Saturday, March 31, 2007

Iran, A Psychopathic State, Can't Be Coddled

Writing in the Jerusalem Post on the kidnapping by Iran of 15 British sailors, Anshel Pfeffer observes, "The Islamic Republic of Iran is one of the few --if not the only -- sovereign countries that still uses abduction as standard procedure, from its inception in 1979 and the taking of American Embassy hostages. The practice is also prevalent among Iran's proxies in the region -- the Mahdi Army in Iraq and Hezbollah in Lebanon."

Pfeffer draws the proper conclusion about British policy in the wake of the kidnapping.

"How can the British keep the Iranians off balance and stop them from achieving their aims," he asks. "First of all, by acting out of character and not playing the incident down and opting for quiet diplomacy.

"Blair's government has to realize that Iran has a lot of cards to play, and has a lot to lose. If the British keep that in mind, they may manage to turn the situation around to the West's benefit."

It is to be devoutly hoped that Britain will not, in these circumstances, adopt the weak policy of President Jimmy Carter when confronted by the kidnapping of the Americans in 1979. Carter sent the crazy radical Ramsey Clark to "negotiate" with Khomeini, and the result was the hostages were not released until Carter had lost the Presidency and Ronald Reagan was about to come to power. The Iranians calculated that Reagan would not be the milquetoast that Carter had been, although later on, even Reagan foolishly tried to trade arms with the Iranians in exchange for the release of kidnapped Americans in Lebanon (the Iran-Contra scandal).

The weak Carter policy toward Iran also may have been taken as a green light by the Russians to invade Afghanistan in 1980, a move we are still paying for today.

On the other hand, when Hezbollah kidnapped two Israeli soldiers last year, the Israelis did not turn the other cheek. They promptly invaded Lebanon, with the aim of destroying Hezbollah, and while the war was difficult, Israel made some gains. Hezbollah has been unable in its aftermath to either repair the war-damaged areas, or take over the Lebanese government. And Hassan Nasrallah, the Hezbollah commander, has declared that had he known the Israelis were going to react to the kidnappings as they did, he would not have ordered them.

Now, we come to the present, and already the weak minded Westerners who believe Iran and its allies can be successfully appeased are taking the position that Britain should use only quiet diplomacy to respond to the kidnapping of its Navy personnel. The former U.S. Secretary of State in the Clinton Administration, Madeline Albright, was saying that on CNN the other night, and British military historian Max Hastings said that in an Op Ed piece in the New York Times.

My own view is that these commentators are wrong and that Britain, backed by the U.S. should instead take a very hard line position to punish Iran for its criminal behavior.

What could be done? Certainly, Britain might break off relations with Iran and intern Iranian diplomats in London until the sailors are released. Iranian assets could also be seized, Western banks prevented from any dealings with Iran, and Iranian oil shipments interrupted in the Persian Gulf.

The Iranian conduct, which is also adversely affecting the war in Iraq, must in short be militantly resisted, and sanctions stepped up to stop its development of a nuclear weapon.

In dealing with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's regime, and the fanatic Muslim mullahs behind him, we are dealing with psychopaths, and psychopaths are encouraged, not discouraged, by weak acceptance of their crimes.

Ahmadinejad is already today saying that Britain is behaving arrogantly by not apologizing. But Ahmadinejad is no more innocent than the kidnapper of the Lindbergh baby, and, ultimately, he is going to have to be treated the same way.

Please ignore the religious claptrap in the first comment posted on this blog.


Friday, March 30, 2007

LAT Cutbacks Must Be Put In Abeyance During Bids

Now that it appears highly likely that the Tribune Co. will be sold to either Los Angeles billionaires Eli Broad and Ron Burkle or to Chicago real estate magnate Sam Zell, further cutbacks at the Los Angeles Times should be suspended. This would afford a chance for the new owners to set policy rather than the old ones who have failed so miserably.

In this vein, and, I assure you, not through any maliciousness of spirit, I might propose that Times publisher David Hiller ought to be rendered into a state of suspended animation while the maneuverings over the sale continue. He is a lame duck and should be permitted to do no further damage.

Security guards could bound Hiller in a strait jacket, tape his mouth and lay him face down in his office for the duration. I certainly feel there ought to be comfortable pads for him, and he could be force fed to prevent losing any weight. While he is immobile, he could listen to taped repetitions of Dean Baquet's speech to the newspaper convention in New Orleans, or converse with another man who probably would not survive a change in ownership, ditzy columnist Joel Stein.

Some might say this is all psychological torture, such as the kind that columnist Tim Rutten opposes for Islamic terrorists. But I think under the extraordinary circumstances at the Times, it is is the least we can do in safety and prudence.

In Jim Rainey's Business section story this morning, he carefully explains that even though the new Broad and Burkle offer appears to be a dollar better per share than Zell's offer, the Tribune board, which has a fiduciary duty to get the best deal it can for stockholders, must carefully examine all the intricacies to make sure that it indeed is a better offer.

Still, I notice that Broad and Burkle are offering to put $500 million cash out front to make the deal, while Zell so far has offered only $300 million.

The Tribune board, which is nothing if not greedy, has already set aside $269 million for golden parachutes for a host of executives that would be leaving under new owners (even though Zell has said he would keep present management at least initially). This was close to the $300 million cash Zell was offering out front.

But, now, with Broad and Burkle offering $500 million, the board can increase the golden parachutes. This may sound like it would be immoral, but I can assure you that such paltry considerations as morality would not stop the present board or discourage the Wall Street stock analysts who have foolishly supported them right along. After all, the board oversaw putting an inept oaf such as Dennis FitzSimons in as CEO of the company, and then rode with him down into the abyss of managerial disaster.

As I say, I put forward all these observations in a spirit of trying to be helpful.

Many other possibilities can be considered once the sale is consummated. Since much of the old Time-Mirror corporate offices are presently underused, a move of the corporate offices from Chicago to Los Angeles should be undertaken very quickly. This would allow the company under its new owners to sell the Tribune Tower in Chicago and move the Chicago Tribune, hopefully downsized into a tabloid, into new, less expensive quarters. As for the Chicago Cubs, I think it would be best to move them to a new city, where the team might have better fortunes, such as Oklahoma City or Omaha. A poll by the Chicago Sun-Times and reported in the L.A. Times Sports section today, shows that 73.5% of those responding feel the Tribune Co. has been grossly negligent in its management of the Cubs. That may be too kind an assessment.

FitzSimons, with his golden parachute, will not need new employment. But Hiller may not be ready to retire. I think he might be induced to go to work for his old Justice Department colleague, Ken Starr, if and when Starr returns to the Justice Department in place of Alberto Gonzales, who presumably will soon be forced to resign for perjuring himself to Congress.


Thursday, March 29, 2007

In Time Poll, Giuliani And McCain Beat Democrats

A new poll on the Time magazine Web site shows that if a Presidential election were being held today, former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani would beat Sen. Hillary Clinton 50% to 41% and Sen. Barack Obama 45% to 43%. Sen. John McCain would have the edge over Clinton, 48% to 42% and Obama 45 % to 44%.

Time's editors seem a little puzzled that at the same time, by a margin of 68% to 28%, American voters favor a phased withdrawal from Iraq and by 39% to 36% they would like to see Bush Administration Atty. Gen. Alberto Gonzales resign.

But when you think about it, it is not so surprising. Many voters are very impatient with the war, and don't think President Bush has done a good job of waging it, or the U.S. Government in general.

But even so, many voters feel instinctively that at a time when Islamic fundamentalist threats to the U.S. are manifest, when Iran is acting up again like the barbaric state it is, they might be safer with a Republican president than a Democrat.

If the Democrats in Congress persist in working so hard to lose the war in Iraq, I believe such feelings will only grow. They will certainly grow when voters see Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid say, as he did yesterday, that the Iraq war is not worth one more drop of American blood. That's another way of saying the 3,200 American soldiers who have died there have wasted their lives. I don't think, on reflection, that the American people are ready to buy that, or want to take the consequences of a withdrawal from Iraq or the Middle East.

Another thing that is interesting about the Time poll is that Obama is running better in the general election than Clinton. This despite the fact that other polls continue to show Obama trailing Clinton in the battle for the Democratic nomination.


Of all the L.A. Times foreign correspondents, only the Arab-lining Tracy Wilkinson could be sent to Spain to cover a trial of Arab terrorists accused of responsibility for the terror attacks at Madrid railroad stations that killed 191 persons, and end up writing a front-page article suggesting that Muslims be permitted to conduct worship services at a cathedral in Cordoba that has been a Roman Catholic sanctuary for nearly 800 years.

Doesn't Wilkinson know that Cordoba was taken from the Muslims in 1236? No, they will not be permitted to take over Cordoba once again. And why is the L.A. Times allowing Wilkinson to hijack Page one again with her biases? Normally based in Rome, the next thing she might be suggesting is that the Vatican let Muslims take over the Sistine Chapel and replace Michelangelo's paintings with a portrait of Yasser Arafat.


An Israeli reader writes this morning in the Jerusalem Post in response to the picture showing the captured British woman sailor in a Muslim head scarf:

"How symbolic a British woman with a black scarf on her head. The message to the West is quite clear. Iranians are here to put the scarf on all womanfolk, regardless of their nationality. Their design on males might be even more sinister -- a timely reminder to the West on what to expect."

Today, the Iranians forced their woman captive to write a letter calling for a British withdrawal from Iraq. As it did in the American hostage crisis a quarter century ago, the foul Mullah regime of crazed Muslims in Iran is behaving abominably. And now, just as then, the proper answer is to take action against them, not the ineffective action taken by Jimmy Carter, not some weak United Nations resolution, but real action to destroy their nuclear facilities and rid the country of the fanatics threatening the world.


Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Tal Afar Bloodbath Shows Iraq Mess Not Improving

In the northern Iraqi city of Tal Afar, where American troops had claimed earlier successes at fighting the insurgency, there has been an horrific suicide bombing and police reprisals in the last 24 hours, and what it shows is that the situation in Iraq, despite claims to the contrary by some American officials, has not improved.

