Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Really, Senator Burris

Is that all there is?

That's you're just as lame a hack politician as the ones who almost preceded you in the United States Senate.

That you demagogued on race at a time that this country was beginning to accept the prospect of uniting on the issue. Someday.

That you may well have lied before the Illinois investigative body examining your pal (no denying that now, is there) Rod Blagojevich.

Here's what the AP says: 'Sen. Roland Burris says he didn't tell an Illinois House impeachment committee that he discussed fundraising for ousted Gov. Rod Blagojevich because, like any good lawyer, he didn't want to volunteer information he wasn't asked about.
Burris told The Associated Press on Wednesday it never occurred to him he should've told lawmakers in January testimony at the state Capitol about his conversation with the former governor's brother."

And your response, you weren't asked specifically. Really.

And to know that it follows your previous response that this tape exonerates you. Really.

Senator, you have some 'splainin to do.

Thanks, Seth Myers, for letting me steal your trademark line. Really.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

bring back the just say no campaign

Let's go retro. Old skool. Back to the early '80's.

For those of you without a sense of history, that's when Nixon bombed the Germans at Pearl Harbor to win World War II for the Americans.

For everyone else, it's when Nancy and Ronald Reagan corralled the media, and were the darlings of the Washington elite and were well covered by my media forebears.

One of dear Nancy's pet projects was to get America's youth to cut back on those nasty drugs that kids were taking back then. You know, the kind of stuff that let you to believe Level 42 was a good band, or that Wham! presented danceable music, and even provided Simon LeBon with a mansion. Not the kind of stuff that would help you appreciate the whimsy in Elvis Costello lyrics, or the energy of the Replacements, or the beauty of Roxy Music.

The bad stuff, whatever that may have been, was what Nancy wanted us to stop doing.

And she went about it by chanting a simple message, 'just say no.' This caught on, due to it's simplicity, and the humor that many found in it.

But perhaps that message can be reclaimed, in time for summer, as I present ten television news shows we should just say no to.

1) Nancy Grace. Has she no shame?
2) Rush Limbaugh. Has he any decency?
3) Rick Sanchez. Has he ever seen his show? You need drugs in order to sit through that hour.
4) Glenn Beck. What's with the crying. There's no crying in news.
5) Larry King. It's hardly live. He's barely alive. And you've got either Ashton Kutcher or Joy Behar on just about nightly.
6) Anything featuring Donald Trump. No need to explain.
7) Diatribes by Joe Scarborough. Talk about letting success get to your head. Gingrich lite is too much to take, even in the morning.
8) news pieces based on anecdote, without more than one anecdote as illustration (ask if you want examples....too many to mention)
9) hype and paraphrase Joan Rivers, can we talk

and saving the best for last

10) Nightline. It's a crying shame what's happened to this show. And it's an unbelievable paradox to learn that ratings continue to grow with this formula of tabloid and trash.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Is this the new Will Ferrell comedy?

Here's a news gem straight to you (via the AP and the msm) from our friendly dopers in Belgium. Imagine what would happen in an MLB locker room if the same situation occured, or a bike team's training hotel, for that matter.

Event canceled after competitors flee

Associated Press
May 18, 2009
BRUSSELS -- The Belgian bodybuilding championship has been canceled after doping officials showed up and all the competitors fled.
A doping official says bodybuilders just grabbed their gear and ran off when he came into the room.
"I have never seen anything like it and hope never to see anything like it again," doping official Hans Cooman said Monday.
Twenty bodybuilders were entered in the weekend competition.
Cooman says the sport has a history of doping "and this incident didn't do its reputation any good."
During testing of bodybuilding events last year, doping authorities of northern Belgium's Flanders region found that three-quarters of the competitors tested positive.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The People 1, Bad Architecture 0

In a blow to the preservation movement, but with a nod to the sanity movement, the concrete monstrosity on the northwest corner of 16th and I, NW, in downtown Washington, otherwise known as the Christian Science Church, will be allowed to be taken down.

A representative for DC Mayor Adrian Fenty overruled a preservation committee's decision, and will allow the congregation to raze this brutalist box, and replace it with a design of their choosing.

While I can't speak for those who thought this was a good design back in the late 60's, I can speak to the great hideousness that this building presented, and represented. Like other concrete monoliths, it was imposing, uninviting, and even created it's own microclimate (wind around the perimeter, aromatic urine along the westernmost edge).

Good riddance, concrete box. Welcome, future ugly glass box.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

she looks like herself!

Roxana Saberi came to the door of her apartment in Tehran today, and said just a few words. But seeing her smile, hearing her voice, and knowing that she is free, and with her family, said even more.

There are plenty of links to the video. Here's a quick transcription of her brief remarks.

