My 'Cringe Reflex' Was Tripped A Few Weeks Ago

Whether or not Palin actually makes it to Nov. 4, the choice underscores McCain's poor judgment.

If you agree that we are as good as the people we gather around us, he's starting off with one of the biggest mistakes of his career.

But there's a somewhat strong chorus of boos coming from a surprising group of people: conservatives.

-- Kathleen Parker from the National Review urged Palin to bow out, at the end of a
diatribe that revoked Parker's early support of Palin. She refers to the choice and Palin's continued verbal stumblings as triggering her "cringe reflex."

-- George Will, a curmudgeonly journalist and writer I deeply admire, calls out Palin for "
negligible experience."

-- Peggy Noonan and Mike Murphy were
busted with hot mikes in deriding McCain's "narrative" pick. "It's over," Noonan said, among other things.

-- Fareed Zakaria was especially damning today on CNN, where he called the selection "fundamentally irresponsible." He writes a
striking piece for Newsweek that you can't miss.

In addition to the high-profile snub from the always conservative WSJ op-ed page, here's an extensive line-up of other commentators who are
seeing their skin start to crawl.

Is this the countdown to her recusal or the death knell of McCain's candidacy? Or perhaps neither... but that's a "door No. 3" I'm not interested in seeing.


Why Obama, Pt. I: Block Religious Freaks From A Full Takeover

(ATLANTA :: 29 September 2008) - Take a break from the financial disaster we are in for a moment. I learned a scary thing today - one of many that we can't lose sight of when we go to the voting booth.

We are in the midst of an attempted religious hijacking of American politics from pulpits across the country.

We don't need more examples of this than McCain's choice of Palin; she's fired up the conservative base of the party. But
here's a clear one in case you do. Many people have expressed concern about her freakishly conservative religious views that could be a "heartbeat away" from the presidency.

Are we open to that idea? Absolutely NOT.

A group of pastors are going to intentionally violate tax law and endorse McCain - the same candidate who called Jerry Fallwell an "agent of intolerance" and then a few years later embraced him and spoke at his school. (The self-proclaimed "Maverick" is a shape-shifting neo-con cypher that is a shadow of the shadow he used to be back in 2000.)

Still more dangerous is the Alliance Defense Fund (link intentionally omitted), a group that is poised to defend these pastors in court as they attempt to shape the campaign from the pulpit.

So, let me understand: you're going to break the law and then ask us to foot the bill when you are taken to court? This is not civil disobedience - you are BREAKING THE LAW. Equally bad is that you're pushing your religious beliefs in the public sector and our Constitution says it's wrong.

Let your parishioners make up their own minds and stay out of the process. Your job as spiritual adviser and advocate does not make the podium on which you speak a political bully pulpit.

Allow this trail of religion to inject itself and you'll see Roe v. Wade blown up... and our Supreme Court will start looking more like an Evangelical revival than a respected judicial body.

We can see how well we do when we see ourselves as the
chosen ones. Vote Obama and quite literally block this delusional world view from infecting our political system.

(Image courtesy of DailyKos)

# # #


I Wonder If Stockard Is Rethinking Her AIG Voiceover


'Pushing Populist Nonsense' And Getting Busted By A Teammate

"Because you're a pinhead," says Bill O'Reilly, the poster guy for junk journalism, when Neil Cavuto disagreed with him on an issue regarding oil profits.

I believe O'Reilly as a populist about as much as I buy Lou Dobbs as one. Phony.

Reality is somewhere in the middle of this argument below, but someone is at least trying to keep the bully pulpit idiot honest.

To wit:


Remaking The 'World As It Should Be': Obama For President

Barack Obama Logo(ATLANTA :: 14 September 2008) - The nomination of Sarah "Caribou Barbie" Palin was the straw.

I had actually been leaning toward Obama for some time now, even through the primaries. And I'll always go to the polls and vote... but not publicly on my blog say anything about a particular candidate, or endorse - to at least maintain a modicum of integrity and neutrality as a journalist.

Two words: fuck that.

My political reporting for the MSM pretty much began and ended with, anyway.

From this point forward, you'll see and hear many posts on about why Obama is the better choice than
McCain-Spears, and why we need to bring light to the fundamental (pun intended) differences between our choices this year.

It's this sound byte that got me:


Just as I've done with this post, don't devolve your vote or sell it short as de facto "buying into" or "endorsing" a person as a phenomenon. Rather, see it as an opportunity to appoint someone to a lofty, unthinkable position in which we will drive him to be the best he can be - without ever letting up, no matter what your political persuasions are.

The side of the people should be the side of the president, and the reverse is true. For too long it has been precisely the opposite.


We live in a country that has been hijacked by corporations, fringe groups and crusaders; we are promised election reform, and always vow to change it, yet it never happens; our economy is in the crapper due DIRECTLY to perverted, GOP-led ostrich financial principals; we are on the cusp of some of the most important Supreme Court nominations of our time, perhaps ever; we have states that are teetering as full-on toss-ups with every single vote mattering; and we have been overrun by liars and their surrogates who try to convince us that Iraq a) had something to do with 9/11 and b) that our fight there somehow threatens Americans' daily lives.

That's right, I said liars. In this sick, warped world where up is down, day is night and blue is red.

Palin is George W. Bush in a miniskirt, and you should be scared. Be VERY afraid that this person, regardless of gender, has the ear of a potential president.

Watch my blog for a three-part series on why Obama is the better choice than McCain, and I've added a link to his Web site at the top of my blog. It'll be there until Nov. 5.

Meantime, get educated, be as active as you can and tell your friends. If you haven't already, of course, which I'm sure you have. Talk with your friends and family and make sure your decision is the best it can be.

As I was finishing this post, "
The Man Who Waited" came up on TV as an animated short. An amazing parallel. If you have not seen it, do it as soon as you can. The film is a stirring existential interpretation of the consequences of waiting for the truth.

As always, peace...


Let's Kick Off September With A F$##$%ing Reality Check

Double talk, shit shoveling and lies.

But don't take it from me. Take a peek at Jon Stewart's dumbass round-up.

"Hold on lassie. It gets bumpy from here."


Would Dr. King Have Gone To Starbucks? I'll Have A Venti Elitist

Portrayal Of Obama As Elitist Hailed As Step Forward For African Americans

Confessions Of An Atlanta-based SUV Driver, Part II

(CHARLOTTESVILLE :: 11 August 2008) The color may have changed quite dramatically since my original post on the subject, but the crisis of conscience remains the same.

So goes my driving life with the as-yet-unnamed, gently used 2005 BMW X3 - a capable if bland SUV that gets me to my point B pretty nicely, albeit a bit more wasteful on gas than I'd like.

But then, on a steamy summer day in Atlanta when I was off to the recycling center at Dekalb Farmer's Market, I realized the true spirit of being "green" (vs. baby-spew orange) is not defined by MPG alone. It's measured in how and what you do with your footprint.

I live within a half-mile of where I work. I walk there and other places. I combine errands to reduce emissions. I walk to my workouts. I try and drive evenly so as to not waste gas (that last one being extremely difficult in the third-world war zone driving scene that is Atlanta). I carpool. I have stopped driving to the airport altogether.

There's something else: I miss my stick shift. Big time. But the trade-off there, if there could be one, is that I know
Gracie's new owner - and he's taking good care of her down in Savannah. He's promised me pictures of her, and when he sends them, I'll do a post about it. It's a cool story.

I knew it was just a matter of time before someone snatched up Gracie from the dealership.

Back to being green. I continue to clamor for an SUV in the nice-ish luxury category that has not just low emissions - try ZERO. I anticipate that day because I'll be first in line. We need that. To be kind to the planet, to be off our addition to oil (both foreign and domestic) and to be the fabulous country we used to be. Maybe one of those snazzy new diesel engines would do the trick, too. I'm considering a 2009 X3 European delivery with a standard transmission - juice boxes be damned.

So, while you're considering the hybrid "badge of honor," or if you think being green is some sort of status symbol you wear for showmanship, think again. It's in the total picture of the person that really and truly makes a tree hugger.

Alas, I was counting on
Basil as my "in" for Halloween, but it wasn't mean to be - at least not in this lifetime. He's now making another driver in metro Atlanta think hard about mileage... and about color.


Stolen Effexor Slogan Effectively Ends Ineffectual Affect Of The GOP

See more Adam "Ghost Panther" McKay videos at Funny or Die

Screw Grandpa Munster... Give Paris Equal Time

See more funny videos at Funny or Die

Dana Perino, You're On Notice: The Drone Does A Better Job

Pentagon's Unmanned Spokesdrone Completes First Press Conference Mission

McCain Should Have Considered An Ashley Simpson Exit

The befuddled among us... could there be a more tragic answer to a simple, seemingly non-toxic question?

