Charles Madigan on news gathering, etc.

Chi Trib’s Charles Madigan says let’s hear it for “old media,” which gives us thought-based information.

In the glory days [pre-electronic], reporters could whittle away for five, six, seven hours at an event, parse it out, look for the contradictions and try to present an accurate, compelling account that would be published the next day.

The electronic world has now seized the turf of news immediacy.

Now it’s "breaking news" that carries the day.  But what you see and hear “may not be very well developed.”  Watching and listening,

you might well lose the crucial context or be left with a set of "facts" that are, ultimately, not facts at all, but changeable parts of an ongoing story.

“[T]raditional newspaper family values,” on the other hand, give or try to give the whole story.  But this is an old story.  Long before blogs was radio (which Madigan mentions), where it was “rip ‘n read” for the latest. 

Nor did newspaper people like radio reporters, as the late Len O’Connor recounted in A Reporter in Sweet Chicago (Contemporary, 1983).  He represented something new and threatening, which sounds familiar in today’s context.


Topinka is coming! Topinka is coming!

Renew Illinois does not like Judy Baar Topinka, a presumed anti-Blago candidate for governor, and has this to say today:

What would a Topinka Administration look like?  How Republican would it be?  

Answer: about as Republican as her operation is now – that is to say – not very Republican, and not even very “moderate.”  Let’s have some honesty in our IL GOP for a change.  Topinka is no moderate – she’s a liberal extremist – and a rather wacky one at that. 

She’s a good huckster and she’s conned a lot of good people, granted.  But she’s never tried-out for the Big Leagues before now.  Few have really been paying attention.  Once folks in Illinois do, they won’t like what they see. 

One of Topinka’s closest allies and most loyal supporters is Rick Garcia, political director of the gay rights group Equality Illinois.  Just this past week, Garcia personally attacked the organizers of the Protect Marriage petition drive, calling them “rank bigots” (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, November 24, 2005).

Now that Garcia quote is sure provocative.  It’s always nice discussing politics with Rick, apparently.  (Excuse me, I have a pressing engagement.)  This time it’s a petition for signatures to put an advisory Marriage Protection Referendum on the ballot in November 2006, when Judy B. would oppose Blago. 

In the referendum voters would say whether they want to amend the state constitution to define marriage in Illinois as between a man and a woman.  Garcia would rather snap at it than argue against it, unless you count this:

"These people no more care about families than the man on the moon. If they wanted to protect families, why aren't they pushing a ban on divorce? Divorce ruins more families than any gay person ever has."

But eating away at the very concept, Rick — what about that?


A comfy place

What a blessing is Chi Trib’s Perspective section for liberals wandering lonely as a cloud in pursuit of stuff they feel comfortable with in this day of Fox News, blogs, and talk radio.  Take today’s three essays on their high-ranking bete noir Intelligent Design, the approach to the universe that says it was not accidental.

There’s one by a biology teacher at Olivet Nazarene University — defending ID?  No, telling us, “Christians can’t afford to oppose evolution: Not such intelligent design.”  There’s another by Trib reporter-intellectual Ron Grossman, “ID dilutes the drive to discover, invent: Survival of the smartest.”  And a third by another Trib reporter: “Teachers can walk a creative middle road: An open discussion.”

Oh?  ID is “a newfangled term for creationism,” says this reporter, dishing liberal patois as if there’s nothing new under the sun.  However, his middle road is basically what ID promoters ask for.  However again, his old biology teacher did roll his eyes when he discussed creationism 17 years ago, we are told.  So not to worry, lefty friends, Perspective is still a friendly place.

But of course, read for yourself.  No blog, fair and balanced though it be, can — ahem — decide for you. 


It's agreed, then

On “Standing up and falling down (on the job),” Reader Dolores:

Ah, would that all Chgo Trib readers were as astute and tuned in to Wilkerson's betrayal . . . .

Along similar lines, did you hear Hugh Hewitt the other night (or was it Rush?? [it was Rush]) on Mary Ann Wright -- was that her name? [It is]  "Former" [yes, resigned, 3/21/03] US diplomat now protesting near the ranch in Crawford with the Cindy Sheehan crowd. Wild woman diplomat! It was she who heckled Condi Rice [10/19/05, at a Senate hearing] with: "Stop this woman from killing].”

