'Fool me twice ...'

There are folks in this administration banking on your being a fool.

Here’s proof:


It did not take a rocket scientist to detect the patterns that evolved after 9/11.

Each time the latest scandal broke involving the Bush administration, each time polls showed Bush’s numbers spiraling downward, Americans were treated, via the U.S. media, to:

* The issuance of new terror alerts – each one turning out to be bogus. This pattern – bad Bush news accompanied by a terror alert - became so obvious, so ridiculous and so documented across the Internet, those color-coded alerts just simply went away. (Fox News still runs them on its bottom-of-the-screen crawler.)
* A multitude of hours-long, live reports focusing on a deserted bag or suitcase or backpack, blown up by robots and turning out to be a bag or suitcase or backpack.
* Former Attorney General John Ashcroft calling a press conference and announcing the arrest of yet another “high-profile al Qaeda suspect.” Funny thing was: the ACTUAL arrest of each had been made months before the press conference.


* Articles of impeachment against Vice President Dick Cheney – H.R. 333 – were introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives.
* The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform voted to issue a subpoena to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in its investigation into Bush’s SOTU claim that Saddam sought to buy uranium yellowcake from Niger. (LINK)
* Congress and Bush are headed toward a stalemate on legislation which would begin the redeployment of our troops from Iraq. Bush will veto the bill, falsely claiming it will cut off funding to our troops. The Pentagon itself has said the troops are funded through the end of June.
* Former CIA Director George Tenet’s book, “At the Center of the Storm” (HarperCollins), goes on sale tomorrow. In it, he details the Bush administration’s manipulation of prewar intelligence, discloses the White House’s efforts to justify invading iraq and claims he was a “scapegoat.” (LINK) Tenet is scheduled to appear on CBS’ “60 Minutes” tonight at 7 EDT and on “Larry King Live,” CNN, Monday at 9 p.m. EDT.


A Taliban military commander claimed, in an al-Jazeera interview, that Osama bin Laden planned an attack targeting Dick Cheney. Twenty-three persons were killed outside the Bagram base in Afghanistan during the vice president’s February visit. The White House said there is no intelligence to back up the claim, yet the U.S. media treated the report as a major story. (LINK)


On Friday, the Pentagon announced a top al Qaeda official had been arrested and is in custody. The announcement was the top story of the day.

Yesterday, with reports of the arrest of 172 Saudi “terrorists,” headlines screamed:

* “Saudi official: militant suspects had flight training.” (LINK)
* “Saudi Arabia militants planned 9/11-style attack” (LINK)
* “U.S. targets al Qaeda in Iraq” (LINK)


At last count, there were 10 separate documented incidents of U.S. warnings of imminent attacks that subsequently turned out to be non-existent or misleading.

It’s hard to know what’s real any more. Most Americans don’t have time for the diligence truth-seeking requires. That’s what we used to depend on the media to do.

Follow this brief verbatim introduction to a report on CNN’s “Lou Dobbs Tonight,” (LINK) Friday, 4/27/2007, at 6 p.m.:

DOBBS: “Former CIA director George Tenet is out with a book, and he's strongly defending his role in the period leading up to the war in Iraq. Tenet telling CBS News that the White House has made him a scapegoat for the war, because of his famous or infamous 'slam-dunk' comment about weapons of mass destruction. Tenet says the remark was taken out of context, he never intended to suggest that the case for going to war was proven.

“The Pentagon today said a senior al Qaeda terrorist has been captured and is now in custody in the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The military says the terrorist was taken into custody late last year. An intelligence official said he is a member of al Qaeda's governing council.

“Saudi security forces have arrested more than 170 suspected al Qaeda terrorists. They say the radical Islamists were plotting to attack Saudi oil and military facilities. Officials said some of the terrorists were training to fly aircraft on suicide attack missions.

“Nic Robertson has our report now from CNN Center in Atlanta.”

That big headline from Friday: did you notice Dobbs said the top al Qaeda official was arrested at the end of last year? So, why did the Pentagon make it front page news on Friday, four months later?

Suddenly, al Qaeda and Osam bin Laden are all over the news again.

Those screaming headlines yesterday conjure images of 9/11 and serve as a super red herring, diverting attention from breaking stories about the Bush administration and burgeoning violence and U.S. deaths in Iraq.

As “Bill Moyers’ Journal” (PBS) pointed out this past week – in the words of TV news executives themselves – news reports are no longer investigated; they are often simply regurgitated from press releases and statements made by the very government officials the media should be monitoring in the first place.

I am no fool.

Remember the words of George W. Bush:

"There's an old saying in Tennessee - I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee - that says, ‘Fool me once, shame on - shame on you. Fool me - you can't get fooled again." — Nashville, Tenn., Sept. 17, 2002. (LINK)

Or, something like that. Anyway, I hope you get the picture!


4/30/2007 UPDATE

Big story today, other than Bush's looming veto and attempts to discredit former CIA Director George Tenet:

“LONDON, England (CNN) -- Five Britons have been found guilty of plotting to carry out al Qaeda-inspired bomb attacks across Britain on targets ranging from a nightclub to a shopping mall.

“The gang planned to use 600 kg (1,300 lb) of ammonium nitrate fertilizer to make explosives to be used in bombings in revenge for Britain's support the United States in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, attacks, prosecutors said.” (LINK)


'Hillary's night'

MSNBC hosts and the usual suspects, in post-debate coverage that lasted until the wee, small hours of the morning, thought it was “Hillary’s night” here in South Carolina. The word most used for the senator and former first lady was “presidential.”

I agree.

Performance poll on the Democratic debate, which aired live from South Carolina State University. Unscientific results from MSNBC.com at 11:30 p.m.

Who stood out from the pack? In my opinion, Hillary. (46,392 responses): Joe Biden, 7%; Hillary Clinton, 20%; Chris Dodd, 1.7%; John Edwards, 13%; Mike Gravel, 9.2%; Dennis Kucinich, 6.7%; Barack Obama, 33%; Bill Richardson, 8.9%.

Who showed the most leadership qualities? I voted for Hillary. (45,948 responses): Joe Biden, 7.9%; Hillary Clinton, 23%; Chris Dodd, 2.4%; John Edwards, 14%; Mike Gravel, 3.6%; Dennis Kucinich, 4.7%; Barack Obama, 34%; Bill Richardson, 10%.

Who was the most convincing candidate? Again, Hillary. (43,746 responses): Joe Biden, 7%; Hillary Clinton, 20%; Chris Dodd, 2.3%; John Edwards, 15%; Mike Gravel, 4.2%; Dennis Kucinich, 5.7%; Barack Obama, 37%; Bill Richardson, 9.2%.

Who had the most rehearsed answers? I thought John Edwards. (43,177 responses): Joe Biden, 5.7%; Hillary Clinton, 43%; Chris Dodd, 3.5%; John Edwards, 11%; Mike Gravel, 2.8%; Dennis Kucinich, 4.6%; Barack Obama,
21%; Bill Richardson, 7.7%.

Who avoided the questions? I don’t think Barack avoided the questions, it just took him awhile to get to the answers. (42,310 responses): Joe Biden, 9.1%; Hillary Clinton, 37%; Chris Dodd, 5.6%; John Edwards, 9.3%; Mike Gravel, 7.2%; Dennis Kucinich, 4.3%; Barack Obama, 19%; Bill Richardson, 8.9%.

Who had the best one-liner? I had to go with Joe Biden’s “YES!” (42,333 responses): Joe Biden, 28%; Hillary Clinton, 12%; Chris Dodd, 2.9%; John Edwards, 11%; Mike Gravel, 9.4%; Dennis Kucinich, 6.6%; Barack Obama, 22%; Bill Richardson, 8.3%.

