Fort Hood On My Mind – Again

A view of the 1st Cav Museum, Ft. Hood, Texas

A HWWMV (left) and US armored personnel carrier at the 1st Cav Museum, Ft. Hood, Texas. Image credit: Adam Bartlett/Wikimedia

It was a few years ago that I last wrote about Fort Hood, Texas. That, too was because an armed person went on a rampage there. I spent considerable time during the 1980s and 1990s in that area, and have visited several times since. That makes it extra hard to read something like this:

CBS News identified the shooter as Ivan Lopez, 34.

He was reportedly in uniform at the time of the shooting.

Fort Hood has confirmed the shooting, but has issued little other information.

“Fort Hood’s Directorate of Emergency Services has an initial report that a shooter is dead but this is unconfirmed,” the post said in an updated statement at around 6:30 p.m.

The Associated Press earlier quoted a U.S. law enforcement official as saying the suspected gunman is believed to be dead.

Some of the wounded were taken to Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center on post and others to Scott & White Hospital in Temple.

Four Dead And 14 Injured In Fort Hood Shooting

It’s still early, so there are conflicting reports about what happened. At the moment, I don’t even take that death toll seriously. When the news agencies and officials have a chance to double check things, then we can believe what we’re told. On Twitter today, someone posted this handy checklist of how to treat early reports of an incident like this, where people are frightened and they and the news are taken by surprise:
Image credit: On The Media (PDF)

Image credit: On The Media (PDF)

This is why I won’t write anything more than to extend my condolences to the families and friends of the victims.

UPDATE/Afterword: Apparently, another person with a gun is loose at Kent State University, Ohio. All that seems to be known at this point is that at least one shot was fired, and the campus is locked down.

Hopefully, this will be all the damage from that incident.


A Peek At “First Look”

printing press of the Tombstone Epitaph

The first printing press of the Tombstone Epitaph, Tombstone, Arizona.

Image credit: Cujo359

Glenn Greenwald posted an article today at his blog that is a response to a reader who had e-mailed him about concerns regarding the NSA documents and the journalism venture he intends to become a part of, First Look. I had not heard the name of this organization before, so that’s either news or a refresher for those of us who didn’t catch it the first time around.

Besides the name of the new organization, he noted:

  • First Look will be a nonprofit organization, designed, in his words, to “encourage, support and empower – rather than undermine, dilute and neuter – independent, adversarial journalists”. “.

  • Neither Greenwald nor the other journalists with whom he was discussing new news ventures, Jeremy Scahill and Laura Poitras, are partners in First Look, “in any legal or financial way”.

  • Laura Poitras has a complete copy of the NSA documents provided by Edward Snowden. In addition, other major news outlets have “tens of thousands” of those documents between them.

On the NSA documents, he wrote:

[I]n his Washington Post interview with Snowden last month, Bart Gellman noted “Snowden’s insistence, to this reporter and others, that he does not want the documents published in bulk.” From the start, Snowden indeed repeatedly insisted on that.

Anyone who demands that we “release all documents” – or even release large numbers in bulk – is demanding that we violate our agreement with our source, disregard the framework we created when he gave us the documents, jeopardize his interests in multiple ways, and subject him to far greater legal (and other) dangers. I find that demand to be unconscionable, and we will never, ever violate our agreement with him no matter how many people want us to.

Email exchange with reader over First Look and NSA reporting

There is not likely to be a document dump similar to the Wikileaks dump of the documents Chelsea (formerly PFC Bradley) Manning provided them. Some folks will be upset about that, I suppose, but I don’t see much good that will result from such a thing. Certainly, there’s nothing that could outweigh the fallout from that alternative.

Of course, there’s plenty of time for disillusionment, but I think the idea of First Look is one of the most exciting things to come along in journalism in years. If that $250 million in funding Greenwald mentions is treated as an endowment, it can support several journalists plus a staff of editors and researchers. With added support from readers and advertising, it could be considerably more.

There’s lots more. It’s a Glenn Greenwald column, after all. So grab a cup of coffee and head on over.

