Archive for September, 2004

September 30, 2004

A READER NOTES that the Iowa Electronic Markets and the Tradesports Future markets haven’t moved much. Has there been time? Maybe.

UPDATE: Debate transcript here.

ANOTHER UPDATE: People are already mining the transcript for, er, hidden gold. Or is that plutonium?

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: More of that. Treblinka square?

More here.

September 30, 2004

GERGEN ON CNN: No knockout punches and no memorable lines, but one of the best debates I remember. Calls it a draw for the candidates.

UPDATE: Cynical take here:

Kerry managed to not contradict himself within the space of a single sentence. Bush succumbed to vapor lock a couple of times but everyone knows that just makes him seem like a normal guy. All in all, we don’t know who won. We’re going to wait for the media to tell us.

Maybe not.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Mickey Kaus scores it as a Kerry victory, though not a smashing one. Interestingly, the Insta-Wife thought it was a smashing victory for Bush. It didn’t seem that way to me, but while I thought Bush’s visible exasperation hurt him, she saw it as the natural response of a man who was busy fighting a war at having to listen to someone talk about its impact on prescription drugs. Go figure.

MORE: Lots of women are emailing to say that they agree with the Insta-Wife. I don’t know if that’s representative, though. It’ll be interesting to see the polling on this in a few days as people think about it.

September 30, 2004


The US and China have said they were confident North Korea will return to six-party talks to end the stand-off over Pyongyang’s nuclear programmes.

US State Secretary Colin Powell said after talks with Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing the format was “what we should be concentrating on”.

Mr Li described the talks as the “only feasible and correct option”.

This is bad news for Kerry.

UPDATE: But Kerry’s position has been consistent.

September 30, 2004

TOMMY FRANKS ON CNN: Osama bin Laden is not in Afghanistan, as Senator Kerry said he is.

On lacking a plan for winning the peace: “If you read my book, you’ll find I mention a term called ‘catastrophic success.’ It’s a good news thing. . . . But it takes a long time to bring stability to a place that hasn’t known stability for a long time. It’s inaccurate to say that there was not a plan . . . but some in our media built expectations that that would happen more quickly than was possible.”

UPDATE: Reader Chris Greer doesn’t think Franks was as positive as I make him sound above. I don’t have a TiVo, but I was typing it as he spoke. He did say that he’s a civilian now, and doesn’t have secret info — but he also said what I reported. Maybe there’ll be a transcript tomorrow.

September 30, 2004

DANIEL DREZNER was liveblogging, too.

Lots more here, too.

September 30, 2004

WRAPUP: Both closing statements were pretty good. Overall, while neither of these guys is an especially good orator (or maybe because neither is an especially good orator) it was a more substantive debate than I had expected.

Kerry was tougher than I had expected, which is good — except that you never know what he’ll say next time. If I hadn’t been paying attention to the campaign, though, I’d be fairly impressed — and Kerry has to hope that most people who watched the debate fall into that category. [LATER: Andrew Sullivan seems to agree with this take.]

Bush started off weak, got better as it went on, and finished well (“the transformative power of liberty”). Both did a pretty good job of sticking to issues and there weren’t too many cheap rhetorical tricks. I don’t think it’ll change a lot of minds. But I have a very consistent track record of getting this stuff wrong (I thought Carter beat Reagan. . . .) so take my opinions with a large grain of salt.

UPDATE: This take from The Corner:

John Kerry plus: He does not come across as arrogant and obnoxious as we believe him to be.

John Kerry minus: His positions don’t hold together in any coherent way.

George W. Bush plus: He has an air of authority, experience, and purpose I don’t recall from 2000.

George W. Bush minus: The President is a dismally poor public speaker.

About right, I’d say.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Chuck Simmins:

Overall, a near draw, which translates to a win for Bush. Kerry started strong a few times then failed to move in for the kill. Unwilling or unable? . . . Both men seemed at a loss for words at times when I expected them not to be. Jitters?”

Neither one is an especially great orator.

Hugh Hewitt thinks it was a big Bush win.

September 30, 2004

LAME QUESTION FROM LEHRER: Kerry says you’re a liar. Does that raise any hackles? Bushy: I’m a pretty calm guy. Kerry thought Saddam was a threat too.

Kerry: Bush didn’t go to war as a last resort.

N.Z. Bear: “OK, I’m not hypersensitive about such things. But these questions are turning out to be extraordinarily biased. Every question seems to be ‘so, let’s talk about the mistakes Bush has made…'”

UPDATE: Reader Charlotte Muhl writes that there weren’t many questions about Kerry’s record:

Is anyone saying the obvious? This foreign policy debate was all about putting Bush on the defensive. Why no attention to Kerry’s 20 year Senate record of votes and statements on foreign policy, military and intell issues?! All I heard from Lehrer the entire evening was one sorta, kinda follow-up question on Kerry’s post Viet Nam protest.


September 30, 2004

N.Z. BEAR IS LIVEBLOGGING TOO, and observes: “Not that this is a revelation, but thus far, it looks like this will be a draw. Both candidates are doing ok, no obvious gaffes, no big moments (yet). I don’t see a lot of minds being changed by this…”

September 30, 2004

IF I WERE KIM JONG IL, I’d be worried no matter who wins.

September 30, 2004

THE CHARACTER ISSUE: Bush: He changes positions on something as fundamental as what you believe is right in Iraq. You cannot lead if you send mixed messages. They send the wrong signals to our troops, our allies, and the Iraqi citizens. There must be certainty from the United States President.

Kerry: Bush has done it more than I have in terms of the Presidency, and it’s tough. Nice words on the daughters, and Laura Bush. To the point: It’s one thing to be certain, but you can be certain and be wrong. You’ve got to change and get your policy right. He’s not acknowledging the truth on the ground, on stem cells, on science. (Stem cells must be polling well.)

Bush: You shift tactics based on what’s working, but you don’t change your core values because of politics and because of pressure.

Kerry: I’ve never wavered in my life. I’ve been consistent on Iraq. Saddam Hussein was a threat, he needed to be disarmed but we didn’t need to rush to war. Hmm.

September 30, 2004

A DARFUR QUESTION: Do we send in troops?

Kerry dodges by talking about Iran. Finally gets to Darfur: “Yes it is a genocide. Many of us are pressing for action.” But do it through the African Union. Give ’em logistical support. But we’re overextended. That’s why I want to make the Army bigger. (But I’d send troops to Darfur.)

Bush — responds on Iran, noting sanctions predate his administration. True, but a distraction. On Darfur: I agree it’s genocide. We’re the leading donor. We’ll commit more. We’re very much involved. (What Bush should say: The problem with my approach is that it’s too Kerryesque, working through the UN and other organizations. Okay, maybe not.)

September 30, 2004

DID KERRY JUST SAY he might “preempt” in Iran and North Korea?

Bringing up Kyoto seems silly though.

Jonah Goldberg: “WHY Does Kerry keep saying we didn’t secure Saddam’s nuclear facilities if he thinks he didn’t have any?”