Overall, I thought the candidates seemed unified and cordial toward each other.

I can’t recall another debate where time limits so restricted meaningful discourse. Quoting the MSNBC cover story on the event: “The format of the debate … worked against the development of an extended discussion on any one topic. The eight candidates were given one minute apiece to answer questions on a variety of topics, with tightly limited rebuttals and no opening or closing statements.”

The questions, prepared by NBC News and posed by “NBC Nightly News” anchor Brian Williams, focused too much on hot-button topics rather than the issues that affect the day-to-day lives of Americans.

The “how many of you in your adult lifetime have had a gun in the house” question was original. Kucinich surprised me.

As for the post-debate “Truth Squad” segments, I thought the normally sharp-as-a-tack David Schuster was really stretching in some of his fact checks.

The food-for-thought nod has to go to the otherwise goofy Gravel: “You know what’s worse than soldiers dying in vain? It’s more soldiers dying in vain.”

The most disappointing performances, for me, came from John Edwards.

Barack is a great orator, but I didn’t think he was very fast on his feet. He seemed nervous. I first recognized his ability and charisma during his keynote address at the 2003 Democratic National Convention. It’s early, and he will get better.

My dream team? Hillary for president with Barack as her running mate. There, I’m on the record!

As I said it’s the wee, small hours, so I’ll reserve my reasons for supporting Hillary for a later post.


If you watched the debate, please share your comments!

Mother's day

My mother, Ruth Marie Timmons Turner, died in 1990.

Mother was born on 27 April 1907 – 100 years ago today. Isn’t that amazing?

I miss her every day.


'Let my country awake'

"If I had Aladdin's lamp for only a day ..."

Democratic presidential hopefuls debate tonight, live from South Carolina State University with NBC’s Brian Williams moderating. MSNBC at 7 EDT, with pre- and post-debate coverage.


A manipulated media

If you were fortunate enough to see “Bill Moyers’ Journal” return to PBS last night, you saw proof of media complicity in promoting the iraq war.

For a journalist, the 90-minute media exposé, “Buying the War,” wasn’t pretty.

This presentation is not just an indictment of a media run amok, it is proof this administration LIED to take this country to war.

Moyers has just shown us what journalism can be!

Available on DVD at PBS: LINK


O’Reilly’s crystal ball

From his “no-spin zone,” Fox News' Bill O’Reilly called Moyers “a liar” – one hour before the PBS program aired! And, in a narcissistic attempt to make it all about himself, O’Reilly falsely claimed Moyers accused him of refusing to appear on the program. All of which, of course, means Moyers’ media exposé got it right!


Fever pitch

Rep. Rahm Emanuel of Illinois, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, delivered a scorching indictment of the Bush administration in an address at the Brookings Institution yesterday.

Immanuel said every level of our government has been politicized, with this administration putting the Republican Party’s interest ahead of the public interest. The cloak of “incompetence,” he said, is often used to cover up the Bush White House’s real goal, a Republican takeover of the country.

Read this brilliant strategist’s reasoned argument, or bookmark his speech to read later: LINK


The little congressman who could

(Read time: 5 minutes.)

The little guy with the big ears and the strong, staccato speech had a couple of false starts calling his press conference on impeaching Dick Cheney.

Dennis Kucinich, in my opinion, is not presidential material, but he is steadfast in his ideals and a strong voice for Americans who believe in those ideals.

Kucinich recently circulated an email in Congress advising his readiness to introduce “Articles of Impeachment” against the vice president of the United States.

He held his press conference yesterday at 5 p.m. Twice he had postponed it: once in the wake of the Virginia Tech tragedy and earlier yesterday following reports about Cheney’s health.

The press conference got no live TV coverage, save for a brief sound bite on CNN.

In a 5:40 p.m. interview with Wolf Blitzer, “The Situation Room,” CNN (LINK), Kucinich gave this synopsis of the three “Articles of Impeachment” he had just presented to Congress - as House Resolution 333:

ARTICLE I: Dick Cheney “fabricated a threat of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction to justify the use of the United States armed forces against the nation of Iraq."

ARTICLE II: Dick Cheney “fabricated a connection between the government of Iraq and al Qaeda and used that to justify war."

ARTICLE III: Dick Cheney “is openly threatening aggressive war against Iran, which is a violation of Article 6 of our Constitution and a violation of Article 2, Section 4 of the U.N. Charter.”

A majority of Americans – and not just the so-called “far left” – expected a Democratic Congress to hold the vice president and the president accountable for misleading the country on Iraq. House leaders Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer have chosen a softer route – one that would not throw the nation into a “crisis.”

News flash! This nation IS in a crisis.

Pelosi, Hoyer and other House Democrats were set up for the sting.

Prior to the mid-term election, the rat-a-tat of the right wing’s “If you vote for them, they’ll impeach the president” forced the Dems into the embarrassing position of dodging the pointing fingers of the “We told you so” crowd.

In an ironic twist, they are appeasing the opposition while forsaking their supporters.

In his commentary, “Impeach Cheney First?” (LINK), The Online Beat, The Nation, 18 April 2007, John Nichols writes:

“Cheney's office sees no grounds for impeachment. ‘The vice president has had nearly 40 years of government service and has done so in an honorable fashion,’ says Megan McGinn, Cheney's deputy press secretary.

“McGinn got that line out with a straight face.”

It would be wrong to hold the vice president accountable only for his lies about Iraq – his continuing lies about Iraq – when there are so many other reasons to impeach him.

If you don’t know the grievances against Cheney - or, for that matter, George W. Bush - over the last six years, you are not going to discover them in sound bites, this fledgling blog or inane Fox News banter.

There are numerous books on the subject. You can start with a tiny paperback copy of “The Constitution of the United States of America.”

I recall the veep’s old friend Brent Scowcroft, national security adviser under presidents Gerald Ford and George H. W. Bush, saying Dick Cheney has changed, is not the Cheney he has always known.

That change seemed to come when he signed on to the “Statement of Principles” of the neoconservatives, the “neocons.”

What a misguided think-tank intelligentsia that bunch of bumbling warmongers* turned out to be!

Nichols’ commentary concludes, “Impeachment activists have in recent months pushed an ‘Impeach Cheney First’ message, in part to counter the complaint that impeaching Bush would put an even darker figure in charge. Of course, going after the most powerful vice president in history has consequences, as well. In the unlikely event that Cheney were removed from office, one line of reasoning goes, Bush would for the first time find himself in charge.”

Holding this administration accountable is long overdue, and the American people are letting their representatives and senators in Washington know that – in an unprecedented flow of letters, emails, petitions and phone calls.

Dennis Kucinich has long been fair game for the poking-fun crowd. His three “Articles of Impeachment” are no laughing matter.


* warmonger (n.) Pejoratively, someone who is anxious to encourage a people or nation to go to war. Often used to describe militaristic leaders, commonly with the implication that they either may have selfish motives for encouraging war, or may actually enjoy war.


Must-see TV: 'Buying the War'

Bill Moyers is back! Slap that Post-It note on your forehead!

In a 90-minute exposé, Moyers returns to PBS with what Editor and Publisher calls a “devastating probe” of the media’s complicity in promoting the Iraq war.

“Buying the War” will air Wednesday, 25 April at 9 p.m. EDT.

In an E&P commentary (LINK), Greg Mitchell calls this thoroughly documented special “the most powerful indictment of the news media for falling down in its duties in the run-up to the war in Iraq.”

By skillfully using quotes and video clips, Moyers pressures a number of prominent media figures to admit the failure.

The program includes what Mitchell calls “numerous embarrassing examples of past statements by journalists and pundits that proved grossly misleading or wrong.”

