Archive for September, 2010

A year ago today, the headline from the sports section of the September 30, 2009, edition of The Washington Post read:

Friedgen’s Future At Maryland Is Unclear
Could Franklin Take Helm Sooner Than Expected

The point of the story was to suggest that after a 1-3 start to the season, Ralph Friedgen, the head coach of the University of Maryland football team, would be shown the door in favor of James Franklin.

Of course, if you happened to click the link I placed in Friedgen’s name above, you will see that Friedgen continues to helm the Terrapins on the gridiron despite ending the 2009 season with an overall record of 2-10 and 1-7 in the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC). Out of the gate this year, the University of Maryland is 3-1.

This posting is not so much to harp on the fact that the Post writers went with a storyline that wound up being wrong. If that was the case, I would have filed this blog entry under my category of “Veridiction“, the act of verifying predictions.

No, I am writing because this story highlights an aspect of journalism I find unsettling. I read the Post (and yes, I still read the ink-and-paper version of the newspaper) and listen to the radio to find out what is news. By “news”, I mean those events in the world that are new. I want to know what is happening outside of the shell that I inhabit.

Please don’t tell me what could happen, what may happen, or what perhaps will happen if only A, B, X, Y and/or Z occur. If I want conjecture or opinion, I will go to the op-ed page or consult a Ouija board. By no means am I saying that a good SWAG doesn’t deserve its fair share of ink or airtime, but I am saying don’t make it a lead or a headline.

Stories that lead with a Could, May, or Perhaps are simply spin or trial balloons masquerading as news. Respectable (and hard-working) journalists shouldn’t have to spend their time (and mine) reporting on things that could, may, or perhaps happen when there is plenty enough in the world that is actually happening.

Next time you come across a story with a Could, May, or Perhaps, simply append to the conjecture some variation of the phrase “…result in hamsters gaining self-awareness…” and you’ll find the story makes just as much sense.

Here…let’s try with the first line taken from this random story from the BBC News online site that I found by simply entering the word “could” in its search box.

The first line now reads “Up to 70% of child psychologists and behavioural specialists in Somerset could lose their jobs and hamsters could gain self-awareness as part of cuts being proposed by the county council..“.

Which is odd, because it is precisely the lack of funding that would prevent hamsters from getting smarter as noted here.

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Over the past two days, the Public Broadcasting System (PBS) has been airing the latest documentary by Ken Burns entitled Baseball The Tenth Inning, which is a follow-up to his 1994 film Baseball. This new documentary highlights the troublesome 1990s of the National Pastime which includes the Steroid Era and the labor strike that caused the cancellation of the 1994 World Series. It was these events and Major League Baseball’s reaction (or lack of reaction) to these indignities that caused my own strike from baseball (as mentioned in a previous blog entry).

With this documentary on the air, it seemed to a be good segue into this ceditra entry from September 7, which had as its random genesis an advertisement in The Washington Post for Washington Post Wednesdays offering five dollars off Washington Nationals home games:

It appears that my old habit of hitting advertisements when a newspaper was selected. In the old days of this experiment, the newspaper of choice was USA Today and the last few entries, if memory serves, were about ads.

Back to today and our subject is baseball. I have written about my boycott of baseball so there’s no need to go there again.

An aspect of my boycott is that I am not passing on my love of baseball and the game to my children. I don’t watch it on TV with my kids and, with one exception, we have not taken them to a Nationals game (and even then it was only because the tickets were free). Therefore, my trio of progeny have a limited exposure of the National Pastime.

Tied to that is the fact that, with one exception, my boys have not played youth baseball at any level. Jared played T-ball for one season, but didn’t go back to the game because he thought T-ball, at that level, was boring (there was no fielding, every batter hit the ball and only ran to first base). Christopher, now twelve, has never played but he did ask last week if he could start. I am concerned that since he has never played that he would be at a disadvantage against all the other kids who have been playing since they were a fetus.

But then again, if he wants to play, why shouldn’t I let him?

Back to today and I now may have the possibility to regain my love of the game and to introduce my children to baseball without going through Major League Baseball as the news was announced that a new professional baseball team, the Loudoun Hounds, is coming to my neck of northern Virginia.

Logo for the Loudoun Hounds baseball team

Perhaps my kids' ticket to love the game

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When as a country will we collectively man up and describe the dual wars in Afghanistan and Iraq for what they are: complete, utter, and total failures.

Starting with Iraq, let’s remember what the original rationale was for going to war against that country – weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Iraqi President Saddam Hussein had them and was hiding them. The headline from the September 28, 2002 edition of The Washington Post spells it out that “U.S. Goal is Wider Access to Iraq Sites“. The belief was, eight years ago, that Hussein was lying about his WMD programs and was able to hide his country’s biological, chemical, and nuclear laboratories from the inspectors of the United Nations.

President George W. Bush, in a speech on October 7, 2002, even cited the imminent threat posed by the nuclear arsenal of the Iraqi leader when Bush said:

America must not ignore the threat gathering against us. Facing clear evidence of peril, we cannot wait for the final proof — the smoking gun — that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud.

So, in March of 2003, in a preemptive strike against that peril, the missiles flew, the bombs fell, and the tanks rolled in.

