Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Gordon's Brown's biggest challenge: dumb BBC reporters

Given the news of the day at 10 Downing Street, I thought this excerpt from a 2006 email expresses my feelings perfectly.
I wish I'd thought of adding this earlier!
Wednesday June 28th, 2006

After reading this article from Der Spiegel, I couldn't pass up the chance to send it along, while reminding you of a prior email of mine from April regarding the myriad ups-and-downs of the
Tony Blair-Gordon Brown relationship, and how one of the BBC's Wash. correspondents, Katty Kay seems intent on becoming, singlehandedly, a one-woman mis-information bureau.
So you DON'T make the mistake in the future of putting any stock in what she says, here's an updated version of that earlier email.

On NPR's Diane Riehm Show as well as on CNBC/syndicated Chris Matthews Show on weekends, Kay's constantly popping off about things she doesn't have any firm knowledge of, making the kind of banal comments that while uncomfortable enough to hear if uttered over the holidays by a visiting, know-it-all relative, almost certainly ought to get you dis-invited permanently from future gabfests of professional journalists.
After listening to her last year -perhaps one time too many- I was tempted to send an email to the DR Show's producers about her, saying simply:
Repeating something you read in The Economist isn't analysis, it's merely repetition, and an obvious repition at that; have the good manners to give credit for the material you 'borrow.'

Last October 2nd, on their excellent Panorama show, I listened to a great one-hour profile of Gordon Brown on BBC Radio that surpasses anything I've ever heard or seen on any American politician by the U.S. media.

I've certainly heard more than my share of slanted programming on the BBC over the years, but this profile, titled "Brown's Miracle Economy," almost made up for it, since it was all the things I wish the American TV cablenets here were:
informative, humorous, and full of interesting anecdotes from people who really know Brown in-depth, both supporters and critics, not just journos trying to ingratiate themself, like so much of
John McCain's media herd, ie. Boys on the Bus II!.

Yes, I still remember watching the Chicago Tribune's James Warren at the McCain "Straight Talk Express" public rally in downtown Alexandria with some friends, and seeing that Warren and another reporter friend -perhaps the Trib's Steve Daley?- even brought their kids to the event.

At that event, I spent about 10 minutes chatting on a bench with a very nice and friendly woman before the McCain bus and entourage showed up in all its red, white and blue glory.
She was too modest to tell me -before it dawned on me- that she was actually John McCain's sister-in-law.
As it happens, I voted for John McCain in the 2000 Virginia Primary since Al Gore didn't have any competition on the Democratic side and who wants to vote for someone unopposed?
Certainly not me!

(Just so you know, in keeping with my DLC tendencies, I voted for Gore over Mike Dukakis in the 1988 Florida primary, which I did just before kissing my Mom goodbye and driving up to DC for good, listening to the results of Super Tuesday on the radio as I drove up the East Coast, hearing the excuses and alibis of local, state and national candidates I'd never heard of, as I made my way thru the absurdly long state Florida, pecan-loving rest stops in Georgia, the come-hither appeal of South of the Border in the Carolinas and numerous road tolls in The Dominion.)

That's why I've voted for myself before since moving to South Florida, for congress in 2006, since I see the incumbent congressman, Kendrick Meek, as such an unappealing and intellectual lightweight for reasons that I can't get fully into here but which are numerous and instructive.

[SouthBeachHoosier readers-
I will have some very critical posts on Meek in the next few days that I've had in draf form for many months, pre-dating the current heat he's catching now due to the Miami Herald finally disclosing the particular involvement of him and his mother, Carrie, the previous rep for my district, in securing county and federal housing funds.
Yes, I live in his CD despite the fact that I live less than two miles from the beach in Broward County, unlike other fellow congressional constituents who live in Liberty City, Overtown, Opa-Locka and Miami Gardens in Miami-Dade County, which is, after all, why they call it gerrymandering, oui?

The area immediately East of me is actually represnted by a woman whom I loathe even more than I dislike Meek, a woman whose CD is located 99% west of me, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, another longtime bete noire of mine, as you'll soon see, due to her tendency to comfort the affluent and powerful in her CD, and her attempt to become some sort of young & female Jewish political superstar of the sort that other congressmen and women like to have show up at their fundraising events across the country, even though she's little more than a run-of-the-mill rep herself, since my younger sister is represented by her.
You may know DWS better for giving -along with Meek and Rep. Ryan of Ohio- highly partisan and predictable speeches -poorly- in the well of the House at midnight, when you're waiting for the regularly scheduled tape of a program you missed earlier on C-SPAN.

The Meeks involvement in an aspect of the greater South Florida public housing scnadal that threatens to lead to the feds actually taking over the county's program because of criminal neglect, is but a small part of what the Herald's Debbie Cenzipper the Pulizer Prize just a few weeks ago. As you'll recall, the herald kept it on the downn-low that she was leaving for the washington Post and had signed to do so even before she was finsihed with her series.]

The Panorama program went into great detail about Brown's many personal and political failings, specifically, his demonstrated lack of the retail political touch that Blair & Clinton have mastered, which, to be fair, is uncommon.
More to the point, though, they examined how that particular deficiency would play itself out to a British public that, whether they liked Blair now or not, had, in fact, gotten quite used to Tony Blair's natural quick wit and wonk brain, not to mention, his sense of ease among voters and
his unusually close personal relationships with Clinton and Bush 43, even when they disagreed over specific policies.
It's an advantage(!) to be represented by someone who doesn't stumble over the English language, as former Ball State Cardinal and native Hoosier David Letterman consciously points out in his running feature on Bush-speak.
Those aren't easily replicated genes.

[This latter point was brought home to me last year, when a college friend of mine, now living in Notting Hill, sent me a DVD of all the 2005 British political TV ads.
I saw for myself how utterly stiff Brown was in comparison with Blair, never more so than in the Labour Party's big TV ad right before the election, with the two of them seated around a table talking.
(This was when the British public's desire to know when Blair would resign was literally at a fever pitch.)
The side-by-side comparison with Blair did Brown no favors, as some political analysts even suggested that Brown's disquieting appearance in the ad was at least partly responsible for some losses in traditional Labour strongholds.
In short, Brown gets in the door, but he doesn't close the sale.

