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May 24, 2003
JUST GOT TOGETHER WITH HOWARD OWENS, who's in town for a bit on business. Now I'm heading to the lake. Blogging will resume sometime tomorrow.
RICK BRAGG HAS BEEN SUSPENDED from the New York Times. Based on the email I've been getting (see below) a lot of other journalists ought to be nervous, if this is the standard now.
Call me a cynic [You're a cynic! -- Ed.] but this smells like Howell Raines trying to change the subject. I had a reader email me back when the Blair matter broke, predicting that a white guy would be disciplined at the Times within a couple of weeks. I didn't run the email because it seemed too cynical. But -- whoever sent that one, well, you were right. [LATER: He wrote back in -- so now I can say "Advantage: Lee Goldston!"].
UPDATE: A reader says I'm wrong:
You're wrong about the Times. This isn't about reporters suddenly being held to a higher standard; it's about Howell's favorites FINALLY being busted for their mistakes. The new revelations make life much worse, not better, for Howell. And you can bet that angry Times newsroom staffers are behind the revelations. This is a purge and Howell might be the last one out the door.
Reader Michael Gebert smells something, too:
Yes, and think how perfect Bragg is for this ceremonial whipping‹ he's practically Raines¹ doppelganger, culturally, which will make it seem like Raines is sparing no one‹ yet as every article points out, he earned his fame under Joseph Lelyveld, not Raines, so he doesn¹t reinforce the Raines-favoritism story. Plus he has a strong enough literary reputation that he can easily survive a few months in the wilderness. If it walks like a setup and talks like a setup...
Interesting difference in perspective. Steve Verdon is even more cynical. I think the charges of racism are a bit over the top, though. And Craig Henry says this doesn't come close to the Blair scandal.
UPDATE: Kaus has much more on this. It does seem that there's a systemic problem with bylines at the Times. So what's the big deal about Bragg? Is there more to come? Stay tuned. Meanwhile I love this bit from Kaus:
It turns out we weren't reading the reporting of the famous, cream-of-the-profession Times employees, but the reporting of unidentified "stringers" we've never heard of. ... Conventional journalists sometimes sneer at blogs because there's no way for a reader to know whether what a random, unknown person says on his Web site is true. But it sounds as if the Times is not so different from a blog after all--what you are reading is really the work of random, unknown "legs" and stringers. ...
Of course, in other ways the Times and the typical blog are very different forms of journalism. One obsessively reflects the personal biases, enthusiasms and grudges of a single individual. The other is just an online diary! ...
All I can say is, "indeed." Meanwhile, via MediaMinded, here's a piece on nepotism in high end media, and here's a sensible quote from William McGowan, author of Coloring the News:
I don’t think the Blair case should impose a stigma on all minority journalists. It shouldn’t invalidate all diversity efforts either, especially efforts aimed at casting a wide net, opening doors to talented people, all the while maintaining standards as you are doing so. But I do think you’d be journalistically at fault if you didn’t acknowledge where diversity and race was a factor in the Blair case and the Times institutional response to it.
Well, I think that's right. I was initially skeptical (and even more so here) of claims that the Blair scandal was about affirmative action. And in a way I still am -- this isn't a "classic" affirmative action case of somebody unqualified who was hired because he was black. Everybody seems to agree that if Blair weren't some sort of lying weasel he'd be capable of good reporting. Instead, Blair's case seems to have been one in which most authority figures were unwilling to respond to obvious problems with a black reporter for fear of being called racist, which in the diversity-seminar culture of the Times might be a career-ender. The bad thing about the Times' diversity culture, now well-documented by Kaus, Sullivan, et al., is that when you have things like the Bragg case it's hard to know whether they're justified or whether they represent some sort of politico-racial balancing. And that's the trouble with diversity culture in general: it makes everything, and everyone, suspect. Instead of minimizing racism, it makes every single decision racially charged. And by encouraging bogus charges of racism, it ultimately makes those charges meaningless: the first refuge of scoundrels rather than items of moral substance.
ANOTHER UPDATE: The emailers seem to have it right the Wall Street Journal reports that the practice of using uncredited stringers is so common that other people at the Times wonder why Bragg is in trouble.
AUSTIN BAY'S NEW NOVEL, THE WRONG SIDE OF BRIGHTNESS, comes out next week. InstaPundit readers know I'm a fan of his nonfiction writing. I read the novel in manuscript and liked it very much. So did a colleague of mine who's a former Marine helicopter pilot with a good deal of familiarity with the world Bay describes. It's a good read -- I just wish it had been longer.
HOW A BLOGOSPHERE STORY GROWS: An interesting piece, though I wish there were more detail. This part certainly squares with my observations:
Rarely can an individual blogger get a story going. It is far more usual that several bloggers blog about an occurrence, an event or a comment elsewhere and then after that bloggers in groups get going. Even a so called influential blogger blogging about a story can rarely get others going. It is only when there are several bloggers writing opinions does a story really get going.
Yep. Which is probably a good thing. (Via Doc Searls).
FORGET CONTAINING SADDAM: Jonathan Rauch writes that the antiwar far-left's new agenda is to contain America:
"As the United States government becomes more belligerent in using its power in the world, many people are longing for a 'second superpower' that can keep the U.S. in check," writes James F. Moore, of Harvard Law School's Berkman Center for Internet & Society, in an article that he posted online. The newly energized Left is just such a force, he argues. . . .
Note that Moore speaks of confronting not imperialism or corporate capitalism or human-rights abusers, but the United States. This is significant. . . .
But the Left will pay a crippling price. If its new rallying cry is going to be "Contain America first!" the Left had better pack its bags for a long, long stay in the political wilderness, at least in America; and if it is going to make excuses for Saddam as it once made excuses for Stalin, it can kiss its moral relevance goodbye. One only wonders whether the Left still has time to back away from the cliff.
I'm not sure this agenda is as new as Rauch suggests. But the antiwar left's moral relevance is already gone, squandered in increasingly desperate efforts to shore up Saddam for no other reason than that he was the enemy.
May 23, 2003
BIGWIG BLOGGED THE BIRTH OF HIS SON. Start at the link and scroll up; there's a picture at the top.
A POTENTIAL SUSPECT IN THE YALE LAW SCHOOL BOMBING?
Best anecdote from Suskind's Esquire story: In Thomas's office at the Supreme Court, he keeps a sign on the bookshelf. It reads: "SAVE AMERCIA, BOMB YALE LAW SCHOOL."
Thomas should know. He's an alumnus.
Just having a motive isn't enough, though, or all those jealous Harvard alumni would be suspects too.
THE VOLOKH CONSPIRACY HAS MOVED. It's still Blogger-powered, though, and the permalinks aren't working at the moment.
CLAYTON CRAMER HAS A MUST-READ POST on the assault-weapon ban. Or as the post puts it, the ban on normal-sized magazine, and on buying the rifle you want.
JACK SHAFER HAS MORE ON RICK BRAGG, who looks set to be the Times' next source of reportorial controversy. [White guy, right? With a WASP-y name? How convennnient! -- Ed. Don't be so cynical. It's purely a coincidence, I'm sure.]
Shafer may be too hard on Bragg, and not hard enough on the Times, though, as reader Edward Barrera emails that the practice of using freelance reporters -- called "legs" -- to do the shoeleather work isn't so uncommon at the Times:
Rick Bragg is not the only NY Times staffer who uses freelance work without attribution. The metro section of the Times uses freelancers, they call them 'legs,' to run down stories in New York City. They sometimes do all the reporting on the story, interviews, etc. The 'legs' call it in, and someone else writes the story. The freelancer, who gets paid by the hour, gets neither a shared byline or even a credit tagline at the end. I worked as an intern at the Daily News, and we always received either one. I use to ask these guys about it, and they just said, "It's the Times way." Why shouldn't Bragg dismiss a freelancer's work? It's the "Times way."
I don't know anything about this, but if it's true it's pretty damning to the Times, but puts Bragg's work in a less-damaging light. It's something that journalists on the story ought to look at, anyway.
UPDATE: Another journalist reader emails:
In reference to your latest post about Rick Bragg, I did some freelance work for the Times last November on the tornadoes up in Morgan County and received no credit line in the finished story, at least not in the online edition. It's possible something was different in the hard copy, but I doubt it. Just thought I'd let you know.
Hmm. It definitely sounds as if someone should look into this.
ANOTHER UPDATE: This is looking less and less unusual. Dexter Van Zile emails:
A few years ago, I worked as a freelance stringer for the Boston Bureau of the Associated Press. I covered a story where a kid came ran out in a snowstorm the day before thanksgiving and he was found a few days later in a swamp.
I did knocked on door to the family's home (they refused to talk) I hung out in the town and gathered all the info.
Then toward the end of the assignment, a staff reporter for the bureau came down to give me a cell phone. by driving down to the town, he was able to use his byline on the story as well as the dateline. otherwise it would have been an unsigned story. He did no information gathering whatsoever, but by delivering a cell phone, and writing the info up at his desk in boston, he got a byline and a dateline.
Sounded screwy to me, but that's what it was.
So this sort of thing may or may not be wrong, but it certainly doesn't sound all that unusual, and not just at the Times. Meanwhile, Lou Dolinar emails:
Regarding the stringer thing at the Times: I'd love to know how that's changed in the last 30 years. I worked for Wally Turner (Black Money) as his Las Vegas stringer in 1972, and ran my ass off to get a couple of bylines. Had to be your own story, an exclusive, and hard news. In those days, I can't imagine someone parachuting in from New York and stealing your work, and your byline.
I don't know the story here, but it seems as if things here are more complicated than they sounded at first.
UPDATE: There's much more on this in a later post, here. And although there's more than a whiff of opportunism about the Bragg disciplinary action, these facts do support my earlier suggestion that the white males at the Times have a lot of problems, too.
THE TIMES THEY ARE A-CHANGIN':
''Students are upset with what they see as anti-Americanism on campuses,'' Auchterlonie says. ''Patriotism is big now.'' It's a patriotism that the national college movement has pushed to the fore as an issue that can win the sympathies of kids who are not overtly political. ''We handed out red, white and blue ribbons on the anniversary of 9/11,'' Charles Mitchell says. ''I didn't think anyone was going to take them. We ran out in half an hour.'' . . .
But a movement based on patriotism and Reagan-worship alone could not have spread so rapidly nationwide. Here's where the left has unwittingly helped to energize the conservative movement. Visit any college campus today, and you're struck by the forces of what the conservatives call overweening political correctness that have seeped into every corner of life. Same-sex hand-holding days, ''Vagina Monologues'' performances, diversity training seminars, minority support groups, ''no means no'' dating rules, textbooks purified of gender, racial or class stereotypes -- for all their good intentions, these manifestations of enforced tolerance can create a stultifying air of conformity in college life. Hence the cries for ''individual responsibility'' and ''freedom of speech'' that are the leading slogans of today's campus conservative movement -- a deliberate echo of the left-wing Free Speech movements of the 1960's and a direct appeal to the natural impulse, on the part of young people, to rebel against the powers that be.
Read the whole thing, which is pretty good, although the author takes a few too many pains to try to paint the growth of non-lefty campus activism as a creation of conservative Big Money -- as if the 1960s variety of student activism was some sort of spontaneous creation without any nurturance from monied groups who shared its agenda.
UPDATE: David Bernstein has some observations. And Cardinal Collective notes:
But the big problem with the article is that it doesn't take campus conservatives seriously as anything other than a tool created by national right-wing groups like the Leadership Institute (LI) and the Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI). It's true that LI and ISI spend money to help fund some of these groups, especially when they are just getting started (and they are invaluable to campus conservatives for that) and each offers free seminars every year to help "train" people to be conservative activists, but the article dramatically overstates their influence.
Take it from me: I was the editor of the Stanford Review, Stanford's conservative newspaper. LI and ISI invited us every year to go to their seminar - each year we viewed it as a fun way to meet people and get free drinks at the bar. And they do offer some good advice about how to get noticed and big mistakes that papers can make. But LI and ISI aren't on the ground making editorial decisions or organizing campaigns by the College Republicans. They don't have the staff or the influence to make a national campaign beyond publicizing what other organizations have done.
I don't mean to denigrate these groups - as I said, they are a major influence in helping groups get off the ground and in making campus conservatives realize they are part of a national movement. But the writer of the article makes the usual mistake journalists make: he talked to the "grown-ups", fell for their spin, and assumed they were calling the shots. After all, LI and ISI are going to tell the New York Times that they are absolutely essential to campus conservatism: it helps them get donors. And it makes a better story for the New York Times to see a vast right-wing conspiracy instead of an essentially student-run movement. But the truth is that there is no vast right-wing conspiracy and that LI and ISI think they are more essential than they are.
