SEATTLE - A radio talk-show host said Saturday he has been fired for criticizing CBS newsman Dan Rather's handling of challenges to the authenticity of memos about President Bush's National Guard service.
"On the talk show that I host, or hosted, I said I felt Rather should either retire or be forced out over this," said Brian Maloney, whose weekly "The Brian Maloney Show" aired for three years on KIRO-AM Radio, a CBS affiliate here.
Maloney says he made that statement on his Sept. 12 program. He was fired Friday, he said. . . .
Maloney said he had felt free to comment on the controversy and on Rather.
"I really felt he was taking the network's credibility down with him," Maloney said in a telephone interview.
"Talk-show hosts have generally had a lot of independence in these kinds of issues," he said. "Nobody's ever said, 'You can't criticize CBS News.'"
KIRO Radio is affiliated with CBS but owned by Entercom, a national radio broadcasting company based in Bala Cynwyd, Pa.
Dan Rather -- behind today's new McCarthyism? And here I've been blaming John Ashcroft!
AS I'VE SAID BEFORE, everybody comes to Knoxville eventually. Today it was Wind Rider of Silent Running. (That's not his real name, but I didn't think to ask him how he felt about my using his real name on the blog; he's the one on the left.)
He didn't mind being photographed, though, and thanks to a helpful counter-gal at the Barnes and Noble Starbucks, the visit was memorialized. Note that, at this magnification at least, the post-surgical swelling in my cheek is almost invisible!
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The U.N. Security Council adopted a resolution on Saturday threatening Sudan with oil sanctions if it did not stop atrocities in the Darfur region where Arab militias are terrorizing African villagers.
The vote was 11-0, with abstentions by China, Russia, Pakistan and Algeria on the U.S.-drafted resolution that also calls for an expanded African Union monitoring force and an international probe into abuses, including genocide.
China, which exploits oil in Sudan, earlier threatened to veto the measure but said it did not want to hinder the African Union, which may send in 3,000 monitors and troops to investigate and serve as a bulwark against abuses.
But Beijing's U.N. ambassador, Wang Guangya, served notice he would veto any future resolution that would impose sanctions. "That is the message," he told reporters.
Co-sponsoring the resolution with the United States were Britain, Germany, Spain, and Romania. Also voting in favor were France, Brazil, Chile, Angola, Benin and the Philippines.
Getting China not to veto, and getting France -- which has oil interests of its own -- to vote in favor certainly counts as a diplomatic success. But I have to say that I think this is too little, too late. Guns and special-forces trainers are probably more to the point now.
posted at 09:08 PM by Glenn Reynolds
ERNEST MILLER notes an example of real-time fact-checking at the Washington Post. Message to Terry Neal: Welcome to what we in the blogosphere experience all the time!
posted at 08:26 PM by Glenn Reynolds
HOW GULLIBLE IS CBS? Just look at this side by side comparison of an authentic Killian document and the one that Dan Rather fell for. Jeez.
"What kind of a fool do you take me for?" "First class."
Watching Dan Rather unravel over the past week has been something like watching a train wreck unfold: You know it's all going to end badly, but you just can't look away until you've seen how many cars ultimately go off the rails. Well, now we know, and there's not much left to do but wave at the caboose as it careens over the side. . . .
Inevitably, bad things happen to good news organizations. The test of a serious journalistic enterprise is how it reacts to internal crisis.
The Los Angeles Times had its Staples Center scandal; the Washington Post Janet Cooke's fabricated Pulitzer Prize-winner; the New York Times had Jayson Blair; and USA Today, Jack Kelley. In each instance, the organization immediately and exhaustively investigated what had gone wrong and put the findings in their entirety before their readers. CNN did precisely the same thing after its so-called Tailwind scandal, as did NBC in 1992, when its "Dateline" newsmagazine was caught broadcasting staged events.
Thus far, no such action has been undertaken by CBS executives, which is worse than inexplicable. . . .
CBS' initial report on President Bush's National Guard service was an embarrassment to Murrow's legacy. But the implications of that mistake pale alongside the potential consequences of the network's continuing refusal to do what the situation now demands: to forthrightly admit error, to undertake an independent inquiry and, then, to give a clear public accounting of how this happened. If the current custodians of CBS News willfully refuse to keep faith with their viewers, they will have disgraced Murrow's memory.
Other news outlets have jumped in admirably with investigations into the forgery story, but it's time to see some harsher words for the failure of journalism that CBS has displayed in its wake. (Andy Rooney should have used a bigger curmudgeon stick, but maybe this Chicago Tribune piece is a start.) Would the media be eating one of its own? Too bad. CBS has screwed all of us over -- both with the way it ran the story and with the way it's handled the backlash. The network's behavior has confirmed every single nasty thing that everybody believes about the media, and it's not like we've got a nice fat reserve of goodwill to squander right now.
This is where CBS jumps on the grenade. Only fair, considering they pulled the pin and fumbled it in the first place.
Fair, but how likely?
posted at 09:32 AM by Glenn Reynolds
"WHAT BLOGS HAVE WROUGHT:" Nice history of RatherGate to date. And what's really nice is that it doesn't mention InstaPundit. Nor should it. I've written about this, but other blogs did all the heavy lifting. As I wrote earlier, the blogosphere has matured into a full-fledged system in which no node is of vital importance, which is a very good thing.
UPDATE: Oops. InstaPundit actually is mentioned in passing toward the end -- I just missed it because it wasn't a link. The point still holds, though.
posted at 09:31 AM by Glenn Reynolds
STUART BUCK WRITES that efforts by The New Republic and Kevin Drum to draw a parallel between CBS's faked-document reportage and Fox News' reporting of a doctored Kerry/Fonda photo are unfair and wrong, as Fox repeatedly noted that the photo was fake.
posted at 09:24 AM by Glenn Reynolds
NAVY: Kerry's medals properly approved. This report says that there was nothing wrong with the approval process where Kerry's medals were concerned. That doesn't explain his claim of a nonexistent "V" on his Silver Star, and it doesn't get at the underlying facts, but it's probably enough to put this issue to bed. But as I've said before, it's a distraction anyway.
This latest AP story demonstrates that the Navy has military records for John Kerry that have not been disclosed. John Kerry promised to fully disclose his military records in an appearance with Tim Russert, and claims that he has fulfilled that pledge. However, he has refused to sign the Form 180 authorizing the Navy to release files protected by his privacy rights so that his claim can be independently verified. We now have compelling new evidence that his file has not been fully disclosed.
VARIOUS PEOPLE have asked me questions about the blogads on the site, and I thought I'd round up some of the more common ones:
Does it help you if I click through the ads? Yes and no. I don't get paid by the click-through, but I suppose that if you do -- and especially if you buy stuff from the people who are selling things -- it makes them more likely to advertise again. So don't kill yourself, but as Hugh Hewitt points out, you should always try to patronize the advertisers of sites you like.
Why do you run ads from so many lefty sites? I decided early on to take ads from pretty much anybody unless I thought they were offensive to me or to too many readers. I'm not easily offended by political views short of Nazis, Communists, etc. I don't do porn sites -- I've got nothing against porn, but it's not my idiom, as they say -- and I won't do hate groups. Otherwise it's pretty open. Most of my political ads have been from the left (though my biggest advertiser has been an art gallery) and I'm pretty sure that most of them were funded by George Soros one way or another. I figure the money's doing more good in my pocket than his, and at any rate this insulates me from claims that my content is dictated by advertisers! And of course, some of the lefty groups -- like Planned Parenthood or the pro-gay-marriage folks -- are groups that I support.
Are you getting rich? Will you buy a Gulfstream? The answer to that question is summed up by the headline to this article:Bloggers find clicks don't equal cash. Considering that I'm getting money for doing something I used to do for free, blogads are a great deal. But I won't quit the day job.
What about donations? I still get those, and I have to say that a dollar of donation money makes me happier than a dollar of ad money. There's something about someone paying you when they don't have to that makes it nice. It offsets any number of hatemails. . . .
Do you recommend blogads? Yeah. It's very easy, costs you nothing, and I've been pretty happy.
posted at 08:49 AM by Glenn Reynolds
THE WASHINGTON POST has been doing some investigative journalism where Bill Burkett -- thought by many to be the source of forged CBS RatherGate documents -- is concerned:
The former Texas National Guard officer suspected of providing CBS News with possibly forged records on President Bush's military service called on Democratic activists to wage "war" against Republican "dirty tricks" in a series of Internet postings in which he also used phrases similar to several employed in the disputed documents. . . .
In e-mail messages to a Yahoo discussion group for Texas Democrats, Burkett laid out a rationale for using what he termed "down and dirty" tactics against Bush. He said that he had passed his ideas to the Democratic National Committee but that the DNC seemed "afraid to do what I suggest." . . .
The CBS documents include several phrases that crop up in Web logs signed by Burkett, including "run interference," and references to a pilot's "billet." Former Air National Guard officers have pointed out that "billet" is an Army expression, not an Air Force one. Burkett has also used the expression "cover your six," a military variant of the vulgar abbreviation "CYA," which appears in one of the CBS documents.
In a somewhat less impressive feat of investigative journalism, the Los Angeles Times has discovered that a poster on Free Republic is a "conservative activist." ("Stunning news!" -- Patterico). They need to get out more. . . .
Stephen Green also has a lengthy post that's worth reading. And M. Simon observes: "Wars are never competently managed. Projects can be managed. People can be managed. . . . Wars cannot be managed because there is active and relatively unpredictable opposition. Even if you know what the opposition can do the actual mix of possible actions is always in doubt. So what can we do about wars? Win them or lose them."
ANOTHER UPDATE: The Belmont Club has more in its ongoing analysis of the Iraqi military situation. Conclusion:
If the pattern of American casualties shows that most fighting is happening in Al-Anbar it is not because Administration officials are manufacturing the results to camouflage a "widening insurgency". It is because there is no power vacuum among Kurds and Shi'ias as complete as that in the Sunni triangle. Civil war, if it eventuates, will not be result of military failure but from a lack of commitment to create a replacement Iraqi State. If we build it, it will come.
Read the whole thing.
posted at 08:18 AM by Glenn Reynolds
September 17, 2004
A PICTURE A DAY OF WANDA: I think I've linked to this lovely photo-tribute from a man to his wife before, but it's worth looking at again.
BRAVO FOR THE AP, which (at the behest of bloggers) has corrected a story quoting a Navy SEAL -- who turned out not to be a Navy SEAL -- criticizing Bush's National Guard record. The whole chronology is here.
But, actually, I think they go together. Thanks, Dan!
posted at 08:51 PM by Glenn Reynolds
A DC-AREA PR FIRM IS CLAIMING CREDIT for RatherGate. I don't recall getting anything from them. Neither does Charles Johnson. This seems to have been a story largely generated by blogs, not email, anyway.
