Sleepless in Seattle — The Post-Intelligencer shuts down — lives online

Last week: The Seattle Post-Intelligencer has told employees they “might” lose their jobs as soon as next week after a deadline for Hearst Corp to sell the newspaper passed last Monday. 

The news is out, the  146-year-old Seattle Post-Intelligencer prints its last edition tomorrow.

The P-I will continue to “live” on the Internet with a much smaller staff.

I like it. It’s a mix of current and archival. Mikey likes it!

http://www.seattlepi.com 

Owner, the Hearst Corp. reports it has failed to find a buyer for the newspaper, which it put up for sale in January after nine years of financial losses. There are no more suckers left with enough trust fund money to waste.

The end of the print edition leaves The Seattle Times as the only major daily newspaper in the city. 

The TV stations will be there tonight and tomorrow capturing the historic day.

Seattle has been counting TV, and now the internet as their favorite news sources. Do you think people will wait for the Seattle Times to find out?

 

 

Last week:

Read between the lines: Boxes for removing personal items and shredding bins are scheduled to be delivered to the PI floors this week.

Clues suggest Hearst plans to close the P-I shortly

Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports on its own demise
Just after Hearst spokesman Paul Luthringer claimed that “we are still evaluating our options,” Post-Intelligencer staffers learned that boxes and bins are scheduled to be delivered to the newsroom later this week — some for materials to be taken home, others for notes that require shredding. “It would be nice to have some clarity,” says business reporter Joseph Tartakoff. “It’s really hard to plan your work when you’re not sure if you’ll be around the next day.”

The New York Times sold off the majority of its new sky scraper in New York and has a long-term rent agreement. The company no longer owns the roof over its head.

Next, McClatchy announced massive layoffs, and Hearst’s Seattle PI is about to turn into a shadow, online only edition. Meanwhile, back at Hearst’s figurative flagship, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Media Guild has accepted big cuts just to keep most jobs. The Denver Rocky Mountain News shut down a week or so ago. 

McClatchy Co. is shearing another 1,600 jobs in a cost-cutting spree that has clipped nearly one-third of the newspaper publisher’s work force in less than a year.

The latest reduction in payroll announced Monday follows through on the Sacramento-based company’s previously disclosed plans to lower its expenses by as much as $110 million over the next year as its revenue evaporates amid a devastating recession.

The layoffs will start before April. No fooling.

 Several of McClatchy’s 30 daily newspapers, including The Sacramento Bee and The Kansas City Star, already have decided how many workers will be shown the door. Close to 2,000. 

 

Pew Research report
Just 43 percent  of Americans say that losing their local newspaper would hurt civic life in their community “a lot,” according to a Pew Research poll. And even fewer, only 33 percent say they will miss their local newspaper if it folds.

Back to the West Coast

Negotiators for the Guild and the San Francisco Chronicle reached a tentative agreement Monday night changes to the collective bargaining agreement in line with cost cuts planned by Hearst. 

The agreement will require approval by Chronicle Unit Guild members. (They will approve or lose their jobs wholesale). 

A ratification meeting will be scheduled as early as Thursday of this week. Time and place will be announced on Tuesday as soon as a large enough facility can be secured.

In view of the latest terms agreed today, the Guild Negotiating Committee recommends membership approval.

The terms reached late Monday include expanded management ability to lay off employees without regard to seniority. All employees who are discharged in a layoff or who accept voluntary buyouts are guaranteed two weeks’ pay per year of service up to a maximum of one year, plus company-paid health care for the severance term, even in the event of a shutdown – which today’s agreement is designed to avoid.

Guild membership will remain a condition of continued employment for all employees. However, new hires in certain advertising sales positions will be given the option of membership, even though they will retain Guild protection under the contract.

On-callers will be limited to no more than 10 percent in any classification or department.

Pension changes are not part of this agreement, but are being discussed by pension authorities and must be implemented under terms of the Pension Protection Act, due to the recent declines in investment markets. Because those changes may affect the decisions of many members concerning buyouts, we are attempting to reach some key understandings now as to the nature of the changes and when they will take effect.

A lunch-hour meeting on Wednesday March 11, with our pension plan’s lawyer will be held at the Guild Office, 433 Natoma, Third Floor Conference Room.

A bulletin summarizing all the proposed contract changes will be issued Tuesday. A set of the complete proposed amendments will be available on the Guild’s Web site (mediaworkers.org) as soon as possible.

