Sunday, December 27, 2009

Memento Mori

As year-end approaches, we look back at the extraordinary number of nationally-celebrated old-guard print and broadcast journalism figures who left us in 2009.

A merely cursory search turns up the names of: William Buckley, Walter Cronkite, Don Hewitt, Studs Terkel, Paul Harvey, Irving R. Levine, Cornell Capa, Dith Pran, and the not-so-old-guard Tony Snow; and there were many others less well known.

Added to that, the trade publication Editor & Publisher -- itself in extremis -- points out that a record 68 journalists were killed in 2009, a 60% increase over the previous year. 85% of them were killed as a direct consequence of their profession.

So we are reminded that journalism can be a fickle mistress who may lavish fame and even fortune on the lucky few, but bring only an untimely, violent and unsung death to too many others.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Pants On Fire

The St. Petersburg Times is a rarity among U.S. metro dailies in that it is owned by the Poynter Institute for Media Studies, a non-profit school of journalism. Although the paper itself is rated on the left/right political scale as being generally progressive, its fact-finding website,, is so scrupulously non-partisan that it won the 2009 Pulitzer prize for national reporting.

PolitiFact is an equal-opportunity basher of both sides, so it was reassuring to those of us who believe in the essential justice of universal health care that Sarah Palin's calculatingly cynical "death panel" posting won its "Lie of the Year" Award.

Read about all of the winners (losers?) at:

Sunday, December 13, 2009

An Electrifying Prospect

Dwelling, as I do, in one of the more bucolic corners of the Northeast, and frequently a pedestrian or bicyclist, it had never occurred to me to worry about the possibility of being sideswiped (or worse) by an automobile that -- despite my having normal (albeit age-adjusted) hearing -- I could not have heard coming.

No doubt big-city denizens are already familiar with -- even blasé about -- this scarifying aspect of the modern electric-car era. Presumably, our recent forebearers had to adjust to it when the Electric Carriage and Wagon Company unleashed a fleet of electric taxis on the streets of New York City in 1897, shortly before Wood’s Electric Phaeton became available to any adventurous consumer with $2000. Such relative quietude was, however, soon to be shattered by Mr. Ford’s Model T.

In sum, this silent menace is yet another unanticipated side-effect of 21st Century technology, providing grist for the ever-grinding propaganda mills of global-climate-change deniers and further encouraging the few remaining die-hard Luddites.

For a solution to the problem, see the New York Times piece which triggered this post, at:

Friday, December 11, 2009


Now that the 24-hour news cycle has passed, and we can disregard the political distractions which surrounded the president's Nobel speech, we can sit back, read it, and objectively assess its content.

Like so many attention-challenged Americans, "mine eyes glaze over" at contemplating listening to any speech running more than 5-minutes, no matter how impressive the orator. This, however, was a speech more rewarding in the reading of it than in its delivery, pace Mr. Obama's formidable speechifying skills.

It will have completely satisfied neither the peaceniks nor the warhawks, being a jesuitical mix of Bismarckian realpolitiks tempered by the teachings of Teilhard de Chardin, but it strikingly reflects Mr. Obama's increasingly centrist views.

While some leading Republicans gave it good marks, I must take issue with Bradley E. Blakeman who, writing for Politico, offers the president "kudos" for the speech by asserting that "George W. Bush could have delivered the very same speech". While Mr. Bush may well have felt philosophically comfortable delivering it, that he could have conceived and written it is a reach too far.

For those so inclined, the speech can be read at:

Moses Had It Easy

Having, for the past three-quarters of a century, devoured every scrap of writing that has come my way, starting with the backs of cereal boxes and working my way up to the classics, I have often been struck by just how difficult it is to write a tongue-in-cheek piece about a serious subject and actually bring it off without falling as flat as a slack-stringed banjo.

Paul Duffy, in last week's Barnstable (Cape Cod) Patriot, has risen to, and aced, the task with his spirited exposition of just how difficult and frustrating is the job of leading us cantankerous Americans, who are about as tractable as a roomful of distracted rugrats.

Read and enjoy Paul's column at:

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Prof. Harold Hill Lives!