It was all for nothing as the “clear evidence” of WMDs were as mythical as the belief that one can have tax cuts, increase spending due to two wars, and still balance the budget. The September 28, 2003, headline from the Post reads “House Probers Conclude Iraq Data Was Weak“. It only took a year for that “clear evidence” to become “weak” and crumble like the sands Americans were now dying on.

The war in Afghanistan has become a failure for a different reason. Unlike the conflict in Iraq, the war in Afghanistan was based on the true premise of revenge against the masterminds of the September 11 attacks (al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, etc.) and those that gave them safe haven (the Taliban). Beginning in October of 2001, the war in Afghanistan started out well with American and NATO forces, along with allies from the Northern Alliance routing the Taliban. However, the failure began when troops in Afghanistan were moved out of that country to support the build-up of troops that would begin the war with Iraq. Deprived of manpower, the effort in Afghanistan stalls until we come to the present day where Osama bin Laden has not been captured or killed, and the Taliban has become resurgent thus rendering the goal of revenge as unmet.

In other words, unmet goals equals a failure.

Until we as a country see these conflicts for the failures they have become, we will not be able to adequately learn from them.

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I am the first person to freely admit that I rarely get the memos now about what the latest “hip-and-happening” slang is. I still think “awesome” is a perfectly appropriate word and even the term “radical” has been known to slip past my lips in an unguarded moment.

Look at my first sentence of this blog and you can see that I even view the word “hip” as still being hip.

However, even my level of squareness knows that the terrorist attacks that occurred at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and Shanksville, Pennsylvania happened on September 11, 2001.

This event has come to be known in shorthand as “9/11” or even “9-11”.

However, I have never seen that day referenced as “the 20S01 attacks“.

The fine folks at The Washington Post feel othewise as a front-page article of the September 27, 2010, edition with the headline “Money transfers face new scrutiny”, mentions, in the fifth paragraph, “which specified reforms to better organize the intelligence community and to avoid a repeat of the 20S01 attacks.

Below you can see a scan I made of the article just so you know I’m not making this up:

Front page of 9/27/2010 Washington Post

Where's the copy editor?

Now I could cut the people at the Post a break and say that there was some simple mix-up at the typesetter (or whatever it is they use to publish newspapers these days) and that of course a copy editor would see this incredible error and fix it when the story hit the Web.


I don’t know when they’ll fix their flub, but this link to the story still has it.

And, again, just to show that I’m not making this up, here’s a screen shot from the Web story as of 9:35PM EDT on September 28:

Web version of 9/27/2010 Washington Post story

Copy editor still asleep at wheel

For all I know the Post is on the cutting edge in trying to rebrand that horrible day, but more than likely is the proposition that an error was made, no one caught it, and it will now continue to thrive and multiply around the Web.

As a side note for those of you playing at home, the over-under on the number of days it takes the Post to make a correction to their front-page blunder is fifteen (15) days.

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As predicted by yours truly back in April, Virginia governor Robert McDonnell has backed away from another of his stands.

Back in April of this year, the Gov issued a draft proposal that would require felons of the Old Dominion who wanted their rights restored to write an essay.

As expected, given enough criticism, McDonnell backpedalled and his office has now restored the rights of 88 percent of the felons who have applied – and all without an essay.

Your (and mine) views of the issue non-withstanding, I look forward to the day when the Governor makes a stand and sticks to it.

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Around my workplace this week, there have been posters and emails touting the company’s Xth Annual Diversity Awards, which (and this is honestly on the posters) “celebrates the rainbow that is our workforce”.

Putting aside the fact that someone actually approved the use of the word “rainbow” in a business connotation, I had this thought:

As a middle-aged (41), white heterosexual male who is the son and grandson of people who are also of the Caucasian persuasion, I realized I have no shot at winning this award. I am the walking definition of non-diverse when it comes to our rainbow.

So my follow-up question is this: Is this reverse discrimination to offer an award that a certain class of people cannot win?

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There is only a scant 25 months (give or take a few days) to go until the 2012 United States Presidential election, and while some (such as your local friendly blogger over here) may wonder who the Democrats will put forward as their party’s nominee, there is one thing for gosh-darn-certain:

The waiting is over as the Republicans have a front-runner !

At the Values Voters Summit held in Washington D.C. over the September 18 weekend, Congressman Mike Pence, from Indiana, won a straw poll of the 723 social conservatives by garnering a solid 24 percent (there’s your number of the day) as compared to the 22 percent earned by the former governor of Arkansas and a 2008 GOP presidential candidate, Mike Huckabee.

Congratulations to Representative Pence and while Tony Perkins, the president of the Family Research Council which organized the event, had high praise for the straw poll winner, the real question is “Will the Tea Party support Pence?“.

Sure Mr. Pence may be against abortion and same-sex marriage, but does he have the “fiscal responsibility, adherence to the Constitution, and limited government” chops as listed by the Tea Party Caucus, because without Tea Party support, Pence’s candidancy could be a far-thing.

Simply ask Lisa Murkowski, Rick Lazio, Bob Bennett, and Mike Castle.

(Get it? Pencefarthing…both are English money)
(Ugh! I guess if you have to explain the pun, it’s not that funny)

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