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by Ben L. Kaufman 11.28.2012
 
 
enquirer

Curmudgeon Notes 11.28.2012

Media musings from Cincinnati and beyond

It was a double scoop when HUC Prof. Ben Zion Wacholder and doctoral student Martin G. Abegg Jr. released their bootleg translations of previously unpublished Dead Sea scrolls. 

Their highly accurate texts were created without seeing the scrolls and they shattered secrecy created by a cabal of scholars who for decades restricted other researchers’ and translators’ access to the ancient documents.

Steve Rosen’s recent Page 1 story in the Enquirer got that right. The other scoop was my 1991 Enquirer story reporting Wacholder and Abegg’s triumph. Our photo showed visually impaired Wacholder looking at a dramatically enlarged image on a Mac.  

Their ordeal had its origin in a promise by then-HUC president Nelson Glueck in 1969. He agreed to house 1000-plus photographic images of the scrolls lest something happen to the originals. He also agreed with scholars controlling access to the scrolls that no one else would see the HUC negatives while the original scrolls existed.

That included Wacholder. To his frustration, HUC honored that promise even after Glueck’s death and despite the growing international controversy over restricted scholarly access to many of the original scrolls.  

Today’s Biblical Archaeology Society website, biblicalarchaeology.org, recalled how Wacholder and Abegg got lucky in 1989. Chief editor of the scrolls John Strugnell sent a copy of a secret concordance of the Dead Sea Scrolls to Wacholder. It “consisted of photocopies of index cards on which every word in the unpublished scrolls was listed, including its location and the few words surrounding it.” It was their Rosetta Stone.

Wacholder and Abegg programmed the Mac to apply their knowledge of ancient literature to the data in the concordance. "I'm sick and tired of all this waiting," he told me at the time. 

In 1991, the society’s Biblical Archaeology Review published the reconstructions, breaking the more-than-40-year-old monopoly on the scrolls.

And when jealous scholars challenged the accuracy of the reconstructions, Wacholder was dismissive. "I'll match my knowing of the . . . texts - even blind — any of them.

Wacholder died last year. Abegg became professor and co-director of the Dead Sea Scrolls Institute at Trinity Western University in British Columbia. 

I’ve described my fear that the Cleveland Plain Dealer — long Ohio’s best daily — will follow other Advance Publications into print obscurity.  PD journalists also heard the clatter of bean counters and created the Save The Plain Dealer campaign. Earlier this year, Advance — another name for Newhouse family publications — the New Orleans Times-Picayune as a traditional daily. It fired lots of journalists and now is printed three days a week to accommodate heavy advertising. Surviving journalists also work online every day. With that innovation, Newhouse made New Orleans America’s largest city without a daily paper. Smaller Advance dailies suffered the same fate. Poynter.com quoted an email from PD science writer John Mangels earlier this month:

The multi­media campaign will begin Sunday with a half­-page ad in The Plain Dealer, to be followed by bus and billboard ads throughout the city. TV and radio ads will appear soon. There will be mass mailings and e­ mailings to elected officials, political and business leaders and other people of influence. We’ll have a Facebook page with an abundance of content, a petition on Change.org, and a Twitter feed. We’re also working to organize community forums where we’ll discuss the future of journalism in Northeast Ohio, and the potential impact of the loss of the daily paper and much of its experienced news­gathering staff.”

Later, reached by phone, Mangels told Poynter that PD  management hasn’t said anything about Advance’s plans. “The only detail that we’ve been told by our bosses here is that major changes are coming, layoffs in some number are coming,” Mangels said. 

Have you noticed how GOP aspirants for the 2016 presidential nomination are using long-reviled mainstream news media (MSM) to distance themselves from Romney and his disdain for retirees, veterans, Hispanics, African Americans, and young adults? I love the GOP’s irony deficit. They’ve spent decades teaching True Believers that the MSM is an evil, liberal cabal, not to be trusted. Now, these same Republican 40-somethings want voters to believe what the mainstream news media tell them about their aspirations and sagacity. They’re also fleeing Romney’s transparent hypocrisy and its blowback; benefits to Democratic constituencies are meant to buy votes but benefits for GOP constituencies never, ever should be understood as a way to woo financial support or votes.  