Management is seeking to change the union contract as part of an attempt to cut costs and keep the paper operating under the ownership of the Hearst Corp.

The company said Feb. 24 it would sell or close the paper unless the Guild agreed to changes in the labor agreement in effect through June 2010.

The leaders in the former cash cow industry thought they could just transform to their pages of expensive advertising to Web pages. Sorry. The Web is very competitive and readers will not put up with page after page of ads to follow the news. 

McClatchy is down for the count. The stock is hovering below $1 and will soon be kicked out of the New York Stock Exchange. 

The The Sun of Myrtle Beach and the  Macon Telegraph — McClatchy papers, announced last week that they were outsourcing printing, they joined what one experts are calling the last stage of the dying industry.

Chuck Moozakis, editor-in-chief of Newspapers & Technology, found in a December survey piece that the flight from printing includes mid-sized papers like the two last week, small papers, but also very big ones like the San Francisco Chronicle. Dow Jones has already closed plants in Denver and Chicago and could shutter 10 of the 17 around the country that have printed The Wall Street Journal.

 
“There is a lot of iron sitting out there now,” Moozkis reported.  
“What’s more sobering is the amount of press capacity now available within operations with relatively new presses” like Detroit and Denver. Losing the Rocky Mountain News press run — when it closes (not if) — won’t help, and some of the same impact will come as the two Detroit papers have reduced distribution of a smaller print product most weekdays.
 
 The carbon footprint of newspapers is enormous. At least the unemployed “progressives” can be happy that they are no longer contributing to the worst global warming industry on the planet. 
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Chronicle’s chronic losses lead to major cuts at the Bay Area’s largest newspaper — papers coast-to-coast cutting staff

The San Francisco Chronicle ready for some major “right sizing.”

After some more streamlining in addition to a new printing process off site, the largest newspaper in Northern California should begin to be profitable again.  

In a posted statement, Hearst said if the savings cannot be accomplished “quickly” the company will seek a buyer, and if none comes forward, it will close the Chronicle. The Chronicle lost more than $50 million in 2008 and is on a pace to lose more than that this year, Hearst said.

Frank J. Vega, chairman and publisher of the Chronicle, said, “It’s just a fact of life that we need to live within our means as a newspaper – and we have not for years.”

Vega said plans remain on track for the June 29 transition to new presses owned and operated by Canadian-based Transcontinental Inc., which will give the Chronicle industry-leading color reproduction. That move will save a few million annually due to the reduction of highly paid pressmen.

If the reductions can be accomplished, Vega said, “We are optimistic that we can emerge from this tough cycle with a healthy and vibrant Chronicle.”

The company did not specify the size of the staff reductions or the nature of the other cost-savings measures it has in mind. The company said it will immediately seek discussions with the Northern California Media Workers Guild, Local 39521, and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Local 853, which represent the majority of workers at the Chronicle.

“Because of the sea change newspapers everywhere are undergoing and these dire economic times, it is essential that our management and the local union leadership work together to implement the changes necessary to bring the cost of producing the Chronicle into line with available revenue,” Frank A. Bennack, Jr., Hearst vice chairman and chief executive, and Steven R. Swartz, president of Hearst Newspapers, said in a joint statement.

From the Newsosaur:

SF Chron cost-cut target equals 47% of staff

If the San Francisco Chronicle had to slash enough payroll to offset the more than $50 million operating loss threatening its future, nearly half of its 1,500 employees would be dismissed.

That’s the magnitude of the challenge facing the managers and union representatives who were tasked today by Hearst Corp. to find a way to cut the paper’s mushrooming deficit – or else.

After losing more than $1 billion without seeing a dime of profit since purchasing the paper in 2000, the Hearst Corp. today threatened to sell or close the Chronicle if sufficient savings were not identified to staunch operating losses surpassing $1 million a week. Without significant cost reductions, the losses would accelerate this year as a result of the ailing economy, said Michael Keith, a spokesman for the paper.

