Friday, December 31, 2004

Most offensive headline/quote of the week

From the Charlotte Observer on former football star Reggie White:
"Reggie a 'lottery pick' in heaven's draft"

The quote:
Said Todd Scott, a Minnesota Vikings defensive back: "He was a lottery pick when it comes to being drafted into heaven."

Funny story. According to my sources, that quote was shortened, because Scott went on to say the following: "Reggie was like, what, 43? So in heaven's draft, you could say he came out early."

Ok. That last part was a joke.

Permalink posted by Jonathan : 1:58 PM

Novak hearts Fifth Amendment

A nice summary article about Robert D. Novak, super-spy exposer, noted heckler vigilante; and one of those strong, silent types of men. Somehow believes he has not divulged the identity of the leaker, and yet is not the target of a criminal probe. And for a man who loves yelling about things he knows little about, he has remained surprisingly quiet on the matter. A minor point left out of the story that has been noted by others: While Novak now says he did not receive a planned leak, that directly contradicts what he told Newsday in 2003.
Novak, in an interview, said his sources had come to him with the information. "I didn't dig it out, it was given to me," he said. "They thought it was significant, they gave me the name and I used it."

Spin, spin, spin.

Permalink posted by Jonathan : 11:56 AM

Look, ma! no Torture!

And to think it only took a couple photos of naked Iraqis, a half-a-year of criticism, and the nomination of the memo author to Attorney General to prompt a change in our 'quaint' policy when it comes to torture. Now that's responsive government for you.

Also note pre-New Year's Eve, Friday double-barrel info dump.

Permalink posted by Jonathan : 11:52 AM

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Partying with the corpses

If you're caught in Thailand following a Tsunami and you're on holiday, well, what are you gonna do? On Headline News, German tourist Juergen something or other, says, party on:

"We're on vacation. What are you going to do?"

Cut to the doughy Kraut kicking the ball on a beach with his son. Priceless.

Permalink posted by Jonathan : 4:31 PM


So sometimes I find myself listening to the local froth-filled right-wing radio station here (WABC, 770-AM on your dial), just for kicks, and today the "Best of Laura Ingraham" was on.

After making whimsical fun of the way some black people talk: ('Ax' instead of "Ask" -- hilarious and original!), Laura takes a caller who says that every time he sees her on one of them "talking head" shows, he gets his two sons and sits them down in front of the TV and tells them that this, boy howdy, this is the kind of woman they should marry. Because? She's got "Good conservative values, is good-lookin' and is a dog fancier."

Those poor boys.

Permalink posted by Jonathan : 11:58 AM

Fight song change non-trend

So anyone who knows me also knows that I was a big band geek, and was probably the only person who knew all the words to my college's pathetic fight song. ("Our hearts are with you as we meet the foe"?)

So here comes this article today, clearly an outgrowth of earlier work the author had done on the subject, that somewhat falls flat on its promise of a trend that "some colleges are tweaking their fight songs." The only wholesale change to a fight song the author could find was at UC Berkeley, which completely re-wrote their song. The rest of the examples are ones where "man" or "men" is changed to "one" or something else. Not exactly earth-shattering. Also, when you use the term "anachronism" three times in one article, it's too much.

Then, the last third of the article is a review of some of the sillier lyrics. Take a look at this:
Aggies, oh Aggies
We'll win this game or know the reason why
And when we win this game
We'll buy a keg of booze
And we'll drink to the Aggies
'Til we wobble in our shoes

Texas A&M, original party school.

Permalink posted by Jonathan : 9:30 AM

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

What Egeland really said

Don't like to get your spin from the idiots? I transcribed the pertinent part of the UN press conference Monday -- the one with undersecretary Jan Egeland that got so many chuckleheads' panties in a bunch. See how offended you are after reading this.

Q: When you were talking about donor countries that in a growing economy were giving less, were you prepared to name them?

A: Now, well, I’d rather say that it is remarkable that we have no country up to the one percent line of foreign assistance in general. And we have I think three Scandinavians that have exceeded -- and Holland -- the 0.7 line of gross national income for assistance. We were more generous when we were less rich, many of the rich countries. And it is beyond me why are we so stingy, really. And even in Christmastime should remind many western countries at least how rich we have become. And, actually, the foreign assistance of many countries now is 0.1 or 0.2 percent of the gross national income. I think that is stingy, really, I don’t think that is very generous.

And I have an additional point. Politicians do not understand their own populations. Because all the populations in the United States, in the European Union, in Norway, which is number one in the world, we want to give more, as voters, as taxpayers. People say we should give what we give now or more. Politicians and parliamentarians believe that they are really burdening the taxpayers too much, and the taxpayers want to give less. It’s not true. They want to give more.
Now, you could argue that it was impolitic of the UN official to lecture the West, including the US, about its foreign assistance budget at a time of crisis. But you can't argue that it is a completely different point from criticizing the US for its aid for the disaster, which is exactly what the Washington Times headline wants you to believe ("U.N. official slams U.S. as 'stingy' over aid"), and that the body of the article "suggests"-- their weasel word -- just this fact. But read what Egeland is saying. He is using this as a forum for criticizing the entire West's overall foreign aid budgets. And he's right. Note that he's also saying that the non-politicians "want to give more."

Of course, this doesn't stop others from scoring hilariouis points on the lie that Egeland said that all Americans are stingy.

The Washington Times also adds this kicker:

Mr. Egeland complained that the United States gives only 0.14 percent of its gross domestic product to foreign development aid, compared with 0.92 percent given by his native Norway. In this category, Norway ranks first and the United States ranks last on a list of 22 industrialized nations compiled by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

They do not provide a quote for this claim. I listened to the entire 48-minute press conference. He does not ever mention that the United States gives .14 percent of its gross domestic product. Perhaps Mr. Sammon or someone else spoke to Mr. Egeland afterward? I'd be interested to know.

Permalink posted by Jonathan : 9:25 PM

Bill Sammon is a disgrace

The Washington Times 'reporter' as Gadflyer so deliciously dissects, essentially created, out of whole cloth, the "UN hates on US aid" meme. It has been repeated, ad nauseum in the blogosphere and other media outlets. Sammon appeared on O'Reilly, the silliness was hashed out on CSPAN and NPR, and the whole thing has mushroomed into a gigantic non-story. All this despite the fact that, minor point, the UN official never specifically mentioned the US as "stingy" in aid to development.

But that doesn't stop our enterprising scribe.

In fact, he does a follow-up to his own fake reporting with this hilarious non-rowback:
The White House was forgiving of Mr. Egeland's comments. Spokesman Trent Duffy
accepted at face value Mr. Egeland's explanation that his remarks had been misinterpreted. "I think some of those were taken out of context," Mr. Duffy said.

And just who were they taken out of context by?

Permalink posted by Jonathan : 8:13 PM

There are no swing voters in Indonesia

Josh Marshall and Juan Cole have interesting posts on the distinctly American reaction of George W. Bush to the Tsunamiquake.

In a word? Zzzzz.

Choice excerpt from the Washington Post article:
Earlier yesterday, White House spokesman Trent Duffy said the president was confident he could monitor events effectively without returning to Washington or making public statements in Crawford, where he spent part of the day clearing brush and bicycling. Explaining the about-face, a White House official said: "The president wanted to be fully briefed on our efforts. He didn't want to make a symbolic statement about 'We feel your pain.' "

Many Bush aides believe Clinton was too quick to head for the cameras to hold forth on tragedies with his trademark empathy.

There's just one thing to add to this. Fear of Clintonitis didn't stop W. from physically visiting Florida FOUR TIMES following hurricanes this fall, did it? There was empathy a-g0-go down there, from what I can tell.

Permalink posted by Jonathan : 2:23 PM

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

The football experts are dumbasses

Both Mark Maske and Gregg Easterbrook think it's a great idea to have Koy Detmer handing off to Reno Mahe and throwing to some guy that just walked off the street. What else can we conclude from these remarks?
Maske: But plenty of coaches around the league say that the best approach in such a situation is to play all the players who are able to play, keep the team's mindset the same as it has been all season and just hope that no one gets hurt.

Easterbrook: Teams that have locked up their best possible finish, as Philadelphia had before Week 16, always face a dilemma in how to handle the end of the regular season. TMQ says play to win.

Great idea! Hey if McNabb gets hurt giving his all in an utterly meaningless game, that's just the breaks!

No it's not. It's idiocy.

Permalink posted by Jonathan : 5:14 PM


And when did NPR start following the broadcast model of MSNBC? For the first 1/2 hour of All Things Considered, it was all Tsunamiquake, all-the-time. On the scene reporters, aid agencies, blah de blah. Trying to "imagine" the quake and devestation. Then, for the top second hour, they repeated their exact report from the first hour. Strange.

Meant as no disrespect to the dead, of course.

Permalink posted by Jonathan : 5:08 PM

Conditioned to slack

Hey, it's that time of year. And, boy, it really is hard to work around this time, isn't it? I was discussing such things with the Blogowife yesterday. Think about it. Since the time you are a little, little child till oh, about 22 (or 18, depending), this week is devoted to couch-sitting, mall-cruising, beer-consuming and general sloth. Then, all of a sudden, you're supposed to work? Do things? Bah. I still haven't gotten used to it.

So, of course, I'm working on two massive articles, one of which is technically due Thursday (but which I convinced the editor to extend to next Tuesday) and another which was probably due next week but I'll have no chance to get done, considering the scope of the subject.

So forgive the lack of interesting posts. I'll try to extract myself from the funk shortly.

Permalink posted by Jonathan : 5:00 PM

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Clinton is getting our troops killed, Part II

Before arguing that troop numbers don't really matter (after all, 530,000 troops didn't secure Vietnam, did they?), Victor Davis Hanson makes sure to cover all bases and posits that even if we don't have enough troops, it's somebody else's fault anyway. Sure to warm the hearts for Rumsfeld enthusiasts everywhere is this:
In truth, the real troop problem transcends Iraq. Our shortages are caused by a military that was slashed after the Cold War and still hasn't properly recouped to meet the global demands of the war against Islamic fascism — resulting in rotation nightmares, National Guard emergencies, and stop-order controversies.

We must stop this Clinton now, before he strikes again. There's no telling what this madman could do.

Apparently, Mr. Davis's powers go beyond blaming our current mess on a President who left office nearly four years ago and have been extended to reading the thoughts of the dead.
A thousand brave Americans gave their lives in combat to ensure that the most wicked nation in the Middle East might soon be the best, and the odds are that those remarkable dead, not the columnists in New York, will be proven right — no thanks to post-facto harping from thousands of American academics and insiders in chorus with that continent of appeasement Europe.
Note to Hanson and NRO editors: "Bremer," not "Bremmer."