Quote Of The Day

From an interesting Politico article on people who left the Washington, DC area after having been at least somewhat successful there, comes this quote:

“I spent the better part of 10 years camped in the nation’s Capitol and, toward the end, I just felt like I was suffocating,” said Mark McKinnon, a political strategist who worked on George W. Bush’s presidential campaigns and who hightailed it out of town for Austin, Texas, and Blue River, Colo., a few years ago. “I felt like I was becoming part of the problem and had to get away.”

We should note, the exiles who spoke to POLITICO also had some nice things to say about D.C.

“I learned a lot, and met a lot of great people,” McKinnon said. “But, it’s a human microwave. And if you stay long, you’re going to fry a lot of brain cells and melt some of your humanity. It becomes a game and you become a player in the game.”

D.C. exiles: Leaving ‘This Town’

That’s the sort of nice thing people say about our nation’s capitol? Read the rest of the article and you’ll probably see why. A “human microwave” seems an apt description. I’ve wondered more than once how John Kerry could go from being the guy who asked how we can ask someone to be the last man who died for a mistake, and then voted to authorize the Iraq War. A turnabout like that makes me wonder if the man has any conscience left at all. He’s certainly not alone in that department in DC.

I’d suggest reading the whole article. While it’s not long on explanation, it does show what people say about the place once they’ve left it.

The Future Of Journalism?

Even with this nose, sometimes the crystal ball provides a clear view.

“Answer unclear”? Not this time. Image credit: Mashup of this picture and this one by Cujo359.

It’s been official for a day or so now, as The New York Times reports:

The Washington Post, the newspaper whose reporting helped topple a president and inspired a generation of journalists, is being sold for $250 million to the founder of, Jeffrey P. Bezos, in a deal that has shocked the industry.

Donald E. Graham, chairman and chief executive of The Washington Post Company, and the third generation of the Graham family to lead the paper, told the staff about the sale late Monday afternoon. They had gathered together in the newspaper’s auditorium at the behest of the publisher, Katharine Weymouth, his niece.

“I, along with Katharine Weymouth and our board of directors, decided to sell only after years of familiar newspaper-industry challenges made us wonder if there might be another owner who would be better for the Post (after a transaction that would be in the best interest of our shareholders),” Mr. Graham said in a written statement.

Bezos, Amazon’s Founder, to Buy The Washington Post

Taylor Marsh reacted to this news this way:

REACTIONARY negativity against Jeff Bezos buying the Washington Post is founded on ignorance of necessity being the mother of reinvention.

No one knows what the future will bring for the Washington Post under Jeff Bezos, but the imperative for Don Graham to do something radical to save the brand his family built was serious.

Washington Post Buy by Bezos Signals New Era

Some of which, at least, is true. The Washington Post and other newspapers have been seeing their markets shrink for years. Some of that is their own fault, and some of it has to do with how the Internet has changed both the availability and cost of information. So yes, there was definitely a need for some radical change here. Unfortunately, not all change is good, and when its agent has the track record Jeff Bezos has, the likely result is all too predictable.

So I’ll take a wild stab at a prediction, based on things like this Twitter message yesterday from David Dayen:

This isn’t uniquely Bezos’ strategy for dealing with new acquisitions, but it reveals that he’s no better than average in that department.

I stopped doing business with Amazon a long time ago, more than a decade now. The issue back then was their bogus claim that the “one click” feature of their site was worthy of a patent. The patent was granted, mind you, but it was nonsense anyway. That patent, though, gave Amazon a distinct advantage over its competition. What Bezos seems to know about the Internet is how to use a compliant court system to put the competition at a disadvantage. That doesn’t bode well if you are hoping for a higher quality product out of the Washington Post.

No doubt I’d have gotten over that issue by now, but Amazon keeps giving me new reasons to avoid using them, like this business I alluded to previously. It’s not just the 110° F (43° C) heat that should be a concern, but the dehumanizing conditions that helped make such days possible.

This doesn’t bode well for the WaPo, either. Granted, the workers at that factory were mostly unskilled laborers, but treating workers this way doesn’t encourage worker retention. Becoming a journalist, like becoming any sort of professional, takes education, skill, and time. If your employees only stick around long enough to pick up a skill and then go elsewhere, you are going to have quality issues. When your product’s sales potential is based on the reputation of those workers, that’s doubly a problem.

That’s why I feel safe in predicting that whatever happens to the Washington Post, it won’t be good for the paper as a source of journalism, nor will it be good for those of us who want it to be one.