Ohio State Still Doesn’t Get It

 Alex Kotran - photo: The Lantern  An update on that recent story about Alex Kotran, a photographer for the student newspaper, “The Lantern” at Ohio State and the incident involving demon cows.

A first year student, Kotran was out taking pictures of campus cops and others, trying to round up a couple of cows that escaped from the agriculture department.   One of the cops decided Kotran shouldn’t be there and he ordered him to go away.  First Amendment be damned, I guess.  Maybe he just doesn’t know about it?

Long story short, Kotran, who reportedly never got closer than 50 yards to a cow, refused to stop doing his job.  He moved to a different location but kept shooting pictures.  The cop didn’t like that and slapped on the cuffs, taking him into custody under suspicion of criminal trespass.  This guy was going to charge an Ohio State Student, a photographer for the campus newspaper, with criminal trespass for taking photos of something that was happening on the campus of Ohio State?   What nonsense.

Today, the Lantern reports that the “university does not believe that the situation warrants the filing of criminal charges.” How big of them.  How magnanimous.  However, they still want Kotran to meet with the police for a discussion of how “his actions put him in harms way and caused danger to others.”  Unbelievable.

The University, by its statement, is assigning blame to Kotran, even before the meeting takes place?  These are supposed to be educators?

Rather than supporting the First Amendment, freedom of the press, and the right and need of journalists to do what they are supposed to do — getting the story, Ohio State has decided to provide cover for its campus police by forcing Kotran to go in for a wrist slapping.

This sounds like one cop was miffed because a journalist refused to respect his authority.  Never mind that his orders may have been unlawful.

Okay, fine, I wasn’t there, but it sounds like Ohio State needs a reality check.  If campus police believe the First Amendment doesn’t apply to student journalists, then the University should stop hassling this photographer and look into the possibility of problems with police procedure.

As far as putting himself and others in harms way, that’s the same old cop-out the cops use every time they overstep their bounds.  Sounds like that’s exactly what’s happened here.    Either way, OSU should conduct an investigation before issuing a statement assigning blame.

Kotran, by the way, is apparently still under the threat of a review by the University Judiciary Committee.   Apparently, he could still be expelled for photographing runaway cows for the campus newspaper.

These guys at Ohio State really need to get out of their ivory tower more often.   What an embarrassment for the University.

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Late Update:  The Lantern reports the police fired eight shots at one of the cows, hitting it four times.   The newspaper reports the shots were not fatal.  The cow, a pregnant “Belted Galloway” worth around $2,800 is apparently doing well.   An initial statement from campus police indicated deadly force was not used.

I’m a country boy from Minnesota.  Lots of cattle there.  Thousands.   This is the first time I’ve heard of anybody feeling a need to open fire on a cow, or a bull, for that matter, except for some out of control hunters who were mixing alcohol with buckshot.

This is looking more and more like the campus police may have overreacted and are now looking for something (or someone) to hide behind.

The Society of Professional Journalists of Central Ohio, has sent a letter of support for Alex Kotran, to the University.

Johnny Gets A Post Office

johnny grant presents star to joe pasternak - photo: alan warren   Congresswoman Diane Watson put it in the form of a bill.   President Obama put his signature to the legislation and now the U.S. Post Office on Wilcox Avenue in Hollywood,  will be named in honor of the late Johnny Grant.

Johnny who?

Apart from a small role, playing a reporter in the movie “White Christmas,” Johnny Grant was a kind of local phenom.

When I arrived in Hollywood in 1982 to go to work for KABC-TV, one of my first assignments was to go out and cover the Hollywood Christmas Parade.  The parade’s staging area was the KTLA-TV lot on Sunset.   We arrived to find this short, stout fellow running all over the place barking orders and organizing everything.  I was told it was Johnny Grant, and that he was a “must interview.”    “Johnny who?” I asked.   “Why do I want to interview him?”

