Saturday, September 30, 2006
Caller ID at the Flick of a Wrist Via Bluetooth

By Mike Musgrove
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, October 1, 2006; F06

It's a moment that many of us have experienced: The cellphone, deep in your pocket or stuffed in an out-of-reach briefcase, starts to ring as you're driving down the road. It could just be a friend, calling to gossip. Or it might be someone at the office, warning you that the meeting you're headed to has been canceled.

If only there were a way of knowing who was calling without having to reach for the phone.

Wristwatch maker Fossil Inc. has come up with a way, using wireless Bluetooth technology.

A small screen on the face of two new Bluetooth watches for men -- which are priced at $200 and $250 -- displays the name of your caller (if it's someone in your phone's contact list) or the phone number. Tap a button and you can send the call straight to voice mail.

No. You can't answer the call and speak into the watch -- at least not yet. But you can set your watch to vibrate when caller information comes in.

Bluetooth technology -- which allows data to be transmitted to devices within 30 feet of each other -- has been around for more than five years. But until hands-free cellphone laws started popping up around the country, the technology had never really grown past wireless mice and keyboards.

At the end of last year, there were about 500 million Bluetooth devices in use. The consortium of companies that develop the standard behind Bluetooth expects that figure to double to 1 billion by the end of this year.

Now that consumers are increasingly becoming familiar with Bluetooth, makers of other devices -- such as Fossil and its new line of watches -- are experimenting with unique uses of the technology.

Bluetooth is built into the latest version of Lego's programmable robot kit, Mindstorms ($250, ). The toy robots that kids build can communicate and interact with each other via the technology's 30-foot range. Sunglass manufacturer Oakley has put Bluetooth into its $250 Razrwire glasses, creating a headset that works with Motorola cellphones ( ).

Some hack-happy enthusiasts have even devised a way to control their Roomba vacuum cleaners via the technology.

Tech analyst Michael Gartenberg said he believes consumers will eventually expect the technology in all their devices. "The beauty of Bluetooth is, the more devices that have it, the more reasons you're going to have to want to use it," he said.

Gartenberg said that the market for Bluetooth has been greatly helped by the fact that the consortium of consumer electronics companies that devised the technology has simplified the process for pairing up two Bluetooth-enabled devices over the years.

Another update of the Bluetooth specification, designed to further simplify its usage, is on the way. The next update, scheduled for release early next year, should extend battery life by five times.

As with every nascent technology, the latest convenience also brings the latest security hazard. Some hackers have started figuring out ways to eavesdrop on the wireless connections between Bluetooth-connected gadgets, through a process that falls under the buzzword "bluesnarfing."

But don't worry. The intrusions haven't become too widespread -- yet.

The Bob Woodward Effect
The White House is in full damage-control mode over his new book.
'State of Denial' details White House decision making on Iraq
By Richard Wolffe

Updated: 8:13 p.m. MT Sept 29, 2006

Sept. 29, 2006 - There are few journalists in Washington who can throw the White House off its stride: Bob Woodward is one of them. Woodward’s new book, "State of Denial," paints a damning picture of White House policy in the aftermath of the Iraq invasion. After The New York Times printed excerpts of the book on Friday, the West Wing immediately went into full damage-control mode, as top aides tried to figure out how to respond. Woodward had delivered copies of the book to the White House on Friday morning—earlier than they expected because of the newspaper leak. The arrival of a Woodward Tome has become a kind of biennial ritual in Washington. The last two, which detailed the Afghan war and the successful early invasion of Iraq, were fairly kind to the president and his staff. But this was a different kind of book, and the administration was already bracing for a rougher ride.

The White House stayed quiet all morning, until the press briefing, which began unusually late. Soon after press secretary Tony Snow stepped up to the podium, it was clear the White House had settled on a time-tested strategy: deny, downplay and sidestep. Snow had a quip at the ready. “The book’s certainly cotton candy—it kind of melts on contact.”

The calculated ho-hum reaction is partly the result of having already responded to several critical books on Iraq in recent months—as well as public discontent with the war. Bush’s aides believe they have already debated extensively the conflicting recommendations about troop levels, and consider that an old—and exhausted—dispute.

White House officials also think they can easily knock down Woodward’s premise that Bush has misled the public about the level of attacks on troops in Iraq. Since late last year, Bush has spoken more openly and directly about the nature of the enemy in Iraq and the scale of the challenge in building a peaceful and democratic nation. Snow himself quoted Bush at length at a press conference in Chicago in July saying, “We’ve lost obviously a lot of lives here in the homeland, and we lost lives overseas.” Snow added that Bush had been telling the American people that “it’s a war that’s going to outlive his presidency.”

The harder material for the White House to dispute concerns Donald Rumsfeld—including harsh assessments of the Defense Secretary from Pentagon brass. According to the book, General Jim Jones, the NATO commander, told his friend Peter Pace, then in line to become chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to steer clear of the job. "Military advice is being influenced on a political level," he said. The JCS had improperly "surrendered" to Rumsfeld. "You shoul not be the parrot on the secretary's shoulder," Jones said.

Administration officials prefer to either dismiss those stories as “gossip” (as Snow did on Friday) or sidestep them altogether. According to Woodward, former Chief of Staff Andy Card recommended that Rumsfeld should be fired. Instead of disputing that, Snow dodged the question altogether with an admirably confusing non sequiter. "Anybody who knows Andy Card knows that there's not a bitter bone in his body."

Bush’s aides concede that they can't dispute the book's direct quotes from Card about his desire to see Rumsfeld leave. Instead, they focused their denials elsewhere. They rejected outright Woodward's contention that First Lady Laura Bush dislikes Rumsfeld. But the Bush team cannot easily dismiss Woodward's reporting skills outright. In his earlier two books—Bush At War and Plan of Attack—Woodward gained extensive cooperation from the White House, and Bush officials openly praised the quality of his reporting. This time around, neither Bush nor Dick Cheney agreed to be interviewed. That doesn’t mean the White House froze Woodward out, merely that he was kept at the same distance as most journalists in Washington. As the president now knows, Woodward isn't fond of the view from the cheap seats.

Donald Rumsfeld's Continuing Fights

New Book on Iraq War Raises
More Questions About
Defense Secretary's Leadership
October 2, 2006; Page A4

WASHINGTON -- For months, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has been cast by Democrats and even some Republicans as the face of an unpopular war.

Now a new book, which paints Mr. Rumsfeld as isolated from his Bush administration colleagues and at odds with some of his generals, is providing fodder for more questions about his leadership.

The heightened focus on the defense chief -- sparked in part by publication of "State of Denial: Bush at War, Part III" by Washington Post editor Bob Woodward -- is complicating White House efforts to keep November's midterm elections from becoming a referendum on the war. Just as significantly, Mr. Rumsfeld's apparent increasing political isolation is affecting how he runs the Defense Department and oversees the war.

[Donald Rumsfeld]

The criticism continued yesterday. "I don't have confidence in Don Rumsfeld. He's made major mistakes in this war," said Sen. Mike DeWine, an Ohio Republican facing a tough re-election campaign. Speaking on NBC's "Meet the Press," Sen. DeWine stopped short of calling for Mr. Rumsfeld's resignation, saying that should be President Bush's decision.

Yesterday, Mr. Rumsfeld told reporters that he isn't considering resigning and that Mr. Bush telephoned him recently to express his confidence in the defense chief.

Meanwhile, senior White House officials made it clear that Mr. Bush still supported Mr. Rumsfeld. "There are a lot of armchair quarterbacks, but he's the right man," said White House counselor Dan Bartlett on CBS's "Face the Nation."

