Thursday, April 26, 2007

Erika Hayasaki Shines With LAT Virginia Tech Story

There has been no story so poignant on the Virginia Tech massacre as the one by Erika Hayasaki in Wednesday's Los Angeles Times. She did everything right in this account of what happened in the French class taught by Jocelyne Couture-Nowak in Room 211, Norris Hall, on that fatal morning.

Like Flaubert's classic novel, Madame Bovary, virtually every word in Hayasaki's article has its place. What she succeeds in doing is to portray the full horror of the event, the immensity of the loss, the evil of the killer, and the love the students felt for their teacher, who was among the first to die.

But Couture did not die before warning her students, "Get in the back! Get under your desks! Call 911!"

Moments before, as the shots began sounding in Norris Hall, the 49-year-old French teacher had exclaimed, "Please tell me that isn't what I think it is." But when she went to the door to peek out, she turned back to the class, "white with terror."

There were 11 innocents shot to death, six wounded, and the mad killer committed suicide
in the next few minutes in Room 211. Only one person escaped unscathed. The story details exactly what happened and how in the words of those who survived.

And Hayasaki ends with the most beautiful passage in her entire long account, and perhaps in her entire career as a journalist, telling what took place at Couture funeral.
It deserves being long remembered.

"On Tuesday," she writes, "several of the classmates attended Madame Couture's funeral at the campus horticulture garden, a meadow by a rippling stream. Haas saw Violand. He was holding a white rose. She hugged him. They had not seen each other since that fateful class.

"A few minutes later, Goddard showed up in a wheelchair. Violand and Haas went over to him. Three other students from the French class joined them, including Luke Sponholz. who had missed class last Monday. His best friend was killed, and Madame Couture had been his favorite teacher.

"Before last week, they had been classmates, linked by their passionate professor. Now, they were friends, united in her death. It was a bittersweet bond that no one else could really understand.

"During the service, Violand bowed his head. Haas patted his back. They listened silently as Sponholz uttered these words in French on his classmates' behalf. "Madame, have you touched all of us in a profound way that we will never forget, and will we always love you?

"Mais oui, Madame. Mais oui."


If some at Virginia Tech know just what to say, and Hayasaki, assisted in preparing the article by Richard Fausset, knows just what to report, we see the spectacle this week of public figures and columnists wallowing in excessive remarks on the war and the Bush Administration.

I am thinking especially of Sen. Harry Reid, the U.S. Senate majority leader, who proclaimed that the Iraq war has already been lost, and Times Op Ed Page columnist Ron Brownstein, who wrote, "President "Bush has become the dead-ender."

Both men are being, at the very least, premature. The war is not lost as long as 160,000 brave Americans are fighting in it. And, if there is a new terrorist attack in the next few months, which there well may be, Mr. Bush will not look like a dead-ender. The country could yet rally behind him.

The senator and the columnist are ready to sell American interests in the present situation down the river. I believe they are both wrong. Washington Post columnist David Broder calls this morning for Reid's removal as majority leader, saying the Democrats deserve better.



Wednesday, April 25, 2007

No Mark Arax Authorship On Armenian Genocide

It was proper, I believe, for Los Angeles Times Managing Editor Doug Frantz to refuse to run an article by Times reporter Mark Arax on the Armenian genocide. But at the same time, I think it would be better for Frantz to pass up participating in a forum on this and other Turkish subjects in Istanbul next month.

No one can legitimately quarrel with Frantz's statement on the matter. "I put a hold on a story because of concerns that the reporter had expressed personal views about the topic in a public manner and therefore was not a disinterested party," he explained.

No one who knows Mark Arax, who is of Armenian dissent, can reasonably take issue with that conclusion. Arax, like almost all Armenians, remains, as is very understandable, extremely resentful of the World War I genocide when, by well authenticated historical record, Turks murdered more than a million rebellious Armenians. If what Saddam Hussein did to rebellious Iraqi Kurds was unacceptable, so definitely was the Turkish treatment of the Armenians, and that is true even without any formal Congressional action to call it a genocide. Congress may hold back, because of concerns about impact on relations with Turkey, where we have an important air base to supply our forces in Iraq. But what it does or does not do will not change the historical record.

I do not believe Arax has a leg to stand on in his assertion that Frantz has violated anti-discrimination provisions of the U.S. Civil Rights Act in refusing to run his article. It is not discrimination to refuse to permit an employee who has a pronounced view about a subject from writing about that subject.

But, to be fair to Arax, the Times has not always been consistent in that approach.

The Times, for instance, has allowed Henry Weinstein to write articles for years about capital punishment when it is well known that Weinstein is against capital punishment. Also, the Times has had Jewish bureau chiefs in Jerusalem covering the Arab-Israeli dispute, although Marjorie Miller was scrupulously fair and so was Dial Torgerson, who I believe was Jewish. Strangely enough, the only Times bureau chief in the Israeli capital who was perceived as unfair, leaning to the Arab side, was Tracy Wilkinson, who is not Jewish.

I was personally a victim once in my career of the Times' inconsistent approach. When I refused an assignment to go out and interview an ex-Nazi SS camp guard, for the stated view that as a Jew I felt biased against him and didn't want to deal with him, the Times suspended me for three days, and then-editor Bill Thomas upheld the suspension.

I think there ought to be more consistency.

For that reason, I believe it makes no sense for the Times to be paying Frantz's way to Istanbul, where he once represented the Times, if there is any appearance of siding with Turkish positions in the Armenian matter. I'm not certain there is, because I'm not personally familiar with what is to be discussed at the conference or with Frantz's views, whatever they are, but appearances in this business are terribly important, and it would, I think, be better for Frantz to step back.

Both Arax and Frantz have high integrity, and stand for important things. This dispute should not be allowed to cost the Times the future services of either one of them.

And it goes without saying it is important as well that the Times continue to cover the Armenian genocide, capital punishment and the Arab-Israeli dispute. But it should use
reporters who have been somewhat reserved in the pronouncement of their own opinions on these subjects.


There are reports this morning that Solomon Moore, an outstanding L.A. Times reporter in Iraq and on many other assignments, is moving to the New York Times. He is the latest of several terrific people to leave the Times since the usurping publisher David Hiller fired Dean Baquet as editor last year, and bespeaks the lack of confidence many Times people feel about the future of the Times under Tribune Co. control. Losing Moore, like the others, is too bad. He will be missed, and, under the present circumstances, we can only expect he will not be the last talented person to go.


The New York Times devoted the first page of an advertising supplement on their reporting to Somini Sengupta, a former L.A. Times Metro Pro who went to the New York Times and is now their New Delhi bureau chief. Sengupta, a native of India who grew up in California, is well chosen for the honor. Along with the NYT's John Burns, she has emerged as one of the most outstanding NYT foreign correspondents in a long line of great reporters that included A.M. Rosenthal, C.L. Sulzberger, Bill Keller, Homer Bigart and the late, great David Halberstam, who has just been killed in a Bay Area auto crash. Sengupta is still young, and her best days undoubtedly lie ahead.


Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Hiller And O'Shea Give LAT Staff Pure Drivel

The statements issued to the Los Angeles Times staff yesterday by the Tribune toadies, publisher David Hiller and editor James O'Shea, defending the dismal plan for new layoffs were, even for usually mealy-mouthed Tribune executives, marked by much drivel.

O'Shea, as usual, was the worst of the two. He began with a statement that"I didn't come out here to preside over a decline of this great newspaper."

That is equivalent to Churchill's statement that he wasn't going to preside over the liquidation of the British Empire, or Nixon's declaration, "I am not a crook."

It is, to the contrary, absolutely clear that Hiller and O'Shea were sent out here to preside over a downgrading of the L.A. Times, and since they have arrived whole sections have been closed or merged, the news hole has diminished, and now the staff is being cut back again. They are architects of the ruin of the paper, which in the view of so many Los Angelenos is no longer great. The one thing they have done that is constructive is to reverse some of the damage done by the abyssmal redesign of the paper's type faces by Joe Hutchinson, now, thank goodness, departing. But undoing a fatally-flawed redesign cost them no money.

Of all the things that O'Shea said, the single most ridiculous was his assertion that he understood and, by implication, shared the staff's dismay that the layoffs at Tribune newspapers are accompanied at the same time by the promise of millions of dollars for golden parachutes for executives who leave as a result of the acquisition of the failing chain by Chicago real estate magnate Sam Zell.

This is rank hypocrisy, because there is every indication that both Hiller and O'Shea would be among those benefitting from these golden parachutes -- amounting to $269 million potentially -- if they were to leave.

And, I think, they will eventually be leaving, because Zell will be too smart to maintain in his employ a bunch of losers like the Tribune executives are now.

Neither Heller nor O'Shea have even a small fraction of the courage exhibited by Dean Baquet and Jeff Johnson in resisting the Tribune policy of cuts, cuts and more cuts. These men put their jobs on the line out of principle and were, figuratively, guillotined for it.

The only principle Hiller and O'Shea believe in is to do their master's bidding, no matter how destructive it may be, to the fortunes of the Times.

If the inept CEO Dennis FitzSimons tells Hiller and O'Shea to jump off the building, not only will they jump, but they will take the Times staff, their families and their children and jump off with them, using their bodies as cushions, before they cart off their fat bonuses.

Make no mistake about it, the way to reverse the Times' decline is not further cuts, more jumping off the tower, but investment in the paper. Any other course will simply deepen the declines, until the Times is just a shadow of it former self under Otis Chandler and Tom Johnson.

There was not a word in either Hiller or O'Shea's statement about a larger promotional budget to sell subscriptions and reverse the precipitate decline in circulation. Instead, there was bombast about a better Internet operation, when almost all the Times revenues come from the printed product, and that is likely to be true in the foreseeable future as well as the past and present.