Look up "Deer in Headlights" in the dictionary... there he'll be.


Mike Meehan Is A Complete And Utter Nut Job. That's All.

You've got to see this... Florida businessman Mike Meehan has invoked 9/11 in his plea to Floridians (and now the nation):

Please don't vote for a Democrat."

The problem? He used a picture of the twin towers burning to make that retarded plea.

I will not re-post that picture, but you should
click through to see it -- just so you can see what our lovely free-speech rights allow people to say sometimes.

Meehan should go back to picking his banjo and get out of politics. Just ask blogger
Stupid Evil Bastard.

Don't Let The Cuts Fool You. True Journalists Need True Training

The below NBC News report talks about the deep cuts in the newspaper business.

And my alma mater thinks that, since reporting and writing is moving online, graduate schools must train journalists as thoughtless, shallow, promotional whores instead of real reporters.

Well, don't let the deep newspaper attrition fool you: we need good training more than ever. If we want to find the next Frank Rich, the only way to do that is to keep training journalists the old fashioned way - and then fold them in with new media.

In other words, if we don't apply tried-and-true standards to our bold new medium, we'll just become big shipping carriers of information without the depth we so desperately need in a country with a free press.


Jill Hazelbaker Is A Biased, Partisan Hack. Period.

McCain's spokeswoman is nice to look at, articulate, pedigreed, whatever.

But it's her comments about Gen. Wesley Clark that have caused Twirl Factor 10 in the Pollock household this morning.

Will someone please tell me when Clark joined the Obama campaign? Oh that's right... NEVER. Clark's opinion that getting shot down in open warfare doesn't qualify someone to be commander in chief has been contorted by Hazelbaker. Partial clip from RedLasso:

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Quoting directly from American Morning: "This is not about Wesley Clark, this is about Barrack Obama. Let's drop the pretense that Barrack Obama is going to raise the dialogue and elevate the debate in this election. If Barrack Obama really wanted to do that, he would get Wesley Clark off the airwaves attacking John McCain's long record of and legacy of service to the American people."

Even though John Roberts meekly tried to explain to this hack that Clark wasn't impugning McCain's integrity, she replied (this portion is not in the clip because the interview rolled over the top of the hour):

"John, let's be clear, this is not about Wesley Clark, this is about Barrack Obama. He talks about changing this country and yet his surrogates are attacking John McCain on a daily basis. This is a pattern of going at John McCain's strength which is his military service and his long legacy of leadership in this country. And if Barrack Obama wants to really let us believe that there is truth behind his words he would stop his surrogates from attacking John McCain."

So let's
US be clear: Gen. Clark is not an Obama spokesman. He is on his own. He speaks from his own experience. He may be vying for a VP spot, but Obama has no control over what he says, nor should he try to exert any. This is a concerted attempt by the McCain campaign to redirect and spin political gold out of a nothing quote, a nothing event -- on behalf of a candidate that looks desperate to surf a false tide of negativity against his opponent.

Most of all, I wish Roberts would have reiterated the fact that Clark is not -- despite the frequent use of this pejorative word -- a "surrogate" of Obama's campaign.

Hey Jill, dude: stick to the issues. Our country is in the crapper and we need to focus on how to move forward.


Possible Veep? Good Speaker, Good Chemistry. Could Happen

Kathleen Sebelius endorses Barrack Obama... and makes a good case for herself as VP.

This speech was back in January, but it underscores the depth of talent from which he can draw.

What do you think?


While 'Strapped For People Who Want To Stay In,' Out On His Ear

This is a particularly good group of "Bushed" vignettes... detailing the numerous fill-in-the-blank-gates from the current administration.

Forget about earning medals and serving honorably -- forget about the understanding people serving with him -- another sergeant has been discharged for being gay. So...

Pay close attention to No. 2, and how perfectly Keith captures the idiocy of "Dont Ask Don't Tell." The other two are great as well.


'Lead Or Leave': Thomas Friedman Nails Bush's Energy Failure

In today's Times, Thomas Friedman deserves some sort of medal.

His op-ed, in the plainest terms yet, details why our sorry president deserves a failing grade in energy policy.

I was reporting and writing for when Bush took office - and when Cheney was crafting energy policy with a board that consisted of a who's who in Corporate Oil.

Since that time,
his failure to act has been widely reported by MSM and blogs, Web sites, focus groups - you name it. The corporatization of energy policy had begun.

Today, Bush is heckling Congress that if they don't act before recess, they've got the blood of $4 per gallon gas on their hands without domestic drilling. Without a formal plan for alternative energy, he's just trying to make his fat-cat buddies even fatter than they were before.

Bush is incompetent. He's an elitist scumbag who thinks he's God's gift (literally, figuratively...), which, as evidenced by the below video, is definitely not true.

It's sad that impeachment is summarily off the table basically because we're so close to him leaving. Just on energy policy alone, his grade is "F".

Of course that's just one reason for our fatigue... Embodied brilliantly by Skeeter and Jimmy Bob, watching from the sidelines, who
could give a rat's ass about Bush's arrival:


The Best Of Men... Are Tenacious And Youthful In One Package

Historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, appearing on the tribute "Meet The Press" episode celebrating Tim Russert (1950-2008), honored the longtime host today with a quote from Eleanor Roosevelt:

"Remember, the nicest men in the world are those who always keep something of the little boy in them."

True for all of us. That show,
the longest running in TV history, will have enormous shoes to fill.

Who's going to operate the whiteboard this November? Sad

David Gregory is a great choice to replace Russert, even though it is way too early to be thinking about that.

After all, someone could only succeed him -- he was irreplaceable... especially during this unprecedented and historic political year.


Confused About The Fist Bump? Take This Brief Tutorial


Our 'Difficult Days Ahead' Include Sacrifice And... Prosperity

I wanted to remind myself of something tough but true today. Here's what I landed on.


What Is A (small c, small l) 'civil libertarian'?

Many of you have asked me what this means in my "about me" section recently... well, here's your answer.

Also, I've put a permanent link in the sidebar for the future. Being a civil libertarian indicates a political thought process rather than a specific party loyalty.

In a nutshell, this country was founded on freedoms, with an "s" - and our founding fathers' intent should never be interpreted as a tool of restriction, prejudice, hatred, excessive intrusion or any other violation that keeps America from the greatness it once knew.

For the past seven years, "power to the people" has been overtly, blatantly, construed and twisted into "
power to the executive branch." And that royally sucks. I hope we're on our way to changing that.

Freedom is also NOT something we can "
spread" or impose on other people. It's not a tool, it's a privilege. We should treat it as such. Personal freedoms, our civil liberties, are both a collective and a personal obligation. And that's why it's so important to me to protect them... so long as we use them wisely.

Remember: live consciously, be responsible and achieve, think freely and love regularly. That makes our freedom actually mean something.
- WP


Rock Star? Maybe. But He's Striking The Right Chords Here

In accepting last night, Obama spoke about many high hopes he has for this country... one of them is that we will no longer use religion as a wedge that divides us.

Is this our time?

One more thing before the clip... Can we talk to Michelle Obama about that purple dress? Not feelin' it. At all. Happy


Fran Townsend Is A Partisan, Biased Hack. That's All

(ATLANTA - 28 May 2008) :: I vomited in my mouth slightly when I learned that CNN hired Fran Townsend as a commentator.

Why? Because she's
a clueless hack with very little ability to see past party loyalty. She's a Yes Girl, a presidential suck-up, and one of the many dozens of poor choices that Bush has made in his two terms. I trust her about as much as I trusted Christie Todd Whitman to craft energy policy - or to analyze global-warming causes after her tenure ended.

Consider this C-Span clip, in which Townsend says if Osama had an actual street address we'd have already nabbed him:

There are countless other examples of her mealy-mouthed rendition of facts and fiction. Today, with
Scott McClennan's book out, she was given full reign on CNN this afternoon to respond to claims that the president knowingly misled the public with pre-war Iraq propoganda. It was twirl-factor 10 in the Pollock household.

Her sour grapes were disgusting to watch, even on a good day. With CNN's Brianna Keilar putting up softball questions to Townsend with soft-voiced ease, the interview turned out to be free White House rebuttal time.

Disgusting. I don't care if McClellan's book is a Peter Pan fairy tale spun from magic gold, let's take it to people who are trying to save their own bacon on international TV, and never give them a free pass like that again.
- WP

The Myth (And Fact) Of Fingerprints

(ATLANTA - original date: 27 May 2008 | updated on 4 May 2011) :: In many ways, we *are the people around us.

We are an amalgam of personalities, legacies, love, hatred, ambivalence, random acts of all kinds - and yet we wake up some days thinking the entire world tilts on our axis; that everyone is against us and the sky is falling. And if you look just a little bit closer, you’ll see that’s a bunch of hooey.