The controversy over Mr. Rumsfeld's leadership does look to be changing the way he manages the military's massive bureaucracy, forcing him to take a less-direct approach to running the department. An example of this is the Army's recent budget woes. Typically, the Secretary has played a significant role in advocating for major changes to the Pentagon budget. This year, rather than make the case himself for a bigger Army budget, Mr. Rumsfeld left it to Army Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Schoomaker to make the case on his own and to sell it to Congress and the White House.

Gen. Schoomaker has told lawmakers that the service needed $17 billion in the fiscal year that started yesterday to repair equipment. In briefings on Capitol Hill and the White House, the service has said it needs $137 billion in fiscal 2008, a $24 billion increase over the planned budget for that year.

The shift in approach in many ways amounts to an acknowledgment by Mr. Rumsfeld of his own vulnerabilities. "If Rumsfeld comes in and asks for more money for the Army, it is evidence of bad management," said Daniel Goure, who served on Mr. Rumsfeld's Pentagon transition team in 2001 and now is a vice president at the Lexington Institute, a defense think tank in Washington. By allowing the Army to make its own case, the defense chief avoided additional criticism by some lawmakers of how he has handled the war. "It shows he understands his weaknesses," Mr. Goure says.

A spokesman for Mr. Rumsfeld, Eric Ruff, yesterday disputed the notion that the Secretary has changed his approach, and added that Mr. Rumsfeld has been "heavily engaged" on Capitol Hill over issues regarding the coming budget and has met repeatedly with members of Congress.

Despite his efforts to assume a lower profile, Mr. Rumsfeld still presents a political problem for the administration. Amid concerns that the war could cost Republicans control of at least one chamber of Congress next month, the White House has tried to mix acknowledgments of Iraq's continuing chaos and violence -- and some of the administration's own miscues -- with calls for staying the course there.

It is a difficult message to calibrate, and White House aides say Mr. Rumsfeld, who is arguably the most polarizing figure in the Bush cabinet, has made the task even harder.

Senior White House aides say Mr. Bush, having backed Mr. Rumsfeld for so long, is unlikely to abandon him in the run-up to next month's midterm elections. Moreover, polls suggest that firing the defense chief wouldn't do much good. In a recent Wall Street Journal/NBC poll, only 44% of respondents said Mr. Rumsfeld should resign and about 68% said his resignation would amount to little more than a symbolic gesture.

The aides say the White House has sought to reduce Mr. Rumsfeld's public role, to keep him from possibly weighing on the administration's poll numbers. That was evident in late July, when the U.S. announced a major shift in military strategy in Iraq that called for deploying thousands of additional American forces to Baghdad in an effort to secure the Iraqi capital. The announcement wasn't made by Mr. Rumsfeld. Instead, Mr. Bush disclosed the plans himself during a joint news conference with visiting Iraqi Premier Nouri al-Maliki.

Mr. Woodward's book, which states that senior White House aides tried twice to persuade Mr. Bush to fire his defense chief, complicates the Bush strategy.

In recent days, some officials in the White House and one prominent military commander have raised questions about Mr. Woodward's account. He says that on multiple occasions Gen. John Abizaid, the top military commander in the Middle East, said Mr. Rumsfeld was an ineffective leader. Gen. Abizaid denied ever making the statements attributed to him. "He has great respect for Mr. Rumsfeld and full confidence in the chain of command," said Col. Jerry Renne, his spokesman.

The book also quotes Gen. James Jones, the head of U.S. European Command, describing Iraq as a "debacle" and saying that "military advice is being influenced on a political level." Gen. Jones declined to comment.

'Ugly Betty' on ABC is TV's top-rated


By DAVID BAUDER, AP Television WriterSat Sep 30, 6:48 PM ET

America may be falling for America Ferrera, the star of ABC's "Ugly Betty," an underdog that has become the most-watched new series of the fall television season so far.

The comedy, which stars Ferrera as a plain Queens girl who pushed her way into the fashion world, was seen by 16.1 million people in its ABC debut on Thursday night, according to Nielsen Media Research.

All but about a half-dozen of the 24 new series the broadcast networks are introducing this fall have made it onto the air already, and so far "Ugly Betty" stands at No. 1.

The show did it without the advantage of a strong program airing ahead of it. Shows like "Shark" and "Brothers & Sisters" that have had strong debuts were helped because they followed "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" and "Desperate Housewives." "Ugly Betty" opened the night at 8 p.m. ET.

It was ABC's largest audience in the time period with a scripted show since "Matlock" in 1995, according to Nielsen Media Research.

ABC, owned by The Walt Disney Co., had some inkling that "Ugly Betty," an American version of a popular Spanish-language telenovela, was attracting attention even before the first episode aired. It had originally scheduled the show for Friday nights — one of the slowest nights on TV — before switching it to Thursday over the summer.

With "Grey's Anatomy" seen by 23.3 million at 9 p.m., ABC is suddenly a player on a night considered television's most valuable because advertisers are eager to be seen there, a night it has been off the ratings radar for years.

CBS, which has dominated Thursday the past few years, had 23.5 million viewers for "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" and 16.6 million viewers for "Survivor: Cook Island."

The "Survivor" episode, only its third of the season, was notable for breaking up the segregated tribes that caused some hubbub weeks ago.

This season began with separate "tribes" of black, white, Asian and Latinos on "Survivor." The segregation drew criticism, with some New York City Council members accusing CBS Corp. of promoting divisiveness.

But on Thursday the reality show producers merged those four tribes into two multi-race gangs. It wasn't in response to any of the criticism; the "Survivor" episodes were filmed before CBS had even announced the cast members.

The show had begun the season missing a few advertisers that it had in past seasons, including General Motors, although the advertisers denied that they left because of the segregation experiment.

The average viewership of the first two episodes was essentially the same as "Survivor" last year, even up slightly.

LiveJournal Introduces "Sponsored Content"

piphil writes, " has just announced via their Business Discussions journal that they are introducing 'sponsored communities and features.' This has lead to an outcry from those who watch this community, who accuse LiveJournal of starting down the 'slippery slope' towards placing advertising on users' journals — some of which users already pay for the privilege of not having to see ads on the site. Read more below."

Interestingly, a few years ago — before LiveJournal's takeover by — the management released a "Social Contract" stating that LiveJournal would remain advertisement-free. Unfortunately it is impossible to link to this page at LiveJournal, as it has been silently deleted. However, we can read a copy of the document on the Internet Archive.

The user outcry has so far been limited to those who actively watch the lj_biz community. However, users are employing their own "viral marketing" techniques to spread the word across the user base. Many are worried about a MySpace-like descent into user-targeted advertising.

All this comes after the user base resisted introduction of advertising-supported user accounts, which swapped paying for extra features for seeing "targeted" banner adverts on the site.

These events raise prickly issue of user rights on such websites, and the validity of "user contracts" that can be changed at will by the provider with no subsequent compensation to affected users.

Live Journal Sponsored Content
We've been working with some great companies who are really excited about LiveJournal and want to help us give you guys access to new features and special content. In the coming weeks and months, we'll be launching some new offerings, including:

  • Sponsored communities: LiveJournal communities run by companies who are looking for a way to connect and interact with people who are interested in finding out more about their products and getting special deals and exclusive content.

  • Sponsored features: Features that might cost us too much to offer by ourselves, or touch on areas where we're not as experienced, which we'll be able to offer through partnerships with other companies.
For instance, you'll be able to visit a community sponsored by the makers of the next hit movie and get access to things like exclusive trailers, behind-the-scenes footage, and promotional pictures. Or a community sponsored by a travel company to get travel advice, tips and tricks, and special deals, or one sponsored by a technology company to get the computer hint-of-the-day, or -- well, anything else our partners can come up with. Sponsored communities function much like regular LJ communities, but there'll be a banner at the top of the page to let you know you're seeing official, sponsored content. We'll also be making minor changes to the community icon for sponsored communities so you can tell at a glance.

