October 31, 2005
He could feel her heart beneath his hands. He moved his hands slowly lower still and she arched her back to help him and her lower leg came against his.
I have to snip there for next comes a word we don't easily slip into the newspaper. Wait, this is a blog.
He held her breasts in his hands. Oddly, he thought, the lower one might be larger. . . . One of her breasts now hung loosely in his hand near his face and he knew not how best to touch her.
I need a damned cigarette. The New Yorker deconstructs the sex scenes in 1996's The Apprentice, Libby's novel that takes place in a rural Japanese province at the turn of the 20th century. Diligently, the magazine writer compares his sanguinary style with that of other hardcore Republicans, including Erlichman, Safire, Buckley and O'Reilly.
Even runs his work past Nancy Sladek, the editor of Britain’s Literary Review, which holds an annual contest for bad sex writing in fiction.
The men of the Nixon White House had a term for political dirty tricks that had to do with rats. Looks like deer are more Libby's style.
Beginning of a Beautiful Friendship?
Theo Epstein, tricks the Boston Red Sox on Halloween, and leaves a three-year contract extension on the table. Epstein, the Yale-educated grandson and grand-nephew of the Casablanca screenwriters, moved Red Sox Nation's beloved Nomar Garciaparra for the parts that built a World Series champion after an 86-year drought.
Don't the local nine have an opening for a super hero in casual slacks?
Picketers from TWU Local 234 were chanting, passing cars were honking in support, and two men standing across the street were doing their best to pick a fight.
"You work for your rights, and that's cool, but I've got to get downtown," screamed John Tillman, who runs a moving company. "I've got three jobs today, and I can't move myself."
A woman walking the picket line, got into it with him, arguing how her health care shouldn't be cut - SEPTA wants workers to pay 20 percent of their premiums.
This argument was not moving Tillman. "I just wish you all would get back to work. You've shut the city down."
There was the possibility he could catch a ride with his buddy, Ben Council, 31, who was standing across the street, yelling, too.
Council's station wagon was needed for other chores - like ferrying two young women to Center City. Women who hadn't managed to notice that the buses and El and subways stopped rolling, stranding 400,000 people dependent on public transportation.
"Center City, $15," Council informed them. Deal.
Down the street, business at the Liberty Bell restaurant was as still as the grill.
"Yeah, this happens and I get hurt," said owner Diamandis Diamantas, 45. "Every time they go on strike, we pay."
"My father before me. He had this place since 1976."
"'74!" his older brother, Mike, corrected.
The three had time to chat in the kitchen - at high noon, when the Frankford Avenue place is typically twice as busy. So did Diamandis's wife, Gina, a waitress.
Mike's cell went off.
"You mean there's a Septa strike? No!"
"They're running in my neighborhood," said Manny Iyala, 46, washing dishes. "On my street we've got horses and buggies."
By the front of the restaurant, a counterman named Gus, watched quietly. The place smelled of cigarettes and rye toast. A customer - I didn't get her name - complained how she'd been waiting too long for a friend to stop by with a ride.
"Lotta people didn't know they were on strike 'til this morning," the woman said.
Gus nodded. "Yeah, I've see people walking up the steps like there was nothing different. Then I see them walking back down. They must not listen to the radio."
If you've missed your bus or trolley - and I'm speaking more emotionally than literally - check out Albert Yee's Flickr set of Septa shots from several months of lurking around public transportation with a camera around his neck. They're here. And they're pretty slick.
Born on April Fools Day. Nominated to the Supreme Court on Halloween. Son of an Italian immigrant. Graduate of Princeton and Yale Law. Catholic (giving the court a majority in that respect). Personable enough to have a gourmet coffee named after him in downtown Newark, N.J.
Samuel A. Alito Jr., 55, who sits on the Philadelphia-based federal appeals court, was named this morning by President Bush to replace Sandra Day O'Connor as an associate justice on the U.S. Supreme Court and erase convervative memory of his failed try at elevating White House counsel Harriet Miers for the job.
Conservative reaction this morning? Right on!
The most beautiful sound I ever heard:
Alito, Alito, Alito, Alito . . .
That was Confirm Them, (subtitled God Save The United States and This Honorable Court) reaction, beginning its post about the New Jersey federal court judge with this play on Maria from West Side Story. A law-geek buddy had just composed it. Confirm Them continues:
Seriously though, I really am excited. It’s hard to believe how far we’ve come from just a few weeks ago. All seems right with the world again. Yes, there will be a fight. But I don’t believe for one second that the dems have any chance of defeating this nominee, and deep down I think they know it.