And if they were really smart enough to do something like this, would they be dumb enough to be bragging about it before it was over? I certainly wouldn't hire a PR firm that did mind-bogglingly stupid things like that, and I can't imagine why anyone with any sense would do so. Perhaps I'm wrong, but this looks like rank, and transparent, opportunism.
UPDATE: Power Line: "Victory has many fathers. You know the Rathergate battle has been won when PR firms step into the breach and try to take credit." Timing issues with their claims are noted.
YET ANOTHER UPDATE: The PR firm apologizes handsomely. They've raised themselves in my estimation. (A quick apology -- good PR. Maybe CBS should hire them!) Click "read more" for the full text, as I don't think the link above is permanent.
MORE: Kathy Kinsley has the right idea! "I’d also like to add, that if they want to communicate with me and ask me to push a story, they can stuff it or buy a blogad. Their choice."
Regarding PR Week's article of 9/17, (http://www.prweek.com/news/news_story_free.cfm?ID=222586&site=3)
CRC President Greg Mueller released the following statement:
"Please understand, we never meant to imply that the blogosphere is something we did, or even could, control or direct. No one controls the bloggers. The extraordinary depth and breadth of their talent and resources only breeds one thing: a fierce independence much needed in the country. They are a force the PR industry and news media need to pay greater attention to.
"In the interview with PR Week, we tried to communicate that the bloggers, and then CNS www.cnsnews.com, were moving this story, which we then began pushing to conservative media, news websites and "mainstream" press.
"If anything, we're just proud that our client, CNS News, provided some hard news reporting to add some gasoline to the already rampant wildfire that the bloggers had started. Do we deserve credit for that? Not nearly as much as the guys at PowerLine, Instapundit, LittleGreenFootballs, INDCJournal, Allahpundit, and so many others deserve."
EVERYTHING WENT FINE, but I don't want to be blogging under the influence, so serious blogging will have to wait. But don't miss this piece on UNScam, and the links between oil-for-food money and Osama.
ABC News has just within the last 15 minutes or so posted an exclusive report based on exclusive interview with Col. Walter Staudt, the retired former brigadier general of the Texas Air National Guard. ABC News reports that Staudt is refuting CBS News' assertions (based on those now-infamous forged documents) that Staudt pressured others in the TANG to help cover for George W. Bush during his stint in the TANG. Staudt also says Bush didn't get preferential treatment to get into the TANG, and nobody pressured him to accept Bush into the Guard.
TODAY IS DENTAL-SURGERY DAY, which I'm not too happy about. It also means that blogging will be limited, and not until later. (I may hang out and watch the DVD of Barcelona, which I bought a while back and still haven't watched. Or it may just be more Gilligan). I wish I had the almost-out Neal Stephenson book, but it's not out until next week.
Thanks to all the people who sent sympathy email when I mentioned this. It's a lingering consequence of a car accident some years ago. Given what happened to the other people involved, I got off pretty light (thanks to wearing a seatbelt, and leaning against the back of the seat ahead of me at the last minute), though I'd prefer not to have to deal with this. But that's life. See you later.
INSTAPUNDIT READERS will know that I think the 21-year-old drinking age "spearheaded" by Liddy Dole is a terrible idea. But now Radley Balko has much more on the latest developments in this ill-conceived, and dangerous, policy.
posted at 09:00 AM by Glenn Reynolds
DAN RATHER VS. THE PAJAMA-BLOGGERS: Amusing cartoon.
HERE'S THE FULL STORY on the Gallup poll mentioned below, which shows Bush with a 13-point lead. Still seems like an implausibly large lead for Bush, despite all the help he's been getting from Dan Rather and MoveOn. (Compare it with the other polls listed here.) But what do I know?
I don't think Al Hunt knows, either, but this has him worried.
UPDATE: Lots more on polls and reactions thereto here.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Mickey Kaus says it's the CBS forgery business that's killing Kerry:
One obvious possible way to half-reconcile the divergent polls, suggested by Rassmussen's robo-survey: Wednesday 9/15, when the probable Danron forgery began to sink in, was a gruesome day for Kerry. The Harris poll (Kerry up 1) stopped Monday. The Pew poll (Kerry down 1) stopped on Tuesday. Gallup (Kerry down 14) includes Kerry's bleak Wednesday.
COULD THIS BE RIGHT? "A Gallup poll being released Friday has Bush up 54-40 in a three-way matchup." Thanks, Dan!
But I suspect that this is a fluke. (Via who else?)
UPDATE: Well, if it's not true now, it might be after this story: "Three-year-old Sophia Parlock cries while seated on the shoulders of her father, Phil Parlock, after having their Bush-Cheney sign torn up by Kerry-Edwards supporters on Thursday, Sept. 16, 2004, at the Tri-State Airport in Huntington, W.Va." I guess it's part of the new climate of fear in America. Sheesh.
ROGER SIMON has lots of interesting posts, and many of them have nothing to do with Dan Rather.
posted at 09:23 PM by Glenn Reynolds
IF YOU FEEL LIKE YOU'VE MISSED THE THREAD of the "RatherGate" CBS forged-memo story, this report from The Scotsman provides a useful roundup. Pajamas are mentioned, though they're spelled "pyjamas."
Also, today's Marketplace radio show from PRI has a nice piece on blogs and RatherGate. (You'll have to stream the whole show, as they don't break out individual segments like NPR. It starts at about 12:30 into the broadcast.) Pajamas are mentioned there, too.
UPDATE: Ah, you can find the link to the individual story on this page. Or just click here. (Thanks to reader Dave Shardell). It's worth a listen.
And Hugh Hewitt writes on what happens when you don't defend the brand. "Didn't anyone at Viacom or CBS go to HBS?" He contrasts the RatherGate experience with the famous story of how Johnson & Johnson responded to the Tylenol scare.
BLAME IOWA: BoiFromTroy is imagining what the election would be like if Dick Gephardt were the nominee. At the very least, the bumper stickers would be amusing. . . .
Let's imagine what today's election would be like if Gephardt were the nominee:
The Democratic Convention would have focused on issues, not a 35 year-old war.
There would have been no Swift Boat vets.
There would have been no debate over whether serving in the National Guard were honorable or if it was tantamount to being a deserter (both Bush and Dick served in the Guard during Vietnam)
There would have been no Rather-Gate/Forged Memos to distract the American people from Iraq, etc.
On the whole, John Kerry has been a distraction from his own campaign. Because of him and his need to focus on four months of his biography, the American people have been denied an honest debate about the issues that we would have had, if only Iowans would have picked Dick.
But I think he's onto something. I agree with Hugh Hewitt that the candidate is a big problem:
Kerry's problem is that he is simply the worst major party candidate of my lifetime, period running against a likeable incumbent backed by a growing economy and a record of bold action in the global war on terrorism.
Yeah. You've never seen me sing the praises of George W. Bush the way that, say, Andrew Sullivan was doing at one point. I think he's okay, and he at least takes seriously the notion that we're at war, and he seems steady, and not flighty. But overall, really, I give him a B. Maybe a B-. Trouble for the Democrats is that they've nominated a guy who gets -- at the very most charitable -- a weak gentleman's C.
I'm not crazy about Gephardt, especially on trade, but he takes the war seriously and he seems steady and not flighty, too.
The Democrats' problem is that the base, which, like bases do, cares mostly about emotional returns, wanted Howard Dean. But the leadership, which, like leaderships do, cares about status and connections and thus about winning, knew that Dean couldn't win. They tried to split the difference with Kerry, whom they thought could fool the gullible folks in flyover country into seeing him as a more-macho version of Bush, while winking to the base that he was really a tall Howard Dean with some medals. This was a dumb idea, and it hasn't worked.
Worse yet, if it does somehow get Kerry elected, he'll be a cripple as soon as he's sworn in. The anybody-but-Bush crowd won't have any particular reason to support him once he's given them what they want, and he doesn't have much in the way of another constituency. It's telling that he doesn't really even have the usual tight-knit "mafia" of longtime supporters the way that Bush, or Clinton, had. He's got a revolving-door assembly of party apparatchiks and paid consultants. That's a bad sign.
So, yeah, blame Iowa. I wish we were seeing the election BoiFromTroy envisions, instead of the one we've got now.
posted at 03:44 PM by Glenn Reynolds
PLAME UPDATE: I'm not sure what this means, but I don't think it bodes well for the conspiracists.
It’s one thing to debate whether we should take the fight to the terrorists, but depicting an American soldier in effect surrendering in the battle against the terrorists is beyond the pale.
I cannot believe that John Kerry, who reminds us daily of his Vietnam service, would possibly approve the disgusting and demoralizing portrayal of American soldiers fighting for us in Iraq, Afghanistan and around the world. . . .
This defeatist attitude undermines the great progress and sacrifices of our men and women in the military and the contributions of our allies who are fighting against terror and standing up for freedom around the world.
The politics of pessimism that is being pursued by John Kerry and the extreme liberals demonstrates they are consumed by the past with nothing to offer but attacks on the President's agenda for creating a safer world.
Read the whole thing.
posted at 02:51 PM by Glenn Reynolds
JOSH MARSHALL TAKES THE BAIT: President Bush gave a speech yesterday in which he equated membership in state militias with membership in the National Guard. That's silly, and Josh Marshall points out the silliness of equating the two. (And here's another example -- I've got a commission as a Colonel in the Tennessee Militia, which may or may not still be valid since it's signed by Lamar Alexander, and which at any rate amounts to no more than a certificate on my wall -- but still, I'm not a member of the National Guard.)
But wait a minute. We've heard for years from the left that the Second Amendment only protects a right to arms on the part of the state militias, and that those, nowadays, are the same as the National Guard. (The Brady Campaign, for example, talks about "Today's equivalent of a 'well-regulated' militia - the National Guard.")
Watch as people pile on Bush for this statement, uttering quotable bits about the obvious distinction between state militias and the National Guard, which can be brought up in debates and court cases on the right to arms later.
To paraphrase Wilfred Brimley in Absence of Malice: "Mr. Rove, are you that smart?"
For more than three centuries, as you know better than anyone, our National Guard has stood on the frontlines of freedom. The Guard fought in that first great revolution, and has defended our country ever since, here in America and around the world.
The official "National Guard" dates to the Dick Act of 1903 -- so Kerry must be counting the militias. For more on this stuff, read this.
HOLMAN JENKINS: "The network didn't just fall for fake documents; it reportedly used fake documents to pressure/entice its other 'source,' notorious Texas pol Ben Barnes, into publicly claiming he helped pull strings to get Mr. Bush into the Guard and giving CBS a 'scoop.' From a journalistic standpoint, that's very, very bad -- the kind of 'mistake' it's hard to recover from."
CBS RATINGS ARE PLUNGING: So much for the theory that this was a ratings-boosting stunt. This story also reports some growing unhappiness among affiliates, though I suspect that's just starting to take off, as rather a lot of readers have been sending me copies of the complaint letters they're sending to their local affiliates, but that's just started since last night.
posted at 12:58 PM by Glenn Reynolds
BILL ADAMS: "Rather doesn't realize that with Knox's testimony, he's convicted himself. . . . But in context, her interview makes Rather's fact-checking team look worse, not better."
