Thursday, December 30, 2004

owl after all

owlI did the owl story after all! Big spread on page 7. We used Lloyd Spitalnik's great owl photo, at left. Between the owl and the premature ejaculation, this has been a good week.

Right now I am at work for the 13th day in a row ... need that overtime cash.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

minute men

So today I had this story on page 10, right next to a story about a 6-foot-3 transsexual cop in Oklahoma City. From my story:



It may not have been romantic, but they did it for science.

A group of 166 men suffering from premature ejaculation repeatedly had sex with women who were timing them with stopwatches.

Those taking an experimental new drug showed a newfound stamina: three minutes — up from one.

And hey, guys, don't laugh. That's more than most of you, sexperts say.

"In the movies, everyone lasts for about 20 minutes. In real life it's about 2-1/2 minutes," said Dr. Mark Stein, a urologist at St. Vincent's Medical Center in Manhattan.

As you can imagine, story prompted much discussion in the NYDN newsroom. I wanted the lede (the first paragraph of the story) to be, "Coming soon — a treatment for premature ejaculation?" but that was vetoed by an editor.

I also mulled over, "Timed with stopwatches and primed with pharmaceuticals, the premature ejaculators soon showed a newfound stamina," but that is not really DN style. Co-worker T.C. suggested, "Ready, set — stop!"

And of course the 2-1/2 minute claim also prompted some discussion.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Denis Leary

This is awful funny ... Denis Leary's Comedy Central Mastercard Red Sox commercial spoof.

Monday, December 27, 2004

me and my hat

I guess I need to get a less silly hat, huh? Taken today by NYDN photog Rob Bennett.

derek wearing a hat

Sunday, December 26, 2004

very strange

Matt Welsh claims to have had a weird non-sexual dream about me!

earthquake & killer tsunamis

So the earthquake was felt all over the world, including Central Park:
(Click the chart for the complete data)
earthquake graph

Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory has a sensor buried there by the 96th St. traverse, apparently.

Real time data is here; select "short form" under frequency and "CPNY" under station to view the Central Park information.

The earthquake hit Saturday at 00:58:50 UTC (7:58 EST)... the shockwaves registered on the Central Park seismograph 20 minutes later, at 01:18 UTC. While U.S. researchers were trying to warn people, the tsunamis hit about two hours after that.

UPDATE 12/27: My story is now online: Shockwaves picked up in Central Park

UPDATE 12/28: Columbia University's Earth Institute has an interesting page of information on the earthquake.

running report

There's good news and bad news on the running front. The good is that despite the recent drop in temperatures, I've run 19 of the last 20 days, and one I missed I lifted at the gym.

The bad is 0 of those 19 runs have been for longer than six miles - I haven't run long since November! Ugh.

Six miles in the park today in 49:18 (8:19 pace). Ran the last two miles with this guy breathing down my neck, but I kicked it out at the end.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

when poodles attack

I spent today interviewing this guy whose mother -- a spry 88-year-old -- was killed by her grandson in Crown Heights Christmas Eve. (Today's story here). Apparently after the murder the grandson called 911 and confessed, saying he thought his grandmother was trying to poison him. Everyone in the building said she was an amazing woman, mother and grandmother. Very sad.

I get back to the office, grab some mince pies and champagne and am walking back to my desk when suddenly something comes in contact up against my butt! I'm all shocked and yet out this yell -- "Awwgh!" -- that probably the whole office can hear.poodle

Whirling around, I see -- it's this poodle some guy had brought in, that had jumped up on me from behind!

"What the hell!" I yell at him, still rather shocked. "Jesus Christ!"

Friggin' poodles.

Friday, December 24, 2004


owlSaw the most amazing sight in Central Park this morning: a boreal owl. I know nothing about birding, but there were a bunch of people pointing telescopes at a large pine tree by Tavern on the Green as I was about to go on a five-mile run, so of course I wandered over. You couldn't see anything with the naked eye; this was smallish owl some 50 feet high, obscured by branches. But some of the telescopes offered a pretty magnificient view. The owl was just sitting there in the tree, where it's apparently been since Sunday. Almost cat-like eyes. Watching it through the telescope, seeing it swivel its head and look straight into the lense -- I almost gasped and it certainly gave me an appreciation of birding. I might do a story if it's still there tomorrow (Christmas - yes I'll be working it).

Apparently this is very very rare - a boreal owl has never been seen before in Central Park, and was last seen in this area in 1962 (in Jersey), writes Vanity Fair author James Wolcott, who visited the owl on Monday. Usually they just don't come this far south.