To wipe out a $50 million loss, let alone make a profit, the paper would have to eliminate 47% of its entire staff

Meanwhile, on the East Coast:

The latest Hartford Courant (former Times-Mirror newspaper) layoffs were announced last night – political reporter Mark Pazniokas is among those cut from the newspaper. We’ve been told these names as well – please correct us if we have anything wrong: Jesse Hamilton of the Washington bureau,  Religion Reporter Elizabeth Hamilton, Business Reporter Robin Stansbury, Environment Reporter David Funkhouser, reporters  Steve Grant and Anna Marie Somma, sportswriter Matt Eagan,  itowns editor Loretta Waldman, itowns reporter Nancy Lastrina, administrative assistant Judy Prato, Marge Ruschau, Features copy editors Adele Angle and David Wakefield, and library staffer & researcher Owen Walker.

We’re told that editor/reporter Kate Farrish resigned earlier this week as did editor John Ferraro.

Denis Horgan is calling it the Mardi Gras Massacre.

Paul Bass has more in the New Haven Independent.

Now, back to Texas:

Memo from San Antonio Express-News’ editor

From: Rivard, Robert
Sent: Wednesday, February 25, 2009 10:44 AM
To: SAEN Editorial
Subject: We are canceling this morning’s news meeting for obvious reasons.

Colleagues:

By now you have read Tom Stephenson’s message to all employees. Every division of the Express-News will be affected, including every department in the newsroom. Incremental staff and budget cuts, we are sorry to say, have proven inadequate amid changing social and market forces now compounded by this deepening recession.

It is not lost on us as journalists in this difficult moment that we have built an audience of readers, in print and online, that is larger and more diverse than at any time in our century and half of publishing. We have done that at the Express-News through a commitment to excellence and public service. Now we must find ways to maintain these high levels of journalistic distinction even as valued colleagues depart. It is an unfortunate but undeniable fact that declining advertising revenues are insufficient to support our operations at current levels. At the same time, more and more people have become accustomed to reading us at no cost on the Internet. As a result, we are reducing the newsroom staff by some 75 positions, counting layoffs and open positions we are eliminating.

As a first step to securing our future and continuing to serve the community, we are undergoing a fundamental and painful restructuring of the newsroom staff. We will have fewer departments and fewer managers, and yes, fewer of every class of journalist. After we reorganize and consolidate additional operations with the Houston Chronicle, we will then turn to finding new ways to create and present the journalism we know is vital to the city and the region. There is every indication the community we serve recognizes our importance and wants the Express-News to succeed.

The newsroom leadership team will begin now to meet with individuals whose jobs are being eliminated. Brett Thacker and I are working with these editors to carry out such notifications as swiftly and humanely as possible. No one is being asked to leave the Express-News today unless you so choose. March 20 will be the final day for those whose jobs are being cut, at which time they will then receive involuntary separation packages that include two weeks’ pay for each year of service up to one year’s pay, along with other benefits. Some production journalists involved in the consolidation project with the Houston Chronicle will be asked to stay on until that project is completed in the coming months. Those who do stay until the completion will receive their separation packages at that time.

We have worked to preserve the size and depth of our newsroom in every imaginable way these past months and years, but events beyond our control have overwhelmed those efforts. Newsrooms become like families, but companies in every industry reach a point where they face fundamental, sometimes harsh change in order to preserve their viability. We are at that point. Most of you read yesterday’s news regarding the San Francisco Chronicle and recently became aware of pending staff cuts at the Houston Chronicle. Our intention is to get through these difficult days and work to remain an indispensible source of news and information through the recession and beyond.

Hearst purchased the Chronicle in 2000, but soon afterward felt the impact of an economic downturn in the dot.com sector as well as the loss of classified advertising to Craigslist and other online sites. The problems have been exacerbated by the current recession.

In the news release, the privately-held, New York-based company said that the Chronicle has had “major losses” since 2001.

Back on the West Coast, there is no safe haven.

Sacramento Guild bracing for job cuts

Woe is us, McClatchy warns

Media Workers Guild – 12 Feb 2009

Sacramento Bee employees should expect a serious wave of layoffs in early March, as well as other cost-cutting measures now being considered, including wage cuts and mandatory furloughs as McClatchy Newspapers’ financial crisis worsens, company representatives told the Guild’s bargaining committee in a 90-minute session Thursday.

Mercury Bargaining Bulletin 9

 

Mercury News wants $1.5 million cut from wages and benefits

 

California Media Workers Guild – 10 Feb 2009

Mercury News negotiators said Tuesday they need to find $1.5 million by cutting wages and benefits paid to Guild members annually in the face of the economic woes facing the company. The company’s announcement came at a bargaining session Tuesday that kicked off an effort by management and the Guild to expedite the process of reaching a new contract to replace the one that expired October 31.

