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May 31, 2003

READER J. SCOTT HARRIS ASKS "DOESN'T ANYBODY FACT CHECK AT THE NYT ANYMORE?" AND FORWARDS THIS LINK to a story on gay Republicans, which says:

As president, Mr. Bush has appointed several openly gay people, including James C. Hormel, the ambassador to Romania, to high-level jobs, and he has also declined to overturn executive orders issued by President Bill Clinton that bar discrimination against gays in federal employment and security clearances.

(Emphasis added.) Actually, Bill Clinton, not Bush, appointed Hormel to be Ambassador to Luxembourg not Romania. Romania does have an openly gay ambassador appointed by President Bush, but his name is Michael Guest. Can the folks at the Times not conceive that there might be multiple gay ambassadors?

Whatever else it suggests, this certainly suggests that things haven't tightened up at the Times just yet.

UPDATE: Oh, and then there's this bit of editorial/advertising crossover in tomorrow's NYT magazine, which suggests that there aren't enough sharp eyes there, either.

ANOTHER UPDAATE: 58, 68, Carnegie, Century, it's all the same to the Times according to Marcia Oddi.

LINDA SEEBACH HAS A GOOD COLUMN ON THE BLOGOSPHERE:

This is an entire virtual superorganism evolving in Internet time right before our eyes, based on an unfiltered free trade in ideas. Its participants are far more engaged than the average newspaper reader. . . .

And the blogosphere is not limited by geography. At www.buzzmachine.com Jeff Jarvis harps on the importance of nurturing Web logs in Iraq, Iran and other places where the means of free expression have been severely restricted.

Thankfully, she overstates the number of emails I get per day. I don't think I've ever gotten 1,000, though at the beginning of the war I got more than half that. Now, though, things are back to normal.

MATT WELCH WRITES:

When O.J. Simpson was ruled not guilty of murdering his wife, the United States discovered overnight the chasm of difference in perception between blacks (who found the verdict reasonable) and whites (who found it insane).

Something similar is going on with the fabrication scandals that have rocked The New York Times this month. Elite reporters and editors are reacting to the Jayson Blair and Rick Bragg revelations with sorrow and anxiety, while the rest of us proles revel in the spectacle of a haughty institution being humbled and mocked. . . .

Almost every newspaper that views the Times as a role model, on the other hand, is a local monopoly in a less liberal city. Chances are, it will equate success with such Timesian yardsticks as Pulitzer prizes, and (in the immortal words of Rick Bragg) the ability "to go get the dateline."

All the more reason why the Times' horrible month will be good for journalism -- if it causes papers to reconsider their newsroom values and journalistic role models, old bad habits may receive a fresh round of scrutiny.

Indeed.

UPDATE: Orrin Judd writes:

So as the press now becomes Ouroboros, the beast that feeds on itself, you'll pardon us if we crack open a Pabst, open a bag of Cheez-Waffles, and enjoy the spectacle. We feel like Christians getting to watch the Romans be fed to the lions.

Well, Pabst is the hip beer, nowadays.

OPEN-SOURCE GOVERNMENT: This is amusing:

WASHINGTON (CNN) - The Federal Communications Commission has received so many public comments on its Web sites regarding Monday's vote on media ownership consolidation that the agency is having "problems" with its server, an FCC official said Friday.

And the messages aren't just coming via e-mails. The official said the FCC is experiencing problems with their voice comment phone line, which has also been swamped.

The official said the agency is working to fix the problems.

The FCC is scheduled to vote Monday on proposed changes to its rules on multiple ownership of broadcast outlets. The changes are expected to be approved 3-2, with the backing of FCC Chairman Michael Powell. . . .

Opposition to relaxing the rules has brought together strange bedfellows like Common Cause, the National Rifle Association, the liberal National Organization for Women, and the conservative Family Research Council.

Maybe this proves Michael Powell's point about the ability of alternative media to spread news -- the Big Media have virtually blacked this out, but they're still hearing from the people. On the other hand, it certainly proves my point about the need to defend the Internet from Big Media control. (Via Richard Bennett).

BLOGCRITICS has recovered from the outage and has a bunch of new posts. Check 'em out.

IN A DEVELOPMENT THAT MUST MAKE FUGITIVES EVERYWHERE NERVOUS, Eric Rudolph has been caught:

MURPHY, N.C., May 31 — Eric Rudolph, the longtime fugitive charged in the 1996 Olympic Park bombing and in attacks at an abortion clinic and a gay nightclub, was arrested early Saturday in the mountains of North Carolina, the Justice Department said. The FBI confirmed Rudolph’s identity through a fingerprint match, authorities said. . . .

Early Saturday, Murphy Police Officer Jeff Postell spotted a man behind the Save-A-Lot grocery who was rooting through trash and looked suspicious, officer James Pack said.

Postell was alone when he approached the man, and the man tried to run, but he stopped when Postell pointed his gun at him, Pack said. He said officers didn’t realize until they brought the man to the police station that it was Rudolph.

Obviously giving Rudolph credit for being smarter than he was, I figured that he had left Western North Carolina long ago, and had sympathizers planting the occasional false clues in the region. Well, I was wrong: apparently, he really was hiding out in the mountains just as advertised.

Some people might be surprised that he managed to hide out for so long without being found -- but if you've ever spent any time in that area, which is astonishingly wild and empty, you wouldn't be surprised at all.

I hope they throw the book at him.

CAREY ROBERTS LOOKS AT THE ORIGINAL DOCUMENTS to find more spinning at The New York Times.

PEJMAN YOUSEFZADEH GOES TO THE TRANSCRIPT on a Paul Wolfowitz interview that has gotten some attention, and discovers that -- surprise! -- there's journalistic spinning going on again.

This whole online-transcript thing is very revealing. And what it reveals about journalism isn't that pretty.

UPDATE: More fact-checking. Unfogged has read the transcript, too, and says:

I just read the transcript of the entire interview and, although I'm as happy as the next guy to see this administration come to grief, I have to say that Wolfowitz doesn't say what's being alleged, and in fact seems rather honest about the deliberations leading to war.

So which version will we hear on the Sunday talk shows? The one reflected in the transcripts, or the one in the misleading press accounts? Unfogged adds:

Two final points. I haven't read the Vanity Fair piece, but based on this interview, I have to say that Sam Tannenhaus does a fantastic job. Read the entire transcript and you can see that this is a guy who's really done his homework, asks smart questions and then gets out of the way of the answer. This is a peculiar firestorm in that the original journalist seems to have done a fine job but the coverage of the coverage still manages to be careless.

Finally, there's been plenty of debate about neo-conservative Straussians running the government. But Wolfowitz gives a fascinating account of his filial and academic lineage and puts paid to any notions of "Straussians" running the government. (Do read the whole thing.)

Yes, do. Here's the transcript link. As I said earlier, this business of posting online transcripts is really going to do a lot to keep people honest. Now if we just had PunditWatch back, to keep the talk shows honest!

ANOTHER UPDATE: This story has hit the news, (it's addressed here, too). Excerpt from the second:

What gives with this Vanity Fair interview, then?

What gives is that Tanenhaus has mischaracterized Wolfowitz's remarks, that Vanity Fair's publicists have mischaracterized Tanenhaus's mischaracterization, and that Bush administration critics are now indulging in an orgy of righteous indignation that is dishonest in triplicate.

But fact-checked, on the Internet.

May 30, 2003

HERE'S A NICE WRITEUP of the Tennessee Digital Freedom Network's defeat of some really unpleasant Internet legislation.

LOOTING UPDATE: Okay, I'm convinced. There should have been more troops policing this uncivilized, anarchical city.

GEORGE GALLOWAY'S DUMBER BROTHER?

A leftwing Labour MP, who praised the "sacrifice" of IRA bombers, faces the threat of expulsion from the party for his outburst, which was widely condemned yesterday.

John McDonnell, a member of the Socialist Campaign Group, who unsuccessfully tried to unseat the prime minister during the Iraq crisis, horrified the Labour leadership by declaring that it was time to honour people such as Bobby Sands, the IRA hunger striker who died in 1981 during his prison protest.

At a republicans' meeting this week in London, the MP for Hayes and Harlington said: "We are in the last stage of imperialist intervention in Ireland and only armed struggle has stopped it. It is about time we started honouring those people involved in that armed struggle. It was the bombs and bullets and sacrifices made by the likes of Bobby Sands that brought Britain to the negotiating table. The peace we have now is due to the unilateral action of the IRA."

When will these people learn that it's bad form to root for the other side?

Of course, to them it's not the other side, is it?

JOE BIDEN WANTS TO KILL YOUR CHILD!

For years volunteer groups like DanceSafe have been passing out fliers at raves and night clubs with advice on how to avoid dangerous overheating — drink water, take frequent breaks, abstain from alcohol (which compounds dehydration). Event sponsors have helped by providing bottles of water and ventilated "chill out" rooms, measures intended not to encourage drug use but to reduce drug-related harm. Under the new law, however, such sensible precautions could be seen as evidence that the host or owner knew guests would be using drugs, exposing him to $250,000 or more in civil penalties, a criminal fine of up to $500,000, and a prison sentence of up to 20 years. . . .

