Monday, July 31, 2006

French Proposal For Lebanon Ceasefire Good, But Not Likely To Be Adopted

Written from Ashland, Oregon

As war rages on in the Middle East, the French proposal for a ceasefire seems to me to have merit. But how likely is it to be adopted?

The French proposal in the U.N. Security Council calls, according to the New York Times today, for an immediate halt in fighting, the release of two kidnapped Israeli soldiers, the disarming of all militias in Lebanon, and the creation of a buffer zone in southern Lebanon free of any military personnel except the Lebanese Army and United Nations-mandated international forces.

The trouble with this is that there is no sign yet that Hezbollah is prepared to be disarmed, and the Israeli campaign to do so has not so far been sucessful. In fact, Hezbollah seems due shortly to get reinforcements from Iran, where reports say this morning 2,500 "volunteers" are awaiting final orders to depart. Advanced Iranian parties are already in Lebanon.

Hezbollah has gained so much prestige by fighting the Israelis effectively that it may stand to inherit even more power within Lebanon than the so-called Lebanese government. Indeed, if the French send troops, it is hard to see how they could be successful without making Lebanon a kind of protectorate. That the French would be really prepared to fight to pacify the country is open to the greatest doubt.

The Israelis, with American backing, also oppose an immediate ceasefire, with the Israeli military arguing that more fighting could weaken Hezbollah to the point it might accept disarmament.

So, as has been the case since the beginning of the present conflict, July 12, there is an international standoff, with chances of further regionalization of the war not negligable.

The issue here that will not go away is the Iranian-Syrian-Hezbollah-Hamas-al Queda expressed goal of destroying the state of Israel as against a nuclear-armed Israel's determination to remain a viable state. It is hard to see how those differences could be negotiated to a successful resolution in the near future.

The "cut and run" Democrats in Washington are, meanwhile, stepping up their demands for an American withdrawal from Iraq. These will only increase if Sen. Joseph Lieberman is defeated by the anti-war Ned Lamont next week in the Connecticut Democratic primary. But there is no way that President George W. Bush will agree to even a phased withdrawal before he leaves office, still nearly two and a half years away.

So what is the prospect? More war in the Middle East and Iraq, with terrorism a growing threat in Europe and the U.S. That is the grim, but I believe, unavoidable truth.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Tribune Co. Says Not Now, Not Solid No, To Sale Of L.A. Times

--Written from Ashland, Oregon

The L.A. Times has reported that after a July 19 meeting of the Tribune Company's board of directors, CEO Dennis FitzSimons responded to the latest offers to buy the L.A. Times by local investors by giving, not a straight no as he had before, but by saying essentially, not now.

FitzSimons and the board were responding, according to the story by Jim Rainey and Tom Mulligan, to separate letters from billionaires David Geffen, Eli Broad and Ron Burkle offering again the buy the paper.

FitzSimons was reported to have said, that the board had "unanimously asked me to advise you that at this time, we are not prepared to discuss the transaction described in your letter. If our perspective changes, we will contact you."

Rainey and Mulligan quoted an anonymous source as saying that this reply was viewed as a more hospitable answer to the purchase proposals than the flat no given out earlier.

Here in Ashland, I have not seen the whole article, since the L.A. Times is not sold here, (while the New York Times, with its superb national distribution, is).

But I can recall that Tom Unterman, representing the Chandler members of the Tribune board, had once declared that no sale would be opportune until September, when the family's tax problems with such a sale could be resolved.

So I think there is some hope that a sale might be in the works by this fall. We'll see.

Sale of the Times back to local interests could well halt both further layoffs and circulaton declines at the newspaper, and, despite the Santa Barbara News-Press's bad experience with a local owner, is, in my view, to be devoutly wished.

The possibility of a breakup of the faltering Tribune Co. remains, and so long as that is the case, there is hope a sale will take place.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Jerusalem Post's Talkback Is A Model For Other Newspapers

--Written from Ashland, Oregon

Of all the coverage of the war between Israel and Hezbollah, that in the Jerusalem Post is the probably the most comprehensive and is quite straight forward. There is less bias in JPost articles than in the New York Times.

But one feature in the JPost is particularly noteworthy, and that is its "Talkback" where readers can state their opinions on leading articles, expressing themselves not at length, but either in one line or a very long paragraph.

The newspaper is posting these by the hundreds each day, and it has some simple ground rules that are easy to understand. All who participate must register, but there is no charge. I surmise that the JPost is monitoring Talkback to be sure its rules are adhered to, so as to avoid the obscenity that doomed the L.A. Times' attempt at allowing readers to edit editorials, Wikipedia I think it was called, after only one or two days.

Those participating in Talkback agree not to post anything "libelous, defamatory. obscene, portnographic. abusive or otherwise illegal."

"Jerusalem Post encourages active discussions and debates in the Forums," the JPost states in its written policy. "However, personal attacks on other Participants or non-Participants are a direct violation of this project and shall be subject to immediate and permanent denial of access to all or part of the Talkback."

Other rules include no advertising of commercial products, no links to other websites, and the participants agree to hold the paper blameless in any legal actions resulting from what they write. Also, only first names or other brief identifications are used, along with the country of origin.

Still, even with these rules, the discussion is very lively and direct. Many participants do not mince words, and there are frequent comments on what prior Talkbackers have posted. Probably, most of the participants are Americans, but there are postings from many countries, because the Jerusalem Post Website is naturally available throughout the world. There are a few Arab postings.

This is an impressive feature that other papers could well emulate. I think it would serve the interests of any paper well.

Friday, July 28, 2006

It's Time To Give Iran A Clear Warning

--Written from Ashland, Oregon

In October, 1962, in his opening public speech on the Cuban missile crisis, President John F. Kennedy gave the Soviet Union a clear warning. Any atomic attack on the United States from Cuba, he said, would be viewed by the United States as an attack from the Soviet Union, necessitating a full, atomic attack on the Soviet Union.

This direct warning of deterrence to any attack ultimately helped solve the crisis. It forced Nikita Khrushchev to back down, although the U.S. did give certain assurances about its own missiles in Turkey, and the crisis was over. Castro Çuba was never much of a threat to the U.S. again.

Something of the same kind of warning should now be given to Iran.

In recent days, that country, under its Fascist president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has been growing more and more bellicose. While denying the undeniable, its direct role in supplying the terrorist organization Hezbollah, Iran has also said it intends to send volunteers to Lebanon and it has repeated its threat to "wipe Israel from the map." Iranian officials have also directly threatened the United States, in case any action is taken against them.

We found out with Hitler that the mad ravings of a tyrant must be taken with the utmost seriousness. As a classic psychopath, he meant what he said, and acted on it.

Iran increasingly seems to think it can throw its weight around. Just last week, Ahmadinejad sent a contemptible letter to Germany, in effect trying to enlist the sympathy of that country because under the Nazies it had once persecuted the Jews. The letter, rife with threats against Israel, was commendably found by the German government to be "unacceptable."

It should be recognized by Americans, sometimes guilty of too much wishful thinking about the present prospects for world peace, that there are citcumstances we could become involved in the present war in Israel and Lebanon. If Iranian-supplied long range missiles, which Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrullah claims he has, were to be tipped with chemical weapons and used against Tel Aviv, I believe the U.S. would enter the war.

If this is so, it should be clearly stated. Great Britain made a terrible mistake in 1914 in not warning Kaiser Wilhelm's Germany that if it invaded Belgium, Britain would declare war. If such a warning had been given, World War I would likely been averted. Similarly, a U.S. cabinet official made a critical mistake in declaring in 1950 that South Korea was outside the defense perimeter of the U.S. The North Korean invasion soon followed, and a bloody war ensued.

We must be just as clear with Iran now. A warning might be a powerful incentive to an early cease fire in Lebanon the Israelis could accept.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Endorsement Of Joseph Lieberman In Aug. 8 Primary

--Written from Ashland, Oregon

Notice: A mistake by me in the settings of this blog has in recent weeks blocked out all comments. I have tried to correct this this morning, and all comments will be accepted, without modification. I've also retrieved comments that were posted earlier and ordered them published, so those can be viewed by going to prior blogs.


Joe Lieberman is an outstanding U.S. Senator who never fails to tell us what he is thinking, frequently does not act in an overly partisan manner, and, certainly, in my view should be reelected to the seat he has distinguished so long.

The campaign against Lieberman in the Aug. 8 Democratic primary in Connecticut by Ned Lamont is mounted from the Democratic left, is designed to move the party's Presidential primary campaigns in 2008 toward the McGovernite wing of the party, and, if successful, will materially reduce the chances of a winning Democratic candidacy in 2008.

At a time when the U.S. is coming under new pressures in the Middle East, the Far East and elsewhere, now is no time to waver on our commitment of American power in the world. Ceding the field to our enemies would in the end gravely endanger peace, just as Chamberlain did when he gave into Hitler at Munich, and fortify the present acendancy of terrorists, particularly the Muslim fundamentalists.

In recent years, Lieberman has been as outspoken as anyone in the Democratic party at resisting these appeasementist tendencies and thus has done a tremendous service to the country.

Given President Bush's unpopularity in many circles, it has certainly been courageous of the senator to so much as indicate he is openminded on Bush, but he has done so, and, now, some polls indicate he is in trouble in the primary. Lieberman has said he will mount an independent campaign, if he is defeated in the primary, and the present polls have indicated he would be successful in such a bid.

But I hope it will not be necessary, and Lieberman will win the primary with more than a narrow margin.

Despite present disenchantment with the Iraq war, and America's role in fighting it, I can't believe that most Americans on reflection won't decide to stay the course.

So I'm very much hoping the voters of Connecticut will retain Joe Lieberman as a Senate. He deserves their support.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

More Digests Or Summaries Is Not The Way To Improve Newspapers

--Written from Ashland, Oregon

Announcing the latest moves in his policy to downsize the New York Times, executive editor Bill Keller said that when the paper is narrowed by an inch and a half, it will lose about 5% of its news hole. But, Keller said, this will be compensated for by tighter editing and more news digests.