We launched our first sponsored community, the Science of Sleep movie community ([info]scienceofsleep) a few weeks ago, and there'll be more content from different sponsors in the future. We think it's a great chance for sponsors to take advantage of some of LJ's best features, and a chance for you guys to get access to exclusive content not being offered anywhere else.

As for sponsored features, they'll be things we've wanted to offer for a while and never quite known where to start. We'll be working with companies who are experts in the areas and technologies we think would be cool to offer, and through their sponsorship, they'll bring new features to LJ.

Our first sponsored feature, SMS integration with LiveJournal, will be launching to paid users soon. It's sponsored by Amp'd Mobile. We're really excited about these features, since people have been asking us for a really long time when they'll be able to interact with LJ via tet messaging. We're really glad to be able to work with Amp'd to finally get this out to you guys.

And, before anyone gets a chance to bring it up, we'll be honest: paid users are going to see the (unobtrusive!) sponsorship information on pages about sponsored features. We don't consider it to be advertising (though I'm sure some of you might disagree!). Our sponsored features are partnerships with companies who can make it possible for us to offer cool and nifty things we wouldn't be able to do otherwise, and we think that giving them credit is the right thing to do. It's what makes these partnerships attractive, and lets us be able to give you guys more stuff.

We're also putting the finishing touches on another awesome sponsored feature, but we'll let that be a surprise when we get there.

So now it's your turn! What types of companies, features, information, and special deals would you be interested in seeing?


Okay, there's enough confusion here in the comments that I need to clarify:

Sponsored communities and sponsored features aren't the same as the banner ads and Google ads displayed on Plus journals and to Plus users.

Our goal for sponsored communities is to give businesses an opportunity to connect with their customers, give you special deals -- free stuff! -- and information. More and more companies are moving to blogging as a form of communication -- people are starting to understand that there's a huge potential for conversation, and they want to reach out and have that conversation somewhere where the tools are already built in, like LJ.

Sponsored features are just that -- new things on LJ, made possible through partnerships with other companies, like technology companies that do things we don't have the experience or resources to do. We think it's totally fair to include a "this feature is made possible by this company" statement in exchange for those features.

Both of them are completely optional. You don't have to use sponsored features, and you don't have to join sponsored communities. We think they're going to be worth it for you guys -- I personally can't wait for the SMS stuff, especially since we've had people asking for it for literally years. But if you don't want to see it, you don't have to.

We want to give you guys options. One of those options is more features; one of them is the choice of seeing whether or not you want to listen to what companies have to say and offer about their products. But it's your choice -- you can also choose to completely ignore it if you want.

Go to Home

Candidate Has Ad About Opponent's Affair

PHILADELPHIA, Sep. 30, 2006
(AP) A Democratic House candidate has launched the first TV commercial to focus on his Republican opponent's affair with a woman who claimed Rep. Don Sherwood abused her.

Chris Carney's commercial features a Republican voter from Sherwood's hometown who speaks directly to the camera and says: "This incident with Don Sherwood just cuts right at the core values of our district."

As he speaks, the phrases "repeatedly choking" and "attempting to strangle plaintiff," taken from a lawsuit filed against the four-term congressman, appear on screen.

The ad does not mention that Sherwood was never charged, and Sherwood's spokesman called the spot misleading.

Carney and Sherwood are locked in a battle for a seat considered safely Republican until last year, when the conservative congressman's five-year extramarital affair became public.

Sherwood admitted to the affair with Cynthia Ore, but denied any abuse. The married father of three reached a confidential settlement with Ore, who sued claiming Sherwood had choked her at his Washington apartment.

Sherwood's spokesman, Jake O'Donnell, said Carney has broken a pledge to refrain from running attack ads.

"Chris Carney said when he first announced he was running that he was going to run on the issues, and was not going to talk about the personal situation. But clearly his campaign has decided to do something different," O'Donnell said. "They're not interested in telling the truth in that ad."

Carney said Friday that the ad focuses on an issue important to voters.

"Wherever we are in the district, the constituents are talking about it," he said. "It's an issue that matters to everyone."

The spot, which began airing in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre TV market Thursday night, was part of the campaign's weekly ad buy of $75,000. The campaign said it has not determined how long it will run.
The New York Times

October 1, 2006
Media Frenzy

How Did Newspapers Land in This Mess?

POOR FitzSimons — he’s got it coming at him from all directions,” Scott N. Flanders was telling me the other day. “There is zero amount of money that would have me trade places with him, not even for Eric Schmidt’s compensation package at Google.”

Mr. Flanders is chief executive of Freedom Communications, the nation’s 11th-largest newspaper company; its better-known properties include The Orange County Register in California.

He was referring to Dennis J. FitzSimons, chairman and chief executive of the Tribune Company, owner of The Chicago Tribune, The Los Angeles Times and plenty of television and other newspaper properties.

The difference in their situations, in the simplest terms, is that Mr. FitzSimons presides over a public company with no controlling shareholder. Mr. Flanders runs a private company. In theory, both answer to demanding owners. But what has gone on lately at Tribune — particularly because it closely follows the rapid disappearance of Knight Ridder as the second-biggest newspaper chain — raises questions about the fraught relationship between Wall Street and the newspaper industry. It’s tempting to paint Wall Street as the bad guy in this, but the relatively brief history of the Street and the press is more complicated.

The distinction between public and private — and private equity for that matter — is relevant because Tribune has said that it has capitulated to the demands of its biggest shareholder, the Chandler family, amid a sagging stock price and worry over the growth potential of the businesses it owns.

In other words, Mr. FitzSimons announced on Sept. 21 that a committee of independent directors would explore all options for breaking up, selling or otherwise reshaping Tribune. It may even go private. Although Tribune has no majority shareholder, Mr. FitzSimons is now tacitly acknowledging that the company, as configured, no longer works.

The underlying theme in Tribune’s unraveling is that in a time of technological transition, the two publics that are served by many of the nation’s newspapers are no longer getting along so well. One is the public market — that is, Wall Street — which cares only about an attractive return on its investment. The other is the so-called public good that newspapers serve by professionally gathering and reporting news for their communities.

If there is a germ of a trend here, it is that, for now at least, being a widely held media company dependent on newspapers is probably no longer tenable. That said, a list of other newspaper companies that are publicly traded and have no controlling shareholders is awfully short. Indeed, the biggest one that leaps to mind is also the nation’s biggest newspaper company, Gannett.

The shares of Gannett, like those of many other newspaper companies, have been deflated more than 25 percent over the last three years. Gannett’s advantage over Tribune — or Knight Ridder, for that matter — is its relatively stronger profit margins. Across the industry, profits are actually better than the bad headlines suggest. But revenue growth is difficult to come by amid a bumpy transition to the Internet, where there are myriad rivals for the information and advertising that were once chiefly the purview of print newspapers.

Newspaper ownership in America exists under a wide range of structures. There are still plenty of private newspaper owners, from Cox Communications (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution) to Mortimer B. Zuckerman (The Daily News in New York). A nonprofit group owns The St. Petersburg Times in Florida.

But many of the country’s best-known newspaper groups went public in the 1960’s and early 70’s, including Times-Mirror, which previously owned The Los Angeles Times; Media General, which owns The Tampa Tribune; Gannett, publisher of USA Today; The Washington Post Company; and The New York Times Company.

The Tribune Company joined the club in 1983, ending 136 years of private ownership. Like others, Tribune tapped into Wall Street to upgrade, diversify or expand. Wall Street gave Tribune the means to acquire Times-Mirror in 2000 — a move that both sides would probably take back if they could.

Another relatively recent convert to public ownership, class of 1988, is the McClatchy Corporation — publisher of The Sacramento Bee — which almost certainly would not have been able to swallow Knight Ridder and succeed it as the nation’s second-biggest daily publisher without access to public capital.