Permalink posted by Jonathan : 1:35 PM

Friday, December 24, 2004

Krauthammer is an idiot

He 'discovered' Bogart before he was cool?

He 'discovered' 'Sideways' before it was popular?

He 'discovered' plutonium before everyone got hip to it?

OK, that last one was made up. Still, a pretty sorry excuse for a column today.

Permalink posted by Jonathan : 11:48 AM

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Fast Check

Hate to be a scold, but if you're going to interview a blogger for publication in a big weekly newsmagazine, shouldn't you at least get right the date the blog first started publishing?
Ana Marie Cox started writing as the Wonkette in January '03, delivering a gossipy, satirical blog on D.C. politics. Now she's working on her first novel. She dished with Richard Wolffe.

Hint: add 12 months to that date, and you're on to something.

Permalink posted by Jonathan : 1:14 PM

Partly free, with a slight chance of despotism

Heard this on WNYC, and am still shaking my head that a well-meaning and apparently serious organization came up with such a goofy-sounding rating system.
Russia's status fell from Partly Free to Not Free because of the flawed nature of the country's parliamentary elections in December 2003 and presidential elections in 2004, the further consolidation of state control of the media, and the imposition of official curbs on opposition political parties and groups. Russia's retreat from freedom marks a low point not registered since 1989, when the country was part of the Soviet Union.

Was Sarah Vowell consulted?

Permalink posted by Jonathan : 11:34 AM

Most hilarious non-disclosure of identity ever

Here's how the New York Times chose to describe "Lynne Cheney," for an Op-Ed piece she wrote today:
Lynne Cheney, a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, is the author of "When Washington Crossed the Delaware: A Wintertime Story for Young Patriots."

Goodness. Aren't they, like, forgetting one very important piece of her resume?

Permalink posted by Jonathan : 8:26 AM

Monday, December 20, 2004

Important Kosher food Update

From yesterday's NYT -- NJ section

You Could Call It The Fifth Question

By Jonathan Miller

Is Manischewitz leaving Jersey City faster than you can say gefilte fish?

The world's largest maker of unleavened bread, along with borscht and other kosher foods, has been a fixture in Jersey City since 1932, where it has maintained its corporate headquarters and bakes about 20 million pounds of matzo a year. But lately, rumors have swirled that it might be leaving, especially since last week, when the company moved its offices to Secaucus from the edge of the tumbledown warehouse district near the Jersey City waterfront. But with high-rise apartments sprouting up and warehouses converting to lofts, the neighborhood is more chichi than Tam Tam.

Last week, the president and chief executive of the B. Manischewitz Company, Bruce Glickstein, did not dismiss the chatter. Asked if the plant would be shut down and moved, he said: ''It could be. We know the land's worth money. We're listening to anyone coming to talk to us.''

Permalink posted by Jonathan : 10:58 PM

The football Gods are jerks

Not to be blashpemous or anything, but Oh, Lord why do you hurt us so?

Permalink posted by Jonathan : 6:35 PM

Everything you wanted to know about ankles

Pretty funny stuff from the Philly Daily News -- a Q & A with doctors speculating on the nature of Terrell Owens's ankle injury. Why am I having flashbacks to the Reagan prostate-o-rama?

Permalink posted by Jonathan : 1:06 PM

David Sedaris did it better

Haven't we had enough of the hilarious lampooning of the family Christmas letter?

Permalink posted by Jonathan : 11:10 AM

President Bush, expert negotiator

God forbid we discuss an overhaul of Social Security:

Bush: "I'm not going to negotiate with myself. And I will negotiate at the appropriate time, with the law-writers."

On personal account question from Jim Angle: "I will try to explain without negotiating with myself."

What the hell does that mean? I don't have to explain myself?

Permalink posted by Jonathan : 10:55 AM

Me and Vlad

In the press conference today, did anyone else take note of our President's first-name chumminess with our Stalin-in-training? And is it just a matter of time before we start hearing about his "good friend Muammar"?

Permalink posted by Jonathan : 10:40 AM

Kurtz wrong on Guinier-NYT

Sometimes I don't understand Howard Kurtz. In a perfectly fine story (second item) lacertating news organizations for noting that Clinton appointee Lani Guinier had a "nanny problem" -- when no such problem existed, it was her legal writing that got her in hot water -- he does not do one thing: Find out how it started. Volokh did some work on this. Wouldn't that be easy enough to do? Run a Lexis-Nexis search with "nanny" and "Guinier" find the organization, call them up and ask them why they ran it? Hm.

So we at Blogoland did. The first mention we can find is an Associated Press story filed Dec. 10 -- the night of the Kerik disclosure -- by Terence Hunt.
Lani Guinier, a Clinton classmate at Yale University Law School, was the president's choice to head the Justice Department's civil rights division until it was learned that she had not paid taxes for a domestic worker.

And one last thing. Kurtz appears to be wrong in fingering the The New York Times as one of the Guinier nanny-floggers. A search of Lexis and the on-line archives all the way back to 1993 (when the appointment was deep-sixed) reveals no link to "nanny" and "Guinier." In fact, the most recent mention of Guinier I can find in the paper was on November 7. [Full disclosure: I'm a freelancer whose work frequently appears in the NYT]

Permalink posted by Jonathan : 8:58 AM

Safire does it again

The incomparable and soon-to-retiring columnist has penned a beaut of a piece. Too kooky to summarize or even excerpt. It must be read in its entirety. Think tinfoil hat.

Permalink posted by Jonathan : 8:37 AM

Sunday, December 19, 2004

A quasi-sympathetic portrayal of pedophiles

And we at Blogoland thought 'Happiness' was going to be the the only film ever with a Diddler Hero. Well, we were wrong.
On Nov. 23, the 3:30 p.m. marketing meeting of Newmarket Films was devoted to the selling strategy for a movie called ''The Woodsman.'' The film, which opens in New York on Dec. 24, stars Kevin Bacon as a pedophile who has just been released from jail. While all kinds of mental illness and acts of extreme violence can be intriguing to audiences, the story of a deeply flawed but sympathetic man who is attracted to very young girls does not lend itself to the sort of film, however worthy, that any studio would be likely to finance or distribute, especially at Christmas.

We know some who will be ecstatic.

Permalink posted by Jonathan : 10:45 PM

Fed up with NYC

Have you ever reached that point when you've just had it with a city? I'm reaching that with Gotham, even though I live just outside it. Yesterday I slogged through an hour and a half of traffic to go approximately 10 miles, parked for about an hour, did some printing and then left the city. The total? $71. That's $6 for going through the Holland Tunnel and $65 for an expired meter that, at 10 minutes per quarter is easily the worst bang for your buck you can find. Why don't they just come clean and charge by the second?

Public Service portion of the blog: Did you know that if you park at a broken meter, you're allowed to park there for free, but for only one hour? (or you'll get ticketed)
At a broken meter parking is allowed only up to one hour (60 minutes). Where a meter is missing, parking is still allowed for the maximum time on the posted sign. (An hour for a 1-hour meter, 2 hours for a 2-hour meter, etc.). If all the meters are broken the driver shall follow the rules pertaining to broken or missing regular street meters as stated here.

See? It's not a total raping.

Permalink posted by Jonathan : 10:44 AM

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Wayne Newton: Iraq truth not getting out

Danke Schoen, just back from a grueling fact-finding mission in Mesopotamia, tells Tony Snow on Fox News that the "sensationalistic" media are just not telling the heart-warming story of school rebuildings, hospital paintings and satellite dish installation that's going on in the 51st state. He's also hawking some Pentagon-inspired propaganda website called "America Supports You" which is not quite as catchy as the Donald's much more inspiring "Support the War, Not the Troops."

On a side note, a fashion tip for Wayne: Shoe black is not the best hair-dye product.

Permalink posted by Jonathan : 1:39 PM

Armor lack Clinton's fault!

Finally, someone with the guts to come out and say it. God bless you, Sen. Inhofe, Super-Patriot.

"Eight years of Bill Clinton decimated the military to almost half of what it was in 1990."

Right on. Now how can we pin Social Security privatization on Hillary?

Permalink posted by Jonathan : 8:41 AM

Eco non-terrorism

Fascinating story in Maryland about eco-terrorists setting ablaze dozens of homes on a development encroaching on the wilder- Wait. What? What was that? That story's crap? The guy who set it was a disgruntled employee? Oh well, it was fun while it lasted, wasn't it guys? At least everyone knows a lot more about magnolia bogs now.

Permalink posted by Jonathan : 8:11 AM

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Urban grit at only $3,000 a month!

Via Matthew Yglesias, a musing on his neighborhood led him to comment on the Ellington Apartments [skip the annoying intro], a modest U Street loft which apparently offers that urban flavor you've been looking for, with 2BR starting at only $3,050 per month! And that's not even the best part of it. Look at what the good people at the Ellington have to say about their like totally gritty neighborhood.
There’s a weight in the rhythm of the living on U. Pulsing beats through open doors of city streets. Jazz. Hip Hop. R&B. Blues. Uniting in Community. Sharing an affinity for evenings spent savoring food, music, life. Nights alive in the lure of U.

When the sun rises, city sidewalks revive once more. Cafes filling. Cups of coffee brimming.

Someone went to the J. Peterman-by-way-of-Seinfeld School of writing copy.

Permalink posted by Jonathan : 1:01 AM

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Building $tadiums

From a news perspective, the baseball struggle story coming out of our nation's capital has been fascinating.

Deals, betrayals, gentrification politics, mayoral aspirations, the whole damn thing has been a grand drama, but I'm very interested in the way the Washington Post has been playing this -- mainly that D.C. was really stupid not to agree to wholly fund the building of a stadium all by itself, and, of course, that the demon in scotching the deal was a councilwoman named Linda Cropp. Here's the inemitable, hyperventilating Thomas Boswell:
The Nationals are gone. That didn't take long, did it? Save those hats with the tilted 'W' on the front. They'll be collectors' items before the week is over. Only a miracle could save Washington's deal with baseball now. Cropp killed it. Whether she did it out of civic conscience, as she claims, or pique, or political aspiration or simply -- and this is a possibility -- a general ignorance of the waters in which she was swimming, is a question for the future.

