Friday, November 30, 2007

Savage Muslim Mobs Demand Woman's Execution

Even as Great Britain's first Muslim peer, Lord Ahmed, readied himself to leave London for the Sudan tonight in an attempt by moderate Muslims in Britain to free the British school teacher accused of insulting Islam, hundreds, some reports said thousands, of savage Muslim fundamentalists, armed with knives, clubs and axes, coursed through the streets of Khartoum to the presidential palace, demanding the woman's execution by firing squad.

They were set off by rabble rousing imams in the mosques of Khartoum, who fomented the demonstration, despite assurances from the Sudanese government just the day before that it would not take place. Riot police in Khartoum, according to press reports, did not interfere with the marchers, who also threatened Western reporters in the streets. The New York Times reported that many of the demonstrators were government employees.

Gillian Gibbons' "crime" was to allow her seven-year-old pupils in an "elite" private school to name a teddy bear after the Prophet, Muhammad. Yesterday, she was spared 40 lashes in a Sudanese court, but was sentenced to 15 days in the Khartoum prison and then deportation.

This is the kind of barbarism that will spread throughout the Middle East, if we withdraw our forces from Iraq, as the New York Times urges again in an editorial this morning that we do. Such a retreat would be a signal to the fanatics that they are bestride the world and can have their way without resistance.

There is a sad spirit of surrender in many elements of the Western press, and, as we see in the coverage of new rioting by Muslim youths in France this week, a fear of even using the word "Muslim" to describe the rioters. Instead, most of the reporters use euphemisms.

Yet, the sad truth is that Islamic fanatics bent on propagating savage attacks to enslave women are in the ascendancy, and neither the press, nor Western governments, can stick their heads in the sand like ostriches and wish that they will go away. These forces must be resisted with the armed might of the U.S., Britain, France and other countries, and it should be done before they acquire nuclear weapons, not afterwards.

At the same time, there are encouraging signs, at least in Britain, that masses of Muslim citizens and immigrants are appalled by the conduct of their fundamentalist co-religionists. The protests against what has happened this week in the Sudan have been strong in the British Muslim community, and there can be no doubt that Lord Ahmed is risking his personal safety in flying to Khartoum to try to liberate poor Ms. Gibbons.

Certainly, part of Western policy must be to do everything that can be done to support and encourage these nascent moderate forces in Islam. The world has a tremendous stake in their success.

The assault by the Sudanese authorities and the mobs against the school teacher is not an isolated act, of course, in that barbaric country. For years now, Sudanese Arab Muslims have carried out a campaign of genocide against black Muslims in Darfur, a Sudanese province, murdering them by the hundreds of thousands, while the West has protested ineffectually. Just this week, the murderers in the Sudanese government continued to try to hamper establishment of an international peacekeeping force in Darfur, calling it "anti-Islamic."

In 1898, a British army, under Lord Kitchener, invaded the Sudan and defeated forces at Omdurman which had been responsible for the murder of a British general, Lord Gordon.

It may be necessary now to finish the job Kitchener began. If any physical injury is done to Ms. Gibbons, she must be avenged, if the genocide in Darfur continues, then this government must be removed from power, replaced by an international trusteeship. We cannot afford to let these thugs continue their depredations. They are a clear and present danger.


Thursday, November 29, 2007

USC Should Be Given Complete Control Of Coliseum

First, let me pay tribute this morning to the tremendous article by Christopher Hawthorne on the future facing the glorious old stadium, the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, on Page 1 of today's L.A. Times. He has said nearly everything that most needs to be said about the desirability of its preservation.

However, it may be useful for me to make a few observations, based on my two decades of reporting for the Times on the Coliseum Commission, most notably during the run up to the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics and then during the ill-fated relationship with the Los Angeles Raiders, which ultimately resulted in Al Davis' unfortunate decision to take his team back to Oakland.

During all that time, I was able to observe operation of one of the most motley bunch of state, city and county bureaucrats ever assembled in one place. (From this, I except my friends Margaret Farnum, for 40 years the Coliseum secretary and/or chief administrative officer, and the late Los Angeles City Councilman John Ferraro. The late commissioner and labor leader, Bill Robertson, at least tried. Unfortunately, however, these figures were unable to overcome the imbecility and venality that never ceased to mark the other Coliseum officials).

The only thing this group ever really accomplished was to successfully insist that the commission purchase many thousands of dollars of Olympic tickets which were then given free to each of the commissioners as a reward for their cooperation in allowing the stadium to be used as the main venue of the 1984 Games. Thus, the commissioners feathered their own nests, while not working effectively to keep the Coliseum fully tenanted and up to date.

It's not surprising that politicians are grasping of freebies for themselves. But often, with their little corruptions, they manage to accomplish a few other things that benefit the public.

Not this commission. Its bullheadedness exhibited in the contract negotiations with USC that, according to USC Athletic Director Mike Garrett, in a letter released yesterday, have led to an "impasse," were in evidence in countless other negotiations over many, many years. As noted in the Times this morning, this commission, with its changing membership, has managed to lose one team after another from the Coliseum and the adjacent Sports Arena, which it also controls.

The Rams, the Chargers, the Raiders, these were the professional football franchises that were lost, in part because of the hapless negotiating skills of such commissioners as Alexander Hagen and Richard Riordan. But also in part, it must be said, because the National Football League never really cared for a stadium that was so large that sellouts permitting televising the games locally could seldom be attained.

USC, being a much better football franchise than any of these professional teams, can frequently fill the stadium. And since it is right next door to the USC campus, USC has always had the most love for it. It would hate to leave the memories of the glory days playing against Notre Dame, UCLA, Cal and Stanford, behind to play in the Rose Bowl, no matter how splendid that stadium is.

However, it may have to, if the Coliseum Commission persists in its main bureaucratic pursuit -- maintaining its total control, so its members can get the perks of membership.

USC has come to the Commission with a generous proposal. It will take over the facility and pay for $100 million in renovations over a ten-year period. The commission will not have to go out of existence. It can continue to meet and do nothing (in secret, of course; all meaningful discussions there have always been conducted behind closed doors). Ownership formally will remain public, but USC will run the show.

Of course, such a deal would mean that USC would get the benefits from renting out the Coliseum for other events, such as soccer, mass religious and other meetings, etc., plus concessions and parking. The old stadium has managed always to partially pay for itself by such means.

One impediment to a deal with USC is that the Commission would have to finally and officially abandon the idea of attracting another professional football team. Sam Farmer, a L.A. Times sportswriter, recently wrote an excellent story confirming that the NFL has no intention of returning to the stadium and, if it ever returns to Los Angeles, will arrange to go somewhere else. But City Councilman Bernard Parks, the present commission president, is reported just this morning to be sticking to the hopeless dream of attracting the NFL back.

This would not be desirable, even if it were possible, because the kind of stadium reconstruction which has been discussed with the NFL would ruin the old place. It just would not be the same after it was downsized and made ugly by the football league's architects. Parks, who acquired a reputation for ridiculous rigidity as Los Angeles Police Chief, is now exhibiting it again. (And this is a man who has the temerity to want to be elected to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors). Parks needs to take a powerful relaxant, and then make a deal.

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has at last, happily, smelled the roses (not in Pasadena but in the Exposition Park Rose Garden), and formally dropped the idea of appealing in the future to the NFL. However, it is certainly an ominous sign that among the members of the Coliseum Commission is Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky. Whereever you find the incompetent Yaroslavsky, be it rapid transit, the Martin Luther King Hospital, or the Coliseum, you can be sure he will louse it up.

USC will bring the stadium back to its glory days. And if the Coliseum Commission won't hurriedly agree to the terms the university has proposed, then somebody ought to go down there and adopt a Saudi Arabian-like punishment, lashing the commissioners to within an inch of their lives.


It appears the sale of Tribune Co. to real estate magnate Sam Zell will go ahead after all. More on this in a day or two.

First, let me pay tribute this morning to the tremendous article by Christopher Hawthorne on Page 1 of today's Los Angeles Times, on the need to preserve one of the greatest cultural monuments of this city, the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. He has said nearly everything that most needs to be said.

However, I will add my own observations in nearly two decades of covering the Coliseum Commission for the L.A. Times, during which time the Raiders left the facility and numerous renovation plans fell by the wayside.


Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Violent Muslims Will Try To Trump The Moderates

There were indeed signs of hope at this week's Annapolis meetings on the Arab-Israeli dispute, but the New York Times was right in its editorial this morning to express great caution about whatever optimism there was.

"...The difficulty of reaching an accord before Mr. Bush leaves office cannot be overstated," the newspaper said. "Yesterday's joint statement, which was vaguer than we had hoped, is a reminder of just how difficult. While the two sides said their talks should be aimed at concluding a treaty that deals with all 'core issues,' they couldn't agree on naming them and how they might be addressed. For the record, they are: the future of Jerusalem, the fate of refugees, the borders of a Palestinian state and guaranteeing Israel's security."

Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Times editorial also warns that what it calls "the fragile embryo of peace" must be protected and nourished. But it observes that "the repugnant spectacle of Jews praying at the Western Wall for the failure of the peace process and of Hamas supporters condemning Abbas to death as a 'traitor' should be a clarion call to moderates in the Middle East and around the world."

The L.A. Times, as usual, bends over backward to be evenhanded between Jewish and Muslim extremists, but the fact is that the major threat to peace in the Middle East and elsewhere is fundamentalist Islam, and that every attempt we have seen to bring about peace has quickly prompted more violence.

We see that again today. Thousands rallied in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip to call for a renewal of attacks against Israel, and seven rockets were fired from Gaza onto Israeli territory. Meanwhile, Iran condemned the Annapolis meetings and Saudi Arabia said it had arrested eight terrorists who were plotting to attack Saudi oil wells, the latest in more than 200 recent arrests of alleged Al-Qaeda operatives in that Kingdom. The Saudis attended the Annapolis meetings, but emphasized beforehand that they wouldn't shake hands with the Israelis.