First, there was the suicide bombing in the marketplace that killed 85 persons, many of them Shiites. A man drove up in a truck loaded with flour and yelled to the shoppers he had come to give them aid. Then, as they crowded around, he detonated the bomb. Another example of Arab depravity generated by the Sunni Al Qaeda people who killed 3,000 Americans in New York and Washington on Sept. 11, 2001.

(A few days later, the Iraqis corrected the death toll in the suicide bombing, upping it to 152).

In any case, just after the attack, Shiite police and irregular Shiite units retaliated, going through Sunni neighborhoods, seizing men and boys and summarily shooting them to death. Generally, they were murdered by shots to the head. Another 70 persons died in these vile acts.

Martial law has now been declared, and reports from the scene say 18 local police have been taken into custody. I wonder if they were "trained" by American forces.

In any case, the police murderers were released within two days. It was another instance of dishonorable conduct by the sleazily sectarian Iraq regime of Nouri Maliki.

What is clear is that the Al Qaeda-lining insurgents, continue to undertake mass murder in an attempt to provoke sectarian warfare, and that, when American troops are not on hand to prevent them from doing so, the Shiites, which run the government we are backing, retaliate in kind.

(In another development, the insurgents launched another poison gas attack in Fallujah, and initial reports were 15 American and Iraqi troops were injured with chlorine poisoning).

This is a civil war which in all likelihood would only intensify should American troops withdraw from Iraq, as the Democratic majority in Congress seems to want.

But, with American troops staying, things are not improving, and they are unlikely to improve as long as Al Qaeda is determined to destabilize the country, and the rest of the Middle East as well, with its slaughters of other Arab ethnic groups. Many thousands are dying as a result of this group's unmitigated barbarism.

Between Al Qaeda and the Democratic Congress, the Bush Administration is between a rock and a hard place. It may be able to stave off either a binding withdrawal order or a funding cut off generated by Congress, because many Democrats realize that if America were to withdraw from Iraq, losing the war, terrorism in the Middle East and perhaps elsewhere in the world would probably spread. At the same time, the American people are growing more and more impatient with the whole mess, and the political consequences of not withdrawing may be to empower the anti-war Democratic left here at home. These lulus would bring "peace in our time" all right, and it would last about as long as it did in the 1930s.

This is a political imbroglio of the first water. It seems we can only watch things get worse on every hand. Yet, let me be clear, I don't see any alternative to fighting on, in hopes the enemy in Iraq will crack in the end and Al Qaeda sustain a defeat. It could, however, take years, there is no sugarcoating it. And probably ousting Maliki and getting someone we can live with would be part of the solution.

(An anonymous comment on this blog below tries to draw a distinction between Sunnis and Saudis and says most of the 9/11 hijackers were Saudis. In fact, Saudis are Sunnis, Saudi Arabia is predominantly a Sunni state and Al Qaeda is a Sunni organization).


Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Tensions With Iran Ratcheted Up In Persian Gulf

The polls indicate that, by and large, the American people are more concerned about the threat they perceive coming from Iran than they are about any threat from developments in Iraq, and may be in a more hawkish mood to do something about it.

Certainly tensions have risen in recent days with the seizure of 15 British sailors while on patrol duties near the Iraqi-Iranian boundary in the Shatt al-Arab, the northern extension from the Persian Gulf leading to the Iraqi city of Basra.

There have been broad indications from Iranian authorities that it may be their intent to hold the British sailors and hope to exchange them for several Iranian agents seized by U.S. troops in Iran months ago. In any case, we know from the dark history of relations with Iran that this fanatical Islamic regime loves kidnapping and often holds the kidnapped, such as the American hostages from the embassy seizure of 1979, for very long periods. Kidnapping is a regular tactic to these unsavory people.

It may not be in direct response, but the U.S. is increasing its military operations in the Persian Gulf. Two Navy aircraft carriers, the Eisenhower and Stennis, are now on maneuvers in the Gulf, along with ships forming parts of their task forces, and 100 U.S. planes are reported flying close to the Iranian coast.

Meanwhile, the U.N. by a unanimous vote in the Security Council has adopted new, slightly stiffer sanctions against Iran for not acceding to past demands that it cease nuclear enrichment toward the possible construction of atomic bombs. Joining in the vote were Russia and China. Russia recently withdrew personnel from a developing Iranian atomic power development and suspended the supply of nuclear materials.

The Jerusalem Post followed the lead of two British papers recently in speculating that an attack could be launched by either Israel or the United States against developing Iranian nuclear facilities by the end of the year. According to the scenario drawn by the papers, an attack might be decided in the time window between now and the accumulations of substantial deadly nuclear materials by the Iranians. Once such materials were obtained, it would be more deadly to attack Iran because of the prospect of the widespread dissemination of radioactivity.

The Jerusalem Post also reported that European embassies in Tehran are making plans for emergency evacuations.

The Russian foreign ministrry this morning issued a statement warning against any U.S. attack on Iran.

The Iranian authorities have never ceased to vow that in case of an attack against their country, they would spread terrorism all over the world, and U.S. authorities are not inclined to take the threats lightly. Recently, Ali Khamanei, a mullah who is the supreme figure in Iran much more than President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has adopted a more menacing tone, threatening to strike at the West if Iran is attacked.

At the same time, there are repeated accusations of Iranian weapons, such as IUVs, being used against American troops and Sunni terrorists in Iraq.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has repeatedly said the U.S. has no plan to attack Iran. Even if this is true, however, present tensions could result in a Persian Gulf incident that would lead to strife in that region. It is worth noting that Democrats in the U.S. Congress recently decided not to advance a motion restricting U.S. responses to Iranian militancy.


The L.A. Times announced this morning that it would change the title of the ill-fated Current section back to Opinion and was scrapping plans to invite outsiders to edit the section four times a year. Jamie Gold, the Times' reader representative, was asked by publisher David Hiller to investigate whether there had been improper outside influence over the editorial pages during the tenure of Andres Martinez, who resigned last week as editorial pages editor. The Times also confirmed it would fold the Book Review into Opinion beginning next month, another move toward downsizing at the Times, as is the imminent termination of the weekly TV Guide. A plan to move the new combined section to Saturday instead of Sunday, however, was scrapped.


Monday, March 26, 2007

Martinez Tries LAT Sabotage And NYT's Carr Buys It

For once, I got it exactly right. Three days ago in this blog, I predicted, "We can expect that now, like (Michael) Kinsley before him, (Andres) Martinez will industriously try to smear the newspaper which gave him employment in the first place. Kinsley has pursued a vendetta against the Times, and to some extent all newspapers, and now Martinez will too."

Both of these goofy jackasses -- oops I meant former distinguished journalists -- are at it this morning, and who have they taken in but media columnist David Carr of the New York Times.

Carr writes a lengthy article in the NYT business section that quotes both Martinez and Kinsley at some length, but scarcely pays any attention to the views of reporters in the newsroom who ably showed management last week that Martinez was guilty of severe ethical transgressions in dating a Hollywood publicist while retaining her client to edit some of his editorial pages.

Carr portrays the Times as threatening to destroy itself with internecine warfare when, in fact, the news staff has engaged in a gallant fight for years now to maintain the quality of the Times against both the depredations of Chicago numb skulls who hate California and seemed determined to wreck the newspaper, and internal screw-ups like Kinsley and Martinez.

Martinez was a deformity that needed to be cut out of the paper in order to save it. It is as simple as that. Now, the best thing to do is to ignore his fulminations. (As also the fulminations of former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan, who disliked Times reporters who wrote about shortcomings in his administration, while liking Martinez as a patsy).

I don't suppose that Martinez has an in with Carr because he once worked at the New York Times himself, is an Easterner at heart, and dislikes California for its innate superiority over New York. Not a chance, ha ha. But let's face it, New Yorkers can be counted upon to give all California institutions short shrift.

Now, at long last, as early as this week, the Tribune Co., which bought the Times-Mirror newspapers in 2000, might be about to give them up.

The apparent favorite candidate to buy Tribune is another Chicagoan, real estate magnate Sam Zell, who the New York Times also has a long article about this morning.

Chicagoans will try to hold on, even getting another Chicagoan to take control, perhaps, to keep the Times from being home owned. Also, this morning, James Rainey has a story in the L.A. Times business section reporting that Ron Burkle and Eli Broad, California billionaires who have made a bid to buy Tribune, are complaining to the Tribune board that it withheld from them financial information which it gave Zell, to facilitate his bid.

Burkle and Broad may sweeten their offer, just as Zell has, and the result could be the kind of bidding war for Tribune that Wall Street stock analyst Lauren Rich Fine once predicted would never take place.

It is also possible that Zell might obtain control of Tribune and then resell the Times part of the company. Zell, unlike Tribune CEO Dennis FitzSimons, is no fool, and can be counted upon to maximize his business opportunities, which Tribune has not done.

We can only wait and see what happens. But while we wait, Tribune failures at the Times continue. Today, L.A. Observed is quoting a source as saying the latest downgrading of the Times by cost cutting Tribune will be to terminate next month the TV Times which already has been grossly cut back. Shame on FitzSimons and the publisher he foisted on Los Angeles, David Hiller!

But in the meantime, we shouldn't despair of the future of the L.A. Times. It remains highly profitable, it has a great future ahead once it has sound leadership, and unity, which the departure of Martinez is a step toward bringing about and the sale of Tribune could only aid.


Sunday, March 25, 2007

NBC Reporters Curry And Engel Are Tremendous

There is nothing more important for America in the news these days than that reporters of what is going on in the turbulent Middle East and East Africa do their jobs well. It takes unusual courage, stamina and intelligence.

I've written before about the valuable Mideast newspaper reporting of John Burns, Kim Murphy, Megan Stack, Laura King, Solomon Moore and Alissa Rubin for the L.A. Times and/or New York Times. Some day these reporters should win Medals of Freedom for their service to the American public.

Plaudits should go too to two NBC television reporters who, just this past week were involved in distinguished reporting -- Ann Curry in the Sudan and Richard Engel in Iraq.

Both had important assignments come to fruition, and I hope millions were watching.

