Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Chuck Hillinger, Dies At 82, A Great Loss

Written from Mombasa, Kenya--

It is hard to believe that our friend and esteemed colleague, Chuck Hillinger, is gone. Even in old age, he was such a lively, optimistic part of our lives in the retired employees association, he believed so much in the newspaper business, he was so justifiably proud of the many achievements of his life, that he commanded countless admirers.

I was lucky to have known him for more than 40 years. Chuck, who died of cancer Monday at 82 was a feature writer par excellence during the halcyon days of the Los Angeles Times, when Otis Chandler was publisher and Bill Thomas was editor. He worked 46 years for the paper.

He traveled everywhere, he wrote prolifically, he worked long hours, and many of the thousands of stories he wrote made their mark as a wonderful view of life, first in our state, then gradually throughout the nation and elsewhere in the world. The Times never stinted giving him the necessary financial backing for his reporting endeavors, and he richly repaid the backing he got.

There are many tributes to Chuck today, from Bob Gibson, Bob Rawitch, Ben Mintz and others, but one of the nicest and truest came from Bill Thomas' who recalled that he wrote so many stories it was hard to get them all into the newspaper. Some say there were 10,000 Chuck Hillinger stories in all. He was a treasure for the readers.

Chuck commanded admiration in the newsroom, and he was always on the spot, whereever he was needed. In November of 1970, with my wedding in Birmingham, Alabama, just around the corner, I was stuck in Montreal, covering a Quebec separatist kidnapping that had gotten much news coverage. I had already missed some of the pre-wedding events, when Chuck arrived in Montreal one night and told me I was free to leave in the morning for the wedding.

He always remembered doing this good turn, and would never cease to remind me, whenever we met, how grateful I was for the relief he provided. And I was. I have seldom been happier to see anyone than I was Chuck Hillinger that night.

In later years, Chuck was grieved, as we all have been, about the decline of the Times under new, uncaring ownership.

But he thought too much of newspapers to believe they would ever disappear or lose their ability to make distinctive contributions to their readers.

American journalism needs its Chuck Hillingers, those who never lose their thirst to provide newsworthy entertainment and whose interest in what they are doing is unbounded. His work, like that of Jack Smith, Art Seidenbaum, Paul Coates and so many other great Times writers, is part of our heritage.

We pause today in sadness to pay tribute to him, and to wish his family well at this sad time.


Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Tale Of Two Newspapers: WSJ and L.A. Times

Written from Mombasa, Kenya--

I'm beginning to think more of Rupert Murdoch. He invests in his newspapers. He builds them up, rather than tears them down. The proof this week is two fold: First, there's the report that the Wall Street Journal, which Murdoch recently purchased, is one of the few American newspapers actually up in daily circulation over the last six months -- to 2,069,000, a gain of 0.4%. Second is the news that the Journal is adding four pages a day of international news.

The Journal, under Murdoch, is giving the readers more, and may be winning the competitive fight with the New York Times, which is down 3.9% in circulation to 1,077,000.

Now contrast the Journal with the Los Angeles Times. LAT circulation losses are consistent. Its situation is worsening, as the evil Tribune Co., the owners and their appointees cut the paper further and further back, losing the most able reporters and editors. They give the readers less all the time, so naturally they attract fewer readers. Circulation is down almost 40% since Tribune bought the paper in 2000. The latest figures show, it has sunk to 773,000 daily and 1,101,000 Sundays.

Why is this? Beyond the inroads of the Internet, which has hurt many newspapers, another answer is that the Times is afflicted with a company that refuses to invest in the paper, or to adequately promote circulation. It has fired or forced out three talented editors and ousted two publishers. Succeeding to these positions has been the most inept publisher in the history of the paper -- David Hiller -- so accurately described by a former editor as "a pain in the ass."

Hiller, who writes many worthless memos, each one further depressing staff morale, fired two editors, the distinguished Dean Baquet, and James O'Shea, for resisting cutbacks, and has now appointed one, Russ Stanton, who is totally unsuitable. Stanton too likes to write memos, and each one is dumber than the one before. He is a lackey to Hiller, nothing more and nothing less.

Together, this squalid duet, Hiller and Stanton, are as destructive of the newspaper as the Rev. Jeremiah Wright is to the Obama presidential campaign. Every time any of these characters open their mouth, it is bad news for everything they profess to believe in.

The Wall Street Journal is heading up, up, up. The L.A. Times is heading down, down, down, and that will not change until an able, imaginative new owner comes board, such as David Geffen.

Another way to look at it is personnel. Lee Hotz and Stephanie Simon moved from the L.A. Times to the Wall Street Journal. Just with those two, we can see what's wrong in Los Angeles. And that does not even get into the scores of talented people laid off or forced into buyouts.


It is sad news indeed that the great retired L.A. Times writer, Chuck Hillinger, is critically ill with cancer. Hillinger, an indefatigible world traveler, brought the newspaper some of its finest feature stories for many years. A world class personality, his curiousity was unbounded. His contributions to the great newspaper the late Otis Chandler built cannot be overstated. All best wishes to him and to his family. Time passes, and we are losing or threatened with the loss of paper's elite. How sad!


At a luxury hotel five miles north of Mombasa yesterday, I saw a contingent of United States Marines. I was told they are committed to the fight against Islamic terrorists in Somalia, several hundred miles up the coast. I did not see them, but I've been told U.S. Marines are also in the Seychelles islands, where we stopped on the African cruise before coming to Kenya.


Sunday, April 27, 2008

Resurfacing Of Wright May Doom Obama Campaign

Written from Mombasa, Kenya--

The resurfacing of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, at the National Press Club no less, certainly is a terrible blow to Sen. Barack Obama. It probably destroys his chances to win the Indiana primary, and it could doom his entire campaign.

Wright is such a poison to Obama at this stage that, while not usually conspiratorially minded, I wonder if it's possible the Clintons may have somehow arranged his Press Club speech.

Since his San Francisco miscue, suggesting bitterness by blue collar Pennsylvanians who cling to religion and guns, Obama has been self-destructing, I'm afraid. On that Sunday, he was trailing Clinton by only four points in Pennsylvania and on the ascent. Since then, he has gone steadily down hill.

For various reasons I've described in recent months, Hillary is a terrible candidate. But now, she is on the offensive, and as Democratic National Chairman Howard Dean stated over the weekend, it is only correct for the Democratic super delegates to make a judgment as to who would have the best chance to defeat Sen. John McCain in November. Put this way, given Wright's blatherings, and, it may be, Obama's fatigue, Hillary is going to be the nominee.

In that event, this blog will support McCain.

But what a tragedy it is that the U.S. may miss the chance Obama seemed to afford for racial conciliation and less divisive government. He is more intelligent that Hillary and far, far more pleasant as a personality. Unlike her, he is honest, as much as any politician. Every time I see that awful woman, I cringe.

What can Obama do at this point? He has to criticize Wright sharply for seeking publicity at the very least. And whatever he does, it may be too late. With his inopportune comments, Wright is getting back at Obama, and at the American dream, which it is obvious he does not like. Or maybe, he is being paid to do so.


Anonymous Sources Must Be Used, Stanton Wrong

Written on M.S. Prinsendam, Approaching Mombasa--

Russ Stanton, the new editor of the L.A. Times, and Randy Harvey, the sports editor, have taken the wrong step in trying to crack down, in many instances, on the use of anonymous sources in the L.A. Times.