Well, who says? These columnists keep talking about how MLB must feel really bad because, geez, a "deal," capital "D" had been in place, and now don't they look stupid? Sure, but the city isn't run by a despot (at least not yet) and the laws say that the council has a say-so, too. And perhaps it isn't such a great idea for the District to foot the entire bill, raise taxes, play funny with numbers and give free money to millionares while the schools are disintegrating and drugs and shootings and crime are just as bad as ever, despite this so-called "renaissance." Maybe she has a conscience, no?

Permalink posted by Jonathan : 5:59 PM

Rush, we apologize

Earlier, we at Blogoland spoke of the HawkGawker story as one that would cause the Limbaughs of the world to giggle themselves blue over. Well, how very, very wrong we were. Rush, bane of the spotted owl, lover of clear-cutting and believer that trees pollute our environment, is outraged over the eviction!

To wit:
“It’s sort of a sad story."

"These hawks weren’t bothering anybody, and these people in the building loved them. "

"There’s another reason they were liked is because they killed pigeons."

"I feel sorry for these birds. The birds weren’t doing anything to anybody."

“You gotta credit these hawks. People think birds live in trees. Like the spotted owl needed virgin old growth, or pristine -- whatever it was -- trees. But here you had a couple hawks living basically on concrete. Adaptive birds. And they’ve just been shafted. No more nest.”

Mr. Limbaugh, your Friends of the Earth membership packet is already in the mail.

Permalink posted by Jonathan : 1:08 PM

Our slide toward banana republicanism

The Washington Post has a fantastic story on voting irregularities, fraud and abuse in Ohio. OK, we know, not another one of these. But before you yawn over another vote-problem story, check this out. The article concludes that thousands of votes may have been lost or even switched from Kerry to Bush, that this mostly happened in Democratic-leaning districts, and there is the hint that this was a coordinated effort. Here are some choice lines from the story:

In northeastern Ohio, in the fading industrial city of Youngstown, Jeanne White, a veteran voter and manager at the Buckeye Review, an African American newspaper, stepped into the booth, pushed the button for Kerry -- and watched her vote jump to the Bush column. "I saw what happened; I started screaming: 'They're cheating again and they're starting early!' "

It was not her imagination. Twenty-five machines in Youngstown experienced what election officials called "calibration problems." "It happens every election," said
Thomas McCabe, deputy director of elections for Mahoning County, which includes
Youngstown. "It's something we have to live with, and we can fix it."

And look at this provisional ballot horror story:
As expected, there were more provisional ballots, and officials disqualified about 23 percent. In Hamilton County, which encompasses Cincinnati and its Ohio suburbs, 1,110 provisional ballots got tossed out because people voted in the wrong precinct. In about 40 percent of those cases, voters found the right polling place -- which contained multiple precincts -- but workers directed them to the wrong table.

The upshot? Tens of thousands of votes were lost, but not enough to tip the election. Make you feel better? Such skulduggery was not relegated to Ohio. Here in New Jersey, they tried out these new electronic machines, and at my local polling place in Jersey City, lines snaked out the door into the street all day. Though all polling places were supposed to close at 8 p.m., mine stayed open until 10 to accomodate all those who had been waiting before 8.

On top of this, the county noticed a large amount of "undercounts" -- about 5,000 -- essentially people who had signed the book, gotten a number, and somehow never got their vote recorded. Here's what the county clerk said on a local radio program in November. He's talking first about the old pull-lever machines.
People knew when their vote was registered, because they would have to pull that lever, and when they pulled that lever, the curtain behind them opened. Now, the curtains are not connected to the cast vote button, so you can just walk in and out of the booth. All you do is when you hit the cast vote button a little bell is supposed to sound. And I said that’s what’s going to be the major problem.”

In other words, large amounts of people probably walked in, cast their vote, but did not hit the final "Cast Vote" button, walked out, and never had their vote recorded. And no one could do a thing about it. To top this off, the county misplaced 14 cartridges that contained the recordings of the votes (they were later found in the machines).

Permalink posted by Jonathan : 11:32 AM

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Baking cookies

Sorry so few posts today. I really was baking cookies though. Little shortbread sand tarts. Mmm.

Ah well, A month-plus into marriage, and I have become what I feared most.

Permalink posted by Jonathan : 5:48 PM

Unabashed Pale Male update

Still can't get enough of that lovable itinerant pigeon eviscerator? Well, the local PBS station is going to be showing that documentary you've heard so much about, tonight at 8 p.m. Set your Tivos.

UPDATE update: Not bad, but couldn't we have done with a little less of these types of comments?

"Pale male was such a good dad. When I was young, I didn’t get affection like that.” -- one of the legion of hawk-gawkers.

"We’re blood brothers now. He flew away with a little bit of Iowa blood on him. That’s a kick. That’s a kick." -- the photographer commenting after one of the hawks bites him

"It’s wonderful! It’s Biblical!” -- the local elderly bird-guy discussing the birds bringing up their family “the right way.”

"Who knew these animals could bring us together and lift our spirits to such unexpected heights?" -- the narrator, the incomparable Joanne Woodward

Permalink posted by Jonathan : 5:43 PM

Beck and Nirvana and time

In an otherwise entertaining article on Nirvana, TNR's David Yaffe makes this claim:
As Cobain's self-destructive art eventually gave way to a self-destructive final act, there was mourning, melancholia, and, inevitably, a new era and a new record. The autumn after Cobain's death, Beck's "Loser" hit college campuses everywhere. In contrast to Nirvana's Sturm und Drang, the record had a kitschy, intentional artifice to it. "I'm a loser, baby, so why don't you kill me?" went the song's refrain. Everyone knew that Beck was only kidding, at least about the killing. He showed those bereaved Gen Xers in search of a new sensibility that it was possible to look into the abyss and laugh.

Actually, "Loser" was released as a single in January 2004, and hit the alternative stations and MTV big about two months before Cobain's death, not the fall after. Just a minor point, but worth noting. This is from the February 12 issue of Billboard.
Geffen's recent chart trifecta with its DGC acts is an unprecedented feat. The week of Jan. 29, Nirvana's "All Apologies," Beck's "Loser," and Counting Crows' "Mr. Jones" held Nos. 1, 2, and 3 on the Modern Rock Tracks chart, respectively; the following week, "Lower"(sic) hit No. 1, "Mr. Jones" climbed to No. 2, and "All Apologies" slipped to No. 3.

So there you go.

Permalink posted by Jonathan : 10:19 AM

Monday, December 13, 2004

Hard news

So this reporter claims he was sent by his editor on this assignment to do a hard-hitting expose on go-go bars. You know, to check if these places are really keeping the high standards that you'd usually expect of such establishments. What a dreadful thing, but it sounds like the makings of a five- or six-part series. Best line is in the editor's note that starts the story:
We wrestled over what description to include and what to omit in an effort to balance taste and information.

Stuff was omitted! OK, that was the second-best line, here's the first.

The law prohibits entertainers from performing acts considered to be "lewd, immoral, or improper." The dance described above ended with the dancer biting me lightly through my jeans.

And it wasn't on the leg.

And one more, for good measure.
Naked, she dropped to her knees, with her buttocks propped toward me. Her hands still on the stage, she extended both legs over my shoulders and crossed her feet behind my head. Then, she bent her knees - rapidly and repeatedly - jerking my face toward her crotch.

When's the unrated DVD of this report coming out? I'm there! [via Romenesko]

Permalink posted by Jonathan : 5:39 PM

The effects of coffee

Every once in a while, I try to break the stranglehold that caffeine has on my life. Often, the results are horrifying. Take yesterday. I awoke at 6:30 to read the paper, but by 9 started feeling sluggish, sleepy and blah. So I went back to bed. Later, the wife and I went out and did some shopping in the city, and I carried just the slightest of headaches, but that with each passing hour morphed into a pulsating, nausea-inducing brain attack. Had to skip out on dinner and a Yo La Tengo concert, stumbled into bed, and did not emerge until this morning. Sad, but true.

No caffeine yet today, but still blah. So we'll see.

The people of Starbucks are to blame, of course. Damn crack-coffee.

Permalink posted by Jonathan : 1:42 PM

The Miller echo effect

Well, the Pixies are playing about 73 shows in New York this week. Here's what I said a week ago about their startling performance in Camden:
Catching the band live reinforces something that gets lost on record and with the passage of time: This is one very, very strange group. The songs stop and start and stop and then veer into the abyss. Frank Black squeals and screams and Kim breathily moans, and it often sounds like two mental patients in the middle of a knife-fight. Frightening and exhilirating.

Here's what the NYT's rock critic , Kelefa Sanneh, reported today:
...Saturday's Pixies concert at the Hammerstein Ballroom was a rude, often exhilarating shock. It had been all too easy to forget about the Pixies' ugliness: how fast they played, how loud they were, how nasty they sounded.
Well said.

Permalink posted by Jonathan : 1:30 PM

Monty Python and the Great White Way

Pretty entertaining article in The New Yorker on Spamalot, the musical adaptation of The Holy Grail. Apparently, the Knights who say "Ni!" still crack up Eric Idle and Mike Nichols, the director, but not others in the cast:
While the principals read their lines, they laughed at each other, and they laughed at the readings of the actors with secondary parts, and Idle and Nichols laughed at everyone, even though they’d heard most of the lines many, many times. When the knights were faced with the peril of the Knights Who Say Ni!, suddenly “Ni!”s were coming from all over the room, and it became evident that Idle himself was providing some of the stabbing, high-pitched “Ni!”s. As Nichols, seventy-four, sat next to him, red-faced from laughing, Idle, sixty-one, was almost out of his seat, yelling “Ni! Ni!Ni!”

Meanwhile, though, a handful of the dancers were not laughing. They had scripts on their laps and were reading along, but they did not laugh once in the forty minutes of Act II. While most of the room was breaking up, these dancers read along with confused, frozen smiles. They either weren’t listening, were too tired, or weren’t getting it.

Not sure if I'm going to shell out the cash to see this, but I guess it could be interesting. Another tidbit: The producers considered using a midget to play the Black-Night-flesh-wound bit, but they realized that would be too expensive. No word on what the solution was, though. Dave "Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius" Eggers wrote the article

Permalink posted by Jonathan : 1:17 PM

And now another 80's band reunion?

Well, I'm a little behind on this, but apparently there was a reconciliation of sorts among the principals in Husker Du. No word on a full-fledged reunion, but this looks good for Du-fans.

Permalink posted by Jonathan : 1:07 PM

Sunday, December 12, 2004

The Port Authority

Screw The Times.