The picture to the left is an actual photo of the owl by Cal Vornberger; more are here.

In other news, here's a blog by two out-of-shape reporters training for the Big Sur Marathon. And Frank gave me a shout-out here.
UPDATE 12/26: I couldn't find the owl on Saturday, but apparently it has just moved to another section of the park. What with the earthquake n' all, though, I doubt we'll do a story unless it becomes more of a cult phenom.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

seeya later ortega

I wanna know that you'll tell me
I love to stay
Take me to the river, drop me in the water
Push me in the river, dip me in the water

--Talking Heads.

Ralph Ortega title=

So for the past four years I've had the good fortune to sit next to fellow general assignment reporter Ralph Ortega, whose final day is today. Ralph has always been a gentleman and a great co-worker, so as a tribute I've written a little hack-job profile of him for the blog.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004


My friend and former co-worker Matt Kelly had a piece published in the Boston Globe's Ideas section over the weekend:
MASSACHUSETTS HAS a tough reputation to live down with the rest of the nation: loony-left liberals, lousy drivers, failed presidential candidates. To top it all off, everyone thinks we're cheap bastards, too.

Blame the Generosity Index. Published every November since 1997 by the Catalogue for Philanthropy, a Boston-based group that promotes charitable giving, this index ranks states by average income and then by average donations to charity; the difference between those two numbers is a state's "generosity gap." When you rank states yet again based on that gap, Massachusetts inevitably places dead last or near to it, along with most of New England. ... but it isn't necessarily true.

I did my own small charitable thing today, actually. Unusual for me, I'm not usually much into the whole philanthropy thing. Over the weekend I picked up a couple magazines and some Starbucks coffee and today shipped the package out to a soldier in Iraq from this site. Figure it will get there well after the holidays, but still might be appreciated ...

In other news, I also bought a plane ticket to New Zealand today! I'll be gone Feb. 1 -22, visiting my mom & sister for the first time in two years.

Monday, December 20, 2004

overreaction in minneapolis

This struck me as really extreme.

A Star Tribune reporter was disciplined Thursday after he disclosed that he wrote an e-mail to a Minneapolis police official that contained racially insensitive language.

David Chanen, a police reporter, told editors that he used the term "colored officers" in an e-mail sent Wednesday to Minneapolis Police Inspector Donald Banham, who is black. ...

Gillespie and Chanen said the reporter had intended to use the term "officers of color," but made an error in rushing to send the e-mail. ... Chanen said he reviewed it and "was shocked to learn I had written language ... that is terribly offensive. I was writing the e-mail in haste, but that's no excuse, and I deeply apologize for what I did."

Now, as someone who's half-black ... I think the term "colored officers" is anachronistic, yea, but "terribly offensive" or "racially insensitive"? Why would it be? Black officers in WWII formed "Colored Officers Assocation." One of the largest civil rights groups is the National Association for the Advancement of *Colored People.*

In any case, shouldn't disciplinary action be reserved for truly egregious behavior, not innocent slip-ups?

I posted a comment on the private listserv of the National Association of Black Journalists on Friday and everyone basically agreed with me, so yesterday I sent an email to Paul Gustafson, the author of the story quoted above (cc-ed to Chanen). Gustafson wrote back this morning saying he was going to forward my message to his managing editor -- which isn't what I intended, but maybe I've accomplished something.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Make Time for Time

Time magazine is reporting that Spc. Thomas "Jerry" Wilson came up with his question for Secretary Rumsfeld on his own -- and that Chattanooga Times Free Press reporter Edward Lee Pitts had had urged Wilson to come up with "intelligent questions." After Wilson showed his question to Pitts, the reporter simply "suggested a less brash way of asking the question."

My previous comments stand. It is entirely inappropriate and dishonest for reporters to attempt to influence events and then pretend to report on them "objectively."

On a related note, I'm in the middle of writing a short story about Time's 2004 "Blog of the Year", Power Line. Have already interviewed PL's Scott Johnson (very nice), waiting for John Hinderaker to call me back.
UPDATE: Talked to Hinderaker. The story will be very short, just five inches.
UPDATE 2: Here's the story, even shorter than the version I wrote.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Holiday 4-miler

So 27:36 - 6:54 pace - in the NYRR Holiday Four Mile run this morning. Much better than last week's debacle, but having run nearly a minute faster in another four-mile race last month, I was somewhat disappointed. My time was also four seconds slower than I did in the July 24, 2004 Central Park Health/Fitness 4-miler. Gotta step up the mileage.

Overall, I was 204 out of 1,603 men; 79 out of 589 men aged 30-39; and 226 of 3,105 overall.