UPDATE: Jeff Goldstein: "Were I to stake my reputation as a world-class lover on the say-so of an ex-girlfriend’s 86-year old mother, you’d be justified in your skepticism. "
In any case, the whole “fake but accurate” line shows how tone-deaf these people are; it’s like saying a body in a pine box is “dead but lifelike.” It boggles, it really does: the story is true, the evidence is faked, but the evidence reflects the evidence we have not yet presented that proves our conclusion – ergo, we’re telling the truth. They just can’t give it up; they just can’t say the memos were typed by the guy in the “Dude, you’re getting a Dell!” commercial and leave it be, because that that puts the knife in the story regardless of what happened. So they keep going.
The lifelike corpse is CBS's reputation. And it's not looking all that lifelike anymore. . . .
David Hogberg fires up the crematorium with this dissection of Andrew Heyward's statement. "The statement reflects an organization that is arrogant, bullheaded, and in denial. It is an organization whose credibility is shot, and whose reputation will soon lie in ashes."
I would say "ouch," but a dead body feels no pain.
UPDATE: To be honest, except for a little while last night, the server didn't seem especially slow, and I had no idea of the traffic until I happened to look at the stats today. The Hosting Matters folks handle this so well that I'm blissfully unaware of server loads.
posted at 09:59 AM by Glenn Reynolds
DIGITAL CAMERAS: Via DPreview.com, a link to a brochure for the forthcoming Nikon D2x, a 12.4 megapixel digital SLR. I want one already. . . .
Actually, since I'm getting really good 20x30 prints from the Nikon D70 that I already own, I don't know that I need more. But it's awfully cool.
What I'd really like is this Nikkor 12-24 zoom lens, but it's kind of pricey. If anyone knows of a good collection of reviews on compatible lenses for the D70, drop me a line. (Please put "Lens" in the subject line, so it doesn't get lost in the unbelievable flood of email I'm getting these days.)
I WAS ON NPR'S ALL THINGS CONSIDERED YESTERDAY, talking about RatherGate. You can hear it by following the link and scrolling to the bottom, or by going here.Pajamas are mentioned.
They asked me about the wisdom of Congressional hearings. I said I was against them, as media self-policing (as opposed to CBS self-policing) seems to be working. That part didn't make the broadcast, but I think it's worth noting.
After three years of the war on terror, the lack of a conventional "front line" or large battles, has made it difficult to easily determine who is winning. But a little effort reveals battles won and lost, and who is occupying what territory. Three years ago, al Qaeda had most of Afghanistan available for training camps and other facilities. There was even a "forged documents office" that operated openly in Kabul. Al Qaeda, or related organizations, operated extensively in over fifty countries, especially places like Indonesia, Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Chechnya, Iraq and Western Europe. Over 70,000 people were actively involved in planning and carrying out attacks. And the number of attacks against American targets grew during the 1990s, starting with a bombing of the World Trade Center in New York in 1993. But al Qaeda was handled as a criminal matter until September 11, 2001. After that, it was war.
In three years, al Qaeda has been driven out of most of its sanctuaries. Initially, al Qaeda was very popular among Moslems, and the slaughter of thousands of infidels (non-Moslems) on September 11, 2001, caused spontaneous celebrations throughout the Moslem world. That celebratory mood has been slowly changing, as more and more Moslems see al Qaeda for what it really is. After the slaughter of children in southern Russia earlier this month, the Moslem media finally moved broadly against al Qaeda and its terror tactics. This is significant, for Islamic radical terrorists are nothing new in the Islamic world. There have been several outbreaks in the last few centuries. Such violence can be defeated, and always is. One of the key factors in defeating these outbreaks is the local media turning against the radicals. . . .
The terrorists have been forced to make their attacks in out-of-the-way places. With thousands of similar targets world wide, and hundreds of thousands of eager young men and women willing to join their cause, al Qaeda has been able to accomplish little.
A "forged documents office," eh? And they want to destabilize U.S. elections. . . ? Hmm. Naw, couldn't be.
There's also this summary, somewhat more mixed, of what is going on in Iraq at the moment. There's also more on Iraq in this post from yesterday. And David Warren has thoughts on the strategy in Fallujah:
The Americans have made one big mistake since entering Iraq. It was to make local peace deals in Fallujah, and elsewhere, which left the fox in charge of the hens.
The idea was not, however, as stupid as it now looks. It was a risk: that if you put a few old Saddamite officers, and tribal leaders with lapsed Saddamite connexions -- the ones not currently wanted for war crimes -- in charge of a town, they will know how to restore order. They will prevent it from becoming a staging area for terrorist hits elsewhere, because if that happened the Marines would be back. And psychologically, one is likely to earn the gratitude of your erstwhile enemy, if you recruit him when he is expecting to be shot.
The risk may have been worth taking, in hindsight, for what the U.S. learned from it. We now know the policy backfired badly. The territories put off-limits to U.S. and allied patrol became terror havens immediately, as the local Jihadis came out of hiding to celebrate an "American defeat" -- even as the Marines, who had nearly exterminated them, were in the act of withdrawing, according to agreement.
Warren joins the list of those calling for a more vigorous approach:
Election or no election, the Americans must now undo their mistake. They must, regardless of casualties, retake every town in the Sunni Triangle, and clean each one out, properly. Or, go home beaten by the Jihad. There really isn't a third option.
While these figures do not address all of its dimensions, I hope they provide some objective basis for bounding claims that are made. Based on the pattern of casualties, it is hard to reach the conclusion that Iraq is descending into anarchy or that the resistance is spreading uncontrollably. If that were true we would be seeing a different distribution of casualties. Combat in Iraq is complex politico-military phenomenon. Some aspects of the psychology and politics are covered in the CSIS Report. I hope to move onto other aspects tomorrow.
What if the Swift Boat Vets had manufactured documents that proved John Kerry did not deserve his Silver Star? And they leaked them to Brit Hume at Fox News who rushed them on the air as part of an expose which included an extended interview with John O'Neill. And what if the left wing bloggers proved the documents to be false? And finally, what if Brit stubbornly stuck to his original story about the Silver Star and said, "The documents don't have to be real because they accurately reflect the truth."
How long do you think Brit would have kept his job?
DRUDGE IS REPORTING: "WASH POST: Documents allegedly written by deceased officer that raised questions about Bush's service with Texas National Guard bore markings showing they had been faxed to CBS News from a Kinko's copy shop in Abilene, Texas... Developing..."
There is only one Kinko's in Abilene, and it is 21 miles from the Baird, Tex., home of retired Texas National Guard officer Bill Burkett, who has been named by several news outlets as a possible source for the documents.
That tends to support a lot of blogospheric speculation regarding Burkett.
UPDATE: It's okay to plant evidence, if you really think the suspect is guilty, right? "If Dan Rather is CBS’s answer to Jayson Blair, Andrew Heyward is Howell Raines. Both must go."
ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Edward Hyde emails:
Dan Rather could have asked the secretary the make and model typewriter she used in her job.
All secretaries have this information locked forever in their memory.
It might have settled the question of forgery once and for all.
He may not have wanted to hear the answer.
posted at 08:54 PM by Glenn Reynolds
WVLT, the CBS affiliate in Knoxville, isn't showing 60 Minutes II. There's some sort of movie on instead. (Thanks to Knoxville reader Steve Lewis for the tip.) I wonder if any other affiliates are doing the same?
UPDATE: Another reader emails: "Hey Glenn - just an update, the Charleston, SC CBS affilliate didn't show 60 Minutes tonight either, although I managed to catch the fun on the Savannah, GA affiliate which we also get here."
ANOTHER UPDATE: More on affiliates' reactions here.
MORE: I don't know about other stations, but a reader who works at a different television station in Knoxville says that 60 Minutes II was scheduled to be pre-empted all along.
posted at 08:38 PM by Glenn Reynolds
CAYMAN HURRICANE UPDATE: According to Cayman Net News, the CEO of Cable & Wireless is calling for U.S. military intervention to deal with widespread looting.
This surprises me. Cayman isn't as orderly as it used to be (crime was virtually unknown when I first visited almost 20 years ago) but I didn't expect much in the way of looting. I will note that the British-style near-complete gun prohibition makes dealing with looters much more difficult than it is in the United States.
UPDATE: Sullivan is giving them hell on Paula Zahn, and says bringing in the secretary is an admission of fraud. Howard Kurtz pretty much agrees: The underlying facts have been "totally overshadowed" by their handling of the story, and it's a "huge black eye" for Rather and CBS.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Kurtz halfheartedly defends CBS against Andrew's charges of political motivation, but says it's hard to understand why they'd blow their credibility on a story with such obvious problems. He can't understand why they didn't spend another week on it. Andrew repeats that it was Bush-hatred that blinded them to the story's weakness.
UPDATE: Red Coyote is hurricaneblogging from Ft. Walton Beach, and observes: "Can we get rid of 'hunker down,' please? I know it fits the situation, but ohmigawd, with Charley, and Frances, and now Ivan, it's been beat into the ground."
It fits the situation with Dan Rather, too.
ANOTHER UPDATE: More New Orleans hurricaneblogging. Plus, praise for drunken trannie hookers. Because, after all, New Orleans in a hurricane is still New Orleans!
posted at 06:39 PM by Glenn Reynolds
WAITING FOR RATHER: Jeff Quinton is liveblogging the non-news-conference.
UPDATE: This is a statement? Give me a break. [LATER: Reader Joe Woodbury writes: "The best part is the president of CBS news can't spell! I guess that's proof they didn't use Microsoft Word!'] What's next? This?
KNOXVILLE LOW-POWER RADIO STATION KFAR has been shut down by the FCC for unlicensed broadcasting. Given the FCC's dishonesty and foot-dragging in licensing low-power radio, it's hard to justify this sort of thing. More on this here,here, and especially here.
Tell an already blood-hungry media that you will come out with a statment and then keep them waiting for hours. This is exactly the sort of crisis management and public relations that looks great on the resume. Maybe they should pee in all the cans of Mountain Dew at the press conference before they let the journalists in. Thaat will really win friends.
I think they've already peed in the media's Mountain Dew. But I don't think this represents strategy. I think it represents the kind of infighting that will make a fascinating story at some point in the future. And the good news is that, if there's infighting, it means that there might just be somebody at CBS who cares about credibility.
I DON'T KNOW HOW MUCH THIS MEANS, but reader George Dunham notes that Viacom stock seems to have taken a modest tumble today. Could there be a reason other than the troubles at its CBS holding? Note the sharp drop just before 3:00.
UPDATE: A reader says that Viacom has other things going on that might affect the stock price. I won't bother to list them here, but of course that's entirely possible. It's also suggested that putting the announcement off until 5 is designed to let bad news hit after the market closes. Could be.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Related thoughts here, from Professor Bainbridge.