For Commuters, It's Not Love At First Sight


THE hordes come and go. Come and go. Come and go.

This furiously ordered gallop can be witnessed every day inside the Port Authority Bus Terminal, the Port Authority, for short. Here's how to use it in a sentence: ''Three hours of my life I wasted at the Port Authority, waiting for the 99S.''

The novelist Joseph Heller believed that Hades could be found underneath the building -- a structure with all the subtlety and grace of a grimy shoebox -- and he set ''Closing Time,'' the sequel to ''Catch-22,'' there. In a 1994 interview, the writer called it ''hell on earth.'' For many New Jerseyans, it is their first glimpse of New York. The immense terminal and adjoining ramp -- which casts its shadow over nearly six blocks -- is not an inspiring sight.

Until the mid-90's the place seethed with crime -- about 6,000 incidents a year were reported. Homeless people lived in heating ducts in the ceiling, phone card scammers targeted the hapless, and roving gangs had set up shop in the men's rooms. ''In the early-to mid-80's, you could call this a slum,'' was how Jim Dittmer of Weehawken, a 52-year-old Macy's employee who works on the Thanksgiving parade, recalled it. In 1989, a deranged and half-drunk man demanded money from him while waving a gun.

Situated between Eighth and Ninth Avenues and 40th and 42nd Streets just west of Times Square, it is a squat, featureless building that somehow manages to loom over the neighborhood. Lewis Mumford declared it a ''humdrum job of engineering concealed beneath a mask of wholly perfunctory masonry.'' As Jameson W. Doig, professor emeritus of politics and public affairs at Princeton University, put it, ''By and large it's not anything of great architectural significance.''

Professor Doig, who wrote ''Empire on the Hudson,'' which devotes a chapter to the terminal's construction, said that like most bus stations, the Port Authority was built for function, not beauty. ''Now that I think about it,'' he said, ''I don't know of any architecturally distinguished bus terminals.

''The terminal exists in a purgatory of the public consciousness: most New Yorkers have little reason to enter it, and most New Jerseyans are desperately looking for a way out. New York politicians constantly gripe that New Jersey taxpayers should wholly finance the place. As a result, ambivalence toward the edifice is pervasive. When the bus terminal celebrated its 50th anniversary on Dec. 15, 2000, not a single New York newspaper ran an article commemorating the milestone. (The Record of Hackensack published a column in November of that year and The Star-Ledger an article in December.)

And yet, in the past few years change has swept -- or perhaps oozed -- over the building. Crime has dropped precipitously as a result of stricter enforcement, the homeless no longer have nooks and crannies to sleep in, and some customers actually linger at bars like McAnn's or Au Bon Pain, the coffee and pastry shop.

$50 Million in Improvements

In the 1990's, $50 million in improvements made the place better lighted and vaguely tolerable -- though there are not nearly enough signs to help an infrequent commuter navigate a building the size of an aircraft carrier with the charm of a public lavatory. ''The bus terminal's my baby,'' said Ken Philmus, the director of tunnels, bridges, and terminals for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, who in 1991 was charged with figuring out how to make it a less frightful place.

The Port Authority Bus Terminal (in the planning phase it was called the ''Grand Central Bus Station'') opened on Dec. 15, 1950. At the time, the $24 million structure was 10 times larger than any bus station in the world and the solution to choking traffic that had resulted from the haphazard placement of about a half-dozen private bus stations between 34th and 51st Streets.

Mr. Doig, whose book charted the Byzantine, behind-the-scenes maneuverings that led to construction of the terminal, said that the Port of New York Authority, as it was then called, had an eye on constructing the terminal for years. ''The bus terminal was a deceptively complex project,'' he said. First, he said, the project had to overcome political corruption and Robert Moses, the powerful parks commissioner who held sway over the city's Planning Commission, and who had allied himself with Greyhound, which did not want to see the construction of the terminal; instead it was quite happy to keep its terminal near Herald Square. Eventually, Mr. Moses was beaten in one of his earliest and notable failures.

In planning, the engineers had to figure out what to do with the ramps, which jut over and around tenements. There were hundreds of people who needed to be relocated and dozens of buildings demolished, including 38 houses of prostitution. The Port Authority, Mr. Doig said, stood in stark contrast to Mr. Moses' notorious ''slum clearance'' tactics, and did a good job of finding places for people to stay.

''The Port Authority Bus Terminal will promptly be taken for granted,'' wrote The New York Herald-Tribune on Nov. 3, 1950, hinting that it did not think it should be. Yet ''taken for granted'' was probably the best that could be said about it by the 1980's, when lurking vagrants and crack-induced robberies made it a place to be avoided.

Doris Myles remembers those days all too well. A 59-year-old New Brunswick resident who works in the hotel industry, Ms. Myles stood in line outside gate 421 on a recent afternoon with her husband Cecil, 54, a clerk at the United Nations. ''I was afraid of coming through, and I was afraid of bullets flying, there were all these homeless people,'' she said. And now? ''It has changed for the better,'' said her husband, who was standing under a ceiling with gaping holes, exposing pipes, wires and insulation. Flimsy brown paper was tacked up with blue tape, masking other holes -- the result, Mr. Philmus assured, of an overhaul of the ventilation system.

One of the first things Mr. Philmus did upon getting his job in the early 90's, was wander the terminal to see what was wrong. With the crack epidemic raging, and its epicenter near Times Square, there was a lot.

He and others quickly came up with a plan. First, the homeless would no longer be allowed to sleep in the building. Since the terminal is a public building, however, this posed a problem. Officers would ask homeless if they needed social services, but if they returned, the officers could arrest them. Next, officials eliminated spaces -- called the ''niches and corners'' program -- behind stairs and escalators in the waiting areas and, yes, in the ceilings, where the homeless could sleep. Every new store added more glass for higher visibility. Attendants patrolled the bathrooms.

The music was changed from soft rock to orchestral, and Mr. Philmus remains convinced that this shift helped. ''It had an amazing affect on people,'' he said. ''People noticed the change. I don't think it stopped muggings, but it made a difference.''

57 Million Riders a Year

The bus terminal sucks in and spits out 188,000 travelers each weekday, or about 57 million riders a year on 2.2 million buses, making it the world's busiest bus terminal. Most passengers are headed for places like Wanaque and Browntown and Moonachie. A smaller number head to Rockland and Orange Counties in New York, others to Pennsylvania. The rest have plans for points across the country.

Enter Greyhound, whose gates are sunk into the lowest level of the terminal. The walls are pumpkin orange, the ceilings low-slung, the lighting a watery yellow, the air thick and filled with the smell of unwashed bodies. ''I think it's disgusting,'' observed Arthur Ovdissi, 42, of Boston, who was visiting his family. ''It is depressing, it really is.''In the center is a waiting area. Many of those who sit here are semiconscious. A man reads a book titled ''Who Are the Angels?'' One jittery and trusting man with a pink Conway bag, a suitcase and leather coat plopped on the floor turns to Mr. Ovdissi and asked, ''Can you watch this?'' Mr. Ovdissi peers up from The Daily News and apprises the man and his belongings. He nods, with misgivings. The man leaves, and five minutes pass. The jittery man returns with a bag of peanuts.

A few minutes after this, two Port Authority police officers make their way into the waiting area. They pick out the most disheveled and ask them to show their tickets. They approach a dozing Hispanic man with no bags, his head tilted back over the seat. One of the officers kicks the man in the foot. ''Hey!'' the officer bellows, ''Get up!'' Startled, the man leaps up and skitters off.

Such is the ebb and flow of life here. William Jimeno a 37-year-old from Chester was only on the job as a detective at the terminal for nine months when Sept. 11 struck. He was the last living person to be recovered from the rubble, about 12 hours after the collapse of the Twin Towers. Just two weeks ago, a stirring roll-call ceremony complete with a bagpipe, was held in the South Wing to mark his retirement. After all he had been through (he sometimes cannot get out of his bed because of the pain in his gimpy leg), the former detective still seemed awed at the shenanigans that took place in this building. ''You should see what happened in nine months here,'' he said. ''This place is something else.'' Well, what did he see, exactly? ''Simple assaults to shootings, stabbings. It's very active here. Everything you can imagine.''

And even things that are hard to imagine. Last December, a drunk commandeered a bus and drove it for two hours, eventually making his way to Kennedy Airport. In September 2003, a man mugged a 90-year-old from Carlstadt and pushed him down an escalator, killing him. Fugitives are routinely apprehended here, most often attempting a getaway to points across the country.

In the past few years, though, crime has significantly dropped, according to statistics compiled by the Port Authority. Since 2000 the most commonly reported crimes like robbery, assault, larceny, luggage theft and pick pocketing have fallen by 21 percent, though this year, the crime levels have started to rise again, exceeding 2002 levels.Tourists can be found inside the terminal, but they are usually not admiring the fluorescent lighting and the piped-in Vivaldi. They are looking for directions away from the Port Authority.

If they stopped to look, they might find a modernist steel-and-brick building filled with glazed tile, buff-colored Hautville marble, terrazzo and brick flooring. They would also find 40 stores; a bowling alley; a blood center; a three-story, 1,000-car parking deck; a post office and, until it closed in November, the Silver Bullet Saloon, where disheveled types bought beer for $3.25 a bottle.

Once passengers track down the appropriate gate, they make their way through the cavernous building and pile onto the buses, they are funneled onto 1,500-foot ramps that fork like the tongue of some Chinese Dragon, sucking down the metal cans that roll into its maw.

Rehabilitating the Ramps

The ramps curl behind tenements on 40th Street, and then jut over Ninth Avenue, spitting out buses into the Lincoln Tunnel. They are now being rehabilitated, and by next year will be adorned with colored lights to make them a less imposing presence to the Hell's Kitchen neighborhood that surrounds them. When the ramps were constructed in 1950, warming pipes filled with oil were embedded inside -- the technology to this day keeps them from freezing in winter. For those venturing into the city, this is the last stop. Passengers are disgorged onto a carbon monoxide-choked platform on the upper level that rings the dozens of glassed-in departure bays (called ''pass-through gates'').

Passengers clamber down the white-and-red-tiled stairs that open onto the second floor. From there, a network of escalators, elevators and stairs take the hordes down, up, or across to the northern section of the terminal.The building's exterior is a combination of three or four different brick pigments: red, brown and a sickly yellow. (Mr. Philmus euphemistically refers to them as ''earth tones,'' de rigueur when the terminal was constructed.) Dozens of vents dot the otherwise vast expanse of its featureless sides. Improvements that were completed in 1982 expanded the terminal north to another half-block between 41st and 42nd Streets. But the expansion resulted in the obliteration of the only distinguishing feature of the building -- the mod, rounded Eighth Avenue exterior. Today, that architecture is obscured by forbidding, X-shaped green girders supporting a new roof.