Meanwhile, in France, this week there has been a resurgence of violence in the largely Muslim Paris suburbs, following an accident with police that killed two teenagers. Only this time, New York Times reporter Elaine Sciolino reports this morning, the rioters have been using shotguns to fire on the police when in the riots of 2005 they only threw stones. L.A. Times reporter Geraldine Baum leads her story with the rioters burning a library. How appropriate! The Nazis burned books in the 1930s, and now the modern Nazis of Islamic fundamentalism have joined them.

Incidents such as are occurring in France, and other instances of Muslim extremism, such as the arrest of a British teacher in the Sudan for allowing her seven-year-old students to name a teddy bear Muhammad, or the expressed intent of Saudi authorities to give 200 lashes and a prison term to a young woman who was raped can only exacerbate feelings in the West that neither Muslim governments, nor immigrants, at least in Europe, can be counted upon to be civilized. Certainly, their behavior toward women is frequently abominable. If there is anybody in those countries who deserves punishment, it is those who bring such charges against innocent women.

The Sudanese government, let's remind ourselves, has been instrumental in recent years in the murder of hundreds of thousands of fellow-Muslims in Darfur, who happen to be black. Just today, there are new reports that this slimy bunch of thugs in Khartoum is further impeding the implantation of an international peacekeeping force to stop the bloodshed.

Yes, there are millions of Muslim moderates, but they seldom speak out clearly against such excesses. To their credit, however, British Muslim leaders have condemned the Sudan for persecuting the teacher.

In his usually provocative column this morning, the New York Times' Thomas Friedman observes, "The Middle East is experiencing something we haven't seen in a long, long time: moderates getting their act together a little, taking tentative stands and pushing back on the bad guys. If all that sounds kind of, sort of, maybe, qualified, is. But in a region in which extremists go all the way and the moderates usually just go away, it's the first good news in years -- an oasis in a desert of despair.

"The only problem is that this tentative march of the moderates -- which got a useful boost here with the Annapolis peace gathering -- is driven largely by fear, not by any shared vision of a region where Sunni and Shiite, Arab and Jew, trade, interact, collaborate and compromise in the way that countries in Southeast Asia have learned to do for their mutual benefit."

One thing is sure: If the Mexican government was sending an emissary to a meeting in Washington, and at the same time, thousands of Mexicans were rallying in Tijuana to scream for attacks on the United States, and, if the next morning, seven rockets were to hit the San Diego suburbs from Mexico, the United States reaction would not be peaceful. And I don't imagine even the often starry-eyed L.A. Times would be equivocating neo-cons in Washington with terrorists in Mexico.


Tuesday, November 27, 2007

LAT Goes After Global Warming With Fly Swatter

In another of those long, turgid editorials so beloved by the mainstream media, the Los Angeles Times editorial page Monday went after global warming with a fly swatter.

In an editorial that ran all the way down the page in two columns, the editorial writers never mentioned nuclear power as a means of stemming warming, and they ignored proposals for dramatic new space technologies that could also curtail it. Instead, these ineffective liberals suggested various energy-saving innovations, such as more efficient refrigerators, that could reduce the rate of the growth of the warming a little, but could not halt it. While the L.A. Times wants to introduce privation to the American consumer, and higher costs, India, China and other developing nations are raising their energy consumption dramatically every day, adding constantly to the problem.

The L.A. Times did not go so far as the couple in New York City who have vowed to fight global warming (saving the forest) by going a whole year without using toilet paper, as reported in Time magazine this week. That is a course which, if followed widely, would undoubtedly lead to widespread cholera outbreaks in the United States.

But the Times editorial was pretty useless. It talks of carbon credits and new building standards (which have already been vetoed by that phony environmentalist, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, by the way). But it passes completely on the more fundamental changes and inventions which will be necessary if the world is not to become a hothouse, eventually something like Venus perhaps.

What this amounts to is a prescription for surrender to the elements. The Times editorial writers thoroughly believe in surrender. They want to give in to Al-Qaeda in Iraq, and now they want to use a number of inconsequential palliatives with global warming.

Just by coincidence, CNN ran a long report yesterday on the Chinese space effort which mentioned prominently that the Chinese envision mining helium-3 on the moon and bringing it to earth for fusion that could supply the Earth with a virtually limitless supply of electric power without the fossil fuel burning that generates a large part of the warming. According to these thoughts (plan as yet is too strong a term), it would take the transport of just four tons of the material to supply all the power needs of the U.S. for a year, which could be mined and brought back in just two shuttles. In other words, getting it here will be well within our technological capability within 20 years, (although the fusion process, again let me emphasize, still must be developed).

Helium-3, according to the CNN article, originated from the sun and was deposited in the moon's soil by the solar wind. "It is estimated there are up to two million tons on the moon, and virtually none on Earth," says the article by John Vause.

We are just at the start of such developments, but the potential importance is obvious, and unlike the energy "savings," or actually a smaller rate of carbon growth, advocated by the Times in its editorial, they show promise of actually reversing current ominous global warming trends.

They would not only not be fission, which the Times is deathly scared of, but fusion, which might be better, certainly more powerful, and perhaps safer. But one thing we should be aware of is that it is quite possible there is no 100% safe means of protecting the present climate, including the ice in the Arctic and Antarctic so essential to maintaining present sea levels.

The Chinese, in short, are truly looking ahead, the space program to them is more than just breast-beating, while in this country we have too many people like the editorial writers of the L.A. Times who remain mired in the past without vision of what space can mean.

The New York Times has also discussed in its science section the possibility of putting up huge screens around the earth which could deflect some of the sun's heat on an intricately calculated basis. The L.A. Times doesn't have a science section.

Sure, this all sounds exotic, but what would the naysayers at the Times have said in 1881, when the paper was founded, had anyone suggested Los Angeles would not only have millions of people, but millions of motor vehicles, great airports, the Internet, television and so on just 125 years later. Technology is moving so quickly that there may only be more strikingly fundamental changes ahead.

They have no such vision at the L.A. Times. No wonder, under Tribune Co. control, the paper has been on a downward spiral, and never any more so than on the editorial pages. Of course, I personally like these people, like one likes small children. Their brains aren't fully developed yet. They don't have the vision Dorothy Chandler had, when she led the way toward fighting smog in 1947.


The Tribune Co. reports revenue was down 9.3% in October, another dismal performance. Publishing revenue was down 7.9%, from $311 million to $287 million. It is another demonstration that CEO Dennis FitzSimons is an incompetent and ought to be replaced, along with such major appointments as L.A. Times publisher David Hiller.


Monday, November 26, 2007

Is There Hope In The Middle East? Perhaps Some

With Arab-Israeli talks, under the guidance of the United States, set for Annapolis this week, both the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times carry columns today registering a hopeful feeling that it's not impossible that something constructive could happen in them.

Both Roger Cohen in the New York Times and former negotiator Aaron David Miller in the L.A. Times express a belief that weariness on both sides, plus the facts that Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas have been holding extensive talks between themselves, and that President Bush feels the end of his term coming may help generate at least a beginning of a new attempt to resolve key issues. Mr. Bush now has fallen back on the old Carter and Clinton positions that it's worthwhile for the U.S. to exert a helpful push on both sides.

Also, a Syrian columnist close to the government of Bashar Assad writes today that the Syrian government is attending the Annapolis meeting because it does not feel it can afford to be left outside the tent in confidential discussions.

The danger of course is that the issues may once again prove intractable or that terrorists may strike, as they have in the past, to disrupt any constructive moves. There does, however, seem on both sides to be a willingness to discuss such issues as the future of Jerusalem, when there has not been before. Only Iran, at the moment, is sticking to a position of total intransigence.

Meanwhile, the New York Times ran two pieces Sunday on Iraq and Al-Qaeda that seemed highly worthwhile.

First and foremost was a long article in the New York Times magazine by the newspaper's recent Pulitzer Prize winner, Andrea Elliott, based on her courageous interviews in the Moroccan city of Tetouan with family and friends of several residents who joined the Jihadists, becoming involved either in the 2004 train bombings in Madrid, or the Al Qaeda insurgency in Iraq.

She traces at great length just what led to these youths becoming terrorists. But implicit in the whole long piece is that even in a radical bastion like this city, the actual number of people enticed into violence is small, and that many people in their families and in Tetouan in general have noticed that violent acts have succeeded in killing many more fellow-Muslims than Americans and other infidels. There seems, in these interviews, then, some rays of hope, some slight feeling that the terrorist movement has peaked, and that, like some kind of fever, it may diminish.

The Elliott piece, not at all polemical, an honest striving for the facts, cannot be too highly recommended. Everyone should read it. I don't think I'm reading a brighter edge to it than is justified.

Then, there is a column yesterday in the NYT by the somewhat changeable Thomas Friedman that holds there are somewhat encouraging signs that many Arabs are rethinking the cul de sac they have entered into of internecine strife. Yes, Hamas and Hezbollah still exist. But others are changing, and even Hamas and Hezbollah, while Iranian backed, sometimes seem a little less fanatic.

Not only does Friedman find signs of "illegal mingling" among Shiites and Sunnis in Iraq, but he observes, "From Gaza to Lebanon to Pakistan to Iraq there is a huge struggle going on today, primarily between Muslim sects, over who can mingle with whom."

The columnist notes that David Ignatius, a Washington Post writer, has even found signs in a recent Osama bin Laden audio that bin Laden feels it has been a "mistake" for Al Qaeda to adopt some of the brutal sectarian tactics it has in Iraq.

As Winston Churchill once said, upon the invasion of North Africa in World War II in 1942, "This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But perhaps it is the end of the beginning." In short, there are signs of some movement, that something besides war and violence is rearing its head. The work that our soldiers. Marines and intelligence operatives did late last year and early this year in Anbar province (where my own son served with the SEALS as an officer), encouraging a rising of Sunnis against Al-Qaeda, has borne some fruit everywhere in Iraq and may bear some more.

That is why I think it constructive for the U.S. to go ahead with both its military effort in Iraq, which is gaining, and its effort to bring a settlement in the Holy Land. Withdrawing, as some impatient American doves want, is not a good option for us, at a time, at long last, when there are rays of light ahead. And now is not the time when others, such as the Australians or Poles, to pull out their small forces.