What this means is that (1) the paper won't be very interesting and (2) its reporters won't learn what's going on. The losers will be both reader loyalty and Times circulation.

I know there are exceptions to the rule against use of such sources in the Times policy, but altogether this is tighter than it's been in the past, and is a step backward not forward. Just today, the Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times reporter Barry Bearak (who formerly worked for the L.A. Times) has a long account in the New York Times of his recent arrest and imprisonment in Zimbabwe. If he had not used unnamed sources in that story, there would have not been a story. Obviously, he couldn't name the people in the security forces of the Mugabe regime who had helped him, without endangering them.

The fact is that the best sources won't talk to you most of the time, if they realize they are going to be identified. Every decent paper in the world uses anonymous sources, and the L.A. Times, sinking now all the time toward mediocrity, can simply not afford to be any different. Rather, it should be explaining to readers why they are necessary.

For Harvey to threaten his reporters with adverse marks in their personnel file if they violate the Times policy shows he is cowtowing to Stanton, the Tulare neophyte, and joining in the steady denigration of the Times as a world-class newspaper. It is the most serious mistake he has made as sports editor.

As far as Stanton is concerned, with the exception of his decision naming Davan Maharaj managing editor, he continues to show his lack of intellect and sophistication. Under him, and his patron, David Hiller, the paper is slowly becoming a laughing stock.


Saturday, April 26, 2008

McCain, As A Precaution, Pitches For Black Votes

Written from M.S. Prinsendam, Approaching Mombasa--

Sen. John McCain has seldom missed many bets in his life. He wouldn't be where he is today, had he not worked hard to make himself distinctive.

So the fact that he has begun to pitch for the black vote, making visits to Memphis on the anniversary of the King assassination, Selma, Ala., and New Orleans, cannot be surprising. If Sen. Hillary Clinton is the Democratic presidential nominee, he realizes that many African-Americans will be looking for another place to go, or not voting at all this fall, and he wants to show at least that he is sympathetic with their positions.

Black Americans have been in the Democratic column since 1932, brought there by Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Great Depression. Before that, most blacks had voted Republican.

As Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina noted in statements this week, the Clintons' racial remarks and innuendos in their campaign to sidetrack Sen. Barack Obama have been greeted with revulsion in the African-American community. It is not inconceivable there could be an historic switch in their position, if Hillary prevails over Obama.

McCain is only getting prepared for that possibility when he makes the visits he has, or when he tries to abort a North Carolina ad he believes unfairly critical of Obama.

At the same time, in this increasingly bitter campaign, Obama has to take care not to get caught up in the statements of his radical pastor, Jeremiah Wright. Wright should, at this time, be keeping quiet, not out there giving interviews.

New York Times columnist Bob Herbert warns this morning that various things, including Wright's continued prominence, is taking the air out of the Obama campaign. And a new CNN poll shows he has sunk into a tie with Clinton in the Indiana primary campaign. If he doesn't win Indiana, Obama could be in terminal difficulty.


Friday, April 25, 2008

Curtis LeMay, Hillary Clinton, Both Bipolar?

Written from Victoria, Seychelles Islands--

After Gen. Curtis LeMay suggested that the U.S. bomb North Vietnam "back into the stone age," he proved an embarrassing vice presidential candidate for Gov. George C. Wallace in the 1968 presidential campaign. Americans did not want to go that far, and they quickly dismissed the idea of LeMay in power.

But isn't Sen. Hillary Clinton's remark in an ABC news interview on Tuesday, Pennsylvania primary day, threatening to "obliterate" Iran seem just as excessive? We certainly don't need a U.S. president who is joining Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in threatening to obliterate anyone (except Al-Qaeda, that is). Ahmadinejad keeps threatening to obliterate Israel. Now, Clinton says, if this happens, we could obliterate Iran.

We're talking about destroying whole peoples here. That means a nuclear holocaust. It's what Hitler would have done, if he could have.

This dangerously bellicose statement is so out of place, it raises the thought, when I think about it, that Clinton might be bipolar.

Bipolarity is a tragic condition marked by excessive mood changes. And when we pay careful attention to Hillary in this campaign, she certainly exhibits those characteristics. One day, she's all peaches and cream, saying it's an "honor" to be running against Sen. Barack Obama for the Democratic presidential nomination. The next, she's suddenly dismissing Obama as effete and elitist, which is ridiculous. One day, she's saying she's full of good ideas, and the next she's suggesting that because her father and grandfather were Christians, it puts her on a pedestal above Obama, who became a Christian only when he grew up.

In short, like Robert Louis Stevenson's story, "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,' there's a possible pathological shifting of positions and roles by Mrs. Clinton (not to mention her husband, former President Bill Clinton, who seems also to be highly tempermental and moody these days).

What a contrast with Obama, and for that matter Sen. John McCain. Neither Obama or McCain would ever talk about obliterating anyone. Neither of them would suggest in any way that they are another Ahmadinejad. Now, Hillary Clinton has.

And that's why, the more I think about it, the more uncomfortable I become with the idea that this politician could ever obtain power. Not only our country, but the world, might be at risk.

Prior to the vote in North Carolina and Indiana, I wonder whether it might not be possible to commit Hillary for mental examination by a battery of psychiatrists. It's obvious from her cut and slash campaign that she has a problem, and it might well be a dire problem.

Mentioning the word 'dire,' reminds me of Gen. Reginald Dyer, the British general who ordered his troops to fire on demonstrators in Amritsar in 1919, slaughtering hundreds.

That destroyed the prospects of British rule in India, and no less an Empire advocate than Winston Churchill gave a speech in the British House of Commons condemning Dyer and insisting that he be punished.

There is a difference between bellicosity, such as Churchill and Charles de Gaulle exhibited against the Nazis, and anyone who is willing to contemplate the extinction of entire peoples. We certainly don't need a General Dyer in charge at the White House beginning next year.

So I think this election is mighty important. I hope ever so much that the major party candidates are Obama and McCain. Neither one of them, as I said, is a Hillary Clinton.


The Chinese government is offering today to meet with representatives of the Dalai Lama to discuss the Tibetan situation. This is the second time this week that calmer heads seem to be prevailing in Beijing. Earlier in the week, China announced it would withdraw a ship carrying arms for the dictator of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe.

Is this a ploy designed to defuse controversy over the Beijing Olympics? Perhaps. But still it is welcome news. Any sign that the Chinese government is willing to reconsider its backing for dictatorships in Tibet, Zimbabwe, Burma and North Korea is good news for the world.


Someone reminds me that this blog has been devoted in the past to lamenting the decline of the L.A. Times. I still feel that way, but since I don't read the newspaper on my African cruise am hardly in a position from the Indian Ocean to comment in detail on what is happening there. Those commentaries will resume when I return home at the end of May.


I took a trip to see coral today off small Seychelle islands, but the glass bottom boat was not as good as the one on Santa Catalina island. What we saw, however, was plenty of dead coral, and very little live coral. The tour guide said that, as in many places, global warming is killing coral. The ocean is simply getting too warm.


Thursday, April 24, 2008

Options Narrow With Oil Prices, Global Warming

Written from M.S. Prinsendam approaching Seychelles Islands--

As oil prices rise to record heights week by week, and global warming initiatives such as President Bush's latest proposal on it fail to show any substantial promise, the world's options are narrowing. Recent news is not good at all.