The Port Authority manages much more than the bus terminal. The bi-state agency owns and operates the Lincoln and Holland Tunnels, the George Washington Bridge, all three major local airports, the PATH and the site of the former World Trade Center, just for starters.

So it was that in March 1998, to the surprise of many, the Port Authority announced an ambitious plan to construct a 39-story tower over the new North Wing, a move that was viewed with some skepticism. Cisco Systems had signed on as a major tenant, but when the market soured in 2001, the high-tech company backed out. In the intervening years the real estate market changed, the plan slowly unraveled, and at this point, Mr. Philmus said, it is all but dead. ''Right now, that's off,'' he said.

The deal would have helped. The Port Authority had reportedly planned to sell the development rights for $130 million. Surprisingly, the terminal's operating costs run at an enormous deficit -- $74.5 million a year, according to the agency's 2003 annual report.

The bus terminal is no longer the hobo and hooker magnet and crack-dealing mecca it once was. In one of the most significant symbols of transformation that has overtaken the terminal, one of its last raffish elements recently closed up, to be replaced by, of all things, a French-American Bistro.

Taped to a door near the main entrance on Eighth Avenue is this sign: ''Closing Our Doors! Thank you to all of our customers who have supported us during the past 20 years.'' On a recent afternoon, a man was measuring the bar inside what was once the Silver Bullet Saloon. Another stood on the street, peering in.

Tom Gargan, a 46-year-old with a scraggly beard, had a forlorn look on his face and a cigarette in his fingers. ''I buy cheap property and fix it up for resale,'' Mr. Gargan claimed between drags, but in upstate New York, not the city. The city is too expensive. He was asked what happened to the bar, which attracted a mix of regulars and tourists, and yes, some unsavory characters. It closed the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, he said, and word on the street was the Port Authority doubled the rent. ''It's a shame,'' he said.

Mr. Gargan had been coming to the bar for 18 or 19 years. ''I just went in and kept going in,'' he said, and depending on the day and his mood, enjoyed a $3.25 Budweiser or a Johnnie Walker Red and water. ''There's so many people closing up and moving businesses,'' he observed, '''cause no one can afford the rent.''

For their part, officials seemed delighted with the demise of the bar. ''That Silver Bullet has been something we've been wanting to change for a long time,'' Mr. Philmus said. ''There's going to be a new restaurant that's going to be noticeably, noticeably improved from where we were.'' Noting that new office buildings are coming to Eighth Avenue across from the restaurant -- including The New York Times, which is putting up a 52-story tower -- he said: ''That's a prime location. It's going to be more like a cafe, more like a bistro. With polished wood and the whole thing.''

At McAnn's, the wood is not so highly polished. One recent day, Richie Clarke strode in and caught the eye of the bartender, who shouted: ''Bud?'' He nodded. ''Could you write it up?'' said Mr. Clarke, a 44-year-old stagehand from Paramus. ''I'm going to be here a while.''

Mr. Clarke, who has worked on sets for ''The Lion King'' and ''The Boy From Oz'' (''Hugh Jackman, he's the nicest guy in the world!''), apprised the bar. ''You got stagehands, ironworkers, elevator operators. Local one elevator guys, six-oh-eight is the carpenters' union.'' U2 played over the speakers while a rerun of the previous night's Knicks game played on the TV.

And there is the unmistakable reach of Sept. 11. Barricades and a checkpoint were quickly set up on 41st Street between Eighth and Ninth Avenues, which passes under the north and south wings, eliminating a favored taxicab shortcut. The police have also increased their presence, though they will not say by how much. Some commuters speak of a new anxiousness inside the building. Fears of mumblers, rascals and ex-cons, have been replaced with visions of bombs or something even more dreadful.

Right Size for Now

As for the future? ''Right now, it's at adequate size as long as long as New Jersey Transit's Secaucus Junction and Direct Connect grow and continue to grow,'' said Tiffany Townsend, a spokeswoman for the Port Authority.

But there are troubling signs on the horizon, like the impending collapse of New York Waterway, the ferry service that shuttles commuters between New Jersey and New York, and the prospect of a West Side stadium. ''Obviously development there would affect traffic,'' she said. ''It certainly concerns us.''

It may not be pretty. It may not be beloved, but in the end, for all its warts, the Port Authority Bus Terminal, for more than a half-century, has largely done its job, Professor Doig said. ''It deserves some praise,'' he concluded. ''It doesn't get an awful lot.''

Permalink posted by Jonathan : 10:54 AM

Saturday, December 11, 2004

When snark comes true

So this is part of an email I sent on Thursday to a blogger that included a link to my earlier observations on that plucky Fifth Avenue bird of prey:
Three articles in two days? An editorial? Stay tuned for the day three story: an A1 piece on why a hawk just can't get by in today's go-go NYC.

Ha ha. Well, sometimes the caricature is the reality, complete with a splashy page one photo and a twin byline story. And what of this nut graf?
The story of Pale Male, how he came to live at one of Manhattan's most exclusive addresses and then was sent away, is one of wealth and fame meeting nature and instinct, of an obscure international treaty researched and clarified, and of anger among those who live in an elegant building where, Ms. Moore now says, relations have become frosty.

The prodigal Hawk. An archetypal story for our time.

Permalink posted by Jonathan : 8:10 AM

Friday, December 10, 2004

Tavis Smiley is a disgrace

I know there's been a lot of gnashing of teeth ever since Mr. Smiley said he was leaving NPR, but as far as I'm concerned, good riddance. In addition to being a blowhard and a suck-up, he was just a terrible host of a news-talk program.

The clincher that made me never come back? On Oct. 14, 2004, he had J. Kenneth Blackwell, Ohio's (black) Secretary of State on the program -- for, as far as I can tell -- only the second time. And what did they talk about? The third presidential debate. Now, anyone who had followed the news up to that point knew that Mr. Blackwell was embroiled in a hell of a controversy. He had issued an edict that was widely seen as an attempt at voter-suppression by enforcing an archaic rule about registrations and the THICKNESS OF THE PAPER of those registrations. If the paper was too thin, the registrations would be thrown out.

So Mr. Smiley has this guy on the show for four minutes, and spent the first two sucking up to him about the debate. Then, we get into the meat, about two minutes in, and he allows Blackwell to filibuster for half that time, and when it's all done, we're left even more confused than when we started. And check out the questions Tavis asks. They're groaners, every one of them.

SMILEY: OK, I gotcha. I gotcha. Now let me ask you a couple of questions, 'cause--and I'm not raising anything you're not well aware of.

Sec. BLACKWELL: Right.

SMILEY: Voters'-rights advocates in your state are criticizing you pretty aggressively of late for two recent decisions that they say in the Buckeye State--this, a battleground state--will unfairly limit some people's ability to vote November 2nd in Ohio. You've asked county election officials, I'm told, to follow two legal provisions strictly; one requiring Ohio voter registration cards be printed on thick, 80-pound-stock paper; two, the other, ordered officials to strictly interpret the rules regarding provisional ballots. What's happening here in Ohio?

Sec. BLACKWELL: Well...

SMILEY: And why are you being criticized for these decisions?

Sec. BLACKWELL: Well, first, let's talk about the registrations. We, in fact, went in partnership with thousands of groups across our state. We have record voter registration in the state of Ohio. We, in fact, have right now, and counting, 700,000 new voter registrations. We worked in partnership with unions, churches, civil rights groups, you know, housing groups; you name it, we were working with them. Our Expect More in 2004 campaign was successful.What we had said and have said for over a decade is that we encourage people to do voter registration forms on heavyweight paper, because we had an experience over the last 10 years where we had most of those--not most of them, but many of the self-mailers ripped to shreds coming through the Postal Service. The Postal Service said, `Look, have folks do this on a heavier bond paper.' What we experienced in the last 90 days at the Postal--most of these things coming in through the mail, they were coming in over the top. We relaxed that standard and, in fact, we have record numbers.Now on provisional ballots, we have the same law in Ohio that they have in Washington, DC, in the District of Columbia. We have the same law in Ohio that they have in New York and Texas. There's no lawsuit. As a matter of fact, we have the same provision that 27 other states have...

SMILEY: Let...

Sec. BLACKWELL: this country. It is a provision that was just upheld by the Missouri federal District Court...

SMILEY: Mr. Secretary...

Sec. BLACKWELL: ...on Tuesday.

SMILEY: ...I hate to cut you off, but I wanted to give you a chance to respond to that. I'm out of time now. We'll have to do it again. I'm sure we will between now and Election Day, November 2nd. We'll talk to you again. Thank you for your time now. I appreciate it.

Sec.BLACKWELL: Good to be with you.

SMILEY: My pleasure.Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell.

Permalink posted by Jonathan : 5:39 PM

There are still Latinos on the west side?

The NYT treats us to a magical story about an uppity performing arts school (the one immortalized in "Fame") that's staging West Side Story on the very same piece of real estate where the action was alleged to have taken place. Some real classics here, including this bit from Bernstein's daughter:

"I said, 'This is probably the most authentic production of 'West Side Story' ever, because you're actual New York City teenagers and here you are performing it on the very turf where the story is purported to have taken place,' " she said later. "They razed that very slum to build Lincoln Center. That's pretty cool. And there are so many Latinos there in the cast. It has some true grit to it."

Still waiting to hear whether they got any of those black people in there, you know to add some true soul to the thing.

And then, of course, the PC police took over:

But this is a thoroughly modern production. "The best part is we didn't follow the whole cliché that the Jets have to be white and the Sharks have to be black or Hispanic," said Brandon Gill, 17, who plays Riff, another Jet.

Next up for the kids? "Angels in America," but without all those cliched gay people with AIDS.

Permalink posted by Jonathan : 11:42 AM

Support the War, Not the Troops!

