The rest of the story

"I have consolation in knowing my son died a hero. And also we have a volunteer Army. No one came and forced my son, no one came and forced Casey. They volunteered for the mission. They were trained soldiers. They knew they weren't going to Boy Scout camp. They knew. They had all written their wills. We said the I love you's and be safe, don't be a hero, and come home."

That’s gold star mother Diane Ibbotson, of Albion, IL, talking to a Chi Trib editorial writer.  Her son died while trying to save Casey Sheehan, who had died trying to save others in the Baghdad Sadr City battle.  She has another way of grieving, helping her husband work their farm, volunteering at a church and nursing home.  Watching the History Channel account of  D-Day, she and her husband “take comfort in the idea that one day the battle that claimed the lives of their son, Sheehan's son, and other sons will be remembered.”


Half full vs. half empty

Here’s a tale of two cities’ newspapers:  In Wash Times we read this head-plus-lede graf about Iraqi constitution:

Many hurdles ahead for Iraqi constitution
By David R. Sands
Published August 30, 2005

Iraq's draft constitution faces a tricky but not impassable road to ratification in an Oct. 15 referendum that is seen as critical to the country's political future and to the U.S. military mission.

Chi Trib did it this way:

Charter finished without Sunni OK
Shiites, Kurds risk rejection by voters

By Alex Rodriguez
Tribune foreign correspondent
Published August 29, 2005

BAGHDAD -- Iraqi lawmakers finished drafting their country's new constitution Sunday, ending a rancorous process that laid bare sectarian divisiveness impeding the country as it tries to forge a new democracy.

Do I detect a little pessimism here?  “Tricky but not impassable road to ratification” vs. “rancorous process that laid bare sectarian divisiveness”?  Which paper leans toward the dark side of the story?


Blago and the gas pumps

Meanwhile, gas prices rise, but it’s Blago to the rescue:

Gov. Rod Blagojevich on Monday asked Illinois' attorney general to investigate possible price gouging at gas stations as Hurricane Katrina battered the Gulf Coast, a crucial area for U.S. oil and natural gas operations.


"While losing a significant portion of our nation's domestic oil production will likely cause an increase in oil prices, it is critical that we ensure that no one be allowed to use this natural disaster as an excuse to exploit consumers," Blagojevich wrote to Attorney General Lisa Madigan, also a Democrat.

But what are Blago and Lisa going to do about it?  Supply down, demand up, and prices with it.  Would they have us ignore that law?  Or don’t they believe in it.

I have a law that ought to be passed: all governors should take Economics 101 at the state campus nearest their home.

Blagojevich said that while most gas stations won't use a natural disaster as an excuse to raise prices, "there are always a few bad apples."

"Unfortunately, the actions of a those few bad apples could mean higher gas prices for drivers," he said.

Well for cry-eye, it’s a few gas stations he’s worried about?  Why all the fuss?

That media love of regulation

“I think I know why” media ignore the “scandal” of lives lost in the wake of fuel efficiency on autos, writes Jay Ambrose for Scripps-Howard News Service. 

I think the fault lies with a widespread news-media mindset in which regulations are almost always the good guys riding down the hill to rescue the citizenry from that villain of villains: dastardly business practices. It's very nearly unfathomable to some reporters that no matter how well-intentioned, sweeping governmental interventions in the world of manufacturing and commerce can do more harm _ snuff out more lives _ than any dozen corporate CEOs on the greediest, most callous or negligent day they have ever had.

What we need are more reporters, editors, and publishers who are sceptical of bureaucrats’ ability to decide what’s good for us — as opposed to ourselves acting in a free market.

Writing long

This in PR Week is on the mark for other papers too, with hat tip to Poynteronline:

NYT[imes] business reporter Alex Berenson says: "I think the Times needs to be a lot more careful about what we demand from our readers, and how much time we ask that they spend with us every day. And I think we write too much and too long often, and I've tried increasingly to be conscious of that in my own stories, that there's no reason to write 1,200 words when 800 will do. ... You should save the length for the stories that really deserve it. I think that that is going to be a big cultural change at the Times in the next few years, and younger people hopefully will have an easier time with [it]."

Write tight.


Funding Cindy Sheehan

"What difference does that make?" said Simi Valley (CA) gold star mother Melanie House when asked if she was getting financial help for her flights to Idaho and Crawford TX to protest the war.  She didn’t want to talk about it, reported ABC7, Oakland.  But another mother, Karen Meredith, from Mountain View CA, also flown to Crawford, voiced some concern: "Sometimes things don't feel quite right to me. They don't feel wrong but maybe that's how they do it in the marketing business."

