The week (March 17th): Nobody asked me, but…

With continued apologies to the late, great Jimmy Cannon…nobody asked me, but…

NEWSPAPER VETERANS HAVE ALWAYS maintained that publishers fall into one of two camps: those who published a newspaper so they could make money, and those who made money so they could publish a newspaper. The break-up of Knight-Ridder raises this question: which camp will McClatchy, the initial purchaser, fall into? Gary Pruitt, chairman and CEO of the McClatchy Company, is making the right sounds. What will the follow-on purchasers for the 12 newspapers McClatchy plans to jettison (including those in Philadelphia, Miami and San Jose) see as their mission? A sad cartoon by Chip Bok of the Akron paper has journalist-friendly John S. Knight's Royal typewriter being dropped onto the scrap-heap.

Capitalism does employ creative destruction as its engine: witness the rise of the Internet and other new forms of communication. Newspapers aren't exempt from these forces. What democratic societies need (in fact, what all societies should have) are journalists and reporters who seek to chronicle the world around them "without fear or favor of friend or foe." Whether that reportage ends up as ink on paper, or bits and bytes, is less important (although I love my broadsheet in the morning).

PERHAPS CONGRESS SHOULD QUICKLY declare lacrosse as our national sport, since it’s the only one we can be pretty certain of winning against all comers; it’s foreign teams vying for the baseball and basketball world championships these days. On the other hand, while Mexico eliminated the U.S. from the World Baseball Classic, we've been beating them in soccer.

THEY CAN'T PUT SLOBODAN MILOSEVIC ten feet under in his backyard soon enough for my tastes. So much for efficient and timely Euro-world justice. Give me the Anglo-American Nuremberg approach—a swift trial presided over by a panel of seasoned judges, due process for the defendants (a chance for evidence to be heard, witnesses cross-examined) and then the hangman for those convicted of crimes against humanity.

WHY HASN'T THE ACLU filed suit over the tape-recorded welcome from Mayor Tom “Mumbles” Menino that greets arriving travelers at Boston Logan’s airport? It’s cruel and unusual punishment to impose Menino’s diction on unsuspecting travelers, and, arguably, a form of torture of the spoken word.

HARD TO IMAGINE JOHN McCAIN ever “renouncing” a major Senate vote he cast. Somehow I think McCain would rather lose the 2008 Presidency than trim on his support of the Iraq war, which he sees as vital to American national interest. Americans currently don’t agree, according to the lastest Gallup Poll, where support for the war has fallen to all-time lows; and some Republicans are beginning to question the Bush neo-Wilsonian desire to spread democracy globally.

Meanwhile, Democrats are scrambling to distance themselves from the entire endeavor. John Kerry and John Edwards had renounced their votes on going to war in Iraq according to the Boston Globe, seeking the support of the Daily Kos wing of the Democratic Party. How long can Mrs. Clinton avoid this ritual recanting of her pro-war past, and the kissing of the rings of the liberal lords of the blogosphere?

WOULD DAN BROWN EVER HAVE BEEN hauled into an English court to face charges of copyright infringement if "The DaVinci Code" had languished in obscurity? The answer is obvious. Contrary to some huffing and puffing by some in book publishing circles, there are no high principles involved. Aussie Alan Attwood has it right: "For envy is at the root of the London case. Deep down, the authors of a book dealing with a subject not dissimilar to Brown's hate the fact that it's him, not them, making a killing at the cash registers." (Note bene: the alliteration of "Aussie Alan Attwood" was a conscious, original literary choice.)

WHY ARE THE ABSURD LEVELS OF American CEO compensation seemingly off limits for hard scrutiny and Congressional intervention? Could it have something to do with the way we finance campaigns? To call the disparity between compensation and performance obscene has become a cliche. The latest proposed solution is greater disclosure and transparency in annual reports, etc. Why not a luxury tax instead? Tax the corporation when executives are paid more than, say, 7 times what the lowest paid worker receives (the relative level in Japan). That might rein in the 300X and 500X levels that are de rigueur in today's executive suite.

HAPPY ENDINGS ARE lovely. Apparently many Brits prefer novels with happy endings, like Pride and Prejudice, to those which close sadly. The Times of London informs us that: "The majority of women felt that Tess of the d’Urbervilles would benefit from a happy ending, while male respondents wished things had turned out better for Winston in George Orwell’s 1984."

What about Ahab and Moby Dick? Couldn't Herman Melville have figured out a happy ending–maybe Ahab, Ishmael and Moby Dick collaborating on some sort of SeaWorld gig?

And I am not making this stuff up….

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Copyright © 2006 Jefferson Flanders
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