Wars, particularly counterinsurgency wars, often take a long time. We have to be patient. It could be that things are beginning to move our way. Certainly, some seasoned Middle East correspondents, including the L.A. Times' Kim Murphy, have expressed the opinion that if the Arab-Israeli dispute could be settled, the hot air would go out of the terrorist movement.


Sunday, November 25, 2007

Australia, Poland Opt Out Of Fighting Terrorists

In a depressing demonstration that Islamic fanatics may win after all, the electorates of both Australia and Poland have in recent days voted to bring in governments that are sworn to withdraw these countries' pitifully small contingents of armed forces in Iraq.

The new Australian prime minister, Kevin Rudd, says he will remove the 550 Australian combat troops in Iraq, and the new Polish prime minister, Donald Tusk, says he will have the 1,200 Polish troops out by next year.

It will probably be unpopular to say so, but these countries are following many others that want the United States to do all the fighting and spend all the money to prevent Middle Eastern terrorists from taking over that region. They think they can live safely, while opting out of the common effort. It is a failure of collective security that has occurred before.

I believe they are wrong, and that the Polish prime minister is ready to follow even more disastrous policies when, forgetting Polish history, he questions details of the alliance with the U.S. and its plans to put defensive missiles on Polish soil. If Poland moves away from its alliance with America, it may well again find the Russian wolf coming through its door, and its long struggle to wrest Polish government from Russian domination will have gone for nought.

Strangely enough, these timorous voters and weak-minded leaders are acting at a time when, at least in Iraq, there are encouraging signs of progress. They are like the New York Times and Los Angeles Times editorial writers who think freedom is free, and that it need not be fought for, that we can just get out and all will be well. It sounds like the fatally weak, uninvolved American policy toward Europe in the 1920s and 1930s that did so much to allow tyrants to follow through on their aggressive designs. It took finally the loss of millions of lives to stop them.

It is too bad too that these avowals of pacifism come just before, after major efforts, the Bush Administration has been able to convene a peace conference in Annapolis, with both Arab and Israeli participation, on the issues in the Holy Land. This conference faces many obstacles, but the obstacles will be even greater when the participants see the electorates and governments of Australia and Poland following the socialist government in Spain in trying to escape their responsibilities in the region.

Just in recent weeks, as oil prices have soared toward the $100 mark, there have been reports that many of the foreign fighters coming into Iraq to fight on the side of the terrorists have been coming from Saudi Arabia, the country that was the origin of many of the hijackers of 9-11. And, at the same time, that country has been demonstrating once again just how primitive it is, with its plan to beat a young rape victim within an inch of her life and imprison her for having met with a man who was a male friend who was not her husband, prior to both being assaulted. Her lawyer is now threatened with disbarment for making a public case of it. The whole world is protesting, but the corrupt Saudi monarchy refuses to intervene.

Meanwhile, in Iraq, serious if sporadic attacks by the terrorists continue, despite a falloff in numbers.

In Pakistan, terrorist attacks are increasing, and, just today, an enemy of the U.S., Nawaz Sharif, has returned from exile to foment more trouble for the regime of Gen. Pervez Musharraf. The question posed here is whether the needs of U.S. security should trump our general backing for democracy. I agree with Sens. Dodd and Clinton that security must take priority when terrorism is involved.

To Rudd, Tusk, Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada and other doves around the world, a clear message must be delivered: Their efforts, while perhaps well meaning, are abetting the barbarians. Like ancient Romans against the Huns, they think the world can stop fighting the extremists and nothing will happen. This, I believe, is totally wrong.

That people in many countries are tired of violence is readily understandable. But the consequences of quitting the battle at this stage could be a new dark age, and not only in the Middle East.


Saturday, November 24, 2007

New York Times Edit On Immigration Unrealistic

Andrew Rosenthal, editorial page editor of the New York Times, is not paying sufficient attention to rising opinions of the American people that too many illegal immigrants are entering the country, and that not enough controls have been placed on the estimated 12 million already here. Once again, we see yesterday an editorial that is not at all realistic.

Under the title, "The Immigration Wilderness," the Times calls for reforms that have already been soundly rejected in Congress. It pays lip service to the idea of stricter border controls, but it continues to adhere to policies that have been abandoned and discredited, such as New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer's unpopular proposal to issue state drivers licenses to illegals.

The editorial also chastises Sen. Hillary Clinton for waffling on her own position on the drivers licenses and finally coming out against them. This part of the editorial completely fails to recognize the position in which Mrs. Clinton finds herself: Her campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination has been threatened by her initial willingness to give some support to Spitzer on this issue.

There is a shrillness in New York Times editorials generally these days that can only hurt the Democratic party, the party the newspaper ostensibly backs for return to the White House.

Under Rosenthal's guidance, the paper has been carving out a position close to the McGovernite faction of the party -- surrender in Iraq, weakness in Pakistan (also the subject of an editorial yesterday), and sympathy with the illegal immigrants.

It can only help the Republicans the newspaper is against.

Changes in the immigration laws are going to have to await a new administration and a new Congress. There is clearly no majority support for them now, and we are about to see that demonstrated in the Jan. 3 Iowa caucuses.

I share to some extent the New York Times' observation of concern that "Bias crimes against Hispanic people are up, hate groups are on the march. Legal immigration remains a mess."

But the way to challenge this is not to buck public opinion in the country. It was Abraham Lincoln who once said that no massive majority can safely be ignored.

The Times only exacerbates the feelings it opposes when its editorials are too shrill.


The Los Angeles Times Web site again failed to meet its responsibilities again this morning on a timely basis. At 7 a.m., with both CNN and Yahoo carrying prominent stories on a new wildfire in Malibu that forced the evacuation of scores of homes, the L.A. Times had yet to mention the fire. Later, however, the L.A. Times Web site recouped, putting on a substantive story by Bob Pool and Molly Hennessy-Fiske, its lead. By 10 a.m., 35 structures had burned.

On another disaster in the news, when the Canadian cruise ship Explorer, carrying 91 passengers and a crew of 63, struck an iceburg and sunk off Antarctica, with everyone rescued, the L.A. Times used a Washington Post story, while the New York Times, under the bylines of Graham'Bowley and Andrew C. Revkin, apparently writing from New York, had its own story. No one covers a remote disaster story better than the NYT. It goes back to the Titanic.

One of the two ships involved in the rescue of the Explorer passengers and crew was the National Geographic ship Endeavor, upon which I sailed calmly in the same waters in 2005, but quite a bit later in the summer.


Friday, November 23, 2007

Giuliani Softening May Help Romney, Huckabee

The prospects in the race for the Republican presidential nomination are not as solid as in the Democratic, where it's become fairly evident that the nominee is going to either be Sen. Hillary Clinton or Sen. Barack Obama.

On the Republican side, former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani has, in national polls, been in a consistent lead. But troubles have been piling up for him, and his support seems softer than either Clinton's or Obama's. It banks almost entirely on name identification and identification with 9-11. But it is not present in the early voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire nearly as much as Clinton or Obama support in the Democratic ranks.

Look at those early states, and it seems likely that either former Gov. Mitt Romney or former Gov. Mike Huckabee will come out on top among the GOP candidates in Iowa, and that Romney may hold a commanding lead in New Hampshire. The winner in those states will carry momentum forward, and Giuliani support may then diminish sharply in the big states such as California that vote Feb. 5.

What has gone wrong with the Giuliani candidacy? I think his very unconventionality -- three marriages, one of them following an adulterous relationship, issues positions on abortion, gay rights and guns somewhat out of accord with the GOP mainstream, the scandal over his former police commissioner Bernard Kerik -- all these have begun to hurt Giuliani. Doubts about him have been sowed skillfully by opponents and the press.

Sen. Eugene McCarthy once said, "Nothing so powerfully concentrates the mind as an election or a hanging." He probably got that quote from someone else. But the point is that as an election approaches, voters begin to think more seriously about their choices, and they often return to old loyalties. They listen to the scuttlebutt. Maybe, they don't pay much attention to scandals that surface in the last week, but they become more aware of what has been said all along.

Some observers believe that Republican voters will be swayed in this case by visions of who is most electable, and Giuliani will benefit by continuing to run better in the poll match-ups against Clinton or Obama. In a year, when Republican prospects do not appear all that bright, they argue electability will trump the negative personal factors with many voters. (Doubts about whether she can be elected may be hurting Clinton compared to Obama in that race).

Meanwhile, Giuliani has been subject to withering ridicule in many quarters beyond just the New York Times, and you can expect Romney, Huckabee and even Sen. John McCain or former Sen. Fred Thompson in their campaign advertising in the next six weeks to try to capitalize on suggestions that the former mayor is somehow too strange or even too strident for the Presidency.

I think also that Giuliani may have made a mistake not campaigning harder in the early states to challenge the Romney lead. He is advertising some in Iowa and New Hampshire now, but not all that heavily, and, so far, not very provocatively.

(The Boston Globe has an article today speculating that many New Hampshire Republicans and Independents who voted in the Republican primary in the past will cross over and vote in the Democratic this time, which is legal to do in New Hampshire. That could hurt such relative independents as Giuliani too).

Something always could happen to change the prospects over the holidays, like a big terrorist attack. But I don't think this is going to happen. After all, if Osama bin Laden and his sympathizers really wanted to attack the U.S. homeland again, I reason they they would have managed it by now. They seem, for the moment, to be focusing most of all on Afghanistan and Pakistan.

No, I think it's unlikely that something will pull Giuliani's chestnuts out of the fire, so I expect Romney and Huckabee to get a leg up in the important early voting. Huckabee, however, in my view, would not prove a viable candidate in the general election, and he may become subject to growing doubts like Giuliani. So I think, for the moment, Romney must be considered to have a decent chance of success in the Republican race. We'll see.


Thursday, November 22, 2007

Another Hatchet Job From LAT's Leslie Brenner?

(Jonathan Gold, the Pulitzer-Prize-winning restaurant critic for the L.A. Weekly and a critic for whom I have much respect, it should be reported at the outset, also is most critical of the new Michelin Los Angeles guide. I'm not going to withdraw my criticism of Brenner, but out of fairness to her, I'm going to quote here, in brief, from Gold's comments.

