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Friday, October 31, 2008


Remembering Studs Terkel

"At a time when pimpery, lick-spittlery, and picking the public's pocket are the order of the day — indeed, officially proclaimed as virtue — the poet must play the madcap to keep his balance. And ours."

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Thursday, October 30, 2008


Halloween And The Distinguished Departed

Halloween again, so I thought I'd repost the info about Pierce Brothers Memorial Park and Mortuary in Westwood, also known as Westwood Memorial Park ...

Located off Glendon Avenue, behind the high-rises that front Wilshire Boulevard, this small cemetery is the final resting place of some of the 20th Century's most talented performers and writers. It's the only place you can pay your respects to the man who got no respect, Rodney Dangerfield, whose headstone proclaims "There goes the neighborhood." Of course, this epitaph assumes the neighbors know he's there. Of this, I'm not so sure.

Though the celebrities interred within have names that continue to loom large in Hollywood, this place is easily overlooked. Tucked between a ramp for an underground parking garage and an office building, the entrance to Pierce Brothers is about as modest as the simple bronze plates that mark the graves of Truman Capote and Marilyn Monroe.

There are, of course, exceptions, like the aforementioned stone of Dangerfield. My favorite is the dark humor of Jack Lemmon's marker, pictured above (btw, his grave is within cigar-smoking distance of Walter Matthau, who played opposite Lemmon in "The Odd Couple"). Writers will likely relate to Billy Wilder's self-depricating commentary: "I'm a writer, but then, nobody's perfect."

I've put together a small photo gallery at this link. Also, a more complete list of the celebrities buried at Pierce Brothers is available at Find A Grave.

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Remembering Tony Hillerman

This wonderful, 10-minute video bio of the late author Tony Hillerman was featured at LATimes.com.

Hillerman died this week at age 83.

At about the 5:15 mark, he talks about his first novel, THE BLESSING WAY, which his agent panned, then advised him to stick to non-fiction:
"I'd been selling magazine articles for non-fiction, and I said 'well, why you gotta be so negative about it?'

And she said 'well, because it's a bad book.'

I said 'well, that's a typical New York City answer. Why is it a bad book?'

'Well, it falls between the stools,' she said, 'it's not a literary novel and it's not a genre novel and the bookstore people won't know what shelf to put it on.'

She didn't want me to rewrite it. She said 'why don't you just forget it.'

I said 'well I think I'll rewrite it.'

She said, 'well, if you're going to rewrite it, get rid of all the Indian stuff. Nobody's interested in Indians.'

Suffice it to say, as the video's narrator points out, Hillerman got a new agent, kept in the "Indian stuff," and went on to publish 18 Indian mystery novels.

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Wednesday, October 29, 2008


What's In A Name Like 'Efthemios?'*

Way back in June, The New York Times published a story about "a growing band of supporters of Senator Barack Obama [...] who are expressing solidarity with him by informally adopting his middle name."

As you may have noticed by the new banner on my personal blog, I have kinda sorta joined that band, at least until Election Day, but not for purely political reasons.

If my goal was to support Obama's candidacy, I could certainly have found a more effective way. Instead, I took "Hussein" as a peaceful form of protest, a statement of my profound opposition to idiocy.

Today I write as "TJ Hussein Sullivan" because America's education system has so obviously failed to instill an ounce of common sense in many of our citizens. How else can you explain a person smart enough to work all the dials and switches required of a radio talk show host** who behaves like a schoolyard bully, attempting to belittle and degrade Obama by mocking his middle name?

"Hussein … Hussein … Hussein."

Obama, however, is hardly my only concern.

I am "TJ Hussein Sullivan" for Sen. John McCain, whose middle name is "Sidney."

Yep. Sidney.

I'm "TJ Hussein Sullivan" for former Vice President Al Gore, whose middle name is "Arnold," and for former President George H. W. Bush (41) who has a "Herbert" stuck in there.