In the years that followed I moved from one tv station to another, eventually ending up at KTLA, where Johnny was a company VP.  It was rumored that his contract with the company gave him the title for life, that it was a gift from his old friend Gene Autry, when Gene sold Golden West Broadcasting.  Rumor was, no matter how many times KTLA was sold, certain of  Gene’s friends kept their jobs, that they were untouchable and stayed with the company no matter what.  I think it was probably true.  And so it was that Mr. Grant stayed on even after “the cowboy” sold the company.  And the Hollywood Christmas Parade was his big annual event.  Did you know the song  “Here Comes Santa Claus” is about the Hollywood Christmas Parade and that it was written by Gene Autry?

There were also the USO tours.  Johnny said he had flown off to do more USO shows than Bob Hope, and I believe he probably had.  He never had a problem recruiting a big military contingent for his Christmas Parade.  I say “his” Christmas Parade, because Johnny appeared to be the moving force behind it.  He had the contacts.  He was able to draw out the stars.  Thanks to Johnny I met Sammy Davis Jr., Roseanne Barr, Gene Autry and so many others.  Johnny knew them all.  When Johnny Grant died, the parade faded away.  Well, in truth, it started fading even before Johnny passed on, as Hollywood fell into decline and the stars were no longer interested in riding in floats on a parade route that might not be all that safe.   Particularly in the 80’s with the rise of cocaine use and gang warfare.

Sparkplug that he was, Johnny fought back, side by side with the Hollywood Chamber.  He fought to restore and maintain the world famous Hollywood sign.  He did the same with the Hollywood Walk of Fame, officiating as more than 500 stars were cemented into the ground (Gene Autry has five stars – the only celebrity to have that many).     At the same time he worked behind the scenes to convince developers to invest in the area, and invest they did.   The Kodak Theater went up along with the Hollywood and Highland Mall.  It turned out Hollywood hadn’t lost its magic after all, as the area came back from the brink.

You have to understand, that when I arrived in Los Angeles, Hollywood was a kind of up-scale slum.   It was still Hollywood, but there were hookers on nearly every corner of the Boulevard.  The corner lot housing the old Director’s Guild building was among their favorite spots.   The place was a combination of hookers, the homeless and bewildered touristas, walking around in bermuda shorts and sandals with cameras around their necks wondering where the stars were and what went wrong.

Hollywood, had been neglected by the City of Los Angeles, that’s what went wrong.  Johnny Grant was a key player, or maybe the key player, in bringing it back.

I recall one day on the lot at KTLA.  “Hey Tyg!” he yelled over at me.  “Tyg” was short for “tiger.”  Johnny called you that, if he liked you.  “Let’s take a walk!”   Mr. Grant was being honored for one reason or another, and I had been tapped to do a story about it.  And so, he decided at that particular moment that he wanted to give me a guided tour of Hollywood.  So off we went, walking and talking.  No camera or anything, just the two of us , with Johnny filling me in on the history of nearly every building, street and structure we passed.  His knowledge of the area was amazing.

Say what you will about Johnny Grant, the man loved Hollywood and it was there that he lived his final days, at the old Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, home to the first presentation of the Academy Awards.  The last time I saw Johnny, that’s where he was.  Having lunch in the dining room at the Hollywood Roosevelt.   “Hey Tyg, how’r ya doin!”  “Just great General,” I replied.  In addition to all else, Johnny was a Brigadier General.   A byproduct of all those USO tours.

Johnny Grant, was Hollywood.  Hollywood, still is Johnny Grant.   Naming a building in his honor was the right thing to do.

Betty White Is Great – SNL Still Lame

 Betty White

     photo: alan light

Betty White is energetic, enthusiastic, impish and charming.  Gotta love her.   No substitute for professionalism born of experience, intelligence and talent.    She’s a pro.  End of story.

And so I looked forward to her appearance on what was billed as a “Mother’s Day Special” on Saturday Night Live.

This wasn’t a show I could watch with my mother.   Didn’t think it would be.  This was Saturday Night Live, after all.    Except for the occasional political skit, it’s a show that’s become increasingly crude and less sophisticated with age.  But this time they had Betty White and I was hoping for something more.