“Given the losses the Chronicle continues to sustain, the time to implement these changes cannot be long. These changes are designed to give the Chronicle the best possible chance to survive this economic downturn and continue to serve the people of the Bay Area with distinction, as it has since 1865,” Bennack and Swartz said in their statement.

“Survival is the outcome we all want to achieve,” they added. “But without specific changes we are seeking across the entire Chronicle organization, we will have no choice but to quickly seek a buyer for the Chronicle, and, should a buyer not be found, to shut down the newspaper.”

The Hearst statement further said that cost reductions are part of a broader effort to restore the Chronicle to financial health. At the beginning of the year, the Chronicle raised its prices for home delivery and single-copy purchases.

Hearst owns 15 other newspapers including the Houston Chronicle, San Antonio News-Express and the Albany Times-Union in New York . Hearst announced Jan. 9 that in March that if a buyer is not found it will close Seattle Post-Intelligencer, which has lost money since 2000.

Vega said readers and advertisers will see no difference in the Chronicle during the discussions with the unions.

“Even with the reduction in workforce, our goal will be to retain our essential and well-read content,” Vega said. “We will continue to produce the very best newspaper for our readers and preserve one of San Francisco ‘s oldest and most important institutions.”

The Chronicle, the Bay Area’s largest and oldest newspaper, is read by more than 1.6 million people weekly. It also operates SFGate, among the nation’s 10 largest news Web sites. SFGate depends on the Chronicle’s print news staff for much its content.

The San Francisco Bay Area is home to 21 daily newspapers covering an 11-county area.

The Chronicle’s news staff of about 275, even after a series of reductions in recent years, is the largest of any newspaper in the Bay Area.

“While the reductions are an unfortunate sign of the times, the news staff has always been resilient in San Francisco ,” said Ward Bushee, editor and executive vice president. “We remain fully dedicated toward serving our readers with an outstanding newspaper. We are playing to win.”

The area’s other leading newspapers – the Bay Area Media News Group that includes the San Jose Mercury News, Contra Costa Times and Oakland Tribune – also have seen revenues decline sharply and cut staff.

These problems are a reflection of those faced by newspapers across America as they experience fundamental changes in their business model brought on by rapid growth in readership on free internet sites, a decline in paid circulation, the erosion of advertising and rising costs.

Advertising traditionally has offset the cost of producing and delivering a newspaper, which allowed publishers to charge readers substantially less than the actual cost of doing business. The loss of advertising has undermined that pricing model.

In the case of the Chronicle, Vega said the expense of producing and delivering the newspaper to a seven-day subscriber is more than double the $7.75 weekly cost to subscribe.

At the beginning of the year, in an effort to evolve its business model and offset its substantial losses, the Chronicle raised its subscription and newsstand prices, taking a cue from European papers that charge far more than their American counterparts.

“We know that people in this community care deeply about the Chronicle,” Vega said. “In today’s world, the Chronicle is still very inexpensive. This is a critical time and we deeply hope our readers will stick with us.”

The challenge the Chronicle faces, Vega said, is to bring its revenues from advertising and circulation into balance with its expenses so that the newspaper can at least break even financially.

“We are asking our unions to work with us as partners in making these difficult cost-cutting decisions and reduction in force to ensure the newspaper survives,” Vega said.

Michael Savage will have some candid comments on the layoffs. What about the content of the Chronicle’s “news?”

The union reps “negotiate” their fate:

Cost-Cutting Talks Begin – 

Guild leaders met with representatives from The Chronicle and Hearst Corp. this morning to discuss the company’s cost-cutting proposal.

We opened the meeting by underscoring our commitment to our membership and the community to do all we can to reach an agreement that will keep The Chronicle open and return it to profitability.

The company seeks a combination of wide-ranging contractual concessions in addition to layoffs, the exact number of which the company said it did not yet have. For Guild-covered positions, the company did say the job cuts would at least number 50. Other proposals include removal of some advertising sales people from Guild coverage and protection, the right to outsource — specifically mentioning Ad Production — voluntary buyouts, layoffs and wage freezes. 

We plan to closely analyze this proposal over the next few days and explore every possible alternative. Meetings will be held to discuss details with members of the bargaining unit. An informational membership meeting will be held from 5-7 p.m.tonight (Tuesday Feb. 25) at the Guild office, 3rd floor conference room.

