Friday, November 30, 2007

Friday cat blogging

Here's a picture of Molly (foreground), Abbey (back left) and Simon sacking out a few mornings ago. These past few days its been below 10 degrees every morning, which shortens their barebacking in the fenced-in backyard.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Strib: Where's the bottom?

Lately I've written quite a bit about the decline of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Most of my criticism has lamented the right wing turn of the paper's news pages, and the dishonest headlining of many political stories. What I didn't know before was that this dimunition has even infected the paper's sports pages, where no subsidy to a billionaire is too much, no pay for a player beyond the pale, and hunting with weapons that would be useful in war doesn't raise an eyebrow.

Another thing I hadn't mentioned before is the Quixotic pursuit of young print readers by the paper's managers. Have these new approaches worked out for the paper commercially? It doesn't look that way, as shown by the opaque reporting about Avista Capital, the owners of the paper who are already disappointed by its financial performance. Over the past six months the paper lost a whopping six percent of its print readers, which to be fair isn't much different than its newspaper brethren, yet proves that attempts to stem the financial and reader hemorrhaging have not worked.

On the news pages, the Daily Mole has the back story of a wet-kiss interview done by Trib editors with Carol Molnau, where they allowed the head of the Minnesota DOT to spin like crazy, and where the editors of the Trib didn't ask one follow up question. Real reporter Paul McEnroe commented that the "interview" speaks for itself. Yeah. Molnau won't speak with reporters like McEnroe, and has complained about them trying to get at the bottom of why the I-35 bridge fell. If the Trib had an interview with Molnau, why wasn't McEnroe in on it? Was that a precondition of the interview imposed by Molnau? I'm betting it was.

Meanwhile, on the Trib's sports pages columnist Jim Souhan paid homage to Torri Hunter, who just inked a $90 million deal with the Dodgers. A friend who reads the sports pages mentioned to me how we citizens of Minneapolis, many of whom will never attend a Twins game, are nevertheless required to pay for the billionaire Carl Pohlad's new stadium, while game-players like Hunter are paid $90 million and school teachers are forced to beg for the $40,000 or so a year they earn. That's not a concern of Souhan, though, who approves both of Hunter's deal and Pohlad's strategy of not dipping into his personal $2 billion fortune to actually field a competitive team.

Also, as Spotty points out, on the sports page on Sunday outdoors writer Dennis Anderson was defending the use of assault-rifle-like guns by hunters. According to Anderson, the rifles can "pick off a prairie dog at 700 yards."

* * *

Where does that leave the Trib? Its website continues to do well, ranked among the top newspaper websites in terms of traffic; print readership has been off sharply in every recent period, and the value of the institution has been more than halved over the past five years.

The Trib basically operates in a monopoly environment. In this era the paper has lost some of its ability to define the news agenda, yet it still has a gigantic reach, plus a stable of highly skilled reporters. The question remains, will the paper pay for its rightward turn and its dramatic loss of quality writing, designing and editing? The results of such a basic diminution in credibility and respect might be slow to be realized, and even harder to quantitatively measure, yet nonetheless significant.

A few years ago Trib managers were faced with an unpleasant choice: Try to attract young readers by publishing articles and taking perspectives that might appeal to them, or focus on traditional quality journalism dependent on more and better reporting and editing. Unfortunately, those prospective young readers, conditioned by our national entertainment state, are uninterested in the real news product. Thus, trying to get those young readers flies directly in the face of the strategy of improving the journalistic product. And just how are you going to get these young people to read your paper by pandering to them if they never even pick it up?

What's worse, there's no evidence I've seen that validates this strategy in the least. Is the paper losing so many adult readers that it makes up for some increase in younger readers? That's a hard argument to make when you lost six percent of your daily printed version of the paper in only the past six months.

So either way the paper was and is going to lose print version readers. The paper's response to this loss will not only lose more readers, but also harm the paper's reputation and credibility. More importantly, the changes have failed at attracting the young print readers the changes were supposed to garner. At the same time pandering to the mythical young readers is alienating the very people who make up the core audience - people who read because they want to know what's going on in the world.