For the record, bills are being footed by Ben Cohen, of Ben and Jerry's; MoveOn.org; Dem chairman Howard Dean's organization, Democracy for America (“involved,” says ABC7); and the radical anti-war group Code Pink, organized by San Francisco's Medea Benjamin,  author of Don't Be Afraid, Gringo: A Honduran Woman Speaks From The Heart: The Story of Elvia Alvarado and veteran organizer who was dragged off the 2004 Democrat convention floor in handcuffs.


Saving Cindy Sheehan

“Considering the human factor,” generously subtitled "What I really want to know is whether that pain of loss in wartime ever really goes away," in Chi Trib by Charles M. Madigan, can use some editing and comments, offered here in brackets, with italics and bold face added:

Sometimes you get yourself in a mood that just won't let you go [folksy style alert!], and my mood about Cindy Sheehan and what has flowed from her decision to protest the death of her son [a bit more than that, I’d say] by camping out at President Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas, is becoming one of those things. [So far, it's all about Madigan, whose moods we are expected to care very much about; you know, good old Charles.  Shucks.]

A little over two years ago, I went [more Madigan here: we care] to Bedford, Va., [later i-d’d as a “little town . . . in the shadow of” a mountain range] to talk to some women and men who had lost friends on D-Day. Bedford had 35 young men [specify young when aiming for tear ducts] in the first wave of soldiers to push onto the beach, all National Guardsmen, and 19 of them were killed in very short order. More died later.

What I really [really?] wanted to know was whether that pain of loss in wartime ever really [really now!] goes away.

[Even] before the Iraq war death notices started coming in, I wanted to remind people that each loss is an individual loss, that it breaks hearts forever, one at a time. [Thanks, Charles.]

It is so much more than a number. [Oh boy, how many say it's only a number!]

The little town [what little town? oh, the one you visited] sits in the shadow of the Blue Ridge Mountains, a place where your [mine?] eye falls kindly [not rudely?] on everything from [its] 19th Century architecture to the forests along the [mountain] range.

It seemed the kind of place just [just so] invented for storytelling.

Many people in the South [Virginia] have a gift for measured speaking that makes it easy to take notes or listen for nuance, for suggestion, for that taste of cadence. [Can't you just taste it?]

It makes you [me?] think, "Well, this lovely woman [which one is that, Charles?] could just as well be singing," or, "You could dance to the way that man talks." [Oh?]

I chased around town looking for the right women. [Chased?]

Elizabeth worked at the drugstore in the telegraph booth on D-Day, [How about "I found Elizabeth, who worked" etc.?] and she got [”who got” should do it] the first word of Bedford's loss some time later when she turned her machine on in the morning and the messages from the Department of War to the families of dead soldiers started printing out.

Imagine that, sitting there in your little booth and seeing the names of fellows that you maybe had dated, maybe had kissed under a streetlight one hot summer night, maybe danced with, or kissed goodbye when the troop train pulled out of Bedford so long ago.

"The secretary of war regrets ..."

It's a lot of heartbreak for a little town. [And a lot of one-sentence paragraphs, short ones at that, for 800 words.]

It must have been awful to be there in the weeks after D-Day and find out about those deaths. [We get it.] Even all these years later, some of the women still grew teary when they talked about their dead boyfriends, how this one had a chest wound and had drowned on the beach when the tide came in and washed his stretcher away.

"You just don't get over that," one of them told me.

The elderly woman who headed the draft board at the time recalled the farmer who came bursting into the draft office with his loaded shotgun, ready to kill everyone. Two of his sons had been sent off to war, and one wasn't coming back. He was talked out of it.

How many times did those kinds of things play out? How noble did it all seem a decade or so later, when the flags stopped waving and what you were left with was an overwhelming loneliness for someone you will never see again on this Earth?  [Not noble?  Ignoble?  M. suggests but never quite says something here?  Does he mean D-day was a waste?  He’d rather not say, apparently.]

That is why I am taking this opportunity to quietly curse Cindy Sheehan's critics in word and thought far too inappropriate to be published in a newspaper. [This is Charles Angry and Inarticulate.  He can’t say what he’s thinking.  We can only guess and cringe, which is a good deal for him, since he’s lost for words.  But can’t he just say “Grrrrrr”?]

Sheehan made the choice to protest by plunking herself down [he means, made the choice and then plunked herself, etc.] in Crawford and demanding to see Bush so she could ask him exactly why her son, Casey, 24, was killed in an ambush in Baghdad's Sadr City in April 2004. [Does Charles really think that's all she wanted? She’d like it seen that way, yes.]

The reporters descended on her the way buzzards float down to pick at roadkill. [Oh boy.]  Supporters eager to voice their concerns about the war, toss some rhetoric [is that what it is?] at Bush and maybe get some time on TV showed up too.

Sheehan has now become one of those unfortunate media creatures, which diminishes her message and her impact. [Charles, there’s not a p.r. practitioner in the country that would agree with you: becoming a media creature is where’s it’s at, for gosh sakes!]