According to Mitchell, Moyers points out those head cheerleaders for the war who refused to talk with him: Thomas Friedman of the New York Times; Bill Kristol of The Weekly Standard; Roger Ailes of Fox News; Charles Krauthammer of The Washington Post and Fox News; and Judith Miller and William Safire, formerly of The New York Times.

Worth catching – tomorrow night!


Another post today. Read on, dear reader.

David Halberstam, 1935-2007

A literary light of the 20th and 21st centuries has been extinguished.

Pulitzer Prize-winning author, historian and journalist David Halberstam was killed in a car crash yesterday in Menlo Park, California.

Halberstam graduated in 1955 from Harvard, where he was managing editor of the Harvard Crimson.

The year before the Supreme Court had ruled in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, and Halberstam headed south.

He was fired from his first job as a reporter at the West Point (Miss.) Daily Times-Leader. He joined the Nashville Tennessean, then the New York Times.

In 1964 Halberstam won the Pulitzer Prize for his reports from Vietnam, and the rest, as they say, is history.

For history is what he gave us – with, as one Washinton Post reviewer put it, “an ivestigator’s skill and a novelist’s flair.”

Any of Halberstam’s books is worth the read, but I personally recommend “The Best and the Brightest” and “The Fifties.” His bibliography:

1961: The Noblest Roman. Houghton-Mifflin.
1965: The Making of a Quagmire: America and Vietnam during the Kennedy Era. McGraw-Hill.
1967: One Very Hot Day. Houghton-Mifflin.

1968: The Unfinished Odyssey of Robert Kennedy. Random House.
1971: Ho. McGraw-Hill.
1972: The Best and the Brightest. Ballantine Books.
1979: The Powers That Be. University of Illinois Press.
1981: The Breaks of the Game. Ballantine Books.
1985: The Amateurs: The Story of Four Young Men and Their Quest for an Olympic Gold Medal. Ballantine Books.
1986: The Reckoning. Avon Books.
1989: Summer of '49. Harper Perennial Modern Classics.
1991: The Next Century. Random House.
1993: The Fifties. Ballantine Books.
1994: October 1964. Ballantine Books.
1999: The Children. Ballantine Books.
1999: Playing for Keeps: Michael Jordan and the World He Made. Broadway Books. 2001: War in a Time of Peace: Bush, Clinton, and the Generals. Scribner.
2002: Firehouse. Hyperion.
2003: The Teammates: A Portrait of a Friendship. Hyperion.
2005: Bill Belichick: The Education of a Coach. Hyperion.
2007: Work in progress: at the time of his death was working on a book about the Korean War.

New York Times obituary, reviews of his books and his Pulitzer Prize reporting from the NYT archives: LINK


Confessions of a tree-hugger

My Florida friend Clara has had her peaceful world invaded by housing developers parking in her yard and plowing down the wooded area beyond her house.

Clara is happiest when she’s outside on a sunny day, digging in dirt, pulling weeds and planting flowers.

Now, she can’t hear her wind chimes for the roar of construction vehicles.

I’m a tree-hugger. I feel her angst.

My sister Martha in Louisiana is just now getting her home, lawn and swimming pool back to normal after Katrina.

Years ago her husband Tony, who died five months before the hurricane hit, planted an oak tree in their yard. Katrina took it out.

A few weeks back Martha found a tiny oak growing by her back yard fence, apparently the offspring of her husband’s tree. After consulting with neighbors, she transplanted the little tree to the cul-de-sac island out front – “in memory of Tony.”

She called last night to report the little oak is thriving.

I’m a tree-hugger. I feel her joy.

I used to joke that my favorite sport was watching trees grow. Having lived in the same townhouse apartment for 22 years, I have seen pine saplings out front grow to soaring heights.

The growth of two oaks flanking my patio was as much a part of my routine as breathing.

Out back, up and down the way, was a verdant paradise of wood shade. In the morning I would open the drapes on my sliding-glass door and watch the gathering at bird feeders hanging from the oak branches.

From season to season, the birds changed. The oaks stood steadfast.

One morning I noticed my large Sunbeam outdoor thermometer lying on the ground. Going out to inspect, I saw that one of the oaks, during the night, had simply nudged the thermometer off its nail.

Another morning ritual was watching squirrels eat corn off my patio steps as my cats lined up inside the window, just inches away, transfixed by their fluffy upright tails.

I’m a tree-hugger. I felt content.

A few years ago the gentleman who owns the apartment complex decided to cut down the trees. For a week I watched them disappear one by one – 120 in all, including the two oaks outside my window.

I cried all week and still tear up when I think of such a beautiful biosphere being wiped out. Oh, how I miss it and its denizens.

Countless times I would walk into my kitchen, and the rays of a late afternoon sun streaming through the leafy canopy in shades of yellow-green would just take my breath away.

After “The Great Tree Cutting,” I was forced to keep my kitchen curtains closed because the harsh glare was blinding.

Three things in life are certain: death, taxes and change, and one can be just as painful as the others.


Two posts today, dear reader. Continue on.

MSNBC's Monday morning surprise

Just when I thought David Gregory was getting his sea legs …

If you happened to tune in to MSNBC at 6 this morning, you’re probably just one of the viewers wondering what’s going on.

Morning drive-time talk show host Michael Smerconish – “The Big Talker 12-10” – is being simulcast from WPHT-AM in Philadelphia.

Smerconish mentioned he’ll be on today through Wednesday, so I’m not sure if this is a trial run or the real thing.

Among the guests were comedian Jackie Mason, fellow Philadelphian Chris Matthews, Rudy Guiliani, Camille Paglia, former National Security Adviser Richard Clarke, Arlen Specter, “Yes” lead singer Jon Anderson (performing with students of a “school of rock”) and the replay of a ranting hellfire-and-brimstone preacher who got his mike cut.

Won’t be long before all these folks will be wanting “The Big Talker” to boost their issues, books or music!

Since I listen to TV, I’ve gotten pretty good at recognizing voices, and this Philadelphia lawyer sounds a lot like Rush Limbaugh to me. Just what this country needs, another right-winger with a microphone.

Good classic rock, though. As a Viking Kitty fan, I loved Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song.”

Don’t want to be too hard on Smerconish, but after the premiere of the broadcast/telecast, I will comment that he’s about as interesting as a test pattern.

You younger guys do know what a test pattern is, right?


Riding the black horse

(Read time: 5 minutes.)

I once worked with an old, grey-haired editor, a recovering alcoholic wise beyond even his years, who told me that since large corporate chains had taken over journalism, it had become “a whore riding a black horse.” The “black horse” in his colorful description is printer’s ink.


My Toronto friend David must have been reading my mind when he emailed me the thoughts of an L. A. Times columnist.

Since Don Imus lost his morning microphone, I’ve thought a lot about silenced critics of the Bush administration.

Along comes Patt Morrison’s column, “9/11’s free speech casualties,” explaining that similar thoughts about the Imus controversy “got me thinking about two other media guys - working stiffs, not multimillionaires; professional informers, not inflamers - who got fired for saying something controversial and wise.”

It’s important here to make a distinction:

* Editorials are the voice of the newspaper and carry no by-line.
* Columns are the sole opinion – the speech – of the columnist and are not attributed to the newspaper.
* Letters-to-the-editor express the opinions of readers.

Morrison writes about two award-winning newspaper columnists who were fired and even threatened for criticizing George W. Bush in the wake of 9/11. Read her column: LINK

There have been others.

