Another “Elite” Fighting Force

It’s being reported this morning that Iran’s “elite” Revolutionary Guard is now conducting large-scale war games in the Persian Gulf.  I wonder.  Are these guys “elite” like Saddam’s Republican Guard was “elite?”     Their reaction to our military was to go into full retreat,  nearly tripping over one another in a rush back to Baghdad.  I certainly wouldn’t take the hyperbole-prone Iranian leadership’s word for any skill its military might claim to have.

Let’s see, who else had a tendency to overstate things to try and make the west feel as though he was stronger than he really was?  Oh yes!  Saddam Hussein!  I wonder how that’s working out for him?

Gotta be careful about word usage. Particularly when dealing with George W.  He’ll believe almost anything and he’s liable to attack.  He’ll invade and stick around for years.  Above all else, don’t say anything bad about his dad.  Could be a Texas thing, I’m not sure.

Gotta be careful about cartoons too, apparently.  In the Muslim world, at least.

A radical Muslim group is threatening the creators of “South Park” with violent retribution for their show’s portrayal of the prophet Muhammad  in a bear suit.

So let’s see,  what do we know about the guys who are leveling terrorist threats at Stan Marsh and Kyle Broflovski?   That their heads are stuck in the 13th century?   That they treat women like cattle?   That their culture carries out  public beheadings?  That they see freedom of speech and a free press as their enemy?  But here they are in the U.S. (the author of the article making the threat is apparently in New York) taking full advantage of the free speech and other constitutional rights our ancestors fought and died to preserve.  Rights which our military continues to fight and die for.  Rights they don’t have in their homeland.    And they think we’re the “infidels?

Ignorance is a terrible and frightening thing.   It’s almost enough to make you believe in rendition.  Almost.

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Interesting and possibly prophetic (oh my, am I allowed to say that?) front page on the NY Times website.  On the left is the headline, “Obama Issues Sharp Call For Reforms On Wall Street.”   On the right is a photo of Greek civil servants out in the street,  doing battle with police over expected job cuts and other austerity moves their government is carrying out due to a debt crisis.

Same thing could happen here, if Congress doesn’t get up off it’s big, fat, slow as molasses, bought-off by the lobbyists duff and pass meaningful reform to regulate the banking industry.

Antonio, Hugo and the Holy Father

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has just released the new city budget with some shocking news.  “This is a tough time for everyone,  as we experience an historic economic collapse” he said.

Not everyone.   Like giant belching hogs in that big Wall Street slop trough, Goldman Sachs and those other bankers “we the people” bailed out, are rolling in profits.

If Wall Street had its own flag (and it probably should, because it can’t claim to represent the best interests of the stars and stripes), it would be the image of a bottle of Dom, a tin of Beluga and a Cuban cigar, positioned gracefully over a hand with its middle finger raised.  Beneath the crest, would be the words that best represent the big bankers.  “F__k  You!”   Or words to that effect.

We all need to recognize the care, concern, patriotism and appreciation our banking industry has shown for the country following the big bailout.

In other electrifying news, I was amazed to hear that Kate Gosselin (who?) has been eliminated from “Dancing With the Stars.”  I have no idea who this woman is, or why this is news.   Either my thinking is irrelevant, or what now passes for news has become a celebration of mediocrity.  It’s as though there’s a whole new batch of “stars” popping onto the scene every couple of months, and it’s difficult to keep up.   “Look Marge!  Another truckload of beautiful people has arrived from Iowa!”  How many so-called “stars” are we supposed to be able to handle?    With a new batch coming on the scene every couple of months, the idea of actually being a “star” becomes increasingly meaningless.   It’s kinda like being a “diva.”  The term used to be limited to female opera singers who could really belt.  Now we have dozens of “divas.”  There are”divas” all over the place.

Anyway, you have to feel bad for Ms. Gosselin, and I’m sorry I don’t know who she is.  Maybe she’ll be able to re-invent herself as a diva?

