The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes
Monday, May 31, 2004
Prohibition lite - the incomprehensible age-limit for drinking
In every country, a natural conservatism leads to the preservation of laws and institutions that, objectively, are counter-productive or just damned weird.
(In Europe, we have the Common Agricultural Policy, that subsidises Greek tobacco farmers - who produce tobacco which is to Virginia what gros rouge is (or was) to Château Lafite - whilst campaigning to end smoking.)
But only - well, signally - in the US do they start with a position of sweet reasonableness and voluntarily introduce such indefensible laws and institutions. And promote them with messianic fervour.
Slavery was somewhat different: all the main European countries had it, and political agitation was needed to secure emanicipation. But, the process saw the slave-trading and -holding interests largely on the defensive, seeking to make the best deal from an inevitable process.
Even in the US, into the 1830s, something of the sort was underway: gradual emancipation had long been the rule in the Northern states, and even Virginia sheltered a large swathe of pro-emancipation counties.
By the 1850s, the fire-eaters were telling everyone just what a thoroughly excellent institution slavery was - something to be celebrated, not to be allowed to wither.
Prohibition, in its turn, gained fanatical support; in the same period as the UK was limiting drunkenness by reducing the number of pubs licensed and their hours of opening, America went hog-wild to go the whole hog.
And now, technicalities apart, 20 year olds can be sent to jail for having a can of beer in their hands.
Old enough to hold Iraqi prisoners by the dog-lead; not old enough to chug a brewski.
My understanding is that the alcohol rule is imposed by Federal blackmail - what better, and cheaper, sign of sanity could John Kerry give than to promise to seek repeal of this absurd law?
Chances of him taking up the suggestion? As they used to say down in John Edwards country, Likely as a nigger slapping a white woman on the ass in Mississippi.
The law at the root of the lunacy  is, I find, the Uniform Drinking Age Act, HR 4616, which became PL 98-363. Don't bother looking for the text on THOMAS: the summary sheets go back to the 93rd Congress  but the texts only to the 101st, dammit!
It turns out that the law is now 23 USC 408, headed Alcohol traffic safety programs. §408(a) says:
Subject to the provisions of this section, the Secretary shall make grants to those States which adopt and implement effective programs to reduce traffic safety problems resulting from persons driving while under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance...
The Secretary shall, by rule, establish criteria for effective programs to reduce traffic safety problems resulting from persons driving while under the influence of alcohol...Such criteria may include, but need not be limited to, requirements -
An interesting quote from HL Mencken on the subject, dating from 1914:
There has never been a large political or social question before the American people which did not quickly resolve itself into a moral question.
Unfortunately, the source for this is not online.
(The quote comes from a 1996 piece in CJR - love those deep, deep archives! - on a flurry of books on the Clinton White House - including Bob Woodward's The Choice - and their treatment in the media. It dares to criticise Uncle Bob! Hopefully, I'll come back to it.)
Why misspellings persist in Big Media
Though it may not always be apparent, I fairly religiously run my stuff through Bill Gates' spellchecker before slapping it on the blog.
My understanding is that many Big Media outlets have foresworn the use of the gizmo. Howie Kurtz shows why:
Mort Kondracke's column in last week's Washington Times had some rather unorthodox names: Defense Secretary Donald Ruffed. Democratic candidate John Gerry. The Bookings Institutionalize. The Viet Congo. Deposed Iraqi dictator Adam Hussies and the country's national security adviser, Moonwalk al-Rubies.
The version noted by Kurtz no longer seems to be on the Times site. This is, I surmise, the article pre-spellcheck.
Uncle Sam's Mideast Viceroy in trouble?
I don't normally opine on doings in Israel - Language Rule  oblige - but our friends in the media (believe them or not) are riffing on Bad Times for Sharon, with Benjamin Netanyahu, though within the tent, pissing all over his prime minister (here and here).
I have not the slightest feel for what the real story is here: whether it's a floor-show for the benefit of Uncle Sam or sections of Likud, or whether it's the Real Deal - to coin a phrase! - I know not.
But, set against the forceful vision of the PNAC Middle East Empire, with democracy for all (who go along with Uncle Sam), of which the Iraq Cakewalk was merely the taster, the scene has amusement value. Far from controlling an entire region, the Fat Man proves unable even to control his own party.
And how pathetic is that?
Are John Kerry's liberal imperialist friends taking notes?
A referendum grows in Venezuela, after all
And Jimmy Carter says everything's fine - so that's all right then...
The detail makes Jarndyce v Jarndyce look like traffic court . The bare bones seem to be that Article 72 of the Constitution says that any elected official can be recalled once he's served half of his term, by a referendum called for by at least 20% of the voters for his constituency. President Hugo Chávez took office on February 3 1999.
Article 233 says that, if a President is ousted by, inter alia, a referendum vote, a new election is to be held. Fine. Except that there is an exception: if the ouster occurs within the final two years of the alloted six year term, there is no election, and the Vice President serves out the balance of the term.
(The Vice President is José Vicente Rangel - from his bio, he's not exactly a friend of the opposition!)