* Ashleigh Banfield, the highly promoted rising star at MSNBC, who filed daily reports from Afghanistan. She criticized Bush's handling of Iraq in a college speech and was immediately fired by MSNBC.
* Phil Donahue, veteran TV host and liberal voice, lost his talk show on MSNBC.
* Bill Press lost his job as co-host of "Buchanan and Press," an MSNBC show which was canceled, it seemed to this viewer, to silence Press' liberal views and criticism of Bush - while the president’s poll figures were in the stratosphere. While Press has occasional TV appearances, Buchanan seems to have a sleeping cot at MSNBC.
* Peter Arnett, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who covered Vietnam and reported live from a Baghdad hotel for CNN during the first Gulf War, was fired by NBC, MSNBC and National Geographic at the beginning of the Iraq invasion. Arnett, who in 1997 was the first-ever television journalist to interview Osama bin Laden, had made critical remarks about the war and the political climate in the U.S. in an interview on Iraqi television. Read “Was Arnett’s Firing Fair?”, an analysis from the Poynter Institute: LINK
* Tim McCarthy, award-winning editorial writer, was fired from the Littleton, N. H., Courier for editorials criticizing Bush after 9/11.
* Jon Lieberman, Sinclair Broadcast Group’s Washington bureau chief, was fired after he publicly criticized the company’s plans to air “Stolen Honor,” a documentary aimed at discrediting 2004 presidential hopeful and Bush opponent John Kerry. Lieberman called the film "biased political propaganda, with clear intentions to sway the election." (Now in the vernacular: “Swift boating.”) Sinclair, one of the country’s largest broadcasting chains, altered the format of the film after stockholders complained.
* Dan Rather, another Bush critic, who was silenced by CBS and right-wing critics after a CBS investigation into Bush’s National Guard record. Conservatives were highly rankled by Rather's newsworthy last interview with Saddam Hussein.

I'm certain Walter Cronkite, once voted “the most trusted man in America,” would have been fired, if he were not retired. He has been a harsh critic of Bush and his Iraq policy.

And, do you know who has been the loudest and most unrelenting critic of the Bush administration’s policies foreign and domestic? Don Imus. Imus didn't just bring up an issue and comment on it: he hammered away at it day after day. Despite the reason, his voice, too, has been silenced.

The L.A. Times columnist says Bush's poll numbers are "circling the drain."
Nevertheless, there is still hestitancy among cable and network journalists to criticize him.

They prefer to couch the issues as "Democrats say, Republicans say" or "liberals say, conservatives say."

What are the media saying?

Seems the glory days of muckraking are history.

Apparently, responsible investigative journalism - at least on TV – is passé.


UPDATE; "'Devastating' Moyers probe of press and Iraq coming," Editor and Publisher, 19 April 2007: LINK


'When the roll is called up yonder ...'

In the saddest moments I’ve ever spent in front of a computer screen, I sat last night and read the list of Virginia Tech victims – more than a list, really, for CBS News and the Associated Press have compiled personal glimpses into the life of each student or professor.

Here are their fields of study, their fun times, their aspirations and achievements, the recollections of friends and the sorrowful words of family.

Here are the lives that are no more.

The full extent of this tragedy has sunk in.


Take a few minutes to read about each victim, to put a human face on this senseless massacre: LINK

Life has no rewind button

A chilling effect

As a retired journalist, I know about news value and striking a balance between withheld information and “the people’s right to know.”

Please, Mr. Capus et al, stop showing Cho’s video, stop giving this demented soul a voice from the grave.

Untold goodness

Yesterday I heard a young woman, a Virginia Tech student, say, “It’s just the way the world is today.”

No, it’s not.

History has long recorded senseless and isolated acts of violence by mentally deranged individuals.

This is not a modern-day phenomenon.

Exacerbating the horror are satellite broadcasts, ‘round-the-clock news coverge, Internet exchanges at the speed of light and the ever-present video or cell phone camera.

Instant mayhem.

Goodness goes unreported.

Normalcy doesn’t make the news.

Too little, too late

Everyone is trying to psychoanalyze a psycho. It can’t be done.

A system which allowed a young man deemed “an imminent threat to himself and to others” to “fall through the cracks” must share the blame for these deaths.


Denial and deceit: pulling back the curtain

(Read time: 3 minutes. AP book review: 3 minutes.)

On 23 September 2004, George W. Bush stood in the Rose Garden to host a press conference (LINK) with Iraq’s then Prime Minister Ayad Allawi:

“I'm honored to stand with the Prime Minister of a free and sovereign Iraq,” Bush said. “Welcome, Mr. Prime Minister. I applaud your leadership and your courage. It's my honor to welcome a friend to the White House.”

That day Ayad Allawi addressed a joint session of the U.S. Congress. (LINK) In a speech which was, it seemed blatantly transparent to many, probably penned by Bush speechwriter Karen Hughes, Allawi wanted to make three points to Congress before he stated his plan for Iraq:

* “We are succeeding in Iraq.”
* Allawi then talked about the violent images seen on American TV, including “the brutal and barbaric murder of two American hostages this week.” “We Iraqis are grateful … for your leadership and your sacrifices.”
* “Third, I stand here today as the prime minister of a country emerging finally from dark ages of violence, aggression, corruption and greed.” Allawi then talked about the millions who were “murdered, tortured or raped by the regime of Saddam Hussein.”

FAST FORWARD to 2007: Ayad Allawi’s cousin, Ali A. Allawi, has written a book which bypasses the rosy scenarios and exposes how things really were in the first days of this so-called democracy.

Ali A. Allawi writes with authority, having served, at various times since 2003, as Iraq's trade, defense and finance minister. Before the U.S.-British invasion of Iraq, Ali A. Allawi was an academic at Oxford University.

In “The Occupation of Iraq: Winning the War, Losing the Peace,” published by the Yale University Press, Ali A. Allawi writes:

“The corroded and corrupt state of Saddam was replaced by the corroded, inefficient, incompetent and corrupt state of the new order."

Ali writes of the U.S. handling of Iraq:

* “Monumental ignorance” of Iraq’s realities.
* “Rank amateurism and swaggering arrogance” of the occupation, under L. Paul Bremer's Coalition Provisional Authority.
* The American government’s "insipid retelling of `success' stories" merely hid "the huge black hole that lay underneath."

I highly recomment that you read the Associated Press’ review of “The Occupation of Iraq: Winning the War, Losing the Peace:” LINK

Order the book at Amazon.com: LINK


'The horror, the horror'

As the news unfolded of the carnage at Virginia Tech, I kept thinking about how such horrors often are confined to 27 inches of television screen.

We sit in insulated safety and watch as man’s inhumanity to man hits home.

Columbine. September 11. Iraq. Darfur. Katrina. An Amish schoolhouse.

Adding to our despair is a feeling of inadequacy, the inability to make a difference or to make sense of senseless death and suffering.

All day and all night I repeated to myself words I long ago memorized.

As a young woman I did community improvement work through the Mississippi Federation of Women’s Clubs and the General Federation of Women’s Clubs.

Each meeting was opened with Mary Stewart’s “Collect” – pronounced COLL-ect – written in Longmont, Colorado, in 1904.

May the words of this prayer bring light to a world of darkest days:

Keep us, oh God, from pettiness;
Let us be large in thought, in word, in deed.
Let us be done with fault-finding
And leave off self-seeking.
May we put away all pretense
And meet each other face to face,
Without self-pity and without prejudice.
May we never be hasty in judgment
And always be generous.
Let us take time for all things;
Make us to grow calm, serene, gentle.
Teach us to put into action our better impulses,
Straight-forward and unafraid.
Grant that we may realize
It is the little things that create differences;
That in the big things of life we are at one.
And, may we strive to touch and to know
The great, common human heart of us all.
And, oh, Lord God,
Let us forget not to be kind.


Katrina victims: where is the outrage?

(Read time: 4 minutes. WaPo article: 2 minutes.)

In the delightful musical version of Al Capp’s comic strip “L’il Abner,” Senator Jack S. Phogbound tells the people of Dogpatch, USA, “Yore government is spending $1 million just to blow yore homes off the face of the earth, so show yore ah-pree-shee-a-shun!”