Gold writes, "I'm not dismissing the Michelin guide because so much of it reads as if it were translated badly -- from the French, I would say, except that whoever werote the thing seems to be as ignorant on the subject of French cooking as he is about the Indian or Italian kitchen. And as somebdy who has put restaurant guides together himself, I can forgive some of the errors; it is hard work pulling these things together, and something inevitably gets misplaced along the way. I even have to admit that I agree with most of the guide's assessment...

What bothers me is that the guide was so evidently put together as a fly-by-night project
showing neither knowledge of nor much respect for Los Angeles, that the usual Hollywood banalities are recycled like so much fryer sludge at the biodiesel plant, and that there is so little imagination at work."

With this in mind, when I wrote this blog on Nov. 22, I may have been too critical of and dismissing of the Brenner article in the L.A. Times. I'm not removing the blog, because Gold does say he agrees with most of Michelin's assessments, even if he doesn't like the tone of the book.

Here is what I wrote in the first place, unchanged:

A little more than two years ago, Los Angeles Times food editor Leslie Brenner so severely trashed the elegant Belvedere restaurant in Beverly Hills' Peninsula Hotel that it drew the special negative attention of the Los Angeles Business Journal, which did an article about how destructive her review had been.

This week, Brenner, who usually leaves the actual restaurant reviews to S. Irene Virbila, a Times writer who is eminently fair, is at it again, this time trashing the new Michelin guide of Los Angeles area restaurants. In a story yesterday in the Times Food section, Brenner begins with a foolish statement, and then compounds it.

"The famous red guides for restaurants in Europe published by the French tire company may have lost their luster in recent years, even as the company embarked on a plan to expand to cover the world," she writes, "but nothing could have prepared this food-loving Angelena for what's in the pages of the just-published Michelin Guides Los Angeles 2008. In short, it's amateurish, confusing and barely credible."

The only "barely credible" writer here is Brenner, and once again, there is the smell of an ulterior motive. What it may be, I don't know, but something is clearly wrong.

Brenner's slashing review of the Belvedere, replete with such mistatements as that the room in which the food was served was "stodgy," charged that service in the restaurant was "haughty" and indifferent, that the food was disappointing, and that the man in charge of wine service knew little about wine. As I said at the time, it was an "insulting review," and since I had recently been in the restaurant twice myself, I didn't think it was true. The restaurant had just received outstanding ratings from two other restaurant guides -- Zagat and the Mobile Review.

Now, Brenner has gone after a legendary rater of restaurants new to Southern California. She had dredged up everything negative she could find about Michelin, and put it out to Times readers.

It sounds a little like Brenner has some grudge against a European company. Maybe, she has recently been in Europe and didn't like to see how valuable the Euro has become against the dollar. Maybe, there is another reason.

But I'd like to know it, and senior editors of the L.A. Times ought to examine this writer's work. There's something not right about it.

"For whatever it's worth," she concludes, "Michelin Guide Los Angeles 2008 gives its one-star rating to 15 restaurants: Asanebo, Cut, the Dining Room at Ritz-Carlton, Huntington Hotel & Spa, Joe's, La Botte, Matsuhisa, Mori Sushi, Ortolan, Patina, Providence, Saddle Peak Lodge, Sona, Tre Venezie, Valentino's and Water Grill. Three restaurants get two stars each: Melisse, Spago and Urnsawa. No restaurants received the three-star rating.

"I'm betting that Angelenos are too smart to care."

On the contrary, all the restaurants mentioned receiving star rating have solid reputations. Los Angelenos are too smart not to welcome the coming of Michelin to this area, and they will not be so dumb as to consider Brenner a reliable reviewer.


Forty-four years ago today, then a young reporter with Life magazine, I was standing on the steps of the Widener Library at Harvard University when someone came past and said that President John F. Kennedy had been shot.

The loss of the young president hurts us still.


Wednesday, November 21, 2007

On Transport, Fires, LAT Attention Span Too Brief

When John Carroll became editor of the L.A. Times in 2000, with the Tribune purchase, one of the things he told the staff was that he liked "shorts." Every good newspaper runs a lot of shorts, he said.

But shorts should deal with comparatively less important matters, not the central issues of the day, as the exclusive mention of them. They should provide no excuse not to deal on a continuing basis, with big issues in full-length articles. And on these issues, it is better to use staff-written stories, not simply run the Associated Press, on the most consequential matters.

All this is pertinent now, because the L.A. Times, which normally runs a lot on the Southland's critical problems with traffic congestion, just missed one big transportation story, running only a brief. And after giving the recent wildfires the monumental, all-encompassing coverage they deserved, the newspaper has quickly fallen into old, bad habits of not using its staff to cover the fire issue on a continuing basis. Two thousand homes are burned to the ground, and the Times editors don't remember them with staff assignments three weeks later?

On traffic congestion, there was in yesterday's paper a short reporting that the Federal Transit Administration is giving a $1.7 billion grant to the New York Metropolitan Transportation
Authority toward building the Second Avenue Subway in New York City. It is altogether a $17 billion-dollar project to relieve congestion on the Lexington Avenue line. Groundbreaking was last May.

Why is this a consequential story for Los Angeles? It is, when you consider that, so far, federal contributions toward building a desperately-needed extension of Los Angeles' Metro Red Line to Santa Monica have been zero.

Why is it that New York gets billions for a secondary subway line, and Los Angeles gets nothing toward a desperately-needed trunk line?

I suggest that one big reason is that L.A. officials and L.A. representatives in Congress are not doing enough to lobby for federal funds for the project here.

The mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa, ran on a platform of building more rail transit. What has been the result so far? Two paltry light rail lines, one of which will go only so far toward the West Side as Culver City.

We have a right to expect a better performance, more activity from Villaraigosa, also certainly, from Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, who, in a terrible mistake years ago, was instrumental in cutting off funding for a subway extension to the West Side. Since, in part, he represents the West Side, he should be in Washington every week working for this. If he did, he would be doing some good, perhaps, and not wasting his time sitting in board meetings, as he does now in Los Angeles. Needless to say, too, every Los Angeles congressman should have, as a leading preoccupation, the obtaining of federal funds for subway building.

This is a story worthy of the attention, big-time attention, of the L.A. Times, if editors from Los Angeles, not Chicago, were in charge, and New York's remarkable success in getting federal money instead of Los Angeles should be on Page 1, not a short. With such an inattentive newspaper, it's not a surprise that the politicians aren't paying much attention either.

Building the subway to Santa Monica is estimated to cost about $10 billion, $7 billion less than New York's less necessary subway.

On the fire issue, the Times a few days ago ran a story out of Sacramento by the Associated Press examining in some detail but not huge length, how the state government performed in the fires. The story raised questions about the diligence of the Schwarzenegger Administration in preparing for them.

This story should have been covered at greater length by the Times' Sacramento bureau. Why did it leave such a matter to the AP?

Traffic congestion is an every day affair, and the fires do immense damage every few years at the outside, and sometimes even more frequently. The Times must give these issues continuing, attention with beat reporters.


The latest Washington Post-ABC News poll is out on the Republican race in the Jan. 3 Iowa caucuses, and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee has made an astonishing gain. Huckabee now trails former Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts by just four points, 24% to 28%. Former Sen. Fred Thompson of Tennessee is third with 15% and former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani is fourth with 13%. Sen. John McCain, who has all but pulled out of Iowa because his progressive position on illegal immigration has gone over there like a lead balloon, is fifth with 6%.

This compares with Romney leading Huckabee 26% to 8% in July, and shows again that the contest in this early state is extremely volatile. Just two days ago, the poll on the Democratic side showed Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois taking his first lead over Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York, 30% to 26%.

Forty-three days to go until Iowa votes. Between now and then, what other twists and turns will there be? And when, if ever, will the L.A. Times catch up to the Post by polling in Iowa? Even though L.A. Times polling has been cut back, if any polling is done, it should be in the Iowa contest, and New Hampshire as well. The very future of America may well be at stake.


Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Obama Takes The Lead In Iowa In New Poll

A new Washington Post-ABC News poll in the race for the Jan. 3 Iowa caucuses, the first vote in 2008, shows that Sen. Barack Obama has taken the lead over Sen. Hillary Clinton for the first time in months of campaigning there.

The poll was within the margin of error, but it still showed Obama with 30% support, Clinton with 26%, former Sen. John Edwards with 22% and Gov. Bill Richardson with 11%. Just last month, Clinton held a lead with 25%, over Edwards with 23%, and Obama third with 22%.

The writers of the Post story this morning, Anne E. Kornblut and Jon Cohen, are perhaps too cautious in assessing this startling change. The say that Obama, Clinton and Edwards "remain locked in a close race." The fact is that Obama's breaking into the lead has tremendous psychological importance, I believe, and puts Obama into a possibly commanding position in the Iowa vote with just 44 days to go.

Kornblut and Cohen do report more clearly that in key subsidiary questions in the poll there are indications "Iowa Democrats are tilting toward change, and Obama appears to be benefiting from it." For one thing, 55% of those surveyed reported that a "new direction and new ideas" are their top priority, compared with 33% who favored "strength and experience." That's a shift from the July results when 49% said strength and experience were key as against 39% a new direction and new ideas.

There is little question the way the Iowa race has been developing that Obama is identified with the change position, and Clinton with the experience. After all, a Clinton presidency would be, more or less a continuation of a political-family status quo which has seen either a Clinton or a Bush in the White House since 1989.

Altogether, Kornblut and Cohen write, "The factors that have made Clinton the clear national front-runner -- including her overwhelming leads on the issues of the Iraq war and health care, a widespread sense that she is the Democrats' most electable candidate, and her strong support among women -- do not appear to be translating on the ground in Iowa, where campaigning is already fierce, and television ads have been running for months."

In Iowa, they note, "in a state likely to set the tone for the rest of the nominating process, there are significant signs of progress for Obama -- and harbingers of concern for Clinton." One is that among women, Obama now holds the lead too, 32% to 31%.

Although Clinton this week is reported to have doubled her staff in Iowa and scheduled intensive campaigning throughout the state, also sending in her husband, former President Bill Clinton, Obama continues to hold the edge both in terms of the number of days he has spent in Iowa and the amount he has spent on television there.

