Monday, August 25, 2008

40 Years Ago

(An occasional reminiscence on the events of 1968)

The Whole World is Watching

The Democratic National Convention opened in Chicago on August 26.

For months, anti-war groups had petitioned the city to get space to carry out demonstrations while the convention was ongoing. The Youth International Party (YIPees) had decided to hold their own national convention, a five-day "Festival of Life" the same week as the democrats, nominating a pig as their presidential candidate.

Mayor Daley had responded by denying permits, calling out the national guard and barricading the convention sites. The city was crippled by taxi and bus strikes. The weather was hot and humid and air conditioning was erratic.

The television networks and party insiders had encouraged the Democrats to move their convention to another city, maybe Miami Beach (which President Johnson had rejected, saying 'Miami Beach is not an American city').

Yippee flyers posted around Chicago in the weekend leading up to the convention advertised "free motel...sleep with us in Lincoln Park. Vote Pig in '68". The city refused to allow any gatherings in Lincoln Park and said everyone would have to clear the park at 11 pm. On Sunday night, a concert was to be held in the park, but the unorganized event turned into a disaster, as the music lasted only a short time and police drove the crowd out with tear gas and clubs at curfew.

On Monday night, convention opening day, thousands milled around the park, where beat celebrities like Allen Ginsberg, Terry Southern, William Burroughs, and Jean Genet would speak in support of the crowd. Norman Mailer was drawn to the event, but missed the aftermath:
he ...enjoyed himself until the morning when he discovered the attack by the police had been ferocious, and Ginsberg had been targeted, his throat so injured he could barely speak....And worse. Seventeen newsmen had been attacked by the police...the counterrevolution had begun.
Inside the convention hall, several miles away near the stockyards, there were ' daily shouting matches between red-faced delegates and party leaders often lasting until 3 o'clock in the morning' according to Haynes Johnson, who was there. The nomination of Hubert H. Humphrey was in progress, but was not taken well by the many supporters of Eugene McCarthy and the late Robert F. Kennedy. Many supported the nomination of Kennedy's younger brother Edward. One of those pushing for Ted Kennedy's nomination: Richard J. Daley. George McGovern had also offered himself as an anti-war candidate.

On Tuesday, President Johnson's birthday (he stayed at his Texas ranch), an 'anti-birthday party' was held at the Coliseum, where attendees protested the Chicago police and their violent tactics. When protesters returned to the streets, police attacked again. Chicago streets smelled of mace, tear gas, and blood. Thousands then marched to Grant Park, across from convention headquarters at the Hilton. The National Guard moved in, and surrounded the hotel with armored car barricades. All night kids in the park sang songs and appealed to convention goers to flash their room lights in support. Tear gas drifted into hotel public areas.

When the convention leaders delayed the debate on a Vietnam platform plank, dove delegates began an impromptu demonstration, finally cut off by an order by Mayor Daley.

On Wednesday afternoon, the plank calling for an end to the war in Vietnam was defeated by a 3-2 ratio, despite many speeches in support by party leaders. After the vote, delegates began an impromptu chorus of "We shall overcome", eventually drowned out by the convention orchestra, ordered to play loudly by mayor Daley. Delegates responded by holding up 'Stop the War' posters.

Meanwhile, another mass meeting was held in Grant Park. Protesters started a candlelight march to the convention hall at the Stockyards. On the way, police attacked once again. Lines of police wielding billy clubs trapped the marchers at an intersection overlooked by the Hilton. Convention attendees watched in horror as protesters were mowed down. The crowd began to shout "The whole world is watching". At home, watching this on television, we began shouting it too.

At the convention, one delegate asked for the floor to enter a motion to delay the convention for two weeks, moving it to another city. Delegates kept leaving the floor to watch the mayhem on television. As the nomination speeches continued, CBS correspondent Mike Wallace was punched in the face as he tried to ask why a delegate had been turned away from the floor.

At one point, Connecticut Sen. Abraham Ribicoff, in nominating McGovern, said "With George McGovern as President, we would not have to have such Gestapo tactics in the streets of Chicago." As the cameras turned to Mayor Daley in the front row, he could clearly be seen to be shouting 'fuck you' at Ribicoff, along with an ethnic slur. Ribicoff's answer: "How hard it is to accept the truth".

