Saturday, June 30, 2007

L.A. Times Editor Typically In Chicago For 6 Days

(Below: See Glasgow Airport terror attack)

In a flurry of bloggers reports, then denied, that L.A. Times editor James O'Shea had already designated assistant managing editor John Arthur to become a new managing editor of the Times, replacing the departing Doug Frantz, it became known on Friday that O'Shea was on his way to Chicago, where he would be for the next six days.

This is not surprising. O'Shea, sent out from Chicago at the age of 63 last fall to replace the ousted editor Dean Baquet, has never exactly moved to Los Angeles. His family remains in Chicago and O'Shea very frequently returns there on weekends and at other times. In the meantime, O'Shea is rarely seen out in the L.A. Times newsroom rubbing shoulders with the staff. He has hardly been a successful editor.

Word that at this critical time, when Times management is in limbo, O'Shea has chosen to take a long Fourth of July leave came from Arthur in an e-mail to LA Observed editor Kevin Roderick denying that, so far at least, he has gotten Frantz's job.

"Reports of my accension are premature, and possibly fabricated," the e-mail said. "I haven't spoken to Jim O'Shea or anybody else about this job. Jim is enroute to Chicago today. Jim is out of town until Thursday." Arthur went on to say that O'Shea had told associates that he would set about deciding who Frantz's replacement should be when he returned.

O'Shea himself had a terse response to one of the bloggers who had reported that Arthur would be his choice, saying in a message, merely, "You are wrong."

So O'Shea's projected return date is July 5, and Frantz's last day is July 6. (Frantz, a designee of Baquet for one of the two managing editor positions in 2005 -- the other is Leo Wolinsky -- is getting out of the L.A. Times maelstrom to become Middle East bureau chief for the Wall Street Journal, based in Istanbul.).

There's been a report in recent days that O'Shea himself has not been getting along all that well with his inept bosses in Chicago, so, at his age and proven record at the Times of phony statements and unwillingness to resist cutbacks, it would not be shocking if O'Shea too is a shorttimer.

But, if he does return to name a new managing editor, I'm not sure Arthur would be the best choice. Arthur is pleasant, diligent, but not particularly dynamic. His supervisory responsibilities exercised up to now over such sections as Sports and Travel, hardly prove he has much imagination.

There is the impression that O'Shea and publisher David Hiller have feelings that their own tenures at the Times may not be long anyway. Everyone is waiting for Sam Zell, the new owner of the paper, to take charge, and possibly act to end the crisis of confidence at the Times and other fiormer Times-Mirror papers, which have been hit by severe revenue losses this year. The Times, in particular, is really in a period of limbo as an institution.

There was one report this week that Zell may be impatient for his deal to buy the Tribune Co. to be complete, so he can assert himself. But Zell, and a close business associate, are already on the Tribune board. amd their advice on what to do would probably not be ignored.

Getting rid of Tribune CEO Dennis FitzSimons, a proven incompetent, should be Zell's first order of business. If FitzSimons goes, perhaps Hiller and O'Shea would not be far behind.


Word came this morning that, in a new incident, two men of reported South Asian descent intentionally rammed a burning SUV into the terminal at the Glasgow airport. The attack intensified the government's belief that some kind of Muslim terrorist operation was underway in Britain with the aim of destabilizing the new government of Gordon Brown, who took over from Tony Blair as Prime Minister just this week.

The British government raised the nation's security alert level to "critical," meaning additional terror attacks may be imminent, and airport security was tightened in the United States. Both the Glasgow and Liverpool airports were closed, and a security sweep late Saturday night netted two arrests in the north of England.

Five persons at the Glasgow airport were slightly injured in this morning's attack. Two men were taken into custody, one of them with severe burns. None of the alleged terrorists has yet been identified. The man hospitalized was later found to be wearing what was possibly a suicide belt, and authorities characterized the attack as a suicide mission. The injured man was reported by eyewitnesses to have been aflame after the car rammed the main door to the airline terminal and to have shouted, "Allah! Allah!"

So far, however, the attacks -- two bomb-filled cars left in London plus the ramming in Glasgow -- have not been entirely professional. It could be this is more of a homegrown operation, not one generated internationally by al-Qaeda, said some British security authorities. (Later, however, the first five persons arrested all turned out not to be of British origin).

The new prime minister called the nation "resolute." Still, Britain should have reacted more forcefully than it did earlier in the month when a group of British Muslims, demonstrating against the award of a knighthood to author Salman Rushdie, chanted, "Death to Rushdie, death to the Queen." Why should Britain, or any country, let people within its borders call for violence in this way?

An Islamist Web site said the events in Britain were tied to the Rushdie matter, but there was no immediate confirmation of that by British authorities. Still, a Pakistani minister had threatened suicide attacks in Britain in response to the Rushdie honor earlier this month..

Not for the first time, the L.A. Times Web site at 2 p.m. Pacific time was trailing behind the New York Times and CNN sites in reporting the aftermath of the incident and the increase to the security level in Britain to "critical." Later, the Times Web site caught up with others in the main story. Still, the Web site was using a wire service story on the stepup in U.S. airport security. There was no local story from LAX, although at least one of the cable news networks did have a story direct from LAX on the step-up of security there. All in all, on Saturday, the publisher, Hiller's, vow to improve the Times Web site dramatically was not much in evidence.


Friday, June 29, 2007

Doug Frantz To Leave The LAT, Latest of Bailouts

The latest "top gun" to leave the L.A. Times is the outstanding managing editor, Doug Frantz, whose last day will be July 6 and who will be returning to Istanbul as Middle East bureau chief for the Wall Street Journal, a high profile reporting job.

If I could blame all this on LAT editor James O'Shea and publisher David Hiller, and their machinations for the Tribune Co., I certainly would. But fairness requires saying there is evidence that Frantz, a longtime reporter, simply wasn't enjoying sitting at a desk all day and decided, as he said himself in his statement, "My true love is reporting and writing."

"I felt like I had done as much as I could in this job," Frantz also said.

This is not the first time that it has proved difficult for a highly-regarded foreign correspondent to adjust to an editor's job when he returned to the "home office" in the U.S. The Times essentially also had this experience when it brought the Pulitzer Prize winning correspondent Michael Parks home from South Africa in 1996 to be first managing editor and then editor.

For one thing, it is a tough change for someone who has been outside the country or at a national bureau for a period to give up all the freedom of being a foreign or national correspondent with an office of his or her own and a good budget, for what seems at first a more constricted environment. I can empathize with this because I went through it myself when I gave up being Southern correspondent in 1972 and came home to Los Angeles to be Op Ed Page editor. I only lasted six months in that job, and then I was very thankful to go back to reporting, becoming one of the paper's political writers.

Beyond that, it does require some adjustment, after being outside the country, to get used to being inside it again. This was certainly true with the longtime L.A. Times foreign correspondent, Stanley Meisler.

But it's also true with a student who has been abroad. I remember when I returned from my junior year at the Institute of Political Studies ("Science Po") in Paris in 1959 that I arrived in New York with a car I had purchased in France, and the next morning, out on the New York Thruway headed home to California, I stopped at a Howard Johnson's to have breakfast and was appalled at my first sight of the average suburban American men, dressed in their bermuda shorts and looking like a bunch of yokels. It took me awhile to readjust.

So it's easy for me to understand why, particularly at this terribly important time in the Middle East, Frantz would decide he'd rather be back there than here. The Middle East today is the focus of world affairs.

That said, however, it is also true that many distinguished journalists have been leaving the L.A. Times, voluntarily or not, for other climes at a time when Tribune Co. has been cutting the paper back and even laying people off or forcing them to take buyouts. When a former editor characterizes the Frantz departure as another bailout among many, this is a point of view that cannot be discarded.

It is also true too that Frantz was recently reported unhappy with O'Shea for what he perceived as a lack of support by the editor in the dispute he had with Times writer Mark Arax, after Frantz felt constrained for ethics reasons to kill as biased a story Arax had written on the Armenian genocide of 1915. Arax has since left the paper.

O'Shea was complimentary about Frantz in a statement he issued yesterday to the staff about the managing editor's departure. Still, O'Shea has several times shown himself to be willing to unload all sorts of crap in some of his prior staff memos, and what he says at any time must be taken with a grain of salt.

Frantz was an appointee as managing editor in 2005 of Dean Baquet, later ousted for defying the Tribune Co. and its latest choice as publisher, Hiller, on its orders of cost cutbacks at the paper. There's no question that Frantz missed Baquet after he left in the fall of 2006.

The main thing, however, is that Frantz's departure is a loss, and it will take a lot to come up with an adequate replacement for him. In the meantime, he deserves every wish for a good career in Istanbul. Let's hope he's able to get along with David Murdoch, who looks likely to acquire the Wall Street Journal, (and the same might be said for Lee Hotz, the science writer who recently also left the Times for the Journal).

Frantz's move is not the only one to be reported this morning. LA Observed is reporting that J.R. Moeringer, a former Pulitzer Prize winner, and Ann Herold, both of whom held positions with the LAT's mostly-defunct West magazine, will soon be working for Los Angeles magazine.

One of the most depressing things about the Times these days is the number of Pulitzer Prize winners now working elsewhere, including three that I know of working in Los Angeles for publications that in past days could not have held a candle to the Times. These are Moeringer, Jonathan Gold and Kit Rachlis.


Both the L.A. Times and New York Times have strongly-worded lead editorials this morning deploring the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling yesterday severely watering down the historic school integration decision of the Earl Warren Court, Brown v. Board of Education.

The New York Times, under a headline, "Resegregation Now," observes, "Yesterday, the court's radical new majoriuty turned its back on that proud tradition (of the Brown decision of 1954) in a 5-4 ruling written by Chief Justice John Roberts. It has been some time since the court, which has grown more conservative by the year, did much to compel local governments to promote racial integration. But now it is moving in reverse, broadly ordering the public schools to become more segregated."

The NYT also quotes a more respectable high court justice than Roberts, John Paul Stevens, as saying "it was his 'firm conviction' that no Member of the Court that I joined in 1975 would have agreed with today's decision."