Bush is hitting Kerry on North Korea, contrasting the Clintonian bilateral strategy with his own multilateral strategy — see, he can bring in allies! “Now there are 5 voices speaking to Kim Jong-Il.”

Kerry straddles in response to a Lehrer followup: I want both bilateral and multilateral talks!

September 30, 2004

BOY, IF BUSH produces Osama next week, Kerry’s going to look bad.

September 30, 2004

JONAH GOLDBERG: “the best presidential debate in decades?”

More substantive than I had expected.

September 30, 2004

C-SPAN’S CONSISTENT SPLIT-SCREEN is the best of the TV treatments, I think.

September 30, 2004

NOW KERRY’S TALKING TOUGH: Don’t back off on Fallujah; close the borders. No long-term designs on Iraq.

His best moment so far. Kind of loses his thread with the training angle, though, as he echoes Bush so closely.

Bush quotes Allawi. Slaps Kerry for criticizing Allawi, Lockhart for calling him a puppet. Good comeback. Bush’s consistent theme: Kerry’s not serious here, and hasn’t made the tough decisions a commander-in-chief has to make.

UPDATE: Reader Doug Jordan emails: “Kerry’s position boils down to: US troops don’t work; let’s use some others. The Prez should say so.”

September 30, 2004

KERRY PUTS HIS FOOT IN IT: The President says that even knowing there were no weapons of mass destruction he would have gone in the same way. I would not.

Er, but Kerry said he would have gone to war even knowing there were no weapons of mass destruction.

And how’s Kerry going to “change” the fact that North Korea has nuclear weapons.

Hugh Hewitt thinks that Lehrer is pitching softballs to Kerry.

UPDATE: Bush points out the Kerry contradictions. “As the politics change, his positions change, and that’s not how a commander-in-chief acts.”

Strong comeback for Bush on sending troops to die and understanding the stakes. It’s the first time he’s seemed fully on his game.

Kerry response: “I was in Vietnam!” Take another drink.

Kerry’s comeback gets better, until he starts talking about a summit as the key goal. That seems limp.

September 30, 2004

I DON’T THINK that analogizing his vote on the $87 billion to his anti-Vietnam war protesting was a good move for Kerry.

But PoliPundit thinks Kerry is doing well.

September 30, 2004

HUGH HEWITT is posting a debate scorecard with questions and answers.

I’m surprised that Bush hasn’t mentioned this story in support of his forward strategy on homeland security:

A man arrested by U.S. authorities in Iraq had a computer disk in his possession containing a public report downloaded from a U.S. Department of Education Web site on crisis planning in school districts, including San Diego Unified.

The man was described as an Iraqi national with connections to terrorism and the insurgency that is fighting U.S. forces in Iraq. Officials in San Diego said the man’s intentions were unknown.

Good story.

September 30, 2004

STEPHEN GREEN will be liveblogging the debate. He’s already warming up.

UPDATE: Shape of Days will be liveblogging, too, and will be hosting the Bush campaign’s instant-fact-checking RSS feed. As far as I know, the Kerry campaign doesn’t have one of those.

And here’s a gigantic list of other livebloggers.

UPDATE: Capt. Ed will be liveblogging, too. The Northern Alliance guys will be gang-live-blogging (live-gang-blogging — no, that sounds like something Wonkette would make off-color comments about. . . .). And there will be group-chatting (Wonkette again!) over at The Command Post.

Bill Hobbs has an open comment thread, (he’s “enriching his marriage” — I’d be doing that too, and the heck with blogging, if I had babysitting available tonight. . . .) and Begging to Differ will be on the job. And there’s combined blog-and-chat action at The Patriot Paradox. And don’t forget Oliver Willis — though he really ought to be on TV.

The folks at The Corner are liveblogging, too.

September 30, 2004

INDCJOURNAL got quoted by Brit Hume regarding his interviews with CBS reporters and producers on the bogus-email story. You can see the video here.

September 30, 2004

JIM TREACHER AND PUCE want to be on Google News, just like Daily Kos.

Seems fair to me!

September 30, 2004

GEORGE W. BUSH’S CAMPAIGN BLOG will be liveblogging the debates. So is Kerry’s. That’s rather clever.

September 30, 2004

I’M SUPPOSED TO BE ON CNBC’S “KUDLOW & CRAMER” in about an hour. I will not be as snappily dressed as Kudlow.

UPDATE: I guess it went OK. Looking quickly at the email, the main themes are “You’re not as good looking as Wonkette” (true) and “You weren’t wearing pajamas!” (Also true.)

September 30, 2004

RICHARD BROOKHISER lists Bush’s ten biggest mistakes.

September 30, 2004


September 30, 2004

SO FAR, no explosions on the Mt. St. Helens webcam. But Forest for the Trees will be volcano-blogging from 40 miles away, just in case anything happens.

September 30, 2004

DEBATE PREDICTION: Unless Kerry melts into a puddle on the floor, the media spin will be that he did well and helped his campaign. This is for two reasons. One is, as Newsweek’ Evan Thomas remarked, that the press “wants Kerry to win.”

The other, of course, is that they want the race to remain interesting — which is to say, a race — for another month, and it’ll be hard to do that if everybody’s pronouncing Kerry doomed after tonight.

UPDATE: Expectations-lowering here, but these comments may go just a bit too far in that direction:

“People keep analyzing these things as a great opportunity for Kerry—his last opportunity to define himself,” said Democratic operative Chris Lehane. “But usually what happens is that someone makes a mistake, and that ends up defining the debates, which end up defining the last four weeks of the campaign.” Mr. Lehane should know: He was Al Gore’s press secretary in 2000.

Wasn’t Al Gore orange for one of the debates, too?

MORE: Hey, the debate’s still many hours away, but the DNC is inviting people to declare it a Kerry victory ahead of time. It’s double-reverse Laphamization, or something.

September 30, 2004


The woman who helped swing the vote at the Labour conference over pulling troops out of Iraq today accused party members of naivety about the situation in the country.

Shanaz Rashid – whose husband is a minister in the interim Iraqi government – was earlier given a standing ovation when she made an emotional appeal not to pull troops out.

Close to tears, she told party activists that many friends had perished under Saddam Hussein and she had kissed the ground with joy on arriving back at Baghdad after the war.

She praised the Prime Minister for “standing up” to Saddam and liberating the country.

“Yes, there have been difficulties. Yes, there have been mistakes perhaps many mistakes. No, you did not find weapons of mass destruction.

“But for the great majority of Iraqis WMD was never the issue. We don’t understand the criticism of your Prime Minister. All we wanted was to be free.”

She added: “I appeal to you all … to help us build a new democratic federal Iraq that would respect the lives of human beings.”

Asked later if she considered Labour members naive about the situation for Iraqis, she said: “Yes I do think so. They don’t know the reality of their lives. . . . If they are concerned about the Iraqi children they should not be asking the British Government to leave them alone at the mercy of others.”

Blair won with 80% of the vote.

UPDATE: Sorry, the 80% is wrong. “The call for Mr Blair to set an early date for withdrawing the troops was defeated by 86% to 14%.”