Finally, Hubert Humphrey was nominated, with 1,761 3/4 votes, to McCarthy's 601, McGovern's 146 1/2, and 100 for other candidates. (Among the others: Rev. Channing Phillips of the District of Columbia, the first black candidate ever to be put in nomination; he got 68 votes. Ted Kennedy got 12 3/4.) When, during the celebration, a picture of Humphrey's wife Muriel was splashed on the screen behind him, he ran over to kiss her image.

After the nomination, a film was shown honoring the late Bobby Kennedy. When it was finished, delegates began singing "Battle Hymn of the Republic". As convention leaders tried to gavel the demonstration to a halt, the singing got louder. After several minutes, Chicago leaders signaled their minions to start chanting, "We love Daley". The two demonstrations continued for several minutes until floor leader Carl Albert announced a tribute to Martin Luther King.

The next morning, Humphrey announced his vice presidential candidate: Maine Sen. Edmund Muskie.

After the convention adjourned that night, police who claimed someone was throwing objects from rooms at the Hilton, stormed the building in the early morning hours, dragged young campaign workers from their beds to the lobby, and beat them. Haynes Johnson, on his way to an appearance on the 'Today' show, saw the results:
They had been bludgeoned by Chicago police, and sat there with their arms around each other and their backs against the wall, bloody and sobbing, consoling one another. I don't know what I said on the "Today" show that morning. I do remember that I was filled with a furious rage. Just thinking of it now makes me angry all over again.
We watched the whole thing, in shock. Was this America? It changed everything we knew. Nothing would ever be the same.

On the last day of August, the Rolling Stones released the single 'Street Fighting Man', based on Mick Jagger's experience watching the spring antiwar demo in London's Grosvenor Square. It was the song of 1968.

Sources: Mailer, Miami and the Siege of Chicago; Witcover, 85 Days; Haynes Johnson, Smithsonian Magazine, Aug '08, 1968 Democratic Convention: The Bosses Strike Back.

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A roundup, of sorts

After a slow week, a couple interesting new research blogs:

  • Paper Trail Blog from Center for Public Integrity, links to useful and interesting public records background to stories in the news.
  • Lisa Gold: Research Maven: she lists great tips for finding research resources, writing, and more.

    A couple research resources:

  • Sports Illustrated's Vault gives access to 50 years of fulltext stories, covers, and images.
  • State Digital Resources: Memory Projects, Online Encyclopedias, Historical & Cultural Materials Collections. The Library of Congress compiles a list of state resources. This is great. I know of a few states' encyclopedias but knew there had to be more. They're all listed here.

    And this:

  • 5 ways newspapers botched the web, from Valleywag. Interesting recap of several of Knight-Ridder's online initiatives like Viewtron, Real Cities and New Century Network, along with The New York Times' Abuzz and newspaper consortium's Classified Ventures. On Knight Ridder's involvement, this:
    Knight Ridder ignored the pessimists and committed to investing $25 million in its new online business. "I live in terror that some big thing's going to happen that I don't see coming," Knight Ridder New Media President Bob Ingle told BusinessWeek. What Ingle didn't envision: nothing happening.

    (Updated:) Oh, and I should have added this, posted to the Newslib group this week by Kitty Bennett: Convention History (1856-2008), a great compilation of links from Poynter's David Shedden.

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  • Thursday, August 21, 2008

    40 Years Ago

    (An occasional reminiscence on the events of 1968)

    Former President Dwight D. Eisenhower remained in Walter Reed Army hospital, after being moved there in May to recover from a spring heart attack. He had another in June and two more on the 6th and 16th of August. Doctors were trying several new therapies to try to relieve the situation, but nothing was working.

    One day that month, on a day off, I accompanied a Post reporter to the hospital to sit on watch. The situation was dire enough that Post reporters were staying round the clock there, just in case. The reporter who asked me to go with him was bored with the assignment and at least with me there we could play cards, probably whist, which I'd learned seemed to be the most popular card game among Washingtonians.

    I remember little of the hospital except that we sat along a gallery overlooking a large room. Eisenhower would survive August, but die, still in Walter Reed, the next spring.

    That month, ‘Cheap Thrills,’ by Big Brother and the Holding Company,was released on Columbia Records. It would top the chart for seven weeks.

    Other new albums we were probably listening to: the Byrds' Sweetheart of the Rodeo, and Creedence Clearwater Revival, both released in July.