The L.A. Times editorial, under the headline, "Fracturing a landmark," declares that "saving the worst for last, the Supreme Court ended its 2006-07 term Thursday by rebuking two school districts that had made good faith efforts to realize the vision of the court's landmark 1954 decision in Brown vs. Board of Education."

The L.A. Times adds that Roberts in his decision had given "shabbily short shrift" to the Court's prior record of trying in Brown and other decisions to undo the impact of corrosive discrimination against America's black people.

And it deplores, as well, the namby-pamby concurring opinion yesterday of a justice from California, Anthony Kennedy. Warren must be rolling over in his grave to see what his successor Californian is doing these days.

Even the arch-conservative justice, Antonin Scalia, has recently, in another context, described Roberts as a hypocrite for his habit of overturning precedents without the courage to admit that he has done so.

Meanwhile, I'm very happy now that at the time, I opposed the confirmation of both Roberts and the fascist-tending Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court by the U.S. Senate. It seemed to me that there was a bad odor about those nominations by President Bush, and that odor has only grown more acrid in recent months.


Thursday, June 28, 2007

L.A. Times Editorials Right On Lebanon, Not Iraq

The L.A. Times has a commendable editorial on Lebanon today, pointing out in blunt language that the Syrian regime of the thug Bashar Assad is trying to overthrow the democracy there with what appears to be a campaign of assassinations and general destabilization. If successful, this would put Iranian power on the Mediterranean, because Syria is the handmaiden of Iran.

What the Times does not recognize is that its advocacy of a withdrawal of American forces from Iraq would create a devastating situation for the U.S. and the West throughout the Middle East. Not only Lebanon would be lost to the terrorists but very possibly Egypt and Saudi Arabia as well. This could leave a weakened Israel, perhaps more prone to use its nuclear weapons as a last resort to protect itself.

The ugly truth is that without a continuation of the American effort in Iraq, attempts to keep the Iranian, al-Qaeda and other assorted Muslim crazies at bay throughout the region are bound to fail. That is a bitter truth the liberals in Washington are not yet accepting.

The Times editorial this morning preachs gloom as to Lebanon, but does fall a little short in not recognizing that in recent months the U.S. and the West have been having some limited successes there, despite Syria's aggression against the country.

The Lebanese regime of Fuad Siniora has, with Western and Saudi military help, proved more resilient than could have been expected from its weak position last summer in the Israeli-Hezbollah war. A stronger Lebanese army has been able to defend the Siniora government. Recently, it has had considerable success crushing an al-Qaeda ally in the north of Lebanon, Fatah al-Islam. Meanwhile, Hezbollah attempts to unseat the government on behalf of Syria and Iran have for the most part been stymied, if only narrowly.

The Times editorial, however, is quite right in pointing to the assassinations of three members of Parliament as threatening the government majority, and it is not naive when it says, "There can be no benign interpretation of the latest assassinations."

The editorial also adds, "The international community ought to have been jolted out of its passivity by the car-bombing last week that killed six U.N. peacekeepers -- three Spaniards and three Colombians -- in southern Lebanon. Syria condemned the bombing, but it was widely interpreted as yet another warning to the United Nations not to proceed with the tribunal looking into the (Rafik) Hariri assassination if it does not wish to see Lebanon further destabilized.,,Assad has signaled that keeping the tribuinal from indicting senior Syrians is a critical, perhaps even existential priority."

What does the Times mean? It means that if the tribunal goes forward, if the Siniora government with Western help survives, ultimately it will be the end of the Assad regime and a better chance for a Middle East settlement. There can be little doubt that it was Assad who gave the order for the Hariri and other assassinations in Lebanon, and any complete criminal investigation is sure to show this.

The situation in Lebanon, in addition, has bearing on the situation in the Palestinian territories, where the terrorist Hamas organization now is threatening the follow its Gaza seizure with rebellion against the weak Fatah government of Mahmound Abbas in the West Bank.

Indeed, all these situations, including the one in Iraq, are linked. A U.S. retreat in Iraq, which the Times has called for without thinking through the consequences, would doom the chances of holding off the terrorists not only there but in Lebanon, the Palestinian territories and whereever there are moderate Muslims trying to defeat Iran and Al-Qaeda.

That is why we cannot and must not bug out of Iraq, no matter how discouraged many Americans are at the moment.


The immigration bill died in the Senate this morning with another decisive vote against cloture. There were many things wrong with the bill backed by the Bush Administration and a majority but not all Democrats. Basically, it would have encouraged further massive illegal immigration while setting up a cumbersome bureaucratic procedure for legalizing the 12 million illegals already here. It was not, in short, a workable package.

The Administration should now strengthen border protections against more aliens. As for reform, forget it until after the 2008 election.

You might refer to my June 15 blog on the immigration bill. There was no real point in Mr. Bush, increasingly a lame duck president, and the inept Democratic majority leader in the Senate, Harry Reid, even bringing up the bill again. It was doomed two weeks ago by the first cloture vote. Today's vote showed only one more vote for cloture, and it is clear there is no majority in the Senate or the House for the kind of package that was proposed.

The L.A. Times story this morning, by Nicole Gaouette and Noam Levey, failed to correctly guage what was going to happen. The days when the newspaper had Congressional correspondents like the late John Averill and Paul Houston, who almost invariably knew what was going to happen in advance, is unfortunately long past. By contrast, the New York Times stories by Carl Hulse and Robert Pear much more accurately presaged Thursday's outcome.


Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Need For Page 1 Sub-Prime Mortgage Crisis Coverage

The newspapers ought to be giving the sub-prime mortgage crisis, the rising rate of foreclosures, the continuing fall in housing prices, rising inventories and their shadow on both the banking industry, stock prices and the hedge funds, even more attention than they are at the moment. I believe the story has reached a dimension that should move it regularly to Page 1.

Sub-prime mortgage problems are the frequent subject of stories in virtually every Business section these days, but, really in terms of their importance, they deserve more prominence. A list of 50 stories, the L.A. Times Business section has done either directly on or bearing on the mortgage crisis shows only one of those stories appeared on Page 1, although the paper has had a package of stories under the title, "The Mortgage Meltdown,." many by the able E. Scott Reckard.

The overall context is clear. Not for the first time in recent years (the savings and loan crisis comes to mind), the major financial institutions of the U.S. government have failed to enforce discipline over the financial markets and allowed an unhealthy and unjust economic situation to arise.

It is unhealthy, because it is beginning to effect stock prices in vital sectors and even general consumer economic confidence, which has been falling. It is unjust, because it impacts lower-income Americans more than any.

It was unfair to federal regulators to allow a situation to arise where they were offered adjustable mortgages at an artifically low rate for awhile and were not sufficiently warned that they would rise in a fairly short time and force many of them out of their homes.

But the crisis is beginning to affect more prosperous Americans too, because they cannot sell their homes and move around as they wish. I currently have several college classmates in that category, locked in where they are, when they wanted to move to a better home, or closer to their grandchildren.

Now, we see, every day, new stories, often buried back in the Business sections of the papers. The L.A. Times had two yesterday. One from the Associated Press said that the inventory glut is rising while home sales drop. The second "from Times wire services," said stock gains have evaporated on mortgage worries.

I presume not so many people in the Business section of the Times have taken the buyout as to force the paper to run wires, rather than its own writers, on such significant stories. But this may only reflect a few occasions. The paper has run a number of stories, not only under the byline of Reckard, but also by David Streitfeld, Kim Christensen, John O'Dell, Annette Haddad, Jonathen Peterson, P.J. Huffstetter and Tom Petruno.

Beyond their work, however, I still feel, there needs to be further indepth examination of how this crisis arose, of the failings in both the financial markets and the government that led to it. One fruitful subject of inquiry, beyond the federal regulators, would be Wall Street, which tries to run herd over the newspapers. Why doesn't it do the same with the finance industry?

If the Business section is not regularly given Page 1 space, then Metro and National reporters could be assigned to the reporting. The Times has done this with other important economic stories, such as the war of insurance initiatives in 1988 and the subsequent fallout in theCalifornia insurance industry. I remember this, because I was assigned, and covered that story for several years.

One problem in the past was that Business all too often simply was not tough enough on the economic institutions it was covering. The Business reporters, by and large, would not ask the tough questions that had to be asked. They gave practically no attention to Harvey Rosenfield and other consumer advocates who were pushing reform. This important Business story therefore had to be covered outside Business.

But this may simply have reflected a need for more willpower by the Business editors. Had they cracked the whip, their reporters could have done it. They were certainly qualified.

Right now, the Business editors should lobby for better space. Based on statements by Business editor Davan Maharaj, he and his assistants realize they are in the midst of an important story, too important to be left to the wire services and the inside pages. Now, in addition to continuing coverage in Business, Times editor James O'Shea should also move selected stories out front.


The New York Times editorial Tuesday on the death threats against the author Salman Rushdie had a couple of good points to make that I think are particularly well worth quoting.

"Mr. Rushdie's new honor (the knighthood bestowed on him by Queen Elizabeth II) raises the same question now that his work raised when Ayatollah Khomeini pronounced a fatwa against him in 1989," the NYT editorial remarks. "Do we choose to live in a world that honors writers or in a world that kills them?"

"The imaginative range of (Rushdie's) work, its complexity and its ability to test the limits of what we know and believe entitle him to the respect and the honors he has earned. Yet in some parts of the world it would earn him assassination. You cannot judge a society only by the way it treats writers. But you can be certain that if a society treats writers badly, it treats ordinary people no better."

That certainly applies to Iran, where the NYT reported in the last week that a street crackdown proceeds against those who choose to dress a little differently or otherwise act a little differently than the crazed fundamentalist Muslim clerics want them to.



Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Narda Zacchino Should Have Been LAT Editor

The L.A. Times began to be troubled in 1989, when Tom Johnson was summarily removed as publisher by Robert Erburu. But certainly the decision to pass over Narda Zacchino as a prospective Times editor in 1996 was a key part of the slow slide of the newspaper.