I can’t wait for a new report on what Hugo’s been up  to on “Lost.”   Hopefully, some entertainment reporter will dig a little deeper this time, and explain why people continue to watch a show with writers who must be doubling over with laughter as they produce yet another meaningless episode, designed only to further confuse an already befuddled audience.  Good going, guys.  You’re really pulling it off.  Sad thing is, this was a pretty good show before you lost your way.   See, “Lost” is only the title of the show.  It’s not what you’re supposed to be.  You might try staying off the weed until after the script has been completed.   Maybe you could get stoned in shifts?  That would leave one shift that isn’t completely loaded to finish the script each week.  You wouldn’t have to tell anybody.

Just trying to be helpful.

Over at Vatican City, Good Pope Ben is promising action on that little  pedophile problem they’ve been having for the past several hundred years.  Or at least the past several decades.   Since Pope Benedict VIII, banned marriage and mistresses for priests back in 1022 (because they didn’t want clerical offspring inheriting church property),  it’s probably safe to assume the problem has been around for quite some time.  Are you really going to continue trusting these guys with your children?

Time to grow up, people.

I think, therefore I am.  Don’t hate me for it.

It’s possible none of it will matter much anyway.  ABC News reports that 18-30 year old women are losing their sex drives.  “Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder or “HSDD” is apparently being caused by our over-medicated society.    So we will slide into negative population growth and that will be that.  Rats and roaches running the planet.   No change.

On Cronkite, Colonoscopies And Con Jobs

 A couple of thoughts after hearing our network news anchors reporting on record profits being hauled in by Goldman Sachs.

The big investment bank nearly doubled its first-quarter earnings to $3.3 billion, its “second most profitable quarter since going public in 1999.”  The AP reports that a lawyer for the firm, which faces civil fraud charges, said Goldman would  “never intentionally mislead anyone.”

Of course, urging others to invest in bundled securities that were sure to crash and then putting your money down on a bet that they would crash and then selling short…….it was all just a mistake.  Or maybe none of that really happened and the government’s got it all wrong.  Or I’ve got it all wrong.   It’s gotten to be so convoluted, confusing and contrived.  And listening to all those pundits and economists just makes your head hurt.

But hey, back to the network news, which has to make things simple enough for us non-economists to understand.  Understanding.  Therein lies the rub, and the big guys on Wall Street know it.  They’ve put together  a system that’s so complex, with “derivatives” and whose-its and what-nots, that very few people can figure out what’s going on.

Suppose that’s by design?

Top that off with spending more than $1 million a day to convince the Congress to leave them alone (no meaningful regulations have been put in place to control the financial industry since the crash)  and there you have it.  Our current system  of non-regulation, which, experts say, may very well push us into another greed-driven economic meltdown.

Yes, Mr. Obama is pushing for reform.  Is he going to get it?  Or will it be the same kind of sugar-coated, softball legislation that was sold to the public as “better than nothing”  healthcare reform?   I’m not saying it wasn’t better than nothing, because it was.  It just wasn’t enough.  And doing the same thing with the financial industry won’t be enough, either.

What do the networks report?  They dutifully tell us about the increase in profits.  That’s good.  They see that as a sign that the economic recovery is working.  That’s good too.  Then, just when you’re starting to feel a little better about the whole thing, they report that the government is taking Goldman Sachs to court, charging them with fraud.

Uh…..okay.  And all of that means, what?

People have stopped reading the papers, but a big chunk of America still watches the network news.  It’s time for the network news operations to take off the gloves and get back in the business of using plain language to tell people how badly they are being screwed by Wall Street.   It’s that simple.  Beyond facing the very real possibility that neither Katie nor Diane have the adequate weight of credibility to pick up an audience, the network news operations have to try and return to what they once were.  Relevant.

When Cronkite came back from Vietnam and  told the truth in plain language about the futility of continuing the war,  the American people listened.  Walter Cronkite, was the most trusted man in America.  He wasn’t pretty or perky but he had done a couple of things that added some weight to his credibility as a journalist, like serving as a correspondent during World War II and working to uphold standards established by Ed Murrow.

What do we have now?  Let’s see, Katie did that groundbreaking colonoscopy thing followed by the big interview with Sarah Palin, and Diane worked for the White House, so she’s really one of “them” and not one of “us.”   No, no, terrible to think that way.  People will call me a chauvinist.  I’ll have to go back to Minnesota and put in a vegetable garden.