In addition, the anti-rave legislation is likely to push events toward clandestine sites, where conditions will be less safe, supervision less responsible and emergency help less prompt. At remote locations, drug reactions that might otherwise have been quickly treated could turn deadly.

Well, he doesn't want to. He just didn't mind if that was an (obvious) consequence of the stupid RAVE Act that he sponsored and snuck through rather sleazily earlier this year. Neither did Orrin Hatch or its other backers.

UPDATE: Virginia Postrel observes:

[T]his law, a gift to the nation from Joe Biden and Pat Leahy, is the sort of thing that explains why libertarians who engage in politics lean toward the Republican party. We all know the problems of the social right, but Democrats are largely useless, and often awful, on the issues where their supposed respect for tolerance and civil liberties might make a difference.

Yes, it was the abandonment of traditional Democratic positions on civil liberties during the Clinton Administration (especially with the 1994 and 1996 crime bills) that caused me to lose faith in the Democratic party.

I'VE GOT MORE ON SPACE over at GlennReynolds.com -- and be sure you follow the links to the Phil Chapman article.

BOTH DONALD LUSKIN AND LYNXX PHERRETT HAVE GONE TO THE TRANSCRIPTS on the Financial Times budget-deficit story that everyone's been talking about. They agree with the Powerline post I mentioned above that the story is bogus. The sad thing is that this is likely to make reporters less willing to post interview transcripts, because then they can't get away with anything.

The good news is that when they do, they can't get away with anything. And post-Blair, I'd like to see this made standard practice. Server space is cheap.

Meanwhile the question is, will this deconstruction make the Sunday talk shows? Or are they too far behind the Blogosphere curve?

UPDATE: Billy Beck writes:

There, you can read a transcript of a Financial Times interview with one Kent Smetters who, as an assistant deputy Treasury secretary for economic policy, led the work on the study that's got everyone's asses up in flaming boils. And if you follow my advice, dear readers, and go see what he has to say, then you will discover that, of the $44 trillion (yes, that's right) that everybody is fainting about, more than $36 trillion is devoted to Medicare.

Do you understand this?

Thirty-six trillion dollars of these deficits projected into the future are about the degree to which America has achieved socialized medicine, and only that. . . .

The flap going on out there is about the Bush tax cuts, and how they're going to wreck everything, and I want you to watch and see how many people -- if any at all -- are alert enough to grasp what the real nut of this is. They are fretting their little nerves over $350 billion in tax cuts in the face of $44 trillion in projected deficits, and the matter of $36 trillion of that going to Medicare alone is somehow getting past them.

Read it all, and don't miss the Zappa quote.

SUMAN PALIT NOTICES UNILATERALISM in action.

I THINK THAT ONE OF THEM WAS REALLY KEN LAYNE: He digs that whole anonymous-busking thing.

IT'S ALL ABOUT THE OIL FOR THESE GUYS:

The ghost of France's first Socialist president, François Mitterrand, has come back to haunt France's biggest postwar sleaze trial - in the form of an extraordinary tale involving his golfing partner, a luxury chateau on the outskirts of Paris, and the sum of £2.6m.

A total of 37 defendants are on trial in Paris over claims that £120m was siphoned from the accounts of the oil giant Elf during the late 1980s and early 1990s, much of it allegedly being paid out in illegal business commissions to various African leaders and their families, and to political parties.

The trial is, in reality, that of a whole system of state-sponsored corruption that flourished in France for decades: presidents and ministers regarded the country's numerous state-owned multinationals not just as tools of foreign policy, but as a convenient source of cash to keep friends happy and foes quiet.

Hmm. Golfing partner, eh? I wonder if the back nine is playable. . . . Nah, sadly it's nothing that amusing. Just your usual socialist oil-money-for-chateau scandal.

FORMER CONGRESSMAN BOB WALKER WRITES:

At my Washington office a few weeks ago, I met with a visiting Japanese parliamentarian who specializes in science and technology issues. I related to him my belief that the Chinese would be on the moon within a decade with a declaration of permanent occupation. He disagreed. He smiled and said my conclusion was accurate but my timing was off. In his view, the Chinese would be on the moon within three to four years.

Regardless of who is right about the time frame, and I still believe that even a decade is ambitious, the fact remains that the Chinese are devoting resources and gearing up to do something that we are no longer technologically capable of achieving in the immediate future. We went to the moon, planted our flag, gathered samples, took credit for an amazing achievement in human history and then abandoned the effort. The space technology available to us today could not be used to replicate what we did 35 years ago.

I haven't stayed in touch, but I knew Walker pretty well when he was on the House space subcommittee, and I was doing pro bono lobbying for the National Space Society. He's a smart and thoughtful guy. Read the whole thing, which is really about what China's ambitions in space mean to the United States in a wide variety of areas.

I just sent off a blog entry on space to the MSNBC folks, though it was unfortunately before I saw this item. But stay tuned. (Via Pathetic Earthlings).

JEFF JARVIS HAS BLOGGER'S ELBOW from too much time at the computer. Me too. I also have blogger's neck, blogger's shoulder, and blogger's lower back. So far, I've avoided blogger's wrist and blogger's big toe, but it's only a matter of time.

Hey, we're suffering for your amusement, here. . .. .


A REPORTER COMES OUT OF THE CLOSET after "passing" for years. It's a must-read. Excerpt:

The sad fact of the matter is that many progressive Democrats are intolerant and mean toward those with whom they disagree politically. Their behavior doesn't hurt so much as amuse. I've been sitting at their dinner parties for two decades now, sipping Chardonnay, munching on salmon steaks, and listening to self-professed progressive thinkers talk like bigots. It makes me chuckle to think that, on average, even here in the mid-South, I probably hear 10 bigoted comments about Republicans for each time I am exposed to the "n" word. To be sure, some perspective is needed. Clearly, the many minorities in Nashville and elsewhere whose lives are daily and cruelly affected by bigotry have it worse than your average golf-playing Republican.

The profile of people who use the term "Republican" in a bigoted fashion tends to be fairly straightforward: Educated, intellectually gifted and generally thoughtful in their speech. They are the very people I sat next to in newsrooms in New York, Chicago, Tokyo and Johannesburg. They are my friends and neighbors. They are academics, lawyers, bankers and stay-at-home moms—decent, kind and sensitive people, for the most part.

But they are, and remain bigots.

Read the rest.

UPDATE: A reader emails:

Bigot is a very strong word, sir. And I would thank you to qualify your tacit endorsement of this man's piece. I consider myself a progressive, and yes, I have little patience for the POLICIES of Republicans. So, I'm intolerant. So what. The Republican party has given and continues to give shelter to the most offensive sociopaths in American society: White Supremicists, Anti-Semites, Homophobes, Fundamentalist Christians, Pat Buchanan. This is largely why we're so bigoted towards Republicans. If you want to label Progressives bigots, fine, I'll accept that title. Be aware that your sitting in a glass house, and progressives aren't in short supply of stones either.

P.S. This sort of finger-pointing reflects terribly on you, as someone whose intelligence I would like to respect.

But people are always throwing stones at me. Well, verbal ones, anyway, which don't actually break my bones or anything.

But, you know, the lumping together of fundamentalist Christians -- with whom I disaagree on a lot of things, but who are a rather diverse crowd -- with white supremacists and anti-semites (actually, a lot of fundamentalists are pretty pro-semitic -- remember that whole "evangelicals for Israel are running the White House" meme that people have been peddling?) seems pretty bigoted itself.

So I think the guy has a point. Any kind of speech that the hearer might find "offensive" is un-PC, unless, of course, it's directed at those who hold un-PC beliefs. If that's not bigotry, it's hypocrisy of the first order, and mean-spirited hypocrisy at that. Which is close enough for me.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Geoff Matthews emails:

The funniest thing about this reader's e-mail condemning Republicans because of their support for Buchanan is that Pat Buchanan left the Republican Party for the Reform Party (and promptly turned it into an irrelevant organization).

Heh. And Buchanan supporters are nothing if not diverse -- at least as long as he's got Justin Raimondo!

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Damon Chetson observes:

Your email correspondent's email - "Bigot is a very strong word, sir."

Bigot is indeed a strong word. So why do some Democrats use it to describe people who simply oppose affirmative action?

Because that's different.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Tony Adragna says it's about partisanship and points out that there's plenty of vitriol from the right. And that's true -- but it's sort of like responding to the Bill Bennett gambling story by noting that Democrats, gamble, too. Bennett set himself up as a moral arbiter, which made people see what he did as hypocritical.

In the same way, Stern is remarking on how PC types who make a fetish of avoiding name-calling and stereotyping are in fact happy to do just that. Which makes them seem, well, hypocritical. And just as Bennett seemed to a lot of people to be immoral by the standards that he professed, so too do these people seem bigoted by the standards that they profess. When Bennett said "but I never condemned gambling," it was about as persuasive as when these people say "but we never condemned this sort of thing when it was aimed at Republicans!"

BEEN BUSY. Back later.