Orin Kerr, meanwhile, thinks he's read this article before.
HERE'S AN INTERESTING FIRST/SECOND AMENDMENT CASE from New Jersey:
The district has agreed to distribute to students three age-appropriate fliers prepared by the NRA affiliate, the Association of New Jersey Rifle & Pistol Clubs. These fliers are slated to be provided to public school students today.
The lawsuit was based on the Montclair public schools’ dissemination of fliers from Ceasefire New Jersey, a gun-control group with a regional headquarters located in the township, to students three years ago. The fliers advocated attending a rally in Trenton to support childproof handgun legislation.
After two parents failed to convince the Montclair School District to distribute fliers that advocated attending a rally opposing the childproof handgun bill, the Montclair couple joined with the association in filing a lawsuit against the district, charging it was advocating only one side of a two-sided societal issue.
“The lawsuit is based on the First and 14th amendments,” said Scott Bach, the association’s executive vice president and an attorney. “You can’t use publicly funded institutions to stifle debate on one side of an issue. If you open the door to one side, you have to open the door to the other side.”
The District said it "inadvertently" allowed the anti-gun flyers to be distributed. It's funny, isn't it, how often we see people "inadvertently" favoring the anti-gun side of the debate, and how seldom they make such mistakes in the other direction?
You can read more about this here.
THE TOMPAINE BLOG WRITES:
The New York Post embedded reporter Jonathan Foreman got a lot of notice for writing in The Weekly Standard that the liberal media were hyping the bad news from Baghdad and ignoring Iraqis' "love bombing" of U.S. troops. Joe Scarborough , Mona Charen and Glenn Reynolds all fell for his story. But as Micah Sifry points out, the same Jonathan Foreman reported a few days later in the Post that America faces an intifada by this summer in Iraq.
Of course, I pointed out the second Foreman story, too, here. In fact, I did so several days before Micah Sifry noted the story. So what's their point? That I do a better job of following up things than they do? I admit it: they're right.
UPDATE: Okay, to be fair, they're new at this blogging stuff (they don't even have permalinks yet).
ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Bill Richmond emails:
What I fail to see is how these two are incompatible with each other. Some, maybe even most, Iraqis may be love-bombing our troops while another independent group may be considering more traditional bombs. The Tompaine blog commits a classic logical fallacy here, unless they can show (or Jonathan Foreman suggests) that a substantial number of the current/former love-bombers are going to join the posited intifada.
Another reader emails:
What a lot of people apparently can't recognize (and what the folks at "Tompaine" probably don't want to recognize) is that both things can be true; in a country of about ~25 million, it can be true that many, many Iraqis welcome the U.S. presnce (and this didn't get much attention in the relentlessly negative press), AND that there are enough people who don't like us that, if things don't get fixed, they could make a mess of things, produce an intifada, etc.
The problem with the insightful folks at Tompaine, and others, is that for them fer'ners are a monolith: either thems folks hates us, or thems folks likes us. Can't be that there's a range of opinion over there (just like here, where the folks at Tompaine.com hate Dubya's guts and would be glad to see an intifada against his policies, and others dissent from that, and would like to see these policies work out well).
Yes, I suspect there are different camps here. We need to be sure our side wins and the other side loses. Big.
ANDREW SULLIVAN POINTS TO what looks like more chicanery at the New York Times.
ORRIN JUDD HAS EXAMINED CHRIS HEDGES' BOOK, and is unimpressed with the quality of Hedges' moral reasoning.
FROM THE GOOD NEWS / BAD NEWS DEPARTMENT: Things in Iraq could be worse -- it could be like Pakistan:
KARACHI, May 23 (Reuters) - Rival Sunni Muslim groups traded heavy gunfire in Pakistan's restive city of Karachi on Friday over control of a mosque, killing a teenage boy and wounding six people including two policemen, police said.
Dozens of armed militants belonging to one radical Islamic group attacked the mosque in northern Karachi in an attempt to seize it from their rivals, they said. . . .
Disputes between the rival Islamic groups over control of mosques are frequent in Karachi. Many mosque compounds house big residential quarters for clerics as well as seminaries and shops.
But at least Pakistan's power isn't out. Oh wait:
ISLAMABAD, May 20( ): Pakistan Peoples Party Tuesday condemned power breakdown in major areas of Karachi, a metropolis of Sindh and termed it failure of Karachi Electric Supply Corporation’s professional responsibilities. . . .
“The agony caused to the people of Karachi calls for the sacking of all those whose inefficiency, corruption and lack of sense of responsibility contributed to the repeated and unscheduled power breakdowns without prior notice or warning to the citizens,” he said.
The power breakdown caused water shortage leading to near riot situations in a number of localities as the KESC officials slept over the plight and misery of the people.
Not to minimize the problems in Iraq, but this adds some perspective.
THE JURIST HAS A ROUNDUP OF NEWS about the Yale Law School bombing, including this admirable quote from Jack Balkin:
And that's the Yale Law School too. You can try to bomb us, but we will just do a backflip and come up good as new.
HOW ISLAMIC SUICIDE BOMBERS ARE BOOSTING THE AUSTRALIAN ECONOMY -- and much, much more, all at Tim Blair's new site!
VICTORY FOR THE GOOD GUYS: The Tennessee's "super-DMCA" bill, which would have made it a felony to attach a TiVo to your cable without permission, appears to be dead for this year:
A bill pitting telecommunications and entertainment companies against some of their customers won't come up for a vote in the General Assembly this year, its sponsors said yesterday.
Backers said the bill was needed to update state law on the theft of cable and other telecommunications services.
Opponents — many of them computer professionals and enthusiasts who mobilized via the Internet — said no new law was needed and the measure as originally written threatened privacy and civil liberties.
A hearing on an amended version of the bill had been scheduled for Tuesday in the Senate Judiciary Committee. Instead, Sen. Curtis Person, R-Memphis, said yesterday that he will introduce a joint House-Senate resolution to send the measure to a study committee charged with reporting back to legislators by Feb. 1, 2004.
The study-committee option will allow more time for discussion, Person said, adding that his aim as the bill's Senate sponsor was to draft a measure that would punish lawbreakers, not infringe on freedoms.
I'm very pleased. Bill Hobbs has more.
UPDATE: Slashdot has more on these bills in several states, including an amusing letter explaining that the sponsor of Oregon's bill withdrew it after deciding he'd been scammed by the MPAA lobbyist.
NO SURPRISE HERE:
Baghdad - Throughout the 13 years of UN sanctions on Iraq that were ended yesterday, Iraqi doctors told the world that the sanctions were the sole cause for the rocketing mortality rate among Iraqi children.
"It is one of the results of the embargo," Dr. Ghassam Rashid Al-Baya told Newsday on May 9, 2001, at Baghdad's Ibn Al-Baladi hospital, just after a dehydrated baby named Ali Hussein died on his treatment table. "This is a crime on Iraq."
It was a scene repeated in hundreds of newspaper articles by reporters required to be escorted by minders from Saddam Hussein's Ministry of Information.
Now free to speak, the doctors at two Baghdad hospitals, including Ibn Al-Baladi, tell a very different story. Along with parents of dead children, they said in interviews this week that Hussein turned the children's deaths into propaganda, notably by forcing hospitals to save babies' corpses to have them publicly paraded.
I'm waiting for the apologies and retractions from all those who accused the United States of murder-by-sanctions.
UPDATE: Reader Linda Jones emails:
It will be interesting to see if Saddam and the Baath party come in for criticism from the Muslim world over their refusal to allow these babies to be buried according to Muslim strictures. Where is the Muslim outrage over this?
"Muslim outrage" seems to appear only when convenient. I should note that it's not at all unlikely that sanctions did lead indirectly to some deaths -- particularly as Saddam was diverting the oil-for-food money to palaces and weapons. But, given that diversion, it's pretty damned indirect.
I LIKE THE NEW BLOGCRITICS DESIGN better. It's easier to navigate.
THE "DEAN FEDAYEEN?" Hmm. I'm surprised people aren't objecting to that term. I wonder if they'll "go clean for Dean" when the primaries roll around? But here's what I found interesting:
One of the most important online vehicles for the Dean campaign is blogs. Just as President Bush has wooed conservative talk-show hosts, holding a special day for them at the White House, Dean is the first candidate to treat relatively unknown bloggers as a critical opinion-making constituency. "We understand the blogging community and have been active in it," says Trippi. "A lot more people are seeing us on the blogs and other sites every day than on TV at this point in the campaign." . . .
Anyone who writes critically about Dean can expect his copy to be chewed up by this army of zealous Dean Internet scribes. When I wrote a piece recently that contained a few paragraphs about Dean, a member of the Dean2004 blog team filed an almost 2,000-word entry slicing my article up into sections with labels such as "true," "false," "inadvertently true," and "foolish." Not content with this, the Dean blogosphere recently established a rapid-reaction team called the Dean Defense Forces (DDF)—an e-mail list of hard-core Dean supporters who swiftly push back with e-mails, letters to the editor, blog entries, and phone calls against anyone spreading anti-Dean sentiments. "When he gets attacked, we'll respond," pledges the DDF's organizer, Matthew Singer, a 20-year-old college student in Montana who once blogged about Dean on his own site, Left in the West.
Very interesting. Read the whole thing. I suspect that this approach will help Dean punch above his weight in the primaries. I'm not sure it would translate well to a general-election campaign, though I could be wrong about that.
ARUNDHATI ROY on the horror of democracy: you have to listen to people who disagree with you!
VIA BURCHISMO, I found Butterflies and Wheels, a leftish site devoted to "fighting fashionable nonsense." It's well worth checking out.
FOUAD AJAMI WRITES ON THE ROADMAP:
It may be the proper thing for America to take up the matter of Israel and the Palestinians; it may be a debt owed the stalwart British Prime Minister Tony Blair. But we should know the Arab world for what it is today and entertain no grand illusions about the gratitude the road map would deliver in Palestinian and Arab streets. We buy no friendship in Arab lands with pro-Palestinian diplomacy; we ward off no anti-American terrorism. There is no possibility the rancid anti-Americanism of Hosni Mubarak's Egypt would be assuaged with a big push for an Israeli-Palestinian settlement. The highest religious authority of that land, Sheik al Azhar Muhammad Tantawi, recently called the American-led coalition's effort against Saddam a "crusading war" and said that Muslims everywhere were obliged to take up arms against the "invaders." This kind of sentiment can never be stilled with a diplomatic effort on behalf of the Palestinians.
The Palestinian issue has always been an excuse -- or a tool -- for distraction, not the real key to settling down the region. We may have to wait until the last dictator is strangled with the entrails of the last mullah for that.
THE MIGHTY WURLITZER: Maureen Dowd states an "outrageous falsehood" about President Bush. Other left-leaning media folks uncritically pick it up and repeat it. The error is never corrected by The New York Times -- guess they were busy fixing Jayson Blair's mistakes -- and starts to gain currency. Spinsanity has the whole story, and concludes: "The rapid spread of this myth is yet another sad commentary on the state of American political journalism."
TOMPAINE.COM'S BLOG waxes snarky about plans to disarm Iraqis. I'll ignore their conflation of automatic and semi-automatic weapons, and just note that the Administration is treating Iraq like, well, a conquered nation. It's funny that this is how gun-control folks want to treat America.
May 22, 2003
MIKE SILVERMAN HAS Robert Scheer mad-libs. Be sure to click all the boxes.
TORONTO: NOT FREE OF SARS YET. Bummer.
JUST FAXED IN MY GRADES. My conlaw exam was pretty fun this year. I had a question involving a nude dance club called "The House of Protest," where the dancers had political slogans painted on their bodies a la the Dixie Chicks, and one where a "Senator Dick Saluspopuli" tried to ban gay sex under the Interstate Commerce Clause (best student line: "Although Chief Justice Marshall, in Gibbons v. Ogden, wrote that 'commerce is intercourse,' he did not write that intercourse is, therefore, commerce.")
Grading is the worst part of my job by far. I'm glad to have it behind me for a few more months. Now comes Miller time. Well, actually I'm going to drink the last Redhook ESB, anyway.
BUSH'S BASE is getting restive. I guess Rove figures they can get the base fired up again in plenty of time for 2004, but I think he may be underestimating people's memories, and the extent of their political alienation.