Zacchino would have been an inspirational leader of the Times, close to the pulse of Los Angeles, a winning personality, in all respects a top quality successor of the often-hesitant but decent Shelby Coffey.

Instead, Michael Parks, a Pulitzer Prize winning foreign correspondent, was brought to Los Angeles and made managing editor. Eight months later, he became editor. Unfortunately inarticulate, Parks was a fine managing editor, but not a successful editor. Just three years later, he became enmeshed in the Staples scandal and lost the editorship when the Tribune Co. bought the paper and brought in John Carroll as editor.

I thought of this past history when the news came yesterday that Narda was leaving the San Francisco Chronicle after six years there as an assistant executive editor. I've already compared this on an earlier blog to Katherine Ross's decision to go home from South America and leave Paul Newman and Robert Redford in the movie, "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid." It seemed that her departure foreshadowed the deaths of the outlaws in a hail of bullets. One wonders now whether the Chronicle will long survive Zacchino.

It all might have been different for the Times had Narda been named managing editor in 1996, and then became editor a few months later. She would never have allowed Mark Willes to wander into the Staples conflict of interest, in which he and Kathryn Downing agreed to share advertising profits with an entity the paper was promoting. I believe Narda would have protested vehemently, and Willes, a naive man without experience in journalism, would have desisted.

This may be a controversial judgment, but, knowing Narda all during her three decades at the Times, I grew to have the highest degree of confidence both in her abilities and her character.

Narda was Sacramento bureau chief and later the editor of politics for Metro, in addition to being Orange County Editor and associate editor in charge of Calendar, View and other sections. But of course as a political writer and later I knew her best as a political editor.

I had many fine political editors at the Times, but no one of them was more willing than Narda to accept new ways of trying to cover politics, unless it was Ed Guthman, national editor during my earlier presidential campaign assignments. (I should also add that I had a high regard for the abilities and character of Art Berman and Bob Trounson. The Times was fortunate during all this period to have high-minded people in charge of political coverage).

Narda was willing, as some less secure editors were not, to give her political writers freedom to experiment with different kinds of stories and interpretations. She commanded respect, and her ideals were beyond question.

Also, her career at the paper coincided with the time when women were coming into their own in journalism. At the Times, this was not an easy process, but Narda was one of the most effective in pushing it along.

Not only this, but she had the capacity of doing everything in a nice way. Narda was a wonderful person to work for in every respect. She was very proud, by the way, of her ethnicity, half Polish and half Italian.

Now, of course, no one is perfect, and Narda was sometimes accused, particularly as associate editor, of micromanagement. She also was definitely part of the personal fiefdom of Mark Murphy when he was Metro Editor. But these were not shortcomings that I found particularly crippling.

The Times had a choice in 1996, and unfortunately it strayed in the wrong direction.


In what I believe is one of its most misguided articles of late, Time magazine suggests in a long article this week that America "reach out" to the Hamas organization in a search for a Middle Eastern settlement. Nothing, I think, could be more foolish and counterproductive.

Hamas has already used such tactics as tossing people off high rise buildings, and raining rockets on peaceful Israeli cities, to get its way in Gaza, which it has now taken by coup d'etat. It is an organization already influenced by Al-Qaeda and its dead-end extremism has long been evident. It can't even control kidnappers in Gaza, and may even have encouraged them.

Contrary to what Time and many American liberals believe, there is no way out of the Middle East crisis by appeasing or turning to the extremists. This is not a time when Time magazine is distingishing itself. In World War II, at least, it did not follow Lord Halifax and propose negotiating with Hitler.

This morning, there's a report from the present Middle East summit in Sharm el Sheik that the Fatah president, Mahmoud Abbas, is proposing that a Jordanian force be created to fortify the Fatah position in the West Bank. Under the circumstances, that would be a good idea.


Monday, June 25, 2007

Blogging Must Be Provocative Or It Is Nothing

The L.A. Times attempt at front-section blogging in Sunday's newspaper, by Don Frederick and Andrew Malcolm, was bland, uninteresting, unsuccessful and not consistent with good blogging as I understand it. It is everything the Times should not be doing.

The whole idea of a blog is that it say something that is highly opinionated and quite often outrageous. This can still be tasteful in its own way, a little like the writing of Aleksandyr Solzhenitsyn. His books are often tantamount to early examples of blogging. No one could ever say Solzhenitsyn was bland. And he has something to say.

The 2008 presidential campaign -- about which Sunday's Times blog was written -- is already shaping up as an epic story. The blogging about it should not be pedestrian. It has to be done from distinct points of view, or it simply will not appeal to the public. And it should convey the kind of inside information that Newsweek and U.S. News and World Report have provided with their "periscope" features. which are not always reliable either.

I'm not saying the Times should not be running blogs, far from it. But if it's going to do so, the bloggers should be (1) worth reading, (2) have some edge, and (3) be on a very loose leash. In other words, we can't have the stifling editors who have too often in the past kept the paper from being intersting by nitpicking every point.

Malcolm was a good writer when he was doing editorials, humorous and occasionally sensitive. But he is not a blogger. He seldom has original thoughts, a little like Ron Brownstein. As for Frederick, he is a competent political editor, and maybe he should stick to that.

The Times, if it is going to run blogs, is going to have to come up with provocative bloggers. It doesn't seem to have too many on the staff at the moment. Steve Lopez could do a good blog, but he's probably too busy with his column. (Lopez's suggestion that Jesus would have flown coach to Rome for the Papal Convocation, instead of first class the way Cardinal Mahony did is just what is good in commentary, a blog or otherwise).

Dan Weintraub has had a successful blog for the San Jose and Sacramento papers. The Times in essence fired him when he proved his independence by challenging the defunct editor, Carole Stogsdill on a visit she made to Sacramento. A good blogger is probably not going to get along too well with his editors.

So maybe this will some day be the new Times. But Sunday's example by Frederick and Malcolmn does not get us very far along that road.


An excellent first person account, and a perceptive piece about modern China, appeared Sunday in the New York Times Week In Review by David Barboza about the hours he and his photographer and translator were detained at a toy factory when he went to inquire about its practice of putting lead in its paint, which in the Thomas & Friends train sets marketed in this country has endangered the well being of countless American children. The trains containing the dangerous paint have had to be recalled and many parents, and those of us who bought toys for our grandchildren, are very much concerned.

This story appeared under the headline, "My Time as a Hostage, And I'm a Business Reporter."

Barboza's experience raised questions just how powerful the Chinese government and police are, when it comes to reining in unscrupulous business men, the wild entrepreneurs who more than anyone are making China a great world power.

Barboza remarks, specifically, "Factory bosses, I would discover, can overrule the police, and Chinese government officials are not as powerful as you might suspect in a country addicted to foreign investment."

Finally, when the reporter was released, he writes, "and while our translator was giving an account of the day to the police, the factory bosses were laughing and dining in another room, making the nexus of power in these parts and in this age ever more clear."

This was splendid first person reporting, of the kind that Borzou Daragahi and Megan Stack have recently done on their experiences in Iraq and Saudi Arabia, respectively,for the L.A. Times, and all these pieces show the power of such writing. The newspapers should run more of them.


Sunday, June 24, 2007

Does Sam Zell Have Any (Good) Ideas On Future?

Although it's true that billionaire real estate magnate Sam Zell has not yet assumed full control of the languishing Tribune Co., he may not be able to safely wait until the end of the year to put forward his ideas for rejuvenation, if he has any. Tribune Co. says revenue slipped drastically again in May, by 11.1%.

Zell put forward only one vague idea for what to do in an interview last week with New York Times business columnist Joe Nocera. Nocera came away having to make up a column that ran Saturday with very little solid material.

Zell said only that advertising sales techniques must be improved. But that goes without saying. Otherwise, he asked, essentially, for time, until the deal closes.

But the L.A. Times and other Tribune newspapers may not have time. If further cutbacks and layoffs are to be avoided, fueling a continued downward spiral, things are going to have to turn brighter revenue-wise, or at least level out.

Abraham Lincoln, when he was elected President, kept silent about his plans for the Union until he actually started his trip to Washington, and he wasn't all that clear then. But Zell is no Lincoln. He needs to show now he can produce something.

All over the country, newspapers are in trouble, but not as much, usually, as Tribune. The New York Times was down 3.6% below last year, according to a recent statement. In California, both the San Francisco Chronicle and San Jose Mercury-News are cutting back so much, there is fear they may go under. The Chronicle just made it known that deputy editor Narda Zacchino is leaving. This is a little like when Katherine Ross left Paul Newman and Robert Redford in "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid."

The L.A. Times, according to publisher David Hiller's statement last month has seen its profit margin dip to the low teens. There is a great deal of feeling in the community that the Times is not the paper it was, because of cutbacks in sections and the news hole. But the paper is publishing compelling stories every day. Just Saturday, its stories on the passport snafu and the failures of the immense investment of state funds in carpool lanes, plus Rebecca Trounson's sensitive story on the discussion at the Daniel Pearl movie screening were worth the price of the paper in themselves.

Let's say Zell does intend to beef up Times advertising sales. Then, I think, as a first step, he needs a new publisher. The publisher runs the business side, and Hiller is already a proven failure.

Also overdue for the chopping block is the present Tribune CEO, Dennis FitzSimons. This man is no leader. Virtually everything he has done already in his years of control have not worked out. It was FitzSimon's idea to vastly increase Tribune debt. Now, its papers should make further cutbacks, according to his policies, but the only consequence is that millions of readers are losing confidence in the papers, advertisers are losing confidence too, and revenue has been diving all year. At this rate, there may soon not be enough to service the debt.

When one looks at executive changes at such firms as Yahoo and Hewlett-Packard, one can see that many companies, in an uncertain environment, are opting for new CEOs.

The Tribune Co. should have one too, perhaps Zell himself. He has a reputation for great business success. Even if he is new to the newspaper business, this is his prime responsibility.

