Saturday, March 18, 2006

Appreciation To Tim Rutten For Defending Press Freedoms

I just want to express my appreciation and admiration for Times media columnist Tim Rutten for taking such a strong heartfelt stand in today's Calendar Section for freedom of the press, and protection of confidential sources.

Earlier this year, Tim found a lot of fault with New York Times correspondent Judith Miller for her role in the Libby case.

Now, Tim seems to see things in a different light.

Libby, it turns out, wants to subpoena one reporter after another, and the net result could be a highly destructive.

Writers who gather wisdom and change their minds command our admiration. I've always thought well of Rutten's integrity. I think even better of him for acknowledging that he's made a mistake.

Now, Rutten realizes that First Amendment Rights are threatened by the Bush Administration and others.

Tim quotes Clary Pruitt, director of the McClatchy newspaper chain, today as saying, in the Wall Street Journal this week, "Self government depends on civic conversation. which in turn depends on people having a common vocabulary. Without a shared sense of what the problems are, there's little hope of finding solutions. That shared middle--a place where people basically agree about the facts and the issues. even if they differ about what to do about them--is where we believe our responsibilities as newspaper owners lie. And it is under assault by spinmeisters. partisans and ideologues."

Upton Sinclair once wrote, the grand novel, "It Can't Happen Here." It can, if we don't have the Tim Ruttens standing up for us.


Friday, March 17, 2006

Pressure Grows On Congress On Drug Prices

There is ever growing trouble for Congress and the Bush Administration on the new Part D drug benefit under Medicare.

Just this week, the Senate adopted a sense of Congress resolution that endorsed one of the most worthwhile reforms, negotiation of lower prices betweeen the government and the drug companies. This would force these greedy companies to be more reasonable.

This, however, has yet to be written into law, and the drug lobby can expected to oppose it strenuously.

Meanwhile, the New York Times reports the case of a cancer drug, nitrogen mustard, which on Feb. 3 was without warning increased in price from $77.50 to $538.01. The characters who did this should be pelted with fruit while standing in a bucket of wat along with Tribune CEO Dennis FitzSimons in downtown Los Angeles.

It's not swurprising that the drug manufacturers feel no sense of responsibility to the general public. And it's also not surprising that the Bush Administration seldom does its duty on drug prices.

The drug benefit has meant some relief for many people, but it is inefficient and many of the promised decreases are not forthcoming.

It's yet another reason why the Democrats may sweep the midterm elections. People are tired to government promises that are seldom fulfilled.

Make no mistake, pressure is growing on this key issue. We only see the edge of the iceburg. The Republicans are mistreating the American people.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Oh Hum, Another U.S. Air Assault In Iraq

Thursday morning, perhaps most signifantly the beginning of the NCAA basketball tournament, also was marked by what was called the largest U.S. air assault in the Iraq war in the last two years.

CNN gave it full coverage, a half hour long or more. Yet, the excitement was just not there.

There have been so many rounds in Iraq that who believes this one will be decisive? Almost no one. The Bush Administration's military commanders are dead in the water. They never seem to have new ideas.

The polls show, the American people are tired of it. Support for the war languishes, and the only real escitement these days is when, as last night, there are rumors of a White House shake up. NBC's Time Russert had them, but was he right? No sign of a shakeup thus far today.

The latest attack is centered near Samarra, where the insurgency is strongest in the so-called Sunni triangle.

But they have been fighting there for years without any decisive result. There would have been far more news yesterday if some brave soldier had stood up in court in Baghdad and shot Saddam Hussein for his latest anti-American remarks at his trial. That would have moved things forward in Iraq and the Middle East as well, especially if beyond killing Saddam, the soldier has shot a few defense lawyers as well.

I'm not kidding when I say it has become highly evident that we are overdue for a real decisive attack in the war, something that would change matters. Whatever happened to the shock and awe Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld once promised? It is high time that Rumsfeld be replaced and other military commanders too.

Lincoln replaced his generals when they did not perform. Bush has to get off the dime, and soon, or this war is going to be lost.

Meanwhile, in Afghanistan this morning, Mullah Omar, the Teliban commander, has issued a statement vowing new attacks. Why is Omar still unfound? We have not been much more imaginative in Afghanistan than in Iraq

In answer to a question in the comments, my father was a Rear Admiral in the U.S. Navy, my son is a Lieutenant JG in Navy Intelligence and I served in the Army Reserves and have read scores of books of military history.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

LAT Drops Most Stock Tables, And So Will NYT

In another retreat for newspapers, the L.A. Times has dropped all but one page of stock tables each day, and the New York Times says it will drop all but two pages as of April 4.

