Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Verbal Fisticuffs!

“I’m not going to get into a name-calling match with somebody who has a 9 percent approval rating.”

- Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nevada), Senate Majority Leader, rebutting comments by Vice President Dick Cheney rebutting Reid's comments on the Iraq War. (Reid said the war is "lost.")

Read more about their exchange, at the New York Times.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Who Needs the Red Carpet? It's the White House Correspondents Association Dinner

"Inconvenient Truth" producer Laurie David and musician Sheryl Crow have been crossing the country in a biodiesel bus to educate college students about global warming. I saw them discussing their mission with Bill Maher on HBO a couple of weeks ago.

In case you missed the big story of Saturday night:

Crow and David were at the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner at the Hilton Washington.

The Washington Post's Amy Argetsinger and Roxanne Roberts reported the pair "walked over to Table 92 at the Hilton Washington to chat with Karl Rove -- and the resulting exchange was suitably heated.

"'I am floored by what I just experienced with Karl Rove,' David reports. 'I went over to him and said, 'I urge you to take a new look at global warming.' He went zero to 100 with me. . . . I've never had anyone be so rude.'

"Rove's version: 'She came over to insult me and she succeeded.'"

But what tickled me most was the Post's gossip-style piece on the post-dinner events, by Libby Copeland and Dana Milbank. They abandoned their serious reporter roles that night. Milbank wired himself with a microphone, then he and Copeland set out with mischief in mind.

They went to the Vanity Fair at writer Christopher Hitchens' home, where they see "World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz, but we do not his see his girlfriend, Shaha Riza, the World Bank worker for whom Wolfowitz gallantly arranged a raise. We offer several women $20 to approach Wolfowitz and ask for a raise, but we find no takers."

That made me howl.

The pair then moved over "to the Capitol File party at the Colombian ambassador's residence, by now quite fuzzyheaded from teeny-weeny drinkie-winkies, and on our way in we catch sight of booted "American Idol" contestant Chris Sligh.

"Hey, Chris! What's it like to be temporarily famous?

"'Hopefully, it's not temporary,' he says politely.

"Oopsie-daisy. Awk-ward."

Catch other after-party glimpses, such as the exchanges between Michelle Kwan and Condoleeza Rice, Isaiah Washington and Greta Van Susteren, and what the gift/swag bags contained, in the Washington Post.

Burned by Stephen Colbert's roast of George W. Bush at the 2006 event, the entertainment this year came from impressionist Rich Little, who from most accounts (including this one) is desperately in need of fresh material.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Why Are Koreans Apologizing For Cho's Actions?

Children attend a candlelight vigil in Seoul for the 32 victims of the Virginia Tech massacre. Many Koreans expressed concern that their country's image has been marred by the rampage by a South Korean-born gunman, despite U.S. Embassy statements to the contrary. Photo Credit: By Lee Jin-man -- Associated Press Photo

The day after the Virginia Tech shootings, it was revealed that the person who shot 32 students and faculty before turning the gun on himself, is South Korean. Then came a flood of apologies from Korean Americans, and Koreans.

Washington State Senator Paull Shin of Edmonds, a Korean-American, apologized to fellow lawmakers and legislative staff members, first at a private prayer meeting, then in Senate chambers, reported the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

An emotional Shin said that the U.S. sacrificed much for Korea, and this incident hurt him deeply.

"Although legislators told him he had no need to apologize, Shin, fighting his emotions, said he felt compelled to do so because of his acceptance in America and his leadership position in the Korean American community."

Shin was just one of many Korean-Americans to apologize for something for which they had absolutely no part.

More from the Seattle P-I:

"At the University of Washington, student leader Jihye Kim also shouldered responsibility.

"Personally, after hearing about the criminal's racial background, I felt as if I am the one who caused the tragedy," said Kim, president of the Korean Student Union. "I couldn't make eye contact with others. I greatly apologize for those who are closely related to the victims."