Here’s an angle I haven’t encountered in post-election coverage: an almost inevitable GOP win in 2016. Not only is a second elected term unusual for modern Democratic presidents, but a third term for either party is rare. Since FDR in 1940, only popular Republican Ronald Reagan was succeeded by a Republican, George H. W. Bush. I’m not alone if my reading to liberal columnists is a fair indicator of grudging agreement. They want Obama to push through agendas they’ve advocated for the past four years and to find the cajones to fight for his nominations when they go before the Senate led by Kentucky Pride Mitch McConnell. 

Propaganda-laden cable news and TV/radio talk shows can lull angry, fearful partisans and voters into believing what facts refute. And I mean refute not rebut. Anything out of sync with those GOP media was rejected as MSM bias. Whether it was a Pavlovian response, delusional thinking or magical realism, the result was Republican candidates, consultants, strategists, voters and Fox News were stunned when state after state went for Obama. Carl Rove went into a spin of denial on Fox News as election returns came in; he believed what Fox News had been telling him for months: Romney in a walk.  What was that cliche, something about drinking the Kool-aid?

This from Eric Alterman in his What Liberal Media? column in The Nation: “They watched Fox News, read The Wall Street Journal, clicked on Drudge and the Daily Caller, and listened to the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Hugh Hewitt, Karl Rove, Dick Morris and Peggy Noonan promise them that their Kenyan/Muslim/socialist/terrorist nightmare was nearly over. One election was all that stood between them and a country without capital gains taxes, pollution regulation, healthcare mandates, gay marriage and abortions for rape victims.”

Alterman continued: “The less wonderful irony involves the supporting role the mainstream media played in this un-reality show. Post-truth politics reached a new pinnacle this year as major MSM machers admitted to a lack of concern with the veracity of the news their institutions reported. ‘It’s not our job to litigate [the facts] in the paper,’ New York Times national editor Sam Sifton told the paper’s public editor, Margaret Sullivan, regarding phony Republican ‘voter fraud’ allegations. ‘We need to state what each side says.’ ‘The truth? C’mon, this is a political convention’ was the headline over a column by Glenn Kessler, the Washington Post ‘fact-checker.’ Yes, you read that right.”

How bad was it? Alterman quoted Steve Benen, a blogger and Rachel Maddow Show producer. He “counted fully 917 false statements made by Mitt Romney during 2012. Just about the truest words to come out of the campaign were those of the Romney pollster who explained, ‘We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers.’ But not only did many members of the MSM give Romney a pass on his serial lying; they actually endorsed his candidacy on the assumption that we need not take seriously any of those statements the candidate had felt compelled to make in order to win the nomination of his party.”

In the expanding universe of online calumny, few American public officials or public figures strike back big time in part because of broad First Amendment protections available to defamers.  British libel law  makes it much easier for the victim to win. The latest target of false online vilification is Lord Alistair McAlpine. BBC implicated but didn’t name him in its spreading child abuse scandal. However, so little was left to the imagination that in Britain’s media/politics hothouse that McAlpine was named in myriad tweets. 

BBC quickly admitted error and paid him almost $300,000 to salve his bruised feelings. ITV — Britain’s Independent Television — followed BBC with apology and more than $200,000 for inadvertently accusing McAlpine of abusing children.

McAlpine is offering to accept a tweeted apology and modest payment from most of the tweeters. He’s less forgiving of  20 members of Parliament, journalists and other public officials and figures. They probably face costly libel actions in a country where it’s almost impossible for a defendant to win. 

Assume every microphone in front of you is “on.”  You don’t warm up with “There once was a man from Nantucket . . . “ on the assumption that mic is dead. Myriad public figures have ignored that Law of the Jungle to their pain. The latest is Jonathan Sacks, Orthodox chief rabbi of Great Britain, who delivers a “Thought for the Day” regularly on BBC radio’s  Today program. 

Here’s the Telegraph report and another statement from the overworked BBC apology machine. After Sacks finished and apparently assumed his mic was turned off, host Evan Davis asked, “Jonathan, before you go, you know, any thoughts on what’s going on over in Israel and Gaza at the moment?”

Lord Sacks sighed, before replying: “I think it has got to do with Iran, actually.”

