Tuesday, October 29, 2013



Perhaps the most damaging image in the whole sad NY Times piece on President Obama’s “policy process” on Syria,

which I wrote about a few days ago,

was this one: “Even as the debate about arming the rebels took on a new urgency, Mr. Obama rarely voiced strong opinions during senior staff meetings. But current and former officials said his body language was telling: he often appeared impatient or disengaged while listening to the debate, sometimes scrolling through messages on his BlackBerry or slouching and chewing gum.”  

This portrait of ostentatious Presidential disengagement confirms an earlier assessment of Mr. Obama by his long-time friend and White House den mother, Valerie Jarrett, who told Obama biographer David Remnick, “He’s been bored to death his whole life. He’s just too talented to do what ordinary people do.”

As scouts like to say of the latest athletic phenomenon, “Talent without discipline is worth nothing.”

A President who advertises his boredom during a discussion among this top advisors or an issue as serious as Syria is the embodiment of that principle.

First, let’s deal with boredom itself.  Boredom is an existential condition; not something imposed on the talented by boring people or boring subjects.  Boredom is a failure to engage.  For a President whose time is not only very valuable, but completely his own, to be “bored,” to “tune out” of, rather than direct or simply end an unproductive meeting is not just rude, but wasteful and irresponsible.

I’d give kudos to the President for rejecting, however passively, American military intervention in Syria.  But a national leader should do more than hunker down until the stupidities of his staff blow over.  He’s got better things to do, and guarding his time is one of the President’s basic responsibilities.

But Barack Obama is not a President anxious to assume responsibilities.  We saw that from the get-go when Mr. Obama deferred to Congress the responsibility for health reform.  What may have started out looking like a pragmatic political strategy, ended up looking like definition of character.  The Affordable Care Act did pass, and that’s probably a good thing, but a little Presidential vision and leadership might have made it a better thing. 

Now, “the President’s signature first-term accomplishment” is in trouble of its own making and Mr. Obama says, “Nobody is more frustrated by that than I am.” 

Sorry, Boss, but “frustrated” doesn’t cut it.  Here’s the word you were not searching for: “responsible.”

Say it after me, “I, President Barack Obama sit at the desk where the buck stops.  I am the head of this government, and when it fails as egregiously as it has on ACA, I am responsible.”

And, Sir, it gets even harder after that.  After you accept responsibility, you apologize to the nation and explain why it will be worth their while to be patient.

It seems the President is afraid, if he ‘fesses up, he’ll lose the American people.  But they can already see the egg all over his face.  The only way to keep their respect is to admit you failed, and to demonstrate you’re not just “frustrated,” but distressed, not for yourself, but for them, the American people you have let down. 

Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius may be a fine person, but she let you and us down.  Like the President, the Secretary is also responsible for this mess, and she must be held accountable.  By her employer. 

Believe me; the American public is already making judgments. 

Must she be fired?  I don’t think so, but she and the public should be told her job is on the line. I believe she can accept the challenge, and I certainly believe ACA can and will be saved.  But in case you’ve forgotten, you appointed Gov. Sibelius, and therefore you are – here’s that word again – responsible for her performance.  You know the Democrat who runs to succeed you will have to answer for it.

As long as we’re talking responsibility, the cascade of catastrophes at the NSA also belongs to you.  The incredible breakthroughs in surveillance technology are mind-boggling, but appointing and overseeing a team to manage them, to use them wisely, selectively, lawfully and above all, honestly, is one of the most important tasks every President takes on.  When things go bad, he should show he knows it, and propose a plan to make things better. 

This President seems happy to accept the NSA’s assurance that he was never told about spying on allies like the leaders of Germany, Mexico and Brazil.  He shouldn’t be.  He should be mad as Hell if the NSA is telling the truth, or contrite as Hell if it isn’t.  Maybe he was contrite, on the phone to Chancellor Merkel, but she doesn’t pay his salary.  The President should be knowledgeably, specifically, humbly contrite that his runaway spooks not only gathered information from the dependable head of a friendly nation, but that they tracked far too many Americans’ phones, and computers and mined the data, in violation of law and well as common sense.

An embossed official NSA Certificate of Ignorance will not get the President off the hook. What will, is acting like he understands that it’s a major breach of trust for his top National Security agents to take such risks without telling him.  Especially when the risk was so unlikely to produce any significant reward, since targets like Merkel or Rousseff or Calderon can hardly be considered threats to American security. 

DNI James Clapper and NSA chief Keith Alexander should be fired, not allowed to resign, as Gen. Alexander has.  They have betrayed the strategic primacy of the Presidency and have broken the law by frequently lying to their so-called overseers in Congress and the FISA Court.  For the latter, they should be prosecuted.  No President should passively accept their performances.  Doing, saying nothing plays like Mr. Obama excuses his own marginalization and endorses perjury at the highest political and Constitutional levels.

