Tuesday, July 26, 2011

When Passengers Attack....

All the news that fits, we print:

Those good hands people at the TSA are back in the news again. And
once again it involves the agency’s “enhanced” security procedures.

I am a frequent customer of the TSA because I have a couple of knee
replacements and the bells and whistles go off when I approach. It’s
a hassle but after a couple of waves of the wand, and a pat here and
there, away you go.

But last month was my first encounter with the new, improved
pat-down. It felt like the agent had accidently dropped his Rolex
down the front of my pants and was trying to retrieve it.

On a later flight, I went through the scanner which was quicker and
simpler. Of course, you have to get past the fact that a reasonable
facsimile of you naked to the world will appear on a screen somewhere
to the howls and/or whistles of those observing.

Now, we learn that the TSA will be installing software that will
allow agents to see objects hidden under clothes without seeing you
in the altogether. Or as a TSA bureaucrat remarked in a classic
understatement, to “improve the passenger experience at checkpoints.”

And not a moment too soon.

Just this past week, it seems that Yukari Miyamae, a 61-year-old
Colorado woman, was charged with groping a TSA agent.

Miyamae was in Phoenix's Sky Airport en route home to Colorado when
the incident occurred.

According to the arrest report, Miyamae is accused of groping TSA
agent Barbara O'Toole's "left breast through her clothing and
squeezing and twisting it with both hands without the victim's

I can only guess why.

For all I know, Miyamae may have been a full-blown Taliban operative.
But if not, there is such an inescapable turnabout-is-fair-play irony
to all this that I am prepared to be a character witness on her

I’m not the only one. Five Facebook pages dedicated to her have
sprung into existence, four of them offering her support. Some have
dubbed her the "21st century Rosa Parks."

Fortunately, it appears that technology will soon rescue us from the
ugly prospect of groping wars at our airports.

Speaking of technology, cell phones may be the greatest
communications advancement since, well, the telephone.
But like many gifts, it comes with a curse.

It can be annoying, rude and, most importantly, distracting and

That’s why many states and municipalities have banned hand-held cell
phone use while driving.

And it’s why everyone believed it recently when it was reported that
the city of Philadelphia would ticket and fine anyone texting while

Makes sense. Who wants to get head-butted by some idiot texting his
girlfriend. Or watch as some dufus walks into an 18-wheeler while
checking the baseball scores.

But the city mothers and fathers in Philadelphia, in fact, passed no
such law. What they did do is encourage police to crack down on
dangerous and distracting cellphone use.

That development was misunderstood by some TV types and bloggers and
the misinformation spread like wildfire via the Internet.

Imagine that.

It’s ice cream season. And parlors across the land are responding
with more and more inventive flavors to attract customers.
According to Newsweek, lip-smacking offerings this season such as
Brown Bread, Rice and Beans, Balsamic Strawberry, Feta Cheese and
Basil, Brown Ale With Bacon, Lobster and Wasabi Coconut Banana are on
the menu.

Vanilla, anyone?

What do Mike Eng, Edward Hernandez, Bob Huff, Curt Hagman have in

They are all elected officials from the San Gabriel Valley. And they
all accepted contributions from tobacco interests.

Indeed, the tobacco industry spent a total of $9.3 million on
campaign contributions and lobbying in California during the
2009-2010 election cycle and have spent nearly $100 million over the
last decade, according to a new report by the Center for Tobacco
Policy & Organizing, a project of the American Lung Association in

Of the 122 state legislators (more than 120 due to vacancies and
special elections), tobacco interests made campaign contributions to
59 members, or 48 percent, similar to the total from pervious
election cycles.

Maybe we were naive enough to think that the scourge of tobacco was
becoming a thing of the past. Apparently it’s still as close as your
local legislator.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Rupert's World

Good morning and welcome to your daily community newspaper.

You may notice we’ve made a few changes due to the fact that we have
been sold to Rupert Murdoch.

We have discarded well-written and informative stories in favor of
salacious scandal about our elected officials, sports figures,
community leaders and anybody else we can smear.

We are no longer interested in the agendas and actions of our city
councils and boards of education.

Rather, we will be reporting on members’ sex lives, mental health,
financial status and any and all dirt we can dig up.

To accomplish this, we will bribe public officials and cops and
engage in hacking personal phone calls and e-mails and use the
information to wield political power over those with whom we
disagree. There are no moral or ethical boundaries we will not
violate in order to achieve our goals.

For your entertainment, we will run pictures of topless models on
Page 3 complete with leering, sexist comments.

We understand that this new direction in our reporting will lead to
the arrest and conviction of some of our reporters and editors but,
hey, that’s the price you pay.

This, of course, is just a fantasy, or rather a nightmare. We haven’t
really been sold to Murdoch and we fervently hope it will never come
to pass.

But it’s a useful tool to illustrate the methods Rupert Murdoch and
his band of mad hatters in England who, in the pursuit of lurid and
sensational scoops, in an attempt to get the story at any cost, to
beat the competition by any means necessary, have completely lost
their moral and ethical compass.

To recount: As far back as 2006, Murdoch’s News of the World tabloid
was charged by police with intercepting voice mail messages left for
members of Britain’s royal family.

Police began a new investigation into phone hacking allegations in
February 2011, at which time more than 20 civil cases against the
News of the World were active. Lawyers for the victims allege that as
many as 7,000 people had their phones accessed by the News of the

Then earlier this month, allegations were made that the News of the
World hacked into the voicemail of a murdered schoolgirl, destroying
possible evidence in the search for her killer, as well as victims of
the London terrorist bombings and relatives of deceased British

It was even more than the gossip-loving British public could stand.
Reporters and editors were arrested. Advertisers withdrew from the
News of the World and other Murdoch publications.