Much was made in the Nocera article about the fact that employees' stock will be used for the most part to finance the Tribune deal Zell made as the company goes private. He is putting in only a few hundred million dollars of his own money.

But if we don't want to see happen to Tribune employee stock what happened to the Enron stock, it's important that Zell show as soon as possible that he has working ideas.


The Times carpool story referred to above, by Rong-Gong Lin II and Sharon Bernstein, should make clear that it makes little sense for the state to invest so much in carpool lanes when they are only producing slow, clogged "high-speed" lanes. Billions have been going into this, when they could be going into straight widening of freeways, or, a better alternative, more subways and other rail transit.

At this rate, pretty soon pressure will build for making the pool lanes toll lanes, and since the public has paid for them through its taxes, this is very unfair.

There is a transportation crisis, and the Times must keep up its intensive coverage. This is a big story.


Saturday, June 23, 2007

Would Putin Give Up Power Only Temporarily?

The Washington Post has a story by Peter Finn today speculating that the Russian president, Vladimir Putin might not exactly step down after two terms as he has been saying he would do, but actually support a new "technical" president who would be under his wing, and would give power back to him after a short term.

This would get around the provision in the Soviet Constitution limiting a president to two terms.

Russian sources told Finn that, actually, the arrangement would be comparable to Franklin D. Roosevelt being elected to four terms in the United States. However, Roosevelt never stepped down during that period as a surrogate.

Two first deputy prime ministers, Sergei Ivanov, 53, and Dmitri Medvedev, 41, have been mentioned as possible Putin successors when he is scheduled to step down next year.

But, of course, the new arrangement would keep Putin in power in all but name, and probably would not surprise the rest of the world, since Putin has been running what is very much a "directed democracy" in the Russian state for most of his two terms. He is in charge.

However, Finn points out that when Putin first came to power, some viewed him as a stand-in for Boris Yeltsin, without real power. It didn't turn out that way, and the question is once a Putin successor was elected, would he necessarily do Putin's bidding, or be willing to hand back power when Putin wanted?

Russia in the post-Communist period still has a system that is being formed. Recently, as everyone knows, Putin has adopted a more anti-Western, anti-American tone, and has been taking full advantage of Russia's vast oil and gas resources to try to lord it over the European countries it supplies, and not only in the old Eastern bloc.

This obviously is an immensely significant story, one neither the L.A. Times or New York Times has yet touched. Last year, there were proposals that the Russian Parliament simply extend Putin's second term. The Finn article opens up a new possibility.


There are hopeful reports this morning that North Korea has agreed to shut down its plutonium reactor in three weeks, and also give a list to the other major parties that have been involved in six-power talks of all its nuclear resources pursuant to an agreement to dismantle its nuclear arms. In exchange, the other powers would provide North Korea with a million tons of oil and other aid.

The agreement is the subject of many articles this morning, and it follows a visit to North Korea by Christopher R. Hill, the main U.S. envoy in the matter. Hill was received in Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, with unusual cordiality.

Hill's visit followed the transfer of $25 million in blocked funds from a Macau bank to the North Koreans. This had been subject to a number of hangups.

It is certainly too soon to say that the question of North Korean nuclear weaponry has been solved. There could still be setbacks. But this is better news than we have had from that theatre for some time.


Friday, June 22, 2007

Train Travel Is Slower But More Pleasant Than Air

These days, certainly within California and even into the Pacific Northwest, I usually take the train rather than fly. The airlines have turned me off, while I find the trains more pleasant. Since I'm retired, time is not such an important factor.

In order to visit my grandchildren, I generally take the Amtrak bus to Bakersfield and then the six-daily train, the San Joaquin, to the Bay Area. If I leave Los Angeles Union Station at 10:45 a.m., I am in Richmond and can connect onto the BART system by 7 p.m. Coming back, I catch the San Joaquin train in Richmond at 10:25 a.m. and am in Los Angeles by 6:40 p.m.

The Coast Starlight, a fancier train with a full diner rather than a snack bar, is quite a bit slower to the Bay Area. Leaving Union Station at 10:15 a.m., it is not in San Jose until 8:27 p.m., and Oakland until 9:32 p.m.

Round trip fares to the Bay Area for seniors are less than $100. The Amtrak senior discount is usually 15%.

Flying is a hassle, and not only for security reasons. The fact is that many planes are delayed. Flying back from San Francisco to Burbank the last time I did it, the plane, flown by United Airlines, was more than five hours late in leaving San Francisco. Southwest, to and from Oakland, is more reliable time wise, and Southwest is a far more pleasant experience than United, but Oakland has not been as convenient for me as San Francisco or San Jose. The Oakland Airport is two miles from a BART terminal, and getting there is often slow. San Francisco now has a BART terminal right at the airport.

Southwest, true, is returning to the San Francisco Airport. But San Francisco Airport is more impacted by bad weather, fog and the like, than Oakland or San Jose. It is not certain that Southwest will be able to maintain its on-time habits there.

The other day, on an Amtrak train from San Diego to Los Angeles, I actually heard someone say, "I love Amtrak." There are now 11 trains a day from Los Angeles to San Diego, snd, for a higher rate, one can travel by parlor car, with wide seats and free coffee and soft drinks.

I'd say I like, not love, Amtrak. The conductors are friendly. When I recently had a broken leg and went to Modesto in a cast by train to join in a family trip to Yosemite, they were very helpful.

The Amtrak bus drivers are also accommodating. Baggage is handled expeditiously, and the bus service has been expanded. There are direct bus connections to Bakersfield, incidentally, from several Los Angeles suburbs, so it isn't always necessary to originate trips north through Union station. On a forthcoming trip, I plan to use Van Nuys, only a few miles from my home.

The Coast Starlight, for reasons I am not sure of, is now more than two hours slower reaching the Bay Area than it was after World War II, when I first start taking trains.

I'm about to go to Klamath Falls, Ore., by train. It leaves Los Angeles about the same time as it used to but arrives there about two and a half hours later. There is now a bus connection from there to Medford, which for me is essential, because I'll be on the way to Ashland for the Shakespeare Festival. The last time I went this route, there was no bus service on from Klamath Falls and I ended up hitchiking from Klamath Falls to Medford (something I'm not always loathe to do, even within the city of Los Angeles).

Amtrak food is OK, particularly on the full diners. A sleeping car accommodation includes the food in the diner, three meals a day, and they are not at all bad, although menu offerings are rather restricted.

But three times, when I've taken trains either from Boston or Chicago to Los Angeles, or from Flagstaff, Ariz. to L.A., the diner has not served breakfast past 6 a.m., despite the fact that the train doesn't arrive in L.A. until past 7 a.m. The reason is labor rules. The workers want to have cleaned up and gotten off the train at the same time the passengers do.

Amtrak has worked hard to increase the frequency of train service in California, especially on the Pacific Surf liner runs between San Luis Obispo on the north and San Diego on the south (through Los Angeles), and on the Capitol runs between Sacramento and San Jose (through Oakland). In addition, in Southern California there is frequent Metrolink service from L.A. to San Bernardino, Riverside, Orange County, Oceanside, Lancaster and Oxnard. When you add the Metrolink and Coaster trains to Amtrak, Oceanside now is served by more than 20 trains a day. And now there is talk of a second coastal train, using Caltrain tracks in the Bay Area, between L.A. and San Francisco.

It would be nice if Amtrak would restore service from Los Angeles to Las Vegas, and there used to be service to within 10 miles of Palm Springs. That is available now only on the three-day-a-week Sunset Limited, although recently the schedule has been revised, so you leave Union Station at 2:30 p.m. and get to Palm Springs station at 5 p.m. Coming back is less convenient. Assuming the train is on time, which it isn't always, you have to leave Palm Springs at 6:30 a.m. A second, daily train on this route would be useful.

Little has been done to speed any of the service, and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger recently killed plans to put a high speed rail system on the ballot which could, with European-style trains, carry a passenger from Los Angeles to San Francisco or Sacramento in two hours. This would lead to most people taking the train within California rather than go by air.

I felt this was worth voting on. The cost was high, about $40 billion, but over time would pay for itself, and, year by year, the cost of building it is only growing exponentially. Even Taiwan now has high-speed trains. Why not California?

L.A. Times coverage of transportation issues, by the way, has been quite extensive and it's good. One of the inspired things Miriam Pawel did was to put Jennifer Oldham on the L.A. Airport beat. Oldham has a young child and can't ordinarily travel very much, and the Times has no one who is the equivalent of Joe Sharkey at the New York Times, who travels the world and has developed air travel into a superb beat. Peter Pae sometimes covers air travel, and he is serviceable, but he doesn't have a huge travel budget like Sharkey. In order to cover air travel, the reporter really has to fly.


Congratulations to the L.A. Times for hiring David Zahniser away from the L.A. Weekly to cover local politics, including Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Now, if it will only hire Jonathan Gold back as a restaurant critic, it would be great. After all, working for the Weekly, Gold has won a Pulitzer Prize.


Thursday, June 21, 2007

On Rushdie, Tell Iran And Pakistan To Get Lost

We have a bad problem in the world with Muslim fundamentalists who are trying to curtail Western freedoms, threatening suicide bombings to those who believe in the right of expression.
That is precisely what is happening with the Iranian and Pakistani threats against Britain for naming the author Salman Rushdie to a knighthood. Queen Elizabeth has done that, and now the Mullahs don't like it. They may feel frustrated, because years ago they issued a fatwa for the death of Rushdie on account of his writings, yet nobody has been able to carry it out (although, as L.A. Times columnist Tim Rutten points out, several of Rushdie's translators have been killed or wounded).

After street protesters in Pakistan burned effigies of Rushdie and Queen Elizabeth, a Pakistani minister said the knighthood could justify suicide bombings, and the Iranian foreign minister called in a British diplomat in Tehran to tell him the knighthood was a "provocative act" that has angered Muslims. But the British Home Secretary, John Reid, had an apt response.

"We have a right to express opinions and a tolerance of other people's point of view, and we don't apologize for that," Reid said.