Friday, December 17, 2004


so i have received my buyout offer in the mail today that that Other New York Tabloid has been reporting about. It's being offered to all the Daily News editorial employees - basically we have until Jan. 3 to decide whether to apply. For those of us like myself who have worked at the News for fewer than five years (I've been here for four), it'd mean 10 weeks of pay in exchange for our resignations, I guess.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004


So after Sunday's debacle I was determined to improve my running training. I dug up my Polar heart rate monitor transmitter, which I hadn't been using in months and months, and strapped it to my chest. I headed out the door a half hour early, to give myself more time to run.

Now, backtrack a bit. For the past nearly six years I had been running in the same blue jacket that went to my upper thighs. Then this past spring the jacket finally gave up the ghost, and I had to switch to a nice Nike Storm-Fit jacket. The jacket fits well, but is a few inches shorter.

So anyway, I start running, on what's the coldest day of the year so far (about 25 deg F, with a stiff breeze). But what do I care - I'm all bundled up!

Well, almost.

I quickly discovered I had apparently neglected to insulate ... how do you say it? One ... Very Important Male Organ.

Soon, I'm dashing down a side street, facing a wall and sticking a hand down my pants to warm things up down there. I hope the neighbors didn't see. Sheesh.

I ended up cutting my run short, not even doing my usual distance. As I headed back with my, er, tale between my legs, I pondered whether I needed to splurge on a needed to splurge for a new a new, longer jacket.

(And as Chelle notes - it's not even that cold yet!)

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

bon voyage

Alex Spiers hits all the right notes in his fare-the-well Pedro column:
To think I did all that,
And may I say, not in a shy way —
Oh no. Oh no, not me.
I did it my way.
— Frank Sinatra, "My Way"

Yes, he did it his way. After an extraordinary seven-year run that featured peerless genius on the mound and both brilliance and eccentricity off of it, Pedro Martinez' Red Sox career came to its conclusion yesterday. Though the possibility of Pedro's departure loomed over the entire season, the finality of his exit nevertheless sounded a cold, wintry chord.

Bill Simmons also has an article up.

CBS can't make anyone happy these days! A number of blogs (here, here, here, here, here and here) are attacking the network for a brief segment they did last week on Social Security. In the course of the story, CBS "fail[ed] to properly identify a typical man on the street as the National Taxpayers Union shill he really is," claims Three Way News. Only, well, that's not true, as you can see from the photo of Tad DeHaven below.

National Taxpayers Union employee

The Washington Monthly's Kevin Drum started the ball rolling with this post. I think the CBS segment could have been better-conceived (a criticism you can also level at most of my work...) but it's just not the case that Mr. DeHaven was presented as "just an ordinary white collar working stiff like you and me" or "some random guy off the street" given his clear identification as an employee of a right-wing outfit.

UPDATE: Just to make clear, you can watch the video here.

lani and the nanny

The Blue Mass Group blog has a post about how Lani Guinier has been characterized as having had a "nanny problem", just like Bernie Kerik. (Stories here, here and here, just for starters).

Only the press is confusing Guinier with Zoe Baird and Kimba Wood. I went back on Nexis and read some of the stories from 1993, and Blue Mass Group is absolutely correct. On June 3, 1993, President Clinton withdrew Guinier's nomination to head the Justice Department's civil rights division, saying he couldn't defend her views on voting rights. (Libertarian lawyer Clint Bolick started the controversy by describing Guinier as a "quota queen" in the WSJ).

I think the misinformation might have started with this AP sidebar. Eugene Volkh says the media isn't just wrong on this, "they're wrong in a way that falsely accuses someone of violating the law. That doesn't speak well of their trustworthiness in other fields." Whoops....

Pedro bye-bye?

Boston media is reporting that Pedro and the Mets have agreed to terms. "It appears Pedro Martinez has pitched his final game in a Red Sox uniform," reports

Larry Lucchino tells the AP, "He will be missed, and we are disappointed to have lost him to the Mets and the National League."

I wonder, though ... maybe they're just trying to call Pedro's bluff? There's been a lot of these "imminent" deals that just haven't materialized from the winter meetings. I'm sure Sox are prepared walk away from Pedro rather than sign him to a bad deal ... but I'm not going to believe Pedro's gone until puts on that purple and blue uniform...

Monday, December 13, 2004

well, what would YOU do with it?

