Thursday, June 30, 2005

Schwarzenegger's Special Election Should Receive Negative Votes

Written from Fort Nelson, B.C., on the Alaska Highway --

I was glad to see the Los Angeles Times editorial page oppose Gov. Schwarzenegger's November special election the same day he formally proposed it, and wish to associate myself with the Times' position.

It is dishonest of the governor to schedule yet another election at an inconvenient time when he feels he can count on a more substantial Republican turnout, thus negating the state's recent customary Democratic majority. Although I am a registered Republican, I prefer to win, if winning is merited, fair and square.

Also, I doubt very much whether winning is merited, particularly when one of the governor's proposals is to lengthen the time before teachers' tenure would be awarded.

The California Teachers Union has already taken steps to increase dues by $50 million this year to fight against the special election, and this is certainly advisable, since if the teachers do not fight for themselves, they cannot count on others to do so.

As Californians who love their children and grandchildren, we have a major stake in the work satisfaction of our teachers.

As Californians too, we owe the teachers a great deal more for steadfastly trying to keep educational standards high than we do the governor, who as Times columnist George Skelton has pointed out, has welched on his promise to pay back $2 billion he borrowed from education last year.

California public education has unfortunately been made the whipping boy for the state's budgetary problems, and as a result standards have further diminished. The governor is not supporting education as he ought to, and this alone is reason enough to oppose him on the special election.

But other proposals he has made would unbalance state government, diminish the role of the Legislature and install him as a kind of dictator reminescent of his own birthplace.

It is to be hoped that if Californians reject his proposals in the special election, he may decide not to stand for reelection next year. He has turned out to not be much of an improvement over Gray Davis, who was corrupt and had to be replaced. Fear of another successful Schwarzenegger candidacy has kept Atty. Gen. Bill Lockyer, perhaps the best qualified candidate, from making plans to run next year for governor.

It is particularly unfair of the governor, too, to seek to curtail the power of the state employee unions to raise money to fight election battles. This would give the Republicans and conservatives an unfair advantage. Altogether, the Schwarzenegger proposals are not in the interest of our great state, and should be rejected in their entirety.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

L.A. Times Suburban Sections Were Once Too Big, But Now Are Smaller Than Needed

Written from Fort Nelson, B.C., on the Alaska Highway--

They charge $2 a copy at the hotel desk here for the Edmonton Journal. In Vancouver, I found the New York Times was for sale in the hotel at $2.34 daily and $9.35 Sunday. Of course, this was in Canadian currency, now worth about 80% of American, but still it seems a lot of money. Yet it was selling out every day.

A paper as widely distributed as the New York Times is going to survive no matter what happens with the Internet. But the L.A. Times has lost circulation, doesn't make much of an attempt at wider distribution anymore, and, it's obvious, has cut way back on the suburban sections that used to buttress the paper's circulation in the Southland metro areas.

On June 12, the LAT editorial pages carried a piece by Gustavo Arellano lamenting cutbacks in the Times' Orange County edition, and I have to say he is right. Under Tribune ownership and appointed editors who don't appreciate Southern California, the paper has virtually given up on comprehensive suburban coverage, even in the Valley and Orange County, where it used to have major sections.

There were times a few years back when I felt the Chandler-owned Times had put too many resources into the suburban sections and often the tail was wagging the dog, even altering Page 1 of the A section on many days. It was as if there were several Los Angeles Times, not just one.

But these days, everything is folded into a California section, and as Arellano wrote, there are often no more than three stories of Orange County news in what is still called an Orange County Edition. That's not enough. It amounts to a scam. No wonder the Register, which is not a very good paper, has opened up such a wide circulation gap over the Times.

Different managers at different times are going to reach different conclusions on the value of suburban news. But the judgment of the Tribune Co. is all wrong. You can't be successful in Southern California with as little of it as the Times has today.

It's bound to continue the downward spiral of Times fortunes, and not until local ownership is restored will things start going right again. Then those big editorial quarters once opened up in Costa Mesa and Canoga Park will be humming again, and the Times will be growing. We can have a big party and banish the Tribune nightmare.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

China And A Possible Challenge To U.S. Emerges As An Editorial Issue In NYT

Written from Dawson Creek, BC, Beginning of Alaska Highway--

On Sunday, June 26, the New York Times devoted a long editorial to an important subject, China and its increasing challenge to the U.S.

The NYT, it is obvious, takes this very seriously, and it does not adopt the dovish line it takes on the Middle East. China, it writes, is forcing the U.S. to "decide how it plans to protect its economy, husband its resources and grow in a world where it is no longer the only economic powerhouse."

Of particular concern is China's sudden bid for the Union Oil Co. This has quite appropriately stirred up Congress, and I believe it should go without saying that a foreign power should not be permitted to take control of an oil company which could adversely affect the American supply of oil, if it started following non-American wishes.

The New York Times editorial writers are not gutsy enough to flatly oppose China's bid for UNOCAL, but they do warn against "complacency." In short, they are courageous enough, like most editorial writers, to be cautious.

The globalists, such as NYT columnist Tom Friedman, have been slow to recognize that there are points where free trade is not in the U.S. interest. For instance, allowing China to export textiles without restraint has ruined many American textile companies and impacted Europe badly as well.

Ssme American businessmen, such as a Dartmouth classmate of mine, have recently found the Chinese making extravagant bids which would in fact install Chinese control over their businesses. My classmate said that he was perfectly willing to enter into a limited contract with China to see how a business relationship would work out, but not do more immediately. He is being correctly prudent.

It could well be the New York Times editorial was right in asserting that the huge budget deficits run up by the Bush Aaministration have given the Chinese, with their huge holdings of U.S. dollars and treasuries too much power over the U.S. economy and that this is more to the blame of President Bush than the Chinese.

I believe that in the long run, we can develop a fair relationship with China if we are reasonable but vigilant at the same time. But as the NYT editorial points out, it is going to take intelligent U.S. policymaking, not just hopes the Chinese behave.

Monday, June 27, 2005

In A Small Canadian Town, The Only Radio Station Has A Diatribe Against the U.S.

Written from Prince George, British Columbia--

I listened to quite a bit of Canadian radio today, Monday, June 27, as I drove from Whistler to Prince George, about 400 miles. Every town has a sign at its entrance listing the local radio stations, so it's easy to find them on the car radio and listen in.

The Canadian Broadcasting System is comprehensive, with lengthier newscasts than network news in Los Angeles, and, so far as I could tell today, it seems fair, with a balanced world report.

But in the small town of Lillooet, on the mountain road about 80 miles east of Whistler, the station was one of what was billed as the 350 Pacifica stations in North America, and I listened for almost an hour, until the station faded away, to a diatribe against the United States from what was billed as a "War Crimes Tribunal" in Istanbul.

Speaker after speaker assailed America for its tactics in the War On Terror, without ever mentioning the Muslim extremists, suicide bombers, beheadings, the attack on the World Trade Center or any of the other things we've been fighting.

It was the opposite of an experience I once had while visiting Kingman, Arizona. There, the radio station broadcast a long expose of what was said to be a Soviet armed invasion of the United States under the auspices of the United Nations.

It is mind-boggling to hear that in both communities, the residents are being subjected to such extreme views, left or right, without any rebuttal on that same station.

Frankly, I don't listen to Pacifica radio and have no way of knowing how many stations they actually havw. A number of 350 sounds high, but I suppose is possible.

The chair of the War Crimes Tribunal was an Indian novelist of some note named Arundhati Roy, the author of a novel some years back called "The God of Small Things." I read it while visiting India. The author has become more and more extreme, but she outdid herself on the broadcast today, saying she wished to take up arms against the U.S. She spoke in a calm voice, but her conclusions were extreme, and blamed everything wrong in the world on us.

I wonder when I listen to such people whether there is any action that could be taken against us that would not suit them. They also called their program "Democracy Now," but their idea of democracy is to support the terrorists worldwide.

I have a different view, as readers of this blog know. I think the Muslim extremists and their supporters are Fascists, a throwback to the Nazies. But now, the threat worldwide may be even greater, because of the distinct possibility they will obtain nuclear, biological or chemical weapons in the years ahead and use them to kill millions of Americans, Europeans, Israelis and others.

This is not a fanciful notion, I'm sure. And while honest pe0ple can quarrel about our own tactics, there is no way any rational person can blame all the world's problems on the U.S. and/or the Bush Administration.

When I listened to Lillooet's sole station today, I felt sorry for the people who live in that community, being propagandized by hatemongers who have the nerve to call themselves the "Pacifica" station.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Why Shouldn't The Bush Administration Take Control of Public Radio and Television?

Written from Vancouver, British Columbia--

It may be surprising that liberal Democrats are incensed that there is such a thing as free elections in the United States, and that those who win them expect to take control of the various branches of the government.

Yet from the screams of anguish that the Corporation for Public Broadcasting has appointed Patricia Harrison, a former co-chair of the Republican National Committee, to be its next president and chief executive, you'd think the Democrats think they have some divine right to keep public broadcasting liberal.

They don't, and it may even be good for public broadcasting to change its politics.

I listen to National Public Radio quite frequently, and less frequently watch public television, and I've been struck with how blandly liberal and predictable it always seems to be. To listen to these folks, you would believe George W. Bush had not been first elected five years ago and then reelected last year.

I suppose in the best of all possible worlds, a public broadcast ought to be well balanced and quite nonpartisan. But the world doesn't seem to function that way. We have a partisan political system, and it's amazing actually that it's taken the Republicans all this time to assert their control over the public airwaves.

The New York Times, in writing about this last week, used language indicating that its reporters Stephen Labaton and Anne Kornblut, actually believed the public stations would possibly be insulated from a change.