    Tom Wolfe published a new book, Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, about Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters and their trip on the painted bus 'Further' across country. "Are you on the bus or off the bus?"

    During August, negotiations were continuing between the governments of Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union. On August 3 they signed the Bratislava Declaration, agreeing, along with other Warsaw Pact members, to uphold Marxist-Leninist principles. But following talks were unsatisfactory and the Soviets under Leonid Brezhnev decided this rogue ally needed disciplining. On the night of August 20-21, 200,000 Warsaw Pact troops and 2,000 tanks invaded Czechoslovakia. 72 Czechs and Slovaks were killed and hundreds wounded. Alexander Dubček called upon his people not to resist. He was arrested and taken to Moscow along with several of his colleagues, where most of them agreed to sign a promise to give up many of their reforms. They were returned to their posts within a few days.

    Many years later it was revealed that several conservative members of the Czech government had asked the Soviets to intervene to prevent 'counterrevolution'.

    On Aug. 22, CBS News' Walter Cronkite demanded, and got, a 1 hr evening news broadcast because there was too much news to cover in 1/2 hour.

    There would be a lot more to come.

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    Tuesday, August 19, 2008

    I want one

    Via Boing Boing, a link to a Times Online story, Just right for the garden: a mini-cow. Irish Dexter cows are small, about 40 inches high, and can produce a couple gallons of milk a day, containing up to a quart of cream per gallon. Enough to share with all the neighbors! Fresh ice cream every day. No need to pasteurize! It's perfect!
    (Wonder if our little acre-and-a-half or so pasture would be big enough.....)

    Coverage, or publicity?

    Over at the Nieman Watchdog, George Lardner wonders, in Spreading Lies, Rather Than Debunking Them, about a recent Washington Post story that he calls a 'front page ad' for a couple of new books about Barack Obama.
    ...why did the Post put a so-called news story about the book (and incidentally, for the sake of “fairness” no doubt, a pro-Obama book) on Page 1? And why did it fail to cite its lies instead of just saying that the main-stream media had pointed some out.
    ...The Post couldn’t bring itself to do what a newspaper should do and tell its readers what was true and what was false. It has been unable to do this in its presidential campaign coverage for many years, but most often in the last two decades.
    Interesting reaction from Lardner, who wrote for the Post for many years. But what if the paper made the story more even-handed? It would be accused of 'liberal bias'.


    Tuesday, August 12, 2008

    Fun with birth certificates

    This is just too good to pass by. Question: How many presidents (or candidates) have gone by different surnames?

    From David Weigel at Reason Magazine: More fun with the stupidest people on the Internet.


    Friday, August 08, 2008

    Research links of the week, and ex-journalists

    After a long respite, some new research links, and a couple more references to what's going on in the world of laid-off journalists:

  • We Were Print a blog from several "Former and Soon-to-Be Former Print Journalists". Includes a body count, and links to job listings.
  • 42 Things I know from William Lobdell, recently bought out at LA Times, about the current state of newspapers (and the Times).

    The research links:
  • The Newsfilm Online Digitisation Project offers selected newsfilm from ITN/Reuters archives, by subscription or free browsing.
  • PopURLs, shows the most popular links on the Web today.
  • Beijing Olympics News from NewsNow.

  • A Chronology of Data Breaches, from Privacy Rights Clearinghouse. I've used this in the past but don't think I linked it. Very helpful when searching for past hacking or theft incidents.
  • A Big List of Sites That Teach You How To Do Stuff from ReadWriteWeb.

    Public Records:
  • this beta from PeopleFinders offers free national criminal records searches, with the usual caveats.
  • Safe Road Maps, a database of fatal traffic accidents overlaid on Google Maps.

  • BizToolKit, from James J. Hill Reference Library in Minneapolis, organizes the business web, featuring the Web's best business information sources. Free but has a pro subscription version.

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  • 40 Years Ago

    (An occasional reminiscence on the events of 1968)

    On August 5, the Republican National Convention opened its sessions at the Miami Beach Convention Center.
    Norman Mailer on attending that event in Miami Beach in August:
    The vegetal memories of that excised jungle haunted Miami Beach in a steam-pot of miasmas. Ghosts of expunged flora, the never-born groaning in vegetative chancery beneath the asphalt came up with a tropical curse, an equatorial leaden wet sweat of air which rose from the earth itself, rose right up through the baked asphalt and into the heated air which entered the lungs like a hand slipping into a rubber glove....Of course it could have been the air conditioning: natural climate transmogrified by technological climate. They say that in Miami Beach the air conditioning is pushed to that icy point where women may wear fur coats over their diamonds in the tropics.
    (It's no wonder for years after 1968 I considered Miami a place I would never go.)