Yet one of the most important appeals of newspapers is that they provide detailed coverage of things TV news only covers in broad swipes, for a minute or two. More digests or summaries will only take away this advantage newspapers hold now.

I confess I do not like summaries at all. The L.A. Times decision to devote two pagesin the front section to summares is, I believe, a waste of space. I never even read Pages 2 and 3, despite the Times' attempt to make it more appealing by letting such talented writers as Andrew Malcolm write the summaries. The only summaries I even glance at are the very brief ones on Page 1.

It is far more satisfactory to leaf through a paper page by page, finding surprises as to what's in the news in the more lengthy articles. I have nothing against one-paragraph items for small news, but they are best left to the news pages.

Summary pages are, I believe, an attempt by editors to fool their readers into thinking they are doing their jobs. It allows them to reduce their coverage. It amounts to even greater reductions of the real news hole than Keller is admitting.

It's become fashionable to think of newspapers as not having much of a future. Yesterday, I had lunch here in Ashland, with my old friend and mentor (especially when he was managing editor of the Riverside Press-Enterprise), Al Perrin, now 86. Perrin used also to work as a copy editor for the L.A. Times, before he retired. During the course of our conversation, Perrin, who remains just as sharp as ever, intellectually, remarked sadly that the best time to be with newspapers was in the old days when we worked for them.

I don't quite agree with this. When one reads Yahoo these days on the Internet, there are frequently with big stories, like the present war in the Middle East, references to scores of stories from papers throughout the world, along with the ability to bring those stories to the screen and read what is being said elsewhere.

When one does this, you realize that most of the most perceptive comments in Journalism are not on TV at all, but still in newspapers or the weekly magazines, in short, in print media.

With imagination, with great coverage of fascinating stories, with some technological innovations, such as perhaps one day printing out of papers at home, thus cutting delivery costs, I think newspapers can survive for a long time. Even some advertising may come back, since TV systems like TIVO are allowing watchers to blot out or skim over ads, and the advertisers may figure out they have a better chance to be seen in newspapers.

But a good future for newspapers will take people who are more creative than Bill Keller or Dennis FitzSimons, CEO of the Tribune Ço. Such men are born to retreat. They think they can delay a day of reckoning for newspapers by cutting them back and laying off workers. I think this is shortsighted. People, I'm convinced, will still buy newspapers by the millions if only they believe in themselves, and remain papers of extensive record.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

New York Times Unrealistic On Middle East War

--Written frm Ashland, Oregon

Under executive editor Bill Keller, as distinct from Howell Raines, the New York Times all too often is showing these days that it is a liberal newspaper rather than a paper of record. It is not a step forward, since the country needs a leading paper which can be respected as unbiased.

We see an unrealistic liberal bias particularly on the editorial page and the Op-Ed Page where ultra liberal columnists such as Paul Krugman and Bob Herbert continue hammering away, unbalanced by mildly-conservative columnists.
The news columns frequently remain straight forward and often unbiased., though not always.

The divergence is evident this Tuesday morning when the NYT editorializes on the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah, calling frantically for establishment of an international peacekeeping force to separate the contestants amd a cease fire (without so much as mentioning the safe return of the kidnapped Israeli soldiers), while on the front page there's a story saying that no country so far has been willing to commit to a peacekeeping force.

The front page piece, by Elaine Sciolino (who is no fool) and Steven Erlanger, explains the obvious: A peacekeeping force would have to be prepared for heavy fighting, if it were to keep Hezbollah from further attacks against Israel, and, remembering the Hezbollah attacks against American and French forces in Beirut in 1983, no country wants to undertake such a mission.

The New York Times editorial also suggests this morning that Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice go to Damascus in her search for a settlement of the present war.

To what end would she go? There is no prospect that the thug Bashar Assad would help disarm Hezbollah or end the fighting, as long as Syria is not involved in it. Assad, implicated in the murder last year of Lebanese leader Rafik Hariri, is now willing to fight to the last Lebanese to keep its anti-Israeli campaign going. It is assisting in Iranian resupply of Hezbollah. It is an enemy of both Israel and the United States, and there is no reason, barring a switch in their position, that Rice should go to Damascus. Chamberlain went to see Hitler three times in a bid to bring "peace in our time" to Europe. Instead, by yielding to the tyrant, he brought on a war that killed millions. We can no more justify temporizing with Syria and Iran.

No, contrary to what the New York Times and assorted handwringers at the United Nations and elsewhere say, there is no present prospect of a quick acceptable end to the war, the disarming of Hezbollah and establishment of peace on the Israeli-Lebanon border. Perhaps, there will be in a few weeks when the Israelis finish smashing Hezbollah. Not until much more destruction and killing occurs, may these malevolent forces be discouraged. This is the sad truth the liberals don't want to recognize,

Lebanon, and many Lebanese civilians, are suffering and dying in the war. But we now hear from the Hezbollah leader, Hassan Nasrullah, a man with a reputation for candor, that he notified the Lebanese government of his plan to invade Israel and kidnap its soldiers, before he began that fatal mission. So Lebanon is not so innocent. If you allow a man with bombs into your house, he tells you of his plans to lob them into the house of your neighbor, and then proceeds to do so, you have no right to expect to remain untouched in the reprisal.

It was a mistake for the Crusaders to leave the Holy Land under Muslim assault in the Middle Ages. Barbaric Islam should have been dealt with then. There is no excuse for refusing to deal with it today, when it threatens not only Israel but the whole world. So the war in Israel, Iraq and Afghanistan, for the time being, will have to go on, bitter as it is. Godspeed to those who are fighting these wars.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Israel Hesitates To Invade South Lebanon But Chances of Escalation Grow

As Israel hesitates to invade South Lebanon, the chances that the war in the Middle East could dramatically escalate may only be increasing.

Why is Israel hesitating? Perhaps because the Israeli army commanders now recognize that Hezbollah has booby-trapped all of South Lebanon, with many improvised explosive devices such as the American army has encountered in Iraq, and that any Israeli invasion beyond the immediate border would entail very high casualties.

But there may be another reason as well. While the rockets fired by Hezbollah so far have only reached a little beyond Haifa, and it might appear that an Israeli advance to the Litani river would choke off most of the Hezbollah rocket attacks on Northern Israel, certain hints from the Hezbollah commander, Hassan Nasrallah, indicate that actually Hezbollah may have the capacity to fire longer range missiles from further north and even hit Tel Aviv. One such missile was destroyed by the Israelis near Beirut last week.

Nasrallah and others have also hinted that long range missiles could be tipped with chemical weapons.

Any use of chemical weapons by Hezbollah, which certainly would have to occur with Iranian consent, would immediately open up the prospect that the present conflict would become much more destructive. There can be no doubt that Israel would respond to such an attack by taking off the gloves in no uncertain terms. It too, as is well known, has exotic weapons.

There are even scenarios where the United States would become involved on the side of the Israelis, certainly if Israel were assaulted by weapons of mass destruction. Then an attack on Iran by the U.S. and perhaps other Western powers would become a distinct possibility.

We already have a fleet in both the Eastern Mediterranean and the Persian Gulf, as do the British and the French. This thing may be closer to a much wider war than anyone in the media has openly speculated.

One thing that is sure at this stage is that diplomacy seems to be going nowhere. As far as we know, the Americans and Israelis are not even talking to Iran at this point. Time magazine in its latest issue, just out, talks at great length about diplomatic openings, but this is, for the time being, as unrealistic as Time lauding the Steven Spielberg movie, "Munich," advocating that Israel adopt an appeasement policy toward Arab attacks. Time misunderstands the situation completely.

It also should be fairly obvious that talk bandied about of an international force in South Lebanon to keep Hezbollah from attacking Israel is nowhere near fruition. Right now, such a force would have to fight its way into South Lebanon, and it could well encounter the same resistance the Israeli army is finding. Not only is the United Nations not up to such an undertaking, but NATO has no stomach for it either.

In short, while I hate to be pessimistic, there are alarming elements in the present situation, much more alarming than the media has been very openly discussing. Only Harold Meyerson in the Washington Post and Thomas Friedman in the New York Times have raised incisively the chances of a much wider war.

There is one other factor in the situation that I think should be mentioned. It has been assumed that Iran does not have nuclear weapons now. But suppose Pakistan, or elements within Pakistan, or North Korea, were to provide some. This may seem to be a remote possibility, but, already, in Afghanistan, Pakistan is in fact fighting on the other side, and, as India found out long ago, Pakistan is not to be trusted. There is even reason to fear that Pervez Musharaff may not be in complete control of the Pakistani nuclear arsenal. And, as for North Korea, we know how dangerous Kim Jong Il is.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

L.A. County Supervisors Use 64 Cars At Taxpayer Expense

For once, L.A. Times columnist Steve Lopez lacks a little imagination this morning.

In another brilliant column, on the peccadilloes of Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich and the four other supervisors, Lopez concludes with a possible security excuse to justify Antonovich having two expensive Cadillacs purchased and running at the expense of taxpayers.

"Actually, it could be a security issue," he remarks. "Maybe, both Cadillacs are driven to public events, with Antonovich behind the tinted glass of one, and a dummy or a double behind the glass of the other. Just like a king."

This is where Lopez lacked imagination. He could have ended it with this sentence, "Just like Saddam Hussein."

After all, the Iraqi dictator, now engaged in a hunger strike (as if his death would punish anyone but himself), frequently used dummies to reduce the chances of being assassinated.

Of course, in fairness to Lopez, I must admit Antonovich is not in much danger of being assassinated. Anyone with that kind of grudge against political society would want to see Antonovich continue to live, since the greatest offense against society is his continued existence as a Los Angeles County Supervisor.

Actually, Lopez's supervisor columns are among his best, and each one builds on another. The column today discloses that the five corrupt and inept supervisors are buying and running a total 0f 64 gas-guzzling cars at the present time at taxpayer expense, all while cutting funds to help poverty-stricken children and the ill.

What is the answer to this offense against the body politic? Two of these supervisors, Zev Yaroslavsky and Gloria Molina, were just reelected against negligible opposition.

I think all five should be forced to resign, and new elections called for their posts. They have all served too long. They all are worthless as public servants. We must be rid of all of them as soon as possible.