Management reiterated its commitment to keeping The Chronicle open and to working with the Guild to secure a viable future. Despite the difficult economic environment, we are confident that by working together we can find solutions to any problems that confront us.

If you have any questions or suggestions, contact your shop steward or e-mail Unit Chair Michelle Devera, Local President Mike Cabanatuan or Unit Secretary Alissa Van Cleave.

In solidarity,

Michelle Devera, Chronicle Unit chair, michelleatsfchronunit@gmail.com
Michael Cabanatuan, Local President, ctuan@aol.com
Alissa Van Cleave, Chronicle Unit secretary, vancelave44@hotmail.com
Wally Greenwell, Chronicle Unit vice chair
Gloria La Riva, president, Typographical Sector
Carl Hall, Local Representative

Has the earth been visited by space aliens? Kucinich and Pelosi think so. Do the math.

The idea of space travel is fun and provides great entertainment. I’m sure there are many forms of life similar to earth in the universe. But if you do the math, you will see that it doesn’t matter. The space aliens are not going to visit earth and probe Democrat House representatives’ rectums in Cleveland Ohio, or San Francisco like Democrat Dennis Kucinich insists happened to him and friends of his in Hollywood. Nancy Pelosi who like her friend Kucinich, may look like an alien from another galaxy, that’s a fact, but her basic math skills are lacking. 

 

Kucinich is currently the chairman of theDomestic Policy Subcommittee of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. He is also a member of theEducation and Labor Committee.

Kucinich heads committees on education? That should be against the law.

We need to increase teaching math, science and economics in our schools. That’s a fact.

Meanwhile the stock market continues to crash today. Investors understand economics and simple math and that spending billions on more government programs is not what drives an economy. 
A team led by Jochen Greiner of Germany’s Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics determined that the huge gamma-ray burst occurred 12.2 billion light years away. Pluto is 12 light hours away.

Can you imagine man travelling in a vehicle that is 1,000 times slower than the speed of light? It would take 12.2 million years to visit a neighboring  solar system.  That’s the time equivalent to going back to the days dinosaurs roamed the earth. Planet of the Apes, it would not be. Planet of the volvox colonies. 

The concept that a rocket or space craft could ever travel at the speed of light are comic book science, much like man-made global warming. Let’s say man ever could achieve the speed of light of a space craft? Think about the speed and distance.

Drill here, drill now, pay less, create jobs — That’s stimulous

Gov. Sarah Palin continues to make news. She understands economics and real-world energy issues. 

 

I AM DISMAYED THAT LEGISLATION HAS AGAIN BEEN INTRODUCED in Congress to prohibit forever oil and gas development in the most promising unexplored petroleum province in North America — the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, in Alaska.

Let’s not forget: Only six months ago, oil was selling for nearly $150 per barrel, while Americans were paying $4 a gallon and more for gasoline. And today, there is potential for prices to rebound as OPEC asserts its market power and as Russia disrupts needed natural gas to Europe for the second time in three years.

As I traveled throughout the country campaigning for vice president, I was glad to hear politicians, including Barack Obama, promise that “everything was on the table” to address America’s great challenges. I also found that when Americans were apprised of the facts, most people became supporters of responsible oil and gas drilling in Alaska. So, I want to remind our national leaders of this promise and make the case against this legislation:

•Oil from ANWR represents a huge, secure domestic supply that could help satisfy U.S. demand for more than 25 years.

•ANWR sits within a 20 million-acre refuge (the size of South Carolina), but thanks to advanced technology like directional drilling, the aggregated drilling footprint would be less than 2,000 acres (about one-quarter the size of Dulles Airport). This is like laying a 2-by-3-foot welcome mat on a basketball court.

•Energy development is quite compatible with the protection of our wildlife and their habitat. For example, North Slope caribou herds have grown and remained healthy throughout more than three decades of oil development. Most of the year, our coastal plain is frozen solid and thus characterized by low biological productivity.

•ANWR development would create hundreds of thousands of good American jobs, positively affecting every state by providing a safe energy supply and generating demand for goods and services.

— Gov. Sarah Palin

The Shagged Sheep — One party PC journalism is here. Watch the attack on Mark Steyn

THE SHAGGED SHEEP Print E-mail
 

This is a long piece but it does have underage sex
and bestiality in it. So enjoy! — Mark Steyn

The other day I had an e-mail from M J Murphy, who blogs as Big City Lib,
saying only this:

I think you owe Dr. Miller an apology.