The price of oil seems to be forcing countries, such as Italy, which has just announced plans for a huge new, coal-fired electric power plant, to frantically seeks alternatives to the use of oil, even if such plants can only intensify pollution and global warming. Meanwhile, the use of bio-fuels as an alternative to oil are causing the price of basic foods, such as corn and rice, to increase, causing riots in a number of poverty-stricken countries not fortunate enough to have oil resources of their own.

In America, the economy is going downhill, and the airline industry is teetering toward bankruptcy and/or dramatically higher fares and reduced capacity by the rise in the oil price.

Greedy Arab countries and other oil producers are getting rich off these developments. We have to recognize the damage that they are causing us and take steps to control it.

It will not be long, at this rate, before we have energy wars. Perhaps the entire question of oil prices should be taken now to the UN Security Council, so that discussions can at least be initiated on palliative steps. Oil-produing Russia might veto such action, but China and India could well support it.

Some experts believe that worldwide oil production has already peaked and that tentatives, such as the Saudi announcement of plans to increase oil production in that country from 9 to 12 million barrels a day, cannot sufficiently affect the worldwide picture, with even recession in the U.S. and Europe, not curtailing the demand sufficiently to compensate for the rising demand in China and India.

Reduction in the availability of oil, if it happened by itself, could help stem the carbon emissions that fuel global warming. But the prospect of a shift to coal could make a bad situation worse.

President Bush's plan last week to reduce the rate of carbon emission increases now and stop the increases by 2025 is no solution. The next president, no matter who, is going to be constrained to do more.

What is frankly disheartening is that technological advance does not seem to be happening quickly enough to avoid a crisis. Nuclear energy could do so, but there is resistance to more nuclear plants in many countries, and the investment costs for it are, in any event, quite high.


Russ Stanton's appointment of Davan Maharaj as new managing editor of the L.A. Times is, I think, a positive step. Maharaj is an able editor, and, with his Business section expertise, he may be able to move more economic news out front in the newspaper, which has been too slow in happening.


Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Clinton Moves Far To Right In Winning PA Primary

Written from M.S. Prinsendam, Approaching Seychelles Islands--

Hillary Clinton pandered to the voters, used Karl Rove tactics, resurfaced racism and ended up threatening to obliterate Iran, in winning big in the Pennsylvania primary.

Don't take that only from me: It's the subject of the New York Times editorial this morning, "The Low Road To Victory." (The New York Times should logically switch its backing to Obama; it seems in the editorial to be heading in that direction).

Hillary politics are reminiscent, as I've pointed out before, of Richard Nixon. If she wins the Democratic nomination, she could well manage, in some respects, to get to the right of John McCain. He's got to watch out for this snake, or pair of snakes, if you count her husband, Bill Clinton. They will do anything, no matter how disgraceful, to grab back power.

All that said, Sen. Barack Obama, an honorable man and the only Democratic candidate left standing who truly represents the liberal values of that party, did not perform well in Pennsylvania.

His impolitic observations about bitterness, and Pennsylvania working people "clinging" to religion and guns, delivered in San Francisco of all places, I believe cost him dearly in Pennsylvania. He failed to make inroads in the Catholic vote, ended up losing almost as decisively as he did in Ohio, and allowed the view to spread that he might be a weak Dukakis-like candidate in November, if he does manage to secure the Democratic nomination.

David Broder, the astute Washington Post political columnist, suggests this morning that the Clinton-Obama struggle is going to elect McCain.

Although Broder might be right, this is not the most important thing for now: The key thing is that Obama must rally his forces, and wage his campaign more skillfully. He's got to parry the lowdown attacks of Clinton while not seeming to sink to the same level. He certainly must rally the liberal base of the Democratic party.

Yet, some of the states about to vote in primaries -- namely Indiana, West Virginia and Kentucky, are populated by the very kind of low income white voters that Obama has not succeeded in reaching. Indiana in particular has a long tradition of racism; it was one of the biggest states for the Ku Klux Klan. Obama may do well in Oregon and North Carolina, but that's not likely to be enough.

We thought, based on the vote in the Iowa caucuses, that America was putting racism behind it. But the Clintons have sinfully played the race card successfully, tying Obama to a black vote and to black radicals. That puts him in a tough place, because, as we're finding out, racism is not dead in America. Many voters are taken in by it.

Yet, as we go forward toward the Democratic convention (and this struggle is now likely to last right into the convention), the heart of the Democratic party is going to have to rally behind Obama. Otherwise, it will find itself with another Lyndon Johnson, a candidate in Hillary who will squander everything the Democratic party is supposed to represent.

After all, she's the old Goldwater girl. And that's mighty bad news for America. Worse than John McCain would ever be.

We live, as everyone points out, in dangerous times. We can't afford a person of low character in the White House. So we have to pray and work to see that Hillary Clinton doesn't get there.


As a kind of sacred text this morning, I will quote the New York Times editorial, as it appeared this morning in the Times-owned International Herald Tribune (which I get each morning on board ship during my African cruise):

..."On the eve of this primary, Clinton became the first Democratic candidate to wave the bloody shirt of 9/11, A Clinton television ad -- torn right from Karl Rove's playbook -- evoked the 1929 stock market crash, Pearl Harbor, the Cuban missile crisis, the cold war and the 9/11 attacks, complete with video of Osama bin Laden. 'If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen,' the narrator intoned.

"If that was supposed to bolster Clinton's argument that she is the better prepared to be president in a dangerous world, she sent the opposite message on Tuesday by declaring in an interview on ABC News that if Iran attacked Israel while she were president, 'We would be able to totally oblierate Iran.'

"By staying on the attack and not engaging Obama on the substance of issues like terrorism, the economy and how to organize an orderly exit from Iraq, Clinton does more than turn off voters who don't like negative campaigning. She undercuts the rationale for her candidacy that led this page and others to support her: that she is more qualified, right now, to be president than Obama."

Now, I wonder whether Andrew Rosenthal, editorial page editor of the New York Times, will swallow his pride, admit he was wrong at first, and move to endorsing Obama. Thank goodness, the L.A. Times endorsed him months ago.


Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Diplomacy May Work With China, But Not Hamas

Written from Mauritius, Indian Ocean--

There are reports today that a Chinese vessel that sailed into South Africa last week with arms for the brutal Mugabe dictatorship in Zimbabwe, only to be diverted to Mozambique or Angola when South African dockworkers refused to unload it and a court backed them up, may now turn back to China without delivering the arms.

This would be a rare victory for diplomacy in the Zimbabwe crisis, which is now seeing an estimated 1,000 people a day fleeing to South Africa, and thousands of arrests and beatings, even some murders, in Zimbabwe itself by forces loyal to Robert Mugabe. The U.S., Britain and other Western countries have been pressuring African ones to block aid for him and take steps to see that results from the election held three weeks ago are, at last, released.

It would be heartening to find that China is not impervious to diplomatic efforts, and is taking at least some steps to placate world opinion. It would be a great credit to China, and a boon to the forthcoming Beijing Olympics, were China to start showing a decent regard for correct international behavior, not only in Zimbabwe but in Burma, Darfur and Tibet as well.

Diplomacy may end up working with China, despite rising nationalism there. But it can't work for now with the terrorist organization, Hamas, in the Middle East, even if the naive former U.S. president Jimmy Carter thinks it can.

Carter who means well but has proved weak-kneed in dealing with terrorists from Iran to the Holy Land over the last 30 years, tried again last week to engage the Hamas leadership in talks looking to an ease of tensions.