This is designed to save news space, and both papers say their readers can find the stock quotations on the Internet anyway.

But then why not drop newspapers? After all, you can find anything on the Internet.

I will be frank about this: I did read the stock tables in the papers, but I don't read them on the Internet. In short, this is an inconvenience.

Newspaper editors are constricting their mission. It may not be long now, before they abbreviate movie listings, truncate headlines and reduce box scores for games. Not to mention dropping the weather page.

They are giving up, and shortchanging their readers. despite what they say, and they are still, generally, making money.

How about a compromise? The L.A. Times will print every day, on Page 1, Tribune CEO Dennis FitzSimon's salary, which has been going up, as the readability of its newspapers has been going down.

Also, once a week, FitzSimons will appear in Los Angeles standing in a barrel of water, and readers can come down and throw fruit at him. But I'll bet as long as he rakes in his millions, he will still be smiling.

It is sad, folks, to see these magnates give up so easily. Times, they are changing, and not for the better.

But maybe for the weather page, they can substitute a box allowing readers to guess the weather. Those who are right don't have to read the paper at all.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Arab Raiders, Not Content With Murders in Sudan, Threaten Chad

In all the world of rapacious, aggressive Islam, there is no more dastardly series of attacks than have been going on in the Sudan, where Arab raiders sent by a barbaric government have been murdering African villagers in the Darfur region, several hundred thousand of them, without respite.

Now, the aggressors threaten thousands of more innocents in next-door Chad, and it is dawning on the NATO countries that unless they intervene with massive force, the slaughter will only go on.

No foreign correspondent has paid more attention to this series of violent acts than Nicholas D. Kristof of the New York Times. No one who has tried to resist these killers deserves more honor for doing so than he does.

Kristof, the same columnist who exposed the rape by a Muslim clan of an innocent woman in Pakistan for what her brothers were said to have done, has tried to organize trips of other journalists into the afflicted region, so the outside world can become more aware of what the Sudanese are doing. He tried to get Bill O'Reilly of Fox to go, but he would not go.

Now, however, Ann Curry of NBC has gone. She is ready to testify as to seeing the awful things going on routinely, despite a pathetically-armed African Union force of 7,000 designed to discourage the mayhem.

The Sudanese pack of scoundrels once gave refuge to Osama bin Laden, and the Sudan was attacked by American missiles under the often irresolute Bill Clinton after the assault on our East African embassies in 1998. Then, the Sudan turned to weaker targets.

It is now time for a more massive attack, to show these criminels they can no longer get away with what they have been doing. It should be an attack they will not be able to ignore.

We should become fed up with what is going on in the world, or it will get even worse.

Monday, March 13, 2006

NYT Reports McClatchy To Buy 32 Knight-Ridder Papers For $4.5 Billion

In a ray of light for the newspaper industry, the New York Times reports that McClatchy will buy the 32 Knight-Ridder newspapers for $4.5 billion.

This puts one of the nation's finest journalistic outfits in charge of papers that have taken quite a few hits in recent years. However, McClatchy quickly announced it would resell 12 of the papers, including the San Jose Mercury-News and the Philadelphia Inquirer, as inconcistent with their preferred growth patterns.

It may still point the way toward an eventual acquisition of the L.A. Times, for all we know.

It is not all peaches and cream, since the story in the NYT speculates that McClatchy could decide to close some of the papers it is acquiring, but on balance, this sounds good.

The Tribune Co., dead in the water, did not enter the bidding for Knight-Ridder, where key stockholders were unhappy at a decline in the price of the stock.

The NYT also speculates this could be the beginning of a major shakeout in newspaper ownership.

McClatchy may not be quite the company it was under the great Eleanor and C.K. McClatchy, but it still has compiled an outstanding record of rising circulation over recent years. It is a solid business operation, with progressive ideals.

I had a good chance last summer to read the chain's Anchorage paper and found it quite good.

In short, my own impression is this is good news and bodes well. I'm sorry, however, about the continued uncertaintiy enveloping the San Jose papers.

The core McClatchy papers, the Sacramento, Modesto and Fresno Bees, have long had a record of progressive influence over politics in their areas of circulation, better over the long term than the L.A. Times.