Curry, journeying to the Sudan from her usual post as a newswoman on NBC's Today program, conducted the first televised American interview with Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and visited a refugee camp in the Sudan's Darfur region to interview victims of a campaign by Arab militias that has murdered an estimated 200,000 black Muslims, despite repeated protests around the world. When Curry was interviewing Bashir, she did not mince words. She called the massacres "shocking" right to his face. Bashir, who has resisted implantation of a U.N. peacekeeping force in Darfur. did not have a convincing response.

Engel, meanwhile, had an hour-long program on MSNBC, "War Zone Diary," detailing his four years of experience covering Iraq as first a freelancer for ABC and later as a regular correspondent for NBC. This was an unvarnished report of the grim events that have taken place in that God-forsaken country, as bloodstained terrorists fought American soldiers and tried to inspire a sectarian war between Sunnis and Shiites. Engel's program caught the appearance of this time in Iraq as perhaps no other network program has.

Reporting in the Middle East is, needless to say, dangerous. More reporters have been killed in Iraq than in World War II. and network reporters, Kimberly Dozier for CBS and Bob Woodruff for ABC among them, have been severely injured there. Woodruff was an anchor for ABC when he went to Iraq and became the victim of an attack.

So far, Engel has been lucky. But needless to say, this 33-year-old Stanford graduate is in frequent danger. He has given his all for this assignment, which cost him his marriage, but he has earned the trust both of his colleagues and the public for his frank and detailed accounts.

Curry, 50, has 14 and 12-year old children and a husband at home in the U.S., yet she has gone several times into war zones, not only in the Sudan, but in Lebanon, and has always brought a humanitarian perspective to her reporting. Curry was passed over as a possible anchor for the Today program when Katie Couric left for CBS, but the service she has done since is more important than being an anchor.


Plaudits should go too today to the L.A. Times editorial page staff for quickly assembling and publishing this morning's Current section, after the section that had been planned, by Hollywood producer Brian Grazer, was cancelled for ethical reasons. This led to the resignation of Andres Martinez as editor of the editorial pages. Today's Current is quite serviceable, in fact containing more news than Grazer's section would have, and, among other things, carries a very good column by Ron Brownstein on the race for the Democratic presidential nomination between Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. I've been critical of Brownstein in the past, so hasten to compliment him now on rushing into the breach here and doing a good job on short notice. I imagine Current editor Nick Goldberg also deserves commendation.


Saturday, March 24, 2007

Rutten Column In LAT Pins Martinez To The Wall

L.A. Times media columnist Tim Rutten says all that needs to be said in his Calendar column this morning about the sordid case of former Times editorial pages editor Andres Martinez, the man who put getting a little nookie above the ethical requirements of sound journalism.

Rutten quotes the late New York Times executive editor, A.M. Rosenthal, as saying that he didn't care whether his colleagues slept with elephants, as long as they weren't covering the circus.

Now that he has quit, after being told by Times publisher David Hiller that he couldn't publish a Current section Sunday put together by a Hollywood producer who had hired a firm in which Martinez's girl friend performed key functions, Martinez has outrageously tried to put himself on the level of ousted Times editor Dean Baquet and publisher Jeffrey Johnson as some kind of man of principle who lost his job as a result.

Baquet and Johnson left the newspaper after trying to fight Tribune Co. cutbacks that threatened the quality of the newspaper. Martinez has left after being caught in sexual peccadillos. There is quite a difference.

Kevin Roderick's L.A. Observed has been doing a top rate job of printing documents and commentary relating to the Martinez matter, and this morning it publishes Times editor James O'Shea's statement to the staff on Martinez and his charges that the Times newsroom has been interfering in editorial page operations.

O'Shea said he was not going to sit like a "silent lamb" while Martinez "distorts my record and attacks this newspaper and my newsroom" with what he terms "unprofessional and sloppy" criticisms.

"No one in this newsroom is on a campaign 'to storm the editorial page and bring it back into lockstep with the newsroom,'" O'Shea stated. "It's true that we have journalists in the newsroom who don't agree with Andres' view on the ethical problems that led to his resignation. I count myself among them."

I'm actually beginning to like O'Shea. He may have been sent here by Chicago to replace Baquet, but he is trying to conscientiously serve the interests of the Times. He's no Baquet, but he's improving. In the Martinez matter, he apparently went to Hiller and backed the newsroom in its protests against Martinez's ethical violations.

Even as the Martinez saga unfolds, the latest instance in which the Times editorial staff courageously rose up to defend ethics at the paper. there are new reports in the LAT Business section today, confirming an earlier New York Times story this week, that the bid of Chicago real estate magnate Sam Zell to buy the Tribune Co. is a serious one and might be pushing toward fruition. Apparently, he has improved his offer, and small stock price increases for Tribune reflect mounting speculation that the failing Tribune Co. might actually be sold.

At the same time, the LAT story, by James Rainey, Michael Hiltzik and Thomas Mulligan. says that Los Angeles billionaire businessmen Ron Burkle and Eli Broad plan to sweeten their own offer to buy Tribune. Burkle recently hired the ousted Times publisher, Johnson, to run his media operations. If Broad and Burkle were to obtain Tribune, the implication is that Johnson would return as Times publisher.

We don't know, frankly, what Zell, or Burkle and Broad, might do with the Times, or given their lack of much journalistic experience, whether they might pose further ethical problems for the paper. But a friend of mine who was long an editor at the Times tells me this morning that Zell did not try to interfere with news operations in his past ownership of some radio stations.

It must always be remembered that the Tribune has reached an end point, where a failed management under CEO Dennis FitzSimons must be replaced for the good of the entire enterprise. Just this morning, it's reported that Tribune revenues are sliding and that the decline is a particularly severe 5.1% for the Tribune newspapers.

It's possible, I suppose, that an eventual deal to buy the Tribune, might, as in the McClatchy purchase of newspapers last year, lead to a resale of certain of the assets. In other words, Zell might buy the company and then turn around and sell the L.A. Times portion of it to Burkle and Broad.

Stay tuned. The fun has only begun, but it's certainly made a good start with the demise of Andres Martinez as editorial pages editor.


Friday, March 23, 2007

Good Riddance To Goofball Andres Martinez

With some ill-tempered remarks about the newsroom and the reporters who were intent that he should not sacrifice the interests of the Los Angeles Times to pursue a romance with a public relations executive, Andres Martinez has resigned. He decided that publisher David Hiller's cancellation of a possibly tainted Current section this Sunday showed lack of confidence in his direction of the editorial pages.

Good riddance to a man, who, like his predecessor, Michael Kinsley, did some mighty strange things as editor of the editorial pages, including terminating the services in his area of three Pulitzer Prize winners.

We can expect that now, like Kinsley before him, Martinez will industriously try to smear the newspaper which gave him employment in the first place. Kinsley has pursued a vendetta against the Times, and to some extent all newspapers, and now Martinez will too.

But there is a broader issue here, and that is that the editor of the paper, in this case James O'Shea, should have control of editorials in addition to the newsroom. Reporters should not be lobbying for specific editorials, but the editor must bridge the gap between the newsroom and editorial pages, just as was the case for many years at the Times.. Leaving the publisher alone in charge of the editorials has led to a situation where the editorials are not as well based, nor as credible to the public.

This was one place where I differed with former Times editor Dean Baquet, who didn't want to mess with such an unruly group of poor thinkers as Kinsley, Martinez, and Op Ed Page editor Nick Goldberg. The trouble was that in giving up the editor's control that had been traditional. in conjunction with that of the publisher, Baquet let an unfortunate situation fester. In fact, it got worse and worse.

As I said yesterday, I wasn't necessarily all against the idea of inviting guest editors in to put out sections of the Current section on Sundays, or on Saturdays, if that is where it is to be moved to. It might have been an interesting experiment.

But it could also have run off the tracks, and, judging from what Brian Grazer, the Hollywood producer retained to put out the first outside-edited Current, has had to say about what he planned to run there this Sunday, the first such section would not have been a success. He had hired an assorted group of liberal dilettantes, who would not have done the Times' reputation any good.

There have been ongoing discussions at the Times of folding Current and the Book Review into one section. I hope this is now put into abeyance, especially since the next months are liable to be turbulent ones on the Times editorial pages, and there well might be other personnel changes besides the departure of Martinez.

Another theme of Martinez' s assorted comments in e-mails and statements has been to try and join himself to those who have criticized Tribune ownership, and ensuing cut backs, at the Times.

But he's really not welcome in this group, because he had never shown any signs of real independence of or skepticism toward Tribune before.


Thursday, March 22, 2007

L.A. Times Should Explain, But Not Cancel Current

Given all that has happened in recent years, it is certainly understandable that many L.A. Times writers and editors think publisher David Hiller ought to order this Sunday's Current section, edited by outsider Brian Grazer, cancelled, following the revelation that a Grazer public relations executive attached romantically to Times Editorial Pages Editor Andres Martinez may have been involved in Grazer's selection.

Hiller may actually do this. But I do not think it is necessary. I tend to respect Hiller's statement, which is quoted in today's excellent Business section story by James Rainey: "I believe, based on everything that I have seen, that we have only the appearance of a conflict here. I believe that the selection of Grazer was not based on this relationship. We have an appearance and not a case of actual undue influence."

(Later in the day, Hiller did cancel publication of this Sunday's Current section, and Martinez resigned. I'll have more to say about this tomorrow. Otherwise, I see no reason to alter today's blog, and will not do so. It continues below).

It may be that it was a mistake to hire outside editors for the Current section at all. This goes beyond even what the goofy Michael Kinsley had in mind for the editorial sections, when he was their head, and many seasoned news men and women think it causes confusion among the readership as to just what the papers' views are, which is the main reason for having editorial pages. It is, at least, another sign of instability in the Times editorials, which very possibly should be under new direction, but from inside the paper, not out.

But, in any case, once you've made the decision to occasionally bring in an outsider, as an interesting experiment, there is no good reason in my view, based on what we know now, to order Sunday's section cancelled. There, however, should be a disclosure in whatever is printed of the relationship between Martinez and the public relations woman, Kelly Mullens.