This is similar to the uproar among Muslim extremists and outright crazies over the Danish cartoons last year. These dastardly backers of tyranny, violence and enslavement of women want to stop those critics of Islam who point out that the religion is in desperate need of reform, and that right now it stands primarily around the world for suicide bombings, kidnappings, assassinations and other vile acts against civilization.

Friday, a small number of masked Muslim demonstrators in London shouted, "Death to Rushdie, death to the Queen," over the Rushdie knighthood. Those demonstrators should be seized immediately and summarily deported. Britain does not need such people, nor should it tolerate them. There are far too many Muslims in Britain who are not willing to live by modern standards.

I have long had no doubt that the only response that is appropriate in such circumstances is to simply tell the perpetrators that we will use force if necessary to prevent them from prevailing -- meaning that before they can destroy Western freedoms, we will destroy their freedom to be destructive. That is the policy we finally had to adopt to crush Nazi Germany and Japan in World War II.

In the Middle East today, we see one outrage after another, and people elsewhere in the world are beginning at long last to wake up to it. In Rutten's column in the Times Saturday, he makes the point, however, that the American press has been far too quiet about the attacks on Rushdie and other writers who have criticized Islamic fanaticism. He quotes the late philosopher Richard Rorty as pointing out that "some ideas, like some people, are just no damn good" and that no amount of faux tolerance or misplaced fellow feeling excuses the rest of us from our obligation to oppose such ideas and such people."

Rutten has a very good two-word description of what has been going on with Rushdie in the Muslim world: "homicidal nonsense."

The Los Angeles Times had a commendable editorial this week calling for Islamic terrorists to release the British journalist Alan Johnston, kidnapped 100 days ago now in Gaza. Rutten also noted that Times editorial writer Sonni Efron recently authored an online piece about all the journalists killed in Iraq and how little attention has been paid to that. (Efron ought to be writing under her own name on the Op Ed page. I don't see any sense at all in relegating the best writers to the Times Web site).

The Times editorial points out that "the Johnston case has broader implications in an age when shooting the messenger has become a standard technique of Islamist terror. It's no coincidence that murders of journalists worldwide are increasing. To suppress information is to hoard power; it kneecaps democratic development. Consider Iraq, where 32 journalists were killed last year, 13 have died this year and 14 are now held hostage."

The ironic thing is that many weakminded journalists are far too sympathetic with the terrorists who are trying to kill us. As is the case of L.A. Times Op Ed Page editor Nick Goldberg, they continually hire writers who defend the terrorists and assault the West, as Goldberg did again this week with the terrorist-sympathizing UCLA professor, Saree Makdisi.

Also, it must be pointed out that while the L.A. Times is deploring the Johnston kidnapping, it has advocated an American withdrawal from Iraq, a step that would open the way to the terrorists taking over the entire Middle East.

Iran and Al-Qaeda in particular represent a virulent fascism which is trying to sweep that region, and, if they succeed there, they hope to destroy democratic values throughout the world.

Salman Rushdie, on the other hand, is representative of those who are trying to reform Islam, to bring it into the modern day. His work, and appropriately honoring it, are essential, if we are to keep the many demons in the world from increasing their assaults against us. The question is here, Do we support Rushdie or do we give in to the savages who want to return the world to the 14th century, or before?


Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Bloomberg Becomes Independent, in California

The Los Angeles Times, in the era of the buyout and Chicago control, with two Easterners at the helm, is not surprisingly oblivious to California history. That is demonstrated again this morning with the paper's report of the decision by New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg to leave the Republican party, possibly setting the stage for an independent campaign for the Presidency in 2008.

Bloomberg's decision was announced during a California political tour. The Times runs a picture of him this morning arm in arm with Republican California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Democratic Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. The L.A. Times plays the story on Page 12 below the fold, while the New York Times plays it as the off lead on Page 1. Well, that may be natural, because, after all, Bloomberg is the mayor of New York.

But what neither paper mentioned is that it is very natural that a third party, independent candidacy be floated in California.

The last time there was such a candidacy with a chance to win the Presidency was in 1912 and in that year Theodore Roosevelt, running on the "Bull Moose" ticket, actually carried California, and his vice presidential running mate was the then Republican governor of California, Hiram Johnson.

So it is natural that anyone thinking of an independent candidacy would high tail it to non traditionalist California. Even George Wallace did that in the fall of 1967, when he conducted a month-long campaign to get onto the California ballot with his independent candidacy in 1968.

And you would think that L.A. Times political writers Michael Finnegan and Evan Halper would certainly have mentioned that history in their story this morning.

But they don't. I wonder whether they knew those facts, and didn't bother to explain Bloomberg's trip out here on this politically momentous occasion as being in context with American third party and California history, or whether they (or their editors) had forgotten that history, or never knew it.

We know for one thing that Chicago toadying publisher David Hiller and edtor James O'Shea don't know much about California. I wonder if they are forcing their ignorance and obliviousness on their political writers.

In any case, Bloomberg's trip out here over several days got precious little attention in the L.A. Times. Yet, there can be little question that Bloomberg's record would make him one of the most substantive figures in the race, if he does decide to get in.

Independent candidacies in the U.S. have generally not fared too well, particularly at the end of the election cycle. But given the national angst these days, I wonder whether 2008 might prove the exception.

And if there is to be an exception, why should it not start in California, which until 1912 had never voted differently from the way the nation had voted for President?

A peculiarity of both the New York Times and L.A. Times stories this morning is that neither made any mention of what Bloomberg's views are on the Iraq war.


The peccadilloes of the Los Angeles city attorney, Rocky Delgadillo, never cease. This morning, following a string of revelations in the L.A. Times, it's revealed in a front page story by Matt Lait that Delgadillo's wife Michelle actually has an outstanding arrest warrant and has since 1998 for failing to appear in court to answer charges of driving without insurance, with a suspended license and in an unregistered car.

In a column I imagine he meant to be helpful, the Times' Steve Lopez suggests he would be willing to take Michelle to jail, so she could serve her time with Paris Hilton. Steve has always had a big heart.

Howard Baker's old question in the Watergate affair could be used here in paraphrased form: What did Delgadillo know and when did he know it?


Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Legislature Moves To Gut Local Campaign Limits

One thing I learned a long time ago as a political writer for the L.A. Times was that there was very little, if any, substantive difference between the integrity of Democrats and Republicans in the Legislature in Sacramento. The preponderant majority of both parties in the State Assembly and State Senate is frequently inclined to be corrupt, beholden to lobbyists, sellouts to campaign contributors, devoted to subterfuge when it should be serving the public.

I knew honest legislators in Sacramento, such as Tony Beilenson, Alan Sieroty and Gordon Winton. But they were in what was for the most part a powerless minority. Some legislators, like Assembly Speaker Jesse Unruh, knew how to maneuver through the corruption for good ends. But the Legislature is customarily dominated by such lobbies as insurance and trial lawyers, and their contributions usually call the shots. At one time, the insurers, for example, were giving to all but four of the 120 legislators. Some times, the lobbies don't get their way, especially when they conflict with other lobbies. But at least they are able to block anything from happening that is truly detrimental to their interests.

That all comes back to mind today when I read the blog by Bill Boyarsky on LA Observed. Boyarsky, a long time Associated Press reporter and political writer for Associated Press in Sacramento, before he became a political writer and editor for the Times. Now retired, he is a member of Los Angeles city ethics commission.

Boyarsky writes today how, as quietly as possible, the Legislature is working to gut local campaign laws in the state, such as in Los Angeles, where there are severe limits on how much can be given to City Council and other campaigns.

A bill by Martin Garrick, a Republican Assemblyman, that would do away with most of these limits and allow a flood of unrestricted money into local campaigns has already cleared the Assembly on a 77-0 vote and is now pending in the State Senate. If it goes to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, as seems likely, it will probably be signed by the governor, who has become beholden too to the big contributors, despite promising not to in the Recall campaign.

77-0! That's about right. Of the Assembly's 80 members, 77 were willing to vote against the public interest in this case, and the three others were probably just absent. This is the Legislature I got to know, and it hasn't changed since the days of Artie Samish. Boyarsky in his blog accurately calls the Garrick bill "a real stinker." Actually, it would not only end restrictions on giving to candidates, but it would keep the contributions from being disclosed before the election, so the voters would have no way of knowing where a candidate's support came from before voting.

It is an open secret in state government that both parties have made reapportionment deals which guarantee that Republicans as well as Democrats will almost always be in safe districts. Only rarely is there an upset at the polls. This situation helped lead to term limits, but term limits simply bring new, inexperienced legislators to Sacramento, either willing to be fleeced, or too naive not to be.

At least, years ago, the Sacramento press corps was devotedly at the heels of the worst scoundrels and could be counted on to give massive publicity to such schemes as the gutting of local campaign laws, which sometimes was tantamount to killing them at the last moment. The crooks in the Legislature can't stand the light of day, and often will slink back into the darkness when what they are doing is exposed.

But the Sacramento press corps today is somewhat tamer than it was. There are still good correspondents in Sacramento, but often their newspapers are not behind them. The Sacramento Bee, for example, used to be absolutely devoted to the public interest under Eleanor and C.K. McClatchy. It is not the same paper any more.

To be fair, the L.A. Times did editorialize against the Garrick bill today, pointing everything out in a more restrained way than Boyarsky and I have.

What does all this mean? It means that, more than ever, big money interests are taking over the state, and now will have even more sway in local government. It means that even local zoning and development decisions are going to be cooked.

When I was covering insurance and the law for the Times I became familiar with many of the sleazy tricks used by the special interests, and by the legislators who were some of the biggest crooks.

When Alan Robbins was chairman of the Senate Insurance Committee, in the days before term limits, I once told him that in light of the fact that it seemed the San Fernando Valley would elect him to the Senate for life, and also given that he had made millions of dollars in real estate, I felt he could afford to "go straight."

"I'm considering it," Robbins replied. But he was not considering it seriously enough, because six months later, he was the subject of a federal indictment for taking bribes. He was convicted, went to prison, and is now out of public life.