Why does it matter? In the end, come judgment day - if you subscribe to such an idea - aren’t we all just gonna be part of the earth, anyway? I mean, why am I yammering on about people, the friends and family, new and old, unseen and known, who've taken the time to read, to listen, to love? Does my train of thought actually have a caboose?

Maybe. This is about knowing where love lies... about where it breathes, how we contribute to its collective, where it compounds itself and how, and when it's likely to happen again. When we turn the right stones, or seek the right fortune, there it will be. And that's for those of us lucky enough to have found love more than once, in more than one person; who are brave enough to risk the fool after getting the shaft and going great guns to find it again.

Truthfully, we're all faced with many great challenges over the term of our lifetimes. Our resiliency during these periods often help shape the way we cherish ourselves, and equally important, each other.

Jimmy Roberts, sports reporter for NBC and commenting on Andre Agassi some time ago, shared this spontaneous, eloquent gem about a person's unspoken impact:

"An old friend of mine used to say that there are people in this lifetime who leave footprints. In other words, there are these people, and we all know them, who have an impact. They aren’t necessarily the best at what they do; they might not always behave the way we wish they might, but they make an impact on all of us."

This thought is true for everyone - not just those like Andre, whom we might put on a pedestal. Consider Chris "Crusty" Haddle's fight against
mucinous adenocarcinoma, which caused a dull ache he detected in his lower abdomen that felt like simple appendicitis, but turned out to be stage-two cancer that required radical surgery. He'll need six months of chemotherapy to make sure nothing has spread.

Also consider Gene Rector, who was officially diagnosed today with lymphoma, and who will start with his doctor on a treatment course that will likely include chemo *and* radiation since it has spread to his spleen.

So what's or who is at work here? None of us can point to one thing. But the remaining residue - both in emotional and metaphysical terms - is that we should always know the fingerprints that our friends, family, neighbors, strangers on the street, anyone, leave on us. They contribute to your own. They are the cherished gas in our engine, the great person we've not yet met, the random person in public with whom you've just connected somehow... on a road that would be much more boring and barren without them.

So, run to the windows, rush to the phone... tell your mother, your friend, even someone you're unsure about. Tell them their impact. Crusty and Gene have both in their own ways changed me for the better, and for that I'll always be grateful.

Being good to each other, even when it might step on your own purpose or agenda, is tantamount to a peaceful coexistence. Think about it. If we use that mission in everything we do - from the politicians we choose down to the type of milk we buy - we'll see a spontaneously different world around us.

Because someday, somehow... someone will see your "footprints" in the sand, your fingerprints on something great, and admire the decisions you made.
- WP

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The Comments Will Make Your Blood Boil - Add Yours!

Take a look at this video on YouTube and make sure to add your comments... This vid is the most discussed on my YouTube channel, and I'm hoping it'll be even more. Why?

I've been having this hideous exchange with a Bible chucker and it's clearly time for someone else to weigh in.

Background: Thom and I took to the streets during Pride last year and gave the protestors more than just a little bit of hell. We stumbled upon and interviewed Rev. Paul as he stood outside of Piedmont Park welcoming people in. He was the lone person amongst about 25 protestors carrying hideous signs.

Make sure to
add your comments to the YouTube page, and in the meantime, here's the short video. (The video was picked up by Rev. Paul's congregation and played at First MCC the following Sunday.)


Putting The 'Ick' In 'Maverick'

The math, and the calendar, are hideous.


Update On 'Quotegate'

Eric Zorn has closed the book on "Quotegate," which I'm super bummed about because he's been tenaciously digging the dirt and exposing our school for the shitstorm they have caused. I wrote a nasty-gram comment in support of his editorial.

I think the only way to stand up to this crap is to do what comes naturally to us Medillians... report and write.

More soon...

The Ivory Tower Under Attack!


The Medill School Of Journalism: The 'Craftsmen' Cometh

(BOSTON - 14 March 2008) As I make my way to the Nieman Conference on Narrative Journalism, hosted in Boston this weekend, my shoulders are slouched at the state of affairs at my beloved Medill School of Journalism. At stake? The journalism construct as we know it.

The one and only reason I'm even attending this Harvard-sponsored event - full of fire-in-the-eyes writers who crave the next best story, the next best assignment, the next impact phrase that might change the world - is due to my time at Medill. I picked it up off the listserv, made my reservations, and here I am.

Since graduation, I have worn the alumni badge with pride, interviewing potential students in Atlanta, giving annually to both Medill and NU, working with fellow alumni in various capacities, returning to Evanston to see my mentors and instructors - even considering returning one day long in the future as a professor.

Those days are over. At least temporarily. With Dean Lavine's sordid curriculum change, not to mention "Quotegate," his falsified-sourcing scandal that is still unfolding as of this writing, I am ashamed of a school that plopped me square in the center of a stratosphere-level talent pool, ready to take on the world.

...and it's a talent pool from the Medill School of Journalism. One more time, THE MEDILL SCHOOL OF JOURNALISM.

Yes, that's right. I'm breaking it down to repetitive, grade-school,
Bush-level communication for a reason: Northwestern University is sitting back and watching the implosion of one of the most respected *journalism* institutions in the country, the world for that matter, and there are many of us in the alumni ranks who just cant stand to listen to the noise anymore. (Some have taken matters in their own hands; I'll just do a blog post.)

The road to any meaningful catharsis is always long... but allow me to take a moment and catalog some of the comments we're picking up from the Medill Listserv, articles and blogs around the country, that may help soothe the pain. They are truly extraordinary. To wit:

The "Mush Mouth" statement. Andrew Bossone (MSJ '05) has been all over this story, pointing out recently how NU president Bienen is lamely futzing his way through this entire ordeal. He cites the piece entitled "Paging President Bienen," Chicago Tribune, 8 March 2008. "I heard from a reliable source that NU President Bienen and Provost Linzer will meet with the faculty," Bossone wrote yesterday. "Apparently the page is being answered." (UPDATE: Andrew just wrote me and said the meeting's message was "put up, shut up or get out" (I'm summarizing) to the faculty. More of the same; see my comment below about the Bush administration.)

"Journalism" May Fade Away? Eric Zorn writes for the Chicago Tribune about how the name, focus and curriculum switches have been the conspicuous symptoms of a institution with a case of walking pneumonia. "They’ve shunned an open search for the truth in a controversy swirling around Medill Dean John Lavine, brazenly failed to take the basic steps that a rookie reporter would take to investigate the allegation that Lavine made up quotes in an article he published and cloaked their excuses for Lavine in dark innuendo." Zorn has compiled an amazing "Webliography" of Quotegate, available here.

The defiant, "sure"-enough dean. Dean Lavine addressed students earlier this week and once again denied fabricating quotes for a story in Medill magazine - quotes from an unnamed source that strangely echoed Lavine's own icky-everyman vernacular. The assertion that Quotegate has sprung legs because of faculty and alumni venom over his curriculum changes is partially true - you can't run an institution like Medill without holding yourself to the same standards you ask of your students. Neither can you pursue an unpopular new direction given said circumstances, especially when said Dean is attempting to cram said direction down people's throats. No thanks.

A science that "makes craftsmen." Of all the voluminous posts on the subject, Jenny Gavacs (BSJ '00) was most eloquent. In a time when our very existence as journalists is called into question on a daily basis, she argues that now is not the time for Lavine to abandon our true self-idenfication. "The science of writing naturally has slightly different rules than biochemistry, but things like AP Style, the correct spelling of names, and quote attribution are just as fundamental to us as organic compounds are in Tech," she writes. "The problem is that in biochemistry, if something goes wrong, there are explosions or disintegration that objectively announce failure. In journalism, you may fabricate entire articles for The York Times but still have a job. Sometimes journalists only know that their science is corrupted when someone else points to the standards that have fallen.

"Journalism is a social science, like psychology," she continues. "You can't control everything in a situation, but you can control three or four key variables that will yield solid results. That's why Medill exists: To teach us to be rigorous, so we can uncover truth. There used to be a debate over whether a journalism degree was necessary - after all, people without journalism training have always gotten published. But Northwestern answered that challenge by showing that there is a difference between writing and writing well.
Eric Zorn is a writer; it takes a Woodward and Bernstein, or a McPhee, or a Talese, or a Capote to be a craftsman. Medill was meant to make craftsmen."

Like Jenny, I don't disagree with all of Lavine's ideas. But it's the way in which change has been sought, and the disregard for the craft and institution; and subsequent, convoluted denials and false bravado within Quotegate, that have turned me rotten-milk sour on what Lavine is doing.