There followed a link to a post called
Steyn Gets Punked By 28-Year Old Literary Hoax:

Remember the kerfuffle between Mark Steyn and journalism professor Dr. John Miller
from a few weeks back? Dr. Miller accused Steyn of taking material for “America Alone”
from illegitimate sources like the infamous Little Green Book:
Sayings of the Ayatollah Khomeini.*
[*UPDATE: M J Murphy has quietly revised this paragraph,
and so the airbrushing begins

Actually, I don’t think Dr Miller has accused me of any such thing, though
I admit, given his shifting accusations, that I’m no longer quite sure what
he’s accusing me of. Just to recap, said “kerfuffle” arises from this passage
in a
review I wrote for Maclean’s of Oriana Fallaci’s final book The Force Of Reason:

Signora Fallaci then moves on to the livelier examples of contemporary Islam —
for example, Ayatollah Khomeini’s “Blue Book” and its helpful advice on
romantic matters: “If a man marries a minor who has reached the age of nine
and if during the defloration he immediately breaks the hymen, he cannot enjoy
her any longer.” I’ll say. I know it always ruins my evening. Also: “A man who has
had sexual relations with an animal, such as a sheep, may not eat its meat.
He would commit sin.” Indeed. A quiet cigarette afterwards as you listen to your
favourite Johnny Mathis LP and then a promise to call her next week and swing
by the pasture is by far the best way. It may also be a sin to roast your nine-year-old
wife, but the Ayatollah’s not clear on that.

A cheap joke en passant. Indeed, insofar as I dwelt on the ovine fornication,
it was to suggest to La Fallaci that, even for us flagrant Islamophobes, it was
not perhaps the most useful avenue of attack:

I enjoy the don’t-eat-your-sexual-partner stuff as much as the next infidel,
but the challenge presented by Islam is not that the cities of the Western
world will be filling up with sheep-shaggers. If I had to choose, I’d rather
Mohammed Atta was downriver in Egypt hitting on the livestock than flying
through the windows of Manhattan skyscrapers. But he’s not.

And that’s it. That’s all I said. And no one would remember had not El Mo’s
sock puppets included the sheep-shagging line in the
dossier they submitted
to the Canadian “Human Rights” Commission. Whereupon Dr Miller …actually,
I’m not sure he is a doctor: He calls himself “
The Journalism Doctor”, but the 
title seems to be entirely self-conferred. Anyway, at this point, Doc Miller, Prof Miller,
Herr Baron von Miller or whatever he is got interested in the case and asked the British
Columbia “Human Rights” Tribunal if he could intervene. Silly ol’ me assumed that he
wished to intervene to argue the cause of free speech. But no: he wanted to intervene
to argue that I was not a “responsible journalist”, and so it was entirely appropriate for
the state to censor me.
As Rory Leishman
notes, since this thought-police racket got going, “Most journalists have
either condoned censorship or cowered in silence.” Canadians who still value liberty should
know that, if they rely on anemic PC flunkeys like Professor Miller, they’ll lose their country.
At any rate, the BCHRT gave him the bum’s rush, so Prof Miller surfaced a few weeks ago and
kept returning to the subject of the sheep-shaggers line. His complaint is in an apparently endless
process of evolution. But let’s go through the story so far:

1) First, insofar as I understand his initial argument, he advanced the curious line
that the ruling from the Ayatollah was not widely cited, and therefore it was improper of me to use it.

After it was pointed out that in fact Khomeini’s views on the post-bestiality buffet,
child sex and other arcane points of Islamic law are known to many (especially
those 
on
the receiving end), a couple of weeks later he revised his line of attack:

2) Now his argument was that I’d concocted it out of whole cloth. The J-Doc declared
boldly that Steyn “gave no citation for the quote, and I suspect it was made up.”

In fact, as anyone who reads the passage above can see, I attributed it to Oriana
Fallaci’s book. The disinterested observer might conclude that Professor Ethics-Bore
had never so much as glanced at the offending article but had simply taken the Sock
Puppets’ word for it. So the E-Bore was obliged to revise his argument yet again – and
decided to accuse me of what he appeared to have done himself:

3) Now my sin was that I “clearly accepted someone else’s word for it”.
Evidently, it wasn’t all that “clear” when he was accusing me of making it up,
but a drowning ethics prof can be forgiven for clutching at straw men.