So, let's hope this is a new beginning for our beleaguered profession.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Times Editorial Positions Partially Explain Loss In Circulation

Why does the L.A. Times continue to lose circulation, now down about 50% since the Tribune Co. took over in 2000, to less than 800,000 on some days?

To find the answer you need look no further than the editorial titled "Goodbye, Dubai," Friday, March 10. "Protectionists, Rejoice," this silly editorial begins, as Andres Martinez, the editorial page editor, plows ahead, taking a position that only 17% of the American people have endorsed in recent polls, that we should welcome Arabs to guard the security of U.S. ports.

Well, I happen to have visited Dubai, back in 2002, and I can testify from personal knowledge that it's no great ally or comrade of the United States.

When I was there, I learned that the great majority of Dubai's population were workers imported from Pakistan, India and the Philippines, and these poor souls were never allowed to become citizens, but instead were forced in retirement to return back to their home countries.

In short, this is a country that like Saudi Arabia lives off a quasi slave population.

But it is not as religious as Saudi Arabia. They sell liquor freely in the Dubai hotels. It is a secular paradise for anyone who wants to live that way.

It may have cooperated with the U.S in the various Gulf wars, but it has done so as an investment, for pecuniary reasons.

Such a country is not an ally. It is an associate of convenience and it would be dangerous to put its citizens in charge of U S. port security. Instinctively, the American people know that.

Globalization is not the panacea, the L.A. Times editorials dream it is. It has taken hundreds of thousands of jobs away from deserving Americans and transferred them to the Third World, where people work for peanuts. It has contributed to the trade deficit and sapped the American economy.

It has contributed, in fact, to world discord and lent itself to national bitterness.
And the Times in endorsing it has neglected the interests of the American people and is now being punished by circulation losses.

Under the circumstances, the L.A. Times needs home rule, an ouster of the Tribune Co., and new, local owners.

Then, we won't have editorials that fly in the face of the California and American electorates.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

FitzSimons Attends Only The Public Chandler Memorial

It is highly peculiar that the Tribune Co. CEO feels so embarrassed at owning the L.A. Times that he does not attend the newspaper's own private memorial for Otis Chandler,

As I understand it, the well-paid Dennis FitzSimons came to the public service in Pasadena, but was not at The Times the next day for the even more memorable private service for the paper's former inspirational leader. Maybe, he was afraid everyone would be looking at him and making invidious comparisons.

And then I was told that Times circulation has slipped again, without any resistance from the Tribune Co. Supposedly, the Times is now selling fewer than 800,000 papers on some days, and yet the Tribune has cut out delivery to additional parts of Southern California.

What is wrong with these folks?

Even though they have hired the able circulation manager, Jack Klunder, to run that department of the Times he once headed in such a distinguished way, they aren't giving him the support he requires.

These guys are real losers. They don't even know enough to attend an important memorial.

Don't they realize they bought one of the nation's greatest journalistic institutions and ever since have been running it into the ground?

Maybe FitzSimons has excuses. If so, let's hear them.

If not, he ought to put the paper up for sale and help restore home rule in California. It's the least we can expect.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

U.S. Tips Toward India And Away From Pakistan In Bush Visit

The decision by President Bush to enter into a nuclear deal with India and not with Pakistan represents a possibly historic tip in the relationship among the three countries, and one that possibly could have been more carefully debated.

It was clearly indicated well before Bush's arrival in the Subcontinent when India voted with the U.S. to refer the Iranian nuclear question to the UN Security Council. This would not have happened without an advance commitment to the Indians on the nuclear question.

The trouble is, this does not probably place Pakistan's nuclear weapons under any greater control, In fact, it may facilitate a greater chance that extreme Islamic forces will come to control nuclear weapons already belonging to Pakistan and that these might end up under Iranian control.

With seven visits to India and friends there, I have always favored closer ties to India than Pakistan, but not necessarily on the nuclear question.

Already, there are suggestions that the US-India nuclear agreement may be pointed more against China than against Pakistan, as China gains world power. But in India itself it will be viewed as a step by the U.S. against Pakistan.

This may live with us a long time and carry multiple eisadvantages. And it comes at a time when the Iranians are reported to be having difficulty with the process of acquiring nuclear weapons.

Keeping nukes out of extreme Islamic hands is fundamental to Western security. This appears on its face another Bush macho decision.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Fanatics Who Blow Up Mosques Deserve Only A Violent End

When terrorists affiliated with the al-Qaeda or other violent organizations in Iraq blow up mosques and kill 47 people by the road, as happened last week, it is not a question of winning their hearts and minds or negotiating with them in hopes of inducing better behavior.