This situation is eerily similar to how I perceive the Bush Administration... mistakes that beget more ego-fueled mistakes, and the flippant disregard in their wake; changing the storied heart of a school because blogs are the new newspaper (does Lavine even subscribe to a single RSS feed?); shifting the sails because the wind is changing and yet disregarding the rudder to steer the ship. It's all bollocks. Give him the boot and do it soon.

Footnotes to a shadow Medill:

- The popular networking site LinkedIn does not provide Medill as one of NU's official schools.
- Medill has no official information about Kappa Tau Alpha on its Web site or materials, despite having awarded its students that honor. We should have a chapter manager among our ranks. We don't.
- The Medill site also has done away with its "Alumni Voices" Web section, taking away a vibrant, creative outlet for many of us who want to rant about something.
- Our site now looks like a third-rate cable company's landing page, and neither speaks to or draws inspiration from the legacy that Joseph Medill articulated. Not even close.

If NU's president (or board or someone) does not relieve Lavine, I will permanently cease all gifts, stop my interviewing and just plain give up. Our reputation has been trashed and we're all sick of the distraction. Let's restore and keep and polish what makes us great:

Much like our country. A return to greatness awaits.
- WP


Bizarre, Twilight-zone Moment Of The Week: Geraldine Ferraro

In choosing our next president, are we in the business of ego, or of hope? Of true credentials or gender- and race-based double-standards?

You are about to watch the combative, partial meltdown of a social and political trailblazer who remains enraptured by her own comments - to the point of sticking by the conceptual argument that
Obama is "lucky" to be in the position he's in. Not because he's qualified, not because he brings new energy to the equation... because he's black.

This is exactly the type of misplaced candidate loyalty that is allowing the new direction of our country to slip away.
Ferraro is diminishing herself in the same breath, as if Mondale only chose her as his running mate to make a statement - not for the content of her character.


'Sleepwalking Into The Abyss': The Media Have Failed On Iraq has a spot-on piece today about the five-year anniversary of the Iraq conflict... how the media has not only blown coverage of this blowhard and foolish war, but enabled it from the beginning.

Even as recently as our much-ballyhooed escalation, we in the media are reluctant to speak ill.

Consider this tight passage by Salon writer Greg Mitchell:

"In early 2007, with the announcement of the "surge" of troops in Iraq, TV commentators punted at the most crucial moment since the invasion of Iraq -- and not a single major newspaper came out against the escalation until after it was announced. They were all sleepwalking into the abyss. Even if the "surge" proved relatively successful, it would guarantee at least several more years of heavy U.S. presence in Iraq, and the deaths of thousands of more Americans."

I've loaded the full story to my Facebook profile, but you'll need to log in to read it. Try getting here, too.

Photo/graphic courtesy of Photo/Stephen Jaffe


Remember... Words Can Kill

I am reluctantly posting this rant because it's important to remember the type of people out there who think they are doing God's work by hating those around them.

This brilliant oratory was brought to light by the brave people at
VictoryFund, so make sure to check them out.

At the risk of giving this lady more of a platform than she deserves, it's seems important to expose people like this and risk undue elevation. It's words like hers that get people beaten up and killed, despite her right to say them.

So... if you have the stomach for it, take a look below, and reply to some of the posters.


Question Patriotism By Deeds, Not Missing Jewelry


'We Listened As His Soul Cracked': Abuses At Abu Ghraib

Just watched the documentary "Ghosts of Abu Ghraib." Very important watching, if you haven't seen it already.

The film shines a magnifying glass on our unfathomable disregard for human rights in Iraq. Even if you think you know what happened, see this movie and your mind will be changed.

Whatever you believe before, during or after we invaded Iraq, no one should be subjected to treatment like this. Take a look at the director clip here:

"We listened as his soul cracked" is a direct quote from one of the detainees, whose father was abused, tortured and left to die. His description of these actions and egregious disregard for human life will chill you to the bone.

Many officers involves in this scandal, even those on its periphery, were faced with a choicepoint -- either accept orders that seemingly came from (or were at least condoned by) the top, or speak out against them. Those who did the latter suffered great legal, personal and professional consequences.

Question: after viewing this movie, do you still think Germany was wrong in labeling and charging Rumsfeld as a war criminal? What about those responsible for hiring him?

With the election coming, make sure to keep this in mind -- that our government, at every level, failed us.

One last note: This film unfortunately connects the Iraq choice-conflict with 9/11... and the only reason this connection holds up is to create greater understanding about why our soldiers were driven to this level of aggression.

The saddest part is that the "God told me to do it" war actually ended up creating unbelievably difficult reality-creation choices for people who never should have been in the situation in the first place.

Let's own the abuses to prisoners as well as acknowledge those who stood up to it.

Anchor Blues: Sour Grapes, Keith O., And A Huge Waste Of Time

Fox & Friends dedicated nearly five airtime minutes misquoting Keith Olbermann. Have a look below (if you can stomach it), and also, make sure to check out the accurate accounting at Media Bistro.

"Anchor Blues" (full editorial below) is a series I started some time ago that looks at the amount of energy that news organizations waste yelling at each other.

To borrow the erudite words of Bill Maher, New Rule: Anchors can no longer be the news.

Let’s use one of the more current commissions of media heresy as our baseline. Would everyone reading this please raise your hand if you know the plural of the noun, “ho”?

Is “ho” simply singular and plural, like “elk,” or would it follow with “es” at the end? Hmmm… we’ll just go with “hos,” without the “e” and no apostrophe, lest we imply possession of a gardening implement. Or we might ask Santa Claus, since he often uses that word more than once at a time; or Hostess, maker of Ho Hos, the trans-fat lard bombs cloaked in a chocolaty veneer, which (I’m told) often comes at least two to an artery-clogging package.

Sadly, our distinguished media have successfully solved “ho” in the plural. Paula Zahn was one of them, thrusting “hos” Out in the Open when she led a panel deconstruction of Don Imus’ hideously nonsensical, random and offensive “nappy headed hos” phrase – part of his well-publicized rant about the Rutgers Women’s basketball team. Both the CNN crawl and Zahn’s program slug that night used the word “hos” in the plural; I almost did a double take because I had never seen that word on a screen before. I hope I never do again.

Like a rat gnawing at a piece of stale cheese (but without the flavor), a broader, related issue has been eating at me for months: Why is it, in this great business of ours, that we as journalists, commentators, producers and anchors have stepped so solidly in front of the news we’re supposed to be covering? Specifically, stratosphere-salaried anchors, including hosts of all stripes – radio, primary broadcast, cable-TV screamers, satellite, morning show personalities, reporters – are all consistently upstaging their content.

NBC receiving the murderous manifesto is an ironic example of how, inadvertently or otherwise, we sometimes become what we’re reporting. More on the Virginia Tech nightmare, and NBC’s coverage of it, in a moment.

The fact is, Don Imus has been pushing envelopes and buttons for 30 years… and this random sound byte is in keeping with his standard histrionics. But I’ve noticed enough drama in other media circles in the past six months that I think it begs a few questions. First, are we simply serving at the pleasure of personality? That is to say, are we making that quality in people too important? Are we building them up just so we can break them down when we’re done? Further, is this all a bottom-line, zero-sum ratings game we’re in – where the work of good, solid journalists are being eclipsed and overshadowed by, well, assholes?

Consider these recent episodes, where news – even that which attempts to entertain us – was far beside the point:

• Bill O’Reilly and Geraldo Rivera – both gunning hard for title of Biggest On-air Tool – kept the spit cleaners busy recently when they got into verbal fisticuffs that might as well have been a WWF title bout. (I thought they were going to punch each other out.) Question: did they cover the topic of an illegal-immigrant crime, as was the platform, or was it a shouting match with fancy Fox News stagelights that, making matters considerably worse, elbowed out real news coverage on other channels that day? It was a train wreck in the highest order, but yet we can’t stop watching. Views on YouTube had eclipsed the 500,000 mark as of this writing.

• With ABC’s World News gaining on NBC Nightly News, executive producer John Reiss was reportedly axed in favor of Alexandra Wallace (one of only a handful of women to serve in that role, on any network) – despite the fact that Brian Williams had, during Reiss’ tenure, continued to set the standard (of the Peter Jennings ilk) for elegant, insightful, sensitive and thoughtful journalism. This is the journalistic equivalent of a melodramatic overreaction. Without Williams’ journalistic leadership in the past 18 months – ala Anderson Cooper – New Orleans, for example, would be even more of a forgotten city. We wouldn’t be asking the right questions about Alberto Gonzales or our invasion of Iraq or the installation of Sam Fox, a recess appointee who Bush transformed from a GOP donor to ambassador to Belgium. Reiss helped power Williams and “Nightly” to multiple award victories, yet he still was apparently shown the door.

