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Saturday, May 03, 2003

Ignoring Sina

From Dan Gilmore:
It's amazing and disappointing that the major media are still failing to cover the jailing of an Iranian political blogger

U.N. diplomats pillage and loot

Hungry for world government?

This story is hilarious. For reasons I won't go into, workers at the five cafeterias inside the United Nation's building staged an impromptu wildcat strike Friday. Remember, the U.N. claims the moral authority to govern the behavior of the United States. This is the organization that claims to bring civility and the rule to law to international affairs. So, how did these civilized, law-abiding diplomats handle the situation?
[W]hat ensued was nothing short of Baghdad style chaos.

Kofi Annan, who had a private lunch previously scheduled with the members of the Security Council in the Delegates Dining Room, found they were only served the main course. After that, they were on their own -- no desserts, no cleanup, no coffee for Kofi. And the service was no better for anyone else at the U.N. But as tensions grew and stomachs growled, a high-ranking U.N. official boldly ordered that all the cafeterias open their doors for business even without staff. The restaurants had been locked shut by security until about 1:00 p.m. when the doors flung open.

The decision to make the cafeterias into "no pay zones" spread through the 40-acre complex like wildfire. Soon, the hungry patrons came running. "It was chaos, wild, something out of a war scene," said one Aramark executive who was present. "They took everything, even the silverware," she said. Another witness from U.N. security said the cafeteria was "stripped bare." And another told TIME that the cafeteria raid was "unbelievable, crowds of people just taking everything in sight; they stripped the place bare." And yet another astonished witness said that "chickens, turkeys, souffles, casseroles all went out the door (unpaid)."

The mob then moved on to the Viennese Café, a popular snack bar in the U.N.'s conference room facility. It was also stripped bare. The takers included some well-known diplomats who finished off the raid with free drinks at the lounge for delegates. When asked how much liquor was lifted from the U.N. bar, one U.S. diplomat responded: "I stopped counting the bottles." He then excused himself and headed towards the men's room.

An Aramark executive estimated the food "removed" from the U.N.'s main cafeteria at between $7,000 and $9,000 not including the staff restaurant, the Viennese Café or the Delegate's Bar. The value of the missing silverware has yet to be estimated.

Read the whole story. It sounds like it happened in some banana republic, not the capital of World Government. But, this comes as no surprise. The United Nations runs its affairs like the majority of its members run their economies: By command, the rule of law be damned.

Yet these are the people to whom some in the the anti-war crowd would defer the United State's sovereign right to defend itself. These are the people to whom some environmentalists would defer the right of the United States government to determine our own use of natural resources.

Remember how the liberals castigated Jesse Helms for holding up U.S. funding for the United Nations? This is why he did it. This is why we should walk away from this U.N. It claims to equalize nations, when all it does it create the fantasy that nations ruled by robber barons are equal to those governed by its own people.

My complaint with this story is that the names of the guilty parties were withheld.

Friday, May 02, 2003

Sina update

The BBC has an article about Sina Motallebi:
In Iran many journalists, commentators and young people have set up web-based journals or blogs that document their daily lives and thoughts ...

He has been joined by Iranian Hossein Derakhshan who passed information about Mr Motallebi to high profile bloggers in the US such as Dan Gillmor of the San Jose Mercury News ...

However, Mr Derakhshan noted on his blog that all the support could cause further problems for Mr Motallebi during interrogation.

Reporters Without Borders has issued a statement deploring Mr Motallebi's detention and other attacks on journalists.
BBC columnist Bill Thompson also reports on Sina's arrest and how Iranians are using blogs to speak out against the government.

And according to Hoder, Sina's wife has posted some information on her own Weblog. She is asking people to "calm down" because the attention will hurt her husband's cause. I am of the opinion that publicity can only help. Tyranny does not go away because we fail to give it publicity. Hoder also notes that the new head of Iran's judiciary is a fundamentalist who claims that there are no journalists jailed because of political crimes, just for things like alcohol possession. Don't fall for their tricks, he says.

Out of the mouths of babes ...

Does this also apply when discussing creationism?