But the same day he was in Damascus seeing the Syrian dictator, Bashir Assad, and the exiled leader of Hamas, Khaled Mashal, who uses Syria as a base, Hamas units assaulted Israeli forces at one of the Gaza border crossings where the Israelis have been delivering some goods to Gaza, wounding 13 Israelis.

Carter came away from the Damascus meetings saying that Hamas had agreed to a referendum on peace with Israel, and to recognize the Jewish state, if Israel withdrew to the pre-1967 boundaries.

But he had no sooner spoken than Meshal himself appeared at a rare news conference to say there would be no peace unless Israel recognized a right of return of Arab refugees, that any referendum would have to include Palestinians scattered worldwide, and that even then, Hamas would not recognize Israel.

Carter was left looking totally ineffective, and taken in besides. Diplomacy may one day, after many further battles, be possible with a changing Hamas, but it will not be Carter who facilitates it. He has merely been meddling in foreign policy, which U.S. citizens are not supposed to do, and in effect giving comfort to sworn enemes of both the U.S. and Israel.


The New York Times reports today that Rupert Murdoch may be nearing a deal to buy Newsday from the Tribune Co. for a price of about $580 million, and turn it into a joint venture with his New York Post. This would be good news for Newsday, moving from a bunch of losers to a man who continually makes money out of his media businesses. But it would be bad news for the L.A. Times, doomed apparently to be stuck with the Tribune ownership.

Why doesn't Sam Zell throw in the towel altogether in the newspaper business, which he has no touch for, and go back to slum real estate?


Monday, April 21, 2008

It's Hard To Mail A Postcard From This Trip

Written from the French island of Reunion, Indian Ocean--

The Internet is not only adversely affecting the newspaper business, it's also causing a retrenchment in post office services, and making it harder and harder to send postcards back home.

I confess I'm a big postcard addict. I send them out to many relatives and friends, and try to provide a plethora of African stamps from my cruise circumventing the continent, to my grandchildren.

But this is not easy at many places. I've just had a typically difficult experience on the French island of Reunion. It's a prosperous island, an overseas department of France, 6,500 miles from the mother country. The population is 770,000. It looks French and has been French since 1638. The Tricolor seems as much at home here as it is in Paris. Today, we saw a volcanic crater 8,500 feet high which last erupted just two years ago. It's a scenic island, with some of the highest rainfall totals in the world.

I was able to buy postcards at a store at the lip of the crater, but failed in repeated tries to buy stamps to send them home. First, they said, the post offices on the island were not open Mondays. Then, there were supposed to be stamps at the tourist office. But all they had were envelopes. Besides, three different guides and clerks gave me varying figures for how many Euros it would cost to mail a card home.

Finally, I gave the guide on our bus a large tip and he assured me he would mail the cards. This worked, I've had confirmation, in Morocco and Senegal, and a friend e-mailed me that he had received my card sent from a hotel in Ghana.

But with all the e-mail and digital photography these days, it seems many people no longer send postcards. The market for them has clearly diminished, and post offices have, as I said, retrenched. Just another sign of modern life.

I notice even the New York Times lost money in the first quarter.

As to how I'm liking my long cruise (now in its 40th day, with 33 more to follow), I'm enjoying it. I'm not big into such activities as nightclub-style shows, bingo, bridge playing, sunbathing on deck, and some of the other ways many passengers pass their time.

But I do enjoy the long days at sea (39 of the 73 days are spent entirely at sea). And the improvement in international communications means that I now am able to get an electronic copy of the International Herald Tribune delivered to my stateroom six days a week, plus a short digest of the New York Times every day. We've only been out of range of CNN four days in the middle of the Atlantic. And E-mail has been available every day of the voyage, at my usual Yahoo E-mail address. All this is quite different from my last major cruise to Antarctica. I thought I would hardly write this blog at all during the voyage, but I've been writing it every couple of days. And I sent a classnote back to the Dartmouth Alumni magazine from the ship in Cape Town.

Many of my fellow-passengers are, frankly, rich people who go on long cruises every year. I've been so far to 96 countries or dependencies, but many of them have been to more. Their curiousity about the places we have visited has been limited, and their disdain for struggling African countries we have seen is palpable. But I have met some thoughtful people aboard, and a few just as interested in the American presidential race as I am.

It's true this cruise, on the Holland America liner Prinsendam, with about 600 passengers aboard, has skipped many unstable or even dangerous countries. We passed by Mauritania, the Guineas, Sierra Leone, Liberia, the Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Benin, Gabon, the Congo, Angola and Mozambique, and are going to give Somalia a wide berth, sailing from Mombasa all the way east to Oman and then relying on the protection of a Dutch Navy vessel to get us safely through the Gulf of Aden, which was the scene a couple of weeks ago, of the seizure by pirates from Somalia of a French yacht. (The French sent special forces to Djibouti. After a ransom was paid for liberation of the ship's crew, the French Navy attacked the pirates in a Somalian port, retaking the ship, recovering much of the ransom money and capturing six pirates who were flown back to France for a well-deserved trial. It's interesting to see the U.S. is not by any means the only country who feels constrained to fight fundamentalist or free-booting Muslims).

Tomorrow, we visit Mauritius, a country 120 miles east of Reunion, that remains closely aligned with Great Britain. It's good to see the British and French have not disappeared from this part of the world.

We are now 12,500 miles out of Fort Lauderdale, where we started March 11. By the time we end up in Lisbon, this is going to be close to a 20,000-mile voyage. I'm happy I'm taking it.


Saturday, April 19, 2008

Hard Questioning Of Obama, Clinton, Is Only Proper

Written on M.S. Prinsendam, Cruising Off Madagascar--

With the crucial Pennsylvania primary approaching, the final debate between Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. Hillary Clinton was an acerbic one, with ABC reporters (one of whom once worked for the Clintons) asking Obama many negative questions and Hillary piling it on.

We'll have to see which way this cuts. In some debates, the public has an adverse reaction to being too negative toward one of the candidates. A Washington Post poll shows Hillary's negatives mounting, and it is conceivable there will be a voter backlash in the Pennsylvania vote against all the questioning of Obama.

Nonetheless, I feel there should be no real complaint about the debate. Obama wants to be President of the U.S. There can be no objection to his being subject to real tests, the hardest questions that test his mettle. We are learning more about him, and most of what we have learned is that he is a resilient charcter who displays great intelligence, and even wisdom. All this is to the good.

The fact that just yesterday, Obama picked up three estimable endorsements -- those of former Labor Secretary (under Bill Clinton) Robert Reich, and former Sens. Sam Nunn of Georgia and David Boren of Oklahoma -- demonstrates once again that Obama is winning very important backing in the heartland of the Democratic party, which, as Time columnist Joe Klein writes, shows that many Democrats are getting fed up with Hillary's incessant attacks on Obama, going so far as to give Sen. John McCain talking points in a fall campaign against Obama. Klein in the past has been a Clinton supporter in his column. The fact that he writes the Democratic race may be about over is indicative of Clinton slippage. But, of course, we have to watch for the Pennsylvania results. If an Obama tide is really running, that should show up there, at least in a very close race and possibly in an Obama victory.


Bill Boyarsky has written a good memo on Russ Stanton's memo regarding the recent L.A. Times editors' retreat, pointing out it is filled with platitudes, and that cutbacks at the Times can only deprive the Los Angeles readers of essential information. Boyarsky is too kind to say that Stanton is dumb, but the evidence accumulates that he is.