• “Some say” Katie Couric’s interview with John and Elizabeth Edwards was a smiling softball snugglefest; “others say” her style descended into a sad example of style over substance. Oh and by the by, Elizabeth Edwards’ cancer returned, right? Viewers, me included, took away Couric’s approach more than they did the newsworthiness of the Edwards’ decision to continue campaigning in a crowded 2008 election field. Aside from this misfire interview, Couric’s publicized network switch, fashion choices, chatty style and plunging ratings have, in general, far eclipsed the competent work of a field reporter like Lara Logan in Iraq – work that Couric is supposed to be shining a light on. Again, we’re missing the point.

• When I caught part of Rosie’s “View” debut last September I said to myself, “oh Jeez, Babs ain’t gonna have any of this.” By “Babs” I mean, of course, Barbara Walters, and by “this” I mean the match-and-gasoline bravado that is O’Donnell’s new anti-queen-of-nice personae. Her daily verbal smackdown on “The View” eventually spawned “Rosie vs. The Donald,” that icky mud-slinging bonanza that neither person really won and we all were subjected to. I want to see neither the real combover nor Rosie’s interpretation of it ever again. Still, “View” ratings shot up 60% in the early term of Rosie’s addition, and have been up steadily since, as she has regularly spouted off wild conspiracy theories and sparred with co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck.

This is just the tip of the media-sideshow iceberg: When you factor in NBC’s reluctant Scooter Libby witness and cozy-source example Tim Russert; Oprah’s holier-than-thou pushing the vast “riches” of The Secret; the exhausting audacity of Headline News’ Nancy Grace (sued for wrongful death by the family of a Florida woman she aggressively interviewed last year); and the unnecessary yet all too public “reassignment” of CNN American Morning’s Miles O’Brien and Soledad O’Brien (a team that gave us the only consistent pace, personality and sophistication of our current slew of morning shows) – anchors have more and more been the stories than reported them. It’s time for us to make a mammoth shift in our priorities, and perhaps with the Imus firing we can put people like Coulter, Limbaugh, Beck and O’Reilly on notice: is it not “mission accomplished” when you are the news.

Meanwhile, there are people who are doing yeoman’s work through this ongoing malaise. Keith Olbermann, for lively and confident news judgment that shapes MSNBC’s “Countdown”; CNN’s Kyra Phillips for mining unusual, heartfelt stories out of the Iraq quagmire; a humble Diane Sawyer serving as de facto ambassador to North Korea during her tightly controlled swing through the country; and the aforementioned Miles O’Brien, who has been a joy as the geek go-to guy for science, aviation and aeronautical issues… and who almost certainly has a copy of “October Sky” in his DVD library. I’ll miss waking up with him at 6 a.m.

With questions now being raised about NBC’s decision to air footage from Virginia Tech shooter Cho Seung-Hui, the media have opened yet another chapter in their own story. And I say, we’re in quite likely the most pointed example of, “Don’t shoot the messenger.” Why? As much sympathy and wished-healing I hold for the students at Virginia Tech, its alumni and the people of Blacksburg, Virginia, I believe history will look at NBC’s decision as one of measured conscience – the news-judgment process working in its most compassionate, careful and thoughtful way. As the only news organization that received messages from Cho, a clearly disturbed and tortured madman, I believe they acted on a journalistic obligation to know more about what drove him to such a horrific act. And any other news organization criticizing that move – you know who you are – sounds like sour grapes to me. The only people who have any standing to criticize are the victims’ families.

The grieving families are a living, breathing example of why we should always search for and find the story’s emotional thread and never discount its power in helping you come to a natural conclusion. I watched a lot of NBC’s coverage and I believe they did just that.

For Medill’s part, it is more critical than ever to know what your personal ethics are as a journalist as you enter this nutty business. Do not be the news, be the impartial gifter of it. If you go to the producer side of things, don’t hang your anchors out to dry because you think your closest competitor is gaining on you. Stand in your integrity. As a journalist working in a few different areas, that’s my mission, and it always will be, and it should be for all of us. Your self-defined purpose matters, and your audience cares.

Personally, I wish the Rutgers team had decided against making statements like “we were stripped of this moment” and claiming that Imus had “stolen a moment of pure grace.” As right as it might feel to express their hurt in this way, the fact is that they are giving too much power to a person who never had it, or deserved it, to begin with, despite his attempts to the contrary. I’m glad they accepted his apology; I have my own opinions about forgiveness – how to use it, when it’s appropriate, how it can change people for the better – but those statements gave away power when nobody, especially that power’s creators, should relinquish it. Nothing, nobody, will take away their Cinderella rise to the finals or the example they have set for women who will most certainly follow in their footsteps.

As such, we can say the same for assigning too much power (or in the case of Miles & Soledad, too little respect) to the anchor desk and to our media personalities as a whole. I for one would like us to bring fundamental change in this area – for the betterment of our business, and also so I can wake up at 6 a.m. with a smile on my face.

Now, I’m going back to eating the rest of my Ho Hos.

# # #

Our 'Est' Culture: How Should We Actually Measure Success?

On the way home from Virginia I read a piece in Time ("Hold The Cheers," 13 Dec. 2007) about the troop surge in Iraq. I wanted help in how to go for deeper understanding of how we're actually doing there - and not the processed nuggets of information we are fed by the national media.

This print article describes a much different yardstick for success than the Bush administration would have us use, and I thought it important to put it out there: while fewer combat deaths are of course desirable, circumstances on the ground make the calm there tenuous at best. Without a viable political structure, we can talk success all we want; you might want to think twice before you swallow the bullshit that the bragging administration spokespeople put out there.

Cut to this afternoon, when I caught The Situation Room reporting by Barbara Starr, which was, in my view, a gravely limited evaluation of what's going on over there. CNN's own sister magazine is reporting the whole story, but Starr's report - and the ensuing tag by Wolf - focused mainly on troop deaths. So, I fired off the following e-mail:

"To the Sit Room producers: Barbara Starr's reporting about combat-troop deaths was unbalanced and missing important pieces of how the country is still divided down religious and ethnic lines -- which, in *combination* with the so-called "surge," has produced lower fatalities.Does it actually matter that we've only lost 20 troops this month when 2.5 million Iraqis have been driven from their own country, and the ones who are there don't feel safe? This is YOUR reporting in Time, but it is apparently lost on CNN.In future reporting, please read articles like this one:,9171,1694441,00.html

In it, Bobby Ghosh reports about the four elements that temper, and at worst, make irrelevant, any improvements in conditions there.I am SICK and tired of having CNN and other news outlets serve as an "EST" mouthpiece for the Bush administration ("fifth least", "safest month", "quietest week"). The time for that has come and gone now after pounding the drumbeat for war in the winter months of 2002.You are in effect doing their bragging for them -- you know as well as I do that they do that just fine without Barbara Starr's help.So... go back to the drawing board and pull these other threads into your reporting about combat deaths. otherwise, it's hollow, incomplete... and wrong."

All I'm urging you to do is not fall prey to flat, one-dimensional accounts of progress. And don't settle for a surface understanding (succumbing to highly palatable, simplified "Est" language) when something more meaningful is there when you dig deeper.

On Christmas Day, A Lesson In Getting Along In Georgia

Every once in a while we are shown a reminder of how great we are as a people - as champions of goodwill, togetherness and, eventually, prosperity for young people. The International Community School is one such example, joining refugees from some 40 countries with other families in Decatur, Ga., for a unique and enriching learning environment in Stone Mountain, Ga.

The school's story,
told today in The New York Times, shows that our best learning begins with the environment and tone we set for our young people and their instructors -- not with quotas and false, pressure-filled benchmarks. The school's "experimental" status, says the NYT, means it is

"more at risk of closing if its students fail to make adequate yearly progress, the standard by which the national education law judges public schools."

In this case, "No Child Left Behind" can actually mean "No child left out."

Take a minute and click through to the NYT article and soak up this unique example of learning, compassion and inclusion.

Merry Christmas and Happy Happy to all today.

Alert The Media: I'm Officially Switching Allegiance To NBC News

I'm back from my first-ever Yoga session, and as I limped home, I crawled into bed to watch Countdown, as I do every night.

Tonight, our Southern California friends are facing arguably the worst and most destructive, disruptive fires in their history. Keith Olbermann interviewed NBC Nightly News anchor
Brian Williams at the top of the broadcast - Williams hung around to give viewers a more intimate and casual yet confident, personal view of what's going on there.

I used to worship
Peter Jennings, and his ABC News field reporters. But today, after living through "The Path to 9/11" and other seemingly odd GOP influences at ABC, I have fully gravitated to the NBC and MSNBC nightly broadcasts. (My TV is, of course, tuned squarely on CNN throughout the day, culminating in The Situation Room.)

I highly recommend them, although Keith's new set doesn't give him enough room to throw his papers.