I WOULD FILE THIS STORY under the usual "homeland security is still a joke" heading, but, really, I think it belongs under an "immigration policy is still a joke." Or maybe it's some of both. As Matt Welch puts it:
This regulation and a host of others like it were in place long before Congressional fries were liberated from the Vichy regime; what's new is the enforcement. Since late last fall, when the Department of Homeland Security installed a comprehensive immigration database (the jauntily named Consular Lookout and Support System, or CLASS), yesterday's minor visa transgression is today's "no-entry" stamp.
Apparently it's even possible that if journalists come to the United States as tourists and then write something about it, they may be barred entry in the future on the ground that they've violated the visa rules. That's just wrong.
THE YALE LAW BOMBING SOLVED: A reader sends this close analysis of the case:
It's pretty clear who did the bombing at Yale Law School -- Steven Hatfill, the scientist under investigation for sending the anthrax letters.
Just ask yourself these questions:
Who would benefit by having the FBI distracted by another terrorist investigation?
Who is angry with the FBI and President Bush (a Yale alumnus)?
Who is upset with lawyers (government lawyers are among the people who hassle Mr. Hatfill)?
Who once used a Yale lock on his school locker?
Who once passed through Connecticut on his way to Boston?
Who once owned a backpack (the device at Yale Law could have been concealed in a backpack)?
Who once worked in a lab (sometimes bombs are made in labs)?
Who lives in a house with doors (doors also provided access to the classroom where the bomb went off)?
I don't think so.
But I'm sure the FBI got there first on this investigation, also.
ERNIE THE ATTORNEY has some observations on law firm websites and lawyer weblogs.
IT'S ALL ABOUT PROMISCUOUS GAY SEX, over at The Volokh Conspiracy. You know, it was like a dam bursting after that first post on vibrators. . . .
BRUCE ROLSTON says he's got a bunch of stuff that supports what he calls the revisionist version of the Jessica Lynch story. But no blanks. And without that, there's no story, really -- just a claim that things weren't as dangerous as they might have been, and that the Pentagon got as much PR out of the event as it could, neither of which strikes me as earthshaking.
When the BBC put out its story, the selling point was that the Lynch rescue was a fraud, staged with fake guns and fake explosions (that mysteriously weren't used in the video the Pentagon released). That's been pretty thoroughly blown out of the water. What's left is Monday-morning quarterbacking over military tactics and over PR strategy.
UPDATE: TAPPED, which is hard to paint as a water-carrier for Bush and Rumsfeld, agrees that Kampfner is ducking questions about the BBC's story.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Here's more on a different Lynch-related issue:
The Washington Post reported that she staged a fierce fight before capture, emptying a gun and killing Iraqi attackers before being stabbed and shot herself.
But two Pentagon officials in interviews cast doubt on that report. The officials said all evidence suggests that Pfc. Lynch's truck crashed in the chaos of the ambush in the central Iraqi town of Nasiriyah. She suffered several bone fractures and was in no position to put up a fight, the officials said.
But a final determination will await the commander's inquiry, or "15-6," which refers to the regulation authorizing such investigations
What's interesting about this is that -- contrary to the revisionists' spin -- this makes clear that a lot of the Lynch stories didn't originate with the Pentagon to begin with.
ARE YOU A YALE LAW STUDENT UPSET BY THE BOMBING? Yale's got you covered, regardless of your needs:
Counseling Resources Available for YLS Community Members
This is a stressful time for many of us, and we'd like to assure you that there are a variety of resources for you to use if you want or need to talk to someone.
The Yale Health Services Center Department of Mental Hygiene is available during weekday business hours for confidential consultation.
A Yale Law School community happy hour will be held at 5:00 p.m. on Thursday, May 22, in the Ezra Stiles Dining Hall. It is open to all members of the Yale Law School community. Please stop by.
I know which one I would pick.
THE FBI HAS A SKETCH of a man they're looking for in the Yale Law bombing. And they've been talking to the lovely Lily Malcolm.
DAVE KOPEL HAS SOME THOUGHTS on the new CBS Hitler miniseries.
GEITNER SIMMONS writes about the Chris Hedges scandal:
Sure, it's a good thing, in one sense, that knee-jerk anti-American critics are being made aware of the breadth of opposition to their poorly constructed arguments in the post-9/11 era. But shouting down left-wing campus speakers today smacks too much of the campus left's proto-PC actions of the '80s. I had the same reaction when a New York Sun editorial unwisely equated the antiwar march in NYC a few months ago with treason. And when students at that Canadian university used violence last year to prevent Benjamin Netanyahu from speaking on their campus.
Yes, and there's clearly a certain joy-in-payback aspect to all of this. But I think that Geitner's right that this shouldn't go too far. At the same time, it's not fair to expect students to exercise self-restraint and show proper behavior if administrators and speakers are unwilling to do the same. It was a colossal mistake to book Hedges, and the speech he gave was insulting -- not to mention self-indulgent, pompous, ignorant, and lame. We should expect the students to behave, but we should also expect the universities not to presume too much on their good behavior.
WILLIAM SAFIRE HAS A SKEPTICAL TAKE on FCC Chairman Michael Powell's stance regarding media concentration:
Many artists, consumers, musicians and journalists know that such protestations of cable and Internet competition by the huge dominators of content and communication are malarkey. The overwhelming amount of news and entertainment comes via broadcast and print. Putting those outlets in fewer and bigger hands profits the few at the cost of the many.
Does that sound un-conservative? Not to me. The concentration of power — political, corporate, media, cultural — should be anathema to conservatives. The diffusion of power through local control, thereby encouraging individual participation, is the essence of federalism and the greatest expression of democracy.
I agree, of course, that the concentrated political power of Big Media is a threat. And I think that Bush should respond to Safire's call to "go on the record" by opposing Powell's initiative, and by encouraging Attorney General John Ashcroft to have the Antitrust Division take a close look at Big Media as it is today.
JOANNE JACOBS FINDS MORE DROPPED BALLS AT THE NEW YORK TIMES -- to coin a phrase, don't these people know how to use Google?
THE WAR IS OVER: France has surrendered.
JANET RENO AND OSAMA BIN LADEN -- just one of the many topics over at Bill Hobbs' site today. Now that he's gone to a group-blog format, he's as productive as three bloggers! Go figure.
THE NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF SCHOLARS has a blog now. Topics include teaching grammar, tenure battles at Brooklyn, and the politics of the APA.
NOW I'M SITTING IN THE SUN (newsworthy in itself, given our crappy weather lately) blogging in front of the Student Center via the University's wireless network, which reaches everywhere on campus. The screen really does look good in the sun. If the weather ever quits sucking, I'll do more of this.
ONCE AGAIN I'M WIRELESS-BLOGGING FROM THE MELLOW MUSHROOM on campus. The wireless access here is excellent. I'm just a bit early to meet a friend and thought I'd check it out with my new NEC ultralite laptop. I bought it on closeout dirt cheap, using your PayPal donations. (Thanks! And, as you can see, you're rewarded, if that's the word, with more blogging!) I don't think I'd want it as my main computer, or even my main laptop, because it's little. On the other hand, it weighs 3 pounds, and the screen even works in bright daylight. It's not quite blogging from a Palm, but it's awfully damn portable even compared to the Toshiba laptop that I usually use. And as Dave Winer recently observed about cameras, one you have with you is a lot better than one you don't.
I plan to spend a little time this summer blogging from various wi-fi enabled spots in town. They seem to be springing up like, er, mushrooms.
MICKEY KAUS has responded to my earlier comments on conflicts of interest. He says I'm wrong.
UPDATE: Hmm. But if I'm wrong about conflicts and disclosure, what about this?
On the other hand, Kaus is right when he says that Kurtz was soft on CNN regarding the Eason Jordan debacle. And Kurtz hasn't said anything about CNN's scandalous use of phony video in an assault weapons story by John Zarrella. But here's the kicker: as far as I know, neither have any other Big Media opiners, regardless of their affiliation. (Unless I count, and I don't think I do.) I think that guild-mindedness and political slant is a much bigger problem for the press than institutional conflicts -- and I suspect that that's one reason why the press spends so much time talking about the latter while piously (and bogusly) claiming freedom from the former.
THE VOLUNTEER TAILGATE PARTY IS OPEN FOR BUSINESS. So is the Indian bloggers' equivalent, Blog Mela. As far as I know there's no overlap between the groups (though who knows?) but both like spicy food and good conversation. And blogging!
If you've been sticking around the same old sections of the Blogosphere and want to try something different, visit 'em both.
UPDATE: Oops. Somehow I had the wrong link for Blog Mela. It's fixed now.
"MISSED SIGNALS" AT NASA may have led to the Columbia disaster.
BRITISH CHURCHMEN BACKING MUGABE: Disgraceful.
THE NEW YORK TIMES IS REFUSING TO COOPERATE WITH INVESTIGATORS looking into possible criminal actions by Jayson Blair.
I'm inclined to think that the U.S. Attorney's interest in the Blair case is grandstanding, and that it represents an abuse of prosecutorial discretion. But even so, I think that Donald Luskin is right to point out the Times' hypocrisy here:
Can you imagine the stink the Times editorial pages (i.e., the entire paper) would put up if Blair had been an employee of the Bush administration and the White House acted to block an investigation?
Or simply an employee of some other big corporation whose business involves the public trust and welfare, like, say, Enron.
I think that this will get worse for the Times before it gets better. Raines' initial mea culpa (well, it wasn't really a mea culpa, was it?) is starting to look more like a "modified limited hangout."
INDIANA UNIVERSITY LAW STUDENT SCOTT DILLON HAS BEEN INVESTIGATING Indiana University's claims regarding affirmative action. He says that IU is, to put it politely, misleading the Supreme Court. Now it's been noticed in the wider world. Add this to claims that the University of Michigan covered up or misrepresented study data that contradict its claims and you've got a real issue. I hope that people will get to the bottom of this. I can't help feeling that we're seeing a new kind of "massive resistance" on many campuses.
UPDATE: It's worth reading this confession originally from the Indianapolis Star, too. Excerpt:
Roughly speaking, to meet our de facto quotas, we must leapfrog less qualified minority applicants over approximately 330 more qualified non-minority applicants each year, many of whom, of course, will be Indiana residents. . . .
We differ in that to meet our de facto quota, we regularly lower our usual standards of admission more than our counterparts at Michigan lower theirs. For example, to meet our de facto quota of blacks in each first-year class, we deviate from our usual standards of admission more than any remotely comparable law school is willing to do. In fact, of all the law schools in the country approved by the American Bar Association, none regularly lowers its standards of admission for affirmative action purposes as much as we do. As a result, black applicants whose low grades, LSAT scores and extracurricular record would otherwise win admission only to Howard Law School in Washington, D.C., regularly win admission from us. And the overwhelming majority of applicants -- perhaps 80 percent -- for whom we lower our standards so drastically are from out of state.
Such is the affirmative action admissions policy we at the IU Bloomington Law School have followed for more than 30 years. We follow a similarly heavy-handed affirmative action policy for financial aid and faculty recruitment.
A policy however well-meaning in the abstract can feel foul to those given the job of implementing it. And in my four years on the admissions committee, routinely leapfrogging minority applicants over so many dramatically more qualified non-minority applicants, foul is how our affirmative action policy came to feel. Seeing the photographs and reading the record and personal statements of non-minority applicants whom we rejected in order to admit the far less qualified left me feeling as though I should wash.
Read the whole thing.
PATRIOT ACT POWERS are being used for non-terrorism purposes. I told you so. Talkleft has a summary, and links.
NANNY-STATISM -- in Texas? Yep. Radley Balko has the scoop.
MY NEIGHBOR, BRIAN BELL OF WEEZER, has a new CD out with his other band, Space Twins. You can buy it online -- along with cool t-shirts designed by his sister, Lea -- here.
(Okay, it's really his mom who lives next door to me, but he still uses it as his permanent address, and it's kind of cool to start posts with "my neighbor, Brian Bell of Weezer," so. . . .)
LILEKS on the Chris Hedges speech:
So why am I spending so much time on it? Perhaps because it’s an old-media / new-media moment, with generational manifestations. (Oooh - that’s enough hyphens and multisyllabic drivel to get me in an academic journal.) Hedges is the embodiment of the Times paradigm - wisdom digested and packaged and handed down to you, the consumer. That’s where it ends. You. If you have a problem with what we’ve said, write us a letter; of the 18745 letters we get every day we will chose fourteen to print in tomorrow’s paper.