Remorse is also blanketing Seoul. The Washington Post reports many Koreans have expressed concern that the image of their country has been marred. South Korea's ambassador to Washington, Lee Tae Shik has even gone so far as to say Koreans need to "repent," and fast for 32 days to mourn the 32 people Cho killed.

That's some heavy, heavy guilt.

The question is, why? Why are Koreans and Korean Americans taking it upon themselves to apologize for the actions of one man - who by all accounts, had nothing to do with anyone, Korean or otherwise?

Lim Jie-Hyun, a history professor at Hangyang University in Seoul, has an idea. "I can smell a collective sense of guilt," he says. "There is confusion [in Korea] between individual responsibility and national responsibility," he told TIME magazine.

Writing in the Washington Post, Adrian Hong says,

"Media outlets have printed and broadcast remarks from Koreans ranging from leaders of civic organizations to men on the street; many seemed to home in on a specific sentiment -- that Koreans somehow felt as though they were responsible for the terrible events in Blacksburg."

Hong goes on to say:

"Korean Americans do not need to apologize for what happened Monday. All of us, as fellow Americans, feel tremendous sorrow and grief at the carnage. Our community, as it should, has expressed solidarity with and sent condolences to the victims, and as Americans, Koreans certainly should take part in the healing process.

"But the actions of Cho Seung Hui are no more the fault of Korean Americans than the actions of the Washington area snipers were the fault of African Americans. Just as those crimes were committed by deranged individuals acting on their own initiative, and not because of any ethnic grievance or agenda, these were isolated acts by an individual, not a reflection of a community.

"Further, it is inappropriate for the Korean ambassador to the United States to apologize on behalf of Korean Americans and speak of the need to work toward being accepted as a "worthwhile minority" in this nation. While the Korean ambassador represents the interests of Korean nationals in the United States, and the interests of the Republic of Korea, he does not speak for naturalized Koreans here."

Hong is a director of the Mirae Foundation, which provides mentorship and empowerment of Korean American college students. He goes on to say:

"Korean culture also includes the concept of han, a shared sense of injustice and pain carried through generations; this is, Koreans say, a result of much of the oppression the nation has faced in past centuries by regional powers."

My colleague Sueann Ramella shared her thoughts on han in her blog following a winter vacation to Korea.

More from Adrian Hong:

"The Korean claim to guilt and shame on behalf of Cho Seung Hui is well-intentioned but misguided. We are Americans first. While we share an affinity with Korea and appreciate and respect Korean culture, at the end of the day we are Americans. Our president is in the White House, not in the Blue House. And our response to this crisis should be as Americans, not as Koreans.

"Many Koreans interviewed by the media have also expressed concerns of retaliatory attacks, and some international students voiced fears of losing their status in the United States. Thankfully, it seems that few groups have voiced hate or advocated retribution against Koreans at large for this tragedy. (Some media outlets have even stopped referring to the gunman's ethnicity, mentioning his South Korean citizenship in passing. He is now known simply as "Cho" or "the gunman.")

"Moreover, it is absurd to think that the United States would somehow pursue retaliatory measures on international students from Korea, or any nation, as a result of such an attack. The other 100,000 Korean nationals studying in the United States are largely model citizens and tend to be quite engaged on their campuses and in their communities. Perhaps this fear stems from our collective experience in April 1992, when Koreans became scapegoats for simmering ethnic tensions and, somehow, were seen as responsible for the Rodney King beatings, and nearly 2,000 Korean businesses were the targets of rioting and looting. But I believe America has moved beyond that. Today, no Koreans should be afraid to leave their homes or to attend school.

"I have great faith in the American people. We have come a long way as a nation and understand today that the actions of an individual do not reflect on a community. I believe we have moved beyond the days when we would assign guilt and penance to an entire race based on isolated incidents.

"While the past two days have brought random acts of juvenile hate and immature racial slurs and acts, the vast majority of Americans understand that Korean Americans were victims along with the rest of America -- that we all took part in the tragedy at Virginia Tech, regardless of race or ethnicity.