The best TV political ad I saw was the Conservative Party's, built around their "Are You Thinking What We're Thinking" slogan, featuring normal working-class women and youth of different cultures and backgrounds, talking about seizing the opportunities that Britain offers, and a willingness to work hard and 'play by the rules' for life's rewards -and expecting others to do the same.
I was literally speechless after seeing it.

If I'm any judge, they were exactly the sort of ads that DLC Dems should be using in places like Tenn., N.C. or the Midwest, among other places -but aren't and won't.
In short, the sort of ad that if Harold Ford wasn't Harold Ford, might actually help him in that Tenn. Senate race that he'll probably lose, but which a smart and engaging John Edwards should and could've used before but can't now because he's damaged goods, rather than
continuing to rely on his divisive 'two Americas' spiel.
Or maybe I'm simply 'projecting' the sort of national Democratic Party I want to be able to vote for again -some day.]

A few days after hearing the BBC broadcast, which I taped, I heard Kay saying things that ran counter to what the BBC program had explained in depth, but naturally, as is so often the case, none of the other panelists were brave enough to correct her mistakes.
Then, in late December, on the Matthews CNBC panel show, when asked to survey the political landscape and go out on a limb and name a dark horse newsmaker for 2006, she said, yes, that's right: "Barack Obama."
Wow, naming someone that's already been on the cover of Newsweek?
Way to go out on a limb!
Conclusion: Katty Kay's no expert!
Consider yourselves warned!
SPIEGEL ONLINE - June 27, 2006, 05:57 PMURL:,1518,423811,00.html
Britain's Eternal Second-in-Command Slowly, Gordon Is Growing Impatient with Tony Blair
By Thomas Hüetlin in London

Tony Blair is more unpopular than ever. He's promised to hand over the reins to Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown, but so far it's been an empty promise. Meanwhile, the prime minister's political rival is growing increasingly impatient.
It's noon at London's Heathrow Airport as Gordon Brown strides into the world's largest passenger airplane with the confident gait of a former rugby player. His chest pumped up to full capacity, his jaw as square as a brick, his hair characteristically unkempt, Brown, surrounded by his entourage, strolls through the Airbus A380 towards the cockpit and sits down in the pilot's seat. "Do you like the feeling of sitting in the leadership position?" someone asks. Brown, his mouth twisting into a smile, responds: "I'm here, but no one has awarded me my pilot's license yet."
Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair, left, and Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown
The next day, the British Chancellor of the Exchequer once again finds himself near an important button. At a ceremony to open a new underwater stage at Pinewood Studios, Brown flicks a switch and a blue VW Golf is dropped into a swimming pool. As it sinks, he jokes: "What a wonderful sensation of power -- not exactly what one has as Chancellor of the Exchequer."
All too obvious allusions and making himself the butt of jokes are currently the only way Brown is able to publicly put British voters, the Labour Party and the most powerful man in the country on notice that he has served long enough as the government's second-in-command. He wants the top job, finally, the job at Number 10 Downing Street.
Brown has waited more than 12 years to become the charismatic Tony Blair's successor. But the time never seemed right for Blair, who repeatedly postponed the decision -- most recently ahead of his third election victory, when he promised not to run for prime minister a fourth time if voted into office. But with each new day in which Brown is once again confronted with his powerlessness, he seems more and more like an eternal second-in-command.
Fixated on the idea that the process of political erosion plaguing his Labour Party can only be stopped with him at the helm, Blair is playing for time. Opinion polls have the governing party seven percentage points behind the opposition Conservatives. The prime minister hopes that his reform program will help him regain the confidence of voters, especially among the upwardly mobile middle classes in southern and central England. His only remaining asset in this campaign for voter support is a self-confidence bordering on ignorance. To boost his own profile, Blair has offered his Chancellor of the Exchequer a new compromise -- one intended to bring Brown a bit closer to his goal. Blair has said that he will guarantee his successor a "stable and orderly transition," one that gives Brown sufficient time "to establish himself." But when does he plan to resign? No comment. "Announcing such a date," says one Labour member of parliament (MP), displaying a typically British fondness of warlike metaphors, "would be just as crazy as announcing the day on which Allied forces landed in Normandy."
An especially malicious facet of Blair's amorphous promise was his remark that Brown "will be absolutely New Labour to his fingertips." Brown has remained deferential, as he was last week when, to the dismay of Labour's left wing, he called for a revamping of Britain's nuclear weapons program. Should the Chancellor of the Exchequer deviate from this position in the future, Blair could threaten to withdraw his support for Brown becoming his successor.


Graphic: Blair's Descent
The prospect of succeeding Blair isn't Brown's only driving force. He is also motivated by the experiences of his childhood in Kirkcaldy, a small industrial city on the west coast of Scotland and, more specifically, in the town's St. Brycedale Church. In his sermons, Brown's father, who was a pastor at the church, often preached that the individual is insignificant, that the individual must serve the community and that the individual has a duty to make the world a less unjust place through hard work.
This was no abstract set of virtues during Brown's childhood, but bitter reality. The sick, the poor and the needy -- the casualties of a dying industrial town whose goods were no longer in demand and whose linoleum factories were wasting away -- sought comfort and protection at the St. Brycedale parsonage. "You can quickly discover the meaning of life and death there," says Brown, who was born in 1951, referring to his childhood home.
He entered the university in fashionable Edinburgh at 16, but he also dreamed of a career as a football or rugby player. Less than a year later, retinal detachment almost cost him his sight in both eyes. The ambitious young student was forced to spend six months lying in a dark room, without books and filled with apprehension. Doctors saved one eye and he became blind in the other. From then on, Brown's smile seemed to have lost a bit of its brightness.
He joined the Labour Party, where he soon developed a reputation as an oddball, dressed in his grimy Burberry coat, constantly dragging around plastic bags filled with pamphlets, newspaper clippings and notes, and always arriving too late, because even in the hinterlands 24 hours simply couldn't contain a typical Brown day. Once, when his apartment was burglarized, a police officer remarked that he had never experienced such an act of pointless vandalism in his 30 years of service. A baffled Brown glanced at the chaos and said: "Why? It looks perfectly normal to me."