And, remember the late Sen. Paul Tsongas? Paul Tsongas's middle name was "Efthemios."

Seriously. Efthemios.

Haven't the John Sidneys, the Al Arnolds, the George Herberts and, yes, the Paul Efthemioses suffered enough? My God, it's a wonder any of them survived recess.

— TJ Hussein Sullivan

* Cross posted at LA Observed.

**This is one of many examples.

UPDATE: The Los Angeles Times notices.
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Tuesday, October 28, 2008



Author Henry Miller summed it up best when he wrote that, to become an artist, you must "be crushed … have your conflicting points of view annihilated." He wrote that you must be "wiped out" as a human being "in order to be born again an individual." He used words like "carbonized" and "mineralized" to describe what a writer must endure before he or she can "work upwards from the last common denominator of the self."

Had I read Miller before taking my leap into creative writing four and a half years ago, I’d have surely dismissed his advice as inapplicable to my life. After all, I'd been planning since college to traverse the same gateway used by my literary heroes, many of whom also started out at newspapers. I was certain that my years of reporting would provide a kind of equity against which I could borrow to gain entry into publishing. My journalism career had been "successful" and "rewarding,” and I had an "impressive" list of "accomplishments" and "awards.” I fired these words like arrows at the hearts of agents and expected them to swoon.

There was no swooning.

Instead, I have been "annihilated ... wiped out ... (and) carbonized." I've learned to write all over again. I've repeatedly built and rebuilt, razed and reframed the same stories. The highs have been higher than any I’ve ever experienced. The lows have been the lowest, the destruction of self, and a bit of self-destruction.

In the past four and a half years I’ve rewritten two books so many times I’ve lost count. And, along the way, I've made most of the mistakes they mention in the books about book writing (the ones I read after I made the mistakes — STORY ... YOUR FIRST NOVEL ... MAKING A LITERARY LIFE ... ON BECOMING A NOVELIST).

My first book was read by a major publishing house in New York City, only to be returned looking like a badly bandaged body, the result of bad handling by the postal service, though they managed to keep the encouraging note of rejection intact. The second book was requested by another big house following a face-to-face meeting with one of its editors in New York, but that too came back ... addressed to "Ms." TJ Sullivan ... a blow to both mettle and manhood. Now, here I sit, all the more humbled and wiser for having survived it, with a first novel locked away in my bottom drawer, a fresh and solid second novel on my desktop, and the outline of a third book taking shape nearby on dozens of 3x5 cards.

And yet, that familiar stab of rejection still stings just as much.

I received my first rejection letter in long time yesterday, from an agent I thought would be a good match for both me and my book. I know now how little such responses mean. As with the rewrites, I stopped keeping tally of rejections long ago, an exercise as pointless as counting hiccups, or sneezes. They're all an ineradicable part of life. Some people get more than others. Some get less. Eventually, one will be the last. But, the first is always the worst.

This is the writer's life, and I've no intention of doing anything else but continuing to write books.

Nonetheless, as Billy Joel sang so well when I was back in high school, sometimes "I really wish I was less of a thinking man and more a fool who's not afraid of rejection."

TJ Sullivan

* Cross posted at LA Observed.
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Monday, October 27, 2008


The Casualties

A partial cut list from today's Los Angeles Times layoffs is up at LA Observed.

Also not to be missed is maverick publisher Eddy Hartenstein's ill-timed note to staffers (posted on the same day the cuts were announced). The segue to happiness appears in the introductory paragraph: "The good news, however, is that we are continuing to reinvent this fine company so it will be around long into the future."

From the looks of the cuts, it would appear "reinvent" means undoing some of the recent reinventing.

Included on the list are:
• Accomplished writer, NPR book critic, blogger (and a very good friend) Veronique de Turenne, who was hired less than a year ago to help usher the LA Times into the digital age as its "lead blogger on a local news effort." (Here's one bit of "reinventing" they couldn't even give a year to grow.)