The college students in the audience grew up with the internet; they have spent their college years in chatrooms and blogs. Email’s been around since they were in kindergarten. They are wired for instant feedback.
And what do you know, they gave it.
What he said.
REMEMBER AFGHANISTAN? Austin Bay does, and he's got some observations on developments there, good and bad.
KATE AT ELECTRIC VENOM has some thoughts on terrorist strategy.
May 21, 2003
YALE BOMBING UPDATE: The Jurist website collects blog posts and news stories into a well-rounded picture. And here's a special report from the Yale Daily News -- made possible via the Web, as the Daily isn't publishing right now.
Note that Yale Law's website is down. A temporary site is up at www.yale.edu/law. Exams are proceeding as scheduled in alternate locations. That's the spirit. If you cancel the exams, the terrorists will have won!
UPDATE: Howard Bashman gets the last word: "I guess this will answer once and for all the accusation that the Yale Law School experience is 'too theoretical.'"
STEVE VERDON HAS MOVED -- to www.SteveVerdon.com, of course.
STEFAN SHARKANSKY HAS MORE ON ROBERT SCHEER, whose work he is comparing to that of Jayson Blair. I'm not sure that's a fair comparision -- Scheer's a pundit, if a not-very-good one, while Blair was (or pretended to be) a reporter. But you can read the post and see for yourself. Even without the Blair comparisons, the examples of distortion and selective quotation are pretty sad.
REALCLEARPOLITICS points to a passage in this Washington Post story:
The Saudi official said there were at least three al Qaeda cells with about 50 hard-core operatives in the kingdom before the bombings. He acknowledged that there was a much wider circle of sympathizers, and U.S. officials broadly agreed with his analysis.
"We don't believe there are tens of thousands of active al Qaeda members here, but we believe the al Qaeda presence is more than a single cell or two cells," a senior U.S. official told reporters today.
As RCP notes, if that's the scope of the problem, then it's not much of a problem. But is it?
This, surely, is silver-platter material for a column about modern education. In Jayson Blair we behold the apotheosis of "self-esteem" disconnected from any kind of objective reality. He'll admit to fraud! He'll admit to drug abuse! But you'll have to tear him apart with wild dogs before you get him to admit he's "unworthy"!
Heh. Read the whole thing.
CHRIS HEDGES UPDATE: Here's a story on his response, which seems rather far from the "why do they hate us?" that he's been urging on the United States.
The story also notes that he was paid $5000 for his 18-minute diatribe. That's roughly $278 / minute. You can listen to the audio yourself and see if you think it was worth it.
Was it uncivilized and improper of the students to shout him down? Yeah. But it was uncivilized and improper of him to subject a captive audience to such bile. He's lucky they didn't throw rotten fruit.
But one thing's clear -- thanks to Hedges, the spirit of Abbie Hoffman lives on:
George Kehoe, a 66-year-old father from rural Boone County does not view his reaction as closed-minded. He approached the front of the stage in protest.
He was disturbed, too. Veterans who sacrificed their health were in attendance, Kehoe said.
Kehoe spent more than an hour reading Hedges’ book at a store on Monday night. He didn’t walk out with a purchase.
It's not quite "steal this book," but it's close.
UPDATE: Williams College reader Julianne Shelby emails:
It was rude and uncivilized for the students to shout down Hedges? You must be joking.
I listened to that 18 minute, stale, anti-intellectual heap of contradictory crap. If part of *my* tuition had gone to pay for that smarmy SOB to irrationally rant about the country I love at *my* commencement, without a word about the fact that I was, erm, graduating, I would have considered it a duty to drown him out with insults. The nerve of that man.
As I said, the times, they are a'changin'.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Brian Miller emails:
I have to disagree with your statement that it was uncivilized and improper for the students to shout him down. We're not talking about a typical situation where a speaker is scheduled to talk about a topic of his/her choosing to an audience that has chosen to attend specifically to hear the ideas being discussed. Rather the situation is almost the reverse... the speaker in this case was invited to attend and speak at an occasion that held special meaning to the audience. To me at least, that is an important distinction.
When people attend an open forum specifically for the purpose of trying to shout down a speaker with whom they disagree, a case might be made for that being uncivilized and/or improper. But in this instance, we have a speaker who appears to have gone out of his way to indulge in baiting his audience on their, not his, special occasion. The notion that people should simply keep their mouths shut and permit others to taint an occasion that holds special significance for them shows just how deeply PCism has rooted itself in our society.
I'm getting a lot of mail like this, especially from students.
THERE HAS BEEN AN EXPLOSION AT YALE LAW SCHOOL:
NEW HAVEN, Conn. -- An explosion was reported in a mail room at the Yale University law school, a city spokesman said.
James Foye, a spokesman for Mayor John DeStefano, said he had no immediate information about any injuries.
The FBI in New Haven said members of the agency's terrorism task force were sent to the scene.
Smoke could be seen rising from downtown.
The incident came as the nation was on elevated alert for possible terrorist attacks and several hours after President Bush -- a Yale alumnus -- visited the state to speak at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy graduation ceremony in New London.
The Bush connection seems rather unlikely to me. There's nothing about this at the Kitchen Cabinet or Balkinization sites, and I can't seem to get Yalepundits to load. But OxBlog has this report:
Anna Skotko writes in to say that the word on the street (literally) is that thankfully so far it seems possible no students were hurt. Someone saw a wall to the alumni reading room collapse, and a few classroom doors were reportedly blown out - but buildings can be rebuilt....
UPDATE: The Command Post reports that one floor has collapsed. (But be skeptical of early reports, as always.)
ANOTHER UPDATE: A reader suggests that the smoke is probably steam from the cogen plant. I was on the building committee -- the campus is riddled with steam tunnels that could rupture. I'm somewhat skeptical about the floor collapse story, as the floors are mostly thick and granite. Perhaps part of one might have collapsed, but even that seems doubtful.
YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Here's a later story:
Barbara Safriet, an associate dean at the law school, said fire officials told her that there were no injuries reported, but crews were still checking the building.
New Haven police spokeswoman Bonnie Winchester also said early reports indicated the explosion was in a mail room, and said it might have affected more than one room.
Witnesses reported a loud boom and flying debris shortly before 5 p.m. Police shut down the city block around the law school.
Alexandra Alperovich, a law school student, said she was sitting in the student lounge when she heard the explosion. She saw a wall to the alumni lounge collapse.
"It was very smoky. Everything started falling and I just ran out right away," she said.
If the Alumni Lounge is the room I think it is (they've renamed some of them) it shares a wall with the mailroom.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Sounds like it was actually in a classroom -- room 127? -- from what they just said on TV. The terror connection seems very doubtful. The obvious explanation, though -- a student trying to stop an exam -- seems very unlikely at Yale, where people are pretty mellow due to the lack of class rankings and, for all practical purposes, grades.
Lily Malcolm of Kitchen Cabinet (link above) reports: "We are all fine." I'm relieved. Jack Balkin -- link also above -- also has a somewhat more detailed report that suggests it might have been an exploding pipe. He says the explosion was in room 120. Oxblog (permalinks not working) has multiple updates.
STILL MORE: This MSNBC report says it was room 120.
MORE YET: A student emailer says there are lockers more or less above room 120 (there weren't when I was there) and that the explosion might have been in one of them. Who knows? We will, soon enough. I'd be quite surprised to discover that this is terrorism (at least of the Islamo-fascist variety), though.
LawMeme has more.
GOOD NEWS FROM COLORADO: Linda Seebach of the Rocky Mountain News emails:
I thought you would like to know that Gov. Owens' press secretary just called me to tell me that the governor has vetoed our super-DMCA bill, H.B. 1303. In his veto message he said the bill "could also stifle legal activity by entities all along the high tech spectrum, from manufacturers of communication parts to sellers of communication services."
He urges the legislature, if it returns to this topic in the next session, "to be more careful in drafting a bill that adds protections that are rightfully needed, but does not paint a broad brush stroke where only a tight line is needed."
Indeed. Meanwhile Bill Hobbs reports that the Consumer Electronics Association is weighing in against Tennessee's super-DMCA bill, which hasn't passed yet and hopefully won't.
MEDIA MELTDOWN: I tie together all the journalistic scandals, and connect them with the FCC's discussion of media consolidation, over at GlennReynolds.com.
UPDATE: Well, almost all of them. I left out Chris Hedges. Media Minded has a link to audio of the speech, so you can listen and make up your own mind. Here's MM's take:
Think I'm kidding about the Chomskyite content? Listen for yourself. I did, and not once did he even mention the kids who were getting their diplomas that day. There wasn't even a "as you go out into the world" bit at the end of his rant. It was just pure bile directed at the Bush administration. No wonder he was loudly and heartily booed, and nearly yanked off the stage.
I'm not saying Hedges doesn't have the right to say what he believes. But I have to wonder about whether it was appropriate to vent his spleen in such a manner at a graduation ceremony. Furthermore, any claims of "objectivity" Hedges may make in his role as a journalist can now be easily dismissed, and all of his reporting from Iraq now comes into question.
What was he thinking?
Was he thinking? What strikes me, on listening to it, is the preachiness, the pompous and sanctimonious tone of his voice, and the way he mangles Reinhold Niebuhr as he recycles old soundbites and factoids as if he were saying something profound. He recycles the looting lies, too. He sounds like a talk-radio caricature of a liberal, and he's flat-out racist in his dismissal of Arab prospects for democratic self-government. "Iraq was a cesspool for the British. . . it will be a cesspool for us as well."
Yep. Racist. The Moose says so.
ANOTHER UPDATE: John Tabin has a roundup of commencement stories from around the nation. Seems like there's a trend here. He adds:
Administrators justify these speeches-- and condemn the walk-outs and boos that they are now drawing-- by saying that its their job to "challenge" students-- but by an amazing coincidence, these "challenging" speakers sure tend to reflect the bias of the administration. Funny how that works.
BIASED BBC continues to track the Kampfner/Lynch story. (Hugh Hewitt has the Robert Scheer angle -- he says that the L.A. Times isn't even trying to defend the column. He's got a column on the subject, too.) Meanwhile Chris Regan points out that Howell Raines blocked a review of Bill McGowan's book, which argues that diversity crusades are corrupting the news business. And Eugene Volokh has more on the CNN Assault Weapon fake-video story.
SOME USEFUL PERSPECTIVE:
A blog isn't your friend, it isn't your life, and it most certainly shouldn't be the only thing you ever do - it may inspire and spark creativity - but it can also be a destructive illusion - a reality that feeds the worst part of you if you are desperate for it to give something back. All you can really hope for out of a blog is a release, and perhaps to make a connection with another person. If you make only one, that is one more than you had before.
That is all, now go forth and blog with your heart, not with your ass.
For those who don't buy this, there's also some advice about how to boost your traffic by marrying Moxie.
Sadly, whenever I try to take a break, I get stuff like this, calling me back.
THIS DOESN'T SOUND VERY DIPLOMATIC TO ME:
Walk the halls of the State Department's main offices in Washington these days, and you'll encounter an abundance of political cartoons — something you could not have found even three years ago. It's not that the diplomats at Foggy Bottom have suddenly developed a sense of humor, but rather a newfound contempt for the leader of the free world. The cartoons overwhelmingly lampoon President Bush as a simpleton who doesn't understand the "complexities" of the foreign policy.
Foreign Service sneering at a president is nothing new, of course, but such open disrespect for a commander-in-chief hasn't existed since Foggy Bottom's diplomats decried Ronald Reagan's description of the Soviet Union as an "evil empire." But at least then-Secretary of State George Schultz was able to keep something of a handle on his lieutenants and foot soldiers. Colin Powell has not.
The result, of course, is the marginalization of the State Department. That's a bad thing -- or it would be, if the State Department had more to offer.
Kamil Zogby isn't very happy with the State Department, either.
BILL HOBBS WRITES:
Some 37 million U.S. households will have a home network by 2008, four times as many as do now, as people branch out from networking their multiple computers to connecting their networks to entertainment equipment and then, later, to household appliances, predicts Forrester Research. Of course, all of the above will be illegal in Tennessee without the permission of the cable company or telecom that provides your broadband Internet access, if legislation currently moving through the Tennessee legislature passes. Under HB 457 and SB 213, if the cable company or telecom does not expressly authorize you to connect a device to their service, the legal inference is automatically created that you intended to defraud the service provider. What follows could then be civil and/or criminal legal proceedings against you.