There was also an ominous omission in the Hiller statement of anything about maintaining the Times' distinguished foreign and national coverage. Instead, he took a parochial approach, talking only about local coverage. That is important, but taken alone, it is not enough to satisfy the discriminating Times readership.

Professional lives are being sacrificed here. As O'Shea does admit, the Times is still making money, but that money is disappearing into the pockets of the Tribune executives.

These men are not leaders, nor are they loyal to the Times, Los Angeles or California. We can only hope now for their quick termination by the new owner and their departure from Los Angeles in sack cloth and ashes.

As for the Times staff, we can only hope they will exhibit the courage and persistence they have in the past, to rebel against the oppressive company that bought and then denigrated the paper.


Monday, April 23, 2007

Harassment Of Women Intensified In Iran

The 13th Century-style fundamentalist Muslim rule of Iran and its virtual enslavement of women is on display for the whole world today in a new campaign to force women, including foreigners and minorities in Iran. to dress as the fanatic mullahs want them to.

An Agence France Presse story says that 1,347 women have been warned by religious police, and 170 arrested, in the first two days of a campaign to make sure women on the public streets are not wearing their required overcoats too tight, their trousers too short or head scarves too loosely.

Mohammad Taghi Ransar, the "cultural minister," is quoted as saying, "The current situation is shameful for an Islamic government. A man who sees these models on the streets will pay no attention to his wife at home, destroying the foundation of the family."

The religious police have also shut down 20 shops for selling the clothing regarded as inappropriate.

All this is said to be required by Iranian law, but I once had a professor of humanities who warned his classes, "Just remember, everything Nazi Germany did was legal under German law." Laws can enforce corrupt systems. Not all of them are just.

Iran is the country where just last week the country's Supreme Court reversed the murder convictions of six men who killed five people because they decided they were morally "corrupt." Two of them were a young engaged couple walking together holding hands. That, they considered a crime, worthy of execution.

In much of the Middle East, women are forced to wear veils or at least head scarves. Even U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi gave way to the rule when she recently visited Syria, showing herself unwilling to stand up for Western clothing styles. Right there, in Damascus, she prostrated herself in front of the thug who is the Syrian "president", Bashir Assad, by wearing a head scarve. Some representative of the United States!

Iranian newspapers, perhaps some of them tongue in cheek, inaugurated the campaign in Iran Saturday by picturing women in the "inappropriate" clothing. This in Iran probably is what is considered cheesecake, such as printed every day in the L.A. Times.

Pictures taken in Iraq show many women there completely covered in ugly black clothing from head to toe, actually a regression from the days of Saddam Hussein. Not only have a few of these women been concealing suicide bombs, but they are marking themselves, as the complying Iranian women, as slaves of the men.

The Muslim religion must change, it's as simple as that, to begin to comply with worldwide civilized standards. And men should want the chance, because all that their enforcement of such regressive dress codes proves is that they're scared of sex, or perhaps not up to it.


Sunday, April 22, 2007

Close Election Looms In French Second Round

The son of Hungarian immigrants, Nicolas Sarkozy, and a Socialist who is bidding to become the first woman to be president of France, Segolene Royal, will face each other in the second round of the French elections May 6, after first round results Sunday showed Sarkozy with 31% of the vote cast, Royal with 26%, centrist candidate Francois Bayrou with 18% and far-right candidate Jean Marie Le Pen with just 11%, considerably off his showing last time. The other 14% went to minor candidates.

A poll indicated Sarkozy may prevail in the second round, 54% to 46%. However, my own assessment is that the election will be closer than that and Royal cannot be counted out.

Sarkozi in some ways is the candidate who would bring the most change. Of part Jewish descent, he has provided strong indications he would lean French policies toward the Israelis for the first time since Charles de Gaulle came to power in 1958, and may even be slightly more pro-American. He has tried to rub off some of the rough edges from last year's Muslim riots in France when, as interior minister he called the rioters "scum," but he worries some people as too strident on the Muslims, who are now a substantial minority in France.

With a high, 85% voter turnout Sunday, Sarkozi may have fallen a little short of what had been expected, and Royal fared a little better than expected. Sarkozi had been expected to drain Le Pen of many votes and did, but Royal had been expected to be more closely challenged by Bayrou.

Some Socialists have urged Royal, an unwed mother of four and at 53 still a glamorous figure, to try to offer Bayrou a coalition, maybe the premiership, in a bid for the centrist vote. She will pick up some votes that went to minor candidates further to the left of her, but she cannot win without a substantial share of the Bayrou vote.

Royal's showing in the first round also establishes her in the public eye as truly a major candidate and gets her past the Socialist infighting that had prevented her from having unified left wing backing. The left now has nowhere to go but her.

Still, Sarkozy is an able politician and he too could move into the center, though he probably would not go so far as to offer Bayrou the premiership.

We'll see. This is a significant election in what is still a significant country in the world, and Europe, like the U.S., is at something of a crossroads in the War on Terror.


Joe Hutchinson, the L.A. Times design director who damaged the newspaper with an unpopular and unpleasant redesign last year, is leaving the paper for Rolling Stone. Hooray! Along with Michael Kinsley and Andres Martinez, the editorial editors who finally outlived their welcome, Hutchinson's position and influence had gradually deteriorated as his seniors realized he wasn't all that good a designer.

Some of the odd type faces he introduced on Page 1 have already been scrapped. We might wish him well now in his new job, but thank goodness he has decided to leave. I had called for his removal in a blog posted last Oct. 24. He's the latest of the Chicago-engendered transplants to leave the Times. To put it as nicely as possible, he was a flat failure in Los Angeles.


Saturday, April 21, 2007

L.A. Times Staff To Be Cut 5%, A New Disgrace

The chickenshit CEO of the Tribune Co., Dennis FitzSimons, reinforces the nosedive his papers are in, by announcing a new buyout and, very possibly, layoffs at the L.A. Times amounting to 5%, or approximately 150 jobs.

The cut will be even more severe in the Times newsroom, where 70 of 920 staff members, or about 7%, will be asked to leave. (About 100 staff losses are also mandated for the Chicago Tribune and undoubtedly others for other newspapers unfortunate enough to be owned by Tribune).

Jim Rainey's story, buried on Page 2 of the Times Business section this morning, rather disingenuously declares, "With revenue declining, many employees fear that the only way to sustain cash flow will be with further job reductions."

Tribune Co. announced a 12% reduction in cash flow for the first quarter earlier in the week. But the fact is that every job reduction has been accompanied by a reduction in the news hole and quality of the papers, and, taking this as a sign of failure, readers and advertisers are running for the doors. So, under FitzSimons, all Tribune papers have been in an infernal downward cycle and his new job reductions will only intensify that. Many people who pay money to the Tribune papers do not want to support a sinking ship..

The executives FitzSimons has sent to Los Angeles, publisher David Hiller and editor James O'Shea are, of course, not saying a word against the new staff reductions at the Times. They don't want to follow their predecessors, Jeff Johnson and Dean Baquet, who were terminated when they protested further job cuts as counterproductive.

Quite simply,. Johnson and Baquet did their duty, but Hiller and O'Shea are failing to do theirs, which is to stand by the publication they lead. Editorial employees at the Times numbered about 1,100 when Tribune took over.

The role of the new Tribune owner, Sam Zell, who will not formally take over until the end of the year, in the latest announcements, if any, is not known. But Zell better watch out. By the time he comes on board, the value of his purchase could well have dropped even more than it has already.

I suggested yesterday that Zell somehow get rid of FitzSimons now, with a severance of $3. Let me amend that. FitzSimons should be kicked out now, with no severance. Every year of his domain has been a failure.

Since there have already been innumerable buyouts at the Times, and in many of them the terms are likely to have been more lucrative, (mine certainly was, when I retired three years ago), it is unlikely that this new one will be filled, meaning layoffs of experienced, more highly paid employees. The Times cannot help but be severely hurt by this travesty.

And there is still no assurance that Tribune will invest the money in promotion that would be necessary to avert further circulation declines, declines that in seven awful years of Tribune control already amount to more than 300,000.

FitzSimons is not only zn exceedingly stupid businessman, but a greedy one as well. He has never failed to elevate his own salary while terminating the income of others. Dante would have had little problem deciding in what
circle of hell to place him.


The L.A. Times got off to a good start on its coverage of the Virginia Tech massacre, I thought besting the New York Times in the first and second days. But, as has often been the case in the past, LAT effort dropped off, while the New York Times was staying on in a full court press and coming up with later stories that enhanced public understanding substantially.

Two NYT stories in the last two days have certainly added to what we know. Neither were replicated in the L.A. Times.

First, a story by Marc Santora and Christine Hauser on Friday, reporting that the anger of the killer, Cho Seung-hui, was evident in his writings in his English major, contained the information that eight members of the Virginia Tech faculty had formed an informal "task force" to try to deal with Cho. They got little if any help from the Virginia Tech administration. Second, some students were so scared of Cho, they stopped attending classes in which he was enrolled.

Santora, just back from Iraq, is an outstanding investigative reporter. This report adds fuel to the supposition that the Virginia Tech administration was negligent in letting Cho remain at the school, especially since he had been ruled in a Virginia court to be a danger to himself and possibly others. (Time magazine's Web site has already suggested that the Virginia Tech president, Charles W. Steger, ought, in all decency, to resign. He had the ultimate responsibility for failing to protect the 32 students and faculty members who were murdered),

Second, the Page 1 lead NYT story this morning, by Michael Luo, breaks important new ground by reporting that, actually, federal laws should have prevented Cho from buying the guns he used in committing the crime, since he had been declared by a court to be a danger. This contradicts the earlier assumption that the law did not prohibit firearms from being sold into such hands.