"So I ask the Koreans of America to please continue expressing your heartfelt condolences. They are helping the healing process. But please do not apologize. The actions of Cho Seung Hui were not your fault. If our heads are hung low, they should be in grief, not in apology and shame. This tragedy is something for all of us to bear, examine and try to prevent as Americans, together."

Here's Hong's full article.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Instant prejudice: Korea and Virginia Tech

Andrew Leonard, writing in Salon:

"Conservative commentator Debbie Schlussel's first reaction to the news that an "Asian" was responsible for the Virginia Tech massacre was to declare that a "Paki" was likely responsible. After being confronted with irrefutable evidence of her nearly criminal idiocy, she amended her analysis: "Even if it does not turn out that the shooter is Muslim, this is a demonstration to Muslim jihadists all over that it is extremely easy to shoot and kill multiple American college students."

"Schlussel's racism, albeit appalling, is also instructional. Individual prejudices inform our comprehension of any new tragedy much faster than facts. For most of the American punditocracy, the Virginia Tech shootings have ignited an instananeous flare-up of the always smoldering gun-control/right-to-keep-and-bear-arms ideological brushfire. But if Schlussel could jump even farther -- to the immediate assumption that the shootings were a manifestation of jihad, imagine what the reaction has been in the Korean neighborhood of the Internet.

"Robert Koehler's excellent Korea-focused blog, The Marmot's Hole offers a way in. There, you can learn that the Korean government is worried what the news will mean for Korea's international reputation, and whether the killings will cast a pall on the almost signed-sealed-and-delivered Korean-U.S. free-trade agreement. In Koehler's comments area and on other English-language Korea-focused blogs, the battle is already raging over the truth-or-raciscm quotient of a stereotype that holds that Korean males are excessively prone to violent jealous rages. One blogger, demonstrating with embarrassing panache exactly why some people should not be given the keys to the Internet, has even declared that the calm efficiency with which Cho Seung-hui murdered so many people "immediately suggested someone with a level of rigorous military training that only South Korean males can generally be expected to have."

"Facts are useful in such situations: CNN is reporting that the 23-year-old Cho came to the United States in 1992. He would have been 8 years old. One wonders exactly how much military training he had received by that point.

"Another fact provided by the Marmot's Hole: According to one report, Korea has more students studying abroad in the U.S. than any other country: 100,000. Debbie Schlussel thinks that the foreign residency of Cho Seung-hui is "yet another reason to stop letting in so many foreign students." But 99.999 percent of those 100,000 Koreans somehow managed not to engage in mass killing sprees. My advice to the Korean blogosphere -- despite all the cultural hypothesizing that is about to swarm the mediasphere -- is to strive to stay calm. Jealous rage knows no borders."

Here's the link.

Former Bush Advisor Examines Impact of Iraq War.

Reviewing the PBS series America at a Crossroads, Alessandra Stanley of the New York Times writes:

Richard N. Perle can sleep at night.

If “The Case for War: In Defense of Freedom” is any guide, this former chairman of the Defense Policy Board who so fiercely lobbied for the invasion of Iraq enjoys the deep, flannelly slumber of infants and the well medicated.

In an hourlong, first-person tour of his thinking, Mr. Perle admits neither mistakes nor regrets. The war is not even his main concern. Instead, Mr. Perle, a leading neo-conservative, uses much of tonight’s segment of the weeklong PBS series “America at a Crossroads” to argue that the United States should foment regime change in Iran, regardless of what Iran and other nations think.
“There’s got to be some advantage to being a superpower,” Mr. Perle tells Patrick J. Buchanan, the conservative columnist who worked with Mr. Perle in the Reagan administration.

Read the full article.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Not enough room? Add on! Singapore knows how.

I got to talking to Operations Manager Scott Weatherly a few days ago about changes in the land of my birth. This is an expansion on part of the ensuing discussion.

The United Nations lists Singapore as the world's fourth most densely populated country, with 6208 people per square kilometer. The United States ranks number 172, with 31 people per square km. Here's the whole list .

Want an even more stark comparison? I live in Latah County, Idaho, with a population in 200 just under 35,000 on 1077 square miles.That's about 13 people on every square kilometer!