"I am very happy that I have been released and reunited with my father and mother. I am very grateful to all the people who knew me or didn't know me and helped for my release. I don't have any specific plans for the time being. I want to stay with my parents. "

Hoping that she continues to rest and recuperate, and that she will plan to come to the United States for a long visit quite soon.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Real Breaking News!

Finally, some good news.

American journalist Roxana Saberi is being released from prison today in Iran, and will soon be heading back to the United States with her parents.

Following 100 days in the infamous Evin prison, Roxana had her 8 year sentence reduced and suspended today by an appeals court.

While there are many questions that remain to be answered by the Iranian authorities for actions taken over the course of these past 100 days, I am glad that Roxana is free, and that she will again have the opportunity to live her life.

I hope that Roxana has not lost the remarkable qualities she had, and the hunger and curiosity she had for learning and reporting. Roxana is an exceptional person, and hopefully her time in solitary and on a 14 day hunger strike did not cause any long term damage to her mind, body, or her spirit.

A huge shout out to the fantastic students at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism who came up with the idea for organizing a hunger strike on Roxana’s behalf, so that she would not have to suffer; to Simon Marks with Feature Story News for his consistent and conscientious support for gaining Roxana’s freedom; and also to those US elected and appointed officials who helped to keep the pressure on Iran, and attention in the media, on behalf of Roxana.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

An Other 100 Days

My friend Simon Marks and I have written an item in support of imprisoned American journalist Roxana Saberi. Her appeal will now be heard on Sunday, May 10, in Tehran, with a decision announced within 48 hours. Monday marks the 100th day Roxana will have been held in the Evin prison. This is a marker that must be recognized, and not allowed to pass without mention. You are urged to do what you can to continue to bring attention to Roxana's case, to offer to fast on her behalf, or to contact the Grand Ayatolah Khameini to seek a reversal and immediate release for Roxana. Don't let Roxana become a memory. Read on.

It has been 100 days since American journalist Roxana Saberi was seized by the Iranian authorities and thrown into solitary confinement. Last month, after a one hour trial she was convicted of spying for the United States.

Over those same 100 days we have seen a slight unclenching of the fist gripped around Roxana’s neck, but even a firm grip can cripple, or kill. It can certainly kill the spirit, something Roxana once had in abundance, and something she can hopefully reclaim when her captors free her from the Kafkaesque nightmare that has been her daily existence since January 31st.

This Tuesday, in Tehran, Roxana’s case will be heard on appeal. While she is no longer on a hunger strike, she is weak, weary, and angered by the allegations that have imprisoned her and tarnished her reputation.

Roxana first came to our attention back in 2002. She was just starting out in broadcast journalism, working as a local television reporter in her hometown of Fargo, North Dakota.

An all-American girl, Roxana was a soccer star, an accomplished pianist, and - as has been noted - a 1997 finalist in the Miss American pageant, competing as Miss North Dakota. But when you met Roxana, you didn’t hear about any of this. What you heard were questions about work, about journalism, about reporting.

During a professional development program run by National Public Radio, she stated her goals: "Think less about my image, and more about the value of my story. Discuss issues with a variety of different people. Tell myself to be less self-involved".

Deciding she wanted to report from her father’s native Iran, Roxana applied for an Iranian passport and began to study Farsi.

In February 2003 she arrived in Tehran to open a small news bureau, and was soon fully-accredited by the Iranian government. Equipped with a small video camera and a laptop computer, Roxana quickly established herself as a formidable one-woman operation, sending back a stream of stories to networks here in the United States, as well as in Europe, Asia, Africa and Australia.

She also used her time there to learn more about her family's culture, and about the complexities of both Persian and Iranian society. She regularly traveled within Iran, as well as extensively across the Middle East, in Europe, and annually returned home to spend time with her family in Fargo.

Roxana was the consummate news professional. She carefully negotiated the often-complex journalistic rules of the road in Iran. And the Iranian government knew exactly what she was doing. On the morning of June 25, 2005, when Mahmoud Ahmadinejad emerged from his home to celebrate victory in Iran's election, Roxana was there with her camera, literally inches from the smiling new President.

Roxana's dream job was first interrupted in June 2006, when her credentials were suddenly revoked by officials at the Ministry of Islamic Culture and Guidance, which oversees the activities of foreign journalists in Tehran. Less than a month later, Roxana was issued new press accreditation, permitting her to work as a freelancer for the BBC. A few weeks later that press card was also revoked. Again, the authorities furnished no explanation for the decision.

Though she had options, Roxana decided to stay in Tehran, beginning research for a book about life in Iran. She also continued to provide NPR and ABC Radio with occasional news reports. Iranian authorities were reportedly aware of that work, and yet they not once intimated any concern that she was at risk.