By contrast with the New York Times, the Virginia Tech story falls off Page 1 of the L.A. Times this morning, and the stories inside are not nearly so significant, although Miguel Bustillo's story on the memorial service for Kevin P. Granata, one of the Virginia Tech professors who died trying to save their students after the shooting began, was beautiful. At the Granata service, the teacher's doctoral advisor at Ohio State, William Marras, said, "When I heard he had died trying to save the lives of students, I was not surprised. That's Kevin." And that's one of the glories of academic life, on a day of horror.

Meanwhile, we are beginning to be in the period, which seems to follow several days after every major earthquake or human disaster, where nonsensical rumors and speculations are beginning to mark the comment on the tragedy.

To cite examples, there was the Op Ed page piece in the L.A. Times yesterday by Rosa Brooks, criticizing the national anguish over the worst domestic shooting in U.S. history. "Count me out," she writes. "There''s something fraudulent about eagerness to latch onto the grief of others and embrace the idea that we, too, have been victimized. This trivializes the pain felt by those who have actually lost something."

What nonsense! It is certainly appropriate for the whole nation to mourn what has happened at Virginia Tech, in part because this was just one of a series of school shootings, and they are impacting lives all over the country. Brooks should not have written such a silly article, and when she did, Op Ed Page editor Nick Goldberg should not have agreed to run it. Goldberg seems mainly committed to inane commentary.

Then, Los Angeles attorney Shelly Sloan, who frequently forwards articles supporting the Bush Administration, forwarded one suggesting that "politically correct" Virginia Tech was somehow complicit in the massacre by the courses it allowed to be taught on literature by criminal minds, and so forth. This too is nonsense. Virginia Tech has thousands of students. Only one committed the massacre, and it is ridiculous to suggest something he heard in class brought him to do it.


Friday, April 20, 2007

Tribune Co. Cash Flow Off 12% In First Quarter

Tribune Co. CEO Dennis FitzSimons continues to fall on his face in performance, guiding the company to a catastrophic 12% decline in operating cash flow and a $15.6 million overall loss in the first quarter.

Who is the hapless FitzSimons trying to emulate? Ken Low, the late CEO of Enron?

Sam Zell, the buyer of Tribune, has said he will keep present management, pending a review and evaluation. If only Zell, whose ownership will not be final until the end of the year, could do both in the next 24 hours and give FitzSimons, senior member of the "axis of stupidity" which has been driving the Tribune newspapers into the ground, his walking papers. FitzSimons needs to get out of the company's hair. He deserves only a small severance, perhaps $3.

Just as he did last year, the word in a Tribune story today is that FitzSimons, throwing more downsizing into the mix, now is planning a new buyout and possibly layoffs at the Tribune properties.

He could also cut back the Chicago Cubs, which Tribune has said it will sell anyway at the end of the current baseball season. But unfortunately the Cubs, not for the first time, are mired in a tie for last place in the National League's Central Division, reducing their value, and it will probably be the newspapers that take the brunt of any further cutbacks.

John Carroll, before he quit as editor of the L.A. Times in protest against FitzSimons' policies of cut, cut, cut, until there's very little left, used to make the point that in order for a business to thrive, its operators need to invest in it. FitzSimons probably hasn't invested in anything since buying his children used tricycles years ago.

As FitzSimons has continued to cut, and now wants to cut some more, readers and advertisers are leaving the Tribune newspapers in droves. And yet this idiot presses on. Maybe, he has been paid off by the Wall Street analysts who are so pessimistic about the newspaper business.

Yes, we are in a period of tests for the industry. Today's story says real estate ads are off about 15%, and so are want-ads. The want-ads though are a longtime phenomenon, and the declines Tribune is reporting this morning are more than twice the industry average.

Also, there was bad news this week about Tribune's Web advertising business. Yahoo and Google are making new advertising arrangements with newspapers, to share advertising, but the Tribune's company is not in on the deal. That's Tribune management for you in the pre-Zell period. They are always falling short and not particularly imaginative competititively.

No, the time has come for this failed manager to GO, and if he won't jump over the side voluntarily, he ought to be pushed. It's too late to save his business career.


Polls in the French elections, the first round of which will be held Sunday, show the possibility of a considerable turn to the right in France, which would mean pressure against the continued Muslim immigration that has caused so many problems, culminating in riots in the heavily-Muslim Paris suburbs and even recently at the Gare du Nord inside Paris.

Nicolas Sarkozy, the Gaullist candidate, who memorably as French Interior Secretary called the rioters "scum," is running ahead in all polls, but not overwhelmingly so.

The latest survey out this week showed Sarkozi with 28% iof the vote jn the first round, socialist Segolene Royale with 24%, centrist Francois Bayrou with 14% and right wing candidate Jean Marie Le Pen with 12%. In a final second round between the top two candidates, the poll showed Sarkozy winning the presidency, 53% to 47%. But another survey showed Sarkozy leading Royale, an unwed mother of four, only 27% to 26% in the first round. She has been appealing to women voters, and perhaps there could be a surprise.

There have, however, been recent reports of Le Pen voters crossing over to vote for Sarkozy.

It has often been suggested on both sides of the Channel in recent months that Europe will move to the right to prevent Islamization of the continent. Sunday's French election will be a critical test of that thesis.


Thursday, April 19, 2007

Evil Is Bestride The World, Often Religion-Based

This has been a terrible week, and by no means all of the evil occurrences were at Virginia Tech University, where a monster who should have been expelled from the school and committed to a mental institution long ago shot to death 32 students and faculty and sent a written message and videos to national television boasting of his crimes.

These are some of the other events of the week, all apparently relating to Muslim religious fanaticism.

--In Turkey, three evangelicals, two Turks and a German, were found dead with their throats slit, apparently because they were printing Bibles and other Christian literature at a publishing house. Turkey committed genocide in murdering more than a million Armenian Christians in World War I, and has never apologized. Now, in the last year, several priests or other Christians have been murdered there with little prosecution. And this is a country which, outrageously, wants to be admitted to the European Union. It must clean up its act, first.

--In Iran, the country's "Supreme Court," a nefarious organization where justice is unknown, overturned the convictions of six members of a militia who murdered five people because they considered them morally "corrupt." In one instance, a young couple engaged to be married were murdered, because they were observed walking together in violation of Muslim strictures against contact between unmarried men and women. The killings followed a ruling by a senior Muslim cleric in 2002 that anyone could murder someone they considered morally corrupt, if the law did not step in first.

--In Iraq, on a day following one in which nearly 200 people were killed in sectarian bombings by Sunnis against Shiites, Al Qaeda operatives lined up 20 people they had kidnapped the day before and shot each of them in the back of the head. Al Qaeda is an organization of fascist Muslim fundamentalists which has threatened the whole world and has been responsible for killing thousands of other Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan, and thousands of members of all religions, not to mention atheists, in New York, Washington, Madrid, London and elsewhere.

--In Gaza, where Al Qaeda-linked kidnappers of a BBC reporter sent a message out over the weekend saying they had killed him, the so-called Palestinian president, the cowardly wastrel Mahmoud Abbas, issued a statement saying the reporter, Alan Johnston, was still alive and he knew where he was being held. But Abbas, the responsible authority, seems to have done nothing to attempt to free Johnston, nor has he fulfilled repeated pledges that kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit would be released. He and his Palestinian Authority are complicit in these crimes.

So it is not only Virginia Tech, where there have been heinous acts committed this week, in that case by a man of uncertain religion who compared himself to Jesus Christ and carried an "Ismail X" insignia on his arm.

That's just this week. Last week, there were attacks in Algeria and Morocco by suicide bombers that took many lives, and every week, there are terrible acts being committed that the world can ill afford to tolerate.

One issue raised this morning, in a New York Times Op Ed page article by Barbara Oakley, an engineering professor at Oakland University, in Michigan, who has authored a forthcoming book entitled: "Evil Genes: Why Rome Fell, Hitler Rose, Enron Failed and My Sister Stole My Mother's Boy Friend," is why Virginia Tech did not get rid of its killer long ago.

After all, this personification of evil had stalked women, disrupted classes, acted in bizarre fashion toward students and teachers and, finally, armed himself with deadly weapons. Oakley suggests that schools like Virginia Tech allow their fear of lawsuits to overwhelm any desire to protect other students.

I can just see the lawyers for Virginia Tech counseling, "If we expel Cho, he may sue us." So, unchecked, he ended up killing 32 students and faculty.

The New York Times published a story on Page 1 today suggesting that in many cases, present state laws tie the hands of schools which might desire to get rid of disturbed people. If so, those laws need to be changed. We have to go back of Justice Oliver Wendel Holmes, who once said that freedom of speech does not entail the right to yell fire in a crowded theatre. Those who cause panic or behave abominably have no place on a college campus, and the good of the great majority of law-abiding students must prevail.

Similarly, there are a few suggestions being made that if only his classmates had been more friendly to Cho, this would not have happened. This is baloney after it has been left outdoors several days. No amount of kindly understanding would have stopped this fellow.

Some years ago, mainly I think to save money, many states scaled back their mental institutions, and suggested outpatient care would suffice for many of the mentally disturbed. That pendulum probably swung too far, and more people, not a large number but some, should be locked up until their conditions improve, if they ever do.

Evil will prevail when good men and women do nothing or too little. And that is what is happening in the world today. There is insufficient resistance against people, religions, forces, that are tearing the world apart, and much worse may lie ahead once these people obtain weapons of mass destruction.