It didn’t happen.  It was just one more SNL, filled with humor straight out of the boy’s room at your local middle school.   Oh sure, the talent is there, but the smart writing and physical comedy that made Chevy Chase, John Belushi and Gilda Radner legendary, is overshadowed by the sensationalism of the writers trying to be as dumbed down and vulgar as possible.    Beyond that, this Mother’s Day Special” at times, appeared to be flirting with the denigration of women.

The new comedy credo appears to be: “No vulgarity, no humor.”  Or maybe it’s just so much easier to go for the kind of cheap laughs demanded by a teenage demographic?  Also of note, were the commercials for the movie “MacGruber,” disguised to look like regular segments of the show.    Flat out boring.

Perhaps my expectation of resurrecting standards that once demanded wit, sophistication and professionalism is simply unrealistic?

The vulgarity of SNL’s “Special” notwithstanding, a very happy Mother’s Day to one and all.   And to all you moms, considering the garbage the entertainment industry is feeding your children’s young minds, be afraid.  Be very afraid.

This stuff isn’t funny.  It’s just vulgar.

I still love Betty White.  SNL, as currently constituted, is beneath her.

The emperor has no clothes, other than the coattails of seasons gone by.

Oil Spill Spreads, Sweden Offers To Help

 photo: u.s. coast guard  From the morning papers:  The big inverted funnel didn’t work.  Ice crystals plugged it up.  Now it’s sitting there on the bottom while BP considers its next move.  The oil company says the idea isn’t a failure.  Even though it didn’t work.

“I wouldn’t say it’s failed yet…what I would say is what we attempted to do … didn’t work.”-Doug Suttles, BP

The other day I was talking to a friend from Finland.  I asked if he felt the Scandinavian countries would be handling the oil spill differently.  He said the Scandinavians have equipment on standby,  just waiting to deal with a problem like the spill in the Gulf.    I thought that perhaps he was being overly enthusiastic about his homeland, possibly underestimating our ability to respond to an oil spill.

Apparently, he was spot on.

This morning I read in the NY Times, that the European Union, the United Nations and 14 individual countries, like Sweden, are offering to help the big bad U.S. clean up the mess in the Gulf of Mexico.  Little Sweden, the land of my ancestors,  is offering to send three ships with the ability to skim 50 tons of oil per hour from the water’s surface with a  capacity of 1000 tons.   It could take several weeks for the ships to get here.  Swedish officials say the offer has been made and they’re just waiting for a request from Washington.

If Sweden can afford to have ships like this on standby,  why can’t we?  Why haven’t the oil companies, with their monster profits, been ordered to keep a fleet of such ships on standby in the Gulf?

Oops, sorry.  There I go again.  Letting reality slip away.  The reality of course,  is that the Minerals Management Service (MMS) didn’t require a $500,000 backup blowout valve or proper safety reports to be filed by BP.   That being the case, why in the world would this oil company cozy government agency ever dream of demanding a fleet of ships?  It would, after all, be such a terrible imposition on the oil companies.   

“The rules on what plans must be filed by exploration companies before drilling a well were relaxed in early 2008 by the Bush administration. Thereafter there was reportedly some confusion over whether the BP well qualified to be exempted, but that appears to be precisely what happened.

If so, lawmakers in Washington are likely to target the Interior Department for falling down on its responsibilities and becoming too cozy with the oil giants. “I’m of the opinion that boosterism breeds complacency and complacency breeds disaster,” said Congressman Edward Markey. “That, in my opinion, is what happened.”‘ -The Independent

 A report in the Washington Post in April of 2009, pointed to the  MMS giving BP a “categorical exclusion” from filing reports on what exactly it would do in the event of a blowout at the Deepwater Horizon.   According to the Post, the MMS, in its infinite wisdom,  concluded any blowout that might occur wouldn’t be bad enough to threaten coastal ecosystems.  So why worry?

There’s also all that wonderful money the oil and gas industry spreads around Washington.  By one account they dumped $169 million on the Dist.  last year.

The finger pointing on why the federal government has fallen behind on regulating the industry and foreseeing the possibility of a need to have a more effective response is just getting started.   First they’ll clean up the mess.  Then they’ll accuse one another of being short-sighted, cheap, and once again, putting profits way out in front of the environment.