Medill School Of Journalism's Reputation Matters. Period. (Vol. 2)

I had a number of factors converge in the past few days -- a wave of editorials, e-mails and other news -- so I could no longer contain myself. I wrote the following editorial and sent it to the Medill School of Journalism alumni listserv. Here it is:

"I'm thoroughly enjoying our discourse on preserving the name and reputation of our beloved Medill School of Journalism... Seems like it's long been simmering, and it makes me proud to be an alum and a subscriber to this listserv. I'm more convinced than ever that Dean Lavine's truncated name and focus change for his Medill is dangerous for the school's place in the J-school universe -- and is coming at precisely the wrong time.


We are now well into our sixth full year of seeing the maddening machinations of a wholly neutered D.C. press corps, with polite hand raising and (what appear to be) unnecessary allowances for a challenged
Commander in Chief; we are constantly seeing journalists put in the line of fire and, some would argue, have been complicit in advancing a single line of rationale as we charged off to a devastating conflict (I am still, to this day, angered by CNN's "TARGET: IRAQ" series in the fall of 2002); and our credibility as a profession as a whole is, shall we say, "peppered" by people of dubious credentials and training.

I'm not writing to make a political statement, quite the contrary, so please don't read it that way. Bottom line: Are you satisfied with the quality of journalism you're seeing, and if not, does that make Lavine's change appropriate? The answer is categorically "No."

I'm not surprised for us to have heard from
Donna Leff, one of my most prized and memorable Medill professors, due to her leadership on journalistic ethics and law -- a topic that I found gravely lacking in my Medill education. I want us to spend more time on theory and practice, on the "classics," and not be tantalized by how blogs, news feeds and on-demand e-mail have somehow eclipsed the import of traditional reporter training. It's absolutely preposterous.

We also heard from Abe on how we can thankfully count on *at least* keeping the brand name "Medill," due to donors' displeasure. To say I'm relieved is an understatement. To that I'd also add this: we as alums are donors ourselves, and I'm curious if you would hesitate giving back to a school that is seemingly abandoning the very spirit and letter of the journalism law that we signed up for, that many of us are indebted to, both financially and otherwise. I myself will curb all gifts until we re-shift back to what I see is our true purpose.

I've been blogging/getting the word out about this issue for a number of months now, and just recently picked up a Google alert about
Jon Friedman, reporter for MarketWatch (where I myself did a rotation at Medill News Service in D.C.), who posted both a written and video editorial on the subject.

The video piece is available here:

The editorial, here:

Friedman refers to Medill as the "Sellout School of Journalism." I agree.

If an alum, a leader in Internet reporting, is impugning Medill's direction and decision-making to lean more in favor of new media, I'd say it's time to rethink what we're doing. Also, the D.C. Rotation for Medill students is a good litmus: What do our news partners -- from MarketWatch to the
Lake County News-Sun in Peoria -- think of this rebranding? (Art Janik's "Clairvoyant Journalism" post last month was dead on the money.) Medill's D.C. Web site also has been stripped of any mention of the word, "journalism." Further, Medill's main Web site now looks like it could be a third-rate cable company's Internet splash page -- not one from a storied, respected institution. Hardly any Northwestern purple, and again, no "Journalism."

One last point: Medill needs the IMC and Journalism arms both separate and strong. I was part of the Magazine sequence (Urban Classroom) at Medill and yet I snagged a long-term, corporate-writing gig through the IMC listserv after graduation. I am proof of the unbelievable connection that both arms of our school have. Dropping the "journalism" is just absolutely the WRONG direction -- it will weaken, and has already weakened, that dual-pronged strength we have embodied for coming up on 100 years.

Let's dump the Kool Aid down the drain and return back to what we're known for: real-world, feet-on-the-pavement JOURNALISM. In the coming years we will be called to be even better, more seasoned, at-the-ready professionals in an ever-growing definition of what "journalist" means. If anything, we should redouble our efforts in classic Medill training and not go further down this troubling path."

I've gotten a few great responses -- I'll post them later.


Georgia Drought News Conference Ignored By Atlanta Media

As you know, I get upset about a great many things... but this is just unbelievable. The Governor of the State of Georgia, Sonny Perdue, just gave a news conference this morning about our state's rapidly disintegrating water supply -- reason enough to declare a state of emergency in a number of our counties. We are taking the Army Corps to court, and Florida and Alabama and threatening action of their own.

But you wouldn't know it because nobody carried it on the air.

Yes, shockingly, NONE of our local affiliates carried this news conference. NONE. The only local news channel who did, in fact, carry a piece of it, was CNN -- which is not local at all. And even with CNN, based here in Atlanta, with the network's Planet in Peril series coming, they themselves did not stay with Perdue's news conference.

We are three months from our taps running dry, in Atlanta and elsewhere, and ABC (WSB-TV), NBC (WXIA) and CBS (WGCL) *ALL* kept children's programming going. WTF?

We are a city of stations who feel beholden to cover the state of Georgia, instead of focusing more on our great city, so this huge omission. Further, our great TV stations cut into prime time when a mattress falls off a truck on I-85, so WHY in God's name would they not cover this?

Outrageous. Somebody correct me and tell me I'm missing something...


Do We Need Science To Compel Us To Take Care Of Planet Earth?

Bollocks. It's all hooey.

CNN's Rob Marciano
ignited quite a shitstorm a few days ago when he unexpectedly slammed the global view in Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth. Marciano questioned whether or not the strength of recent hurricanes like Katrina could be attributed to global climate change.

CNN apparently got a lot of mail about his comments, and
the next day he retreated into neutral territory by examining both sides of the climate crisis argument.

Actually, there's quite a strong anti-climate-change movement out there -
in the blogs and elsewhere.

And my thought for this
Green Machine post is simple. We as Americans can only be responsible for ourselves and live by example... And yet we're notorious for living in excess, lacking in the ability to self-police or self examine.

Seriously: this is actually a call for cultural change, underscored strongly by natural signs. Some of this climate-crisis blowback is, at best, misplaced, since we should be lessening (read: correcting) our impact on the planet regardless of where the facts point us.

Some of these folks espouse contrarian views for the sake of being fancy assholes... on the way to fat ratings. But hey,
Fox Noise needs a reason for being, too.

With its forthcoming
Planet in Peril series, Rob's comments are, shall we say, against the CNN grain.


A College Professor Of, With And For The Human Spirit

Every once in a while we come across someone who presents life's tools as a beautiful map on how to use them to the best of our ability.

This latest incarnation is in the form of
Randy Pausch, a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon University. Pausch has terminal cancer and recently gave a speech at that school will blow you away. It's amazing how, through humor, instruction is not only engaging -- but also profound and transformative.

In a culture that is fascinated by Britney's choreography, Lindsay's latest line or which Anna-Nicole ex-lover is sleeping with whom, THIS is what life is about for me. But, as we're reminded by Pausch, humor is one of the most expeditious pathways to healing.

GMA did a
piece on him this morning that knocked my socks off, and I found the YouTube link below. The video is nine minutes, and it's worth every minute. Enjoy. Happy


Seriously? Is A Censored America The Country In Which We Want To Live?

OK, this is basically Twirl Factor 10... I have been absolutely twirling about these last few instances of morality trumping expression, and excessive force trumping judgment. To wit:

-- Student Tasered in Florida for acting up at a Kerry rally:

Question: why didn't Kerry step in and at least ask the police to stop? he just kept on droning. Did the "officers" need to taser the guy when he was down and cuffed? I don't think so.

Sadly, it's not the first incident of tasering at a U.S. college campus.
See another one here.

Sally Field censored by Fox at the Emmys. (PS: Fox should not be allowed to broadcast awards shows -- guys, stick to sports.) So, given their penchant for censorship, let's look at the full, uncut version here:

Question: Did Fox do this to protect against fines from the post-Powel FCC, or because of Field's statement against war? Neither reasoning passes the smell test, and I'm twirling. Talk me down from the ledge!

Aside from the fact that I 110% agree with her, I love the fact that Sally is nutty, speaking as a fellow nutty person. I'm going to start watching that show for that reason -- and because they have a few decent gay characters on there as well.


Seriously? Piedmont Park, A Car Deck And No Transparency

Have you been reading the series of editorials in the AJC about the Botanical Garden's parking-deck? The project has been sold to us as a boon for business, OK for the environment and a help to congested neighborhoods. I'm not convinced. Since I can't get anyone to publish such a long editorial, here it is.

With no-bid contracts, waste and corruption causing all sorts of embarrassment here and around the world (New Orleans, Iraq), a "trust us, you'll see" approach is lame. Enjoy. And stay informed!