The execution of the children was the event that established the character of the regime. Yes, yes, regicide was often accompanied by such atrocities, but this was the 20th century. Why, this was the birth of Scientific Socialism. There is nothing so powerful as an idea has time has come!


But just in case it’s not that powerful yet, let’s shoot the little girls.

JIM DUNNIGAN WRITES on efforts to rebuild Iraq's army. Some interesting observations, including this one:

Which brings us to some serious cultural differences. Arab armies rarely get the kind of constructive competition you see in Western armies. That is because, for Arab soldiers, it is seen as safer to not compete, so no one is "disgraced" by losing, than it is to compete and improve everyone's skills. Of course there is competition in Arab society, in business as well as sports. But the concept of "losing gracefully" is not as readily accepted as it is in the West. This can be overcome. Arab officers attending American military schools over the last half century learned to live with the competition, even if it is a bit of a shock at first. But there will be some resistance to introducing these "barbarian" customs on the entire Iraqi army. No doubt general Abizaid will have to give his "Do you want to be part of a kick ass army" speech many times to keep things moving along.

The competition means officers, NCOs and troops will be expected to take the initiative. This has traditionally been discouraged. Initiative can lead to failure, or unexpected situations. Arabs prefer to avoid both. The new Iraqi army will have to learn to live with it.

Read the whole thing. Of course, in Saddam's army the losers would have been fed into a shredder, feet-first, which probably also discouraged proposals for competition.

WELL, THIS ACTUALLY IS NEWS:

The Australian Federal Police (AFP) today ruled out terrorism as the motivation for the alleged attempted hijacking of a Qantas flight to Launceston.

Federal agent Graham Ashton said the man charged over yesterday's incident, David Mark Robinson, was an Australian national, had no Islamic background, and appeared to be acting alone.

Then, of course, there's the inevitable next bit:

Meanwhile, Robinson was today described by his former boss as an affable, hard working employee. Robinson resigned from Ipex Computers in Melbourne in April.

Ipex company director David Cohen said Robinson had worked as a senior engineer with the company - located in Robinson's home suburb of East Bentleigh - for six years.

He said staff at the 300-strong firm had been shocked by today's front page news about their former colleague they knew as "Mark".

"He was affable, very likeable, passionate about his customers ... generally a very nice guy," Mr Cohen told AAP.

"So are you surprised he shot Buckwheat?"

"Oh, no, it's all he ever talked about."

JOSH MARSHALL continues to be all over the Texas / Homeland Security story. That's the nice thing about a blog: it lets you indulge in the kind of monomania that a newspaper seldom can, unless it's about Augusta National. And when people do that, it's often useful.

SELF-HATRED: Understandable, of course, in some cases -- but not a sound basis for a political orientation.

VIRGINIA POSTREL has some advice for the New York Times:

I'll just add a strategic point, the kind of thing they teach in business school. If you are going to adopt a strategy to be a national newspaper, you must add the capabilities to be a national newspaper. That doesn't mean parachuting in reporters from Manhattan to interview a few natives and report back on their peculiar habits. It means having lots of well-staffed bureaus and, if necessary, credited stringers. It also means breaking out of a worldview that considers Manhattan normal and every other place weird.

The truth is that the NYT is not a national newspaper. It is the New York Times (more accurately, The Manhattan South of Harlem Times). It assumes its readers have the prejudices of well-educated, affluent Manhattanites, and it staffs, writes, and edits accordingly. To take an apolitical example, from a national perspective, the Times business pages grossly overcover the media business. From a Manhattan perspective, that makes perfect sense.

There is nothing wrong with this strategy, but it is a different strategy from the stated one of being a national paper. The mismatch between strategy and capabilities seems to account for many of the paper's current managerial problems, including the seeming inability of editors to keep track of exactly when and where reporters travel.

Makes sense to me.

SALAM PAX will be writing for The Guardian -- and The Guardian is already mangling his words to fit the correct political line! Now that's fast!

BUDGET CONSPIRACY THEORIES? Powerline reports that the Financial Times story claiming a deficit coverup is bunk, and has transcripts of the interview suggesting that the story has been rather vigorously spun, to put it mildly:

So the thrust of the article published by the Financial Times, and elaborated on by CNN, the BBC, Reuters, and, no doubt, just about every newspaper in America by tomorrow morning, is the precise opposite of what the Financial Times reporter was told by one of the authors of the supposedly "buried" study.

I'm entirely an agnostic on the Bush tax cuts, and I find the debate -- in which Democrats predictably claim that it wll bankrupt the country and starve the poor while Republicans claim it will lead to universal wealth -- predictable and unpersuasive. Take it away, Paul Krugman and Donald Luskin.

May 29, 2003

SARS -- not only back in Toronto, but now back in British Columbia, too. I don't believe that they've got as good a handle on this as they thought.

JUST SO YOU KNOW: There's some sort of mailserver problem on the InstaPundit account. I don't think I'm getting mail, since I'm not even getting copies of messages I send to myself. So if you've emailed me unsuccessfully, sorry.

HERE'S A NIFTY MOVABLE TYPE TUTORIAL FOR BEGINNERS. If nothing else, it should reduce the apprehensiveness of people who are thinking of switching from Blogger.

ANOTHER UNCREDITED STRINGER FOR THE TIMES comes out of the closet. He begged for a byline, and was denied:

As more and more of my stuff got into the paper, I began beseeching my editors to give me a byline or a tag.

It was not just a matter of ego, though I must admit it is an honor seeing my name in the Times.

The real reason I was so vociferous is that the people who pick up a newspaper have the right to know who provides the information therein.

It is a matter of trust, to the readers and to the sources.

After a while, and especially with the Iverson mess -- involving a couple of B-movie bunglers trying to pin a bum gun rap on The Answer -- sources began to joke about my veracity when they didn't see my name in the paper. People who are quoted like to know who did the quoting, because, should anything be wrong, they want to know whom to yell at. (The good news was that I got everything right and nobody, to my knowledge, complained. The bad news is that I didn't invent any of my interviews, which, at the going rate, would have guaranteed me a very large jackpot.) . . .

My pleadings, via telephone and e-mail, were answered with a standard this-is-the-policy line, lest something be of such import and substance that it would be impossible to ignore.

So explain to me, again -- well, actually just for the first time -- what exactly it was that Rick Bragg did that was so bad?

(Via Romenesko).

UPDATE: Ana Marie Cox, on the other hand, writes that Bragg should have been fired for superciliousness and condescension.

Boy, a lot of jobs would open up if that were the standard. . . . And scroll down to read Al Giordano's comment, which is brilliant.

ROBERT MUGABE IS SECRETLY ARMING HIS STREET THUGS WITH GUNS so that they can crush the opposition -- which has been disarmed -- next week.

Typical.

ETHICAL CONCERNS GET MAUREEN DOWD'S COLUMN DROPPED. Ouch.

JOHN SCALZI IS UNIMPRESSED with the Bush tax cuts.

GUANTANAMO: A "DEATH CAMP?" Only if arteriosclerosis counts, apparently:

Is America the only country in the world that could run a prison camp where prisoners gain weight? Between April 2002 and March 2003, the Joint Task Force returned to Afghanistan 19 of the approximately 664 men (from 42 countries) who have been held in the detention camps at the U.S. Naval Base in Guantanamo Bay. Upon leaving, it has been reported, each man received two parting gifts: a brand new copy of the Koran as well as a new pair of jeans. Not the act of generosity that it might first appear, the jeans, at least, turned out to be a necessity. During their 14-month stay, the detainees (nearly all of them) had each gained an average of 13 pounds.

In America, where 13 pounds is what many of our citizens' chins weigh, the prisoners' slightly enlarged girth might seem negligible. But given the low-bit-resolution video footage we have seen of stooped and shackled men in orange jumpsuits, and the collective protests from international human rights groups, the revelation that the men detained from last year's war would leave the Guantanamo prison camps sporting a larger pair of trousers than the ones they showed up with comes as something of a surprise.

I blame the fast-food industry.

EMILY LITELLA EXPRESSES HER VIEWS on the HostingMatters outage.

MORE WEBSITES WANT TO CHARGE FEES: But not InstaPundit! It's free, it'll stay free, and I personally guarantee that it's worth every penny.

Maybe those guys should just put up a PayPal button and accept donations.

PEOPLE ARE ALWAYS SAYING THAT "DRIVING ISN'T A RIGHT, IT'S A PRIVILEGE," and they're always saying it because it's in bold-face type in every "driver's handbook" issued by every state Department of Safety. (Which shows that the people who write those handbooks understand the value of early indoctrination.) But it's not really true, as Eugene Volokh points out. At least, it doesn't mean what people who use the phrase tend to think it means, that driving is a privilege that the government may bestow or withdraw at its whim:

But this does not give the state the unlimited right to control what you do when you drive, or to deny you the right to drive based on your exercise of other constitutional or statutory rights. The government does not have unlimited power to search your car, or even to pull you over; the Fourth Amendment still applies to you when you're driving. (The Fourth Amendment covers cars less than houses, for a variety of reasons; but whether that's right or wrong, the justification is not that driving is a "privilege" rather than a constitutional right.) The government may require you to submit to blood tests when you're pulled over for drunk driving, but the case upholding that didn't rest on a "driving is a privilege theory." (Some legislators have justified some such requirements on an "implied consent" theory -- by choosing to drive, you implicitly consent to submit to blood tests -- but that's not how the Supreme Court has justified it.)