There may too be a need for further exploration, in print, as to what were the facts here. But I do not agree with Bill Boyarsky's suggestion either that there be a complete massive inquiry, such as David Shaw's piece on the Staples scandal, or his view that this is the worst scandal since Staples.

The worst scandal at the Times since Staples is that the paper continues to be owned by absentees in Chicago at the Tribune Co. who have failed to invest in the paper as needed to maintain circulation, and have undertaken cost cutbacks and layoffs that have cost the paper two editors and two publishers. If they care for the paper's quality, it is not apparent.

Just yesterday, by coincidence, the retired Times employee association, the Old Farts, meeting for lunch, heard Times book review editor David Ulin say in a talk that he feels the Times reels from one public relations crisis to another, and it is hardly good for the newspaper.

With all due regard for Andres Martinez and what he is trying to do, many of his editorials do not make sense, and, once again based on his appearance last night on the NBC Nightly News, I do not think Ron Brownstein, the latest addition to the Op Ed page, is a worthy contributor.

The editorial, for instance, this week, arguing against rules to identify Internet writers who make attacks against presidential candidates, such as Sen. Hillary Clinton recently, is nonsensical. We cannot reasonably go through a presidential campaign with one anonymous attack after another against the candidates, and, as I understand it, that was implicit in Dan Morain's excellent story about the latest Internet attack. The attacker, by the way, has now been identified and, as you might expect, he had a relationship to the campaign of Sen. Barack Obama.

As for Brownstein, he went on NBC to suggest that inquiries in Congress about the firing of eight U.S. attorney, may be too "partisan" in nature.

This is absolute bunk. Not only have several Republicans also been critical of the firings, but it must be borne in mind that democracy is most often accompanied by some partisanship. It is part and parcel of democracy, and no one would soundly suggest that the opposition party should not engage in criticizing the policies of the party or administration in power.

For Brownstein to do so provides a strong indication he is not a clear thinker, or doesn't have rational convictions, and, then, what is he doing on the Op Ed page?

Brownstein, incidentally, has a wife who works in Sen. John McCain's presidential campaign. That is why the ousted editor Dean Baquet removed him in the first place from straight political reporting of the presidential campaign.

Reports of political interference by the Bush Administration in the Justice Department must certainly be extensively investigated by Congress, and top officials, such as Atty. Gen. Alberto Gonzales, White House political advisor Karl Rove and former White House Counsel Harriet Miers should definitely be required to testify under oath. Both the appropriate committees in the House and Senate have now voted to subpoena them.

The Washington Post, this morning, by the way has a lengthy article by Carol Leonnig quoting the retired chief attorney for the Justice Department in the case against tobacco manufacturers, Sharon Eubanks, as giving numerous examples of higher-up influence that compromised that case, and reduced the damages award the government was asking from $130 billion to $10 billion. That too ought to be part of the developing investigation.


Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Mahony, Rove, Both Miscreants, Must Go

Now, we know why Roman Catholic Cardinal Roger M. Mahony didn't want to reveal pedophile records from the Los Angeles archdiocese's priesthood to legal authorities. It turns out he was lying about them all the time.

On Dec. 5, based solely on denial of the records, I urged in this blog that Mahony be forced to resign, as another Catholic miscreant, Cardinal Bernard Law was forced to do in Boston. Now that Mahony is revealed in a lead L.A. Times story Tuesday by John Spano to be a perjurer, the case is even clearer.

Mahony has been protecting pedophiles, lying to parishioners about sex crimes committed under his jurisdiction, which raises the question of whether he might not be a pedophile himself. In any case, he belongs in jail, not in a worthy religious position.


Meanwhile, President Bush is trying to stonewall Congress on behalf of another miscreant, his political advisor Karl Rove. He offers, in the sordid firing of eight U.S. attorneys for trying to do their jobs in honest ways, to make Rove and former White House Counsel Harriet Miers, the ditz he tried to appoint to the U.S. Supreme Court, available for interviews, but not under oath.

This is unsatisfactory, and by a voice vote to issue subpoenas in the House Judiciary Committee today Congress is saying so.

It is obvious with Rove and Miers, not to mention Atty. Gen. Alberto Gonzales, that like Mahony they must be put under oath, so we can tell who is lying and prosecute them for perjury in that case. The dishonorable Mahony stonewalled for four years. We don't want Mr. Bush to stonewall through the end of his presidency. He may be no Mahony, as pointed out by Matt Weinstock, a commentator below, but he still has emerged as an unreliable, I believe unsavory. character.

It may be that the President doesn't realize how unpopular hs administration has become, and how unacceptable it is to the American people that liars occupy high places. Rove, in particular, should have been prosecuted in the CIA leak case. He has been a bad influence for a long time. Now, is the time to get rid of him.

The New York Times editorial this morning is appropriately devastating on the President's proposal to send Rove and Miers before Congress for interviews only, not under oath.

"Mr. Bush's proposal was a formula for hiding the truth, and for protecting the president and his staff from a legitimate inquiry by Congress," the editorial says. "Mr. Bush's idea of openness involved sending White House officials to Congress to answer questions in private, without taking any oath, making a transcript or allowing any follow-up appearances. The people, in other words, would be kept in the dark.

"The Democratic leaders were right to reject the offer, despite Mr. Bush's threat to turn this dispute into a full-blown constitutional confrontation.

"Congress has the right and the duty to fully investigate the firings, which may have been illegal, and Justice Department officials' statements to Congress, which may have been untrue."

One thing more about this. The Republicans in Congress have largely been sticking with Mr. Bush on the vital issue of the war, jeopardizing their chances in the 2008 elections. On this matter, the firing of the U.S. attorneys, they definitely cannot afford to do so. They can afford to associate with Mr. Bush in his refusal to provide officials under oath no more than Republicans stuck with Richard Nixon in the Watergate investigation.


Tuesday, March 20, 2007

A Lot Rides On LAT April Circulation Figures

Up to now, the Tribune Co. has seen circulation at the L.A. Times drop by about 325,000 in seven years of control, and the circulation figures due out for American newspapers next month will be closely watched. Will the losses grow, or at some point will the trend level out or be reversed?

I know that Jack Klunder has returned as circulation manager, and he is skillful and well-liked. But without investment in the Times future by the Tribune Co., as long as it remains the owner, circulation cannot really go up to any degree. At least, that's my impression. As Mark Willes remarked to me many years ago after he had been around for awhile, circulation is a battle. He had come in as CEO of Times-Mirror with the stated goal of doubling circulation to about two million, But he found out this was impossible.

My own view is that only with a vigorous circulation drive will the Times be put on more solid c ground, and this has a great deal to do with the future of the newspaper, since past circulation declines have undoubtedly fueled the cost cut backs and also encouraged a somber view of what's in store for the Times, encouraging good people to leave.

There may have been other departures, but by my calculation, the impending move of Michael Newman, deputy editorial page editor, to the Washington Post marks at least the fifth major departure of recent months. The first four were Alissa Rubin, John Balzar, Vernon Loeb and Lee Hotz. I realize there have been some hires, but these losses represent a net loss of top personnel.

There have been many interesting things in the paper recently, and the statements of James O'Shea and David Hiller about maintaining the foreign and national bureaus are somewhat encouraging, although I fear continued circulation losses would encourage a new round of layoffs and a continued downward spiral in many areas.

The New York Times reported a few days ago that the bloom is off the rose on the Sam Zell bid for Tribune Co. With the end of March approaching, and the supposed deadline for Tribune board action on the chain's future looming, right now the odds seem to be on continued control by Dennis FitzSimons and his "axis of stupidity," a phrase which the past record makes me loath to abandon. FitzSimons is best known for the policy of cut, cut, cut, which has continually diminished the quality and prospects of the paper.

We can hope for the best, but a big drive to restore circulation would be the best sign, if the Tribune decides to hold on. It would represent a recognition that the policies of the past seven years haven't worked.


Monday, March 19, 2007

Adande, Bolch Shine In Coverage Of USC Victory

L.A. Times sports writers J.A. Adande and Ben Bolch were ready Sunday when USC scored an upset victory in the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament over Texas. The victory propelled USC into the front ranks of college basketball and brought to celebrity hood two SC freshmen, Daniel Hackett and Taj Gibson. It also was USC's 25th victory of the season, an all-time record for a school whose basketball program has long been in the shadow of crosstown rival UCLA.

This was a moment for the L.A. Times Sports section to prove its mettle, and it certainly did, with a series of superb stories catching the high spirits of the moment. David Wharton contributed a useful sidebar to the work of Adande and Bolch.

Hackett, starting after coming off the bench most of the season, was the star of the game, and this was appropriately the subject of an excellent Adande column, "In run to Sweet 16, Hackett has been USC's point man."

In it he told the story of how, after the tragic shooting death of USC's Ryan Francis helped create a point guard void for this season, Hackett, who had been slated to be a high school senior, took five junior college and online courses over the summer to qualify a year early as a Freshman on the SC team.

Up until the NCAA tournament, Hackett wasn't prominent, averaging just 4.9 points a game. When the Times put together a chart beforehand on how the Texas game might be played, Hackett was hardly mentioned.

But when USC's great coach, Tim Floyd, told Hackett he would start and be assigned to guard Texas' premier player, Kevin Durant, Hackett recounted later, "I was like, Oh gosh, he's a great player, tremendous talent."

Hackett will never be obscure again. Fortunately, as the CBS coverage of the game showed, his parents were there to see their son's triumph.

Meanwhile, Bolch, lead writer for the Times on the game, caught the drama of the occasion with his lead paragraphs.

"SPOKANE, Wash.--They're no longer mere bracket busters, a ragtag group defying expectations with heart and hustle.

"These USC Trojans now require a different description: one of the best college basketball teams in the country."

The sidebar by Wharton told how the USC game plan, developed in part by assistant coach Phil Johnson, had worked.

All in all, it was almost as much of a triumph for the Times sports section as for USC. I hope Randy Harvey, the Times sports editor, gets complimented today by editor James O'Shea and publisher David Hiller. Even Tribune Co. CEO Dennis FitzSimons.


If one of a newspaper's greatest functions in society is to be a scourge to insensitive louts, two articles in the L.A. Times Sunday filled that bill excellently.