(Thumb courtesy of
Jupiter Images)

The Garden, Parking Deck & Conservancy: Of Two Minds In Midtown

(ATLANTA – 14 September 2007) I’m following the debate over the
Botanical Garden’s parking deck, as I hope many city residents are. The work of the Piedmont Park Conservancy has benefited me -- as an investor at Piedmont Crest, a new Park-side condominium development off of 12th street; as an ALTA player out of Piedmont Park Tennis Center; and as a frequent visitor to Park events such as Screen on the Green, the Dogwood Festival and the Dave Matthews Concert.

I am also a paid member of the Conservancy. Their work has, without question, brought this great park of ours forward – and has made it greener, cleaner and more full of life. We are the better for it.

So it’s with a heavy heart that I question the defensive and self-promoting editorial by Debbie McCown, the Conservancy’s Executive Director (“
Conservancy openly takes park from blight to bright,” @issue, 22 August). This stuffy piece was the second of the one-two punch I read in the AJC, after a gaggle of attorneys wrote in defense of the Botanical Garden’s independence from city affairs and state Sunshine laws (“Plan will be a boon; Garden has nothing to hide,” Saturday Talk, 25 August 2007). Why are we rehashing this stuff?

Both McCown and Team McBeal are missing the point. We are on a slippery slope when we as a city give ourselves wholly over to the private sector. It’s one thing to source corporate assistance to help create a commercial thoroughfare such as the
Midtown Mile; but quite another to give over a natural jewel such as Piedmont Park. Not only have our city planners ceded control of that treasured asset – we are, in many ways, relinquishing the spirit that our residents, our Mayor, our visitors and our city council members have worked so hard to build. As an activist, property owner, journalist and business manager here in Atlanta, I stand firmly behind Mike King’s plainly worded editorial (“Park groups should let sun shine in,” 17 August 2007). It asks, in simple language: Now that the Botanical Garden’s Grecian Army of lawyers has snake-charmed the presiding judge to toss many of the claims brought by Friends of Piedmont Park, just come clean.

Show us how you’ve awarded contracts, to whom, and why; disclose your finances and balance sheets; and give us less lip when we ask you to comply with Georgia’s Sunshine laws. You’re doing the city’s work, the people’s work, even if it’s not coming directly from City Hall. If you’ve given no-bid contracts to friends of the Conservancy, as is rumored, then I want to know about it. And so do a lot of other folks.

Doug Abramson, principal of Friends of Piedmont Park, the advocacy group leading the legal opposition to the parking deck, also says our great gains in beautification have come at a price.

“The Garden and the Conservancy do some good work in the Park, but when questioned about their decisions and their practices they respond that they have raised millions of dollars over the years and somehow that should insulate them from public scrutiny and accountability,” he says. “As stewards of our public park and as representatives of the City, they should act transparently and disclose how and where money is spent, and otherwise conduct their affairs publicly.”

Actually, the current parking arrangement works pretty well. Piedmont Park Tennis Center – one of the last units of the park still managed by the City of Atlanta, run expertly by Sharon Lester and her team – enjoys regular access off Park Drive to the modest yet ultimately convenient parking lot adjacent to
Magnolia Hall and, yes, the Botanical Garden. We have managed with this arrangement because the unpretentious parking area provides a small, controllable yet effective resource when these great events happen (including our home tennis matches). My teammates and I use this lot frequently and do not want to see it torn up. Rather, it should be maintained and used as is. What about eco-friendly asphalt? Low-water landscaping? More restricted access? Other creative uses? This area could be a testing ground for new environmentally friendly landscaping products, but all we ever hear about is how this mammoth car deck is going to be our savior, an expansive car heaven that will alleviate Midtown’s parking woes.

Let’s also remember how royally the private sector can fumble the public ball. After mulling this issue, I kept having nightmare reminders of Iraq reconstruction getting handed over to the likes of Halliburton, Parsons Corp. and others -- only to have billions wasted. Do we need such a profound example of alleged no-bid private contracts gone awry? I don’t think so. Privatization, in some weird way, seems to absolve officials from the personal care and obligation that comes with public management. And since secrecy breeds skepticism and mistrust, here we are.

I write this, clearly, of two minds, because again, I know full well the benefits we’ve seen in the Park. I may be a Conservancy member, but remain a dissenting voice, hoping the air around this project is cleared. But this nose-thumbing, redundant, “look what we’ve done for you lately” approach is maddening and makes me want to scream – and it should bring all Atlanta residents to their front porches, too, to do the same. McCown earned nearly $115,000 in annual salary in 2005, which has most certainly increased since then; in that year, the Conservancy, a non-profit, paid more than $100,000 to an external PR firm. Are these needed expenditures or extravagant usage of donors’ generosity? And that’s only the stuff we know about.

Simply singing one’s own praises does not magically immunize you from public speculation – particularly when you have people in the city who enjoy the park set-up as is, and would rather not indulge the Botanical Garden’s desire to give their members in Alpharetta a more convenient place to park in the city. I use the tennis center proudly, along with its parking area, knowing the recently updated clubhouse and courts there are the last bastion of municipal-managerial excellence that the park has.

I am a traditionalist and would prefer to see the park’s car-management system kept the same while still have the park expanded and enhanced. However, if the parking deck is our savior, show us how. If any of our private partners must stand on a pedestal to claim grand success, and continue to move us forward in this great city of ours, let us peek behind your curtain so we’re all on the same page. Without that, it’s a mystery too great to accept. -
Will Pollock

# # #

Let the AJC
know how you feel.

Update: Atlanta Business Chronicle reporting that the Botanical Garden and its parking deck project are not subject to Georgia Sunshine Laws. Pending further appeal, it looks like the project will proceed.

'No End In Sight': You Haven't Felt Anger Until You've Seen This Film

Just caught this movie over the weekend. It is an unbiased, unvarnished look at just how badly the Iraq conflict has been handled -- and what our obligation might be to fix our flawed choice to go in.

If "
No End In Sight" is playing by you, go see it. Even if it's not, it's worth the drive.

Tell your friends.

Medill School Of Journalism's Reputation Matters. Period.

Regular news hits from blogs and other sources are still popping up on my radar screen... New Medill Dean John Levine -- widely criticized for scrapping Medill's tried-and-true, real-world journalism education -- has called the outgoing curriculum "old-fashioned" and that to keep things as-is would be "immoral."

I'll spare you a rant about a dean of my alma mater using that word. However, Medill was my choice for grad school exactly because their approach was forward-thinking and totally different than Columbia's, for example. (Which, by the way,
has panned Medill's new move.)

This ain't gonna fly for me. If the school is moving to an Internet and Marketing focus, with the presumption that all jobs are going that way, what does that say about the magazine business, for example? What about an acknowledgment that newspapers will rely heavily on their Internet counterparts -- but not be supplanted by them, probably for a generation? What about alumni who want the same great school behind them?

This is an embarrassment. This smacks of a top-down, edict-style governing decision... And we all know how well THAT goes over in this country.

Oy. More to follow. Stop the insanity!

Update: Lame, squishy piece in Chicago magazine about this issue ("Campus Revolutionary," Chicago magazine, Sept. 2007). Reminder to readers: we are in the midst of a concerted attempt to subvert the power and import of our media. This effort is actually happening within its ranks, too, with unqualified anchors and reporters masquerading as journalists.

The correct posture is to hunker down even further into the traditions of journalism -- not discount its bedrock spirit. Dean Levine's surly disregard for the Medill faculty's ideas and preferences smacks of another Commander in Chief -- a deeply unpopular head of state who is on his way out. Hmmm... sounds like a good idea to me.

Keith Olbermann Brings His Snarky, Awesome Show To NBC

News judgment is the "quiet gatekeeper" of how our news and information is presented to us, and how we absorb it... To that end, MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann is an always sophisticated hour of cable news -- without the shouting, distorted perspectives and revolving anchors of other cable shows.

Olbermann will bring
a special edition of Countdown to NBC on Sunday before a preseason NFL game, and will also stay on to the call the game with his colleagues (returning to his sports-reporting roots briefly after a long hiatus).

If you're not watching
Countdown regularly, now's the time to see how the show is a distinct media watchdog to the partisan crap that our current administration would have us believe. Plus, what's the alternative? Trust me, you're bound to learn something every night -- and also laugh your ass off, with "Worst Person" honors and "Oddball."



Why On God's Green Earth Is The Media Not Reporting This?

There are no words that can describe my reaction to this video... if you haven't seen it, sit down and watch. Your mouth will drop open.

The fact that DICK continues to defend the decision to invade and conduct a de facto adoption of a mideast country we have no business being in is the HEIGHT of arrogance.

Update: Countdown did a piece on this clip and another from 2000 that reveal DC as King Changemind.

Here's An Idea: Let's Give Pundits The Rest Of The Iraq War Off

I listen to and enjoy both sides of the ideological media spectrum, from George Will and Stanley Fish to someone as nutty (and super cool) as Arianna Huffington.