It's been entertaining watching the wingers try to spin this armor-Rumsfeld flap. But Rush takes the cake here, when he says he wants to have "a little fun" on his show over whether troops are in danger of being killed for lack of armor. In this transcript excerpt, he's responding to "Mr. Snerdley":
"You've seen this Rumsfeld story?" He said, "Oh, yeah." I said, "Well, I tell you, I want to do something. I want to have a little fun with this today." I said, "At some point I'm going to talk about this story and I'm going to bring you guys in here and say, 'Look, if it's a new policy now that employees have their bitch sessions in public, I'm going to bring you and Dawn and Brian in here and I want you to start complaining about the fact that the ice machine doesn't fill up every day, that you still have to sometimes wait for it, that your new 30-inch computer display monitor hasn't come in yet and you're still slaving away your 23-inch display," seventeen-inch display; sorry, Mr. Snerdley, and Dawn wanted to explain that the dishes in the dining room are not the right shade of white and gold that she ordered, and what are we going to do about it.

Ice machines and television screens vs. troops in peril due to official incompetence. I see his point.

Permalink posted by Jonathan : 10:37 AM

But God told me to commit certain deeds!

Ah Jersey City, home of the unabashed rogue. Readers may recall that in November, the city held a special election for mayor filled with 11 kooks, nutballs and noodleheads (scroll down for article -- and in case you were wondering, the drunk exhibitionist won). The King of the Noodleheads, though, was a man who said that he didn't want to run, but was forced to because God had ordered him to. And when I interviewed Dwayne Baskerville in the hall outside his housing project apartment, he repeatedly asked me whether I was, in fact, 'Spider-Man.' Turns out now that the former crack addict, who somehow managed to convince 594 people to vote for him, has been indicted in a hopelessly complicated land fraud scheme.

No word on defense strategy, but I'm sure when Dwayne runs again for mayor in 2013, he'll have a solid hold on the Born Again, Again bloc.

Permalink posted by Jonathan : 9:27 AM

Bill Moyers, Sun King

We here at Blogoland love hagiography just as much as we love the trained monkeys who do all the work here. But AP reporter Frazier Moore, oh dear Frazier, how now this piece on Bill Moyers? [via Romenesko]
Hey, Frazier. The best time to suck-up to the big media man is NOT when the door is hitting him in the fanny on the way out.

Permalink posted by Jonathan : 8:59 AM

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Your soul, the swamp and eternity

In October, I wrote a story about The New Jersey Nets and the train-wreck they were going to be this year. A very tough and gutsy prediction, but so far, so good. One of the things that I mentioned in the piece was this strange ad campaign that the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority had launched within the last year. The radio ads, run almost exclusively on AM, go like this:
"It's all about being here! It's what your soul understands. It's all about being here! The Meadowlands!"
I have pondered this message for a long, long time. Is the NJSEA an ecstatic cult sending out subliminal messages? Do they have all the answers to life that I'm looking for? Do they have Bible study? Any help would be much appreciated.

Permalink posted by Jonathan : 4:22 PM

Whiny troops need less armor!

According to several people who really know a lot about these things.

Permalink posted by Jonathan : 2:56 PM

Comedy Plagiarism, Daily Show-style

There's a fine line between homage and the bald rip-off, and everyone knows that stealing someone's comedy act is a time-honored tradition, but has anyone else noticed that The Daily Show has been lifting a great deal of its recent material from old Simpsons episodes?

Take last night's less-than-uproarious Samantha Bee piece on internet hunting for the cripppled. In the report she imagines other uses for the technology, like say at convenience stores. The sights focus on a customer with a magazine, and the Hindu-inflected voiceover announces: "This is not a lending library!"

Sound familiar? This is from "Krusty Gets Busted," a first season episode.
Apu [to Bart and Lisa]: "Hey! Hey! This is not a lending library! If you're not going to buy that thing put it down or I'll blow your heads off!"

We're not asking for footnotes, just some acknowledgement.

Permalink posted by Jonathan : 1:52 PM

Prodding journalism students to, like, read journalism

I'm a Boston University graduate, which entitles me to a free (or $30,000) copy of Bostonia, my only link to Phil Spinks, the sole member of my class who regularly writes to the "Class Notes" section of the magazine.

But the Fall issue of the mag, which I only got around to reading just now, includes this thumb-sucker from Dan Kennedy, a Boston Phoenix media scribe and fellow alum (who knew?) Anyway, it bemoans the lack of interest in newspapers and boring old-media from those i-Pod wielding youngens. The best line is from an associate dean of the College of Communications, you know, the place where you learn how to report the news and stuff.
COM Associate Dean Tobe Berkovitz knows plenty of students who do follow the news — and he sees it as part of his job to prod those who don’t. More than anything, Berkovitz laments the dumbing-down of the news, believing newspapers and other media will have more success attracting and keeping customers if they give people what they need, and not just what they think they want. “I think you have to offer them hard news and stick with it during those years in the desert when your circulation and ratings are low. And hope that quality will win out,” he says. “Does anybody have the guts and the dollars to hang tough for a long time? I believe that in the long run, you have to put your faith in the American

Plenty of students who follow the news? What's that? 50 percent? 20? What are these kids doing in a communications school if they're not following the news? Yikes.

Permalink posted by Jonathan : 1:02 PM

NYT hearts hawks

Why am I having flashbacks to that Simpsons episode in which Kent Brockman intones: "The Lincoln Squirrel has been assassinated! We'll stay with this story all night if we have to!"

As everyone in the New York metropolitan area knows by now, Pale Male, a red-tailed hawk immortalized in a 2002 movie of the same name, was evicted from a Fifth Avenue apartment perch. The Times ran not one, but two articles on the urgent matter, Boldface Names weighed in the only way it knows how (drunken inchoherence), and there was even a Rush-Limbaugh-special-wack-job editorial in today's paper, which included this nugget:
It's always tempting to think that a city like New York has utterly effaced the natural ground on which it was built. Most of the creatures that lived on Manhattan Island several centuries ago would stand no chance of doing so now - not in these new canyons of steel and glass. But the presence of a nesting pair of red-tailed hawks, sequestered on the edge of an apartment building, feels like a memory from a past this city has long since forgotten.

The hawks have gone out of their way to learn to live with us. The least the wealthy residents of 927 Fifth Avenue could have done was learn to live with the hawks.

Where's a good tree to hug when you need it?

Permalink posted by Jonathan : 11:56 AM

More torture, please

Andrew McCarthy, taking a well-deserved break from the set of St. Elmo's Fire: The Reckoning, burnishes his ghoul credentials even more with this piece in NRO on why we need to really, really think hard about how much we should torture prisoners.

Concededly, the techniques the organization is said to have found — humiliation, solitary confinement, "temperature extremes" (which evidently means turning the air conditioning up high to cause discomfort to nude, or inadequately clothed, detainees), loud noise, bright lights, and use of forced positions — are unpleasant. But they do not come close to the severity of discomfort necessary to constitute actual torture.
And then there's this gem:
...the abuse of human life, even if the human life happens to belong to a terrorist, is considered serious business in the United States — too serious for grave terms like torture to be tossed about cavalierly by unaccountable propagandists at the ICRC.

Buck up, Andy. Maybe next time the ICRC will find some impaled heads on stakes.

Permalink posted by Jonathan : 11:17 AM

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Why does Spc. Wilson hate America?

Doesn't he know that pointing out what's wrong in Iraq gives succor to our enemies? What's he gonna do next? Start shooting marines? Traitor. Thank God for real Americans like our glorious leader and his piss-boy, Mr. Rumsfeld.

Permalink posted by Jonathan : 6:26 PM

So Negative!

As a working member of the press, I often bristle when people accuse me of rampant negativity. And, let me add, that as a long-suffering Philadelphia sports fan, the managed expectations game is a necessity to survive. But this column has to be, without a doubt, one of the most wrong-headed things I've seen in a long time.

"But should any of us really be excited by what transpired in the 47-17 win over Green Bay on Sunday? Does anyone really expect Ahman Green to rush for 39 yards if the teams meet again? Does anyone really think Brett Favre is going to do nothing while the Eagles ramrod his Packers again?"

"I know I don't think so," Packers wide receiver Donald Driver said. "Understand, we didn't play our game [Sunday]. Everything that could go wrong did go wrong. If you asked anyone in this locker room if things would be different if we were to play Philly again, the answer would be a unanimous yes, because things couldn't get any worse."

Driver forgot to add that things couldn't be any better for the Eagles right now. And that's exactly why the Eagles should be worried.

Steve, Steve. Take a Zoloft. And one other thing -- that Driver drivel is a bunch of junk. Ask him why exactly the Packers didn't play their game on Sunday. Could it possibly be that the Eagles, are, in fact good? Lordy.

Permalink posted by Jonathan : 4:38 PM

Tuesday, December 07, 2004


Crashing out on a long article today, so to my faithful two or three readers, I'm afraid my posting will be light to non-existent.

Permalink posted by Jonathan : 8:26 AM

Monday, December 06, 2004

I'm not that Jonathan Miller

Just a freelance reporting shlub living in Jersey, in case you were wondering. But that other guy still doesn't hold a candle to me. Theater & Opera Director. Physician. Author. Feh.

His hypnotic speaking style seems to have an effect on people. Check out what happened at Fairfield University: "The students were so awestruck by Dr. Miller's incredible depth of knowledge they were rendered speechless."

Permalink posted by Jonathan : 5:56 PM

Bestriding the World like a Colossus is Boring

Any listener to sports talk will tell you that a losing team is much, much better radio than a winning one (and some winning teams, according to this article, apparently now enjoy the unfair advantage of exciting ray-gun technology). How boring does it get to talk about how great so-and-so is? "Hey, Mike, Dwayne Smith is just a fantastic receiver." Zzzz. So it's pretty clear now, just a month after the humiliating Democratic face-plant, and the emasculation of liberals nationwide, that there is a conundrum facing the Republican Party and far-right radio: What In The World Do We Talk About? Really? Rush Limbaugh, always on the cutting edge of societal evolution, shows us the way with food talk, latent homoeroticism and birding:
"Every description of Red Bull's flavor I'm getting is different: like the south of a northbound skunk, like Sweet Tarts, like strawberry soda. None of them has anything in common -- and I haven't had a Sweet Tart in so long. Aren't there many flavors of sweet tarts? Heck if I know."

"Brian Williams is so good-looking, he's been cast as an empty suit Ken doll right out of the anchor cookie cutter factory, but I found him to be far more intelligent and have far more depth than I think a newscast will ever allow anybody to present."

"If a bird could grab a shotgun and fire back at us, it would, folks. Never forget that."

Thank you, Rush. Thank you.

Permalink posted by Jonathan : 10:20 AM

Getting old and watching the Pixies

Maybe $35 (plus Ticketmaster rape-charges) is too much to pay for tickets to a reunion concert in a boarded up concert shed in the country's murder capital, maybe the sound was a little muddy, and maybe Frank Black and Kim Deal looked like they had just stepped out of their Volvo on the way to Pottery Barn, but damn, if the Pixies didn't rock the house.

