The Dagley Dagley Daily  

By Janet Dagley Dagley
Covering the world from the waterfront in Hoboken, New Jersey, USA

ISSN 1544-9114

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The Dagley Dagley Daily

01/26/2003 - 02/02/2003 02/16/2003 - 02/23/2003 02/23/2003 - 03/02/2003 03/02/2003 - 03/09/2003 03/09/2003 - 03/16/2003 03/16/2003 - 03/23/2003 03/23/2003 - 03/30/2003 03/30/2003 - 04/06/2003 04/06/2003 - 04/13/2003 04/13/2003 - 04/20/2003 04/20/2003 - 04/27/2003 04/27/2003 - 05/04/2003 05/04/2003 - 05/11/2003 05/11/2003 - 05/18/2003 05/18/2003 - 05/25/2003 05/25/2003 - 06/01/2003 06/01/2003 - 06/08/2003 06/08/2003 - 06/15/2003 06/15/2003 - 06/22/2003 06/22/2003 - 06/29/2003 06/29/2003 - 07/06/2003 07/06/2003 - 07/13/2003 07/13/2003 - 07/20/2003 07/20/2003 - 07/27/2003 07/27/2003 - 08/03/2003 08/03/2003 - 08/10/2003 08/17/2003 - 08/24/2003 08/24/2003 - 08/31/2003 08/31/2003 - 09/07/2003 09/07/2003 - 09/14/2003 09/14/2003 - 09/21/2003 09/21/2003 - 09/28/2003 09/28/2003 - 10/05/2003 10/05/2003 - 10/12/2003 10/12/2003 - 10/19/2003 10/19/2003 - 10/26/2003 10/26/2003 - 11/02/2003 11/02/2003 - 11/09/2003 11/09/2003 - 11/16/2003 11/16/2003 - 11/23/2003 11/23/2003 - 11/30/2003 11/30/2003 - 12/07/2003 12/07/2003 - 12/14/2003 12/14/2003 - 12/21/2003 12/21/2003 - 12/28/2003 12/28/2003 - 01/04/2004 01/04/2004 - 01/11/2004 01/11/2004 - 01/18/2004 01/18/2004 - 01/25/2004 01/25/2004 - 02/01/2004 02/01/2004 - 02/08/2004 02/08/2004 - 02/15/2004 02/15/2004 - 02/22/2004 02/22/2004 - 02/29/2004 02/29/2004 - 03/07/2004 03/07/2004 - 03/14/2004 03/14/2004 - 03/21/2004 03/21/2004 - 03/28/2004 03/28/2004 - 04/04/2004 04/04/2004 - 04/11/2004 04/11/2004 - 04/18/2004 04/18/2004 - 04/25/2004 04/25/2004 - 05/02/2004 05/02/2004 - 05/09/2004 05/09/2004 - 05/16/2004 05/16/2004 - 05/23/2004 05/23/2004 - 05/30/2004 05/30/2004 - 06/06/2004 06/06/2004 - 06/13/2004 06/13/2004 - 06/20/2004 06/20/2004 - 06/27/2004 07/04/2004 - 07/11/2004 07/11/2004 - 07/18/2004 07/18/2004 - 07/25/2004 07/25/2004 - 08/01/2004 08/01/2004 - 08/08/2004 08/08/2004 - 08/15/2004 08/15/2004 - 08/22/2004 08/22/2004 - 08/29/2004 08/29/2004 - 09/05/2004 09/05/2004 - 09/12/2004 09/12/2004 - 09/19/2004 09/19/2004 - 09/26/2004 09/26/2004 - 10/03/2004 10/03/2004 - 10/10/2004 10/10/2004 - 10/17/2004 10/17/2004 - 10/24/2004 10/24/2004 - 10/31/2004 10/31/2004 - 11/07/2004 11/07/2004 - 11/14/2004 11/14/2004 - 11/21/2004 11/21/2004 - 11/28/2004 11/28/2004 - 12/05/2004 12/05/2004 - 12/12/2004 12/12/2004 - 12/19/2004 12/19/2004 - 12/26/2004 12/26/2004 - 01/02/2005 01/02/2005 - 01/09/2005 01/09/2005 - 01/16/2005 01/16/2005 - 01/23/2005 01/23/2005 - 01/30/2005 01/30/2005 - 02/06/2005 02/06/2005 - 02/13/2005 02/13/2005 - 02/20/2005 02/20/2005 - 02/27/2005 03/20/2005 - 03/27/2005 07/02/2006 - 07/09/2006

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Now playing on Broadway: anything but music

They say the neon lights are out on Broadway ("On Broad-way"), due to a labor dispute that started between theatre management and the Musicians Union, then spread as actors and stagehands honored their colleagues' picket lines. The union, Local 802, wanted to keep on talking; its leaders told reporters a settlement seemed near. But that hadn't happened by curtain time Friday night, so the show didn't go on.

