September 23, 2006
Well, actually, at 2-2 this weekend, it's his best-ever start in this tournament, justifying U.S. coach Tom Lehman's gutsy decision to roll the dice and play Woods in the afternoon session. The Americans continued their crap play in Ireland, and Europe only needs four points out of twelve matches tomorrow to retain the Ryder Cup. Mickelson lost; in fact, "Mickelson lost" may be the most banal statement since "Bush lied."
September 22, 2006
But even as it has enjoyed cozy relations with Washington politicos, from its earliest days the Times has been a hothouse for hard-line racialists and neo-Confederates. Pruden, who started at the paper in 1982, was their wizard. His father, the Rev. Wesley Pruden Sr., was a Baptist minister who served as chaplain to the Capital Citizens Council in Little Rock, Arkansas, the leading segregationist group in town. When President Dwight Eisenhower sent Army troops to protect nine black teenagers integrating Little Rock's Central High School in 1957, Pruden Sr. reportedly told an assembled mob, "That's what we've got to fight! Niggers, Communists and cops!"From an excellent piece by Max Blumenthal in the Nation...[UPDATE (9/24): One of the main sources for this article is a writer named George Archibald, who is described as having been "nominated" for four Pulitzer Prizes during his tenure at the Washington Times. In fact, no one by that name has ever been a nominated finalist, and the Times has only one nomination to its credit in its history, a 2003 nomination for photojournalism.]
In 1993 Pruden gave an interview to the now-defunct neo-Confederate magazine Southern Partisan, which routinely published proslavery apologias and attacks on Abraham Lincoln. Pruden boasted, "Every year I make sure that we have a story in the paper about any observance of Robert E. Lee's birthday.... And the fact that it falls around Martin Luther King's birthday."
"Makes it all the better," interjected a Partisan editor.
"I make sure we have a story. Oh, yes," said Pruden.
When Coombs joined the Times in 1988, he became a charter member of Pruden's neo-Confederate cabal. Reared by a military family in rural Virginia, Coombs attended a private high school and William and Mary College, where he was known as a hard partyer with a vast collection of rock-and-roll records. After graduating Coombs cut his teeth at several Virginia papers and the States News Service. He pursued journalism as an extension of his family's military tradition. His motto, which he would recite time and again in the Times newsroom: "Journalism is war."
In his 1993 Southern Partisan interview, Pruden proudly recounted Coombs's speech that year at the Capitol hailing Confederate President Jefferson Davis. "I read the speech and it was quite good," Pruden told the Partisan. "I was originally asked to speak, but I was going to be out of town and Fran filled in for me. He was telling me what a thrilling thing it was to stand there and sing 'Dixie' in the statuary hall of the U.S. Capitol. I would have liked to have been there just for that."
While Coombs sympathized with Pruden's Lost Cause nostalgia, his politics were even harsher. "The thing about Wes is, he has other vices," said a Times senior staffer. "He loves a good meal, loves to have his ego stroked, he loves women, the social scene. As for bashing blacks and Hispanics, he shares Fran's views, but he has other preoccupations. Fran is the really hard-core ideological white supremacist."
Coombs believes immigration is "the number-one issue in America today," and he has played an instrumental role in pressing far-right positions into the mainstream. In a move that many sources considered emblematic, on August 22 Coombs splashed a favorable review of Pat Buchanan's book State of Emergency across the paper's front page. Buchanan's book is a diatribe calling for an immediate moratorium on all immigration, to stave off the demise of Western civilization. "There were a lot of other things going on [in the news] that day," a Times senior staffer said. "Any other paper would have reserved that for the book review section, but Coombs had to have Buchanan on the front page." Coombs, the staffer continued, "will literally stand there and scan websites and look for anything that's anti-Hispanic, that's immigrant-bashing, and he will order the editors to go with it." According to Archibald, in 2001 Pruden issued a memo instructing reporters to stop using the term "illegal immigrant" and instead use "illegal alien"--a lead the rest of the conservative media soon followed.
The trouble is: Cheney, Bush, Rumsfeld and Addington are not gentlemen. If we have learned anything these past few years, it is that they are not to be trusted on the torture question, that they have lied repeatedly and knowingly and insistently, that their use of the English language is designed to obfuscate and obscure the reality they are advancing, and the constitutional freedoms they are bent on dismantling. In so far as this bill grants this president discretion in enforcing Geneva, it means that the standards of Geneva will not apply under this president - although they might under a more civilized and competent one.Amen.
I should add that it is essential to the integrity of language and law that the word torture not be defined out of existence. Waterboarding, hypothermia, long-time-standing, and various forms of stress positions are torture, have always been torture and always will be torture. What we must do is what Orwell demanded: speak plain English before it evaporates from our discourse, refuse to acquiesce to the corruption of language and decency. In that respect, the press must continue to ask both McCain and all administration representatives whether passing this bill means that waterboarding, hypothermia, sleep deprivation, long-time-standing or stress positions are now illegal and unavailable to the CIA. They must not be allowed to get away with the answer that they will not mention specific techniques. The specifics are everything. And we must not be snowed by abuse of English into saying something is true when it isn't. Until they are completely forthcoming on these critical details, this bill should not be passed. Moreover, something this complex and this grave should not be rushed into law with round-the-clock haste. We need this to be debated and deliberated slowly. Which means leaving it to the next session of Congress.
