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Archives: October 2005

Media Minutiae, You Mean There’s Other Stuff Going On In The News? Edition

  • If only it were as easy as giving out cupcakes: There’s a seat up for grabs on the Audit Bureau of Circulations’ board, and competition is fierce. I have no idea, maybe it’s not as boring as it sounds. The point is, Cond&#233 Nast senior vice president of consumer marketing affairs Peter Armour and challenger David Rock, director of online and partnerships at Ziff Davis, are both ready to fight, if necessary. Rock lobbed an email salvo subtly impugning Armour’s engagement “in the operations of his company” about which Armour sniffed: “It is very easy to criticize, especially when you haven’t bothered to volunteer for any ABC committee or have been engaged in the ABC process.” Put another way: “Vaulting ambition doth o’erleap itself.” LAY ON, MACZIFF! Sorry, but framing the ABC in visceral Shakespearian terms makes it more interesting. Thanks, Arianna! [WWD]
  • Men read magazines like Mars, women read magazines like Venus: I don’t really know what that means, except that women seem to have a longer attention span for magazine-reading than their menfolk. Jon Fine reports, you decide, unless you get distracted. [BusinessWeek - Mediacentric]
  • The sweet smell of…Canada? Apparently NYC is starting to smell like maple syrup. Mmm. I LOVE maple syrup, and also maple cream and maple sugar. I like to eat maple sugar in big sugary chunks. But just for the record, the weird smell in NYC isn’t my fault. []
  • Spin and Vibe are on the block. Radar’s got the scoop.[Radar]
  • Hockey: it exists, you know. [NYDN]
  • Harry Potter’s flying car has been stolen from British studio lot! Oh, Muggles. [CNN]
  • I’m gonna say it: The New Yorker‘s Hallowe’en cover kinda freaks me out.
  • Someone’s been Google-bombing again: Go to Google. Type in “failure.” Hit “I’m feeling lucky.” Regard your president. [Google]
  • Patrick Fitzgerald: “Obstruction keeps us from making the judgments we need to make.”

    Fitz, and a start.jpgPatrick Fitzgerald has finally spoken, and done a great job of it at that. Straightforward, decisive, in command of the facts, and refreshingly not in love with the spotlight, he delivered the facts succinctly and always with a view to the justice system and why it was that the leak probe was called in the first place.

    This is a non-exhaustive write-up – just a few impressions.

    Fitzgerald recounted the chain of events; hearing him go through it, I was surprised at how familiar it was. I guess we’ve all had ample opporutnity to learn these details. The crux: Scooter Libby, he said, presented as though he was “at the end of the chain” of information about Valerie Plame, hearing about it from Tim Russert who had said it was the word on the journalistic street. But, said Fitzgerald, Libby wasn’t at the end of chain, “he was at the beginning…and he lied about it afterwards, under oath, and repeatedly.” And so, indictment.

    “When a Vice-President’s Chief of Staff is charged with perjury and obstructuion of justice, it shows the world that we take the law seriously,” he said — and it shows that it applies to everyone in the land, right up to the highest office.

    He said that “the substantial bulk of this gand jury’s work is completed” — its term is expired and it will not be extended. That’s interesting, given the Rove-is-still-under-investigation subplot.

    What of a leak invesigation that doesn’t actually result in a charge? he was asked. Perhaps it’s the Chicagoan coming out in him, but Fitz frames his response in terms of baseball.

    Look, he says, let’s say a pitcher winds up and hurls a fastball at a batter’s head, you have to ask, why did the pitcher do it? Was it an accident? Did he do it out of a grudge or did his fingers slip? Did he hit the target or did he aim for the chin and miss? You’d have to look beyond the field, find out what happened in the dugout, see if it might have been retaliation (did the batter trash-talk the pitcher’s mama?), or at the end of the day was it just a bad ptch, get over it?

    Fitz had to ask these questions — and meanwhile Scooter was standing up in front, waving his hands so he couldn’t see the field. That, said Fitz, is something to be taken very seriously.

    Lookit, he says, this wasn’t done to Valerie Wilson, it was done to all of us.Why was this inforamtion going out? Why did he tell Judith Miller three times? Wsy did he tell Mr. Cooepr? What are the shades of gray? Down in front, Scooter. Fitz and the American people needed to know.

