May 31, 2005
Deep Throat Revealed
I don't know why it took an online story in the Washington Post this afternoon to confirm this for me, but it did.
But with folks starting to doubt Felt's recall or his motives, it was to my relief that Ben Bradlee, the Post's executive editor during Watergate, stepped in the put the matter to rest: "The number-two guy at the FBI, that was a pretty good source," Bradlee told reporters at his old paper. "I knew the paper was on the right track." The "quality of the source" and the soundness of his guidance made Bradlee sure of that, he said.
Since then, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, themselves, have said what they'd said they'd never say until Deep Throat died.
What mysteries are left?
Not so pleased are Pat Buchanan, the former Nixon speechwriter, who told the New York Times that Felt acted "treacherously." Or Eileen McNamara, columnist in the Boston Globe, who cannot overlook Felt's conviction, since pardoned, for ordering illegal wiretaps of The Weather Underground.
Chuck Colson, former chief counsel to Nixon, twisted the knife this way: "Mark first served this country with honor, and I can’t imagine how Mark Felt was sneaking in dark alleys leaving messages under flower pots and violating his oath to keep this nation’s secrets. I cannot compute that with the Mark Felt that I know," Colson said in an interview Tuesday with The Associated Press.
"As many know, Colson's career has had a lucrative (and lachrymose) second act as a "born-again Christian." Fewer might recall that his conversion came about after the Watergate-induced shattering of his earlier lucrative career as self-described "hatchet man" who "would walk over my grandmother for Nixon."
Live 8 Announced. Needs Help
Awaited word eagerly. Then the names started trickling out, those signed on to play the free Live 8 show on the Ben Franklin Parkway July 2 ... Will Smith. Jay-Z. P. Diddy. Bon Jovi. Dave Matthews. Stevie Wonder. Maroon 5.
Is Fabian still alive?
It's going on in at five cities at once, in London, Paris, Berlin, Rome and here, all benefitting famine relief in Africa. It'll be called Live 8, as in G8. Sir Bob Geldof, then just the head Boomtown Rat who organized the original Live Aid 20 years ago at London's Wembley Stadium and Philadelphia's JFK Stadium, is again putting things together.
Is Chubby free?
What did we get here last time? Joan Baez, the Hooters, the Four Tops, Billie Ocean, Black Sabbath, Run DMC, Rick Springfield, REO Speedwagon, Crosby Stills & Nash, Judas Priest, Bryan Adams, the Beach Boys, George Thorogood, Simple Minds, the Pretenders, Santana, Ashford & Simpson with Teddy Pendergrass, Madonna, Tom Petty, Kenny Loggins, the Cars, Neil Young, Power Station, Eric Clapton, The Thompson Twins, Phil Collins, Robert Plant & Jimmy Page, Patti Labelle, Hall & Oates, Mick Jagger and Tina Turner, Bob Dylan, Ron Wood and Keith Richards.
Ok, folks. There's room on this bill for a whole lot more. A dozen and a half acts, maybe. Let's help them with suggestions.
By the way, our friend Attytood over there at the Fab Tab has come to a similar conclusion.
Even We Enjoy More Trust Than This
Good news for Philadelphia officials: Two out of 10 city residents actually trust you to "do the right thing" more often than not. The bad news: the other 8 assume you'll do the wrong thing. This slap down comes from an IssuesPA/Pew poll released today by the Pennsylvania Economy League.
Some numbers: Nearly six in ten Philadelphians said they trusted government only some of the time. Another two said they could never trust the local government. Statewide, the trust rate was more than twice as high as in the city. In Philadelphia's suburbs (PA side) even higher: nearly half (47 percent) said they trusted their government almost always or most of the time.
The non-profits doing the polling concluded the recent high-profile corruption trials had something to do with Philly's official untrustworthiness. Ya think?
In every region of the state, over eighty percent of residents surveyed said that large political contributions were used to buy special favors. Across a variety of options, with the exception of public funding of campaigns, Philadelphians support a range of approaches to reform campaign finances and lobbying; however, they are somewhat less likely than their suburban neighbors in Southeastern PA, or citizens across the state, to support a variety of limits on campaign finances and lobbyists.
8-Foot Ban Roll-On Not Included
You've got until just after 4:30 p.m. today if you're going to be picking up the ultimate Philly knick-knack: the Rocky statue.
Your very own, limited-edition version of the triumphant boxer -- the very icon that stood arms-raised on the Philadelphia Museum of Art steps before people with different sensibilities had it trucked off to the Spectrum -- is up for auction on eBay. Bidding starts at $1 million for the 10-foot-tall fighter. The beauty part: it's tax deductible.