September 30, 2004


“What they did was very stupid,” Halberstam said. “But they have been heading in that direction for a long time. I’ve always been critical of this whole business of star journalism, where you have a big anchor coming on air and acting as a prosecutor with someone else’s reporting. In many instances over the years on that program the reports have been lightly or poorly sourced and the reporting suffers as a result. Dan Rather right now is the principal anchor of the Evening News, but he is also the program’s main reporter. Then he’s the anchor of 48 Hours. On top of that he’s the star of 60 Minutes II. That’s just too much for one person and it leads to the kind of sloppiness in their reporting that just happened.

“In general, the last couple of years have not been very good ones for the media,” Halberstam added. “There has been too much corporate control, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the broadcast networks eventually got out of the news business. They’ve been moving to get out of it for years anyway.”

Interesting. It’s occurred to me that Halberstam’s book, The Reckoning, about the decline of the American automobile industry, sheds a bit of light on what’s going on with Big Journalism now. (Via Bill Hobbs, who has further thoughts.)

UPDATE: Some thoughts on the draft from a serviceman in Iraq.

ANOTHER UPDATE: The New York Post: “Dan does it again.”

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: A reader sends me a copy of this email he sent to the anti-draft crusaders interviewed by Rather:

Our 22 year old son is a US Marine, SpOps. His Btn just returned from the al Anbar region of Iraq. They have the unfortunate distinction of having taken the most casualties of any Coalition unit in Iraq (33 KIA 200+ WIA, sent home). However, they – in the proud tradition of US Marines, and specifically the 7th Marine Regiment – killed over 3,000 of the enemy bringing peace to the region o which they were assigned. They took on an area where there was murderous errorist activity on a daily basis and today, it’s as safe as most of Philly.

I can guarantee you, because I had this conversation with Josh and with his comrades-in-arms, they DO NOT WANT conscripted kids with them. At home, hey are the finest men this country has to offer. Polite, generous and even lightly patriotic. At work they are the worst enemy of people who attack the S. They are committed to what they do. They don’t need whining, snotty children linging to mommy’s apron who they would have to babysit.

So, please contact Rep. Rangel and the other Democrats who put forth this egislation. Tell them to withdraw it – not that it has a snowball’s chance in Baghdad of passing anyway. And please, don’t fear for your sons. My son and his friends, WILLINGLY sleeping in holes in the sand and eating MRE’s will make sure you and your sons can all sleep well in your soft beds after a quiet dinner.

Michael Becker
Phoenix, AZ
very proud father of LCpl Josh. The best man we know…

Nice email.

MORE: Another:

I am writing in furtherance of the comments made by Michael Becker, father of the Marine who just returned from Iraq.

My son, Michael, is a 22 Marine Corporal. On 9/11 he was a sophomore in college. We live in Northern NJ, about 15 miles from ground zero. Michael called home and said that he had to do something about 9/11, so he left college and joined the Marines.

I am an attorney and my wife is a teacher. Our oldest son is a graduate of New York University Law School and an associate at a major NYC law firm. Michael was doing fine in college and did not ‘have to join the Marines”. He joined as a calling.

Michael has been in the Corp. for for almost 3 years and has not yet had an assignment overseas. That is about to change. He is presently assigned to the 15th MEU in Camp Pendelton. They will be deployed sometime on or before December 6th. We do not know where they are going, but we expect that Iraq is part of the plan.

Michael and all of his Marine buddies can’t wait to go. That is why they signed up. In fact, someone is his company made a mistake. They entire company was threatened that if mistakes continued, there would be a punishment. That
punishment was that they would not go to Iraq. That is correct, if they mess up, they will not go to Iraq. This is very upsetting to them.

The Marines do not want conscripts. Every one of these guys or gals will have his (or her) life on the line depending on the Marines around them. They do not want people who have to be forced to be there. Every one of them is prepared to give their all for the other Marines, their family and their country. They do not need anyone there who does not feel the same way.

People who do not know military families just don’t understand. Maybe some day they will finally realize how much we all owe to LCpl Josh Becker, my son Cpl Michael Wishnia, and thousand of Marines and soldiers.

Bernard Wishnia
Livingston, NJ

Another interesting email.

September 30, 2004

THERE’S A PRE-DEBATE DEBATE between Michele Catalano and Neal Pollack.

September 30, 2004


September 30, 2004

NIPPLEGATE UPDATE: Eric Olsen has thoughts on Janet Jackson’s breast.

September 30, 2004

ROGER SIMON WONDERS if attacks in Baghdad are timed to influence coverage of the debates tonight. I think that’s quite likely.

September 30, 2004

IN THE MAIL: John Steele Gordon’s An Empire of Wealth: The Epic History of American Economic Power. It looks quite interesting.

I’m getting a lot of books in the mail these days, and it surprises me how good a job the publishers do of sending me things that I actually want to read.

September 30, 2004

INDCJOURNAL interviews CBS reporters about their rather dubious draft-reinstatement story (based on debunked hoax emails) that was mentioned below.

Best bit, from producer Linda Karas: “The truth of the e-mails were absolutely irrelevant to the piece, because all the story said was that people were worried. It’s a story about human beings that are afraid of the draft. We did not say that this (e-mail) was true, it’s just circulating. We are not verifying the e-mail.”

And people accuse bloggers of trading in rumor?

UPDATE: In a related matter the folks at CrushKerry are telling Congressional Republicans to back off of RatherGate. “We Don’t Want (Or Need) Your Help.”

September 30, 2004

KERRY AND THE SOUTH: I’m writing a weekly column for The Guardian between now and the election, and the first one is up.

September 29, 2004

AT LEAST THEY’RE NOT CALLING THEM ANKLE BITERS, or going on about pajamas. But the Iranian mullarchy is calling Iranian bloggers CIA tools.

If only the CIA had its act together that well. . . .

More on the murky goings-on in Iran here.

By the way, follow the “ankle biters” link above to read a response from Steven Levy, and my reply.

September 29, 2004

NEWS FROM SAMARRA AND NAJAF: Tim Chavez notes some unreported successes. Well, now they’re reported, at least in the Nashville Tennessean.

UPDATE: See this post, as reporters who were in Iraq dispute some of Chavez’s reports.

September 29, 2004

IT’S BLOGGERIFIC! This week’s Carnival of the Vanities is up, featuring a vast number of posts from a vast number of blogs. Statistically, quite a few of ’em are likely to be better than this one, so check them out!

September 29, 2004

MOVEON VS. GALLUP: The Mystery Pollster weighs in.

September 29, 2004

MORE THOUGHTS ON VOTING MACHINES AND FRAUD: “People vote, machines don’t.”

September 29, 2004

HERE’S A LINK TO THE MT. ST. HELENS WEBCAM: At the moment, the clouds are just clouds.

September 29, 2004

HERE’S MORE on how CBS was snookered by bogus documents again, along with a link to this debunking.

CBS: Desperately in need of pajamas. Apparently their ankles haven’t been bitten enough to inspire thoroughness and honesty, yet.