Back on point:  The big bankers got big government to repeal some really big regulations put in place by FDR in the 1930’s to prevent another Great Depression from happening.  Then, following the Clinton Administration (yes folks, Bill Clinton, repealed much of the Glass Steagall Act) and with the assistance of the Bush Administration, our wonderful financial institutions (big greed) were free to put together the convoluted, underhanded and un-American process that resulted in the whole sub-prime lending mess which led us to the brink of Great Depression II.

With no new meaningful regulations, we are still right there, on that brink, while Wall Street continues to pay off the Congress with mountains of bribe money.  It’s one big con job and many of our elected representatives are on the inside looking out.

At least that’s what the economists that don’t work for Wall Street are saying.

You wonder why the Tea Party folks are so upset?    You wonder why long time shoe-in politicians like Barbara Boxer are worried about being re-elected in the mid-terms?

Wall Street is screwing America and the Congress is being bought off to look the other way.   They are using the nation’s wealth for government sanctioned casino gambling.  With all that money being thrown around, and all those people being paid off, chances are Mr. Obama won’t be able to do all that much about it unless the American public gets even angrier than they already are.   I mean 1960’s style, march on Washington and vote all the bums out angry.  The kind of anger that will be generated only after everybody understands exactly what’s going on.  The kind of angry that will make the Tea Party look tame.   People need to know the unvarnished truth.

Time to take the gloves off and make it relevant.  Time to connect all the dots, hold the bastard’s feet to the fire and tell the truth in clear and simple language.  Do that, network bosses, go back to doing the job you used to do standing post as the nation’s watchdog, and some of your lost audience may come back.

If it doesn’t work  you can always revert to Katie’s colonoscopy and Diane Sawyer’s pleasing smile and loving demeanor.

A Dog Story

 

It was a shiny new jet-black pickup truck with a dog in the back.  A big Pit Bull.  Judging by it’s size, it must have been a male.  The pickup was stopped at a light on Ventura Boulevard.  There was another car between my car and the truck.   I watched as the dog, with its head hanging out over the bed, moved from the front of the truck to the rear.  I wondered how it could do that, as the dog’s owner couldn’t possibly be stupid enough to give an animal that much leash in the bed of a pickup truck.  Or maybe, I thought, the dog isn’t restrained at all?  Is that possible?

Not a good idea.  Particularly with a big Pit Bull.  It was trouble waiting to happen.

The light turned green, the truck pulled away, and that was that.  Or so I thought.  A couple of blocks up the road I made a right to find the path was blocked by a car that had stopped out in the roadway.  Ahead of the car was the black truck.  The dog, partially under the left rear tire, was choking as it dangled from a long chain attached to something up in the bed of the truck.  Two men had exited the truck and were assisting the animal.  I can’t imagine that it wasn’t injured but I do know it was alive, as it was pathetically wagging its tail in appreciation for the rescue.

I don’t know how far they dragged the dog before realizing it had jumped out of the truck.  They got the animal back inside, in the cab this time, and drove away in no apparent hurry.

I must admit to having let loose with a couple of expletives attached to statements about dog ownership and ignorance as I continued on my way home, thinking that the two men in the tuck didn’t have the common sense to rush the dog to a vet.

Some people should not be allowed to own dogs.

Daryl Gates – Love Him Or Hate Him, He Was Great Copy

 

The weekly “Gates must go!” rallies were held on the lawn in front of Parker Center.  People who wanted Daryl Gates removed as Chief of Police would gather with their signs and slogans to express their anger over the outspoken and highly controversial Chief.   The rallies continued for weeks and would conclude only with the outbreak of the Los Angeles Riots.

I covered Gates for 10 of his 14 years as Chief, and was always amazed at the way thoughts seemed to go directly from his brain to his mouth, with little or no consideration for the impact they might have on the LAPD or the City of Los Angeles.   In a style reminiscent of John Wayne, if Daryl Gates thought something was true he’d hit you with it.   It may have been his tragic flaw.  It also made for great copy.