But you should be getting used to this by now.  It’s the same thing our federal lawmakers have done with healthcare, putting profits ahead of lives.  It’s called “getting screwed.”  You’ve heard of that?

The maps they’re putting up this morning show the slick spreading out over an area of about 150 miles.  However, blobs of oil are reportedly washing up on the white sand beaches of Alabama.

Somebody better get the Swedish ambassador on the phone.

As Oil Spreads In The Gulf, Shell Prepares To Drill In The Arctic

Shell Oil is gearing up to drill in the Arctic Ocean this summer and has asked a Federal Appeals Court to expedite a ruling on a challenge by environmentalists worried about the oil spill in the Gulf.   A lawyer for the oil company says Shell has spent at least $3.5 billion in preparation for drilling in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas.

“But a coalition of environmentalists and Native Alaska groups who are challenging the drilling plans told the court the federal Minerals Management Service failed to consider the potential threat to wildlife and the risk for disaster before it approved the Shell project.

Christopher Winter, an attorney for the Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission, said the Interior Department agency “simply ignored key aspects” about the possible effects of drilling operations on bowhead whales, including interruption of feeding patterns.”-AP

Anthem Blue Cross Withdraws Rate Hike

From “CALPEEK”-

“Anthem Blue Cross Folds on Rate Hike – With the
attempted terrorist car bombing in NY’s Time Square, the
disastrous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and the brouhaha
over Arizona’s new immigration law, (comes) news that
Calif.’s biggest individual health care provider, Anthem
Blue Cross, folded under tremendous pressure and withdrew
its proposed 39% premium hike. It was big news
the day of the announcement, but has faded quickly from
the front page. Well Point, ABC’s parent company,
earned $877 million dollars in 1st Qt. of 2010. To say the
Well Point was acting like a greedy pig gives a bad name
to that very intelligent animal. AG candidate Rocky
Delgadillo was one of the few Demo AG candidates to
repeatedly bash ABC. Delgadillo said the ABC incident
makes it clear that passing rate regulation legislation in
Sacto is a must and so is U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s
legislation to authorize a review of all rate hikes to assure
they are reasonable and based on accurate data.”…”

Judge Orders Documentarian To Turn Over Film Footage To Oil Company

   A U.S. District Court Judge in Manhattan, has ordered documentarian Joe Berlinger, to turn over more than 600 hours of film shot during the production of his documentary “Crude” to the Chevron Oil Company.   The film deals with a lawsuit against Texaco (now owned by Chevron),  and tells the story of Ecuadorians who claim their water was polluted by an oil field.

The NY Times quotes filmmaker Michael Moore as saying the decision by Judge Lewis Kaplan should be overturned.  If not, he says, it could have a chilling effect on those who make documentary films, with the filmmakers now having to worry about getting rid of all their out takes.   Beyond that-

“I’ve never had to deal with any corporation suing me to find out how I gather this information,” he said. “Obviously the ramifications of this go far beyond documentary films, if corporations are allowed to pry into a reporter’s notebook or into a television station’s newsroom.”-Michael Moore

Gotta agree with Moore.  If Chevron and their lawyers want the finished film which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2009, fine.  Buy a copy and show it to the jury.    Better yet, buy a dozen DVD’s  and give one to each juror as a keepsake.  Chevron can afford it.

Apart from that, as with any news outlet, this documentary filmmaker’s work product (beyond what’s been released to the public) is covered by the First Amendment and should be off limits to the lawyers.

Why?  It’s very simple.  I feel silly even mentioning it here but there always seems to be somebody that still just doesn’t get it.  Like this judge.

Your Honor, doumentarians,  like news reporters, must be able to guarantee confidentiality.   There may be out takes that would compromise the filmmakers commitment to hold some aspects of his work in confidence.   Betrayal of that confidentiality will mean sources will stop providing information to anybody seeking the truth.

Sir, the Amendment goes to “abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press.”   It’s fairly certain, documentary filmmakers will feel abridged by the weight of legal restriction if  they can’t move forward without the fear that their entire work product could one day be subjected to a subpoena.