UPDATE: Interestingly, this Kerry position on compulsory national service doesn’t get much attention.

September 29, 2004

WHERE DID ALL THE JOBS GO? NOWHERE. Daniel Drezner writes about outsourcing in today’s New York Times.

September 29, 2004

ALL KINDS OF PEOPLE HAVE BEEN TALKING ABOUT VOTER FRAUD, and lots of Bush supporters have been emailing me stories and anecdotes in support of the notion that the Democrats will be “emptying the cemeteries” to ensure that there are plenty of dead people voting for Kerry.

I’ve tended to scoff at these reports — a certain amount of fraud is inevitable, and there are all sorts of reasons for people to make a big deal of the prospects in advance. (Though for a contrary argument, read this.) But having driven by the cemetery pictured at right, I’m beginning to wonder if the dead-people-for-Kerry vote might not be bigger than I thought. . . .

UPDATE: Several readers think I’m underplaying the importance of voter fraud, and one notes that John Fund has a new book out on voter fraud. (More here: “the level of suspicion has grown so dramatically that it threatens to undermine our political system.”) I’m all for positive voter ID, secure voting technologies, and so on. I just hope that the election isn’t close enough for this to matter.

Anyway, Bill Hobbs is all over this topic if you’re interested.

September 29, 2004

SPACESHIP ONE had some control problems and rolled, forcing an early engine shutdown. But CNN and Fox are reporting that it reached the requisite altitude for a successful X-Prize mission. It’s scheduled for reentry shortly.

UPDATE: A successful flight, and a safe landing. Woohoo!

September 29, 2004


First, we must acknowledge that the blogs have truly arrived. It is hard for journalists who have led a sheltered life without public accountability to acknowledge that those days are over. . . .

There’s then an acknowledgment that their “swing voter” wasn’t quite as swinging as advertised

“We should have known about his political contributions and we should have been tougher when we set out to do this story. We’ll ask him those questions on the air when he comes on the program this week.” Feeney adds that they quizzed Ridley intensively prior to the first interview. He was open about his previous voting record (he has voted for both parties) and that he is now a registered independent. The donations, it seems, never came up.

Part of the problem is describing Ridley as a “swing-voter” — a term that means someone who is waiting to be persuaded, according to NPR’s political editor, Ken Rudin. Ridley has made up his mind enough to give money to political causes in the past. Perhaps a more accurate term (Morning Edition’s gadfly? fence-sitter? wry observer?) might have been coined for the occasion.


UPDATE: Jim Geraghty is less impressed with NPR’s admission: “Ladies and gentleman, in the long and varied history of lame excuses and spin, this may just be the lamest.” You’ve got to walk before you can run, Jim.

September 29, 2004

I’M GUESSING THAT FahrenHype 9/11 won’t get as much attention as Michael Moore’s film.

But if you’re in Los Angeles tomorrow or Sunday, you’ll be able to see this film about Michael Moore at the Writers Guild Thursday night, or at the Liberty Film Festival on Sunday.

UPDATE: Review here.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Michael McFatters reports:

I asked my local Blockbuster last night if they were getting it in on Oct. 5 and the guy didn’t know what I was talking about. But he looked it up anyway and once we had settled on a spelling of Fahrenheit it was quickly revealed that they are in fact recieving two copies. Seeing as how it will be shelved next to Moore’s agitprop I don’t think it will need an enormous advertising budget to attract attention. And word of mouth spreads fast on stuff like this so I’m very encouraged.


September 29, 2004

DON’T GET COCKY: Howard Kurtz thinks that Republicans are getting overconfident. And Salon’s Farhad Manjoo — who’s been betting on Bush in the Iowa Electronic Markets — now thinks that Bush is overvalued there. (“I think the IEM is overvaluing Bush shares, maybe by a little and possibly by a lot. I’ve arranged my portfolio accordingly.”) Is this right? Beats me.

UPDATE: Reader Karl Bade emails: “Howard Kurtz is ostensibly a media critic. But today’s column reads like a memo to what the Note calls ‘the Gang of 500,’ the message of which is: it is crucial that the media’s post-debate spin favor Kerry.”

ANOTHER UPDATE: More on the futures market here, saying that Manjoo is right.

September 29, 2004

IN THE MAIL: Michael Novak’s The Universal Hunger For Liberty: Why the Clash of Civilizations Is Not Inevitable. A very positive take on interaction between the West and the Islamic world.

September 29, 2004

BILL HOBBS has set up a project to spotlight election fraud, and he wants your help.

September 29, 2004

SUCCESS, FAILURE, AND THE X-PRIZE: My TechCentralStation column is up. will be providing live webcast coverage of the launch at 9 a.m. Eastern.

September 28, 2004

BABES FOR BUSH: I saw one of these bumper stickers the other day.

It certainly seems like effective advertising.

(Via Power Line).

UPDATE: Another Babe for Bush, here. They’re everywhere!

September 28, 2004

INTERESTING ROUNDTABLE featuring milbloggers and Iraqi bloggers, over at Online Journalism Review.

September 28, 2004

RATHERBIASED.COM REPORTS that CBS has been hoaxed again, this time by draft-rumor spreaders.

You’d think they learn. Of course, judging by the collapsing ratings, the only people left watching CBS News are probably fact-checking bloggers. Dan’s gotta give them something to keep them tuning in. . . .

UPDATE: has succumbed to traffic overload. You can find the item mirrored at And here’s a donations page if you feel inclined to help.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Jim Lindgren observes: “can the Nigerian funds transfer letter be far behind?”

September 28, 2004

RAND SIMBERG ON SPACE COLONIZATION, quoting Clark Lindsey: “How about we campaign for a moratorium on political references to McDonalds except by ACTUAL sophomores?”

September 28, 2004

EUGENE VOLOKH looks at churches and human rights activism.

Plus, James Lindgren has joined the Volokh Conspiracy!

September 28, 2004


September 28, 2004

HAD DINNER WITH JIM HAKE of Spirit of America, who was passing through town on his way to New York. He shared some interesting stories of his trip to Iraq, and talked about some cool new things they’ll be doing in the near future.

Drop by their site, or their blog to see what they’re doing to help bring about a peaceful and prosperous civil society in Iraq.

September 28, 2004

DANRATHERMUSTGO.COM — the commercials there are apparently running during the CBS Evening News in some markets. Ouch.

The news story on these ads is here: “Last week, a Texas congressional candidate launched a television campaign ad linking his opponent to Rather, accusing the incumbent of airing advertisements that have ‘more holes than a CBS News story by Dan Rather.'”

UPDATE: Reader Bruce Bretthauer emails:

If people want you to blog about other things than Dan Rather, what about Sandy Berger removing files from the National Archives? Is he still connected with the Kerry Campaign? Why doesn’t Kerry have Berger take “administrative leave” while those accusations are sorted out? Why doesn’t MSM care about this? Is the MSM explanation another example of “fraudulent but true”?

They do seem to have let that one drop.

ANOTHER UPDATE: In response to the email above on Berger, a reader objects that Berger is no longer advising John Kerry, citing this Washington Post article. (“Berger Quits as Adviser to Kerry.”)