Hobbs wonders why this is getting so little coverage from newspapers and TV in Tennessee. So do I. There's a hearing today.
As I wrote in my TechCentralStation column yesterday, this kind of legislation undercuts FCC Chairman Michael Powell's argument that the openness of the Internet means that we don't need to worry about media concentration. If Powell were busy defending the Internet against this sort of intrusion, I'd feel a lot better about his claims.
Here's a story by Farhad Manjoo in Salon that quotes both me and Howard Bashman on this. We're both skeptical of Powell's position. (You'll have to sit through a short ad for Sid Blumenthal's book if you're not a subscriber).
I KEEP READING PEOPLE -- Kaus is the latest example -- complaining about Howard Kurtz's alleged conflict of interest in covering media organizations while actually working for them.
But I don't get it. Maybe this is one of those weird journalistic things that only makes sense to journalists -- like, you know, the BBC's reputation for accuracy, or the idea that Mark Russell is funny -- but in law the solution to a conflict of interest is generally disclosure. If you disclose, and the client accepts, that's enough.
Here everybody knows about Kurtz's "conflict" -- you can't miss it when he's on TV and in print and when everyone is constantly talking about it -- and when you choose to read him or watch him, well, you've accepted.
So am I missing something (it's not as if I wrote a book on this kind of thing -- oh, wait. . . .), or is this just jealousy over his having such a good gig?
UPDATE: Jeff Jarvis says I'm right.
JEREMY LOTT WRITES that the New York Times isn't all that important anymore, and that USA Today is the real paper of record:
In fact, many of the things that critics hate about the Times are almost wholly absent from USA Today. "McPaper," as it is sometimes derisively called, is the opposite of an arrogant newspaper. While the Times was busy spinning against Bush's most recent round of tax cuts, USA Today played it straight, noting a surge in public support for them. It continues to provide excellent foreign coverage (witness the recent piece on Col. Matthew Bogdanos, charged with finding looted Iraqi antiquities) and decent financial coverage (tech columnist Kevin Maney is one of the best in the business) and its sports coverage easily laps the Times'.
LILEKS COMMENTS on the BBC's disgraced Jessica Lynch "expose":
The Beeb did an expose on the Jessica Lynch rescue. Perhaps you’ve heard this story. Apparently it was all staged. Matt Damon and Ben Affleck led the charge under the command of the DI from “Full Metal Jacket,” and the initial reports that she was beamed up to the Enterprise were utterly false. The very fact that she was rescued alive proves that the Ba’athist regime was the epitome of humanitarian solicitousness. Admit it - when you saw the footage of American helicopters roaring over the hospital blaring “Rock You Like a Hurricane” from their loudspeakers, weren’t you suspicious? Didn’t you think hmmmm when one of the soldiers turned to the camera and said “Ah’ll be back” and did an end-zone spike with the severed head of a Republican Guard commander? Were you not a little bit unnerved when the giant face of Karl Rove filled your TV screen, his forehead tattooed with the Chevron logo?
As it happens, I remember seeing the rescue footage the government released. I TiVod it for the video compilation I was making. No gunfire; no flashbangs; there was a shot of some soldiers going down a stairwell, a grainy green night-vision shot of a waiting room with a portrait of Saddam leaning against the wall, and an outside shot of the stretcher being prepped for extraction. I’ve seen news stories on paintball tourneys that were more dramatic.
So why did anyone believe the BBC story? Why did Robert Scheer take the bait and write an entire column based on an uncritical acceptance of the Beeb’s mad blather?
Unfortunately, here's where Lileks' column breaks down. Poor, sweet Lileks just can't get his mind around the true evil genius of this Administration: the whole thing was obviously a brilliant ploy to sucker Scheer and others into making fools of themselves. This may seem to be a disproportionate use of resources (given the low degree of challenge involved), but that's just because most people don't realize how far they're willing to go!
May 20, 2003
CARNIVAL OF THE VANITIES is over at Susanna Cornett's place. Drop by and follow the links, and maybe discover some new blogs you'll like enough to visit again.
OH, THAT LIBERAL MEDIA: An apparently never-ending series.
ABOUT TIME, EH? Damian Penny has moved to a new, MT-powered site.
THE MORE I THINK ABOUT IT, the more I wonder if the Jessica Lynch rescue wasn't a clever Pentagon disinformation campaign designed to entrap anti-American journalists into revealing their sloppiness, bias, and willingness to report untruths as fact. Then again, why bother? They seem to have some sort of credibility death-wish.
How else could you explain this Robert Scheer column, which takes the BBC story as an excuse to foam at the mouth in classically over-the-top Scheer fashion:
After a thorough investigation, the British Broadcasting Corp. has presented a shocking dissection of the "heroic" rescue of Pvt. Jessica Lynch, as reported by the U.S. military and a breathless American press.
A 'thorough investigation" that involved unnamed sources making charges that were not checked out, and people saying that the U.S. forces fired blanks, credulous repetition of unconfirmed facts by parties with an interest in lying, and obvious ignorance of matters military, as well as misrepresentation of the coverage at the time, and that has been contradicted by other reports from the scene.
Of course, to Scheer any investigation is thorough if it reflects badly on the U.S. military and the Bush Administration. Scheer even repeats the "firing blanks" claim -- one that makes no sense on its face to anyone who knows anything. Too bad for Scheer that he's been left hanging by the BBC's own backpedaling on the story.
The L.A. area really needs a new newspaper that will keep an eye on the Los Angeles Times.
UPDATE: BIASED-BBC has more on this, and has preserved the story in case it "quietly changes," as BBC stories have been known to do. It notes:
What is interesting is that (as of 9.50pm) nearly all of the comments supporting the Kampfner version and praising the BBC story are predicated on the assumption that a Pentagon fraud has been revealed by the BBC. But Kampfner himself says there was no fraud. See the first question and answer of the CNN interview linked to below:
HARRIS: Is it your belief right now based upon your investigation that this rescue of Lynch was in any way a staged event and not real?
That wasn't all his answer, of course. He then goes on to say all sorts of other stuff along the lines of "the US military are spinmeisters" which is true but not the point. The point is that the journalist who started the story when asked whether it is now his opinion that the rescue was faked answered with a unambiguous No. Wouldn't it be more responsible of the BBC to say this loud and clear?
It would have saved Robert Scheer from looking like an idiot today, anyway.
ANOTHER UPDATE: I was on Hugh Hewitt's show earlier tonight. It wasn't my best performance -- I took ten minutes out of a Brownies parents' meeting to do it by cellphone -- but Hewitt is clearly on Scheer's case and is smelling blood. I should note that the Scheer article also treats the Saddam / Al Qaeda connection as bogus, which seems pretty damn bogus itself to me -- plenty of evidence of an Al Qaeda connection has come out since the war, and even Robert Fisk was reporting that the Fedayeen were basically Al Qaeda and Al Qaeda-style non-Iraqi Arab Islamists.
Meanwhile, Roger Simon says that Scheer is "making an ass of himself" with this, and adds:
I think this is all kind of sad actually (small s) because I'm sure Scheer is fundamentally a good guy and a good journalist. The problem is he's been reified. Scheer should know that word--it's pure Sartrean sixties. It means, essentially, objectified as a product for sale. He's spent so many years as a professional dispenser of left/liberal orthodoxy he's terrified to see things objectively. He might lose his place in the market.
OH, THAT LIBERAL MEDIA:
New York Times reporter Chris Hedges was booed off the stage Saturday at Rockford College’s graduation because he gave an antiwar speech.
Two days later, graduates and family members, envisioning a “go out and make your mark” send-off, are still reeling.
Guests wanting to hear the author and Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter are equally appalled.
And College President Paul Pribbenow is rethinking the wisdom of such controversial topics at future commencements. This is Pribbenow’s first graduation.
Hedges began his abbreviated 18-minute speech comparing United States’ policy in Iraq to piranhas and a tyranny over the weak. . . .
Some graduates and audience members turned their backs to the speaker in silent protest. Others rushed up the aisle to vocally protest the remarks, and one student tossed his cap and gown to the stage before leaving.
More crushing of dissent in Ashcroft's America, I suppose. Except that I imagine that Hedges was paid a lot to give that speech. He misjudged the audience dreadfully, offended them terribly, and reaped an honest audience reaction.
There are two possibilities: (1) He had no idea the audience would object, which suggests a tin ear that calls his journalistic abilities into question; or (2) he knew they'd hate the speech and didn't care, which makes him, well, a jerk.
UPDATE: I think it's "pariahs," not "piranhas," -- TimesWatch has a partial transcript. It's a pretty offensive speech ("This is a war of liberation in Iraq, but it is a war now of liberation of Iraqis from American occupation"), though TimesWatch also notes that Rockford College should have known what it was getting into with Hedges, who's on record as thinking that it's a good thing we lost in Vietnam, yada yada yada.
I think the notion of a lefty speaker being booed off the stage at a college campus is messing with some people's minds. But all I can say is don't criticize what you can't understand, your sons and your daughter are beyond your command, and the times -- though, seemingly, not The Times -- they are a'changin'. Heck, they walked out on Phil Donahues's commencement speech.
TimesWatch also asks, amusingly:
A few days ago the Times saw fit to run a captioned photograph of graduates walking out in protest of Republican Sen. Rick Santorum’s commencement address at Philadelphia’s St. Joseph’s University. Will the Times consider Hedges’ hostile reception equally newsworthy?
About as likely as their giving front-page treatment to CNN's video fakery.
But Hedges is more proof that claims that The New York Times is a congenial place for people who take the anti-American side aren't just blather.
BLOGS: Taking you inside the journalistic sausage factory.
Trouble is, I like sausage. I just want it made in a way that lives up to the promises on the label.
UPDATE: How bad have things gotten? Bad enough that when you compare journalism to sausage-making, people write in to defend sausage-makers! Reader Peter Ingemi writes:
I live 7 doors down from a butcher shop that has been in the neighborhood and one particular family for 100 years. A couple of months ago when I walked in and was making my order I noticed Mike (the butcher) cutting and cubing pork. He seemed to be cutting an awful lot of it, I didn't see a special on the board so I asked about it.
He reminded me it was Wednesday and that is the day he made all of the different sausages he makes (about a half dozen types not counting chicken and kielbasa) I stood there and watched him making sausages and realized that the old saying about Sausages no matter how true it might be for a plant or maybe another butcher shop it wasn't true at Romano's. (I can't speak for other local butchers but I would bet good money that this is true for other family butcher shops too.)
I think Mike and the other local butchers deserve a caveat.
HEY, MAYBE THINGS AREN'T GOING SO BADLY AFTER ALL:
DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) - Doorbells and phones went unanswered at the Damascus offices of Palestinian militant groups the United States accuses of terrorism. Instead of veteran campaigners ready to rail against Israel for hours, visitors were greeted by posters of Palestinian ``martyrs'' on the walls outside - and silence.
All signs pointed to what neither the Palestinians nor the Syrians will acknowledge: Syria has bowed to U.S. pressure and curbed the radicals it has hosted for years.
Palestinians protesting against Hamas, terrorist offices in Syria closed -- well, it's a start!
LARRY LESSIG thinks I got it right in my TechCentralStation column on media concentration.
MAYBE THINGS REALLY ARE CHANGING:
BEIT HANOUN, Gaza Strip (AP) - Palestinian residents of a northern Gaza town demonstrated Tuesday after Israelis destroyed buildings and farms there in a five-day invasion, but in a rare twist, their wrath was directed at Palestinian militants for firing rockets from their property, not at the Israelis. . . .
The demonstrators blocked a main road with trash cans, rocks and burning tires in a show of outrage against the militants. Most of the rockets are launched by members of the violent Islamic Hamas.
``They (the militants) claim they are heroes,'' said Mohammed Zaaneen, 30, a farmer, as he carried rocks into the street. ``They brought us only destruction and made us homeless. They used our farms, our houses and our children ... to hide.''
DANIEL DREZNER WONDERS:
This administration has a peculiar pathology. It focuses like a laser beam on a key priority for several months, ignoring any criticism from outsiders. It then achieves its priority, earning plaudits for gutsiness and discipline. Immediately afterwards, however, drift sets in, unexpected complications arise, events beyond the Bush team's control create new obstacles to policy implementation, and things appear to fall apart.
The policy drift has occurred four times in this administration -- after the passage of the 2001 tax cut, after the fall of the Taliban, after the 2002 mid-year election, and, alas, after the victory in Iraq.