For many newspaper companies, going public was not just a way to finance growth but also a device for family members and other longtime shareholders to cash out and diversify their portfolios. Using a technique common across the media landscape — and recently emulated by Google in its I.P.O. — many of these businesses, including The New York Times Company, issued two classes of stock.

This was done to ensure that founding families maintained control over their businesses with multiple-voting shares even as their percentage of the company’s overall equity shrank. The rationale is that this would give the businesses stability and shelter them from unwelcome influences and intrusions on their public-service mission. One big question of the day is this: If stock prices keep falling, will family shareholders be compelled to cash out — the public trust notwithstanding? And is private ownership — either by rich individuals or by private-equity investors — the answer? A few wealthy Californians have put their hands up as potential buyers of The Los Angeles Times should the Tribune Company choose to sell it. One, Eli Broad, has even proposed that a coalition of nonprofit groups assume control of the paper, in the way the Poynter Institute owns The St. Petersburg Times.

Many people also talk about another alternative: private equity. Steven Rattner, a principal of the Quadrangle Group, a private-equity firm specializing in media companies, contends that firms like his are no less demanding of results then public shareholders are. And private ownership, he said, “is a mixed bag” — just look at the continuing upheaval at The Santa Barbara News-Press in California, where journalists have been at odds with the newspaper’s owner, Wendy P. McCaw.

“You substitute the demands and discipline of the public marketplace for one individual who may be wonderfully benevolent or may turn out to be pretty destructive,” Mr. Rattner told me.

I rang up Mr. Flanders at Freedom, hoping that he would put some gloss on the merits of running a family-controlled media company or one that is backed by private-equity money. Freedom happens to be both, having brought in private-equity partners a couple of years ago when some itchy family members opted to cash out.

Before taking over as Freedom’s chief this year, he was an outside board member and ran Columbia House, the music and video club business that was sold by its private-equity owners to Bertelsmann in 2005.

MR. FLANDERS was, not surprisingly, quite buoyant about private ownership. He noted, for example, that with business flat at The Orange County Register, his company opted not to revamp it but to start a breezy new tabloid called O.C. Report aimed at people who say they are too busy to read The Register. And he has some time to make it work. “We’re going to be $20 million in the hole before we’re even close to breaking even,” he said.

That said, Wall Street has served its purpose for the newspaper industry before, and it could again someday. After all, private-equity firms own assets for only a few years before they sell them and move on.

At Freedom, the plan is to generate enough profit over the next few years to buy out the private-equity backers at a premium — eventually restoring the business to family control. Failing that, it could all come full circle. Mr. Flanders also said going public is an option — though it is not currently being contemplated.

Who knows? The interests of the two publics may one day be aligned again.

The New York Times

September 28, 2006

Rushing Off a Cliff

Here’s what happens when this irresponsible Congress railroads a profoundly important bill to serve the mindless politics of a midterm election: The Bush administration uses Republicans’ fear of losing their majority to push through ghastly ideas about antiterrorism that will make American troops less safe and do lasting damage to our 217-year-old nation of laws — while actually doing nothing to protect the nation from terrorists. Democrats betray their principles to avoid last-minute attack ads. Our democracy is the big loser.

Republicans say Congress must act right now to create procedures for charging and trying terrorists — because the men accused of plotting the 9/11 attacks are available for trial. That’s pure propaganda. Those men could have been tried and convicted long ago, but President Bush chose not to. He held them in illegal detention, had them questioned in ways that will make real trials very hard, and invented a transparently illegal system of kangaroo courts to convict them.

It was only after the Supreme Court issued the inevitable ruling striking down Mr. Bush’s shadow penal system that he adopted his tone of urgency. It serves a cynical goal: Republican strategists think they can win this fall, not by passing a good law but by forcing Democrats to vote against a bad one so they could be made to look soft on terrorism.

Last week, the White House and three Republican senators announced a terrible deal on this legislation that gave Mr. Bush most of what he wanted, including a blanket waiver for crimes Americans may have committed in the service of his antiterrorism policies. Then Vice President Dick Cheney and his willing lawmakers rewrote the rest of the measure so that it would give Mr. Bush the power to jail pretty much anyone he wants for as long as he wants without charging them, to unilaterally reinterpret the Geneva Conventions, to authorize what normal people consider torture, and to deny justice to hundreds of men captured in error.

These are some of the bill’s biggest flaws:

Enemy Combatants: A dangerously broad definition of “illegal enemy combatant” in the bill could subject legal residents of the United States, as well as foreign citizens living in their own countries, to summary arrest and indefinite detention with no hope of appeal. The president could give the power to apply this label to anyone he wanted.

The Geneva Conventions: The bill would repudiate a half-century of international precedent by allowing Mr. Bush to decide on his own what abusive interrogation methods he considered permissible. And his decision could stay secret — there’s no requirement that this list be published.

Habeas Corpus: Detainees in U.S. military prisons would lose the basic right to challenge their imprisonment. These cases do not clog the courts, nor coddle terrorists. They simply give wrongly imprisoned people a chance to prove their innocence.

Judicial Review: The courts would have no power to review any aspect of this new system, except verdicts by military tribunals. The bill would limit appeals and bar legal actions based on the Geneva Conventions, directly or indirectly. All Mr. Bush would have to do to lock anyone up forever is to declare him an illegal combatant and not have a trial.

Coerced Evidence: Coerced evidence would be permissible if a judge considered it reliable — already a contradiction in terms — and relevant. Coercion is defined in a way that exempts anything done before the passage of the 2005 Detainee Treatment Act, and anything else Mr. Bush chooses.

Secret Evidence: American standards of justice prohibit evidence and testimony that is kept secret from the defendant, whether the accused is a corporate executive or a mass murderer. But the bill as redrafted by Mr. Cheney seems to weaken protections against such evidence.

Offenses: The definition of torture is unacceptably narrow, a virtual reprise of the deeply cynical memos the administration produced after 9/11. Rape and sexual assault are defined in a retrograde way that covers only forced or coerced activity, and not other forms of nonconsensual sex. The bill would effectively eliminate the idea of rape as torture.

•There is not enough time to fix these bills, especially since the few Republicans who call themselves moderates have been whipped into line, and the Democratic leadership in the Senate seems to have misplaced its spine. If there was ever a moment for a filibuster, this was it.

We don’t blame the Democrats for being frightened. The Republicans have made it clear that they’ll use any opportunity to brand anyone who votes against this bill as a terrorist enabler. But Americans of the future won’t remember the pragmatic arguments for caving in to the administration.

They’ll know that in 2006, Congress passed a tyrannical law that will be ranked with the low points in American democracy, our generation’s version of the Alien and Sedition Acts.

How to Eat Sushi - Sushi Etiquette

I have spent years studying the nuances of Japanese formal dining have learned many of the rules for eating sushi in a traditional restaurant. That said, there really are no absolute requirements, other than general politeness, there are certain behaviours that may make your dining experience more pleasant, and the staff more attentive and interested in you. While many of the tips that follow may be obvious to some, I hope that they may offer a bit of insight to those who love sushi, but perhaps only have it occasionally.

Please keep in mind that while large, this is not a canonical list, and therefore should be taken as guidance rather than strict advice. You would also do well to not read this sushi guide and then worry ever time you go out to eat sushi. Many Japanese do not follow all the rules to a ‘T’ (or even know them) and I would suggest that polite behaviour is enough to make a good meal at any restaurant, sushi-ya or not, especially in North America. Again, I don’t mean to put forth these rules as absolutes, only to offer some insight into the depth of tradition that surrounds sushi dining experience.