Jud Pierce emails: "after a night of heavy drinking and heavy petting, i had my way with trophy."

kissing Red Sox World Series trophy

yet more on pitts

Okay, I really didn't figure I'd have anything more to say about Edward Lee Pitts. But the controversy continues to rage on Romensko's letters page, and I have gotten sucked back into it.

Here's a letter I sent responding to Charles Pierce:

I certainly don't have a problem with any reporter disrupting a staged event, including Secretary Rumsfeld's. And the question Spc. Wilson asked was absolutely legitimate. However -- in this reporter's humble opinion -- it is still dishonest and deceptive to influence an event and then report on it as if you had no involvement.

Am I just being self-righteous here? Way out in left-field? I don't know, I hope not -- call me crazy, but this just seems to me to be a pretty important principle. I don't think you can dismiss Lee Pitts' lapse as a "small transgression," as Bryan Keefer does -- the deception strikes at the heart of Pitts' article.

Here's a letter I sent to David Hanners:
In general, I think, there's nothing wrong with reporters posing questions for sources to ask others. You can ask J-Lo's publicist a question to pose to J-Lo, no problem there, and who cares about disclosure, right?

The difficulty is when you get into questions posed at public events, public forums and the like, where you're going to be reporting on the actual event. I think any event you're going to be reporting on, you should absolutely shy away trying to influence.

David, do you watch "The Wire"? Best show on TV. In the current season's opener, Councilman Carcetti rips Police Commissioner Burrell at a subcomittee meeting over over-spending and a rise in crime. Well, suppose those questions had been suggested to Carcetti by a reporter, fed up with getting the run-around from Burrell, who then proceeded to report on the subcomittee meeting ("Carcetti blasts police commish!") as if he had no involvement. Would that be ethical? (I am not suggesting an exact parallel between this example and what happened in Kuwait).

Jerome Weeks of the Dallas Morning News also responded to my comments, writing in part, "Mr. Pitts may be obnoxiously self-congratulatory, but having Rummy deliver one of those condescending answers directly to endangered soldiers -- THAT was the story, and it would never have happened unless Mr. Pitts did what he did." My reply to him:
Y'know, I agree with you, mostly. I doubt that the Pentagon could really bar a reporter from press conferences for asking a tough question -- think of the controversy -- but you're absolutely right: this story was what it was because the question was asked by a soldier.

I think both the question and the answer were essential parts of this story. In Pitts' article, for example, he names Spc. Wilson in the second sentence, and quotes him in the third. Rumsfeld's reply isn't given to the fifth sentence. Here was his lede:

"Members of the 278th Regimental Combat Team on Wednesday brought their concerns about a lack of armor for vehicles soon heading into Iraq directly to U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld."

But whether the story was the answer or the question or both, you've admitted that Pitts inserted himself into the story.

Now, it may be that because of this, more soldiers get armor and some lives are saved.

And maybe if more reporters tried to influence more events, the world could be a better place. There are, of course, some pretty smart reporters out there.

Maybe the next time the mayor holds a public forum, we can make sure the questioner takes an especially poignant question on the problems faced by immigrants, for example. Or suggest questions to friendly senators during the next judicial confirmation hearings. There are lots of possibilities -- you get the idea. Whaddya think?

Sunday, December 12, 2004

'I run because it is the essence of freedom.'

marathon photo
From the AP:
TIRIN KOT, Afghanistan (AP) — A U.S. soldier won Afghanistan’s first marathon Sunday, battling the country’s thin mountain air for more than three hours before crossing the finish line, where he promptly burst into tears remembering four comrades killed in recent fighting.

A total of 184 soldiers and civilians working for the U.S. military took part in the race at Firebase Ripley, a remote camp near Tirin Kot in central Uruzgan province, facing high altitude and a bumpy track as well as the threat of attack.

Plastic palm trees among the gun stores and bunkers near the course lightened the mood for the runners, who the Afghan National Olympic Committee said were competing in the first marathon in the war-ravaged country’s history.

But the darker side of their mission resurfaced as the winner labored across the finish line after five long laps of the airstrip to cheers and handshakes in 3 hours, 12 minutes and 15 seconds — an impressive time for the conditions.

“I just thought about those four guys when I crossed, that they won’t be going home with us, and it kind of hit me,” 1st Lt. Mike Baskin, a California native, told an Associated Press reporter.

Here is a story from last month on the race preparations:
[Captain Ivan] Hurlburt said troops at his firebase lack the comforts of bases in Kandahar and Bagram. No USO or VIP visits. No email availability for the average soldier. Only four phones for morale calls. No air conditioning in a land where summer temperatures can soar to 120 degrees. Showers are available only when a 100-gallon water tank is full.