They played everything (OK, not Dig for Fire or Allison, but that's OK). They played a tight set. They played both versions of Wave of Mutiliation, just for good measure. One other thing. Catching the band live reinforces something that gets lost on record and with the passage of time: This is one very, very strange group. The songs stop and start and stop and then veer into the abyss. Frank Black squeals and screams and Kim breathily moans, and it often sounds like two mental patients in the middle of a knife-fight. Frightening and exhilirating.

Missed the first opening act, but be forewarned about the Datsuns. They are stone-cold awful. Very awful. Cinderella trying to channel Grand Funk Railroad awful. Load up on beer.

Permalink posted by Jonathan : 10:03 AM

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Detainee abuse in NJ

Another piece I wrote from today's NYT NJ weekly, also not on the web. NPR broke this story in November.


IN a pattern of abuse over the past three years, prison officials allowed guard dogs to intimidate, attack, and in at least two instances bite immigrant detainees at the Passaic County Jail here overseen by the Department of Homeland Security, according to former prisoners and internal jail documents.

Last week, federal officials said they would no longer send detainees to facilities that use dogs to patrol their jails. ''It has been our determination that we will not endorse the use of K-9's to manage detention populations,'' said Russ Knocke, a spokesman for the federal Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, adding that ''there are other mechanisms in place that will work just as effectively, if not more so.''

Moreover, the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees the bureau, said it had begun to review the treatment of immigrant detainees nationwide.

Responding to the federal agency's concerns, officials at the Passaic County Jail said that dogs would no longer patrol inside the jail. ''We're going through a trial period,'' said Bill Maer, a spokesman for Gerald Speziale, the county sheriff. ''But the department will not agree to anything that even remotely jeopardizes the safety of the personnel that work in the facility or the safety of inmates. We'll work with the contracting agency in a manner that works for both agencies. They had asked for some modifications in our policies, and we're certainly accommodating them.''

While the use of police dogs at jails and prisons is not unusual, their activity is largely limited to searching for drugs and explosives. Currently, 81 jails and prisons around the country that house federal immigrant detainees employ the use of dogs, while only 7 of the facilities use them to control prisoners. As for the Passaic County Jail, the warden, Charles Meyers, said 20 dogs, mostly German shepherds, had patrolled the facility for the past 24 years.

Although Mr. Knocke did not deny that incidents had occurred, he said that the timing of the announcement and reports of abuse by National Public Radio were ''a matter of coincidence'' -- even though the new policy was announced a day after the first of two reports were broadcast.

Immigration advocates, lawyers and civil rights groups said they had been questioning the treatment of the detainees for several years. The prisoners are held for a variety of reasons, ranging from overstaying visas to minor drug possession charges to committing major felonies -- and are awaiting deportation.

In one incident involving the guard dogs and witnessed by 10 corrections officers, an internal report from the Passaic County Sheriff's Department said, a 29-year-old Cuban inmate, Rosendo Lewis-Oropesa, had raised a clenched fist at an officer, cursed, and tried to swing and kick at him.

According to the report, ''The inmate attempted to get up when K-9 officer Tangorra stepped in with his K-9. The K-9 bit the inmate on his left forearm.''

Mr. Lewis-Oropesa, who has lived in Miami, Manhattan and Brooklyn and has served time for armed robbery, is still being held at the Passaic County Jail. He was transferred there this spring from Riker's Island.

In a telephone interview from the jail, he said that the dispute arose around 8 a.m. in May when he questioned guards who ordered that televisions be turned off because not all of the detainees were present for roll call. But he denied making threats or raising his fist at the officers.

''He pulled me out with nine officers, that's when the beatings started,'' said Mr. Lewis-Oropesa of one officer. ''At one point one guy was twisting my leg, twisting my foot. So I got up. That's when they grabbed me by my right hand, pinned me up against the wall with my face to the wall. My left side was exposed. And that's when the K-9 officer said. 'Let him bite him. Let him bite him.' He had no reason to let the dog bite me. I was restrained. The dog bit me on my leg, and I put my arm in the way and he clamped down on my arm and I started screaming. And I heard people in the cells going 'Oh my god.' And they said, 'Stop resisting!' I said, 'I'm not resisting!' And they threw me on the ground and put their knee on my back.''

In February, another detainee, Luis Valdez, says he was bitten in the back. Still, Mr. Lewis-Oropesa said that conditions at the jail improved after the incident involving him occurred.

Despite the decision to stop using the dogs, officials at the Passaic County Jail defended their use, and said the age and condition of the jail necessitated their presence.

''We utilized the dogs as part of our operation because of the fact we have an institution that has deficiencies, and the utilization of dogs worked into that overall plan,'' said Mr. Maer, the spokesman for the jail.

Mr. Meyers, the warden, put it this way: ''There's a lot of question as to whether or not he should have been bitten, but you have to realize this is not an easy job. We're not dealing with Boy Scouts at a summer camp. There are hardened criminals here.''

A report last year issued by the Justice Department's inspector general gave the facility high marks and said that it ''had much different (and significantly less harsh) detention experiences'' than those in Brooklyn, where conditions have been described as grim.

In addition to the biting incidents, many former inmates spoke of surprise late-night inspections, or what officials here call ''shakedowns.'' During those inspections, they said, dogs were brought into the cells and the inmates were ordered out of their beds. For several minutes, they said, officers would search their beds and clothing for contraband while officers handling the dogs would often loosen their grip on the leash and allow the dogs to snap.

Dogs 'Come Rushing up'

''They'd come at 2, usually 1,'' Hemnauth Mohabir, 43, an air-conditioning repairman and former detainee now living in Guyana, said in a telephone interview, ''and the dogs would come rushing up on you. They'd have the dog jump in and you couldn't turn your head around to see what's going on. The dog is going back and forth, back and forth, and is jumping and growling at you.''

Akhil Sahchdeva, a 32-year-old Indian national now living in Toronto and who was in the jail from December 2001 to May 2002, said in a telephone interview that the dogs were released and allowed to snap just a foot from his face before being yanked back ''just to make you afraid or terrorized.''

''The dogs used to bark in your face, and you'd get really scared,'' Mr. Sahchdeva said. ''I remember everyone was sleeping. Then suddenly, officers stormed in, they told us to get outside, and the dogs started barking on us.''

Mr. Sahchdeva also said that convicted felons were regularly housed with immigrant detainees, and that on one occasion he was punched in the face by one of them while the guards stood by and watched. In 2003, the Justice Department inspector general's report concluded that many of the detainees were mingled with violent criminals, a violation of detention standards.

Mr. Mohabir's former attorney, Bryan Lonegan of the New York Legal Aid, said that on one visit to the jail, he was startled when a dog snapped at his face. Later, Mr. Lonegan said, he saw the same dog with a K-9 officer, who allowed it to snap at a detainee mopping the floor.

''The biggest complaint was always the dogs,'' Mr. Lonegan said.

For their part, jail officials contended that there was no policy to intimidate the detainees.

''Yes, the dogs bark,'' Mr. Meyers said. ''But we never use them to terrorize people, as has been alleged. This isn't a torture chamber. This is a modern-day jail.''

Mr. Maer, the spokesman for Mr. Speziale, said he was skeptical of some of the claims. ''I'm only going to draw conclusions on real evidence or facts,'' he said. ''Just because Detainee One allegedly says that Detainee Two said, 'Yeah, that happened,' doesn't mean it happened. In the past, when we've had cases where our personnel have acted inappropriately, they have been charged internally or criminally.''

Brian Bendl, the deputy warden, said that while four corrections officers had been brought up on criminal charges in the past three years, none had to do with the current accusations, and that the jail did not plan to discipline any of the officers involved in the recent events.

'A Great Deterrent'

The Passaic County Sheriff's Web site offers the following explanation about the presence of dogs at the jail: ''K-9 teams escort inmates on all mass movements and otherwise patrol all areas throughout the facility. Their mere presence is a great deterrent to would-be troublemakers or the infiltration of narcotics.''

The Department of Homeland Security, formed in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, enters into what are called Intergovernmental Service Agreements with counties to hold federal immigration detainees in local facilities. The federal government pays for local governments to house the detainees until they are deported, and has oversight of the treatment of detainees.

The Passaic facility, built in 1956, has about 1,900 beds and houses, on average, around 200 detainees for which it is reimbursed $77 a day, though that total exceeded 400 in the aftermath of Sept. 11. According to some detainees, the alleged abuse has not been limited to the Passaic County Jail, but has also occurred at the Hudson County Correction Center in Kearny.

An Egyptian immigrant, Sadek Awaed was beaten severely by a guard in March. In a telephone interview from Egypt, Mr. Awaed, a former Jersey City cab driver, said the incident began when another detainee, Fathi Ganmi, began arguing with a guard. The guard began beating Mr. Ganmi, Mr. Awaed said, and then ordered everyone back into their cells. He said he started to make his way back to his cell, but was slowed by recent knee surgery.

''He punched me in the face and in my lips,'' said Mr. Awaed. I said, 'Give me one second, cuz.'''

He said the guard cursed at him and said, ''Stop faking.''

''He pushed me down on the floor,'' Mr. Awaed said. ''He started kicking me. There were 12, 15 of them, but 2 was holding me down. He was kicking me in the face and in my neck. I said, 'Do whatever you want, but stay away from knee, I just had an operation.' After they finished beating me up, they pushed me against the wall. When I fell down I was dizzy, and blood started coming out of my nose and mouth.''

Treated for Injuries

Hospital records show that Mr. Awaed and Mr. Ganmi were treated for wounds that day --Mr. Awaed for injuries to the neck and back and Mr. Ganmi for injuries to the testicular area and a chipped tooth.

Hudson officials say that Mr. Awaed had been a problematic inmate, and had been placed in confinement two weeks before the incident for trying to incite a riot.

A spokesman for the county, Jim Kennelly, said that an internal review of the incident had just been completed, and that the two guards directly involved would be dismissed, and those who witnessed the beating would be retrained.

''Everyone is very displeased and upset that this happened,'' Mr. Kennelly said.But he insisted that it was only ''one incident'' and the case should not be interpreted as evidence of a chronic problem at the jail ''It's an unfortunate black eye,'' Mr. Kennelly said, ''because these guys lost control of themselves.''