In Ron Howard’s “Apollo 13,” Ed Harris as NASA’s Gene Krantz delivers the line, “Tell me this is not a government operation.”


Four short stories of shame in disaster’s aftermath:

NOLA homeless going hungry

One night last week I saw CNN’s Anderson Cooper interviewing homeless Katrina victims living under a bridge in New Orleans. Food was a problem, they said, because grocery prices in the Crscent City have skyrocketed.

A rotten shame

CNN reported all weekend that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) had “destroyed 6 million meals ready to eat (MREs) valued at $40 million.” These MREs, according to CNN, had been stockpiled for the 2006 hurricane season and had ruined due to improper storage.

Apparently CNN producers failed to read Saturday's Washington Post, which reported that FEMA had mischaracterized these meals as MREs; that, indeed, they were “box lunches” numbering 13.4 million at a cost to taxpayers of $70 million.

Honestly, I don’t know which is most confusing in the WaPo story: its headline that the 13.4 million meals were “lost,” FEMA’s statement that the meals had been stored in trailers on the Gulf Coast with temperatures reaching 120 degrees, the agency’s claim that the meals were donated to Second Harvest, OR the dizzying double-speak which follows in the form of FEMA quotes!

This brief WaPo story is a MUST-READ: LINK

Those not-so-mobile homes

In the meantime, those thousands of FEMA trailers continue to go to seed in Hope, Arkansas, and south Mississippi towns like Hattiesburg and Purvis. Seems there was some red-tape regulation that they couldn’t be placed in “flood-prone areas.” So absurd a situation that you can go to Ebay and get “FEMA trailer Mardi Gras beads and sterling silver FEMA trailer bracelets and earrings!”

“Like a good neighbor,” State Farm is where?

My old University of Southern Mississippi buddy Kathleen Koch reported Sunday morning that CNN has obtained emails showing State Farm Insurance Company threatened to fire an engineering firm making evaluations of Katrina damage in Mississippi.

The emails show engineers were asked to change reports from “wind damage” to “water damage” so State Farm would have to pay less in insurance settlements.

Both State Farm and the engineering firm executives are denying this, despite email evidence to the contrary. Mississippi’s attorney general says the emails will go a long way toward holding State Farm responsible to its policyholders in the state.


Put me in charge of FEMA. I would have picked up the telephone and had all this straightened out in 20 minutes.

I can hear it now: “You’re doing a heckuva job, B. J.”


Who is the only media personality on the record who claimed the federal government’s “rescue” would have come sooner if those desperate stranded folks in New Orleans had been white?

You guessed it: Don Imus.


Hello darkness, my old friend

Nothing turns a writer on more than another writer’s abilty to express thoughts and feelings.

To do so in such a way as to keep the reader riveted until the last word depends, in part, on the scribbler’s mechanical and grammatical skills and, in part, on an ability to draw from the inner depths of one’s feelings.

My friend over in the next Shire (Georgia) is just such a writer, framing his thoughts under the pen name “Frodo.”

With his permission, I give you a sampling of Frodo’s writing, knowing you will enjoy his words as much as I.

From “Frodo, Keeper of the Ring,” 11 April 2007:

“Maybe You Know Some Places To Go To Where They Never Close”
Mood: chatty
Topic: "Limestone Cowboys"

Frodo is no geologist, but he has long known that the Appalachian Mountain chain is the oldest on the small blue planet. The probable result of continental collisions which threw the sea bottom skyward, there is a significant amount of limestone ranging from what is now Maine, all the way down to Georgia. Where there is limestone, there are caves; water, over time, works its' way through and around limestone.

When he was a halfling, Frodo often convinced Bilbo to take him to caverns named Shenandoah, Luray, and Endless, all in Virginia. The stalagtites (from the roof) and the stalagmites (from the floor) amidst pools and falls of water were cooling even during the hottest of summer days.

Frodo met Harvey Cupp at the College of the Shire. Harvey was a true farm-boy, while Frodo was a product of a much larger scenario. Frodo is unable to recall why they started to talk about caves, but it was clear to Frodo that Harvey knew a great deal about "spelunking," and Frodo was at the age where everything deserved at least one effort. Harvey somehow found out about a cave that was visible from the river that ran its course near the College of the Shire. He convinced Frodo that they should gather necessary equipment together, and strike out in search of the cave.

Amid Frodo's Rambler Station Wagon (aka, a motorcar), Harvey had packed ropes, headgear, several tubes of what appeared to be rocks, a funny looking headlamp, and about 10 flashlights. Harvey explained that the headlamp was a carbide lantern, which he would wear, and that it would remain lit throughout their entry into the underworld. Harvey told Frodo that he would be handling the flashlights, since they were very susceptible to the moisture in the cave, and would burn themselves out one-after-the-other. Frodo felt all that sounded reasonable, and the two struck out in the direction given.

Within a half-hour Harvey pointed to what he called a "sinkhole" on the far shore of the river. Conveniently, a bridge stood nearby, and the would-be denizens of the deep pulled the motorcar within a hundred yards or so of the cave entrance. After properly outfitting themselves, Frodo and Harvey entered the world beneath the surface.

There were numbers and arrows spray-painted at various points within. Harvey explained that these were markings indicating that the cave had been mapped. Despite Frodo's excitement, it meant that they were not the first two upright creatures to ever enter.

After twenty minutes or so, Frodo was on his third flashlight. Harvey's carbide lamp was a beacon in the darkness, showing the way as the path led further downward, over boulders, requiring slow and skillful dexterity. It was not a cavern with the artistic beauty of the Luray, but it was dark, cool, and inviting to the imagination.

Harvey was muscular, with a grin that never stopped. His dark hair was cut short, and Frodo thought he would probably someday be a very good unit commander in the jungles of Southeast Asia. Frodo felt totally confident in Harvey's leadership.

After several hours, Frodo's final flashlight was surrendering its battery life, and the cavers entered a large chamber, where fresh air flowed from above. Suddenly, a gust of wind struck directly at Harvey's face, and the carbide lamp was extinguished. Frodo's final flashlight took that exact second to succumb. The initial shock of total darkness was supplemented by a silence so deep that, even now, Frodo cannot put into words exactly how quiet it was. He called to Harvey, who was only a few feet away, and Frodo's call was more a whimper than an interrogatory. Frodo was clearly afraid, and started to panic.

Harvey took control, and calmed Frodo with authority in his voice. He assured Frodo that he was re-lighting the carbide lamp, and that all would be well. "Above all else," he said to Frodo, "do not move. Don't do or say anything until I tell you. Just listen, just remember how quiet, how peaceful, how deep this moment is." Frodo stopped, drew a breath, and began to pay attention to the darkness. Never before, and never since, have things ever been so quiet in Frodo's life.

True to his word Harvey re-lit the lamp, and the happy companions then proceeded to follow the geographic markings out of the chamber and back toward the surface. Less than thirty minutes later they stood beside the motorcar.

It was the Spring of the year, and classes soon ended at the College of the Shire, with no further opportunity for the two to try another expedition. They shook hands, new-found friends, and Frodo promised to have his own equipment the next year, and they would find several occasions to explore the land beneath the limestone.

The following Autumn brought Frodo back to the College of the Shire with his own ropes, helmet, and a carbide lamp. He learned that Harvey Cupp had been driving the tractor on his father's farm, and it had turned over when it struck a small sinkhole, trapping and crushing his friend.

Frodo sold the stuff. He has never gone deep into another cave. He remembers the silence, just like Harvey taught him. He just can't describe it.


For more of Frodo’s heartwarming stories, keen wit, cultural acumen and political satire: LINK


Blackberry winter

(Read time: 2 minutes)

Just before sunrise on Easter Sunday the temperature here in sunny South Carolina was 27 degrees.