• Film critic Carina Chocano (not that this needs to be pointed out, but the LAT is the paper of record for the city in which the entertainment industry is based, and the paper is laying off one of its star film critics).

• Entertainment editor Maria Russo (an energizing editor respected by many, who left the NY Observer four years ago to come west and help improve the LAT, all so the publication could -- SURPRISE -- lay her off today).

Editor of the Real Estate Section Lauren Beale, who skillfully edited every cover story I ever wrote for her section at the LA Times. Never mind that the real estate market, and the associated stock-market crash and credit crisis will end up being the biggest story of 2008 for the nation, the state and the city of LA. Never mind that Los Angeles is as well known worldwide for its sprawl as for its lavish homes and valuable real estate. None of that stopped the LAT suits from axing the Real Estate section this past July, and now, unfortunately, Lauren too. (Lauren's blog post on the section's demise pointed out that real estate stories would continue to appear online and in both Sunday Business and the Saturday Home section. Losing Laura means the very talented people left behind will have far less time to do everything right, let alone well).*

• Literary and cultural reporter extraordinaire Scott Timberg (he's also written for Art Review, GQ, Men's Vogue, the Boston Phoenix, and Slate).

• DC reporter and author Stephen Braun.

• Pulitzer-winning photographer Annie Wells.

• The former fashion editor, who had most recently been filing obits, Mary Rourke (who stuck with the LAT despite being bumped around as they cut cut cut).

• Metro reporter John Mitchell (who, besides being a great reporter with an rare depth of knowledge about the city and its history, has often donated his time to help educate journalism students at UCLA's Daily Bruin).

... And the list keeps getting longer. In fact, it's still growing as I file this. My apologies to those I missed.

*UPDATE: After two weeks in employment limbo at the Times, Lauren Beale's name was struck from the layoff list and therefore she remains the paper's full-time Real Estate editor.

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LA Observed: Another bad day at 1st and Spring

From the LA Times photo archive @ UCLA Library.
More cuts at the Los Angeles Times were announced today, a tragedy on so many levels, most immediately, of course, for those let go, and in the long term, for democracy.

Here's a snippet from the note sent out by editor Russ Stanton, via LA Observed:
The growing economic downturn is forcing us to undergo another round of job reductions and cost cuts. I deeply regret to report that today, 75 of our friends, colleagues and capable staff members in Editorial will be told that they are losing their jobs. This is about 10% of our total staff and these cuts are comparable in scale to those made on the business side of The Times last week.

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LA Times Circ. Off 5.2%, SD U-T Down 3%

Bad news all around in newspaper circulation numbers. Here's the gist via Editor & Publisher (the percentage represents the change from one year ago):
USA TODAY -- 2,293,310 -- 0.01%
THE WALL STREET JOURNAL -- 2,011,999 -- 0.01%
NEW YORK TIMES -- 1,000,665 -- (-3.58%)
LOS ANGELES TIMES -- 739,147 -- (-5.20%)
DAILY NEWS, NEW YORK -- 632,595 -- (-7.16%)

NEW YORK POST -- 625,421 -- (-6.25%)
THE WASHINGTON POST -- 622,714 -- (-1.94%)
CHICAGO TRIBUNE -- 516,032 -- (-7.75%)
HOUSTON CHRONICLE -- 448,271 -- (-11.66%)
NEWSDAY -- 377,517 -- (-2.58%)

THE ARIZONA REPUBLIC -- 361,333 -- (-5.51%)
SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE -- 339,430 -- (-7.07%)
THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS -- 338,933 -- (-9.28%)
BOSTON GLOBE -- 323,983 -- (-10.18%)
STAR TRIBUNE, MINNEAPOLIS -- 322,360 -- (-4.26%)