I can understand why NBC chose to broadcast small parts of Cho's statements which he mailed to them, after properly handing the whole outrageous mailing to the FBI. But I also understand the Virginia Tech parents and students who refused to appear on NBC's Today program this morning, because they were outraged at seeing these images. NBC decided to cut back on its coverage, with Today hosts explaining that there had been division in the newsroom over showing them at all. Fox News decided, after 12 hours, not to show any more of them. The fact is, if we never hear any more from Cho, it will be too soon.


Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Terrific Reporting By LAT, PBS And NBC In Virginia

Two TV networks, NBC and PBS, are having a brilliant week, with their coverage of the tragic shootings at Virginia Tech and their coverage of issues raised by the wars against Islamic terrorists, respectively. The L.A. Times has also done magnificently.

The difficulties of the effort to deal with nihilists mark both matters The world is having a terrible time confronting madmen, be they a lone shooter at an American college campus, or the institutionalized madness and brutality by the terrorists in the Middle East,

That NBC has been doing a fantastic job of covering the massacre of Virginia Tech will be evident to everyone watching it. Led on scene by its outstanding and morally sensitive anchor, Bryan Williams, NBC has turned up one remarkable interview after another and brought home to everyone the tragedy of this event, 31 innocent and often remarkable people brought down by one deranged killer. Then, on Wednesday, NBC was the recipient of the last mailing of the killer, a photo-filled and rambling monologue on his hatreds.

L.A. Times coverage of the tragic events was massive and eloquent, especially the story written by Stephanie Simon, who is always superb in the most trying circumstances. The Times got a substantial reporting staff to Virginia Tech and, I believe, overwhelmed the New York Times coverage. Usually, the New York Times is not outdone on its disaster coverage. This time, it was.

But PBS's two-hour programs, 9 to 11, each night this week, "America At A Crossroads," on the nation trying, not very successfully, to combat Al Qaeda and other Islamic fanatics have been just as compelling.

There have been remarkable scenes in the series, especially of frustrated U.S. military commanders who have been trying their best to train and encourage the Iraqi army and police, only to be confronted with their incompetence, laziness, lack of dedication and, often, outright devotion to terrorist sectarianism.

There was one instance in the show last night where a U.S. Army officer tried vainly to block an Iraqi police detail from leaving his post, each of its members wearing a mask. He knew they were on the way not to police but to conduct a sectarian terror mission, out to kidnap and kill.

Last night also, PBS devoted an hour to allowing Richard Perle, an Iraq war proponent, to confront the opposition to the war. Perle did a good job of pointing out why the U.S. is fighting the war, but the overall impression created by this series is that the war is being lost, and that the most nilihistic elements are in charge in Iraq.

Also another salient feature of the series is that it conveys much more clearly to the audience the look of Iraq and the war than does the two-minute reports on nightly network television. The time PBS is devoting to the subject has everything to do with that, just like NBC was able to make such good use last night of a special one-hour nightly news on the Virginia Tech massacre.

Then, we got up this morning, and the news from Baghdad was of new bombings in marketplaces, killing 183 people. The AP story said that despite the new U.S. security drive, the death toll in the Iraqi capital is mounting back toward the period just before the crackdown began.

It is difficult enough inside America to confront the nihilists. Cho Seung Hui uncomfortably reminds me of Lee Harvey Oswald. Both gave those who observed them all kinds of reasons to be terribly concerned about their behavior, long before they exploded and committed their terrible acts. Yet society seemed incapable of acting soon enough to head them off.

We are not doing, as the PBS series shows, a more effective job of heading off the dire threat posed by the terrorists, who, if they get nuclear weapons, may well choose to undertake a "first strike" against the U.S. or other Western countries.

A normally reasonable man I know told me last week that if the U.S. was attacked by nuclear weapons, all the Arabs in the world would be quickly annihilated.

Let's pray it never comes to that, but it could unless we learn much better than we have so far how to stop the madmen before they commit their worst crimes.


Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Why Is There So Little Gun Control In U.S.?

President Bush may mean well by participating today in a memorial service for those who so tragically lost their lives in the shootings at Virginia Tech University.

But the President has almost always opposed the gun control laws that could have averted the tragedy. Tonight, appearing on the NBC Nightly News, the President again ducked the issue.

As the shooter was identified, turning out to be another loner who carefully plotted the massacre, and was carrying the guns, chains and extra ammunition necessary to perpetrate it, the foolishness which has long characterized the nation's policies on gun control was being repeated in various quarters today.

Even the moderate Washington Post asked editorially whether the students and teachers at Virginia Tech would have been safer had the Virginia Legislature this past year not killed a law that would have allowed them to carry guns on campus.

But a massively-armed campus would be prone to more shootings, not fewer, through momentary flareups, misunderstandings and accidents.

The statistic are clear: the prevalence of guns in the United States causes a murder rate here that is far higher than in countries where guns are strictly controlled or prohibited.

Yes, Britain, which does have strong gun controls, had a massacre at Dunblane a few years ago, in which a crazed gunman slaughtered young schoolchildren. But, all told, Britain has had far fewer such incidents than the USA. In our own interest in these matters, we must play the odds. And after Dunblane, Britain tightened its laws, as did Australia, after a massacre there.

It is not enough to take the position the L.A. Times takes editorially today that silence and thoughtful contemplation is the best response to what happened yesterday at Virginia Tech. The New York Times, which presently has a stronger editorial page, was much more forthright when it said today, "What is needed, urgently, is stronger controls over the lethal weapons that cause such wasteful carnage and such unbearable loss."

If we are ever to discourage the frequent repetition of such crimes (there have been several in the last year, including particularly poignant shootings in a Colorado high school and an Amish elementary school in Pennsylvania), then we must act, as citizens, to build the most powerful support for measures that will reduce the number of guns and make them more difficult for such loners as the Virginia Tech shooter, Cho Seung Hui, to obtain.


Monday, April 16, 2007

First Combined Opinion And Book Review Is Mediocre

Jim Newton's work is cut out for him. The first combined Opinion and Book Review section in the L.A. Times yesterday was bland and mediocre. It is clear that regardless of the design, it will take more imagination to make it a success.

Altogether, as a former editor of the Times remarked to me last night, the combined section represents a reduction in the total news hole devoted to these vital subjects. It represents another step in the Tribune company's cost cutting that is not in the interest of the readers. It is a depressing confirmation that the inept Dennis FitzSimons, CEO of the company, is still in charge, and continues to run his newspapers into the ground. It also shows that the Tribune appointees as publisher and editor of the Times, David Hiller and James O'Shea, are not successfully resisting his depredations at the newspaper.

That said, it is true that producing the Book Review as a flip side to Opinion may actually improve the readership of Book Review. At least, it is appearing in a more obvious place in the Sunday paper.

However, you would have thought the editors would have begun the new product with better reviews and articles. You would have thought they would have devoted much greater effort to see that they got off to the best possible start.

The lead article in the Opinion section, by Ruben Martinez, a professor in the English Department at Loyola Marymount University, was serviceable, but not so remarkable as to justify the lead position. This is the kind of article that might well have appeared on an Op Ed page, although the new Opinion section no longer has an Op Ed page, representing a distinct loss and taking the paper back 40 years.

There was a decent article inside about House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, but that was about it. On a week when so many things were happening in both the War on Terror and here at home, there was little or no attempt to bring salient features in the news to bear in the new section. The editorial, one instead of the several that used to run in the larger section, was pedestrian.

The Times is going to have to do better than this. Sam Zell, the prospective new owner, should take David Hiller, the Times publisher, who is directly responsible for the editorial sections, by the scruff of the neck and tell him: "You can't rest on your laurels of firing Dean Baquet and creating this mediocrity. Get your act together or get out."

Meanwhile, Newton can't take over too soon.


This is a big and sad day in the news, with the tragic shootings at Virginia Tech University, the worst in U.S. history. All the major cable channels -- CNN, Fox and MSNBC -- are going at it full time, and the newspaper web sites are leading with it. The L.A. Times Web site has a good story, but it took me several minutes to access the web site, as distinct from the New York Times Web site, which came to the screen immediately. The problem may indicate there is less capacity for access to the LAT Web site than the NYT.

Already, some idiotic Virginia official is saying that despite the shootings, we don't need gun control in this country. For shame!


Congratulations to Kenneth Weiss, Usha McFarling and Rick Loomis of the L.A. Times for winning the Pulitzer Prize today for their articles on the distressed state of the world's oceans. (Usha has left the Times, however, to care for her two small children).

Also, congratulations to Jonathan Gold of the L.A. Weekly for winning a Pulitzer for criticism for his outstanding restaurant reviews. Gold, of course, used to review inexpensive restaurants for the L.A. Times. I wonder why he's no longer with the paper. This, incidentally was the first Pulitzer ever won by the L.A. Weekly, and the first one ever awarded for restaurant criticism.

The Wall Street Journal, whose editor, former L.A. Timesman Paul Steiger, is retiring this year, won two Pulitzers, the highest total of any for an American paper.


Sunday, April 15, 2007

Zell Bluntly Says L.A. Times Will Not Be Sold

In his clearest statement to date, Sam Zell has told Maria Bartiromo, in an interview published in BusinessWeek that he will not sell the L.A. Times. It sounds like a definitive statement by the new Tribune Co. owner.

"There's no intention of selling the L.A. Times," Zell said. "Period. End of speech."

And, to a followup question from Bartiromo, who, by the way conducted a more penetrating interview with Zell than either the Chicago Tribune or the L.A. Times, Zell said,

"I don't have any plans to sell any newspapers. We're going to own all the newspapers for the foreseeable future." That would seem to be definitive for Newsday, the Baltimore Sun, the Hartford Courant and other former Times-Mirror newspapers, with the exception of the ones in Greenwich and Stamford, which, I believe, were committed to sale before Zell came on board.