[S]he . . .  decided to publicly resign because of all kinds of noble reasons, mostly disgust with the cabal again. She is part of the Wilkerson, Plame, etc. and anti-Able Danger bunch who might as well be pinkos from the 40s-50s in the State Department, undermining our country and any chance at Victory over worldwide terrorism.

Happy day after Thanksgiving??? I'll step down off my soap box now.

And Reader Jennifer, with astute churchly twist:

Interesting dissection. Thanks. . . . In homily on day after Thanksgiving, our pastor compared Cindy Sheehan favorably to St. Catherine of Alexandria. In prayer of petitions, we were asked to pray for better attendance at Mass. Does this sort of thing have anything to do with declining attendance? [italics added]


Standing up and falling down (on job)

"As Cheney stands up, his polling goes down" is the clever, provocative head to a page-one Chi Trib story 11/24/05, Thanksgiving Day.  Mark Silva and Stephen J. Hedges almost-lead (third 'graph-sentence} with their interview with Larry Wilkerson, former chief of staff to former Secretary of State Colin Powell, billing him as among "early proponents of the Iraq invasion" who now question Cheney's "stern, unbending activism" on behalf of administration policy, which activism was "once seen as an advantage."

But they write, and their editors go along with it, as if most readers won't know about Wilkerson as recent slam-bang critic of Iraq policy.  They quote him as tough-talkingly placing Cheney among a "cabal 'of extreme nationalistic . . . and messianic'" war proponents.  It's not new that Wilkerson feels this way.  He uses "cabal" in his 10/25/05 LA Times op-ed.  Nor does his criticism have anything to do with Cheney's no longer being an advantage to Bush, as Silva-Hedges clumsily aver.  They interviewed Wilkerson -- we assume since his 10/19/05 speech at the New America Foundation -- teasing out of him some quotes they can claim as Chi Trib's, making no mention of either speech or op-ed.  Why not?

Any Washington Post reader http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/10/19/AR2005101902246.html might know about the speech.  But Silva and Hedges and editors package Wilkerson as page-one stuff in a piece citing "early proponents of the Iraq invasion" -- standard gotcha stuff, by the way.

They got this and more out of Wilkerson, but nothing out of Cheney or his aides, which is not surprising.  But "a senior administration official" said Cheney will continue his activism.  This is apparently Alan Simpson, identified as "a former Republican senator from Wyoming" but not as current official; if he's anything current, besides a Harvard chair-holder, he's co-chairman of the Continuity in Government Commission [sic].  Apparently, because without connecting word or phrase, Simpson's comment follows immediately.  Silva and Hedges must have been heading home for the holiday, and nobody reads the paper Thanksgiving anyway, so they and the editors dished this one up. 

There's more to the story, but one does tire when ease of reading and credibility limp so.  Does this sort of thing have anything to do with declining newspaper circulation?


Ernie Pyle again

I must recommend to Chi Trib, Sun-Times, Daily Herald, Daily Southtown, and any other Chi medium as news and/or feature subject, Michael Yon.  He’s a former Green Beret who became an “independent journalist” last January after attending funerals of friends killed in Iraq.  Traveling with U.S. troops — “embedded” is the word we got familiar with during the initial fighting — but sometimes going off on his own in Mosul and other hot spots, he blogs with words and pictures, providing a unique view of Iraq that’s an important alternative to daily roadside explosions and other horrors of war.

Seattle Times has covered him here  and here, as in telling how he almost gave up on his venture:

Back in February, one month into his stay in Iraq, writer Michael Yon almost ended his attempt to chronicle the war in an online blog. He lacked the backing of a newspaper, magazine or book publisher, and grew weary of the risks of life in a combat zone as he embedded with U.S. troops.

"I was ready to get out. I wasn't getting paid, and it was damn dangerous," Yon said. "Every day I was thinking 'Is this the day I might get killed or get my legs blown off?' "

Yon hung on, emerging as one of the best-read bloggers of the war (his site is michaelyon.blogspot.com), as he chronicled a tumultuous spring and summer in Mosul with the "Deuce Four," a battalion of the 24th Infantry Regiment, part of the Fort Lewis-based 1st Brigade (Stryker), 25th Infantry Division.  