Murdoch promptly shut down the 168-year-old publication in a cynical
attempt to keep alive his attempt to purchase the lucrative British
Sky Broadcasting Group, an attempt that failed when Murdoch withdrew
his $12 billion bid in the wake of the hacking scandal.

In the midst of all this, former Prime Minister Gordon Brown accused
Murdoch’s papers of hiring “known criminals” to ferret our
information on him and his family, including his personal finances
and his infant son’s medical history.

Brown is not the only politician to feel Murdoch’s wrath. According
to a New York Times story, Clare Short, a Labour member of
Parliament, mentioned in passing at a luncheon in 2004 that she did
not care for the photographs of saucy, topless women that appear
every day on Page 3 of Murdoch’s The Sun tabloid. “I’d like to take
the pornography out of our press,” she said.

“ ‘Fat, Jealous’ Clare Brands Page 3 Porn” was The Sun’s headline in
response. Its editor sent a busload of semi-dressed models to jeer at
Ms. Short at her house. The paper stuck a photograph of Ms. Short’s
head over the body of a topless woman and found a number of people to
declare that, in fact, they thoroughly enjoyed the sexy photos.

OK, so a band of British loonies engaged in sleazy and illegal
tactics and left ethics and good taste lying broken and bleeding in
the street. Why should we care?

Because Rupert Murdoch may be practicing the same sort of abhorrent
journalism right here in America.

His Fox News has already been revealed as something less than “fair
and balanced” for contributing $1 million to Republican political

His New York Post is as raunchy and irresponsible as his British
tabloids. He now owns the prestigious Wall Street Journal and it
remains to be seen if he brings his own brand of “journalism” to that

And the FBI, prodded by members of Congress, has opened an
investigation into whether Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. attempted to
hack into the telephones of victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks
and the families of those who died.

American journalism is at the crossroads. It needs visibility, it
needs a blueprint to survive in the information age, it needs money
to stay alive and thrive.

More importantly, it needs to maintain its credibility. And because
it does, it doesn’t need Rupert Murdoch.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

A State of Grace

"It is better (100) guilty Persons should escape than that one innocent Person should suffer." - Benjamin Franklin.

LET'S all take a deep breath. The Casey Anthony verdict was in all probability a miscarriage of justice. But to condemn our system of justice as some have done is absurd.

Despite a handful of high-profile cases such as Michael Jackson, O.J. and Robert Blake, the courts heed Franklin's words and get it right most of the time. And God help us if we resort to prosecution by punditry.

Which brings us to one of the most unfortunate aspects of the Anthony trial.

It will assuredly encourage more mindless and prejudicial chatter from cable TV's assorted talking heads who fancy themselves judge, jury and executioner.

Anthony will continue to be their bete noire for months, maybe years.

After that, there will be another missing child, another Tot Mom or Octomom, another tawdry murder case out there somewhere to exploit.

To be sure, I stand ready to defend their right to babble. The First Amendment guarantees free expression even from people you loathe.

But there is something fundamentally disturbing about the likes of Nancy Grace, the Headline News personality who, convinced of Anthony's guilt before her daughter's body was even discovered, used her bully pulpit to endlessly paint the defendant as an affront to motherhood and human decency.

No trial was necessary in Grace's view.

No balanced reporting here. Casey Anthony was guilty from Day One.

This was not new territory for Grace. She took a vehemently pro-prosecution stance against three Duke University lacrosse players accused of rape in a high-profile case. When they were acquitted and the district attorney disbarred, she was absent from her show and a substitute anchor announced the decision.

Grace's philosophy is shaped by the fact that she is a former prosecutor. I've never met a prosecutor in my professional career who wasn't filled with the spirit of indignant righteousness.

Take a zealous prosecutor, give her a television show and the freedom to hound a defendant without the restrictions of due process, and you have Nancy Grace, an avenging angel wrapped in the flag of truth, or at least her version of it.

That's not just my opinion. According to published accounts and court opinions, the Supreme Court of Georgia several times condemned Grace's conduct as a prosecutor. First, in a 1994 heroin trafficking case, Bell v. State, the court declared a mistrial, saying that Grace had "exceeded the wide latitude of closing argument" by drawing comparisons to unrelated murder and rape cases.

In 1997, the court was more severe, overturning the murder-arson conviction of businessman W. W. Carr in the death of his wife. While the court said its reversal was not due to her transgressions, since the case had turned primarily on circumstantial evidence, it nevertheless concluded "the conduct of the prosecuting attorney in this case demonstrated her disregard of the notions of due process and fairness, and was inexcusable."

Despite upholding the conviction she sought, a panel of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals wrote in a 2005 opinion that Grace "played fast and loose" with her ethical duties and failed to "fulfill her responsibilities" as a prosecutor in the 1990 triple murder trial of Herbert Connell Stephens. The court agreed that it was "difficult to conclude that Grace did not knowingly use ... (apparently false) testimony" from a detective that there were no other suspects, despite the existence of outstanding arrest warrants for other men.

And Grace's view of the Anthony defense? "They will do and say anything," she sniffed.

The ratings for Headline News have soared as a result of Grace's trial coverage.

According to Dylan Stableford, the media writer for Yahoo News, Grace's network has benefited greatly from its take on the trial. The network beat MSNBC in total viewers in June, Stableford reports, averaging 982,000 in prime time, an increase of 86 percent.

So she will live to rant again and is well on her way to becoming a media star, despite her failure to have Casey Anthony put to death.

I see "Dancing With the Stars" in her future. Or maybe even an appearance in the Rose Parade.

Imagine her popularity if she came down on the right side of a verdict.