But that doesn’t seem to be the case. At least, this article dated September 23, 2004 seems to have him still working for Kerry:

Sandy Berger, former White House National Security Advisor and key foreign policy and security advisor to Democratic Party presidential candidate John Kerry, hinted Wednesday that should Kerry win the U.S. presidential election in November, it was possible that the decision to reduce U.S. troops in Korea would be reconsidered.

Perhaps this is just a misunderstanding. Or perhaps Berger’s resignation was only for domestic purposes?

September 28, 2004

MEGAN MCARDLE has published a memo to Jimmy Carter.

He’s not there quite yet, but at this rate Carter is looking like the Ramsey Clark of the 21st Century.

September 28, 2004

PLAME UPDATE: Tom Maguire’s got the Plame roundup, with lots of interesting questions and observations.

September 28, 2004

KERRY’S POLL TROUBLES: I’m no expert on polling, but these numbers just sound terrible to me — in fact, it’s probably a measure of Bush’s weakness as a candidate on an absolute scale that he’s not doing better in the vote-for numbers given Kerry’s weakness on all these specifics.

UPDATE: Ouch. Somewhat more positive take (for Kerry) here.

September 28, 2004

FOREIGN ELECTION OBSERVERS: No Quarters Blog notes an interview opportunity for bloggers.

September 28, 2004

IF I HAVEN’T BEEN RESPONDING TO YOUR EMAIL, there’s no need to engage in shameless (if largely well-founded) sucking up.

Over the past few weeks, the volume of email I’ve gotten has exploded beyond its already-unmanageable levels. If you want to tell me that there’s a factual error in a post, please make that clear (e.g., “FACTUAL ERROR IN POST ON ___”). But about all I can do is skim the subjects and read the stuff that looks most important. I apologize for that. I try to read as many emails as I can, but if I read them all there would be no time to blog.

September 28, 2004

ANKLE-BITER UPDATE: Reader Mark Gist sends this link. Heh.

UPDATE: The ankle-biting is all James Wolcott’s fault — just look at the picture! Plus he produced this year’s plethora of hurricanes. The man’s a regular force of nature. Almost literally!

September 28, 2004

FAKED PHOTOS AT NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC — and a handsome apology from which CBS could take a lesson.

September 28, 2004


Dan Rather’s ratings in New York continue to tank in the wake of the fake-documents scandal.

The “CBS Evening News” averaged 160,000 viewers last week on WCBS/Channel 2 — down from 231,000 viewers the week before.

Rather apologized for the National Guard documents debacle on the Sept. 20 newscast, and his numbers actually rose the next two days, reaching a high of 241,000 viewers Wednesday.

In the week before Rather’s on-air mea culpa, viewership was off a staggering 49 percent.

The numbers spiraled downward since Wednesday, with Thursday’s “Evening News” pulling only 140,000 viewers on Channel 2, and a measly 108,000 viewers Friday, according to Nielsen numbers.

No wonder Big Media folks aren’t overjoyed with the blogosphere this week.

September 28, 2004

ANKLE BITERS: “Not as iconic as pajamas, perhaps, but I think they’re cool.”

Heh. Maybe I’ll order a set. They look comfy!

September 28, 2004

I’VE FINISHED THE NEAL STEPHENSON BOOK, and now I’m reading Larry Kramer’s The People Themselves: Popular Constitutionalism and Judicial Review, which I’ve been asked to review, together with Randy Barnett’s Restoring the Lost Constitution: The Presumption of Liberty. I won’t spoil the surprise, but it’s very interesting to see how mainstream constitutional theory has shifted over the past ten years, away from notions of judicial supremacy and toward notions of popular sovereignty.

September 28, 2004

THE MUDVILLE GAZETTE is now blogging from Iraq. Where, incidentally, InstaPundit and some other blogs are being blocked by Websense, the filtering service used by the military.

September 28, 2004

DAVID HANSON AND MATT WALCOFF write that the Department of Justice is peddling junk science on teenage drinking:

The bureaucracy’s use of junk science is especially troubling because it calls into question the reliability of potentially life-saving information. If we cannot trust the government about the drinking age, some might argue, how can we trust it about the need to use seat belts, or the danger of HIV?

When it comes to alcohol policy, federal officials should stick to dispassionate, peer-reviewed research, not slick marketing aimed at promoting one point of view. They should act more like public servants and less like pressure groups.


September 28, 2004

THIS SEPTEMBER KERRY CAMPAIGN TIMELINE may explain why the Kerry campaign hasn’t gained in the polls.

September 28, 2004

OKAY, I DON’T BLOG ABOUT HEALTHCARE as much as some people seem to want me to. (I’ve got a post on malpractice reform that’s simmering, but it’s not quite tasty enough to serve up yet.)

But the blogosphere is a big place, and that means that if you want people to blog on healthcare, you can let the people who actually know things about healthcare do the blogging. For that, you might want to visit Grand Rounds, a sort of “Carnival of the Caregivers” featuring blog posts from a wide variety of medical professionals.

This is scheduled to be a weekly feature, and if they’ll send me the links, I’ll post ’em. That’s my role here, apparently. . . .

UPDATE: Clayton Cramer is blogging about healthcare, too.

And Sally Pipes and Bejamin Zycher wonder why the press pays attention to doctors when they talk about economics, not medicine.

ANOTHER UPDATE: More healthcare blogging from Lorie Byrd: “I am probably the perfect target for John Kerry’s pitch for a new approach to health care. . . . Since I am currently working nights and weekends solely because we are currently unable to get health coverage any other way, I would love to see some innovative alternatives to the current system.”

No doubt her post will receive a lot of Big Media attention.

MORE: Arnold Kling has an interesting piece on health insurance. Plus, thoughts on “faith-based healthcare.” (No, it’s not Christian Science.)

September 28, 2004

MICKEY KAUS comments on David Broder’s what’s-gone-wrong-with-journalism take:

The “damaging failures” were the failures of hazed and certified members of the journalistic caste (Rather, Raines, Kelley)–professionals who had come up through the ranks, worked their beats and were in theory “deeply imbued with the culture and values of newsrooms.” … Broder blames bloggers, politicos, good writers–everyone except those who actually did the screwing up. Projection! The obvious possibility he doesn’t want to consider is the one Shafer hammers: That the practices of Broder’s profession were never that terrific.

As I’ve said before, I don’t know what worries me more — the thought that the standards of journalism have been slipping recently, or the thought that, maybe, it’s been this bad all along and we just couldn’t tell before. . . .

UPDATE: More here: “The veteran Washington Post columnist penned an almost note-perfect epitaph for the age of monolithic media by somehow confusing thread-bare bloggers with celebrity-chasing corporate chieftains. Evidently all that matters to Broder is that there exist people outside of the priestly caste of High Journalism who make news decisions. And that is wrong, heresy perhaps.” RatherGate is really bothering these guys.