He’s been adopted and sometimes accompanied by actor Bruce Willis, and there’s this coverage here, but mainstreamers have not caught on to Yon so far.  True, he’s not a newspaper guild member (I don’t think), but that doesn’t stop Chi Trib of course and shouldn’t bother the guild shops either.  They are missing good stuff, such as:

Posted July 21, 2005

Description of weapons cache found in a room hidden under a barnyard floor. Mosul, Iraq

The temperature down there was at least 20 degrees beyond any measure of hot. The air was filthy with dust, darkness, and the menace that wafted like a stench off all the bombs, bombs, and more bombs. I was sitting on bombs and missiles that I could not identify — there was not enough floor cleared for three men to stand. There were mortar rounds, some with fuses, some without. Some fuses had no safety pins. Some rounds had charges on the fins. There were surface-to-air missiles, RPGs, and strange munitions of various sorts. The danger was severe, but with this much explosives, it wouldn't matter if you were in the hole or a hundred yards away; if this thing blows, game over.

Are the daily newspapers of Chicago and elsewhere missing a good bet, or aren’t they?


Rude awakening

Good Sunday morning, and here’s a nice item with which to start your week.  It’s by a returning Iraq vet from a blogger named Austin Bay via one self-named Instapundit, and do not expect to read it or anything like it in your morning Chi Trib.  (I haven’t checked, so sure am I; but if it is there, I will push a bean down Ontario Street for a block with my nose):

After my return from Iraq I received phone calls and emails from military friends as they either came back to the US on leave or finished their tours and re-deployed “Stateside.” The typical phone call went like this: “I’m back. It’s great to be home. What’s up? How are you doing?” Then, the conversation quickly moved on to: “What’s with the press and Iraq?” The press usually meant television. On tv Iraq looked like it was going to Hell in a handbasket of flame and brutality; however, the images of carnage didn’t square with the troops’ experience.

Yes, Virginia, you can’t always believe what you read and hear and see on a screen.



Go here for Nancy J. Thorner’s 11/15/05 letter to Daily Herald, "Iraq shows progress despite naysayers,” that begins:

The constitutional election held on Oct. 17 in Iraq was an unbelievable historic event, even though many in the major print media seemed to have difficulty giving the Bush administration credit for the successful Iraqi election. Out of a country of 25 million people . . . 9 million voted in a move that will undoubtedly nudge Iraq toward creating a type of democracy that will be appropriate to their background and culture.

If you are a Thorner-letter fan like me and want to read further, however, it costs $2.95, which is a first in my surfing–searching experience.  It costs that much for a Chi Trib or NY Times archived article for which its writer was paid an arguably handsome amount.  The Herald, on the other hand, wants money for a letter to editor.

If you are an insider, however, having received the entire letter from its writer, you can read it all and find this, last paragraph:

The next milestone in Iraq will happen on December 15th when another vote will be held to elect a new parliament.  One hopes that the media will truthfully report on the event with accounts of what the election represents for the people of Iraq and for the world.  Enough of the naysayers, the doubters and the political pundits who sometimes seem to favor a win by the terrorists instead of victory for America and its coalition partners in Iraq.

As for naysayers and doubters, look no further than today’s Chi Trib page-one head, “Iraq’s agony spreads,” which is a gloom-and-doomer of the first water.  And typical, with obligatory eyewitness disaster-story account, "I thought a rocket had hit the mosque," from a man in the washroom when the suicide-bomb went off in the Grand Mosque, etc.

It was the “deadliest attack in weeks.”  It “ came amid rising tensions ahead of December's crucial election” (see above).  And (next paragraph), it happened near where “around 170 ill-treated detainees” were found by American soldiers days earlier.  Gloom, doom, and more gloom.

Rewriting this account, written on deadline by a hard-working reporter who like almost all reporters knows what her editors want and what will appear in print — it becomes second nature — I would have taken “As is so often the case in Iraq, however, although foreigners were targeted, the casualties all were Iraqis,” appearing in story’s middle, and made it the lead!