STAR-LEDGER, NEWARK, N.J. -- 316,280 -- (-10.40%)
CHICAGO SUN-TIMES -- 313,176 -- (-3.94%)
PLAIN DEALER, CLEVELAND -- 305,529 -- (-8.58%)
THE PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER -- 300,674 -- (-11.06%)
DETROIT FREE PRESS -- 298,243 -- (-6.84%)

THE OREGONIAN -- 283,321 -- (-8.45%)
SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE -- 269,819 -- (-3.00%)
ST. PETERSBURG (FLA.) TIMES -- 268,935 -- (-6.88%)
THE SACRAMENTO BEE -- 253,249 -- (-4.22%)

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Wednesday, October 22, 2008


My Letter To Congresswoman Bachmann

October 21, 2008

Congresswoman Michele Bachmann
412 Cannon HOB
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Congresswoman Bachmann,

America is a wonderful place. I love America. I was born in it, grew up in it, and was educated in its schools. My great great grandfather moved his family here by choice, despite all those nasty people who greeted him with shouts of “dirty Irish,” and the signs in the store windows that said “No Irish Need Apply,” and all the rumors that suggested all Irish were cheats and drunks and fools and fighters and counterfeiters and blasphemers. Our nation has certainly come a long way from those ignorant days of yore.

Like I said, I love America, and, because of that, I fully appreciate the 21 months of service you’ve given to this great nation as a representative of the 6th Distrct of the state of Minnesota. Although I expect I disagree with most every single vote you’ve cast in all that time, I accept the fact that democracy means we can disagree without being disagreeable. You, however, seem to be a bit confused about the whole idea.

I’m of course referring to what you said on the Chris Matthews program HARDBALL on Friday, Oct. 17, 2008, the same statements you’ve since said were “misconstrued,” a defense that, let’s be honest, is ridiculous considering that the interview was recorded and can easily be replayed on the Internet.

I hope you will take the time to review our nation’s history before casting any more unfounded aspersions about the patritotism of your fellow citizens. In the meantime, I think you owe your colleague in the Senate, Barack Obama, your fellow members of Congress, and your nation an apology. The “U” in USA stands for “united.” It’d be great if you’d embrace that concept and join with the rest of us.


TJ Sullivan

Cross-posted at LA Observed.

* Update: Oct. 22, 2008, two days after telling a Minneapolis television station that her televised statements were "completely misconstrued," Bachmann appears in a Minneapolis Star Tribune video [with story by Pat Doyle] apologizing without actually apologizing, now saying that "a trap was laid," that it was a "misstatement," and that Chris Matthews is the real culprit because he "continued to use the word anti-American, anti-American, anti-American." Good God, who's running against this dilettante grifter, and where do I send the campaign donation?

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Monday, October 20, 2008


Shame On Rep. Michele Bachmann

The charges of anti-Americanism levied by US Congresswoman Michele Bachmann this past Friday on Chris Matthews' program Hardball exemplified the sort of ignorance that intelligent people usually turn away from with a polite laugh when it's articulated by a casual acquaintance, or a stranger on the street.

However, because something so utterly ridiculous was stated by a member of United States Congress who is now trying to deny she said it [despite the fact it's on video tape] demands that she be called upon to make a public apology.

McCarthyism was an embarrassment we need not repeat again.

Here's a partial transcript of what she said:
CHRIS MATTHEWS: So this is a character issue. You believe that Barack Obama may -- you're suspicious because of this relationship -- may have anti-American views. Otherwise, it's probably irrelevant to this discussion.

REP. MICHELLE BACHMANN, R-MINN.: Absolutely. I absolutely...

MATTHEWS: Do you believe that... Barack Obama may have anti-American views?

BACHMANN: Absolutely. I'm very concerned that he may have anti- American views. That's what the American people are concerned about. That's why they want to know what his answers are. That's why Joe the plumber has figured so highly in had the last few days...

MATTHEWS: OK. I just want to get off this...

BACHMANN: What I would say is that the news media should do a penetrating expose and take a look. I wish they would. I wish the American media would take a great look at the views of the people in Congress and find out, are they pro-America or anti-America? I think people would love to see an expose like that.