If you take the craptaculation of trying to attract young readers, the capitulation to right wing forces represented by the hiring of the torture-sanctioning Katherine Kersten and Doug Tice, the ongoing rightward tilt of its news pages, and the loss of other top talent, the picture of the Trib is one of an institution in a steep tailspin, still digging itself into an ever bigger hole. Given the overall picture of declining readership in the industry, the paper may be destined to lose readers for some time. The paper's response to this crisis of readership and revenue might have been to turn to its traditional mission of quality journalism. It might have still lost readers, but it would still have a respected and quality product. Instead, the paper flailed away trying to attract young people and right wingers, and in the process has humiliated itself and alienated its true core audience.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Strib: Still covering for Republicans

Today's Strib has a long story by Kevin Diaz headlined "Bridge 'unity' fractured by politics." I've known Diaz for along time - we worked at the Minnesota Daily together in the early 80s. I've always thought he was a decent reporter, but lately I'm not so sure, and today's story goes a long way towards harming his reputation.

The essence of the real story here, NOT told by Diaz, is that George W. Bush, in a sad attempt to remain relevant amid the lowest approval numbers in history, has decided to veto spending bills for allegedly being reckless with money, which as Captain Willard says in Apocalypse Now, is like handing out speeding tickets at the Indy 500. ThinkProgress has a graph that shows that when the Republicans controlled congress Bush and Minnesota Congressmen John Kline and Michele Bachmann (the two Minnesotans in Congress to support Bush's veto of the bridge funding bill) had no problem with excessive spending. Now that the Dems are in control they all have a big problem with so-called excessive spending, even though earmarks are down by more than half since the Dems took congress, and they all have to be published.

But that's not the reason the bridge funding isn't passing according to the Trib and Diaz. No - the problem is politics, as if the very method of distributing power and resources is somehow to blame, but not the people and their absurd positions on issues. In effect, Diaz is absolving the Republicans Kline, Bachmann and Bush, and instead blaming our very method of self-government. This is now typical behavior at the paper, where anything that makes Republicans look bad is usually downplayed and watered down.

Diaz disingenuously uses University of Minnesota political scientist Larry Jacobs to distort the real cause of the funding impasse, implying that Republicans and Democrats are equally to blame:
"This is just a case study of what's wrong with government," said [Jacobs] . "Huge problem. Everybody recognizes the problem, and yet what you get is a mud fight. It's appalling."
The fact is the Republicans have tried to kill this bridge funding in a misguided attempt to help George W. Bush not look like a drunken sailor on leave. Too bad Kevin Diaz has joined their team.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Did Power Stooge Scott Johnson help Paulose out of job?

Apparently Johnson's National Review post on Paulose, that had her complaining about all kinds of discrimination against her, and denying charges made against her by those in her office, were too much for those who still worked in her office. ThinkProgress has the lowdown, but apparently Johnson's story caused at least one lawyer to resign the day the story came out, and others were to follow.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Daily Mole: Strib editors get caught adding a conservative spin to wire story

Been too busy to post here, but Steve Perry has the goods on the Trib, yet again, giving a Republican spin to a regular news story.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Friday albino squirrel blogging

This is Alby, the albino squirrel who lives in our neighborhood. I shot this picture this morning - the neighbor put out some old bread for him.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

We tortured a guy to get Colin Powell's false "evidence" used at UN

To get Colin Powell's since refuted "evidence" in his speech to the U.N. before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, Egypt tortured the guy after we "rendered" him to the country:
Under torture after his rendition to Egypt, al Libi had provided a confession of how Saddam Hussein had been training al Qaeda in chemical weapons. This evidence was used by Colin Powell at the United Nations a year earlier (February 2003) to justify the war in Iraq. ("I can trace the story of a senior terrorist operative telling how Iraq provided training in these [chemical and biological] weapons to al Qaeda," Powell said. "Fortunately, this operative is now detained, and he has told his story.")
Note to Katherine Kersten: Using torture can sometimes really set you back and deceive you. And as Atrios notes, false confessions are a feature, not a bug, of torture, i.e. the Bushies actually got what they wanted from al Libi, regardless of whether it was true or not.