At any rate, that makes three different complaints. As I wrote:

That’s the great thing about the self-appointed “Journalism Doctor”:
When he diagnoses you, he provides his own second opinion.

Now, on Prof Miller’s behalf, M J Murphy has revised my crime yet again:

Dr. Miller accused Steyn of taking material for “America Alone” from illegitimate
sources like the infamous Little Green Book: Sayings of the Ayatollah Khomeini.

As I said, the sheep-shagging passage is from a review of La Fallaci’s book in Maclean’s.
It’s nothing to do with America Alone. There is no mention of sheep shagging in
America Alone. There is no mention of any Little Green Book in America Alone.
There is, indeed, no mention of Ayatollah Khomeini in America Alone. Prof Miller
and Mr Murphy and their
enthusiastic chorus boys at Law Is Cool are welcome to
check for themselves.

But, leaving that aside and forgiving M J Murphy for confusing America Alone with a
book review in Maclean’s, if you return to the passage up above, you’ll see that neither
Oriana nor I refer to any Little Green Book.
We cite a “Blue Book” – or “Libro Azzurro”, in La Fallaci’s original Italian. That’s the
color we’re nailing to our mast. We’re singing the blues, and it’s you fellers who are
smelling the green. Indeed, the guy who brought up the Little Green Book is Prof Miller
in his
response to me. I never mentioned any green book. Like I said, I’d rather be blue.
So, if M J Murphy and the excitable schoolgirls at Law R Cool have proved The Little Green Book
is a “hoax”, the person who’s been “punked” is Professor Miller.

Incidentally, I wouldn’t describe The Little Green Book as a “hoax”. It would be truer
to say that it is a somewhat lurid and condensed version of the Ayatollah Khomeini’s work.
Nevertheless, if you read M J Murphy’s post, you’ll find that Marvin Zonis
of the University of Chicago declined to provide an introduction for it. Professor Zonis
is evidently regarded by M J Murphy as a greater authority in these matters than I am,
so please keep his name in mind.

However, as it happens, I didn’t take “someone else’s word” for anything,
whether it was the word of Oriana Fallaci or the compiler of The Little Green Book.
When it comes to the Ayatollah Khomeini’s views on sheep shagging, my gu
ide for many years has been a book called Resaleh Towzih al-Masael. The author is
a chap called …Ayatollah Khomeini. Let’s go back to the original offending quotation
from my Maclean’s book review:

Signora Fallaci then moves on to the livelier examples of contemporary Islam —
for example, Ayatollah Khomeini’s “Blue Book” and its helpful advice on romantic matters.

Well, here’s a clue:

Hmm. Here’s another clue:

But how can that be? We all know: “There is no Blue Book.”
The Lord High Checker of Facts has pronounced.
As it happens, Resaleh Towzih al-Masael has been published in Iran in several editions.
But the most popular was the paperback edition published by Nashr I Sharia’t of Tehran.
It sold for 120 rials. It had some 350 pages, approx 5×7 inches, with a blue cover,
featuring a picture of its ever more famous author. A souvenir hardback edition marketed
as the perfect New Year gift was subsequently published by Rashidi with a plain blue cover…
almost every year this book is published in a different color. But many versions of the “Blue Book”
are still out there:

  

 

In the relevant passage in her book, Oriana recalls first seeing excerpts from the
“Blue Book” in 1979. That’s what it was back then: A blue book. The blue book
in revolutionary Iran. It certainly wasn’t a “little green book” as that wasn’t published till 1980.
So when she and I refer to the Ayatollah’s “Blue Book” we’re referring to that Nashr I Sharia’t
edition of the Resaleh. It was translated into English, unabridged, by J Borujerdi and published
in 1984 by Westview in London and Boulder, Colorado under the title A Clarification Of Questions.

I was given it a couple of decades ago by the Iranian gal I was then dating.
She had a copy of the pocket paperback with the Ayatollah on the cover, and once,
when she read out a bit to me, I expressed skepticism that it could really be that wacky. 
So a few weeks later she presented me with the English edition. As she explained, these
were not just some personal musings from the Ayatollah but a kind of moral compass for
the Islamic state. So I didn’t need to “accept someone else’s word for it” on having sex with
nine-year-old girls, because, like anyone else who’s taken even a cursory interest in the
subject, I’ve known for a long time that, in the Islamic Republic of Iran, girls could be legally
married at the age of nine. Article 1041 of the Civil Code states:

Marriage before puberty by the permission of the Guardian and on condition of taking
into interest the ward’s interest is proper.