What's going wrong? . . . A troubling hypothesis -- is it possible that the message discipline so valued by the Bushies also leads to the suppression of policy adaptability?
Maybe. They seem pretty quick to change approaches when they think they're not working, but they're not always quick to figure that out.
One problem, of course, is that the media pronounce pretty much everything they do a failure before it even starts, which makes it harder to figure out what's really going on.
ANOTHER BLOGGER TAKES THE BOEING: Eric Olsen has a column on MSNBC.
MARGARET WENTE WRITES ABOUT THE "FRUSTRATED MULLAHS" of Iran, and their confrontation with the Internet, and weblogs. Hossein Derakshan is interviewed.
IS THE GLASS HALF-EMPTY? OR HALF-FULL? I guess that depends on whether you're pouring, or drinking. But to its credit, CNN has admitted it was wrong, and run a correction regarding an assault-weapon related story that falsely suggested that "assault weapons" are more powerful than other guns (they're not), and that the assault weapon ban had to do with machine guns (it doesn't). On the other hand, the errors fall into the "unforgivable" category.
So was CNN incredibly ignorant and gullible here, or was it deliberately passing along anti-gun propaganda that it knew to be false?
I'm going with explanation one -- if journalists can go to cover a war without knowing that there's no such thing as a 300 millimeter pistol then they can make this kind of idiotic mistake honestly, I suppose, though it is a bit suspicious that these mistakes tend to wind up supporting gun control every time. And this part is harder to explain away:
In the first of the two segments that aired Thursday, a Broward County detective fired the AK-47 in semiautomatic mode, and the camera showed bullets hitting a cinder-block target. The detective then fired a legal semiautomatic weapon, and CNN showed a cinder-block target with no apparent damage. On Friday, CNN admitted that the detective had not been firing at the cinder block.
Didn't an L.A. Times photographer lose his job over misleading images? Why is this different? Was it just an accident? Conceivably, I suppose, but why is someone who can make that sort of a mistake working for CNN?
But if they really are that sloppy and ignorant, maybe they shouldn't do gun stories without knowing enough to get it right. And parroting the latest press release from the Brady Campaign or the Violence Policy Center doesn't count as research.
The big victim here isn't gun rights, though. It's CNN's already damaged credibility. Because if they make mistakes like this, why should we trust them on anything else? CNN's final comment was this: "we all stick by John Zarrella and how credible of a reporter he is."
UPDATE: A reader who says he used to work at CNN writes:
I've worked in news research at CNN. I'm certainly no gun expert, or even a gun fan, having fired weapons only a handful of times in my life. But I can say with absolute certainty that I know more about guns than 99.9% of people working in the newsroom, so it's not surprising that a reporter or bureau chief would fall into the "incredibly ignorant" category.
However, the cinder block "demonstration" strikes me as nothing more than a willful intent to deceive - by Zarella, by his producer and by the producers of the shows the segments ran on. Someone should have caught this, and Zarella should be asked to step down from his position as bureau chief. Won't happen, but it should.
CNN's credibility has taken a well-deserved beating this year, and this particular instance isn't even explainable by the need to "maintain access" in a closed nation -- it looks to be an effort to influence domestic politics, pure and simple.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Hugh Myers emails:
I guess it's the better part of valor to credit CNN with ignorance of basic firearms terchnology. However, as one who has been following this issue very closely for decades I can tell you that every time I've seen or heard the "major media" talk about "assault" rifles, they distort facts. The most egregious cases occurred during the debates in the mid-nineties when EVERY major media outlet ran stories about semi-automatics accompanied by films of rifles firing in full automatic mode.
It is disingenuous in the extreme for CNN to claim ignorance at this late date.
Well, even if it's true, it's no excuse. With CNN, it seems that the question is becoming "are they lying, on the take, or just stupid?" far too often. And while "stupid" is the best of those three, that the question keeps being raised is devastating.
THE BBC'S JOHN KAMPFNER IS BACKING AWAY FROM THE JESSICA LYNCH STORY -- while, of course, pretending not to do so. Note that he never really answers the question about U.S. troops firing blanks -- instead he offers a non sequitur about whether Jessica Lynch was shot.
The new version of his story -- even given his spin -- is simply that the U.S. military milked the story of the rescue for PR. Well, duh. But that's not what his original story charged. His original story charged that it was a fake, with U.S. troops firing blanks in a Hollywood-style extravaganza.
This guy has been busted.
The press wouldn't put up with this sort of spin from a politician. Let's see if it's as tough on one of its own. Kampfner says: "Well, I mean, it must be said the British are no more angels than the Americans when it comes to putting out certain messages in the war."
Well, they're no angels at the BBC, that's for sure.
UPDATE: Well, what Kampfner is accusing the Pentagon of doing isn't nearly as bad as what CNN has admitted doing in terms of misleading video. So will this get worldwide media attention? Hell, will it even get major play on the BBC?
Don't hold your breath.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Bill Adams thinks this point deserves more stress:
If the American forces arrived firing blanks and playing tapes of explosions to create a great p.r. film, WHERE'S THE FILM? Kampfner complains that the U.S. suppressed the "rushes" and only supplied a "professionally-edited" final tape, but note the complete logical disconnect: that edited tape, the tape the military's press managers presumably wanted to put out from the get-go, doesn't show Americans firing wildly in response to explosion noises. So Kampfner's claim is--what?--that they faked combat in order to the fool the world, but then didn't show any of the fakery in order to fool the world.
Bill, you're thinking too small. Actually it was all an elaborate deception to destroy Kampfner's credibility. Seems to be working. . . .
ANOTHER UPDATE: A reader writes:
In his non-retraction to CNN, Kampfner refers to the alleged attempt to evacuate Lynch in an ambulance as occurring the day before the rescue raid, but the BBC story he's defending says it occurred two days before the raid. Just a mistake? Or has he realized that two days before, the hospital was still in Iraqi military hands, making the scenario much less credible?
WHY FCC CHAIRMAN MICHAEL POWELL IS WRONG ABOUT MEDIA CONCENTRATION: My TechCentralStation column is up.
JEFF JARVIS WRITES that Robert Fisk is more creative than Jayson Blair. Hey, maybe he can get a job at the BBC!
HERE'S ANOTHER VENEZUELAN BLOG focusing on events there.
"ALL THE BAD NEWS IS TRUE:" Here's a firsthand report from Zimbabwe, which has been destroyed by its lousy, corrupt government. But, hey, Mugabe might buy some French airplanes!
DILACERATOR REPORTS on pro-Nazism among Arab immigrants in The Netherlands. He says it's being covered up. No surprise there.
PAUL SPERRY WRITES that the color-coded terror alerts are obviously political, not real, because the level hasn't been raised. I don't know if this is true or not -- there's a good argument that the threat really is lower -- but it's interesting that the Administration is getting this kind of criticism from the right as well as the left.
HOMELAND SECURITY: It's still a joke.
May 19, 2003
TONY ADRAGNA ON THE U.N.'S HUMANITARIAN FAILURES: Worth reading.
CASTRO'S FAILURE, VIA BRAD DELONG:
The hideously depressing thing is that Cuba under Battista--Cuba in 1957--was a developed country. Cuba in 1957 had lower infant mortality than France, Belgium, West Germany, Israel, Japan, Austria, Italy, Spain, and Portugal. Cuba in 1957 had doctors and nurses: as many doctors and nurses per capita as the Netherlands, and more than Britain or Finland. Cuba in 1957 had as many vehicles per capita as Uruguay, Italy, or Portugal. Cuba in 1957 had 45 TVs per 1000 people--fifth highest in the world. Cuba today has fewer telephones per capita than it had TVs in 1957.
You take a look at the standard Human Development Indicator variables--GDP per capita, infant mortality, education--and you try to throw together an HDI for Cuba in the late 1950s, and you come out in the range of Japan, Ireland, Italy, Spain, Israel. Today? Today the UN puts Cuba's HDI in the range of Lithuania, Trinidad, and Mexico. (And Carmelo Mesa-Lago thinks the UN's calculations are seriously flawed: that Cuba's right HDI peers today are places like China, Tunisia, Iran, and South Africa.)
Thus I don't understand lefties who talk about the achievements of the Cuban Revolution: "...to have better health care, housing, education, and general social relations than virtually all other comparably developed countries." Yes, Cuba today has a GDP per capita level roughly that of--is "comparably developed"--Bolivia or Honduras or Zimbabwe, but given where Cuba was in 1957 we ought to be talking about how it is as developed as Italy or Spain.
To coin a phrase: Indeed.
SOME GOOD NEWS: There are roughly 50 new newspapers in Iraq already. But not that many weblogs. Yet.
(Via Jeff Jarvis).
SOMEBODY IS FIGURING IT OUT:
The public is fixated on Jayson Blair, the young reporter for The New York Times who hoodwinked his readers and editors with willful plagiarism, lies, and made-up sources, but a much less sinister occurrence undermines the credibility of most newspapers every day: the unintentional errors, large and small, that make their way into each issue. . . .
Mr. Rogers recalls a San Francisco Chronicle story from Afghanistan that referred to someone carrying a "300-millimeter pistol" - roughly the size, a reader pointed out, of a gun on a battleship. "A lot of us aren't very good about firearms or the metric system," he laughs. . . .
Still, editors and reporters both agree the issue of accuracy and its effect on readers' trust is a serious one - one reason the ASNE sponsored a lengthy study several years ago. The conclusion: Everything from a misused "affect" to a mislabeled map erodes public confidence.
But a willingness to quickly correct mistakes goes a long way toward restoring it.
Yep. They could learn a lot from bloggers, that way. Fix errors promptly, prominently, and add the correction to the original story on the website. Putting corrections in an inconspicuous separate column, where you usually can't even understand the original error in context (as, say, The New York Times and a host of other papers do) and you're not really running corrections at all.
UPDATE: Reader Jonathan Guest emails:
One of the things I've noticed over the years: Whenever I hear "journalists" discussing a subject that I know something about, airplanes, manufacturing, guns, even bicycling, running, essentially anything that I have SOME familiarity with, I notice that the journalist is utterly ignorant about the subject. I wonder, don't you have the same reaction about legal matters, nano-science, etc? I wonder if specialists of most every field have the same reaction, and because we don't discuss it directly, no one realizes that the average journalists knows just about nothing about nearly everything.
Yeah. I mean, I realize that generalists can't know as much as specialists know about their own field. But the number of butt-obvious boners (like "300 mm pistol") coupled with -- as above -- a perverse pride in ignorance ("we don't understand firearms or the metric system, tee hee") does kind of support this theory. I blame J-school for this. If I ran a newspaper, I'd make my new hires take a 1000-question general-knowledge exam.
UPDATE: Carter Wood emails:
My prospective boss, Hasso Hering, made me take a test before being hired in 1986 at the Albany Democrat-Herald in Oregon. Things like, "When was the Second World War?"
Apparently, lots of applicants failed even that.
BRIAN MICKLETHWAIT HAS IT RIGHT: "First they went for New York, then they hit Bali, now they are hitting their own backyard. This is terrorism back in serious business?" He continues:
Why did they hit New York? Because they could. Now, they can't. Why did they hit Bali? Because they could. Now they can't. So why are they now hitting their own back yard? Because they can. And that's all they can.
I think he's right. I certainly hope so.
IT'S SKBUBBA'S ONE-YEAR BLOGIVERSARY! Drop by and wish him well.
A MATRIX REVIEW THAT REVOLVES AROUND CORNEL WEST: Not bad for a guy with only one line.
MATT ENGEL, of "Olive Garden" fame, has a new piece. It's panned by John Cole here.
To be fair to Engel (though God only knows why anyone would want to do that) I should point out that he probably didn't choose the headline.
SALAM PAX has a post that casts some (more) doubt on the BBC's version of the Jessica Lynch story, mentioned below:
While talking to them about what they are supposed to do the name “Jessica” is dropped. Aseel, one of the female volunteers, tells us that this is the hospital where Jessica was held in captivity. Both main hospitals in this city were turned into command centers. One had fedayeen in it and was bombed to the ground by the Americans and in the other Ali Hassan Al-Majeed was holding court for a while, before he moved to another place. When the American forces came to rescue Jessica “chemical” Ali was already out, the manager of the hospital and a couple of doctors were asked to get dressed in civilian clothes and get out as fast as they can. The hospital was not damaged.