Singapore wasn't always that crowded. The country gained independence in 1965, when I was not quite three years old. The population then was about 2 million, land area about 225 square miles (figures drawn from memory, but fairly close!) That's 581 square kilometers, computing to nearly 3500 persons per square kilometer. Today, the population is more than double: FOUR AND A HALF MILLION. When I read recently that the government expects the population to rise to six and a half million, it made me sweat. Once you've lived in the tropics you'll never forget that humidity.

Still, the Singapore government has steadily made plans for the additional people. From 581 sq km (224 sq miles)in 1965, the island nation is now 650 sq km and plans to acquire another 100 sq km in the next 30 years.


Build/reclaim more land!

It gets through 1.5 billion cubic metres (2 billion cubic yards) of dredged silica a year — 333 cubic metres for each man, woman and child. The Government has been forced to draw on its strategic sand reserve, which Singapore hoards as other nations keep stocks of oil and food.

Stop to think about that.

Where's all this dirt coming from?

Richard Lloyd Parry's March 17th article in the Times explains:

Singapore accused of land grab as islands disappear by boatload

With more than 17,000 islands — from the jungly expanses of Borneo and Sumatra to unnamed rocks jutting out of the sea — you may think that Indonesia would not mind if a few of them went missing. But the huge South-East Asian nation has become caught up in a furious dispute with Singapore, its tiny neighbour, which is accused of literally making off with its territory.

Indonesia has banned the export of sand and imposed strict controls on shipments of gravel, after fears that its islands were being loaded on to ships and carried away to Singapore. In its thirst for building materials and landfill to reclaim new territory from the sea, Indonesians allege, Singapore has been stealing the land beneath their feet.

The dispute reached a climax this week after 24 tugs and barges, carrying granite chips, were intercepted by the Indonesian authorities as they sailed home to Singapore. Jakarta announced that future exports would be allowed only if the granite could be certified as environmentally friendly.

Since Indonesia announced its ban on sand in February, the price of a cubic metre of it has increased more than seven times, from S$6.5 (£2.18) to S$50. The Indonesian Navy has mobilised 18 ships to intercept gravel pirates and sand bandits.

“Some of these islands are reduced to islets, and could even disappear below the surface,” Hendropriyono, Indonesia’s former intelligence chief, has said. “This could theoretically lead to a cartographic zero-sum game in which Singapore’s gain could be at Indonesia’s territorial loss.”

Relations between Singapore and its neighbours have been tense since the city state became independent from Malaysia in 1965, and disagreements often arise over natural resources. The Singaporean achievement was to create an affluent, highly educated society in a swampy, jungly, malarial island with a population of 4.5 million people at the tip of the Malaysian peninsula.

Singapore’s reliance on its neighbours gives them powerful leverage over it — in the past Malaysia, with whom relations are particularly prickly, has threatened to cut off water supplies across the Straits of Johor. But the sand sanctions are equally threatening.

After years of stagnation, Singapore is undergoing a construction boom, with an increased demand for sand for the manufacture of concrete. The island also has long-term plans to ease its overcrowding by reclaiming land from the sea.

At independence, Singapore was 581 sq km (224 sq miles); now it is 650 sq km and plans to acquire another 100 sq km in the next 30 years. It gets through 1.5 billion cubic metres (2 billion cubic yards) of dredged silica a year — 333 cubic metres for each man, woman and child. The Government has been forced to draw on its strategic sand reserve, which Singapore hoards as other nations keep stocks of oil and food.

There may be more to Indonesia’s position than a sudden rush of environmental conscientiousness. If Indonesia really does lose islands, it also risks losing the rights to the ocean surrounding them. “The Convention on the Law of the Sea dictates that national territory is traced according to the coastal base line, and if islands near Singapore disappear, then the base line is pulled closer to the mainland,” says Mr Hendropriyono. “As it now stands, Singapore is only 20 kilometres from Nipah island, which has been especially eroded by the loss of sand.”