A political marriage
The "Granita" Restaurant isn't exactly the setting where one would propose marriage -- or any other sort of long-term union. It's a Spartan type of place, with its concrete walls, plain chairs, bright lights and straightforward menu. On May 31, 1994, Tony Blair was sitting at a table near the back of the room, waiting for Gordon Brown. The meeting lasted an hour, and when it ended the two men had sealed a pact matched only by the locale in its merciless sense of clarity.
After the death of Labour leader John Smith, both men were in fact interested in the position of party leader. But Brown backed down when Blair offered him the position of Chancellor of the Exchequer in the event of a Labour victory, along with the assurance that the position would be configured to enable Brown to control not only the country's economic direction, but also the government's domestic and social policy.
Blair, born in 1953, is also said to have assured his friend and adversary that Brown would succeed him at Downing Street after two successful terms. The next day, Brown, only slightly devoid of his characteristic glumness, announced: "I believe that Tony Blair can lead us to an election victory."
The two men had met 11 years earlier, Blair as an MP for Sedgefield and Brown as a newly elected MP for his district, Dumfermline. The junior MPs shared a windowless office in Westminster, where they soon realized that Labour would have to change dramatically for the party to stand any chance of not being plowed under for decades by then-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's conservative revolution. The manifesto that had just sealed a death warrant for leading leftist candidate Michael Foot -- an absurd tome containing a national five-year platform and plans for a massive redistribution of wealth -- had been lampooned in the press as the "longest suicide note in English history."

The birth of New Labour
The innovators sensed that replacing the red flag with a red rose as Labour's trademark wouldn't be the most promising approach to overhauling the party. They began to make friends with the left's worst enemy, capitalism. The philosophy of New Labour, attractively packaged under the slogan "The Third Way," gradually developed into a sensation.
"Capitalism has won," Brown would tell his former class enemies in the mid-1990s in the countless meetings New Labour initiated at the London Stock Exchange. "We have learned our lesson, and we will not return to Old Labour. We are closer to the Democrats in America than to Europe's socialists."
The two rebels quickly became known as "blood brothers" and "twins." Brown -- who with his student politics, his experience working on party committees and his theoretical writings, came from a complex political background -- became the duo's thinker. Blair, who could give a carnival barker a run for his money, became the orator.
"Whenever a party member had a meeting with Brown, he would return with a look of concern on his face, insisting that he would have to brush up on his political literature next time," says a Labour MP, describing the duo's effect on people. "Those who met with Blair would return with shining eyes, raving over how clever and what a good listener Blair was, and would insist that they had managed to give Blair some important suggestions."
The Tony and Gordon Show began. On the one side was gloomy bachelor Brown, who would advise his respective girlfriends to keep the relationship secret, and on the other was Blair, the charming family man, who had no qualms over discussing his favorite cars and pop bands in a Cosmopolitan interview. On the one side was Brown, who despised small talk, and on the other was Blair, who could easily make conversation with even the most boring people -- as long as it served his purposes.

The most powerful exchequer in history
The natural consequence of this division of labor was that Blair captured the top job in 1997 and Brown became the most powerful Chancellor of the Exchequer in British history. In Britain, the finance ministry, or Her Majesty's Treasury, initially collects 95 percent of taxes, essentially giving the Chancellor of the Exchequer control over other ministries. Nothing works in Britain without Brown, from pensions to child poverty programs to investments in the country's healthcare and education system. And even opponents admit that after nine years, Brown's performance -- including almost three percent annual growth, supporting the longest economic boom in British history, low unemployment of about five percent, low inflation and a remarkably stable currency -- has been nothing short of spectacular. Although Britain's debts are growing, the country is currently in a better position financially than most of its G8 counterparts.
Precisely because of this successful economic record, Brown sees Europe mainly as a decrepit entity sorely in need of rehabilitation, and despite the fact that Brown flashed quite a few smiles -- by his standards -- during a recent visit to Berlin and praised Germany's efforts to reform economically, he remains fundamentally skeptical when it comes to the European continent. When Blair indicated an openness to the euro three years ago, it was Brown who presented a 1,738-page study explaining why such a move would be ill-advised.

The relationship between these blood brothers has become porous over time. Some Labour MPs feel that Brown essentially never forgave Blair for the "Granita" pact. To this day, they say, he sees it as a theft that robbed him of a job for which he had spent 30 years working his way through the small print of political life. By the spring of 2004, when the prime minister, weakened by the Iraq war, indicated that he would soon make way for Brown and then backtracked six months later, the words Brown allegedly shouted at Blair would characterize their relationship from then one: "Whatever you tell me in the future, I won't believe a word you say."
Insiders report that Brown's mistrust is beginning to reveal open signs of contempt when, for example, he takes his time responding to a Blair request for the latest figures from his annual budget.
Nevertheless, Brown plans to continue pursuing his rise to the top, a goal that even prevents him from growing weary of praising Blair, now his best enemy, as "the most successful Labour leader the party has ever had."
In public appearances, Brown is also making a visible effort to shed his public persona of the gloomy Rottweiler keeping watch over the British economy. Thanks to his marriage to PR consultant Sarah Macaulay -- the couple was married shortly before his 50th birthday -- Brown now wears purple instead of his trademark blood-red ties, steadfastly kisses his young son's head for the cameras and even admitted recently to having loaded the latest summer hit by northern English neo-punk band The Arctic Monkeys, "I bet you look good on the dance floor," onto his iPod.
As long as Brown doesn't make the mistake of stepping onto a dance floor himself, he can still hope that he'll be prime minister in the end. And when? Whenever it suits Tony Blair, something that not even a blood brother will be able to change.

Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan

© SPIEGEL ONLINE 2006All Rights ReservedReproduction only allowed with the permission of SPIEGELnet GmbH

Washington Post's eternal problem with female sportswriters

In looking for the WaPo articles I posted yesterday about the effort to bring MLB to Northern Virginia, I happened to come across an email I sent some friends about my own particular take over the problems that were then -and still- plaguing the Washington Post.
The short excerpt below is about their eternal & elusive search for a quality female sports reporter or columnist who'd actually stay in sports, and NOT migrate to other sections of the paper, notably, the Style section.
(Or, recognize a vacuum in the media sports world and make like Christine Brennan - -and leave for USA Today, while simultaneously becoming a ubiquitous, omnipresent author, media expert & star on figure skating -a sports I'm pretty knowledgable about- leaving the Post in the rear-view mirror.
Personally, I'm sort of hot-and-cold on Christine as a writer, as her good stuff is extremely good, but it's a little too infrequent for me, but I seem to be in a minority since she's still toiling at USA Today, which gives her a great national perch and the latitude to do speeches and make personal appearances.
Her USAT columns are at

The Style section has long been the golden section of the Post where writers really get the license to write in detail about subjects and personalities that they're curious about.
Or, more to the Post's p.o.v. -and the way that things are and branded in Washington- hope you'll first hear about in its pages.
It's where, literally one or two very good pieces gets you the kind of attention that leads to you getting in Vanity Fair, GQ or Esquire.
Or, in Rachel Nichols' unique situation, the Post was so desperate to keep her -so that they'd have more than zero females- at the newspaper as a reporter (she's been the beat reporter covering the Capitals hockey team among others), they even let her write about the team while living in New York for weeks and months on end.
Naturally, she repaid their bending over backwards by jumping to ESPN, despite only being very, very average.
Thursday Sept. 22, 2005

The author of this okay-not-great piece, Linda Robertson, is the very good Miami Herald reporter that I really hoped the Washington Post would hire a few years ago during one of WaPo Sports Editor George Solomon's occasional "there aren't enough women in the sports dept." harangues, wherein the Post, supposedly, would conduct a national talent search for a talented female Sports writer.
But the first rule for the Post is always raid your competitors first, addition by subtraction, so instead of having a real national search for a much-needed infusion of talent and fresh air, they hired away Jennifer Frey from the New York Times, as hinted at by The Washingtonian magazine.
How utterly predictable!

As soon as I read her first few columns, I knew in no time at all, she'd be angling for the Style section as soon as she got a desk on 15th Street, N.W.
It was no time at all before Frey's name started appearing frequently in the Style section and not at all in sports section.
My prescience proved crystal clear, witness this June 9th, 2001 set-up:

Focus on a Rarer Beauty:Former Fashion Photographer Views
Albinism Through a New Lens
By Jennifer Frey
Washington Post Staff Writer

She was standing at a bus stop on Park Avenue, all white-blond hair and pale, pale skin and giggly smiles. She had to be about 13, or not much older. Rick Guidotti, high-fashion photographer, a man who spent his days snapping Cindy and Claudia and Kate, remembers looking at the girl and thinking: "Now, that is beauty. So much life. So much happiness. That girl is gorgeous."

This time though, the Orioles beleagured bullpen held on...

I started noticing more and more often that Rachel Nichols, a very average writer in my opinion, but someone with a real talent for acting like every 50/60-ish male sportswriter's dream of a sports-loving niece -i.e. "Uncle Tony" Kornheiser!- started only doing big events like Wimbledon and the French Open and, insidiously, becoming an ESPN insider.
She still had no original insight to speak of when asked questions, but that didn't stop her from constantly being asked to comment.
Understand, I don't mind the clearly ambitious, as long as they bring something to the party, that isn't already there, but doesn't genuine talent and experience count for anything?
Five minutes after reading Nichols or listening to her, I couldn't remember anything of note she'd said or written. Zero.
(Certainly not like the situation with former Hoosier Jason Whitlock, who says things so interesting that you're thinking about them days later when you least expect it.)

Everytime I look at the Post sports section now, albeit online from South Florida, I ask myself, >
The Post could use a Maureen Dowd-type, STAT!!!
Miami Herald
Posted on Thu, Sep. 22, 2005
Wuerffel searching for children he mentored

Danny Wuerffel is trying to find a boy named Heath.
And a boy named Walter, and a boy named Kevin, and Kevin's mother, and a boy named Choicy, and Choicy's siblings.
They could be anywhere from Utah to North Carolina. They could be dead.
They should be home, but home is the drowned city of New Orleans. They should be in school, but their school is submerged. They should be playing football, but instead they are scattered who knows where. Or worse.
Wuerffel, the quarterback turned missionary, is frantically searching for the families who lived in the Desire housing project. Until Hurricane Katrina devastated the poorest section of the poorest major city in the United States, Wuerffel was development director of Desire Street Ministries and the Desire Street Academy for boys.
That's Desire as in A Streetcar Named Desire, Tennessee Williams' play. Now, just like Blanche DuBois, Wuerffel is dependent on the kindness of strangers as he organizes a temporary boarding school in the Florida Panhandle, finds housing for the evacuees and raises money to keep the ministry solvent in the short term and to rebuild in the long term.
''It seems overwhelming, when I think of all the work to be done,'' he said from his cellphone a few days ago while driving to Gainesville. ``These are the times when we learn the difference between wants and needs. We lost everything, but not our spirit.''
The same traits that distinguished Wuerffel as a Heisman Trophy winner at the University of Florida are serving him now. In the middle of turmoil, he is a calm leader.
''Nothing hardly ever rattles Danny Wuerffel,'' said his former coach, Steve Spurrier, during a conference call last week from South Carolina. ``He has such a sincere belief in God that things will work out.''
But Wuerffel admits he has wept often since the hurricane uprooted half a million people. Sometimes he cries at 3 a.m., when he can't sleep. ''I picture how people suffered, how they died, the fear and the chaos, and it makes me very sad,'' he said.
Sometimes he cries when he's on the phone and can't get the answers he seeks. Sometimes when he visits churches or shelters and can't comfort the homeless. Sometimes when he's in his car and can't get his mind off the lost boys. Heath was an eighth grader at the academy, a sweet, undaunted kid. Wuerffel paid for his scholarship.