Asked why he would want to run a marathon in such a dangerous and uncomfortable setting, [1st Lieutenant Ian] Grimstad [of New Hampshire] said, "I run because it is the essence of freedom."


So the race did not go exactly well. Actually it was a friggin' disaster. What was I thinking?

Well, I had run a 26:47 four-mile race two weeks earlier (6:41 pace) - despite having run hard the day before the race. So I was thinking I had a shot to break my PR of 41:57 for a 10K (6:45 pace). Saturday I did a slow four miles to conserve my energy-- but then I was out past 2 a.m. that night, and then didn't get up in time to eat breakfast.

Still I figured I had a shot. Who needs breakfast, right? A hundred or so yards into the race I see Chelle, and end up running with her for a bit -- which may not have been the smartest thing. Everyone needs to run their own race -- how many times have I heard that? Not that I increased my pace to catch up with her; we were running about the same speed at that point. The difference is that I crashed and burned after just the two-mile mark(!), while she ran a great race and finished in 41:57 -- precisely the time I was running to break.

Splits: 6:44, 7:33, 7:54, 9:20, 9:43 and I didn't get the last one ... but my final time was 51:09, for a 8:15 pace. How friggin' stoopid - this has to be my worst race in ages.

Running is a funny sport that way, I think. You get cocky, don't give it your all, and it slams you to the ground.

Bottom line: I should not be thinking I can get back in the shape I was in '00-'01 with the amount of effort I've been putting in these last few months. I've been running steadily, five or six times a week, but with hardly any speedwork or particularly hard runs. I need to rededicate myself to the sport if I am ever going to qualify for Boston.

UPDATE: Maybe I'm just getting old. Fuck. Need to get a good night's sleep before races. The good thing is, I have a fast chance to redeem myself.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

More thoughts on Pitts

CJR's Campaign Desk has posted a defense of Pitts by Bryan Keefer.
In our book, the only thing Lee Pitts is guilty of is a bit of brilliance -- coming up with an inventive way to get a newsworthy question asked. It's preposterous to suggest that, simply by using a proxy, Pitts "inserted himself into the story" any more than any reporter maneuvering to get the attention of any government official at a press conference.

Hmm. Pitts wrote a story about members of the 278th bringing their concerns "straight to the top." Spc. Wilson is by name in the second sentence -- Rumsfeld's response isn't quoted until the sixth sentence. This is a story about a QUESTION, not the answer. It's just dishonest to try to put words in someone's mouth, and then write a story based around that question. This isn't something that could have been solved by a simple one-sentence disclosure in the 10th paragraph.

Continuing, CJR author Bryan Keefer writes that Pitts has "predictably ... taken some heat from knee-jerk defenders of anything that the Bush administration does (Rush Limbaugh, Jon Podhoretz)" -- ignoring the criticisms leveled by the likes of media ethics professor Jane Kirtley, AJR editor Rem Rieder, and the Poynter Institute ethics professor Aly Colón.

And, uh, that's JOHN Podhoretz, Keefer. Several Nexis and Google searches found no instance of where Podhoretz has actually written or spoken on TV about Pitts ... did I just miss it, or ... ?

"But, interestingly," Keefer continues, "both Rumsfeld and the president himself have been quick to acknowledge the legitimacy of the question..."

Well, yeah. And so has every critic of Pitts! Limbaugh, the other "knee-jerk" Bush defender, for example, said explicitly on Thursday and Friday, "I don't have any problem with the question that was asked."

Limbaugh says his complaint is that "the question asked by the soldier was not asked by the soldier. The question put in the mouths of the soldiers was provided by a reporter who is not supposed to do things like that."

Now, I don't know to what extent the question was "put in the mouth" of Spc. Wilson -- but until we hear from him, neither does anyone else! It's certainly conceivable to me that the he ended up asking a more aggressive question based on encouragement from Pitts ... but we just don't know.

Getting back to Keefer -- he says of Pitts' failure to disclose his role in the story:

But that's a small transgression indeed, especially if the outcome of all this is fewer lives and limbs lost in Iraq because one intrepid reporter figured out a way to break through the shield that separates official power from life and death on the ground.

Hmmm. It may well be Pitts' inquiry results in more armored vehicles in Iraq.

But should the practical result of Pitts' actions change how we judge him?

That's an honest question, and something I've been mulling over.

Think about it: would we excuse outright lies by a reporter, if it saved troops' lives? A journalist who filed false reports of an impending U.S. attack, for example, might confuse the enemy, allowing American troops to overcome them more easily.