    “What his motives were? I can’t tell you,” he said.”Obstruction keeps us from making the judgments wee need to make… anyone who will go before a grand jury and lie and obstruct the truth has committed a serious crime. It will vindicate the public interest in finding out what happened here.” Point being, the obstruction charge is no bridesmaid to a leak charge’s blushing bride — it’s just as serious, punishable to the full extent of the law.

    Two notes:

  • “We make no allegation that the Vice President commited a criminal act. We don’t comment on people who are not charged.

    and, on Judy:

  • “I was not looking for a First Amendment showdown.”

    (for a media site, that’s burying the lede something fierce, but today for once it’s not about Judy.)

  • Paris Hilton! Armed robbery! Creepy videotapes!

    jfrancis.jpg Things I don’t like to think about: 1) Paris Hilton’s speed-dial list. 2) ‘Girls Gone Wild’ proprietor Joe Francis. 3) Sexual humiliation videotaped at gunpoint. In the new issue of Radar, FishbowlLA’s favorite Seamy Hollywood Underbelly Investigative Reporter Mark Ebner ties together these elements in the story of Darnell Riley, a Seamy Hollywood Underbelly type who made his way onto 1) and is about to go on trial for allegedly forcibly producing 3), starring 2). Anyway, it’s an impressive piece of investigative reporting, and it will make you really want to take a shower. (And it’s not online, so you’ll actually have to buy Radar on the newsstand.)

    “I will restore honor and dignity to the White House.”

    So — we know, at least something. At 2:15 pm EST Patrick Fitzgerald will speak. In the meantime, this whole day has been spent waiting for something we already knew about. Some random points that ought not to go unmentioned:

  • One of the CNN pundits on the Situation Room (sorry, Wolf’s manliness is distracting) invoked Bush’s oath during the 2000 campaign: “I will restore honor and dignity to the White House.” This whole brou-ha-ha? Not so much.
  • And by the way Karl Rove is still under investigaton.
  • And by the way there has been nary a peep about Dick Cheney. People really love seeing him as the dark puppeteer-villain of the piece. Fitz, throw ‘em a bone?
  • Speaking of, Cheney has issued a statement accepting Scooter’s resignation and calling his right-hand man “one of the most capable and talented invidivuals I have ever known.” Then Cheney notes that an indictment is just a charge, and that any person charged is presumed innocent until proven otherwise after a full hearing of fact in a court of law. Since it’s an ongoing investigation, naturally it would be inappropriate for Cheney to comment on the charges. Naturally.
  • Once again, note that no charges have been brought under that super-strict 1982 statute prohibiting the wilful disclosure of a covert agent’s identity.
  • This entry makes it painfully obvious that a lot of the reporting on this issue has been reporting on the stuff that isn’t happening. PlameGate: The Seinfeld of Government Scandals!
  • George Stephanopoulos was on ABC earlier talking about Scooter, but now they’re back to showing “All My Children.”
  • Fitz, it’s all you. Bring it.
  • Scooter takes the fall

    Libby indicted.jpgDo we really think Scooter acted alone?

    The charges: 1 count of Obstruction of Justice; 2 counts of Perjury; and two counts of making False Statements; for allegedly lying in 2003 about how he learned and subsequently disclosed to reporters about the identity of Valerie Plame.

    Charges: Libby lied to FBI agents who interviewed him in 2003; committed perjury when he testified before the Grand Jury in March 2004; and obstruction of justice in his attempts to impede the progress of the Grand Jury.

    Total: 5 counts in all against Scooter Libby.

    My source is CNN (but my graphic comes from MSNBC).

    Update: Note that he has not been charged under that Agent Identification Act: “He has not charged a substantive crime involving the disclosure of her identity.”

    Right now CNN is fast-forwarding toward the star-studded trial. Matt Cooper! Judy Miller! Dick Cheney! Karl Rove! If you think THIS is a circus…

    For the record: I still want to know exactly what was in those redacted eight pages. And something on the record by Robert Novak wouldn’t come amiss, either. Oh yeah, him.