In Robbins' case, I followed his career closely and was often able to catch up with his chicanery. Others, I found smarter and wilier

Often, I like politicians. But they need tireless watching, as Boyarsky is trying to do in this case.


I'm sorry to see Mark Arax leave the Times, one of many able reporters recently to do so. Arax reacted bitterly, and I think mistakenly, when an article he wrote about the Armenian genocide was killed. But over the years, Mark gave much to the paper. His early stories about the Chinese community in the San Gabriel Valley were just one example of his distinguished reporting.

I wasn't always in agreement with Arax. There was sometimes a hard class edge to his reporting, and one time, he wrote a story suggesting that Frank Damrell, a roommate of Jerry Brown's, both in Seminary and at Berkeley, not be confirmed by the U.S. Senate as a federal district court judge in Sacramento, because he was married to a daughter of the Gallo family. I thought this was ridiculous and told him so. But I assured Damrell that the story would only smooth his way to confirmation for the judgeship, which it did.

By and large though, Arax is a great reporter, if somewhat hotheaded on occasion. I'm sure he will do well in the future.


Monday, June 18, 2007

L.A. Times Touts Junk In Quake Prediction Story

One of the great costs of the buyouts generated by the Tribune Co. at the Los Angeles Times is that institutional memory, another way of saying expertise, has been lost, and there was a powerful sign in Sunday's Opinion section over just how much has been lost. The Opinion pages used to have three Pulitzer Prize winners on staff before the former editorial page editor, Andres Martinez, who was finally forced out in a sex scandal himself, got rid of them all.

Perhaps if those prize winners were still on staff, the L.A. Times would not have printed as it did yesterday a spurious story indicating that five individuals, none of them active earthquake scientists, and, for all we are told, four of them not even scientists, had been able to predict major California earthquakes.

Two of the five examples cited were not earthquake predictions at all, and two others were dumb luck. Somebody having heart pains is simply not a guide to predicting earthquakes.

For a quake prediction to be valid, it has to state the time, place and magnitude of an earthquake and get all of these more or less right.

So for Marian Campbell to predict a 5.0 quake near the 40th parallel and then to have a 6.4 quake occur in the Gulf of California is not a prediction. Not only is a 6.4 nearly 40 times more powerful than a 5.0, but the earthquake that occurred was at least 800 miles away from where the prediction said a quake would be. The 40th parallel is near Eureka. The Gulf of California is nowhere close.

Not even as accurate was Jerry Hurley, who says he predicted a 5.0 or higher quake on June 14, 1995, off the California coast, and two days later, a 6.7 occurred. Not only would that quake be 70 times the size of a 5.0, but there was no such quake anywhere near off the California coast or anywhere in California on June 16, 1995. Hurley is making things up, and the Times should have checked him.

Similarly, Zhonghau Shou didn't actually make a "Bulls-eye prediction" when he said in August, 1999 that a major quake would hit east of L.A. A magnitude 7.1 quake did strike in the Mojave desert in October, 1999, but the "cloud patterns and shapes" that Shou said he used in making his prediction had no possible connection with an earthquake, and Shou simply had dumb luck in making the prediction. He probably knew that quakes as large as 7 occur in the Southern California desert every few years, and this one he predicted, but not through any causative knowledge.

The fact is, California has a lot of quakes, so every once in awhile, someone is going to be right with a prediction. But they haven't told us how often they were wrong about one.

Charlotte King says she felt severe heart pains in December, 1993 and predicted the 6.7 Northridge earthquake that occurred a month later. Baloney. Her heart pains had nothing to do with the earthquake.

Jim Berkland was closer to having a basis for predicting one, when, according to the Times, this "former geologist" predicted four days before, there would be a "world series quake," and then, the Loma Prieta quake occurred just before an Oakland A's-San Francisco Giants World Series game. Berkland apparently used observation of tides, lunar cycles and animal behavior to make the prediction. All these phenomena have sometimes been associated with earthquakes, but the links have not been scientifically confirmed.

The Times story, by Swati Pandey, says a "L.A. psychic," who is not identified, has predicted a 6.5 to 8.0 quake would hit Los Angeles by the end of the month.

We'll see. I'll pay $1,000 to a fund for drinks for Tribune Co. chairman Dennis FitzSimons, if there is such a quake.

The main thing is that the Times should never have run such a story, and would not have when I was reporting earthquakes in the years before I retired, without checking with real earthquake scientists to see whether they considered the five examples given to be real earthquake predictions.

If they had checked, they would have found the scientists saying the Times was being bullshitted, as it is all too frequently these days.

I'm having cantaloupe for breakfast this morning. That has nothing to do with future seismic behavior in California.


Sunday, June 17, 2007

Disparities In Punishing People For Wrongdoing

Life, as John F. Kennedy once said, is unfair.

The Page 1 story yesterday, Saturday, June 16, by Charles Ornstein and Susannah Rosenblatt, in the L.A. Times, detailed one of the all too common miscarriages of justice.

Six staff members of the Martin Luther King Jr.-Harbor Hospital in South Los Angeles were given only letters telling them how they should behave in the future for having observed a dying woman writhing on the floor of the hospital's Emergency Room lobby, and doing nothing to either treat her or see that she got treatment.

The woman, Edith Isabel Rodriguez, 43, soon died, and the publicity from this sad event went far and wide, soiling the hospital's already horrible reputation for gross negligence in the way it handles its patients.

Those employees not even quite reprimanded included a nurse and two nursing assistants. Earlier, a janitor who also observed the woman, was given verbal counseling, and a triage nurse who was apparently in overall supervision of the scene was placed on leave, and subsequently resigned.

Well, it's nice to be rid of her. But it's obvious that the hospital should have handed out punishments, not letters, to the six written about Saturday.

At a time when Paris Hilton is serving a county jail term for driving with a suspended license, and the popular majority cheers, there is something grossly wrong here in letting those who idly stood by while a woman died off in such a light way.

Yet the Martin Luther King hospital staff has been given one reprieve after another for its derelictions -- another sign just how badly minority communities are routinely treated in our society.

Were such a hospital operating in Sherman Oaks or Beverly Hills, rather than Willowbrook, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, and federal inspectors, certainly would have taken strong action to see it didn't happen again.

But, even 40 years after the civil rights struggles of the 1960s led to major civil rights legislation, still there is this disparity in treatment.

And it is not only at the hospital. The unhappy truth is that police and Sheriff's deputies shoot and kill far more people on the south side of Los Angeles, than they do whites in other parts of town, stores often charge more, insurance premiums are higher, and lending terms more severe. Every crisis of modern life affects the South Los Angeles community more seriously.

Is this because crime ridden South L.A. is deserving of harder treatment, or does the harder treatment actually inspire more crime? I think it is the latter.

The poet W.H. Auden once wrote, "You and I know what all schoolchildren learn...Those to whom evil is done do evil in return."

And so it is. Society pays a heavy price because we accept these disparities, and we cannot expect that life in the city will be satisfactory, until it is satisfactory in all parts of it.


Two days into power in Gaza, is the Hamas organization already acting in bad faith?

Surprise, it could be.

Just after taking power, Hamas officials said the BBC journalist, Alan Johnson, kidnapped this spring in Gaza, would be released within 24 hours.

Lo and behold, he was not released. The terrorists holding him now say he will not be released until the British meet their demands, which are to release terrorists held in British jails. Later in the day, they threatened to "slit his please God."

So, either the Hamas officials were lying, or the organization really does not hold dominant power in Gaza.


Saturday, June 16, 2007

Strategic Implications Of Hamas Victory In Gaza

The U.S., the European Union, the Arab League, even Israel, are rushing to support the weak and corrupt Palestinian regime of Mahmoud Abbas in the wake of the seizure of the Gaza strip by his rivals in Hamas.

But I'm afraid one of the first conclusions to draw from the Gaza outcome is that, potentially, Abbas and his Fatah movement are no match for the present realities in the Palestinian territories and that it is far more likely the terrorist Hamas organization will begin making greater inroads in the West Bank than Fatah can hope to do in the future in Gaza. The division of "Palestine" into two, therefore, is not stable.

I'm almost inclined to think that in short order it will become evident that Fatah, which made no effective use of its perceived military superiority in Gaza, is really finished, and if Hamas, and its Iranian and Syrian backers are to be prevented from taking over all the Palestinian territories, Jordan and Egypt are going to have to move in, restoring to some extent the positions they held before the Six-Day War in 1967.

How could this happen, with Israel in continuing occupation in the West Bank, and its ability to invade Gaza at any time?

Easily, if the Israelis decide that, to keep the Iranians out, they need Jordan and Egypt back. Jordan and Egypt, both, are to a great degree client states of the U.S. They could be enticed back into Palestine, either in our interest or what they perceive to be theirs. This could also afford the opportunity to put the question of an eventual Palestinian state in the bcakground.

The Israelis are realists, as is the Bush Administration. They realize the ominous character of the Hamas victory this week, and that is that a kind of power vacuum has been created in Gaza, and enemies of the U.S. and Israel, the Iranians, the Syrians and their proteges in Hezbollah, will not be slow in moving in. Already, Hamas is Iranian-influenced. It may wish to keep Iran at arm's length, but, most likely, it will not have the internal strength or strong determination sufficient to do so. Al-Qaeda is also present in Gaza, and may become more so.

What would then be the least risky course? It is to let the Jordanians and Egyptians move back in, and do the fighting that Israel and, indirectly, the United States will have to do if they don't.

A focus of both the L.A. Times and New York Times this morning is what will happen with the Gaza crossings, whether Israel will allow food, water and oil into Gaza. or whether the Egyptians will. Within hours, there was a buildup of hundreds of Gaza residents anxious to leave and move to the West Bank. Israel, properly, is cautious about letting them cross Israeli territory.

To some extent, the immediate prospect depends on whether Hamas continues to rain rockets on Israeli territory, whether it generates new incidents at the border crossings, etc. Under those circumstances, Israel might be inclined to invade Gaza and try to take care of Hamas itself, before it develops its army there along Hezbollah lines. But I think, if there is time, Israel and the U.S. would prefer to bring back the Jordanians and Egyptians.