Friday, April 18, 2008

Arrogant China Sends Arms To Zimbabwe

Written from Richards Bay, South Africa--

China seems determined to arouse world opinion against it, endangering the Beijing Olympics.

The latest example of this, and it is not a minor one, is the arrival in South Africa of a ship laden with Chinese arms destined for the dictatorship of Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe.

Let it be said right away, it is a sign of a developing crisis in southern Africa that the South African regime of Thabo Mbeke originally said it would let the arms go through, that there is no arms embargo on Zimbabwe, which has refused to recognize the results, or even release the results, of an election held several weeks ago. This showed the insensitivity of the Mbeke government toward democracy in this region, and was, I think, a gross mistake comparable to Mbeke's downplaying AIDS as a continuing tragedy in South Africa. But there were subsequent developments that prove South Africa remains fundamentally a democratic state in the post-Mandela period. Dockworkers in Durban Harbor refused to unload the arms, including 3 million rounds of ammunition, from the Chinese ship, and an Anglican group successfully petitioned a South African court to uphold the dockworkers. The ship has now had to sail on to Mozambique, which also borders Zimbabwe, in an attempt to unload its cargo. But there are reports the dockworkers in Mozambique may refuse to unload and tranship the cargo there as well.

Of course, it is the Chinese who are primarily culpable for buttressing the Mugabe regime in Zimbabwe. This is the latest example of Chinese misbehavior which needs to be taken down a peg by the rest of the world. In the months leading up to the Olympics, for which the Chinese profess but do not show great regard, Communist China has sided with repression in Zimbabwe, genocide in the Darfur region of The Sudan, and the military junta in Burma, as well as mistreating North Korean refugees in China and trying to crush dissidents in Tibet, a country the Chinese have no right to, but have occupied now for half a century.

At the same time, the xenophobic Chinese regime continues to suppress any kind of dissent at home. And when foreigners protest these policies, then the Chinese threaten boycotts against Western companies, as they are now doing in reprisal for French demonstrations against China in the recent torch relay in Paris.

The fact is, if this continues, the Olympics really ought not to be held in Beijing. The Chinese promised, when they obtained the 2008 Games, that they would ease repressive policies. Instead, this year, they have gotten far worse.

It is wrong too for the French Olympic Committee to tell French athletes bound for Beijing that they may not wear badges calling for a more peaceful world. If this is the price of staging the Olympics, then the hell with them.

China increasingly is showing contempt for humanitarian values. There must and should be a response.

My African cruise is now leaving South Africa, which I found a beautiful country with many problems. I had a terrific time here, traveling high into the mountains, out of Durban, into the remote Kingdom of Lesotho, over a 9,400-foot pass, visiting the Cape of Good Hope from Cape Town, and going to a remarkable big game refuge from Richards Bay, where we saw huge numbers of African elephants, which are bigger than Asian ones or any seen routinely in U.S. zoos, giraffe, rhinos, crocodiles and other wildlife.

But guides told us that unemployment in South Africa is running 25%, and at a higher rate in the black population, and that AIDS now afflicts anywhere from one third to 40% of the South African population. Two thousand people a day are now dying of AIDS in South Africa, and the prospect is that millions more will die in the years ahead. Indeed, the black population of South Africa is now declining. And the Mbeke regime continues to resist treating this epidemic as the national tragedy it is.

Again, this is such a beautiful country in many ways that I'd like to come back with my entire family. But unless it is careful, it could slide backward.

A guide, by the way, told us a good Mugabe joke. According to this story, some of Mugabe's own administration advised him to "say goodbye to the Zimbabwean people. " "Why?" Mugabe is said to have responded. "Are they leaving?"


Tuesday, April 15, 2008

New York Times Should Shift To Obama From Hillary

Written from M.S. Prinsendam, Approaching Durban, So. Africa--

It would potentially make a lot of difference, and it would reflect an attempt to be honest after recent campaign developments, for the New York Times to switch its endorsement for the Democratic presidential nomination from Hillary Clinton to Barack Obama.

The Clintons' campaign to restore themselves to the presidency has become such a "disgrace," to use the word of a CNN political analyst, Jeff Toomer, that integrity requires newspapers that started out backing Hillary to revise their opinions. The same is true of many politicians.

With the New York Times, one of its columnists after another, has pointed up the deep divisiveness of the Clinton campaign. It's high time that Andrew Rosenthal, editorial pages editor of the paper, falls in line with their honorable position.

The latest examples are columns by Roger Cohen and Maureen Dowd. Cohen remarks, "I'm troubled by Hillary Clinton's recent innuendo-dripping remark that her Christian faith "is the faith of my parents and my grandparents." Dowd notes that Bill Clinton took $800,000 in speaking fees from backers of a Columbia trade agreement that Hillary says she opposes (a sin comparable to consultant Mark Penn's work for the trade agreement, which got him demoted, but not fired, as he should have been).

Cohen's observation is particularly noteworthy: "We live in the Age of Interaction, Fluidity and connectedness define the world, forging hybrid identificaties, not fixed in formaldehyde. Clinton, on an Obama-is-aloof kick, is touting the line that she's a pro-gun churchgoer. That may play in west Pennsylvania, but won't heal the world's or America's post-Bush wounds.

"'I used to support Hillary, but now I look at her eyes and see someone always wired, always calculating, whereas in Berry I see some widom,' said Kisjanto."

The more one looks at the sleazy, racist and religiously-biased Clinton campaign, the more backing this Richard Nixon retread appears to be a unrespectable position. Indeed, she may be the worst presidential candidate since Aaron Burr, or, at least, Strom Thurmond.

Also, on CNN, I see one of its political commentators saying that if Clinton wins the nomination, most Obama backers will support her. This is not true of me. If Clinton wins the nomination, I will endorse the more honest, honorable and better educated (by experience) John McCain for president.

We are coming to the crunch time of this long struggle for the Democratic nomination. There is only one of the candidates who would be a respectable choice: He is Barack Obama.


My long African cruise has now rounded the Cape of Good Hope and is sailing toward other South African ports on the Indian ocean. The big game part of the trip is about to commence in earnest, although we have already seen 20 baboons on the cape. Tomorrow, I'm taking a tour to the Zulu Kingdom of Lesotho.

South Africa is a truly beautiful country. I hope it prospers, but believe it will do better if the South African regime intervenes to ensure democratic rule in neighboring Zimbabwe.

For the most part, this has been a calm voyage through the 10,500 miles already sailed from Fort Lauderdale. We've had "rough" seas only a few days, defined as waves up to 12 feet, and the ship is well stabilized. Many, but not all, the land excursions have been well done, if expensive. On occasions, such as in Togo, we have had superb guides, who have made a big difference. The food on the ship has been a little spotty (the Holland America line chefs are not always proficient at preparing ethnic foods) but there has really been little to complain about. The accommodations, the room stewards, other members of the crew, have been nothing but friendly. Going on such a long cruise is not cheap, but this has been, all in all, well worth the value.

There are many things to do on the ship that I skip -- the bingo, the gambling, the dance lessons, bridge, some of the entertainment, etc. But the long days at sea are pleasantly spent. I've been using the binoculars my daughter and son-in-law gave me, and wearing some of the clothes they and my son, bought. I'm sleeping better than at home. I'm fortunate in table mates. All in all, I'd take a long cruise again. This one, at 73 days, may not be long enough.