Steve Lopez's column told how pornographic billboard advertisers for a tasteless, to say the least, Hollywood movie were offending Los Angelenos. And Dan Weikel wrote how the operators of Orange County toll roads are levying outrageously high fines against people who don't pay their tolls.

Lopez pointed out what we all know: Hollywood can be offensive.

But Weikel's article points to an important question: Should California go down the sordid road of more toll highways?


Sunday, March 18, 2007

Where Are The "Good" Muslims, Human Rights People?

As the terrorists in Iraq sink to new lows, unleashing gas attacks on other Muslims, injuring hundreds, where are the world's "moderate" Muslims, and where are the human rights organizations? Why aren't they speaking out?

These issues are raised in one of the "talk back" features of the Jerusalem Post today, and three observations in particular are highly pertinent.

"If the Israelis defend themselves, everyone condemns Israel," one reader observes. "But when Muslims slaughter each other, no Muslims cry out, What a shame."

This point is answered by a Tunisian signing himself only as Ravi. "As a Muslim and an Arab," he writes, "I am ashamed of my own people gassing each other. This is not my real name because they will gas me if I speak out."

And someone from Great Britain observes, "Using chlorine gas is a violation of the Geneva Convention. Where is the U.N? Amnesty? The EU? Human Rights Watch?"

To this, I might add, where are the editors of the New York Times and Los Angeles Times today? They fail to print the news of the chlorine gas attacks on Page 1. Spiritually, it is reminiscent of the World War II editors who relegated the first reports of the Holocaust to the back pages. The L.A. Times story, by Tina Susman and Christian Berthelsen, however, running on Page 3, was quite good and gave interesting background to the gas attacks.

(A friend adds, meanwhile, where are the women's organizations, often so silent about the way Muslims treat women?)

Are all these people fearful, as the man from Tunisia suggests. Or are they insensitive to the gross brutalities of our age?

It is probably a little of both.

But the fact is, the war cannot end until the "good" people of the Earth really come out against the evil doers who would destroy the freedoms of us all.

American, British and to a lesser extent Canadian, Australian and Dutch soldiers are fighting the terrorists in Iraq and/or Afghanistan, just as the Israelis are fighting them in the Holy Land. Where is the rest of the world?

Some of the human rights people have been speaking out in Darfur, where 200,000 black Muslims have been massacred by the evil Muslim regime in the Sudan. But not to much effect thus far.


Saturday, March 17, 2007

We're In A War, Not A Judicial Proceeding

As it happened, just minutes before I read Tim Rutten's column in the L.A. Times today, as I always do first thing on Saturdays, I glanced at Yahoo News and the New York Times Web site and found the reports that the enemy in Iraq -- in all likelihood Al Qaeda -- had launched a series of chlorine gas bombing attacks in Anbar province, killing at least two and wounding 356. Since January, there have been several poison gas attacks in Iraq.

There can be no doubt that if they got the chance, the terrorists would use the same weapons here, and possibly worse, and I cannot escape the view that stringent interrogation techniques, such as waterboarding, are necessary to use to uncover their plans and abort them.

Admirable morally as Rutten's anti-torture views are, as is his desire to put Khalid Shaikh Mohammed on trial, the fact is that war is not a judicial proceeding. If a little waterboarding and psychological torture is necessary to find out what Mohammed and his friends are intending to do to us, then so be it.

Rutten seems implicitly critical of a Los Angeles Times editorial on Friday that I found I agreed with, and let me quote its last paragraph here.

"Whether you call it militant Islam, Islamic fascism or a clash of civilizations, there is a movement that has declared war on the U.S. and the West. It is neither a figment of President Bush's imagination nor a byproduct of the Iraq war. Americans disagree about how to engage that enemy, but its existence is undeniable. So is the willingness of its adherents to kill -- and die -- for the cause. The passage of time since 9/11 may have dulled our appreciation of that reality, especially as partisan bickering consumes Washington. By confessing -- and boasting about -- his crimes, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed has sharpened it."

On the same day the Times Op Ed page ran a column by Rosa Brooks that Rutten cites approvingly this morning. Basically her argument is that President Bush exacerbated the terrorist attacks by going after the terrorists.

But the terrorists are Nazis and I believe have to be fought. President Bush responded with military action, as I believe any president would have, to the terror attacks that killed nearly 3,000 persons in New York and Washington on Sept. 11, 2001.

Even Brooks observes, "KSM's claim of moral equivalence may go over well with people alienated by post 9/11 U.S. policies, but it is dangerously misleading. U.S. failures and abuses are real and should be condemned by all of us. But nothing justifies the deliberate slaughter of innocents. The attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were neither legitimate acts of war nor some excusable 'exception,' but a hideous crime, a mass murder of appalling dimension."

We need to assure her, this mass murder would fade into insignificance if Al Qaeda were to obtain a nuclear weapon, smuggle it into the port of Los Angeles and blow it up.

To try to prevent such a catastrophe is the reason this war has to be fought, and not always by the Marquess of Queensberry rules.


Friday, March 16, 2007

Serrano-Schmitt Rove Stories In LAT Were Stronger

Often, it's not only what is said in a story, but where it is played that makes the difference. That is clear this morning in comparing the New York Times and Los Angeles Times stories on the question of Karl Rove's role in the firing of U.S. attorneys.

The able Los Angeles Times Washington reporters, Richard Serrano and Richard Schmitt, had considerably stronger and more direct stories than David Johnston and Eric Lipton's in the New York Times. But the more hard-headed and news conscious NYT editors put their lead story on Page 1, while the Times stories ran on Page 13.

This kind of thing has been a distinction between the two newspapers for a long time. I remember as a college sophomore when the New York Times played the Soviet Union's firing of the first earth satellite into orbit as a banner, while the L.A. Times played it at the bottom of the page.

The scandal enveloping the U.S. Justice Department and the White House over the firing of eight U.S. attorneys is the hottest news of the week, and it is truly a shame that on a morning when the stories written out of the L.A. Times Washington bureau are more newsworthy than the ones written out of the New York Times Washington bureau, the L.A. stories get such paltry play.

Perhaps Doyle McManus, the Times Washington bureau chief, pushed for better play for the Serrano-Schmitt stories, but didn't get it. In that case, he was hung out to dry, because just recently, when the New York Times appointed Dean Baquet as its new Washington bureau chief, McManus issued a statement promising that his bureau would compete vigorously with Baquet's.

That can't be the case when the L.A. Times publishes stronger stories on Page 13 than the New York Times publishes on Page 1.

The competitive breakdown occurs this morning, because the Serrano-Schmitt stories raise points directly that the New York Times is not nearly as clear on, and a L.A. Times sidebar by Serrano is much more newsworthy than the NYT sidebar.

First, in their second paragraph, Serrano and Schmitt state clearly, in relation to e-mails released yesterday, "The e-mails also show that the Justice Department was willing to defer to Rove on the matter." The New York Times story is not clear or direct on that point. And it is central to the scandal, because the issue here is White House political interference in the work of the Justice Department.

When he underwent confirmation proceedings, Atty. Gen. Alberto Gonzales testified he would, as attorney general as distinct from his position as White House chief counsel, put the interests of the American people first. The indication is now that he has not done that, and that's why I argued in a blog three days ago, he should resign.

Second, Serrano's sidebar, an interview with H.E. Cummins, one of the U.S. attorneys who was fired, is far more newsworthy than the New York Times sidebar on White House counsel Fred Fielding negotiating with Congress on who is to testify now on the affair.

L.A. Times editors need to give such stories the play they deserve, not relegate them to the back pages. Otherwise, they may find Serrano and Schmitt following Alissa Rubin and Lee Hotz to either the New York Times or Wall Street Journal, and, possibly just as important, they will not be serving their readers.


Thursday, March 15, 2007

Clinton Says She Would Keep Some Troops In Iraq

There seem to be no good immediate options for the U.S. in Iraq.

The New York Times notes this morning that, despite some fall off in the number of bodies found each morning in Baghdad, the Bush Administration is already saying the political goals of its "surge" in U.S. forces will take longer to achieve than it had first estimated.

The Democrats in Congress are pushing withdrawal proposals which they can probably not pass with a sufficient majority to override a Bush veto. And they may not even get a Senate majority, since all have aroused some objections, even among thinking Democrats. There is a good column by David Brooks in the NYT today belittling the ridiculous views of Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) that we can somehow make the Iraqi politicians in the Green Zone more enlightened by passing Congressional resolutions.

(The vote in the Senate on the latest Democratic resolution was 50 to 48 against, with three Democratic senators -- Pryor of Arkansas, Nelson of Nebraska and Lieberman of Connecticut -- voting against. The only Republican to vote for was Smith of Oregon).

Meanwhile, today, the New York Times has a front-page account of an interview with Sen. Hilary Clinton in which she says that, as President, she would keep some U.S. troops in Iraq but withdraw them to the peripheries, and definitely outside Baghdad, while, essentially, she would be prepared to let the Iraqis fight it out on the sectarian front.

(This Clinton interview was a real scoop, in that she was frank and said something unexpected, and when it is put together with the trenchant NYT coverage on the removal of eight U.S. attorneys by Atty. Gen. Alberto Gonzales and all the fallout from that, maybe it is only my imagination, but it seems to me that Dean Baquet may already be having a positive effect in the New York Times Washington bureau).

But back to the Clinton interview. This is not a good option either, since it is very hard to see U.S. troops standing idly by in defensive positions, while hundreds of thousands of Iraqis are massacred in a sectarian civil war. We didn't do that in Bosnia, after the Srebenica massacre, and what makes us think we could do it again?

Beyond that, Clinton may be working herself away from any chance of actually becoming the Democratic presidential nominee. By merely suggesting there is some rationale in our continued presence in Iraq, she is flying in the face of the developing opinion among Democratic voters that we have no place in Iraq, or perhaps the Middle East as a whole, at all.

On the other hand, even Sen. Barack Obama seems to have doubts we can withdraw altogether. Anyone who really thinks about this realizes that the danger to the U.S. in a broad Middle East withdrawal are very considerable. It's not surprising that at least some Democratic officeholders are resisting lay liberals in the electorate.