Elsewhere among the mediums, a network TV news account had this yesterday — flipping, I did not note which of the three, Curly, Larry, or Moe — at the close of a multi-second acount (long for TV) of the day’s disasters, when the reader added as appendix or afterthought something like “Elsewhere, U.S. forces killed 34 insurgents in (such & such town).” 

What about spending half of those seconds on something like “Marines win firefight” or “Rockets find their mark”?  The reader would go along with that, the crazy reasoning in support of it being that there’s a war going on, and 34 to nothing constitutes a win.  It does in the NFL anyhow.  And one less brick would be put in place as support for pulling out.


More economics: "Fair trade" coffee

[It’s] typical of most products today: the material portion of their costs is small. Thus the question is not the difference between what different parties to the production get paid, but rather who adds value, how much, and where.

This is John Larrivee, assistant professor of economics at Mount St. Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, Maryland, on the fair-trade coffee movement, on the Acton Institute site, asking “Why Not Fair-Trade Beer and Cakes?” whose raw material sells for so little compared to the finished product? 

If Starbucks is evil for the vast difference between what growers get paid and what Starbucks receives for its coffee, these other cases [a few cents worth of barley for beer at $3 to $9, $10 of flour for a $300 wedding cake] are worse.

Citing low productivity in coffe-growing countries, he says

The real problem is that in a market with low entry barriers (like agriculture), how much people earn depends upon how society-wide productivity affects the quality of outside opportunities. In the United States, farmers’ standard of living is higher because if the difference between how they can live farming and how they can live with another occupation grows too great, they will pursue other options.

Where there are no options, farmers are stuck.  In addition, “fair trade” prices would draw more producers into the raw-coffee market, driving down prices.  In which case you would have to keep selected, or non-selected, producers out, guild– or labor-union style, limiting beneficiaries arbitrarily.

All for the sake of “social justice” by of a “just price,” when (as late-16th-century Spanish Jesuits Molina and others argued) it’s the market that determines the just price.  In this case, Starbucks makes a better coffee and a better sales pitch and succeeds, vastly expanding the coffee market, to the benefit of coffee producers.  Meanwhile, Caribou and Seattle’s Best have their go at it.  This free-market process

will ultimately support more farmers around the world, and may transfer more funds into those countries than would have been the case in any “fair-exchange” system. These funds will gradually improve productivity in those countries, and do so far more effectively and fairly than any fair-trade program ever could.

Social justice promoters have good motives, but they should consider how the world works before they try to remake it.

Economics in no lessons

Mark Brown’s Sun-Times column, “Cashier's nightmare doesn't need to get any more extreme,” is about Jewel-Osco’s unreasonable requirements in a merchandising scheme, one of probably thousands tried daily in stores and store chains around the country. 

Jewel-O has “a misguided program” in place, says Brown.  If you don’t think so, consider the “17-year-old cashier who literally [really?] has nightmares” about doing the wrong thing.  A less sensitive writer would have written, “who claims she has nightmares.”  Did she show them to Brown?

“A 62-year-old [Jewel employee] prays before she goes in to work each day that she'll remember each time without fail because she's already messed up twice.”  This is bad?

"If you're unfamiliar with the source of their anxiety," says Brown, "you may have missed Sunday's column [I did] about how Jewel-Osco cashiers are subject to losing their jobs if they fail to call each and every customer's attention to the Xtreme Value item that is being sold at the register that day."

“A dedicated, veteran employee” told him about it.  How does he know she’s dedicated? Or how do I know if I didn’t read Sunday’s column? I don’t know.

The deal is, if the checkout man or woman doesn’t make a certain offer, the alert customer gets an item at no cost, and the non-alert checker gets penalized.  Happens enough, they get fired. “Instead of a carrot, there's a stick,” says Brown, who apparently believes in one but not the other.

“We're talking about people's livelihoods, which are being put in jeopardy because somebody is willing to snitch to beat the system out of a dollar-bag of trail mix — the Xtreme Value item this past week,” says Brown, who is clearly caught up in this.