Sunday, April 13, 2008

Obama Statements True, But Highly Impolitic

Written from Cape Town, South Africa--

Sen. Barack Obama seems to have trouble finishing the contest with Sen. Hillary Clinton. In New Hampshire, he lost to her unexpectedly. In Texas, he failed to close the deal with an inadequate response to Hilllary's implicitly racist 3 a.m. telephone call ad. Now, in Pennsylvania, just when he was gaining, he may have blown it once again, with remarks in San Francisco about the bitterness of Pennsylvania deadenders in small towns.

It's not that what Obama said is not true. But it is often the case in politics that saying unpleasant truths can hurt those who say them. John McCain found that out when he was running against George W. Bush in South Carolina in 2000 and slammed religious fundamentalists. He was right about them, but Bush won the primary, and the Republican nomination.

It certainly is no surprise that the Clintons have jumped all over Obama for his remarks. They will pander to anyone, anytime. Their power grab is so blatant, Hillary so poorly qualified for the presidency, that there are many of us who would never support the Clintons in another election. It would be interesting to know what Hillary and Bill say about Pennsylvanians behind their backs. Certainly, Bill Clinton did nothing in the White House to really help the economically hardpressed Pennsylvanians, and there is no sign in this campaign that Hillary is anything but beholden to the corporate interests, and the global free traders that have caused so many lower income Pennsylvanians to feel bitter.

But Hillary, as I've remarked before, is like Richard Nixon. Shameless and corrupt, she will say or do anything to be elected. And many voters, particularly in her own party, are taken in.

Obama has nine days to recoup in Pennsylvania. He is candid, and in his racial speech in Philadelphia, he was able to satisfy many of his critics. Sunday night, he had it all over the glib Hillary for the depth of his responses on the compassion issues in a CNN debate. As usual, all the former Goldwater girl gave us was pap.

But now his work is cut out for Obama, and he has only himself to blame for not being more careful in San Francisco, of all places.


It is clear from Russ Stanton's memo following a retreat with L.A. Times editors, that he does not have the intellect to be a successful editor of the Times. And his closing remark that the Times has some of the best journalists in the business is no longer true. He helped David Hiller and Sam Zell to drive them away.


It is clear from the comment posted below that some gullible Clintonite is back at me for opposing the Nixon lookalike and her Dogpatch husband. If this person doesn't like the blog, he shouldn't read it. I might also add that not liking Muslim fundamentalism is a characteristic of all those who love freedom. It isn't racism; it is common sense.


Friday, April 11, 2008

Obama Could Win Pennsylvania, Finishing Hillary

Written on M.S. Prinsendam, Approaching Cape Town, South Africa--

With the polls tightening, his television spending vastly exceeding Hillary's, and both Clintons continuing to put their feet in their mouths, Sen. Barack Obama could narrowly win Pennsylvania April 22, and force Clinton out of the race.

That is certainly to be hoped for.

The latest CNN poll last night showed Clinton with only a four-point lead over Obama in Pennsylvania. Obama's currently outspending Clinton 5-1 in the Keystone state, and that has to count for something. Plus, the Clintons continue to compound the damage done to themselves by Hillary's lie about braving sniper fire in Bosnia. Now, Bill Clinton says she merely mispoke at night, because she was tired. Of course, this is hooey, and everyone knows it. Hillary told the Boisnia lie several times over weeks and only gave it up when CBS showed a video depicting her being peacefully greeted by an eight year old child when she went to Bosnia.

Clinton is beginning to flail around, changing her pitch daily on the war, the economy and welfare. She sounds desperate and deceitful. She probably will yet try to come up with something like the scruillous Texas ad that stated, in Al Campanis fashion, that Obama would not be capable of handling a 3 a.m. phone call about terrorism. But this time, Obama may be readier to deal with it.

The undertone of racism in the Clintons' campaign -- Obama is unelectable, and Bill Clinton's remark about stealing cars -- cannot mean success. Obama has a lesser albatross around his neck -- his hinted backer, former President Jimmy Carter, going to Syria to meet with the leader of Hamas. He should forcefully tell Carter that this is not the time for him to do anything that would embarrass him.

Obama can, in short, close the Democratic contest out. He should press ahead. Can he win Pennsylvania? I think so.


Thursday, April 10, 2008

Namibia An Empty Quarter of Africa With Potential

Written from Luderitz, Namibia--

This largely desert country in the southwest of Africa is three times larger than California, but has only 1.8 million people. Much of it gets rain only once every five years, and it has spectacular scenery reminescent of the South Dakota badlands. They call one section the Valley of the Moon. Sand dunes rise as high as 1,200 feet, and yesterday, when we visited one of them on my African cruise, young people were climbing to the top and then surfing downward on huge boards. Some were able to surf from top to bottom without falling.

Our guide in a tour by four-wheel drive vehicles was a former South African Apartheid policeman who said he is on his way to Iraq for security duty, a high priced job he claimed is now held by 20,000 former South African security people. I wonder whether this can be true, and also wonder if it is the American taxpayers who are paying for it. I've never read any article talking of Apartheid cops' role in Iraq.

Before World War I, Namibia, then called Southwest Africa, was a German possession, and there are still German attitude traces here. Our tour was so regitmented, they would not even stop to permit us from buying postcards, although I managed to buy and send some today.

The population in Namibia is said, at present, to be 12% white, 8% "colored," or mixed, and 80% black. Judging from our stops here today and Walvis Bay yesterday, the lion's share of good jobs are held by whites and a few coloreds, and there is much evidence, as in the rest of Africa, of young black men sitting around the streets all day, unemployed.

Yet Namibia has obvious potential, including the largest uranium mine in the world, and, close to this city, diamond mines. It would take an aqueduct nearly 1,500 miles long to bring water here from Botswana. In the meantime, it is pretty bleak, a few palm trees, but mostly barren land broken by a few exotic plants that can get by on the moisture they pick up from fog rolling in from the sea.

Below the Tropic of Capricorn, the weather at this time of the year, is marvelous, bright clear days and temperatures in the high 70s, as the Southern fall begins.

Next stop, South Africa, in two days, where the M.S. Prinsendam will be visiting Capetown for three days, Durban and Richards Bay. Some passengers are getting off the ship to take a trip to Victoria Falls, or to the game refuges, and some will even be going to Zimbabwe. I decided to skip that and will be going on two day trips to game refuges and also down to the Cape of Good Hope.


Russ Stanton's view of what editors should read for a three-day retreat apparently devoted to further downsizing and diminishing of the L.A. Times, might be suitable for Stanton's remedial reading course, but it has little or nothing to offer serious thinkers about the future of the newspaper business.

Two former L.A. Timers who are working elsewhere were among the Pulitizer winners this year, including Amy Harmon, the talented former reporter in Business, now working for the New York Times. Naturally, while the Washington Post was winning six Pulitzers, and the New York Times two, the L.A. Times won none. Most of the people who would have competed for them in recent years have left the paper, victims of Dennis FitzSimons, David Hiller and Sam Zell.


Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Dumping Hiller Over The Side Would Be Smart

Written Aboard M.S. Prinsendam, Approaching Namibia--

Giving it the coolest of all evaluations, it seems evident that getting rid of David Hiller as publisher of the L.A. Times, especially if he were to replace him with Jack Klunder, would be the smartest move Sam Zell could make.