I've suggested before that American opinion could veer once again toward participation in the war if there were a major terrorist attack, either in Europe or the U.S. But since Osama bin Laden takes the long view, and is no dope, maybe there is actually not a great chance of this in the near future.

In the meantime, there's no doubting that the fortunes of the Bush Administration continue to be on the wane. The revelations about poor treatment of wounded veterans in the military hospitals, the developing scandal in the removal of the eight U.S. attorneys, not to mention the continued rise in U.S. casualties and other frustrations in Iraq, added to the passage of time, reducing Mr. Bush's time in office, all are working against the Administration.

In these circumstances, crazy, unworkable alternatives will continue to surface as proposals. Let's hope we don't precipitately move into an even greater disaster by adopting any of them.


Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Ron Brownstein, Lee Hotz Make Career Moves

Ron Brownstein, the blandly liberal L.A. Times political writer, and Lee Hotz, the outstanding Times science writer, are today making significant career moves. Brownstein goes to the Op Ed Page, Current and the Times Web site. Hotz goes to the Wall Street Journal as a national science columnist, the latest major Times writer to leave the paper in the sickly days of Tribune control.
Hotz follows John Balzar and Alissa Rubin as eminent Times writers to leave in recent weeks, and as such the matter has to be of some concern. But in Hotz's case, despite his mention in a note to the staff that the Times has had a plethora of editors and publishers in his 14 years with the paper, some of whom were forced out or fired, his move is a reasonable one.

He moved East several years ago, following his wife, who became a teacher at an Eastern law school, and has been writing from New York for the most part, where he has been less prolific than he was in Los Angeles. His new post with the Wall Street Journal will probably be a better fit for him. He will be a distinguished addition to the Journal coverage.

Still, he was a primary writer in some of the finest science projects at the Times -- the oceans series, Antarctica expeditions, brain studies and earthquake work -- and as such will be greatly missed. As a colleague on many earthquake stories with him, we had good rapport, and, of course, I wish him all the best in his new job.

Brownstein's initial Op Ed page column this morning is pretty much what we have come to expect of him: sound, without being profound, careful, not too outspoken. Like all his work, it is at least competent, though not brilliant.

As a member of the Washington bureau staff, I believe Brownstein was one of the few back in 1999 not to sign a bureau petition protesting Mark Willes and the Staples scandal. The bureau chief, Doyle McManus, did sign, as did nearly everyone else. This was a mark of Brownstein's tenure. He habitually tried to be safe. He tried to stay on the good side of those in control.

As the years passed, Brownstein traveled less and actually broke few political stories. One of the advantages of his career move to the paper now is that it facilitates the transfer of the more vigorous Michael Finnegan to Washington as a political writer to cover the forthcoming presidential campaign, and Finnegan will do a better job.

We all get older of course, and Brownstein may do better at this stage of life sitting in the office.

But beyond that, the Times Op Ed page and Current section on Sundays have been so miserable, under the editorship of Nick Goldberg, that even the blandly competent writings of Brownstein will be an improvement. (Now, if only Goldberg will move to Gaza or Tehran, where he would be living with his spiritual soul mates, he will be happier and the Times will be better off).


Neil MacFarquhar in the New York Times this morning has an interesting front-page article on the partially-Arab financed CAIR, the Council on American Islamic Relations, and just where it fits on the ideological spectrum. Since Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) is dealt with at length in the article, for first presenting an award and then revoking it to a CAIR Sacramento official, it might have been better had MacFarquhar mentioned that Boxer is Jewish.


Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Alberto Gonzales Should Resign As A.G.

Gradually, the controversy has been mounting over the firing of eight U.S. attorneys by the Bush Administration, and fresh revelations today would seem to make it clear that Atty. Gen. Alberto Gonzales, never one of the brighter lights in an afflicted administration, should resign.

Gonzales accepted the resignation of his chief staff aide, D. Kyle Sampson, today and cancelled travel plans. Strong criticism of the attorney general by Republican Rep. James Sensenbrenner, senior Republican member of the House Judiciary Committee, as well as questions from Sen. Arlen Specter, the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, show that Gonzales' problems are now bipartisan.

It was revealed today (lead story in the New York Times) that Harriet Myers, the failed Bush nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court, when she was serving as White House Counsel, had raised the possibility with Sampson of firing all U.S. attorneys when their terms expired. He then went to work on a list, and came up with the eight names.

Apparently, Karl Rove, the President's political advisor, had been passing along complaints about the U.S. attorneys, some of whom had been prosecuting such GOP miscreants as Rep. Randy Cunningham, who was convicted of taking bribes from defense contractors and is now in federal prison. The U.S. attorney in San Diego in that case, Carol Lam, was among the U.S. attorneys fired. It was a McClatchy newspaper story that first implicated Rove in crude attempts to prejudice the work of the Justice Department.

Gonzales, when he was White House counsel and at the Justice Dept., has been a Bush loyalist, and he also was one of the President's most prominent minority appointees.

But such factors must give way to serious wrongdoing in office. When Gonzales actually went ahead and fired the eight U.S. attorneys, instead of resisting doing so, he branded himself as an unsatisfactory attorney general.

So, just two months into the new Democratic-controlled Congress, Democrats who have been sharply critical of the Administration are having some successes. It's not so much that they have discovered wrongdoing themselves, but the scandals -- Walter Reed Army Hospital, the U.S. attorneys -- are dropping into their laps, and they are able to take advantage.

Republicans in Congress are also getting more and more uneasy, and it's obvious why. With next year's presidential election around the corner, they recognize that if the Bush Administration continues to foul up, Republican chances to hold the White House next year may vanish or at least be seriously compromised.

Gonzales also has a questionable record because of excesses he is accused of in the War on Terror.

He has too many problems. It would be best, if he would step down.


The L.A. Times had a sensible editorial yesterday warning against Democratic micromanaging from Congress of the war in Iraq. And the House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, has wisely seen to the withdrawal of a proposal to bar specific U.S. actions in relation to Iran. The Times properly points out that if the Democrats are opposed to the war in Iraq, they should try to stop funding for the war, not try to impose onerous conditions on U.S. fighting forces. It is doubtful at this point, whether there would be commanding support in Congress for cutting off funds.


Monday, March 12, 2007

New York Times Slams Giuliani, As It Did Lieberman

Nick Williams, Jr., longtime deputy foreign editor at the L.A. Times, used to get a wry enjoyment out of what he termed the double-negative stories in the Times' old View section.

View, as Williams would observe, was delighted with stories in which the subject had not one, but two negatives in life causing prejudice against him or her. Retarded Hispanics. Quadriplegic Siamese twins. Gay reactionaries. Etc.

The New York Times practices another kind of double negative. Two negative stories against the same personality on the same day.

The Times, which pretends to be objective, but certainly goes after politicians it doesn't like, tried unsuccessfully to "get" Conneciticut Sen. Joseph Lieberman last year, with numerous editorials and articles against him, and for his McGovernite opposition, cut-and-runner Ned Lamont.

This year, the choice of NYT editors for the poison pin is Rudolph Giuliani. On Sunday, it had two separate stories, one in its Style section and the other in Week in Review raising question of the former New York mayor's divorces and relations with his children.

The argument in the NYT seemed to revolve around the contention that if Giuliani's divorces didn't disqualify him for election as President, then his adultery would. Or maybe the fact that he announced he was divorcing one wife in a press conference, and perhaps not to her first personally.

Well, the electorate may have its own standards for who it elects President. And it shows a lack of prudity that the New York Times sometimes does not. It didn't seem to side against President Clinton after his Monica Lewinsky affair. It elected the divorced Ronald Reagan, even when it was revealed one or more of his children were on the outs with him.

It is too bad, as far as the editors of the New Y ork Times seem to be concerned, that they can't seem to go after otherwise principled politicians with impunity.

But so be it. The average American may care more for the principles of Lieberman and Giuliani than he or she is bothered by their personal shortcomings.

In the meantime, the New York Times), should try to avoid doubledipping on negative stories in the same daily issue.


And Nick Goldberg, an editor at the L.A. Times, may hate Israel (and California too, if his wife's recent book is taken into account). But that shouldn't allow him to print the incorrigibly militant campaigner against Israel, UCLA professor Saree Makdisi, in repeated diatribes on Times editorial pages. Makdisi ought to be deported, as Goldberg probably should be too. They could all be packed off with the Tribune CEO, Dennis FitzSimons, to the island of Sark.


Sunday, March 11, 2007

Wall Street Injects Poison Into The Housing Market

In an article that once again demonstrates how dangerous ignorant Wall Street stock market analysts are to the American economy, the New York Times reports again today on the collapsing mortgage market, and how the analysts have misled investors about it.

In the leading anecdote in a front page story, Gretchen Morgenson tells on how, on March 1, a Wall Street analyst at Bear Stearns wrote an upbeat report on New Century Financial, the Orange County writer of sub prime loans.

The report by Scott R. Coren came at a time when New Century Financial stock had already plummeted from 66 to 15, and had lost half its value in three weeks. In the week after Coren was upbeat, the firm announced it would stop making loans and needed emergency financing to survive. The stock collapsed to $3.21

Comparing the situation to the collapse of technology stocks in 2000, Morgenson noted, "Now, as then, Wall Street firms and entrepreneurs made fortunes issuing questionable securities, in this case pools of home loans taken out by risk borrowers. Now, as then, bullish stock and credit analysts for some of those same Wall Street firms, which profited in the underwriting and rating of those investments, lulled investors with upbeat pronouncements even as loan defaults ballooned. Now, as then, regulators stood by as the mania churned, fed by lax standards and anything goes lending."

Coren is like another business failure, Dennis FitzSimons, the inept CEO of the Tribune Co. He does not want to face the music. When he was approached by the New York Times for comment on the poison he had dealt to Bear Stearns investors with his ridiculously optimistic statement about New Century Financial, he declined comment. But this man not only lacks a tongue; he lacks a brain.

Coren should be banned from Wall Street firms for life, just as FitzSimons should be excluded from the newspaper business. Do such lunkheads have more than elementary school educations?