September 28, 2004

CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS: “What will it take to convince these people that this is not a year, or a time, to be dicking around? . . . How can the Democrats possibly have gotten themselves into a position where they even suspect that a victory for the Zarqawi or Bin Laden forces would in some way be welcome to them? Or that the capture or killing of Bin Laden would not be something to celebrate with a whole heart?”

A must-read. I do think that the Democrats have made unfortunate choices in this election, and that it will probably work out badly for them.

September 27, 2004

YOU’LL HAVE TO SIT THROUGH AN AD to read this piece on blogs and politics by Farhad Manjoo at Salon, but I think it’s worth it — it’s one of the better ones I’ve read lately.

September 27, 2004

AS THE X-PRIZE COMPETITION TIGHTENS, Allen Boyle reports that someone wants to set up a new prize: “Robert Bigelow, the millionaire behind Bigelow Aerospace and a plan to develop inflatable space modules for commercial use, is floating the idea of setting up a $50 million prize for the development of a new orbital space vehicle.”

Meanwhile, donations to the Methuselah Mouse Prize, in the area of longevity research, have topped $500,000 already. I think this approach may be catching on.

September 27, 2004

JOANNE JACOBS writes that research into educational outcomes is not very rigorous.

September 27, 2004

NANOTECHNOLOGY UPDATE: Howard Lovy says a Day to Day segment on nanotechnology got it wrong.

September 27, 2004

STEVEN LEVY calls bloggers “a nation of ankle-biters.” (What’s next? Cracks about pajamas?)

But he also misrepresents the quote of mine that he uses. The quote is: “The basic system where we talk about facts and policies is broken.”

I said that, but as part of explaining why the media-criticism aspect of blogging is so important, and not just raucous hackery as he suggests. I didn’t — as he makes it appear — suggest that bloggers’ partisanship makes serious discussion of issues on blogs futile. Rather, I was arguing that you can’t have a serious discussion of issues in the society at large, when so much of Big Media is partisan and dishonest, and that this is why it’s so important to point out the dishonesty and try to make things better, which is what I see bloggers doing.

Levy, however — though in our interview he said he thought that bloggers’ emphasis on Trent Lott’s racial remarks was fine — was very unhappy about my emphasis on Kerry’s now-admitted misrepresentations about having spent Christmas in Cambodia in 1968, and he also makes that clear in his piece. (He also seems upset that bloggers have spent so much time on RatherGate. Yeah. I’ve also blogged a bit on Darfur, but never mind that.) In his opinion, I should be blogging on health care. Maybe I would be, if Big Media covered things like the Cambodia story honestly, as it did not. (Even now, Levy doesn’t mention the Kerry campaign’s admission that he wasn’t there.) Indeed, as I wrote back when the Cambodia issue was hot, “the press — and this, to me, is the most interesting and disturbing part of the story — has been shamelessly covering for Kerry.” That seemed like a big deal to me, and still does. Follow the link to read much more on that subject.

I’ve always thought well of Levy, and I’m sure that he didn’t intend to misrepresent my meaning. But — as is so often the case with Big Media folks — he came in to the interview with his storyline predetermined, and he put things into that mold whether they fit or not. (It also, as always, makes me wonder where else this is happening without my noticing it.)

And, sadly, that — together with the condescending notion that bloggers are “biting the ankles” of their betters — says it all about what’s wrong with Big Media today. Levy’s disappointed in the blogosphere. But I’m disappointed in Levy, and much of his profession.

UPDATE: Hugh Hewitt: “In a column complaining about snarkiness, what’s with the ‘ankle-biter’ stuff?”

ANOTHER UPDATE: A better cautionary note for bloggers can be found here.

MORE: Levy sends this email:

Well, I knew you wouldn’t be on board with my take. But I don’t feel I took you out of context. What you said you meant was excactly the context I intended–that the system itself was broken. If it came out to your eyes that I was trying to put some other implication, that’s my failing. (But on rereading it, it seems clear to me. Maybe it’s a block.) My belief is that by and large, the blogosphere hasn’t lived up to its potential to work in some way to improve the system. I meant it when I said there was good stuff to find out there.

I love reading blogs, but wanted to make a point, even knowing that I’d get whacked by bloggers. But that’s part of the open marketplace of ideas that I do fully support. I’m not saying that people shouldn’t be as free to say whatever they hell they want but–as the last graph concluded–this is one more example of the larger phenomenon that just because something’s on the Net it doesn’t mean we’re instantly free of the problems we have offlline.

What I would really love is if when someone who writes on dead trees criticizes something on computer screens, the knee jerk reaction isn’t “No wonder he’s griping, he’s just a terrified/embittered/envious old media guy.” Please.

Well, that’s sure how I read it, though I suppose it may have been meant differently. (At the risk of blogger triumphalism, note how easily I add Levy’s response here, while mine is not available on the Newsweek site. . . .).

But I think the piece was quite unfair. There’s a useful cautionary tale for bloggers to be written, but that piece absolutely wasn’t it. Let me add a few points on why.

Levy writes:

While bloggers have been true to their promise to “fact-check Big Media’s a–,” their motives are often fiercely partisan. Name-calling and intolerance of opposing points of view have reached epidemic levels on Web logs.

Hmm. Motives are in the eye of the beholder, I suppose, but if they encourage people to fact-check, isn’t that good? And there wasn’t partisanship involved in CBS’s decision to run with the bogus Rather memos, or AP’s “fake boos” story, or the burying of the (admittedly true) Cambodia story, or. . . Well, you get the picture. The difference with blogger partisanship is that it’s open.

As for name-calling, well, the only blog Levy used as an example was InstaPundit, and I’m not a big name-caller — though anyone who refers to bloggers as “ankle biters” has limited standing on this subject. Levy continues:

Judging by its dominance in the blog world (I’m talking about the civic sector here, not the countless blogs on other topics or people’s personal lives), you’d think that Rathergate was bigger than Watergate, Iraq and Britney’s putative wedding combined.

Hmm. Well, I don’t blog much about Watergate it’s true, but then it was 30 years ago. (And Britney got married? Why wasn’t I invited?) But is Rathergate bigger than Watergate? Well, one involved a corrupt attempt to swing an election through dishonest means, and, er, so did the other. . . .

And RatherGate isn’t bigger than Iraq, but neither is the blogosphere. I’m sure that I, and most other bloggers, devoted a smaller fraction of our annual output to Rathergate than Levy did, with this one column, to the blogosphere.

Besides, the whole point of having a blog is to write about what you think is important, as opposed to what somone else thinks is important. Don’t like it? Start your own blog and write about your favorite topics.

Levy goes on:

We were promised a society of philosophers. But the Blogosphere is looking more and more like a nation of ankle-biters.

Er, what part of “fact-check your ass” sounded like it was promising a society of philosophers?

It seems to me that the big complaint here is that blogs are angrily pointing out the flaws of Big Media, instead of existing in an insulated parallel world in which they, well, philosophize. I guess I can’t argue with that, exactly, but I don’t know who ever promised the latter. It wasn’t me.

All I’ve suggested is that blogs, regardless of their imperfections, are more honest than Big Media. And there’s nothing in the column that refutes that.