How To Eat Sushi (Sushi Etiquette)

Arriving and being seated
• It is polite in any restaurant to greet the host or hostess, who may greet you with the traditional “irashimase” which means “please come in.” You just need to acknowledge their greeting and are not required to say anything back, other than to answer the questions about your evening (seating, etc).
• If you are interested in preparation or conversation with the itamae (sushi chef), ask to be seated at the sushi bar, otherwise a table is fine (and the bar better left for those who would like the interaction).

• If you are seated at the sushi bar, only ask the itamae for sushi. Drinks, soup, and other non-sushi (or sashimi) items are handled only by the waiter/waitress.
• Ask the itamae what he would recommend, never ‘is that fresh?” as it is insulting to imply that something may not be. If you think it may not be fresh, you shouldn’t be eating there.
• Respect the itamae, he is often quite busy. But feel free to engage him in conversation if he is able. This is also a good way to build a rapport with him and you may reap the rewards later as a regular (I really have with one particular itamae at one of my favourite places).
• Keep your palate in mind and order accordingly. It is impolite to leave food on your plate after your meal or act as though a particular item is ‘gross’ if you don’t like it.

• You may be offered a hot, wet towel (called an oshibori) at the beginning of your meal. Use it to wash you hands and try to fold it back neatly the way it was offered to you before returning it.
• Do not rub your chopsticks together. When not in use they should be placed parallel to yourself on the holder (if there is one) or on the shoyu dish. They should also be placed there when finished with your meal.
• Don’t be afraid to ask for an item not on the menu as the sushi-ya may have special or seasonal items that are not listed. It is perfectly acceptable to ask, and often the itamae will appreciate your interest.
• Don’t put wasabi directly in the shoyu dish. Nigiri-zushi (fingers of rice topped with fish or another topping) comes with wasabi placed under the neta (fish) by the itamae, and reflects what he feels is the proper balance of wasabi to fish. Some of us like a little more, and you can always sneak some separately on the fish or with it.
• It is OK to eat nigiri-zushi (sushi) with your hands. Sashimi is only to be eaten with your chopsticks.
• Pick up the nigiri-zushi and dip the fish into your shoyu, not the rice (which will soak up too much shoyu). Too much shoyu will overpower the taste of the neta (fish) and could also lead to the rice falling into your shoyu dish and making soup, not a good thing.
• Do not pick up a piece of food from another person’s plate with the part of the chopsticks you put in your mouth. When moving food like this use the end you hold, which is considered the polite way.
• Eat nigiri sushi in one bite. This is not always easy (or possible) in North America where some sushi-ya make huge pieces, but traditional itamae in Japanese sushi-ya will make the pieces the proper size for this. In North America, try your best and don’t worry if they won’t let you.
• Gari (ginger) is considered a palate cleanser and eaten between bites or different types of sushi. It is not meant to be eaten in the same bite as a piece of sushi.
• Slurping noodles is OK, less so for soup, but a bit is fine, at least by Japanese standards.
• In more traditional sushi-ya, if you are not given a spoon for your soup, do not ask for one. You are expected to pick up your bowl to drink the soup, using your chopsticks to direct the solid pieces to your mouth.
• It’s nice to offer a beer or sake to the itamae (but of course not required). He may remember you and treat you well upon subsequent visits.
• Never pass food to another person using chopsticks as this is too close symbolically to the passing of a deceased relative’s bones at a Japanese funeral. Pass a plate instead allowing an individual to take food themselves.
• Also, never stick your chopsticks in your rice and leave them sticking up. This resembles incense sticks and again brings to mind the symbolism of the Japanese funeral and prayers to ancestors.
• Technically one doesn’t drink sake with sushi (or rice in general) only with sashimi or before or after the meal. It is felt that since they are both rice based, they do not compliment each other and therefore should not be consumed together.
• With alcoholic beverages, it is considered customary to serve each other (if not alone) instead of pouring one's own drink. Be attentive of your fellow diner’s glasses and refill them. If you need a refill, drink the remainder of the beverage and hold the glass slightly and politely towards a dining
• Sake is available both chilled and hot, depending the quality and style. Experiment to learn what you like, but generally, higher quality sake is served cold. And some is quite good as well as sophisticated.
• Belching is considered impolite at the Japanese table, unlike some other Asian cultures.
• “Kampai!” (“to your health”) is the traditional Japanese toast you may hear. Do not say “chin chin” as to the Japanese, this is a reference to a certain male body part best left out of proper conversation.

After the meal
• If you sit at the bar, tip the itamae for the food (in western countries there is often a tip jar as the itamae will never touch money since he touches food) and the waitstaff for the drinks etc. Otherwise, tip as you normally would.
• It is polite to thank the itamae if you were seated at the sushi bar. If you want to try Japanese, ‘domo arigato’ is a polite Japanese expression for ‘thank you’ and if you want to be more sophisticated, you might try "oishikatta desu" (it was delicious) or the less commonly used “gochisosama deshita,” which loosely translated means “thank you for the meal.”
• In Japan, tips are included in the bill, but in North America, tip as you see fit.

I hope that his provides some insight into the sophisticated evolution of the sushi dining experience. This is not an exhaustive list, but certainly large enough for a general guide. Again, please treat this exposition as a list of guidelines and not as hard and fast rules. I have provided this as a reference and an article of interest, not as something to worry westerners who think they ‘might be doing it wrong.’ Enjoy your meal as you normally would, and have fun. That is really the purpose of going out to eat.

Bearing Witness
In a second memoir, Michael Patrick MacDonald details how punk rock pulled him from the death spiral of an underclass neighborhood.
By Brian Braiker


Sept 29, 2006

Sept. 29, 2006 - If you lived anywhere near Boston six years ago, there was a grim little memoir, peppered with hard-won humor, called "All Souls" that was inescapable: you saw it in shop windows, in the hands of passengers on the bus, on laps on the "T," which the author and his pals from the projects used to hop turnstiles to ride. "All Souls" was the first-person testimony of Michael Patrick MacDonald, survivor of the Old Colony development in the Irish enclave of South Boston (Southie, as it’s known)—one of the Boston Housing Authority's largest, poorest and whitest projects.

In that book (265,000 copies sold, 34 weeks on The Boston Globe's best-seller list), we met MacDonald and his family: matriarch Helen MacDonald King and her 11 offspring, four of whom would be dead by book's end, with another rendered a vegetable by a drug-addled rooftop fall, which was possibly accidental but possibly not. We learn the story of a man who understands poverty because he has known it and is blessed with an ability to bear witness in plainspoken prose. As only an insider can, he turned the spotlight on a community ruined by organized crime, controlled by drugs and ruled by silence.

This week the sequel to "All Souls" lands in bookstores. If possible, "Easter Rising" (Houghton Mifflin) is a more personal story—detailing MacDonald's escape from Southie's death grip and, eventually, his cautious return. "This is my 'not another Southie' book," he says sitting on a barstool in his adoptive Brooklyn neighborhood. "I was a little traumatized by the 'All Souls' thing because it was so out there in the news and so controversial" for dealing frankly with class and crime, he explains. "Easter Rising" is an answer to all those teachers and community leaders and kids who have asked him in the intervening years: how did you get out alive?

The short answer? He was lucky. Over a plate of pub fare (Buffalo chicken fingers, tepid calamari and soda water—no booze on book tours) MacDonald, 40, gives the longer version, which comprises the bulk of "Easter Rising." The book begins steeped in summertime nostalgia—MacDonald tags along with his siblings, sneaking subway rides and pulling pranks. But things take a swift downward turn when Davey, MacDonald's charismatic bipolar older brother, commits suicide by jumping off one of Old Colony's roofs. MacDonald begins to withdraw from the tight-knit Southie community. On a clandestine jaunt into downtown Boston—a few stops and a world away from the projects—he is taken by the unconventional appearance of a young punk rocker. It's 1979 and a 13-year-old MacDonald has begun to realize there is more to life than Irish Southie and its preppie pop-music conformity. So, naturally, he shoplifts his first Sex Pistols record.