She has complicated matters with her own comments about the president as terrorist and her thoughts about Zionist conspiracies. [To say the least.]

Those remarks have opened the door to White House apologists of many stripes, who stepped in to criticize her quite aggressively, just as they seem to mysteriously step in to criticize anyone with unkind words or difficult questions for the president. Fine, that's how they play the game. [Hey, we got buzzard reporters, people who toss rhetoric at Bush, and White House apologists playing a mysterious game, and it's o.k. with Madigan?]

Anyhow, Sheehan became a certified, confusing, big-time media event. [Somehow it happened, unbeknownst to that poor woman.]

Let me say this, Cindy Sheehan, so you can use it later. [Uh-oh, free advice.]

I am sorry you lost your son. There will be this empty space [what empty space would that be?] around you for the rest of your life.

I know a place you can go down in the Blue Ridge where all the sweet women will weep with you and share their memories later, perhaps when you need them the most. [But will they demand Bush change policy?]


All in all, this is the sort of thing that gives bathos a bad name.


Late night and gangster memorial

Getting late to yesterday’s (Sunday’s) Chi Trib Metro section, I ran across a story about Vickie Quade and Maripat Donovan in federal court about who owns “Late Nite Catechism,” the immensely successful Catholic-nostalgia monologue in which Donovan plays a histrionic nun.  Having met Quade once, I read on . . . and on and on, to the end, so well was the story done, by Josh Noel, a hard-working, prolific Metro reporter.  How many law suit stories have I tried to read and found turgid and confusing.  Not this one, which is full of detail and clear.

Then I found another story, also by Noel, about Rogers Park cops removing a street corner memorial to a dead gang member, so identified by the police commander.  How many such stories have I read that interview survivors who say he was kind to his little sister and cops who say he was an outlaw with implication he got what he deserved.  Not this one, which used its ample Sunday-paper space to pursue details of the matter and leaven it with intelligent commentary not just by the commander Bruce Rottner (I think of Loyola U. basketball star of the 40s, Mickey Rottner) but also by a U. of Chi academic of 55 years experience.  Again, detailed and clear.

Noel knows what he’s doing.


From the files:


As for what reporters write, it makes us dumb, says U. of Florida history prof C. John Sommerville, author of How the News Makes Us Dumb: The Death of Wisdom in an Information Society, as reported on the UF website 4/26/99 by Cathy Keen. It’s the nature of the beast, says Sommerville, in that it subjects us to a "daily, and often hourly, barrage of disassociated facts."

It’s the daily-hourly part that does it to us. Each day has its front page and headlines - though headlines vary in size, to be sure. Each elicits at least comparable interest. Newspapers can’t wait for the important to happen. (Slow news day mean something minor gets played big - remember Bob Newhart’s explaining why so much was made of the U.S. sub shelling Miami by mistake?)

If they did wait for something important, says Sommerville, "they might be idle for weeks and their capital assets would get rusty." So they approach every day as "worthy of the same attention." (Yes and no; again, some headlines are bigger than others.)

Moreover, news doesn’t reflect the world, it tells what went wrong.


And so on. Trouble is, for every point Sommerville makes, I think of an objection. When he gets to solutions, however, I’m with him. He’s for reading books and magazines. He stopped reading newspapers several years ago but still knows what people are talking about.

It’s true, you can pick up a lot on the fly. A salesman told me he routinely checks the sports pages of any city he’s visiting - in the daily paper, to be sure - before making his calls. That way, he can chat up the most enthusiastic fan. For that matter, the more enthusiastic, the more the fan wants to do the talking anyhow. A salesman can look very wise and interesting by keeping his mouth shut.

In the Jesuits we were (once) advised never to read a newspaper sitting down. That way, you wouldn’t be tempted to linger over the ephemeral. And what do you think? Latin for daily paper is "ephemeridae," as in here ephemeridae, gone tomorrow.

We were indeed (regularly) warned against "desultory" reading, meaning without purpose, on the fly. As incipient scholars we were rather to program ourselves. I met one of us in the library once of a summer’s day poring over an art book - the best of Western Civ, that sort of thing. Desultory? Nope, he wanted to be at least somewhat versed in what an educated man knew. Off he went, eventually, to be a theologian, but like the newspaper-perusing salesman ready to look wise and sound interesting to the enthusiastic art fan.

If you love God, blow the whistle

Good Wash Times story here about “faith-based whistleblowing”: speakers-up for safety motivated by religion hold a convention, for God’s sake, in DC.  E.g.,

Joe Carson, a nuclear safety engineer at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, [who] said it was his Christian worldview that impelled him to blow the whistle 19 times since 1990 on workplace and public-safety hazards at the Department of Energy, guardian of the nation's nuclear stockpile.  "Whistleblowers are thinking of what's good for others, not just looking out for number one," said Mr. Carson, 51.

