Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Remembering Molly Ivins

Liberal columnist Molly Ivins dies of cancer at age 62. Her old employer, the Texas Observer, has an obituary -- but the site's experiencing capacity problems as I post this, so good luck reading it. QUICK UPDATE: The Associated Press collects some of her quips; Molly's editor reminisces; and even Shrub (as she called him) weighs in on Molly Ivins.

I met Molly Ivins for the first time in 1992 at a student journalism convention in Houston. This was right after the publication of her book, Molly Ivins Can't Say That, Can She? The political columnist spoke to us about how the media obsessed too much over politicians' personal lives -- I recall her talking about how she once saw John Tower so drunk he was face-down in a bowl of chili, but that didn't stop him from being an effective politician. What I remember even more, however, is when she and several other journalism professionals retired to the hotel bar and swapped war stories, as we wide-eyed students sat and listend.

Molly Ivins made an appearance down in the Rio Grande Valley a couple of years ago, at a fundraiser at Cine El Rey. Before the event, at a meet-and-greet at a nearby club, she made her way to all the tables and introduced herself to everyone in the room. Very gracious.

She influenced me in my journalism, making me realize that I shouldn't be afraid to call bullshit when I saw it -- and that colorful prose is more effective than the usual bland newspaperese.

I ran her columns in The Monitor when I was opinion editor, and boy she knew how to piss off people. Damn, I'll miss her attitude and her perspective.

Rest in Peace, Molly.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007


Here's something from a couple of weeks ago that you might find interesting:

U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales tours the border and announces a law enforcement grant for South Texas. As a reader pointed out, the AG addressed and discounted concerns about terrorists infiltrating the United States via the southern border, a claim the hysterical anti-immigrant crowd loves to make.
Gonzales, who was born in San Antonio, also responded to media reports that Middle Eastern terrorists were training to cross the southern border illegally into the United States. The possibility of terrorists sneaking through the Mexican border is a concern, but there's no specific or credible intelligence to say it is happening, he said. [emphasis added]
Cue NewsChannel 5's Will Ripley, who mentions the $300,000 grant but then, about a minute-and-a-half into the broadcast report about the visit, invokes "Homeland Security" and asks Gonzales if he thinks there's a real danger of terrorists sneaking across the border. "We are concerned about terrorists coming into our country."

But as my correspondent pointed out, the TV station ended the sound bite and omitted the part about "no specific or credible intelligence to say it is happening." To quote the reader (who will remain anonymous until I hear otherwise):
Ripley cut the AG's sentence in half to feed the terror monster he created.
Of course, this isn't the first time Rio Grande Valley broadcasters tried to grab viewers by crying "Terrorist!" Remember that South African woman arrested at the McAllen airport? TV made a huge deal about the "suspected al Qaida operative" right here at home. Turns out there was no connection to any terrorist groups.

So take what television reporters (or print journalists -- or bloggers, for that matter) tell you with a grain of salt.