Freedom of the press hangs in a delicate balance.  If we don’t consistently fight for it we could lose it.  Not much at stake.  Just our way of life.

The Best They Can Do?

   So they are about to lower a big metal and concrete box down onto the damaged wellhead that continues spewing crude into the Gulf of Mexico.  2010, and this is the best technology available.

We’ve been to the moon.  Surgeons can re-attach severed limbs.   The world has gone wireless.  Even the third world.  But when it comes to the oil industry, lowering a 100-ton  metal and concrete box down onto the ocean’s floor is the best they can do?

Well, not really.  They could have installed a remote control blowout preventer but decided not to, apparently because its “efficacy” has not been proven.  There is also the fact that it would have added $500,000 to the cost of building the well.  Not all that much when looking at the big picture, really.   The WSJ reports it would cost around $560 million to replace the Deep Sea Horizon.  On top of that, the oil company claims to be spending around $6 million a day fighting the spill.

CBS reports BP’s market value has dropped by about $40 billion.

And now comes word from the AP, that BP didn’t have to file a plan with regard to how it would handle a blowout on the deepwater rig.  Apparently, the feds changed the rules two years ago, exempting certain projects in the central gulf region from doing so.  Fascinating.

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Over at Treasury, our current emissary from Wall Street, Tim Geithner, is warning against placing too many restrictions on the banking industry.

“The lesson of this crisis … is that we cannot make the economy safe by taking functions central to the business of banking, functions necessary to help raise capital for business and help businesses hedge risk, and move them outside banks, and outside the reach of strong regulation.”-Timothy Geithner

Can you figure out what he’s talking about?  Isn’t there a contradiction in there somewhere?  Golly, gee.

Let’s see. Wall Street, made what they were doing so confusing with high finance double-speak and new terminology most of us had never heard, that it was next to impossible to follow the scams as they led the nation into an economic disaster.  And now our Treasury Secretary is using the same kind of palaver to help them avoid regulation.

Or maybe we the people are just too stupid to be expected to follow the high and mighty ramblings of the captains and the kings.  That’s how it goes in a plutocracy.   Bill Moyers is right.  You can have a plutocracy or a democracy.  You can’t have both.

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It’s being reported this morning that ABC is expanding the conclusion of “Lost” on May 23rd. by 30 minutes.  It will run from 9-11:30 PM Eastern.   Oh joy, oh rapture.

Truth is, I no longer care.  Not gonna watch.   With the absence of anything resembling a plot and the show degenerating into a bad joke, they lost me weeks ago.

Of course I could always change my mind and watch anyway.  The possibility that they might be able to pull all the nonsense together into something understandable is difficult to resist.  Then again, if they don’t, if it turns out to be another insane, nonsensical sucker punch, leaving the viewer without closure — well, that’ll be just one more bad joke, won’t it?

Nope.  Not gonna take the chance.  Dude!  Don’t get me wrong.  I’m a big Hugo fan, but I’ve sailed into those uncharted waters too many times only to have my hopes dashed on the rocks.

Insanity: “Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”-A. Einstein

I’ll wait and read about it later.

Have a great day.

Student Journalist Detained As Cows Run Wild At Ohio State

 Alex Kotran

photo: “The Lantern”

So a couple of cows get loose from the ag department at Ohio State.  A photographer for the campus newspaper “The Lantern,”  Alex Kotran, hears the commotion, grabs his camera and runs out the door.  He arrives at “the scene” to find campus police and others trying to contain the bovine breakout on an athletic field.  Kotran, does his job.  He starts shooting pictures.

A representative for the school of agriculture tells him he can’t be there.  She tells him to go away.  He identifies himself as a photog for the campus paper, says he is on public property and that he has every right to be standing there taking pictures.  The ag department lady calls a cop.  The cop orders him to leave.  So he does.  He moves to the other side of the field and shoots pictures through a fence.  He is again approached, by “educators” and police.  He is again told he can’t be there taking photos of the “roundup.”  He again says he is on public property, shooting pictures for the campus paper, and that he has every right to be there.

Long story short, the student journalist is eventually handcuffed and detained by campus police officer William Linton, who files a charge of criminal trespass.