Look, if this were Ma and Pa on the corner, telling Susie Q to remember things or she’s out, he wouldn’t (a) know about it or (b) think it called for a column if he did.  But do companies like Jewel-O ever go out of business, leaving thousands jobless?  If you are going to focus on “a dollar-bag of trail mix,” you are going to miss macro-economics — what governs thousands of jobs and meets needs of thousands of households — completely.

Brown argues against the program in place, quoting the angry checkout people.  Having instituted hundreds of retail-store programs in his career, he is convinced this one’s a loser.  Furthermore, he says the corporate owner may want to cut back on higher-paid employees.  (I can’t imagine that.)

But the killer is that nightmare.  “Last night, it took me an hour to go to sleep,” the 17–year-old told him, “and I woke up in the middle of the night crying because in my nightmare I saw this random man that gave me the you-didn't-offer-me-the-Xtreme-Value stare. In my dream, this was the last time, and I would be fired because of him."

Brown asks, “Please don't add to the nightmare.”  Wait a minute.  A literal nightmare or the other kind?  And where’s that story about competing and staying in business?

There's a nice color to this

May I recommend That Colored Fellow, if only for his opening ‘graf today, with it’s whiplash closing sentence?  I don’t care if he does refer caustically, in the very next sentence, to the “Conservative Echo Chamber.”  Being smart and funny, like charity, covers a multitude of sins.


Look-see what Dennis Byrne has today about those world leaders in economic progress and free expression, Kofi Annan and friends at the You-benighted organization — Mitts off the Internet, Iran, China, Cuba . . .


How the world turns

This from Instapundit makes a very good point which I will elucidate after first quoting his blog:

AT THE GYM [this morning] they were for some reason running Face the Nation , where they usually show CNN or FoxNews. But that means I caught this very interesting statement from John McCain:

[Bob] SCHIEFFER: President Bush accused his critics of rewriting history last week.

Sen. McCAIN: Yeah.

SCHIEFFER: And in--he said in doing so, the criticisms they were making of his war policy was endangering our troops in Iraq. Do you believe it is unpatriotic to criticize the Iraq policy?

Sen. McCAIN: No, I think it's a very legitimate aspect of American life to criticize and to disagree and to debate. But I want to say I think it's a lie to say that the president lied to the American people. I sat on the Robb-Silverman Commission. I saw many, many analysts that came before that committee. I asked every one of them--I said, `Did--were you ever pressured politically or any other way to change your analysis of the situation as you saw?' Every one of them said no.

I think the "Bush lied us into war" meme is in trouble [says Instapundit], and the GOP pushback seems to be a general effort, not a one-off. And I also think that the reason that so many antiwar people want to move from discussion of whether specific behavior is unpatriotic, to the strawman question of whether any criticism of the war is unpatriotic (note Schieffer's question [my italics] -- "Do you believe it is unpatriotic to criticize the Iraq policy?" -- and how it differs from what Bush actually said) is because they know they're on weak ground on the specifics.

Instapundit (Glenn Reynolds) is assuming that veteran newscaster Schieffer is passing on — mouthing, parroting — Dems.  This is it: MainStreamers’ whole frame of reference is Democratic, which is one reason why they are so apoplectic about accusations of bias.  “Can’t you people see?  It’s the way things are!  You’re the one who wants it slanted!” they say or seem to say.


Dander up time . . .

In 11/10 Trib story by Wm. Neikirk "Bill targets ‘entitlements’" , on p. 8 at the top, 5 of 6 columns, why quote marks for "Entitlements"? Pretty straightforward word, understood by most as what comes by way of benefits based on one’s condition in life, race, sex, etc. Sub-head is purely from viewpoint of Dems: "GOP-backed trims before House give Democrats plenty of ammo." Yes, but why is that the important thing here, and not "GOP budget bill saves taxpayers lots of money." Both may be true, but Trib editors are not interested in the latter.

The lede is sure provocative, and no wonder this bill plays into Dem hands, with Chi Trib et al. portraying it in these, shall we say lurid? terms:

After slashing taxes and establishing a new Medicare prescription drug program, House Republicans are now seeking to reduce the deficit with budget cuts that would force sacrifice on many recipients of government benefits.