Zell did reiterate that the Chicago Cubs baseball team would be sold, saying, "I'm really not a baseball fan" and indicating he expects a lucrative selling price.

The Bartiromo interview also elicited a strong statement by Zell of his belief in the future of the newspaper industry.

"Where everyone is prophesying the newspaper business is dead, I think of Mark Twain's quote as applicable," Zell said, "that reports of its death are highly exaggerated."

However, Zell was noncommittal on staffing level plans, saying, "I don't have enough information at this point to answer that."

In another part of the interview, Zell said he "absolutely not" will use the editorial pages of the various Tribune newspapers to reflect his own personal views.

When Bartiromo asked, "Why?," Zell responded:

"This is an economic transaction. I'm not buying a way to get my views shared with the world. I'm not averse to telling everybody exactly what I think. But I believe in editorial independence. I truly believe that the editorial side of this business should not be determined by someone in my position. And I'm perfectly happy to have the newsrooms continue to do what they've been doing, and maybe do it better."

This does not completely exclude that he may have some influence over what the editorial pages of his papers say, because he refers to "newsrooms," and it is not clear that he and Bartiromo are using the same exact meaning for editorial pages, but the implication certainly is the individual publishers and editorial pages editors will be free to express their views in editorials. We'll see.

In another part of the Bartiromo interview, Zell indicated his satisfaction that the Chandler family is being bought out of any shares in the Tribune-owned papers, remarking that "the biggest immediate benefit" of his purchase "is that the warfare between shareholders and the company will end and that in itself will go a long way toward improving the environment" for company decision making.

This blog has been devoted, throughout its two and a half years thus far, to the idea of selling the Times back to local ownership. But now I and other such proponents have little choice but to wait and see how Zell runs the newspapers. He was explicit with Bartiromo that his tenure as the Tribune owner would be fairly lengthy, saying, "We envision being involved at least 10 years."


As I said in a blog March 1, the Los Angeles bid for the 2016 Olympic Games got off on the wrong foot, because its $112 million plan to renovate the Coliseum indicated a third L.A. Games would be improvisational and Spartan, like the 1984 Games, and Olympic authorities would not be likely to settle for that. Also, I mentioned the over representation on the L.A. bid committee of downtown lawyers and the failure to sufficiently bring in Hollywood celebrities.

Now, the selection by the U.S. Olympic Committee board of Chicago as the American candidate city for the Games confirms that my impressions were correct. Chicago also undoubtedly benefited, as Helene Elliott suggests in her story this morning in the L.A. Times by not only coming up with an ambitious plan, well presented, but also by the fact that it has never held the Olympics before, while Los Angeles has had it twice.

I do not share the view some are expressing that Chicago has a good chance to be awarded the Games by the International Olympic Committee in 2009. Given the present world environment, I think it's more likely that the IOC will choose a foreign city. We'll see.

A somewhat different view of that, and an assessment of the Chicago victory yesterday which somewhat parallels mine, can be seen from Alan Abrahamson, the former L.A. Times Olympic correspondent who has now gone to work for NBC, at It is well worth reading.


Saturday, April 14, 2007

L.A. Times Has A Good Week, Things Looking Up

With the appointment of Jim Newton as the new Times editorial pages editor, and publication this week of several tremendous Page 1 and Calendar section stories and columns, it seemed like the paper is fortifying a turn for the better that seems to have begun with the purchase of the Tribune Co. by real estate magnate Sam Zell.

I know it's early, but I have a good feeling about Zell, who is not likely to hold the animus for California, Los Angeles and the Times that Tribune CEO Dennis FitzSimons has had. After all, he has cared enough for L.A. to have a home out here, which he frequently visits. And why not? Wouldn't any Chicagoan who can afford to live somewhere else want to do so? (Two good articles on Zell's Jewish background appeared this week by Bill Boyarsky in the Jewish Journal and Nathaniel Popper in the Jewish Daily Forward).

One of the earliest economic signs of a definitive Times upturn would be an increase in the newspaper's promotional budget to allow the advertisements necessary to reverse the circulation decline.

That said, this week's stories and the Newton appointment are fine for the paper.

Newton, unlike the previous two editorial page editors, Michael Kinsley and Andres Martinez, actually is a Californian, and, unlike Kinsley, he will be working full time at the job. He is a talented newsman, as proved once again by his tremendous recent book on the life of Earl Warren. This is a good appointment by Times Publisher David Hiller. It represents a turning point for the Times editorial pages, which include the Op Ed page and Sunday's Opinion section.

Tom Johnson, former publisher of the Times, in a message to Newton today, called the appointment "a splendid decision by David Hiller" which "places the editorial page and Op Ed page back in the hands of a highly seasoned professional who knows well the market primarily served by the Times -- Southern California." He also noted Newton's understanding of national and international issues.

Newton, 44, a Dartmouth graduate and editor of the college newspaper, has worked for the New York Times, Atlanta Constitution, and, since, 1989, the Times, as city-county bureau chief and political editor, among other posts. His background in Los Angeles and California affairs will be very welcome on the editorial page, but Hiller also emphasized that the Times editorially would continue to be greatly interested in national and foreign affairs.

Jim Rainey's story on the appointment in this morning's paper quotes Newton as describing himself as "moderate to liberal and not particularly partisan," which also was a good description of the politics of Warren, the California governor and U.S. Supreme Court chief justice he wrote about in his book. (Rainey describes Newton's predecessor, Martinez, as "hard to categorize," a polite way to describe a man who was primarily a goofball. We have Martinez's love life, leading to ethics questions, to thank for his welcome departure from the Times).

The Times, meanwhile, by any standard, had a good week in news coverage. Two front-page stories, on Iraq and cancer surgery, stood out in particular, as did the Times coverage of the Don Imus demise, especially an outstanding column by Tim Rutten. The Calendar section is improving, as Friday's eclectic mix of movie reviews, the Rutten column, and a story by New York media correspondent Matea Gold and an "appreciation" by Times book review editor David Ulin, demonstrated.

The front page articles by Borzou Daragahi on his four and a half years of reporting in Iraq, and the personal account of her preventive cancer surgery by Anna Gorman would have made the week distinguished for the Times had it published little else. These kinds of stories are what the Times often does best, and are not seen in the New York Times.

Meanwhile, Rutten's media commentary, and his book reviews, are always good. He dug up aspects of the Imus controversy that almost no one else had. And Gold's piece on censorship by many PBS stations of military profanities in a war documentary, as well as Ulin's "appreciation" of novelist Kurt Vonnegut, who died during the week, added substantially to the unusually good Friday Calendar section.

Many weeks like this, and the Times will be making a comeback. Now, if only FitzSimons will follow Martinez into journalistic oblivion, we will really be getting somewhere.


Friday, April 13, 2007

Don't Negotiate With Terrorist Kidnappers

The freeing by the Taliban of Italian journalist Daniele Mastrogiacomo in Afghanistan last month after the Italian government prevailed upon Hamid Karzai in Afghanistan to release five Taliban prisoners in exchange has had the kind of tragic aftermath that the U.S., Britain and even Karzai himself had predicted.

Their diabolical strategies confirmed by the Italian weakness, the Taliban promptly stepped up their kidnappings, seizing two Frenchmen and 13 Afghans and demanding the release of other Taliban prisoners for their release. To prove their determination, the Taliban beheaded Mastrogiacomo's Afghan interpreter, Ajmal Naqshbandi, who they had continued holding, on April 8, after Karzai refused to exchange two Taliban prisoners for him.

Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi, confronting the storm of public indignation that arose in Italy over the beheading, insists that the Taliban tricked Italian negotiators, telling them they would release Naqshbandi at the same time they released Mastrogiacomo.

But there will be a wave of kidnappings all over the Middle East, where the terrorists primarily operate, if the terrorists come to believe Western governments will exchange prisoners for the kidnapped. In this instance, the Italians saved Mastrogiacomo's life, only to jeopardize many others.

Already in Gaza, we see, with the kidnapping of BBC journalist Alan Johnston, and the continued holding of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, by Palestinian terrorists, the developing trend. Kidnapping will become in 2007 what airplane hijackings were in the 1970s, unless the kidnappers conclude there is little or no profit in the kidnappings, and that they primarily endanger their own lives by taking them.

The hijackings, at least by the organized terrorists in Al Qaeda and other organizations, dropped way off after American and German special forces flew to the scenes, in Malta and Somalia, and killed a good many of the terrorists in rescue operations. Also, the 1976 Entebbe raid by Israeli commandos was important. There are still occasional hijacking attempts, such as in Turkey this week, but these are usually perpetrated by lone crazies who have proved easier to overcome.

It is quite predictable what will happen, if we start negotiating with kidnappers. These crimes will only spread, and it will not be long before the terrorists are kidnapping American ambassadors, journalists and tourists and demanding the release of high profile terrorists now properly rotting in American jails.

Sometimes, as in the Jill Carroll case in Iraq, the terrorists ultimately despair of winning anything in return for freeing their hostages, and release them. Carroll's chief kidnapper may have fallen in love with her. Sometimes, they execute them, as in the case of the Afghan interpreter.

But it is a terrible mistake to pay ransom, release prisoners or assume other compliant positions in order to free the kidnapped.

In the United States, the institution of the death penalty for kidnapping, after the abduction of the Lindbergh baby, was instrumental in reducing kidnappings in this country. We have to take the same hardheaded position in relation to this latest of terrorists ploys: They must be made to understand that if they kidnap and kill people, they will ultimately be hunted down and either killed or imprisoned indefinitely themselves.