And, the reaction on other side of the aisle? "A right wing whacko," as one Democratic member of Congress whispered him to NPR's Cokie Roberts.
Too radical? Senate Minority Leader Sen. Harry Reid was quoted as asking. A divider not a uniter, New York Sen. Charles Schumer worried.
So who is he? Scotus blog has a round up of Alito's key decisions.
Howard Bashman, the Fort Washington, Pa., lawyer/blogger at How Appealing, has written about Alito for years. He has compiled a scorecard for how the judge's decisions have fared when appealed to the high court.
There will be lots of talk about his position on abortion. Glenn Reynolds, a constitutional law prof at Tennessee who blogs at Instapundit, gets the ball rolling. He writes:
As several people point out, that's going to be an issue with regard to Alito. I'm not sure what I think about this issue, but looking at the Pennsylvania statute I notice a lot of exceptions, one of which is this: "Her spouse is not the father of the child."
I'm not sure about Pennsylvania, but in many states her spouse -- even if he's not the father of the child -- would still be on the hook for child support. Likewise, if he didn't want children, but she disagreed, lied to him about birth control, and got pregnant. And he certainly couldn't force her to have an abortion if she did so, even if his desire not to have children was powerful, and explicitly expressed at the outset. (The usual response -- "he made his choice when he had sex without a condom" -- never comes up in discussions of women and abortion.)
Oh yeah, and Alito has his own blog. Sort of. It begins this morning:
I feel like I'm up at the podium at the Oscars. I have so many people to thank.
Actually, not really, I only have one person to thank.
The games have begun.
From veteran Supreme Court reporer Lyle Dennison in Scotus Blog: "One of the liberal groups that has long spoiled for a fight with Bush over a Supreme Court nomination, People for the American Way, promised a "massive national effort to defeat Alito's nomination" because he "would dramatically shift the balance on the Court."
Conservative organizations, intent on having an identifiably conservative replacement for O'Connor, will be mounting an equally strong national effort, to support Alito's confirmation. The American Center for Law and Justice, for example, praised the President for fulfilling a promise "of choosing nominees to the Supreme Court who are in the mold of Justices Scalia and Thomas."
From The Karl Rove Playbook
President Bush changes the conversation.
October 30, 2005
The Inky's Future: A Call For Conversation
A lot of gatherings these days along the rail that overlooks the cavernous newsroom. A religion writer catches your eye, tells you he's leaving. He’s thinking about non-profit work, he says. Something totally different.
Your editor tells you the same thing. Taking the buyout, rewriting Act Two while he can. Others have talked about joining the Peace Corps, or retiring early to try blogging, for God’s sake. A lot of people are suddenly looking younger.
We’re saying goodbye to 75 journalists – 15 percent of the 506 positions we have at the Inquirer. The Daily News is losing 25 of its 130 newsroom jobs – that’s 19 percent. It’s not clear whether this publicly held corporation will have to lay off anyone to meet its numbers, but the place where one gets one’s buyout papers is doing land-office business. We’re more than two thirds of the way there with five days to go.
That’s a lot of sheet cake, a lot of farewell newspaper pages to make up. Or maybe the people will pack up overnight and slip away, and a year from now, I'll ask "Where is Huntly Collins?" Oh yeah, she took the last buyout, but I was in Berlin, and never got the memo. I'll do my best to get lost in the work this week. I can't watch.
You could put out the best newspaper in America with the people we've helped walk out the door over the 17 years I’ve been here. I think we once did.
The process is nearly done. Editors talk over new assignments with reporters behind closed doors. We strain to read the faces. We’re having so many meetings it’s a wonder we can get the paper out. But we do. The Inquirer knows it has to take the opportunity to re-invent itself. We must figure out who we are and what we do best, and do it now.
There’s been a chain of emails going around about the future of these papers, prompted by Will Bunch two-fisted piece in the Daily News blog Attytood.
Much of the blame really lies with us, as journalists. We have, for the most part, allowed our product to become humorless and dull. In an era when it seems most people truly will be famous for 15 minutes, newspapers have stubbornly avoided creating personalities...or having a personality, for that matter. In a pathologically obsessive quest for two false goddesses – named Objectivity and Balance – we have completely ceded the great American political debate to talk radio, cable TV and the Internet, where people have learned that politics is actually interesting and even fun when people are allowed to take sides.