Loathsome comments

The Deseret News writes about the resignation of Jay Shelledy, the editor who mishandled the National Enquirer scandal.
[Michael] Vigh -- one of the fired reporters [the other is Kevin Cantera] -- said he had mixed feelings about the editor's resignation. Vigh said he had worked for Shelledy for five years, having been hired in as a police reporter from the Tooele Transcript Bulletin.
"I love the guy," he said. "He's always been good to me, and he's been fair with with me. He's always been a person that I could go to and talk to about different things in my life," said Vigh. "I called him 'Uncle Jay.' So from that perspective, I don't want him to go through this, but I feel like he did the wrong thing when, two weeks ago, I went to him and said, 'I've done something wrong, let me resign.' "
Vigh said he and Cantera "literally begged" Shelledy and other editors to assign a Tribune reporter to the story. Vigh said he and Cantera felt that through a story they could express their regret for having dealt with the Enquirer and that it might have have "stopped some of the embarrassment."
"(Shelledy) said we weren't as big as we thought, and it wasn't going to be that big of a story," said Vigh.
Vigh said he didn't necessarily agree that the paper needs new leadership in order to recover.
"If that's (Shelledy's) opinion, that's fine, but there are a lot of people who wanted (Shelledy) gone, and they are using this as the opportunity to push him out the door," Vigh said.
He wouldn't let you resign? Crap. Vigh, you are an honorless piece of scum. Had you really felt shame at your shameful behavior, you would have handed in your letter of resignation and walked out. Period. There is no doubt in my mind that Shelledy's refusal to accept your resignation made you feel relieved that you had gotten away with it. Had you had any sense of shame to begin with, you would never have taken $10,000 to confirm a lurid story that a decent newspaper like the Salt Lake Tribune would not print.

Good luck finding another job in journalism, you asshat, because your reputation is so trashed no one will hire you. Hold on to that $10,000. I have a feeling the Smart family is going to want to take it away from you. You did, after all, libel them for money.

Don't bother trying to get a job with your friends at the Enquirer. You don't pass their credibility standards, either. I cannot imagine a sadder condition for a newsman.

Tell you what, next time I'm in Utah, maybe you'll be taking my order at the drive-thru while your buddy Cantera is picking up trash in the parking lot.

Thursday, May 01, 2003

Second Amendment in use

Courtesy Music Industry News Network:
This past weekend, DAVID LEE ROTH apprehended and detained a knife-wielding man who trespassed on the singer's Southern California estate.

At 3:00 AM on Saturday April 26, ROTH was awakened by the sounds of breaking branches to discover a man had scaled his manor's 10 foot high wall. ROTH grabbed his shotgun and went onto the grounds where he encountered the man who was carrying a knife.

ROTH cornered the man and held him until the Pasadena Police arrived to take him away in handcuffs. Says ROTH: "Anyone found bearing arms here at night?will be found here in the morning."

ROTH was home preparing for a summer tour in support of his new forthcoming release DIAMOND DAVE (due July 8 on Magna Carta).
Why didn't I didn't see this report in the mainstream media until Thursday?

It had to happen

I know that I blogged in favor of Salt Lake Tribune editor James "Jay" Shelledy losing his job because of his poor handling of the National Enquirer mess. But it's still sad to see a guy lose his job after 12 years. It had to be done. There is no way any newspaper editor who thinks a reporter -- in this case two -- who snitches for the National Enquirer can retain the credibility needed to do his or her job. The instant Michael Vigh and Kevin Cantera told Shelledy they worked for the Enquirer, they lost their credibility.

Firing Shelledy and the two reporters sends a message to the community that scandal mongering is not business as usual at the Tribune. Now, the remaining editors and reporters can start trying to live down this mess.

Homicide ruled out

According to this report, police have ruled out homicide as the cause of death of wrestling personality "Miss Elizabeth."

Mothers Day

"I'm not going down without a fight. I do what they did on that one plane that crashed, except I'll take them out before we crash."
Who said this? It sure wasn't Martin Sheen, Tim Robbins or Susan Sarandon. It was my dear old Mom. We were discussing her upcoming flight from Peoria to Salt Lake City to visit her sister.

As someone who has been on the opposite end of a her switch, I guarantee hijackers would rather face an armed air marshal. She kicked cancer ass and didn't look back, in addition to raising two of her own kids, and half-raised a few other family members.

But don't worry, she will not be allowed to carry her needlepoint stuff, much to her annoyance.

When needles are outlawed, only outlaws will have needles.

This guy really gets around ...

From today's Tank McNamara.

“Lex Lugar” is suspect

Wrestling’s “Miss Elizabeth” is dead

According to this report from WSB-TV in Atlanta:
Cobb County police on Thursday arrested the former professional wrestler known as Lex Lugar after authorities found a controlled substance in his home while investigating the death of a woman who died after she was rushed early Thursday from his residence to the hospital.