Finally, Mr. Obama has for almost a week now been silently assenting to a serious suggestion that government should effectively repeal the First Amendment.  This shocking idea was broached by NSA Chief Alexander, who said of the revelations of his own, and his Agency’s foolish misjudgments and consistent criminality, "I think it’s wrong that that newspaper reporters have all these documents, … and are selling them and giving them out … We ought to come up with a way of stopping it.”  

If that’s not grounds for immediate, clean-out-your-desk-by-the-end-of-the-day firing, I don’t know what is. No President can accept such an attack on America’s most cherished Constitutional liberty, Freedom of Speech, and no President should employ, in intelligence no less, someone so ignorant of the facts of contemporary reality

Gen. Alexander, reporters are not “selling” secrets, and neither are their whistleblower sources.  They are not spies.  They are giving citizens free, and in a democracy, necessary access to the often embarrassing facts of what their government has been doing and lying about. It is this information reporters provide that allow citizens to judge how their elected officials are measuring up to their responsibilities.  

Staring at the ceiling, thumbing the Presidential Blackberry, acting bored by such fascistic crudities may give Mr. Obama some comfort, but to many of us, it is a signal of sympathy for the Generals, and abandonment of his Constitutional duties.

The President looks amateurish covering his own ass, and anti-democratic trying to bully the people who are covering it professionally.

Thursday, October 24, 2013


I share a communication tonight from me to Politico's fine media writer Dylan Byers, even if it, and this, are shamelessly self-promoting.  Who sez i can't do new media? :)

Hi Dylan,

Your note today on the surveillor surveilled played perfectly into my hands.  Heh heh.

I have been writing a blog:http://davemarashsez.blogspot.com/.

The very first post, from July 9, is perfectly apposite (says I) for today's news. 

It posits that our world is defined by twin realities: personal privacy is dead, and so is government secrecy.  

Between the endless powers, and gluttonous appetite of the NSA, registering and if they choose, penetrating all our once-private communications, virtually everything we say, write or think can be known to the government, and our ubiquitous cellphone and tablet cameras, not to mention digital audio recorders, mean that anything that happens in public view can be publicized globally almost instantaneously via the internet and social media.

This world of observation and digitally distributed blabber works as efficiently for secrets governments once considered private to them, and will continue to be fed as long as governments employ human beings.


Here's that first blogpost...

And here's today's, discussing the NY Times' very recent use of interviews just like the one Mattzie spied out. 

Oh yes, did I have a point?  Yes, please check the blogs out, and if you deem it suitable, put my name on your list of recommended bloggers.

All the best,


The New York Times has devoted a few thousand words of description and analysis of what they call President Obama’s “indecision” about what the US should do in Syria.

Their “close examination… starts with a deeply ambivalent President,” and ends with a once-secret State Department judgment: “We are headed toward our worst case scenario: rebel gains evaporating, the moderate opposition imploding, Assad holding on indefinitely, neighbors endangered, and Iran, Hizbollah, and Iraqi militias taking root.”

Actually, what the Times’ sources, “dozens of current and former members of the administration, foreign diplomats and Congressional officials” describe is a President not so much indecisive as resolute in resisting calls to put what his most warrior-ish advisor, Hillary Clinton called, “American skin in the game.”

It must be noted that the closest the former Secretary of State has ever gotten to the front lines of “the game” of war was her imaginary episode of being “under fire” at an airport in Bosnia.  It must also be said, the biggest swatch of “skin” Mrs. Clinton, and it would seem the Times’ other uniformly anonymous, almost uniformly scornful sources wanted to risk was “arming and training” “the rebels” against the Syrian government of Dictator-President Bashar al-Assad.

Indeed, the conflicting positions among Mr. Obama’s advisors who contributed to this conspiracy of caution range no further than

1)     Who – the Pentagon or the CIA? – should run the arm/train program

2)     Whether the US should train a few dozen, or arm a few thousand Syrians

3)     With or without portable anti-aircraft weapons

4)     Which rebel groups to help, and

5)     When we woulda, coulda, shoulda  done any of the above.

There are 2 things almost everyone seems to agree on.  One is that none of the above options are much good, and the other is the journalists’ iconic irony: “You should have been here yesterday.”

To have had the best chance for any form of American intervention to have produced a good effect, everyone, including me, says, it should have come 2 years ago, in the summer of 2011.  That would have been before the aura of the “Arab Spring” had been mugged by mideastern reality, before the rebellion against the brutal Assad family dynasty had fractured into a dozen mutually-antagonistic paramilitary factions, and before the worst of those militias, the ones devoted to Al Qaeda, or its Islamist fundamentalist goals dominated the more moderate, secular, or western-oriented ones.