“Puberty” is defined as “nine full lunar years” – although, in practice, girls as young
as seven can be married on the say-so of a doctor. The justification for all this is in the
highly elaborate rules of Islamic life. They may sound unlikely to M J Murphy or Prof Miller
but the Ayatollah’s “clarification of questions” doesn’t strike most devout Iranian Shi’ites
that way. Mr Borujerdi, the English translator, was an Iranian émigré living in Cleveland,
and he gave an interview about the book to David Remnick (now the editor of The New Yorker)
in The Washington Post in 1985. It’s not available online but M J Murphy and Prof Miller
and the Law R Cool nellies are welcome to go to their local reference library and check it out.
It’s the Aug 21 issue, page B1:

“I did the translation because it gives a very close understanding of the Shiite
view of the world,” he said. “The Bantam Press published a very slight version five
years ago called The Little Green Book’-just 6 percent of the original-but that was really
a joke book, to poke fun at Khomeini and debunk Islam at the beginning of the hostage
crisis. In Iran, this book is mandatory for every literate person, a kind of guide to living.”

So this is the real deal, not the sensationalist précis but a serious, scholarly 
“unabridged translation” designed to provide “
a unique picture of the belief structure of Shi’ism“.
Mr Borujerdi had no difficulty finding eminent academics to provide an introduction – namely,
Professors Mehdi Abedi and Michael Fischer of Rice University in Houston. But he also consulted
on the translation and interpretation with many other scholars, among them Professor
Wilfred Madelung of the Oriental Institute at Oxford University, Professor Wheeler
Thackston of Harvard’s Near Eastern Languages department, Professor William
Darrow of Williams College, Professor Vincent McHale of Case Western,
Professor Merlin Swartz of Boston University …oh, and Professor Marvin
Zonis of the University of Chicago. That would be the same Prof Zonis
who was unhappy with The Little Green Book, and thus made M J Murphy
unhappy, too. But Prof Zonis is cool with A Clarification Of Questions, so
presumably M J Murphy will also be satisfied?

Resaleh Towzih al-Masael/A Clarification Of Questions consists of almost 3,000
“problems” for which Ayatollah Khomeini provides answers, plus a few follow-ups
he dealt with in subsequent editions.

So, just to bring the deplorably unicultural Prof Miller up to speed,
the easiest way to get a flavor of the Ayatollah’s book is simply to 
sample the
contents pages:

THE UNCLEANS
1&2. Urine and stool
3. Semen
4. Corpse
5. Blood
6&7. Dog and pig
8. Infidel
9. Wine
10. Beer
11. Sweat of an unlawful ejaculation
12. The sweat of a camel that eats uncleans

Hey, Multiculti Man, that would be you at big hit sound number 8: “Infidel” –
right behind “Dog and pig” but, if it’s any consolation, ahead of “Sweat of an
unlawful ejaculation”. But hang on: ejaculate-wise, the Ayatollah’s just getting
cranked up:

PRECEPTS OF EJACULATION
Things that are unlawful for an ejaculator
Things that are loathesome for an ejaculator
The bath of ejaculation…

So just to reprise:

Did I cite Oriana Fallaci accurately? Yes.

Did she cite Ayatollah Khomeini accurately? Yes.

Is there a volume by the Ayatollah commonly known as the “Blue Book”? Yes 

Does it include rulings on sex with nine-year olds and what to do with a shagged sheep? Yes.

Did either of us mention a Little Green Book? No. In fact, the translation Oriana cites
pre-dates The Little Green Book by a year.

I think Professor Waggy-Finger is doing what they call “projecting”. He’s accusing me of
everything he’s been doing himself. I took “somebody else’s word for it”. Er, no. That
would be you, taking the Sock Puppets’ word for it on my book review. I didn’t check the
“primary source”. Er, no. That would be you, cavalierly announcing there’s no such thing as a
“Blue Book”. To be more charitable to you than you deserve, you assume that Oriana Fallaci
and I so want to think the worst of Islam that we’ll fall for any old hooey. Actually not. On the
other hand, you so want to think the worst of us blowhard provocateurs that you assume we’re
as ignorant of Islam as you evidently are. 

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