A campaign to bring about their resignations should begin as soon as possible, and should not end until they are all gone. Since they are apparently so well protected against assassination, let me stress, only legal means pf political pressure ought to be used.

What next? Maybe, Lopez will discover that the public is paying for diamond rings for each supervisor, so that, like the pope, constituents can kiss their rings rather than their asses.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Global Warming Advances, And Bush Administration Retreats

In both Europe and America, this has been one of the hottest summers in recorded history, and it has also been marked by some unusually drenching storms in areas, like the Northeast, that are not so used to them.

Every week now, we see reports of scientific studies that indicate global warming, caused largely by the burning of hydrocarbons, is intensifying, that Arctic ice caps are melting and that the oceans are (as yet slightly) rising.

Yet the Bush Administration buries its head in the sand like an ostrich, and fails to see the developing global climate crisis. As China and India constantly use more energy, put more cars on the road, just to ameliorate to some extent rising carbon dioxide emissions, the U.S. and the industrialized countries of the West would have to be cutting way back. Yet little or no such cutbacks are taking place.

Indeed, there are constant indications that the Bush Administration is actively seeking to silence those in the U.S. government who would otherwise be speaking on the global warming issue.

Just this Saturday morning, the New York Times reports that NASA's mission statement has been changed to remove the phrase, "To understand and protect our home planet," this ostensibly to focus more on sending manned spacecraft to the Moon and Mars, but also, not so incidentally, to reduce study of the Earth, thus letting global warming occur without so much attention. This is as reasonable as ignoring a cancer.

The costs of all this, not only to future generations, but even our own, may well be immense. Already, in last year's Hurricane Katrina, we saw New Orleans virtually overcome by rising waters. Whole low lying countries like BanglaDesh are imminently threatened, but in Washington, they are in a deep snooze.

Of course, there are a few scientists who challenge that global warming is occurring. But they are in a tiny minority, and weather records kept in a host of places are clear that temperatures are rising.

We see it right here in Los Angeles. June was the second hottest in the 125 years that records have been kept. Woodland Hills has set a new all-time record for days where the temperature was 100 degrees or hotter. Temperatures this summer of 120 degrees in the lower deserts have been common. Major wildfires have occurred. All this just in Southern California.

The climate developments must not be ignored. The New York Times recently published in its weekly Science section an article about some exotic ideas for reducing global warming, including putting huge sunscreens in orbit around the Earth. Since reducing carbon dioxide emissions seems not in the offing, such ideas should be seriously considered. We live in more and more an artificially-created atmosphere already.

Friday, July 21, 2006

War In Lebanon Now Looks Like A Protracted Affair And Iran Is Guilty

As Israel calls up reserves for a possible ground offensive into South Lebanon, and new rocket attacks hit Haifa, wounding at least 26 Israelis, as Hezbollah rejects a cease-fire proposal by U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, it now appears likely the war in the Middle East will go on for the indefinite future.

Indeed, in an editorial this morning, and a column by its Pulitzer Prize-winning foreign columnist, Thomas Friedman, it's apparent that the New York Times, like I imagine many diplomats in this country and abroad, is beginning to look at longer term solutions to the conflict.

In its editorial, headlined, "More Than A Cease-Fire Needed," the NYT advocates a "robust resolution" by the U.N. Security Council, to encourage such a solution.

"Ideally," the editorial says, "the resolution would not only require all sides to stop fighting and authorize the deployment of a peacekeeping force, it would also order Hezbollah to withdraw from Israel's borders and begin to disarm -- and order Syria and Iran to stop supplying their client. The price for refusing should be international sanctions and complete isolation.

"The resolution should mandate the return of Israel's kidnapped soldiers and, finally, pledge major international contributions to help Lebanon rebuild from the destruction of last week and bolster its weak democratic government. If the Security Council isn't willing to issue such explicit demands or link them to clear punishments. the United States, Europe and key Arab states, who are also eager to see the fighting end and Hezbollah contained, will have to bring serious pressure on their own."

Friedman, meanwhile, warns in his column this Friday morning, "It is time that The World of Order gets its act together. This is not Israel's fight alone -- and if you really want to see a "disproportional" Israeli response, just keep leaving Israel to fight this war alone. Then you will see some real craziness."

Friedman, recognizing that Hezbollah's current assault has "global implications," concludes his column by saying, "The forces of disorder -- Hezbollah, Al Qaeda, Iran -- are a geopolitical tsunami that we need a united front to defeat. And that united front needs to be spearheaded by American leaders who understand that our power is most effective when it is legitimized by a global consensus and embedded in a global coalition."

Unfortunately, this is fairly pie-in-the-sky, in the sense that it's hard to conceive that either the fatally weak U.N. or such countries as Russia, China and France are going to join in putting pressure on Iran, which is the real nest of vipers here.

Harold Meyerson in the Washington Post earlier this week spoke of "the guns of July" and compared the situation to the outbreak of World War I. He's not just whistling Dixie, there is a real chance the present conflict could grow into a larger war.

As all this has been unfolding, the situation in Iraq has been worsening, with sectarian violence increasing. The L.A. Times this week reported that an actual civil war between Sunnis and Shiites is now occurring in that country. The hapless "government" of Iraq is powerless to stop it, and 130,000 American troops aren't being put to good use to stop it either. Meanwhile, Turkey is threatening to invade Kurdistan, and Iran continues to funnel in weapons to the Iraqi Shiites, some of which are used to kill American soldiers.

Iran is, as I say, the real nest of vipers, spewing its poison all over the Middle East. Can it be stopped short of war? I very much doubt it. "International sanctions and complete isolation," such as mentioned in the New York Times, would only cause a world oil crisis, and not spell an end to the Iranian danger. Iran must be taken care of, before, not after, it obtains atomic weapons.

Just this morning, the German government has revealed that it received a threatening letter from Iran's mad president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, again assailing Israel and making "unacceptable" statements about the Holocaust.

In another New York Times column this morning, former ABC newsman Ted Koppel, observes that a Jordanian intelligence officer has warned him, "the United States is already at war with Iran; but for the time being the battle is being fought through surrogates."

Koppel also asks, "Are the Israelis over-reacting in Lebanon?" His answer: "Perhaps they simply perceive their enemies' intentions with greater clarity than most. It is not the Lebanese who make the Israelis nervous, nor even Hezbollah. It is the puppet-masters in Tehran capitalizing on every opportunity..."


The L.A. Times has moved its reporter, Mike Kennedy, from Iraq, where he was on temporary assignment, to Lebanon, which he once covered for the Times. Kennedy, who has also lived in Israel, while his former wife, Becky Trounson, was Times correspondent there, probably has more Middle East experience than any other present Times reporter.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

New Downsizing At NYT, LAT And Wall St. Journal

Newspapers, even the most prestigious in the country, are in retreat, and I'm sure the readers are noticing. The danger is that the steps being taken at the New York Times, the L.A. Times and the Wall Street Journal will result in new declines of circulation and spin the press into ever greater difficulties.

The New York Times has announced it will reduce the width of its paper by one and a half inches. Even if it follows through on a pledge to increase the daily number of pages, the news hole will still be reduced by 5%.

The L.A. Times, meanwhile, announces that in its ever less ambitious Sports section, it will no longer regularly cover the metropolitan area's ice hockey teams when they are out of town. The number of readers who follow ice hockey is probably a fairly small percentage of the paper's total readers, but, still, just as with those who use the paper's truncated Sunday TV guide, there is bound to be resentment. The TV guide was downsized dramatically earlier in the year, and there's no longer any late night movies being listed at all.

The Wall Street Journal, in the most shocking of the changes, says it will soon start running advertising on Page 1. Advertisements continually are expanding in the media, and while they are, of course, necessary to sustain media profits, they are still unwelcome in many quarters. I confess I detest ads, and ignore them so much as I can. But the main issue is that, in recent times, in America, the front pages of newspapers have been reserved for news. Even then, the number of actual stories on Page 1 has been reduced by more pictures, summaries and so forth. Now, with advertising headed for Page 1 in the Wall Street Journal, it won't be long before other newspapers follow this bad trend. It does amount to downsizing.

Later today, it was reported in a Chicago business publication, Crain's, that the Chicago Tribune is considering selling advertising on some section front pages. It's not a surprise. Whenever it comes to an idea for reducing the appeal of newspapers, Tribune CEO Dennis FitzSimons will be right there climbing aboard.

The L.A. Times use of two summary pages in Section A also represents downsizing, because it reduces the space allotted to regular articles. It is more an attempt to save money on reporting and editing than it is any attempt to give readers anything they need.

One of the great appeals of newspapers is that they cover the world in detail, and give the readers details of activities that may specially interest them in a way that television can't. No one reads a whole newspaper. Some readers are interested in sports, others in business, others in the movies, and so on. There may be war in the Middle East, but on any given day, most of the readers' time is spent looking at other news and activities. Every time, newspapers are downsized, and things are left uncovered, the appeal of newspapers diminishes.

Even the physical plant of the papers is being pared. So the Tribune Co. announces plans to sell the now-empty Chatsworth printing plant of the L.A. Times, in which so many hopes for increased San Fernando Valley circulation were once placed. And the New York Times announces plans to close a New Jersey printing plant, reducing work force by 250.

The irony is that at the same time, the Internet is actually increasing its display of newspaper articles. Now, when you go to Yahoo, any number of articles on the Mideast drama are posted, almost hourly, and it's possible to read the editorials and articles of British newspapers, the Israeli papers, the French wire service, Agence France Presse, and others that were never available here before, except very belatedly at a few newstands that carry foreign papers. Even though registration is supposedly required, Yahoo is printing at no charge many New York Times and Washington Post articles.

So newspapers seem to be prospering on the Internet, even while they are taking steps that reduce their news holes and their appeal to those paying the money to subscribe. How sad!

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

NYT Is A Jewish-Owned Paper, But It Really Doesn't Support Jews

During World War II, as it has since recognized, the New York Times, a Jewish-owned newspaper, did almost no reporting on the Holocaust, giving stories of Nazi atrocities against Jews short shrift and burying them far back in the paper.