But the backers of the “lost chance” theory cannot confidently claim that even early intervention would have created a “nouveau regime” more successful than those produced in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen or Libya.  More American “skin” in those places would not have solved their embedded issues of poverty and illiteracy, national disharmony, religious or sectarian sub-division, tribalism or short-sighted self-interest that currently make all 4 of those Arab states political, economic and cultural sinkholes.  It likely would only have meant more American losses of prestige, blood and treasure.    

That the 2 years since (my and) the anonymians’ “moment of maximum opportunity” have seen a steady worsening of the Syrian situation may increase the nostalgic appeal of interventions aborted, but may also indicate the futility of the proposed “do something” solutions, and the comparative wisdom of Obama’s inaction.  The shift in the balance of power in Syria, back to the entrenched regime and its Shi’ite allies, Hizbullah and Iran, the continued slaughter and displacement of hundreds of thousands of Syrian civilians, and the escalations by Assad into worse and worse uses of chemical weapons, have been terrible to witness.  But they would have been terribly hard, possibly impossible, to reverse.

The bumbling White House process, and the humbling reliance on Vladimir Putin’s Russia that brought things to their present situation, Assad shedding his chemical weapons, probably at the price of being allowed to live and rule for many more days and years, does not mean they represent no improvement over the status quo ante. 

It is hard for anyone, and apparently impossible for the Times, not to smirk at the Administration’s claim that today’s Syria represents,a successful case of coercive diplomacy. Only under the threat of force,” the Administration argument goes, “has Mr. Assad pledged to give up his chemical weapons program. They argue that this might be the best outcome from a stew of bad alternatives.”

The argument the Times prefers, that “decisive action by Washington, [critics] argue, could have bolstered moderate forces battling Mr. Assad’s troops for more than two years, and helped stem the rising toll of civilian dead, blunt the influence of radical Islamist groups among the rebels and perhaps even deter the Syria government from using chemical weapons,” is but an assertion, a theory.

More based on fact, it seems to me, is one of the few attributed assessments in the whole, long Times story: “We need to be realistic about our ability to dictate events in Syria,” said Benjamin J. Rhodes, a deputy national security adviser. “In the absence of any good options, people have lifted up military support for the opposition as a silver bullet, but it has to be seen as a tactic — not a strategy.” 

What may be the scariest aspect to all this is that nowhere in the article, nor in the reported disagreements among such Obama advisors as former and present Secretaries of State Clinton and John  Kerry; former and present CIA directors, Leon Panetta, David Petraeus, Michael Morell and John Brennan, former and present National Security Advisors Tom Donilon and Susan Rice, or UN Ambassador Samantha Power does anyone propose a strategy for Syria or the middle east.

And, other than Ben Rhodes’ quote, the Times makes no mention of this.

But, attached to the article, the Times does have something which speaks volumes.  It is a picture and a caption.  

                Daniel Etter for The New York Times
THE REBEL COMMANDER Gen. Salim Idris, head of the Supreme Military Council of the Syrian opposition.

The head shot of Gen. Salim Idris calls him “The Rebel Commander.”  But the only one who ever made him a General was his former boss, Bashar al-Assad.  And the only ones who made him a “commander” were not fighting in Syria.  Many of them were not even people from the region, but Westerners.  In short, he’s “our commander” more than he’s the rebels’, and the Supreme Military Council he allegedly commands is also hardly inside Syria, but for the most part safely in exile.  Few consider the SMC a particularly important force in the effort to oust the Assad regime.

To suggest that he is a realistic beneficiary of “American skin” is far-fetched.  To state that he is “The” choice is nuts.  Worse, it is false.

To call out Barack Obama for failing to grasp that thin reed, even two years ago is easy to do, but is it worth doing?

And the same could be said for assembling anonymous dissenting voices whose real “game” ain’t in Syria, but in Washington, burning or burnishing present or future Presidencies -- easy to do, but well short of what responsible newspapers do to inform their readers.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013


Recently, 2 serious and stimulating papers have been published looking at the state of journalism, particularly investigative journalism, in the Age of Obama.  Both the collective writers at the TOW Center, who have directly addressed their remarks to the President’s Panel on NSA surveillance issues, and former Washington Post editor Len Downie, in his brilliant essay for The Committee to Protect Journalists (where I was a founding member, a past Chair, and Executive Board member and still serve of the CPJ Advisory Board) consider the impact of Mr. Obama’s unmatched record of aggressive criminal prosecution of suspected whistleblowers, leakers, and the journalists with whom they communicate.

Both are well worth your attention.