Bachmann's defense: "I did not suggest the word 'anti-American," she told KMSP-TV (as reported by the Minneapolis Star Tribune). She says Matthews put the word "anti-American" into her mouth ... which she promptly followed with both her feet.

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Friday, October 17, 2008


Levi Stubbs — Motown Legend Dies at Age 72

Levi Stubbs 2nd from left in The Four Tops

There weren't a lot of reasons to be happy about growing up in financially depressed Detroit in the 1970s. It was a time in that city's history when it seemed everyone was leaving, including the music industry, which was relocating to Los Angeles. Nonetheless, there were still so many radio stations and friends playing the music that came out of that town in the 1960s that it dominated and brightened the soundtrack of my childhood.

Those not from Motown may not recognize the name of Levi Stubbs, but everyone knows the music he made, in their heart and head — "Baby I Need Your Loving;" "I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch);" "Reach Out I'll Be There;" "Standing in the Shadows of Love;" and, of course, my personal favorite, "Bernadette." It's impossible to listen to any of those songs today without tripping back to a memory of something good about Detroit.

Stubbs died today, but the music ... it's still enjoying airplay all around the world.

From the New York Times:
DETROIT — Levi Stubbs, the gravelly-voiced, imploring lead singer of the Motown group the Four Tops, who stood out in 1960s pop classics like “Reach Out, I’ll Be There,” and “Bernadette,” died on Friday at his home here. He was 72.

His death was confirmed by the office of the Wayne County Medical Examiner. No cause was given. Mr. Stubbs had had a series of illnesses, including a stroke and cancer, that forced him to stop performing in 2000, although he briefly participated in the Four Tops’ 50th-anniversary concert in 2004, which was broadcast on public television.

Formed while its original members were in high school, the Four Tops were one of the most successful groups of the 20th century. They had more than 40 hits on the Billboard pop charts, including their first No. 1 single, “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch)” in 1964.

Hugely popular abroad as well as in the United States, the group became a linchpin of Motown Records, the Detroit label started by Berry Gordy Jr., and was second only to the Temptations, with whom it was often compared, in popularity among its male artists. In 1990 the Four Tops were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

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Thursday, October 16, 2008


E&P: 'Tribune Co. Gives Notice To Drop AP'

Editor & Publisher's headline deems it a "shocker" that Los Angeles Times parent Tribune Co. has given notice of its intention to abandon the venerable Associated Press wire service:
Tribune Company has given a two-year notice to the Associated Press that its daily newspapers plan to drop the news service, becoming the first major newspaper chain to do so since the recent controversy over new rates began.

Tribune, which owns nine daily papers including the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune, joins a growing list of newspapers that have sought to end AP contracts, or given notice of that, following plans to introduce a new controversial rate structure in 2009. The notice was given earlier this week.

AP Spokesman Paul Colford confirmed the cancellation notice, but said he had no more specifics. He issued the following statement about it:

"We understand that in this climate a lot of newspapers are re-examining their strategies. The Associated Press will continue to work with all members of the cooperative to ensure that we are providing the most efficient, valued and essential news service for them."

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Wednesday, October 15, 2008


LAO: Can Anyone Be Undecided At This Point?

My new post at LA Observed:

The final 90-minute debate between US presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain is set for tonight and, as a result, undecided voters are getting a lot of attention from every corner of the journalism industry, from cable networks like CNN to daily newspapers like The Des Moines Register.

The idea is to track how these undecided voters react to whatever is said tonight, and to then translate those reactions into some semblance of a performance grade for each candidate. Interesting as always, I suppose, but, in my opinion, it's hardly worth the time and effort.

The better story — the one I want to hear — is how anyone informed enough to even volunteer for an undecided-voter focus group could possibly be undecided at this point in the campaign.

