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.

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