    Nixon entered the convention as front-runner but the Rockefeller forces still had a bit of hope. Ronald Reagan, bolstered by his California primary votes, announced his candidacy.
    Senator Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, the former Democrat who had turned republican in 1964, supported Nixon over Reagan or the independent George Wallace and pushed for Nixon to choose a conservative VP candidate like Maryland Gov. Spiro Agnew over a more liberal candidate like Fla Gov. Claude Kirk or Illinois Sen. Charles Percy. It was the beginning of Nixon's 'Southern Strategy' which would turn politics on its face as formerly Democratic southern states moved en masse to the Republican party.

    On the first ballot, Nixon got 672 votes over Rockefeller's 277 and Reagan's 182.

    From Nixon's acceptance speech, the night of August 8:

    As we look at America, we see cities enveloped in smoke and flame.
    We hear sirens in the night.
    We see Americans dying on distant battlefields abroad.
    We see Americans hating each other; fighting each other; killing each other at home.
    And as we see and hear these things, millions of Americans cry out in anguish.
    Did we come all this way for this?
    Did American boys die in Normandy, and Korea, and in Valley Forge for this?
    Listen to the answer to those questions.
    It is another voice. It is the quiet voice in the tumult and the shouting.
    It is the voice of the great majority of Americans, the forgotten Americans -- the non-shouters; the non-demonstrators.

    (Photos of the Florida delegation led by Gov. Claude Kirk, and Nixon supporters' signs, from Florida Memory. )

    On the night of August 7, as Nixon was being nominated, across the bay in Miami's predominately black Liberty City area a 'Vote Power" rally had been scheduled but never happened. Youths gathered in the streets and threw rocks at some passing cars during the afternoon. Later in the evening, a white man with a George Wallace for President bumper sticker drove into the crowd. Angry participants pulled the man out of his car, beat him, then overturned it and set it afire. Police moved in, setting off tear gas.
    Gov. Kirk and SCLC leader Ralph Abernathy left the convention to walk the streets with Metro Mayor Hall, as things calmed.
    But violence continued the next day, with police reacting to possible sniper fire with a barrage of bullets, resulting in two men dead and a young boy injured. National guard troops were called in. Another man had died from a stray bullet the night before. The violence abated after 150 arrests and a couple nights of curfew and rain. It was Miami's first riot.

    He (the reporter) had no idea at all if God was in the land or the Devil played the tune. And if Miami had masked the answers, then in what state of mind could one now proceed to Chicago?

    (updated:) In a curious twist of fate, it would be on the six year anniversary of Nixon's acceptance speech in Miami Beach that he would resign his presidency, on August 8, 1974. That night I would watch the Washington Post's "Nixon Resigns" front page being laid out. 34 years ago today.)

    Sources: Miami and the Siege of Chicago, Norman Mailer; Miami Herald archives.

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    Thursday, August 07, 2008

    Anthrax redux

    Seven years later, whenever the anthrax story comes to mind I remember the several weeks spent trying to learn everything there is to know about anthrax and compiling the information for reporters trying to understand the terrible death of National Enquirer photo editor Robert Stevens (whose widow is holding a news conference this morning to explain her reaction, and her suit against the government).

    Now The Smoking Gun has made available lots of the documents summarizing the case against army researcher Bruce Ivins: Inside the Anthrax Probe.

    What a strange, strange story (Washington Post profile of Ivins).


    Very annoying newspaper web tactic

    Hmmm. Just tried to read a Joan Fleischman column in the Miami Herald, and a screen came up asking me to participate in a survey. A readership survey, I thought, so why not answer a few questions?

    Turns out the survey was a detailed list of questions about my perception of several 'casual dining' restaurants like Outback and Applebee's. I had absolutely no interest in this, since I never eat in such places.

    Why do newspapers allow such things on their websites? I know I had the option to opt out of the survey, but thought it would be useful. I am going back and trying again on Joan's column, but how many readers will just leave the site disgusted?