In this context, Shelly Sloan has posted this morning an excerpt from Machiavelli, in which he tells of Rome's reaction to a hostage taking long ago. The Roman Senate declared three days of mourning for the hostages, who were presumed dead, and then sent the Roman army to the city state that had taken the hostages. Even though they were released, the Romans carried on, launching an attack against the city, killing or enslaving everyone in it, and then plowing the whole city under. There was no more hostage taking.


The U.S. Olympic Committee is proving itself to be even more secretive than the International Olympic Committee by not only barring the press from final presentations by Chicago and Los Angeles representatives seeking USOC endorsement of their 2016 Olympic bids, but refusing to disclose the final vote totals on which city to select.

According to IOC rules, only one city per country is allowed to bid for IOC selection of each Games, so the USOC decision will determine the American candidate city, that is if the USOC selectors choose to field any candidate for 2016.

The IOC traditionally has disclosed every vote on selecting a city, even while keeping the press out of the last deliberations preceding a vote. A Chicago Tribune report suggests that the USOC, under its usually secretive chairman, Peter Ueberroth, wants to keep secret how individual members have voted, because four of the 11 voting are from the Los Angeles area.

Maybe so. But it's worth remembering that when the USOC selected Los Angeles over New York as the U.S. candidate city for the 1984 Games, back in 1977, the vote was by the USOC's entire executive committee of, as I recall, 85 members, not such a small selection board as is being allowed to vote this time, and then the vote was announced, at least numerically.

The new procedure is a scandal and should be protested by the entire media covering the Olympics. I'd rather do away with the Olympics than let these Olympic bodies become more secretive than they already have been.


Thursday, April 12, 2007

McCain Commands Admiration With Principled Stand

Sen. John McCain's speech yesterday before the military cadets at VMI will, I believe, be remembered and honored when the history of this period is written. Just as Winston Churchill was excoriated as a warmonger when he made his speech, on Oct. 5, 1938, on the Munich Agreement, only to be revered later when everything he warned of came to pass.

We must "take our stand for freedom as in the olden time," Churchill concluded in his great address to Parliament.

So stands McCain. In warning of the calamities to come should the war in Iraq be lost, and in calling on the nation to be steadfast, McCain has put the nation's interest above that of his own transitory political fortunes. It is reminiscent, as New York Times columnist David Brooks notes this morning, of the heroic resistance that McCain made to his North Vietnamese interrogators when he was a prisoner in the Vietnam war.

The stakes today are much greater than Vietnam. A virulent fascism, seeking to arm itself with nuclear weapons, is sweeping over the Middle East and North Africa, and threatening Europe and the United States. The greatest battle is going on in Iraq, where U.S. armed forces are engaged in a bitter and protracted war against those who in Al Qaeda and other Muslim fundamentalist organizations would spread their brand of barbarism throughout the world. At the same time, weak-kneed p0liticians in Washington grow discouraged. They are willing to give up the fight in Iraq in the vain hope that the enemy would then let us alone. They are today's parallel to Neville Chamberlain and others who, in the 1930s, sought "peace in our time" by throwing over Czechoslovakia, only to see Hitler, less than a year later, launch an aggressive war that killed more than 50 million.

It is in this context that McCain's speech yesterday was given.

The Arizona senator declared, "I understand the frustration caused by our mistakes in this war. I sympathize with the fatigue of the American people. But I also know the toll a lost war takes on an army and a country. It (the Iraq war) is the right road. It is necessary and just."

McCain said of the recent Congressional votes for a timed withdrawal, "Democratic leaders smiled and cheered as the late votes were counted. What were they celebrating? Defeat?Surrender?"

But, as he asserted, the Democratic stands can lead to "disaster for the United States of America...What their motives might be, I can't ascertain. I do know what these actions will cause."

If the war is lost, McCain said, "We would face a terrible choice: watch the region burn, the price of oil escalate dramatically, and our economy decline, watch the terrorists establish new base camps, or send American troops back to Iraq, with the odds against our success much worse than they are today."

It was the NYT columnist, Brooks, who best captured the moment of this prophetic speech.

"McCain has been gradually sliding in the polls, and he has responded not by panicking, or by changing, but by surrendering himself to the fates," Brooks wrote. "He's had a wonderful life, he feels, and if he is not president, it will be no tragedy. At first I thought he was making preemptive excuses for a possible defeat, but after observing him closely I concluded this is a fatalism that Navy fliers must often adopt as they go into combat.

"And there's a stubbornness about him, now, too, which was not evident on the Straight Talk Express. The atmosphere is much harsher toward him, and you can see the hardness he must have used to resist his Vietnamese jailers."

McCain views the war as an epic, Brooks writes, and believes "he has a support the strategy he still believes in, and perhaps ward off the worse cataclysm that would come from chaos and early withdrawal."

And, finally Brooks says of McCain, "He's been consistent and steady these past few years, while others have flickered. He's been offended by Democrats who laughed and celebrated during the passage of withdrawal legislation. Yesterday he criticized them in a way that was harsh but thoroughly considered.

"But in the long run, his embrace of Iraq may not hurt him as much as now appears. In 10 months, this election won't be about the surge, it will be about the hydra-headed crisis roiling the Middle East. The candidate who is the most substantive, most mature and most consistent will begin to look more attractive and more necessary."

Nineteen months after Lady Astor screamed "Nonsense" as Churchill spoke, and most of the rest of the Parliament cheered her, the King called Churchill to become Prime Minister.

I've quoted both McCain and Brooks at length today, because I believe their words are historic. In the calamitous months and years to come, we will be glad these men stood for their principles.


Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Terrorists Are Indeed Bloodthirsty And Barbaric

On a morning when Algerian authorities are reporting 30 dead from two new al-Qaeda bombings, one at the Prime Minister's office, it seems appropriate to make a point about a comment on yesterday's blog.

This anonymous comment calls me "more than hypocritical" for being critical of Don Imus' racist remark about the Rutgers women's basketball team, after on other occasions assailing Arab groups with what he terms "hate" accusations of being barbaric and bloodthirsty.

It is not hypocritical to draw distinctions between evils. The Imus remark was destructive of racial harmony and respect in the United States, and the preseverant and admirable Rutgers basketball team was a foul target.

But the al-Qaeda and other terrorists in the Arab world are unquestionably evil, barbaric and bloodthirsty, as I've said, and these groups deserve to be annihilated, just like the Nazis were. It is not racist, but a recognition of facts, dismal as they may be, to insist that "moderate" Muslims stand up against the terrorists, just as we admired the German officers who tried to assassinate Hitler, and the courageous students, Hans and Sophie Scholl, who resisted him and paid with their lives. After all, Hitler ended up by destroying the lives of millions of Germans, not just Jews, Poles, Russians, gypsies and others. And the terrorists today are slaughtering thousands of fellow-Arabs, not just American, British and Israeli soldiers.

Liberals, conservatives, all of us, have to deplore in the srongest terms acts such as took place in Algeria today, and are taking place every day in Iraq and Afghanistan and the Holy Land as bloodthirsty and barbaric. Not successfully quelling them can only mean their spread throughout the world. That is why U.S. troops are fighting. We owe them not only our thanks, but our sacrifices. Honor to them!


Three articles yesterday in the Los Angeles Times and New York Times represented everything journalists do that is so valuable to American democracy. They certainly deserve the highest commendation.

First, above all, was the unforgettable account of his four and a half years of reporting in Iraq by Borzou Daragahi, who has moved on to a new foreign post in Beirut. This long article, "Layers of truth and life in Iraq," appeared on Page 1 of the L.A. Times and carried over to two inside pages. Everyone ought to read it, because it describes everything reporters are up against in this nasty war. Every American owes Daragahi and so many other reporters a great debt for what they have been doing to keep us informed. Daragahi, an Iranian-American, used every wile at his command to do his duty in the Baghdad bureau of the L.A. Times. He is a candidate in my book for journalist of the year. (L.A. Times editor Dean Baquet won it last year).

On the same Page 1 in the L.A. Times yesterday was a comprehensive article by Times reporter Nicholas Riccardi on the career and presidential campaign of Democratic Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico. Richardson, who added to his distinguished career just this week with his latest visit to North Korea, where he conducted discussions with North Korean officials on the denuclearizing of that country, and brought home also the remains of six American soldiers killed in the Korean war, is not as well known as other Democratic candidates, such as Sen. Hillary Clinton, Sen. Barack Obama and former Sen. John Edwards. But he may well be better qualified to assume the presidency than any of them. As such, one can only hope his candidacy gains traction. Riccardi has done a good job of indicating why this would be desirable.

Finally, a column on the New York Times Op-Ed page by Bob Herbert told the shocking story of what happened to a six-year-old girl, Desre'e Watson, when she threw a tantrum at an elementary school in Avon Park, Fla. , which Herbert pointedly describes as "a small, backward city." The ignorant school officials in this benighted place summoned the police and the little girl was taken to jail where police said she would be treated as a felon. They handcuffed her by the biceps, since her wrists were too small. Watson is black, certainly raising the question of whether she would have been subject to such treatment if she were white. We can't be sure, but I think not.

I think it's likely that none of these stories would have been as effective on television, certainly not in the same form. It's yet another proof of why we need newspapers.


Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Don Imus Suspensions Not Enough

This was by no means the first time talk show host Don Imus had made racist remarks, and in that context his two week-suspension ordered by CBS and MSNBC is not sufficient. I'm not in agreement with civil rights leaders who say Imus should be relieved permanently, but I believe the suspension should be a matter of months, not weeks.