Nights here in the Appalachian foothills have been cold all week, easing up to 41 degrees this morning.

My friend Clara, who lives in Florida but grew up in Ohio, calls this a “blackberry winter,” a term which took my breath away with its imagery of deepest purple berries blanketed with white snow.

Such late freezes are an annual occurrence, but always seem to come as a surprise. I measure them by the azalea blooms flanking my wooden mailbox post.

Around mid-March this area is adorned with azalea, dogwood and apple blossums and awash with yellow pine tree pollen.

Then, just when we are feeling the lulling effects of a Southern spring, a frost snaps us to attention.

Yet, every year, such weather is news. My Canadian friend David in Toronto emailed early Easter morning, “Has the weather been chilly? It was at the Masters in Atlanta.”

Since George Washington noted in his diary that snow fell on Mount Vernon in May 1774, there have been numerous recorded late-spring snowfalls.

On a beautiful May day in 1992 my Mississippi visitors and I stood in George Vanderbilt’s bedroom at Biltmore Estate in Asheville, N.C., and viewed Mount Pisgah from his balcony. Over the next three days, Vanderbilt’s mountain got 60 inches of snow!

Long ago I memorized, “What is so rare as a day in June, then, if ever, come perfect days …”

My mother, born in Mississippi 100 years ago this month, always said she once saw snow fall in June, and now I have the Internet to confirm her childhood memory.

Waking early Sunday morning, I watched Rogers and Hammerstein’s “Flower Drum Song” (Turner Classic Movies) with its lyrics, “A hundred million miracles are happening every day.”

For a girl who grew up in Mississippi that’s what snowflakes are: a hundred million miracles.

During the record winter of ’81-’82, I lived under six months of snow in Plattville, Wisconsin, and I loved every minute! I loved the whiteouts, driving through white-walled halls of highway, the blizzards and the 24 inches of ice on the Mississippi River at Dubuque.

After the mildest of winters here in South Carolina, I welcome walking into the warmth of home and snuggling under the covers while my coffee perks.

Poets always say it better. I quote Robert Louis Stevenson’s closing words in “The House Beautiful” from “Underwoods:”

“To make this Earth, our hermitage,
A cheerful and a changeful page,
God’s bright and intricate device
Of days and seasons doth suffice.”


One final word: sexism

An open letter to NBC News President Steve Capus:

Mr. Capus:

There is no question in my mind that you know the man Don Imus is, love him and loved his show. You said so, and I take you at your word.

Over the years that “Imus in the Morning” was simulcast on MSNBC, I missed few mornings having coffee with the I-man and his staff and guests.

I always came away from his broadcasts better informed and feeling pretty good that someone with such clout is helping others – through charities and political discourse.

Throughout the media blitz against Don Imus your anchors and show hosts characterized his unfortunate words as “highly charged racist and sexist remarks.”

May I point out to you, Mr. Capus, your own sexist shortcomings?

A few years back, in a discussion with friends on a liberal forum, one male commented, “There’s one thing you can say for Fox News, they’ve got hot babes as news readers.”

Not long after that you began to fill your daytime schedule with “hot babes,” who seem to have no more journalistic skills than being able to read a teleprompter or listen to producers in their earpiecess.

Over the last year, MSNBC's daytime schedule has been dominated by news of Anna Nicole Smith, Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton and Britney Spears. These female “role models” even find their way into your evening programs.

There are no female hosts on your nightly lineup, and, I believe, only one black female, who substitutes as a nighttime host.

Mr. Capus, what message is MSNBC sending to the teenage girls of our country?

As I write this I’m listening to Imus raising money for sick kids on the annual Radiothon, streaming live on WFAN.com. He sounds relaxed and upbeat this morning, doing what he does best. I thought you would want to know.


Ms. B. J. Trotter


A voice is silenced

Steve Capus of NBC announces "Imus in the Morning" will no longer be simulcast on MSNBC. A voice which has spoken out for Americans - from veterans to children - and challenged corruption in government has been silenced. Who will be next?

Media frenzy fails to mention ...

(Read time: 3 minutes)

Don Imus:

* Has raised more than $50 million in an annual radiothon with New York radio station WFAN to benefit the Tomorrow’s Children Fund, the CJ Foundation for SIDS and the Imus Ranch for Kids with Cancer. Donations also funded the completion of cancer research facilities located at New Jersey’s Hackensack University Medical Center.
* Raised $10 million for a new state-of-the-art rehab facility for “America’s Fallen Heroes” returning from Afghanistan and Iraq.
* Is singularly responsible for pressuring Congress to raise veterans’ death benefits from $12,000 to $100,000 for a surviving spouse and $400,000 for children left behind when they reach age 18.
* Has batlled untiringly for autism, sickle cell anemia and sudden infant death syndrome research.
* Was the only media voice asserting Katrina victims were neglected because they were African-Americans.
* Challenges government and confronts politicians on issues which affect Americans.
* Calls on the carpet every politician interviewed over the condition of veterans’ hospitals and health-care in this country.
* Has helped numerous authors reach #1 on bestseller lists.
* Is, along with his wife Deidre, dedicated to removing toxic chemicals and carcinogens from your environment.
* Is a member of The National Broadcasters Hall of Fame.
* Tells it like is regarding corruption in government and unethical politicians.

Don Imus will meet with the young women of the Rutgers basketball team and personally apologize for hurting them. These women say he doesn’t know them. I hope they will get to know the work Imus does and the man he is.

Do you really want to join the witchhunt to silence this man?

If you don’t think Imus himself is the butt of sarcasm and bad jokes, just take a look at his official biography on MSNBC: LINK


Heart of darkness, heart of gold?

(Read time: 4 minutes.)

“Imus hates everybody.” CNN Headline News’ Glenn Beck on CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360,” 9 April 2007. LINK

"Hate sells! Hate sells! MSNBC trafficks in hate.” Bill O’Reilly, “The O’Reilly Factor,” Fox News, 9 April 2007. LINK


NBC, CBS suspend “Imus in the Morning” for two weeks, beginning Monday. The Associated Press, 9 April 2007: LINK

NBC airs the MSNBC simulcast of Don Imus’ syndicated radio show on WFAN (NY), owned by CBS.

STATEMENT OF NBC News President Steve Capus:

“This comes after careful consideration in the days since his racist, abhorrent comments were made. Don Imus has expressed profound regret and embarrassment and has made a commitment to listen to all of those who have raised legitimate expressions of outrage. In addition, his dedication — in his words — to change the discourse on his program moving forward, has confirmed for us that this action is appropriate. Our future relationship with Imus is contingent on his ability to live up to his word.”

The competition:

I never thought I would hear myself saying this, but the most logical and fair discussion of this whole affair occurred last night on Fox News’ “Hannity and Colmes,” which featured a panel of three black males. Basically, the discussion centered around 1) the hypocrisy of singling out Imus’ comments when some who are most critical have made similar “racist slurs” and 2) rap lyrics, which are equally egregious.

Imus’ good works as well as his comments in behalf of African-Americans were applauded. The segment concluded that Imus should not “lose his job,”

Having the opportunity to monitor the cable news coverage of this controversy, I can tell you, unequivocally, that CNN did a ‘round-the-clock number on Don Imus. Is there a question of “conflict of interest” when one cable news outlet devotes its airtime to eliminating its competition?

Sadly, I realize that none of this makes sense to anyone who does not watch “Imus in the Morning” on a regular basis.

As NBC’s Washington Bureau Chief and host of “Meet the Press” Tim Russert says in an MSNBC promo:

“You’re watching Don Imus, that old curmudgeon with a heart of gold.”