''We've had no word on Heath,'' said Wuerffel, who has located about 60 percent of the 192 boys enrolled in the academy. ``My heart will be broken if we don't find him.''
Wuerffel's house was flooded to the ceiling. A friend paddled by it in a boat five days ago and reported that the water had receded to five feet. Wuerffel lived a block from the 17th Street Canal levee that was breached. He and wife Jessica, 21-month-old son Jonah and their dog Chester fled in their car with only a few changes of clothes, some pictures, a video camera, vital documents, two pillows and a Bible. They rode out the storm in Natchez, Miss., and are now staying at his parents' home in Destin.
His alma mater has lent a hand. The university donated $50,000 from TV proceeds of the Gators' first football game, and is allowing Wuerffel to use a camping area on university land near Niceville for the academy. Wuerffel hopes to round up as many students as possible and resume school next week. With any luck, they could put together a football team. They were a week away from beginning their first high school season in New Orleans on Aug. 29 when the storm hit.
At the moment there are no textbooks, let alone uniforms, but, as always, Wuerffel sees the silver lining. The boys will be under the ministry's supervision 24 hours a day whereas back home they were often returning to unstable households and the temptations of drug dealers.
Wuerffel's faith has been tested. But he clings to hope the way his neighbors clung to their chimneys.
''On the one hand there's a sense of loss, but also an unexplainable confidence because people are experiencing the love of others in incredible ways,'' he said. ``Ultimately, God is doing something good. My sorrow, my joy -- all the emotions have done nothing but draw me closer to God.''
Wuerffel, 31, chose the road less taken.
He seemed too sensitive for the brutal game of football. Whenever the Gators scored and everyone else went berserk, Wuerffel clasped his hands in prayer and glanced heavenward with a beatific smile. He was nicknamed Danny Wonderful.
His greatest glory as a player occurred in the Superdome, in the 1997 Sugar Bowl, when he led the Gators to the school's only national title in a 52-20 rout of Florida State.
But he found his greatest fulfillment in a different part of New Orleans -- the forgotten and forsaken part.
Wuerffel first heard about pastor Mo Leverett's church when he was a rookie backup for the NFL's Saints. One day he went to have a look at the Ninth Ward neighborhood. He figured the dilapidated apartment buildings were condemned and vacant. Then he saw a little girl carrying a doll walk out a front door.
''I realized people were actually living there and it shocked me,'' he said of the project.
Two years ago he left behind a life of plenty and privilege as a pro athlete and immersed himself in the impoverished community. He and Jessica, a former social worker, have seen the ministry grow. Desire Street built the school, a gym and a pediatric clinic.
All are underwater now.
The people who had the least were punished the most. Kids who had one parent have none to take care of them. Small businessmen who struggled to break even are wiped out.
While most of America gaped in horror at the scenes of desperation on rooftops and degradation in the Superdome, Wuerffel was not surprised.
''Our families deal with neglect and violence and hunger year-round, but it doesn't make the news,'' he said. ``We have a serious problem in the inner cities of our country. It can't be quarantined. It spills outward. This time everyone could see it on national TV.''
In the aftermath, at the juncture of blame and emptiness, Wuerffel sees hope. Where others saw blight, he saw a little girl carrying a doll. Her imagination had not been crushed. Neither has his.
''Katrina actually means cleansing,'' he said. ``We can do greater good than ever before. We can make this place better than it ever was. Katrina can be a catalyst for compassion and change.''
As the floodwaters recede, Wuerffel acknowledges he's up against a society in which most Americans will turn their attention back to celebrity gossip and Monday Night Football.
Wuerffel isn't giving up. If there's one thing engrained in him from those years in the huddle, it is how to come from behind.

For information on how to help, check

In the Heart of a Great Country, Beats the Soul of Hoosier Nation

In the Heart of a Great Country, Beats the Soul of Hoosier Nation
"In the Heart of a Great Country, Beats the Soul of Hoosier Nation." -South Beach Hoosier, 2007

#IUBB, #bannersix

#IUBB, #bannersix
Assembly Hall, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana; Click photo to see video of Straight No Chaser's version of Back Home Again In Indiana, 2:37
The South Florida I Grew Up In

Excerpts from Joan Didion's Miami, 1987, Simon & Schuster:

In the continuing opera still called, even by Cubans who have now lived the largest part of their lives in this country, el exilo, the exile, meetings at private homes in Miami Beach are seen to have consequences. The actions of individuals are seen to affect events directly. Revolutions and counter-revolutions are framed in the private sector, and the state security apparatus exists exclusively to be enlisted by one or another private player. That this particular political style, indigenous to the Caribbean and to Central America, has now been naturalized in the United States is one reason why, on the flat coastal swamps of South Florida, where the palmettos once blew over the detritus of a dozen failed booms and the hotels were boarded up six months a year, there has evolved since the early New Year's morning in 1959 when Fulgencio Batista flew for the last time out of Havana a settlement of considerable interest, not exactly an American city as American cities have until recently been understood but a tropical capital: long on rumor, short on memory, overbuilt on the chimera of runaway money and referring not to New York or Boston or Los Angeles or Atlanta but to Caracas and Mexico, to Havana and to Bogota and to Paris and Madrid. Of American cities Miami has since 1959 connected only to Washington, which is the peculiarity of both places, and increasingly the warp...