And there’s the Exodus-citing Jewish lawyer, the Lutheran who quotes Matthew, the Methodist pastor, the Catholic FBI agent, and a cast of dozens more due in town Sept. 23 for a meeting of Whistleblowers for an Honest, Efficient and Accountable Government at the Watergate Hotel. 

If I were still in the business, I’d want to cover that meeting, which effort would include, I presume, some wetting of one’s own whistle in off hours.


Sad fact about Sadr story

Baghdad’s Sadr City neighborhood is a success story that most U.S. papers have ignored but not one Chicago paper, to go by Google, as reported by James Taranto in his “Best of the Web” Opinion [Wall St.] Journal yesterday.  The envelope, please:

A Google News search--which is wide-ranging but not comprehensive--turned up only two newspapers that have published the Sadr City story: the Chicago Sun-Times and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The story is not terribly time-sensitive, so let us hope that other papers will pick it up.

Attention, Chi Trib: There’s still time.  Sadr City is where Ma Sheehan’s son was killed, by the way. 


Meanwhile, Trib’s Jan. C. Greenberg and N. Bendavid remain hot on the trail of nominee Jn Roberts’s indiscretions.  Yesterday’s was his memo-ing White House superiors in 1984 that legislating equal pay for women is a gloss on a Marxist credo — he applied it neatly: “From each according to his ability, to each according to her gender.”  He was for the market, in other words, but that will cob leftists coast to coast.

The Greenberg-Bendavid treatment, by the way, far outscored the better focused, more tightly written Tom Brune account in Trib-owned [Long Island] Newsday.  Brune, once of the Sun-Times, boiled it down to 485 words vs. G-B’s 1,385!  Oh the joys of a broadsheet!  You don’t have to make words count!


Married Catholic priest a-coming

What a religion story in Sun-Times about married ex-Methodist pastor being accepted into St. Mary of the Lake seminary, Mundelein!  Sponsored by what bishop, we are not told.  He made his first contact with bp of Gary, currently has church-related job in Ft. Wayne.  But he has to have a sponsoring jurisdiction, and otherwise very good account by Monifa Thomas, accompanied by pic of him with wife and three of their five kids, does not tell us what.

On Father’s Day, #2 Son and I strolled in Uke Village and chatted up one of the four (4!) full-fledged Catholic priests stationed at the golden-domed structure just south of Chi Ave., block or so east of Western.  Good conversation which finally he had to end.  Had to get home to his kids, who had not seen him yet that day, which had begun for him 6 a.m.  Fully Catholic, I say, Ukrainian rite.  There’s not a Methodist rite, however; I’m dying to know for what diocese this already-Rev. Mark Kurowski will be ordained.


Same paper has badly chosen front-page color shot of J. Jackson Sr. wiping away a tear at the bier of publishing pioneer John H. Johnson, who ran an honest business that helped change the face of blacks in this country, beginning when it was respectable to say “colored” or “Negro.”  As opposed to Rev. J. Jetstream, the master of spin and co-architect of “African American” as preferred term and subject of the devastating Shakedown: exposing the real Jesse Jackson (Regnery, 2002) and a 1975 critical but largely squelched book by an ex-Trib writer who worked once for Johnson, Barbara Reynolds, Jesse Jackson, the Man, the Movement, the Myth.  Come on, S-T editors, get with it.



New slogan

The problem conservative critics have with modern news media is the same problem conservative critics have always had with news media. It's not just that they despise liberals. They do. But I think the whole liberal thing is a ruse. What they really dislike is journalism. Pick your critic. -- Charles M. Madigan, Chicago Tribune, July 12, 2005 (Try this one, please. -- Jim Bowman)

Th-th-th-that’s not all, folks.  It’s the new top-of-page identifying slogan for Chicago Newspapers: The Blog, newly renamed, as you may notice. 

Now a look at Chi Trib-Sun-Times comparisons and contrasts, recently alluded to in 8/11 comment about “the program of turning the Sun-Times into a newspaper of columns and not much else.” 

To this shot came reply from another reader, a veteran retired newsie (VRN), who says Sun-Times is out-staffed by the Trib “by at least 2 to 1, and everybody has at least two jobs.” 

This VRN recalls a Trib editorial staff in the late 80s of 495 souls, “most of these . . . master's degree J-School grads” for whom “being a reporter meant working [merely] 9-to-5.” 

Meanwhile, S-T people who rejected juicy Trib offers to ‘come across the street’" were  “pros and [still are and] their product shows it.” 