Would look great in the living room. Impressive on the front steps. Strange in the bedroom.
If you're getting a little deja vu from this, it's not the first time Harvey Abrams has tried to move the mook. Abrams, South Philly native and director of the would-be International Institute for Sport and Olympic History in State College, PA, offered it up auction on eBay last year as well. The $3 million winning bid turned out to be bogus.
When Abrams learned that sculptor A. Thomas Schomberg had made three versions in Sylvester Stallone's likeness, Abrams bought the two molds that have been stored for the past 20-plus years. The idea is to turn the mold into bronze, like the 1,500-plus-pounder in South Philly that Stallone had made as a prop for Rocky III then donated to the city. One will go to the museum in State College. The other will be auctioned off as a benefit.
If $1 million seems a little stiff for the 10-foot fighter, the original plan was to offer it for $5 million. The winning big includes delivery, which could take between 45 and 60 days, as well as insurance. If the Philadelphia pugilist doesn't quite fit in with your landscaping, it would make a fine donation to your favorite school, municipality or blogger.
Weekend Wrap Up
Things we read while grilling:
Paris Hilton is engaged to Paris Latsis, 27, a sun-dappled Greek shipping heir. Our toast: that the couple that highlights together twilights together.
Speaking of which: The federal deficit skyrockets. Iraq keeps costing. Energy remains a headache. Time for a celebrity tax. Writing in the Weekly Standard, P.J. O'Rourke says the Republicans have an easy way out: tap the $318 billion news and entertainment industry. Given the modest talent of current celebrities and the immodest example they set for impressionable youth, we'll call it a "Value Subtracted Tax," or, better, a "Family Value Subtracted Tax." And it will be calculated on the celebrity's net worth. ... Actually the resource upon which the media and entertainment industry depends is not fame but its toxic run-off, celebrity. America has vast proven reserves. I bought the May 23 issue of a magazine devoted to vulgar public notice. Its contents suggest that Sartre was ever so slightly misquoted on the nature of perdition: Hell is People. What have I ever done to deserve being exposed to Paris Hilton's Chihuahua, Tinkerbell, wearing four designer outfits? This was in a photo spread titled "Dogs Are Children Too!" Also featured was Tori Spelling's pug dressed as Little Orphan Annie and a quote from Oprah Winfrey about her cocker spaniel, Sophie: "I have a daughter."
Foreclosures are a huge problem in Philadelphia as well as in the 'burbs. The Washington Post visits a block in the Northeast where 18 of 43 row houses have been seized. An Abington neighborhood is not doing much better. Why? Homeowners have low incomes and little or no health insurance. They rely on "sub prime" mortgage brokers, which specialize in credit risks and charge as much as double the market rate. The Inquirer's March article on the original Reinvestment Fund report.
A reason to love Dartmouth. Its all-American lacrosse goalie is gay. And his teammates have been cool.
Philadelphia blogger Geeky Mom wasn't too jazzed about the coverage of Danica Patrick, the Indy 500 woman driver who came in fourth in Sunday's race: Just awful. It's like "Good for you, but get back in the kitchen please."
Know any good graffiti? Philadelphia examples needed.
The neo-Nazi story was a popular subject for us American reporters posted to Berlin. It erupted on my watch during the dog days of August, 2000, when government business had stopped and editors still hungered. Here's the latest version, but it's different: "Quietly and persistently, a new youth culture has developed in the eastern and western parts of Germany. It's Germany and xenophobic and potentially explosive." It's not written by some Auslander; it's by a six-person team of reporters from Der Spiegel.
These are fathers and mothers who came of age in the 1960s, who provided their children with a liberal upbringing, and whose greatest fear was that their kids might be taking drugs. They have been completely taken surprise by the right-wing sentiments of German young people.
Penn neurologist Anjan Chatterjee describes the brain spa of the near future to a Dana Foundation conference at the Library of Congress. Coming to a store near you: pills for playing better piano and piloting a plane?
May 27, 2005
Drop A Dime Time
Long weekend here, and Blinq turns the controls over to you, with a theme: other people's obnoxious cellphone conversations. Comment on what intrusion has annoyed you most. The guy at the next table, ruining your lunch because he's chewing out his secretary? Or in the next stall? Dime them out, folks. The lady who ruined a Maine climb for me by crowing, "You'll never guess where I am" into her phone at a spectacular clearing? It's get-even time. Looking for short and tart, with a little set-up and dialogue. Go for it.
May 26, 2005
Up Shiite's Creek?
Here's a sober way to begin the long Memorial Day weekend. Juan Cole, a history professor at the University of Michigan, writes a challenging blog called Informed Comment, offering his expertise on what happening in the Middle East. Often readers ask him for answers, not just questions, about the quagmire that is Iraq. His latest post tries to help, beginning, "there aren't any short-term easy solutions to the problems in Iraq.