Likewise, the state may not deny you a driver's license because of your speech -- or even specially control your speech while you're driving, e.g., by restricting the content of your bumper stickers (at least outside the narrow exceptions, such as threats or libel, that are recognized for all speech).

Read the whole thing.

THE BUCKS JUST KEEP ROLLING IN here at InstaPundit Secret HQ. I got a surprise royalty check from Perseus Books, formerly Perseus Westview, formerly HarperCollins Westview, nee WestView Press on my now rather elderly Outer Space: Problems of Law & Policy. It was for $119.85, which won't exactly let me purchase this InstaYacht, but since I'd written off getting any more royalties on that book, it's like free money. Woohoo!

Yes, I'm easily excited.

SOL STERN SAYS THAT THE NEW YORK TIMES IS whitewashing the Black Panthers.

UPDATE: Roger Simon recalls, unsentimentally, his years as a Black Panthers supporter dupe.

THE POLITICS OF OUTER SPACE, a fairly lengthy post on the controversial policy of "space monopolization," over at GlennReynolds.com. Plus, I tell you how to get free books!

Meanwhile Rand Simberg has a column on whether the Columbia astronauts could have been rescued, and what it means.

UPDATE: Here's a piece on private space travel from The Economist.

MORE BIG-MEDIA PLAGIARISM unmasked!

JIM TREACHER HAS MOVED to a new site. Don't miss it!

A PACK, NOT A HERD:

A man armed with two sharpened wooden stakes tried to hijack and crash a Qantas domestic jet with 47 passengers aboard shortly after take-off from Melbourne today, authorities said.

The 40-year-old man stabbed two flight attendants and injured two other people before he was overpowered by crew and passengers aboard QF1737. He was in custody tonight. . . .

Agent Cato said passengers who intervened and overwhelmed the man before he could get to the cockpit were "quite heroic".

Passenger Keith Charlton was among those who helped overpower the attacker.

He said he was seated in the third aisle of plane when a man in a "brown suit raced past me with his hands raised in the air".

He said the man, who was holding aloft two sharpened wooden stakes, stabbed the chief flight attendant "Greg".

"The fellow Greg, really was a hero ... if it wasn't for him we could've been in a lot of trouble," he told Sky News.

"As he was being attacked, he put his head down into the man's chest and he pushed him back down the plane.

"He had two severe injuries to his head; one was on the chin, one was on the top of his head," Mr Charlton said.

Six men then rushed to Greg's aid.

This is why confiscating tweezers is silly. You can't hijack a plane anymore, because the passengers won't allow it.

HERE'S AN ODD STORY, emailed by Stuart Buck:

A BOEING 727 passenger jet, grounded at Luanda airport a year ago, has disappeared after a mysterious unauthorised take-off, Angola state radio reported today.

The plane, chartered by the Angolan airline Airangol, was grounded after being banned from overflying Angolan territory on account of a series of irregularities, said Angola civil aviation director Helder Preza.

A witness to the plane's departure on Sunday, airport employee Luis Lopes, said he saw a white man start the empty plane and then take off after a few dangerous land manoeuvres.

I wonder what's behind this.

UPDATE: Several readers say this is probably an aircraft repossession. It's a big plane for just one guy to repossess, especially after it's been sitting for a year, but okay.

EVEN THE BASEBALL BLOGS are writing about the New York Times' problems, which extend to the sports section. And there's this:

Yesterday, I answer the phone at my Dad's house, and it's a telemarketer trying to sell a home subscription to the NY Times. In general, I hang up on these people, but I couldn't resist knocking the Times. "That's the worst paper in the world," I said. "What do you mean?" the salesman replied. "You can't trust anything they say," I answered, "they print lies." "Oh, yeah," he replied and hung up.

Morale must be pretty bad if the telemarketers are getting discouraged.

SPINSANITY HAS A ROUNDUP on Iraq news coverage errors and myths. It addresses all sorts of issues, from WMD to looting to Jessica Lynch, and you should read the whole thing. I don't agree with them on everything, but it's still useful and thorough. Here's the key bit on the BBC story:

BBC correspondent John Kampfner picked up on these stories in a televised May 18 report that has come under close scrutiny. While Kampfner adequately recapitulates the reporting of his predecessors in some respects, he made several mistakes. First, and most blatantly, Kampfner credulously quotes Iraqi doctors asserting that US soldiers used blanks when storming the hospital. But as blogger Wilbur Smith argues, it is improbable that combat troops would not have live ammunition ready for use in their weapons (the Pentagon strongly denies the allegation).

In addition, the online article based on Kampfner's story -- which has probably received more attention than the actual televised report -- states that US troops "were said to have come under fire from inside and outside the building." But Kampfner's televised report actually said that "They took fire on their way in and out of the building," not that fire came from inside the building or that troops fired shots inside. Moreover, Brooks specifically denied this claim during his April 2 briefing, saying "There was not a fire fight inside of the building, I will tell you, but there were fire fights outside of the building, getting in and getting out." While a few media reports may have gotten this wrong, almost all got it right.

I think that SpinSanity is too charitable to the BBC here. I think that the message of the story was that the raid was a fake. Here's how SpinSanity characterizes it:

There has also been a dispute over the implications of Kampfner's piece. In the online article, he calls Lynch's rescue "one of the most stunning pieces of news management ever conceived." (The TV script also had a suggestive lead-in: "This was a script made for Hollywood. Made by the Pentagon.") Many have disregarded Kampfner's direct meaning - that the Pentagon manipulated the media in presenting Lynch's capture and rescue as more dramatic than they actually were - and leaped to the supposed implication that the raid was staged, which Kampfner did not allege but could be inferred based on the quotation claiming that US troops used blanks and a lack of context regarding possible threats to US troops to the hospital. (When questioned by CNN's Leon Harris about this, Kampfner specifically said the rescue was not staged and that "The Americans had a legitimate right in getting Lynch out of the hospital.")

Yeah, but the Harris questioning didn't come until after Kampfner took a lot of heat for the story, and particularly the absurd "shooting blanks" claim. That's backpedaling, not clarification.

SpinSanity also says:

Though far more responsible than Scheer or McKinney, critics of the BBC report from the right have used Kampfner's miscues to try to dismiss or play down the entirety of the Lynch story, though the main contentions of the original revisionist reporting on Lynch have stood up to scrutiny thus far. Blogger Glenn Reynolds, for example, wrote 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." Andrew Sullivan simply dismissed the BBC report as a "smear." But these commentators have not directed the same outrage the BBC has faced at the press outlets that credulously repeated the original, mistaken reports about Lynch's capture and rescue. Certainly, it's news that several key aspects of what was arguably most famous single incident of the war were apparently misleading and/or false.

Well, the "was she shot or stabbed" question seems to me to be something that could be put down to the fog of war. The reports came from unnamed "officials" (who were probably enlisted men buttonholed on the way to the latrine) and it was obvious from the reportage that nobody was precisely sure what had happened. And it's of nothing like the significance of the claim that the rescue was a fraud. The BBC story, on the other hand, was pretty much a lie, or criminal stupidity. If Kampfner didn't know that the "shooting blanks" bit was bogus, then he has no business reporting on these kinds of things at all.

And call me crazy, but when you report that there were blanks and fake guns being used as part of a Hollywood extravaganza, I think you're calling the whole thing a fraud. That's how I read the BBC story, I think that's how most people read the BBC story, it's how Bob Scheer (rather eagerly and credulously) read the BBC story and I think that's how we were meant to read the BBC story.

UPDATE: Scheer's response to criticism of his Lynch column is substandard bloviation and bluster. He completely ignores the "shooting blanks" issue, and, well, doesn't really say much except "military bad, Murdoch bad, talk radio bad, me good, BBC good." Only he's not as articulate as this makes him sound.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Roger Simon says that Scheer should be fired.

MEDPUNDIT SYDNEY SMITH WRITES on obesity hysteria, and public-health advocates' focus on diet rather than exercise.

It's obvious to me why this is: if you blame diet for obesity, you can shake down corporations that sell food. If you blame lack of exercise, a million couch potatoes pick up the remote, and you don't get asked back on TV.

THE FBI CRIME LAB PROBLEMS are an old InstaPundit staple. Now prisoners are getting their convictions reversed. That, of course, means that innocent people went to jail -- while guilty ones, presumably, continued to prey on the community.

Have heads rolled at the FBI over this? Not hardly. But then they haven't rolled over the pre-9/11 dropped balls either, so why should they?

A bigger question is why should we have confidence in the FBI's ability to do its job?

AS LONG-TIME READERS KNOW, I really want an aircar. Here's an article that's optimistic on my prospects of getting one. I hope it's right.