But they did report that Congress had recently taken steps to keep federal funding for these stations what it has been, after threatened cuts by the Republicans who control Congress.

It shouldn't be surprising that the Republicans had thought of cutting funding, if the Democrats were going to remain in control of such broadcasting.

The New York Times article quoted Beth Courtney, one of the three members of the eight-member board of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting who is not a Republican, as saying she voted against Mrs. Harrison's appointment.

"I was asked by hundreds of colleagues in public broadcasting not to select someone who was in a partisan position," Courtney saud, "The stations are very upset."

Well, whoop de dee. Courtney, who is registered Independent, seems to think along with many liberals that elections don't count.

They do, and it's high time we get some conservative input on the public airwaves. It should make them more interesting.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

The Vancouver Sun Runs The Iranian Election On Page 16

Written from Vancouver, British Columbia

I've noticed this before: Once you get out of New York and Los Angeles, and away from the New York Times and Los Angeles Times, good newspapering drops off.

This morning, Saturday, June 25, the Vancouver Sun ran the news of the victory in the Iranian runoff election of a fanatic in a fixed contest, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, on Page 16. Yet of all the events taking place in the world this month, this crooked election may well have the most impact in world affairs.

Most newspapers can't afford to, or have no desire to, have a staff of foreign correspondents, and they allow the most significant developments to occur with scant comment.

I remember, when Nixon resigned as President in 1974, I happened to be in Panama City, Fla., the following week, staying with my in-laws. From the Panama City paper, you never would have known that the U.S. had just gone through an historic political crisis, the denouement of the Watergate Affair.

What effect does the paucity of decent newspapers have on American democracy? Maybe, many of these people are watching network television news and getting something of what happens that way. But I suspect much of the country never has the happiness or good sense to find out, in their own interest, in detail what is going on in the world around them.

My daughter, son-in-law and I have been spending several delightful days seeing friends from India who have emigrated to Canada and are establishing themselves here.

The head of the household, Nissim Samuel, tells me he doesn't read any newspaper at all, and why should he, if it means reading the Vancouver Sun?

Instead, Samuel goes to the Internet each morning to find out what's happening in the world. Yet, it's a chore to find out from the Internet what is happening in any detail. You have to look at a number of stories, and if you want to read the NYT or the LAT online, you have to register, which can be quite time consuming. And it may soon be quite expensive, if the present trend toward charging for these services intensifies.

One can't escape the impression that the Samuel household and millions like it are not as informed as they should be.

Newspapers are, I continue to believe, the best way of finding out, in detail, what is going on in the world. This bird in Iran, the latest leader to spring forth from the corrupt Muslim clerics that rule in that unfortunate country, could mean war or a nuclear crisis affecting the whole world. Yet here in Canada, they might not even find out they are in a crisis until it's too late.

Friday, June 24, 2005

In The Del Olmo Matter, Some Have A Serious Misunderstanding Of The First Amendment

Written from Vancouver, British Columbia, enroute to Alaska

There is a peculiar misunderstanding of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, guaranteeing freedom of the press, in the memories surfacing of the late Frank del Olmo of the L.A. Times.

No, Frank was not always impartial. He frequently took sides. He stood for advancement of Latinos at the L.A. Times and elsewhere in journalism and the community. He resisted the Times' endorsement of Pete Wilson for reelection as governor of California, when Wilson had taken an anti-Latino stand in endorsing Proposition 187. Frank properly threatened to quit over this endorsement, and finally settled for writing an eloquent column opposing the endorsement.

Of course, by that time, Del Olmo was writing on the editorial pages, and he became a columnist for the newspaper. Columnists are supposed to have opinions and express them.

But I think it's silly to ignore the fact t journalists have opinions. They often try to be impartial, they try to be fair, but there is nothing in the First Amendment that implies journalists have to be impartial. In fact, I've never known a journalist who didn't have some opinions, no matter how well he or she attempted to conceal them.

As I understand it, the reason we have the First Amendment is so that the press can express a wide range of views in a democracy. By the open venting of opinions, our forefathers foresaw that journalists would express their opinions. They would be disappointed if they were to come back today and they weren't doing so.

Some may choose to mute their opinions, and pretend to complete objectivity in the interest of building reader confidence. But I always told audiences that they should be aware that all journalists, at least somewhere in the subconscious if not more overtly, have a view and that in reading them, they should always question what that point of view is.

Del Olmo was a journalist in the same sense that Claude Sitton was for the New York Times when he covered the civil rights crusade down in the Deep South in the 1950s and 1960s. Or Jack Nelson, when he joined the L.A. Times as Southern bureau chief.
Everyone understood that these great journalists wrote from a perspective of racial justice. If they had been segregationists, they wouldn't have been hired by their respective newspapers in the first place. And this is the way it should be.

Similarly, when Edward R. Murrow was working for CBS in London during World War II, and William Shirer was in Berlin, they weren't expected to be impartial toward the Nazis.

Most good newspapers, like most good reporters, fight hard for what they believe in. That's one reason why I pay so much attention in this blog to editorial pages. It's because the editorial page, at its best, is the soul of the paper, and the papers, if they operate as they should, are the embodyment of the vital First Amendment when they have strong editorial pages.

Was Frank del Olmo a great journalist, someone asked me this past week. The answer is, he tried to be, and he succeeded to the extent that he stood for something worthwhile.

That's why he deserved to be honored with the compilation of a book of his outstanding columns. That's why I went to his party on Monday night, June 20, and was disappointed when more of my active colleagues did not show up.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Both NYT and LAT Have Talented Old Middle East Hands Working The Iranian Election Story

Written from Seattle, enroute to Alaska --

It's hard to fool either John Daniszewski of the L.A. Times or Michael Slackman, now of the New York Times, when it comes to the Middle East. After all, both correspondents at one time were the L.A. Times bureau chiefs in Cairo, no easy beat, and both are highly experienced throughout the Middle East.

So it's fortunate that they are representing their respective current papers in Tehran on the story of the Iranian elections, now threatened by the rampant fraud of the evil Mullahs who rule that unfortunate potentially very dangerous country.

The "runoff election," if we can call it that, will be held tomorrow, with the former President, Hashemi Rafsanjani trying to fend off the candidacy of the former mayor of Tehran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who in all likelihood doesn't belong in the runoff at all.

Both Daniszewski and Slackman made it plain in their stories on the results of the first round of the voting that a massive fraud had in all likelihood been committed. After all, Ahmadinejad announced that he was in the runoff before the votes had been counted, when he was trailing, and before a sudden million votes were added to his count by the "election commission," otherwise known as a passle of crooks dominated by the theocracy.

The Mullahs have been conspiring to fix the election. They removed most of the moderate candidates from the ballot, they then apparently altered the vote totals, for those remaining, and now they are likely to put in the fix again so that their fanatic supporter, Ahmadinejad will win today.

He has already adopted a totally uncompromising position on Iran's nuclear program, while Rafsanjami at least says he is willing to negotiate with the West..

This is no joke. The Iranian people have moderated quite a bit in recent years. They had been electing reformers until the Mullahs outmaneuvered them. Even the L.A. Times' editorial page this week called the election a suspicious one in the first round and hoped for a vote for Rafsanjami, no friend of the U.S. but at least not certifiably crazy like his opponent.

I suspect strongly that the election fixed in the first round to exclude all moderates from the runoff, will be fixed again to put the fanatic candidate in power, and compound the problems of the Middle East. At least with two honest American journalists plus others in Tehran, American readers will know all about it.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Crash Of L.A. Times Wikitorial Shows Chaos On The Internet

Written from Burns, Ore. Enroute to Alaska --

The L.A. Times has had to temporarily at least end its experiment with "wikitorials," in just two days, after some readers posted obscene photos or inappropriate comments. This is too bad, but not much of a surprise.

The Internet has too often become the repository of fanatic comments, intrusions by the scum of the world, people who use freedom to exercise rank license. This makes it, in many cases, a danger, as when predators entice innocent young people into bad situations, or, as the Times found out this past week, when freedoms it sought to expand are dealt with contemptuously.

It was clear before the Times began this experiment, based on a somewhat similar experience suffered by the Ventura County Star Free Press. that such freedom could only be allowed, if the newspaper were prepared to have personnel available 24 hours a day to police what was entered. Otherwise, it would not be long before things ran out of control.

As I've stated before, it was Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes who once observed that freedom of speech does not give anyone the right to hollar fire in a crowded theatre.

It's the same thing with the Internet. It is appropriate for any newspaper trying to show its liberality with such experiments as the wikitorial to put some boundaries on it.

The trouble is this costs money, and few publications have the willingness to hire and pay personnel to keep the boundaries intact.

As soon as the necessary interference with obscene and inappropriate intrusions is exercised, it also must be recognized that controversy will be generated, and the people who don't like the L.A. Times or its editorial pages will be quick to accuse the editors of acting inappropriately themselves.

What Michael Kinsley, head of the Times editorial pages, is finding out here is that it's difficult in the world today to be tolerant and understanding of free opinion. As soon as you try, the fanatics will begin to overwhelm you.

Perhaps, next time, the Times can try with some better filters, although filters are seldom efficient censors, and the paper will not want to acknowledge it is censoring.

It's too bad we are living in a world with an Internet that is so difficult. But them's the breaks, as my former wife used to say to the children when a bad situation could not be cleared up.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Turnout of Times People At Del Olmo Book Event Is Shamefully Low

The poor turnout of Times editorial staff at last night's Frank del Olmo book signing and first annual del Olmo lecture series was an embarrassment.

I may have missed a new staffer or two I didn't know, but my belief is that out of scores of Times reporters and editors invited to the event at the Japanese American National Museum, only two showed up, Frank Sotomayor, who was one of the speakers, and Henry Weinstein, who has long demonstrated the authentic interest in diversity that should be the case with all Times staff members.