"The general wildness, the eternal labyrinths of waters and marshes, interlocked and apparently neverending; the whole surrounded by interminable swamps... Here I am then in the Floridas, thought I," John James Audobon wrote to the editor of The Monthly American Journal of Geology and Natural Science during the course of an 1831 foray in the territory then still called the Floridas. The place came first, and to touch down there is to begin to understand why at least six administations now have found South Florida so fecund a colony. I never passed through security for a flight to Miami without experiencing a certain weightlessness, the heightened wariness of having left the developed world for a more fluid atmosphere, one in which the native distrust of extreme possibilities that tended to ground the temperate United States in an obeisance to democratic institutions seemed rooted, if at all, only shallowly.

At the gate for such flights the preferred language was already Spanish. Delays were explained by weather in Panama. The very names of the scheduled destinations suggested a world in which many evangelical inclinations had historically been accomodated, many yearnings toward empire indulged...

In this mood Miami seemed not a city at all but a tale, a romance of the tropics, a kind of waking dream in which any possibility could and would be accomodated...
Hallandale Beach Blog

Hallandale Beach Blog is where I try to inject or otherwise superimpose a degree of accountability, transparency and much-needed insight onto local Broward County government and public policy issues, which I feel is sorely lacking in local media now, despite all the technological advances that have taken place since I grew-up in South Florida in the 1970's. On this blog, I concentrate my energy, enthusiasm, anger, disdain and laser-like attention primarily on the coastal cities of Aventura, Hollywood and Hallandale Beach.

IF you lived in this part of South Florida, you'd ALREADY be in stultifying traffic, be paying higher-than-necessary taxes, and be continually musing about the chronic lack of any real accountability or transparency among not only elected govt. officials, but also of City, County and State employees as well. Collectively, with a few rare exceptions, they couldn't be farther from the sort of strong results-oriented, work-ethic mentality that citizens here deserve and are paying for.

This is particularly true in the town I live in, the City of Hallandale Beach, just north of Aventura and south of Hollywood. There, the Perfect Storm of years of apathy, incompetency and cronyism are all too readily apparent.
Sadly for its residents, Hallandale Beach is where even the easily-solved or entirely predictable quality-of-life problems are left to fester for YEARS on end, because of myopia, lack of common sense and the unsatisfactory management and coordination of resources and personnel.

It's a city with tremendous potential because of its terrific location and weather, yet its citizens have become numb to its outrages and screw-ups after years of the worst kind of chronic mismanagement and lack of foresight. On a daily basis, they wake up and see the same old problems again that have never being adequately resolved by the city in a logical and responsible fashion. Instead the city government either closes their eyes and hopes you'll forget the problem, or kicks them -once again- further down the road.

I used to ask myself, and not at all rhetorically, "Where are all the enterprising young reporters who want to show through their own hard work and enterprise, what REAL investigative reporting can produce?"

Hearing no response, I decided to start a blog that could do some of these things, taking the p.o.v. of a reasonable-but-skeptical person seeing the situation for the first time.
Someone who wanted questions answered in a honest and forthright fashion that citizens have the right to expect.

Hallandale Beach Blog intends to be a catalyst for positive change.

Hallandale Beach's iconic beachball-colored Water Tower, between beach and A1A/South Ocean Drive

Hallandale Beach's iconic beachball-colored Water Tower, between beach and A1A/South Ocean Drive
Hallandale Beach, FL; February 16, 2008 photo by South Beach Hoosier

Hollywood in Cartoons, The New Yorker

Hollywood in Cartoons, The New Yorker
"Gentlemen, I am happy to announce that as of today we are closing down our Washington news bureau and moving the entire operation to L.A."

Hollywood in Cartoons, The New Yorker

Hollywood in Cartoons, The New Yorker
"O.K., so I dig a hole and put the bone in the hole. But what's my motivation for burying it?"

Hollywood in cartoons, 10-21-06 Non-Sequitur by Wiley, www-NON-SEQUITUR.COM

Hollywood in cartoons, 10-21-06 Non-Sequitur by Wiley, www-NON-SEQUITUR.COM
The Magic of Hollywood: A motion has been put forth that we should seek to create rather than imitate. All in favor of killing this silly notion, nod in mindless agreement...

Miami Dolphins

Miami Dolphins
South Beach Hoosier's first Dolphin game at the Orange Bowl came in Dec. 1970, aged 9, a 45-3 win over Buffalo that propelled them into their first ever playoff appearance.

Sebastian the Ibis, the Spirited Mascot of the University of Miami Hurricanes

Sebastian the Ibis, the Spirited Mascot of the University of Miami Hurricanes
Before going to my first U-M game at the Orange Bowl in 1972, a friend's father often would bring me home an extra 'Canes game program. That's how I came to have the Alabama at U-M game program from Nov. 16, 1968, which was the first nationally-televised college football night game in color. (A 14-6 loss to the Crimson Tide.) After that first ballgame against Tulane, as l often did for Dolphin games if my father wasn't going, I'd get dropped off at the Levitz parking lot near the 836 & I-95 Cloverleaf in NMB, and catch a Dade County Park & Ride bus, going straight to the Orange Bowl. Onboard, I'd get next to the window and listen to WIOD's pre-game show on my Radio Shack transistor radio. A few times, I was just about the only person onboard besides the bus driver, which was alright by me. Once at the Orange Bowl, if I didn't already have a ticket, I'd buy a game program for myself and one or two for friends or teachers before heading to the ticket window, since you usually couldn't find a program vendor once inside. I probaly had a friend or my father with me for just under 40% of the U-M games I ever went to, but you have to remember that the team, though blessed with several talented players, like Chuck Foreman and Burgess Owens, was just so-so to average at best, and the games were usually played on Friday nights, so it wasn't exactly high on everyone's list of things to do. Depending upon the opponent, if I was alone, I'd often have entire areas of the Orange Bowl to myself. (Wish I had photos of that now!) For instance, I had a good portion of the East (open) End Zone to myself against Oklahoma in the mid-70's, when the Boomer Schooner and the Schooner Crew went out on the field after an Oklahoma TD, and the Schooner received an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty from the refs, as would happen years later in an Orangle Bowl Classic game. (Against FSU?) I was there for the wins and losses under Pete Elliott, Carl Selmer & Lou Saban, and the huge on-field fight in '73 when under eventual national champion Notre Dame (under Ara Parseghian), they called a time-out with less than a minute to go, and already up 37-0. Their rationale? To score another TD and impress the AP football writers; final score 44-0. Well, they got their wish and beat Alabama 24-23 for the title at the Sugar Bowl. A year later, thanks to my Mom's boss, she and I saw Ara's last game as head coach of the Irish in the Orange Bowl Game from the East End Zone -in front of the Alabama cheerleaders!!!- in an exciting 13-11 Notre Dame win over Alabama and Bear Bryant, a rematch of the '73 national title game. I was also present for the U-M's huge 20-15 win under Pete Elliott against Darrel Royal's Texas Longhorns, the week Sports Illustrated's College Football preview issue came out with Texas on the cover, below. I was also present for lots of wins against schools called College of the Pacific, UNLV and Cal-Poly San Luis Obsispo, which I'd then never heard of before.