But it's with continuing admiration that I read Frank Rich's columns in the
New York Times, with this week's piece as no exception. "Patriots Who Love the Troops to Death" (available only to TimesSelect subscribers) is a sweeping statement about how the once-fervent supporters of the Iraq war are starting to turn -- even ones who confidently predicted we'd be showered with eternal gratitude as liberators.

"That’s disingenuous," Rich wrote about the prognosticators, particularly Michael O'Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack, both of the Brookings Institution. "For all their late-in-the-game criticisms of the administration’s incompetence, Mr. Pollack proselytized vociferously for the war before it started, including in an appearance with Oprah, and both men have helped prolong the quagmire with mistakenly optimistic sightings of progress since the days of 'Mission Accomplished.'

"You can find a compendium of their past wisdom in Glenn Greenwald’s Salon column. That think-tank pundits with this track record would try to pass themselves off as harsh war critics in 2007 shows how desperate they are to preserve their status as Beltway “experts” now that the political winds have shifted. Such blatant careerism would be less offensive if they didn’t do so on the backs of the additional American troops they ask to be sacrificed to the doomed mission of providing security for an Iraqi government that is both on vacation and on the verge of collapse."

Actually, Bill Maher has been
out in front on this issue for nearly a year now... that our country's crack-pot predictors are, well, dicks.

Rich also talks about the role of the media and others, including our beloved "experts" and political leaders, who have deep-seeded culpability in the way this war is playing out in the public consciousness.

I'm so mad that I go out into the world each day with venom spewing out my ears. I do what I can to manage it. The future, it would seem, is ours to create -- so let's make our own way and look for sensible solutions instead of putting our direction and judgment in the hands of people who don't deserve it.


Can We Have Civil Liberties AND Security? The Answer Is "Yes"

I see some Democrats have lost their spine again... CNN is reporting that the Dems have caved on specific eavesdropping guidelines that the White House wanted in place as we update FISA.

I felt secure before 9/11, and feel even more so now that we've been taught a lesson not to sleep at the security switch. But I refuse to feed the Executive Branch more latitude when they can't be trusted to police disasters or protect our food supply or look at our healthcare system.

In this case, blame AND shoot the messenger. (I'm speaking metaphorically, for those scouring the Internet for Evil Doers.)

Thumb courtesy of Jupiter Images.

Update: the House passed the bill late last night amending FISA, 227-183, with many conservative Democrats voting with the GOP. Question: is the President's bully pulpit really the same when your approval is in the mid 20s?

Sleepless In Seattle: The WSJ Merger Not Yet A 'Slam Dunk'

While we're in this great state of Washington visiting Pollock relatives, the Bancroft family eked out a minimum thumbs-up for News Corp.'s acquisition of Dow Jones/The Wall Street Journal.

Say what you want about Murdoch, but consolidated media ownership continues to suck for journalism. With a FCC review looming, Russ Britt writes for MarketWatch writes that
it's too soon to call the deal done.

Update: NYT reporting that News Corp. may have improperly paid fees and influenced the deal close.

A Rare Moment Of Self-censorship: Bush Deletes A Line

Democrats objected to being blamed for delays.

Will wonders never cease?

Forget about partisan bullshit. Here's the real question: do you want people spying on you without permission? Could that be construed as preserving freedom? Probably not.


Let The Shuffling Continue: Paula Zahn Out At CNN

I've always thought of her as a class act, and as her good-bye note (courtesy of MediaBistro) shows, she seems genuinely saddened about her departure. Which was made more hasty, some say, by the arrival of new-hire Campbell Brown. Her letter:

To All,

It is with mixed emotions that I announce my departure from CNN, effective Thursday, August 2nd. I'd like to take this opportunity to express my tremendous respect for my good friends and colleagues, their talent and high standards.

It's been an extraordinary journey since my first day on the job, September 11th, 2001. During my 6 years with CNN, we've covered the war in Iraq, the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, the death of a Pope and the massacre at Virginia Tech. I am enormously proud of the work we've done covering these stories as a team.

Now is the right time for CNN and me to move ahead on different paths. I wish good luck and success to everyone I was fortunate to work with. And for the first time in 30 years, I plan to take a break between jobs and catch my breath before I take on my next role. - Paula

Thanks to Pete for livening up every afternoon at
SFM with the TV Newser. It's a page-turner!

I'll miss "Out in the Open." Sad

Anchor Blues: Who's Tarting Whom?

They're at it again... more instances where anchors/journalists are trying to squeeze out actual newsmakers with shenanigans, bold statements and general assholic behavior.

- Dan Rather ignites a feud with his former network. Accusing CBS of "tarting" up its broadcast by hiring Katie Couric, Rather told Joe Scarborough's that the network was trying to "dumb it down, tart it up in hopes of attracting a younger audience." CBS chief executive Les Moonves called his remarks "sexist," to which Rather replied that Moonves "doesn't know about the news." This spat is such a waste of space... news outlets are spending time on this! I don't particularly like Katie Couric in her new role, and never watched Today, but can't we give her a chance to find herself before we pass judgment? Um, hello, it's been nine months since she started. Many anchors took years to catch on -- and even got fired (Peter Jennings, early on) before they dug in their heels.

- Just getting the story... or too close to the action? Despite how CNN's Rick Sanchez irritates the hell out of me, the kid in Georgia got the wrong sentence for his sex crime and that injustice deserved attention. But in reporting the story Sanchez became outwardly jubilant and pressed himself inside the frame when word came down that the judge threw out the 10-year sentence (the prosecutor is appealing). It was WAY too much, too soon, too close, when Sanchez should have stood back and let the events unfold. Watch the clips on Pipeline if you don't believe me.

- Oh by the way... Longtime NBC Nightly weekend anchor John Seigenthaler was replaced by Lester Holt, in one of the most underreported cost-cutting moves of the year. Seigenthaler had an 11-year run at helm of the weekend broadcast -- a position that, apparently, "was a luxury [NBC] could no longer afford," according to USA Today. Seigenthaler's rich, bass, deadpan (and dead-on) delivery was yet another comfortable chair we'll not get to enjoy anymore.


Artistic Expression Emits From The Most Unusual Sources...

...including a phone salesman in England. Remember: never second-guess yourself or feel inhibited to chase your dream.

Or, even in what you might deem small or insignificant, never censor your own creative energy -- no matter who you are or what you do. Case in point:

Phone Salesman Amazes Crowd - Watch more free videos

'Boot In The Ass' Politics: Diplomatic Row No. 1,867

While I agree with Bush (try not to fall out of your chairs) that Russia seems to have abandoned many of its democratic reforms, I'm SICK to death of cowboy politics.

Here's the latest brilliant idea: we're apparently continuing plans for a missile-defense system for some of our European allies and, in the meantime, pissing off Russia and dismissing their objections -- while we are fast on the way to destabilizing our end of once-solid relations. Sound good?

We are led by an administration that espouses "instead of" politics, and we should all be furious. And NOT quietly furious, outwardly so. Don't ever think that holding a contrary opinion is weak, or "un-American," or cowardly. It's none of those things.

The whole '
I've seen Putin's soul' thing sounded phony at the outset, and now, the comment has become irrelevant anyway. As for missiles, one bad move deserves another. (Graphic courtesy of

Anchor Blues: The Update

About a month ago I wrote an editorial about how anchors are increasingly stepping in front of their stories and becoming the news. Should I make this a monthly thing? Vote yes or no by sending me an e-mail. Meantime, here's an update thumbnail:

The claws come out... again. Audience members were shifting nervously in their seats as Rosie and Elisabeth had a hideous smackdown on "The View" about the Iraq war and the Bush administration. (Babs was off that day and unable to referee.) But what went completely unreported in this latest melee was that the entire thing was sparked by Joy Behar (actual quote: "don't interview each other") who is understandably infuriated by the latest revelations on how our country is being run and ran down a laundry list of things she doesn't like about our current government. (Current YouTube views: approaching 2 million) Question: what happens to the show when Rosie leaves?

Honey, tell Consuela to avoid 60 Minutes. Lou Dobbs was recently interviewed by Leslie Stahl on CBS' "60 Minutes" about his populist mission that includes securing the borders with Mexico and restoring our quickly sinking country's order. Wherever you find yourself on the immigrant issue, the anchor, again, was the story here. Stahl uses the unfortunate catch phrase of "fair and balanced" to question Dobbs about whether his program is actually news. What do you think?

Update: Rosie to leave "The View" early and not complete the last three weeks of her contract.

Let The Backtracking Begin: Two Lulus From Both Sides of the Aisle

Comments from Harry Reid and John McCain that should have been caught in the internal editor. Neither were.

...with more proof that verbal diarrhea is a bipartisan affliction. (Photo courtesy of AP)