Reading them has stimulated me to pose a series of questions, whose answers may well define, not just the future of American journalism, but of American democracy.

1)    In a democracy, do citizens have the right to know everything their government is doing (in their name and with their money)?


2)    Or do governments have a right to keep secrets from citizens?


3)    If the answer to 2) is “Yes,” what should be the limits on what can be kept secret?


4)    Must official secrets be limited to those deemed essential to the security (or just the interests) of the nation and its people?


5)    Who should be empowered to monitor what is to be kept secret, and to make sure the specified limits on secrecy are strictly observed?


6)    Under what rules should these monitors work, and what guarantees of access to secret materials should they have? 


7)    How should their work be made accessible to citizens?


8)    What (in addition to these institutional monitors) is the role of the free press in  reporting on government secrecy and secrets? 


9)    Have press revelations of secrets ever actually damaged national security?


10) Is the public better off for the press’ exposure of government “secrets”?


11) Would the public be worse off if the government had absolute power to protect its self-declared secrets, backed by the threat of criminal or professional sanctions against those who make them public?


12) If the government forecloses secure press access for dissenters or whistleblowers will it leave these “witnesses” no other choice than immediate and total “publication” of dissident information via the internet?


13) Is the government’s and nation’s interest better served by securing access for whistleblowers to journalists, who focus their data-gathering, winnow both data and sources, do further reporting for context and reactions, consult with and solicit comment from government, before presenting and distributing their information, or by sending whistleblowers (with often inchoate, unchecked, information) directly to the global digital audience?


14) How can protections for whistleblowers and journalists be institutionalized to guarantee maximal public access to important information or judgments, without endangering national security?  


15) And what protections should citizens have to protect their privacy, and limit the intrusive powers of government?


Let’s assume the government has access to and registers all digital – phone, internet, and US mail communications.

What problems do those capabilities create?  We’ll seek answers through the journalist’s 5 basic questions: who, what, where, when, why?

Targeting:  Potentially? Worst case? The answers to, “Who can be targeted?” are: WHO? Everyone. WHAT? All communications. WHEN? Whenever. WHERE? Everywhere. WHY? Because government can.

Actually?  We need answers to these questions.


16) WHO?  Whose communication file be opened, examined, and further processed?


17) WHAT? Once a communications file is opened, what kinds of data can be examined?


18) WHEN?  Should investigations be time-limited? For keeping files open? For analyzing what’s in them? For taking action based on collected data?


19) WHY?  Should investigations and analyses be broadly issue-specific,--  to protect national security, to combat major criminal activity, to serve the public interest?


20) Should they be narrowly case-specific, limited to data relating to particular threats or crimes?


21) Should they simply be target-specific?  With what threshold for targets, for secondary targets, for wider examinations based on networks of secondary or  tertiary communicants?


22) Should there a defined threshold for suspected “security threats” or suspected criminal activities to predicate violations of personal communications data?


23) Are simple keywords sufficient predicates for opening, and processing communications data?


24) Who (in government and out?) can know your secrets?


25) What right and mechanism of appeal would citizens have to contest government surveillance of their communications?


I’m sure this list is only the beginning for a discussion of the highest importance.  Please feel invited to join.

Sunday, October 20, 2013


The best teams won.

The World Series will have the perfect set-up to be a classic; it will match up not the hottest or the luckiest, but the best team in each league, the Boston Red Sox and Saint Louis Cardinals.

It gives me no pleasure to report this.  I rooted against the Sawx and the Cards in every series up the playoff ladder.  But truth is truth.  And is that one the grand things about sports, they tell the truth, winners always win, losers (however gallantly or undeservedly) always lose, and the result does sum up the story of the event.

This time, the truth about baseball 2013 is remarkably affirming.  The best teams won for all the right reasons: they had the best front office managers, the best on-field manager and the best mix of very talented players, almost all of whom had years to be proud of.

The second-bests, the losers in the recent League Championship Series, the Detroit Tigers and Los Angeles Dodgers were worthy pretenders.  Their executive managers, field managers, and most of their players had good years and decent post-seasons, but not with the breadth, depth and consistency of the winners.

The teams assembled in Boston and St Louis over the year are great credits to their General Managers, Ben Cherington and John Mozeliak.  Cherington’s makeover of last year’s last-place finishers will be noted in baseball’s history books.

Among Boston’s starting lineup, only Centerfielder Jacoby Ellsbury, Second Baseman Dustin Pedroia, Catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Designated Hitter David Ortiz were inherited.  Third Baseman Will Middlebrooks was moving from a rookie year spent largely in the minors or on the bench to a starting role.  He did OK and is likely to be replaced next year.  In fact, it looks like he was replaced 2 games ago by another of the delightful young talents bursting onto the major league scene, Xander Bogaerts, who already reminds me of Baltimore’s superkid Manny Machado. Tigers’ Shortstop Jose Iglesias came from Cuba to the Red Sox, where, earlier this season, he saved the club while regular SS Steven Drew recovered from an injury.