Cohost Sarah Montague realized Sacks did not seem to know his remarks were being broadcast and she could be heard to whisper: “We, we’re live.”

Lord Sacks adopted a more formal broadcasting manner and suggested the crisis demanded “a continued prayer for peace, not only in Gaza but for the whole region. No-one gains from violence. Not the Palestinians, not the Israelis. This is an issue here where we must all pray for peace and work for it.” 

Later, BBC apologized for catching Sacks off-guard. A spokesman said: “The Chief Rabbi hadn’t realized he was still on-air and as soon as this became apparent, we interjected. (Host) Evan likes to be spontaneous with guests but he accepts that in this case it was inappropriate and he has apologized to Lord Sacks. The BBC would reiterate that apology.”

So far, I haven’t found a news angle beyond prurience in the Petraeus resignation. Yes, there could have been a national security issue, but once then-spymaster Petraeus went public about his extramarital affair, he couldn’t be blackmailed.  We’ll never know how well the CIA would have run under Petraeus, but turning it further into an almost unaccountable paramilitary force with its fleet of deadly drones killing Americans abroad and others would not have been in the national interest. We need a good spy agency. Killing people you’re trying to subvert and convert is a lousy game plan. 

Admiring and available women are no stranger to powerful public and corporate leaders. Generals are no exception. Neither are social climbers hoping to use them.  All that’s missing from the Petraeus soap opera is for some just-married junior officer to claim his general exercised droit du seigneur. 

We can wonder what their frequently mentioned Lebanese origins have to do with the Tampa twins’ roles in the Petraeus soap opera, or whether Paula’s arms are fitter and better displayed than Michele’s. After that, let’s get to the fun stuff: the ease with which law enforcement obtains our emails.  

And a belated Thanksgiving note. Somehow, I found a turkey on the Copperbelt in Central Africa where I was editing the new daily Zambia Times. I did my best to explain how to roast it with stuffing to the cook in the house I was caring for. He served it that evening with obvious pride. It was brown, roasted over open coal on a spit he’d tended for hours. The stuffing was special beyond my dreams: the sonofabitch had used the kosher salami I’d hoarded for months for stuffing. I thanked and praised him through clenched teeth and dug in. It was memorable. And awful.

 
 
by German Lopez 10.30.2012
 
 
anna louise inn

Morning News and Stuff

In-person early voting is underway in Ohio. Find your nearest polling booth here.

Hurricane Sandy slammed the East Coast last night. At least 16 people are believed to have died from the storm, and as many as 7.5 million were left without power. Areas of New York and New Jersey also faced major flooding. It took until 4:30 a.m. for Sandy to go from hurricane to tropical storm. 

The Anna Louise Inn will be in court at 9 a.m. today arguing in front of the First District Court of Appeals, which could overturn a May ruling and allow the Inn to move forward with its renovation. CityBeat will have online coverage for the hearing later today.

Hamilton County’s probation department is facing sexual harassment charges. The charges are coming from a county worker who said her promotion was denied due to her actions “for opposing discrimination and encouraging others to exercise their right to be free from acts of discrimination.”

The Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes filed a lawsuit Friday in an attempt to reverse the August reworking of the Blue Ash airport deal. For COAST, the lawsuit is mostly to stall or stop the financing for the $110 million Cincinnati streetcar.

City Council will vote next week to decide whether the city should borrow $37 million to fund development projects and a portion of the Homeless to Homes program. But Homeless to Homes is generating some concern due to its requirement to move three shelters.

Three Cincinnati charity groups are coming together to help veterans with disabling injuries. The organizations will pool available resources to hopefully find jobs for veterans.

Mitt Romney is running a new ad against President Barack Obama in Ohio that says Chrysler is moving Jeep production to China. The ad, which Chrysler says is false, warranted a snarky response from the car company: “Despite clear and accurate reporting, the take has given birth to a number of stories making readers believe that Chrysler plans to shift all Jeep production to China from North America, and therefore idle assembly lines and U.S. workforce. It is a leap that would be difficult even for professional circus acrobats.” The Obama team also responded with its own ad. It is somewhat understandable Romney would be getting a bit desperate at this point in the race. Ohio is widely considered the most important swing state, but aggregate polling has Romney down 1.9 points in the state. Romney is up 0.9 points nationally.