It may be that Hamas will bide its time, seeking a more peaceful period, while militancy takes hold in Gaza, and pressure builds up against remaining Fatah institutions in the West Bank. But whether Hamas will get the time is problematic. Neither Israel, nor Iran, may be willing to give it to them. And Hamas has not shown much evidence of having much internal discipline since winning the Gaza elections two and a half years ago. Hamas itself could break into factions.

The implications, by the way, of Hamas control of Gaza are also ominous for the Mubarak regime in Egypt. Mubarak may well feel as threatened by the developments there as the Israelis, particularly if Iranian control of Hamas should grow.. Before this would happen, it could be that the Egyptian army would move into Gaza to fight Hamas.

There are some parallels here with the situation in Somalia, where the emergence of an Islamic regime was followed quickly by the American-inspired Ethiopian invasion. The U.S. and Israel will be looking for surrogates to spell an end to Hamas and/or Iranian control in Gaza, just as they have in Lebanon and Somalia.

All in all, the Hamas victory this week further complicates the situation in the Middle East. The advance of terrorist elements has already begun, and the Americans have not even begun to retreat yet in Iraq as the Democrats in Congress want.


Friday, June 15, 2007

Immigration Bill Must Be Revised To Pass

Due to both bitter past and present experience, and despite a lot of pablum being produced right now by the bipartisan coalition headed by President Bush, it seems likely that without substantial revision the immigration legislation being considered by Congress will not pass this year.

The recent vote against cloture in the Senate is a strong indication that most Republicans in Congress and a significant number of Democrats are not willing to go along with anything that does not incorporate far more action to keep the American border with Mexico more firmly
closed to illegal immigrants, and, at the same time, restrict amnesty for the 12 million already here.

The fact is that despite the polls, there is a substantial and perhaps decisive minority of the American people who are uneasy about the massive illegal immigration that took place after passage of the 1986 Immigration act and continues to this day.

In 1986,, there were an estimated three million illegal immigrants in the United States, and the law's sponsors promised that the amnesty provisions approved that year, combined with better enforcement at the border, would solve the nation's immigration problems.

Far from doing that, the 1986 legislation only encouraged millions more people to come, largely from Mexico and Latin America, but from both Asia and Europe as well. Enforcement proved entirely inadequate.

This is really not surprising. The fact is, both the government's resources and willpower are lacking, and without a major change in attitude will continue to be lacking. We see from recent experience that the U.S. Government can't even successfully implement new requirements that every American citizen returning to the country carry a passport, including those coming from Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean. Since the State Department was inadequately staffed to process the number of passport applications that flooded in, the requirement has had to be postponed.

The immigration legislation already proposed talks of border enforcement, but, as Time magazine pointed out in a long article this week, it has many caveats stating that this will go ahead only if the money is available. So far, it isn't available, and, even if it were, it is doubtful the Immigration and Naturalization Service could gear up expeditiously to use it.

If there is anything that has become clear from recent experience -- both with Iraq and Hurricane Katrina -- it is that the national administration is prone to vastly underestimate the numbers of men and women that will be required, if major policy goals are to be successfully implemented. Inadequate numbers of people on the ground, inadequate resources, have meant substantial failure thus far in both the war and the hurricane relief.

The senators who voted against cloture are certainly going to insist upon passage of a number of amendments, before they agree to cut off debate on the immigration bill, and we have already seen that the skills and perseverance of the Senate majority leader, Democrat Harry Reid of Nevada, are very much in question. He not only often says the wrong thing, he does not really understand the psychology of the Senate.

The tactic adopted by the bill's proponents on the amnesty is to incorporate a number of fees and bureaucratic restrictions to impede it. But to say the least, these rules have to be altered to make the bill more acceptable, and more workable. Time magazine took issue this week with those, like Sen. John McCain, who have proclaimed this is not really an amnesty bill. It is, but it is so loaded with impediments, it may actually, in its present form, make things worse for those struggling to legalize themselves.

There is no real reason for optimism that Congress will be able to work all this out. As I said at the outset of this blog, I doubt we're going to see this legislation passed this year.


Los Angeles City Atty. Rocky Delgadillo has been proven in recent weeks more clearly than ever before to be an unsatisfactory public official. He is unwilling to be truthful or even mildly informative about the circumstances of an accident that occurred to his city-provided SUV, he has been fined for campaign funding violations, and he has sought to improperly take cases away from the District Attorney, who he is planning to challenge in the next election. His hardline statements in the Paris Hilton affair were ludicrous, given his own wife's record of driving with a suspended license and serving no jail time whatsoever.

Already, last year, he tried to defeat Jerry Brown for the Democratic nomination for state Attorney General through demagoguery, and he turned out to have lied about his resume.

Under these circumstances, Delgadillo should resign his office and leave public life permanently. If he were an attorney, which he is not, I'd say L.A. Times columnist Steve Lopez would be a good replacement. (That is meant as a joke).


Thursday, June 14, 2007

Two LAT Stories Show Injustice In South L.A.

Two poignant stories yesterday, June 13, in the Los Angeles Times about deaths in South Los Angeles show, tragically, that inhumanity in the world is not confined to the Middle East.

One ran on Page 1 of the Times. By Charles Ornstein, a Pulitzer Prize winner, and Francisco Vara-Orta, it told the story of the death of Edith Isabel Rodriguez, 43, who was left, writhing on the floor of the Emergency Room lobby at the deplorably incompetent Martin Luther King Jr. Harbor Hospital, without care while her boyfriend and another patient fruitlessly called the 911 emergency line to try to get Rodriguez picked up and taken to a hospital that would give her care.

The Times printed partial transcripts of these two calls, in which insensitive dispatchers turned away the pleas for aid on grounds it either was not an emergency within the meaning of their rules, or they could not call paramedics from one hospital to pick up anyone at another.

Martin Luther King Hospital has been a travesty for a long time. Many people have died there for years, due to negligent care. And yet neither the responsible party, the inept Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, nor the federal government, which has repeatedly threatened to cut off funding for this hospital, have ever taken adequate action to aright matters.

We are shocked when Hamas gunmen take Fatah gunmen they have captured out in the street and execute them with shots to the head, as happened just this morning in Gaza. But what about medical personnel who leave a mortally ill woman writhing on the floor without care, despite the pleas of her boy friend and other patients? That is just as much a sin, but this is happening in a supposedly civilized city, and nothing effective has been done to prevent recurrences in the future.

Ornstein in particular has worked valiantly to bring these gross derelictions to public attention. Does anyone care? The answer is, they do not care sufficiently, or Martin Luther King Hospital would have either been shut down long ago. as a public menace, or radically improved. State medical authorities would have intervened. The members of the Board of Supervisors, instead of going out to collect campaign contributions, would have gotten off their fat asses and taken action.

In this county, they will throw Paris Hilton in jail for driving with a suspended license. But they won't prosecute the medical personnel who ignore a dying woman in their emergency room or the 911 dispatchers who tell desperate callers to go to Hell.

The second story in the Times, by the gallant and sensitive reporter Jill Leovy, should have run on Page 1 too, instead of way back in the California section. It told the story of a 15-year-old boy, Rodney Elijah Love, the beloved son of a caring mother, Angela Cooke, who died in the street in front of their home as a result of one of the senseless shootings that occur in that South Los Angeles neighborhood.

What can one say to this mother, who cradled her dying son, who tried to call 911 only to get a recording and who then waited vainly, as the boy's eyes flickered, while paramedics failed to arrive. He died before they got there, even though patrol cars had shown up.

The distraught mother asked a police officer why he had arrived long before the paramedics, only to be told that it is policy to direct paramedics to wait for clearance to enter Los Angeles shooting scenes, in order to avoid being shot themselves.

What does that say about the capability of the police, if they can't even protect paramedics, if they let people die waiting for them?

This is an absolute, unmitigated disgrace. This youth had been a student at Reseda High School, across the city. He used to get up at 5 a.m. every morning to catch the school bus that would take him into a nicer, safer neighborhood, so that he could get an education and one day go to college. That was the dream he and his mother had.

It won't come to pass now. What a tragedy, but one that occurs all the time in this insensitive city.

The L.A. Times has a daily editorial page. Why didn't it write about this? And why wasn't this story on Page 1, so that respectable citizens might be bothered a little bit that such things could happen here?

After all the buyouts, it's nice Leovy and Ornstein are still on the Times staff. Now, when will Los Angelenos pay attention to what they write?

The words of the mother should resound throughout this city: "I constantly said I have to keep my son safe. I have to protect him from these streets. I knew where he was at all times. I figured I would let him to outside for a few hours. It should be OK. He was downstairs at his own house. He's got to be safe there."

But Rodney Love was no more safe than he would be on the streets of Gaza. And the glorious LAPD, they did not even let the paramedics in who might have saved him.


Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Islamic Fundamentalist Savagery Knows No Bounds

In many places in the Middle East today, Wednesday, June 13, the savages of Islamic fundamentalism were at work. So savage that you wonder on what grounds these people even call themselves religious, since they spend most of their time and effort killing other Muslims.

In Iraq, in what may have been an inside job, with the Iraqi security forces complicit in the attacks, explosions blew up both minarets of the Shiite Imam al-Askari Mosque (the Golden Mosque) in Samarra. This completed the destruction done by insurgents on Feb. 22, 2006, when their bombing of the mosque, one of the holiest Shiite shrines, set off widespread sectarian warfare in Iraq.

Lt. Gen. David Petraeus, commander of U.S. troops in Iraq, said this morning that the new attack was another move to spark sectarian violence, and within hours, there were reports that a Sunni mosque had been blown up in eastern Baghdad. Also, CNN reported that 15 arrests had been made of the security force that had surrounded the mosque. As with the kidnappings of U.S. troops south of Baghdad in recent months, the attacks seem to have at least been facilitated by the very police and Iraqi army forces that are supposed to be protecting the government of Iraq.