Many in Singapore also suspect that cutting off the sand pipeline is intended to put pressure on them to sign an extradition treaty that would let Indonesia get its hands on alleged white-collar criminals who have taken sanctuary there.

“From time to time, we must expect countries to pressure us in the hope that we will then give way to their demands,” George Yeo, the Foreign Minister, told the national parliament. “Singaporeans know that if we give in to such pressures, we would only invite more such pressures.”

Here's Parry's full article.

I've got to hand it to Singaporeans, though: with so many people jostling against each other - day in, day out - the country still manages to have one of the lowest crime rates in the world. They are justifiably proud of that. Many people have noted (I among them) that it's a very strict society, with fines leveraged for even mild transgressions such as jaywalking and forgetting to flush public toilets. Let's not even speak of the punishment for drug use or trafficking, or sedition. Perhaps that's the price to pay for peace and harmony in a very tight space.

Court: Wisconsin Woman Was Wrongly Convicted. For What?

Georgia Thompson has been acquitted! This, after serving four months in prison.

Who is Georgia Thompson?

She was a Wisconsin state employee, who put a state travel contract up for bid. She awarded it to a company whose CEO had donated money to the re-election campaign of Democratic governor Jim Doyle.

U-S Attorney Steven Biskupic and US District Judge Rudolph Randa, both Republican appointees, put Georgia Thompson in jail on corruption charges while the case was appealed. Threat to society, maybe?

Meantime, Doyle's opponents spent millions in the 2006 campaign to tie the governor to Ms. Thompson. Still, he won re-election.

Did I mention that the travel company in question did submit the lowest bid?

On April 5th, a federal appeals court acquitted Georgia Thompson. A three-judge panel of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago also ordered that she be immediately released from prison.

Dave Zweifel writes in Wisconsin's Capital Times:

"The U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals...chided the U.S. Attorney's Office in Milwaukee for pursuing such a flimsy case, and ordered that [Georgia Thompson] be immediately released from prison, where she had spent the past four months.

"We've all seen the fallout since. Ironically, the tables have now been turned on the U.S. attorney, Steven Biskupic, who -- rightly or wrongly -- has been caught up in the hypercharged Washington scandal centering on George Bush's attorney general, Alberto Gonzales. It seems that each day brings new evidence that U.S. attorneys were pressured by the AG's office into pursuing Democrats and if they didn't, they would be replaced.

"The Washington scandal has legitimized claims by those who point to U.S. attorneys, like Biskupic, who took on Democrats just before last fall's election. Republican Mark Green's campaign for governor against Jim Doyle trumpeted the Thompson case during the entire campaign with attack ad after attack ad insisting that her conviction was proof that Doyle was a crook."

Adam Cohen has more to say on the subject in his opinion piece in the New York Times. He writes:

"While he was investigating, in the fall of 2005, Mr. Biskupic informed the media. Justice Department guidelines say federal prosecutors can publicly discuss investigations before an indictment only under extraordinary circumstances. This case hardly met that test.

"The prosecution proceeded on a schedule that worked out perfectly for the Republican candidate for governor. Mr. Biskupic announced Ms. Thompson’s indictment in January 2006. She went to trial that summer, and was sentenced in late September, weeks before the election. Mr. Biskupic insisted in July, as he vowed to continue the investigation, that “the review is not going to be tied to the political calendar.”

"But the Thompson case was “the No. 1 issue” in the governor’s race, says the Wisconsin Democratic Party chairman, Joe Wineke. In a barrage of commercials, Mr. Doyle’s opponents created an organizational chart that linked Ms. Thompson — misleadingly called a “Doyle aide” — to the governor. Ms. Thompson appeared in an unflattering picture, stamped “guilty,” and in another ad, her name was put on a graphic of jail-cell doors slamming shut.

"Most of the eight dismissed prosecutors came from swing states, and Democrats suspect they may have been purged to make room for prosecutors who would help Republicans win close elections. If so, it might also mean that United States attorneys in all swing states were under unusual pressure.