MORE: A reader emails:
This is my train of logic:
1. Once CBS admits that these were forgeries, then there is no journalistic ethic preventing them from naming the source of the documents -- actually the source should be exposed.
2. As long as CBS is "investigating" the documents, then they haven't admitted to the forgery and they can protect their source's identity.
3. Therefore, the source is so politically explosive that it's worth the permanent damage to their brand and their news credibility. Who or what could possibly be worth that?
Janet Tague, Stamford CT. Not a political operative. Actually a registered Democrat (although I voted for Bush last time and most certainly will again now).
NEW THEORY: "You can almost hear Jon Lovitz doing his Tommy Flanagan bit: 'Yeah, yeah. They're not forgeries, they're, uhhhhh . . . replicas! Yeah, replicas -- that's the ticket!'"
UPDATE: Reader Houston Foppiano emails:
Rather's New York Observer interview, where he seems to be utterly frustrated by the fact that people are focusing on the authenticity of the documents, rather than their "content," reminds me of possibly my all time favorite episode of the Simpsons - "Homer's Enemy." If you will remember, Frank Grimes becomes increasingly obsessed with the fact that no one seems to be bothered by Homer's incompetence at the nuclear plant, and tries to set him up by tricking him into entering the "build a model nuclear plant contest" meant to be entered by children. When Homer enters - and wins - and no one seems to mind that he's competing against children. Grimey loses it and goes nuts, ultimately grabbing exposed power cables and getting fried.
Rather is heading down this path whether he was responsible for the original deceit of the documents or not. He can't understand why no one is getting upset about his "blockbuster" story that Bush might not have met all his ANG requirements, and it's making him crazy. He has completely missed the point that most people already assume Bush got preferential treatment, and was not the most repsponsible person in his youth - AND THEY DON'T CARE. They've already put that into their voting calculus, and if it didn't hurt Bush when he was relatively unknown in 2000, it certainly ain't gonna after he's been Commander in Chief for four years. Why someone would put their credibility and career on the line to make this politically insignificant point continues to baffle me.
CBS has set itself up for special scorn in this matter. The blogosphere's complaint is not just that they may be pursuing an anti-Bush agenda, the complaint is that they have abandoned basic reporting -- the core function of their organization -- in an attempt to manipulate the agenda. Reasonable and answerable questions, including provenance of the documents, the precise qualifications of their experts, and the criteria used to establish authenticity have gone unreported, have been sluggishly reported, or have been sloppily reported and debunked in just a few hours.
Ultimately, CBS fundamentally altered the nature of the editorial trade-off. Instead grudgingly adjusting the level of reported detail out of economic necessity, they willingly sacrificed the quality of their reporting in their attempt to manipulate the agenda.
"If my forgeries looked as bad as the CBS documents, it would have been, 'Catch Me In Two Days'" -- ex-forger and con man Frank Abagnale, made famous by Leonardo DiCaprio in the film Catch Me If You Can.
Plus, I'll bet that Dan Rather didn't get to sleep with Jennifer Garner.
UPDATE: Mike Krempasky writes that this is where the Abagnale quote first appeared.
posted at 01:26 PM by Glenn Reynolds
HERE'S SOME HELPFUL ADVICE FOR CBS: "A source lies to you, and you find it out, you burn him. Period."
UPDATE: Still no promised CBS statement. A reader emails:
CBS is buying time with this stonewall tactic. I think that THEY'RE TRYING TO FORGE THE FORGERIES. They know that the presentation of mechanically produced exact replicas will weld their case against Bush.
I'm very afraid that some company with linotype capability is working on this right now. If these "forged forgeries" show up who would be left to denounce them but a bunch of right-wing lunatics in pajamas?
Or am I overly suspicious?
I'd think so. But then, just a couple of weeks ago I would have thought it unthinkable that CBs would go ahead with obviously forged documents.
But, honestly, I don't think anyone's going to take any suddenly discovered new evidence from CBS very seriously. It's clear that they went ahead with reckless disregard for obvious problems with the Killian letters, and as Beldar notes: "Nothing — not even Lt. George W. Bush using TANG aircraft to traffic in cocaine sales to minors — could justify what CBS News has done."
IN THE MAIL: A copy of Barack Obama's new book, Dreams from My Father : A Story of Race and Inheritance. Haven't read it all, but it looks pretty good. His experiences in visiting Africa and encountering blatant racism against Asians resonate with a lot of stuff I've heard from family members.
posted at 11:27 AM by Glenn Reynolds
THERE'S MOSTLY PAJAMA-PEOPLE CONDESCENSION in this Editor and Publisher story on blogs and Big Media, but it does contain this truthful passage:
But, like Ryerson, Clifton warns that many blog readers can fall into the trap of believing anything presented well. "The bloggers cover an incredible spectrum of credibility and authenticity, just like newspapers," he said. "We have the National Enquirer and The New York Times and a lot in between."
I guess that's a spectrum of reliability. But in which direction. . . .?
UPDATE: Any similarities between the sentiments expressed by some of the people in the Editor and Publisher piece and those expressed in this column are no doubt the result of your perspectives being warped by hate-spewing, pajama-clad Internet bloggers.
Media watchdogging isn't new, either. But the newest version is nothing like the mostly polite coverage we in the business tend to extend to ourselves and our peers. What's happening now is sometimes instructive, and always tough.
Journalists have demanded more transparency of others. Now, thanks to the ability of large numbers of people to dissect our work in public and in something close to real time, they're demanding more of us. We'd better get used to it.
UPDATE: Meanwhile, back on RatherGate, Patterico observes: "[T]here are so many shoes dropping in the CBS forged documents scandal, Dan Rather has to be wondering whether the guy dropping the shoes is a millipede."
posted at 10:12 AM by Glenn Reynolds
CAYMAN HURRICANE UPDATE: Above is a picture by David Olson of Grand Cayman. (Note that the boat is named Juggernaut, appropriately enough.) Along with many others, it's posted to this message board that updates the disaster recovery process. Damage seems to have been very severe. (You can see home video of the storm here.) And here's a report from Cayman Brac, where the storm was less severe, but still bad enough. If you'd like to help -- especially if you're in the Miami area -- go here.
posted at 10:07 AM by Glenn Reynolds
RATHERGATE UPDATE: CBS will reportedly release a statement at noon.
I think it's time for everyone to give up on this. The memos are almost certainly fakes, they're sucking up media bandwidth that could be better used elsewhere, and Dan Rather is toast. Besides, there was really nothing in them that told us anything new.
BERLIN : Syria tested chemical weapons on civilians in Sudan's troubled western Darfur region in June and killed dozens of people.
The German daily Die Welt newspaper, in an advance release of its Wednesday edition, citing unnamed western security sources, said that injuries apparently caused by chemical arms were found on the bodies of the victims. . . .
Die Welt said the sources had indicated that the weapons tests were undertaken following a military exercise between Syria and Sudan.
Syrian officers were reported to have met in May with Sudanese military leaders in a Khartoum suburb to discuss the possibility of improving cooperation between their armies.
According to Die Welt, the Syrians had suggested close cooperation on developing chemical weapons, and it was proposed that the arms be tested on the rebel SPLA, the Sudan People's Liberation Army, in the south.
But given that the rebels were involved in peace talks, the newspaper continued, the Sudanese government proposed testing the arms on people in Darfur.
It just gets worse, doesn't it?
posted at 09:39 AM by Glenn Reynolds
IT'S ALL ABOUT SHOES! No, I haven't been replaced by the team from the now-defunct MadPony blog. But my Virginia Postrel-inspired TechCentralStation column today is about shoes. Sort of.
posted at 08:23 AM by Glenn Reynolds
IRAQ UPDATE: Yeah, I haven't paid enough attention, partly because I've been waiting for Austin Bay -- who's just back from there -- to fill in the gaps. He does today with this cautionary column:
Money is ammo in Iraq, and right now our troops on the ground are short-changed.
Pay attention, Bush administration and Congress: The specific program with the most effective bang-for-bucks is CERP, Commander's Emergency Response Program funds. The military needs a plus-up in CERP funds in Iraq and needs it now. . . .
Secretary of State Colin Powell and Ambassador John Negroponte asked for more CERP funds earlier this summer, but now it's September. On Monday, the administration "re-programmed" $3.46 billion dollars out of $18 billion budgeted for Iraqi reconstruction. Some of that must increase CERP funds. Here's a guess: $200 million channeled through CERP will have positive effects by December. The big infrastructure projects bankrolled by the $18 billion are necessary, but their payoff is three to five years away.
CERP fills that gap, and even small amounts can buy goodwill. In mid-July, I went on a foot patrol in Baghdad with another 1st Cavalry Division unit. One of the officers told me the Cav had experimented with a "designated spender" on foot patrols. A soldier would spend 10 bucks while on patrol, buying food in a souk or a toy from a store. The food would then be donated to a food bank and the toys given to kids. Unfortunately, the troops spent their own money. To use appropriated funds, another officer later told me, was practically impossible, "unless the funds are CERP. With CERP, a soldier signs a receipt (for the money), then the patrol generates a little local economic activity."
Government funding mechanisms intended to ensure accountability are necessary -- peacetime gripes about $600 aircraft toilet seats are legitimate. In this intricate war, however, our brigade and battalion commanders must have the economic ammo to reinforce security operations.
Here's something on CERP money at work in Afghanistan, from InstaPundit's Afghan photo-correspondent. And you can find earlier InstaPundit coverage of CERP issues in Iraq here.
Military planners in Washington would be very well advised to listen to what Austin Bay is saying.
Meanwhile, Arnold Kling sides with those who think we're not confrontational enough: "Until we break the radicals, outspoken moderates will be a small, ineffectual minority."
UPDATE: Elsewhere on Strategypage, we get this:
September 15, 2004: The U.S. is going to shift several billion dollars in reconstruction money to building up security forces in the Sunni Arab areas of central Iraq. While reconstruction efforts move ahead in the Kurdish north and the Shia Arab south, the continued violence by Baath Party supporters and al Qaeda supporters in central Iraq has delayed many reconstruction projects in Sunni Arab communities. The Sunni Arabs, who were favored during the long reign of Saddam Hussein (a Sunni Arab himself), are angry at losing power, and even more dismayed as they note the growing prosperity, and peace, among the Kurds and Shia they long ruled. Although a minority in the country (about 20 percent of the population), the Sunni Arab tribes control most of central and western Iraq. The way the media covers the Sunni Arab violence, you get the impression that the entire country is in flames. But in most of Iraq, American civil affairs teams, and civilian aid workers report no violence or unrest at all. That, however is not news. Sunni Arab terrorists are news, and it's mostly Sunni Arabs who are being called on to fight the violence. Despite the attacks on local police (who are recruited locally) and civilians who support the government, resistance to "the resistance" is everywhere. Most Iraqis don't want the 20th century tyranny of Saddam, or the 14th century lifestyle of al Qaeda.