Also, since Edwards, after monumental early effort in Iowa, now is fading gives Obama an advantage in the voters' minds of being the alternative to Clinton who seems to have the best chance. It has always been clear that if the opposition to Clinton did coalesce around one candidate, she would be vulnerable.

Another factor is that in a recent Iowa debate, the general consensus was that Obama had prevailed. He has been getting high marks for speaking frankly, while Clinton appears to waffle.

An early start is important in politics, although not always decisive. There have been cases where one candidate has prevailed in Iowa, only to lose the nomination. However, in 1976 for example, the victory of Gov. Jimmy Carter in the Iowa caucuses was the first in a sweep toward the Democratic nomination and the presidency. In 1976 too, after Watergate and the Nixon pardon, a "new" candidate had the edge.

On the Republican side, where complete results may be out tomorrow, former Gov. Mitt Romney, who made an early commitment to a summer straw poll in Iowa, when other leading Republicans backed off from participation, has now fortified the lead he showed in the straw poll. And, in another poll, in New Hampshire, Romney has built his lead there into impressive double digits, getting 33% support to 18% for Sen. John McCain and 16% for former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. Romney, like Obama, is the "new" candidate in the race in his party.

The new poll results in Iowa fortify impressions, discussed in this blog Nov. 13, that Obama's campaign is showing progress and that Clinton's may be in some trouble. The most recent poll results in New Hampshire show Clinton still in the lead there, although Obama has been gaining.

The Post-ABC poll has frequently dominated election news. Both the New York Times and L.A. Times do not poll as much, and have fallen cleanly behind the Post in overall political coverage leading up to 2008.


I speculated last week that maneuvers would be forthcoming to increase the likelihood that the Zell deal for control of theTribune Co. would go through. Now, this morning, comes a report from Radio Online that Tribune is considering the sale of WGN-AM Radio in Chicago as a means of assuaging FCC concerns about cross media ownership in the big markets. Such a sale might encourage earlier FCC action to at least grant Tribune a temporary waiver not to require that all present cross-media ownership restrictions be honored.

They are squirming in Chicago, and will do anything to avoid a breakup of the company, even if they have to "destroy" their hold on certain assets to do it.


Monday, November 19, 2007

Is The Sunday LAT Moving Toward The Future?

Reading the Sunday newspapers, the L.A. Times and the New York Times, yesterday, it seemed very clear that the most interesting articles were often in the NYT's Week in Review section, the L.A. Times Opinion section, and the two papers' book reviews.

These articles were all columns, interpretive articles, and the reviews. The only real exceptions to the most interesting articles being in those sections were the column by David Lazarus in the L.A. Times Business section on fraudulent offers in the sub-prime lending crisis, and the NYT's headline report, after a Bush Administration-requested delay of three years, that the U.S. has spent $100 million on a highly classified effort to safeguard Pakistan's nuclear weapons from terrorist control. (The New York Times also had a Week in Review commentary by Frederick W. Kagan and Michael O'Hanlon pointing out what should be obvious: The Pakistani crisis could develop in such a way that we would be forced to send military forces into Pakistan to protect the nuclear weapons).

I would also be remiss, if I did not acknowledge that the news section political blog by Don Frederick and Andrew Malcolm was more interesting Sunday than it has been in the past, especially the lead item about the Democratic candidates in the Las Vegas debate.

What I think readers care about most, beyond the occasional sensational news such as the recent California wildfires, or the latest sports scores, are the analytical pieces, including the columns. They want opinion. They consider it more compelling that the usually bland, straight news.

If this is true, we can begin to understand why the L.A. Times is having trouble with its Sunday circulation. While daily circulation has stabilized at about 780,000, the Sunday circulation has dipped by about 5%, in the last six months, toward 1.1 million.

Why is Sunday slipping? I think we have to point to the unfortunate decision to fold the L.A. Times Opinion section and Book Review into one tabloid-like section, shortening both, and then sticking those sections in such obscure places in the Sunday newspaper that they are hard to find. (The New York Times Week in Review is prominently located among the first few sections in the paper available for notice).

What was in both the LAT's Opinion and the Book Review, insofar as it went, was fine. Two serious commentaries on Darfur and the Middle East. A lead on the LAPD and Skid Row. A lead review of Bill Boyarsky's new book on the career of Jesse Unruh.

But we could have had more. The L.A. Times should spend a little of its profits on reviving separate Opinion and Book Review sections, so it can have more editorials, letters, commentaries and reviews. Again, as I say, this is what the public wants and has a right to expect. Californians would rather have a complete Sunday newspaper than continued fat bonuses for Tribune Co. executives back in Chicago.

Also, of course, it would be a good idea to revive the weekly TV Guide. While the publisher, David Hiller, has promised repeatedly in recent months to at least run more TV listings, not only has he failed to do so, but my impression Sunday was that, with an ad running across the bottom of the TV listings, there seemed to be even fewer than in recent weeks.

Quite a few Sunday sections, meanwhile, have been dumbed down. This is apparent in Travel, where there are all sorts of photographs and boxy shorts, and less editorial content than used to run. Business, also, seems to have been cut back.

None of the L.A. Times sections discussed here can compare with those in the Sunday New York Times. That paper's superiority on Sunday has only increased, although, it is true, the New York Times is also struggling to hold Sunday circulation numbers. Still, its Sunday edition is a monumental product.

Moves are being made at the L.A. Times, meanwhile, to put new, young people in more key editorial positions. David Lauter, the new Metro editor, announced a number of new assignments late last week. There are new statewide political writers (although keeping Phil Willon in Riverside probably has more to do with housing prices in L.A. than for any sound editorial reason). Rick Paddock will be assigned to politics next year, and the veteran Cathy Decker will resume some writing. It is all just in time, too, because Times political coverage has been bland in comparison with the other big newspapers, the New York Times and Washington Post. Hopefully, Willon, Paddock and Decker can supplement some national coverage too. Fresh writing is needed there too.

A friend once told me that being a successful newspaper reporter was such a young person's game that unless you had made it by the time you were 30, you could forget it. By this standard, I barely missed it, because it was not until five days after my 30th birthday that I got my first major assignment at the newspaper, to cover Eugene McCarthy's 1968 presidential campaign.
But, of course, that age line for success is not always true. Staff members of the Times like columnists Steve Lopez, Tim Rutten and Al Martinez are well up in years.

Still, the young people have to be pushed along, and two of the most promising at the Times, Rong-Gong Lin and Tami Abdollah, were not the subject of announced promotions last week. Their time will undoubtedly come.


Sunday, November 18, 2007

CNN, Fox, MSNBC All Guilty of Hucksterism

My blog yesterday expoused the right of seasoned reporters to express opinions, within responsible limits. It's my feeling, as I explained, that this contributes to the credibility of the press rather than detracting from it, because readers want to know where a reporter is coming from. It helps them to decide whether they agree with the reporter or not, and how seriously to take him. If reporters claim to be above all opinions, which some do, the readers know not to believe it, because they know reporters like all human beings cannot be above opinions. The most they can do is to try to be fair to both sides of a question.

But limited expression of opinions does not mean hucksterism, and hucksterism, the unlimited expression of demagogic views with the aim of conning the public, is what we have today with Bill O'Reilly at Fox News, Lou Dobbs at CNN and Keith Olbermann at MSNBC. These men are not so much reporters as rabble rousers allowed by their networks to run rampant simply as a means of improving the networks' ratings.

Fox has been biased -- for Republican candidates -- for some time. It built superior ratings over CNN and MSNBC at a time when President Bush commanded a majority, and liberals looked like they were out of the national mainstream. O'Reilly leads Fox in this direction.

Now, persistently anti-administration, Olbermann is building ratings by being against the administration. MSNBC is boasting of him in its promotions on this basis. I suppose, in a sense, turnabout is fair play.

More perturbing is the commentary of Lou Dobbs on CNN. I wrote critically of him as long ago as last May, and nothing that has happened since, despite the growth of the issues concerning illegal immigration that are his obsession, has changed my mind. I believe Dobbs to be a dangerous demagogue reminiscent of Father Coughlin, the Catholic priest who in the 1930s built radio ratings by espousing fascist views.

That CNN has not reined in Dobbs leads me to conclude that the network's executive will do anything they can to challenge Fox in the ratings. They have abandoned all pretense of journalistic respectability in this mad rush to compete.

Saturday, there was another of the fine media columns we have come to expect on this very subject by Tim Rutten in the L.A. Times. He reports something that I had not been aware of -- namely the suggestions that Dobbs may be seeking to build an anti-immigration independent presidential candidacy for himself.

I'm pleased, as written last week, that Rutten is about to become an Op Ed Page columnist for the Times. I think he deserves the promotion to better space, on the editorial pages. But I will be sorry to see Rutten abandon his media columns to comment on local and cultural affairs as he now promises. Rutten has been a tremendous media columnist, responsible and pungent at the same time. Many of his columns in Calendar have done a public service, and at a time he was in a low mood after being ousted as a metro editor, it was laudable of editor John Montorio, to invite him to do the column.

Certainly, one of Rutten's most important columns was yesterday. It is not only Dobbs he was concerned with, but the whole politicization of the cable news networks. He writes about "CNN's descent into hyperbole and histrionics," but he also declares, correctly, that "the three all-news cable networks each have aligned themselves with a point on the political compass."

Even the formerly respected CNN reporter, Wolf Blitzer, has not been able, assuming he would wish to do so, to resist the trend.

Citing last Thursday's debate between Democratic candidates in Las Vegas which Blitzer moderated, Rutten writes "about the shamelessly high-pressure pitch machine that has replaced the Cable News Network's once smart and reliable campaign coverage.

"Was there ever a better backdrop than Las Vegas for the traveling wreck of a journalistic carnival that CNN's political journalism has become?" he asks. "And can there now be any doubt that, in his last life, Wiolf Blitzer had a booth on the midway, barking for the bearded lady and the dog faced boy?"