Get that "force sacrifice." When you put it that way, it’s clear these are very bad guys.

Most of the targeted beneficiaries are low-income Americans, providing Democrats with new ammunition to denounce the GOP as being callous to the poor and generous to the rich.

Damn right, and they don’t even have to hold a press conference to call Republicans callous etc. Please. We are to take such reporting seriously?

And Neikirk puts "entitlement" in quotes himself. We can’t even blame the copy desk for that one.

Bush says he didn't lie

November 12, 2005 . . . . Chi Trib today has a lead story by Mark Silva about Bush whacking Dems – "Bush fires back at his war critics," – that is worth noodling. Is it written too much from a Democratic viewpoint, using all the Dem talking points, which MainStreamers tend to take at face value, without considering what’s big in the minds of The Other Side, who also read newspapers but in dwindling numbers? Does it deliver Bushie talking points in equal numbers? That’s for readers to decide.

For instance, National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley showed unaccustomed "belligerence" in defending the "good faith" of the administration. Not "vigor"? Not if you’re on the other side of Hadley, reacting to him as opposition. The war-defending bloggers – Instapundit.com and others – are quite happy the administration is standing up and fighting.

Silva did give good space to Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman, who said he was "not sure if the Democratic leaders were brainwashed" when they approved the war. Does Silva remember George Romney saying that about himself and thus killing his chances for the 1968 presidential nomination? Anyhow, it’s a good GOP talking point for people who do.

Another is Mehlman’s "cut-and-run politics based on what the polls show," which is nicely aimed.

However, what of this, right from Silva’s keyboard?

Democrats contend, however, that it was the administration's statements, now shown to be baseless, that caused them to believe the worst about Hussein's arsenal. [Italics added]

Wait a minute. That’s Dem line pure and simple, paying no need to what was said – Brits report, credible threat of WMD, etc. – that were accurate to a T. In any case, this is MainStreamer repetition until “everyone knows" it’s true. There it is, slipped into the middle of a news story, that "now shown to be baseless." Namely, what? The solid suspicion, voiced by Dems and Repubs alike, that Sadaam was mass-destruction-armed?

I may be missing something here, but it’s this sort of thing that makes reading newspaper articles a dangerous venture.

And then we have six solid inches on the jump page, the last five ‘graphs minus three, which drive home the case for Dems:

American support for the war, as well as confidence in the president's integrity, has diminished . . . . "Scooter" Libby [was indicted] . . . . 54 percent of Americans surveyed [call] the war a mistake. . . . a majority for the first time [is] questioning Bush's integrity. . . . even some Republicans have questioned the handling of intelligence before the war. [How long before the war? Even to the previous administration?] . . .

Bush again uses a military base at which to make his case, we then read, "reiterating his claim that Iraq has become the ‘central front’" in the war on terror. "His claim," yes. That proper scepticism, but reserved for the party in power, not for its critics. Why is that? Is there a cachet in being critical of power? Is there one in being anti-war, even when you sound too much like George Romney in ‘68?


In “Muslim group angered by Kirk,” Chi Trib’s Susan Kuszka (once of Chi Daily News), has a brief account of mau-mauing the congressman — Mark Kirk, North Shore Republican — for saying Middle Eastern men deserve special attention from cops and others charged with protecting us from 9/11–type destruction. 

“[W]e need intense security on applicants [for entry] from terrorist-producing countries," he said. "Ignoring that reality would only do a disservice to our country's security."

 The mau-mauing is by the infamous CAIR, Council on American-Islamic Relations, a crafty bunch who pounce on whatever and whoever pinpoints Muslims as terrorists, as if Mexicans or Canadians, to touch on our two borders, were as suspect as one of them. 

What Kirk “spewed” out of his mouth “is a manifestation of ... a classic, malicious, bigoted attitude,” said Yaser Tabbara, director of Chicago CAIR.  The Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights basically agreed and called for an apology and retraction, as did CAIR.

Kirk had said he’s “OK with discrimination against young Arab males from terrorist-producing states . . . young men between, say, the ages of 18 and 25 from a couple of countries,” for security reasons.