When I first read about the Plymouth Rock Studios project in the nearby historic town of Plymouth, my half-century in the sometimes nefarious corridors of the news & entertainment business warned me that therein lay the seeds of an undertaking destined for failure.

I didn't wish them ill, but how many gadzillion times over the years had I read of enterprises to establish an east-coast Hollywood, none of which ever amounted to more than a press release and a lot of dashed hopes.

What this one seemed to have going for it, however, was the sheer magnitude of its ambitions, coupled with the enthusiastic (and -- I assumed -- due-diligence-armed) support of the Town Fathers. It even sounded as if the Commonwealth might kick in some infrastructure funding.

And then I read that such funding was not about to happen after all; that the deveopment team had shied away from some questionably-sourced underwriting; and that the plan was being scaled back.

Uh oh!

And now comes this world-class cautionary tale under the guise of an exhaustive investigative report by the Boston Globe, adroitly reported by staffers Scott Allen and Marcella Bombardieri.
It's long-ish but well worth your time if you live in MA or Tinseltown, and/or are obsessed with the machinations of the movie biz.

Shades of Music Man! Meredeth Wilson, where are you when we need you?

Quelle Surprise!

Lawmaker drops push to give Tiger Woods Congressional Gold Medal
By Christina Wilkie - 12/09/09 11:59 AM ET

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Howard Zinn Lives!

I haven't seen it yet, but, for all you old Lefties out there in cyberspace, Zinn's new documentary, airing on the History Channel this coming Sunday, sounds to me like Appointment TV.

"The work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die."

Read more about the program at:

Light At the End of the Tunnel?

Gratified to read in the Sacramento Business Journal that the McClatchy Newspapers will soon end an across-the-board wage freeze in place since 2008. Given that McClatchy publishes 30 newspapers in cities and towns across the country, dare we hope that this is a harbinger of hope that the precipitous slide in the fortunes of the news media may be slowing, if not actually turning around.

This column urges readers who are interested in what's new out there in America's grass roots, day to day, as well as in reading first-class reporting from the Middle East, to sign up for McClatchy's email Journal:

Saturday, December 5, 2009


We have to credit Gail Collins (NYT 12/5) for the sentence-of-the-day, to wit: "The Republicans are the fiscal conservatives in Congress, at least in the years when they aren’t actually in power."

Read the entire column (on the Healthcare debate) at:
(copy and paste to your browser)

Alien Alert!

This morning's AP brings us the alarming news that the British Defense Ministry has shut down its UFO Hotline as a recession-driven cost-cutting measure and will no longer investigate any sightings.

It's not a big leap from there to the terrifying conclusion that those little green men have finally and malevolently lulled us (or at least the Brits) into a state of complacency, and that it is perhaps they, not the Republicans, who are actually responsible for the Recession.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Irony of the Week

Security being tightened after flap over uninvited guests at state dinner
-- Salon headline

Otherwise known as closing the barn door after the horse has gotten in.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Friend Of My Enemy Is My Enemy (unless he's my friend)

While Afghanistan is -- understandably -- the primary focus of the headlines following the President's speech last night, Brian Fishman -- on "Foreign Policy" magazine's website -- posits that the real war is in Pakistan, with the government there directing its main military efforts against anti-Pakistani militants, a category which does not necessarily include our Al Queda terrorist enemies harbored in Pakistan.

Kipling's "East is East and West is West ... etc." has never been more resoundingly true.

Read more at:

Making Good On Promises

Gratified to read in today's New York Times that, in some of the health care reform proposals currently being scrutinized by Congress, special provision is made for improved medical benefits for American Indians. Until now, too many have been receiving wards-of-the-government type medical care which -- almost by definition -- translates into subsistence-level subvention.

When we treated with the tribes to give up their hereditary freedom and sovereignty and submit to the authority of the United States, we signed countless covenants promising to preserve their integrity and protect their well-being; representations since honored more often in the breach than in the observance.

It takes but little reading of American history to recognize that had we breached as many treaties with, and solemn commitments to, nations around the world as we have with Native Americans, we would be a global pariah. Health care reform is the least we can now bring to them, while benefitting society at large as well.