Well, you get the idea, I don't need to repeat the whole column. But Rutten's commentary was not the only criticism of CNN in connection with the Las Vegas debate. The New York Times yesterday also had a story questioning CNN's use of James Carville in its post-debate campaign roundtable without ever reminding the audience that Carville is a close friend of the Clintons and a contributor to Hillary Clinton's campaign.

The NYT story by Julie Bosman quotes Jonathan Klein, the CNN president, as acknowledging in an interview that the network should have disclosed Carville's connections. "He's not on the Hillary payroll, but he's on the Hillary bandwagon, and that should be disclosed as much as we can," Klein said. "I wasn't comfortable with it myself as I watched it." Not disclosing the relationship, he said, was "an unfortunate omission."

How gallant of Klein. But the fact is that as the president of CNN, he is responsible for the descent of the network into hucksterism. Just because Fox panders to one side of the political spectrum doesn't mean that CNN should pander to the other. That is, figuratively, jumping into the same pot, and that pot is now boiling up an unsavory stew for the 2008 presidential campaign.


One need look only at the lead stories in the New York Times and Los Angeles Times this morning to conclude that the New York Times is far more imaginative and innovative in its foreign coverage than the L.A. Times.

Both stories are on the subject of Pakistan. But the L.A. Times story by Peter Spiegel is a pedestrian one about how the U.S. isn't seeing much good result from its billions of dollars of post-9-11 aid to Pakistan, while the New York Times story by David E. Sanger and William J. Broad reveals a highly-classified, $100 million U.S. effort to guard Pakistan's nuclear arms from falling into the hands of the extremists of Al-Qaeda and the Taliban. The story was initially delayed at the Bush Administration's request, but now, since parts of have been divulged elsewhere, the New York Times is printing it.

Safeguarding the nuclear weapons from the terrorists is, fundamentally, what the present crisis in Pakistan is about. The New York Times has its eye "on the prize," as it were, while the L.A. Times does not. One consequence of the loss of Doug Frantz at the L.A. Times is that the LAT doesn't have the information on nuclear proliferation and attendant issues that it used to.


Saturday, November 17, 2007

Wash Post Better At Letting Reporters Speak Out

I've expressed the view before that in order for the press to be credible, reporters, within limits, must be able to express their opinions, their full understanding of situations. Speaking in code words and euphemisms is not enough. People want to know for themselves clearly where seasoned reporters are coming from and where they think things are headed.

Of all the big American papers, the Washington Post is the best at this, and it has helped make the Post for the moment in my view the most distinguished paper in the U.S. Many European papers, however, have long been willing to let their reporters clearly express their opinions. The European press, by and large, is freer with interpretations than our own.

This is particularly appropriate to talk about today, because we've just had a new illustration of the superiority in the U.S. of the Post. Specifically, the Post allows its senior Pentagon reporter, Thomas E. Ricks, to say clearly what he thinks is happening in the Iraq war, while the New York Times strives to keep its military reporter, Michael Gordon, under wraps.

Ricks has often been far out in front of other reporters on the war. His book, "Fiasco, The American Military Adventure in Iraq," which was published early last year, clearly expressed the view that, due to many mistakes and miscalculations, the U.S. was losing the war. The book was widely read and was one of the war accounts and internal government studies that eventually led President Bush to change strategy, appoint a new Iraq commander (Gen. David Petraeus) and commit a "surge" of extra U.S. troops, which has since managed to turn the tide in the war.

In 2007, Ricks, being an honest journalist, has been among the first to report developments in Anbar province and elsewhere that show that Al Qaeda and other Iraqi insurgents have been forced to retreat, violence is down and the U.S. and U.S.-led forces have begun to prevail.

Thus, it is all the more important that we read carefully Ricks' latest report, written from Iraq and appearing in the Post Thursday that is headlined, "Iraqis Wasting An Opportunity, U.S. Officers Say."

The article begins, "CAMP LIBERTY, Iraq -- Senior military commanders here now portray the intransigance of Iraq's Shiite-dominated government as the key threat facing the U.S. effort in Iraq, rather than Al-Qaeda terrorists, Sunni insurgents or Iranian-backed militias.

"In more than a dozen interviews, U.S. military officials expressed growing concern over the Iraqi government's failure to capitalize on sharp declines in attacks against U.S. troops and Iraqi civilians. A window of opportunity has opened for the government to reach out to its former foes, said Army Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, the commander of day-to-day U.S. military operations in Iraq, but "It's unclear how long that window's going to be open."

We ignore such a report at our peril, and it clearly shows that the U.S. has to exert greater control over the inept and ethnically prejudiced government of Nouri Maliki, and remove him, if necessary, to see to it that the government which we created does not squander its opportunity to reconcile with some foes in the Sunni community while, of course, continuing to clean out Al-Qaeda operatives who remain in smaller number.

I've taken exception to an L.A. Times editorial last week that said, in effect, yes, we are winning the war, but now let's get out.

This is no time to get out. It is the time to see that we have an Iraqi government that is in line with our views and needs, so that the war in Iraq can be brought, at long last, to a successful conclusion. Our whole position in the Middle East depends on that.

While the latest Ricks report is clear, the New York Times coverage, especially since its seasoned Baghdad bureau chief John Burns moved on to London, has become less clear, and, I fear, the present L.A. Times contingent in Iraq is not seasoned enough to be giving readers a clear idea of all the developments there.

At the beginning of the year, when President Bush initiated the "surge," the New York Times' Gordon was asked on a broadcast whether he thought the tactic could possibly work. Gordon immediately said he did believe it was worth trying, that it might work.

This brought down on Gordon's head the criticism of the Times' public editor, then Byron Calame, who insisted that Gordon should not have expressed that opinion, but should have kept his views to himself.

Gordon defended himself, but, since then, his reporting on Iraq has been distinctly under wraps. The New York Times editorial policy, like the L.A. Times, is to support, even in more shrill language than the LAT, the proposition that U.S. forces ought to withdraw from Iraq as soon as possible.

I hate, of course, to tell, Andrew Rosenthal, editorial page editor at the New York Times, this, but Gordon knows far more about the war than he does.

When we have seasoned reporters like Ricks and Gordon available, we need to hear what they think and pay attention to it.

It all reminds me of what happened during the Falklands war when the British destroyer Sheffield was sunk by an Argentine missile. The NYT London bureau chief at the time, R.W. Apple, who was a craven dove and really didn't understand the British character, immediately said this meant that Britain should fold its tents and go home. But Drew Middleton, then the Times' military reporter in Washington and a former longtime bureau chief in London, said he felt it meant that Britain would surely pursue the war and win. Of course, Middleton was right. Apple was a better food reporter than he was a military reporter.

So, of course, it's not only important that we get opinions, but that they be well-based and come from reporters who understand the situation.


The New York Times, however, is very good when it comes to recognizing heroes and outrageous situations. Two of its reports on Friday show this. One was about the young Saudi Arabian woman who was raped and has now been sentenced to 200 lashes as a result. The Saudi authorities are prosecuting her for being in a car alone with a former fiance, when the pair was assaulted by several others. It is against the ridiculously-primitive Saudi law that a woman ever be alone with a man not her husband. The young woman, just 19 years old, is also being prosecuted for discussing the case with the press, as is her lawyer. Now, a Saudi government spokesman says justice will be done. I'll bet. The woman, of course, is a hero, and the Saudi authorities who want to beat her are scoundrels.

The other was a brief about the vitriolic reaction of the Serbian prime minister, the very stupid Vojislav Kostunica, to the report of the U.S.-based group, Mental Disability Rights International, that children and adults in Serbian mental institutions are routinely abused awfully. Kostunica called the report fabricated, malicious and dark propaganda. Unfortunately for the prime minister, the brutal treatment of young children strapped to beds and wallowing in their own excrement had been displayed on the NBC Nightly News by the intrepid correspondent Ann Curry, who, as usual went to the scene and got the sordid facts on camera.

In Serbia, the mentally ill, Curry and Mental Disability Rights International are the heroes, and, again, the authorities are the scoundrels. And we cannot forget that the Serbian government continues to protect, against apprehension for the international war crimes court in The Hague, the commanders of units that massacred 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men at Srebrenica in Bosnia, in 1995, especially the former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic and Gen. Ratko Mladic.


Friday, November 16, 2007

Immigration And Her Husband--2 Hillary Problems

In my experience as a political reporter, David Broder of the Washington Post, of all the reporters I met, was by far the most prescient about elections, and politics in general. I particularly remember that Broder was the first reporter who I knew who predicted in print that Arnold Schwarzenegger would win the governorship of California in the Recall election here in California.

Ed Guthman, then national editor of the Los Angeles Times, was the first person to ever forcefully tell me that Jimmy Carter would not make a good president. But Broder, in a strong article written before the election, was the second.

Broder has a feel for politics that even in old age, like Guthman's, is undiminished. That is why I take an article he had yesterday in the Post as a highly significant analysis for this campaign.

In it, under a headline, "The Iceburgs Ahead For the Democrats," Broder begins, "As the Democratic presidential race finally gets down to brass tacks, two issues are becoming paramount. But only one of them is clearly on the table."

The first, he writes, and the one on the table, "is the issue of illegal immigration. A very smart Democrat, a veteran of the Clinton administration, told me that he expects it to be a key part of any Republican campaign and that he is worried about his party's ability to respond."

Broder continues, "I think he has good reason to worry. The failure of the Democratic Congress, like its Republican predecessor, to exact comprehensive immigration reform, including improved border security, has left individual states and local communities to struggle with the problem. Some are showing a high degree of tolerance and flexibility. Others are being more punitive. But all of them are running into controversy."

The second issue, Broder writes, is much more under the surface, for now.

The issue is evoked by Bill Clinton's recent remark on the Democratic debates that "those boys have been getting tough on her (Hillary) lately."

Broder writes, "The former president's intervention -- volunteered during a campaign appearance on her behalf in South Carolina -- raised the second, and largely unspoken, issue identified by my friend from the Clinton administration: the two-headed campaign and the prospect of a dual presidency.

"In his view, which I share, this is a prospect that will test the tolerance of the American people far more severely than the possibility of the first female president -- or, for that matter, the first black president.