Similarly, I'm inclined to defend Kevin Sites, even though some conservative have argued his reporting on the unarmed insurgent killed in Fallujah will result in more attacks on U.S. soldiers.

I'm curious what my readers think on this.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Pitts' story

Via Romenesko, I found a free link to Pitts' story.

'Hillbilly armor' protects 278th
By Edward Lee Pitts
Military Affairs

CAMP BUEHRING, Kuwait -- Members of the 278th Regimental Combat Team on Wednesday brought their concerns about a lack of armor for vehicles soon heading into Iraq directly to U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. The 278th's Spc. Thomas "Jerry" Wilson, 31, of Ringgold, Ga., asked Mr. Rumsfeld why, after nearly two years of war, soldiers are having to scrounge for rusted metal to weld onto vehicles heading into hostile Iraq.

"Why do we soldiers have to dig through local landfills for pieces of scrap metal and compromised ballistic glass to up-armor our vehicles?" Spc. Wilson asked.

The roar of cheers and "hooahs" from soldiers gathered here for a question-and-answer session forced Mr. Rumsfeld to ask Spc. Wilson to repeat his inquiry. Then Mr. Rumsfeld responded that the goal of the Army remains to get as many armored vehicles as possible to the front-line troops.
After the session ended, and while hundreds of troops crowded around Mr. Rumsfeld to take pictures and shake his hand, Spc. Wilson said Mr. Rumsfeld answered a lot of the questions like a politician.

"He beat around the bush a lot," Spc. Wilson said. "The secretary must be misinformed. It sounds like he's been told we are cranking out the armor and have all the vehicles we need, when actually we are digging through landfills."

I really don't see how anyone can call this honest reporting. To encourage a soldier to ask an aggressive, pointed question to a cabinet secretary, and then write about the exchange without disclosing your role in it...?

Even if -- if -- Spc. Wilson would have asked that question anyways, it was still dishonest of Pitts to try and change the course of events without disclosing his role.

"You absolutely have to spell that out," Rem Rieder, editor of the American Journalism Review, tells the Tennessean. "Not doing so gives a really misleading picture of how this took place."

To say the least...

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Romenesko comments

I just sent the following email to Romenesko regarding this

Is anyone else a bit disturbed by Chattanooga Times Free Press
reporter Lee Pitts' self-congratulatory email? He thinks one of his best day as a journalist is inserting himself in a news event aimed at embarrassing the secretary of defense? Isn't staging news events strictly verboten for reporters? Why couldn't these soldiers come up with these questions on their own?

Now, it may be that the lack of armor is horribly inexcusable and Pitts' action saved lives; I'm certainly not qualified to say. But he's incorrect to say Wednesday was one of his "best days as a journalist" because he was acting as something entirely different.

UPDATE: Here is a second letter I've sent to Romenesko, answering some of the responses to my first letter:

To answer my critics... Lucy Quinlivan: I think Lee Pitts did indeed insert himself into the story. He wasn't content to let the news event unfold naturally -- he seems to have coached the soldier on what tosay, and certainly took steps to make sure that soldier was called upon by the presenter.

He took steps to "spice up" a news event, and then wrote about it without disclosing his role in the affair. It's a little like Edward Keating, the NYT photographer who had a kid pose with a toy gun on the streets of Lackawanna. It's fine to pose a picture, but you can't pass it off as a candid.

Dan Mitchell: Rumsfeld does in fact take questions from the press fairly frequently (This week, on Monday and Thursday). But even if we grant that Pitts thought his question was sufficiently urgent that he needed it answered that very moment, he needed to be honest and up-front about that. He could have had the soldier say, "This is a question from newsman Lee Pitts..." for example.

If Pitts indeed coached the soldier on what to say, the "Rush Limbaughs of the world," as Mitchell puts it, were indeed correct: the event *was* staged. The essence of this news story -- what gave it its oomph -- was the idea of an enlisted man confronting the secretary of defense. If we had known the soldier was put up to it, it wouldn't have been nearly as juicy a story.

Here is a the full text of the question to Rumsfeld and his response. It's worth reading not just the question but the answer. I don't want to carry anyone's water here, but let's not be starry-eyed either: just because some guy asked a question doesn't necessarily mean anyone's life is going to be saved.

Q: Yes, Mr. Secretary. My question is more logistical. We’ve had troops in Iraq for coming up on three years and we’ve always staged here out of Kuwait. Now why do we soldiers have to dig through local landfills for pieces of scrap metal and compromise ballistic glass to up-armor our vehicles and why don’t we have those resources readily available to us? [Applause]

SEC. RUMSFELD: I missed the first part of your question. And could you repeat it for me?