Elizabeth Hulette, 42, known in the wrestling world as Miss Elizabeth, was taken from the Cobb town home owned by Lawrence Pfohl, who wrestled professionally as Lex Lugar.
Authorities said police recently responded to a domestic disturbance call at his home two weeks ago, during which Pfohl was arrested for allegedly beating Hulette, according to a copy of the police report. He was out on a $2,500 bond in connection with that incident when he was re-arrested on the controlled substance charge. It was not immediately clear what the substance was.
Back in the 1980s, my college buddies and I loved to watch wrestling. It was fake and we knew it, but the whole soap opera/morality play was fascinating to watch, if for no other reason than it was a good excuse for a party. Miss Elizabeth and Macho Man were two of the brightest stars in the World Wrestling Federation. Lex Lugar wrestled for the inferior World Championship Wrestling, so I know nothing about the character.

This story won't even rate a blip on the radar screen for most of the media, but I guarantee millions of wrestling fans will mourn her passing, at least a little.

Hollywood censorship?

The Blogosphere is all abuzz over the apparently successful attempt by the William Morris Agency to shut down the Boycott Hollywood site (which may be shut down by the time you read this). I remain skeptical about the whole thing. All I know about the mess is what the site itself reported. They posted a letter from the agency that makes an unspecific claim a client was being libeled. It's easy to claim libel, but difficult to prove, especially if the victim is a public figure. Certainly the site's hosting service was unwilling to find out. I'd like to know which company hosted the site.

But without knowing more, I can neither criticize nor defend Boycott Hollywood.

I am also amused that so many people who defended boycotts of anti-war celebrities on the grounds that is it censorship only when the government does it, but quickly decided that it is a case of censorship when the victim is on their side.

Lest anyone think I am a liberal, I point out that I quit the Libertarian Party because it refused to support the War on Terrorism.

But, I hope the site shows up again with a less nervous hosting service. I would love to know the name of the celebrity to whom the William Morris Agency letter refers, however. He or she might not be a censor under the strict sense of the word, but the word "hypocrite" seems to apply.

True Story! AOL kills puppies!

I am going to repeat this entire post, because I am certain AOL will take down this Web site as soon as its censors hard-working customer service reps find out:
I have dumped AOL. After many years of putting up with poor service and inexcusable mistakes including confiscating my email they finally did something I could not forgive them for.

AOL has a rule in the fine print that says that we must NOT put a web link into any email!! Yep - it's there in the fine print. Take a look.

Well I had our website ( www.amrt.net ) on the bottom of my email and someone ratted me out - saying they found the amrt.net website "offensive" - this is the site for dogs and cats in animal shelters - not a porn site.

So AOL went in and changed my password. Oh yes they sent me an email explaining why they had changed my password. But I never got that email - because they had changed my password. And I never got the email that told me a litter of puppies needed out of the Downey shelter NOW. And thanks to AOL those puppies died that night. And I was on the phone for over an hour trying to get my email back.

So I called Earthlink and asked them if they had such a stupid rule and they assured me they did not.

And I dumped AOL - and I suggest those of you who feel the above is outrageous might consider doing the same.

By the way, the site in question has moved here.

AOL -- The nanny state of Internet service providers. I cannot understand why an adult would choose to use it.

And thanks to Baccus for the tip.

Sina update

The Eyeranian has an update on Sina Motallebi, the Iranian journalist and blogger who was arrested for speaking his mind about the government. I am going to repeat the entire post:
Emrooz (Today) Newspaper in Tehran reported yesterday that Sina had appeared at a special court division in Tehran's Mehrabad international airport(!!). He told Judge Zafarghandi that he would prefer not to answer to his charges at this point. He also confirmed that he has accepted some charges and would like to present his case about others. Sina is then quoted to say he may need a lawyer at the trial stage but in this primary investigative phases he does not need one. He then asked everyone concerned with his case to not judge him until he clears any misunderstandings and verified that he has been allowed to meet with his family.

Sina's wife Farnaz has also been vocal about him. In her blog manioman (Mani & I, Mani being her young son) complained of people attributing certain quotes to her. She states that she has not had done interviews with any radio stations broadcasting to Iran from abroad or even local newspapers. She then asks friends to remain silent on the matter and let things be.

My 2 cents: don't be surprised if Sina is forced to accepting any charges or even confesses to certain misdeeds. This is unfortunately the norm for Iranian prisoners. Remember this, for Sina and his family, the priority right now is to get the most lenient sentence for him. Remaining silent and/or accepting some misdemeanors is the easiest way to achieve that. I can completely understand their rationale too. Getting a 5 year sentence or a 10 year one for a 30 year old with a baby in waiting is a huge difference.

For me and many others involved in a campaign to free him, Sina's arrest, charges and eventual sentence is just a small part of the puzzle. As I wrote before, the larger picture involves the future of free speech as it relates to the internet and blogs in Iran, as well as the attempted crackdown by the Iranian government against a new generation. With that in mind, we can't afford to remain neutral.