WELL, I'VE BEEN GONE but Andrew Sullivan has been all over the Rick Bragg story. He thinks that Bragg deserved it -- but that so does the Times. On the other hand, former Times stringer Rod Dreher thinks Bragg's getting a raw deal. And Kaus has more:

[I]t seems clear that a) the NYT policy is a lot more permissive than readers ever knew; b) the NYT rules are unclear, which makes them easy to stretch; and c) the paper is less willing to give credit (which would have the effect of discouraging stringer abuse) than other news organizations.

Read the whole thing(s). Meanwhile Cathy Seipp is focusing on Bob Scheer. At least there's some evidence that the L.A. Times is beginning to notice that it has a reputation for liberal bias.

UPDATE: More support for Bragg's claim that everybody does it at the Times -- or at least that a lot of people do:

Lisa Suhay, a Times freelance writer who says her work on one article was badly distorted by Blair, maintained that Bragg "is being punished for what I, as a freelancer, have seen in four years as common practice.

"I have covered anthrax, plane crashes, roller-coaster disasters, interviewed the family of a local POW -- all high-profile stories, with no credit. . . . It was simply understood that I got paid to be invisible, a nonentity, entrusted to go to market to get the choicest bits for the dish being prepared."

Milton Allimadi, a Times metro stringer for two years in the mid-1990s, said he routinely filed crime stories that were "barely touched" by editors and reporters but never got a byline. "I often wondered how readers I had interviewed must have been surprised the next day. While interviewing them I identified myself as Milton Allimadi, and the next day the byline would be totally different," he said.

Times reporters and editors, meanwhile, respond that they always do a great job. Now, I'm not even sure that this reliance on stringers is unethical (see my earlier post on this) but the Times has already decided that it is, by suspending Bragg, who has now quit. But the press coverage of this is interesting, because it seems to me that journalists are far more willing to take the word of Times employees and flacks that things are fine there than they would be if they were hearing similar assurances from, say, Enron. Those kinds of assurances are always reported with a hint of a sneer. What's the difference? That these are journalists, perhaps their friends and classmates, but at least their fellow professionals? Fine. But why should the rest of us care?

Meanwhile it's interesting to see that people at other newspapers are taking note of the kind of stuff that really hurts their credibility:

Kann also cited "many potential misdemeanors well short of the crimes of plagiarism and fabrication. . . . I am thinking here of the anonymous negative quote questioning someone's character; the unreturnable post-office-closing phone call that permits a publication to say 'unavailable for comment'; the closed mind to an inconvenient new fact that doesn't fit a story line; the loaded adjective where no adjective is needed; the analysis that edges across the line to personal opinion."

Yep. Some of that stuff is okay in punditry, but not news reporting. And what's really hurting media credibility is the sense that there's not much of a difference anymore.

ANOTHER UPDATE: A reader suggests that this passage from the Post piece quoted above is pretty damning:

Such issues rarely surface in television, a more collaborative enterprise where producers and researchers often conduct key interviews and accumulate footage before the big-name correspondent arrives for a shoot. In 1998, when Peter Arnett, then a CNN reporter, narrated a documentary charging that U.S. forces used nerve gas during the Vietnam War, he was able to distance himself when the story had to be retracted, saying he had "contributed not one comma" to the piece.

"See, I just play a journalist on TV." Uh huh.

WE'RE BAAACK! Sorry for the outage yesterday. A server -- I think it was mine, I've got to stop posting so often -- or some such caught fire at the operations center and the place had to be evacuated, cleaned out, yada yada. I was posting a bit over at the backup site but I don't think many people remembered to check it. Bookmark it now, in case, God forbid, this should happen again.

I think any email you sent me during the outage is probably gone forever. Sorry.

May 28, 2003

FRESH BLOGGY GOODNESS: The latest Carnival of the Vanities, featuring links to posts by all sorts of bloggers, is up.

THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION'S AFRICA POLICIES are getting praise from an unexpected source:

Bob Geldof astonished the aid community yesterday by using a return visit to Ethiopia to praise the Bush administration as one of Africa's best friends in its fight against hunger and Aids.

The musician-turned activist said Washington was providing major assistance, in contrast to the European Union's "pathetic and appalling" response to the continent's humanitarian crises.

"You'll think I'm off my trolley when I say this, but the Bush administration is the most radical - in a positive sense - in its approach to Africa since Kennedy," Geldof told the Guardian.

The neo-conservatives and religious rightwingers who surrounded President George Bush were proving unexpectedly receptive to appeals for help, he said. "You can get the weirdest politicians on your side."

Former president Bill Clinton had not helped Africa much, despite his high-profile visits and apparent empathy with the downtrodden, the organiser of Live Aid, claimed. "Clinton was a good guy, but he did fuck all."

Um, yes, he did. . . . And there's more:

Geldof was adamant that the EU was the greater villain for delivering just a small fraction of Ethiopia's staple needs and refusing, unlike the US and Britain, to supply any supplementary foods, such as oil, which give a balanced diet.

"The EU have been pathetic and appalling, and I thought we had dealt with that 20 years ago when the electorate of our countries said never again," he said. Warning that the "horror of the 80s" could return, he added: "The last time I spoke to the EU's aid people, they didn't even know where their own ships were. The food is there, get it here."

Read the whole thing. But wait, there's more in this article from The Times:

BOB GELDOF launched a bitter attack on President Mugabe of Zimbabwe last night as he flew into Africa 20 years after launching Live Aid.

The Irish pop star called on African leaders to challenge despots if they wanted the rest of the world to take them seriously.

“He (Mr Mugabe) is engaging in state-sponsored terror and famine and that cannot be allowed,” Geldof said. “He is a shame on the face of Africa.”

Geldof, on his first official trip to Ethiopia since the days of Live Aid in 1985, added: “You people should be demanding that Mugabe steps down. I don’t care where he goes. He can join Idi Amin in Saudi Arabia, he can join the ghetto of tyrants, but get him out of there.”

Indeed.

CONFIDENCE IN THE MILITARY IS UP. Confidence in the press is down. Maybe the New York Times needs some embedded bloggers!

MAUREEN DOWD has sort of admitted that she made a misleading alteration in a George Bush quote. Emphasis on the "sort of."

UPDATE: The Belgravia Dispatch is unimpressed with Dowd's behavior.

I'M SHOCKED, SHOCKED: The head of Al Jazeera has been fired in response to charges that he worked with Saddam's intelligence services.

Boy, you sure wouldn't have guessed that from their coverage, would you?

THE STRONGER HORSE: My TechCentralStation column, which is about where we are (and aren't) going in space, is up.

May 27, 2003

SPEAKING OF EXCESSIVE SECRECY: Jesse Walker notes that the FCC is behaving in a particularly opaque fashion where its media concentration rules are concerned.

SO WHY DO I CARE ABOUT THE NEW YORK TIMES STORY? I don't know. (Reader Vish Subramanian says that my repeated posts on this subject are "boring and annoying." Sorry, Vish! I'll get back to my usual obsessions soon, I promise.) Part of it is vindication: despite the cult of the Times, it's a flawed human institution, as bloggers have been pointing out, and it's kind of nice to see that presented in undeniable fashion. We all make mistakes, and we all have biases. But the Times is slow to correct the former, and laughably pretends to lack the latter.

Part of it is also that some of this is an insult to our intelligence, much like the Administration's absurd claims (which I was flaming about repeatedly here last year) that the September 11 attacks were somehow unimaginable. That was absurd. The Columbine killers planned to hijack a plane and smash it into Manhattan, and anyone who has flown over Manhattan has surely thought about the damage an errant airliner could do. Anyone who honestly believes that such an attack was unimaginable, -- as opposed to, perhaps, being something that a reasonable person would consider imaginable but unlikely -- is sufficiently unimaginative that he/she shouldn't be working in a position of responsibility.

Weirdly, the White House still seems to be trying to push this line, though, judging by its recent efforts to keep quiet a report suggesting that the President was warned on August 6 that Al Qaeda might try to hijack airplanes. Why? The question isn't whether it was a possibility. The question was whether it should have been recognized as an imminent threat. The answer to the former is pretty clearly "of course." The answer to the latter isn't nearly as clear. But why pretend it's not a question at all? Who do they think they're fooling?

UPDATE: Subramanian also notes:

However, while discussing blogs and newspapers, you miss one hugely important point in favor of blogs - the ability to mark corrections on articles. A responsible blogger should always go back and mark the permlinks in case of errors etc. The Times cant. Which is why it is vulnerable to articles like Rich Lowry's. In fact, over the last few weeks, it is the NY Times which has done fine reporting showing that its own initial reports are misstated. However, the original articles were on the front page and will be read by future generations on microfilm - without the later qualifications.

Excellent point. The character of newspapers makes it harder for them to seamlessly correct errors than it is for, say, blogs. [So why do many people consider them more reliable than blogs? -- Ed. Good question!] But making the original versions of articles show evidence of correction is a good idea. Linda Seebach suggests, rightly, that I don't give the technological problems with this enough attention. But I think it's important to come as close to this ideal as possible.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Vish doesn't like it, but other readers can't get enough of that sweet, sweet NYT blogging. Hank Fenster writes: "I, for one, am following
the NY Times stuff with great interest." And Bob Spretnak emails:

Is this a Milli Vanilli moment for American journalism? Y'know ... passing off the work of someone else as your own, with the public being shocked and angered at the first revelation. Of course, re Milli Vanilli, the public eventually accepted the notion of lip synching (see, e.g., Spears, Britney), but nevertheless Fab & Rob -- around whom the scandal originally broke -- remained pariahs in perpetuity.