It seems to me that the Kaus theory of "rolling elections" is looking better. We should quarantine the violent parts and cut them off.
UPDATE: Tony Blankley agrees with Arnold Kling, suggesting that aggressive action is being put off until the election, though he admits he doesn't have any actual evidence. "As a supporter of the president, and his Iraq policy, I nonetheless find it hard not to suspect that an aggressive military policy to put down particularly the Sunni insurgency is on hold until after the American election on Nov. 2. Of course, I can't prove that, and no one in the administration has said such a thing to my knowledge."
Two of the document experts hired by CBS News now say the network ignored concerns they raised prior to the broadcast of 60 Minutes II about the disputed National Guard records attributed to Lt. Col. Jerry Killian, who died in 1984.
Emily Will, a veteran document examiner from North Carolina, told ABC News she saw problems right away with the one document CBS hired her to check the weekend before the broadcast.
"I found five significant differences in the questioned handwriting, and I found problems with the printing itself as to whether it could have been produced by a typewriter," she said.
Will says she sent the CBS producer an e-mail message about her concerns and strongly urged the network the night before the broadcast not to use the documents.
"I told them that all the questions I was asking them on Tuesday night, they were going to be asked by hundreds of other document examiners on Thursday if they ran that story," Will said.
But the documents became a key part of the 60 Minutes II broadcast questioning President Bush's National Guard service in 1972. CBS made no mention that any expert disputed the authenticity.
"I did not feel that they wanted to investigate it very deeply," Will told ABC News. . . .
A second document examiner hired by CBS News, Linda James of Plano, Texas, also told ABC News she had concerns about the documents and could not authenticate them.
"I did not authenticate anything and I don't want it to be misunderstood that I did," James said. "And that's why I have come forth to talk about it because I don't want anybody to think I did authenticate these documents."
A third examiner hired by CBS for its story, Marcel Matley, appeared on CBS Evening News last Friday and was described as saying the document was real.
According to The Washington Post, Matley said he examined only the signature attributed to Killian and made no attempt to authenticate the documents themselves.
Read the whole thing. I have to say, I've spent years criticizing the media and this still makes my jaw drop.
(Via Jim Geraghty, who adds: "And this bit of news tells us that CBS was not 'duped' onto this, that they weren't 'fooled,' but that they knew the documents were probably fake and ran with it anyway.")
ANOTHER UPDATE: New painting by Vermeer discovered! It's been authenticated by anonymous experts who will later make clear that they didn't!
posted at 09:51 PM by Glenn Reynolds
FACTCHECK.ORG: "This latest ad from Moveon PAC is about as misleading as it can be."
posted at 09:45 PM by Glenn Reynolds
I'M SUPPOSED TO BE ON PAULA ZAHN'S (CNN) SHOW tonight about 8:40 Eastern.
UPDATE: Not bad. A bit short. What struck me most was listening to Seymour Hersh tout his new book in an earlier segment. Short version: He doesn't think Rumsfeld, Cheney, et al., knew about Abu Ghraib. He thinks Iraq's going badly but doesn't think Kerry has much of a plan. He can't say that there's a coverup, but he'd like the DoD to come clean and reveal whether there's a coverup.
Pretty thin gruel.
Listened? Yeah. As usual, I had no monitor, so I couldn't see the show. Just an earpiece that wanted to slip out, and a camera to stare into. The picture to the right is one I took when I was on CNN a while back, but the view hasn't changed.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Dang, just found out that I was a replacement for John Hinderaker of Power Line. That's the first I knew about it, and it's too bad, as Power Line deserves the lion's share of blogosphere credit on this story, and certainly more than InstaPundit. But here (via Double Toothpicks) is a transcript of Power Liner Scott Johnson's appearance on Brit Hume's Special Report.
Meanwhile, Hinderaker adds: "Actually, I think I may have been bumped by Wonkette, who was also on the show, for no apparent reason, except that she looks better than me. Of course, she also looks better than Glenn, not to mention the Free Republic guy."
She's very pretty, in a well-scrubbed, maternal sort of way. I, on the other hand, hardly ever scare dogs.
posted at 07:34 PM by Glenn Reynolds
GREYHAWK'S put up his last post for a while at The Mudville Gazette, as he's deploying to Iraq. But it's quite a post.
JONAH GOLDBERG compares Dan Rather to Norma Desmond: "Dan Rather has flipped this around. The news is still big, but Rather has gotten very, very small."
This certainly looks rather small: "Just heard from a very reliable source that CBS is looking into the political donations of document examiner Sandra Ramsey Lines, fellow of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, who assessed the memos for CNN and for the Associated Press."
Two thoughts: (1) This might matter, if CBS were able to find any reputable document examiners to take their side; and (2) Does CBS really want to open that can of worms?
By running the story, they declared intellectual bankruptcy. If they do this, they'll be declaring moral bankruptcy, too.
UPDATE: New link. Eugene emails that PowerBlog ate the old one.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Correction -- it's PowerBlogs, with an s, not PowerBlog, which is, confusingly, a different company. To their credit, the PowerBlogs people emailed me to ensure that their competitor wouldn't get blamed.
Any journalist who starts mistaking himself for an oracle needs to be reminded who he is from time to time.
CBS News has failed on all these counts. It did shoddy reporting and then self-interestedly dug in against an avalanche of evidence against it. Rather can blather all he wants about the political motivation of some in the blogosphere--but what matters is not bias but accuracy. His attitude, moreover, has bordered on the contemptuous; and the blogosphere has chewed him up and spat him out. He has acted as if journalism is a privilege rather than a process; as if his long career makes his critics illegitimate; as if his good motives can make up for bad material. The original mistake was not a firable offense. But the digging in surely is. It seems to me that when a news anchor presents false information and then tries to cover up and deny his errors, he has ceased to be a journalist. I'd like to say that Dan Rather needs to resign from his profession. But, judging from the last few days, he already has.
Congress has held hearings on Howard Stern and "wardrobe malfunctions" at the Superbowl. It has held hearings on the networks' disastrous performance on election night 2000. Now a network is party to a fraud committed with the obvious intent of influencing an election. Where are the hearings? This is very serious stuff, and the rise of technology capable of influencing elections is a worry on many minds. (See John Fund's new book Stealing Elections.) It doesn't do much good for Congress to arrive to conduct an autopsy. It should act before the fraud spreads.
It's certainly a bigger deal than Howard Stern's language, or Janet Jackson's breast.
UPDATE: Jim Pinkerton writes that this is a turning point in media history.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Tom Maguire thinks that hearings are a terrible idea. I agree -- at least so long as it looks like the major media are covering this story on their own.
posted at 01:40 PM by Glenn Reynolds
D'OH! Yesterday I forgot to link to the Carnival of the Capitalists, which gathers together business- and econo-blogging from all over. Don't miss it.
GEORGE CONWAY BRINGS US tomorrow's news today! "Responding to this claim, a CBS spokesman said, 'The credibility of our news organization should not be called into question by the homophobic rants of people in pajamas.'"
NOTE: I've updated this post to include an apology to Eric Muller. I didn't intend my -- entirely justified -- slam at Dave Neiwert's cheap shots to reflect on Muller's scholarship, but it sounded that way. He got caught in the crossfire, and I've apologized for that.
13 SEPTEMBER 2004 | GENEVA -- A mortality survey has just been conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO) and Sudan's Ministry of Health in two of the States in Sudan's Darfur region. It concludes that death rates amongst internally displaced people still surpass the threshold for a humanitarian emergency, underscoring the need for urgent increases in, and focus on, assistance to displaced people in the region.
1.2 million people in Darfur region have fled their villages and are camped in 129 settlements across an area the size of France. The "crude mortality rate" that is usually used to define a humanitarian crisis is one death per 10 000 people per day. The WHO survey found the crude mortality rate to be 1.5 deaths per 10 000 people per day in North Darfur, and 2.9 in West Darfur. The survey looked at overall deaths and their causes between 15 June and 15 August 2004. Results show that displaced people, in North and West Darfur are dying at between three and six times the expected rate.
Meanwhile, Sunday's UN protest doesn't seem to have gotten much attention outside the blogosphere.
When I first wrote about this on Thursday, in a column that appeared on Friday, it seemed likely but not certain they were phony. We called the column "CBS' Big Blunder?" with a question mark just to be careful.
There's no need to pull any punches now. I'm going to be blunt here: Anybody who spends an hour reviewing the evidence and the expert testimony knows they're forgeries.
The discrediting has gone on now for five straight days. The conclusion isn't just overwhelming, it's inarguable.
The documents aren't just forgeries, they're bad, blatant, ludicrous forgeries. They're forgeries so easily detected that in the space of a few hours after CBS released computer photographs of them on the Internet, they had already been pegged and deconstructed.
News has always been a dog-eat-dog business. The blogosphere just makes it more so, and with a nonstop feeding schedule. CBS's problem is, they seem to be determined to act like a Milk-Bone™ instead of a dog.
The lead expert retained by CBS News to examine disputed memos from President Bush's former squadron commander in the National Guard said yesterday that he examined only the late officer's signature and made no attempt to authenticate the documents themselves.
"There's no way that I, as a document expert, can authenticate them," Marcel Matley said in a telephone interview from San Francisco. The main reason, he said, is that they are "copies" that are "far removed" from the originals.
A detailed comparison by The Washington Post of memos obtained by CBS News with authenticated documents on Bush's National Guard service reveals dozens of inconsistencies, ranging from conflicting military terminology to different word-processing techniques.
The analysis shows that half a dozen Killian memos released earlier by the military were written with a standard typewriter using different formatting techniques from those characteristic of computer-generated documents. CBS's Killian memos bear numerous signs that are more consistent with modern-day word-processing programs, particularly Microsoft Word. . . .
Of more than 100 records made available by the 147th Group and the Texas Air National Guard, none used the proportional spacing techniques characteristic of the CBS documents. Nor did they use a superscripted "th" in expressions such as "147th Group" and or "111th Fighter Intercept Squadron."
Ouch. Read the whole thing, which is just devastating -- though not really news to people who have been reading blogs.
I notice that Kerry was making a lot of noise about the Assault Weapons ban expiring, after being very quiet on the subject until recently, and after trying -- albeit ineffectually -- to burnish his pro-gun credentials as recently as last week.
I take this as a sign that the Kerry campaign now expects to lose, and has shifted to a rally-the-base mode intended to protect downticket candidates. I could be wrong, of course, but that's how it looks to me. More evidence here.
UPDATE: An, er, alternate theory of what Kerry's about, here.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Jacob Sullum says that Kerry has played a constructive role: "As the federal 'assault weapon' ban expires, we can thank John Kerry for demonstrating the stupidity of targeting firearms based on features that have nothing to do with their lethality or their suitability for crime."