Have you signed the petition yet?

Thanks to Jeff Jarvis for the link.

Rejected Google holiday logos

Actually, I kinda like this one. Can anyone remember the complete name of the strip this character is from?

Jackie: Gold medal Dodger

Congress is considering awarding Jackie Robinson the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest honor it can bestow. Works for me.

Robinson broke Major League Baseball's color barrier when he took the field for the Brooklyn Dodgers 1947. He endured taunts from spectators, the outright scorn of other ballplayers and death threats in the mail. An Army liutenant before he joined the Dodgers, he stood up for his rights by refusing to get off a bus when ordered to by a white passenger, leading to a court martial (he was acquited).

Despite his work with Martin Luther KIng Jr., there will be those on the left who will suggest Robinson is unworthy of the honor because he was not the right kind of Negro: He was a Republican.

He also gave testimony to the House Committee on Un-American Activities. Because the left equates anti-Communism with fascism, some consider Robinson a sell-out. They should read what Robinson told the committee:"
As I see it, there has been a terrific lot of misunderstanding on this subject of communism among the Negroes in this country, and it's bound to hurt my people's cause unless it's cleared up. ... And one other thing the American people ought to understand if we are to make progress in this matter: The fact that it is a communist who denounces injustice in the courts, police brutality, and lynching when it happens doesn't change the truth of his charges.

"Just because communists kick up a big fuss over racial discrimination when it suits their purposes, a lot of people try to pretend that the whole issue is a creation of communist imagination. But they are not fooling anyone with this kind of pretense, and talk about communists stirring up Negroes to protest only makes present misunderstanding worse than ever. Negroes were stirred up long before there was a Communist Party, and they'll stay stirred up long after the party has disappeared - unless Jim Crow has disappeared by then as well."
Congress will no doubt vote to give Robinson this deserved honor.

Wednesday, April 30, 2003

Guess who turned up?

The Iraqi Information Minister has found gainful employment at a dot com.

Blurry decision making

This is the kind of crap that gives editors high blood pressure. When in doubt, make the damn phone call.

It's time to fire the editor, apologize to Enquirer

Not quite true, Mr. Singleton

Dean Singleton, CEO of MediaNews Group, continues to defend his newly acquired newspaper, the Salt Lake Tribune, whose editor originally declined to fire two reporters who snitched for the National Enquirer.
The paper will carefully review all of its reporting standards, Singleton said, reiterating that different standards wouldn't have prevented the situation involving Vigh, Cantera and the National Enquirer. "You've got two people who violated the standards that were in place," he said. "It's not the standards that were false, it's the fact that they were violated."
The ethical problem at the Tribune goes further than that. Mr. Singleton. Your editor, James "Jay" Shelledy, knew that Michael Vigh and Kevin Cantera took money to snitch for the National Enquirer, but declined to fire them. The Enquirer said the two reporters were the source for a sickening story that tried to make members of kidnapped teenager Elizabeth Smart were somehow to blame because they were part of a "gay sex ring," whatever the Hell that is. Vigh and Cantera admitted to secretly snitching, but Shelledy chose to believe his two reporters denials that they were the source for this particular story. In fact, Shelledy wrote a column mildly criticizing his reporters and blasting for Enquirer for making up the sex ring story. Then the Enquirer produced a audio tape of the the reporters doing exactly what the Enquirer said they did.

It is as impossible to work for the National Enquirer and remain ethical as it is to work for the Mafia and me a nice guy. It just doesn't work that way. The Enquirer makes money by spreading rumors and outright lies as news and then hiding behind the 1st Amendment. The result is less respect for the media in general. The failure to fire Vigh and Cantera immediately after their snitching became known was a gross lapse in judgement on the part of Shelledy.

No, Mr. Singleton. You do have a standards problem. Namely, your editor doesn't have any. And because of that, the National Enquirer -- the most reviled newspaper in America -- is now in the position of being owed an apology by the Salt Lake Tribune. Suck it up and apologize. Then fire Shelledy.

Publisher considers vomiting
as PR move

The Salt Lake Tribune is trying to recover the public's trust after it was revealed two reporters were paid snitches for the National Enquirer's now-debunked story that members Jessica Smart's family were part of a gay sex ring (whatever the Hell that is). The Trib could have salvaged its reputation by firing the two immediately after it learned about the snitching, but waited until the scandal got ripe, but that didn't happen. Now its publisher, the notorious William Singleton, is en route to Salt Lake City to do damage control:
"When I heard the full facts of the story, I felt like I was going to vomit," Singleton said in an interview from Seattle, where he was attending a gathering of the Newspaper Association of America.