So he got stamped on, partly because unfair discrimination has been compressed by usage to discrimination.  The issue is unfair discrimination, of course.  We keep men out of women’s washrooms fairly.  It’s OK to discriminate that way.  Kirk is right to be “OK with discrimination” in this case.

As for CAIR, it’s a blustering arrogant operation , “unusual in its extreme rhetoric and its associations with groups that are suspect" and “has ties to terrorism.”  Or so say Sen. Richard Durbin of Illinois and Sen. Charles Schumer of NY respectively, both liberal Democrats.  With critics like that, why is CAIR picking on Mark Kirk?


Churchill at Depaul - 3

Wuxtry, wuxtry, Depaul dustup? and No wuxtry for a reason: Churchill at DePaul again of 20 & 28 Oct. has another good reason why media were not allowed at the Ward Churchill talk at DePaul University, namely that Churchill, who is paid for appearances by administrators coast to coast, has money to make 


The Hawaii Reporter, in a “Special Report by Grant Crowell,”

has uncovered Ward’s behind-the-scenes "New Rules" for his paid speaking engagements to universities nationwide, a carefully orchestrated agenda to suppress speech of others, all in the name of his own personal greed.

Crowell’s production company, Walking Eagle Productions, wanted to film Churchill and interview him.  He talked to DePaul administrator Dr. Harvette Grey, head of its Cultural Center, who was very cordial.

Apparently she had assumed that I was a supporter of Churchill’s, and she started confiding in me how horrible the media was for being critical of her for inviting Churchill. She promised me enthusiastically that she would check with him on my request, and that she would personally get back to me soon.

She didn’t, nor would she speak to him when he called a week later.

[H]er receptionist refused to let me speak with her, stating their official line that Churchill’s event was being closed off to the media, and only available to "The DePaul Community." I mentioned that Dr. Grey promised me that I was to receive a response directly from her, or at least some kind of explanation. To my surprise, the receptionist then blurted coldly, "Dr. Grey never spoke with you" before hanging up.

It wasn’t her idea.  She was taking orders from Churchill.

I later learned that it was Churchill himself who had demanded of Dr. Grey not to allow my documentary crew to film the event, for no interviews to be given by him or the Cultural Center, and certainly no recordings be made of his event by anyone outside of his own group. On the night of Churchill’s speaking event -- the university orchestrated with Churchill its "High Security" mode, something it had very rarely done for any speaker, if at all. Anyone without a DePaul ID was to be barred from even entering the building, as extra police was hired along with campus security to prevent Churchill from being exposed to any potential protestors.

But Crowell got a boot-legged audio tape of his talk and put it on line.  Churchill emailed him — a first for him; he had refused to have anything to do with Crowell — threatening a law suit based on violation of copyright, just as he would be sued if he bootlegged “a Dylan or Steve Earle concert.”  Churchill explicitly referred to himself as a “performer.”  Among conclusions Crowell drew was that

Churchill believes that anything that comes out of his mouth is, by his decree, automatically copyrighted material. (According to this, he can never be quoted or filmed by anyone at any public or private event for any use without his express consent, and his due monies.

Moreover, Churchill aims to “control all dialogue,” “make challenges [he doesn’t] have to uphold,” “resell the same stuff” at $4,000 - $5,000 per appearance, and “threaten and intimidate others” by threatening to “sue other scholars, activists and the media . . . even his own (ex) family members.”


Crowell concludes: 

So now we have the answer: Why aren’t recording devices allowed at Churchill’s speaking events? Because Churchill himself demands they not be allowed. This is for his own attention, for his own control, for his own personal profit, for his need to bully, and for feeding his ever-increasing yet fragile ego.

All of which gives insight into Churchill, the pseudo-Indian left-wing professor who can give lessons to anyone on how to game the university system, but equally so into this DePaul administrator and the tone of this university.

Stacked against it

Doug Elfman in Sun-Times says Fox should scrap “Stacked” as night-club stuff that clutters the airwaves tonight, but he’s picked out items from it that make the sneaky me want to see it.  He opens:

Sex symbol Pam Anderson's Fox sitcom is called "Stacked." Her breasts are "stacked." She works in a bookstore where books are "stacked" up. If you're new to long words, this is called a "double entendre," when one word means two things, including a thing that makes you feel naughty.