Permalink posted by Jonathan : 1:11 PM

A piece on Jeff Jarvis, blogger

This piece, on Mr. Jarvis and was in today's NYT. Not on the web, though. Ah, the inexplicable Times policy of not putting regional weeklies on that interweb thingy. Others may enjoy contemplating the base-level irony of The Times publishing a piece on a blogger and then not making it available on the web.



ON most nights, when he is not appearing as a guest on CNN or CNBC, Jeff Jarvis can be found plopped on his couch in Basking Ridge in front of a television, remote at the ready, occasionally taking a sip of decaf coffee as he channel surfs. A Sony Vaio computer is positioned firmly on his lap.

This is the future of media.

It is from here -- and, truth be told, many other places -- that Mr. Jarvis has posted his thoughts, hopes, anger and original reporting to, his Web log (Blog, for short). Of late, Mr. Jarvis has used his site to pillory the Federal Communications Commission, and garnered a great deal of attention for discovering that only three people probably complained to the F.C.C. over what became the largest fine in the history of television.

So what's a blog? Simply put, it's a low-maintenance, diary-on-the-Web where thoughts, original reporting and pictures can be posted. Some bloggers, like Glenn H. Reynolds of InstaPundit, compare it to stand-up comedy: Naked, and without a net.

Where does Mr. Jarvis blog? ''Anywhere,'' he said. ''On the couch, up in the office, in my home, from Starbucks, from airports. It's an obsession.''

His proudest blogging moment came while using his hand-held TREO, which he employed to inform the public about Howard Stern's $27,500 fine from the F.C.C. He happened to be in the choir loft of his church in Warren.

Mr. Jarvis is a tall and wiry 50-year-old, a husband and father of two with a six-bedroom house in the exurbs of New Jersey. He has a neatly trimmed beard and a thick crop of hair -- both of which are near-white -- and he exudes a slightly professorial air. If anything, he looks even thinner in person than the picture that adorns his blog. His boyish excitement sometimes spins out of control. ''I ramble,'' he said.

He started, three years ago in the aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001, and since then it has become one of the most popular blogs on the Web. ''I thought that it would last a few weeks,'' he said, ''but of course it took over all available life.''

According to, Mr. Jarvis ranks 63rd among sites in measuring the number of other sites that link to him. It puts him in the company of Gawker, a popular gossip blog (57) and, the Web site for the rock band (61).

Mr. Jarvis is no media neophyte. He was a newspaper reporter and longtime television critic for People magazine, where he came up with the idea for Entertainment Weekly. After a stormy few months as managing editor, he resigned and joined TV Guide as a critic.

Today, as president and creative director of, he has control over 10 Web sites, including, and others in Portland, Ore., and Cleveland. He gives talks at places like DaimlerChrysler and the Association of National Advertisers on the wonders of blogs and alternate media.

On a recent morning, he is in his sparely decorated office at in Jersey City, overlooking Journal Square. He is tired from an appearance on NewsNight with Aaron Brown on CNN (the discussion centered on the flap over Nicollette Sheridan, a star of the television sensation ''Desperate Houswives,'' who shed a towel and jumped into the arms of Terrell Owens of the Philadelphia Eagles in a promotional spot for ''Monday Night Football'') and an early morning and not terribly productive breakfast meeting, complete with a sub-par $6 bagel at Michael's, Manhattan's see-and-be-seen restaurant for media moguls.

Back in his office, he takes a call on his cellphone from a CNN producer who encourages him to pitch ideas for future discussions. ''Oh, thank you'' he said to her. ''That's what I want to hear.'' He hangs up.

A 21st-Century Media Man

Such is life for the 21st-century Media Man.

Web publishing is his new love, and he eagerly demonstrates how it is done. First, he wheels in his chair toward his Vaio. With a few clicks, Mr. Jarvis is breezing through the New York Times's Web site, where he links to an article on televisions and puts out a plea: ''So I'm thinking about buying a big, honking flat-screen TV so I can corrupt my morals yet more. Was debating between LCD and Plasma. What do you say?''

He gets 27 comments offering advice.

Then it's on to, where he cruises over to a local blog from South Orange, which comments on a recent article about the banning of religious music in the local schools. He grabs the link, adds his thoughts, and posts it to BuzzMachine. He hits ''refresh'' on his browser, and in less time it takes to warm up a '74 Torino, he has cast his musings into the vast information ocean.

More often of late, those thoughts have been plucked from the blogosphere and amplified by old-style media. For instance, in November, ABC News, The Washington Post and The New York Post cited his startling discovery that the fine against Fox and its affiliates for broadcasting ''sexually suggestive'' material in a show called ''Married by America'' (for a segment that involved whipped cream and spankings) was prompted, in the end, by only three people. After he submitted a Freedom of Information Act request, he found that the 159 written complaints the F.C.C. had received turned out to be copies of two form letters and one hand-written note. The $1.2 million fine was the largest in the history of the regulatory agency.

On election night, Mr. Brown read Mr. Jarvis's ''Post-Election Peace Pledge'' -- which had been posted on his site -- and which said, in part: ''I promise to support the president, even if I didn't vote for him.''

His employer, Advance Publications, takes a fairly relaxed attitude toward Mr. Jarvis's extracurricular activities -- even though he often blogs in the middle of the workday.

''I think for Jeff to be doing it is a help,'' said Steven Newhouse, the chief executive of and the editor-in-chief of The Jersey Journal, ''because it helps him stay fresh and stay on top of it.''

As for Mr. Jarvis going on the air to inveigh against the F.C.C., well, that's O.K., too. ''Jeff really represents his own viewpoint,'' Mr. Newhouse said. ''He never pretends to represent our company, our internet group. Jeff is very honest and very honorable.''

Mr. Jarvis's words often tumble out in a stream, and he sounds like a man enjoying his seventh cup of coffee (though his doctor has forbidden him from consuming caffeine ever since Sept. 11, 2001, when he was in Lower Manhattan during the attacks and inhaled dust from the wreckage). The mere mention of the F.C.C. is likely to set Mr. Jarvis on edge, and he often refers to the federal regulators as ''prudes, prigs, and self-appointed national nannies.''

Three Bozos and the F.C.C

During an appearance on National Public Radio's ''On The Media,'' he came close to sounding unhinged, his voice growing distorted as it rose to a fury when he spoke of the commission and complainants to the agency. ''What the heck are three bozos out there in the country doing, dictating to the rest of us what we can and cannot see and hear on our media?'' he told Bob Garfield, one of the show's hosts.

In a recent conversation, he veered from venture capitalists-turned-bloggers to the genius of the shock jock Howard Stern to his own rules of mass communication (''The means of media are now in the hands of the people,'' he said in a recent interview with For a brief period in 2003, he started a site called BernardsBlog, which dealt with issues like new school construction and township council meetings, but he stopped posting on it, he said at the time, because he just did not have the time. He now says it was merely an experiment.

The son of an electronics salesman, Mr. Jarvis grew up in Iowa and Illinois, but spent eight years of his youth in Cinnaminson. He said he became interested in technology at an early age, and recalled teaching himself how to use the in-house computer at a newspaper in Chicago that has folded. He has lived in North Bergen and Hoboken (where his wife grew up), and now owns a house on three acres in Basking Ridge.

When he is not writing his blog or appearing on television, he is trying to figure out how to extend Advance's publications' brand. At, for instance, there are forums and chats and blogs about everything -- from wrestling and local government to birding. In fact, in August, when Gov. James E. McGreevey stunned the nation with his announcement that he was gay and would be resigning from office, bloggers and forums on the site were quick to spread tales (some of them unsubstantiated) of Mr. McGreevey's sexual shenanigans.

Indeed, Mr. Jarvis takes pride in the site being ahead of the curve. ''People were telling the whole story what was happening with McGreevey hours before the announcement was made,'' he said, ''Hours before.''

Of course, blogs played an instrumental role in bringing to light the segregationist comments made by Senator Trent Lott, who lost his post as majority leader over the controversy. And this year, blogs helped expose the unauthenticated documents that Dan Rather of CBS had used in a story about President Bush's National Guard service. (When Mr. Rather announced he was stepping down, Mr. Jarvis suggested Jon Stewart or David Letterman as replacements.)

He is not of the opinion -- shared by many -- that blogs will smash old media, take over the conversation and bestride the globe like a colossus.

But in recent months, he has gotten into heated exchanges with Mr. Reynolds, a law professor at the University of Tennessee otherwise known as InstaPundit, one of the most popular blogs on the Web. Mostly, the arguments have been over Senator Kerry's service in Vietnam and President Bush's time in the National Guard. Mr. Jarvis said he was not interested, and took to calling Mr. Reynolds ''Instaphnom,'' when the latter began posting regularly about Mr. Kerry's assertion that he was in Cambodia over Christmas 1968, which he made to argue that Vietnam had been in part a secret war.

At one point, Mr. Reynolds wrote to Mr. Jarvis: ''For a guy who repeatedly blogs that he's worried I don't like him, you sure act like you don't like me. Luckily, I'm thick-skinned.''

In reply, Mr. Jarvis wrote: ''It's not personal. I do like you. I respect you. I respect the power of Instapundit.'' But, he concluded, Mr. Reynolds was linking to scurrilous stories, ''and linking to mudslinging gets some on you.''

'I Love Jeff's Blog'

In a telephone interview, Mr. Reynolds said that while he sometimes disagreed with Mr. Jarvis's blog, he visited it several times a day. ''I love Jeff's blog,'' he said, ''and I think that one of the signs of the blogosphere doing well is that people can disagree about stuff and still get along.''

In fact, it was Mr. Jarvis who helped put in a good word for Mr. Reynolds with MSNBC. Now, Mr. Reynolds blogs on that site in addition to his work at InstaPundit.

Mr. Jarvis's ire has been extended to some of his readers as well. On his blog in August, he expressed his outrage over the execution of an Italian journalist in Iraq, and was alarmed at the response, which he characterized as ''spiteful, mean, venomous, stupid comments.'' He took all of them to task: ''O.K., too many of you are just sick. Someone is killed and you turn it into your chance to spit. Grow up. Join the human race.'' He admonished one poster named ''Kat'' -- ''I guess you probably blame sunset on evil reporters.'' He banned all of them from his blog.

In the end, Mr. Jarvis believes that alternate forms of media, like blogs, will evolve, expand and effect all levels of culture and society in ways no one could not have imagined just a few years ago. At times, he still seems amazed at the power of one person.

''Anybody with something to say can come out there and suddenly join in the media parade,'' he said. ''This is good for media.''

Permalink posted by Jonathan : 10:17 AM

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