"Wisconsin may be the closest swing state of all. President Bush lost it in 2004 by about 12,000 votes, and in 2000, by about half that. According to some Wisconsin politicians, Karl Rove said that their state was his highest priority among governor’s races in 2006, because he believed a Republican governor could help the party win Wisconsin in the 2008 presidential election."

Alberto Gonzales is sure to be asked about this when he testifies on Capitol Hill Tuesday (4/17) morning.

Outside the possible political ramifications, I think many of us have Georgia on our minds. This woman was innocent, yet sat in an Illinois prison for four months. Worse, she lost her home. AND her life savings. If it turns out she was a pawn in a nasty political game, we should all fear something like that could happen to any of us.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Wolfowitz "Sorry." His Staff Doesn't Care.

It's out in the open, now.

From the Washington Post:

World Bank insiders confirmed reports that president Wolfowitz "directed personnel officials to give Shaha Riza, his longtime companion, an automatic "outstanding" rating and the highest possible pay raises during an indefinite posting at the State Department, as well as a promotion upon her return to the bank."

Wolfie apologized at a news conference yesterday. "I made a mistake for which I am sorry," he said.

After the presser he tried to talk to about 200 World Bank staffers, but didn't get to say much. Some of the people gathered there began hissing, booing, and chanting "Resign. . . . Resign."

Even as the Bush Administration is publicly showing support for its former Deputy Defense Secretary, one of its officials is privately expressing reservation: "his relationship with the staff is really bad, and I don't know if it's recoverable."

Booing and hissing from his staffers, who have filled the World Bank anonymous message board with messages criticizing Wolfowitz - I'll say the relationship is past repair!!

From the reaction of the WB staff, I'm guessing Wolfowitz wasn't a nice boss to begin with. People typically can handle a fair amount of nastiness from the boss, but it's clear this crowd had not a shred of affection of respect for their president.

Trying to draw the focus away from himself, Wolfie said "the controversy threatens to overshadow the official agenda of the bank's annual spring meeting," which includes "ratification of a global anti-corruption strategy and funding to reduce poverty in Africa."

His nepotism exposed, he thinks it's okay to be preaching against corruption?

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Paul Wolfowitz, Love-Smitten Hawk.

Did Bush Administration hawk Paul Wolfowitz push for the invasion of Iraq at the urging of his lover?

That's the buzz in some circles today.

First, the backdrop.

Mention Wolfowitz and most people remember him as one of the architects of the Iraq war. He advocated - strongly - for the overthrow of Saddam Hussein immediately after the September 11th attacks.

The former Deputy Defense Secretary left the Pentagon two years ago to become head of the World Bank. His leadership there is now under question.

Wolfowitz began his WB tenure vowing to crack down on corruption by governments and officials in developing countries where the bank operates.

Now, he's being investigated for corruption over a big pay raise for a woman with whom he's been romantically connected for years - Shaha Riza.

A former World Bank colleague, Shaha Riza is a British Muslim. (Wolfowitz is Jewish, and possibly still married to Clare Selgin - though separated since 2001, it's not clear whether they're formally divorced.)

Six months after Wolfowitz was appointed to the World Bank, Riza was moved to the State Department to avoid conflict of interest. She remained on the WB payroll, however, and received a significant pay raise. The BBC reports the bank's staff association says the pay raises and promotions "were 'grossly out of line' with the Bank's staff rules."

That's the focus of the controversy, but Britain's Daily Mail has some pretty shocking news about Riza's effect on Wolfie.

Was this love interest part of the reason for his thirst for Saddam's blood?

The report says influential staffers at the World Bank claim Riza played a "key role in pushing the 61-year-old Pentagon official into the Iraq War. And the row comes amid claims that Wolfowitz's wife Clare once warned George Bush of the threat to national security any infidelity by her husband could cause.

"A British citizen - at 51, eight years younger than Wolfowitz's wife - Ms Riza grew up in Saudi Arabia and was passionately committed to democratising the Middle East when she allegedly began to date Wolfowitz."

What? Wolfowitz may have pushed for the war in Iraq because he was in love?

Frightening if true.

Here's the whole Daily Mail article.