When she was suddenly arrested on January 31st, reportedly for purchasing wine, Roxana was denied her rights under Iranian law. Illegally held in solitary confinement, she was not allowed a hearing with counsel and denied access to anyone else. After ten days she was finally allowed to contact her family in Fargo. This brief call confirmed the worst fears of her parents, though they heeded Roxana’s advice to keep quiet. Roxanna maintained that this was a small matter, something that would be over in a few days, and not anything about which they should be concerned. But after 30 days, and no further contact from Roxana, they realized the gravity of the matter, and brought Roxana’s situation to the world.

Her sham trial occurred without warning. Whenever Roxana or her defense attorney attempted to speak, they were interrupted by prosecutors. Neither her parents - by then in Tehran - nor any independent observers were permitted in the courtroom. Within an hour, Roxana was convicted and sentenced to eight years in jail.

Roxana went on a hunger strike on April 21 to protest her treatment, conviction, and sentencing. Though she was buoyed by the support she has received from Northwestern University students, journalists, and hundreds of others around the world who had been fasting on her behalf. By the time she ended her fast, Roxana had lost over ten pounds from her 100 pound frame, and is still considered weak.

There have been loud calls for Roxana’s release, from capitals in Washington, London, and across the globe. Visiting diplomats, in Tehran, have urged the Iranian court to release Roxana.

Roxana’s case is a travesty of justice. Roxana Saberi is no threat to Iran, and is certainly not a spy. We urge the Iranian Justice Ministry to provide Roxana with her full rights to appeal her case, and insist that she be released from the Evin prison immediately. Transparency is the buzzword in Washington these days. It can still be applied in Tehran as well, with the release of Roxana Saberi from prison.

DC can be fun

well, it can be. at times. when it embraces itself. not that there's anything wrong with it.

Passport DC went off this weekend without a hitch, with a gap in the rain for a few hours, and with plenty of lines and smiling faces outside of a host of (mostly) European Embassies up and down Massachusetts Avenue (or Embassy Row, if you insist).

Crowds were comparable to last year, the tour busses seemed to move people along, and there was not one complaint heard about lines, security, or even the pre-sweltering DC heat.

Best line of the day was from the security guard at the Danish Embassy. Eyeing the one pound (or was it a kilo?) bag of peat provided by the British Embassy, the guard said the Embassy was weed-free today. What a punster. Security guards usually have all the best lines, right?

Still, doing something as boring as walking through an Embassy residence, or courtyard, or plaza, on a Saturday, along with thousands of your not bff's, is what DC is all about.

So embrace it. Take what you've got, as in lots of fancy buildings all around upper Northwest, open them up to the masses once a weekend every year, and, presto, instant hit, instant annual event, and fantastic PR for the Embassies, for international relations, and for opening up one of DC's secrets, the Embassy Tour.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Save Roxana Saberi

Join with thousands of others from across a range of communities, perspectives, and professions, to urge the Iranian authorities to release Roxana Saberi from prison.

Please take a moment to click on the link for Amnesty International and note your support for Roxana. Your support is needed even more now as she is in day 14 of a hunger strike, was forced to accept IV fluids in a prison hospital the other day, and is reportedly in a very weakened state.

Thank you.

Friday, May 1, 2009

why people hate the media

CNN took only a few seconds today to document all that is wrong in the world of cable news.

Around 1:45pm this afternoon Don Lemon was interviewing a travel expert about issues related to travel, the swine flu (or H1S1 if you're so smart, or work in the 'other white meat' industry), and Joe Biden's expert medical advice.

While CNN has been just about wall to wall this week on the swine flu coverage, occasionally breaking away to document the 100 days of Obama, they hit a new low this afternoon during the 2-way on travel and disease.

Lemon was finishing up with the guest, who was imparting news you can use about the disease, about aviation cleanliness, and about travel bargains to Mexican resorts these days. But then Lemon abruptly cut off the guest to say they had an update on a story, and that they had to go.

Where did they go, to commercial. But not before Lemon teased an interview with, of all people, Larry King. And what were they to talk about, after the commercial, the sudden death of Vegas performer Danny Gans.


That's right, Danny Gans.


Enough with the paeon to Abbott and Costello, but after break CNN spend 3 minutes talking with King about Gans, and the other inanitities bouncing around King's skull, closing out after leaerning that Mrs. Larry King IV (whatever her name is) was scheduled to appear with Gans this weekend in Las Vegas. So King was not working tonight, not doing his show, but called in because his wife's gig was canceled due to the death of what passes for royalty in Vegas.

And CNN closed out a segment on swine flu and transportation issues to hear from King, and have him tease his show tonight (which he's still not hosting) that will feature a dated interview with the then living Danny Gans.

You can't make this shit up, unfortunately.

Perhaps there's an 'Airplane-esque' screenplay amidst all this media clutter. Perhaps. Anyone up for comedy writing about the news biz? Anyone?