The Jayson Blair scandal is the journalistic equivalent of Enron -- massive fraud and deceit. Bragg is Milli Vanilli, minus the braided mophead hair.

And if the NY Times does equal Milli Vanilli, does that make Howell Raines Frank Farian?

(PS: You aren't blogging about the NY Times ENOUGH.)

Hmm. Well, you can't please everybody, so -- to quote that great journalistic philosopher Ricky Nelson -- I guess I'll have to please myself. And we can at least be grateful that we've been spared the hair.

ANOTHER UPDATE: James Lileks explains how to write a New York Times feature story, and offers this observation:

Yes, you can take some stringer’s notes and compose a story, but the difference between that an a piece you wrote from your own research is the difference between a Penthouse Forum letter and your recollection of your wedding night.

Indeed.

THIS JACK SHAFER STORY on Rick Bragg misses some notes, I think. First, despite the advertisement in the title, Shafer's story doesn't, in fact, refute Bragg's claim that "everybody does it." (Of course -- though it's not disclosed -- the titles to pieces aren't usually written by the authors, so that might be Shafer's fault. But would the average reader know that?) Shafer rather uncritically accepts a New York Times spokeswoman's statement that seems to suggest -- but that doesn't actually say -- that Bragg's behavior was unusual for the Times. He doesn't, and the Times doesn't, respond to Bragg's claim that his editors encouraged him to parachute into places just long enough to get a dateline for a story that was really written elsewhere. He also doesn't fully address the treatment of that issue in this Wall Street Journal story, even though he mentions the story on other points. But the WSJ story includes this statement:

The Times says nonstaff journalists are often used to conduct interviews, provide research assistance or help stake out the scene of news events, especially on tight deadlines, but don't receive bylines when their contribution is routine. They may receive one "when their pieces reflect unusual enterprise or unusual writing style," according to a written statement provided by the Times.

Indeed, some Times staffers expressed surprise at Mr. Bragg's suspension because using material from stringers and assistants without giving credit is common practice at the paper, owned by New York Times Co.

Shafer also suggests that Bragg was doing something tricky by using Wes Yoder as a stringer, but again, the WSJ story seems to suggest that Howell Raines must have been aware of this practice, which would devastate any case that Bragg was putting one over on his bosses. Here's the key passage:

Indeed, when Times Executive Editor Howell Raines, an Alabama native, visited Birmingham to watch the trial, Mr. Yoder says he sat with the Times' top editor in the courtroom and they spoke at length. "It wasn't like Rick was hiding anything from Howell, or anyone else at the Times," Mr. Yoder says. Mr. Raines went to dinner at least once with Mr. Bragg and Mr. Yoder, Mr. Yoder says.

It's not open-and-shut, but it's awfully damned suggestive. Could these guys have really had dinner, talked shop (inevitably) and not parted with Howell Raines knowing what was going on? It seems doubtful, and it's hard to imagine a journalist taking the word of a flack for any other corporation under these circumstances, but that's what Shafer's doing when he concludes that Bragg was guilty of "deceit" by using Yoder on the story.

Shafer's on his strongest ground when he suggests that the "you are there" tone of the Apalachicola story is deceptive in the sense that it gives the impression that Bragg was there a lot more than he really was. This is pretty strong -- but if it's true, then as Jeff Jarvis points out, every TV reporter is committing unethical journalism by producing reports that give an entirely false impression of how much original reporting he or she is doing, and of what happens when and where. (Jonah Goldberg says the same thing).

It seems to me that there are two questions here: what's fair to the stringers, and what's fair to the readers. Where the stringers are concerned, I think it's all a question of contract and expectations. If they're promised a byline they should get one. If they're not, then they're not entitled to one. And if there's some widespread journalistic norm (as there is, I believe, among comedy writers where everyone in the room when a joke is written gets credit) that everyone involved gets a credit, then apparently it's not that widespread. And it's very notable that Yoder isn't the one complaining here. In fact, he's defending Bragg.

From the reader's standpoint it's trickier: What do readers want to know? What do they care about? Jarvis again: "My own mother used to tell me about stories she'd just read in the Chicago Tribune and I used to have to say, 'Yeah, Ma, I know, I wrote that.' Reporters' own mothers don't notice their bylines." Readers do want to know whether they can trust the reporting. Bylines can be a proxy for trust -- or distrust, when it's, say, Robert Fisk -- but usually only insiders care. The average reader, wisely or foolishly, almost certainly pays more attention to the institutional imprimatur than to the reporter's name. I would certainly favor adding individual accountability, and thus bringing the Times up to the standards of weblogs, but I wouldn't go so far as to say that it's ethically required.

Which returns to the original question: What, exactly, did Rick Bragg do that was so much worse than what other reporters at the Times do that it justifies a suspension? Shafer's piece doesn't answer that, beyond making this unsupported general statement:

Although other Times stringers, interns, and staffers have alleged cases in which reporting for the Times was improperly credited, none has alleged to me a provable violation as dramatic as Bragg's. In general, it's a point of pride for newspaper reporters not to slough the reporting off on assistants.

"None has alleged to me." "In general, it's a point of pride." That's not very strong stuff, really. It just raises more questions.

It's possible, of course, that -- despite the Wall Street Journal report and the emails I got here over the weekend -- these practices aren't really widespread at the Times. If Shafer's piece had demonstrated that, then it would have provided at least a partial answer to the question of what Bragg did wrong. But Shafer's piece doesn't demonstrate that so much as it simply asserts it.

THE BAGHDAD MUSEUM LOOTING STORY was exploded weeks ago, when it turned out that only about two dozen items, not the tens of thousands originally reported, were looted from the Iraqi National Museums displays. In other words, the original looting stories were bogus. Yet today the factually-challenged New York Times describes the museums as having been "largely gutted."

Perhaps the former Iraqi information minister is now working as one of the Times' anonymous stringers? As Jerk Sauce notes: "The article raises some worrisome points about the looting of archeological sites in Iraq. But given the reporter's - or is it his stringer's - willingness to misrepresent the museum looting, how credible is this?"

Not very, I'm afraid.

MICKEY KAUS asks:

Where's Howell? Isn't it time we heard from embattled NYT executive editor Howell Raines about his role in the Rick Bragg mess, not to mention the ongoing "Blair Witchhunt" and the general turmoil in his newsroom? I think Kenneth Lay was more accessible to the press during the Enron scandal. ... Is Raines still in charge?

Insiders are invited to email him tips.

WELL, THIS IS NO SIGN OF PROGRESS:

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia, May 27 — An editor whose newspaper was in the forefront of a campaign against Muslim extremism was removed from his post Tuesday, managers at the paper said.

No reason was given for the dismissal of Jamal Khashoggi, who joined the Al-Watan newspaper in March, one manager said on condition of anonymity. . . .

Many Saudis who had hoped that their country was on a path toward change following the terror attacks against three compounds housing foreign workers were disappointed by the news of Khashoggi's dismissal.

''This is a bad sign,'' said Turki al-Hamad, a prominent writer. ''This will be considered a victory by the extremists. It's like an invitation for more attacks.''

Based in the southern city of Abha, Al-Watan has won a wide readership since its launch in 2000 owing to its liberal editorials and a policy of promoting a higher profile for women in conservative Saudi society.

The firing was at the behest of the Saudi Information Ministry, which means the Saudi royals' fingerprints are on it. They're not our friends, they're major supporters and exporters of Islamic terrorism, they're almost certainly incapable of reform, and sooner or later they're going to have to go.

VIK RUBENFELD COMMENTS on Rick Bragg's experience with bad publicity:

Mr. Bragg is experiencing, doubtless for the first time, how unfair hostile reporting is. Yet this is what the meanstream press has subjected every other business in America to for decades.

Hostile reporting is the result of the sentence all mainstream reporters say, specifically, “To be objective I must be hostile to the subject of the article.” That sentence is false. Hostility as a goal produces only attacks. It does not produce fairness. This is what Bragg, and the press, are discovering under these unfortunate circumstances.

And the Times isn't even close to getting the full-bore Enron treatment. Meanwhile, Jonah Goldberg observes:

Frankly I think Rick Bragg is getting a raw deal given the rules he was told to work under. But I can't muster much sympathy since the Times represents the height of journalistic goody-goodieness and arrogance.

I suspect a lot of people will feel that way, though I'm not sure it's entirely fair.

MICKEY KAUS offers a close reading of the Wall Street Journal story I mention below. Howell Raines doesn't look good.

UPDATE: Meanwhile, Matt Welch observes: "Maybe the Grey Lady needs to open up a few more bureaus in flyover country." Indeed.

IS PEER REVIEW POOR REVIEW? Ralph Luker thinks so.

THIS STORY will make Jeff Jarvis happy -- it's about plans to offer Iraqis unfettered Internet access. Make it so.