So a student at Ohio State, a journalist for the campus newspaper none the less,  has been charged with criminal trespass for being on the grounds of The Ohio State University.

According to a piece in The Lantern, the roundup lasted for about two hours.  Through it all, a veterinary student was flipped up in the air and an officer received minor injuries after a cow charged his car.  Kotran though,  apparently never got closer than 50 yards as the cow he was photographing was eventually tranquilized.

Deputy Chief Richard Morman says police were considering the use of deadly force.  Against the cow, not Kotran.

University officials say neither they, nor the campus newspaper, can provide legal support for Kotran, who is now looking to hire a criminal defense attorney.   It’s a conflict of interest, they say.   However, it appears they will continue providing support for the campus police.

“I find it odd that the university has the resources to pursue prosecution of a student who hasn’t done anything wrong, but it doesn’t have the resources to help defend a student who hasn’t done anything wrong.”-Tom O’Hara, Lantern Adviser, OSU

Here in California, officers from the Dept. of Fish and Game have just rescued a 200 pound bear from a tree, and they did it without handcuffing or detaining a single journalist.

Nice to know Ohio State supports a free and unhindered press.

A Small Issue For The Oil Spill Cleanup

   Watching the frighteningly intelligent Rachel Maddow.  Am I hearing this right?  That the Bush Administration (Daddy Bush, not Dubya)  and the Republicans pushed through a bill in 1990, limiting oil companies liabilities on oil spills to $75 million?  Huh?

Sen. Robert Menendez (D-New Jersey) has presented a bill that would raise the liability to $10 billion.  The way that slick is spreading in the Gulf, better get it passed soon guys and gals.

Oh ya, according to Menendez, BP had $5.6 billion in PROFITS in the first quarter of 2010.

I don’t have “SUCKER!” stamped on my forehead.  Do you?  This corporate raider “greed is good”  thing is getting old fast.

Support for Journalists in Iran

 

Message from AFTRA-

Today, May 3, is World Press Freedom Day and we’re asking AFTRA Members and Supporters to join with our friends at the International Federation of Journalists in support of journalists in Iran.

The situation with our colleagues in Iran continues to deteriorate. Since the mass trial of journalists last August, we estimate that some 35 still remain in prison. Several more newspapers have been shut down. And most importantly, the office of our sister union, the Association of Iranian Journalists, remains sealed with no immediate prospect of being allowed to function again.

A campaign to free Iranian journalists in jail and open the office of our sister union is the main theme of World Press Freedom Day.

To take action, we are asking you to send an e-card, specifically designed by IFJ, to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadenijad calling for the immediate and unconditional release of journalists jailed in Iran since June 2009 and to reopen the sealed office of the Association of Iranian Journalists.

The only activity required is to add your name and organization and click to send it.

To send the e-card, click here. (You will be redirected to the IFJ Web site to finish the process.)

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Visit the web address below to tell your friends about this.
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Conflicted On Conan

 Conan O'Brien  Saw the “60 Minutes” interview with Conan O’Brien last night.  Not sure how I feel about it.

The guy is obviously unhappy with being booted off “The Tonight Show.”  Who wouldn’t be?  The show is legend and it’s true they gave him only 8 months on the air.  However, his ratings were falling and nearly everyone who’s had a show bomb complains about not being given enough time.   On the other hand, giving O’Brien the hook after only 8 months comes up short of being anything even close to a fair shot at making the show work.

You can be sure the network had a team of highly-paid crack consultants working on the question of whether Conan should go.   You can be sure that any number of “focus group” studies were done.  No one wants to make a big decision, so they hire consultants to do it for them.  That way, when the decision turns out to be a stinker, the consultants are fired and the network exec keeps his job.   That’s one of the big reasons there’s so much crap on television.

Then there’s the money.  He cut a deal to leave with $45 million ($12 million went to staff as severance pay).  There was a report that he put his NY penthouse on the market for $35 million.  His current home in Brentwood, is said to be worth around $10 million.

I’m sorry Conan is unhappy.   He seems like a nice guy and a unique talent.   Wish I had his problems.