I thought I’d open this up for conversation. If you have some thoughts, please comment here. You've got a stake. It's your paper.
We hosted a group of bloggers at the Inquirer last week. They pulled no punches in criticizing the paper, both at the session, afterward in emails.
Duncan Black, who writes under the name Atrios, suggested expanding home delivery of the Daily News across the suburbs.
Susie Madrak of Suburban Guerrilla suggested putting all the political reporters in the suburbs, and leaving the city to our sister tabloid or the wires. If we're cutting reporters, enliven the op-ed pages, she recommended.
She asked her readers what they’d do if they ran the paper. The answers, here, make brutal reading for reporters at the Inquirer. But they should be read.
What would you do?
At a time when our newsroom reminds me what of the end of July at camp, when the station wagons would pull up for the kids staying only half the summer – it’s good to see someone pumped about the future. I just saw a conference filled with people like that.
I spent three days in San Jose, Ca, at the Associated Press Managing Editors annual meeting. They hand awards for great work and hold workshops, doing much of their business in the hallways and in the bar. I talked about blogging – what’s working and what’s not working with my experiment here at Blinq.
I went to every online session I could, and thought I would post a little show and tell.
Scariest stuff first. It was a quick movie called EPIC 2015. Ken Sands, online publisher of the Spokane, (WA) Spokesman-Review, opened his talk with this three-minute cautionary tale that tells us how we got the press-less mediascape of a decade from now.
After recalling the Web’s creation in 1989, then the birth of Amazon and Google, and blogging software, it ventures into the near future, when Microsoft does battle with the merged Googlezon, when people take individually tailored news and advertising, based on their interests and habits or what their friends and colleagues read.
The New York Times becomes print-only – for its small audience of the well-off and the elderly.
But Sands was not there for eulogies.
He sees the Web as the salvation of newspapers, and showed some of the work going on that gives hope, experiments in video at his own paper, that documented moments like a girl's first day in kindergarten, the day two moose got loose in downtown Spokane. Here in Philly, I think they would have shot them.
The message I came away with was: Use your army of 400-plus journalists to beat the local television and radio stations to the punch, create "a culture of urgency" online, post sound and video and cherish the freedom of being able to offer longer, more in-depth pieces that commercial considerations have scared electronic media from offering.
The story now is citizen participation – giving the audience a say in what’s going on. They examples are blazing across the country, from Bakersfield, Ca., to Greensboro, N.C., Brattleboro, Vt., to Denver, Co.
Spokane has selected eight readers to weigh in on what the paper is doing right and wrong in a page called News Is A Conversation. It also has a page that features and links to more than a dozen local bloggers.
In Denver, Yourhub.com has taken off – 42 different Web sites that once a week are harvested for a tabloid version that wraps around both the Rocky Mountain News and the Denver Post. It has a small staff, and serves up community news written by readers. Said publisher Travis Henry, "It's a billboard. If someone wants to write about a car wash .... it serves a purpose."
The conference also highlighted some award-winning online work, from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s coverage of the courthouse shootings – they invited readers to write in what they saw and then used the space for community grieving – to the Providence Journal’s gorgeous several-part series on one man’s effort to save the beauty of Block Island. The Roanoke Times used the Web to show what life was like for Christian and Muslim refugees from Africa and Eastern Europe sharing a nine-acre apartment complex called Terrace.
Sands told how reporters and readers have vastly different senses of papers. He told how some reporters were asked to respond to question, If your paper were a celebrity, who would it be?
Tom Hanks, the reporters answered.
The readers' perception?
We're got our work cut out for us.
October 28, 2005
I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby Jr., chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, indicted today on five counts. Obstruction, false statement and perjury charges. Lied, the prosecutor contends, about his role in leaking the identity of a CIA agent.
"Never sought limelight," the Washington Post writes in an online news-feature.
Part of a small neo-conservative group that started plotting at the end of 2002 to get the U.S. into war with Iraq, investigative reporter Sy Hersh just told the Associated Press Managing Editors conference in California, where I am today. "The republic may be saved by a prosecutor," Hersh said, blaming the press for failing to do its job.