It may be also that advertisers will choose not to buy time on the Imus shows, and that some participants will cancel out, as I read that baseball "iron man" Cal Ripkin has already today.

Those who appear regularly on television or, for that matter, in newspaper or magazine reporting, must be held to a high standard when it comes to making prejudiced remarks. We live at a time when bad behavior toward other ethnic groups has led to a spiraling bloodbath in Iraq, Afghanistan and other countries. We have to take very strong steps to be sure it does not occur here.

And these racist remarks against the outstanding Rutgers basketball team, which gallantly fought its way through memorable upsets to the No. 2 showing in the NCAA Women's basketball tournament just concluded, come at a time when. for the first time, the U.S. has a black presidential candidate, Sen. Barack Obama, who has a real chance to be elected. We have to be extra careful not to let this period be marked by racist incidents in any form.

Jesse Jackson, the civil rights leader, pointed out on NBC this morning that MSNBC and many other news outlets these days have no black moderators or anchors. One of the few of these, Soledad O'Brien, is being removed this month as a morning anchor of CNN. Jackson's point about a need for diversity on news, and even comedy, outlets is well taken.

All of us have to be sensitive as Americans to anything that may stir ethnic or racial discord in this country. So to me, it seems that a two-week suspension of Imus, despite all his apologies, is not sufficient by any means.

Imus has received high ratings. Still, these cannot be allowed to be used as a reason to inadequately discipline him for racist remarks.


Monday, April 09, 2007

Frontrunners Losing Ground In 2008 Campaign

Both the Democratic and Republican front runners, Sen. Hillary Clinton and former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani have been losing ground in the polls in the first months of the developing 2008 presidential campaign.

On the Democratic side, both Sen. Barack Obama and former Sen. John Edwards have been gaining on Clinton. They are about even in a solid second place in what appears at this point to be a three-candidate race.

On the Republican side, all of the leading three candidates, Giuliani, Sen. John McCain and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney have encountered adverse reports that constitute setbacks, and there is new talk about other prospective candidates, such as Fred Thompson, a former senator from Tennessee. Polls show a substantial number of Republicans are not satisfied with their presidential candidates.

All of these developments are signs of an unusually early and volatile presidential race, the volatility compounded by the fact that no sitting president or vice president is in the running and the antipathy in the country to the Iraq war. (By coincidence, the L.A. Times runs an article today by Mark Barabak making many of the same points as this blog. I had not read it, when this blog was written).

Some of the lesser known candidates, such as Democratic Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico, have been reaping good publicity, the able Richardson with a visit this week to North Korea, but generally Richardson and others are so far back in the frontloaded primaries that their chances to actually emerge as strong candidates seem negligable.

With Clinton, her problems with being a woman confronted by doubts that a woman can win have only grown in the last two months. Her voice is criticized, her nuanced position on the war, her relationship to former President Bill Clinton. It is even suggested by some that the country has had enough of both the Clintons and the Bushes. Between the families, the Presidency seems to have been in the same two hands since 1988. When all these factors are added to the fact that both Obama and Edwards appeal to a lot of people as idealists and strong personalities and both have been able to raise substantial campaign contributions, and you pose a series of problems Clinton may be hard put to overcome. In other words, the chances are she might slide further. Her name identification iand her numerous campaign contributions are not proving as decisively favorable as she had hoped earlier.

With Giuliani, there are signs that as some voters learn more about his past record, his problems with recommending Bernard Kerik, who turned out to have family mob connections to President Bush as a director of home security, and even the embarrassing information that his wife, Judith Nathan, has had three husbands not two, and you see his support diminishing. Giuliani in recent interviews has been smiling too much and is not always credible. There are signs too that his splendid reputation from the events of 9/11 may be subject to attack, just as Sen. John Kerry's Vietnam war record of heroism was subject to second thoughts and misunderstandings he was hardput to confront. It may be ominous for Giuliani that the firefighters union has turned against him.

But in the Republican race, McCain has also suffered recent reverses. His optimism about the Iraq war, and especially overstatements made on a visit to a Baghdad market about the improved security there, plus impressions that he is aging and not as candid as he was in the past, have hurt him. Just a day after a well-guarded McCain walked through the market, 21 merchants were killed there in terrorist attacks. In short, his optimism about the war appeared misplaced.

Now, with Romney, he has been embarrassed by reports that he exaggerated his experience as a hunter, when he has only hunted twice, and then, perhaps, without a license.

Journalists covering the campaigns on both the Republican and Democratic sides are hard put to find new angles with many months to go until the first primaries. The result is quite a bit of nitpicking and concentration on petty negativism.

All this makes for unpredictability as the races go forward.


Saturday, April 07, 2007

An Obituary Need Not Be Positive Pablum

Comparing the New York Times and Los Angeles Times obituaries on Darryl Stingley, the paralyzed former pro football player who died Thursday at the age of 55, is instructive. The great NYT sportswriter Frank Litsky did a far better job than the L.A. Times sportswriter, Sam Farmer.

Obituaries need not be all positive. Sometimes, dismal facts must be allowed to intrude.

Both Litsky and Farmer did let facts intrude, but Litsky properly dealt at length with Jack Tatum, the Oakland Raider player whose intentional hit against Stingley, when Stingley was playing for the New England Patriots in 1978, rendered Stingley a quadriplegic for life, while Farmer dealt more with mistakes made in Stingley's treatment immediately after the injury occurred.

Tatum never apologized for his foul hit against Stingley, never went to see Stingley. In other words, he compounded the sin by his subsequent conduct and proved himself a thoroughly miserable human being.

As Litsky reported, Stingley ultimately forgave Tatum, telling the Boston Globe in 2003, "One person deliberately hurt another person. I'm not in denial about it. He said he went out there to hurt and maim people. But for me to go on and adapt to a new way of life, I had to forgive him."

That same year, complications of diabetes led to the amputation of Tatum's left leg below the knee, and his right leg was threatened by a blocked artery.

But Stingley did not gloat.. "You can't, as a human being, feel happy about something like that happening to another human being," he said. "Maybe the natural reaction is to think he got what was coming to him, but I don't accept human nature as our real nature. Human nature teaches us to hate. God teaches us to love."

Litsky observes, in his obituary of Stingley, "Similar sentiments appeared in Stingley's 1983 autobiography, 'Happy to Be Alive.' Tatum's autobiography was titled, 'They Call Me Assassin.'"

Farmer's obituary, on the other hand, goes quite a bit easier on Tatum. It mentions the two players never met after the injury, but it goes lighter on Tatum's reprehensible failure to apologize. He does indicate that Tatum actually tried to capitalize on the incident.

Farmer does, appropriately, note that those who rushed to aid Stingley after the Tatum hit occurred, failed to properly stabilize his head, which might have lessened the ultimate paralysis.

Inappropriately, the Farmer obituary, however, never describes the Tatum hit as intentional. Litsky, appropriately, describes it in the lead paragraph of his obituary as "an intentionally violent hit." In a later paragraph, he adds, "Tatum symbolized the violent play of many National Football League players at the time. He was not penalized on the play, and the league took no action, but it tightened its rules to punish players who made such hits."

Litsky is a great sportswriter. The comparison of the two obituaries proves that Farmer isn't one yet.


A Chicago Tribune story notes that the inept CEO of the Tribune Co., Dennis FitzSimons, was given a $1.4 million bonus for 2006, compared to $250,000 for 2005 and $260,000 in 2004. On top of the bonus, FitzSimons received $999,327 in salary in 2006.

This is another corporate spectacular. The more CEOs drive their companies into the ground, the better they seem to be compensated. FitzSimon's big bonus qualifies him for a bigger separation package should he leave the company.

The Tribune buyer, Sam Zell, has said he plans, at least for the time being, to keep FitzSimons and other Tribune executives in place, at least until he can evaluate their efficiency. Judging from FitzSimons' record, he deserves to be terminated as soon as possible, and, judging from his mistreatment of the company's properties outside of Chicago, he should never be permitted to work outside that city again.


Friday, April 06, 2007

Pelosi And Other Congress Should Stay Out Of Syria

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi probably should have stayed away from Syria, where she joined other recent Congressional visitors in dignifying the thuggish regime of Bashir Assad, and, actually, in her case falsified the position of the Israeli government. It showed that Pelosi has a lot to learn about foreign policy.

Pelosi foolishly told Assad that she was conveying a message from Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that Israel was ready to open negotiations with Syria.

Within hours, Olmert issued a statement saying that this was not what he had told Pelosi, that Israel would not open negotiations with Syria until the Assad regime had abandoned its support of terrorist organizations such as Hezbollah, which it has been resupplying, Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

The Logan Act, which bars free lancers from representing the U.S. in foreign affairs, is now honored more in the breach. Many members of Congress, both Republicans and Democrats, have visited Damascus in recent months. It reminds one of the British Members of Parliament who paid visits to Hitler and Mussolini in the 1930s. All went with good intentions, but they often came away calling the Fascist dictators reasonable men.

I don't think Pelosi is guilty of any felony here, as some political partisans have suggested, but still she should have been more careful. Syria has one of the world's most brutal regimes, and it has been allowing Arab Jihadists to cross over into Iraq, where they fight and kill American forces.

The Democrats in Washington have grown frustrated at their inability to change the Bush Administration's course in the Middle East, but they have to recognize they do not have a sufficient majority in Congress to really do so. They can pass nonbinding resolutions, but they probably cannot command a majority that would actually cut off funding for U.S. operations in Iraq and elsewhere in the region., even if they wished to do so, which many Democrats do not. Under these circumstances, the Democratic leadership looks foolish when statements are made, such as by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid the other day, that they will somehow throttle back U.S. war involvement.