State Republicans are refusing to pull an ad that accuses William O’Neill, Democratic candidate for the Ohio Supreme Court, of expressing “sympathy for rapists.” This is despite the fact that Justice Robert Cupp, O’Neill’s Republican opponent, has distanced himself from the ad. At this point, even the most nonpartisan, objectives watchers have to wonder why the Republican Party can’t keep rape out of its messaging. In comments aired first on Aug. 19, U.S. Senate candidate Todd Akin of Missouri said on pregnancy after rape, “If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” On Oct. 23, Richard Mourdock, the Senate candidate for Indiana, said, “I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize that life is that gift from God. And, I think, even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.”

Ohio is getting closer to the health exchange deadline with no plan in sight. Obamacare asks states to take up health exchanges that act as competitive markets for different health insurance plans. States are allowed to either accept, let the federal government run the exchanges or take a hybrid approach. As part of the health exchanges, the federal government will also sponsor a heavily regulated nonprofit plan that sounds fairly similar to the public option liberals originally wanted in Obamacare.

Meanwhile, Ohio and other states still haven’t decided whether they will be expanding their Medicaid programs. In the past, state officials have cited costs as a big hurdle, but one study from Arkansas found Medicaid expansions actually saved money by reducing the amount of uncompensated care. Some states that expanded Medicaid also found health improvements afterward.

An inspector at the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) was caught not doing her job. The inspector was supposed to do 128 site visits for in-person safety inspections, but she apparently never showed up to some of the schools and filed fraudulent reports.

Peter Cremer North America could add 50 jobs in Cincinnati over three years in an expansion.

A San Francisco firm bought a major stake in Cincinnati Bell.

 
 
by 11.19.2008
Posted In: Social Justice, Public Policy at 01:15 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 

Poems from Guantanamo

Whether you agree with the use of the Guantanamo Bay detention center for the holding of “enemy combatants” without charges or trials, you can get an idea of what life on the inside is like, thanks to the ACLU.

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by Danny Cross 06.05.2012
 
 
dukeenergy

Morning News and Stuff

A federal appeals court yesterday reinstated an antitrust lawsuit against Duke Energy. The lawsuit accuses Duke of paying kickbacks to local companies in order to gain support for a 2004 electric rate increase. The lawsuit alleges that Duke appeased the more powerful opposing companies by including rebate deals for them. The suit is seeking unspecified damages and seeks to represent all Ohioans affected by the rate increase.

Todd Portune is continuing his quest to become the East Side's county's property tax rebate savior, yesterday offering a new idea to bail out the stadium fund: extend the half cent sales tax past 2032. The revenue created by extending the sales tax, which has no sunset clause, would repay loans the county could use to pay for maintenance and projects at the stadiums now. Republican Commissioner Chris Monzel is open to “any ideas,” though Democratic Commissioner Greg Hartmann says otherwise:

“Todd, here we go again,” snapped Commissioner Greg Hartmann. “Walking away from these leases is just fantasyland.

“How many times are we going to do this?” he asked.

Rob Portman will test out his GOP rallying cries at the Faith & Freedom Coalition in Washington, D.C. next week.

Bill Clinton says a Mitt Romney presidency would be “calamitous” for the U.S.

The Senate will vote on a gender pay equity bill today.

China and Russia say they'll help the UN more going forward, though they've been supporting Syria more than anyone really wants them to.

Here's an explanation of the Transit of Venus, for those who don't get it yet.

Nintendo has revamped its Wii to try to lure gamers from free Internet games they play on iPads.

A new PC virus can infect computers by imitating a Windows update.

 
 
by Danny Cross 10.11.2011
 
 
an-oil-slick-streams-from-007

Morning News and Stuff

Occupy Cincinnati protesters lined up for more citations last night at Piatt Park, with more than 20 occupiers receiving tickets while more protesters stood outside the park, protesting in un-ticketable fashion. There are now about 15 tents in the park.

Authorities in Boston arrested approximately 100 Occupy Boston protesters around 1 a.m. this morning after warning protesters to return to their original little encampment. Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino says he sympathizes with the protesters but that they'll have to find ways to occupy that aren't considered civil disobedience.