You see where this is going. "I'd often heard adults and commentators on TV saying how music like this could destroy kids' lives," he writes upon hearing "Never Mind the Bollocks" for the first time. "For once I thought they might be right. But to me that didn't feel like a bad thing." Escaping and rebelling through rock and roll is as old as James Dean, of course. But the problem with that particular rebel was that he didn't have a cause. MacDonald did.

At first it's just to flee Southie's oppressive insularity. On nocturnal sojourns, an insomniac MacDonald stumbles upon a burgeoning scene, a little slice of unfolding rock history. Escaping the increasingly corrosive violence of his 'hood, he comes to embrace the cathartic violence of punk—he sneaks into shows by the Clash, the Sex Pistols, the Slits, Mission of Burma, Gang of Four, the Cramps, the Ramones, the Specials, the Buzzcocks—all in their prime. Reminiscing in Brooklyn more than 20 years later, MacDonald waggles a chicken tender like it’s an extension of his finger: "So many people assume with these musical subcultures that it's about finding a place where you belong. But for me it was about finding a place where I didn't have to belong." It was the first time in his life that it was OK to be weird. And what's weirder than having young siblings who keep dieing?

Sedated: Music by bands like the Ramones offered MacDonald an escape from Southie

Music by bands like the Ramones offered MacDonald an escape from Southie

His sister Kathy falls off a roof under mysterious circumstances in 1981. She goes into a coma, hovering between life and death for months, ultimately emerging with brain damage. But the worst is yet to come: three years later, one of MacDonald's older brothers is killed in a botched bank heist, and eight months after that another is found dead, hung in his jail cell. When MacDonald deigns to go to school during this period, a teacher tells him to pull himself up by his bootstraps. "Then he carried on about hard work and struggle," he writes. "I was confused, because the last few months had felt like nothing but hard work and struggle."

Twenty-five years later he is no longer confused, just angry. MacDonald, who after years working as a community organizer looks far more like a cop than a punk rocker, says that "By focusing on making kids 'pull themselves up by their bootstraps,' we adults get to sidestep the social-justice issues that are involved here. We don't have to deal with the fact that these kids are growing up in a messed-up world. I'm talking across class—from Southie to Columbine." MacDonald has tried to sidestep nothing. Before writing "All Souls," he helped start Boston's gun-buyback program and toured the country counseling families like his.

Alternately funny and heartbreaking, "Easter Rising" progresses in swift, conversational style. MacDonald copes the way all of Southie copes—by repressing. Eventually this takes a physical toll and he begins exhibiting classic symptoms of posttraumatic-stress disorder. He becomes a hypochondriac; he seeks succor in alcohol and speed. He runs from Southie, staying stretches at a time in Boston and then even further to New York. Eventually he scrapes enough money together to get to Europe. And with a bribe from his grandfather, he begrudgingly discovers his family's native Ireland where MacDonald receives a crash course in colonialization and class warfare that allows him to see Southie, and himself, through a new prism.

As a coming-of-age story, "Easter Rising" may not break new ground, but MacDonald is a compelling storyteller, cut from the same cloth as "Angela's Ashes" author Frank McCourt. His next book will likely be another "bottom-up history," he says, the fictionalized story of his Irish great-grandmother, who prepared bodies for wakes in a time of uprising and disease when there was much to keep her busy. But first he has to finish the screenplay for "All Souls," which will be directed by Ron Shelton ("Bull Durham"). "There's always more therapy to do; always more writing to do," he says, sounding very much like someone whose ancient trauma remains a constant companion. "It's catharsis. You go into the fire and you feel better when you come out of it."

September What do we lose when YouTube sells out?

It's the place you go for Family Guy clips and last night's Jon Stewart interview. For now, media companies keep their hands off YouTube and cut deals with the site instead. But some day, if it doesn't die first, YouTube will have to sell out, and the buyer will become a juicy legal target for every other media company whose stuff is pirated on the popular video site. What clips are in danger if one of these top potential buyers bites?

Pretty much everything is in trouble. Thankfully, Yahoo just bought a different online video startup, and they have their own video enterprise as well, so a YouTube buy isn't likely.

Anybody but Viacom

  • The Daily Show. Viacom's Comedy Central hasn't sued YouTube for now, but if someone like News Corp. bought it, they'd feel a lot more litigious off a direct competitor cashing in on their work.
  • South Park
  • Clips from movies by Paramount Pictures and DreamWorks
  • Anything from MTV, Nickelodeon, Spike TV, and VH1

Anybody but News Corp

  • Everything from Fox, including The Simpsons and Family Guy.
  • Movies by 20th Century Fox
  • Fox News, but they just started suing anyway

Anybody but Disney

  • ABC shows including Lost, The Nine, Grey's Anatomy, America's Funnies Home Videos, Extreme Makeover, Jimmy Kimmel, NBA games, college football, and dozens of old sitcoms
  • Movies from Disney, Touchstone, Hollywood Studios, and Miramax
  • Music from Buena Vista, Disney Records, Mammoth Records, and Hollywood Records
  • Pixar movies
  • The Muppets
  • ESPN

Anybody but CBS

  • Shows on the new CW TV Network
  • 60 Minutes, the CBS Evening News, and the CBS Morning News
  • Four soap operas
  • The Amazing Race, Big Brother, and Survivor
  • CSI: Whatever
  • Other shows like Numb3rs, Without a Trace, The King of Queens, Letterman, and The Price is Right
  • NCAA, NFL, and PGA games
  • Old shows including MASH, The Twilight Zone, and Everybody Loves Raymond

Anybody but Playboy
Actually, YouTube's pretty covered there. It's damn hard to find porn on that site, as you already know.

Anybody but Sony
Oh geez, just too much to count. Sony owns half of BMG, which cuts out a huge chunk of music used to soundtrack videos. YouTube's deal with Warner Music means Sony will demand the same treatment. Hell, it could do that soon anyway. And don't forget movies by Sony Pictures.

Anybody but Time Warner
Sure, there's HBO, Cartoon Network, CNN, Warner Brothers, and New Line Cinema. But forget that, what about Road Runner? Remember how ISPs won the Net Neutrality debate? Yeah, videos from YouTube might come a little slower until its new owner pays for an upgrade.

But hey, I'm sure YouTube will do just fine and go public on its own.

The New York Times

September 30, 2006
Books of The Times

A Portrait of Bush as a Victim of His Own Certitude

book picture

In Bob Woodward’s highly anticipated new book, “State of Denial,” President Bush emerges as a passive, impatient, sophomoric and intellectually incurious leader, presiding over a grossly dysfunctional war cabinet and given to an almost religious certainty that makes him disinclined to rethink or re-evaluate decisions he has made about the war. It’s a portrait that stands in stark contrast to the laudatory one Mr. Woodward drew in “Bush at War,” his 2002 book, which depicted the president — in terms that the White House press office itself has purveyed — as a judicious, resolute leader, blessed with the “vision thing” his father was accused of lacking and firmly in control of the ship of state.

As this new book’s title indicates, Mr. Woodward now sees Mr. Bush as a president who lives in a state of willful denial about the worsening situation in Iraq, a president who insists he won’t withdraw troops, even “if Laura and Barney are the only ones who support me.” (Barney is Mr. Bush’s Scottish terrier.) Mr. Woodward draws an equally scathing portrait of Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, who comes off as a bully and control freak who is reluctant to assume responsibility for his department’s failures, and who has surrounded himself with yes men and created a system that bleached out “strong, forceful military advice.” Mr. Rumsfeld remains wedded to his plan to conduct the war in Iraq with a lighter, faster force (reflecting his idée fixe of “transforming” the military), even as the situation there continues to deteriorate.