They prepared a badge for me, reading "Retired Los Angeles Times," which, of course, is an accurate description. And a Times public relations executive was there, because the Times has helped with financing the del Olmo book, a handsome compilation of his outstanding columns. The diligent and conscientious Sotomayor is a co-editor of the del Olmo book.

I couldn't help but remember Shelby Coffey, former Times editor now living in the Washington, D.C. area. He truly believed in diversity and worked hard for it in his years at the Times. He definitely would have been there had he still been editor.

Frank del Olmo was an important member of the L.A. Times staff, and the manner of his death, of an apparent heart attack in the midst of the Times editorial offices, was one of the saddest events at the office in recent years. It happened just 16 months ago.

As Sotomayor recalled in his talk last night, he and del Olmo had been scheduled to meet to discuss important matters related to Latinos at the newspaper and in the Los Angeles community that very noon. Del Olmo suffered his attack just minutes before this meeting.

Manuel Valencia, the veteran Los Angeles PR man, told me that 300 people in all had been invited to last night's event, and about 100 RSVPd. Only about 50 showed up, a mostly Latino crowd, few Anglos in evidence. Valencia did not have the precise number of Times people invited by del Olmo's widow, Magdalena-Beltran del Olmo, a co-editor with Sotomayor, of the book, "Frank del Olmo, Commentaries on His Times." But he said he believed it was very substantial. It certainly was scores.

I know newspersons are busy. But remembering Frank del Olmo is important, and a respect by the white reporters and editors for Latino journalists in Los Angeles is very important. I hesitate to berate a staff for whom I have a great deal of respect, but last night's showing was pretty miserable.

The book is very handsome, but, of course, I have not yet had a chance to read it thoroughly.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Tribune Co. Must Be Alert To Protect Pensions In Turning Loose The L.A. Times Credit Union

I was at the L.A. Times Credit Union last Friday, buying travelers checks for my forthcoming drive to Alaska and I was a little startled at what I heard there.

Of course, like other Credit Union members, I had received the letter from Alex Kort, head of the Credit Union, saying the Tribune Co. had decided to cut the Credit Union loose in 2006. But it was a mild, and not an alarming letter. The Credit Union will stay in existence and Times employees or retired employees, after its 70 years of service, will continue to have access to it.

But at the Credit Union Friday I was told that this letter had been considerably toned down, and that the situation for the Credit Union and its 18 employees is foreboding.

According to what the Credit Union's lawyer is said to have told Kort and other members of the staff, not only will the Credit Union be cut loose, but its staff members will lose their Times pensions and receive what they are owed in lump sum payments they will not be able legally to turn into IRAs.

Since, in this view, this amounts to getting rid of pensions belonging to people who are vested, it raises the question of possible wrongdoing, and it could, if federal agencies are alert, lead to an investigation of the Tribune Co. that could adversely affect all pensions at the L.A. Times. At least, that's what the credit union lawyer thinks.

I was told that Roger Smith, who is a member of the board of the credit union, has asked the new Times publisher, Jeffrey Johnson, to look into this and make sure Tribune Co. is behaving legally and properly. Johnson, as I understand, has responded to Smith that he will look into it.

But according to what Tribune Co. representatives have informed Kort, Smith and other Times employees under the new arrangement can no longer continue to serve on the credit union's board.

Kort, who at 55 will no longer be a Times employee, have no pension and apparently no ability to get an IRA, will have to arrange for a new board to be appointed and obtain outside services to perform payroll and other functions for the credit union staff.

Also, the credit union will proably have to spread out, soliciting members all over downtown. It will no longer, according to what Kort has been told, even be able to use the L.A. Times name.

The new credit union will continue to serve Times emploees, but under a new board perhaps not under quite as advantageous terms as it has formerly. AT the time of the earthquake and other disasters, the credit union traditionally has extended special loans to its Times and retired members. Now, there may be a question of whether it would be able to do so in the future.

All these matters are obviously of concern to Times employees. This blog is kind of a word to the wise. The Tribune Co. has long been cutting back on direct services to Times employees and may not be as good an employer as the Chandlers were. That's not news, but it may be becoming worse news.

It's true that Dennis FitzSimons, Tribune CEO, recently sent out a message to Times employees and others saying Tribune has plenty of resources in its pension funds and that they will be honored. But if this is so, Why is Tribune fixing to leave the credit union's 18 employees high and dry?

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Warren Wilson Retires After 21 Years At KTLA

A distinguished Emmy-winning colleague in the Los Angeles journalistic community, Warren Wilson, has retired after 21 years with KTLA, Channel 5. He was the son of a North Carolina sharecropper, but like Tom Bradley, son of a Texas sharecropper, he rose to become a well known figure in metropolitan Los Angeles.

Wilson, 71, like almost all great television reporters, has a distinctive voice, immediately recognizable as soon as you hear it, and his specialty has been reporting the crime that particularly affects L.A.'s south and east sides, although he also covered such stories as the North Hollywood bank robbery and shootout.

He didn't sensationalize. He didn't have to. The stories he told on the air were mostly grim and pitiless. But Wilson stayed calm, and he told what had happened in spare, eloquent language. Those who covered the stories from other media always knew that Wilson would be responsible and honest. Covering the 1992 riots shortly after suffering a heart attack, he and his team won a Peabody Award.

Indeed, Wilson was so respected as an honest broker between the police and the community that 22 persons wanted by the police chose him to be an intermediary at their surrender. They knew that with Warren around there was no chance the sometimes triggerhappy cops would start shooting before the surrender could be effected.

Wilson wasn't always satisfied with his career. He felt that as a black reporter, he sometimes wasn't accorded the respect by his superiors that he was certain his talents deserved.

And who's to say he wasn't right? For a long time, Wilson once told me, he wasn't encouraged to speak spontaneously on the air. Nearly everything he said had to be scripted in advance before the filming began. Then, one day, it was a breaking news story. He had to be spontaneous, and he did a hell of a good job. Then, his editors realized that Wilson was good on his feet, and a load was lifted from his mind.

This is not an untypical story, because the truth of it is that "minority reporters" at both the Times and on L.A. radio and television are indeed too often treated differently. They are stereotyped and perhaps kept from the promotions they deserve.

But the stories Wilson handled at KTLA were as well handled as anyone could possibly do. He was, in a way, the voice of a thoroughly dispossessed community, the Los Angeles of street shootings, carjackings and depressing crimes against the very young and helpless. All the rest of us quickly found out that he did know what he was doing and he was a master at doing it.

The Times story about his retirement, by Merrill Balassone, told how Los Angeles once was: "At his first job interview for a reporting position at KNXT (now KCBS), Wilson says the news director turned him down, claiming that the lighting and cameras wouldn't facilitate a black man interviewing a white person on television."

That's the kind of thing journalists of color had to overcome. We can't forget either that when the Watts Riot erupted in the city in 1965, the L.A. Times had to use an advertising salesman, Robert Richardson, to help cover it, because the Times had no black reporter, and that when Martin Luther King, Jr., arrived in Los Angeles on his first visit, the only white person in the greeting party was the late County Supervisor Kenneth Hahn.

Of his 1992 Riot coverage, Supervisor Yvonne Brathwaite Burke declared, "He was right out there in the center of things, asking why things were happening, why there was so much destruction. He was willing to be on the street, letting people know what was happening in their community."

I hope Warren Wilson was given a gala party as a retirement event at KTLA. He deeerved it.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Michael Kinsley Displays An Independent Stance On L.A. Times Editorial Pages

One thing that has to be said for Michael Kinsley of late is that he has staked out an independent position in some respects. As I said earlier in the week, his changes on the L.A. Times editorial pages deserve time to see how they will turn out.

But I personally liked the editorial page feature Thursday, while I was out of town attending a Dartmouth reunion, in which each of the members of the editorial board, including Kinsley, described their commuting experience. Traffic is one area, immigration being another, where Kinsley and his deputy, Andres Martinez, have promised to "think out loud," for awhile on an issue of infinite complexity, and this was a good start on traffic.

Especially attractive was Martinez observing, "The first time I felt like a bona fide Angeleno was the first time I used the term "surface street." And I also appreciated Kinsley, speaking of his commute from the Bunker Towers downhill to The Times, declaring, "And, of course, although I couldn't imagine that I would ever drive this pathetic distance, longtime Angelenos insisted that I would most of the time, and they were right."

I should acknowledge parenthetically, by the way, that I was wrong to suggest that Kinsley might be running up large hotel bills in his longer commute from his other home in Seattle. I'm glad to see he is living in Bunker Hill while he is here, hopefully not at the Times' expense.

Friday featured a long editorial on the progress or lack of it of the war in Iraq, and also an invitation to readers to try to fashion their own wiki editorial, rewriting the editorial on a Web page. We'll await word on how many actually took advantage of this. The danger is that it may serve to muddle up views of the Times' editorial positions. But it may give the readers a greater sense of their own participation. We'll have to see.

The most positive Kinsley exercise of the week, in my view, was his column last Sunday taking exception to the ordinary liberal view that the Downing Street Memo, revealed during the recent British election campaign, demonstrated "proof positive that President Bush was determined to invade Iraq a year before he did so."

Months ago, when I suggested that Kinsley was in an alliance with columnist Bob Scheer to "hijack" the Times' editorial pages, Kinsley quickly denounced that view as wrong, saying that he differed from Scheer.

Sunday's Kinsley column proved it. Kinsley made fun of the left in the column, declaring, "I don't buy the fuss" it is trying to make over the Downing Street Memo, and observing, "Developing a paranoid theory and promoting it to the very edge of national respectability takes ideological self-confidence. It takes a critical mass of citizens with extreme views and the time and energy to obsess about them..." Also, Kinsley referred casually to Scheer as a "left wing Los Angeles Times columnist," which he certainly is at the very least.