The shocking thing is that even now, the NYT seems ashamed of its Jewish ownership, fearing perhaps that it might adversely affect its circulation and cost it public esteem. The paper is gutless. It doesn't practice fairness toward its own co-religionists.

The Times' desire not to be seen as Jewish-owned is in evidence again this week, as the paper fails to support Israel in its fight to prevent Arab terrorists from realizing their objective of destroying Israel, now the most populous home of Jews on Earth.

We see that clearly in today's editorial on the present conflict in the Middle East. The last paragraph of the editorial, which is a plea for premature diplomacy, declares, "These differences need to be worked out over the next few days, so that the killing and human suffering can stop as soon as possible. Washington is right to press for the release of the Israeli soldiers held hostage. But this should not be a precondition for the earliest possible cease-fire. Many lives and the stability of the wider region depend on achieving a quick halt to the fighting."

So, here, the NYT adopts the same position as the corrupt U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, a cease-fire without condition, which President Bush has already wisely rejected. Annan added insult to injury this morning by suggesting that perhaps the U.N. force should number more than the 2,000 currently doing nothing to rein in the terrorists in South Lebanon.

Israel went to war on behalf of three kidnapped Israeli soldiers. It cannot stop the fighting short of the release of these soldiers, nor should it stop short of its other main objective, the ridding of South Lebanon of the Iranian surrogate, Hezbollah.

Also, on the New York Times Op-Ed Page this morning, one of the paper's many liberal columnists, Nicholas D. Kristof, argues essentially that Israel should cut back on its response to terror, because if it doesn't it will further inflame the Arab world against it.

How weak-minded Kristof is! Like many liberals, he doesn't have the strength to think realistically. The fact is that nothing the Israelis do, including their withdrawals from Lebanon in 2000 and Gaza in 2005, can do anything to keep the extremist forces from continuing to seek the utter destruction of Israel.

Just as with the Crusaders long ago, the Israelis are present in the Holy Land by force alone. I suspect that is not going to change. To stay there, they must periodically demonstrate their willingness, when attacked, to respond with force.

There is, meanwhile, elsewhere on the NYT Op-Ed Page another column, by Edward M. Luttwak, which is a much more satisfactory analysis holding that the present war is not likely to be regionalized, because neither Iran nor Syria are willing to jeopardize themselves by directly attacking Israel. They would much rather let their underlings in Hezbollah, which they finance and supply, do it for them.

The Iranians continue to fulminate against both Israel and the United States, warning of the dire consequences were either country to attack Iran.

Just in recent days, for instance, the Iranian Intelligence Minister, Gholam-Hossein Mohseni-Ezhei, was quoted as saying, "If America or any other country attacks Iran, it will be endangering its interests and its economic, political and societal life. The same country that intends to attack Iran needs to know that it will pay an exorbitant price. America doesn't have the courage to take such action against Iran, since in this event, we will endanger all its crucial interests. The geographical borders of our war against the Americans will not be limited just to American soil. To the contrary, we will target all of this country's interests all over the world."

We should not wait to kill off this man, just as we didn't wait with al-Zarqawi. Already, Iran is killing American soldiers in Iraq through providing the latest bombs to the Shiite thugs there, just as it is supplying the rockets that are now being fired by Hezbollah against Israel. It holds back from more direct open involvement, but it is just as guilty of murder as the murderers.

Since Iran continues to work on a nuclear weapon, which it does not have yet, time is short. It's my earnest belief that America ought to strike Iran preventively, and that such an attack would necessarily have to include nuclear weapons. How dare this sniveling little coward, the Iranian Intelligence Minister, suggest that America doesn't have the courage to act. We should, if necessary, have the courage to destroy the present Iranian regime, by any means necessary. Just like Hitler, its talk may, when it feels it has the capability, lead to action.

By the way. the frequent terrorist-sympathizing organization, Amnesty International, again shows its true colors this morning, advocating that two Israeli soldiers captured by Hezbollah be treated humanely, but saying nothing about their return and failing to criticize kidnapping.

Monday, July 17, 2006

A New Tone In The L.A. Times Editorial Today On The Middle East

There is a distinct new and welcome tone today in the L.A. Times editorial on the Middle East. It represents a more sober and realistic view of the situation.

"Make no mistake about it," the editorial begins. "Responsibility for the escalating carnage in Lebanon and northern Israel lies with one side, and one side only. And that is Hezbollah, the Islamist militant party, along with its Syrian and Iranian backers. Reasonable minds can differ on the strategic wisdom of the Israeli response, but there can be no doubt about the blame for the mounting death toll on both sides of the border."

This is a far cry from earlier Times editorials that focused on a call on Israel to restrain itself from strong action, ignoring the dangers to Israel in not forcefully responding to aggression by Arab terrorists.

The L.A. Times editorial writers may have noticed two important developments in the present conflict. One is that the moderate Arab states, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and the Gulf States, have all taken a position against Hezbollah. They are alarmed by the terrorist organization's conduct and, more particularly, that of its Syrian and Iranian backers, because they recognize the great danger of Iranian ascendancy in the Middle East. Second, the operative role of both Iran and Syria in what Hezbollah has been doing has become clearer than ever. It is, after all, Syrian and Iranian missiles that have been used against Israel, and there are even reports that Iranian troops sent to Lebanon actually fired the missile that damaged an Israeli Navy ship.

In the background also is the increasing split between Shiites and Sunnis in the region, with Iran representing Shiite ascendancy, and threats of a war between Shiites and Sunnis growing out of the sectarian violence in Iraq.

Apropos of this, the New York Times reports this Monday morning that certain Sunnis in Iraq, worried about Shiite killings of Sunnis, have now switched position and are calling on American troops in Iraq to stay in the country to protect them from the Shiites.

All this indicates that Israel's correct response to the kidnapping of its soldiers and Hezbollah missile strikes in the north of Israel has lit up the landscape and brought into prominence the increasing split in the Arab world.

Despite attempts by the G-8 powers and the United Nations to intervene in the conflict and bring about a cease fire, the situation remains dangerous. Further escalation of the fighting cannot be ruled out. But the outlines of a cease fire agreement are now plain: a cessation of Hezbollah attacks on Israel and return of three kidnapped Israeli soldiers in South Lebanon and Gaza, installation of an international force in South Lebanon to keep Hezbollah away from the Israeli border, and probably an eventual release by Israel of some Arab prisoners, separated in time so that it does not appear that Israel is giving in directly to the kidnappers, or encouraging future kidnappings.

A central element of this would be the peacekeeping force. It could not be the toothless forces sent in the past to the region by the U.N., forces that have tended to retreat every time there has been any aggressive behavior by the terrorists. This force, to which Russia has already said it would contribute, would have to consist of forces from all the big powers, such as the occupation of Germany after World War II, and it would have to be prepared for combat as necessary.

While mounting its air attacks and sea blockade of Lebanon, Israel has thus far avoided invading South Lebanon by land. The Israelis undoubtedly would prefer an international force to occupy the ground, push Hezbollah forces out and then keep control, rather than using their own forces which would be subject to the kind of guerrilla activity that afflicted occupying Israeli troops in the past.

World opinion is coalzing around such a plan. Only the pro-Hezbollah Guardian newspaper in Britain continues to one-sidedly criticize Israel among major organs of the international press.

It is also good this morning to see a Pulitzer Prize winning Times reporter, Kim Murphy, reporting from Damascus. Murphy has valuable Middle East experience and insight to bring to coverage of the present conflict.


With all the developments in the Middle East, there has been little space to deal with anything else in recent days, but I do want to compliment Times media writer Jim Rainey on his recent articles about the situation at the Santa Barbara News-Press, and his article, pursuant to his recent assignment in Baghdad, on the Iraqi support personnel for the L.A. Times bureau in Iraq.

Rainey has matured as a media reporter, is working hard at his job, and showed conspicuous bravery in going to Iraq in the first place.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Iran And Syria Caused The War, And They Should Pay The Price

Iran and Syria bear the primary responsibility for the war in the Middle East, and they should now pay the price. As Churchill said, when he ordered the bombing of Dresden in World War II, they who sow the wind should reap the whirlwind.

Lebanon is not so innocent either. For many years, going back to the kidnappings of Americans in Beirut more than two decades ago, Lebanon allowed itself to be used by the Iranian and Syrian-sponsored terrorists of Hezbollah. It rented out its territory as a whore rents a room. It was willing to allow a neighbor to be attacked by its "guests." It ends up just as guilty as they are.

In 2000, when the Israelis left south Lebanon, the understanding was, and a U.N. vote mandated, that the Lebanese Army would replace Hezbollah on the Israeli border. The Lebanese government did nothing to implement the agreement. Now, its corrupt prime minister, Fouad Siniora, pleads for peace. He should have thought of the price Lebanon would have to pay long ago. His country has been accessory to murder and now it is getting an inevitable payback.

But just as Spain became a venue for Nazi experimentation in the 1930s in the Spanish Civil War, Lebanon is also being used by the Iranians and Syrians to carry out their deadly plan to destroy Israel, oust the West from the Middle East and, in their planning, enslave us all through their control over the world's oil. Sheer imperial greed, more than advance of the Muslim religion, is the prime motive.

Iran is also building a nuclear weapon. Before it is allowed to move one more step towards that goal, its present government should be removed. No means should be ruled out. Iran has caused much too much trouble already. It is dangerous not only to Israel but to the rest of the world. It has been assisting in attacks against U.S. soldiers in Iraq. Now, it must be dealt with in no uncertain terms.

In Syria, the regime of the thug, Bashar Assad, hopes now to have it both ways, to support Hezbollah, to serve as a transit point for Iranian manpower and weapons heading into Lebanon, and to host the real leader of Hamas, even while not being attacked itself. It has also provided its own weaponry to Hezbollah. Just this morning, Syrian-made missiles were used to strike the Israeli city of Haifa.

Assad shouldn't be allowed to get away with it. A legitimate Israeli war aim is to oust his regime. An international trusteeship should take over Syria for the foreseeable future. Its people are clearly, in the light of history, unfit to rule themselves.