And then he specifies with a shtick about Pucci as to dress but also something else.  It’s a joke that keeps on giving, up to the point of a woman’s selling her Pucci to make ends meet.  You mean the dress, I hope, says one character.

There’s even a Dylan Thomas reference, “Rage! Rage against the dying of the light!" delivered in timely fashion as Elfman tells it while unconvincingly disapproving.

Elfman agrees there’s joy in wit.  “Cheeky comedy can be great,” he says, denying such success to “Stacked.”  Hmmm.  Will have to check that one out for myself.


Labels, we got labels

In the "I wish I wrote it" category is a letter in today’s Sun-Times by Nancy J. Thorner, of Lake Bluff, in which she criticizes standard MSM labelling practices: "religious right, never secular-left; right-wing, never left-wing," etc.

In fact, I did write it, more or less, noting the dearth of "liberal Democrat" as finder in Google but wealth of "conservative Republican" – the latter often self-applied, by the way, which says something about honesty.

For whole letter, scroll down for “A news slant to the left.


Geezer bloggers make big time

Stop the presses!  AP story about senior bloggers is in Sun-Times too, in addition to USA TodayIt’s also in Elgin’s Daily Courier-News, I am told.  And in Boston Globe or at least at its site, plus God and Google know where else. 

Writer Carla K. Johnson is on to something, I’d say, with her account of senior-citizen denizens of the blogosphere.  A fair-use excerpt of what somehow caught my attention, if you don’t mind:

"It's easy to start [a blog] if you can connect dots," said former Jesuit priest and retired newspaperman Jim Bowman, 73, of Oak Park, Ill. Bowman writes four regular blogs: one on happenings in his city, one a catchall for his opinions, one on religion, and one offering feedback on Chicago newspapers [this one].

A recent post from his newspaper blog praised the Chicago Tribune's front page stories on the White Sox World Series games:

"It's been a lovely thing, to see copy so clean and substantive enough to make E.B. White and his mentor William Strunk Jr. stand up in their graves and say Yippee," Bowman wrote.

Bowman once had eight separate blogs, but has let some lapse. The blog topics he doesn't keep up with anymore include ideas for sermons, Chicago history and condominium life.

"Like any other hobby, you've got to make sure it doesn't take over," he said.

I love it.


Narrowly construed

Chi Trib’s Dawn T. Trice objects to a Catholic parish’s decision to cancel a Girls Inc.-related fund-raiser because Girls Inc. is pro-choice, arguing that Girls Inc. does great work.  Its motto, “inspiring all girls to be strong, smart and bold,” should decide the matter, says Trice, who peeled data off its web site when its people were not available to her.

But what would Trice say about school districts (Oak Park is one) and community fund-raising operations that freeze out Boy Scouts of America because it’s anti-gay?  Groups do that sort of thing.  For them it’s not pursuing a “narrow political agenda,” as the fund-raiser doll-maker, American Girl spokesman called the parish’s decision.  It’s a heart-of-the-matter issue, as gay tolerance is at the heart of those school districts’ position. 

If Trice wants to argue that the good outweighs the bad in this case, fine.  But to profess acceptance of consumer boycott “for any reason” and then to condemn this boycott makes no sense.

ON THE VENTI FRONT . . . From one who knows:

Venti is a coffee size at Starbucks – the largest size you can get. Rather than small, medium and large, S-bucks offers something like tall, grande, venti. They want to make it all seem bigger and more mysterious. I try to stick it to the man sometimes by just ordering it the basic way, "Small coffee, please." Sometimes they don't know what I'm talking about.


Vat is dis venti?

"Crafty Russian seeks venti of cash from Starbucks," is p. 4 Chi Trib head.

What, pray tell, is a venti? A kind of coffee, I guess. At www.decafmocha.com I see "decaf venti no-whip mocha" and a creamed-up cuppa. But has Chi Trib so completely written off the straphanger trying to make sense of the world as to put it in a headline?

And do not look for "venti" in the story. Whom are these guys talking to, besides each other?