Q: Yes, Mr. Secretary. Our soldiers have been fighting in Iraq for coming up on three years. A lot of us are getting ready to move north relatively soon. Our vehicles are not armored. We’re digging pieces of rusted scrap metal and compromised ballistic glass that’s already been shot up, dropped, busted, picking the best out of this scrap to put on our vehicles to take into combat. We do not have proper armament vehicles to carry with us north.

SEC. RUMSFELD: I talked to the General coming out here about the pace at which the vehicles are being armored. They have been brought from all over the world, wherever they’re not needed, to a place here where they are needed. I’m told that they are being – the Army is – I think it’s something like 400 a month are being done. And it’s essentially a matter of physics. It isn’t a matter of money. It isn’t a matter on the part of the Army of desire. It’s a matter of production and capability of doing it.

There's also the text of a briefing here from yesterday on the armor issue.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

one way to do it

From Ananova:

The Romanian Prime Minister is offering to sleep with the wives and girlfriends of journalists on a Romanian newspaper to stop them claiming he is gay.

Adrian Nastase, who is also a candidate in this weekend's presidential run off elections, made the offer after being asked by reporters about rumours a local newspaper was to out him as gay.

Nastase said: "I am not afraid of the threat of any sexual scandal created by a certain newspaper that criticises me every day anyway.

"If people from Evenimentul Zilei newspaper want me to prove to them that I have no homosexual inclinations, I will test all their wives and girlfriends to show them where my preferences really are."

cbs courting bloggers?

Instapundit, the Volokh Conspiracy and are all have something to say about CBS supposedly courting bloggers over a 60 Minutes piece on 5,500 U.S. military personnel deserting.

But why shouldn't a news organization's publicity department court bloggers? As a MSM member, I get emails from TV flacks all the time promoting their scoops. From ABC, for example, I've received emails regarding a tape they got of the Beltway sniper's call to the Rockville police; Barbara Walters' Hillary Clinton interview; and their 'Azzam the American' video ... as well as a Rush Limbaugh drug money-laundering story that never panned out.

I even got attention from publicists when I was working for a newspaper that didn't have a 20th of the circulation of Instapundit...

military casualties - harvard study

The embargo on this just expired ... from the Harvard School of Public Health. The full text of the article is here.
There is a VERY GRAPHIC photo essay here.

Dear Correspondent,

This is to alert you to an article that will appear in the New England Journal of Medicine's Dec. 9 issue (online Dec. 8) with major military policy implications:

"Casualties of War -- Military Care for the Wounded from Iraq and Afghanistan"

The author is Dr. Atul Gawande, surgeon at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston and Assistant Professor of Health Policy and Management at Harvard School of Public Health. The article is also accompanied by photographs of survivors' severe injuries.

The article makes these main points:
  • Medical personnel have been able to reduce the lethality of war injuries to the lowest percentage ever-- in WW II 30 percent of Americans injured in combat died; in Vietnam, 24 percent. In Iraq and Afghanistan, it is just 10 percent.
  • The article describes the triage system that has led to this astonishing improvement
  • There is a shortage of medical personnel to carry out the triage (only 120 general surgeons on active duty, many on second deployment)
  • The masking of the true human cost, intensity and scope of the war by the success in treating injuries (as of Nov. 9, 2004, 10,153 service members have suffered war injuries)
  • The preponderance of blast injuries producing an unprecedented burden of patients with mangled extremities
  • The epidemic of a multi-drug resistant bacterial infection in military hospitals
  • Selective Service has updated a plan to allow rapid registration of 3.4 million health care workers 18 to 44 years of age

*Update: On a related note, via Citizen Frank comes this female Army sergeant's story of being hit by an IED (improvised explosive device). She made it; her driver didn't.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

marathon-gender ponderings

Will women ever run marathons as fast as men? It's an interesting question (well, at least, I find it interesting).

Jere Longman posted the question in this NYT article, which read in part:

After remaining unthreatened from October 1985 until April 1998, the record for the women's marathon has plummeted by more than three minutes since the fall of 1999. The record of 2:17:18 for 26.2 miles, set in the Chicago Marathon last fall by Paula Radcliffe, is less than 12 minutes behind the men's record of 2:05:38, which is held by Khalid Khannouchi, a naturalized United States citizen from Morocco. The margin has never been closer.

Still, that was also true in '84, as you can see from my handy chart. marathon chartBut the next person to set a marathon WR was Belayneh Dinsamo in '88, and the margin between the sexes increased.