Just yesterday, Admiral William Fallon, the top American military commander for the Middle East,, met with the Iraqi prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, to tell him, in the presence of New York Times military reporter Michael Gordon, that U.S. patience with his efforts is running out, and that the Iraqi government must make quick progress at implementing benchmarks set by the U.S. Congress, such as passing a law splitting oil revenues between the ethnic groups.

But he might have been wasting his breath. Maliki seems to have a hidden agenda to crush the Sunnis and keep Iraq in turmoil until Iranian-leaning Shiites can take over total control. He and his friends in the Iraqi parliament have done nothing to comply with the benchmarks.

Meanwhile, today, NATO forces in Afghanistan have reported seized Iranian arms being sent to the Taliban. At one time, Iran was reportedly cooperating with American forces fighting the Taliban. Now, there are suggestions that it is giving arms to both sides, with the goal of stirring further trouble, just as Iran has been doing elsewhere in the Middle East, in Gaza, in the West Bank and in Lebanon.

Today also was a day in which the U.S. State Department released findings that trafficking in human beings -- in other words, slavery -- is practiced in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman and Qatar, all supposed allies of the United States, but in many ways just as barbaric, just as savage and evil, as our adversaries in that region. Just last week, L.A. Times writer Megan Stack, detailed the foul discrimination against women in Saudi Arabia.

Meanwhile, internecine warfare rages in Gaza, and to a lesser extent the West Bank, between Hamas, which gets support from both Iran and Al-Qaeda, and the corrupt Fatah organization.

The liberal group, Human Rights Watch, had the good grace this week to note that both sides are committing war crimes in Gaza -- throwing people off high rise buildings, shooting people in hospitals, murdering captives -- as part of this Islamic fight. Which is more than the L.A. Times editorial page has done. It has had nothing to say about these crimes. Instead, it again assails the Bush Administration for not closing the Guantanamo prison, where many of the worst Islamic terrorists are at least kept in custody, so they can't murder us, or other Muslims.

In Lebanon too, the carnage goes on. Another bomb, attributed to pro-Syrian elements, blew up today in Beirut, killing an anti-Syrian member of Parliament and nine others.

In Israel, security forces reported foiling planned double suicide bombings in Tel Aviv. Two Muslim women, one the mother of eight children and nine months pregnant, were arrested. How honorable of them!

There are a few faint signs that some Muslims are getting fed up with the continuing Middle East drama. Both Saudi and Egyptian columnists this week have suggested Islamic virtue has been destroyed by the extremists who have come to dominate Muslim life.

But it is doubtful the moderate Muslims can control the others. Should Iran or Al-Qaeda obtain nuclear weapons, it may well be necessary for U.S. and European forces to occupy the Middle East to put the Islamic fundamentalists under forcible restraint and prevent our own destruction.

Such an event is not by any means out of the question. Just this week, a former U.S. Defense Secretary, William Perry, and two other experts wrote a long article on the New York Times Op-Ed page about the necessity of preparing ourselves in this country for an atomic attack, and for the reprisals that would necessarily follow it.


Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Deluded LAT Calls For UN-brokered Iraq Ceasefire

I wonder just which is crazier this morning -- the Egyptian mufti who issued a fatwa extolling the Prophet Mohammed's followers for blessing themselves by drinking his urine, or the L.A. Times editorial calling for the United Nations to be brought in by the U.S. to broker a ceasefire in Iraq.

I think the L.A. Times is crazier. Many Muslims might be willing to drink the Prophet's urine, if they had a chance. But to ask the United Nations to do more in the Middle East is really nutty.

The United Nations is the failed organization that put 20,000 "peacekeepers" into Lebanon to disarm Hezbollah, only to see Hezbollah rearm itself with what are now 20,000 rockets.

The United Nations is the organization that just agreed (with five abstentions in the Security Council) to set up a tribunal to prosecute the Syrian perpetrators of the assassination of former Lebanese Premier Rafik Hariri, only to see Syria come to the support of the fanatical Fatah Al-Islam which is fighting the Lebanese Army.

The United Nations has tried to broker a cease fire in the Palestinian territories, only to see a civil war break out there between the Hamas organization backed by Al-Queda and the Fatah organization of the hapless Palestinian "President" Mahmoud Abbas, (On Wednesday morning, when two UN employees were slain in the Gaza fighting, the cowardly UN immediately announced it would pull personnel from the country. So much for its role there).

In Iraq, it was the United Nations that decided to bug out years ago after just one bombing of UN headquarters in Baghdad. It long ago decided to do nothing in Iraq.

In Iran, the United Nations has failed to do anything substantive to stop the crazed Ahmadinejad regime from building nuclear weapons, or threatening to wipe out Israel. An international emissary recently suggested that Iran be permitted to develop nuclear power, and two Muslim states, supposedly "moderate" Qatar and Indonesia, last week refused to go along with a UN Security Council statement denouncing Ahmadinejad for his latest threats against Israel.

What starry-eyed Times editorial writer thought it was a good idea to bring this horrible organization, just as useless as the old League of Nations, back into the Iraqi situation? And I thought the ururping Times publisher, David Hiller, was in charge of the editorial page. Why didn't he block this silliness? Probably, this is part and parcel with the Tribune Co. managers who have allowed L.A. Times circulation to drop by more than 300,000, as readers slide away from a newspaper that advocates idiocy.

The Times editorial compounds its errors by criticizing the only U.S. military initiative in Iraq that has borne fruit in recent months, the arming of tribal Sunnis who have agreed to fight Al-Qaeda in Anbar province. That has resulted in some gains there, a reduction of violence, a reduction in attacks against U.S. troops, even while the corrupt Maliki government of Iranian-sympathizing Shiites has been able to continue its ethnic cleansing in Baghdad.

The Times editorial also says President Bush "must" begin planning to disengage from Iraq. "Must" is the wrong word. President Bush need do nothing until a veto-proof Congressional majority is assembled against him, and that hasn't happened yet.

It is time for the L.A. Times to wake up and smell the roses. Virulent fascisms generated by Al Qaeda and Iran are trying to conquer the Middle East. They are fighting now not only in Iraq and Afghanistan, but also in Pakistan, Lebanon, Gaza and the West Bank. They cannot be stopped other than by military force.

I do not claim that the L.A. Times editorialists do not mean well. No, but they are certainly delusional. I called myself last week for a strategic retreat of U.S. military forces from the deadly streets of Baghdad to redoubts in the north and west of Iraq from which they could carry on the war. This, I acknowledge, is not a particularly safe course. But I didn't call for anything quite as pointless as either calling in the United Nations or drinking Mohammed's urine.


The cost cutters at the Tribune Co. who have torn apart the L.,A. Times have now been followed to the Daily News in the San Fernando Valley by Ed Moss, that paper's new publisher. Moss just came from the Akron Beacon-Journal, where in 10 months he cut the staff from 734 to 600, including cuts of 25% in the newsroom, before disappearing to carry his swath of destruction West.

For the Daily News, about to be as drastically assailed as has the staff of the L.A. Times, there can only be one hope--that someone will pack Moss up and ship him back East, just as David Hiller and James O'Shea should be. These managers hate Los Angeles, they hate California, and they should never be permitted to remain here.


Monday, June 11, 2007

New York Times Raps Murdoch, And Itself

Sunday, June 10, was an unusually candid day for the New York Times. In an outspoken editorial, it defended a-competitor, the Wall Street Journal, against the Rupert Murdoch raid, speaking up against a sale of the Dow Jones Co. to the right wing newspaper and television magnate.

Then, in the same Week in Review section, the new public editor of the Times, Clark Hoyt, indicated that the editors of the paper might well have been wrong last weekend to play the news of an alleged Islamic plot to burn facilities at the John F. Kennedy Airport on Page 30 rather than on Page 1. It's an auspicious start for Hoyt.

The L.A. Times fitfully sometimes runs adverse stories about itself, or rather the Tribune Co. ownership that has brought so much ruination on the newspaper. On the other hand, the LAT
ran just three paltry letters protesting the termination of longtime Times columnist Al Martinez, when it had received hundreds, maybe as many as 2,000. The New York Times is prone to go deeper with self-criticism, and the "public editor" often provides the means.

The NYT is on its third public editor, and I don't imagine any of them have been all that popular with the regular editors. After all, many news reporters and editors are very defensive. They are used to dishing it out to all types of public figures, but they don't enjoy being criticized themselves.

Hoyt, on Sunday, elicited an admission from John Geddes, a NYT managing editor, that if he had to do it all over again, he might have put the Kennedy plot story on Page 1, even though he did feel federal prosecutors may have overplayed the threat.

Hoyt remarked in the conclusion of his column, "Domestic terrorism is a frightening -- and now very political -- issue. Newspapers cannot take sometimes overheated rhetoric from public officials at face value. But they have to be careful not to appear indifferent to plots that, allowed to mature, could pose real threats of death and destruction."

It was striking that the NYT played the Kennedy story on Page 30, while the Washington Post, published in a city 240 miles away, published it as the lead story on Page 1. And, I think, the L.A. Times did too.

As for the Murdoch bid for the Wall Street Journal, the NYT editorial said, "Editorial pages generally do not compliment the competition, but today we write in praise of The Wall Street Journal."

Murdoch, it accurately noted, as media columnist Tim Rutten has in the Los Angeles Times, "reneged on his vow to leave news operations alone, such as at The Times of London (after he bought that paper), or when his conglomerate canceled a book and stopped carrying the BBC news by satellite to curry favor in China." The Times editorial made it clear, the NYT editors hope the Wall Street Journal will not be sold to Murdoch.



I haven't been very impressed with the revamped Los Angeles Times Sunday travel section, which has seemed to represent another Tribune Co. cutback at the paper. But fair is fair and the travel section's page devoted to Seattle's Pike Place Market yesterday provided an excellent map and description as to what is to be found there, at one of the world's great markets.

The graphics, the page said, were prepared by Eric Lucas, "Special to the Times," which meant that Lucas is not on the regular staff.