What CBS has learned over the past few days is that its editors aren't good enough. Nowadays when stories go public, they get checked by after-the-fact editors with expertise in every field imaginable, and that checking gets published to the entire world via the blogosphere. Bloggers may not have editors, but they serve as editors themselves.
What's so devastating for CBS is that it didn't make an esoteric mistake, requiring rare expertise. It made a boneheaded mistake on a big story. It's my professional opinion that any decent journalist over 30 years old would have immediately suspected a forgery when looking at typeset memos supposedly produced for private files in 1972. In fact, any decent journalist over 30 would have suspected a forgery when looking at typeset memos supposedly produced for private files in 1982. (That year, I paid The Daily Princetonian $20 to cover the film cost of a resume that looked like what you can dash off on Microsoft Word; it was produced on an expensive compositing system by a graphics professional.) That those memos managed to get on national television without a caveat about their reliability suggests a complete breakdown of both journalistic instincts and journalistic process.
You shouldn't need bloggers to catch errors like this. But it helps.
And read this, too. The Seinfeld point had occurred to me, though in a slightly different connection.
CAYMAN HURRICANE NEWS: Reader Mark Odiorne sends this:
Communications with Cayman are sporadic, but it seems text messaging works if both ends have a Cayman issued phone from AT&T or DigiCell. The word getting out is not good. While we are still trying to get word about the status of our own people (we have an office there) what we have heard is that there is extensive damage, much from the storm surge. The North Sound surge met up with the surge from South Sound and from the west/7Mile.
Two sites that have been posting what updates they can gather are:
Sent: Monday, September 13, 2004 12:22 PM
Subject: URGENT! - Hurricane Ivan
We regret to inform you that Hurricane Ivan has devastated the Cayman Islands. This category 5 Hurricane generated tremendous storm surge, sustained winds reported at 165 mph and gusts at 260 mph causing catastrophic damage.
We have received many emails and calls of concern, condolences, prayers, and love. In an effort to provide relief for the island, Tortuga Imports' Miami Warehouse is accepting donations for the following items:
Canned Foods (including soup)
Stove Top Ranges & Sterno
BBQ Grills & Coal
Cleaning Supplies (Garbage bags, broom, etc.)
Tarps & Tents
Pens & Paper
To help, please bring or send these items to:
Everything helps, even 1 can of food. Your continued prayers and support for the Cayman Islands are needed and appreciated. We thank you for taking the time out from your busy schedules to make a donation.
Jacqueline V. Gil
Tortuga Imports, Inc.
D/B/A Tortuga Rum Cake Co.
14202 S.W. 142 Avenue
Miami, FL 33186
Phone: (305) 378-6668 / 1-877-4-TORTUGA
Fax: (305) 378-0990
But all fun aside, I think there are some important lessons for Big Media -- and for everyone else -- in the rise of the blogosphere. They stem from the fact that bloggers operate on the Internet, where arguments from authority are difficult since nobody knows whether you're a dog.
In short, it's the difference between high-trust and low-trust environments.
The world of Big Media used to be a high-trust environment. You read something in the paper, or heard something from Dan Rather, and you figured it was probably true. You didn't ask to hear all the background, because it wouldn't fit in a newspaper story, much less in the highly truncated TV-news format anyway, and because you assumed that they had done the necessary legwork. (Had they? I'm not sure. It's not clear whether standards have fallen since, or whether the curtain has simply been pulled open on the Mighty Oz. But they had names, and familiar faces, so you usually believed them even when you had your doubts.)
The Internet, on the other hand, is a low-trust environment. Ironically, that probably makes it more trustworthy.
That's because, while arguments from authority are hard on the Internet, substantiating arguments is easy, thanks to the miracle of hyperlinks. And, where things aren't linkable, you can post actual images. You can spell out your thinking, and you can back it up with lots of facts, which people then (thanks to Google, et al.) find it easy to check. And the links mean that you can do that without cluttering up your narrative too much, usually, something that's impossible on TV and nearly so in a newspaper.
(This is actually a lot like the world lawyers live in -- nobody trusts us enough to take our word for, well, much of anything, so we back things up with lots of footnotes, citations, and exhibits. Legal citation systems are even like a primitive form of hypertext, really, one that's been around for six or eight hundred years. But I digress -- except that this perhaps explains why so many lawyers take naturally to blogging).
You can also refine your arguments, updating -- and even abandoning them -- in realtime as new facts or arguments appear. It's part of the deal.
This also means admitting when you're wrong. And that's another difference. When you're a blogger, you present ideas and arguments, and see how they do. You have a reputation, and it matters, but the reputation is for playing it straight with the facts you present, not necessarily the conclusions you reach. And a big part of the reputation's component involves being willing to admit you're wrong when you present wrong facts, and to make a quick and prominent correction.
When you're a news anchor, you're not just putting your arguments on the line -- you're putting yourself on the line. Dan Rather has a problem with that. For journalists of his generation, admitting an error means admitting that you've violated people's trust. For bloggers, admitting an error means you've missed something, and now you're going to set it right.
What people in the legacy media need to ask themselves is, which approach is more likely to retain credibility over time? I think I know the answer. I think Dan Rather does, too.
UPDATE: Hugh Hewitt makes an interesting point, which is that the smaller blogs -- because they're mostly read by friends and acquaintances of the bloggers -- may actually operate in a high-trust environment: "Sure, a few hundred blogs seem to own a large share of the traffic, as N.Z.Bear's rankings by traffic shows. But there are tens of thousands of blogs each racking up unique visitors. If those blogs in the tail pick up a meme --say, "Dan Rather is a doddering fool and CBS is covering up for him"-- its spread across the universe of people using the web for information gathering is huge and almost instantaneous. And irreversible because a friend or colleague of Rick is much more likely to believe his analysis because he knows and trusts Rick than . . . some knucklehead from CBS who is attempting to dismiss Rick as a pajama-wearing loon."
YET ANOTHER UPDATE: A reader writes to say that I'm no pajama-blogger, and she's got proof! Okay, my secret is out. (Hey, Shannon Love is right about the Internet and secrecy!) Like Charles Johnson, I find that proper attire makes my blogging far more credible. Happy, Mr. Klein?
Of course, you could have seen me in drawstring cotton pants and an "Amelia Island" t-shirt if you'd been spying on me this morning. I guess that counts as pajama-blogging.
Not that there's anything wrong with that!
posted at 01:58 PM by Glenn Reynolds
CAM EDWARDS will have an interview with Joseph Newcomer (author of this typeface analysis) at 3:40 p.m. Eastern, and he'll have Bill from INDCJournal at 4:40. Stream both from here.
"We're having a hard time tracking how we got the documents," says the CBS News producer. "There are at least two people in this building who have insisted we got copies of these memos from the Kerry campaign by way of an additional source. We do not have the originals, and our sources have indicated to us that we will not be getting the originals. How that is possible I don't know."
Any news organization broadcasting or publishing potentially highly charged reports - particularly in an election year - must make sure the information is accurate and that the public understands why it can be believed, said experienced reporters.
"That's the kind of thing that you really have to do when you have a controversial topic - endless shoe-leather [reporting]," said Donald L. Barlett, half of a prize-winning investigative reporting team for Time magazine. "That kind of work just takes a lot of time. There are no shortcuts."
There is a particularly heavy responsibility for news organizations that rely upon anonymous sources, reporters said. Typically, any news organization that grants anonymity to a source will then go to exceptional lengths to keep that promise. "We're going to protect our source, every way we can," CBS spokeswoman Sandy Genelius said yesterday.
But the genesis of the information can provide valuable clues in evaluating its worth. "If this came from somebody who was inside the Pentagon records center and said, 'Here's some documents,' then it's better than somebody who's a partisan Democrat," said Ross of ABC. "Your level of skepticism would rise, the more a person has to gain."
"I've never thought that simply relying on a source got you off the hook for your own credibility," said Brooks Jackson, a former investigative reporter for the Wall Street Journal and CNN. Jackson now runs FactCheck.org, a Web site dedicated to reviewing claims made by politicians. . . .
Barlett of Time said yesterday that he and his partner, James B. Steele, had two rules of thumb when evaluating documents of uncertain provenance. First, he said, they consult, at minimum, three or four analysts with expertise in typewriting or handwriting. Second, they would not consider documents that were "10th generation" - that is, photocopied so many times that they could not be credibly examined.
As I noted below, even if by some miracle CBS manages to convince people that these documents aren't frauds, its lapse in professional standards in bringing them forward without more proof of reliability is unforgivable.
Stefan Sharkansky has some observations, including this one: "This failure of credibility at CBS can only magnify doubts about the credibility of other media outlets. . . . The knives are beginning to appear."
And -- speaking of magnifying doubts about credibility! -- the Cincinnati Post looks absolutely clueless, publishing this editorial on the documents today that doesn't even mention their problems. How lame is that?
UPDATE: The Cincinnati Post editorial seems to have been taken down. Hmm.
posted at 11:18 AM by Glenn Reynolds
ERIC MULLER continues his unrelenting critique of Michelle Malkin. Frankly, I might find Muller more persuasive if he didn't rely so heavily on David Neiwert, whose tendency to hurl unsubstantiated charges of racism at anyone he doesn't like has cost him rather a lot of credibility in my eyes.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Neiwert takes exception to this post and says that if I can find an unsubstantiated accusation of racism on his blog he'll apologize. Well, there's this one: " the root of all evil in Reynoldsland are the twin threads of dark-skinned Muslims and left-wing antiwar liberals."
Leaving aside the subject-verb disagreement, Neiwert's use of "dark-skinned" seems like an imputation of racism to me. He's smart enough to know that Muslims aren't all dark-skinned, and that I don't exactly obsess over skin color, or say negative things about Islam, beyond the wacky terror-inspiring varieties (see, for example, this post). Nor does he offer any substantiation in terms of links, or examples that might buttress his case. It's a cheap shot, and he repeats it in this interview. That's why I don't find him especially credible when he's charging people with racism.
But I await the promised apology.
In a related development (unsubstantiated charges) Oliver Willis says that Ed Cone caught me in a "fabrication" -- when the real problem is that Ed didn't scroll down to see the update. Ed's noted that, but Oliver hasn't. David Brock isn't getting his money's worth there.
Yeah, I usually ignore this kind of stuff. But "usually" isn't "always."
MORE: Neiwert emails that he doesn't think that's an accusation of racism, and he's not apologizing. Sure seems like one to me.
APOLOGY UPDATE: No, not to Neiwert, who doesn't deserve it in the least, but to Eric Muller, who got caught in the crossfire. I didn't mean by the above that I don't trust Muller -- I think he's careful and accurate and trustworthy, though I confess that I haven't followed the latter stages of the ongoing Muller/Malkin debate very closely. But I meant my remarks as criticism of Neiwert, rather than Muller, and I didn't phrase them properly to reflect that. My apologies.
posted at 11:14 AM by Glenn Reynolds
SIMON RIGHTLY CHASTISES ME for not paying proper attention to the Jakarta bombing. I've been ill, and distracted, but I should've thrown some links. He's got a roundup, though. Where I drop the ball, the blogosphere picks it up!