As for stereotyping print guys who dis blogs, well, yeah, I guess we should try not to do that. It’s just that, well, the attacks on blogs seem to fit a pattern. And the “ankle biters” line didn’t exactly break the mold.

I’d be happy if Big Media were as fair, and honest, and capable, and superior to the works of people like me as its practitioners pretend. But it’s not. And I don’t think that it’s “partisan” or rude for bloggers to keep pointing that out.

STILL MORE: Reader Allen S. Thorpe emails:

What I find really annoying in these attacks on bloggers is the implication that journalists aren’t “often fiercely partisan.” Somehow these jerks have convinced themselves that they are being objective and even-handed when they press stories like the forged memos and the renewal of the draft. Are they really so cut off from reality that they can’t see their own partisanship?

There was another blurt like this today at the Minneapolis Star-Tribune
calling bloggers “like ticks to elephants” and stating that “Most bloggers are not fit to carry a reporters’ notebook.”

It wasn’t the bloggers who claimed to be superior to the rest of humanity, after all. All they did was point out that the emperor had no clothes. These sanctimonious “journalists” don’t seem to realize how absurd they look to those who don’t spend all their time in the company of other journalists. It is looking less and less like a profession and more like a form of brain damage.

It’s not brain damage, but insecurity, coupled with the effect of the cocoon. As reader Brian Rogge emails: “The first step to recovery is realizing the problem exists. Mr. Levy doesn’t sound like he’s there yet.”

Meanwhile, James Lileks has many useful thoughts and observes:

Put it this way: there are thousands of news junkies out there doing research and analysis for free. In their spare time. For fun. It would kill us to listen? After all, if the Rathergate tale taught us anything, it’s that ordinary people could blow ten-foot holes in the Good Ship CBS simply by comparing their knowledge to the manifest ignorance of the news division’s producers. Because I’ll tell you this about “ordinary” people: they know stuff.


September 27, 2004

TOOLS FOR IRAQI TRADESMEN: Spirit of America reports on this, and has a link to video from CNN on the project. (More here, too.) I’ve given money to SOA before, and I think they’re a worthy cause.

I should note that it’s easy for Americans to miss what a big deal this is. But my brother (who’s quite the motorhead himself) spends a lot of time with Nigerian mechanics and often remarks how under-tooled they are. He always takes a bunch of stuff over there with him to give away, as it can make a huge difference in someone’s ability to earn a living. Things aren’t quite as scarce in Iraq, I imagine, but it’s still a much bigger deal there than it would be here.

UPDATE: Virginia Postrel emails that next time my brother goes, I should solicit reader donations for him to take more tools. Not a bad idea.

Via our effectively-nonprofit (well, it never turns one) record company, we had a sort of foreign-aid program for African musicians going for a while. We put their stuff on and let them earn the “payback for playback” royalties. Those weren’t a lot of money for most Americans (a few people made a lot, but a few hundred dollars a month — what my band, Mobius Dick, was earning — was doing pretty well). But a few hundred dollars a month is a lot of money in places like Uganda and Nigeria. Sadly, that was another casualty of’s collapse. If we can get micropayment-style systems working, I think that African musicians and artists would really benefit. There’s a lot of talent there that’s going underutilized for want of capital, in a whole range of fields.

September 27, 2004

FLOOD DEATHS IN HAITI: Hugh Hewitt has more on this undercovered story, and some suggestions on what you can do to help.

September 27, 2004


[F]olks who rely exclusively on the NY Times for their news may not know just how far the Kerry campaign side has pushed the boundaries of what we suppose they consider to be responsible dissent.

First, the Times has zero coverage of Joe Lockhart’s infamous quote describing Allawi as a Bush puppet. For comparison, we find 1, 2, 3 Lockhart citings in the Washington Post.

Secondly, the Times has zero coverage of Diana Kerry’s appalling comments in Australia, made as a representative of Americans Overseas for Kerry.

Fair and balanced.

Not fit to print, I guess.

Meanwhile, The Belgravia Dispatch says that Maureen Dowd has become “a willing and increasingly shrill mouthpiece for anyone with a bone to pick with the Bush Administration.”

UPDATE: Here’s Iraqi blogger’s take on Dowd:

This is a laughably parochial reaction. Does Dowd think that Allawi is only talking to her and her ilk? Iraqis know very well that Allawi was flown to the United States for U.S. election purposes. What Dowd forgets is that Allawi knew that Iraqis too were listening to his speech. As a leader, he has to sound positive for his own people about the future of the country. Morale is vitally important to the nation’s future.

It’s exactly that future — the Iraqis’ future — that Dowd can’t be bothered with. To her, it’s an occasion for cheap sarcasm. “Faced with their dystopia,” she writes, amusing herself. “the utopians are scaling back their grand visions for Iraq’s glorious future.”

Critics like Dowd see Iraq and Iraqis as beyond redemption, if not beneath contempt.

The feeling seems to be mutual. . . .

September 27, 2004

RATHERGATE UPDATE: This excellent column notes that news media people know less than they think — but that more importantly, they sharply underestimate what ordinary people know:

If you have not been famous or otherwise insulated, you have likely had half a dozen jobs by the age of 50. You have perhaps started, or tried to start, your own business. You have moved at least four times in adulthood, and bought and sold perhaps that many houses or condos, You have researched a number of areas of the country and lived in two or three (and not just Washington, New York, and Los Angeles). You have perhaps served a military hitch. You have had children in public schools or you’ve been home-schooling; you’ve raised funds for a church or a lodge or a Boy Scout troop. In some context or other, you have sold something door to door, published a newsletter, sold advertising, served on a committee, had a hand in hiring and firing.

If you’ve ever had a hobby, you probably have an expert education in something like motorcycle mechanics, photography, flying, firearms, railroad history, or ornithology.

Just to the matter at hand: Like Buckhead, who is a 46-year-old lawyer, you have probably had to work with, or even specify the purchase of, several computer systems. Indeed, you’re old enough to remember when there were no computers in offices. You have participated in the entire computer revolution. You’re old enough to have learned to type on a typewriter, and maybe even to have worked on one.

So what’s the big mystery? Not that ordinary people knew “arcane” things about typefaces and spacing, but that the big machers at CBS didn’t know perfectly ordinary things.

Excellent points.

September 27, 2004

X-PRIZE UPDATE: I’ve got a post over at (don’t ask me why it’s time-stamped 4:03 p.m. today — I sent it in last night). And The Speculist notes that Richard Branson is entering the space tourism business with a new company called Virgin Galactic. What’s not to like? (More here.) This is actually a pretty big deal.

September 27, 2004

ANDREW SULLIVAN has joined BlogAds, though he’s not featuring any ads yet. Resistance is futile; assimilation is inevitable. And reasonably lucrative.

Get your ad in now, before he raises his rates!

September 27, 2004

IN THE MAIL: A copy of John J. Miller & Mark Molesky’s new book, Our Oldest Enemy: A History of America’s Disastrous Relationship with France. Somebody send the Kerry campaign a copy!