Pelosi took Jewish members of Congress, such as Californians Henry Waxman and Tom Lantos, on her trip and managed to get both them and the accompanying press corps into both Syria and Saudi Arabia, and aside from the inaccurate statements she made about Israeli policy, she avoided the gross errors of French presidential candidate Segolene Royale when she went to the Middle East several months ago.

Still, it would have been better had Pelosi not meddled in the Arab-Israeli dispute. She and the Democrats In Congress run the risk of placing themselves in embarrassing positions.


This may not be the moment for Steve Lopez or other Times writers to launch an investigation of Tribune buyer Sam Zell, his beachfront Malibu property and so forth. There is reason to hope Zell may be more friendly to the Times and California in general than the man he will succeed as Tribune chairman, inept CEO Dennis FitzSimons. I see no reason to go out of the way to offend Zell at this stage.


Thursday, April 05, 2007

Mahony Steps In It, Once Again

Roman Catholic Cardinal Roger Mahony has besmirched his own sorry reputation once again by his inappropriate and unAmerican remarks on California Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez's support for legislation to allow patients who face death the drugs by which they might kill themselves if they decide to spare themselves further pain and suffering.

As L.A. Times columnist George Skelton wrote today, Mahony is "looking like an ugly old police attack dog" with his "extreme and dogmatic" statements, which may well violate the concept of separation of Church and state.

Mahony has the same right as any American to freely state his opinions. But Californians will know how little to respect the opinion of a man who lied through his teeth in order to protect pedophile priests in the Catholic Church, who failed as cardinal to discipline such miscreants from those they molest, who failed to cooperate with prosecutions against them and who stands shamefacedly in the public limelight as unworthy to hold any high post in the Church.

As I've written twice before in recent months, Mahony ought to resign. If he doesn't resign, if he continues to protect pedophiles and smears political leaders of California, he must be forced out with open public protests to the Pope in Rome. I'm sure Pope Benedict would rather get rid of Mahony than see thousands of disillusioned Catholics leave the Church.

Why was the Boston archdiocese able to get rid of its miscreant cardinal, Bernard Law, and yet Mahony holds on, dishonoring the archdiocese of Los Angeles?

Meanwhile, we must thank Speaker Nunez for standing up on his own two feet and serving the public interest, as he understands it.

And thanks to George Skelton for giving this issue the attention it deserves.


Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Zell Sounds Like He Might Alter LAT Editorial Page

Written from San Carlos, California

Sam Zell, in an interview published today in the Chicago Tribune, says he hasn't been paying much attention to the L.A. Times editorial page, and he named three columnists he likes -- all more hardheaded realists than the Times has been featuring.

Zell named Charles Krauthammer, Tom Friedman and David Brooks as his favorite columnists, which is what you would expect from a man who is a strong supporter of Israel, and has a big interest in the Middle East.

Zell has said his main interest in buying Tribune Co. is economic and not editorial. However, it is to be expected that he will exert some control over editorial policy. I look forward to it.; The quality of L.A. Times editorials have nowhere to go but up.

Also, he did not appear to be very interested in making Eli Broad or Ron Burkle his partners, and took a shot at criticisms they had voiced of the bidding procedure.

Stay tuned. There are interesting days ahead.


The Iranian government has done the right thing in agreeing to release the British hostages it had held for nearly two weeks. Perhaps, talks are now in order between the West and the Islamic Republic.


Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Sam Zell Deal Begins To Look Better for LAT

Written From Sacramento--

Who would have ever thought, during the Chandler era, that the L.A. Times would one day be owned by the son of Jewish immigrants from Poland, and a strong philanthropic backer of both Israel and the Israeli support association in the U.S., AIPAC? Such facts should certainly have been mentioned in the extensive Los Angeles Times and New York Times coverage this morning, but weren't.

Possibly more important than this is that Sam Zell is already half a Californian, the owner of a $14 million Malibu home, where he and his wife already spend a good deal of time. In fact, Zell was in Malibu this past weekend when the deal for him to buy the Tribune Co. was closed. Those facts were mentioned in the coverage.

Under these circumstances, editors of the L.A. Times ought to put on a full court press to make Zell feel at home as owner of the paper.

It could well be that under his direction, the Times will become more friendly to Los Angeles' Jewish community, and a greater booster of California than it has been in recent years.

Zell's parents fled Poland just before Hitler marched in in 1939 and shortened their Polish name from Zielonska to Zell once they arrived in America. So Zell is anything but part of the WASP business community in Chicago.

He and his wife have already been flying into the Ventura County airport about half the weekends of the year, according to press reports this morning.

It could well be smart to promptly open Zell an office in the old Times-Mirror corporate headquarters downtown, and invite him to use it whenever he feels like staying out here. Before long, he may come to operate out of those offices.

Another good thing about this sale is that it finally gets rid of the Chandler family, which ever since easing Otis Chandler out of the L.A. Times publisher ship in 1980, has played a less and less constructive role in the history of the Times. The family is not only highly mercenary, but it has been little interested in the Times as a quality paper. Otis and his mother, Dorothy Buffum Chandler, may have been excellent people. The rest of their family was quite a bit less admirable.

Zell may become interested in journalism now that he is becoming chairman of the one of the largest media outfits in America.

In any case, he should be given every chance, and, under all these circumstances, be welcomed at the Times with open arms, until and unless, he gives reason for supporters and staff of the newspaper to feel otherwise.

Somehow, I think it has a good chance of working out, and that the Times could become a real California institution once again.


Monday, April 02, 2007

Sam Zell Gets The Tribune Company

--Written from Sacramento

It had become ever more clear in recent days that there was no way the inferior management of Tribune Co. in Chicago would accept any bid for the company that came from Californians.

Having dedicated themselves to mistreatment of the L.A. Times, its staff, its editors and its publishers, the leader of the "axis of stupidity," the inept CEO Dennis FitzSimons, and his Chicago-lining board kept pushing Chicago real estate magnate Sam Zell to improve his bid to the level of the Los Angeles billionaires, Eli Broad and Ron Burkle, so they could sell the enterprise to him.

We'll have to wait now to see what Zell does. Already, the report is that he will sell the Chicago Cubs, and if Broad and Burkle persevere, perhaps there is still a chance the L.A. Times could be sold to them. This would be the most desirable outcome.

The New York Times story this morning emphasizes that Zell has never been a journalist and quotes him as not having a high opinion of journalists. If this is correect, more trouble may lie ahead. On the other hand, now that he has obtained control of such a substantial journalistic company, maybe Zell will change his mind about journalists and decide to run a good company.

But for the time being, Zell is keeping present management in place. That is a bad sign, because FitzSimons has spun Tribune Co. and its newspapers into greater and greater difficulty, and the Zell purchase will, at least in the short run, unless there are a series of sales, only saddle Tribune with more debt.

Altogether, this is somewhat anti-climactic after all the maneuvers of recent months.

It will be interesting now to see whether Zell comes out to L.A. and what he says when he gets here. It is possible he realizes that changes have to be made not too far down the line, if he is to realize the profits from this deal he is said to require.

But the appearance here is that of an inside deal. I suppose we can untie David Hiller. It looks as if he will be the publisher of the Times for the foreseeable future.

Meanwhile, maybe we should send the Tribune board some food packages. It looks like they've been eating Chicago/s nororiously lousy food, and it has been warping their minds. Broad and Burkle would probably have been better, certainly more exciting and favorable to Los Angeles and California.


NBC, cutting back its news costs, has not renewed the contract of the weekend news anchor, John Siegenthaler. That's not great news, because Siegenthaler has always done a capable job.

However, if Campbell Brown is named to succeed him, this may turn out fine. Ms. Brown is a terrific newscaster, and I for one have always liked her a great deal.


Sunday, April 01, 2007

Small Minded Men Continue To Cut The L.A. Times

Not content with seven years of failure and short sightedness, the managers at the Tribune Co. are undertaking one more round of cuts and deletions at the L.A. Times before they sell out. It is truly a disgrace.

The end of TV Times can be no surprise. From the time the squalid Tribune leaders cut back its content, moved it to Saturdays and required subscribers who still wanted it to let them know they did, its demise was assured. It is a corporate trick to offer something only to those who say they want it, and then claim, after a short time, there is no demand for it.

TV Guide in its heyday was a wonderful product. Even now, it will be missed. Cursed be the men who killed it.

There is perhaps even more of a loss in the folding of the Book Review into Opinion. Neither section recently has been very appealing, and one, under the name of Current, has been the focus of a recent editorial page scandal. But there was always the hope that under new direction, they would improve. Now, alas, under the new format, they will together offer less than each has separately before.

There's a tendency these days to say that all such changes are merely bowing to the exigencies of the future, and that more will be offered on the Web.

Unfortunately, Web sites are not as readable as newspapers in print, and their content cannot be as easily or practically saved. One of the greatest appeal of newspapers has always been their diverse and detailed offerings. Now, at the Times, these are being steadily reduced, and the latest moves are made just as the Cavalry may be about to arrive in the form of new owners -- if Eli Broad and Ron Burkle were to succeed with their bid, especially -- who are ambitious for the paper and determined to restore its greatness.

So for these moves to proceed with another round of cuts now is one more kick in the head from the Chicagoans who hate California institutions and everything they stand for and have been determined to reduce the L.A. Times to the inferior level of their Chicago publication.

When the new owners arrive, let the hacks be removed as soon as possible, and, then, the Times' nightmare will be over. As the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, then it will be "free at last, free at last. Thank God Almighty, free at last!"


The foul Nazi regime in Tehran is now threatening the British Embassy there. If anything should happen to British or other Western diplomats in the Iranian capital, every Iranian Embassy in the West should be blown to kingdom come.