"As. my friend says, there is nothing in American constitutional or political theory to account for the role of a former president, still energetic and active and full of ideas, occupying the White House with the current president.

"No precedent exists for such an arrangement, and no ground rules have been -- or probably can be -- written. When Bill Clinton was president, the large policy enterprise that was entrusted to the first lady -- health-care reform -- crashed in ruins."

Well, this is the Broder argument. To be fair, I think it was more Bill Clinton's fault than Hillary Clinton's, that the health care reform crashed. It was Bill Clinton, not Hillary, who didn't have the stomach to take on the powerful and corrupt American insurance industry, which is necessary before health care reform can be enacted.

But, still, the comparison has dawned on me that I hope Hillary would not be a President in the sense that Lurline Wallace was governor of Alabama, always under the thumb of her powerful husband.

The United States is not Alabama, and it is not Argentina, which has elected a wife of a sitting president as the new president, either.

Hillary might be strong enough to contend with it, but she may not be. A certain waffling on issues has already become apparent in her campaign. She may not be the strongest character in her own right.

All in all, I'm coming to think that Sen. Barack Obama might be a better candidate for the Democrats. He is new, direct and he doesn't have such a powerful partner, although Michelle Obama is an impressive lady.

The issues raised by Broder should be debated -- now.

I also notice today that in an interview with CSPAN, Karl Rove, someone else who has earned his spurs on political expertise, says Obama has missed on chances to go after Hillary, specifically on the refusal of the Clintons to make their White House records available.

Obama is frequently advised to be more aggressive. However, he is intelligent enough to know that an overly-aggressive black man is as liable to scaring voters as is too pushy a woman. I feel he has about the right tone in his campaign. Obama cannot afford to campaign like Richard Nixon, or even George W. Bush.


Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan dictator who wants to be "president for life," is demanding that King Juan Carlos of Spain apologize for telling him to "shut up" when Chavez disrupted a speech by the present Spanish prime minister and called a former prime minister a "fascist."

Somebody ought to go and dump a barrel of ice water on the tyrant. Decades ago, the mayor of Chicago said that if the King of England came to Chicago he'd "punch him in the nose." He should have apologized. But King Juan Carlos ought not to apologize, but take the world's thanks for insulting a thug.


Thursday, November 15, 2007

Tribune Co. Makes Problems For Itself

The Tribune Co. is like the Palestinians in that it continually makes problems for itself. It compounds every disadvantage it faces, and it seldom learns anything constructive from its mistakes.

All this comes to mind when we contemplate the hole the inept CEO, Dennis FitzSimons, has dug for himself by putting out the word that unless the FCC acts by Dec. 18 to either grant the Tribune Co. waivers allowing it to own major newspapers and TV stations in the same cities, or grants it that right permanently, the deal to sell the company to real estate magnate Sam Zell will go the way of the dinosaurs.

First, it should be said, the federal government seldom acts with such dispatch on anything, especially not something fraught with so much controversy as this, with a potent threat of lawsuits or legislative delays.

But, second, it is very unlikely that the Zell deal will come crashing down if there are no waivers by Dec. 18. If Zell is determined on the deal, and there is every sign that he is enjoying all the attention he has been getting as the next owner of one of the largest media companies, then I strongly suspect the deal will be put together, even if the waivers are not created by the deadline, and it is possible it will be put together even if the waivers are not complete, and the Tribune is forced to sell properties in Hartford and even Chicago by the plan that has tentatively been cobbled together by the FCC chairman Kevin J. Martin.

It may be, as has been said, that if the deal is not finalized until next year, it would cost Zell $100 million more and compound financing and tax problems. But maybe not. This is like the car dealer who tells you you won't get such a good deal unless you buy the car that afternoon. Usually, he doesn't really mean it.

I certainly remember, when I was covering the ever-changing plans for the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, it was always said that unless something happened by a certain deadline, all proposals would be dropped. Here, we are, years later, and despite Sam Farmer's excellent story in the L.A. Times Sports section recently suggesting that the Coliseum bow out of efforts to bring a professional football team to Los Angeles, plans for the Coliseum keep popping up.

So, we'll have to wait and see. But I bet Zell will be around after Jan. 1, even if the deal is not closed by that time. After all, he is putting so little money into the purchase of the Tribune Co. now that another $100 million won't mean all that much.

In any case, even before he has the company, he may already be making mistakes, such as we see in the report out yesterday from blogger Joe Scott that he intends to sell the Times building and move the paper somewhere else in Los Angeles. (L.A. Times publisher David Hiller issued a statement Thursday saying this is not true).

I hope not, because this would raise the possibility that Zell is not interested in running a newspaper so much as he is in conducting a fire sale of lucrative properties, and that like some other corporate scoundrels he plans to take the money and run. Such policies, however, have occasionally landed their perpetrators in jail, and, so far in his career, Zell has avoided jail. In any event, Hiller said in his statement that Tribune Co. does not actually own the Times building now, that it is owned by one of the Chandler Trusts and is leased to Tribune at the moment. He indicated Tribune might exercise an option to buy it. This is naturally, somewhat reassuring.

Of course, in the 1990s, there were proposals to sell what was then called "Times Mirror Square," but wiser heads prevailed and it wasn't done.

The square, regardless of what its present name is, (and the Tribune has made such little reputation in Los Angeles that I'm not even really sure), is symbolic of the power and influence of the newspaper. Selling it would be another blow to the paper's fortunes.

It's a shame, really a shame, that at a time when Times managers are making a lot of constructive moves, such as I discussed yesterday in commenting on various changes that have been announced, FitzSimons and Zell seem, like the Palestinians, to be reported to be throwing a stinkpot into every possible barrel of perfume. But in the matter of the building sale, we apparently are doing them an injustice. Now, if they just stop talking about deadlines for consummating this long-delayed venture.

(In regard to new decisions, I should also have mentioned yesterday David Lauter's announcement he is naming Richard Kipling as a kind of shepherd of the paper's young reporters. When he was running the METPRO training program for minority reporters, Kipling was known for his extreme solicitude for his charges, and was responsible in a most important way for that program's outstanding success. This is another Lauter idea that has great promise, since, like almost all newspapers, the Times has a habit of throwing its young reporters into the storm of everyday newspaper life with little support or guidance. Some young reporters, like Matea Gold and Narda Zacchino when they came to the paper, don't need the support, but others do).


The King of Spain, Juan Carlos, is a class act. He provided vital support for the young Spanish democracy that followed the Franco regime, coming out with a decisive no when there was a momentary threat of a new junta, and now, he has stood up valiantly against Hugo Chavez, the petty tyrant from Venezuela, at a summit last week, curtly telling him to "shut up" when Chavez, as is his wont, turned disruptive.

Now, if Hindenburg had only slapped down Hitler, which at one point he could have, the world would have been a better place.



Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Rutten, Lait, Goldberg, Artley Moves at L.A. Times

Now that Nick Goldberg, the Op Ed Page and Sunday Opinion editor at the L.A. Times, has made it to the Times masthead, it may be that, despite his and his wife Amy Wilentz's disdain for California, (as reflected in her recent book), they have decided to remain in the state. And that is all for the best, I'm sure, because California often wins immigrants, illegal or otherwise, over after awhile. They think they'd like to go back to where they came from, but when they are really up against it, they decide to stick with the Golden State. These initially reluctant converts often become some of our best citizens, and I think, as long as they are citizens, they should immediately be granted drivers licenses.

Goldberg has not only won a place on the masthead. He also has won Tim Rutten, beginning Jan. 1, as a twice-weekly Op Ed page columnist, and that ends the situation where every one of the Times' best columnists was somewhere else in the newspaper. Tim, who has been a media columnist in Calendar, now will write one column a week on local issues and one on cultural issues, even while continuing to write book reviews for Calendar. It's a large assignment, but one Tim might well be comfortable with. He has been a marvelous contributor to the newspaper in whatever assignment -- Opinion, Calendar, Metro and on and on.

But I wonder if, like the New York Times columnist, Frank Rich, Rutten will be given the space to write extra-long, especially when he requires it to write well. His columns in Calendar have been longer than those customarily on the Op Ed Page. Also, at any time, David Hiller may decide to put more ads on the Op Ed Page. such as from some of the nuts and fruits who mark Los Angeles life or from national outfits like American Airlines and Macy's which are mired in their own depressing performances. This could ominously balance off the quality Rutten will be bringing to the page.

I suppose that losing Ron Brownstein, the pedestrian political analyst, as a staff columnist (although his mediocre column continues to appear) may have opened the way to Rutten. If this is so, Brownstein, after all these years, has at last done a real service to the paper, and we owe him great thanks for leaving the staff. Regardless of that though, compliments must go to Goldberg and editorial pages editor Jim Newton for bringing Rutten on board. Actually, there have been other worthy articles on the Op Ed Page recently, in slowly increasing numbers.

Also winning a place on the Times masthead is the paper's Internet editor, Meredith Artley. That she too has been making improvements cannot be denied. The Web site is better designed, and it has become more comprehensive and timely.

But Artley has a long, long way to go. I notice that Editor and Publisher's list of the 30 most successful newspaper Web sites has the L.A. Times in fifth place, but not only way, way behind the front runners, but also in the sorry position of having its readers spend less time with the Web site, by far, than the other leaders.

Editor and Publisher says that the New York Times (no surprise) led in viewers for the month of October with 17.5 million. The average viewer spent 34.53 minutes with that Web site. Second is USA Today, 9.5 million in October, 16.3 minutes per viewer. Third is the Washington Post, 8.7 million viewers, 17.22 minutes each. Fourth is the Wall Street Journal, 5.9 million viewers, 14.19 minutes each, and then, fifth, is the L.A. Times, 5.5 million readers, a miserable 9.17 minutes each.

Artley, however, properly takes pride in the improvements she has already made, mentioning the redesigns, and speaking of plans to hire new people, such as videographers, database producers, interactive graphic producers, a mobile editor, a senior producer for real estate, and so forth. More power to her. She has an enthusiasm for the job that has sometimes been lacking in the past.