New published reports about the Tribune Co., including an article by Richard Perez Pena in the New York Times, say Tribune is in danger of default and that more assets, such as the Chicago Cubs and Newsday, may have to be jettisoned. Advertising revenue at the Tribune newspapers is now down 10.5% below levels a year ago, and the television stations, where Zell has been making many moves, are said to have twice the profit margin of the newspapers.

But the L.A. Times remains the biggest single source of revenue at Tribune, and making a change of publishers, bringing in someone who understands California, could only enhance its return to the company.

Hiller is not only a failure, but an adject failure. If they want to be nice to him, maybe he could be traded to Singleton.

I'd set two goals by the end of my African trip May 23: Obama's becoming the presumptive Democratic nominee, and Hiller going. Both may be closer within reach than I had thought upon departure they would be. For one thing, Hillary Clinton continues, with her unwillingness to completely get rid of Mark Penn, to prove that she is a totally incompetent manager, unfit not only to be President "on day one," but also on day 1,000. She does not have the smarts of Obama, and now even her supporter in Pennsylvania, Gov. Rendell, says Penn should go, not simply be demoted.

Poor Hillary! Bill put her up to running, because he thought he could easily dominate her in the White House.


The ship today is 8,900 miles out of Fort Lauderdale and closing in on the first of two port calls in Namibia. Seas are rough, and a charity walk on the Prominade deck had to be postponed for fear of someone falling overboard. As we move away from the equator, it's getting cooler, and we're now in autumn in the Southern Hemisphere. We have intersected the Antarctic current.


Monday, April 07, 2008

Disruption Of Torch Relay Embarrasses China

Written on M.S. Prinsendam, Approaching Namibia--

I learned as an Olympic reporter that you can try to separate the Olympics from politics, but it won't work.

We see that again today as we learn of protests in London and Paris that have disrupted the running of the Olympic torch relay and greatly embarrassed the organizers of the Chinese Olympics. It is clear now that the rebellion in Tibet is overshadowing preparations for the Olympics this summer and could even severely damage the Beijing Games.

A couple of little historical footnotes are pertinent. First, it was Adolf Hitler who reputedly had the first idea for a torch relay in the Modern Olympics. The torch has caused trouble, or been the opportunity for causing trouble before. Now, it is again.

Second, as long as the International Olympic Commitee insists on awarding the Games to tyrannical regimes, such as Nazi Germany in 1936, militaristic Japan in 1940 (those Games were cancelled by World War II), Soviet Russia in 1980 and now Communist China in 2008, there is no way the Games will not be exploited for political ends, to buttress or condemn foul regimes. The IOC has on these occasions created its own mess, and then been forced to live with it.

It is worth noting too just like the Nazis and the Russian Communists, the Chinese Communists promised the IOC that they would behave properly in the runup to the Games. And all of these tyrannies lied. The Nazis continued to persecure the Jews, rearm feverishly and prepare for a world war. Just months before the Games, Hitler remiliterized the Rhineland. Then, in the runup to the Moscow Games, the Russians invaded Afghanistan. And now, with the Beijing Games approaching, the Chinese have intensified their effort of more than half a century to subjugate Tibet.

It is not at all surprising that human rights advocates and those who uphold democracy might think turnabout is fair play, and if tyrannies try to exploit the Olympics by following aggressive policies, it is fair to resist these policies by using the Olympics too.

That's what's going on now. Talk of another Olympic boycott is rising, and, at the very least, the bloom is off the Olympic rose once again. Even the IOC president is pleading with the Chinese government to ease the pressure on Tibet. The atmosphere of the approaching Games is being polluted by politics.

I don't think a boycott is an answer, because it will only hurt the athletes. But if the silly torch relay conceived by Hitler is going forward in so many localities, it is certainly proper for protestors to disrupt it.


In the latese embarassment for the woeful Clinton campaign, its high-priced media consultant, Mark Penn, has been demoted after it was revealed he was negotiating to represent the Columbian government for trade concessions as a lobbyist at the same time Hillary was opposing the concessions.

The Clintons are not only crooks themselves; they have many corrupt people working for them. Penn is only the latest.

For the good of the Democratic party and the country, it is time that Hillary give up her campaign and let America choose between two honorable candidates, John McCain and Barack Obama.


Saturday, April 05, 2008

Voodoo Ceremony In Togo Displays Values

traWritten On M.S. Prinsendam After Departing Lome, Togo--

Togo, a small strip of a country neighboring Ghana, is not nearly as prosperous as Ghana. But I was still impressed, in a long rural tour I took yesterday, of certain values in that country.

Our tour party saw a most impressive voodoo dance performed in a village by more than 100 young people attired in yellow t-shirts. It was evident that, as in most religions, voodoo incorporates an ethical values system that can give great consolation to its adherents. And unlike some other fundamentalists, the voodooists in Togo are not out killing people who may disagree with them. trt

Also, Togo has an impressive, if relatively undiversified, rural infrastructure, a farming community which does not, as in The Gambia, seem overpowered by overpopulation.

We had an excellent guide for the day, an educated man who told us that in Togo, the motto is, "Nothing should be lost." It was astonishing to hear about the multiple uses that a date or coconut palm tree can be put, and, with the huge cassava crop, they even use the leaves to make vegetables, or other parts of the plant to make soap.

Togo lost its English-speaking sections at independence to English-speaking Ghana. It has few natural resources other than phosphate. But the, "Yes We Can" spirit of its people is admirable.

The M.S. Prinsendam has now left West Africa after making five fascinating, if sometimes depressing stops, and today at 2 p.m. we cross the equator. We also are now in the Eastern Hemisphere. We are more than 8,000 miles out of Fort Lauderdale, and our next stop, in four days, is Namibia.


Matthew Mosk, a political reporter for the Washington Postl, has an excellent article today on how the rapacious Clintons feel "spent and outspent" in the context for the Democratic nomination. Since they just reported $109 million in personal income since the 2000 election, it would not be too much to suggest that they spend some of their own money on their campaign to restore Dog Patch government to the White House, if they really desire to go on.

With the money he had been able to raise, primarily from small donors on the Internet, Barack Obama should now press on to finish the job, pouring a crushing amount of what he has raised into Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Indiana. Victory for his inspired campaign, at least for the Democratic nomination, now appears in sight.


One of the most distinguished foreign reporters in recent years, for the Los Angeles Times and more recently for the New York Times, has been arrested by police thugs working in Zimbabwe for the dictator, Robert Mugave. The Pulitzer Prize-winning Barry Bearak has repeatedly in his career courted danger to bring deeply perceptive reports on the evils of our times to the rest of the world. We can only hope now that he is safe and will soon be released.

Mugabe is a dope. He could give up power and go public speaking, like the Clintons, thus making himself an even greater fortune than what he has been able to steal from the poor people of Zimbawe.


Thursday, April 03, 2008

In Ghana, Comparative Prosperity in West Africa

Written from Accra, Ghana--

Of all the countries we've visited on my Holland-America cruise in West Africa, Ghana, the first modern nation to emerge independently out of colonial Africa in 1957, is today far more prosperous and dynamic than its neighbors in West Africa. This is obvious to any visitor. One modern building after another is going up, the highways are often wide and busy. The markets are teeming.

Our guide explained to us on the way into town that one reason Ghana is booming is that in recent years much trade from landlocked central Africa countries to the rest of the world has been diverted through Ghana to avoid the religious and other conflicts that have embroiled other coastal countries, such as the neighboring Ivory Coast and Nigeria, or even further distant coastal countries such as Senegal, The Gambia, Sierra Leone and Liberia.