Which sounded a lot like what Carl Bernstein - of Woodward and Berstein - told Editor and Publisher:
What the Plame leak investigation has unveiled is what the press should have been focusing on long before and without let up—how we went to war, the dishonesty involved in that process in terms of what the president and vice-president told the American people and the Congress, and the routine smearing by members of the Bush administration of people who questioned their actions and motives.
The Wall Street Journal reports that Karl Rove, the president's top political presidential adviser, has been told he's not out of the woods, legally; he was told Thursday evening "that he may not be charged today but remains in legal jeopardy."
Special Prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald spoke at a 2 p.m. news conference. Billmon at Whiskey Bar had found it noteworthy that the prosecutor's Web site mentioned criminal investigations. Plural.
He's been probing who in the White House leaked to reporters the identity of Valerie Plame, a CIA operative married to Joseph C. Wilson 4th, the former ambassador who was critical of the administration's reasons for invading Iraq.
Not so much glee Friday in the redder regions, however. Color Instapundit less than impressed.
"The mountain has labored and brought forth a mouse," Glenn Reynolds captioned his post after early word that only Libby has been indicted, and only for covering up. When the news broke fully, Reynolds changed his stance slightly. "Okay, the indictment is out and it’s more like a large rabbit."
Lying to a grand jury, is serious, said the constitutional law professor. "The rest is Martha Stewart stuff. But this isn't the Libby-Rove-Cheney takedown that lefties have been hoping for – there’s not even a charge of "outing" a covert agent – and the very extravagance of their hopes will make this seem much less significant. If there’s no more, this will probably do Bush little harm."
He linked to blogger Laura Lee Donoho in Arkansas, who said it’s not Fitmas. It’s merely Fitzween. Booo! She chose art work of a carved pumpkin spitting its seeds into the toilet.
Christian Science Monitor's primer on the Plame case.
Wikipedia entry on Valerie Plame.
Wikipedia entry on Plame Affair.
A New York Times leak timeline from July.
Time reporter Matthew Cooper's "What I Told The Grand Jury."
Wilson traveled to Africa in 2002 on a C.I.A.-sponsored mission to probe claims that Iraq had tried to buy material there for its nuclear weapons program. He wote in a New York Times op-ed piece that the White House had "twisted" the intelligence to justify invading Iraq.
Still confused? So is Michael Kinsley:
Confused? Sure. Who isn't? One entertaining aspect of the story that is expected to reach some sort of climax today is the struggle of the media to summarize or label it. Once upon a time someone went to Niger, which is not Nigeria, and off we go in time and space. Even Fox News has been driven to compound sentences.
Taking his lead from Tom DeLay, blogger Lou Antosh thinks the proper reaction at the White House would be a kegger:
DeLay, who beamed like an Amway rookie during his recent mug shot, understands the new dynamic regarding perceived crime and punishment in this great nation. The key is this: Be Bold and Brave, Your Fans Will Rave. We’re not talking fake chutzpah here, no twerpy little “Courage” signoff as the feds take you away. No sir. This is looking straight in the camera, raising your most sincere finger high, and crooning like the world’s most powerful lounge lizard: I did not share a leak with that humanoid.”
Meanwhile Roger Simon, the conservative blogger and screenwriter, took a step back:
"It's obvious too that the Plame Affair is not at all about some minor not-so-covert CIA official, but about Iraq. It is a replaying of the war on other turf. The odd thing about this is that it has always struck me that Iraq could just as easily have been a Democratic Party war."
October 27, 2005
Harriet Miers, Once Nominated For The Supreme Court
Harriet Miers withdraws name from consideration for the U.S. Supreme Court.
Only a cynic would think that way, right? Who would orchestrate two bits of bad news to drop on the same day?
Slate boils it down: "The fight over the White House documents was the excuse. The looming possibility of indictments of top White House officials was the subtext. The 1993 speeches in which Harriet Miers sounds (gotcha!) like a heartfelt liberal may have been the trigger."
This post from Underneath Their Robes, "news, gossip and commentary about the federal judiciary," pulls together the storm of opposition that doomed her candidacy to crash and burn.
Its Monday posting summarized some of her troubles: the White House's refusal to give the Senate documents, citing executive privilege, poor opinion polls, conservative outrage (The Wall Street Journal's editorial page called her nomination "A political blunder of the first order").