We've been on this bus for nearly two years — Obama declared in Feb. 2007 and McCain announced in April 2007. On top of that, our nation is in the midst of what will likely turn out to be the worst financial disaster of any of our lifetimes, a problem to which each candidate has taken an approach opposite the other. In that and many other ways, these candidates are very different. Pick your cliché — apples and oranges, hot and cold, whatever — the choice is clear. So how could anyone who's been paying attention still be undecided?

Unless they're not really undecided.

Most Americans would surely defend any voter's right to alter his or her choice right up until their ballot is marked and sealed. But a voter who changes his or her mind is hardly an "undecided" voter. That's a "decided" voter acting within his or her right to re-decide.

At this stage it's just plain common sense to question either the honesty, or the analytical skills, of anyone who claims to be truly undecided.

I'm not saying there aren't undecided registered voters out there somewhere. I've no doubt they're there, probably far outside the reach of TV and radio waves, and nowhere near an Internet connection. But even if we rounded a bunch of them up, verified their undecidedness, and tied them down to watch tonight's debate, of what meaningful use would their opinions be?

We might as well ask them to name their favorite Beatle.

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Friday, October 10, 2008


In the Words of Howard Beale ...

Peter Finch as Howard Beale in the film "Network"

It's difficult to sum up the past week any better than the way similar sentiments were expressed 32 years ago in the script of Network (written by Paddy Chayefsky):

"I don’t have to tell you things are bad, everybody knows things are bad: It’s a depression! Everybody’s out of work, or scared of losing their job; the dollar buys a nickel’s worth; banks are going bust; shop-keepers keep a gun under the counter; punks are running wild in the street; nobody anywhere seems to know what to do and there’s no end to it! We know the air is unfit to breathe and our food is unfit to eat. We sit watching our TVs whilst some local newscaster tells us that 'today we had fifteen homicides and sixty-three violent crimes' as if that’s the way it’s supposed to be! We know things are bad, worse than bad: they’re crazy! It’s like everything everywhere is going crazy, so we don’t go out anymore! We sit in the house and slowly the world we’re living in is getting smaller and all we say is 'please, at least leave us alone in our living-rooms - let me have my toaster and my TV and my steel-belted radials and I won’t say anything! Just leave us alone!' Well I’m not going to leave you alone. I want you to get mad! I don’t want you to protest, I don’t want you to riot, I don’t want you to write to your congressman because I wouldn’t know what to tell you to write, I don’t know what to do about the depression and the inflation and the Russians and the crime in the street – all I know is that first you’ve got to get mad! You’ve got to say 'I’m a human being goddammit! My life has value!' So, I want you to get up now, I want all of you to get up out of your chairs! I want you to get up right now, and go to the window, open it, and stick your head out and yell 'I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!'"

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Wednesday, October 08, 2008


Would the LA Times Dare to Muzzle Staffers?

LA Observed posted a chilling warning to staffers at the Los Angeles Times today about some alleged managerial rhetoric that comes dangerously close to censorship — something that, were it to ever actually occur at any American newspaper, would be so hypocritical and antijournalistic as to make laughable that publication's democratic role as a watchdog.

I mean ... yeah. Absolutely it would. Wouldn't it?

Maybe this is a case of "beginner jitters," as LAO suggested. It could even be a few suits suffering too much economic stress and spouting off mindlessly, or perhaps merely a matter of a few poorly chosen words.

It's just hard to believe that Tribune Chairman Sam Zell, the man in charge, would actually condone the censorship of what his staffers say, or to whom they say it; let alone try to do so on the QT.

Though no reporters I know have called Zell anything resembling a "true friend," at the very least, so far, he seems the kind of guy whose forthcoming enough to stab people in the front (with apologies to Oscar Wilde).

As LAO has often pointed out, Zell speaks his mind in no uncertain terms, which further supports the idea that it would be out of character for him to approve of an action so cowardly as censorship.