September 21, 2006
The deal does next to nothing to stop the president from reinterpreting the Geneva Conventions. While the White House agreed to a list of “grave breaches” of the conventions that could be prosecuted as war crimes, it stipulated that the president could decide on his own what actions might be a lesser breach of the Geneva Conventions and what interrogation techniques he considered permissible. It’s not clear how much the public will ultimately learn about those decisions. They will be contained in an executive order that is supposed to be made public, but Mr. Hadley reiterated that specific interrogation techniques will remain secret.--N.Y. Times editorial, 9/22/06
Even before the compromises began to emerge, the overall bill prepared by the three senators had fatal flaws. It allows the president to declare any foreigner, anywhere, an “illegal enemy combatant” using a dangerously broad definition, and detain him without any trial. It not only fails to deal with the fact that many of the Guantánamo detainees are not terrorists and will never be charged, but it also chokes off any judicial review.
The Democrats have largely stood silent and allowed the trio of Republicans to do the lifting. It’s time for them to either try to fix this bill or delay it until after the election. The American people expect their leaders to clean up this mess without endangering U.S. troops, eviscerating American standards of justice, or further harming the nation’s severely damaged reputation.
Actually, it wasn't that long ago. The Colbert Report was still airing episodes with humor and wit as recently as late-August; it's just that his post-Labor Day efforts have been the comedic counterpart to the Oakland Raiders offense.
September 20, 2006
September 19, 2006
UPDATE [9/20]: An ARG poll has the same margin. Lieberman is losing slightly among independents. The Republican candidate is drawing less than 5%, so any improvement at his end can only help Lamont.
Angelenos and news-crits: Before you rush to agree with LAT columnist Tim Rutten's self-satisfiedly righteous denunciation of the evil, greedy absentee-owning Tribune Company: 1) Do you really think Dean Baquet couldn't put out a high-quality Los Angeles newspaper with a mere 800 editorial employees (instead of the current 940)? The Washington Post operates with about 800 editorial employees. It's pretty good! 2) If you are a reporter at the LAT, do you really want to work at a paper owned by Eli Broad, Ron Burkle, or David Geffen--three of the local billionaires you should be covering? They aren't known as people who like bad press. ...
P.S.: The LAT has become a much better paper under Baquet--better than it ever was under the Chandlers--while it's cut back staff. Does that bolster the argument against cutting?
Wow, where does one start? First, the metropolitan area of Los Angeles has a population of almost 18 million people, making it more than twice the size of the D.C.-Baltimore metropolitan area. Besides the fact that the Post isn't half the newspaper it was in the '70's, a good newspaper in Los Angeles should have quite a bit more editorial employees than one in D.C., especially one whose circulation is almost 20% higher.
Second, having a local billionaire sign your paychecks is going to represent no more of a potential conflict of interest than having a publicly-traded corporation do so, and its interest in the bottom line uber alles. At least having Eli Burke or Ron Burkle running things at Times-Mirror decreases the likelihood of having advertisers trying to censor unfavorable articles, an inevitable result of having a publicly-traded corporation in charge, where everything is constantly and monomaniacally geared towards maximizing profits for the shareholders. If the trade-off is not aggressively investigating your billionaire patron, I'll live with that.
Lastly, that the LA Times is better now than it was in the Chandler Era (and thus, the best that it's ever been; the pre-Otis Chandler Times was a joke) is not only news to those who continue to subscribe to it, and have to read the bare-bones sports and metro sections, but it's also news to regular readers of Mickey Kaus, who has been unsparing in his attacks on the paper the past few years (see here, here, here, here, here, here, and here), both before and after the promotion of Baquet in July, 2005.
In fact, as recently as last May, Kaus approvingly cited this reaction from one of his readers:
Alert and anguished L.A. reader "G"--not me! And not Brady Westwater neither!--writes:
I suspect declining circulation numbers and heat from the Chicago boys at Tribune Co. may get the message to Carroll & Baquet through the celebratory haze.
Two more Pulitzers are going on the wall at the L.A. Times, which means the editors at Spring St. can delude themselves, for at least another year, with the belief they are putting out a decent newspaper.
Prizes, which award either prestige or cash, are meant to reward, and thereby encourage, good behavior. ... And, at their best, the Pulitzer Prizes encourage papers to pursue serious journalism. The possibility of a Pulitzer is a good reason for an editor at a small paper with a limited budget to let a reporter spend a lot of time investigating a local scandal. ... But at large papers ... the Pulitzers are reinforcing bad behavior. At the LA Times, the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and every other large paper in the country, editors year in and year out mount big projects with Pulitzers in mind ... (Did you make your way through even one of the NYT's Pulitzer-winning Race in America series? I didn't think so.) Typically these projects are snoozes which have their largest readership among Pulitzer judges. ... But at the WSJ and NYT, that's okay. Both papers are excellent despite their Pulitzer pursuits.
But by continuing to hand out prizes to the LAT, the Pulitzer committee is complicit in the journalistic disaster in Los Angeles. This is not to say that it's King/Drew series or Kim Murphy's reporting from Russia weren't excellent. ... Or that the four Pulitzers it brought in last year were undeserved. Under [John] Carroll and [Dean] Baquet, the LAT does national politics and foreign reporting about as well as anyone out there.
But for some reason that high quality journalism seems to stop at the Los Angeles County line. Local coverage (that is the daily stuff that isn't in a prize-bait series) is shoddy. Anyone who actually lives in L.A. and is dependent on the local paper for news and analysis of L.A. will be sorely disappointed.
There's every reason to pop champagne bottles and give self-congratulatory speeches in the newsroom today. But tomorrow, please mull this thought over: winning Pulitzers may be the thing that the LA Times does best. Which is a kinder way of saying, no matter how many Pulitzers go up on the wall each year, from the vantage of your local readers, you still put out a lousy paper. [Emph. added]
If Kaus' opinion of the Times has changed in the brief period since Baquet took over, it hasn't been evident in his writing. Is a front-page that now includes profiles of the Cannibis Babe Attorney really such an improvement? Since when has he liked the paper?