The strike reminds me of Anything But Music, a project we tried at The only rule for submission: anything but music. Brian Simpson of North Carolina took the challenge and produced the audio drama Drive: Part 1 in the privacy of his own home with tools he happened to have around the house: A Roland VS-840 digital audio workstation, a microphone, and his imagination. Sadly, Brian's day job and personal life have combined to keep him from producing any more chapters in the story so far, but it's still worth listening to, especially if you won't be going out to a Broadway show tonight after all. Brian did it all himself, even the artwork. He's also the only person we know who owns a theramin (remember the squealing sound on the Beach Boys song Good Vibrations? That's a theramin) and knows how to use it.

In other news, Ari Fleisher has admitted he was the one who decided which reporters would get to ask questions at Thursday's White House press conference, thus shutting out the most senior White House correspondent, Helen Thomas.

  posted by Janet Dagley Dagley @4:41 PM



Mr. President! Mr. President! Helen, no

Who’s afraid of an 82-year-old woman? A powerful world leader 26 years her junior, it appears, a remarkably fit-looking fellow who could easily outrun, outwrestle, or otherwise trounce the feisty doyenne of the White House press corps in less time than it takes to holler, “Mr. President! Mr. President!” He could take her, easy, without even calling for backup from even one of the hundreds of thousands of troops at his disposal as Commander in Chief.

We didn’t hear anybody hollering that traditional greeting at last night’s press conference, did we? But that wasn’t the only innovation in this apparently scripted session. George W. Bush did something predecessors Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Bush, and Clinton never, ever did: he ignored Helen Thomas.

Traditionally, the most senior White House correspondent asks the first question at a presidential press conference. Traditionally, ever since her very first press conference in 1960 — when she was the most junior correspondent, not to mention the first female — Helen Thomas has ended each and every presidential press conference by saying, “Thank you, Mr. President.” She was the one who added that polite phrase to the ritual, and presidents, press secretaries and reporters alike have honored that custom, and her with it, for more than 40 years.

Not last night. It wasn’t in the script. Last night the press corps spoke not a word, raised not a hand when the man himself strode regally into the East Room and took his place at the podium for the second prime-time news conference of his presidency. He began the proceedings with a five-minute overview of recent events and hints of future ones, somberly repeating many of the same things he’s been saying for months, especially the phrase “regime change.”

He already knew which reporter would get to ask the first question: it was written on the paper in front of him. And the next, and the next, and the next. At one point, he even explained, “this is scripted,” although for some reason the early versions of the transcript came out as “this is unscripted.” Helen Thomas was not on the list. And when the last question was asked, it was not a reporter at all, but George W. Bush himself who said, “Thank you,” thus signaling not only the end of an event but the end — or at least interruption — of an era.

A leader who seems bent on breaking the longstanding American tradition of not attacking first might not even think twice about violating a news-conference custom. But Mr. President? Mr. President? With all due respect, sir, you blew it — bigtime. Yes, I know the press conference has been over for hours, but as they say in the White House press corps, I’d like a follow-up.

What harm could Helen Thomas possibly have done to you or your cause? Why was it necessary to break with a tradition of good manners that your own father always respected, along with seven other presidents, both Democrat and Republican? Especially, sir, especially when you could just as easily have used it to further your own cause? You’re telling Saddam Hussein that you’re a-comin’ in after him, you’re making it clear to our longterm allies on this continent and elsewhere, not to mention the United Nations, not to mention the American people, that while you’ll listen and nod politely for awhile as they express their views, ultimately they have no say in this. You have the courage to take a stand like that, and yet you’re afraid to let a little old lady ask you a question?

Yes, I know that month after month, day after day, Helen Thomas has been asking the same kinds of questions lately, questions about the looming war on Iraq, downright heckling White House Spokesman Ari Fleisher at times with queries about how much the war might cost, whether oil is the main reason we’re so interested in Iraq, whether war is inevitable. She has nothing to prove anymore, not to anyone. She can say — and ask — what she pleases. Lately her style has been a bit more adversarial than usual, but she still isn’t nearly as abrasive as her late colleague, Sarah McClendon of McClendon News Service, who joined Ms. Thomas in the White House press corps in the mid-60s and gained fame by brusquely and persistently hounding Presidents Johnson and Nixon about Vietnam, among other matters. But the questions she’s asking these days are no tougher than the questions she’s been asking all along. And they’re pretty much the same questions that people all over the nation, all over the world, are asking.

I have no way of knowing whose decision it was to shut Helen Thomas out of that conference, but if I were a White House strategist, I would demand a word or two with that person. And I would begin by asking a question of my own: “When a reporter asks a politician a question, no matter what the question, it means only one thing. Do you know what that is?”