LARRY LESSIG OBSERVES:

For it is bizarre that we increasingly live in this world where every movement is captured by a camera, yet increasingly, ordinary people are not permitted to take pictures with cameras.

He's right. Malls, stores, and governments are putting up hidden cameras everywhere, even as the list of places you're not allowed to photograph mushrooms. Screw 'em. If they want to photograph you secretly -- and they do -- then you should have the right to, er, shoot back. And they should feel lucky that it's just with a camera.

After all, if they're innocent, they have nothing to hide, right? That's what they're always telling us.

MATT WELCH HAS MORE ON DISGRACEFUL CONDUCT BY IMMIGRATION OFFICIALS -- it's like he's got an inside source or something! Seriously, this kind of thing is just pathetic, and heads should roll. Will they?

Not bloody likely. But it's yet another mark against the not-ready-for-primetime Homeland Security apparat.

I'M ENJOYING SOME RARE SUNSHINE out on the law school's patio while I do some WestLaw research. But there's more on why the New York Times' latest scandals constitute the "revenge of the blog" -- along with more book-blogging for your beach-reading summer pleasure -- over at GlennReynolds.com.

THE ANNIKA SORENSTAM / DONALD RUMSFELD connection.

LOOTING UPDATE: Rich Lowry writes on "the museum sacking that wasn't:"

If you only read The New York Times, you might think the only truly important recent event in Iraq was the looting of the Iraqi National Museum. For art lovers, this branded the U.S. occupation with the worst of all possible labels, worse than "imperialist," worse than "illegal" -- "Philistine."

Robert Deutsch, an archeologist at Haifa University and a licensed antiquities dealer, shakes his head at all the coverage of the museum sacking. The Times originally reported that 170,000 pieces had been stolen. "Nonsense," says Deutsch. He points out that there would have to be "miles and miles" of display area for such a massive amount of material to be readily available for the snatching. . . .

"They just had to have something to complain about," Deutsch says of the museum hype from skeptics of the war. "The war was fast. It was clean. They found a small place where they can complain." . . .

"I don't see any big or significant damage from this looting," says Deutsch. "It was very small-scale. And the historical value of an antiquity is in its publication. Once it's published, it's part of our knowledge." Thereafter, its value is mostly as an object of art.

(Via Bill Quick).

JEFF JARVIS WEIGHS IN: "What Rick Bragg did was no cause for suspension or the sliming of his career."

ADAM MICHNIK WRITES ON BEING CALLED A TRAITOR (AGAIN):

A German journalist published an article in the paper Die Tageszeitung in which he claimed that Vaclav Havel, Adam Michnik, and George Konrad, Europe’s long-standing moral authorities, had suddenly become undiscriminating admirers of America.

I read that article with a twinge of nostalgia. Here we are, together again. Our three names were grouped to-gether for the first time by Timothy Garton Ash in his widely acclaimed essay nearly two decades ago. If I recall correctly, Havel and I were doing jail time then, and Konrad’s books were banned from print in Hungary. Even though we did not meet very often, we maintained a common ground in our reflections on the worlds of values and of politics. We were united by a dream of freedom, a dream of a world infused with tolerance, hope, respect for human dignity, and a refusal of conformist silence in the face of evil. . . .

In answer to this, I guarantee that I have not forgotten about the U.S. intervention in Vietnam or the American support of despotic, anticommunist regimes in Latin America—the perpetual argument of the intellectuals of the Western European left. However, I also have not forgotten that the American defeat in Vietnam resulted in the North’s armed conquest of the South and a wave of terrible repression. I also realize that while condemning the dictatorships of [Rafael] Trujillo or [Augusto] Pinochet, I should remember the dictatorship of Fidel Castro. Brutal power is equally repugnant whether executed under a red banner or a black one. The belief that there was no rightist or leftist torture, no progressive or reactionary torture, was a fundamental principle we lived by. It led us to reject the hypocrisy of the Western left, which proclaimed that even bad communism was better than good capitalism because it was the former and not the latter that led to a bright future.

What, then, is our betrayal? Today we reject the notion of equality between a regime that belongs to the democratic world—even if it is conservative and disagreeable—and a totalitarian dictatorship, whether its colors are black, red, or green. This is why we will never again say that Chamberlain is no better than Hitler, Roosevelt no better than Stalin, and Nixon no better than Mao Zedong, even if we do condemn Roosevelt for Yalta, Chamberlain for Munich, and Nixon for Watergate.

And that, apparently, is treason in some quarters. Then there's this:

The hatred felt toward America becomes absurd when it ceases to be a critical stance that is normal within democratic discourse and takes up the defense of brutal, totalitarian dictatorships. The so-called peace movements of the Cold War burned effigies of American presidents and genuflected before Stalin’s portraits. We will not repeat such a masquerade today. . . . This is why we are at odds with today’s pacifists: We will not peacefully pave the way for those who committed the crimes of Sept. 11 and their allies.

Read the whole thing -- and ponder the depths of the Chirac/Schroeder miscalculation.

A "STRIKING DEGREE OF CONFIDENCE" IN THE MILITARY is revealed in this interesting story from The New York Times:

In fact, researchers and polling experts say, the class reflects a long-building trend that has intensified with the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, and the successful military actions in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Americans' trust and confidence in the military has soared, even as it has declined in other institutions like corporations, churches and Congress.

From 1975 to 2002, the percentage of Americans who expressed a "great deal" or "quite a lot" of confidence in the people who ran organized religion fell, to 45 percent from 68. Those expressing a great deal or a lot of confidence in Congress declined, to 29 percent from 40, according to a Gallup Poll. But also in 2002, Americans who expressed a great deal or a lot of confidence in the military rose, to 79 percent from 58 in 1975.

The positive image is particularly striking among the children and grandchildren of baby boomers, said David C. King, an associate professor of public policy at Harvard and co-author of the new book "The Generation of Trust: How the U.S. Military Has Regained the Public's Confidence Since Vietnam" (American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research).

Perhaps the Times could learn from this example.

RADLEY BALKO WRITES on John Ashcroft's fair-weather federalism:

The problem with Attorney General Ashcroft -- and the reason I write about him today -- is that his record as Attorney General thus far has shown him to be a man completely unsympathetic to the tenets of federalism when they happen conflict with his own, personal values. . . .

Ashcroft’s supporters counter that as Attorney General, his job is to uphold and enforce the federal code -- whether or not he agrees with a particular law isn’t important. But that’s a bit naïve. Like any other cabinet head, the Attorney General works with a budget, with limited resources. He hasn’t nearly enough capital or prosecutors to go after every infraction of the federal criminal code (which, thanks in no small part to allegedly federalist-minded Republicans, is expanding exponentially). Consequently, Attorney General Ashcroft actually makes policy when he chooses which federal laws he’s going to actively enforce, and to what extent.

John Ashcroft’s decision to devote considerably large swaths of DOJ time and resources to challenging state drug and assisted-suicide laws he feels are too liberal can’t be dismissed with the likes of “he’s just doing his job.” He chose to set examples in California and Oregon because he felt DOJ resources were better utilized challenging those laws than, for example, investigating al-Qaeda sleeper cells.

Indeed.

UPDATE: Roger Simon has some thoughts.

MICROBES ON PARADE: N.Z. Bear is showcasing new blogs. Check 'em out!

LILEKS IS PANNING The Matrix Reloaded. I didn't see it. Last weekend I saw the #2 movie for that weekend: Daddy Day Care. My daughter and her friend liked it. I thought it was tolerable. It makes a few progressive points about men engaging in childcare despite the disapproval of women, balancing these serious bits with the apparently irresistible hilarity of repeatedly showing a fat man kicked in the balls. Nothing says laffs-a-plenty like a fat guy groaning in agony on the ground. It's some sort of Hollywood rule.

UPDATE: A lot of people seem to agree with Lileks, as the Matrix box-office took a tumble over the weekend. But Daddy Day Care is still going strong!

MICKEY KAUS has still more on the Rick Bragg story. And Jim Romenesko, back from vacation, has a lot of links, including this one to a Wall Street Journal report that echoes a point made by some emailers here over the weekend (see this post and this one):

The Times says nonstaff journalists are often used to conduct interviews, provide research assistance or help stake out the scene of news events, especially on tight deadlines, but don't receive bylines when their contribution is routine. They may receive one "when their pieces reflect unusual enterprise or unusual writing style," according to a written statement provided by the Times.

Indeed, some Times staffers expressed surprise at Mr. Bragg's suspension because using material from stringers and assistants without giving credit is common practice at the paper, owned by New York Times Co.

(Emphasis added). The story also suggests that Raines knew about Bragg's relationship with the stringer in question for quite some time and didn't object. ("'It wasn't like Rick was hiding anything from Howell, or anyone else at the Times,' Mr. Yoder says. Mr. Raines went to dinner at least once with Mr. Bragg and Mr. Yoder, Mr. Yoder says.") So why, exactly, was Bragg suspended? Is there more to this story?

Kaus, meanwhile, says that Bragg isn't the issue:

The issue is whether the Times is routinely deceiving its readers into thinking that its stories have the credibility safeguard of a bylined reporter who has actually done the reporting in the story.