“If you don’t like the police department….the next time you’ve got a problem call the ACLU!” -Daryl Gates

I was there when he said it.  He was responding to criticism directed at the LAPD from the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California.   His skirmishes with the ACLU and its director Ramona Ripston, became the stuff of local legend.  One of the more interesting involved charges that the LAPD was keeping “secret files” on politicians and other public officials.

I don’t think it’s that he didn’t understand public relations.  It seemed as though he just didn’t care.  It was taken as arrogance, and that made a lot of people despise the man.  Gates, I think, felt he was just telling the truth.

“Casual drug users should be taken out and shot.”-Daryl Gates

If he thought it was true, he said it.  If he thought something needed to be done, he did it.  Like the LAPD  ram.  An armored vehicle with a big iron ram attached to the front end.  Gates put it together to go after drug dealers.   Once again, the Chief was great copy. This was a reporter’s dream.  The whole thing fell to pieces though,  the night Gates rammed it into a house in the Valley to reveal not drug dealers but a child’s  bedroom.   That was the end of the LAPD ram.  Many of us in the media were sorry to see it go.  I have to wonder if it isn’t still sitting around somewhere, maybe over at Piper Tech,  just waiting to be called back into action.

There’s never a ram around when you really need one.

If you read his book then you know that Gates requested a grenade launcher from Camp Pendleton during a standoff with the Black Panthers, barricaded in a building just south of downtown. When the Marines at Pendleton refused the request, Gates went through official channels in Washington D.C., and eventually gained approval for the launcher.   The standoff ended before the military hardware could be put into use.

He also created “SWAT” and was at the helm when the LAPD initiated the “DARE” program.

All of it was great copy.

There was nothing great about the Rodney King beating, or the riots that followed.  It was all just sad.  One big ongoing tragedy.  Some of the wounds have yet to heal.  Later we would learn that the Chief and Mayor Tom Bradley, a former LAPD lieutenant, hadn’t talked to one another for nearly a year prior to the riots.

Two big egos contributing to one major administrative problem.

The rioting left 53 dead, thousands injured and roughly $1 billion in damages.

With the City going up in smoke and troops in the streets, Gates remained true to who he was, refusing to back off despite political and public pressure.  In the middle of the maelstrom, always the “cop’s cop,” Gates refused to do anything but support his troops.  The officer’s conduct, he insisted, was an “aberration.”  Much later, when he testified in federal court that the officers charged with beating Rodney King acted improperly and should have used a “swarm” technique to subdue their subject, nobody paid all that much attention.  By then, people’s opinions of Daryl Gates were pretty much set in stone.

The last time I talked to the former chief, he was seated at a bar in Pasadena.  I was struck by how little the man had changed.  He was still “The Chief.”  It wasn’t a lengthy conversation, just an exchange of pleasantries between a reporter and a former city official.  I left the encounter with the feeling that Mr. Gates was very much a product of the time in which he lived.   He was also great copy.

Daryl Gates, dead at the age of 83.

Another Reason To Stop Watching TV News

 Don’t get me wrong.  In my heart of hearts, I love tv news.  I toiled in its electrostatically charged fields for years, and there is nothing I like better than a really good,  objective tv news broadcast that enlightens and educates as well as entertains.

Problem is, it appears there are so few really good tv news operations still out there.  And now Meg Whitman, or her campaign at least, has made a move that will serve to further undermine the credibility of an industry that has lost so much of the credibility it once had.

If tv news is no longer credible, then why bother watching at all?  If you want entertainment, the entertainment shows do a much better job of entertaining.

At least they’ve stopped following high, medium and low-speed pursuits.  That’s something, I guess.  For the time being, anyway.

But back on point, Ms. Whitman, our billionaire candidate for governor here in CA, and the former CEO of ebay, is now offering free video clips of her campaign appearances to tv stations.  So the stations get the content they need at no cost and make it appear as though they are actually covering politics when in fact they will be doing nothing more than re-packaging sound bites or other video the Whitman campaign wants them to have.  “Wants them to have” is the key.

There’s a word for this.  Let’s see…..oh yes, it’s manipulation.

It will be deception as well,  if the tv stations pass this stuff along to their audiences without letting them know where it’s coming from.  The Whitman Campaign can’t be held responsible for that.  But even if they attribute the video to Whitman, how are Steve Poizner and Jerry Brown supposed to stay even with the billionaire from ebay?  Is their only choice to hire producers, camera crews and editors to start recording and sending out their own free but self-serving video clips?