It is refreshing to see Kinsley use the term left wing as well as right wing, calling people for what they are. And the headline of Kinsley's column was, "The Left Gets A Memo."

That Kinsley's column struck a nerve was shown Wednesday when the Times ran three letters taking him to task for allegedly being what one reader described as "the most aimiable of lap dogs." Another said, "Shame on the press for not being more aggressive on this issue. Your la-de-da. this-has-been-written-about-before attitude is exactly what's wrong with this picture. Whatever happened to investigative journalism?"

A ha! I'm delighted when some of the Times' crazy left wing readers find cause to criticize the paper from the left. It can't help but help circulation, down more than 200,000 under Tribune ownership.

Now, we know why Kinsley didn't endorse Sen. Kerry in the last election. He was a closet Bush supporter. (Just kidding).

But, seriously, to the extent Kinsley runs an independemt. free-thinking editorial page, he will begin to command respect for himself and the newspaper, even if he does live half the time and votes in the state of Washington.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Former L.A. Times Iranian Correspondent, Azadeh Moaveni, Writes On Iran For Time Magazine

The L.A. Times seems all too often to develop sharp foreign correspondents who end up writing for other publications. Three women, Azadeh Moaveni, Ginger Thompson and Somini Sengupta, are among them. The question I pose is, why aren't they still with the L.A. Times?

Moaveni showed up last week with a long, brilliant article on Iran for Time magazine, "Fast Times in Tehran, Iran's Once Restive Youth Is More Interested In Making Money Than In Politics. An Intimate Look At How The Regime Bought Off A Generation."

This indeed is an intimate look. Moaveni, who grew up in San Jose, California after her family emigrated from Iran, was educated at UC Santa Cruz and then won a Fulbright Scholarship to study in Egypt, and later worked in the Middle East for Time, before going to Iran for the L.A. Times, is the author of the highly regarded recent book "Islamic Jihad," about her adventures spanning the two societies, Iranian and American.

She was a correspondent for The Times in Iran in 2001-02. Now, she continues to spread her wings, living in Beirut and working as a free lancer. She has a writing style and approach that is indeed intimate. In her latest Time article, in the issue dated June 13, she brilliantly weaves such experiences as joy riding with young Iranians, attending a practice session of 127, Iran's hottest underground rock band, and chatting with a waiter at a popular kabob restaurant into a provocative analysis of Iran's mood before the latest round of elections.

Moaveni is far from the usual foreign correspondent who delves into only the surface political matters and is content with interviewing officials. L.A. Times foreign coverage is usually not nearly so exciting as what Time prints of her recent Iranian trip.

Moaveni is a very good-humored, upbeat person. In Iran, she smiled so much that Iranians said they could tell right away she also had an American background, because young Iranians are usually much more somber.

Somini Sengupta, like Thompson, got her start in journalism in the Times' wholesome preoccdupation with training minority journalists. It's just too bad the Times' Met Pro program often seems to result in the graduates of Times training putting their hard won experience to work elsewhere.

Sengupta, now a New York Times correspondent in India and other Third World countries, has won numerous prizes for also, like Moaveni, delving deeping into the stories she covers. Her work in Liberia, in Kashmir and many other places in Africa and Asia, has been unusually insightful. She won a Polk Award for Foreign Reporting in 2004 and was also featured by the Poynter Institute for outstanding newspaper writing in 2000. She was born in Calcutta, India, but grew up mainly in Southern California and graduated from UC Berkeley.

Often flirting with danger, Sengupta goes into rural neighborhoods most foreign correspondents seldom travel to, and then comes out with heartrending tales. Her story from Kashmir on an isolated Hindu village attacked by Muslim extremists was one of a kind, and her accounts of the brutality of the Liberian civil war had no equal.

As part of the Times' Met Pro program, Sengupta, viewed by her editors as the best of that class, was sent for the second year to Newsday, only to be relieved there as part of dumb union rules that said if there was a staff cutback, the last reporter in had to be the first out. She simply walked across the street, as it were, and went to work with the New York Times. Newsday, often so poorly treated by outside owners at both Times-Mirror and the Tribune Co., was not a good place to send her.

Sengupta won her New York Times spurs after 9-11 with an article detailing how black and Hispanic New Yorkers came to see the New York Fire Department in a more positive light after the terror attacks on the World Trade Center.

Ginger Thompson, another Met Pro, was sent for the second year to the Baltimore Sun, and ended up at the more desirable New York Times. She has been that newspaper's correspondent in Mexico and has recently also written in the Caribbean. Her work too is more insightful than many foreign correspondents. This shows too how the second year assignments of the Met Pro program often lead to losing talented reporters.

Three terrific young women whose careers are only beginning. It's too bad the L.A. Times let them out the door.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Thomas Friedman's Latest Column On Iraq In NYT Emphasizes Deterioration Of Our Position There

The New York Times foreign affairs columnist, Thomas L. Friedman, has an article today, June 15, that points up what I think has to be acknowledged even by supporters of the U.S. effort in Iraq: Namely that we have to devise a better strategy there if we are going to be successful.

The downward spiral of uncontrolled insurgent violence and sectarian suicide bombings there continues. It is now common for 50 people to be killed nearly every day, mostly innocent civilians, while, for the most part, the Iraqi government's own efforts to stem the attacks are ineffective, and even the U.S. forces seem for the most part to be reacting rather than acting.

Friedman, who to be frank, has been all over the map on Iraq, frequently changing according to his mood, nonetheless has several times now suggested that the U.S. cannot be successful until it has more troops on the scene.

He says this morning, "We've already paid a huge price for the Rumsfeld Doctrine -- 'Just enough troops to lose.' Calling for more troops now, I know, is the last thing anyone wants to hear. But we are fooling ourselves to think that a decent, normal, forward-looking Iraqi politics or army is going to emerge from a totally insecure environment, where you can feel safe only with your own tribe."

Friedman may well be right in principal, but President Bush continues to sink in the polls on the matter of Iraqi policy and a massive infusion of more U.S. troops could well tip even more people against the whole venture. Mr. Bush may be closer than we think to losing his majority in Washington. Even many Republicans in Congress are growing more uneasy.

Yet, as I've contended before, the stakes are very high, if we lose. We could walk out of Vietnam without severe strategic overall losses in the world. That is not so in Iraq, where the terrorists would only be encouraged, and the price of oil only go higher as a result of an American defeat. Such a defeat could lead to the overthrow of other Middle Eastern regimes friendly to us.

Friedman does not say so, but more devastating airpower perhaps should be tried in Iraq in the Sunni triangle and along the Syrian border in an effort to take down the insurgents and foreign jihadists.

Surely, Mr. Bush's recent attempt, by sending the Secretary of State to Baghdad to try to get the Iraqi government to act more kindly toward the Sunnis, bringing them into the government, cannot possibly succeed. The Iraqi government won't budge on this point for understandable reasons, and the Sunnis won't be cooperative until the price of not being cooperative gets too high.

Mr. Bush probably should have removed Rumsfeld immediately after his reelection. It is clear the Secretary of Defense has run out of ideas. He needs to be replaced by someone like Sen. John McCain, who will wage the war with fresh ideas and intensity.

Things now are being allowed to drift. That is not to our advantage.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

New York Times Columnist Defends Tragic Female Victim In Pakistan

Congratulations should go to New York Times columnist Nicholas D. Kristof for his steadfast defense of a young Pakistani woman who has been repeatedly victimized by barbaric Muslim extremists in her country, and now the embarrassed regime of that nation's dictator, Pervez Musharraf.

Meanwhile, everlasting glory should go to Mukhtaran Bibi. She is the young woman who was ordered gang-raped by a tribal council in Pakistan for a transgression supposedly committed not by her but by her brother. Assaulted by four men, and then forced to walk home nearly naked, Ms. Mukhtaran was supposed to commit suicide out of shame.

However, she fought back, testified against those who had raped her, shamed the government into prosecuting them, and then giving her compensation money. She then took the money, and $133,000 donated by Kristof's readers who had seen his columns about the matter, and established schools for boys and girls, an abuse shelter for women and an ambulance service in her village.

The story became more sordid when corrupt Pakistani courts ordered the rapists released, and then the authorities cracked down not on them, but on Ms. Mukhtaran who had been invited to visit the U.S. by Pakistani-Americans. Now, she has been jailed and held incommunicado, rather than allowed to go to America and speak out about the persistent abuses in Pakistan.

In this case, Kristof writes, the Pakistani authorities headed by Musharraf "have gone nuts" in their actions against a woman courageous enough to stand up to age-old Muslim discrimination against women.

"No wonder the Pakistan government can't catch Osama bin Laden," the columnist writes. "It is too busy, Harassing, detaining -- and now kidnapping -- a gang rape victim for daring to protest and for planning a visit to the United States."

The ostensible reason is Pakistani government fear that if she goes to the U.S., Bibi will malign Pakistan's image.

"Excuse me." writes Kristof, "but Ms. Mukhtaran, a symbol of courage and altruism, is the best hope for Pakistan's image. The threat to Pakistan's image comes from President Musharraf for all this thuggish behavior."

Just on Friday, Kristof notes, President Bush received Pakistan's foreign minister at the White House and praised Musharraf for "bold leadership" in the War on Terror.

Instead, Kristof suggests, Mr. Bush should be asking Musharraf to focus more effort on capturing bin Laden "instead of of kidnapping rape victims who speak out."

And, he goes on, Mr. Bush ought to invite Mukhtaran to the White House "to show that Americans stand not only with generals who seize power, but also with ordinary people of extraordinary courage."