It’s stuff like this that makes horse races, of course. 

more more more more


Conveniently juxtaposed

Chi Trib’s “Civil rights groups go slow: Leaders say they are withholding judgment as they study Roberts” on p. 13, is basically puffery for those groups; there nothing in it that could not serve as a press release.  And it’s cheek by jowl on the page with “MEMOS RELEASED: On paper, praise for the right” about a 1981 (! is this reaching or isn’t it?) memo in which Roberts recommended conservatives for Justice Dept. jobs BECAUSE OF THEIR CONSERVATISM!  One can hear the “Gotcha!” all the way to Oak Park.

The civil-rights-groups story is essentially damage control for the anti-Roberts camp in the wake of the just-recalled NARAL ad that got shot down by a watchdog group.  We’re not like those people, say civil-rightsers, and WE’RE STILL MAKING UP OUR MINDS (!).  Frank James offers as unadulterated fact their claim of a “deliberate approach” to the nomination:

It's all meant to avoid the appearance of a rush to judgment. The groups may eventually announce they're opposing Roberts.

They claim?  Did James forget that part?  Did a copy editor forget it too?  It’s how they want to be perceived, isn't it?  James doesn’t get that?  Between playing or being dumb is a Hobson’s choice which I would rather not face in my morning Trib, if you don’t mind.

James does close with good quotes from the groups in question in which they present or inadvertently disclose their strategy: no name-calling, press Roberts on how he will vote, get (lots of) documents.

"We do not intend to demonize this man, we're not going to call him names," said Alfreda Robinson, head of the judicial nominations committee of the National Bar Association, an 80-year-old black lawyers organization.  [Vs. those who say they intend to demonize him]

"But we have a view that there are some questions that he needs to answer," said Robinson, associate dean at George Washington University Law School. "For example, his view on reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act, the scope of that act and whether it should be expanded [she means whether given legislation is constitutional, doesn't she?], because ... that's one of the very important issues to civil rights organizations."  [Or does she think Roberts is nominated as one of our supreme legislators?]

The officials from civil rights groups interviewed said one of their most pressing concerns with the nomination is transparency: The Bush administration has not provided Roberts' entire record [memos, etc.] as an official in previous administrations.

"Without having all of the relevant documents released . . . it's going to be difficult for any civil rights organization ... to really have an informed position on where he stands," said Aimee Baldillo, a staff attorney with National Asian Pacific American Legal Consortium.

Cough up the documents, we're dying for ammo.


If Illini and Illiniwek are out for U. of Ill. teams, per NCAA correctors, so is Illinois out for the whole damn state, says Bill McClellan in St. Louis Post-Dispatch, who suggests “Fighting Jews” for the team name, arguing that “Jews are not known for being drunken brawlers,” like the Irish, and won’t be offended.  He has other ideas but concludes with “Fighting Corrupt Pols,” with a nod to past secretaries of state Paul Powell and George Ryan.  May I humbly add that Powell and Ryan mascots would not be out of order.


Meanwhile, local talent will out, as in Rick Morrissey in Chi Trib bringing to bear all the controlled, saddened but not  angered, school-marmish prudery he can muster on the irrepressible Ozzie, the winningest manager maybe in all Chicago history.  Ozzie greeted a friend vulgarly, effusively, insultingly as “a homosexual . . . a child molester,” IN FRONT OF EVERYBODY — Morrissey, that is, and other writers. 

No, no, no! said Morrissey.  You can’t say that!  It’s not true!  Homosexuals are not child molesters!  Stop, stop!  But Newsday beat him to it, without giving Ozzie a chance to defend himself!  So Morrissey, patient, longsuffering, a born teacher (yes!), reads a version of the riot act to our Winningest Manager:

In a vacuum, the insinuation in his words is that being gay is bad and, worse, that it logically follows that homosexuals are child molesters. I know people who are gay and I can't imagine their seeing anything playful in that. But Guillen says he meant nothing hateful by what he said and that was my immediate impression. But I did roll my eyes. What if someone in the group were gay?

Morrissey knows people who are gay?  Egad, where did he meet them?  Hey, patient schoolmarms spell things out.  You readers be patient too.  It’s a Tribune writer working his way through something.  It’s worth it.  He elicits THE APOLOGY:

"I have no problem with [homosexuals]," Guillen said Wednesday. "I don't deal with that. To me, everybody's the same. We're human beings created by God. Everybody has their own opinion and their own right to do what they want to do. You have the right to feel the way you want to feel. Nobody can take that away from you."

There.  Morrissey feels better already.  He still has to work things through, however, slogging his conscientious way:

If an Italian came to this country and used ugly words about blacks, would it be explained away so easily? But Guillen says he comes at it from a Venezuelan perspective.

A little cultural awareness, ok?  There's more, but Morrissey finally lets the whole thing go with a peroration:

Guillen acknowledged he "said the wrong thing at the wrong time," but it's more than that. There's no right time for what he said. The clubhouse and the locker room might be the last place where men can be men, but Guillen has to live in the bigger world. He's the manager. He's not Don Rickles.