In the end where will this leave us?   With tv stations that have stopped covering politics, except for the video that millionaire and billionaire candidates can afford to provide?    That’s about as cost-effective as it gets for the tv stations, but it will have nothing to do with journalism and it will eliminate any candidate who doesn’t have millions to spend on tv production.

The thing you have to understand is that tv stations are run by general managers who come from sales.  Many, or maybe most, see journalism as being an odd anti-capitalistic animal they are forced to accommodate in their ongoing drive to increase profits.  A general manager once confided in me that he has never been able to understand, and doesn’t care for, reporters or journalism.   He referred to arguments about upholding the First Amendment as nothing but so much bull**it.    Many years ago, a tv news director told me flat-out, “there isn’t a general manager in the business that won’t kill a story if it means losing a $50,000 account.”  Fortunately, I can tell you that isn’t always the case.  But the point should be taken.

So when it comes down to a battle between being “cost effective” by accepting free video on one side and serving the public in a legitimate fashion on the other, who you gonna believe?

When candidates start making editorial decisions impacting what you read or view, we have crossed over from journalism into public relations.    We have left the arena of credibility and believability and moved into promoting someone’s political agenda.  In this case, Meg Whitman’s agenda.  Which, of course, is something she has every right to do.  With no real regulations and only dubious standards in place, we can only hope the tv stations (so many of which have given up on covering politics in any reasonable fashion anyway),  don’t try and pawn it off on an unsuspecting public as being  journalism.

News directors are already saddled with the oil and water world of trying to coexist with the people in their sales departments and general managers who came from sales and not journalism.   That’s enough of a problem.   The Radio and Television News Directors Association and other professional organizations should jump all over this.  TV stations should pledge to refuse any video provided by anyone’s campaign.

Network tv news may be dying, but there is still a real future for local tv news coverage.   Local tv stations,  can still turn a handsome profit by doing actual news.  If only they would stop trying to compete with the entertainment shows and return to a better balance with journalism.   A flat-out refusal to accept self-serving political PR pieces from one campaign or another would help salvage what little credibility they have left.   It might even bring back some of the audience they lost when they switched their focus from news to entertainment (or whatever it is at any given moment that some consultant thinks will appeal to the 18-49 year old female demographic).

I am not so unrealistic as to expect them to stop accepting the self-serving “video news releases” from business and entertainment interests they’ve been using for years.  Please, let’s just not make things even worse by extending that out to include a further bastardization of our political process.  It’s bastardized enough, as is.

Can We Try A Little Harder Please?

 Hansom Cab

                                 photo: andrew dunn

Why did Katie Couric just refer to a ride in one of New York City’s Hansom Cabs as a “buggy ride?”  Sloppy writing by any other name….  In the words of the late, great Frank McGee, “Can we try and get it right?”

First we dumb down Hansom Cabs to “buggies” in the ongoing effort to appeal to the lowest common denominator.     Before long we’ll be referring to SUV’s ” as “cars” and baseball caps as “hats.”  Oh God.  Never mind.  A buggy by any other name…..

See, thing is, a “Hansom Cab” is a particular kind of horse-drawn contraption.   And not all the “buggies” that offer rides through Central Park are true Hansom Cabs.  So perhaps Ms. Couric was correct in referring to all the horse-drawn contrivances currently being used as “buggies.”  However, if we keep going in that less specific direction, eventually there will be no more Hansom Cabs.  Just “buggies,” because that’s easier to understand and much easier to explain on television.  It’s dumbed down, but it’s easier to explain.

And so, once again, can we try and live up to Mr. McGee’s standards and “get it right?”   Or are there no real Hansom Cabs left in New York?  Nothing left but buggies?  Maybe a surrey or two?  That’s possible I guess.  I left the east coast years ago and now live in L.A. and I really don’t know.  If that’s the case, then my apologies to Ms. Couric and her writers.  But I’ll bet I’m right.  I bet there are still real Hansom Cabs rolling through Central Park.  I’d like to think there are.  I wonder how many New Yorkers know what a real Hansom Cab is for that matter?