When Drew got healthy, Iglesias became tradeable (because Bogaerts is already conceded to be Boston’s SS for the next decade.  Lucky Sox.)  Iglesias went to Detroit, where despite a few misplays in the field, he established himself in the Tigers’  just-concluded post-season, as their long-term SS.  Iglesias, who is one of the best fielding shortstops to show up in years, is 23; Bogaerts just turned 21.  In a 3-team maneuver, Boston got for Iglesias, the Chicago Whites Sox pitcher Jake Peavy, who moved into the team’s regular pitching rotation, and pitched consistently well, before having a nightmare outing against the Tigers.  Peavy had great stuff, but no command at all, issuing a bunch of walks – very unusual for him – and watching several pitches move into dangerous hitters’ zones.

The Peavy move was the capstone on Cherington’s year of Great Acquisitions.

He had already changed the batting order considerably by adding free agents outfielders Shane Victorino and Jonny Gomes, back-up catcher David Ross, and another catcher who would be re-routed to First Base, Mike Napoli and a backup for him, Mike Carp.  Outfielder Daniel Nava who had for years been a pogo-stick that popped up to Boston and down to minor-league Pawtucket was established as the spare.  And they all prospered.

Pedroia fought through injuries, and prevailed.  Ellsbury lost weeks to injury, but came back strong.  The 2 First baseman had among the best years of their careers, enjoying the fabled Fenway Effect (an antique, supremely eccentric playing field, statistically well-established as a “hitter’s park.”).  All the rest played up to who they are, which in the cases of Victorino, Gomes, and Ross meant, not only solid, if middling talents tucked inside tough, serious, focused professional ballplayer bodies, but gregarious spirits, welcomed and appreciated in the clubhouse of every one of the several teams each had played for. 

They helped heal a team which last year had been a study in fragmentation, manager Bobby Valentine at odds with many of the players, and coaches, and among the players themselves, cliques and backbiting seemed to divide pitchers from field players, this one from that one.  It was ugly, and so was the won-lost record.

This year, under manager John Farrell, the gregarious newcomers and proud Red Sox lifers grew together.  They grew beards, many of them, funny beards.  They laughed at them, tugged at them, knitted together around them.

And they remembered how to play baseball.  How take pitches to expose what was being thrown and wear the pitcher out; how to advance and score baserunners, with or without actual basehits; how to string together walks and singles and “keep the line moving” without the traditional Red Sox crop of home runs.  Over the last 20 years, the 2013 team would rank #11 in Home Runs, but #8 in runs scored. 

On the pitching side, they survived.  Their best starter, Clay Buchholtz was hurt for months.  Their big pre-season addition Ryan Dempster was mediocre, and in the bullpen their first 2 closers, Joel Hanrahan and Andrew Bailey were lost for most of the season.  But manager Farrell, a former big league starter and pitching coach, and his new pitching Coach Juan Nieves found answers.  Big lefty Felix Doubront proved a serviceable starter, and then Cherington brought in Peavy, and with a healthy Buchholtz, and thriving veterans John Lester and John Lackey near their career peaks, the rotation got good.  The bullpen got just as good, especially as Junichi Tazawa and Koji Uehara took over the 8th and 9th inning responsibilities.  Uehara always pitched well in Baltimore and Texas, and I always thought I liked him even better than his managers did.  His great half-season in Boston rang every told ya so chime in my body.

Like their hitters, the Red Sox pitchers didn’t overwhelm you, but they consistently out-command you, out-think and out-execute you.  Add it up, and the truth is Boston won more games than any team in its league this year as well as both its playoff series.  They were the best team.

So were the Cardinals, also tops in their league in wins in-season, and playoff victories post-season.  While Ben Cherington radically rebuilt his Sox, John Mozeliak just perfected an already-productive lineup. 

When, standout First Baseman Allen Craig lost 6 weeks to injury, Matt Adams stepped right in and supplied more power, if a lower batting average than Craig.  Second Baseman Matt Carpenter blossomed into one of the best players in the game, breaking team records held by the sainted Stan (the Man) Musial.  SS Pete Kozma, of whom little was expected when he was rushed in from the minors where he was considered a marginal prospect, to fill in for injured Rafael Furcal late last year, has continued to surprise by producing few surprises, good solid defense and barely acceptable offense (although he did produce at crucial moments), enough to keep the pot boiling.  At third, David Freese played hurt all year and it showed.  But he too, performed best when needed most, and the rest of the team more than covered for his less-than-his-best play.  The outfield features the superb glove of John Jay in Center, and the power bats of Matt Holliday and Carlos Beltran in Left and Right.  Both Holliday and Beltran excelled in the playoffs.  Beltran is notorious for doing that.

