Quite the World, Isn't It?

What happens when the government acts illegally?

June 16, 2010

Tags: history, law, human rights, civil right

I blog regularly for an organization called Protect Consumer Justice, looking at issues affecting people's access to courts to try to redress grievances. My post this morning is about a troubling Supreme Court decision, upholding by inaction lower court decisions, that give the government free rein to do what it wants so long as it claims "state secrets."

I won't repeat the post here, but please do wander over there to give it a read. After you watch this takedown by Jon Stewart of the Obama administration's failure to follow through on some of the key issues on which he was elected.
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Ancient times on the Channel Islands

June 13, 2010

Tags: travel, journalism, profiles

I spent a day back in December out on Santa Cruz Island with Jennifer Perry, an anthropology professor at Pomona College, for a profile piece for Pomona Magazine. It was a lot of fun -- she's very bright, and very engaged with the history of the Chumash tribe, whom her research (and that of others) suggests served a role as something of a banker for pre-Columbian trade along the Central California coast.

Santa Cruz is the largest of the Channel Islands at 98 square miles, and has been a lot of things over the years, including a ranch. Now owned by the National Park Service and the Nature Conservancy, a visit here is a wonderful experience in roughing it. Camping is limited and rudimentary, there are no services, and if you miss the ferry you're stuck until the next day.

What I enjoyed most, though, was listening to Perry talk about the clues in the landscape as she walked along the blufftop, and then inland a bit. What was a pile of loose rock to my eye were, to Perry, the leftovers from of ancient mining, and she poked into the rock piles to pull out the evidence -- chipped stones and discarded tools for splintering the old chert, a kind of flint, into usable sharp edges.

Give the piece a read, and let me know what you think...

Photo of Jennifer Perry by Steve Osman/Pro Photography Network.

On baseball, and lowered expectations

June 4, 2010

Tags: baseball, galarraga, joyce, detroit tigers, perfect game

Well, it's taken baseball, and a blown call, and a perplexing public reaction to shake me out of my non-posting doldrums (actually, been awfully busy, including a few fun days in Las Vegas).

You've all seen the chatter about Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga's bid for a perfect game -- no base runners allowed through nine innings -- dying when the first base umpire, Jim Joyce, mistakenly called the 27th batter safe in a not-so-close play.

It's baseball. It happens, and it's that unpredictability that makes the game so much fun to watch. And Joyce, once he saw the replay, admitted he blew the call, found Galarraga and apologized, which Galarraga accepted. Two pros doing the adult thing.

What's jarring, though, is the response from all corners -- regular folks to the talking heads on the sports channels -- that it was refreshing that both men acted in such a professional manner. How low are our standards, and expectations, that it becomes such a big deal when two people don't act like jerks?
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About me

A third-generation journalist, I was born in Scarborough, Maine, and grew up there and in Wellsville, New York, about two hours south of Buffalo. My first newspaper job came at age 16, writing a high school sports column for the Wellsville Patriot, a weekly (defunct), then covering local news part-time for the Wellsville Daily Reporter.

After attending Fredonia State, where I was editor of The Leader newspaper and news director for WCVF campus radio, I worked in succession for the Jamestown Post-Journal, Rochester Times-Union (defunct), The Detroit News and the Los Angeles Times, where I covered presidential and other political campaigns, books, local news and features, including several Sunday magazine pieces.

An active freelancer, my work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Sierra Magazine, Los Angeles magazine, Orange Coast magazine, New York Times Book Review (books in brief), Buffalo News, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Teaching Tolerance (Southern Poverty Law Center), Solidarity (United Auto Workers) and elsewhere. I teach or have taught journalism courses at Chapman University and UC Irvine, and speak occasionally at school and college classes about journalism, politics and writing. I've appeared on panels at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books and the Literary Orange festival, moderated panels at the Nieman Conference in Narrative Journalism and the North American Labor History Conference, among others, and been featured on C-SPAN's Book TV.

I'm also a co-founder of The Journalism Shop, a group of journalists (most fellow former Los Angeles Times staffers) available for freelance assignments.

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