He described the episode as the worst in his newspaper career.

"I'm hurt by this, angered by it and embarrassed by it," Singleton said. "And we will do whatever it takes to win back the community's trust."
Translation: "Gee, we've got some really annoyed readers. Circulation or ad sales might actually drop. Too bad our earlier effort to sweep this under the rug and ignore it didn't work. Better try some more damage control."

A newspaper that was really concerned abut ethics would have immediately fired any reporters caught taking money from the National Enquirer. There is no such thing as an ethical National Enquirer reporter. Please note that no one at the Enquirer is embarrassed in the slightest over its erroneous report. After all, that's how they earn their money -- by printing the most scandalous crap they can and blaming their paid sources when they are actually called on it. How in the any journalist believe they can peddle crap their own paper would not print to a tabloid and not be considered unethical sleezebags.

Tuesday, April 29, 2003

In praise of the Marines

From Arab News:
Marines come from well-bred families; others join because they were living off the street. Some join to be educated, others to become part of a family. Some join because they simply ?want to be part of the best.?

Many of these young Marines don’t know the difference between an Arab and an Asian. But a Chaplin told me that some of his hardest young Marines’ hearts turned soft ?up north? as they witnessed the hard life and poverty Iraqi civilians and military live.

I am greatly concerned that this war has polarized many Arabs and Americans. Knowing these Marines, however, has given me hope for the future of America and its relationship with the Arab world.

This kinda brought a tear by my eye. Read the whole thing.

Celebrations continue

A peace process breakthrough. Another terrorist attack in Tel Aviv. Same old, same old.

"Would you like fries with that?"

Kevin Cantera and Michael Vigh now pondering new career opportunities. Maybe they should ask Janet Cook for advice. Idiots.

Did National Enquirer snitches lie to employers?

Michael Vigh and Kevin Cantera, reporters for the Salt Lake Tribune reporters who earned cash by snitching for the National Enquirer, have been fired for their role in a defamatory story about Jessica Smart's family. The Enquirer has retracted a story saying members of the Smart family were involved in a gay sex ring. In a meeting with Smart family attorneys, the Enquirer said they got the information from the two Tribune reporters, who it paid for inside information about the case.

Well, when this news became public, the reporters admitted to taking money for information, but denied being the source to their employer. Their editor wrote a column saying the reporters learned their lesson and will not be fired. The editor also blasted the Enquirer for making up the story. Now, according to this article in the Deseret News, the Enquirer says it has a tape recording that contradicts the reporter's claim that . The Enquirer has demanded that the Trib's editor retract the comments. That hasn't happened yet, but Vigh and Cantera have been shown the door.

I am not going to compare the Tribune to the National Enquirer, because the Trib has obviously been victimized by two employees. But, the Trib could have avoided much of this controversy by doing what it should have done the instant it learned Vigh and Cantera were paid snitches -- fire them. But they didn't do that and now the National Enquirer is not in the position of being able to demand an apology from them. An apology costs the Enquirer nothing, because they have no sense of honor. No decent newspaper wants to have to admit it wronged a piece of fishwrap.

Snob journalism

Ken Layne links to an excellent piece by Washington Post political columnist Robert Samuelson. Journalism is not a profession, and will not benefit from attempts to turn it into one, such as the attempt by Lee Bollinger, president of Columbia University. Bollinger believes journalists should be credentialed by a university graduate degree program, preferably one that lasts two years. Wow. Back in 1981, I considered not even going to college. It was possible then to work as a reporter without a bachelor's degree, although most editors recommended getting one. Samuelson writes:
Unfortunately, Bollinger's haughty vision seems confirmed by his choice for dean of the journalism school, Nicholas Lemann. He is a brilliant writer, an exhaustive reporter, a gifted thinker and (from everything I know) a nice guy. But he has specialized in long reflective articles for upscale (aka elite) publications with comparatively small circulations, most recently the Atlantic Monthly (496,000) and the New Yorker (879,000). Most reporters do less exalted work. A recent Columbia graduate I know covers high school sports for a small suburban paper.
I would never advise anyone to go into journalist full time without a college education. But I would rather have a literate high school graduate with a fire in his or her belly for exposing local malfeasance, misfeasance and everyday life than are four grad-school-wonders who are looking to sign on at the Washington Post or New York Times as soon as possible.

I also think journalism education in college has become so standardized that they have a tendency to crank out students with the same generally left of center politics with the same bland "journalese" writing style -- perfect for assimilation into the small- to middle-market papers that will be their first employers.

Geraldo out in the Boondocks

You know, that's exactly what I would have done with him.