Granted, Zell's new to newspapering, but his past talk of the First Amendment and the fourth estate have made clear his familiarity with the concepts. As LAO referenced today, a Zell e-mail to staff in January 2008 supported unfettered employee access to Internet content:
"I do not see how a member of the Fourth Estate, dedicated to protecting the First Amendment, can censor what its own employees and partners can see."

Of course the same goes for what its own employees and partners can say.

To do otherwise would undermine the whole mission of the newspaper.

No reporter could ever hope to earn the trust of a whistle-blower if that reporter abided by a company policy that likened whistle-blowing to treason.

As it says in the Code of Ethics, as defined by the Society of Professional Journalists: The media must "abide by the same high standards to which they hold others."

Despite all the cuts that the journalism industry has made, it hasn't cut that, has it?

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Tuesday, October 07, 2008


'Miss Alaska is beating Mr. Universe'

CA Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's presidential aspirations keep butting up against that pesky Constitutional thingie (otherwise known as Article Two, Clause 5, of the United States Constitution) which says the commander in chief must be a natural-born citizen.

So, just imagine how The Terminator feels about the chance that Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin will make it to the White House before him.

This bit of gubernatorial insight comes from LA Times blogger Veronique de Turenne at LA Now. It's attributed to Schwarzenegger:
"When McCain picked Sarah Palin, I called her and said 'You see that’s what is wrong with the Constitution,' " Schwarzenegger said. " 'Miss Alaska is beating Mr. Universe and can run for vice president or become president. There’s something off here'."

"She didn’t think it was so funny," he added.

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More Cuts Made To LA Times Newsroom

LA Observed has yet another tale of woe from the Los Angeles Times newsroom.

A mere seven years ago the newsroom staffing level was about 1,200.

Now it's rumored to be approaching 650!

This from LAO:
"My sources say the newsroom staffing level is headed to about 650, but I don't know if that includes the decimation of the Washington bureau expected by many there after the November election. Associate Editor for features Leo Wolinsky is holding a meeting with his staff shortly amid strong rumors that he is leaving. Stay tuned."

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Monday, October 06, 2008


Remember Who Was In Charles Keating's Five?

Huffington Post reported today on the release of a 13-minute documentary — "Keating Economics: John McCain and The Making of a Financial Crisis" — about Sen. John McCain's involvement in the savings-and-loan scandal of the late '80s as a member of the "Keating Five."

It's impossible to forget those huge budget deficits of the early 1990s, though not everyone seems to recall what helped make them. Of course, it was the S&L scandal, which had a lot to do with the deregulation of the savings-and-loan industry in the early 1980s.

One of the S&Ls embroiled in that scandal, Lincoln Savings and Loan, of Irvine, CA, was chaired by a guy named Charles H. Keating, Jr., who also happened to be a major donor to the campaign of John McCain.

Federal regulators — the Federal Home Loan Bank Board — started to sound the alarm about what was going on before things went bad, but Keating had a few friends in the Senate, at least five, and, well, they kinda, sorta put the kibosh on the bureaucrats.

At the time, McCain and the other members of Keating's five could have rolled up their sleeves, respected the regulators and done what their constituents sent them to do in DC, but instead — to put it in the parlance of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin — they appear to have taken their cues from the "bad guy" and blew the matter off until the whole thing got a lot worse.

The S&L crisis as a whole — not simply Lincoln S&L — ended up costing taxpayers between $124.6 and $160.1 billion. [See GAO Report]

Sure, McCain and the other four got slapped later on for interfering and exercising "poor judgment," but it's not like any of them lost their jobs over it. Of the five, three retired and McCain and John Glenn ran for re-election — both retaining their seats.

Lincoln S&L, which went down in 1989, ended up being one of more than 700 S&L associations that failed in the U.S. as a result of the S&L crisis.

At Lincoln — that one S&L — More than 20,000 shareholders were left holding the bag.

Keating took the fifth after being subpoenaed by Congress in 1989, and eventually did time for fraud.