    UPDATE: It’s official: Scooter has resigned. Reported by CNN reporting AP and Reuters (but interestingly still nothing on Fox).

    So wait, no more indictments? ‘Cause that’s all a bit anticlimactic.

    The March of the Indictments: How Soon Is Now?

    It’s 12:26 pm. Do you know where your indictments are?

    According to Wolf Blitzer’s super-split-screen Situation Room on CNN, they’ve apparently moved from the grand jury room to the Magistrate’s Office to “present” the indictments. So it shouldn’t be long now. As an aside, one of his pundits just said that Valerie Plame isn’t the only undercover CIA agent married to some famous DC diplomat. There are a whole BUNCH of people running around DC in scarves and sunglasses! [CNN - Wolf Blitzer]

    12:30: President Bush has just arrived at the White House — no statement. Dana Bash said that it’s impossible for the White House officials to mask the tension that’s been building for the past few weeks. Bush expected make a statement later. Cheney’s travelling; written statement expected. This is assuming that things go as expected.

    12:36 pm: This calm before the storm is amazing. The NYT hasn’t been updated since 9:57 am. CNN has the same homepage as it’s had for hours: Libby crutching out of the White House toward certain doom. Quiet at Wonkette, and Fishbowl DC. Everyone is waiting.

    12:39 pm: Whoa! Wonkette says that Libby has resigned. Scoop to Fox. Not on the website yet. Standby for confirmation.

    12:42: IT’S OFFICIAL: SCOOTER LIBBY HAS BEEN INDICTED. At least on obstruction of justice, on perjury, and making false statements. Per Wolf.

    12:53 pm: Fox’s website is still pre-indictment; MSNBC has it up; CNN’s got it; the NYT has it but the updated timestamp says 12:02pm. Huh?

    Shyamalan steps in

    M. Night Shyamalan has entered the fray of industry people arguing about the shortening of the video window, telling a group of theater operators at the ShowEast convention that “if this thing happens, you know the majority of your theaters are closing. It’s going to crush you guys.” Meanwhile, Steven Soderbergh has emerged as the one major filmmaker who supports the shortening (or, even, elimination) of the window.

    Will more filmmakers speak publicly on this issue? Probably. Will their public utterances have any real impact on the complex sequence of business decisions by large corporations that determine these kinds of industry shifts? Probably not. Will the video window shorten even further? My crystal ball is getting foggy.

    You can take the Kinsley out of LA, but…

    Reading Michael Kinsley’s Washington Post column makes me think that during his sojourn in Los Angeles (okay, during his occasional visits to Los Angeles) running the LAT editorial page, L.A. culture rubbed off on him more than anyone realized. Today, for instance, he uses his column to essentially write studio coverage on the Plame leak investigation:

    All the glam elements are there: a secret agent, international intrigue, sex if you know where to look, blogs, moral dilemmas, movie-of-the-week dialogue at the White House. (Aide: “Mr. President, somebody has inserted a lie into your State of the Union address!” The President: “This is clearly the work of al Qaeda. We must invade Iraq immediately. Or is it Iran?”) But somehow all these elements don’t cohere. Alfred Hitchcock coined the term “McGuffin” to describe the gimmick that keeps the plot moving. He said you need one. The trouble here is not the lack of a McGuffin but a surplus of them.

    So, all you development people out there, you heard it from Kinsley. You don’t have to follow the Plame case. It’s a pass. No through-line.

    2 pm

    Fiztgerald gives his press conference at 2 pm this afternoon. Hold your breath! [CNN]

    Update: Noon, according to MSNBC.

    Deliver De Letter De Sooner De Better… (12:17 pm)

    Senator Orrin Hatch: “I love Anne Coulter”

    Senator Orrin Hatch (R. Utah) is on CNN, and, in addition to saying that he thought Harriet Miers got a bad rap (he reads Fishbowl!) he actually said “I love Anne Coulter.” She was supposed to be on CNN with him chatting about who’s up next on SCOTUS, but something malfunctioned and she was lost. Gee, too bad.

    By the way, Anne Coulter in the morning? CNN, do you really hate your viewers that much?