Monday, April 28, 2003

Watching the watchers

A new collective blog is tracking the U.S. Patriot Act to ensure that our fight against terrorism -- as justified as it is -- doesn't have another casualty: The Constitution. It's called "The Watchtower" and its most recent post is a particularly lucid entry on how it affects banking and other financial institutions, and might scare immigrants away from banks and into the greedy hands of check-for-cash or car title loans. I wonder who wrote it?

Sina update

Hoder has an update on Sina Motallebi's arrest, now in its 8th day:
Sina said to Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA) he was hopeful that the court was going to accept his explanations and even wouldn't take him to the court. He was worried that some people's support, might make new problems and new questions for him in the interogation process. He sounded confident and calm, but as I said, worried. He talked to ISNA while he appeared in a court in Mehrabad Airport (!) for the first time after a week of being in custody.
I think his appearance in public is a good sign. Iran runs the risk of further alienating Iranian youth if Motallebi is harmed or simply prosecuted.

Of course, the more publicity he receives the better off he is, so the more bloggers who mention his plight, the better.

Also: More than a month has passed since Iraqi blogger Salam Pax made his has post. His identity remains a mystery. The last report I heard was that he was hospitalized after Coalition bombing.

Sainthood for Sheen?

No, not Martin Sheen, you heathens -- Bishop Fulton J. Sheen. He once lived in Peoria and was ordained in the Peoria Diocese before he went off to radio and television stardom in New York City. Now a group is trying to arrange sainthood for the El Paso, Illinois native. In order to do so, they need to find evidence of a miracle.

Actually, the actor whose real name is Ramon Estevez chose the name "Sheen" because he admired the bishop. If that's not a reason to disqualify him, I don't know what is.

I can not really debate the merits of canonization because I am not a Catholic. But I know the civic booster types will go absolutely nuts if it happens. They will try to turn every place this guy even looked at into some sort of tourist attraction.

Isn't that what sainthood is all about, anyway?

Compensation exceeds company's earnings

Conrad Black rakes it in

I used to work for Conrad Black. This was back when I was at the Canton (Ill.) Daily Ledger, which was owned by American Publishing Company, which was owned by Hollinger International. I have not the faintest idea who owned whom now, because I escaped that hellhole of a corporation many years ago. I worked for them for slightly longer than one year and not a month in which conditions were not worse than the previous month because of the company's insistence on increasing profitability by cutting wages and benefits.

So, it was no surprise when I came across this item from Crain's Chicago Business:
Conrad Black's empire may look small next to some other media powers, but the press baron ? who is actually a British lord ? collects a king's ransom from the public company that owns the Chicago Sun-Times.

In the past five years, Chicago-based Hollinger International Inc., where Mr. Black is CEO, has funneled more than $300 million to Mr. Black, his closest lieutenants and entities they control, company filings show.

During the same period, the company's aggregate net income was only $26 million, with more than a half-billion dollars in losses recorded over the last two years. And its public shareholders saw the value of their stock fall 42%, while the Standard & Poor's index of printing and publishing stocks rose 24%.
The flurry of inside dealing took place within the elaborate corporate structure Mr. Black uses to maintain control of holdings that include a stable of suburban Chicago papers, London's Daily Telegraph and the Jerusalem Post.

Hollinger Inc., a public Canadian company controlled by Mr. Black's private investment vehicle, controls Hollinger International through a class of "supervoting" stock with 10 times the voting power of the Class A common shares traded on the New York Stock Exchange. That gives Mr. Black 70% of the voting power at Hollinger International, even though public shareholders hold about 70% of the company's total equity.
Someone please explain to me why Black isn't being sued by a disgruntled stockholder.

Second amendment in action

Link found via InstaPUNDIT. A bar patron pulled out and used an unregistered handgun to defend a friend, who was being attacked with a knife. No charges will be filed. This happened in Idaho. In many states, he would be in jail awaiting trial on handgun charges, regardless that he used the gun for self defense.

Phil's comedy column

They said irony was dead after 9-11. Apparently, "they" haven't been reading Phil Luciano's column in the Journal Star. His April 25 entry is especially ironic. It ends with this question: "Does anyone else in PeoriaLand hate the requisite nightly blurbs that our TV newscasts squander on Bloomington-Normal?"

I sure do, Phil. That's why I wrote about it in the March "City Beat." As I recall, I criticized all Peoria-area media -- including the Journal Star -- for spending too much time reporting on the Bloomington/Normal area. That's been a consistent complaint of mine since I started this column.

Phil also uncorked this statement: "Can't Bloomington-Normal get their own newscast?"