Do you?

When a reporter asks a politician a question, it means it’s the politician’s turn to talk. That’s it. No matter who the reporter is, no matter who the politician is, no matter what the question. Think of it as a tennis game. The reporter serves, the politician returns, the ball goes back and forth. The politician is under no obligation to aim the ball in a direction that is convenient for the reporter, and vice versa. Both players are trying to score. You can’t hit the ball if it’s not coming at you. (At most press conferences outside the White House, the best reporters ask no questions at all. They stand in the shadows and let the TV reporters, and anybody else who likes to hear the sound of their own voice, ask anything they want. They take good notes. Then when the lights go out and everybody else heads back to the office to file identical reports,
the best reporters move in, catching up with their quarry in a less formal moment to ask questions the other reporters don’t even hear. Under the controlled circumstances of the White House, however, the closest thing to an opportunity like that is the traditional shouting of questions over the roar of helicopter blades on the White House lawn, which is not much of an opportunity at all.)

Any question, or questions, or follow-ups, that Helen Thomas might have asked had she not been silenced would have been a perfect opportunity to address the questions everybody’s asking about this impending war, a chance to use a skeptical, even cynical customer as a foil for the hard sell.

But in addition to her impertinent questions, Helen Thomas made a statement a few months ago, a statement that a Canadian newspaper, the Globe and Mail of Toronto, used as the basis for a poll in which 51 percent of respondents agreed. That statement: “George W. Bush is the worst president in all of American history.”

Ms. Thomas never covered William Henry Harrison (who refused to wear a hat at his inauguration, caught cold and died a month later) or Warren G. Harding (look up “Teapot Dome”); if so she might (or might not) have a different opinion. But in thumbing its nose not only at the most respected veteran in the press corps, but traditional and harmless courtesies that have been honored for decades, the current administration did nothing to discredit her controversial statement. Au contrere, as some of our former longtime allies might say.

In other news, there've been some developments on the T-shirt front. Charges have been dropped against Stephen Downs, the lawyer who refused a mall security guard's demand that he remove the shirt he'd just bought at a mall near Albany, New York, customized with the words "Peace on Earth" and "Give Peace a Chance", and was later arrested. Meanwhile, the latest T-shirt controversy involves singer George Michael and the BBC. Michael's shirt says "No War, Blair Out"; he wore it during the taping of the music program "Top of the Pops," but if you watch the show you might not see it: like Elvis's pelvis, it may be edited out.

  posted by Janet Dagley Dagley @2:57 PM



Imperatives and choices, public and private

“Business succeeds rather better than the State in imposing its restraint upon individuals, because its imperatives are disguised as choices.”
— Walter Hale Hamilton

Ever been kicked out of a shopping mall? I have. In 1973, I was escorted by security guards from the Salem Mall in Trotwood, Ohio. And in 1998, I was similarly shown the door of a mall in Dallas, Texas — I don’t recall the name of that one, as we were just in town for the day, and I got tossed after less than half an hour. In both cases, I was not only entirely within the law, but well-mannered and adhering strictly to the standards of my profession. I had paid for everything I bought, said “Please” and “Thank you” as appropriate, and I had not littered. I was doing exactly what my immediate supervisor had assigned me to do, and doing it well. Nonetheless, the mall rent-a-cops (whose pay for giving me the boot was probably less than half what I earned for getting it), their supervisors, and all THEIR supervisors had every right to throw me out.

My offense? Asking questions. In the first case, with a pencil and notebook in hand, in the other, a microphone and digital tape recorder. In both cases, not that it matters, I was a working journalist. If I had been doing the same thing on a public street, they couldn’t have touched me. But even though malls are open to the public (some of the public, anyway), they are private property. And on private property, different rules apply. While there are limits on the limits a property owner can place — a restaurant cannot select its patrons based on race, for example, as was demonstrated in case after case during the civil rights movement of the 1960s — it can pursue a “no shirt, no shoes, no service” policy without government interference. And there is no civil right to go around asking people questions or otherwise practice journalism on private property.

Coincidentally, shirts happened to be the focus of a mall-tossing that made headlines this week, though shoes were not an issue. Stephen Downs, 61, and his son Roger, 31, were shopping together Monday at the Crossgates Mall in Guilderland, New York, when they decided to buy themselves matching T-shirts at one of those ubiquitous instant-custom-clothing kiosks. That in itself was an act of courage: you do occasionally see mother-daughter dress-alikes, but this is the first such father-son combo I’ve ever heard of.