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by Danny Cross 07.13.2012
 
 
images

Morning News and Stuff

A citizen committee has determined that levy-funded Hamilton County social-service agencies need to provide their services with fewer resources, advising that property owners pay the same levy rate despite decreases in property values that will reduce funding for groups that help senior citizens and people with mental illnesses. The decision by the 11-member committee will reportedly affect 30,000 residents who rely on such agencies to provide services such as meal delivery and counseling. In order to keep funding level the levy would have had to increase the cost for the owner of a $100,000 home by $6. 

From The Enquirer: 

Bosses of the Council on Aging of Southwestern Ohio had already agreed to live on less, but argued against some committee recommendations.

Those include:

• Raising the age criteria. Currently 9 percent of clients are between 60 and 70 years old. An agency spokeswoman said that’s because services are disability-based. Some “younger” seniors – those suffering from strokes and early Alzheimer’s, for instance – have more needs than older people.

• Requiring new clients to meet U.S. legal resident requirements. According to the agency, screening for U.S. citizenship would make the program ineligible to use Older Americans Act dollars, at a cost of almost $1.2 million a year. The spokeswoman said all clients live in the county.

Enquirer reporters Carrie Whitaker and Janice Morse broke from traditional journalistic standard on Tuesday by reporting the names of teenagers involved in an alleged theft and police chase. The three girls, ages 16, 14 and 12, were identified by full name and as being from Avondale and Pleasant Ridge. A follow up story on Wednesday reported two of the girls being released from the hospital. It also included the minors’ names and did not include a reporter’s byline.

Jean Schmidt sided with Democrats on an attempt to stop Republicans from cutting even deeper the funding for the national food stamp program. The legislation that passed will cut the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) by more than $16 billion over 10 years. GOP lawmakers wanted it cut by $33 billion. 

Iran put on a missile show on Friday, demonstrating the accuracy of its long-range missiles and their ability to hit Western bases and Israel

Headline: “Wells Fargo Posts $4.6 Billion Profit, Up 17%.” Big ups, Wells Fargo!

Condoleezza Rice as Romney’s running mate? Sarah Palin says it’s a good idea. 

A nearly complete skeleton of a human ancestor has been found in South Africa. 

 
 
by Danny Cross 11.16.2011
 
 
jesse-jackson

Morning News and Stuff

The Rev. Jesse Jackson addressed Occupy Cincinnati yesterday at Piatt Park. Later in the day 15 individuals were arrested for staying in the park past its 10 p.m. closing time, the first arrests in weeks, as protesters have challenged the legality of the park closing at all. Jackson was reportedly scheduled to return to the park at noon on Wednesday to again speak with Occupy Cincinnati.

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by Danny Cross 11.01.2011
 
 
sprite

Morning News and Stuff

Occupy Cincinnati protesters have asked a judge to throw all charges against them, arguing that the park rules are unconstitutional which means their punishments shouldn't exist. The cases are expected to be delayed until the constitutional argument is figured out.

Two county commissioners say they want to help the county's Job and Family Services agency after an Enquirer analysis detailed massive funding, technology and staffing shortages that might have contributed to the deaths of three toddlers during the last 10 months. Republican Greg Hartmann and Democrat Todd Portune have suggested the agency use money from a reserve set aside for an expected bookkeeping penalty while they vote on a budget that will stay the same as last year.

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by Danny Cross 10.07.2011
 
 
idesdirects

Morning News and Stuff

The Ides of March opens nationally today. Here's what one of CityBeat's highly respected film critics thinks of it. And here's an interview with Max Minghella by another smart person who works here.

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by 11.11.2010
Posted In: Social Justice, History, War at 02:27 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 

Remembering Soldiers on Veterans Day

Today is Veterans Day, which began as Armistice Day on Nov. 11, 1919, the one-year anniversary of the end of World War I. President Eisenhower formally made it Veterans Day in 1954.

HBO airs a new documentary film tonight, Wartorn: 1861-2010, focusing on post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among U.S. soldiers as well as soldier suicides from the Civil War up through the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Actor James Gandolfini is the film's executive producer and conducts on-camera interviews. Watch a preview here.

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