Keeping it in the family

I thought I would mark my 500th visitor to this blog and checking my counter and my Site Meter, discovered it was none other than my son Ladd. Aw.


I-support: in defense of Don Imus

(Read time: 3 minutes)

This post is not about Don Imus’ right to say anything he chooses. Nor is it about freedom of speech.

I am going to tell you why I watch “Imus in the Morning” on MSNBC every weekday morning.

In my opinion, Don Imus is the best interviewer in the business. He is the “Eveeryman” who asks the questions which need to be asked and actually listens to what the interviewee has to say.

I always come away from his program better informed.

If the outcry calling for Imus’ head over his recent remarks about the Rutgers women’s basketball team prevails, the “Imus in the Morning” show will cease to exist.

And, every news or talk-show program, producer, anchor or host can ask the question, “Will I be next?”

I watch Imus because the show is entertaining, informative and philanthropic.

That the I-man and his crew make “offensive” remarks about anybody and anything is part of the format – the schtick – of the show. Anyone who watches on a regular basis would recognize this. Sure, I find some comments distasteful, but they do not detract from the overall impact of the show.

There are a lot of people in this country who would like to see Imus silenced.

All weekend the blogosphere has been abuzz with “Fire Don Imus” posts, and I would bet the farm that 90 percent of these protestors have never watched his show on a regular basis.

I find it awfully hard to discern the difference between what Imus said and the vulgar and crass remarks about him on some of these blogs.

CNN seems to be leading the charge against Imus, running a videotape of his remarks every few minutes – all weekend. So extensive has been the coverage, one can only conclude this might be an effort to eliminate the competition.

“Imus in the Morning” is among the top 20 cable shows, according to Neilsen. His radio show via WFAN, New York, has 10 million listerners nationwide. He is one of the most powerful and influential media figures in this country.

The message not being conveyed: he has used his power and influence to help his fellow man – from kids with cancer and autism to returning injured veterans – and to point out corruption in your government.

On Friday morning, the I-man apologized for his remarks – calling the Rutgers team “nappy-headed hos.” Again, only regular viewers would understand that such comments are just part of the “schtick” of the show. The whole crew calls Mrs. Imus – Deidre – “The Green Ho” because of her tireless efforts in behalf of cancer research and removal of toxic chemicals from household and hospital cleaning.

Don Imus is neither racist nor sexist. Same here. What you are not seeing or hearing in this witchhunt are the many comments he has made against racism and sexism.

One thing is certain: Don Imus is a “no-nonsense kind of guy” who might just tell the suits to “take this job and shove it.”

You might agree or disagree with this post. Express yourself in “Comments,” or go to the CNN link below, scroll down the far-right column and vote on the CNN Quick Vote of the Day:


Should Don Imus be fired for his comments on the Rutgers women's basketball team?

Here’s the vote as of 3:30 a.m.:

Yes: 53 percent, 21,396 votes
No: 47 percent, 18,956 votes

UPDATE: Imus issued a “mea culpa” on his program this morning, saying “I’m a good person who said a bad thing.” Watch the VIDEO.

11:30 a.m. The CNN question has changed:

Should Don Imus' apology be enough to end the controversy over his remarks about the Rutgers women's basketball team?

Yes: 54 percent
No: 46 percent

Vote here: LINK


Weekend Wonk

(Read time: at your leisure.)

Grab a cup of coffee and check out the headlines you might have missed during the week. If you click on links, hit the “backspace” button to return to blog.

* Supreme Court rules against Bush on “greenhouse gases.” LINK
* Supreme Court rejects appeal by Gitmo prisoners. LINK
* “Beam me up, Scotty” actor’s ashes headed for space. LINK
* Eyewitness accounts of CNN Center killing. LINK
* Children’s bracelets, key chains recalled for lead-poisoning danger. LINK
* French train breaks rail speed record. LINK
* “A Christmas Story” director, son killed in car crash. LINK
* 10 easy Spring weekend getaways. Fun just reading this one! I was surprised to learn I’ve visited three of the destinations many times! LINK
* Workers find $17,000 in coins under old slot machines. LINK
* Greek archaeologists unearth rich tomb. LINK

* Pulitzer-winning cartoonist to help “America’s Most Wanted” snare “Book of Days” killer. LINK
* Dog lost for four years found 1,100 miles away. LINK
* Dick Cheney knows his audience: continues to assert Saddam-al Qaeda link on Rush Limbaugh’s show. LINK
* Declassified Pentagon report discounts Saddam-al Qaeda connection. LINK

NEED A GOOD LAUGH? Read my friend “Frodo’s” take on the woman on horseback arrested for DUI. Sharp-witted hobbit from the next shire over, Georgia. Enjoy! LINK


Matthew Dowd, a chief strategist in Bush’s 2000 and 2004 election campaigns, says he’s lost faith in the president. New York Times, 29 March 2007. LINK

White House Counselor Dan Bartlett, in a CBS interview, blamed Dowd’s remarks on his “personal turmoil,” suggesting emotional instability. LINK

Happy Easter, dear reader!


‘The O’Reilly-Rivera Two-Bit Dog-and-Pony Show’

(Read time: 2 minutes, video: 4:44)

P. T. Barnum, the Barnum in “Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus,” once said, “There’s a sucker born every minute.”

Last night in that center-ring of suckerdom - Fox News’ “The O’Reilly Factor” - two-bit ticketholders got their money’s worth.

Under the guise of arguing the issues of “illegal immigration” v. “drunk driving,” host Bill O’Reilly and another Fox News “star” Geraldo Rivera put on a show of screaming, scripted screed which almost came to fisticuffs.

You could hear the faithful yelling, “Hit him, Bill!”

Cued to what the good folks at “News Hounds” (LINK) – “We watch Fox so you don’t have to” – called “a tasteless show of journalistic ambulance chasing,” I checked out the “Factor’s” 11 p.m. ET rerun.

These two numbnuts used the tragic deaths of two teenagers to put on a ratings-grabbing display of pugilistic pettiness.

And, I almost fell off the couch laughing, when the duo calmed down, and Rivera called the “event” proof that “Fox News is fair and balanced.” In a pig’s eye!

The whole charade would have made P. T. Barnum proud!

“Step right up, folks, see the tabloid goon and the egotisitical gasbag duke it out!”

Pass the popcorn, Bubba, here’s the VIDEO.


Whiskey at the good-old-boys club

(Read time: 5 minutes.)

Once upon a time at a certain daily newspaper in a certain Southern town, I edited the opinion pages.

In an editorial board meeting with the publisher and the executive editor, where plans were made for the week’s opinion pieces, I commented that Mississippi once taxed illegal liquor. There was a state tax collector, I added, whose salary was a percentage of the take.

Pretty confident of my home state’s history, I punctuated these remarks with “That’s how William Winter got rich.”

Maybe this newspaper had not yet gotten the word that women were becoming a force in journalism, for the publisher immediately put me in my place. “That’s ridiculous!” he retorted, “and I know Bill Winter. Bill Winter is not rich.”

When the publisher left the conference room, the editor, in front of the other board members, looked at me and snapped, “If you don’t know what you’re talking about, keep your mouth shut!”

I kept my mouth shut.

I did not tell him that my brothers-in-law Paul and Harold and my brother Leroy were friends of William Winter, former Mississippi governor, back in their Grenada, Mississippi, growing-up years.

Nor, did I tell him that William Winter had never in his life been called “Bill.”

Didn’t even mention that seen from the perspectives of a publisher and a lowly editorial editor, “rich” might be relative.

Heck, Mississippi politicians were among those who practically wore out the old Pearl River bridge connecting the state capital to “The Gold Coast,” a Rankin County road lined with wooden shacks dispensing illegal whiskey from drive-through windows.