The Chicago Sun-Times has a nice True-or-False breakout on McCain's role.

Here's a Snippet from Huffington Post:
William Black -- a deputy director of the Federal Savings and Loan Insurance Corporation during the "Keating Five" scandal that nearly ended McCain's political career -- says the Arizona Republican's chief errors at the time were underestimating the importance of regulation and relying too heavily on slanted advice from captains of industry.

"In the S&L crisis, he took his advice from the worst [kind of] criminal. Charles Keating is the person he went to for his policy advice," Black said. "Now, he certainly is getting advice from Phil Gramm, Carly Fiorina, Rick Davis -- the whole group of economic and top political advisers are lobbyist types. He just doesn't seem to get it, ever, that the advice is going to favor their clients. Even if they just stop being lobbyists, you can't just turn that off instantly. It's their mind state that develops. ... The biggest lesson is that, when you deregulate and de-supervise, you create an environment where control fraud emerges. You hyper-inflate bubbles; you get criminalization."

— TJ Sullivan in LA
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Sunday, October 05, 2008


Nikki Finke: 'David Geffen Ends DW Relationship'

Nikki Finke reports in an exclusive that David Geffen and DreamWorks are parting ways. This from an advance look Finke offers of the press release to come:
"Paramount Pictures and DreamWorks principals today announced the formalization of their transition agreements as Mr. Spielberg and Ms. Snider depart to form their previously announced new motion pictures company in partnership with Reliance BIG Entertainment. Mr. Geffen, who oversaw the transition for DreamWorks, will not be joining the new company."

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Wednesday, October 01, 2008


Walking the Walk

Spotted this item over at LA Observed . . .

The Daily News of Los Angeles ran a letter today by Richard B. Scudder, chairman of the board of the MediaNews Group, the Daily News' parent company.

Here's what it said [screenshot]:
Patriotic ideals

Sen. John McCain has made patriotism an issue in his campaign for the presidency. Patriotism is indeed a legitimate issue and McCain, shot down, captured and imprisoned for years, suffered greatly. Patriotism, however, must extend beyond military service. Of the dangers threatening our country today, one of the most subtle has been the erosion of standards of honorable behavior and failing ethics.

We have had a president who has lied, given support to torture and whose enemy-combatant ploy can, at his whim, jail a citizen for years without evidence, without trial, with no appeal and with no explanation of the charges. This is fascism.

The principal focus of patriotism today must be the defense and reaffirmation of the ideas and ideals that made our country great. Surely truthfulness is one of these ideals. How, then, can we support a candidate for the presidency whose campaign includes many lies - most recently, one falsely accusing Barack Obama of proposing sex education for tiny tots?

Yes, this is politics, but should not political attacks be limited to the issues? McCain's tactics are to divert attention from them and to focus instead on unrelated nonsense.


Reminds me of a Hunter S. Thompson quote:
"Objective journalism is one of the main reasons American politics has been allowed to be so corrupt for so long. You can't be objective about Nixon."

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This Week Is Banned Books Week

From The New York Times' Paper Cuts Blog:
In case you didn’t know, this week, Sept. 27-Oct. 4, is Banned Books Week, and libraries around the country are celebrating — if that’s the right word — with exhibits, readings and other special events. You can learn all about it at the Banned Books web site of the American Library Association’s Office of Intellectual Freedom: www.ala.org/books.

[Snip ...]

Here’s the list of the “10 Most Challenged Books of 2007” in descending order:

“And Tango Makes Three,” by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell
“The Chocolate War,” by Robert Cormier
“Olive’s Ocean,” by Kevin Henkes
“The Golden Compass,” by Philip Pullman
“The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” by Mark Twain
“The Color Purple,” by Alice Walker
“TTYL,” by Lauren Myracle
“I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” by Maya Angelou
“It’s Perfectly Normal,” by Robie Harris
“The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” by Stephen Chbosky.

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