shill, the new publisher, Jeff Johnson, endorsed Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's Proposition 75, to weaken the influence of the public employee unions. The electorate defeated that and other Schwarzenegger proposals in the Special election Nov. 8.

Let's not be fooled. These moves are always disclosed by upbeat memos to the staff, but the effect is always the same: Vital parts of the paper are being closed and/or sold off. Vital people, some of whom won Pulitzer Prizes, are either being laid off, as Bill Stall was in Sacramento, or their beats are being dispensed with, as was Nancy Cleeland's.

Nancy Cleeland's labor beat is no longer existing, and Stanton says there are other things to cover. For shame! Harry Bernstein, now an old man, still lives, but the fairness to labor he stood for at the Los Angeles Times has now vanished. The labor beat was among the signs, when Otis Chandler became publisher, that the Times was going to become a fair and independent newspaper.

And why is the new editor, Dean Baquet, going along with this? Maybe, he's not as sound a newspaperman as he is often credited with being. Or maybe, he is already being marginalized by the publisher.

We are indebted for noticing about and publicizing the loss of the labor beat to a comparatively new blogger, Tim McGarry, who is in private life a public relations man. In his blog, Angels and Vagabonds, he picked up and reported on the article, "The End of News," by Michael Massing in the Dec. 15 issue of the New York Review of Books.

Massing wrote, specifically:

"This summer, Nancy Cleeland, after more than six years as the long labor reporter at the Los Angeles Times, left her beat. She made the move "out of frustration," she told me. Her editors "really didn't want to have labor stories. They were always looking at labor from a management and business perspective--'how do we deal with these guys?' In 2003, Cleeland was one of several reporters on a three-part series about Wal-Mart's labor practices that won the Times a Pulitzer Prize. That, she had hoped, would convince her editors of the value of covering labor, but in the end it didn't, she says. They don't consider themselves hostile to working class concerns, but they're all making too much money to relate to the problems that working class people are facing," observed Cleeland, who is now writing about high school dropouts. Despite her strong urging, the paper has yet to name anyone to replace her."

As, I say, for shame. I wrote favorably not long ago about Stanton's shepherding of the Business section. Obviously, I missed something. Doing away with labor reporting in a Business section is an absolutely disagraceful act, for which he and Baquet must bear responsibility for accepting, even though it may have been at the publisher's orders.

We'll see if Tim Ruttin, the media columnist, writes about it, or whether he ignores it and goes after the U.S. military's war effort once again. The only Times columnists to even indirectly take on the Tribune Co. assault on the quality of the Times have been Al Martinez and Michael Hiltzik, honor to them.

The really ironic thing is that Cleeland wasn't even a particularly strong labor reporter. Her coverage of the long grocery strike as it appeared in the paper after being edited, I felt at the time, was more pro-management than pro-labor. For the record, Cleeland insisted to me, she was trying.

As for the closing of the Chatsworth plant, it was accompanied by company statements insisting the Times had invested in other new print facilities, such as in Irwindale, but confessing that since the circulation of the paper has gone down, the capacity of Chatsworth was no longer needed.

Bushwa! What the closure means is that the Tribune has given up on any hope of being able to restore Times circulation to the million-plus daily level.

Publisher Johnson, in his own memo, now puts total buyouts and layoffs at the Times at 300. Earlier, he had said editorial reductions in employment would amount to 85 and not given a figure for other divisions of the company.

In his memo, Johnson also claims that daily circulation is back up 38,000 and Sunday circulation 45,000, although he gives no total numbers for where circulation is today, and I suggest we wait for the official circulation numbers next March and September. Johnson has been inaccurate before about how circulation was doing.

Quite a record, my friends. Bill Stall is laid off and the other two Pulitzer Prize winners in the editorial pages are transferred. Nancy Cleeland is transferred.

It really shouldn't be a surprise. After all, we already know the Tribune executives hated the 13 Pulitzers the Times won under editor John Carroll. Now, out of jealousy and spite, they are taking steps to undo those prizes.

Let me repeat myself: For shame!

And I wonder if this is just the first of the property sales. Times-Mirror owned a lot of property in Southern California. And now, are the proceeds from sales of that going off to enrich Chicagoans?

We're just beginning to appreciate what these people are really like.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Internet Being Used By Terrorists To Spread Fear And Get Their Messages Out

As suicide bombings, kidnappings and executions spread to new countries, such as Bangladesh, which was struck by suicide bombers for the first time in recent days, the vile perpetrators of these acts are increasingly using the Internet to advance their cause.

The partly-Israeli organization, the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) today, Dec. 5, cites examples of the use of Yahoo by the terrorists to spread fear and images of barbaric acts. Yahoo has shut down some of these sites, but it is clear not enough has been done to safeguard civilization from them.