Execuse me, also, but I wonder where Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and former President Jimmy Carter have been on this matter. Feeling free always to criticize U.S. military forces for using what they consider overly rough tactics on the Muslim extremists, they haven't spoken out on behalf of Mukhtaran Bibi.

Where are they? Why are these liberal representatives so critical of the U.S. and the Bush Administration, when they won't stand up against barbaric terrorists in the Muslim world?

Monday, June 13, 2005

Changes Introduced On L.A. Times Editorial Pages Will Have To Be Tested For Awhile To See How They Work

While I've been back East visiting Washington, D.C., and attending a Dartmouth reunion, the L.A. Times has announced certain changes on its editorial pages, and the New York Times has run today, June 13, an article on the turbulence of the Michael Kinsley era on these same L.A. Times pages.

I've been very critical for the most part of Kinsley, who often seems to have odd and inconsistent views, conducted an apparently arbitrary purge of half his staff and now, like Mao's Cultural Revolution, is introducing what appears to be more chaos.

Kinsley and underling Andres Martinez have now announced plans to let outside freelancers write certain editorials, to explore issues for awhile. "thinking out loud," before adopting a philosophically consistent position, to run more editorial board essays under bylines and even to let members of the editorial board write once a year differing with the Times overall editorial positions. He would let readers participate on a website in helping to fashion some editorials.

As is to be expected, Times Editor John Carroll supports Kinsley. After all, he hired him, backed him in the messy fight with Susan Estrich and allows him to spend only one week in Los Angeles of every two and be a part time chief.

It would be interesting to know, in light of the Times' excessive recent article on the spending habits of Getty CEO Barry Munitz, whether Kinsley flies to Los Angeles from Seattle and back first class, and how much the Times may be paying for his hotels.

But all that said, not all of Kinsley's reforms are necessarily bad. Despite Jack Nelson's suggestion today that there is something unnatural in letting outsiders write editorials, we're simply going to have to see how it works out. It may shake up the paper's editorial pages beneficially. Certainly, the editorial pages have been unsatisfactory to many readers in the past.

So I for one would be willing to wait for awhile to reach a judgment on these reforms. I don't like the way Kinsley purged such able editorial writers as Alex Raksin, a Pulitzer Prize winner, and Molly Selvin. But some of his ideas for protest editorials may work out well.

He may be a klutz, folks, but he may also stumble in some respects into something good. After all, the New York Times greeted even some of Mark Willes' ideas with initial respect, although in that case they turned out to be cockeyed.

Lelyveld Article On Torture In New York Times Breaks New Ground

An article in the New York Times Magazine Sunday, June 12, has the newspaper's retired executive editor, Joseph Lelyveld, boldly raising the question of how much coercion is permissible in the War on Terror.

Unlike the Los Angeles Times, which has been one dimensionally critical of the United States forces on this topic, the headline of the careful Lelyveld article raises the key question and the article explores it in great depth.

"Whether we like it or not, detainees in the war on terrorism will be subjected to lies, threats and highly coercive force," the headline declares. "Can we draw lines and set rules about techniques and approaches? Do we want to?"

Lelyveld's answers amount to a qualified yes. He is opposed to torture per ce, but he is ambivalent to some extent on what he calls "torture lite."

The article raises in various contexts -- Iraqi, Israeli and American -- the question of what is justified in terms of compelling suspect terrorists to talk, given the likelihood that if they do not talk, major losses of life may occur from terrorist acts.

At times, Lelyveld writes turgidly and the article shies away from precise answers or dogmatic statements.

But unlike the Amnesty International polemics, accusing the U.S. of establishing a Gulag at Guantanamo and elsewhere, Lelyveld makes the point that the number of instances of torture have been rather small, and, as he says, "While Defense Department investigators are still kept busy looking into detainees' complaints of abuse in Iraq, it has to be acknowledged that we've yet to hear of any fatalities under interrogation in 2004 and 2005."

This is welcome perspective one doesn't find in the L.A. Times, although Lelyveld does not give the Bush Administration a free ride.

He calls it "an administration that says it abhors torture but prefers not to be pinned down on what it now considers torture to be."

The article shows the uses to which a good magazine in a newspaper can be put. This is a far more lengthy and discursive examination of the question than would easily fit into the news pages under most circumstances.

Lelyveld has listened carefully to the Israelis and examined Israeli interrogation tactics. Another headline in the article relates, "Israeli specialists are amazed by American interrogators' short tours of duty and reliance on outsourcing. 'Unprofessional' is the mildest word they use."

But what has been happening is that the critics seem to have cowed the Administration. Appeasement advocates like Jimmy Carter, responsible for so many weaknesses in U.S. policy toward the Middle East, Iran and Afghanistan during his own administration, is talking a great deal again, and, as usual, to the detriment of American interests.

In this context, the Lelyveld article is excellent. It raises these questions in the proper context: What can we do fairly honorably and still win?

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Statistics Are Usually Misleading, Regardless Where They Come From, Because Conditions Change

The New York Times on Saturday, June 11, published a story estimating that if the Bush Adminstration's plan to shore up pensions was enacted into law, a good many companies that project large payments this year could legally get by with paying nothing into their pension plans in 2005.

The existing law allowed United Airlines and many other firms to claim they had adequately funded their pension plans without, actually, having done so. Now that it is in bankruptcy, United Airlines has gotten away already with declaring it can no longer fund its pension and has handed it over to the federal pension guarantee agency, which already has a deficit and will pay many of United's retired employees drastically less than they had been projected to get when United was solvent.

I haven't flown United in some time and do not intend to do so in the future. I think these misstatements of how healthy a pension plan is may constitute a fraud. But it is true, projections of how some financial systems may do over several years are frequently very much off base. evem when there aren't loopholes in the law that allow companies to get away with bloody murder.

The bottom line with all this is that, as frequently has been said, "Statistics don't lie, but liars figure>"

I found out during my years as an L.A. Times reporter, covering the insurance industry and the legal profession for a large part of that time, that virtually every statistic proffered on insurance and the costs of the tort system, was, to say the least, disputable.

In fact, the lasting value of the figures was so dubious that it was easy to get bogged down simply citing conflicting statistics whenever I wrote about the arguments between the insurers and the trial lawyers. I finally decided it was usually fruitless to even discuss statistics, or to discuss them in more than a cursory way. They simply were not illuminating the situation in any useful way.

The L.A. Times, like other newspapers, has frequently been victimized by misleading statistics. Just in the last year or two, the paper has repeatedly run estimates of how much would be saved in Worker's Compensation premiums if the Legislature adopted certain reforms.

The reform finally enacted has been disappointing in its results thus far. It hasn't cut premiums nearly as much as its sponsors said it would. The legislators, bamboozled by the various lobbyists in Saramento, pretended to the public and perhaps even to themselves that they were passing a bill that would sharply reduce premiums by cutting claims, only to find later that the insurers weren't reducing premiums by more than a pittance.

Times coverage in the Business section of the worker's comp issue has been very weak, because the writers bought the notion that you could cut premiums without writing into the reform bill a specific guarantee for the cuts and without enabling such a cut to take place by reducing legal costs.

The insurers fought giving any guarantee of how much they would cut premiums, and the lawyers resisted any reduction in legal costs. The result was that the reform adopted was meaningless. The premium cuts have been inconsequential.

The same trouble with figures is seen in budget estimates. We should not forget that when George W. Bush became President, there were projections of huge federal budget surpluses in the years ahead. Within months of 9-11, these surpluses had completely disappeared and been replaced by deficits running into the hundreds of billions of dollars.

Conditions had changed materially and all the statistic projections turned out o be worthless.

I suspect that the projections on how long the Social Security and Medicare surpluses will last are all wet, and that they will change dramatically year by year, that the Congress presently debating the future of these large entitlement programs has no better idea that the Bush Administration, even conceding their possible sincerity, exactly what should be projected.

Often, as in the Savings and Loan debacle, Workers Comp, pensions, Medicare and the price of housing, all the major arguments of the past and future among economists, the statistics are without any lasting value.

The press has to be more careful using such figures. Many people are being lulled into a totally false sense of security by their use. Most everything is just a big guess.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Barry Munitz Article In L.A. Times Needed More Context

The article in the Los Angeles Times Friday, June 10, on the heavy spending and travel by Barry Munitz, the Getty's chief executive, was highly entertaining and the writers, Jason Felch, Robin Fields and Louise Roug, deserve kudos.

But this piece, long and monumental as it was, could have used more context.

The question that should have been examined was whether all of Munitz's spending helped the Getty obtain an expansion of its collections, which it currently needs to fill its mission. Many people visiting the Getty feel its collections are thin.

If Munitz goes to Florence first class with his wife and rents a villa, is he using that trip to buy Michelangelo's David? Just kidding, but you get the point.

Some chief executives do spend a lot and live very high, and this has become an issue in various prosecutions around the country. But we also see quite a few juries reluctant to convict, if it can be shown there was any business purpose whatsoever.

That is the question with Munitz. He is spending a lot of the Getty's money, but is the institution getting something in return?

We live in Los Angeles to a great extent in a Hollywood atmosphere. I remember how Times writers and others did a lot of "tsk tsking" over all the spending James Cameron did in producing "Titanic," but when it drew the greatest audience of any movie in history, it turned out to be worth it.

The Getty can't be a shrinking violet. In a dog eat dog world, it has to go out and obtain great art, and its directors probably can't do that going coach, not giving parties and not exchanging gifts.

Bill Thomas, when he was editor of the Times, used to regularly travel first class, as did many of his reporters, and he once told me he always made it a practice to stay in suites in hotels. He and other Times executives, such as Otis Chandler and Tony Day, used to often travel the world on fact finding trips, seeing world leaders. Was it worth it or was this over spending? I think it was worth it.