Krauthammer wrote on Friday:
The president's mistake was thinking he could sneak a reliable conservative past the liberal litmus tests (on abortion, above all) by nominating a candidate at once exceptionally obscure and exceptionally well known to him.
The problem is that this strategy blew up in his face. Her obscurity is the result of her lack of constitutional history, which, in turn, robs her of the minimum qualifications for service on the Supreme Court. And while, post-Robert Bork, stealth seems to be the most precious asset a conservative Supreme Court nominee can have, how stealthy is a candidate who has come out publicly for a constitutional amendment to ban abortion?
Before the news, the conservative Captain's Quarters was on to something when writing:
Two overnight developments in the embattled Harriet Miers nomination point towards either the collapse of the effort to confirm Miers or a politically devastating siege mentality at the White House. First, the New York Sun reports that at least two GOP Senators will announce their opposition to Miers based on the speeches released earlier this week if the Bush administration refuses to withdraw her nomination. The Washington Times also reports that a key figure that had been working to support the PR campaign for Miers has suddenly quit to return to the Federalist Society, which Miers once disparaged and which has remained absolutely silent on her nomination.
At Instapundit, constitutional law prof Glenn Reynolds commends Miers's move:
The White House made a dreadful error in nominating her, which it compounded by its ham-handed efforts in support of her candidacy, and this was perhaps the only way to ensure that it wouldn't be a complete debacle for the Bush Administration. Let's hope that they'll do better the next time around. I'm not hoping for Alex Kozinski or anything -- okay, well, I'm hoping -- but we need a nominee who'll meet the high expectations established by the Roberts appointment. That Miers wasn't up to those standards is no discredit to her, as very few lawyers are. But it is a discredit to the White House, which nominated her. Now it's a do-over, and they'd be well-advised not to blow it.
Conservative columnist Michelle Malkin's reaction? Relief. Not just any sort of relief. "Sad, pensive, what-a-waste relief. Not happy-joy-joy relief." She does quick work linking posts, most from the right, about what went wrong.
One of them, columnist and law prof Hugh Hewitt, writes:
I think Ms. Miers has been unfairly treated by many who have for years urged fair treatment of judicial nominees. She deserves great thanks for her significant service to the country. She and the president deserved much better from his allies.
For a spin-off, go to People For the American Way, which captions its comments, "Miers, White House Surrender to Ultraconservatives. Meanwhile, Progress For America blamed that sticky executive privilege problem. "Looking forward, PFA is anxious to engage in a debate that will result in the confirmation of a highly qualified, conservative justice."
Alfred Lubrano's story today about the gay patriot starts:
In Baghdad, they know him by the code name "Princess Leia."
As an agent for the State Department's diplomatic security service, Overbrook's own T.J. Lunardi is a gay patriot trained to crack a man's bones with his tapered fingers.
Most recently charged with protecting U.S. embassy officials in Iraq, Lunardi, 28, is home now, awaiting reassignment to Berlin. Sporting tattoos that say "queer" and "eternal hostility," Lunardi is an inside agitator, a guy pledged to flag and country but determined to effect change within the U.S. government for the gay cause.
Read the whole thing here.
With hurricanes, Harriet and Herr Prosecutor on its plate, the Bush Administration is busy, but blogger Mike Devine is heartened to know it's taken time to be vigilant against abuse of official seals.
He writes about this bit of news:
“The White House is not amused by The Onion, a newspaper that often spoofs the Bush administration, and has asked it to stop using the presidential seal on its Web site.
“White House spokesman Trent Duffy said people who work in the executive mansion do have a sense of humor, but not when it comes to breaking regulations.
“‘When any official sign or seal is being used inappropriately the party is notified,’ Duffy said.”
Source: Reuters, “White House to Onion: Stop using seal” (CNN.com, Oct. 26, 2005)
Devine, who writes at Monorail Mike, comments:
Pardon me for a moment while I tuck a copy of this article into two increasingly large files: “People Who Take Themselves Far Too Seriously” and “How Does the White House Have Time for This Nonsense?”
... somehow, the Bush administration still has enough space on its to-do list to publicly admonish a satirical publication over the proper use of the presidential insignia, of all things.
Scott Dikkers, the Onion editor-in-chief, replied to the warning as follows:
“I would advise them to look for that other guy Osama [bin Laden] … rather than comedians. I don’t think we pose much of a threat.”
Irreverent yet practical — that’s why I read The Onion in the first place.