"I don't worry about losing my job," he said. "I just worry about respecting people. I worry about respecting the integrity of people. I represent a city and a team. I have to be careful what I say and when I say it. But I don't say anything to offend anybody."

Did ever Father Morrissey impose such a penance?  Finally, he takes a crack at being Aesop but taking three times the space:

In Ozzie's world, life is to be lived fully, people are to be embraced and jokes are to be made. Problem is, not everyone gets them.



If it isn't one thing, it's another

Heather Mac Donald pinpoints “the opinion elite's hysteria and hypocrisy regarding anything that can be called ‘profiling’” in a Natl Review Online commentary on Wash Post’s Colbert King on Wash Post’s Krauthammer on how to nab a terrorist.

“The outcry over ‘profiling’ in the defense against Islamic terror is the culmination of a decades-long war against the police,” says she, who is based in NYC and writes a lot about police. 

The fundamental premise of that war is that racism lurks beneath most law-enforcement actions. Thus, any time the police try to categorize people to solve or prevent crime, they are doing so out of bigotry,

Random checks in NYC are “reflexive and idiotic,” said Charles Krauthammer, because they ignore “overwhelming odds” that the terrorist is a young Muslim man with origins in the worldwide “Islamic belt.”  It’s more than odds-ignoring, says Mac Donald; it’s tautological, because it’s Muslim terrorists we are worried about.

Muslims are the ones with ideology and expressed aims in the matter, we might add.  PETA stinks but is not our main concern, though who knows what’s coming.  Mac Donald has more on this, q.v.


Chi Trib “Daywatch” has this for its lead item:

GRIEVING MOM'S PROTEST. What began as a seemingly quixotic personal
mission for a woman whose GI son died in Iraq has become something of
a phenomenon:

Which jibes too easily with this complaint at C-Log: Conservative Web Log by Monica Crowley:

Whoever said there are always two sides to every story-- must not have been talking about national coverage of the war in Iraq.

Turn on the television these days-- and you might get the impression that "everyone" in America is against what our military is doing over there...

Whether it’s the mom who lost a son in Iraq... now camped out in Crawford Texas... demanding a meeting with President Bush or the group of so-called "raging grannies" who are joining in protest-- calling for an immediate pull-out from Iraq.

The national media is quick to show us these colorful examples of people protesting the war.

For what’s missing, look to local newspapers, she says, quoting a gold-star mother in Warren County OH:  “Justin gave his life for the Iraqi people. He knew that was the price he might have to pay, and I stand behind him 100 percent.”

As for the grieving mom with all the coverage, her family has emailed Drudge saying she “appears to be promoting her own personal agenda and notoriety at the the expense of her son's good name and reputation” and saying they do not agree with her “political motivations and publicity tactics.”  That’s from the son’s “grandparents, aunts, uncles and numerous cousins.”  Let us see how that plays out in (Chi) Trib company’s LA Times — whence the “grieving Mom” story headlined by Daywatch — and other mainstreamers.

Notre Dame Irish

Ken Woodward, Newsweek’s longtime religion editor and a Domer, picks up on the Notre Dame leprechaun issue in Wall St. Journal without mentioning it as such, zeroing in on its name as a form of getting even:

Here's a suggestion: If the NCAA and other latter-day Puritans are concerned about social prejudice, they ought to investigate Notre Dame. Surely the name for its athletic teams, the Fighting Irish, is a slur on all Irish-Americans. The label derives from anti-Catholic nativists who reviled the poor and mostly uneducated Irish immigrants who came to these shores in the mid-19th century -- a drunken, brawling breed, it was said, who espoused the wrong religion. When the fabled Four Horsemen played football for Notre Dame, the team was called the Ramblers. In 1927, the university officially adopted the Fighting Irish, thereby transforming a pejorative nickname into something to cheer about.

If there are Native Americans who feel that Indians or Warriors or Braves is somehow demeaning, they might reflect on the Notre Dame experience. And if the NCAA really cares about diversity and inclusion, it ought to establish an office of Indian Affairs to help Native American athletes with collegiate aspirations. Meanwhile, all paleface Puritan surrogates, beginning with the NCAA, should butt out.

Sweet spot

What a head shot in Sun-Times with the Lynn Sweet column!  Handsome, no-nonsense woman with great hair, teeth, eyes showing through business-like specs, lots of white space, six by four and a half inches.  It’s of Christine Cegelis, with whom I have not been familiar, not having followed Illinois congressional politics carefully.  She lost to Henry Hyde last election with 44.2 percent of the vote — “surprising,” says Sweet, whose own columnist’s head shot, one and a half inch square, is dwarfed by that of her very attractive subject.