"The US military cannot defeat the Sunni Arab guerrilla movement any time soon for so many reasons that they cannot all be listed." But he gives it a go, contending:
The US has only 10,000 troops for the entire Anbar province, a center of insurgency with a population of 810,000. He cites estimates from an Iraqi official that 40,000 guerrillas are active, and another 80,000 people closely support them.
The guerrillas know the clans, the terrain and the urban landscape. They know Arabic and are Muslims, which gives them sympathy from other Muslims. "American audiences often forget that the US troops in Iraq are mostly clueless about what is going on around them, and do not have the knowledge base or skills to conduct effective counter-insurgency," he writes. Outside Kurdistan, the Americans are widely distrusted, and are seen as Christian occupiers.
More problems: US military tactics of replying to attacks with massive force, increasingly alienate Sunni Arabs. Cole contends it will take the new Iraqi troops three to five years before they can acquit themselves well against the militants. It doesn't help that they are largely Shiite and Kurdish. Even so, "there is every reason to believe that the new Iraqi military is heavily infiltrated with sympathizers of the guerrillas."
What does this mean? That the United States is stuck in Iraq for the medium term, and perhaps the long term, he concludes. He sees the guerrilla war raging for at least a decade, maybe 15 years.
In the long run, say 15 years, the Iraqi Sunnis will probably do as the Lebanese Maronites did, and finally admit that they just cannot remain in control of the country and will have to compromise. That is, if there is still an Iraq at that point.
Before we fire up the grill, how about a ray of hope.
Or a sense of place that didn't make the paper.
Or a little about bloggy Arabia.
Hertfordshires on Parade
Back in Louisville, that Oz with bourbon, we looked at our friends across the Ohio River as being a little backward, which is why a reporter friend named Hunt Helm maintained a folder captioned: Hoosiers on Parade. It was filled with examples of Indiana men getting into bowling accidents, or bludgeoning loved ones with bowling balls, and my favorite was about a Hoosier hunter shot in the foot by a rabbit. Yup, the rabbit was dead and sacked, and it somehow got its foot jammed into the trigger of the hunter's rifle. So I have always loved bizarre accident stories. Met my wife over a piece I did on a guy who hatcheted his mother-in-law after mistaking her for a large raccoon, but that is another posting.
We have a classic entry folks, from across the sea. It has a Star Wars theme. Seems a bloke and his young lady friend were filming a mock duel with light sabers in Herfordshire. Only they had poured some sort of fuel into the two glass tubes and ignited them. Exploded. Would be funnier if they were not in critical condition.
A Place They Call Homelessness
The news that Philadelphia is being celebrated for its approach to helping the homeless shows how much a reputation can change. Seventeen years ago my first assignment for the paper was covering a meeting of Oxford Circle residents who were boiling over a bureaucratic error that was to turn over a vacant property to the city's Housing With Dignity program. "The city's problem, not our problem," one neighbor screamed. It would encourage homelessness, said another.
Human rottweilers, I remember thinking. I would quickly learn how big a problem homelessness was proving for the city. When I'd work downtown, the 10-minute walk from my car to the office would cost me $5 typically. Having just moved from Kentucky I was an easy mark, and I had never seen so many people looking for handouts. I talked to all of them, trying to sort out who was going to use the money to get high and who was looking to buy food. I hardened up pretty fast.
The city was overwhelmed by its own Goode intentions. In 1985 Mayor W. Wilson Goode had agreed in a court suit to provide "adequate and appropriate shelter" to the city's homeless. Soon, that meant serving 5,500 people a night. The city could not even keep track of how many people it gave food, clothing and shelter to -- the demand was so overwhelming.
When I arrived in Philly, the city was spending $30 million in tax dollars on the homeless. With city starting to go broke, it halfed that amount in a year.
Among those protesting budget cuts outside then-Councilman John F. Street's office for seven weeks the summer of 1990 was a 22-year-old homeless man from Chicago, who said he came here because "we heard things were pretty good here for a while."
I remember a series I worked on that quoted the historian Dennis J. Clark on the old city's problems: "It's the physical appearance of failure - the homeless, too - that has drained the respect and morale from the citizens."
Now we get headlines like this in the Rocky Mountain News:
City of Brotherly Love has become a model for sheltering the homeless.
The piece, from May 23, begins with Lou Barnett, a man who'd spent six years sleeping in a cardboard box around Suburban Station, visiting the hardcore homeless under a Schuylkill River bridge. Barnett now works for the city, trying to get others to try the mental health and detox programs that helped him.