A few days ago I ran across the delightful memoirs of retired Mississippi Judge Thomas Givens of Oxford.

Drawing me into Judge Givens’ stories were his title, “Whiskey, Chickens and Cherry Bombs,” and this on the Web site:

“Note from Ye Editor: Judge Tom Givens writes stories that are not only entertaining, but also give us a glimpse into a rapidly fading era of Deep South history. Readers will enjoy these four memoirs - and will learn a thing or two.”

Learn a thing or two, indeed!

With permission of Beth, whose Web site is usadeepsouth.ms11.net, I quote a few words from one of Judge Givens’ stories:

“As I said before, just about all the (Mississippi) Delta and River counties allowed liquor sales. You could walk into any of those establishments, and there tacked on the wall would be their black market tax receipt.

“Now, get this, they had a ‘State Tax Collector.’ His only job was to collect the black market tax, and his compensation was a percentage of the collection. In the 50's, Life magazine did a profile on him as the highest paid public servant in the United States. That was none other than the most Honorable William Winter. To Winter’s credit, he lobbied the legislature to do away with the position, which they finally did.”

Well, that makes two Mississippians who know what they’re talking about!

Thanks, Judge! Once upon a time a woman could get pretty lonely working at a good-old-boys club.


You can enjoy Judge Givens’ stories here: LINK


Whole hog or nothing

(Read time: 4 minutes.)

Two wrongs absolutely do not make a right, but they can certainly expose blantant hypocrisy.

According to the Progress Report, Center for American Progress, 3 April 2007 (LINK):

“Because Americans strongly back a timeline to redeploy from Iraq (LINK), conservatives have focused their opposition to the recently-passed Iraq redeployment legislation on the domestic spending that is attached.”

George W. Bush, with his best Texas swagger and staccato scriptreading, sidled up to the Rose Garden microphone yesterday and vowed to veto Democratic “PORK.” The man has balls.

When it comes to PORK, his rubber-stamp Congress sucked the marrow out of the hambone of record spending for six years!

Continuing, “For example, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) recently stated, ‘They used this serious effort, what should have been a serious effort to fund the troops, as an opportunity ... to get PORK for various and sordid products back home.’ (LINK)

“Senate Minority Whip Trent Lott (R-MS) added, ‘So why are we going through this exercise of heaping PORK on the backs of our men and women in uniform and trying to put artificial dates, which will not occur?’ (LINK)

“But just one year ago, these same conservatives endorsed the emergency supplemental bill that included $15 billion in domestic spending (LINK), including ‘$4 billion for farmers, $1.1 billion for Gulf Coast fisheries and $1 billion in grants to states.’

“The bill also included the notorious $700 million Railroad to Nowhere in Mississippi (LINK), reportedly the largest earmark ever, sponsored by Lott. Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) introduced an amendment aimed at eliminating Lott's egregious PORK project, but it was defeated. Fully 18 senators who last week opposed the Iraq spending bill - including McConnell and Lott - voted last year to preserve the Railroad to Nowhere. (LINK) See a list of the 18 senators who endorsed the PORK here: LINK

“Conservatives are now complaining about ‘PORK’ to distract from their real problem with the Iraq legislation: the fact that it forces President Bush to change course (in Iraq). These senators want to give Bush a blank check to wage a war without end; they just don't want to admit it to their constituents.”

So, the next time you see Republicans, including George W. Bush, talking about Democrats and PORK projects, you will know they are serving up a big steaming platter of roasted hypocrisy with an apple in its mouth.


Postscript: And speaking of hypocrisy, have you noticed the very right-wing proponents of torture at Gitmo and at the hands of the CIA in foreign prisons are horrified and indignant at the idea of Iranians torturing British sailors?

“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” was the very argument Democrats made against this administration’s penchant for such punishment.

Hypocrisy! To quote an old Southern expression: “Talk about the possum calling the hog narrow-faced.”


Scared senseless

(Read time: 2 minutes)

Since 9/11, there has been a false premise in this country that all Americans live in constant fear.

We have been bombarded by terror alerts, color-coded security levels and continous reminders of our vulnerability.

Americans are, in short, in danger of becoming brainwashed.

Let’s examine what crime writer Ann Rule (“The Stranger Beside Me,” “Small Sacrifices”) says are the four basic elements necessary for brainwashing to occur:

1) “A severe traumatic shock.” September 11, 2001.
2) “Isolation. Being taken away from persons or surroundings where a person feels secure.” On that fateful day, our whole world changed.
3) “Programming. Hearing what the mind controller wants the subject to believe - over and over and over and over.” Constant fear has been a central theme of the major speeches of President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.
4) “The promise of reward, often the subject's very life.” Since 9/11 the Bush administration has portrayed itself as the protector of your life. This theme, along with the theme of constant fear, permeates every press conference or major speech.

“Drinking the Kool-Aid” and “through the looking-glass” have become common phrases among those trying to cope with persons who put aside morals to push the madness of their ideology.

In my opinion, far too many Americans have been wooed by warmongering wimps and zeitmeisters of malaise.

It's time to stop listening to persons who want Americans to hate each other.

We have a choice: a future of fear or a future of hope. It's time to get on with the United States of America.


Wingnuts roast pros

(Read time: 5 minutes. Link to winning quotes: at your leisure.)

A number of my favorite news writers, anchors and commentators must be doing something right, because they’ve been selected winners of the Media Research Center’s annual awards for worst reporting.

The Media Research Center (MRC), which calls itself “America’s Media Watchdog,” wants to protect you from “the liberal media elite.”

The MRC Web site describes the Center as “a conservative media watchdog group dedicated to bringing political balance to the news and entertainment media.”

“The liberal media elite” can be defined as any news outlet in this country which is not Fox News or certain right-wing radio hosts.

In other words, some of the most venerable news institutions in this country. An example would be the Baltimore Sun, which Bill O’Reilly has taken to calling “radical left.”

The MRC might be taken more seriously if their award categories reflected a professional tone.

Also, telling is this from its Web site: "Past award galas have featured a who's who of conservative opinion leaders, from Ann Coulter to Laura Ingraham to Sean Hannity.” Oh, that’s rich.

The MRC likes to call its awards ceremony a “roast,” so I’ll give them that. “Noted” conservatives such as G. Gordon Liddy stand in to accept the awards in the recipients’ behalf.

At a 20th anniversary dinner on 29 March 2007 (LINK), the MRC presented the following award for the year 2006:

The God, I Hate America Award: New York Times Publisher Arthur Sulzberger. Runners-up: MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann and CBS’ Andy Rooney.

The Dan Rather Memorial Award for the Stupidest (sic) Analysis: CBS’ Katie Couric. Runners-up: HBO’s Bryant Gumbel and MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann.

The I’m Not a Political Genius But I Play One on TV Award: ABC’s Rosie O’Donnell. Runners-up: HBO’s Bill Maher and singer-activist Harry Belafonte.

The Tin Foil Hat Award for Crazy Conspiracy Theories: CNN’s Jack Cafferty. Runners-up: Katie Couric and CBS Evening News and MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann.

The Puppy Love Award: ABC’s Charles Gibson. Runners-up: ABC’s Terry Moran and NBC’s Meredith Vieira.

Quote of the Year: New York Times Publisher Arthur Sulzberger, Jr., 21 May 2006.

To read the quotes which merited these less-than-prestigious awards: LINK

The kicker: the MRC presented Rush Limbaugh with its (seriously, folks) “First Annual William F. Buckley Jr. Award for Media Excellence," recognizing Limbaugh’s "outstanding leadership in the conservative movement, defending and advancing conservative principles through the media."

By the way, my Associated Press Style Book, the bible of professional journalists, says there’s no such thing as “first annual.” The “annual” distinction comes with the beginning of the second year.