In March 2005, the Washington Post's Richard Leiby wrote about neighborhood gossip about the Wolfowitz-Riza romance.

If you watched Farenheit 911, you may still have a sickening image of Wolfie spitting on his comb before running it through his hair. Or you may remember his visit to a Turkish mosque in January, when he took of his shoes and revealed holes in both socks.

I suppose if he was the man who could fulfil Riza's hopes, she could, and would, overlook those quirks.

(Still, ewwwwwwwwwwwwww..........)

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Plagiarism Incident Exposes Katie Couric.

Katie Couric has a certain earnestness that endeared her to morning TV audiences for years.

She brought that trait to the CBS Evening News, notably with the commentaries in the "Katie's Notebook" segment.

I don't watch her newscast, but Howard Kurtz, writing in the Washington Post, says "recent commentaries have ranged from the Iraq war and the paucity of female columnists to the movie "300" and many girls discarding dating for 'hooking up.'"

So I was really shocked to find this out:

Someone else writes these first-person pieces for Ms. Couric.

This came to light last week, when she did a piece on the joys of getting her first library card. Delivered in the first person, The piece borrowed substantially from a Wall Street Journal column by Jeffrey Zaslow.

"What made the ripoff especially striking," writes Kurtz, "was the personal flavor of a video -- now removed from the CBS Web site -- that began, 'I still remember when I got my first library card, browsing through the stacks for my favorite books.'"

CBS spokesperson Sandy Genelius said Couric was "horrified."

'Pon my soul!

What horrifies me is that Couric, paid millions and millions for her job, is willing to paint her face on a commentary she didn't write herself!

CBS says it's "very common" for the first-person commentaries to be put together by staffers without Couric's being involved in the writing, but that she does participate in topic selection. Really? Then why don't they let the writer speak in their own words, and put it on as an opinion piece, the way NPR airs commentary by Daniel Schorr, Ted Koppel, Judy Muller?

That plagiarism is an absolute no-no is Journalism 101. To show its contrition, CBS fired the producer who wrote the piece; the network issued profuse apologies, which WSJ has accepted. But what about Katie Couric? What's the penalty for her participation? I just cannot fathom is why she would give voice, in the first person, to thoughts she written by someone else. That seemed to be okay with her and CBS; they only seem ashamed about borrowing from the WSJ, without attribution. Had that plagiarism not occurred, might we have known that Katie's not really all about what she says she's about? This is a NEWS program, people!

It's a theft of ideas.

I remember some years ago working with a person I'll call LT, for Loathsome Toad. He often began conversations with "you know what I think?" He would proceed to spout an opinion gleaned from Entertainment Weekly, Vanity Fair or TV Guide. Worse, on more than one occasion, someone would come to me and say LT shared his idea for something or other...and then regale me with details of a plan I submitted to him, the day before! It's not just the lack of honor that was detestable; it was LT's utter stupidity in thinking the truth could be concealed in a small community.

Many public radio listeners enjoy Scott Simon on NPR's Weekend Edition Saturday for his wit and enthusiasm, and also his commentary, delivered in the first person - and we KNOW Scott wrote it himself, in his inimitable style.

Here's the whole Washington Post article on the plagiarism incident.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Bringing Bicycles to Africa.

One of the cleverest overseas aid programs I've ever run across is the Village Bicycle Project, based in my town of Moscow, ID. It collects used bikes and parts, and ships them to parts of Africa where transportation is often limited to walking. In addition, VBP provides tools and trains people in bike repair. From their website:

When the only other choice is walking, bicycles are a tool of development, improving access to farms, market, jobs, schools, and health care.

David Peckham is Director of VBP. He's a familiar face in Moscow, offering bike repair clinics, tune-ups and always happy to discuss Africa or bikes. (When my house was hit by that disastrous flood in 2005, Dave was the first man to dive into the three-foot deep mud and devise a plan for clean-up! What a great guy.)

The project started in Ghana in 1999, when Dave went there to study ways to make bicycles more accessible. He found several ways to make a real difference and the Village Bicycle Project was born.