Mr. Woodward reports that after the 2004 election Andrew H. Card Jr., then White House chief of staff, pressed for Mr. Rumsfeld’s ouster (he recommended former Secretary of State James A. Baker III as a replacement), and that Laura Bush shared his concern, worrying that Mr. Rumsfeld was hurting her husband’s reputation. Vice President Dick Cheney, however, persuaded Mr. Bush to stay the course with Mr. Cheney’s old friend Mr. Rumsfeld, arguing that any change might be perceived as an expression of doubt and hesitation on the war. Other members of the administration also come off poorly. Gen. Richard B. Myers is depicted as a weak chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who routinely capitulated to the will of Mr. Rumsfeld and who rarely offered an independent opinion. Former C.I.A. director George J. Tenet is described as believing that the war against Iraq was a terrible mistake, but never expressing his feelings to the president. And Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (who appears in this volume primarily in her former role as national security adviser) is depicted as a presidential enabler, ineffectual at her job of coordinating interagency strategy and planning.

For instance, Mr. Woodward writes that on July 10, 2001, Mr. Tenet and his counterterrorism coordinator, J. Cofer Black, met with Ms. Rice to warn her of mounting intelligence about an impending terrorist attack, but came away feeling they’d been given “the brush-off” — a revealing encounter, given Ms. Rice’s recent comments, rebutting former President Bill Clinton’s allegations that the Bush administration had failed to pursue counterterrorism measures aggressively before 9/11.

As depicted by Mr. Woodward, this is an administration in which virtually no one will speak truth to power, an administration in which the traditional policy-making process involving methodical analysis and debate is routinely subverted. He notes that experts — who recommended higher troop levels in Iraq, warned about the consequences of disbanding the Iraqi Army or worried about the lack of postwar planning— were continually ignored by the White House and Pentagon leadership, or themselves failed, out of cowardice or blind loyalty, to press insistently their case for an altered course in the war.

Mr. Woodward describes the administration’s management of the war as being improvisatory and ad hoc, like a pickup basketball game, and argues that it continually tried to give the public a rosy picture of the war in Iraq (while accusing the press of accentuating the negative), even as its own intelligence was pointing to a rising number of attacks against American forces and an upward spiral of violence. A secret February 2005 report by Philip D. Zelikow, a State Department counselor, found that “Iraq remains a failed state shadowed by constant violence and undergoing revolutionary political change” and concluded that the American effort there suffered because it lacked a comprehensive, unified policy.

Startlingly little of this overall picture is new, of course. Mr. Woodward’s portrait of Mr. Bush as a prisoner of his own certitude owes a serious debt to a 2004 article in The New York Times Magazine by the veteran reporter Ron Suskind, just as his portrait of the Pentagon’s incompetent management of the war and occupation owes a serious debt to “Fiasco,” the Washington Post reporter Thomas E. Ricks’s devastating account of the war, published this summer. Other disclosures recapitulate information contained in books and articles by other journalists and former administration insiders.

But if much of “State of Denial” simply ratifies the larger outline of the Bush administration’s bungled handling of the war as laid out by other reporters, Mr. Woodward does flesh out that narrative with new illustrations and some telling details that enrich the reader’s understanding of the inner workings of this administration at this critical moment.

He reports, for instance, that the Vietnam-era Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger “had a powerful, largely invisible influence on the foreign policy of the Bush administration,” urging President Bush and Vice President Cheney to stick it out. According to Mr. Woodward, Mr. Kissinger gave the former Bush adviser and speechwriter Michael Gerson his so-called 1969 salted peanut memo, which warned President Richard M. Nixon that “withdrawal of U.S. troops will become like salted peanuts to the American public; the more U.S. troops come home, the more will be demanded.”

As with Mr. Woodward’s earlier books, many of his interviews were conducted on background, though, from the point of view of particular passages, it’s often easy for the reader to figure out just who his sources were. In some cases he recreates conversations seemingly based on interviews with only one of the participants. The former Saudi Arabian ambassador Prince Bandar bin Sultan, Mr. Card, Mr. Tenet, Deputy Secretary of State Richard L. Armitage and Brent Scowcroft, the former national security adviser (to Bush senior), appear to be among the author’s primary sources.

Whereas Mr. Woodward has tended in the past to stand apart from his narrative, rarely pausing to analyze or assess the copious material he has gathered, he is more of an active agent in this volume — perhaps in a kind of belated mea culpa for his earlier positive portrayals of the administration. In particular, he inserts himself into interviews with Mr. Rumsfeld — clearly annoyed, even appalled, by the Pentagon chief’s cavalier language and reluctance to assume responsibility for his department’s failures.

Mr. Woodward reports that when he told Mr. Rumsfeld that the number of insurgent attacks was going up, the defense secretary replied that they’re now “categorizing more things as attacks.” Mr. Woodward quotes Mr. Rumsfeld as saying, “A random round can be an attack and all the way up to killing 50 people someplace. So you’ve got a whole fruit bowl of different things — a banana and an apple and an orange.”

Mr. Woodward adds: “I was speechless. Even with the loosest and most careless use of language and analogy, I did not understand how the secretary of defense would compare insurgent attacks to a ‘fruit bowl,’ a metaphor that stripped them of all urgency and emotion. The official categories in the classified reports that Rumsfeld regularly received were the lethal I.E.D.’s, standoff attacks with mortars and close engagements such as ambushes.”

Earlier in the volume, in a section describing the former Iraq administrator Jay Garner’s reluctance to tell the president about the mistakes he saw the Pentagon making in Iraq, Mr. Woodward writes: “It was only one example of a visitor to the Oval Office not telling the president the whole story or the truth. Likewise, in these moments where Bush had someone from the field there in the chair beside him, he did not press, did not try to open the door himself and ask what the visitor had seen and thought. The whole atmosphere too often resembled a royal court, with Cheney and Rice in attendance, some upbeat stories, exaggerated good news and a good time had by all.” Were the war in Iraq not a real war that has resulted in more than 2,700 American military casualties and more than 56,000 Iraqi civilian deaths, the picture of the Bush administration that emerges from this book might resemble a farce. It’s like something out of “The Daily Show” or a “Saturday Night Live” sketch, with Freudian Bush family dramas and high-school-like rivalries between cabinet members who refuse to look at one another at meetings being played out on the world stage.

There’s the president, who once said, “I don’t have the foggiest idea about what I think about international, foreign policy,” deciding that he’s going to remake the Middle East and alter the course of American foreign policy. There’s his father, former President George Herbert Walker Bush (who went to war against the same country a decade ago), worrying about the wisdom of another war but reluctant to offer his opinions to his son because he believes in the principle of “let him be himself.” There’s the president’s national security adviser whining to him that the defense secretary won’t return her phone calls. And there’s the president and Karl Rove, his chief political adviser, trading fart jokes.

Mr. Woodward suggests that Mr. Rumsfeld decided to make the Iraq war plan “his personal project” after seeing a rival agency, the C.I.A., step up to run operations in Afghanistan (when it became clear that the Pentagon was unprepared for a quick invasion of that country, right after 9/11). And he suggests that President Bush chose Mr. Rumsfeld as his defense secretary, in part, because he knew his father mistrusted Mr. Rumsfeld, and the younger Bush wanted to prove his father wrong.

Many of the people in this book seem not only dismayed but also flummoxed by some of President Bush’s decisions. Mr. Woodward quotes Laura Bush as telling Andrew Card that she doesn’t understand why her husband isn’t upset about Mr. Rumsfeld and the uproar over his handling of the war . And he quotes Mr. Armitage as telling former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell that he’s baffled by President Bush’s reluctance to make adjustments in his conduct of the war.

“Has he thought this through?” Mr. Armitage asks. “What the president says in effect is, We’ve got to press on in honor of the memory of those who have fallen. Another way to say that is we’ve got to have more men fall to honor the memories of those who have already fallen.”