Umm, Phil? Ever hear of WYZZ? Channel 43? It's carried on Insight cable channel 6. They're the FOX network affiliate that shows "The Simpsons." They have a nightly 9 p.m. newscast. Sure, it's broadcast out of WMBD-TV's studios on North University Street in Peoria, but it a Bloomington/Normal newscast.

Oh, and one more thing, Phil: Stop referring to the Peoria area as "PeoriaLand." It really annoys the natives.


Glenn Reynolds' MSNBC column is about people inspired by Star Trek.

More museum follies

In its April 9 editorial, the Peoria Journal Star had this to say about a study conducted on the feasibility of turning over the long-empty Sears block in downtown Peoria for use as a museum of Peoria history. Mayor Dave Ransburg questioned the study's conclusions and wants a new one (which is exactly what happened later).

"Funny thing about consultants and their studies. No matter how solid they may be, no matter how good the math, if they don't reach the desired conclusion, they're not worth much to the movers and shakers."

It's also a "funny thing" how editorial writers and some city council members are willing to look the other way about a flawed study because it supports, rather than refutes, their desire to turn over a prime piece of real estate to a non-profit entity, forever removing it from the tax rolls.

The official opinion of Peoria's newspaper of record is that despite obvious problems with the study, it serves the useful purpose of recommending a museum at the Sears site. What a coincidence, that's what the Journal Star recommends, too. So, the Journal Star concludes, there is no need for a second story. It's an intellectual dishonest position.
According to its own editorial, problems with the original study include:

1. It was commissioned and paid for a group that includes Lakeview Museum, the people who want the entire Sears block for themselves. The Journal Star concedes it's a conflict of interest

2. The study points out there is a shortage of financial assistance available for the museum. According to the Journal Star, this brave admission of reality lends the report credibility and therefore supports the report's final conclusion that the project is feasible.

3. The report concedes that a local history museum is not likely to lure local visitors.
The Journal Star editorial also scoffs at those who doubt the museum would generate new business: "This museum's proximity to the Lincoln Library and Museum in Springfield is also a plus. Just last week it was reported that the Starbucks coffee chain will put its first downstate store in downtown Springfield, in part because of the additional 300,000 visitors the museum is expected to bring annually. It's a small thing, but telling."

Wow. That's a great reason to turn over a piece of prime retail land over to an untaxed, non-profit agency: The chance to lure in a Starbucks. Thinking like that is why Peoria is in such great financial shape.

The editorial board at the PJS is like the city council - willing to spend taxpayer money to support certain developers and certain businesses over their competitors, which keeps property and sales taxes high. Later, they both will wonder why there's not enough money coming in to pay for enough police officers and firefighters.

Why is the Journal Star and other movers and shakers so hot for a museum? Maybe because Managing Editor Jack Brimeyer fancies himself a local history buff. But, more than likely it's simply a case of liberalism. They enjoy having taxpayers pay the bill for recreation and cultural activities that are enjoyed by movers and shakers (funny how the PJS describes others that way, but not itself).

The complete editorial is not available on the Peoria Journal Star Website without paying a fee, so I posted the entire thing here. Let 'em sue me.

From the upcoming Community Word.

Tabloid blues

Romenesko links to a tale out of Salt Lake City, where two Tribune reporters got a tounge-lashing from their boss for assisting the National Enquirer in its coverage of the Jessica Smart kidnapping. Michael Vigh and Kevin Cantera claim they didn't report for the tabloid, but gave background on the case to the notoriously inaccurate rag.

When the Enquirer, surprise, printed an inaccurate story, they cited the two Trib reporters as sources, which they denied.

Surprisingly, the two reporters were not fired immediately. So much for the Trib's credibility. These two losers deserved to get fired. Their best contribution to journalism is to serve as a negative example of what happens to reporters who do business with vipers.

I was reminded of my one and only brush with tabloid journalism.

I was education reporter at the Jacksonville Journal-Courier. Jacksonville, Ill., is the site of the plant where many of EMI's compact discs are manufactured. Country music star Garth Brooks was of their artists, and at the time was at the height of his popularity. One day, Brooks showed up to tour the plant and thank the workers for producing so many of his CDs. It was the biggest event of the year for this city and I was the reporter who covered it. Thousands of people showed up to see and hear Garth. The event lasted for hours because Brooks posed for pictures and signed autographs for anyone who asked. Garth met with school children, including blind and deaf children from nearby state-run schools. I watched as Garth's wife as she stoically endured listing to women shout crude comments about her husband's butt.

Brooks made a good impression on the people of this town.

Two days later, I was sitting at my desk working on some mundane school board story when I got a call from a person identifying himself as a reporter for the tabloid "Globe" newspaper. He was doing research and wanted to ask a few questions.