Learning bicycle repair at a VBP workshop

In addition to collecting donated bikes and parts, VBP accepts cash donations to pay for shipping and bike repair training. The next fundraising event is coming soon: is a celebration in music and film featuring the northwest debut of Ayamye on Sunday, April 15th, 7PM at the Kenworthy in Moscow.

Ayamye is "a dramatic look at how lack of transportation can impact the education, health and livelihood of [a] community. Ayamye is a moving, life-affirming film that proves sustainable solutions to crisis are not always complex."

The event begins with the energetic Sesitshaya Marimba Band, and includes two other short films about Village Bicycle Project.

It's a worthy cause, well worth supporting! If you can't attend, please donate to the Village Bicycle Project. And of course, if you have a bike to share, get in touch with Dave.

Read stories of how the bicycles are helping in the lives of many Africans.

More information

Thanks to Dave Peckham for the photos, and for the wonderful work!

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Revisiting My Oregon Coast Years.

View of Neahkahnie Mountain from Manzanita beach

What's the best way to shake off the stress of a public radio fund drive?

Relax at the beach.

Well, okay, the way I relax is admittedly not the most conventional, but we'll get to that later.

I spent last weekend on the stretch of the north coast where I first put down roots 20 years ago this year. Driving west from Portland, I took the familiar Sunset Highway, which had just suffered a major rockslide a couple of days earlier. Once past the Beaverton and Hillsboro exits, it was quite an easy ride, past little roadside farms, hamlets such as Hamlet (no, really!) and Elsie, past majestic Saddle Mountain, then south on US 101 past Cannon Beach and Arch Cape up my beloved Neahkahnie Mountain.

This stretch of US 101 offers some of the most dramatic views of the ocean. No matter how many times I drive there, my heart skips a beat when I pull off the highway to take in the view: tiny Manzanita nestled at the foot of the mountain, the vast Pacific, the Nehalem River valley and the foothills of the Coast Range in the distance. This, friends, is what makes me feel, in the most primal way, that I am home.

I'd quite forgotten that this is the time of year whales migrate up the coast. Without binoculars, I missed the show, but other people parked up there with the appropriate equipment were oohing and aahing about the whales, and that was good enough for me.

Heading down the mountain in a light drizzle, I turned off the highway and on to Manzanita's main drag, Laneda Avenue, and was truly shocked at how many new buildings and businesses had sprouted up in the five years or so since my last visit. There were tourists everywhere, despite the drizzle and chilly breeze; the number of people out and about rivaled Fourth of July numbers back in the late '80s!

Yet some things were familiar, such as the library, bank, post office, grocery and deli.

Just a couple of blocks before the beach, I parked and headed for the building that once housed the Blue Sky Cafe where I worked.

That was where I held my first jobs in the food business: as waitress, prep cook, and finally, chef. The owner was Julie Barker and her then husband, Bob.

To cut a long story very short, a few years ago Julie left the business and opened a bakery named Bread and Ocean. Not long after her departure, the Blue Sky folded, and Julie was encouraged to relocate the bakery to the space once occupied by the Blue Sky.

So there I was for a couple of days, hobnobbing with Julie in the same space where we turned out so many breakfasts, lunches, and dinners together years ago. She kindly allowed me to wallow in my idea of culinary heaven, amidst industrial-sized Hobart mixers, the proofing cabinet and convection oven. (I think I have a stainless steel industrial equipment fetish!) As she churned out trays and trays of sweet and savory rolls, loaf after loaf of brioche, sourdough and multigrain breads, rustic baguettes and goodness knows what else, Julie fed me with the choice "baker's privilege" morsels. She generously allowed me to shape some loaves, frost the rolls and whip up a batch of harissa, as we reminisced, laughed, exchanged food news, and listened to public radio in the kitchen.

And that, dahlings, was a great vacation for me.

(Attention Northwest Public Radio staff: with my culinary refresher, please be prepared to be my baked goods guinea pigs for the next few weeks.)

Stay tuned, more kitchen stories coming soon.