'State of Denial' lands early and hits harder
Bob Woodward at center of whirlwind over latest book
By Howard Kurtz

Sept 30, 2006

WASHINGTON - The impassioned debate that seems to surround each new book by Bob Woodward burst into public view yesterday, two days ahead of schedule.

The unveiling of "State of Denial," Woodward's latest take on the Bush administration's struggle with the conflict in Iraq, scrambled the usual media alliances. The New York Times ran a front-page exclusive on a book by a journalist for The Washington Post -- which begins running excerpts tomorrow -- and Brian Williams led "NBC Nightly News" with a story based on advance tidbits put out by CBS's "60 Minutes," which airs its Woodward interview tomorrow.

For several years now, liberal critics have been denigrating Woodward as a high-level stenographer for an administration they detest, even as his last two books have also revealed information that embarrassed the White House. But this new volume -- written, unlike the others, without access to President Bush -- has media and political circles buzzing about whether the one-time Watergate sleuth has suddenly gotten tougher on the administration.

"I found out new things, as is always the case when you re-plow old ground," Woodward said. "The bulk of them I discovered this year. I wish I'd had some of them for the earlier books, but I didn't."

Woodward said he pushed repeatedly to interview Bush, who actually suggested that he write the book "Plan of Attack." But White House counselor Dan Bartlett and national security adviser Stephen Hadley, after a period of cooperation, told him an interview was unlikely and then stopped returning his calls. In the new book, Woodward attributes the lack of a presidential interview -- which has the effect of removing a strong counterweight to criticism of the White House -- to Bush's declining popularity.

Bartlett said yesterday that he and other officials, while cooperating, noticed "a different tone and tenor to this project. . . . Some pretty hard conclusions had already formed in Bob's mind. So we made the judgment that the third time was not a charm." The book's "gossipy" aspects will titillate the cocktail party circuit, Bartlett said, but "the underlying issues are ones covered by a half-dozen books before his."

Tsunami of publicity
What accounts for the tsunami of publicity? Three decades after he was portrayed by Robert Redford in the movie version of the Watergate book "All the President's Men," Woodward has become a bankable commodity, his books virtually guaranteed to generate headlines and top bestseller lists.

But for all his popularity and credibility, Woodward has seen his reputation has taken a bit of a scuffing as detractors have assailed his recent books as too sympathetic toward Bush, Vice President Cheney and other officials who have cooperated with him. Woodward also apologized to The Post in November for failing to disclose for more than two years that an administration official had told him about Valerie Plame's status as a CIA operative, a silence he attributed to trying to avoid a subpoena from the special prosecutor investigating the leak.

The very title of "State of Denial" suggests a more sharp-edged approach than "Bush at War" or "Plan of Attack," although the latter, in particular, contained revelations about the administration that were seized upon by John Kerry's presidential campaign after its 2004 release. But the narrative pushed by Woodward's critics was that of a journalist who was an outsider while digging into the Nixon White House but had since become wealthy, famous and too cozy with those in the Bush White House.

The dominant theme of the new book -- that the administration was torn by internal divisions over Iraq and failed to recognize its blunders -- could prompt a reassessment of Woodward's work.

"In my view, his reputation had suffered from the first two books on the Bush administration, and I believe he's a very smart guy and he knows that," said Jay Rosen, a New York University journalism professor. "I think he was used to put out a narrative that was radically incomplete."

"Obviously he's more critical of the president, but this comes at a point when the war has gone on as long as World War II," said Times columnist Frank Rich, a fierce Bush critic.

Said Bob Kuttner, co-executive editor of the liberal American Prospect: "Either Bob was shamed into using his tremendous reporting talent to explain what was really going on, or he felt foolish in light of what was written before and what was subsequently unearthed."

On the conservative side, Bill Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard, said of the new book: "I don't know whether that's where his reporting led him or whether it's more fashionable to be anti-Bush in 2006 than in 2002. I don't see what the big revelations are, and I don't see this changing anyone's mind in November."

Asked about criticism that he has gone easy on the Bush team in the past, Woodward said: "Anyone who's read the books would realize that it's unfounded. All of the three books are reported, and this is what I found."

Some commentators have maintained that those who cooperate with Woodward fare better in his narratives. In this case, however, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld -- who had to be ordered by Bush to cooperate with "Plan of Attack" -- granted two on-the-record interviews. Yet Rumsfeld is portrayed as "an arrogant, indecisive bumbler who won't take responsibility for his mistakes," as the New York Daily News, which also obtained an advance copy of the book, put it.

Book embargo busted
Yesterday's publication by the Times and Daily News -- Times reporter Julie Bosman bought her copy and, in what is usually a sin in New York, paid retail -- caused plenty of head-shaking in The Post newsroom, where numerous staffers wondered how the paper was beaten on a book by its own assistant managing editor. The Post quickly published a news story online yesterday morning.

Leonard Downie Jr., The Post's executive editor, said the book was "fair game" for any competitor and that he probably should have moved faster after "60 Minutes" issued a press release on the book Thursday.

"We weren't prohibited from doing it; I just didn't think to do it," Downie said. "I was sort of upset with myself for not having decided yesterday to just do a story. . . . I'm somewhat surprised at how much commotion the release of the book has caused."

Newsweek, a Washington Post Co. property, is still planning a cover-story excerpt for tomorrow. Editor Jon Meacham said he was "not surprised" by the leak. "The exclusive excerpts game has been changed over the last five to 10 years, and it's very hard to protect any book after it's shipped from the publisher."

While the Times was scooping The Post -- in part by keeping the story off its Web site until the middle of the night -- NBC was beating CBS by using footage of the "60 Minutes" interview posted on CBS's Web site. "We knew a story when we heard one, and we found a way to cover it," NBC anchor Williams said. "We unabashedly threw CBS's logo up on the air."

NBC correspondent Andrea Mitchell had signed a confidentiality agreement in exchange for an advance copy, Williams said, so "she recused herself from any discussions."

"60 Minutes" spokesman Kevin Tedesco was unperturbed, saying: "Ultimately it all adds to the buzz, and hopefully more viewers for Sunday's broadcast."

Times reporter David Sanger, who wrote his paper's story, said Woodward books are always news. "As someone who covers the White House, I can only view this with admiration," Sanger said. "He's got some fabulous supporting details and great scenes. Did we all know there was tension between Condoleezza Rice and Don Rumsfeld? Yes. Did we know the president told him to return her calls? No."

The busting of book embargoes is becoming common practice. After all, the Associated Press obtained an advance copy of "Plan of Attack" before The Post ran its excerpts. (Woodward was also scooped by Vanity Fair last year on the identity of Deep Throat, but that stemmed from his decision that one-time FBI official Mark Felt was no longer mentally competent to release him from a 33-year-old pledge of confidentiality.)

The Post was the aggressive party in 2003 when, on the heels of the AP, the paper obtained an advance copy of Hillary Rodham Clinton's autobiography before it was serialized in Time. A year later, Newsweek, the Times and the AP got hold of Bill Clinton's memoir before an exclusive Time interview with the former president.

When Newsweek had the rights to "Dutch," Edmund Morris's 1999 biography of Ronald Reagan, The Post scooped its sister publication by coming up with a copy. In 1995, Newsweek's Meacham obtained a manuscript of Colin Powell's autobiography, prompting Time to slash the fee it paid Random House for the excerpts.

This time, Simon & Schuster, Woodward's publisher, responded to the leak by moving up the sale date for the book -- 825,000 copies have already been shipped -- from Monday to today. "We were completely blindsided by it," said publicity chief Victoria Meyer.

How does Woodward feel about his newspaper losing first crack at his book? "It's the world we live in," he said.