Miami Dolphins Cheerleaders, April 28, 2007

Miami Dolphins Cheerleaders, April 28, 2007
Photo by Mario J. Bermudez. April 28, 2007 at Dolphins NFL Draft Party at Dolphin HQ, Davie, FL

Of cheerleaders past and present

Given South Florida's unique version of the melting pot -con salsa- demographics and mindset, these women in the photo above are surely what most South Floridians would consider attractive women. But for this observer, who's spent hours & hours at IU cheerleader tryouts and who has known dozens of cheerleaders -and wannabes- in North Miami Beach, Bloomington, Evanston and Washington, D.C., the whole time I was watching these members of the Dolphins' squad perform, I couldn't help but compare them and their routines to those of some IU friends of mine who ALWAYS showed true Hoosier spirit & enthusiasm. Sitting at my table right near the stage and still later, while watching the long lines of Dolphin fans of all ages waiting to snap photos of themselves with the cheerleaders, I couldn't help but think about those friends who always left me and other Hoosier fans feeling positive & optimistic. Was there anyone I saw in Davie who possessed these valuable intangibles: the dancing precision of IU Red Stepper -and Captain- Gail Amster, my talented and spirited Phi Beta Kappa pal from Deerfield (IL), who always sat next to me in our Telecom. classes as we took turns entertaining the other; the ebullient spirit & energy of two Hoosier cheerleaders -and captains- from Bloomington, Wendy (Mulholland) Moyle & Sara Cox; the hypnotic, Midwestern, girl-next-door sexiness of Hoosier cheerleader Julie Bymaster, from Brownsburg; or, the adorable Southern girl-next-door appeal of former Hoosier Pom squader Jennifer Grimes, of Louisville, always such a clear distraction while sitting underneath the basket? Nope, not that I could see. But then they were VERY tough acts to follow!!! And that's not to mention my talented & spirited friends like Denise Andrews of Portage, Jody Kosanovich of Hammond & Linda Ahlbrand of Chesterton, all of whom were dynamic cheerleaders -and captains- at very large Hoosier high schools that were always in the championship mix, with Denise's team winning the Ind. football championship her senior year when she was captain -just like in a movie. That Denise, Jody & Linda all lived on the same dorm floor, just three stories above me at Briscoe Quad our freshman year, was one of the greatest coincidences -and strokes of luck for me!- that I could've ever hoped for. You could hardly ask for better ambassadors of IU than THESE very smart, sweet and talented women. In a future SBH post, I'll tell the story of one of the greatest Hoosiers I ever met, the aforementioned Wendy Mulholland, the Bloomington-born captain and emotional heart of the great early '80's IU cheerleading squads, and the daughter of Jack Mulholland, IU's former longtime Treasurer. The acorn doesn't fall far from a tree built on a foundation of integrity & community service! (After he retired, Mr. Mulholland was the first executive director of the Community Foundation of Bloomington and Monroe County. I used to joke with Wendy that her dad's name was the one that was permanently affixed to the bottom of my work-study checks for years, while I worked at the Dept. of Political Science's Library, first, at the Student Building in the old part of campus, and then later, after it was refurbished, in magnificent Woodburn Hall, my favorite building on campus.) In that future post, I'll share some reflections on Wendy's great strength of character and personality; my intentions of returning to Bloomington a few weeks before Fall '82 classes started, so I could help Wendy train and work-out to rehab her knee, so she'd feel confident in trying-out for the squad again, following a bad knee injury that'd left her physically-unable to try-out for the squad the previous spring, a big disappointment to those of us who cared about both Wendy and the team; my incredulity at, quite literally, running into Wendy while walking down a sidewalk one afternoon a few years later in Evanston, IL, when we were astonished to discover we were both living there, with me trying to hook on with a Windy City advertising agency, and Wendy then-attending Kellogg (KGSM) at Northwestern, right when the WSJ had named Kellogg the #1 Business School in the country. I'll also share a story about Wendy performing a true act of kindness towards me in 1982, when I was having a real emergency, and she went above-and-beyond what I had any logical reason to expect. Yet, Wendy, along with her very helpful dad, Jack, came through for me when I was in a very bad time crunch. I've never forgotten Wendy's kindness towards me, and her true Hoosier spirit. There's NOTHING I wouldn't do for Wendy Mulholland.