Just how non-specific and dumbed down have we become?

A Pulitzer For The Enquirer?

 How things have changed.  Not so very long ago most of us wouldn’t have paid attention to anything appearing in the National Enquirer, much less become advocates of the tabloid being recognized with a Pulitzer Prize.

For years it was just another supermarket tabloid, sitting next to the other “rags” at the checkout counter with those oh so catchy headlines like (the) “Pope Declares Saint Elvis!”    Uh huh.

So, for many years no serious journalist would give it a second look.  Then O.J. happened.   The Simpson criminal trial came along and the National Enquirer started breaking stories.   They started beating us all and the stories were legit.    Sure, checkbook journalism may have been involved in some of the stories they were printing, but they were beating the mainstream media on a regular basis and their stuff was based not upon fantasy, conjecture or supposition, but fact.   The mainstream media could no longer ignore the Enquirer’s reporting.  So we started following the tabloid’s stories with attribution.   With that accpetance, the National Enquirer moved away from the ranks of those other supermarket tabloids and gained a newfound credibility.

The push away from “Saint Elvis” continues.

Writing in the Los Angeles Times, James Rainey questions the decision that left the Enquirer without a Pulitzer for its expose’ on John Edwards.

“The Enquirer’s more than two-year investigation lost out Monday to more traditional entries, no surprise to anyone in the journalism establishment. One winner in the investigative reporting category uncovered a rogue Philadelphia police squad. A second reconstructed the anguished decision by doctors to let desperately ill patients die at a hospital in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

That was wonderfully distinguished work by, respectively, the Philadelphia Daily News and a reporter at the ProPublica investigative reporting service, a story that was published in the New York Times Magazine.

But neither of those pieces forced its way into the national conversation, nor will they be as long remembered, as the Enquirer’s stories on Edwards’ mid-campaign joy ride with a loopy, New Age videographer.” –LA Times

So why no Pulitzer for the Enquirer?   Could it be a continuing bias against a former supermarket rag that moved up the ranks and gained legitimacy?

Rainey suggests that barring a regular Pulitzer Prize, perhaps the judges should have considered a special citation called the “Muffin Choker” award.   

How things have changed.

Click here for Rainey’s column in the Times.

Tea Party Says “No” To Speaker From Birther Movement

Having trouble figuring out what the “Tea Party” is all about?  Except that they’re mad as hell?  You’re not alone.   It appears to be a fluid issue.   A group of loud and angry people with various complaints about the government.   But if they lack continuity they are also changing as they move forward, or at least, move along.   Seema Mehta reports in The Los Angeles Times that Orange County activist and member of the so-called “birther movment” Orly Taitz,  has been uninvited from speaking at a rally in Pleasanton, CA.

‘Bridget Melson, founder and president of the Pleasanton Tea Party, said the organization had been “getting calls from candidates like crazy.”

“It’s not worth it,” she said. “She’s too controversial. This is not what the tea party is about at this point.”‘- LA Times

Radio/TV News Execs Pessimistic About The Future

 Is journalism headed in the wrong direction?

A survey of news executives conducted by the Project for Excellence in Journalism, finds more pessimism than optimism among broadcast news execs by a margin of nearly two to one.  Newspaper execs are split,  with a slight “tilt toward optimism.”

“Many news executives also sense change for the better in their newsrooms today, despite cutbacks and declining revenue. Editors at newspaper-related companies praise the cultural shifts in their organizations, the younger tech-savvy staff, and a growing sense of experimentation. Many broadcast executives see so-called one-person crews—in which the same individual reports, produces and shoots video—as improving their journalism by getting more people on the street.

But the leaders of America’s newsrooms are nonetheless worried about the future. Fewer than half of all those surveyed are confident their operations will survive another 10 years—not without significant new sources of revenue. Nearly a third believe their operations are at risk in just five years or less.  And many blame the problems not on the inevitable effect of technology but on their industry’s missed opportunities.” –Project for Excellence in Journalism

Most of the executives that think one-person crews for tv news is a good idea are probably desk jockeys who have never spent a day on the street.   Those of us who have actually been out there and done the work, know there’s a point when getting more work out of fewer people becomes distinctly counter-productive.   Of course more cameras will produce more video.  No question about that.   It only follows that those who value quantity over quality, will find the idea of one person crews most appealing.