However, as an avid Sun-Times reader, I want to know whom to praise for the Cegelis shot.  Alas, I can find no credit for it, such as I find on the previous page (smaller) of the better known Condoleeza Rice, not near as striking as the Cegelis shot.  Thank Mark Wilson/Getty Images for it anyhow.  Scott Olson/Getty Images and Carlos Osorio/AP are two others whom we can thank, for shots that go with stories out of Baghdad and Wilmington Del. respectively. 

And on it goes throughout the paper.  Pix are i-d’d as by so-and-so of such-and-such.  But for this Lynn Sweet column all about a candidate running for office, chattily filling us in on her with result that we think highly of her and like her Air America connection and will give her money, we have this beautiful shot, provided by . . . whom?  By the candidate's media firm, Adelstein etc., whose Adelstein is quoted calling her Republican opponent "an extreme right-winger," I say, and why not?  With a “positive” column goes a positive picture.  But why not give Adelstein credit?

Labor pains

A poll I recently conducted on behalf of the Public Service Research Foundation found that a 56% majority of workers who are not organized wouldn't vote to organize -- while just 35% would consider doing so. And for America's organized labor movement, that's a significant problem.

John Zogby in Wall St. Jnl 8/8/05




Sun-Times today

* Neil Steinberg on not being able to tell the late Peter Jennings and Tom Brokaw apart, they being “both trim, blandly handsome guys who read the news.”  Or is it Tom Jennings and Peter Brokaw?  In any case, they are or were barely distinguishable, colorless individuals.  On the other hand, what do we want in a reader?

* Mark Brown on not liking Ike cap because it’s a waste of taxpayers’ money, along with dozens, maybe hundreds of highway-paving extravaganzas elsewhere.  It’s an Oak Park project, he lives there, so he feels obliged.  Column is worth reading in part because he quotes a man from Taxpayers for Common Sense, which has hit this highway bill hard.  If it’s a harbinger of more commentary on excessive government spending, it’s interesting.

* U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer quoted on learning, “sort of,” from laws of other countries when interpreting our constitution, as he did in a 2002 Death Row case.  It’s in a speech he gave to lawyers in Chicago.  But if Your Honor pleases, learning is one thing, citing as evidence is another.  This is a rhetorical stunt in which one casually plays down the reality of the situation.  Not entirely honest, Your Honor.

* Story about dangerous Tennessee convict escaped with his murderous wife in which a sheriff’s spokesman said the escapee “has no care or concern on what he does to anyone.”  (Italics added.)  No.  It’s care or concern “for.”  The harassed spokesman is hardly to be blamed.  Ever since Joe Garagiola, baseball announcers have been speaking of one’s record “on the season,” which is Exhibit A, this being summertime, for my case for the Demise of the Preposition.  Yes.  The language will fall to pieces less through misuse of big words than of little ones. 

Tenses too, of course.  The historical present has taken over the presentation of earthy comment and narration by John Madden and others and is finding its way into less frenetic disquisition by non-sports figures.  More to come, I hope, concerning both of these disaster areas — prepositions and tense.

* Jeb Bush of Florida quoted saying NCAA “insults” Florida State U. and the Seminole Indians of Florida by penalizing use of Seminole as name for FSU teams.  NCAA is telling both communities, “You’re not smart enough to understand this.”  The Florida Seminoles have signed off on using their name.  They are OK with it, or as we used to say, it’s OK with them. 

See also, while we are at it, Chi Trib’s Mike Downey on the Notre Dame leprechaun — “No blarney: Leprechaun must go” — as grossly insulting to all red-blooded Micks.  

As a proud Irish-American, I demand that you make the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame get rid of that stupefying, stereotypical mascot of theirs. And that little jig of his. And I mean pronto, if you'll excuse my use of Indian lingo.

Ladies and gentlemen of the NCAA, I implore you. Do that thing you do. Do what you did Friday, when your executive committee announced that it no longer would tolerate any "hostile and abusive racial/ethnic/national origin mascots, nicknames or imagery."

A leprechaun is all that.

He is mischievous by nature. He is up to no good. He clearly is abusive. Have you ever seen him treat Notre Dame's enemies with any kindness?

Etc.  Yes.  Tell it to my O’Hara in-law and the many others who once were ND leprechauns, while you’re at it.  I for one will not be doing so.

* Last but not least, read (right away) Leslie Baldacci’s remarkable broadside against ladies of the office parading downtown as if they were ladies of the street:

Since I started working downtown in July, I keep wondering, "Where is the hooker convention?"

Who can help but notice all the women walking the streets of our city in broad daylight dressed like, well, streetwalkers? Where are they all going? Where's the party?

Thus it begins.

