Archive for May, 2003

May 23, 2003

BIGWIG BLOGGED THE BIRTH OF HIS SON. Start at the link and scroll up; there’s a picture at the top.

May 23, 2003

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.

May 23, 2003

THE VOLOKH CONSPIRACY HAS MOVED. It’s still Blogger-powered, though, and the permalinks aren’t working at the moment.

May 23, 2003

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.

May 23, 2003

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.

May 23, 2003

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.

May 23, 2003

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.

May 23, 2003

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.

May 23, 2003

ANDREW SULLIVAN POINTS TO what looks like more chicanery at the New York Times.

May 23, 2003

ORRIN JUDD HAS EXAMINED CHRIS HEDGES’ BOOK, and is unimpressed with the quality of Hedges’ moral reasoning.

May 23, 2003

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.

May 23, 2003

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.

Indeed.

May 23, 2003

HOW ISLAMIC SUICIDE BOMBERS ARE BOOSTING THE AUSTRALIAN ECONOMY — and much, much more, all at Tim Blair’s new site!

May 23, 2003

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.

May 23, 2003

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.

May 23, 2003

I LIKE THE NEW BLOGCRITICS DESIGN better. It’s easier to navigate.

May 23, 2003

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.

May 23, 2003

ARUNDHATI ROY on the horror of democracy: you have to listen to people who disagree with you!

May 23, 2003

VIA BURCHISMO, I found Butterflies and Wheels, a leftish site devoted to “fighting fashionable nonsense.” It’s well worth checking out.

May 23, 2003

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.

May 23, 2003

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.”

Yet another.

May 23, 2003

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.

May 22, 2003

TORONTO: NOT FREE OF SARS YET. Bummer.

May 22, 2003

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.

May 22, 2003

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.

May 22, 2003

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.

May 22, 2003

THE YALE LAW BOMBING SOLVED: A reader sends this close analysis of the case:

Analysis

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)?

Coincidence?

I don’t think so.

But I’m sure the FBI got there first on this investigation, also.

Heh.

May 22, 2003

ERNIE THE ATTORNEY has some observations on law firm websites and lawyer weblogs.

May 22, 2003

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. . . .

May 22, 2003

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.

May 22, 2003

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.

May 22, 2003

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.

May 22, 2003

DAVE KOPEL HAS SOME THOUGHTS on the new CBS Hitler miniseries.

May 22, 2003

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.

May 22, 2003

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.

May 22, 2003

JOANNE JACOBS FINDS MORE DROPPED BALLS AT THE NEW YORK TIMES — to coin a phrase, don’t these people know how to use Google?

May 22, 2003

THE WAR IS OVER: France has surrendered.

May 22, 2003

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.

May 22, 2003

THE NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF SCHOLARS has a blog now. Topics include teaching grammar, tenure battles at Brooklyn, and the politics of the APA.

May 22, 2003

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.

May 22, 2003

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.

May 22, 2003

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.

May 22, 2003

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.

May 22, 2003

“MISSED SIGNALS” AT NASA may have led to the Columbia disaster.

May 22, 2003

BRITISH CHURCHMEN BACKING MUGABE: Disgraceful.

May 22, 2003

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.”

May 22, 2003

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.

May 22, 2003

PATRIOT ACT POWERS are being used for non-terrorism purposes. I told you so. Talkleft has a summary, and links.

May 22, 2003

NANNY-STATISM — in Texas? Yep. Radley Balko has the scoop.

May 22, 2003

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. . . .)

May 22, 2003

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.

May 22, 2003

REMEMBER AFGHANISTAN? Austin Bay does, and he’s got some observations on developments there, good and bad.

May 22, 2003

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.’”

May 21, 2003

STEVE VERDON HAS MOVED — to www.SteveVerdon.com, of course.

May 21, 2003

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.

May 21, 2003

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?

May 21, 2003

COLBY COSH:

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.

May 21, 2003

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.

May 21, 2003

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….

Stay tuned.

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.

May 21, 2003

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.

May 21, 2003

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.

Funny.

May 21, 2003

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.

May 21, 2003

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.

May 21, 2003

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.

May 21, 2003

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).

May 21, 2003

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.

May 21, 2003

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’.

Ouch.

May 21, 2003

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.

May 20, 2003

OH, THAT LIBERAL MEDIA: An apparently never-ending series.

May 20, 2003

ABOUT TIME, EH? Damian Penny has moved to a new, MT-powered site.

May 20, 2003

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?

KAMPFNER: No.

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.

Indeed.

May 20, 2003

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.

May 20, 2003

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.

So noted.

May 20, 2003

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!

May 20, 2003

LARRY LESSIG thinks I got it right in my TechCentralStation column on media concentration.

May 20, 2003

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.”

More, please.

May 20, 2003

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.

May 20, 2003

ANOTHER BLOGGER TAKES THE BOEING: Eric Olsen has a column on MSNBC.

May 20, 2003

MARGARET WENTE WRITES ABOUT THE “FRUSTRATED MULLAHS” of Iran, and their confrontation with the Internet, and weblogs. Hossein Derakshan is interviewed.

May 20, 2003

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.”

Uh huh.

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.

May 20, 2003

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?

Hmm.

May 20, 2003

WHY FCC CHAIRMAN MICHAEL POWELL IS WRONG ABOUT MEDIA CONCENTRATION: My TechCentralStation column is up.

May 20, 2003

JEFF JARVIS WRITES that Robert Fisk is more creative than Jayson Blair. Hey, maybe he can get a job at the BBC!

May 20, 2003

HERE’S ANOTHER VENEZUELAN BLOG focusing on events there.

May 20, 2003

“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!

May 20, 2003

DILACERATOR REPORTS on pro-Nazism among Arab immigrants in The Netherlands. He says it’s being covered up. No surprise there.

May 20, 2003

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.

(Via Protocols).

May 20, 2003

HOMELAND SECURITY: It’s still a joke.

May 19, 2003

TONY ADRAGNA ON THE U.N.’S HUMANITARIAN FAILURES: Worth reading.

May 19, 2003

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.

May 19, 2003

SOME GOOD NEWS: There are roughly 50 new newspapers in Iraq already. But not that many weblogs. Yet.

(Via Jeff Jarvis).

May 19, 2003

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.

Sigh.

May 19, 2003

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.

May 19, 2003

IT’S SKBUBBA’S ONE-YEAR BLOGIVERSARY! Drop by and wish him well.

May 19, 2003

A MATRIX REVIEW THAT REVOLVES AROUND CORNEL WEST: Not bad for a guy with only one line.

May 19, 2003

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.

May 19, 2003

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.”