The fact is that foolhardy businessmen and stock analysts could ruin the American economy. As the housing crisis gets worse, the responsible firms decline to even warn their investors of tough times ahead.

And it is not only sub prime lending -- to people with poor credit histories and no money for down payments -- that ia falling into the abyss. The New York Times reported Saturday that some high-end real estate developers are being hit by the slowdown. They are abandoning projects right and left, because sales have collapsed due to would-be buyers' inability to secure vanishing loans.

Even the new leadership of the Federal Reserve Board has been slow to grasp how devastating the present housing situation is. The Fed's chairman, Ben S. Bernanke, continues foolishly to sound an optimistic note, even while his much more astute predecessor, Alan Greenspan, warns of a possible recession.

In short, things are tanking, and neither Wall Street nor the federal economic regulators, are up to dealing with it. We've seen this situation occur before, but nothing has been learned by those who need to learn the most.


Saturday, March 10, 2007

Kim Murphy, Laura King, Others Excell

Even as the L.A. Times becomes a Pulitzer finalist for its Iraq coverage, new assignments in the Middle East bid to raise the paper's reputation at a time when cost cutting by Tribune Co. has threatened the quality of much of what the Times does.

It is a tribute to Marjorie Miller, the foreign editor, that Times foreign coverage seems only to have gotten better in this period of pressure and uncertainty. But there are heartening signs she is being supported by both the new editor and publisher, James O'Shea and David Hiller.

The Middle East is obviously key to understanding of the world today. What is going in the region stretching from North Africa all the way east to the Indian subcontinent is presently at the center of international affairs, the scene of war and cruel barbarism, and these conditions are likely to continue. But other locales, such as Russia and Korea, have great importance too.

Three of the Times foreign correspondents, all of them in comparatively new assignments, have distinguished themselves in recent months.

Kim Murphy, while nominally based in London, continues to rove widely in the Middle East. She first got her foreign spurs in Cairo 15 years ago, and now has great knowledge of the entire region. During last summer's war between Israel and Hezbollah, she contributed valuable reporting from Syria. More recently, she wrote several outstanding stories from Iran.

Murphy, it should also be noted, continues to cover many interesting stories from the British isles. Just this week, her lengthy piece on the feudal government of the tiny island of Sark was riveting. Earlier, she had a leading hand in the coverage of the poisoning of a former Russian KGB operative living in England.

But this Pulitzer prize winner, won for her Russian coverage while assigned in Moscow, is most valuable in Iran at a time when its nuclear ambitions appear to threaten not only Israel but many other countries, including our own. And her educational background -- she got her B.A. from Minot State in North Dakota -- shows you don't need an Ivy League undergraduate education to become an outstanding journalist.

Laura King, formerly assigned to Israel, has taken up a new assignment in Istanbul, ranging all the way east to Pakistan and Afghanistan, with aplomb. She is one brave reporter, and her story this week from Peshawar detailed what happens when Muslim fundamentalists take control. There is every indication that the border regions of Pakistan, in addition to Afghanistan, are becoming a vital theatre of war. The Times is lucky to have King covering this area.

Writing in Friday's Times of the tribal area of Waziristan, across the Pakistani border from embattled Afghanistan,King told the story of the young teacher at a Muslim religious school who was speaking out against what the Times calls "militants" and I call "terrorists" there. "Then one day last week," she related, "the schoolteacher's corpse, with the head severed from the torso, was found in a bloody sack dumped beside a desolate road. A note on his mutilated body called him a spy for America."

King also reported, "Civilians (in Waziristan) are increasingly subject to the stringent Islamic prohibitions and punishments of Taliban insurgents, foreign militants and members of radical Pakistani organizations, whose influence is breaking down traditional tribal leadership, people in the area say.

"In some locales, barbers are being warned against trimming beards. Singing and dancing are discouraged, and music has been banned. Motorists who play their car radios face fines or beatings. Schools, particularly those educating girls, are under constant threat. Movie theaters have been ordered to close."

Certainly, it is vital that Times readers be kept informed about these barbaric forces, seeking to return the whole world to the Dark Ages. We can only pray that King will be safe.

Meanwhile, as previously recorded, Megan Stack has been doing a fine job of covering the sectarian rivalries in Lebanon. Now, she will have even greater scope in her new assignment in Moscow during a period when new strains have arisen in the relationship with the United States and Western Europe, and the Putin Administration is nearing the end of its two terms.

The Times has many good foreign correspondents. A new team is just taking hold in Iraq, and all of this is most important for the future of the Times. The ousted editor, Dean Baquet, in interviews just before becoming Washington bureau chief of the New York Times, observed that he felt coverage of the war was as important as covering the beginnings of the 2008 election campaign, and, as usual, Baquet is right.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Valley School Board Race -- Why Such Little Voting?

Steve Lopez has an important column in the L.A. Times this morning, examining why there was such a paltry turnout in this week's school board and other races. He particularly writes about District 3 in the San Fernando Valley, where only 29,167 voters showed up among 315,181 registered voters, despite the fact that there was a spirited contest between Tamar Galatzan, backed by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, and Jon Lauritzen, who was backed by the Teacher's Union. Both had plenty in contributions to get their messages out.

I live in this district, and, as almost always, I actually voted in the election, casting my vote for Galatzan, although for several reasons I wasn't happy with her.

Generally speaking, I'm neither sympathetic with the mayor's desire to run the schools, nor with the Teacher's Union's desire to run the school board. So neither of the major candidates really appealed to me, and a third candidate, who received enough votes to force a runoff, I never heard from and could not view as consequential.

I did hear, sometimes indirectly, from Galatzan and Lauritzen, but the communications were unsatisfying.

As a Republican, I didn't hear a lot directly from Galatzan, probably because her campaign calculated I wasn't likely to vote for her. What I heard from her was through mailings to my son, who votes from this address but who is stationed abroad for the moment.

On the day of the election, a Galatzan campaign worker came to the door to ask if my son had voted. She didn't even have my name on her list as a voter. And she wasn't honest about why she didn't.

Between Galatzan's numerous mailings to my son, and Lauritzen's numerous mailings to me, I hardly gave either a glance, because they were always pap. They contained nothing substantive that would allow me to reach any sound conclusions about the background of these candidates, their policy positions or their hopes and aspirations. This is standard for mailings in most campaigns. They are worthless and I usually throw them away with scarcely a glance.

I've been reading, recently, the definitive complete edition of Anne Frank's "Diary of a Young Girl." In this epic work, the teenager gives always a great deal of herself. I would have voted for her for anything. But there wasn't a line in either the Galatzan or Lauritzen campaign mailings that was worth as much as a phrase of Anne Frank's.

I veered back and forth between deciding to vote for Galatzan and Lauritzen, but what finally decided me was a call from a Lauritzen campaign worker the night before the election.

When this woman called, I told her very frankly that I had some questions about Lauritzen. Would he always do whatever the Teacher's Union told him to do if he were elected to the school board? And did he really mean what his campaign literature said, that he would push for more aid to Valley schools? (Actually, I feel there ought to be more aid to schools on the south and east sides, not the Valley. From my experience when I was raising my children, the Valley schools have adequate resources).

The caller bluntly refused to answer any of my questions. "That's not my job," she told me. (I wonder how much Lauritzen might have paid this ditz for alienating voters).

At that point, I decided to vote for Galatzan, and so informed her. After all, in a call from Galatzan seeking my son, I had asked a few questions and gotten some not-too-specific answers.

So I voted, which as I say, I always do. But I'm not sure I'll vote for Galatzan in the runoff. Maybe, I won't, if I get some real answers from Lauritzen.

By the way, I can't agree with Lopez's suggestion that, based on the poor turnouts, democracy might not be worth all that much, and it isn't worth fighting for it in Iraq. Democracy, as Winston Churchill once said, may not always work all that well, but at least it's better than any other form of government that's been tried.


Thursday, March 08, 2007

Sam Zell Could Well Be Better Than FitzSimons

--Written from Palm Springs, California

Sam Zell may be a pig in the poke, because we know little or nothing about him, and his aspirations if he were to succeed in what the L.A. Times article by Jim Rainey yesterday called an increasingly serious bid to buy the Tribune Co.

But the odds are that Zell would be a more ambitious and constructive director than the inept Dennis FitzSimons, CEO of Tribune.

(A comment from a reader points out that Zell has compiled a substantive record saving companies in difficulties and has specifically done well in motorcycles and real estate. But what I meant in saying that Zell is a pig in the poke is that, like Mark Willes when he came to the L.A. Times from General Mills, Zell has no journalistic experience, so we don't know whether he would be at all sensitive to the peculiar requirements of honest journalism).

The first two Tribune papers to be sold in the ongoing disintegration of the company are the small papers in Stamford and Greenwich, Ct. They are going to Gannett for $73 million. Both were possessions of Times-Mirror before it was sold to Tribune.

The future of the L.A. Times and the other papers, including the Chicago Tribune, are still up for grabs. But the Tribune board is now reported to have dismissed the Broad-Burkle and Chandler family offers for the company as insufficient, and to be working on Zell to enhance his bid.

Zell, a Chicagoan who has made billions in real estate, might conceivably sell some more of the Tribune papers, if his bid were to be successful, just as McClatchy did some of the newspapers it purchased last year. David Geffen or Eli Broad might be able to buy the Times from him easier than from Tribune Co.

But if Zell were to keep the L.A. Times, it's hard to see how any smart businessman would opt to continue to downsize the newspaper.

Under FitzSimons, downsizing is on going, as shown by the disgraceful plan to lay off more employees and fold the book review into Current and move it to Saturdays.

FitzSimons, who has either had a lobotomy or needs one, has one policy -- and that is to diminish the Times and treat it as an unwanted step child every chance he gets. He remains positively dangerous to Los Angeles.

Zell might appreciate the potential in making some investments in the Times.

It reminds me a little of the death of Stalin when I was 15 in 1953. There were observers who thought Stalin would be replaced by someone worse. I thought at the time it was unlikely that any successor would prove worse than Stalin, and I was right.