Already, in four days of warfare, many civilian lives have been lost. But as William Tecumsh Sherman said after the battle of Shiloh, that the South would not give in until the war was carried to the Southern civilians, so the war now must necessarily target civilians. It is Arab civilians who have been firm supporters of terrorism. Now let them too reap the whirlwind, just as the inhabitants of Dresden did.


In another disgraceful result of the sorry tenure of Andres Martinez as editorial pages editor of the L.A. Times, the paper's Current section this Sunday has not a single article on the Arab-Israeli conflict. Martinez, who is lazy, letting major events occur without an editorial the next day, does not seem to appreciate what's news, another of his faults.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Tribune Co. Revenue, Circulation Both Down. Layoffs Resume

The Tribune Co. reports sliding revenue and circulation in the second quarter, and layoffs at Tribune newspapers are resuming. A new announcement says 120 jobs will be cut at the Chicago Tribune, partially through layoffs, and promises more reductions of work force are coming at the L.A. Times.

It is all part of the record of Tribune CEO Dennis FitzSimons, whose tenure has been marked by a continued retreat, in profits, revenue. ad sales, and circulation, while he sponsored a stock buyback that is sinking the company further into debt.

Profits dropped in the second quarter to 28 cents a share, from 73 cents a year earlier, although this was due to some special charges and was not regarded by analysts as particularly significant. Still, it was the second worst quarter for income in the last five years for the beleaguered company.

More significant, according to the analysts was a 1.3% dip in revenue, to $1.43 billion, or 7%, and a 5.3% further drop in circulation at Tribune's 11 newspapers.

In connection with the stock buyback plan, FitzSimons promised $200 million more in cost cuts, which representatives of the Chandler family stockholders in the company have argued is a no-win strategy. They have called for an outside investigation of FitzSimon's management and further sale of some company properties, as well as new growth investment in others. Two Tribune television stations have already been sold, and press reports say Tribune is trying to sell the L.A. Times' old San Fernando Valley plant, where the paper once had such high hopes of increasing circulation. Now, the San Fernando plant has been closed, the staff pared to almost nothing and moved to a tiny office in a new location.

FitzSimons is not changing his practices, and the situation grows worse, with almost weekly announcements of less investment in news gathering. Just last week, it was announced that two former Times-Mirror papers, Newday and the Baltimore Sun, will lose virtually all their foreign bureaus. Now, there is the cut in the staff of the Chicago Tribune, the second in the last year.

It is a disastrous situation, both for the newspapers' staff and the newspapers themselves.

So far, there has been no word as to where new layoffs of L.A. Times personnel may come.

The staff of the Santa Barbara News-Press has set a courageous example by openly fighting management policies that are reducing the quality of the paper. So far, however, there has been little fight shown by staff at Tribune newspapers, as FitzSimons slowly wrecks the company.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Hezbollah Is Controlled by Syria and Iran, Regardless What L.A. Times Says

In an exhibition of its frequently nonsensical and cravenly weak positions on the war on terror, the Los Angeles Times this Friday morning suggests in a front-page article that Hezbollah may have acted alone in kidnapping two Israeli soldiers and raining rockets on Israeli territory.

The article by Paul Richter, Josh Meyer and Sebastian Rotella directly contradicts the position of the Bush Administration, this time backed by many outside observers, including even a commentary in the very liberal Guardian newspaper in Britain, that the present crisis represents an attempt by Iran and Syria to cause new trouble and tensions in the Middle East by striking at Israel, a country they have vowed to destroy.

I'm not surprised that Richter would participate in such an article. He is frequently guilty of loose thinking. Meyer and Rotella, however, are usually perceptive reporters. From them, it is a surprise.

The fact is that Hezbollah would be little or nothing without support in the form of weapons and money, and guidance it receives from Iran and Syria. The people who say otherwise are likely the same as those who argued years ago that the Viet Cong in South Vietnam was independent from North Vietnam. After the Americans retreated from the country in 1975, that idea lasted about as long as it took North Vietnam to rename Saigon "Ho Chi Minh City." (The same day Saigon fell).

"We are not out to get the President," wrote Times editor Dean Baquet in an Op Ed page piece not long ago. It was a Freudian comment, proof of the very reverse. Any casual reader of the Los Angeles Times realizes it is out to get President Bush day in and day out, both in its news and editorial pages.

But it is not only President Bush which the Times is flying in the face of this morning.

The Daily Telegraph in London, says editorially, "Sponsored by Damascus and Tehran, it (Hezbollah) makes a mockery of Lebanese sovereignty. That one party in the government coalition should have an armed wing operating with foreign support in defiance of central authority is intolerable."

The Guardian carries a commentary by Jonathan Spyer that remarks that Hezbollah "does not act independently. Hezbollah is dependent on its Iranian and Syrian backers for its continued existence and for its hardware. It is unlikely that the incursion of July 12 could have taken place without a nod from the real masters."

The Washington Post says editorially this morning, "When Israel withdrew its troops from southern Lebanon in 2000 after more than two decades of occupation, it also issued a warning: Any cross-border provocations by Hezbollah, the military Shiite group, would elicit a severe military response. So there can be no surprise at the violent reaction to Hezbollah's ambush of an Israeli patrol Wednesday, in which three soldiers were killed and two others taken captive by the guerrillas. And there can be no doubt that Iran and Syria, Hezbollah's chief sponsors, bear responsibility for what has instantly become the most far-reaching, lethal and dangerous eruption of cross-border fighting in the Middle East in recent years."

The main commentary on the New York Times Op-Ed page this morning, by Michael Young, is headlined, "Israel's Invasion, Syria's War." The article begins, "Israel's incursion into Lebanon after the kidnapping on Wednesday of two Israeli soldiers by the militant group Hezbollah is far more than another flareup on a tense border. It must also be seen as a spinoff of a general counterattack against American and Israeli power in the region by Iran and Syria, operating through sub-state actors like Hezbollah and the Palestinian organization Hamas."

The latest probable illustration of Iranian sponsorship of Hezbollah came Friday when a drone packed with explosives struck an Israeli ship participating in the Lebanon blockade, doing heavy damage. Reports tonight say eight such drones were supplied by Iran to Hezbollah.

Considering all this evidence, the L.A. Times front page article makes the paper very much the odd man out. But it is not the only disappointment in Times coverage this morning. The Times editorial on what is happening in the Middle East is another example of cowardice and stupidity by an editorial page often guilty of the same.

Andres Martinez, it has been clear for some time, is no friend of Israel. In fact, there is a sheen of anti-Semitism on the Times editorial pages, either the responsibility of Martinez or Op-Ed Page editor Nick Goldberg, whose wife, Amy Wilentz, is pro-Palestinian, and who claims to be neutral in the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Again, this morning the L.A. Times editorial accuses Israel of over-reacting and disproportionate counterstrikes.

Were it up to Martinez and Goldberg, there would be no Israel at all. As others recognize, any nation that allows cross-border villains to rain rockets down on its territory and people and cross the border to kidnap its citizens will not be long for this world. I'm afraid we're beginning to see an illustration of this in Afghanistan.

The Times editorial this morning, entitled "Israel's risky response," says Israel is "running the risk of emboldening Arab rejectionists."

As if these scoundrels wouldn't be doing all they could to destroy Israel anyway. The Arab rejectionists certainly have a friend in Los Angeles.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

CNN Has The Best, Most Comprehensive TV Coverage of Mideast Conflict

From an early hour this Thursday, the CNN cable news network provided the best, most comprehensive coverage of the spreading conflict in the Middle East. The Fox network had a little less coverage and MSNBC scarcely was in the fray.

CNN, using correspondents in both Beirut and Jerusalem, had frequent and up-to-the-minute reports, as the Israelis bombed the Beirut Airport, imposed a Naval blockade on Lebanon and also struck a Lebanese Army base on the Syrian border. Meanwhile, Hezbollah fired numerous rockets into Israel, hitting several towns, and threatening to strike the major city of Haifa.

CNN came back to the story every few minutes and also covered live a news conference by President Bush in Germany, at which the President generally backed Israel but urged restraint. Fox also covered the Bush news conference and it had a few more interviews with outside observers than CNN.

The regular news networks also led their 7 a.m. news broadcasts with developments in the Middle East, although NBC's Today program was somewhat handicapped by the absence of anchor Matt Lauer, who was in St. Petersburg to cover the G-8 summit. Also, it appeared that at 8 a.m. NBC had no special West Coast broadcast, using a canned beginning that did not even refer to the striking news developments.

Meanwhile, both the L.A. Times and New York Times provided comprehensive coverage in this morning's papers of the developments yesterday, which saw the kidnapping of two more Israeli soldiers by Hezbollah and the beginnings of an Israeli incursion into Lebanon as well as bombing raids. The L.A. Times, with its time advantage, also was able to get in word of the first Israeli air strike on the Beirut Airport, and also the Hezbollah rocket attacks in the north of Israel. Since Times foreign editor Marjorie Miller was once the Times correspondent in Jerusalem, the Times really has a leg up in Middle East coverage.

Perusing the Internet, the Web site of the Jerusalem Post was ahead of even CNN, reporting first, for example, the casualties in northern Israeli towns under Hezbollah rocket attack, and then updating the initial reports with new casualty figures. The Israeli newspaper was running an hour ahead of everyone else on this phase of the battle.

The New York Times web site was keeping well up, as it usually does, with the developments, but the L.A. Times web site, as uaual, left much to be desired, relegating the Mideast to a secondary story.

Editorially, again Andres Martinez, the inept editorial pages editor of the L.A. Times, showed himself this morning to be well behind nearly everyone else in appreciating what the news is. Martinez had no Mideast editorial this morning, while the Chicago Tribune did, saying, notably, "All those who hoped that Hamas and Hezbollah would abandon terror when they gained political power must confront the fact that power has only emboldened their impulse to terror." The New York Times also had a Mideast editorial this morning. When will the L.A. Times catch up? Only, I fear, when Andres Martinez is packed off to the Santa Barbara News-Press to work for Wendy McCaw.