Also check out this post for a roundup of asian blogs -- something I've tried to pay attention to in the past, but have neglected recently.
UPDATE: When Tim Lambert agrees with John Lott, you know that the assault weapons ban was a silly law. Funny that so many in the media act like it matters. And it's not just leftist bias -- I heard a Fox News Radio story breathlessly declare that "some of the world's heaviest military weapons" would now be legal for civilians to own. Sheesh.
posted at 08:43 AM by Glenn Reynolds
JOHN FUND thinks that CBS will come to regret Jonathan Klein's unfortunate pajamas remark. But I don't! It's provided a weekend of amusement for the blogosphere. Fund hits the nail on the head:
A defensive Dan Rather went on the air Friday to complain of what he called a "counterattack" from "partisan political operatives." In reality, traditional journalism now has a new set of watchdogs in the "blogosphere." In the words of blogger Mickey Kaus, they can trade information and publicize it "fast enough to have real-world consequences." Sure, blogs can be transmission belts for errors, vicious gossip and last-minute disinformation efforts. But they can also correct themselves almost instantaneously--in sharp contrast with CBS's stonewalling.
UPDATE: Heh: "Welcome to Jammie Nation, where Dan Rather gets his ass kicked by guys in pajamas." Which just makes the whole thing more embarrassing for him, really.
Alert bloggers who knew the difference between the product of old typewriters and new word processors immediately suspected a hoax: the "documents" presented by CBS News suggesting preferential treatment in Lt. George W. Bush's National Guard service have all the earmarks of forgeries. . . .
It may be that CBS is the victim of a whopping journalistic hoax, besmearing a president to bring him down. What should a responsible news organization do?
To shut up sources and impugn the motives of serious critics - from opinionated bloggers to straight journalists - demeans the Murrow tradition. Nor is any angry demand that others prove them wrong acceptable, especially when no original documents are available to prove anything. . . .
Hey, Dan: On this, recognize the preponderance of doubt. Call for a panel of old CBS hands and independent editors to re-examine sources and papers. Courage.
"Preponderance of doubt." I like that.
UPDATE: USA Today has had its own experts look at the documents, and it looks like a "preponderance of doubt" there, too.
I spoke to a big-paper reporter who interviewed me about this story over the weekend. He was amazed that CBS went with the story given the obvious flaws with the documents. And that's right. I suppose it's still barely possible that they might be genuine -- but it was gravely and recklessly irresponsible for CBS to insist on the documents' genuineness when there were so many reasons for doubt, and when CBS, by all appearances, had made no real effort to resolve those questions. I mean, why didn't they get somebody like this to look at the documents?
MORE: Here's an observation from Terry Oglesby that only someone who has used a typewriter will appreciate: the documents are bogus because they show no strikeovers or corrections, even though they were memos to the file. Oglesby writes: "No corrections--erasures, overstrikes, fluid, tape--on that CYA memo. I’m not a document expert, but I have used a typewriter before. Sorry, Mr. Rather, but no matter what your host of 'experts' have told you, the memo you keep waving in the air was done on a computer."
Though as far as we can tell, Rather's "host" of experts consists of one handwriting analyst.
I WAS GOING TO GO BACK over my past few days' posts on the forgery story and put together a summary of where things stand, but Josh Levin of Slate has already done it. It's not quite the summary I would have put together, but it's surprisingly close. However, it omits the Hodges and Staudt issues, which I think are significant. And pajamas are not mentioned.
Read this, too. And, of course, just scroll down a while.
But my favorite part is what's not there -- there's no mention of Instapundit (beyond an oblique reference to pajamas). And there shouldn't be. I took most of Thursday off, with only a passing reference to the forgery story. I stirred myself to blog a bit that evening, but by then the rest of the blogosphere -- especially the Power Line guys -- had done all the heavy lifting.
For a long time, people kept telling me about the centrality of InstaPundit. I always thought they were exaggerating, but now it's obvious -- I make my contributions, but the blogosphere rolls on regardless. Just as my readers are smarter than I am, so the blogosphere is harder-working than I am. And that's a very, very good thing. Especially when you look at the credentials of some of the folks blogging on this subject.
UPDATE: A pajama reference here, too! Jonathan Klein is probably already regretting that remark.
posted at 10:13 PM by Glenn Reynolds
CHRIS MUIR'S DAY BY DAY CARTOON is on indefinite hiatus due to family illness. Please wish him well, and hope for his speedy return.
I don't know how much attention this rally will get in the mainstream press, and I rather doubt that the United Nations crowd reads a lot of weblogs. But I hope that posting this kind of stuff will bring the matter some degree of attention.
"I smell the same New England genius that I smelled in the Dukakis campaign in 1988," Mr. Austin added. "Kerry wants to run as a man of the people, and where do they put him for photo opportunities? Snowboarding in Sun Valley, shooting skeet in the Ohio valley, and windsurfing off that great working-class vacation paradise, Nantucket. Democrats - at least Ohio Democrats - play softball and touch football."
And this is in a piece by R.W. Apple. Is the establishment giving up on Kerry?
UPDATE: Of course, some people think there's actually a strategy where those photo-ops are involved.
Could it be that CBS and Rather wanted to take Bush down a peg — especially given the questions about John Kerry's Vietnam service raised by the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth?
And could it be that CBS and Rather let their well-documented political leanings overrule their journalistic sense? Have they become just another hack voice in the political game?
Sadly, the answer seems to be yes. CBS' bias made it vulnerable to a hoax that fit nicely with the network's left-leaning culture. . . .
It now appears CBS made a grievous mistake or knowingly relayed false information. If so, what credibility does it have left? Even an on-air correction won't undo the damage.
CBS would go a lot further in restoring its credibility if it at least checked into the source and authenticity of the memos.
If it's shown that Democrats or the Kerry campaign are the source — as suggested by comments to the American Spectator by an unnamed Kerry staffer — CBS better say so.
If the documents prove to be forgeries, resignations from Rather and CBS News President Andrew Heyward would be in order — along with a sweeping review of ethical practices at a once-proud news organization.
UPDATE: An observation: "With the New York Times reporting that a key 60 Minutes source has turned on CBS, their earlier decision to 'stand by their story' has doubled a bet on a losing hand."
ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader John Steele emails from Palo Alto:
CBS is full of smart people. It makes no sense to say they're stalling because they believe these things are genuine. They know what we all know. They are stalling to get their ducks in a row:
They are speaking to lawyers to see if a crime has been committed.
They are speaking to lawyers to see if they can/must/may disclose the source.
They are speaking to lawyers to see if they must make disclosure in their SEC filings.
They are speaking internally to see who will resign.
They are speaking internally to see how they will word their retraction.
All that takes time. That is why CBS hasn't updated anything on this for too long. That is why their intitial counter-attacks (e.g., the first version of Times New Roman was invented in 1931), which are obviously inadequate, aren't being buttressed by anything new.
As a news organization and as a publicly traded company, they can't issue half-truths once they suspect what really happened. They are getting ready to make all their announcements at once.
Within 48 hours, CBS will come clean with a noise rivaling the disappearance of Krakatoa.
Let's synchronize our watches and see if he's right. By the way, several readers have emailed to ask if CBS shareholders could file a derivative suit against CBS management, charging them with damaging the company by publishing forgeries. I forwarded one of those emails to Prof. Bainbridge -- who actually works in that area of law -- and he's posted an item on this subject. He thinks there's basically no chance of such an action succeeding.
MORE: Hmm. I don't quite know what to make of this.
STILL MORE: Craig Henderson emails:
The real reason is that it takes time to create far better, professionally produced unbreakable forgeries, which implicate Karl Rove.
Within 48 hours they will "unearth" them.
At this point, nobody's going to buy "newly discovered documents." Well, nobody but Kos, anyway.
posted at 04:47 PM by Glenn Reynolds
THIS ARGUMENT by Edward Mendelson regarding typography and the IBM Selectric Composer would be more impressive if the images were bigger. As it is, they're barely legible, making comparison difficult.
Of course, if they were bigger, you'd probably see something like this.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Paul Boutin is unimpressed with this effort, and says it's easy to tell the difference -- look at the straight vs. curly quotes.
And Charles Johnson says it's not even close. "Calling this a match is completely ridiculous. A person writing for PC Magazine really ought to know better than to try to pull off such an obvious flimflam."
The probability that any technology in existence in 1972 would be capable of producing a document that is nearly pixel-compatible with Microsoft’s Times New Roman font and the formatting of Microsoft Word, and that such technology was in casual use at the Texas Air National Guard, is so vanishingly small as to be indistinguishable from zero.
If someone had come forward presenting a “lost” painting by Leonardo da Vinci, which used acrylic paints including Cadmium Yellow and Titanium White, art experts would roll of the floor laughing at the clumsiness of the forgery. . . . Yet somehow a document which could not be created by any of the common office technology of 1972 is touted as “authentic”.
This is, of course, a classic red flag for art historians on the lookout for fakes: not just the anachronistic detail, but that more fundamental anachronism arising from the forger's inability to recognize (and suppress) the impress of his own time. And when I read attempts to explain how the memos could be genuine, they sound just like a tenaciously deluded owner of a painting, purportedly the work of some great old master, who points to one feature after another that can be paralleled in the master's oeuvre, while failing to see how they add up to a whole that is entirely modern in conception.
THE WHOLE GAY MARRIAGE THING: Occasionally, people want me to blog more on "the issues" and less about stuff like Dan Rather. My advice to them is usually to blog on the issues they think are important, rather than telling me what I ought to be blogging about on my blog. But even I'm suffering from Kerry fatigue these days, and it's nice to break up these endless Christmas-in-Cambodia/CBS forgery posts with something else. So here goes.
Friday night, when I watched Kaus on Dennis Miller's show, part of the discussion involved gay marriage. Chrissy Gephardt (Dick's daughter) was there representing the Stonewall Democrats, and she launched into this whole diatribe about how Bush hates gays and calls them an "abomination." Miller called her on this, and got her to admit that, actually, Bush hadn't ever called gays an "abomination." He also pressed her hard on the gay community's different treatment of Bill Clinton, whose support for the Defense of Marriage Act gets a pass.
But he didn't ask the killer question. The killer question would have been: "What is John Kerry's position on gay marriage?"
Now, of course, any question beginning "what is John Kerry's position. . ." is a tough one. But -- correct me if I'm wrong here -- the only real difference between Kerry and Bush is that Bush has offered vague support to the certain-to-fail Federal Marriage Amendment. But it's, er, certain to fail. Now that's a difference, I guess. But it's not a huge one, and to me it doesn't seem to be a big enough difference to justify the vitriol. (Kerry's been, maybe, more supportive on civil unions, but I wouldn't take that to the bank.)