Of all the players mishandled in recent years by the miserable NY Mets, none can compare, in talent and undeserved abuse, to Beltran.  Rushed back from serious injury, Carlos was often ripped, sometimes by anonymous mice from his own front office, in the tabloids’ back pages.  But, he was well-liked and completely respected by his teammates in the clubhouse.  Even when they were left bereft the Mets rank and file celebrated Beltran’s liberation when the Mets traded him to the Giants, from whom he went to the Cardinals..

The key to the Cardinals is their Catcher Yadier Molina.  The only question about this offensive and defensive standout is whether he is the best catcher in the game or the best player in the game.  The youngest, and by far the best, of 3 major league catching brothers, Molina’s arrival was the reason why his manager Mike Matheny, his predecessor as Cardinals backstop, was traded away from St Louis.

Like the Sox, the Cards play smart, consistent, disciplined baseball.  More explosive across the lineup than the Red Sox, they also excel at “small ball.”  They all, like Molina, reflect Matheny’s influence.

Probably not coincidentally, the area of greatest improvement in the Cardinals over Matheny’s 2 year tenure is pitching.  Here, like the Sox, the Cards lost their ace, Chris Carpenter, but not for months, for the whole season.  They also saw their projected 5th starter Jaime Garcia founder.  But luckily Adam Wainwright returned after an injury-ruined 2012 to step in as ace, veteran Lance Lynn performed well, and 2 rookies Joe Kelly and Shelby Miller did even better.  Then, in mid-September, the Cardinals unleashed their 2102 first draft pick Michael Wacha, and from that moment to this one, he’s been the best pitcher in baseball.

In the bullpen, again like the Red Sox, the Cardinals lost their closer, saw his replacement falter and wound up using a stable of rookie or almost-rookie studs whose 95-100 mph stuff has consistently snuffed their opponents.  Kevin Siegrist, Carlos Martinez and Trevor Rosenthal have given Cardinals’ opponents only 6 innings to get all their scoring done.  From the 7th on, fuggedabouddit.

The two managers, and they should be (notwithstanding several other worthy claimants) the Managers of the Year, share several salient characteristics.

Both were players.  Neither were stars (although Matheny had a stellar “inside” reputation for defense and working with pitchers).  Both speak softly and carefully to the media, but each is reputed for complete control of their rosters.  Both have the same extra motivation to succeed.  Each saw his playing career prematurely ended by injury.

Farrell was a better than average starter for the Indians when he tore an elbow.  He hung on after missing 2 years, to play 3 more, but you and he don’t want to talk about the results.  He was just 33 when he retired.

Matheny was just a year older, an established starter at St Louis and then San Francisco, when a series of foul balls off his mask left him with post-concussion syndrome.  After most of a year on the disabled list, he, too, quickly retired, and without even a year of fallow, or training, or build-up, he was hired by the Cardinals to replace the certain Hall of Fame manager, Tony LaRussa.  His team last year lost in the League Championship Series, 4 games to 3, losing the last 3 in a row.  This year, so far, they’ve won it all, and will probably be favored over the Red Sox.

The teams first game is on Wednesday.  The time off will be good for the pitching staffs and will raise a great question; should the Cardinals open with their veteran ace, and reliable post-season standout Wainwright, or the kid Wacha who is hotter than a Hatch Green Chile? 

I’m pretty sure LaRussa would go with the vet, only slightly less sure about Matheny.  My guess is Lester and Buchholtz will start the first 2 for Boston.

The Cardinals play in a much bigger park than Fenway, and hit fewer home runs.  But doubles?  This team has 9 players with at least 20 2-baggers, 8 with 25 or more…Carpenter and Molina have 99 between ‘em, while Holiday, Craig and Beltran share 90 more.  Look for them to play “wall ball” off Fenway’s “Green Monster” high and shallow behind left field. If they do, the Sox will be hurting.

Boston likes to run.  Yadier Molina is one of the best at stopping stealing.  My guess is, he’ll be tested, and will do fine.

Don’t count out Boston.  This team of bearded characters (and yes, damn right, mine was the first beard in network TV news and sports!!) has character, way beyond the beards and have proved all year, they are winners.  Only the Cardinals deserve the chance to apply a different label.

And speaking of just deserts, the Red Sox and Cardinals have among the most engaged, engaging, knowledgeable, emotional fan bases in baseball.  The crowd cutaways, which can be so distracting, will likely be very entertaining in both Fenway and New Busch Stadium.

