WELCOME to the debut of “The Truth Is!”, a blog of reporting and commentary that aims to be informative, thoughtful and provocative. At least initially, the blog will have a strong heartland flavor by virtue of the connection of a number of us to Cowles family journalism. I am former editor of the Des Moines Register’s opinion pages. Another contributor, Michael Gartner, is former editor of the paper; he later served as president of NBC News. Another former Register editor who has agreed to contribute, Geneva Overholser, is director of the University of Southern California’s Annenberg school of journalism. Followers of the blog will have access also to the work of Herbert Strentz of Des Moines, a close Register and other newspaper watcher who once headed Drake University’s journalism school. Bill Leonard, a longtime Register editorial writer, will add insights.

“The Truth Is!” will be supervised by my daughter, Marcia Wolff, a communications lawyer for 20 years with Arnold and Porter (Washington, D.C.). Invaluable technical assistance in assembling and maintaining the blog is provided by my grandsons Julian Cranberg, a college first-year, and Daniel Wolff, a high school senior.

If you detect a whiff of nepotism in this operation, so be it. All of it is strictly a labor of love. —Gil Cranberg

Thursday, January 29, 2015


In time we’ll likely enjoy the orange pudding, a gift from one of our daughters.

Or maybe we can have it bronzed as a reminder of the terror-filled age we’ve inflicted upon ourselves.

Whether it’s called pudding elsewhere or fruitcake in the U.S., the folks of the Transportation Security Administration, ever vigilant to its pledge — “Your Security is Our Priority ” — opened and sampled our gift labeled “Heston Hidden Christmas Orange Pudding” at an airport in Hawaii.

Perhaps that is all part of what TSA calls its “risk-based strategy.”

The so-called risk, in this case, may have been suggested by the word “Hidden”, or maybe it was in the warning in cooking instructions that “overheating may cause fruit and sugar to ignite.” (Although about anything you pack is ignitable.) Or maybe the TSA focused on the word “frenzy”, as the pudding maker in the United Kingdom referred online to the “…Internet and media frenzy about Heston’s Hidden Orange Christmas Pudding.”

For whatever reason, when we got back home and unpacked, one suitcase had the TSA “Notice of Baggage Inspection… for prohibited items.” That particular piece of luggage had already carried a label indicating it had been searched and cleared by the US Department of Agriculture inspectors who check all baggage leaving Hawaii for the mainland. (Further, the pudding had been purchased by our daughter who lives in Australia and, after a brief stay on the mainland, she brought the gift to the Island of Kauai as part of Christmas gift giving. So it already had cleared security checks, including the TSA, a couple of times.)

Even though the USDA at Lihue Airport spotted the pudding and cleared the little box — about 6 inches square and 4 inches deep — the TSA folks slit open the box, removed the bowl of pudding, unsealed a bit of the lid and, judging from an indentation in the pudding, sampled the stuff. Maybe they restricted themselves to a taste test; maybe folks in HAZMAT suits took it to a lab for a more in-depth analysis.

Having found the pudding to be pudding, the TSA resealed the bowl with crisscrossed duct tape bearing the TSA label but lacking a celebratory “ENJOY!” [See attached photo]

But why mess with an item already previously cleared by the USDA and other TSA workers?

Even our other baggage should have been more suspect, containing as it did bottles of liquid more potent than orange pudding/fruitcake.

But that’s the nutty world we live in today.

We may have moved past the cliché’, “If we don’t do this, the terrorists will win.” But we don’t fully recognize the threat in “Because we do this, the terrorists have won.”

Sunday, January 18, 2015


Tankers-full of ink were spent describing the protest march in Paris attended by heads of state from all over the world. Unless I missed something, the New York Times managed to cover the event by not expending a drop of ink reporting or explaining the absence of President Obama. While in no way comparable, to this reader the performance of the paper was reminiscent of how it dealt with the deaths of millions of Jews during World War II by pretending it didn’t happen. The paper subsequently made amends for its Holocaust non-coverage by apologizing and in effect vowing never again. Except now again it inexplicably botched a major news event – President Obama’s disappearance act in Paris.

The Obama administration issued a feeble mea culpa a few days after the march admitting it was a mistake not to attend. The Times ran that story January 13 on page 12. Times readers must have been mystified by the administration’s admission of error if all they knew about the march was what they had read in the Times. The paper’s story about the administration’s mea culpa made no mention of how the Times had ignored Obama’s role in the march.

The Times’ sorry handling of the story makes a mockery of its motto, “All the news that’s fit to print”, and everyone responsible for its sophomoric performance should be disciplined.