It’s “Nuclear” Damn It – “Nucelar”

George W. could not say “nuclear.”  He was famous for it.  Or maybe infamous.  Either way it’s part of his legacy, such as it is.  He repeatedly mispronounced the word as “nook-you-lur.”  Now Undersecretary of State Ellen Tauscher is on the PBS Newshour saying over and over again, “nook-you-lur…..nook-you-lur.”

It’s like fingernails on a chalk board.

Cut back to Jim Lehrer, overusing the word as he apparently tries to feed her the correct pronunciation.  But again this obviously bright and otherwise highly articulate woman comes back with “nook-you-lur.”

It it a disease?  Do you suppose it’s catching?

An Increased Nuclear Threat?

 That’s what Mr. Obama is talking about.   “The risk of nuclear attack has gone up.”   That’s what he told the 47 nations assembled at the nuclear security summit in D.C.   The threat, he says, isn’t from some rogue nation, or the “Axis of evil.”  Remember those guys?  No, the threat is from terrorist organizations.  International criminal conspiracies like al Qaida.

No surprise that the threat is out there.  I am a little surprised that more hasn’t been done to curtail the problem.  Particularly by the administration of George W. Bush, which made so much noise about the “nuculur” threat.

Crank up the wayback machine.  Yours truly was attending a community meeting in the Los Angeles area.   A congresswoman was keynoting and the room was packed.  One of the congresswoman’s aides, a former colleague, informed me (with the understanding that it was not for attribution) that the real concern wasn’t another attack from a hijacked jetliner.  The big worry in Washington she said was over “missing nukes.”

The year of course, was 2001.   The nation was recovering from the attacks of 9-11 and the feds were worried about “missing nukes.”   I seem to recall she mentioned there were at least 3 missing nuclear devices that were particularly troublesome at that time, although the number could have been higher.  I had read about significant amounts of fissionable material that had gone missing following the collapse of the Soviet Union.  Putting that together with well financed terrorists wasn’t much of a stretch.

In the days that followed, international researchers continued to issue warnings.

‘”Ms Zaitseva added that with the collapse of the Soviet Union, a large amount of weapons-grade material was left without adequate protection.  She said the US-sponsored programme to secure nuclear components in the former Soviet Union has locked only one-third of the more than 600 tons of weapons-usable material.  “It’s just not protected. This is hot stuff. If you steal 20 kilograms of that material, you can build a nuclear weapon”.’ -BBC March, 2002

So, when George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Condie Rice talked about the possibility of “mushroom clouds” over American cities, I took what they were saying seriously.

And now, two wars and more than 8 years later,  I am forced to wonder why the nuclear threat from terrorist organizations has only risen.

The Vatican Rockets Ahead Into The 17th Century

 Vatican City

                            photo: workingreporter.com

For the first time in its very long existence, the Roman Catholic Church has publicly expressed a policy that church leaders should report sex abuse to the police.   Imagine that.  A policy that crimes should be reported to the police.   No small matter, as the church has been around since at least 380, when Constantine declared Christianity to be an official religion of the Roman Empire.   The contemporary concept of a police department paid by the state has been around since the late 17th or early 18th century.

In another somewhat interesting move, the Vatican, which appears to have been shielding pedophiles for centuries,  has apparently forgiven the Beatles for living “dissolute lives.”   The Vatican newspaper paid tribute to the 40th anniversary of the group’s breakup in its weekend edition saying-

“It’s true, they took drugs; swept up by their success, they lived dissolute and uninhibited lives,” said the paper. “They even said they were more famous than Jesus,” it said, recalling John Lennon‘s 1966 comment that outraged many Catholics and others.

“But, listening to their songs, all of this seems distant and meaningless,” L’Osservatore said. “Their beautiful melodies, which changed forever pop music and still give us emotions, live on like precious jewels.”  -AP

“Precious jewels” like melodic refrains of  “Why Don’t We Do It In The Road?” bouncing off the walls of Vatican City?