I support gay marriage, of course, though I'd be lying if I said it was as important to me as it is to, say, Andrew Sullivan. But if you look at the polls, it's opposed about 2-1 by voters. What that means is that you're not likely to see much difference between the parties until somebody thinks they can pick up enough votes to make a difference.
I think that gay marriage is good for everyone. Marriage is a good thing, and I don't see any reason why it wouldn't be just as good a thing for gay people as for straight people. Judging from the gay couples I know, it would be a good thing -- and I'm entirely at a loss to understand why people think gay marriage somehow undermines straight marriage. But to get there, you need to make that case, not just accuse opponents of being closedminded-biblethumping-bigotsoftheredneckreligiousright. (Andrew Sullivan made some of these positive arguments quite well in Virtually Normal, but I don't think the tone on his blog has been as constructive of late.)
Personally, I agree with the guy who told Julian Sanchez that it's a generational thing. As I've mentioned before, attitudes are changing fast, even in Dayton, Tennessee, best known for the Scopes Trial. And my law students seem to expect a change. I'm not sure that name-calling will accelerate this process, though.
I'm no expert political strategist, but it strikes me as a mistake for gay-marriage advocates to take the Bush-bashing Gephardt position. First, with the polls as they are, attacking Bush on gay marriage may solidify the Democratic base, but it probably costs swing voters, at least in the short term. Second, that sort of thing can only serve to alienate Republicans, even those who are supportive, or at least not opposed to, gay marriage. Given that right now it seems likely that we'll see a Republican Congress, and probably a Republican White House, in the coming years, that's probably poor planning, at least if you want actual change and not just an interest-group rallying cry.
Finally, in all of this I'm reminded of something one of the New Haven black panthers said on a radio show I produced back when I was producing radio shows. Looking back at their failures in 1970, he remarked: "Revolution is a process, not an event. It's not enough to agitate, you've got to inform and educate. And they didn't do that." It's possible to package gay marriage as a move toward traditional values and away from 1970s style hedonism (not that there's anything wrong with that). But again, you have to make the case, not call names, if you want to win people over.
So there you are. You want blogging on Bush's vs. Kerry's healthcare plans , you'll have to go somewhere else.
UPDATE: William Kelly objects that Bush's support for the Federal Marriage Amendment isn't "vague." He's right. A better term would be "lukewarm." He's said he's for it, but he hasn't exactly pushed it. Kind of like, to pick one of my issues, his support for a renewal of the Assault Weapons Ban, which was equally pro forma. In both cases, I think he's wrong, and he's pandering -- to different constituencies, of course -- but it's awfully weak pandering, and thus not worth getting too excited about.
Meanwhile, reader Madhu Dahiya offers a different perspective:
I like your blog 'as is', but it is nice when you blog on other topics such as gay marriage. I don't buy the argument that gay marriage undermines heterosexual marriage at all. I think the problem with heterosexual marriage is, uh, heterosexuals. If the opponents of gay marriage were serious about the challenges to straight marriage, then there would be tax credits for Match.com and Eight Minute Dating (and marriage counseling). There would be no mention of sports and steroids in any state of the union speech. Instead, the president would give a stern talking to those men, and women (and you know who you are), WHO NEVER CALL YOU BACK. I mean, you want to move the numbers towards the Republicans in the single, over thirty over educated female-type bracket? Well, there you go. There's an issue that should poll just nicely, thank you very much.
This certainly makes me glad I'm not single anymore. . . .
[LATER: When they don't call, it's because they're just not that into you.]
Once one of 14 Democratic senators to oppose the Defence of Marriage Act, Mr Kerry now favours outlawing all marriages except those between a man and a woman. "I'm against gay marriage," he said. "Everybody knows that."
STILL MORE: Harvard law professor Bill Stuntz emails:
Your post on gay marriage is thoughtful and wise. I write to add a thought about the behavior of all those alleged bigots on the other side.
It seems to me that the gay marriage debate today is the price we pay for Roe v. Wade a generation ago. Roe sent a message to a sizeable fraction of Americans, and the message was: your views don't count. Not "you lose," but "you don't even get to make an argument." I think the rush to constitutionalize marriage is very, very bad in a host of ways and on a host of levels, but it's hard to criticize the religious right for reaching for the weapons the other side used to crush them. Like you, I assume the marriage amendment is going nowhere. Maybe, once that happens, we can actually have a political debate (not a legal argument) that produces compromise and progress instead of polarization and regress. It'd be a nice change.
Keep up the good work. You're terrific.
Oh, and re Bush and Kerry: Has anyone noticed that each of these guys comes from a state his party can't possibly lose? Presidential candidates are career politicians, and they learn their trade running for office in their home states. Bush and Kerry both learned to appeal to very one-sided electorates. Is it any wonder that neither is very good at appealing to the other side? The mystery is why both parties behaved this way. The biggest political talents are generally to be found in swing states, or states that lean the other way: Think Rudy Giuliani in New York, or Arnold Schwarzenegger in California. Those guys are politically dead if they can't talk persuasively to Democrats. Just like John Edwards could never have won in North Carolina if he couldn't speak to Republicans. (If the ticket were reversed, I bet the Democrats would be ahead now.) Let's hope we swing voters get a different and better set of choices in '08.
I think that Texas was competitive until pretty recently, but the point holds. Swing states do seem to punch above their weight -- but I think the apparatus of national parties makes people from safe states stronger internal contenders for a variety of fairly obvious reasons. On the rest -- well: I'm one of the relatively few constitutional law professors who believes that Roe was properly decided, though the rationale needs to be understood in terms of limits to legitimate government power rather than affirmative individual rights. (I have a proof for this, but it will not fit in the margin.) Nonetheless, I think the basic point holds. Without Roe we would have had widespread legal abortion via legislation, something that was already well underway. It might have taken a bit longer, but as a practical matter, it might have been as available as it is now, given the many logistical hurdles in the path of legal abortion in many localities.
Gay marriage is different, but I do think that it would be much better obtained through political than judicial means. I might feel differently if I were gay, and anxious to get married, but of course that cuts both ways.
This is one of those hot-button issues that I don't get. Perhaps it's because I lack fire, but the strong feelings aroused by gay marriage escape me. Still, there's no doubt that many people dislike the idea, do so intensely, and resent efforts to achieve gay marriage without taking their views into account. In a democratic system like ours, their views do matter, one way or another, and I think it's better to try to persuade them. Others, of course, may disagree.
MORE: Andrew Sullivan has posted a nice response. Basically, he sees Bush as a cynical manipulator of homophobia. I see Bush as a beleaguered guy trying to keep his coalition together to fight a war, doing the bare minimum on this front to get by. Which of us is right? Your call.
posted at 02:53 PM by Glenn Reynolds
C-SPAN will be showing Vietnam Vets for the Truth (NOT to be confused with the Swift Boat guys) at 2. Live video here.
posted at 01:44 PM by Glenn Reynolds
HEH: Sadly, this may be close to the truth. And there's this: "You know, I think I figured out why this thing is so fascinating to me, and to so many other people. (Beyond how hilarious it is, of course.) It's because, even if I don't know exactly how I feel about Iraq or Bush vs. Kerry or any of that, I know what I can see with my own freaking eyes."
And this image, illustrating that point, is an animated file created by Charles Johnson, which alternates between the CBS version and what he typed straight into Microsoft Word using the defaults. The only differences appear to be the result of faxing and copying.
And Hugh Hewitt has a RatherGate roundup that is very useful, pulling together the many different threads and contradictions in one place.
I make a (very brief) appearance, with comments actually shot for Evan's forthcoming longer film. The gist: In movies like Animal House, it's uptight conservatives like Dean Wormer who are coming down on students; nowadays the Dean Wormers are on the left, but not much else has changed.
DALLAS — New information casts additional doubts about the authenticity of the memos purportedly written concerning President Bush by a former superior officer in the Texas Air National Guard in the 1970s, as Dan Rather and CBS News doggedly stuck to their guns defending the documents.
"They're forged as hell," said Earl W. Lively, 76, who during the era in question was director of Texas Air National Guard operations in Austin.
posted at 10:49 AM by Glenn Reynolds
TOM MAGUIRE continues to be on a roll. So does Ed Morrissey. Just keep scrolling. And the Power Line guys remain RatherGate Central, of course, so keep checking them out, too.
posted at 09:51 AM by Glenn Reynolds
LOOKS LIKE IVAN is set to bullseye Grand Cayman. When I was last there, our dive operator Peter Milburn -- a longtime Caymanian who taught Peter Benchley how to scuba dive -- pointed to all the development on the beach and said "Next big hurricane, it'll all be gone." He said they were building too close to the beach and cutting corners on protection. The only good news is that the water around Grand Cayman is so deep (3000-5000 feet until a few hundred yards from shore, most places) that the storm surge won't build up as much as it will elsewhere. That's just as well, given that the highest place on the island is probably only 20 feet above sea level. Still the last hurricane (Michelle) really tore up the reef -- which is probably the best in the Western Hemisphere -- and this is likely to do even more damage.
posted at 09:22 AM by Glenn Reynolds
DON'T TRUST CONTENT FROM SIXTY MINUTES: Reader Gail Keasling sends this link to the abstract of a Washington Post report from April 13, 1999, about CBS presenting a story involving fake documents and phony witnesses. I looked up the whole thing, and here's a bit more:
For the second time in four months, CBS's "60 Minutes" has made an on-air apology regarding a report about drug smuggling. This time it's over a memo that turned out to be bogus.
Correspondent Lesley Stahl delivered the apology on Sunday's broadcast, as part of a settlement with a customs official who had sued the newsmagazine.
In December, "60 Minutes" founder Don Hewitt apologized on-air for a June 1, 1997, story based on a British documentary about smugglers who swallowed heroin in latex gloves to get past authorities. An investigative panel later determined that the documentary producers had faked locations and paid actors to portray drug couriers.
In Sunday's apology, Stahl emphasized that the April 20, 1997, segment accurately reported on the flow of illegal drugs across the U.S.-Mexico border at San Diego.
But that report, which was presented by Mike Wallace, cited a memo said to be written by Rudy Camacho, the San Diego district director of the Customs Service, calling for customs agents to quickly process trucks owned by a company linked to Mexican drug cartels.
The Customs Service in Washington investigated and found the memo to be fake, and that no preferential treatment was offered, Stahl said. "60 Minutes" had already reported in February 1998 that the memo was declared bogus. But Camacho sued; the on-air apology was part of an "amicable settlement" between him and CBS News, a "60 Minutes" spokesman said.
"We have concluded that we were deceived, and ultimately so were you, our viewers," Stahl said. "Under the circumstances, we regret that any reference to that memo or to Mr. Camacho's connection with it was included in our original report and apologize for any harm to Mr. Camacho's professional reputation and any distress caused to him and his family."
So how come the apology wasn't given by Wallace? The "60 Minutes" rep says Wallace was in California last Thursday and Friday on a story.
I guess Dan Rather's behavior is in character, then.