If FitzSimons goes, and he and his fellow executives take their $269 million in severance already set aside with them, the chance would be that Zell, or any other buyer except Rupert Murdoch, would prove better.


Patt Morrison has an outstanding column on the Times Op-Ed Page this morning extrapolating the frightful bombings and massacres in Iraq to California. It bears thinking about, that these terrorists could move their operations here, to to the destruction of USC, Westwood, Sacramento and so many other locales. That's what our troops in Iraq are fighting to prevent. It's not as outlandish a possibility as some would like it to be.


Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Crisis Over Treatment Of War Wounded Intensifies

The crisis over treatment of the Iraq and Afghanistan war wounded is only intensifying, as the days go by, and it has already become obvious that this is another Hurricane Katrina, in which the Bush Administration was derelict in failing to come up with a proper treatment plan for victims of the disaster. The failure apparently extends well beyond the outpatient facilities of the Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

This Administration long ago sadly earned a record of incompetence in such matters, and it seems worse than just incompetence. It's that they do not care enough to get it right, and do not take sufficient steps to make it right. The President has assigned former Sen. Robert Dole and Health and Human Relations Secretary Donna Shalala to a bipartisan panel to look into the mess. They have a lot to do, and we can only remember that repeated assurances by the President that he has corrected the Katrina shortcomings have proved to be untrue.

Paul D. Eaton, a retired Army major general writing in Tuesday's New York Times detailed, in fact, how intentional budget shortfalls left our war wounded without adequate care. This will long be a matter of shame for our government.

The matter is a simple one. We sent these soldiers to the Middle East to fight a nasty and protracted war against some of the most evil forces of all history, ones that threaten the U.S. welfare directly and attack our forces with suicide bombings, beheadings and other foul means.

Now, when those men and women survive their injuries, we absolutely must see that they and their families get all the care and support they need.

It was bad enough when the military was impeding photographing the coffins of war dead. Now, that they aren't adequate treating the wounded, it is far worse.

Heads have already rolled on this one, but the ultimate responsibility is the President's.


It is ironic that at the same there is a verdict in the Libby case, which saw the denigration of press freedoms in Washington, a judge in the Middle West has enjoined the Kansas City Star from publishing an investigative article. The case is under appeal, but one time after another, now, an overweening justice system is impinging on the First Amendment to the Constitution. Freedom of the press is far more important to this country than a bunch of corrupt judges and prosecutors.


Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Now, Wimpy Time Magazine Wants Iraqi Immigrants

Time magazine has proved itself to be wimpy for many months, urging President Bush to turn tail in the Middle East, criticizing Israel for defending itself against terrorist bombings and kidnappings, and generally becoming an exponent of American guilt in the War on Terror. To Time, as with too many American liberals, it isn't the suicide bombers of Al Qaeda or Muslim fundamentalist crazies who are to blame for the wars we are fighting, but the USA.

Now, the latest issue of Time goes beyond ever before in wallowing in disgraceful positions. The magazine has a long article urging the U.S. to take in Iraqi refugees, and a page long column advocating that we take on the health problems of Vietnam on grounds that our Agent Orange used in the Vietnam war may have caused some of them. Finally, the magazine outdoes itself by devoting a complimentary page to Dennis Kucinich, the nutty peacenik from Cleveland who is running for President while, again, very few pay any attention. The Kucinich article is written by that transcontinental journalistic ditz, Joel Stein, who repeatedly embarrasses both Time and the L.A. Times with his offbeat views.

Time says the U.S. admitted just 18 Iraqi refugees in 2005 and 202 in 2006. But that is exactly 220 too many. Why would this country want to admit any Iraqis at all?

Woe has come to France for foolishly admitting hundreds of thousands of Muslim refugees from Algeria after conclusion of its war for independence. These people, with rare exceptions, not only have not assimilated into France, but have rioted, added to the crime wave and rendered many Paris suburbs and other locales virtually uninhabitable.

The same thing has happened with Pakistanis admitted to Great Britain. The country now is saddled with a major terrorist problem, and in the summer of 2005, Muslim malcontents bombed the London subway and bus system, killing 52 and wounding hundreds. Later, it was shown they were trained by Al Qaeda.

In fact, look around Europe. Where ever Muslim refugees have gone, there has been trouble -- attempted train bombings in Germany, murders in Holland, a terror attack on trains in Spain that killed 191, and sedition in Italy.

Why should we wish to encourage such problems in the U.S., simply to satisfy the liberal dilettantes at Time magazine?

As for Vietnam, Vietnamese immigrants to the U.S. have often assimilated well, and are an asset to the U.S. There are no religious problems there.

Relations with between the U.S. and Vietnam have improved in the meantime. Why should we go back 30 years after the war and assume responsibility for Vietnamese problems? There's no more reason we should do this, than that they should come over here to provide care for U.S. Vietnam veterans.

No wonder Time circulation is going down. The magazine is no longer quite respectable on these issues.


Monday, March 05, 2007

Revised LAT Travel Section Has Little To Offer

The ballyhooed "new" L.A. Times Sunday travel section seems to have little to offer. It is already clear that the Times will not be giving its readers nearly as much information on exotic travel destinations -- or even Europe for that matter -- as it did before.

The travel section had a nice piece on Monument Valley this Sunday, but far more readers of the Times travel to Europe every year than Monument Valley. Times readers are being treated as if they were a bunch of yokels, without desire for foreign travel..

This is another case of revisions at the Times being barely concealed further downsizing of a newspaper, which under Tribune Co. control, has undergone one cut back after another.

The readers ought to protest. The only hope that Tribune's owners will roll back some of these terrible revisions is if they are shamed into doing so. Times ownership is not terribly sensitive. It must be kicked in the head, before it will realize the unacceptability of its policies.

In this line, there are further reports this morning about the foolhardy plan to merge the L.A. Times Book Review with the undistinguished Current section and publish both on Saturday, rather than Sunday. This is another cut back, since there are hundreds of thousands fewer papers printed on Saturday than Sunday. It is a fraud on the Sunday readers, and it treats books like the bookburners did.

Steve Wasserman, a former editor of the book review, is quoted in the San Francisco Chronicle as protesting the change, saying properly that it diminishes the paper.

Also, the Chronicle notes in an article that reader unhappiness with a merger of that newspaper's book review into other sections was such that the editors decided to scrap the change and revive the book review.

The readers of the L.A. Times are adversely impacted by all these changes. The Times is ever so frequently less than the paper it was before, and none of this diminishing is lost on the readers. They can only worsen the paper's circulation losses.

L.A. Observed this morning also reports rumors of a new layoffs at the Times. More about this, if they occur.

One way for the Tribune Co. to save money would be to pay the inept CEO Dennis FitzSimons and his senior staff only so much money as they actually deserve in salaries and benefits. FitzSimons is worth only about $100 a week, if that. That would be enough for him to pay for the slop served in many Chicago restaurants.


Sunday, March 04, 2007

Insurgents Burn Their Bridges -- Even With Sunnis

Alissa Rubin, formerly an L.A. Times correspondent in Baghdad, has reported to work for the New York Times there, and in an article in the NYT Saturday had a riveting account of the latest episode of mindless terror in Anbar province.

Her story was about how 10 masked men showed up at a soccer game in Ramadi, and immediately killed two of the young players who they accused of working with the Secret Police in front of the whole crowd. The father of one of the victims, Nawaf Al-Zuali, cried, "They killed them before the audience, and nobody moved to help them."

The men first had their hands tied, and then were shot dead, one as he tried to flee the scene.

On the same day, insurgents kidnapped 18 Shiite policemen in supposed reprisal for the reported rape of a Sunni women. Sixteen of the 18 were soon thereafter found murdered. None apparently had had anything to do with the reported rape. Shortly before, a bomb at a school killed 40 young people about to take their examinations. Other bombs have been detonated in market places, killimg shoppers indiscrimately.

Monday morning, a new suicide bombing killed 26 in Baghdad and six Shiite pilgrims were shot. So much for claims on Sunday that the violence in Baghdad had been reduced by the new U.S. security operation.

Two quotes in the New York Times article on the latest bombing -- directed at Baghdad's age-old book market -- capture the spirit of the terrorists. Poet Abdul Baqi Faidhullah observed, "There are no Americans or Iraqi politicians here -- there are only Iraqi intellectuals who represent themselves and their homeland, plus stationery and book dealers. Those who did this are like savage machines intent on harvesting souls and killing all bright minds." Wissam Arif, a browser of the book market, said, "Those terrorists do not represent Islam. They are fighting science. They hate the light of science and scientists. Haven't they killed hundreds of prophets and intellectuals?"

In short, those trying to disrupt Iraq come out of the Dark Ages. They represent no authentic religion, and the only way to deal with them is to stamp them out, eliminate them from the face of the earth.

Meanwhile, the British conducted a raid on security police in Basra and discovered 30 prisoners in various stages of torture, showing that on both sides of the sectarian divide, brutality continues.

How long can this violence go on? It has grown so terrible that most elements of Iraqi society are putting up their hands and screaming: "Enough." It is a stain against fundamentalist Islam, but, as columnist Tom Friedman of the New York Times has pointed out, moderate Muslims for the most part have had no strong reaction. They disgracefully sit idly by.

In Anbar, though, some Sunni groups have been fighting the insurgents, and especially foreign Arabs who have smuggled themselves across Iraq's borders to join al Qaeda in attacking American soldiers and the Shiites.

Perhaps things have reached a kind of turning point, and the situation may improve some day. But there is no sure sign of this today.

Rather, despite U.S. efforts under President Bush's plan for a "surge" of new troops to control Shiite reprisals and stem the sectarian violence. they seem thus far only to have encouraged further terrorist attacks.

The strategy apparently is Al Qaeda's plan. Cynically trying to exacerbate tensions to cause a nightmare which will buttress anti-war sentiment in the U.S. homeland, the terrorists constantly show up in innocent situations and murder people. No wonder an estimated two million citizens have fled Iraq and are burdening neighbors like Syria and Jordan.

We go from worse to worse. What will be the end of it? After all, suicide bombings, that most contemptiable human activity, continue and are expanding in new areas, such as Afghanistan and Pakistan.