All major news outlets are well represented in Israel and also, to some extent, in Beirut. The region of course is the very center of the conflict between the West and Islamic fundamentalists.

But it was obvious that news events were unfolding so quickly that even the most professional of reporters, such as NBC's Martin Fletcher, found themselves to some extent out of position when the war erupted. Fletcher, on NBC, was broadcasting from the Israeli-Lebanon border, where he had moved from Gaza yesterday, but was somewhat hampered by being in neither Jerusalem or Beirut, where CNN had its correspondents.

If, as might be expected, the conflict grows in the days ahead, it can be expected that all major news agencies will send in more correspondents. This region is at present the very heart of world power politics and cannot and will not be ignored.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

New Causes For Outrage In Ridiculous Muslim Demands

In comments on the killings of 200 innocent Bombay commuters, the foreign minister of Pakistan, the dishonorable Khurahid Mahmoud Kasuri, suggested that if only India gives up Kashmir, then his government would cooperate in controlling the terrorists.

Meanwhile, in Lebanon, the leaders of Hezbollah said they will negotiate the possible release of two Israeli soldiers kidnapped today, but only if Israel releases all 9,000 prisoners in its custody, apparently including murderers, would-be suicide bombers and assorted other perverts.

And in Iraq, the insurgents say they mutilated and beheaded two American soldiers in response to the rape of an Iraqi girl and the murder of her family. This statement of equivalence comes from those guilty in the surge of sectarian crimes which are killing dozens of Iraqis every day, and in contradiction of the fact that the American rape and murders hadn't even become known publicly at the time the soldiers were kidnapped and killed.

All of these positions are the work of a fundamentalist strain of Islam which must be eradicated before the present war can end. Violence is widely endemic in that religion and tolerance of it by the rest of the world should have lapsed long ago, just as the Spanish conquistadors showed no tolerance for the Aztec and Inca human sacrifices. Yes, there are millions of "moderate" Muslims, but like the Germans of the Nazi period, precious few of them so much as speak out against their barbaric co-believers.

What, meanwhile, should be the answer to the demands?

First, India must not and will not give up Kashmir, which is integral to the integrity of the Indian state. India has 117 million Muslims, and being forced to give up Kashmir would jeopardize them all. Right now, India is a pluralistic state, with official respect for all religions. There is some backsliding from this position, but it is government policy.

Second, Israel must not and will not release its captives any more than we should give up the captives of Guantanamo Bay. Those people should stay in custody until terrorist actions stop without condition. That may be a long time, but of course those found innocent or finishing their prison terms will be released.

Thirdly, in Iraq, we have displayed far too much patience. If the Iraqis cannot govern themselves, then it may be necessary to dismember the country, split up the ethnic groups, and put the Sunni and Shiite killers under lasting restraint. The principal actors in the sectarian killings are so abominable they deserve nothing from us, and all rebuilding funds in those areas should be withheld until they give up their arms unconditionally.

These are hard, draconian positions, I know, but Muslim terrorism, unless controlled, could literally destroy the West. We have every right, nay obligation, to resist it with all the forces at our command.

If the Muslim fundamentalist demands were complied with, this would not be the end of the attacks. It would only be the beginning. Force should and will be our main response.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Sonni Efron's Basayev Column On LAT Op-Ed Page A Masterpiece

Every once in awhile, the L.A. Times editorial pages do shine, but never more so than in Tuesday morning's column by Washington-based editor Sonni Efron on the deserved death of Chechen terrorist Shamil Basayev. Basayev died yesterday when explosives he was carrying for a new terror attack either detonated on their own or were blown up by Russian special forces.

Back in 1995, covering the Chechen rebellion, Efron, then stationed in Moscow, managed to get into Basayev's mountain hideout and interview him, a memorable encounter with a man who was later to become a monstrous killer in Beslan, Moscow and other places in Russia.

Efron's recitation of this unforgettable experience allows her to comment unsparingly about the nature of terrorism today. And it comes at a moment of new terrorist attacks, the simultaneous explosions on commuter trains in Bombay, India, during the evening rush hour today. Latest reports say at least 190 died and 625 were wounded in this latest instance of foul behavior by Muslim fundamentalists worldwide.

The last paragraph of Efron's column says everything that needs to be said about the awful career of Basayev.

"It's been said that one man's terrorism is another man's freedom fighter," Efron writes. "I disagree. I believe the day Basayev stopped attacking the Russian army and attacked that hospital (in Budennovsk in the Caucasus in 1995) he committed an unequivocally evil act and forfeited any claim to legitimate leadership of the Chechen people. The most recent of Chechnya's many tragedies is that its most clever and charismatic leader turned out to be Shamil Basayev."

One of the last things Basayev said to Efron in her interview with him, when she asked him if, after suffering defeats at the hands of the Russian army, he would now resort to terrorism, was: "No, we haven't lost, and we're not that desperate."

"The word 'yet' hung unspoken in the air," Efron recalls feeling that day. "We shook hands and I left."

Just shortly thereafter his terrorism began. Efron writes, "The next time I saw him was two months later. He and his men had captured a hospital in the southern Russian city of Budennovsk and had threatened to blow it up with the patients inside. We watched in horror at a distance as the ever-inept Russian troops shot at the hospital. The Chechen rebels inside the maternity ward stood pregnant women in front of the windows, hid behind them and shot back from between their legs. At least 100 people were killed and many more wounded."

It was the launch of a terrorist career that also saw scores killed in the Moscow subways and at a theatre, the fatal bombing of two airliners in the air, and, worst of all, the murder of 331 school children and adults in the school at Beslan in North Ossetia, near Chechnya.

No wonder Russian President Vladimir Putin said of Basayev's death yesterday. "This is just retaliation against the bandits for the sake of our children in Beslan, in Budyonnovsk and for all the terrorist attacks they undertook in Moscow and other regions of Russia."

And Chechnya's prime minister, Ramzan A. Kadyrov, expressed only regret that he had not killed the terrorist himself. "Basayev died like a jackal," said Kadyrov, who is loyal to Moscow. "On the run, not even in his motherland."

One of the few discordant and inappropriate comments on Basayev's demise came, oddly, this morning in a New York Times editorial, which said, "Putin could not be grudged his moment of satisfaction. (But)the question is whether he is prepared to seize the moment to attempt new peace talks with the Chechen separatists."

This would, in my view, be inappropriate. The death of Basayev should be followed up immediately by a Russian drive to destroy the remaining terrorists and Put Chechnya on the road to peace within Russia.

Efron, by the way, has had a distinguished career with the Times, not only in Russia but also in Japan and other locales. This morning's column, however, was one of her finest moments.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Chechen Terrorist Killed; Sectarian Violence Growing in Baghdad

The good news this morning is that Shamil Basayev, the Chechen terrorist responsible for the Beslan school massacre and other terrible deeds in Russia, has been killed in an explosion while apparently trying to carry 220 pounds of explosives in Ingushetia. Perhaps an operation coinciding with the G-8 summit was in the works.

Basayev will not be missed. Since Muslim fanatics could be counted upon to make any place the Russians bury him into a shrine, his final resting place should be kept secret, or maybe it would be wisest just to feed his carcass to the polar bears in the Arctic. That would be a fitting end to so inglorious a character.

Meanwhile, the bad news is that the situation in Baghdad has grown worse, with the attempts of the new "government," if that is the name for it, to quell sectarian violence turning up empty.

Yesterday was one of the worst days yet. There are reports that as many as 41 Sunnis were killed when Shiite militias set up roadblocks in the Jihad neighborhood, demanding to see identity papers and then killing those who showed Sunni identities.

This was followed a short time later by a bombing at a Shiite mosque killing 19.

The new government seems crippled. After the kidnapping of a Sunni member of parliament, a woman, last week, the Sunnis announced a boycott of the government, refusing to show up in parliament.

Just a few days ago, a story by one of the L.A. Times correspondents in Baghdad, Solomon Moore, told in detail how the Iraqi police have been infiltrated by sectarian militias, and often the barbarism in the streets, the killing of women and children, is the work of people wearing police uniforms. So much for our efforts to encourage the Iraqis to take care of their own affairs, something that nation has not succeeded in doing since the days of Nebuchanezzar.

Last week, the terrorist leader Osama bin Laden called for more sectarian killings of Shiites, thus associating himself clearly with the late Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Earlier, there had been speculation bin Laden and his cohorts felt that Zarqawi was too extreme. Fat chance! Bin Laden wants chaos throughout the Middle East, reasoning that would cut off Western oil and finally bring his extremists to power.

It's becoming clear that something has to give in Iraq, and it may be there is only at this point a choice between civil war or a dismemberment of the country, splitting it up into Kurd, Shiite and Sunni mini-countries. This last is not a very palatable solution, because it may only intensify the fighting in the short term, but it may be better than a civil war between Sunnis and Shiites that could spread all over the Middle East.

Already, seven weeks into the new "government," the experiment at a papered-over unity, incorporating the various ethnic groups, is showing itself to be pretty much a failure, and that means new troubles for 125,000 American soldiers fighting in Iraq.

Assuming we are not ready to quit the operation, and it seems highly unlikely that President Bush will, then a new policy is in order. But after more than three years of dead alleys in that country, pursuant to the American invasion, what can this be?

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Bus Route Changes Make Downtown L.A. Less Safe For Commuters

As pointed out in a letter to the L.A. Times' editorial pages this Sunday morning, a change in bus routes in downtown Los Angeles has reduced safety for passengers. The change moved northbound bus lines on Spring St. one block east to less secure Main St.

It is bureaucracy at its worst, not only scrapping expensive prior investments, but also endangering passengers in what was already a dangerous part of downtown.

It wasn't that many years ago that government agencies spent millions of dollars providing cement lanes on both sides of Spring St. downtown. The aim was to make the lanes more long lasting, not requiring constant repaving. It took many months and much traffic disruption to accomplish. That is the investment now forgotten in a misguided effort to provide more on-street parking on the east side of Spring St.

But worse than that is exposing downtown commuters to more muggings and other assaults.