    Wednesday, August 06, 2008

    40 Years Ago

    (An occasional reminiscence on the events of 1968)

    Somehow July slipped by me, so, a bit late, here's what we were doing that month in 1968:

    On July 1, President Johnson signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, an agreement with 58 other countries in efforts to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons.
    Also that day, customs stops ended between European Common Market countries. (But the UK's admission was still being thwarted by deGaulle).

    Early in the month, Intel Corp. was founded.

    Gen. Creighton Abrams took over command in Vietnam. Congress passed a 10 percent federal income tax surcharge to help finance the cost of the war. Early in the month, North Vietnam released 3 American pilots shot down over Hanoi. Later, President Johnson met with Vietnamese president Thieu in Hawaii.

    In France, a new government was formed July 13. Two days later, France detonated a nuclear bomb in the Pacific.

    Later in July, a fight between two Mexico city schools led to a police/miliitary attack, becoming a riot; there were brutality accusations. On July 26, a demonstration crossed the lines of a march supporting the July 26 revolution in Cuba; this led to several more days days of rioting, 1 dead.

    On July 17, Saddam Hussein was involved in a military coup that overthrew the government, bringing the Baath party into power, and became vice chairman of the military council in Iraq.

    On July 25th, Pope Paul VI published the encyclical Humanae Vitae, condemning birth control.

    And a new group, formerly Bob Dylan's backup, released an eagerly anticipated album: The Band's Music from Big Pink. This would quickly become one of my favorites.

    On the radio: Tiptoe thru the Tulips, by Tiny Tim. Number one: Herb Albert's This Guy's in Love with You. Yellow Submarine, the movie, came out in Britain. We couldn't wait to see it when it would be released later in the year in the U.S.; we began painting copies of some of the artwork from the movie.

    Back in Washington, we'd discovered the agony of DC's hot humid summers. With no air conditioning, sleeping at night meant a window fan and lying barely covered on top of the bed.

    But the parks were full of people, especially the park in Dupont Circle and the 'P Street beach' next to Rock Creek just across the bridge from Georgetown. Some days the places looked like a 'be-in' with hippie clothes, beads, incense and marijuana smoke; at Dupont there was more of an African American crowd with lots of drumming.

    We got to meet some of the neighbors on the sidewalks on our street, too.

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    Finding a new kind of journalism

    Is there a place for 'former' journalists in this new world? You bet there is. Here's a wonderful example, from American Journalism Review: Voice in the Wilderness. James Gannon, former editor of the Des Moines Register and Detroit News Washington Bureau Chief, took a buyout a few years back and moved to rural Virginia.

    With only a weekly paper in the area, he decided there was a need for more updated news, so he started an online news service, The Rappahanock Voice.

    What does this old newsman think about the new media?
    It's kind of made a believer of me, Gannon says. I'm an old print guy. I love newspapers, and I still love picking up newspapers and turning the page reading, but that's happening less and less. This is where journalism is going whether we like it or not, and you have to get with it.


    Tuesday, August 05, 2008

    One of the good papers

    Since we moved to far western North Carolina, where we can get the daily paper from Asheville delivered by mail only, we began buying the Sunday Chattanooga Times Free Press (even though we have to drive 5 miles to get it).

    I fell in love with this paper immediately. Founded by Adolph Ochs and carrying national and international stories from the NY Times, McClatchy and more, it gives me more news than some other papers I've read regularly. The local coverage is good and the features and sports often interesting. When the war started it was one of the first small city papers to send an embedded correspondent who came up with great stories. For in-depth coverage of big stories like Chattanooga's successful bid to get a VW plant, it's incomparable. I like the Web site, too: even though I can't get the daily paper without driving at least 15 miles, I can catch up on the news during the week online.

    So I'm thrilled to see Mindy McAdams' review of the paper, on her Teaching Online Journalism site: Tactics of a smart newspaper.
    I liked the layout, the type families, the headlines, the story choices. I even liked the weight and texture of the newsprint. Wow, what a nice newspaper, I thought, about halfway through my biscuit with sausage gravy.
    My feeling too. What a nice newspaper. Wish I could get it more often, but I'm happy with my daily Asheville Citizen Times, too.


    Monday, August 04, 2008

    Life's detours

    Sorry for lack of posting. Went in for an outpatient procedure last week and ended up spending 5 nights in hospital.
    A new experience for me, haven't been hospitalized since I was six years old, with tonsillectomy and then polio.
    Interesting. And very different. Waiting to go home now.