On the other hand, it’s not always bad, as InstaPundit’s Afghanistan correspondent, Major John Tammes, reports:

As I came into our HQ building, I saw one of our NCOs, CSM Mark Bowman, in the hallway. I asked him what was going on and he related a wonderful example of an alliance in action. A group of French soldiers had come to our base for a couple of days [they are collecting heavy weapons from a local militia commander who is turning them into the central government] and were trying to coordinate support. CSM Bowman spoke to the French Sergeant Major, but had a rough time understanding him. CSM Bowman told the Frenchman it was too bad they could not talk in German, as he knew that tongue fairly well. The French Sergeant Major turned to one of his soldiers and instructed him to finish the conversation – which they did, in fairly comfortably paced German. The French soldier had been a member of the Franco-German Brigade, and CSM Bowman had spent many years in Germany with the Armored Cavalry. So an American and a Frenchman conversed in German about helping an Afghan.

Successful multilateralism in action!

September 27, 2004

BLOG-A-RAMA: This week’s Carnival of the Capitalists, a collection of business- and economics-related posts, is up. So is the Carnival of the Liberated, a roundup of Iraqi blog posts. Jeff Soyer of Alphecca, meanwhile, has a roundup on media coverage of gun issues. And finally, Simon World has an Asian blog roundup for your reading pleasure.

So why are you still here? The greater blogosphere beckons!

September 27, 2004

GORDON SMITH has more advice for people who want to be law professors.

September 27, 2004

KERRY ASSAULT WEAPON UPDATE: Now he’s blaming his aides for the whole story.

Those pesky aides and speechwriters sure do get him in a lot of hot water.

September 27, 2004

HARVARD PLAGIARISM SCANDALS: People have been emailing me about this stuff, and it’s even inspired a blog of its own with links to various news treatments, etc., but I haven’t taken a position. That’s because identifying plagiarism requires more than just pointing out some parallel passages (see this post quoting Alexander Lindey on why that is) — it also requires knowledge of context, an analysis of the work as a whole, and, in short, more time and attention than I’m willing to give this subject. That said, there’s certainly nothing here for the people in question to be proud of. Peter Morgan and I had a chapter on this in The Appearance of Impropriety, which you can read for free online here.

Many readers might be interested to read what Mark Tushnet has to say about the use of research assistants. His use of them sounds more extensive than mine, but that’s partly a function of the differences in our kinds of work, I think. It’s certainly far less than what we’re hearing about at Harvard.

There’s another issue, though, beyond questions of plagiarism. Getting together a bunch of research assistants and outsourcing a book to them, with the product of their work appearing under one’s own name, isn’t exactly immoral — but it isn’t scholarship, either. I’ve never used research assistants that way, and it seems obvious that doing so isn’t a very good idea. Whether it results in plagiarism, or simply a shoddy product, you’re not getting the work product of the person whose name is on the cover. With celebrity autobiographies and the like, that’s okay, since everyone knows it, and most celebrities couldn’t turn out a book on their own. I don’t think that either of those considerations holds true where academics are concerned. Or, if it does, then our problems are even bigger. . . .

September 27, 2004


Years ago I was part of an odd panel discussion sponsored by the American Society of Newspaper Editors. It was a flat-footed version of those role-playing dramas that Fred Friendly constructed so brilliantly for PBS, the ones where he would walk around the room posing hypothetical questions that often tied famous journalists up in ethical knots. I was assigned the role of a newspaper editor who had the option of running a political expose that would have had many wondrous effects on his town but that simply did not check out as true. I said I wouldn’t run the story until my reporters nailed it down. This apparently unexpected position brought the whole poorly thought-out hypothetical to a screeching halt. No complex ethical dilemmas could be built on it. The Fred Friendly stand-in that day, assigned the role of badgering me to run the big story that didn’t check out, was Dan Rather.

This brings us to a little-asked question about Rathergate: Why was CBS so determined to broadcast its alleged scoop about George Bush’s National Guard service before the story was properly checked out? Four of the six documents involved had been in the possession of 60 Minutes for only two or three days, and three of the four experts consulted by the network said they couldn’t authenticate them. Why didn’t CBS just wait a week and do some elementary checking?

Why, indeed?

September 27, 2004

SWING VOTER ANN ALTHOUSE (who voted for Edwards in the primary) has a post explaining how John Kerry lost her.

September 26, 2004

TODD ZYWICKI: “A David Broder column in today’s Washington Post mourns the decline of journalistic standards and emphasis on accuracy in the modern media business. Given Broder’s track record of sloppiness and bending the truth to score his own political points, however, his complaints seem somewhat misplaced.” Unlike Broder, Zywicki provides specific examples and support for his statements.

Meanwhile, Nick Gillespie observes:

Despite the flurry of exposed journalistic fakes (a decade-long flurry, if one throws in the usual suspects, including Ruth Shalit, Stephen Glass, Mike Barnicle, blah blah blah, along with Jayson Blair, the USA Today guy, the recent Rather boo boo, etc.), there’s little reason to believe that mainstream journalism is any more corrupt than it ever was. Indeed, the only thing that has probably changed is that it’s easier to get caught, which should be a good thing in anybody’s book.

Except, apparently, Broder’s.

September 26, 2004

JUST IN CASE YOU DIDN’T HAVE ENOUGH TO WORRY ABOUT: “Seismic activity at Mount St. Helens has changed significantly during the past 24 hours and the changes make us believe that there is an increased likelihood of a hazardous event, which warrants release of this Notice of Volcanic Unrest.”

September 26, 2004

ON FRIDAY, I promised that I would take some pictures with the new 28-200mm lens I bought for the D70. I did, and I’ve posted them over at the Exposure Manager gallery. Bottom line: Very nice results. For a proper test, these should have been done on a tripod, and on a less-hazy day. Nonetheless, I’ve got shots at the wide and tele settings, and a very nice quasi-macro close-up shown below. Complaints: The autofocus can be a bit slow. Overall, especially when shooting into the sun, the lens seems a bit softer than the 18-70 kit lens that comes with the camera, and more-than-a-bit softer than the 50mm 1.8 lens. And, as a drawback to the low weight, the lens is light enough that holding it steady at the longer focal lengths is harder than it would be with a heavier lens.

On the other hand, as you can see by comparing this photo taken at 28 (equivalent to about 42mm on a 35 mm film camera) with this picture taken at 200 mm (equivalent to about 300 mm), you get a very impressive zoom range, quite good quality, very small size, and — key — a very reasonable price. The 70-200 mm VR lens that the camera-shop guy tried to sell me is undoubted a lot better, but at around $1800 it had better be. ($1600 — cheap! — here). It’s also heavy. Sometimes that doesn’t matter, but sometimes it does.

September 26, 2004

OKAY, I haven’t done any catblogging lately, but the last time I did some people requested dog pictures. Sadly, I don’t own a dog. But I spotted this fine specimen at in Sequoyah Park this morning.

September 26, 2004

TOM MAGUIRE notes an auto-rebuttal at the Times and offers debate-prep advice for John Kerry.