One advantage Ghana has is that it only has about 16% Muslim population, thus avoiding the interrnecene strife that has marked Nigeria and the Ivory Coast where fundamentalist Muslims constitute a majority or close to it and live in constant disturbance with Christian citizens.

We're now going to bypass such conflict-ridden countries as Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, the Congo and Angola while sailing to Namibia (four days at sea). But first, we stop tomorrow in Lome, capital of Togo.

On the way out of Accra this afternoon, we stopped to see some of the elaborate caskets people have constructed to accompany them into eternity. Some are automobiles, others airplanes, the way they'd like to go. I thought of ordering coffins in advance for Sam Zell and David Hiller, but wasn't certain what they'd like. Perhaps a huge dollar bill.

Cruise ships are not too common in this part of the world -- just two this year for Accra's port of Tema. But there were dozens of other ships, freighters, in port. And the Ghana authorities gave our tour buses motorcycle escorts.


Bill Clinton's ugly assault on Bill Richardson for endorsing Barack Obama shows once again the power-grabbing instincts of the Clintons. It can only hurt Hillary in the Puerto Rican primary June 3, because Latinos will wake up to the machinations of the Clintons.

There are also reports that Bill Clinton blew up and launched a tirade against Richardson in a private meeting last weekend with California super delegates. He is certainly not doing his wife any good. He needs relaxation, perhaps from his old sidekick, Monica Lewinsky.

Obama and Sen. John McCain, as proven both by their public service and their positions in this campaign, are warriors for the right, as God has given them to understand the right, while the Clintons are snivelers, would-be petty tyrants.

With McCain, it is partially his heroic service in the Vietnam war, five years of capitivity and torture in North Vietnamese prison camps, plus his independence in Congress. With Obama, it is his brave, ever perseverant campaign, and his noble speech recently on the race issue. Both are devoted to the highest American ideals

Like Richard Nixon and Robert Mugabe, the Clintons are devoted only to their own vainglorious power. They should, they certainly must, be send packing by the electorate. Hillary keeps saying she is too tough to quit, very similar to what Nixon said during Watergate. Later, we learned he had drank heavily that last year.

Again, a salute to Richardson, to Lee Hamilton, to Ted Kennedy, to Bob Casey, to Pat Leahy, to other honest public servants who have stood up to the power grab. They all have come to know the Clintons for what they are, and, in endorsing Obama, they show they know a good candidate when they see one. Now, today, there are reports that Jimmy Carter is hinting he's for Obama and that Gov. Corzine of New Jersey may switch to him.


Wednesday, April 02, 2008

North Korea, Gaza, Even Dubai, Evils Persist

Written from Takoradi, Ghana--

No matter that some situations, like in Zimbawe, show signs of improving, there are many that seem intractible.

We hear today that, once again, the duplicitous North Korean regime, which has repeatedly welshed on the commitments it made last year to eliminate its nuclear weapons programs and provide a full accounting of what it developed to the U.S. and other countries in exchange for aid, is threatening the new South Korean president and has expelled many South Koreans there to help its economy. It shows once again that nuclear proliferation is very hard to eliminate when we have people like Kim Il Jong in the world.

Then there was a story in the International Herald Tribune yesteday about the hatred being officially spewed by the Hamas regime in Gaza, comparing Jews to vermin and calling for eradication of Israel. These too are scoundrels, and if they have to be destroyed to stop cease issuing venom, and rocketing Israel, they should be.

Also, today, there's a story out of Washington that the United Arab Emirates, which would like to invest in the U.S., has been taking U.S. exports with military components and reexporting them to Iran and Syria. Repeated efforts to stop this have been resisted. American soldiers are dying in Iraq, because Iran has been sending detonation components originally produced in America to Iraq.

There are rumors, too, that United Emirate interests have bribed the Clintons. We may find out, if Hillary ever releases her tax returns. And my son-in-law tells me that some Arabs are circulating the rumor that Barack Obama is Jewish. The reason is that his first name is similar to Israeli defense minister Ehud Barak's last name. Poor guy. He is damned no matter which way he turns. Yet he bravely carries on.

It is truly a dangerous world, and it is clear we need a new President who will keep America as safe as possible in these treacherous times, and is not afraid to take military action when necessary. On Dec. 26, this blog endorsed Obama for the Democratic nomination and John McCain for the Republican. I will make up my mind finally between these two candidates later, and will be endorsing no others in the fall.

Also, I note that Gov. Bill Richardson has an Op Ed page piece in the Washington Post defending his endorsement of Obama as an example of loyalty to the country. He is responding to the scullilous assaults of James Carville and other Clinton patsies that he sold out Hillary with the endorsement.

Richardson is eminitely qualified to advise the American people on who he thinks would make the best president. We owe him our deepest thanks and highest respects.


Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Hillary Sinks To New Low With Scaife Overture

Written From M.S. Prinsendam, approaching Ghana--

I've received criticism from pro-Clinton readers by comparing Hillary Clinton's qualifications for the Presidency with those of Bess Truman and Mamie Eisenhower. Perhaps, I should be more precise about this. All my experience as a political reporter indicates that Hillary would be another Robert Mugabe, a terror in power. It has taken the poor people of his country 28 years to get rid of Mugabe. Let's hope, if she should prevail, we don't have as hard a time getting rid of Hillary.

Hillary sunk to a new low this week with reports that she had made an overture to the rightwing newspaper publisher, Richard Mellon Scaife, in Pittsburgh, in an apparent attempt to convince Republican voters in the Pennsylvania primary to cross over and vote for her, ostensibly so that John McCain will have an easier opponent than Barack Obama.

It reminds me of City Councilman Arthur Snyder in Los Angeles years ago campaigning in a special state senate election that he would be more conservative than Newton Russell. But the day before the election mail suddenly appeared in Democratic voters' homes claiming he was more liberal than Russell. I plastered this all over in a Page one story the day of the election, and Russell won narrowly -- one of my proudest accomplishments as a reporter. Russell was a conscientious senator. Snyder would have been a horribly unscrupulous one.

I don't like phonies, and Hillary Clinton is as phony as a three-dollar bill. By contrast, Obama and McCain are honorable candidates. A choice between them, and the country can only win.

Aboard the ship, I've been getting in my stateroom early each morning a full electronic copy of the International Herald-Tribune every day for $1.95 a copy. The L.A. Times could lower its price to that amount from $3.95 and probably get many more subscribers on cruise ships.

But the Herald Tribune, owned now wholly by the New York Times, is an excellent newspaper, perhaps the best newspaper on foreign news now publishing.

Today, it reports that the Huffington Post is becoming the first Internet newspaper. In their understanding of the Internet, Adrianna Huffington has it all over L.A. Times publisher David Hiller. What progress are we making in getting rid of him?

I keep thinking on this trip about the loss of such wonderfully-creative and publicly-spirited L.A. Times reporters as Stephanie Simon, Henry Weinstein and Myron Levin. Perhaps some kind of award of gratitude should be made to these and others -- John Balzar, Alan Miller, Robert Welkos and Lee Hotz -- come immediately to mind, so that we can mark our great appreciation for all they brought to the paper. I'd certainly be willing, when I return, to contribute to the organization of such an award, and a ceremony, perhaps a dinner, to bestow it.

Are we going to wallow in the gutter with Sam Zell or David Hiller, or remembers the ones who truly created the L.A. Times?