I'm not arguing the Munitz article should not have been written. It was definitely worthwhile, but it should have been written with a more sophisticated, world view, put in context and not have contained quite so much "Gee, whiz!"

Friday, June 10, 2005

Montorio Seems To Want To Bring "View" Back At The L.A. Times

At a time when every week there seems to be new rumors of cutbacks at the L.A. Times, when whole groups, like the photographers and sports, are told to save money, Deputy Managing Editor John Montorio is dreaming of establishing a new section.

What it amounts to is bringing "View" back, but under the circunstances it's a little like a father wanting a new child when he can't feed the children he has already.

Montorio has named a new pod of reporters to cover fashion, beauty, style, cosmetic surgery, advertising, in short, aspects of Los Angeles life he likes to call "Image." At first, he says, they will have a special page within Calendar, but, later, hopefully a whole new weekly section.

View, for those of us around long enough to remember, was, in its heyday, a big advertising success, drawing enough for some mighty big sections at a time when the late Art Berman and others were in charge.

And the reporters Montorio and Deputy Features Editor Michalene Busico have named -- Molly Avins, Valli Herman, Booth Moore and especially Gina Piccalo -- have good reputations.

The only trouble is that right now some Times historic sections, like Sports, Business and Opinion have been pared back in space so far they have almost become an insult to the readers who remember them when, when they were prosperous and fun to read for the great writing they often had.

Maybe, new sections should wait until there is some good chance to restore the paper to what it was, truly prosperous. In short, bring back a few pages in Sports before adding to Calendar. Montorio wouldn't like that, but it's necessary.

Montorio means well, I'll give him that. But he'd better check with Tribune Co. CEO Dennis FitzSimons to be sure he really means it in his reassuring message to employees today about pensions and other matters. At one point, FitzSimons remarks that the Tribune Co. has an "excellent financial position, including our substantial cash flow and strong balance sheet."

But if this is so, then why all the ongoing costcutting? And why, as FitzSimons himself laments, has the stock price sunk so low? He keeps trying for a bigger profit margin. He cares more for pleasing Wall Street than the readers of his newspapers.

No, if this is time to be thinking about creating a new section, there's some things missing, like realistic thinking and a firm plan. The Times will recover, I fear, only when the paper is sold to a Californian who is a proficient news and advertising manager and as ambitious as Otis Chandler used to be.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Los Angeles Times Magazine Had A Good Moment With Its "Survival Guide" Last Sunday

The Los Angeles Times Magazine showed its potential for success last Sunday, June 5, with a highly appealing "Southern California Survival Guide, 39 ways to cope with L.A.'s daily dangers."

At a time when the movie "Crash," has generated a lot of talk over whether Los Angeles works as a metropolitan center, this feature, by Andy Meisler, was well written and illustrated and consistently entertaining. Right on the money, too, with much of its advice.

Again, I would like to see the writer of such articles more fully identified than simply by what article for the magazine he wrote last.

But Meisler did a good job here. He had an excellent lead-in and his advice on how to cope was often pointed and appropriate. I don't know who exactly had the idea for this article, but, for once, it was something the magazine could be proud of.

Theoretically, the Times magazine could be successful most all the time. If it had pleasing articles like this very often, it would gain clientele and when it had loyal readers, it's clear it would also have loyal advertisers.

The magazine is getting a new editor soon in Rick Wartzman, I understand, and hopefully he will be more imaginative in this post than he was as editor of Business.

The New York Times Magazine is a big success, both for the seriousness of its articles and in selling lots and lots of ads. Special features, like William Safire's articles on language, have given it a special cachet, and it soars from there.

But, over the years, the L.A. Times Magazine has too often been an afterthought. Its articles have been spotty, its appeal sporadic.

A strong magazine would be a good spot -- other than Page 1 -- for major projects, but that is someplace down the road, once the magazine has established itself.

A problem with all such sections of the paper is that they are packaged poorly in the Sunday paper. They are frequently hard to find, and since they don't publish on many holidays, it isn't always obvious it is worth looking.

When I was a boy, The Times wrapped the Sunday paper with the Comics and this became a distinctive trademark of the L.A. Times. Red Ryder was the lead, as I remember.

TV Guide and Opinion are other sections that should at least be packaged consistently, reachable each Sunday in the same spot.

It should not be underestimated what a successful magazine and good presentation of other sections would mean in fortifying public perceptions of the Times on Sundays as a successful publication. Right now, it almost seems to be presented haphazardly, without design or forethought beyond Sports, California, Calendar and the main news section.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

While Elitists On The Editorial Pages Look Down On French Voters, A Letter Writer From Torrance Appreciates Them

The elitists on the editorial pages of the L.A. Times, Left and Right, looked down on the French electorate for rejecting the proposed constitution of the European Union, as expected. From their high and mighty positions, they frequently disdain the democratic will of the electorate, considering themselves much smarter.

But a letter writer to the Times from Torrance said, in my view, just what had to be said, and I'm going to quote him in full:

"As a member of the working class, I found it instructive that the 'neo-liberal' catechistic editorial "The French No" (June 1) and "Why Europeans Are Mad as Hell at the New Europe" (Commentary, June 2) by "neoconservative" Max Boot converged in lock step (or lock think) to look down an apparently shared patrician nose at the sarcastically portrayed job security concerns of the French working class, i.e., "Polish plumbers invading Paris."

"The neo-(fill in the blank) elites, who smell a victory for the new world order just over the dunghill if only old Europe would convert to global capitalist theology and "dump the labor unions," outsource to seek absolute advantage, etc., obviously haven't a clue about what it is like to fear for the loss of a livelihood while leading a "life of quiet desperation" as the new religion and its sneering prophets in the media preach salvation but deliver squat."

The letter is signed by Jack Devine, God bless him. He is able to say more in two paragraphs than Michael Kinsley in a whole column.-

This has meaning beside the issue of the future of the European Union. The press and governments of the West are filled these days with would-be sophisticates who don't understand how the cosmopolitcan attitude builds resentment among the stay-at-homes who are either fond of their own neighborhoods or fear that outsiders are going to come in and ruin them, reduce their wages, take away their pensions and make them live like dogs..

I remarked at the time that the French and Dutch were no more willing to vote for the Germans, Poles and Romanians to move in and take over than people in Santa Monica would welcome an invasion and being told what to do by the people of Bell Gardens.

There's truly something communistic in all of this. We'll move in and take what we think what we need, and everyone will be equal. Or we at the Chicago Tribune will buy newspapers all over the country and ignore the views of the readers of the papers we're taking over. We'll build up those papers' profit margins by cost-cutting, and, if the quality of the papers are reduced, so be it.

It won't work. It's so Kinsleyesque to suggest the French are in a funk because they don't want France to be submerged by outsiders, or that I'm peculiar because I want a homeowned newspaper rather than one that's run from Chicago.

And it's not enough to promise the French, the Dutch, the British or Los Angelenos that they will continue to have autonomy, when everyone knows the decisions are going to be made either elsewhere or by people imported from somewhere else.

Such attitudes can only breed rebellion and mistreatment of the invaders. Maybe hundreds of years from now, there will be a truly united Europe, and the culturally richer countries, the French and the Dutch and the British, won't care. And maybe Los Angelenos will have a more obsequious attitude toward Chicago. But I doubt it.

No, the Germans are no more welcome at the Arch of Triumph or in Trafalgar Square than they were in 1940. And Dennis FitzSimmons is going to be no more welcome to tell Los Angelenos what kind of newspaper they should have in 2040 than he is today.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

NBC, Hurting, Is Doing Too Much Promoting

I confess I'm an inveterate watcher of NBC News, to the exclusion of ABC and CBS, but all the promoting NBC is doing these days, especially given the Today program's rating problems, is annoying me.

It's not enough that they interrupt the Nightly News to tell you about what they'll be having on at 11 p.m., now they're touting Today interviews. All this takes away from the Nightly News, which only has 22 minutes of news already.

Monday night, June 6, it was an interview Katie Couric was going to have the next morning, with UN General Secretary Kofi Annan. After Annan had ducked an easy question on the promo about what he felt about U.S. criticisms of himself, it was most difficult to believe Annan would respond frankly to a promised Couric question the next morning about how he felt about the Bolton nomination.

That's one of the major problems with promos. They usually promise much more than they deliver. All during a news program, they keep trying to keep you watching by telling you what's ahead, and whatever's ahead seldom matches up to the the excitement promised in the promo.

Besides, who cares if Kofi Annan is going to be on the next morning, or ever? Now, if she was going to be interviewing Saddam Hussein, that might be different. Or displaying Osama bin Laden's head on a spike.

It may be asking too much, but what I generally want when I watch the Nightly News is the news, not tips to watch future programming.

Same thing with NBC's coverage of the Notre Dame football games. I resent hearing promos of future sports programming at moments when they should be discussing the game they're showing. And since I rarely watch pro sports in any case, I hate sullying the college games with references to the pros.

The Today program has fallen into a ratings battle with the ABC morning show, and, to me, the reason seems clear: Today is offering the same personalities it has for many years, and I, for one, am tired of them. I wouldn't mind if NBC hired Soledad O'Brien back from CNN, and put her in place of Katie Couric.

Also, now I read that Matt Lauer may have his marriage bust up because he's traveling so much for NBC. He supposedly returned early from the coverage of the death of Pope John Paul II, because he feared his wife was about to take a walk.

I can empathize with this, certainly to the point of seeing Lauer replaced on the Today show.

These TV jobs shouldn't last forever. In any event, to use promos to help prop up staggering shows isn't just improper, it's unavailing. NBC is just compounding its problems.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Scott Glover And Matt Lait's Work At L.A. Times Provides An Excellent Look At The Weaknesses Of The LAPD

In the last two weeks, the Los Angeles Times has once again put on display the tremendously valuable work, to the public, of its police investigative reporters, Scott Glover and Matt Lait.