As U.S. Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes once wrote, "Freedom of speech does not give anyone the right to yell 'fire' in a crowded theatre." Neither Yahoo nor any Western institution need feel any compunction about taking any steps necessary to silence terrorist groups which are determined to destroy our freedoms.

MEMRI, an invaluable organization in keeping track of developments in the War On Terror, cites 14 examples of the placing of videos on Yahoo that depict beheadings and other executions by the terrorists.

Among the sights which even children often are subjected to beholding, have been the beheadings of Daniel Pearl and Nick Berg, the slaughter of other innocent captives of the barbarians, and the object of these showings is clear: It is to scare the world, to attempt to keep governments from taking action as necessary to terminate the threats we now all confront.

Even people in disagreement with U.S. policies in Iraq and other places can easily fall victim to these aggressors, as we saw last week with the kidnappings in Iraq of four peace activists, who have now been threatened with execution as "spies."

My own feeling is that these activists felt somehow it was worth temporizing with evildoers in the vain hope they could induce them to become peacemakers. Now, it is very sad, but not surprising that they too may lose their lives at the hands of these groups.

Al Queda and its allies are willing to use any means, including obviously the Internet, to advance their bloody ends. It's necessary to fight back as we did against the Nazies and the Japanese in World War II.

Yahoo, no matter what the expense, should either erase such videos, or take away the instruments that permit them to be distributed.

In short, we have a duty to defend ourselves, and must do so vigorously in every particular. Freedom, as has been said, is not free, and we have to stand up for it in every way we can, or we will lose our freedom, not to mention our security.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Brian Williams Stands For Something, An Anchor We Can All Admire

It was in the midst of an NBC telecast of a Notre Dame football game in 1995 that a young Brian Williams, on weekend duty, twice interrupted the play-by-play to tell of the shooting of Yitzak Rabin, then the Israeli prime minister.

First, it was simply news of the shooting. Rabin's condition was not known. A short time later, Williams came on and I'll always remember with what feeling he spoke. "Sad news," he began, and everyone knew without another word that the heroic Rabin had died, the victim of a foul assassin.

This image of feeling and compassion has remained characteristic of Williams, and I believe it is what has given him continued popularity as the number one anchor of the nightly news. He stands for something. He is emotional about things that count. He is not the negative newsman, always prone to simply whine away about all that's wrong without casting an occasional ray of sunshine or personal emotion on events.

The L.A. Times' Matea Gold had an upbeat piece about Williams last week. There was a Howard Kurtz interview with Williams on CNN this morning, which may have been a bit too negative. Kurtz kept asking Williams, was he worried about this and that? And Williams kept saying, no, he wasn't.

With all the coverage of Williams, on his first anniversary as Tom Brokaw's replacement on the NBC Nightly News, it's fairly clear, he's doing a good job, and he does indeed stand for something.

We see that in his devotion to the New Orleans story. Williams was in New Orleans with the displaced in the Metrodome on the night of hurricane Katrina, and he has repeatedly gone back, as he did last week, to point out the truth, that New Orleans is being sadly neglected by FEMA and leaders of the Bush Administration who have not kept their promises to set the city on the road to recovery, to stick with the victims of the hurricane regardless of the cost.

Williams has stuck by the victims. He does care, and he's done as good a job of showing it as anyone. He concentrates on the essential issues, but he has also displayed a poignantly emotional feel for the character of New Orleans as a city and the people who live there. On one of his broadcasts last week, he ended by stopping and showing some of the impromptu music being played these days on the downtown streets.

This morning, Kurtz asked Williams about reports first published in the L.A. Times that the U.S. military is paying the Iraqi press to print favorable stories about the Iraqi situation, and it was evident that Kurtz was expecting Williams to denounce the practice.

Williams, to his credit, wouldn't do so. In a war situation, he said, you had to expect that American officials would want to get their story out. It was nearly what Sen. John McCain said later this morning on Meet The Press: This is a war in which we are embattled against some of the greatest desperados of history. We have to do what is necessary to see our side represented. If paying newspapermen is the way the Iraqi press runs, we can't be shy about paying.

It's one of the things I appreciate most about Williams. Yes, he's a no nonsence television news anchor. But he's also a human being. He's also a loyal American who hopes we win the War On Terror, because he knows the consequences for our democracy if we don't win.

The L.A. Times media columnist Tim Rutten has been horrified by this paying for stories. He sees it as a threat to American democracy.

I frankly agree more with Williams and McCain. The stakes are high in Iraq. We have to do everything we can to win. And when have we not done such things in previous wars?

Williams is there every night on NBC. He's not flashy, but he does his job in a conscientious and sensitive way. May he long continue to do so.