Ladies [she concludes], if sexual power is what you are trying to muster, you have it all backward. If you squander your power on the street, handing it over to total strangers like it is worth nothing and means nothing to you, it will mean nothing. Lingerie is something you reveal when the time is right to bring a man to his knees. What will you have left in your arsenal when you need the heavy artillery in the boudoir? Nothing at all.

Bravissimo, Baldacci!


Guard's morale

Morale Woes Rattle [Illinois Natl] Guard” is James Janega’s banner headline story today in Chi Trib, worth reading because of Janega’s credibility as sometime-embedded battle-scene and behind-scene reporter with months of Iraq-coverage experience.  This story is out of Chicago; it’s based on a 29 Jan 05 memo out of Springfield, “Operation Strength Readiness,” downloadable in .pdf format.  It has a # of names blacked out, and “soldiers fear retribution if they speak out” is a jump-page head:

Soldiers in interviews said they have not raised critical questions over readiness for fear of retribution from Guard leadership.

says the text.  This is Bureaucratic Rot 101, as in my Bending the Rules: What American Priests Tell American Catholics (Crossroad, 1994), where most of the veteran pastor interviewees preferred anonymity.  Most prefer not to be personally rattled, for good reason.

It’s a six-plus-month-old memo, however, sent as Janega says, “to begin correcting the problems,” and deep in the story, including its last paragraphs, are command-level quotes about efforts (one of them at least mildly laughable: special football jerseys for units with top personnel-retention scores) to repair the situation.

The memo . . .  comes as the Army National Guard is undergoing convulsive changes to make it more responsive to sudden wartime call-ups.

Nationally, surveys of returning troops find similar trends, and the number of new recruits has been falling in active-duty military, reserve and National Guard units.

The Illinois Army National Guard in particular has grappled with leadership and staffing issues in recent years . . .

I found those sentences after asking my usual “compared to what?”  Janega has it with this reference to the rest of the country.  It’s a specific enough reference for a newspaper story, which is not an encyclopedia article.  As for what to do and what’s been done about it,

. . . many personnel shortages in units have been fixed since the operations order was drafted, [Guard commander Maj. Gen. Randal E.] Thomas said.

Meanwhile, the Department of the Army has outlined a plan to change its focus to smaller, more easily deployable units. Under the plan, some 7,000 soldiers in Illinois' 9,100-strong force will be shifted between units, in some cases eliminating understaffed units altogether.

I would like to hear more about this, and maybe I will in future Chi Trib stories, preferably by Janega and ideally with similar eye-catching placement in the paper.  Location, location, location, as retailers say.  Shelf position matters.  News retailers (editors) keep that in mind, don’t they?


Coulter v. Roberts

 The fact that Souter decided — like Warren, Brennan, Blackmun, Stevens, O'Connor and Kennedy — that he would prefer to be a Philosopher King rather than a judge once he got on the court doesn't mean you never can tell with any of these guys. It means you have to find judges who wake up every morning: (1) thinking about the right answers to legal questions; and (2) chortling about how much his latest opinion will tick off the left.

Uh-oh, Ann Coulter again, continuing to press (make) her case that John Roberts is a cautiously chosen U.S. Supreme Court nominee who can’t be trusted to be another Scalia or Thomas.  “READ MY LIPS: NO NEW LIBERALS” is her column title, again setting the mark for wit and perspicacity in the political-commentary arena.  In this column she shows how good Souter looked to conservatives based on his record as New Hampshire’s attorney general — tough on abortion, soft on lowering the state flag on Good Friday.

At one point, she writes,  again with wicked, well-aimed wit, “the only people more opposed to abortion than Souter were still in vitro.”  As for lowering the flag to commemorate Christ’s death, he said at the time that it

“no more establishes a religious position on the part of the state or promotes a religion than the lowering of the flag for the death of Hubert Humphrey promotes the cause of the Democratic Party in New Hampshire."

He also “openly proclaimed his support for the ‘original intent’ in interpreting the Constitution.”  Then came his philosopher king turnaround, which Coulter deplores, needless to say.  She wants a different kind of justice, one who aggressively pursues constitutional interpretation over making things right as he sees fit.  She even gives up the pro-life issue:

 I don't give a rat's behind whether the guy is pro-life, whether his wife is pro-life, whether he used to be pro-life, whether he will become pro-life, etc. That tells us how he would vote as a state legislator. He isn't being nominated for state legislator.

Let us remember that last sentence.  It’s very important and in typical Ann Coulter fashion encapsulates the essence of the question, if I may go redundant for effect.  Just this once, OK?


What on earth . . . ?

"They do not have a commission to solve society's problems, as they see them, but simply to decide cases before them according to the rule of law," [Supreme Court nominee Roberts] wrote to the [senate judiciary] committee, which will begin considering Roberts' nomination on Sept. 6.

Say wha’?  The men and women in black don’t come with answers?  Subversive!