The new Wall Street Journal owner, Rupert Murdoch, has indicated the Wall Street Journal will follow others, and no longer charge viewers of its Web Site. When this move is made, the Journal may give the New York Times a run for the most Web site viewers. Regardless, all these Web sites are going to be selling more and more advertising, and not only to the losers like American Airlines and Macy's.

It will certainly take Artley more staff than the Tribune Co. has been willing to allocate to her up to now, to make the L.A. Times Web site competitive, and since the deal to sell the Tribune Co. to real estate magnate Sam Zell seems in further question this morning, with the FCC declining to go as far as the company wants to give it the right to own newspaper and TV outlets in the same market, the company seems destined to remain under the sway of inept CEO Dennis FitzSimons (Legree) for an indeterminately longer time. FitzSimons indicated in a statement yesterday he didn't know what was happening, which is not new.

Finally, but certainly not least in this porridge of big changes, is the announcement by the new Metro editor David Lauter that Matt Lait, the outstanding police correspondent, is becoming an editor on the city desk. Lait is more than well qualified for this position. The only question is whether he will miss his free life as a reporter. That can only be seen, but it again demonstrates one of Lauter's strengths: He may not be the best person at editing, but he is a good administrator. He's also been making other changes, new assignments, and most of them are good. Lauter may have a future at the newspaper.

But if he's going to have a new morning operation, a new early person in Megan Garvey, Lauter has to consider giving her more staff. It used to be a substantial number of Times reporters came to work at 7 a.m., affording the morning editor the ability to command a force capable of getting out there and covering the early news. In this new, lazier time, that staff has been cut, often leaving the poor morning editor scrounging around for personnel until reporters mosey in at 10 a.m.

Lauter also came to the Times from back East. He used to be the White House correspondent. I hope he has a California drivers license, and, since I believe he, like Goldberg, is a citizen, if he doesn't, the state should grant him one.


Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Obama Gaining In Early States, But Is It Enough?

Pollster Samuel Lubell, one of the few to predict Harry Truman's victory in the 1948 election, always used to ask voters in the early going not how they stood at the moment, but how they thought they would end up voting on election day. He often found there was quite a change as voters returned to old loyalties, or gave their choices more thought.

This strikes me as appropriate for consideration now as we ponder how the candidates will fare in the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary, the key earliest tests of the 2008 election, both of which are a little more than six weeks off.

There are signs of gains in both states by Sen. Barack Obama, and maybe some trouble in both for Sen. Hillary Clinton. A recent poll in New Hampshire showed Obama gaining five points and cutting Clinton's margin, formerly above 20 points, to 11. Obama has made narrower gains in polls in Iowa. But in both states, many observers have felt he prevailed in the most recent debates.

A nationwide CNN poll released Monday showed that in the last month, Clinton had gone down to a margin of 19 points over Obama, compared with 30 points the month before. The new figure was Clinton 44%, Obama 25%.

Obama is making a good impression, because, as Time magazine political columnist Joe Klein observed in an article last week, he speaks frankly to his audiences, even giving answers on such issues as social security and global warming that are not particularly welcome -- they contain some bad news -- and refusing entreaties by advisors that he lower the boom on Clinton with sharp criticism. Obama is usually restrained. He has let former Sen. John Edwards, a trial lawyer of no particularly savory stripe, carry the burden of sharply assailing Clinton. He has preferred to be more subtle.

It seems, Klein reported, that these habits are gaining Obama respect. Even so, he has been able to politely make the point that Clinton has a bad habit of waffling on questions asked her or even taking somewhat different positions just minutes apart. Then too, Clinton has recently been caught up in staff admissions that some of the questions asked her are "softballs" planted by her staff.

(There is a long, complimentary article about Obama's background and political organization by Peter Slevin in today's Washington Post).

Oftentimes, I found as a political writer for the L.A. Times, a good clue as to how a political race was going, was a sign of a preliminary rise in the polls by a particular candidate. If, say, a few weeks before the vote, a candidate had come up a few points, it meant that he or she was on an upward trend, and that trend would only grow before the election. This often meant ultimate victory.

Obama, on the stump, may be a better politician than Clinton. The Clinton supporters are always contending that she is more seasoned, more experienced. But Obama is newer and fresher, and it may be occurring to primary voters in the two states, both of which are unusually experienced with campaigns, that Clinton is something of a retread. Not only was her husband a two-term president, but her election next year would mean that America has not had a President other than a Clinton or a Bush since 1989.

Name identification, however, still must work in favor of Clinton in the primaries, because there is a crowded field and the vote against her is bound to be fractured, at least in the early contests, before the usual round of withdrawals by unsuccessful candidates. In both Iowa and New Hampshire, Edwards seems likely to take away mainly from the Obama vote. He may not prevail himself, but if he were not on the ballot, Obama would surely have a better chance to upset Clinton.

Another possible factor is that both Iowa and New Hampshire are solidly white states. Both have only small black populations, and, despite what is said sometimes that Obama is "too white" to be strongly accepted by black voters, I believe that when push comes to shove in most states most black voters will end up with Obama.

Of course, we do not know what kind of women's vote Clinton will get, as the first women with a major chance of being elected President. That might be a bigger factor than Obama's vote among African-Americans.

So, even if he rises, will 2008 be Obama's year? Maybe not. But he is rising, based solidly on both his own merits and some shortcomings that are becoming evident about Clinton.


Word comes in a Page 1 L.A. Times article this morning about the death of one of the most venerable and able California legislators, the retired Rep. Augustus F. Hawkins of South Los Angeles. Upon his retirement after six decades in both the state Legislature and Congress, I wrote a long article about his achievements, which are also reflected in today's obituary.

Hawkins was 100 when he died Saturday. He was one of the first black men to be elected to public office, he was a mentor to many who followed him, and he was honest, dignified and smart, the author of much landmark social legislation. The countless Californians who knew and respected him, are saddened by his passing.


Monday, November 12, 2007

L.A. Times Renews Call For U.S. Surrender In Iraq

Sonni Efron and Jim Newton at the L.A. Times editorial page are determined upon an American defeat in Iraq, even though they acknowledge in an editorial this morning that U.S. troops have begun to prevail there.

This is, quite simply, a disgrace. These editorial writers would sell out the nearly 4,000 brave American military officers and men who have given their lives in Iraq, and the editorial position is all in the interest of validating the writers' hatred of President George W. Bush and his Middle Eastern policies.

That an American withdrawal would cede not only Iraq but other parts of the Middle East as well to the terrorists of Al Qaeda and greater Iranian influence and open the way to even more outrageous oil prices affecting every single American does not seem to matter to Efron and Newton in the least. They want surrender above all else. And since, he supervises the editorial page, the Tribune Co. toady who is publisher of the L.A. Times, David Hiller, must be with them.

At least with Andrew Rosenthal, the editorial page editor of the New York Times, there is a belief, I think mistaken, that the war is being lost. That is some excuse for him, no matter how mistaken he may be. But with Efron and Newton, they believe, on the one hand, that Mr. Bush's "surge" of soldiers has worked. Yet, they still want to put our tail between our legs and scurry home.

They must go out of their way, on their respective ways home at night, to avoid any sight of the graves of American soldiers who have died in this effort. Or the sight of their families. They dare not look.

The fact is, as the L.A. Times editorial acknowledges this morning, that casualties are down in Iraq and suicide bombings down as well. Thousands of Iraqis who fled to other countries are beginning to return. Sectarian clashes are diminishing. (Just this morning, an Associated Press dispatch from Baghdad quotes the U.S. military as saying that rocket and mortar attacks in the country have dropped to a 21-month low).

It is true, as the editorial says, that many political difficulties remain. But the political difficulties will diminish as the U.S. success begins to sink in.

The indication is that the reprehensible Al-Qaeda has begun to shift the war to the east, to the Afghanistan-Pakistan theater where, recently, things have gone better for them.

They are bugging out of Iraq. But why should we?

Certainly not so the weak-kneed liberals in this country can sell America down the river.

If the 2008 election does bring a quitter to power, that will be the settled decision of the American electorate, and it must be honored, regardless of the consequences. But all three leading candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination, Sen. Hillary Clinton, Sen. Barack Obama and former Sen. John Edwards, recently declared at a Democratic debate that they would keep troops in Iraq through their first term. They are apparently not the quitters Efron and Newton are.

President Bush has fought on, and Congress has declined to reverse his course. Now, that it is beginning to look like his stubborn optimism is about to be validated is no reason to listen to those who would throw in the towel.

Last year, my "Mistaken Journalist of the Year" was Michael Duffy of Time magazine, who predicted in a Time cover story at the end of 2006 that the President would reverse course and withdraw from Iraq.

This year, the finalists for that designation may be Sonni Efron and Jim Newton. They are gaining an edge over Andrew Rosenthal, because they believe the war is being won, yet they still want America to surrender.

In their editorial this morning, they say, "Still, now is the moment to praise the U.S. military for doing what it said it would do when it embarked on the surge: reducing the violence so as to allow Iraqis breathing space to work out the modus vivendi that has so far eluded them. We salute them and hope that their blood and tears are not squandered by whatever comes next."

But how mistaken these two editorial writers are! They do want to squander these gallant lives, and hurt American interests in the process.

In a second editorial this morning, the editorial writers defend the religious nuts who have been out picketing the funerals of soldiers killed in the war. They say this is part of American freedom. Nonsense! This violates the old edict expressed by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes that "your rights stop where my nose begins," and it demonstrates once again that the dilettantes at the L.A. Times don't care a hoot for the soldiers who have been defending the USA.


L.A. Times sportswriter Chris Dufresne is quite a bit more realistic than Efron or Newton in his continuing coverage of this topsy-turvy college football season. Dufresne was in Columbus, Ohio, Saturday when the top-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes were defeated by unranked Illinois, and his story described precisely how Illinois held the ball at the end for eight minutes and prevented the Ohio offense from again taking the field.

Then, this morning, Dufresne questions whether Kansas, the most prominent undefeated team left, really is qualified for the BCS National Championship game, pointing out that Kansas has yet to play either Texas or Oklahoma in Big 12 competition.

Dufresne seems to know winners from losers, and not confuse the two. Maybe, he should move to the Times editorial pages.