Just as in the Ramparts scandal, the picture of the Los Angeles Police Department is indelible. All too often, this agency sinks into malfeasance and all kinds of plain sloppiness that goes uncorrected by the higher authorities in the Department. It is a depressing scenario that seems to be repeated time and time again as the years slip by.

In fact, long before Glover and Lait came on the scene, the Times reported many instances of the LAPD failing to serve the public adequately. Each time, there were reform efforts, many of them well publicized. Each time, Los Angeles mayors promised improvements, but always, it seems, there have been disappointments.

The word "endemic" does not really describe the problems of the Los Angeles Police Department, because "endemic," according to the dictionary, usually implies that a bad condition or disease is more or less under control, but it is all too clear in reading the work of Glover and Lait that what ails the LAPD is out of control, and is not being fixed.

The latest stories have to do with the case of Bruce Lisker, 39, now serving a life sentence for murdering his mother in Sherman Oaks back in 1983. Sherman Oaks is a neighborhood of Los Angeles and under the jurisdiction of the LAPD.

In a monumental Sunday story, May 22, Glover and Lait detailed new evidence and findings contradicting Lisker's conviction, quoted the prosecutor in the case, who is now retired, as saying he has reasonable doubt about Lisker's guilt and cited seven jurors who say that had they known all the evidence at the time, they would have voted to acquit Lisker.

In a repeat of so many other episodes of questionable conduct at the LAPD, the Department launced a reinvestigation. But, it develops, the reinvestigation was aborted..

The internal affairs sergeant, Glover and Lait report, who was probing the case, Jim Gavin, may have been improperly ordered to shut down his inquiry last year after finding that the LAPD detective who investigated the murder, Andrew Monsue, may have prematurely dismissed a second suspect and possibly lied to prevent Lisker's release on parole. Monsue has denied any wrongdoing.

This case has everything, including bloody footprints that turned out not to have been made by Lisker, and money he was said to have stolen from his mother may have remained in her pursue all the time.

Not only was Gavin ordered to stop his investigation, but he was transferred to a new assignment and is under investigation himself for informing the Lisker defense of some of his concerns.

Why was Gavin told to cease his investigation? Gavin said his supervisors had informed him that police internal affairs was not in the business of investigating homicides. "I was told to shut it down," Gavin said of his investigation. "I was told I was done."

But, as usual, the LAPD is not done with its own twisting in the wind. Now, the whole matter is under reinvestigation by the LAPD's civilian watchdog, Inspector General Andre Birotte, Jr., as reported by Glover and Lait in a story Sunday, June 5.

This is par for the course at LAPD. Investigations, reinvestigations, reforms, aborted reforms, police chiefs who won't comment, as Los Angeles Police Chief William J. Bratton won't comment now. And then, as was the case in the Rampart scandal, the thing is swept under the rug for the most part, as the Los Angeles County District Attorney, Stephen Cooley, did with Rampart.

It is a sordid story, which goes far to explain why Los Angeles has such an unsettled environment that it has been the scene of two deadly riots, 1965 and 1992, revolving around feelings of police misconduct, and has recently been the subject of a popular movie, "Crash," which reflects on the city's tensions.

The one good thing about all this is that Los Angeles and the Times are lucky to have reporters like Glover and Lait, and editors like Marc Duvoisin, who don't grow discouraged, who are proud of such stories and keep faith that one day the LAPD may actually improve. It shows once again, the press is not all bad, as some ideologues claim.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

The Media Sometimes Isn't Quick To Recognize The Truth Even When It Comes From Their Own Reporters

Harrison Salisbury, the Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for the New York Times, once remarked that he had learned his own editors weren't always ready to hear the truth. A foreign correspondent had to be careful the way he presented the truth to them, he said.

It was, in fact, a New York Times columnist, C.L. Sulzberger, who was one of the few reporters of foreign news who grasped in the 1950s that Charles de Gaulle was likely to return to power in France. Sulzberger used to periodically interview de Gaulle when he was out of power. In fact, the general was one of his favorite interviews. De Gaulle, he said, had once been close to returning to power. But he came up to the Rubicon only to dangle his fishing line. The next time, Sulzberger predicted, de Gaulle would cross the Rubicon.

Sulzberger turned out to be right in May, 1958 when the rebellion of French settlers and Army commanders in Algeria brought de Gaulle back to power. But the columnist, who happened to be the nephew of the New York Times publisher, seldom got credit at his own newspaper for such prescience. He was routinely dismissed as vainglorious and not much appreciated there.

Another NYT columnist who turned out to have a good eye for comers in foreign affairs was William Safire. He sized up Israel's Ariel Sharon as a comer and frequently was one of the few American newsmen that Sharon would agree to talk to. When Sharon became prime minister, and one of the few leaders in the world whose tactics have proved successful in reducing the number of suicide bombings, Safire continued to have him as a source, not that it was much appreciated at his newspaper, which continued editorially to be very critical of Sharon.

This morning, in the Los Angeles Times Opinion section, various people who guessed rightly or wrongly who "Deep Throat" was are quoted. Well down in the list presented is James Mann, a former reporter and foreign columnist for the L.A. Times. Mann wrote of Deep Throat in the Atlantic Monthly in 1992, "He could well have been Mark Felt, who admitted that he harbored ambitions to be the FBI director."

While this turned out to be right on the money, Mann was not sufficiently appreciated at the L.A. Times, despite the fact that his column on foreign affairs was one of the best. When the Tribune Co. purchased the paper, in fact, he was one of the many columnists dismissed by the new Times editors. Mann, disgusted, left the newspaper.

Ed Guthman, a talented National Editor at the L.A. Times who was often right about national political issues, was treated badly by colleagues Mark Murphy and Frank Haven, when he directed the paper's national political coverage, and finally driven to take a job as editorial page editor at the Philadelphia Inquirer.

It was Guthman who warned me in 1976 when I was covering the Carter campaign for the Presidency that Carter might not be too effective a President. He would be too inclined to use Georgia cronies in the White House rather than Washington insiders, said Guthman. By that time, Guthman had been eased aside from control over national campaign coverage. He was right, but nobody at the paper, including myself at the time, much listened to him.

I was correct myself in writing several months before the 1984 Olympic Games, based on an anonymous source at the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee, that the Los Angeles organizers had a much bigger surplus of money than they were publicly letting on. The editors of the Times thought so little of this story that they ran it on Page 3, when they were accustomed to run almost all major Olympic stories on Page 1.
They were scared of the story, though it turned out to be true.

In the fall of 1972, when Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein were writing stories, based on what Mark Felt was telling them anonymously, that the Nixon White House was deeply involved in the Watergate case, the Post was running them prominently, but the L.A. Times, which shared a wire service with the Post, was literally burying their historic stories, running just a few paragraphs of them in obscure back pages, and, at that moment, the New York Times wasn't paying much attention either.

The night the Watts riot erupted in Los Angeles in 1965, L.A. Times police reporters covered it, but their story ran on an inside page.

Of course, hindsight is 100% accurate, and papers can't be expected to be right all the time. But often, the papers do have reporters, or even editors, who do know what's going on but can't very prominently get it into the paper.

And sometimes, even when a paper has been persistently wrong editorially, as many of the British papers were about Hitler in the 1930s, there is some grudging recognition that a politician's warning deserves attention.

When Churchill gave his great Munich speech in October of 1938, warning Parliament that in allowing Czechoslovakia to be dismembered, Chamberlain had suffered "an unmitigated defeat," the Daily Telegraph did observe that Churchill's warnings about Hitler "verified by events, have entitled him to be heard." But the Daily Express called the speech "an alarmist oration by a man whose mind is soaked in the conquests of Marlborough," and the London Times said that Churchill had treated the House of Commons to "prophesies which made Jeremiah appear to be an optimist."

Within a year, Hitler had begun World War II.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

An Able New Deputy Business Editor, Davan Maharaj, Is Appointed At L.A. Times

Davan Maharaj, who has proved himself a talented newspaperman at the Los Angeles Times in several different capacities, has been appointed the paper's new Deputy Business Editor.

This is good news for the Business Section and its new editor, Russ Stanton. Business has in the past been a comparatively weak section of the Times. Maharaj, a former Nairobi correspondent for the paper, will bring to his new job an international perspective the section can well use at a time when so many of its most important stories, such as oil, airplanes and automobiles, are international in scope..

There have already been a few signs, mainly in the play of stories, that Business under Stanton will be a better section. Now, he has made an outstanding choice as his deputy.

Maharaj, who worked in Business as a reporter from 1998 to 2001, and has been assigned to the Foreign Desk the last two years, has a Yale Master's Degree in law and an undergraduate degree from the University of Tennessee. He is a pleasant colleague, much liked and respected.

The Times has many outstanding deputy editors in various capacities, not always formally called deputies, such as Frank Clifford in Metro environment, Tim Rutten in Calendar and Andres Martinez on the editorial pages. Hopefully, when the days of Tribune ownership are over, and the paper can make a new start under California control, these folks can become the leaders of tomorrow.

I was downtown for a TV appearance last week and ran into a Times reporter who remarked that feelings about the paper's future are fairly somber these days. I told him of my confidence that in the long run the paper's prospects are good.

We see in the splendid handling this past week of such stories as the Laguna Beach landslide and the Ventura County murders that the Times has great reservoirs of talent.

Certainly, there are weak spots, as demonstrated again this morning on the paper's Op Ed Page, with its foolish column downplaying the earthquake danger, but they can be overcome.

It's a question of finding new local ownership that believes in the paper, and then the Times will have sunlit days ahead.