It's All About "The U"

It's All About "The U"
South Beach Hoosier's first U-M football game at the Orange Bowl was in 1972, age 11, against Tulane in the infamous "Fifth Down" game. In order to drum up support and attendance for the U-M at the Orange Bowl, that game had a promotion whereby South Florida kids who were school safety patrols could get in for free IF they wore their sash. I did. Clearly they knew that it was better to let kids in for free, knowing their parents would give them money to buy food and souvenirs, perhaps become a fan and want to return for future games. The ballgame made an interesting impression on The New York Times, resulting in this gem from the "View of Sport" column of Oct, 14, 1990, labeled 'Fifth Down or Not, It's Over When It's Over.' -"In 1972, aided by a fifth-down officiating gift in the last moments of the game, Miami of Florida defeated Tulane, 24-21. The country and the world was a much different place that fall because The New York Times took time and space to editorialize on the subject. ''Is it right for sportsmen, particularly young athletes, to be penalized or deprived of the goals for which they earnestly competed because responsible officials make mistakes? The ideal of true sportsmanship would be better served if Miami forfeited last week's game.' South Beach Hoosier hardly needs to tell you that this was YET another New York Times editoral that was completely ignored!

The issue I took with me the night of U-M's 20-15 upset of #1 Texas at the Orange Bowl

The issue I took with me the night of U-M's 20-15 upset of #1 Texas at the Orange Bowl
College Football, Texas No. 1, Hook 'em Horns, Sept. 10, 1973. Living in North Miami Beach in the '70's, my Sports Illustrated usually showed up in my mailbox on the Thursday or Friday before the Monday cover date. And was read cover-to-cover by Sunday morning.

The Perfect Storm

The Perfect Storm
U-M QB Ken Dorsey, Miami Hurricanes Undefeated National Champions 2001, Jan. 2002

Miami's Romp in the Rose

Miami's Romp in the Rose
Miami running back Clinton Portis, Jan. 7, 2002

Why the University of Miami should drop football

Why the University of Miami should drop football
June 12, 1995


Steve McGuire and Miami Overpower No.1 Notre Dame, Dec. 4, 1989

How Sweet It Is!

How Sweet It Is!
Miami Whips Oklahoma For The National Championship, Pictured: Dennis Kelleher, Jan. 11, 1988

My, Oh My, Miami!

My, Oh My, Miami!
Steve Walsh and the Canes Stun FSU, Oct. 12, 1987

Why Is Miami No. 1?

Why Is Miami No. 1?
QB Vinny Testaverde, Nov. 24, 1986

Miracle In Miami

Miracle In Miami
The Hurricanes Storm Past Nebraska, Halfback Keith Griffin, Jan. 9, 1984

Special Issue: College Football

Special Issue: College Football
The Best Passer, George Mira of Miami, Sept. 23, 1963

1984 College & Pro Spectatcular

1984 College & Pro Spectatcular
A Pair Of Aces: U-M QB Bernie Kosar & Miami Dolphin QB Dan Marino, Sept. 5, 1984

Pro Football Hall of Fame Special Issue

Pro Football Hall of Fame Special Issue
Dan Marino, Class of 2005, Aug. 2005


A Portfolio by Walter Iooss Jr., Ricky Williams, Miami Dolphins, Dec. 9, 2002

Coming Back

Coming Back
Jay Fiedler rallies Miami to a last-second win over Oakland, Oct. 1, 2001

Dan's Last Stand

Dan's Last Stand
At 38 and under siege, Dan Marino refuses to go down without a fight, Dec. 13, 1999

The War Zone

The War Zone
In the NFL's toughest division, the surprising Dolphins are on top, Lamar Smith, Dec. 11, 2000

Down and Dirty

Down and Dirty
Jimmy Johnson's Dolphins Bury The Patriots, Steve Emtman, Sept. 9, 1996

The Sunshine Boys

The Sunshine Boys
Now Playing in Miami: The Dan Marino and Jimmy Johnson Show, May 11, 1996


Miami loves Pat Riley but wants to give Don Shula the boot, Dec. 11, 1995


Which of today's stars are locks for the Hall of Fame? Dan Marino for sure. But who else? To find out, we polled the men who do the voting. Sept. 14, 1995

Sportsman Of The Year

Sportsman Of The Year
Don Shula, Dec. 20, 1993

Dan The Man

Dan The Man
Dan Marino Saves The Day For The Dolphins, Jan. 14, 1991

Dangerous Dan

Dangerous Dan
Dan Marino Passes Miami Into The Super Bowl, Jan. 14, 1985

Super Duper!

Super Duper!
Wide Receiver Mark Duper Of The Undefeated Dolphins, Nov. 19, 1984

Air Raid! Miami Bombs Washington

Air Raid! Miami Bombs Washington
Mark Clayton (burning Darryl Green) Sept. 10, 1984

Rookies On The Rise

Rookies On The Rise
Dan Marino: Miami's Hot Quarterback, Nov. 14, 1983

New Life In The WFL

New Life In The WFL
Warfield, Csonka and Kiick of Memphis, July 28, 1975

Zonk! Miami Massacres Minnesota

Zonk! Miami Massacres Minnesota
Larry Csonka, Jan. 21, 1974

Pro Football, Miami Is Rough And Ready

Pro Football, Miami Is Rough And Ready
Larry Csonka & Bob Griese, Sept. 17, 1973

Miami All The Way

Miami All The Way
Bob Griese, Jan. 22, 1973

It's Miami and Washington

It's Miami and Washington
Mercury Morris Speeds Past The Steelers, Jan. 8, 1973

Kiick and Csonka, Miami's Dynamic Duo

Kiick and Csonka, Miami's Dynamic Duo
Larry Csonka & Jim Kiick, Aug. 7, 1972

Sudden Death at Kansas City

Sudden Death at Kansas City
Miami's Garo Yepremian Ends the Longest Game; (kneeling) placekick holder Karl Noonan, Jan. 3, 1972

New Pro in a New Town

New Pro in a New Town
Miami's Frank Emanuel, Aug. 8, 1966

Old-style "Obie" the Orange Bowl Committee mascot

Old-style "Obie" the Orange Bowl Committee mascot
The iconic image I grew-up with in Miami, before FedEx got into the picture