We heard a report that Garth and his wife had a fight during the tour. Not from what I saw, and I followed him around the place for several hours.

Did he look fat? Nope, I said. I should have Garth's weight problem.

There was a blow-up wasn't there? Absolutely not. He was completely gracious.

You know, we pay reporters for information. And there it was. The only time in my life I've been offered money to lie in print. "No thanks. I have a paycheck coming in and I want to keep it." Click.

Years before, I worked in Canton, Ill. Fulton County was home to several weird characters, including one lady who made a cottage industry out of her experiences as a UFO abductee and of course sought out as much free newspaper coverage as she could get. We also got phone calls once a month or so from a lady who claimed her Christmas tree or her toaster was talking to her, and did we want to come over and write a story about it. Then there was the guy who wanted us to publish his manifesto about the need to build a huge starship for humanity could escape Earth's imminent destruction.

A co-worker and I made plans to write these stories for the tabloids, but neither of us has the guts -- or the stomachs -- to seriously consider it. But, every once in a while, I think wonderful career I could have had making stuff up.

... and no news is bad news

No news about Sina

A check of the usual sources -- a handful of Iranian bloggers, including Hoder and The Eyeranian -- revealed no new news about jailed Iranian journalist and blogger Sina Motallebi, who was jailed last week for commenting about public affairs. I also checked Google News, and found a total of 31 articles world wide about the situation. The most recent article Google's robots found was dated April 23. Most of the hits were newspaper Web sites that carried the Associated Press article about the situation.

I've blogged a lot (here, here, here and here) about Mr. Motallebi, in part because I sympathize with anyone jailed by an evil, repressive regime. Also, I believe that he is being short-changed in the publicity department by Western media.

We are missing a great story here, folks. It's not just the story of one man. The story of what is happening to Sina and other critics of Iranian government illustrates the vast potential for a public movement toward freedom.

Click the "Free Sina Motallebi" link in the upper left-hand corner of this page and sign a petition to the Iranian government.

Showing respect to the Iraqis

Jeff Jarvis has a longish post about the democracy really means -- and what it doesn't mean -- in Iraq. He taked issue with those who worry that if they are givent he right to chose their own government, they will hand it over to Islamic fundamentalists:
The problem here is the definition of democracy.

Democracy is not a one-time event: Go into the polls and pick your government or your leader and then lump it for the foreseeable future.

No, democracy is a process.

First and foremost, democracy is a living, ever-changing social organism. Its ability to change is exactly what gives the people power over their leaders. Essential to any definition of a democracy is that it allows the people to change leaders -- and thus the course of government -- at any time, in a peaceful process, without having to resort to revolution.

Second, a democracy is never just its leader. If you go to the polls and pick a leader and then that person cuts off democratic process, he becomes a dictator, whether religious or secular, whether an ayatollah or a Saddam.

Third, a democracy is its constitution. That is, the process of democracy -- the means by which the various interests and needs of the people are both enforced and protected -- is enshrined in a constitution (rather than in a person or a party). We must work with the people of Iraq -- as we worked with Germany and Japan and are now working with the people of Afghanistan -- to create a system of governance that gives the power permanently to the people and protects that power through representative institutions, through checks and balances, and through the ability to change that constitution when the people will it.

Fourth, a democracy must protect the rights of all the people, including minorities. Especially in a fractious nation such as Iraq, just taking power away from one group and giving it to another -- just letting the Shiite religious leaders rule because they wield the majority -- is trading one brand of dictatorship for another. That majority vote would not be democracy; it would be oppression. No, the constitution and the process of elections must allow for a give and take of all groups and all interests.

Fifth, a democracy depends on a well-informed electorate and thus it must support free speech, a free press, and independent education.

A democracy respects its people.

Those who say that Iraqis cannot handle democracy give them no respect.
Of course, he is completely write. Democracy is not synomymous with "majority rule." If it did, the majority would enslave the minority. It's a basic lesson that I remember learnign in grade school, but somehow escaped the pundits and commentators who wring their hands. After five years, we will (one hopes) leave Iraq with a working constitution that forbids theocracy.

For a former T.V. critic, Jarvis is a pretty smart guy. He has become a go-to guy for rational thinking and writing about events.

Rethinking Bowling

JagEsquire over at Transparent Smoke (a new addition to my Blogrolls) is reconsidering the viability of quoting anything from Michael Moore's "Bowling for Columbine." Yeah, I know that Jag's post is from April 7, but I just discovered the darn thing today. So cut me some slack, okay!!!!

Sunday, April 27, 2003

Just another test