The piece quotes Sister Mary Scullion saying how homeless advocates' biggest battle came in 1997, when a sidewalk ordinance outlawed sleeping on the streets. It continues:
After months of acrimony, the law that eventually made it through the council gave police authority to crack down on people camped out on sidewalks. But it also set aside $5.6 million to hire more outreach workers, create a homeless hot line and open a half-dozen shelters and treatment centers geared to the chronically homeless. The city also created a special unit of the police department that responds to calls involving the homeless.
The impact was dramatic. In the next several years, the areas around City Hall and the main subway station emptied out. Hundreds of homeless people entered into housing developed by the city or nonprofits. Shelters opened around Center City, even in prestigious neighborhoods such as Rittenhouse Square, where condos can fetch $1 million. At the same time, Center City began a boom that continues today, with more than 100 new restaurants and dozens of loft projects that have brought in thousands of residents.
Today, the city spends $17 million a year on homeless services, an amount used to attract a pool of $64 million, including state and federal aid. Marcella Maguire, Philadelphia's director of initiatives for the chronically homeless, estimates demand for emergency services is down 70 percent since the homeless were moved from the streets. The article goes on to say one of the biggest changes in the attitudes in the neighborhoods toward homeless facilities, after reactions had been vitriolic. The piece comes as great publicity for all the city has done. It reads a little rosy. But much has improved.
The Denver report is playing well on Philly blogs. The West End, wrote:
That is the textbook definition of kind of image-building through media coverage that you just can't but. It literally makes me feel good to live in Philadelphia. And of course it is another reinforcement to those of use who believe that with smart policies like the sidewalk behavior ordinance, the city can be at its very best.
A Smoke-Filled Room weighed in positively as well:
I can remember back about 7 years when a "sidewalk ordinance" was passed to allow ticketing of anybody misusing the Philadelphia sidewalks. It was controversial because skateboarders and bikers aside, most people felt it was an attempt to criminalize homelessness. In the wake of the outcry, however, it appears that ... the city made compromises with the businesses and residents who wanted more regulation by putting substantial amounts of money into improved homeless services in return. The support facilities appear to be integrated to just about every neighborhood in the city, and the police have a special unit that handles calls about homeless people. All remarkably enlightened and effective, too.
I wonder how it plays on that stretch of Cheltenham Avenue in the Northeast, where residents were so riled at having the homeless move in next door? Or how it would play on my block?
Morning Yawn (wait, that's taken)
Why is this baby still here? Because we did a little digging last night after Craig Newmark, founder of Craigslist, wrote back and said the people hoping to rent ad space on their infant (see below) were likely joking, and that's why no one from the Philadelphia Craigslist "community" had flagged the posting.
Turns out this is not a joke. It's a genre.
Back in March, someone posted in Filmmaker Magazine's bulletin board an Ebay auction, captioned: NC filmmaker seeks adspace on their daughter's wardrobe to finance college education/filmmaking gear.
Then, earlier this month, a Manitoba couple got cold feet after offering to use their little darling as a crawling billboard. It was another EBay transaction. They offered to let companies place ads on their baby's outdoor clothing for a year.
The AdRANTS blog was not amused:
We hope this isn't some type of new, baby ad sales network in the making soon to be roaming the halls of maturity wards, tapping on the shoulders of unsuspecting parents and handing out business cards.
Negative press made them cancel the auction. That's right, blame the media, you mercenaries.
The would-be renter said his inspiration came from south of the border, Andrew Fischer of Nebraska, who earned $37,375 by putting the logo of a snoring remedy on his forehead for a month.
But wait, we've found precedent. A New Zealand woman rented space on her belly in February. A BBC report states that Julz Thomson made £96 when she put her expanse for auction on the Internet last week. The winning bid came from a businessman in Auckland whose company uses the slogan: "The mailman always delivers." (Thanks Andy Maykuth for your scholarship)
Ok, moving on... Get any of that annoying spamwurst from Germany over the last week or two? Turns out it was neo-Nazis. Spiegel Online was hit, too, and much of the mail linked the serious newsmagazine's articles, leading it to apologize.
By matriculating at Duke University, the class of 2004 was a group to be envied. Not only were they going to a great school, they were getting free iPods - well, free with the $39k in tuition, room and board. Turns out the idea wasn't as good as it sounded. Wasn't as useful for academics as it was for taking a break from academics. Good pub, tho...
Want to play for favorite ripped tunes at Grandma's? For you, we recommend the device that converts digital to vinyl. Looks like a turntable on steroids. Writes Engadget:
Next week, we port everything over to 8-track. Because you never know, man, you never know.