The answer to that question is looking like "yes," isn't it? Kaus also wonders if Howell Raines (or "whoever is running the show at 43d street") will "retaliate" against Bragg for not going quietly (Bragg is decrying the "poisonous atmosphere" at the Times and dropping not-so-subtle hints that his discipline is motivated by racial balancing in response to the Blair scandal). Who knows? Given the closed shop that Raines runs, that's possible. It's also possible that there's more to this story than we've heard so far -- though Bragg isn't acting like a guy with other charges hanging over his head. Stay tuned for more of "Mr. Raines' wild ride. . . ."

May 26, 2003

THE ARAB STREET TURNS OUT:

CASABLANCA, Morocco, May 25 -- Tens of thousands of demonstrators chanting "no to terrorism" thronged the streets of Casablanca today, nine days after 43 people were killed in coordinated suicide attacks in the city.

"I am here for myself and for them, the next generation," said Abdellatif Ghanam, an unemployed night watchman, gesturing to his 6-year-old son. "The people who did those attacks are not followers of Islam in its true sense."

Interesting.

HONORING THE DEAD: A moving story.

STILL MORE REASONS why "no-knock" raids are not only un-American, but criminally dangerous:

"We must do a better job of no-knock search warrants," lawyer Norman Siegel said during an October press conference. "Otherwise, someone might wind up dead as a result of how we implement this procedure."

Today someone is dead. Her name was Alberta Spruill.

Spruill, a 57-year-old church volunteer, suffered a heart attack and died May 16 after flak-jacketed cops broke down her door and lobbed a stun grenade into her small Harlem apartment in a mistaken search for drugs.

Marie Rogers, 62, a retiree from Springfield Gardens, had a similar experience seven months ago, although a stun grenade wasn't used in the raid on her apartment - and she lived to talk about it.

"When I heard about what happened to this woman, I broke down and cried," Rogers said. "You would have thought that I knew her. Then I was angry."

On Oct. 15, Rogers and her husband, Robert, were in their home watching television - "Cops," as it turns out - when police in riot gear plowed through their front door without warning. When Robert, 64, a retired housing cop, heard the noise, he instinctively went for his licensed revolver, dropped to a knee and waited.

"I thought I was going to die," he said. "I thought the people coming into my house were trying to kill me."

Robert is certain he would have been shot if he hadn't tossed his gun aside before the cops came in. As for the drugs and weapons they were looking for, police found nothing. They had the wrong address.

That ought to be a firing offense, the very first time it happens, for the officers involved and their superiors. If people die, the charge should be murder. If you decide to break down somebody's door and enter with guns drawn when no one's life is in danger, then you should be able to offer no defense if anything goes wrong. Because it's indefensible.

UPDATE: This, on the other hand, isn't criminal, just pathetic.

GARY FARBER writes that it's time for Pundit Watch to come back. I think he's right. How about it, Will?

MICKEY KAUS has still more inside dope on The New York Times' leadership problems. It's fascinating stuff.

THERE'S MORE INTERNAL WARFARE AT THE NEW YORK TIMES, according to Howard Kurtz. Kurtz also reports on a plagiarism incident that -- shockingly enough -- occurred at a different New York paper, the Post.

UPDATE: Charles Murtaugh -- in a Bob Herbert-related post that's currently at the top of his site -- reports that the New York Times' scandals are already having an impact, as Bob Herbert credits his heretofore unheralded assistant, Johanna Jainchill, with an interview. Charles doesn't miss a thing. And though it may just be a coincidence, the column in which Herbert credits Jainchill is one of Herbert's better efforts.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Jonah Goldberg notes:

This could be the start of all sorts of fun because I know for a fact Herbert is hardly alone. Maureen Dowd, for example, has a minion who does much of her gruntwork for her as do many other columnists (I used to be Ben Wattenberg's researcher for example). Let the full-disclosures fly!

Indeed.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Tom Maguire says that Adam Clymer needs to add another correction to his total.

STILL MORE: Jeff Jarvis writes:

Anyway, following up on the latest NY Times scandal, the dateline caper, in which a prize-winning reporter gets sent to detention for not staying long enough at the place from which he dateslines his story...

I know of at least one big newspaper in this country where datelines are meaningless: Rewritemen took the wires and whatever else was handy and wrote stories under datelines as well as their bylines without ever leaving the desk. I was a bit surprised when I first saw this, but it was SOP.

Meanwhile, Gary Farber calls the Clymer piece "dolorous and predictable." But that's not a sin at the Times!

A QUESTION: The Rick Bragg story, conveniently enough, came out on Memorial Day Friday, one of the deadest news slots of the year. (As Kaus notes, it was even a vacation day for Romenesko!)

But was this really that smart? All it means is that the blogosphere -- especially the Raines-unfriendly part occupied by Kaus and Sullivan -- has had all weekend to chew on the story. I wonder if on Tuesday, when people come back to the office, they'll scroll through those posts and it'll set the tone, making things worse for Raines rather than better?

"RUMSFELD APOLOGIZES FOR HYPING SADDAM THREAT:" Wow, who would have expected this? I don't think it'll please the not-in-our-name crowd, though:

"I'm sorry Senators Biden, Rockefeller, Byrd, Roberts and others," said a contrite Mr. Rumsfeld. "We overestimated the threat posed by a lunatic dictator, who hated the U.S. and Israel, and who paid rewards to families of Palestinian terrorists. In an age when two of the world's tallest buildings can be brought down with tools used by the stockboy at K-Mart, we should have demanded more concrete evidence of exotic weapons of mass destruction. Saddam was helpless as a kitten up a tree."

Read the whole thing. . . .

HAITI IS DEMANDING REPARATIONS FROM FRANCE:

In his May 1 speech, Aristide renewed his call for France to "restitute" the indemnity of 150 million gold francs which Haiti paid the former colonial power after winning its independence in 1804. The Haitian government calculates that France owes it about $21.7 billion. The French Foreign Minister has scoffed at the request, accusing the Haitian government of "poor administration."

Heh.

May 25, 2003

MORE FALLEN JOURNALISTIC ICONS: Now it's the famed fact-checkers at The New Yorker, who allowed Ken Auletta's statement that the term "Axis of Weasels" was first published in the New York Post into print when -- as anyone with Google should have known -- it really originated with ScrappleFace.

SPEAKING OF BAD NEWS FOR GERMANY, here's a German writer who says that Germany lost the Iraq war via Schroeder's machinations:

Wars always have winners and losers. Saddam Hussein--dead or on the run--is, of course, the Iraq war's biggest loser. But Germany has also lost much, including the many US troops who will now reportedly be re-deployed to bases in other countries. Despite the announcement of plans to create a European army along with France, Belgium, and Luxembourg, Germany is less relevant in both European and world politics than it was before the Iraq war. Repairing the damage will not be easy.

Every part of Germany's international position has been wounded by the Iraq war. The country can no longer play the role of transatlantic mediator between France and America. It can forget about US support in its campaign to gain a permanent seat in the UN Security Council. Instead of forging a "third way" for Europe's left with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Chancellor Gerhard Schröder needs Blair to plead his case with President George W. Bush, who feels personally betrayed by the Chancellor's conduct in the run-up to the war.

In postcommunist Eastern Europe, Germany is no longer perceived as an absolutely dependable advocate of the region's needs. Multilateral institutions that served as pillars of German foreign policy for almost half-a-century have been weakened: the European Union's hopes for common foreign, security, and defense policies have been gravely jeopardized.

German-American relations suffered a devastating blow when Schröder stoked the country's overwhelmingly pacifist attitudes. By doing so he drowned out the concerns about low growth and high unemployment that were threatening his re-election prospects. But that political strategy left President Bush believing that Schröder had stabbed him in the back. As with people, so too with states: trust once lost is extremely difficult to regain.

Read the whole thing, as they say. (Via Jeff Jarvis).

WELL, THIS ISN'T ENCOURAGING:

In Germany, deflation is drawing closer. The largest economy in Europe, Germany's, is already technically in a recession, its second in three years, as economic output turned negative over the last two quarters. The government said Friday that prices rose just 0.7 percent in May from a year earlier - not far from an outright decline in prices.
.
Many analysts now say that at least a modest deflation is likely this year, with several months of falling prices. While the prospect of cheaper BMWs may sound appealing to some, it is actually a symptom of a serious problem: a lack of demand as Germans cling ever more tightly to their wallets. Will Germany turn into another Japan, where falling prices and subpar or nonexistent growth have caused a "lost decade" for the second-largest economy in the world?

Though there's a temptation to engage in schadenfreude at the prospect of economic misfortunes for one of the Axis of Weasels, in truth this is bad news. Japan is already in trouble. Now Germany's heading that way. The United States can't hold off a global recession, or worse, on its own. I'm not an econoblogger, but this worries me. I also suspect that Germany's problem has a lot to do with excessive rigidity in regulation and employment rules, and that the reaction to this problem will tend to be in directions that make that worse, rather than better.

BACK HOME. Some of the posts below have been updated. More later.

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