Longman continued:

"I think the record can go quite a bit lower," said [women's WR holder Paula Radcliffe]. "I don't like to think in terms of times, as I don't like to put a limit on myself. I have read articles that claim a woman's makeup is more suited to long distances than a man's body. I think this is more for ultradistances. It is unlikely that a woman will run faster than a man for a marathon."

Dr. David Martin, a professor of physiology at Georgia State University and chairman of sports science for the national governing body of track and field, says that elite men enjoy a 9 to 10 percent performance edge in running because of greater muscle mass and oxygen-carrying capacity, as well as a larger heart. He has projected, for instance, that a male marathoner will most likely break the two-hour barrier in the spring of 2015, while for women, "It's so far out in the future, the graph doesn't go that far."

Anyway, I was just kinda curious about this, so I plugged some figures into Excel... it certainly doesn't prove anything, just FYI.

Monday, December 06, 2004

the incredibles

This is just unbelievably moronic. Popular blogger Dean Esmay accuses the MSM of ignoring the "incredible good news" out of Iraq.

"If the American press actually cared about Iraq, or wanted our troops to succeed in their mission," he says, "they'd put all this and more on the front page."

Wow Dean -- call me crazy, but I plead guilty to placing more importance on the lives of American soldiers than Kurds getting cars or Baghdad getting power.

I'd love to do fewer stories on beheadings and more on the Iraqi soccer team... I think everyone would.

But for now, we're all stuck writing stories like this one I wrote last week.

Charley Mike.

running update

I had a cowld in my nowse over the weekend, skipped the Hot Chocolate 15K (which I had signed up for) and didn't really run long, but still managed to drag myself out the door for a slow 90-minute run Friday and a 30-minute treadmill run Saturday. Six-mile park loop Sunday when I was feeling better. Also didn't manage to run Monday OR Wednesday.

At least this will put me in better position for my next two races, as I'm also registered for the Kleinerman 10K on Sunday and the Holiday 4-miler six days later. Racing three consecutive weekends probably would have been pushing it...

10K PR is 41:57 ... let's see if I can shatter that Sunday.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

sunday, bloody sunday

Via Andrew Bayer -- George Bush sings U2's "Sunday Bloody Sunday." Odd doesn't even begin to describe it...

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

the frequency

Harper's has just posted a 2001 article by Paul Limbert Allman on the odd 1986 "What's the frequency, Kenneth" attack on Dan Rather. Allman calls Eric Mink's 1997 scoop in the Daily News that pinned the beating on a whacko named William Tager "exceedingly dubious," and instead blames a late college professor, Donald Barthelme.

It's interesting flight of fancy (that made a odd play), but Allman's account has no basis in reality. In this letter to the Times, dated Nov, 5, 2004, District Attorney Robert Morgenthau wrote:

William Tager's identity as the man who attacked Mr. Rather was established in the course of an investigation by my office.

Mr. Tager murdered Theron Montgomery, an NBC employee, by shooting him with a rifle in August 1994 near the Rockefeller Center studios of NBC's ''Today'' show. The defendant suffered from paranoid schizophrenia and had long believed that the television networks were bugging his home in North Carolina.

In the course of our prosecution, Mr. Tager made detailed statements admitting the earlier assault on Mr. Rather, who was one of a number of media figures Mr. Tager blamed for tormenting him. Mr. Tager's knowledge of nonpublic details of the attack on Mr. Rather, along with other facts and circumstances, left no doubt of his guilt. A prosecution for the assault was precluded by the statute of limitations, but Mr. Tager, now 56, was sentenced to 12 1/2 to 25 years on manslaughter and weapons charges.

office diversions

So over Thanksgiving I discovered a whole mucka lotta running blogs. I had no idea there were this many! There's a directory of some of them here. Some of my favorites so far include this one by a guy in Germany (writing in English); this one by Alison Wade, the webmaster of Fast Women and Men's Racing; and this by Mary, who just finished a 90-mile week. Also, here's one by Word Runner, whom I discovered after he commented on my blog, and there are some others on the Elite Running site here, here and here.

I will say Chelle's site is still the best, though (why is such a great writer in broadcast?), but this is funny -- a site with the same name and layout, although it's actually moved here.

On an unrelated note, this was an awfully funny post about a 5-year-old's trip to the hospital.

Also, we're still the champions! An account of the World Series trophy's trip to Manchester, N.H., where I lived for four years. Screw you Michael Kay - the Yankees play-by-play announcer who was predicting Sox fans would be popping anti-depressants if we won because we're addicted to losing. Whatever man. "Year two thow-sand!"