 I don’t love either team, but I have to love this Series.  And that, like the eventual outcome, is the truth.





Saturday, October 19, 2013


            It started in 1980 with a manic idealist’s most idealistic dream, CNN, the Cable News Network, as conceived by Ted Turner, would be the global television news channel which would bring to the world, if not peace and harmony, civility and as he titled his made-for-TV, almost-Olympic games, Goodwill.   CNN was meant to change the world, to a place which had no “foreign” countries, and it did and it didn’t.

Turner’s CNN used traditional journalistic values and the latest communications and video technology to show the people of the world the reality, in particular and in general, they live in.

            A shambolic piece in the Washington Post by Henry Farrell, an associate professor of political science and international affairs at George Washington University, somehow never mentions Turner in his analysis of the “big news for journalism,” that eBay founder Pierre Omidyar is jumping into the news business.  Omidyar has hinted he’s ready to match the $250 million Jeff Bezos paid for the Post to fund his own new venture into news on the internet.

            The money alone has Professor Farrell certain it will be “a serious journalistic enterprise.  Capital of USD $250 million can hire some very good people.

Perhaps.  But, also perhaps Farrell has never heard of Rupert Murdoch, who started Sky News in the UK in 1989, and has seen his huge investments into video journalism turn into profits and power, but not, at least where his Fox News is concerned, into a serious journalistic enterprise.”

But Fox News has been a dead serious expression of Murdoch’s unbridled, “robber baron” capitalist values, and it has been more successful, or at least more sustained, in selling Murdoch’s POV than the one-time Chicken Noodle News has been for one-worlder Ted’s. 

Then there is the also Farrell-ignored Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa, the founder of Al Jazeera Arabic in 1996. The Emir’s investment has not yet turned a profit, but it has greatly magnified his power and influence, and without doubt has transformed (if painfully incompletely) the politics of the Arabic speaking world.

These guys, like Bezos and Omidyar are avatars of the Age of the Super-Rich, Millennial Media Moguls, phenomena you would think would be of interest to an academic who “works on international and comparative political economy.”

Apparently not, although in Omidyar’s case Farrell jumps directly from a promised investment to a series of unsupported conclusions about what it will produce.  First, he asserts that Omidyar’s great wealth will free him from “the kinds of political relationships that most newspapers are embedded in.”

Farrell deduces this from the E-Bay guy’s anti-establishmentarian first 3 hires: investigative reporters Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras, of the ongoing Edward Snowden, NSA revelations, and Jeremy Scahill, whose world-class reporting has ranged from Serbia and Iraq, to North Carolina and the Blackwater military contracting company he shamed into Bogus Corporate Name Protection Program.

The trio represent a great start but –.  Bill Paley, quite the fabulously rich media man of his day, hired his most famous CBS radio and TV newsman Edward R. Murrow for journalistic reasons, and tossed him aside over politics.

And, for all Farrell’s cheese-paring quotations from former NY Times editors Bill Keller and Max Frankel, gaming political pressure to kill stories down to, “You win some, you lose some,” and his hints that Wikileaks’ Julian Assange found working with mainstream news organs to be “difficult,” those “kinds of political relationships” did not prevent the Times from publishing The Pentagon Papers or James Risen’s more recent explorations of high-tech domestic spying by the NSA and international covert actions by the CIA.

 Nor has Greenwald ever complained that editors at The Guardian, under enormous political pressure in London, hurt his Snowden journalism.  Even he and Poitras and the team from the Post have all agreed that government deserves both notice of and an opportunity to respond to Snowden’s revelations, and that some secrets should stay secret.  This has not kept them from doing great work alerting the public to the security services’ penetrations of privacy and their lies about them.  Farrell’s insinuations to the contrary are inflated or simply false.

 Of all the telling stupidities in the Farrell article, none of them can top this: he doesn’t even get what the NSA stories are all about.

Snowden,” he says, “has revealed [no] truly surprising and damaging information.  European and South American governments already knew that the U.S. was spying on them. China was certainly aware that U.S. agencies were trying to hack into its systems.”

Henry, the lead never was, “the NSA spies on other countries.”  It was, despite legal constraints and public denials, “The NSA spies on you,” on us, on Americans by the dozens and hundreds, and potentially, hundreds of millions!!!

Students of George Washington University, Rise Up!! Get out those pitchforks and torches!!  Well, no, not that, but golly, … it’s when the Professor gets to the heart of his lecture, the part he condescendingly cues for you, “(but bear with me — our argument is a little complicated), that his remarkable ignorance really shines..