The shirts, made and sold at the mall, had the words “Peace on Earth” (a very common message, particularly around the holidays) on one side, and “Give Peace a Chance” (also very popular, especially in wartime) on the other. (Some reports say they weren't EXACTLY alike, and the son's T-shirt actually said "No War With Iraq" on one side and "Let the Inspections Work" on the other.) The merchant that sold the shirts to these men did not object when they put them on immediately after the money, and shirts, changed hands. But someone else did, and summoned the security guards, who demanded that they take their newly purchased shirts off immediately. Roger did, even though it was wintertime, and even though it meant he might be refused in a restaurant with one of those “no shirt, no shoes, no service” signs, but Stephen — who happens to be a lawyer — refused. The security guards called the police, who arrested him on charges of trespassing.

By Wednesday, the story had gotten around, on the newswires and elsewhere, and more than 100 antiwar demonstrators, fully aware they were trespassing, marched through the mall and told mall administrators, and the press, that they would stop only if the charges against Mr. Downs were dropped.

This morning’s development is that representatives of the mall have contacted authorities to ask that the charges be withdrawn. The town’s police chief said he agreed. But Mr. Downs — who, as we mentioned, is a lawyer — says no. As his son explained to reporters, “My father feels there’s more to this. Crossgates hasn't examined what was wrong here.”

The American Civil Liberties Union — disclosure: I’m a card-carrying member — was quick to offer its assistance in the case, but so far Mr. Downs — that's Mr. Downs, Esquire — hasn’t asked for help. Nor has he announced whether he intends to sue. Meanwhile more protests, against the war and against the mall, are being planned.

And when I clicked on a headline about this incident on the Associated Press wire, courtesy of The New York Times, I got a matching bonus: an ad featuring a blank white T-shirt and the words “Win a $50,000 diamond-studded T-shirt!” flashing over it. Hmmm. I wonder if you can choose what those diamonds spell out? I wonder if they sell those shirts at the mall?

P.S. I got kicked out of a Burger King once, too: I was in full clown costume, and they thought I was Ronald McDonald.

P.P.S. It's snowing like crazy out there, again — looks like a couple of inches have accumulated since I started writing this less than 2 hours ago.

  posted by Janet Dagley Dagley @10:09 AM



Feedback links in place, more improvements coming soon

Please pardon our appearance, or even occasional disappearance, as we work on constructing some new features. Until we can get something fancier in place, I should explain that if you want to send your writing or photos or whatever to the Dagley Dagley Daily, all you need to do is click on my name at the bottom of any of these posts: that's a direct e-mail link to the blogger-in-chief. Or you can use the handy-dandy e-mail link I just built into my byline at the upper left.

Meanwhile, here's today's photo, which I took yesterday afternoon. There may still be some mountains of gray snow dotting the landscape, but the Hudson is ice-free once again and all the ferries are running (there have been a couple of problems in New York Harbor, including another burning barge and a broken sewer pipe, but that's downstream). This is the Hoboken North ferry, which travels between the 13th Street Pier and the 38th Street landing on Manhattan's west side. The trip takes about 5 minutes, and costs $5, which is why we usually take the bus instead (it's only $2.10).

  posted by Janet Dagley Dagley @11:54 AM



Previous tenants drop by for a snack

Our building was vacant for awhile before they decided to turn it into a luxury waterfront residential complex, and some of the creatures who lived here during that period like to hang around outside, except in winter when they head south like so many others from this area. We haven't seen much of them since last fall, but now they're ba-ack, chowing down on what's left of the lawn. That can only mean that despite the mountains of snow still around from last month's blizzard, and yet another winter storm watch, spring is just around the corner.

  posted by Janet Dagley Dagley @5:41 PM



The American Street

Ever notice how often the pundits refer to "the Arab Street" when talking about public opinion in the Middle East (but nowhere else)? News alert for the experts: There are streets all over the world, many paved, and not a single one of them has an opinion. Anyway, I found this view from our window a pretty accurate depiction of the American Street these days.

Hoboken traditionally gets an early start on the St. Patrick's Day parade season by celebrating on the first Saturday in March. The parking lot surrounding our building serves as a staging area, as marching bands, emergency vehicles, and a radio-station live-broadcast truck illustrate what Sun-Tzu was saying about the strategic use of narrow passages. The minimum charge to park here is $20, which is one of many reasons we don't have a car. No word on how much, if anything, they charged the marchers.

  posted by Janet Dagley Dagley @8:53 AM



If you weren't able to tune in (or click in) to my radio commentary last Sunday on WYSO-FM in Dayton, Ohio, you can still hear it here by downloading this mp3, a slighly lower-resolution version of the mp3 I sent to the station. It's my remembrance of the late philanthropist Virginia Kettering, who STILL has no obituary in The New York Times. And as far as I can tell, her father-in-law Charles F. Kettering, who died in 1958, never got a Times obit either.


If you don't already have an mp3 player, you can download Winamp here. They have both PC and Mac versions.

  posted by Janet Dagley Dagley @1:44 PM


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