Even parts of Spring St., as today's letter from Linda J. Vogel makes clear, are already quite dangerous. Even several years ago, while working at the Times, I found that a restaurant just west of Spring and Fourth Sts. was located in a place that was too dangerous to patronize at night. Terry Schwadron, then a Times editor, was injured in a violent mugging near 2nd and Spring, right across from the Times.

Main St. is much worse. It is within a skid row that all the efforts of the authorities have not succeeded in eradicating. Homeless derelicts and drunks clog the streets, and there is a palpable feeling of insecurity.

In these circumstances, one wonders who had the lame brained idea of moving the bus routes and exposing thousands of commuters to new dangers.

Ms. Vogel reports in her letter that these dangers may force her to give up using Metrolink to get in from her home in Pomona, because she doesn't feel safe getting to work downtown on the buses from Union Station. Yet millions of dollars have been spent on systems to encourage commuters to reach downtown by other means than their cars. This change in bus routes jeopardizes these efforts.

Ultimately, it is probably Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa who should assume responsibility for this matter. Villaraigosa wants to take over the schools, when he has too much to do already just keeping commuters free from fear.

I know it's only downtown, and most people in the vast metropolitan area remain unaffected. But there is a broader issue here about the competence of bureaucracy, so we all should be concerned.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Fortune Magazine Article Suggests L.A. Times Be Sold

The article in Fortune magazine on the Tribune Co. this week gives Tribune CEO Dennis FitzSimons every chance to whitewash his own egregious mismanagement of the company, and go after the Chandler family members of Tribune's board of directors, and the writer, Devin Leonard, sounds like a typical Easterner with little respect for California.

But Leonard finally comes to this conclusion:

"Here's a better idea. Tribune should sell the under performing Los Angeles Times. Publicly-traded newspaper companies might not touch it. But private buyers will pay a high price...The sale could raise $1 billion for Tribune and would stabilize its earnings."

The L.A. Times is actually under performing only by the greedy Wall Street standards that so impress Fortune magazine. The Times makes a lot of money, and the paper represents a good investment for more publicly-spirited entrepreneurs.

With all this continued talk, there is still a good chance the Babbitt-like Tribune Co. is in play. Meanwhile, Fitzsimons continues to play fast and loose with the quality of his newspapers. Just this week, he ordered the Baltimore Sun and Newsday, two other former Times-Mirror newspapers, to close all their foreign bureaus. Those newspapers have taken even more of a series of severe hits than the Times.

Meanwhile, the blood bath this week at the Santa Barbara NewS-Press, with the resignation of the editor, the managing editor, four other editors and a columnist, in protest against alleged violations of journalistic ethics by owner Wendy McCaw, led L.A. Observed owner Kevin Roderick to suggest that selling a newspaper to local interests might not be a panacea. McCaw had bought the News-Press from the New York Times six years ago.

Maybe not, nothing is sure in life, or in the newspaper business. Still, I continue to believe that the L.A. Times would be better off under local ownership. The odds are an owner like Eli Broad or Peter Ueberroth would be better for the Times than the squalid Tribune ownership, with its constant downgrading of the paper.

The troubles at the News-Press, by the way, seem to have been brought to a head by the editors' desire to print the news of the arrest of the editorial page editor, Travis Armstrong, for driving under the influence. Armstrong has now been named by McCaw as acting publisher.

It may sound like a slam-dunk that the arrest of Armstrong should have been printed, as it was, although a followup article was cancelled, but I can never recall the L.A. Times ever printing the news of such arrests of its own personnel. Missy Chandler, then-wife of Otis Chandler, was taken into custody one night by Sheriff's officers after she slugged one of them when stopped on the freeway. The news didn't appear in the L.A. Times. So maybe the determination of News-Press editors to print the news about Armstrong represented more back-biting than adherence to sacrosanct journalism.

Friday, July 07, 2006

George W. Bush At 60, I'm Still For Him

It is fashionable among some of my family and friends to loathe President George W. Bush. They often say he is the worst President in the nation's history.

I don't share that view. If the 2004 election between Mr. Bush and Sen. John Kerry were being held today, I have no question that I would still vote for Mr. Bush.

There are points where I disagree with the President and his policies, but in his diligent defense of American interests in a time of war, in his determination to do all he can to protect the country against further terrorist attacks, I believe he is doing a fairly decent job and deserves the nation's support.

Mr. Bush, to say the least, is not, at this point, a great president or even a near-great one. But he is not the worst president by any means. He is neither weak nor wavering on pursuing the public interest and national unity, as President James Buchanan was. And he is not willing to accept corrupt practices as President Warren Harding was. He does not sit back and do nothing in the face of crisis, such as President Herbert Hoover did in the great depression. And he is anything but a nonentity, as Presidents William McKinley, Millard Fillmore, or Calvin Coolidge were.

After the events of 9-11, any President worth anything would have gone to war, as Mr. Bush did. War is always filled with mistakes and disappointments, and I'm not necessarily in agreement with everything Mr. Bush has done in fighting this one. For instance, he has left key military decisions to the military and to the Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld. The great wartime leaders, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry Truman, took direct hands in war decisions, realizing that war is too important to be left to the military alone. All were real commanders-in-chief, and it seems like Mr. Bush has shied away from that role.

Under Mr. Bush, certain civil liberties have been abridged, but I'm, in general, not in disagreement with the President on what he has done. This may be an unpopular point of view, but, in general, I believe the steps taken have been necessary and have not severely impacted basic American liberties and certainly not our democratic form of government.

Where I do have serious disagreements with Mr. Bush is in the areas of environmental and tax policies. I believe he is wrong to have opposed doing anything about global warming and in opposing the Kyoto treaty. I think he has been also wrong in cutting taxes the way he has, accepting huge budgetary deficits and particularly catering to rich tax payers, both corporations and individuals. I think he's wrong to want to abolish all estate taxes.

Mr. Bush could be more open in releasing information, although I also feel the nation's leading media outlets have too often been unfair to the President or not sought to understand him, as he or any American president in time of war, deserves.

On social policies, I don't share at all Mr. Bush's enthusiasm for curbing abortion, for appointing reactionary Supreme Court justices such as John Roberts and Samuel Alito, or for pushing a Constitutional Amendment banning flag burning. In some cases, I think he's prone to taking these stands for political reasons rather than being entirely sincere in his advocacy of them.

So, then what do I like about Mr. Bush?

He has been resilient in pursuing a war against Islamic fundamentalist terrorists who I think are highly dangerous to both America and all Western countries. He has been brave in traveling to Iraq and other Third World locations where, despite good Secret Service protection, he is running a danger of assassination. He has stood by Israel, despite many pressures to the contrary. He has been a steadfast supporter of black civil rights, giving vocal respect to such great black leaders as Dr. Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks. For all these things, I'm grateful.

And I'm also grateful that Mr. Bush has not lost his cool, or succumbed to any kind of depression when confronted with all the criticism he's received or all the tests he has to undergo on a daily basis.

Mr. Bush's place in history may well revolve around his decision to fight the war in Iraq. To me, the jury is still out on that one. We will have to see whether the war can yet be turned into a success. I'm not ready yet to say it was a mistake, because Saddam Hussein was a terrible tyrant and he did pose a danger to surrounding countries and to our interests.

This is a minority view in the country at present, I know.

Summing it up, I hope that Mr. Bush has had a happy 60th birthday. He has a good family life, has apparently licked the alcohol problems he had earlier in his life and he is trying his best. I believe he deserves the good wishes of the American people.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

In The LAT, A Hero (Aron Ralston) And Anti-Hero (Mike Antonovich)

At a time of important hard news, Iraq, Gaza, North Korea, Mexico, Space, the Los Angeles Times has nonetheless had a feature and a column in the last week that are worthy of special attention and commendation. Both dealt with their subjects in a way that a newspaper can do better than any other media, because it has the space to do a complicated story justice.

Hugo Martin's long article in Monday's Calendar section about Aron Ralston, the hiker who cut off his own arm three years ago to save himself after a hiking accident, was a superb study of a rather careless hero.

Martin made it plain that Ralston should not have gone out on a hike on 13,000-foot Engineer Mountain in Southwestern Colorado without telling friends where he was going and when he expected to be back. And he should have been dressed for colder weather than he was.

But the great California naturalist John Muir used to go for a two-week hike in the Sierra with only the slimmest of provisions. And Ralston is made of the same stuff. His determination to live, to the point of what Martin calls the "outrageous act of nerve," cutting off his own arm after he could not free it from a rockfall, shows him to be an unusual human being.

And Ralston has reaped the benefits, becoming an inspirational speaker and even entering into advertising contracts, both of which allow him to be able to not work all that hard while pursuing his goal of climbing as many of the high Rocky Mountain peaks as he can find.

Martin told Ralston's story in such a compelling way that he should win a prize.

Columnist Steve Lopez, meanwhile, continues to pursue a highly worthwhile project, depicting the inadequacies and petty corruption rampant in the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.

Lopez's Wednesday column on Supervisor Mike Antonovich's stonewalling of inquiries about spending thousands of dollars of public money sending out news clippings that are in agreement with his frequently loony right wing views was another masterpiece.

This was the second recent Lopez column on Antonovich, a man who probably should be serving time, and I don't mean on the Board of Supervisors. The column also quoted from the supervisor's press aide, as he awkwardly tried to parry Lopez's inquiries by refusing to say whether Antonovich would cease his egregious misuse of taxpayer's funds or not.

Lopez, in a non-partisan way, has not only been critical of the Republican Antonovich, but also of such Democrats on the board as Zev Yaroslavsky, Gloria Molina and Yvonne Brathwaite Burke. These board members aren't blatantly misusing taxpayer funds, but they're not doing their jobs very well either, wasting hours in board meetings on commendatory resolutions rather than debating festering county problems, such as prison riots, transportation difficulties, hospital negligence and poor child care and other social services. Their record of incompetence is staggering.

Almost all Lopez columns are great, but his efforts to aright the conduct of the county supervisors are among his best. He too deserves a prize, and the supervisors deserve, retirement at least.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Policy Perspectives After North Korea Fires Missiles

The New York Times has an editorial this morning on the North Korean missile launching, but, despite a three-hour time advantage, the L.A. Times does not. This confirms what has been suspected for a long time: Andres Martinez, editor of the LAT's editorial pages, is not only goofy, he is lazy.