Would American special forces, getting to a "command center" just after its commanders were hustled out, really show up firing blanks?
UPDATE: Toby Blyth has an observation about the BBC's main witness that the BBC seems to have missed: "Funnily enough, this doctor now claims that she was well treated and he was going to deliver her up to the Americans anyway. Odd, isn't it, that this same doctor would be guilty of a war crime if the allegations of Private Lynch's mistreatment as a POW are true."
You can trust him, though, because he's not an American.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Here's more: "It's almost too easy to beat them up. They absolutely never had any military sources or even bothered to check."
REALCLEARPOLITICS on Jayson Blair:
Sheesh. I haven't seen such a deluge of commentary on one subject since 9/11. Not even the War in Iraq produced this much chatter. But I guess this is what happens when our narcissistic media culture gets hold of a topic that combines two issues they are totally infatuated with: diversity and themselves.
SHANTI MANGALA WONDERS why the world is ignoring Africa's latest problems.
A HANDS-ON FUTURE? I look at job prospects for the next generation, over at GlennReynolds.com.
NOT READY FOR PRIMETIME: The FBI, while shadowing Dr. Steven Hatfill, ran over him with a car.
Dr. Steven J. Hatfill suffered a bruised foot and abrasions after the incident Saturday but wound up getting a ticket for "walking to create hazard" that carries a $5 fine, according to a copy of the citation provided Monday by Washington police.
Hatfill's the one with the bruised foot, but it's the FBI that looks lame here.
MORE ON TENNESSEE'S LOUSY "SUPER-DMCA" LEGISLATION, which would make you a felon for installing TiVo without the cable company's permission:
The House Budget Subcommittee hearing on HB457 has been moved up to TOMORROW, May 20th, at 10:00am! This also the same day that the Senate Judiciary Committee meets at 3:30pm. We fully expect the bills supporters may also try some fancy footwork througout tomorrow to lead astray any opponents of the legislation so that it might move on through to the General Assembly.
I don't know why this hasn't gotten more attention from the state's mainstream media, but perhaps some folks will show up and ask tough questions at the hearing tomorrow. People should start with this question asked by the Rocky Mountain News:
Did you get permission from your cable company before you bought your kids a new VCR? Did your telephone company say you could use a modem to log on to the Internet? Did your Internet service provider give written approval for your Webcam?
Do you think you should have to ask them?
Perhaps some media folks might ask the legislators if they think the voters think they should have to ask permission.
DON'T MIND THE MAGGOTS: Megan McArdle has a piece on New York budgeting over at TechCentralStation.
DAVE KOPEL WRITES that Congress should bar "junk" lawsuits that are actually aimed at infringing people's constitutional rights:
Suing someone in revenge for their lawful exercise of First Amendment rights is known as a SLAPP - a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation. Many legislatures have enacted laws against such litigation abuse, and congressional action against one particular form of SLAPP is a good first step towards a nationwide ban on all SLAPPs.
The form in question? Well, read on:
At an American Bar Association symposium in 1999, one of the plaintiffs' attorneys for the antigun lawsuits explained that the attorneys had read the Dun & Bradstreet reports on the firearms companies, estimated how much the companies could spend defending themselves against litigation, and then filed so many cases in so many jurisdictions that the gun companies would not be able to spend the money to see the cases through to a verdict. . . .
There is no right to file abusive lawsuits that chill the exercise of constitutional rights. That is why the Supreme Court, in the 1964 case New York Times v. Sullivan, restricted libel suits that infringed on First Amendment rights. Pennsylvania, like most other states, has enacted legislation affirming that gun laws should be made by the legislature, not by trial attorneys trying to end-run the democratic process.
Sounds like an evil, anti-rights conspiracy to me. Somebody investigate these guys. You know that the New York Times would be all over them -- and rightly -- if this were a conspiracy to bankrupt abortion providers via frivolous lawsuits.
POLAND STANDS TALL, France and Germany act small:
Hard to believe, but Poland is now arguably a more consequential global power than either France or Germany. And the angry reactions in Berlin, Brussels and Paris to this news speaks eloquently to the tectonic shift under way in Europe after Iraq. Their diplomats grumbled widely that the Poles were vassals to the U.S., ingrates willing to take European Union subsidies and undermine efforts to build a common European foreign policy. "Mercenaries," a German ambassador on the Continent called them in an interview with us.
Lacking other arguments, France and Germany call the Poles, and the majority of current and future EU countries that backed the U.S. over Iraq, "bad Europeans." This appeal is a new form of euro-chauvinism--in other words, the advocates of a vital trans-Atlantic link (such as Tony Blair and Jose Maria Aznar) are traitors who've made the wrong choice.
Euro-chauvinism, indeed. Meanwhile, Roger Simon deals a cruel blow:
The problem with the French is not their knee-jerk anti-Americanism--it is that they are second rate. They don't do it well anymore. And I'm not just talking about the decline of French music (since the 40s), French film (since the 70s) or even French food (still okay). I'm talking about FRENCH ART itself.
You'll have to follow the link to see what he's talking about. I think he's being unfair -- it doesn't look like art to me. Oh, wait. . . .
I ACTUALLY DON'T LIKE WAL-MART -- I prefer the trendy atmosphere of its upscale competitor Tarzhay. It's like shopping at your favorite nightclub! Er, if your favorite nightclub is actually a discount retailer with an upscale feel, anyway. But the New York Times is dumping on Wal-Mart again, and it's getting dumped on in turn by Susanna Cornett and, very amusingly, by ScrappleFace.
THE ELF SCANDAL'S TENTACLES apparently reach to Venezuela:
Massive under-the-table dealings with the Venezuelan government of 10 years ago have involved witness accounts of espionage, Swiss bank accounts; brown envelopes filled cash for politicians, luxury Paris apartments and mansions in Corsica, bribes and treachery.
Perhaps it would be simpler to provide a list of officials who did not receive bribes from ELF.
ARI FLEISCHER IS RESIGNING. I suspect that we'll see some other people step down this summer, as it's the last chance to do so before the campaign gears up.
LAST WEEK'S MAIL brought a copy of Eugene Volokh's new book, Academic Legal Writing: Law Review Articles, Student Notes, and Seminar Papers. I've looked at it over the weekend and it looks quite good; I plan to require my seminar students to buy it.
I've used Eugene's Writing a Student Article piece since it came out, and found it helpful. This is in a similar vein, but there's a lot more to the book. And the subject is important, and under-treated. As Alex Kozinski says in the introduction:
It is difficult to overstate the importance of a written paper for a young lawyer's career, especially if the piece is published. Grades, of necessity, are somewhat grainy and subjective: is an A- that much better than a B+? Letters of recommendation can be more useful, but they still rely on someone else's judgment, and they often have a stale booster quality to them. Words like "fabulous" and "extraordinary" lose their force by dint of repetition. . . .
A paper is very different. It is the applicant's raw work product, unfiltered through a third-party evaluator. By reading it, you can personally evaluate the student's writing, research, logic and judgment. . . . Writing a paper engages so much of the lawyer's art that no other predictor of likely success on the job comes close. A well-written, well-researched thoughtful paper can clinch that law firm job or clerkship. It is indispensible if you aim to teach.
That's absolutely right. That's why I encourage my students who write first-rate papers to have them published, and I'm happy to say that quite a few have. (The law review note-writing process is nice, but there's so much structure and hand-holding in that process that it's a poor substitute for a true article, in my opinion, since it's harder to judge the writer's work, and self-starting character, from a note.) This book provides a lot of useful guidance for students -- and, I suspect, rather a lot of junior faculty -- in a slim and easy to assimilate form, on everything from how to choose a topic and title, to how to edit your own work, and deal with editors, to how to get published. I expect that it will do very well.
HOWARD KURTZ OBSERVES:
Blair seemed untouchable not just because of race, some Times folk say, but because he fit the Raines mold of a young, hungry, single go-getter who could parachute into places and quickly produce a story. Thus, even when prosecutors denounced Blair's reporting on the Washington sniper case, Raines sent him a congratulatory e-mail.
Had this sort of sweeping breakdown occurred in a government agency, the Times would be the first to demand that senior officials be held accountable. Yet Sulzberger is not inclined in that direction. "Let's not begin to demonize our executives," he told his paper.
Didn't Ken Lay say something similar? But don't worry: Operation Grey Lady Freedom is underway.
MICKEY KAUS reports on "astonishing, even stunning" evidence that welfare reform is working.
DAVID CARR IS LAUGHING IN BILL THOMPSON'S FACE. Bwahahaha!
DIGITAL WARRIORS: Steven Den Beste has an op-ed in the WSJ's OpinionJournal.
KNOXVILLE BAND JAGSTAR took a video camera along on its tour entertaining troops in the 'stans and the Persian Gulf. You can see their "video diary" in streaming form. It's in three installments: here, here, and here.
ALGERIAN TOURIST UPDATE: The second group of hostages has been freed, but this report doesn't have a lot of other information.
May 18, 2003
A 2,000 GB FIREWIRE DRIVE! Heck, I need one of those just to hold my email.
"HONEST JIM" TREACHER has stuff to sell you. 'Nuff said.
CHARLES PAUL FREUND points out some interesting developments in the Mideast.
THIS BBC REPORT says that the rescue of Jessica Lynch was fake, and that the soldiers were firing blanks:
"It was like a Hollywood film. They cried 'go, go, go', with guns and blanks without bullets, blanks and the sound of explosions. They made a show for the American attack on the hospital - action movies like Sylvester Stallone or Jackie Chan."
Now, even if the whole thing were staged, who would shoot off blanks in a war zone, thus attracting the enemy without doing any good?
Nobody, according to Warren Smith, who notes:
American troops use three main infantry weapons.
First, there is the M16A2, a modern derivative of the old Vietnam era M16.
Secondly, there is the M4 carbine, a shortened version of the M16, often used by special forces troops.
Third, there is the Minimi Light Machine Gun.
None of these weapons can be converted from firing blanks to live, or back again, in a speedy manner.
Blank ammunition, when fired in these three weapons, is not powerful enough to force the weapons mechanism through its full cycle of operations. Because there is no live projectile, the build up of gas in the barrel is much less. When the weapon fires, there is no way that the mechanism will re-cock and chamber a fresh round. . .
American troops would be put in an awkward situation. Suppose, in the midst of this staged event, some Iraqi troops or Fedayeen irregulars appeared? How would they defend themselves? Clearly, converting the weapons from blank to live, in the heat of a battle, would be disastrous. It would take, at best, 2-3 minutes to remove a BFA, then vital more seconds in order to replace the belt or magazine of blank ammunition with live. In the dark, it would be very easy to get the blank and live rounds mixed up, too.
It is very hard to imagine how any Special Forces soldiers would agree to enter a combat zone with their weapons primed for blank ammunition.
Things are looking bad for the BBC’s story, but it gets worse. Much worse.
The BFA is large and brightly coloured. It’s a safety feature; a visible way of proving in training that no one is pointing live ammunition at you by mistake.
I don’t have the video footage of the rescue to hand, but I do recall seeing it. I didn’t see any weapons sporting BFAs.
Furthermore, fired blank shell casings look very different to live ones. Blank shell casings have a crimped end to them that is still clearly visible after the round is fired and discarded. So if the BBC wants to prove its story, it can visit the scene of the rescue and produce some discarded blank shell casings. Unless, it wants us to believe that the American troops picked them all up. In the dark. Behind enemy lines. In a war zone.
So how do blank rounds work in the movies? Well, the weapons used are not real. They are specially produced replicas, often based on the mechanism of a real weapon, with the barrel partially sealed. They cannot fire live ammunition under any circumstances whatsoever. This is how film makers create realistic scenes of automatic firing without attaching a BFA to the end of the weapon.
Clearly, no one will be carrying that sort of a ‘weapon’ into a combat area.
So what does this mean to overall importance of the BBC’s story?
Well, the BBC’s witnesses cannot be trusted.
And the BBC has made a huge error that a couple of quick phone calls could have put right.
The BBC may be guilty of seeing what it wants to see in another area too.
Early on in the story they make the astonishing statement that “Witnesses told us that the special forces knew that the Iraqi military had fled a day before they swooped on the hospital.”
According to the BBC, the witnesses somehow magically know what American Special Forces knew or thought. How they managed this effort of mental telepathy is not explained.
At 1135 hrs GMT, Saturday, 17th May, I e-mailed a correction detailing my concerns to the comments section of the story at the BBC. I look forward to them posting it in their comments page unedited.