Katherine Kersten endorses torture

Big surprise there. Not. In a post at her blog, Katherine Kersten basically endorses the use of torture. She does it by using the same straw man other neocons use to justify their idiotic barbarism:
Everyone who wants to eliminate waterboarding from our counter-terror arsenal should engage in this thought experiment: You have strong evidence that terrorists are targeting the Twin Cities for a spectacular mass-casualty act of terror. You believe a man in custody who has committed past terrorist acts knows the details of the planned attack, but he won’t talk under regular interrogation. Waterboarding has worked under similar circumstances. Will you authorize it now?
Um, Katherine, what is to prevent this person from lying to you in such a way that you won't know you've been had until its too late? As I've written before, Kersten is a conservative operative who will write whatever the Republican Party wants her to say. If it means justifying torture with specious logic, that's no problem.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Burying the lede at the Strib

Who writes the headlines at the Strib? I ask because they are either really terrible at it, or deliberately covering for Republicans. When I worked at the paper in the mid 80s we had some of the finest and wittiest headline writers ever. Check this out - over the past 45 months Minnesota has lagged national job growth 90 percent of the time, and in June, the state's jobless rate exceeded the national average for the first time in 31 years. So what kind of headline does the Trib run? "Salad days of Minnesota job growth have run course."

Huh? Why would they run an opaque headline like that. There's really only one reason - to protect the Republican in the statehouse. Why not run a headline like, "Minnesota trails national job growth for years," or, "For first time in 31 years state jobless rate higher than nation's." Or, instead of protecting governor pepsodent, they could blame him. "Minnesota job growth trails nation under Pawlenty." Not hard, is it? When some story or statistic looks bad for a Republican time and time again headline writers at the paper have taken the sting out of the story with an absurd headline, and this is just another in a series of real gaffes at the copy desk. Also see here and here, and here.

Update: Not that the crappy copy editing has anything to do with this, but new numbers show that over the past six months the Trib has lost 6.5 % of its daily circulation, and 4.3 % of its Sunday circulation.

Sunday, November 4, 2007


Anyone who lives near Washington should check out the new Botero exhibition, which is commented on by Erica Jong in today's Washington Post:

"...American torture is different from other tortures because of the high opinion we have of our country and ourselves. Torture is something others do. We are above that. We are reasonable people governed by a great Enlightenment document we call The Constitution. We help, not hurt people all over the world. It is the incongruity of our image of ourselves versus the reality of our behavior that stings most."
That's really a joke, isn't it? The high opinion we have of ourselves. This is the same nonsense peddled by neocons and their theory of "american exceptionalism." What crap. Here's a link to some of the paintings, and a blogger's report from a showing of the paintings at Bezerkley.

* * * *

On a totally different note, Steve Perry over at the Daily Mole (serving the Twin Cities for the past 75 hours) notes the Strib is at it again, covering for governor pepsodent on the I-35 bridge collapse.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Special prosecutor for War Crimes

John Dean makes the great point over at Talking Points Memo that the Democrats should make their approval of Mukasey for Attorney General contingent on his promising to appoint a Special Prosecutor for War Crimes, similar to what the Dems did in 1973 when Richard Nixon nominated Elliot Richardson for A.G. Richardson made the promise to appoint a Watergate Special Prosecutor, which eventually led to Nixon's impeachment.

Dean concludes "If the Democrats in the Senate refuse to demand any such requirement, it will be act that should send chills down the spine of every thinking American."

My favorite dog Spot says: "A man [Mukasey] so compromised or confused in the face of so easy a moral choice will not make an effective and moral leader."

BTW - how sick are Democrats Charles Schumer and Diane Feinstein - who have promised to vote for Mukasey, even though he won't say that waterboarding is torture.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Friday cat blogging

Simon and Abbey taking their afternoon nap.

Oldie-but-goodie of Abbey studying up for her boards.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Racists come out at St Thomas

We already knew that the University of St Thomas was run by a ruthless, and rootless, neocon, who likes the kind of views presented by Ann Coulter and Michelle Malkin, and who thinks Bishop Desmond Tutu is some kind of bigot. What we didn't know, until know, is that the University is a hotbed of actual racists. Who'd have guessed that a University that leads the state in neocons, home to one of the lawyers who justified torture for George W. Bush, whose movement bashes non-existent "Islamofascists" would be home to real, practicing racists? Couldn't have seen that one coming, huh? How appropriate that the racist threats to three Black women occurred at John Paul II hall! Oh - and by the way - this is the third time these type of incidents have happened at the school - this year! One of the victims, a 19 year old, said it was the first time in her life that she had experienced such overt racism. As the old archbishop of the Twin Cities once said, notions of racial superiority underlie the concept of "Minnesota Nice." How true.

The whole situation puts the university's firing of its peace and justice studies program head in perspective, doesn't it? I guess peace and justice are fine, to a point, at St Thomas, as long as they don't interfere with the school's right wing politics. Trouble is, right wing politics in the US are inextricably intertwined with racism.