But of course there are bigger fish to fry today than Martinez, who has distinguished himself thus far by getting rid of all three of the Pulitzer Prize winners on his staff.

To turn to the matter at hand, there was a place in the otherwise unremarkable movie, "Mars Attacks," where someone desirous of talks with the invading Martians asks what they want, are they willing to open negotiations? "We want you to die," a Martian responds, or some words to that effect.

The dreadful suspicion grows that North Korean aims are just as malevolent. Talks thus far with the regime of the dictator, Kim Jong Il, have been fruitless. He is a thug who does not want, nor will he seek, better relations.

So, as with Iran, which has resisted all Western pleas to come up with a timely response to an offer for a reasonable settlement of its nuclear aspirations, not only the U.S. but the world is confronted with quite a dilemma.

If sanctions are invoked against North Korea, the North Koreans threaten to start a war on the Korean peninsula. Just over the weekend, they suggested it could be a nuclear war. Yet if nothing is done, the North Korean nuclear threat will only grow. North Korea has been selling its missiles to countries in the Middle East. Why not nuclear weapons as well?

In the U.N. Security Council Wednesday, China and the Soviet Union both opposed sanctions, proving once again that as a body the U.N. is worthless when it comes to punishing wrongdoers, just as the League of Nations was. No consensus is possible on any really strong or decisive action.

Under these circumstances, the U.S., Japan and other countries may find that the only availing policy is to try to rid ourselves of Kim Jong Il and his regime, by fair means or foul. Assassinating him might ultimately prove to be the least risky course, difficult as that might be.

Will we have to live under a North Korean nuclear missile threat? Not perhaps if the Bush Administration summons up its courage and goes after the tyrant.

It occurred to me Wednesday morning that it was possibly not just malfunction that caused the North Koreans' long range missile to blow up and crash just 42 seconds after liftoff. Suppose the U.S. Navy was really on the ball and managed to make the missile crash through electronic interference. Now, that would be good news.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Cable TV Networks Fail To Cover Monday's News

There were five big news stories on Monday, a day when many newscasters were apparently taking a four-day Fourth of July holiday, but all three of the largest cable news networks failed to cover any of them in their evening newscasts. It is symbolic of the deterioration of the "24-hour" news coverage once boasted of by the cable networks, and it shows why newspapers are still badly needed.

The five significant stories were, not necessarily in order of importance, (1) foam cracking on the space shuttle, (2) Israel defying a terrorist deadline in the kidnapping of its soldier, (3) a former American soldier arraigned on murder and rape charges for an Iraq war assault, (4) the perverted dictatorship that is North Korea threatening to spark a nuclear war and (5) the tight Mexican presidential election.

Yet in the 5, 6 and 7 p.m. news hours Monday night, these stories went virtually unmentioned on the "news" programs of Fox, CNN and MSNBC.

The appearance was that all of these networks were using canned features and it is quite possible none of the shows were actually live.

Fox's Bill O'Reilly, one of the most bombastic characters in television news, chose this night to focus on the same-sex marriage controversy, and, secondarily on the case of Amy McElhenney, the 25-year-old Texas teacher accused of having sex with an 18-year-old man. Since both were consenting adults, it is hard to understand why McElhenny could be subject to a 20-year jail term, but she has become the latest exhibit of an ongoing soap opera featuring teachers in their 20s and 30s having sex with young men, some of them minors. Still, one would have thought O'Reilly would at least have mentioned the big stories of the day.

CNN's Paula Zahn, hired as a beautiful face, meanwhile, was focusing on the latest developments in a 20-year-old rape case. This was an interesting story, nothing wrong with it, except here too it would have been nice if the day's big events had been mentioned.

With both Fox and CNN, it was sex in various guises the main subject. This is a big attraction on TV, as it is with porno on newsstands. Very lucrative for the networks as it is for the newsstands.

Keith Olbermann, on MSNBC, was dealing in the 5 p.m. news hour with the best of end-of-the-show features. Again nothing of the day's news.

The same with Anderson Cooper on CNN's 7 p.m. news. He had an hour-long feature on America's 10 most wanted, led by Osama bin Laden. No news there either.

Were any of these folks actually in the studio broadcasting Monday night? I can't say for sure, but I very much doubt it. Suppose there had been a blockbusting story on Monday, an assassination, a tsunami, outbreak of a new war. At what point would these networks have broken in with "breaking news," and who would have been anchoring such coverage?

By contrast, both the New York Times and Los Angeles Times did cover the news in their Tuesday morning editions, with the L.A. Times headlining the apparent Felipe Calderon victory in the Mexican election and the New York Times headlining the Iraq rape case.

If you wanted the news on this holiday weekend, the newspapers, not the cable television networks, were, at least until the North Koreans disrupted the holiday with missile firings Tuesday afternoon, the place to go, although the NBC Nightly News, with Ann Curry subbing for Brian Williams, did cover the news, leading with the space shuttle's problems and containing a comprehensive Mideast report. NBC apparently still feels some obligation to tell its audience what's happening, as do the newspapers.

Tuesday afternoon, however, when word came that North Korea had test fired six missiles, CNN and Fox both had extensive "breaking news" coverage. Both preempted part or all of Paula Zahn and Bill O'Reilly and put on other people for news and analysis. They do know when they can't afford to use the lightweights, but, probsbly, the lightweights were on holiday. Larry King on CNN, however, quickly assembled a special interview program on the North Korean move. King is always working.

So, when big news did break, the cable networks rallied. Then, they were well worth watching.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Israel Cannot Afford To Bargain With Muslim Fanatics Who Hold Soldier

The lesson with terrorists is clear: Bargaining with them when they kidnap, murder or bomb will only lead to more kidnappings, murders and bombings.

Israel cannot afford to follow the silly, stupid urgings of Steven Spielberg in the movie, "Munich, and his ilk, and give up its fight against what the press so often improperly calls "militants," but who are in fact bloodthirsty terrorists.

From the early hours of the kidnapping of the 19-year-old soldier, Gilad Shalit, the evil people who captured him have not, as so many urge, followed the Geneva Convention. From the earliest hours, they have demanded that Israel free hundreds of prisoners, without, however, ever producing any guarantee that Shalit would then be released. Now, they have given the Israelis a 24-hour ultimatum: Free 1,500 prisoners, or they will "close the file" on Shalit.

Even the kidnapper of the Lindbergh baby did not make such demands, and he was properly executed for the baby's murder.

The ultimatum was posted on the Web site of the military wing of the Hamas party, confirming Hamas complicity in the kidnapping.

The answer now can only be an intensification of the Israeli campaign in Gaza, Syria and elsewhere to bring about the destruction of the Hamas government and restore relatively moderate Palestinians to power.

Those involved in any murder of Shalit should all die. And the people of Gaza who elected a party of scoundrels to power should not be spared severe economic consequences. There's a war on, and just like the German and Japanese civilians in World War II, Palestinians are legitimate targets, until, like the Germans and Japanese they are defeated and turn to peaceful pursuits.

We also hear this morning that a third Catholic priest in recent months has been attacked in Turkey by a Muslim fanatic. One of the priests was killed, the other two seriously wounded by stabbings. The Turkish government, tending toward weakness toward Muslim fundamentalists in a state which under Ataturk was determinedly secular, has recently failed to protect Christians in Turkey and should bear the consequences. Certainly, it is not a country that deserves to be admitted to the European Union or receive aid from the U.S.


The L.A. Times effectively used its three-hour time advantage this morning to produce a much more comprehensive report on the very close Mexican election than the New York Times. This is going to be a big story in the days ahead, as Mexico struggles to see a tight election resolved without violence.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

New York Times Is Too Defensive About Its National Security Articles

Talk about the government, yes, but it's not the government but often the press itself that's too defensive when it's subject to criticism.

We see that in the New York Times this Sunday morning with two long articles in its Week in Review section extolling the paper's infinite virtues in going after the Bush Administration's national security policies and procedures in the wake of President Bush's attack on the newspaper for publishing classified details of the Treasury Department's surveillance of the terrorists' financial transactions.

Thank goodness, the L.A. Times didn't engage in such an exercise this morning. It appropriately felt that after it published the Op-Ed piece by L.A. Times editor Dean Baquet and NYT executive editor Bill Keller yesterday, which I thought was quite good, it had had enough to say on the topic. The LAT's Current section does run a piece by Daniel Hernandez today unjustly accusing the paper of going too easily on Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, but that's its only exercise in media articles.

Not so the New York Times. First, there is a long column by Frank Rich, whining again about the Bush Administration criticism. Then, there's an article by the public editor, Byron Calame, shilling for the paper's editors on their decision to print the financial transactions article. Calame occasionally has been critical of the Times' editors, but not when it involves unfairness to the Administration.

One of the worst habits of the press establishment is its tendency to want to dish it out constantly to those in authority, but complain loudly when Administration officials criticize the press in return.

It is a one-way street as far as any admission that the press, like the government, occasionally makes mistakes.

A little humility here might go a long way. It would show a healthy awareness that government officials have hard decisions to make, and that policies adopted often represent a choice between bad alternatives. And it just might help press credibility, engendering some public understanding of the press and its faults, whereas the defensiveness often engaged in has generated a great deal of cynicism about the press amongst the public.

I was critical yesterday of Baquet's comment in an Op-Ed piece earlier in the week, "We are not out to get the President." And a psychologist told me last night that I was right on the money. She said Freud often used to point out that such statements as "We are not out to get the President" and "I am not a crook," almost always represent a subconscious admission that the exact reverse is true.

Anyone who has read the New York Times and Los Angeles Times in the last few years realizes the papers are indeed out to get the President, and not all the statements made to the contrary can negate that fact.

Lincoln once said, apropos of the press sniping at his Civil War policies, that if he read all the criticism being made in the papers about him, he'd have no time for anything else. Bush isn't quite so turn-the-other-cheek, but that's all right. The President, like the Israelis, believes in returning blow for blow and sometimes that's a healthy thing.