Friday, June 03, 2005

A Courageous Journalist Is Murdered in Lebanon

Another murder in Lebanon. It is no surprise, since forces loyal to the fascist regime of Bashir al-Assad in Syria and the terrorists close to the Iranian mullahs have not been willing to give up their fatal grip on Lebanese affairs despite the withdrawal in April from Lebanon of the last Syrian troops (but not Syrian intelligence agents).

This time, the victim is a distinguished journalist, columnist Samir Kassir of the leading Lebanese daily, An Nahar. Kassir, 45, was blown to pieces Thursday morning, June 2, in Beirut shortly after he got into his car at his home. The importance of his assassination was reflected this morning in the fact that both the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times ran it as their lead story on Page 1.

He has been known as a foe of the Syrians, and the murder occurs soon after the anti-Syrian Lebanese opposition swept the voting for 19 Beirut seats in the new parliament.

Six days earlier, last Friday, Syria test-fired three Scuds, one of which disintegrated over Turkey. And, this week, Time magazine carries a lengthy story tying Assad to the bombing murder Feb. 14, of the Lebanese leader, Rafiq Hariri, six months after he stood up to Assad at a meeting in Lebanon. A picture is printed in Time of Hariri, then the Lebanese prime minister, meeting with Assad in Damascus last August.

Assad is the vile-tempered son and successor of his brutal father, Hafaz al-Assad, who ruled Syria with an iron hand for many years. Syria just recently notified the United States that it would no longer cooperate in the U.S. War On Terror, after months of trying to fake such cooperation while quietly supporting the infiltration of Iraq by foreign terrorists.

In the great war against terror now raging in the Middle East, Kassir was not the only journalist to side with progressive forces both inside and outside the Muslim world. Indeed, it is encouraging that an increasing number of Muslims have begun to stand up to the terrorists.

But perhaps the latest murder will give pause to journalists who pretend to some kind of neutrality in this war, or who actively criticize the Bush Administration for fighting the war.

Acts of terror have recently occurred in Iraq, Afghanistan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Russia and Lebanon as the Muslim extremists press their campaign in a vast region of the Middle East.

The terrorists have nothing compatible with free journalists. The coming to power of the terrorists in any country will only lead to crushing of any vestiges of a free press.

We must identify with the martyred journalist, Samir Kassir, for our safety and security is bound up in the last analysis with his and other journalists who will carry on his fight.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

"Deep Throat" Is Not A Hero, But Good Came Out Of His Work

For once, I find myself in agreement with an L.A. Times editorial. Speaking of the revealed "Deep Throat," The Times comments this morning, "So the truth may be that (W. Mark) Felt was more an aggrieved FBI loyalist than a champion of truth. Still, he helped trigger a healthy skepticism of official secrecy. Sometimes less purity of motive does the body politic good."

Without this anonymous source, it's fair to say that the Washington Post never would have been able to publish the revelations of the Watergate scandal that finally brought down Richard Nixon and his squalid administration.

But that is not to say that the remaining Nixon loyalists, the Pat Buchanans and Chuck Colsons, may not be right that Nixon fell victim to the machinations of the FBI.

One thing that has yet to be revealed is whether Felt was truly acting on his own, or whether this was a broader FBI project. Even from Bob Woodward's account, it seems likely that Felt needed to have some assistance from aides to see that the New York Times was properly marked, so that Woodward knew Felt wanted to meet with him, or to check out Woodward's apartment daily to get the signal that Woodward wanted to meet with Felt.

Bring in a few operatives to help Felt arrange these meetings with the Post reporter, and you have the FBI as an institution, not just Felt, deeply implicated in the bringing down of the Nixon Administration.

It's been suggested for a long time, and not just by Jack Nelson, the retired Washington Bureau Chief of the Los Angeles Times, that the FBI was a rogue institution, capable of going well beyond its official role as a vital investigative arm of the federal government, to at times emerge as a threat to that government.

The truth is that our intelligence agencies are like drugs in the medical profession: They are necessary to treat what ails us, but they also can have lethal side effects.

That's the way the cynical Richard Nixon would see this, and we know that besides being a menace to civil liberties and an unscrupulous political leader in many respects, Nixon also often proved himself a remarkable President, as in the opening to China and the expansion of the social welfare system.

Don't let these thoughts of mine convince you that I don't fully admire Bob Woodward, Carl Bernstein, Ben Bradlee and the others at the Washington Post and at other newspapers who worked assiduously with the resources at their disposal to reveal the truth about the Nixon Admiistration and ultimately to bring it down.

Because it is doubtful that the imperfect U.S. justice system could have done it by itself.

This is why the free press is so integral to the perpetuation of the free system we have in this country, and it's also why the use of confidential sources by the news media is so essential. Don't let the critics of the use of anonymous sources convince you otherwise.

The L.A. Times editorial this morning isn't perhaps the ringing endorsement of such sources as it could be. Times editorial pages editor Michael Kinsley has unwisely on occasion questioned the anonymous source system.

But the editorial this morning is certainly on the money when it points out that informants (read, anonymous sources) "often do a great public service, but not for purely public motives."

The editorial remarks appropriately, "Felt's specific motives are unknowable, but we'll speculate: Desire to bring down a boss viewed inside the bureau (the FBI) as a hack. Revenge against the White House for resisting the FBI's Watergate probe. Gall at not getting the top job. Given that Felt was later prosecuted for approving illegal entry during investigations of Vietnam War-era lefties, it can't just have been outrage at dirty tricks."

Certainly not. But that is not to say that Felt's role in the Watergate affair was not, ultimately, justified. The bottom line with Richard Nixon and his Administration was that, despite the occasional good they did, they were bad news, undemocratic and a threat to the American system. Thank goodness for the Washington Post and W. Mark Felt for seeing to it they were removed. They were more responsible for that result that even Judge John Sirica.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

John Burns Seldom Writes About America's Reputation; He Covers The War

John Burns, the great New York Times foreign correspondent, who has been in Baghdad at many key times over recent years, doesn't seem nearly as preoccupied in his war coverage as such NYT columnists as Paul Krugman and Bob Herbert with "the reputation of the United States.".

And there is quite a difference in tone between Burns and the various L.A. Times writers who come and go in Baghdad.

Burns seems to realize more than they that war is usually a series of foul-ups. He depicts a grim situation in Iraq without blaming so much of it on the U.S. military. He describes the situation, as he did in his article on the Baghdad Airport road the other day, without being so judgmental on U.S. tactics. He is consistently hardheaded about the challenge we face, remarking in his Airport road article, "The insurgency has proved to be alarmingly dynamic, with shifting tactics that have earned American commanders' respect, as well as contempt for the rebels' seeming indifference to the fate of civilians, who have been their most numerous victims.".

The L.A. Times foreign editor, Marjorie Miller, had a story on the security situation around the Baghdad Airport about the same time Burns did, and it was a workmanlike piece too. But it certainly would have been appropriate for the L.A. Times to acknowledge on this occasion that it was its foreign editor writing from Baghdad, and it would also, I think, been appropriate to say a little about what she was doing there.

I would hope Miller would be taking steps now to put L.A. Times war coverage on a more professional, seasoned basis, with more focus on the terror and less on mistakes the U.S. military may be making in trying to get a handle on it. This week, the L.A. Times had two long stories in two days on the mistaken arrest of a Sunni political leader. On two consecutive days, the New York Times gave just one and four paragraphs to this, toward the bottom of their stories.

I think it's plain that Burns writes with less animus toward the American military. He doesn't sugarcoat how the war is going, but he's writing more about the fundamentals of the terror attack that has become the salient feature of the war.

Meanwhile, I'm always glad to get comments from readers on what I'm writing in these blogs, but on two recent occasions when I've written about Iraq, I've heard from an anonymous commentator taking me to task for, as he or she put it this week, repeating "the big lie that this war had something to do with terrorism."

The commentator makes the mistake made by a good many people in this country, who reach the conclusion that since no weapons of mass destruction have been found, and since Saddam Hussein never openly claimed any connection to al Queda, that what is happening in Iraq is not part of the War On Terror.

But, if this isn't the War On Terror, why are suicide bombers killing hundreds of people month by month? Why was a Japanese hostage executed the other day? Why is there a series of sectarian killings? And just who are our soldiers fighting in Iraq? Saddam Hussein and his friends may not have overtly been allied to al-Queda before the war began, but they certainly are now, and I am just cynical enough to believe that, actually, they were then. After all, wasn't Saddam publicly paying $25,000 to the families of every suicide bomber in the Holy Land long before the second Gulf War began?

My questioner prefers to talk about our own reputation in Iraq, since there have been instances of U.S. soldiers and intelligence personnel misbehaving. Unfortunately, the commentator is failing to adequately face up to the fact that derelictions by U.S. personnel, which unfortunately do occur in the war, are small indeed compared to the barbarism of the terrorists we are fighting there.

There is not a word from "anonymous" about what will happen should the U.S. be defeated in Iraq, about the danger that terror will spread, the terrorists taking encouragement from their victory, and he or she doesn't mention that just because no weapons of mass destruction have been found in Iraq, it doesn't mean that al-Queda isn't working on obtaining such weapons, or wouldn't use them against the U.S. if it acquired them.

No, in fact, we are involved in a high stakes war on terror in Iraq and not only in Iraq. A suicide bombing killed 20 in a mosque in Kandahar, Afghanistan, today. Sectarian violence has killed people in Pakistan this week. Two arrests of alleged would-be terrorists have been made inside the U.S. There have been articles about tests of anti-missile weapons for U.S. commercial aircraft pursuant to the well-founded concern that such attacks could occur here..

There is a war on terror going on. We have to fight it. If we ignore it, or try to bug out, or focus only on our own mistakes, then I fear that war can only spread out and get worse.