I just checked, and the comment doesn't seem to be there.
UPDATE: Here's an earlier critique of the BBC story that I had missed.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Here's more criticism of the revisionist version.
YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Here's a picture of the BFA that he's talking about. Hard to miss, I'd think. Is the rescue video on the Web somewhere?
STILL MORE: The BBC's report gets some rather intense journalistic criticism here, here, and here. Excerpt (from the last link):
This really, to me, is adding up to the big lie. Tell something in the worst way possible, imply or infer that really bad things happened and/or that it was a sham on one or more levels, and trust the doubt to grow. The absence of checks and balances is a clue, but it is just one of many.
Was Jayson Blair moonlighting for The Beeb? I'd certainly be interested in hearing BBC correspondent John Kampfner's response to these points.
YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Hmm. Erik says that this story started with the same crackpot Austrian blog that peddled the original (bogus) museum looting story. Oh, well: how much harm could one crackpot Austrian do?
STILL MORE: Here's the longest video I could find on the web -- let me know if there's something better out there somewhere -- showing the actual rescue. The quality isn't great, but I don't see any conspicuous BFA's on the end of the guns, a few of which you can see pretty clearly starting about 50 seconds in. Flash hiders, but nothing else. In fact, I don't see any firing at all, and come to think of it, I don't remember seeing any guns being fired when this aired on TV either. So why shoot off blanks as part of a "Hollywood" extravaganza if you're not going to use the footage? Was there footage of gunfire that I missed?
LAST UPDATE TO THIS POST: There's more here, in case you're following a link from some other page.
MORE CRITICISM OF THE BBC for left-wing bias:
Speaking to GMTV yesterday, Mr Jenkin said: "When you talk to Conservatives who work in the corporation, they say there is an institutional bias, but it’s very subtle, it’s not even a conscious bias."
He added: "Just look at the fact that the BBC recruits entirely from advertisements in the Guardian. Obviously, media jobs are advertised in the Guardian, but it says something about where the centre of gravity in the BBC is."
Mr Jenkin continued: "Of course, it is a nationalised industry. It feels threatened by all the change that has taken place around it, in terms of the growth of commercial broadcasting, the contractualisation of jobs. I think there is a cultural disaffinity with free markets, freedom. It sticks to what it thinks is the centre ground and the centre ground in its mind is rather to the left of where most people in the country regard the centre ground."
MICKEY KAUS says that "blame Pinch" is the new Times watchphrase.
MORE CYBER-BUSKING: Dr. Frank has a new song up for free download, though with cybertipping encouraged. You can read the lyrics here, and you can even buy a CD that also has "Democracy, Whisky, Sexy" on it here.
Be generous -- Dr. Frank is trying to encourage Ken Layne to do the same thing, and my guess is that Layne's more likely to go along if there looks to be a lot of money involved. . . .
I DON'T CARE. I want my flying car, dammit.
WHAT WILL AMNESTY SAY? Is the Barney song torture?
Ask any parent. . . .
DAVID APPELL wants you to hire him as your freelance journalist! This is actually a pretty cool idea, which I came to a bit late -- he's already raised enough money to pay himself to do the story.
In an unrelated development that I just happened to notice on his site, he's skeptical of the recent secondhand-smoke study.
UPDATE: Arthur Silber has more on the smoking study.
I DON'T LIKE THE SOUND OF THIS:
I have to admit that it is a strange experience to watch a Holocaust film in Germany. It's even stranger when you're the only American in the midst of about 200 Germans. But perhaps the strangest thing of all is to watch the reactions of the Germans as the events of the movie unfold. You hear a lot about how Germans are so ashamed today of the behavior of their countrymen during the Nazi period and about how much they've done to atone for their past sins. Don't buy that bill of goods. If the audience of the screening I attended is any indication of German attitudes in general, it doesn't augur well for the future. Remember, this wasn't an audience composed of skinheads from the neo-Nazi enclaves in Karlsruhe and the former DDR. This was a group of Germany's best and brightest: educated, middle class, sophisticated denizens of a major cosmopolitan city.
One scene in particular is seared into my consciousness. It happens about halfway into the film. The Jews of Warsaw have been herded into the Ghetto. A street used by the Germans bisects the Ghetto. While a group of Jews is waiting to cross to the other side of the street, several Nazi thugs force some elderly Jews to dance at an increasingly faster tempo. Weakened by malnutrition, hobbling on crutches, riddled with heart and lung infirmities, many of the Jews fall to the ground in sheer agony. It's a sickening scene. It's the kind of scene that makes you ashamed that your last name is Grim. Hell, it's the kind of scene that makes you ashamed that you listen to Beethoven. If an American soldier had done the same to a German or Jap POW he would have been thrown into the brig for life or cashiered out of the service on a Section 8. But there they were, today's educated, freedom-loving, let's-all-hold-hands-and-love-one-another Germans, laughing at torture.
If there is a more sickening spectacle than Germans finding humor in what their fathers and grandfathers did to the Jews, if there is a more perfect example of the utter lack if humanity at the core of the German nation, I am unaware of it. There is something terribly wrong with Germany and the German Volk.
Read the whole thing, and hope he's wrong.
UPDATE: Howard Veit says the article that this comes from is bogus, and sends this link to a denunciation of the author. On the other hand, reader Barbara Skolaut emails:
You end your post with "and hope he's wrong." Sorry, he's not. I lived in Germany from 1970 to 1973 (I worked for the U.S. Army part of that time, and for a German family the other part), and a favorite saying among the Americans was "scratch a German, find a Nazi."
I think Grim is on to something at the end of his essay, where he says "the Germans are ashamed because they got their rear ends handed back to them by a bunch of Yanks, Russkies and Brits who they considered-and still consider- to be members of inferior races." When I lived there, 25 years after the war had ended (and we had helped them rebuild into a prosperous country), there were still a few boarded-up, bombed-out buildings in Frankfurt am Main (and I'm sure in other cities as well), reminding them that they had lost. We were told to remember that we were there as guests, but I have no doubt a great many Germans (particularly the chattering classes) still saw us - and see us even today - as occupiers, even as we were keeping them from having to speak Russian. I loved living there, and loved my trips back (though I guess it will be a while before I give them any more of my money), but I never had any illusions. . . I hope we move what bases we still need in Europe to Poland and Hungary. We don't need the grief.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Rebecca Shaechter sends this:
I'm currently studying abroad in Germany, and have been here in Bavaria for over 8 months. I have to say that my experience with the Germans has been a LOT different than what was described in Grim's piece. People here are deeply ashamed of the Holocaust. I have a German last name and speak German pretty fluently, so I've been able to get an "insider's opinion" on a lot of these issues. The thing I hear most is that people are horrified by what happened to the Jews in Germany, are horrified that their country could commit such crimes. When I was back in the States I found a study on the opinions of German youth versus American youth (18-25yrs). One of the questions on the survey was "Are you proud of your country?" Something like 90% of the Americans answered yes, and only 25% of the Germans did so. I guess what I'm trying to say is that from my experience here, it seems like people in my age group at least are profoundly aware of the atrocities that their country/people committed during WWII. They are ashamed and do not want this to happen again.
That said, I haven't seen "The Pianist" yet, and it will be interesting to see the reaction in the theater and compare it to that of Grim's. I'm hoping his was a fluke.
UPDATE: Reader Ken Century emails:
I too was shocked upon reading the Grim article several months ago. That is to say, I was shocked because I found it to be so incredibly unbelievable. I am a Jew who lived and worked in Germany from the summer of 1994 to the summer of 1995, and have traveled there no fewer times than twice per year since then. I am also quite fluent in German, have many acquaintances and very good friends there. I am also the type to strike of casual conversations with those around me, and the opportunity to do so presents itself much more readily in Germany with their practice of sharing tables with others. (Something quite pleasant to an extrovert like me!) In all of my time there, I have never hidden the fact that I am Jewish, and in fact it could be said that it was quite often the centerpiece of many of the political and religious discussions that I had there (over a beer), oftentimes with complete strangers. In fact, I just returned from Germany on Friday, and was also there for Bush's ultimatum, landing here in the U.S. literally hours before the bombs began to fall.
My experiences there tend to reflect very closely those of your other reader Rebecca Shaechter. The knowledge of the Holocaust is much more deep there than here in the United States, and I concur with her that most people there share a deep shame of what happened in their shared past. . . .
All that said, I do feel that while Germany has done a good job memorializing the Holocaust, and that such memorialization has produced a deep common thread within the hearts and minds of its people, I'm not sure that the end effect was entirely all positive. As one can well imagine, many of my recent discussions with friends, acquaintances, and strangers there have revolved around the War on Terrorism and the War in Iraq. What they seem to have collectively learned from their horrible past is a deep sense of pacifism, which while commendable on many fronts, leaves them a bit like a deer in the headlights when confronted with real arguments regarding the U.N., EU, and the general state of world affairs, but more particularly the possibility that "evil" still exists in the world.
I don't have recent firsthand experience. I remember earnest lectures on racism in the United States -- which I found risible even at the age of 9 -- from students and faculty at Heidelberg when we lived there in my childhood, but I haven't spent any real time in Germany since, and certainly nothing that would give me any ability to judge whether Grim's story rings true. It seems, however, that there's reason to doubt it. Certainly this reader does:
As another guy with a German last name who lived in Germany, I don't buy the story by Grim. I was stationed in Germany from 1989 to 1992, patrolled the Intra-German Border, witnessed the opening of the border fence, and got drunk with plenty of Germans. (I also had many visits to Germany to various cities where my US Army uncle was stationed.) Though we soldiers mostly associated with other soldiers, I had some German friends. None were close to the people Grim describes. In my years there, I met one--and only one-- German who frightened me. She was a young woman who wanted to know what my grandfathers had done in WWII. She then told me about her grandfather, who drove trucks full of people to Dachau. She initiated the conversation, then angrily defended him saying, "What was he supposed to do? It was his job." I thought--there is a Nazi. She was a frightening person, but she stands out because she was the only person like that. My landlord was a good-hearted man, who had been an artillery sergeant on the Russian front, wounded a few times. He would not talk about his experience, just sort of stared and said, "It was bad. Bad."
There is cultural embarassment, and perhaps some defensiveness with people who don't want to feel the shame of what previous generations have done. One German officer was a liaison to the US Army Armor School. He told my class of officers that he had done nothing, wasn't alive in WWII, so had nothing to feel guilty about. He was a mouthy idiot, but did not seem anti-Semitic or a believer in a master race. Just a jerk who wanted to move past the collective guilt.
I would be very interested to see a Holocaust film in Germany. But I doubt the reaction would be that described by Grim.
The mail just keeps coming. Paul Music emails:
My sister-in-law lives in Germany, teaches English as a second language, and Bible Studies, in German.
She speaks perfect German, and many are surprised to find out that she's American, not German. Her experiences, as a white Christian American, are much closer to Grim's than Shaechter's or Century's.
That's a bummer to hear.
FINAL UPDATE: Okay, I've gotten a lot more mail and the consensus is that this story is bogus. I've generally found John Hawkins' site, where this appeared, reliable, but nobody's perfect. On the other hand, it's the growth of European antisemitism that makes stories like this believable now, and that growth is, sadly, indisputable.
A.C. DOUGLAS NOTES a study casting doubt on the dangerousness of secondhand smoke. He also wonders why it's not getting more attention.
THE BITCH GIRLS ARE FISKING A NEW YORK TIMES EDITORIAL on the assault weapons ban. Howell Raines' paper is subjected to considerable abuse for, among other things, not knowing the difference between the legislative and executive branches, and for treating the Violence Policy Center as objective while calling the NRA "fanatics."
Plus, there's only one snarky Jayson Blair reference. Watch out girls, or they'll start calling you "The surprisingly well-mannered and restrained girls."
HEY, IT WASN'T ONE TORNADO on Thursday. It was two!
PATRICK RUFFINI has an interesting discussion on his site about left/right partisanship and the Blogosphere.
ROOTING FOR THE HOME TEAM: The New York Times has an update on local blogs in NYC, while the Knoxville News-Sentinel writes about Tennessee bloggers. And while Knoxville may not have Gawker, we do have KnoxPatch.com!
There's also this piece on the perils of dating a blogger. Ah, but then there are the many indescribable benefits of dating a blogger!
LUKE FORD reports on a night of debauchery with Mickey Kaus, Matt Welch, Nick Gillespie, Cathy Seipp, and a host of elite Blogeoisie.