Such people have to be either killed or captured and incarcerated for a long, indefinite period in a remote place, as U.S. and British forces are doing.

What these people are doing is so bad, they have put themselves beyond the pale and the war we are fighting is, I believe, the only appropriate response.

I think that all too many people have become so hardened to these unspeakable acts, suicide bombings and all the rest, attempts to create a world religious war, that they have lost their bearings and are looking for an easy way out that does not, in fact, exist.

So we have the L.A. Times editorial page, and others, who may mean well, but they don't see things in a realistic way.

Now, there is talk of a new, even bigger series of attacks. What these might be we can only imagine, but it is certainly not beyond possibility that exotic weapons could be used in the Iraqi theatre or elsewhere.

Would we we bound in such a case to continue to fight only with the conventional weapons we are using today? No we would not. Already, French President Jacques Chirac has said that a terror attack against France with nuclear weapons would bring a nuclear attack in return.

This ia grim threat, but it could come to that if out enemies raise the ante to a certain point.

That is why the U.S. must take steps to be as certain as possible that such an attack does not occur. That's why more than three quarters of those polled oppose letting Dubai Arabs take over American port security. They are aware of the potential for unspeakably evil attacks against the U.S.

This is not what a foolish L.A. Times editorial suggests today -- "globalization hesitation." This is a prudent policy that seeks to avert being forced into acts we do not wish to undertake.

It would be a tragedy if the U.S. was forced to destroy its enemies beyond any violence we ever hope to initiate. But the enemies we face today may be capable of pushing us that far. They are beginning to show their potential in Iraq.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Bill Dwyre Steps Down As Times Sports Editor

Bill Dwyre, a fair minded man and a fine sports editor, is stepping down as sports editor at the L.A. Times after 25 years and will be succeeded by Randy Harvey. Congratulations to both.

Bill will continue for a while longer as a sportswriter.

It was my privilege to be a colleague of Dwyre as the Times' Olympic writer for the 1984 Games and, after that, to work for him in Sports for some months and also write a book on the history of the 1984 Games. This was one of the most cherished of my relationships in 39 years at the Times.

Bill has grown grey in the company's service, and it could not have been easy in recent years, with cutbacks in the Sports section as well as other sections of the paper. He said last night that he had been trying to retire as sports editor for the past year and a half.

Always conscientious, Dwyre was unfairly criticized, sometimes jokingly and other times not, aa being a Notre Dame booster (he was a Notre Dame graduate), and as biased against USC. This was absolute tripe. In his years as sports editor, Dwyre was fair to everyone and he stood for absolute integrity in sports. His dislike of gambling and drugs in sport was legendary and did him credit.

Knowing him and his wife, Jill, was always a pleasure. Not only was he considerate as a boss, he was a good, self-deprecating commentator when he chose to be, had an excellent sense of humor and was always a class act. At the Times, he became an institution.

The Times was lucky to have him as sports editor and he will be missed. But Randy Harvey is a promising replacement. His replacement of Dwyre was arranged, it's my understanding, after Dave Morgan left for Yahoo, and Harvey was obtained back from the Baltimore Sun, which has suffered even more from Tribune cutbacks than the L.A. Times has.

On the Olympics, Dwyre was always their great booster and believed thoroughly in the international fellowship the Olympics represented. The special Olympic sections he put together were superb and after I stepped down as an Olympics writer, he made a good choice of Alan Abrahamson as my successor.

He will always be at the top of my list. It was both an honor and a pleasure to work for him.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Cardinal Mahony Should Obey The Law

Written from Saratoga, California--

Cardinal Roger Mahony has every right, like other Americans, to lobby for a change in U.S. immigration laws. But I don't believe it is proper for him to give orders to his Archdiocese to ignore or violate those laws.

As in the child abuse issue, where Mahony has defied the Los Angeles County district attorney, Steve Cooley, and refused to cooperate with a proper investigation into priests who molested parishioners, the Cardinal is stepping beyond the law.

He should recognize his correct boundaries and observe them.

Immigration is a complex issue. The country has prospered on immigrants and in many respects they have contributed to American greatness.

But Cardinal Mahony apparently would simply throw open the borders and let everyone who wanted to to come in. That would create chaos and cause a rise of xenophobism

The Cardinal needs to have a sense of proportion about this, and other things as well. Otherwise, he is going to look like "Governor Moonbeam" and not even to his advantage.