What Dr. Farrell really wants to talk about is what he says journalism is all about: “Established newspapers like the New York Times, The Washington Post and the Financial Times play a crucial sociological role in deciding which information is important and trustworthy, and which is not. When one of these newspapers publishes information, it is legitimated as knowledge — which people are not only more likely to take seriously themselves, but may have to take seriously, because they know that other people are taking it seriously.”

Bzzzt.  Bzzzzt.  Bzzzzzzt.  Hello Professor Farrell, it’s 2013.  You know, the Twenty First Century, and the world no longer gets its news, its information, from the newspapers.  They no longer define what is credible and important.  But the ever-more-dominant contemporary sources like TV news do not appear on Farrell’s radar.  Neither do the already-active internet news and information distributors.  Yikes!

The process of selection of “what matters” has not only spread across media, it has spread across the globe.  Millions of people get their info from China’s CCTV, and Russia’s RT, even Iran’s Press TV, not to mention global platforms like YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Weibo.  Oh yes, and there are John Stewart and Steven Colbert and a string of daring political comics from Russia and Kyrgyzstan to Egypt, Syria and Saudi Arabia (check ‘em out on YouTube while they last).

And what they refine information into is not “knowledge.”  It is “common knowledge” or “conventional wisdom,” neither of which is the same thing as knowledge, which is something tested by experience and evidence.

Also, if you’re gonna profess on “knowledge,” you might want to consider what’s new and different about how it is acquired today.  Most people today see information on screens, not pages, from video, not from text. This helps account for the instantaneous global spread of facts and ideas. 

From these disparate, dispersed sources, people today often gather “evidence” on their own.  They hunt down internet sites with their own two to 10 fingers; they literally see the video with their own eyes, and thus, they tend trust their judgments and conclusions more deeply than those validated by the professional reporters, editors and presenters of the brand-name media.  They might call what they derive “knowledge,” but often it is mere supposition. It is not helpful to confuse the two, but it absolutely necessary to note that the “common knowledge” conferred by mainstream media often feels pallid compared to the analysis of internet-derived video and text assembled at home.

What would be “big journalistic news” would be a real assimilation of the deep investigative reporting of people like Greenwald, Poitras and Scahill, along with the shorter-turnaround observations of both professional reporters and editors and the millions of “citizen reporters” who are both literally and immediately “on the scene” with their cellphone and video recorders.  Hopefully, this could restore the working consensus of “common knowledge” from which informed judgment, real “knowledge,” proceeds. It sounds like that may be what Pierre Omidyar has in mind. 

But, with all due respect to those 3 remarkably admirable journalists, achieving that will take more than they can deliver.  It will require an editorial infrastructure of old-fashioned researchers, reporters and editors, combined with new-fangled outreach and collation of visual information “from the ground.”

What Omidyar and his colleagues will build will not be especially new.  News media, old or new, still depend on direct observation, contextual knowledge, and presentational production.  What is new is this: the sources journalists have always depended upon now operate long-distance, in real time, and their testimony, which still must be collated and evaluated and ordered can be not just self-asserted, but self-published.  Thus the inherent questions sources raise, of accuracy and balance, context and value are both more difficult to define, and more immediate in their impact than ever before. 

And all the slipperiness of endless dispersion and often-unknowable dependability slides to the receiving end as well.  Today’s information consumers can seek out and assemble their own dossiers on stories they care about, forcing every  news product, every news producer or distributor to compete for credibility as never before.

It’s an incredible multi-media, global competition Pierre Omidyar and his staff will be jumping into.  Let’s wish them luck, and figure the questions of how true he will be to the intellectual honesty and editorial independence of his people and his platform will be answered for all to see.

And as for Henry Farrell, here’s how he closes his piece: “If governments start to lose control over public knowledge in the information age, it won’t be because information “wants to be free.” It’ll be because of the creation of new ventures like this that create public knowledge without adhering to the old rules about how government has a voice in deciding what gets published and what doesn’t.”

Uh, Professor?  There ain’t no “if” here. 

Governments have already lost control over public knowledge precisely because information is free.

 Ventures like this one exist in a world of hundreds, if not millions of competing voices supplying what each calls information, which is why the old rules of government deciding what gets published are as dead as a doornail.  If they can stop a story here, they can’t stop it there. 

The UK Government has forcefully shown that it doesn’t want The Guardian UK publishing any of the Snowden materials.  But The Guardian (US) in New York, or the Washington Post or Pro Publica or Der Spiegel (or Al Jazeera, or RT or France 24, or…or…or) make that wish, and the forced destruction of digital copies of the Snowden files in The Guardian’s London office, a ridiculous, futile anachronism.

And transforming common knowledge into knowledge particular and true will still be the job, not of the writer, editor or videographer, but the customer.  May the best reporting win his or her trust.