Now, the last presidential election was held on June 30 2000; I'm not sure when Chávez took office pursuant to that election. The referendum is due to be held on August 8; I suspect that will push Chávez more than four years into his current term.
Which leaves the puzzle: the Constitution - which came into force on January 1 2000, I think, provides a twelve month window for a recall referendum to force a new presidential election: between the end of the third year (half way through the mandate) and the end of the fourth.
It looks like, if Chávez took office pursuant to the 2000 election on, say, August 1 2000, Rangel would serve out his term; if on August 10 2000, the opposition would get new elections.
Crazy! I can't imagine it's as simple as that (it does give a very good reason why Chávez would have played for time with his friends in the electoral commission, though).
Question is, will I be intrigued enough to do some spadework? (Don't hold your breath.)
MORE (June 6)
It seems that the date is indeed critical: according to a piece today in Clarín of Buenos Aires, the cut-off date is August 19: if the recall election is held after that date, the Vice President would take over if Chávez lost.
The opposition want the current planned date of August 8 to be persisted with. Clarín says Chávez may be planning to resign to forestall the referendum: that way, apparently, elections can be called at which the old goat can stand. (I haven't checked that out!)
The Great Colorado Constitution Subversion Caper - again
On May 29, I outlined an initiative to be proposed to the good people of Colorado to change the basis on which the state's 9 electoral votes are to be allocated.
It's light relief - what in Britain is known as an And finally story .
I go back to Google News to see how the story has developed. It hasn't. Just the piece in Rocky Mountain News I'd come in on.
I notice in the RMN piece that
The Colorado initiative has been bankrolled, to the tune of $150,000, by something called The People's Choice for President, formed in San Francisco. This is another of these stealth groups that seek to fly under the public radar.
It seems to be succeeding. I can trace no site, or other online sign of its activities. Nor of
The People's Choice for President's campaign adviser, Rick Rudder, ...a Democratic activist who's worked for Eugene McCarthy, George McGovern, Ralph Nader, Gary Hart, Al Gore, Bill Clinton and Howard Dean.
Does April Fool's Day come late that far west?
The initiative exists: in the list , it is #99: those named as promoting it are Parry Burnap and Mark Morland. Are these gentlemen real? Burnap, it seems, is one of the managers of Terrachord LLC . Morland is a Councilman in Manitou Springs.
But I can't trace any website for the initiative. So what have they been spending that $150,000 on? Is it all too early for any activity?
My interest has been strangely piqued...
Sunday, May 30, 2004
Kerry: pre-emption with coalition?
Kerry's topic of the moment is foreign affairs. On May 29, I mentioned an interview in which he seemed to be pointing in the right direction - that is, away from a liberal version of the PNAC crusade.
Before the interview, there was the speech - in Seattle on May 27 on Security and Strength for a New World.
In which he says about his strategy for the War on Terror
This strategy focuses not only on what we must do, but on what we must prevent. We must ensure that lawless states and terrorists will not be armed with weapons of mass destruction.
Four words: North Korea and too late.
Any potential adversary should know that we will defend ourselves against the possibility of attack by unconventional arms. If such a strike does occur, as commander-in-chief, I will respond with overwhelming and devastating force. If such an attack appears imminent, as commander-in-chief, I will do whatever is necessary to stop it. And, as commander-in-chief, I will never cede our security to anyone. I will always do what is necessary to safeguard our country.
He uses the I-word, note. A formulation not quite as restrictive as Daniel Webster's in the well-known case of the Caroline - but recognising the need to weight the balance against war. What do what is necessary means it's harder to judge.
Kerry is, of course, doing the minimum - what Howard Fineman calls the sock-puppet strategy: to do nothing to get in the way of ABB sentiment, as Iraq goes down the toilet, and the Administration's rows become ever more public.
I mentioned on May 24 Sandy Berger's piece in Foreign Affairs which suggests to Kerry a policy scarcely less strenuous than Bush's. Casting an eye over the text again - I really must get round to reading the thing properly! - I note this, on the North Korean nuclear problem:
The worst option is one in which cash-starved North Korea becomes a supplier of nuclear weapons to al Qaeda or Hamas or to radical Chechens, who then deliver them to Washington, London, or Moscow.
I suspect that the residents of Seoul, cowering beneath the batteries of rather tasty North Korean artillery, may not agree !
(Berger is described here as an outside adviser to John Kerry.)
Kerry gives us the old walk softly and carry a big stick line. The speech of Theodore Roosevelt in which he first brought the line to prominence was given at the Minnesota State Fair in St Paul on September 2 1901.
(The speech was delivered as Vice-President: William McKinley was assassinated on September 14 1901.)
According to David Sanger and Jodi Wilgoren of the New York Times, in the interview- which must have been to several papers at once - that I mentioned in my May 29 piece:
While critical of Bush for making military pre-emption a central doctrine, Kerry insisted he would be willing to use it as a "last resort."
I'd like to see Kerry's view on paper in his own words - or written by one of his hacks, at least - before firming up any judgement on what his policy is on pre-emption. Will that happen before November? Is the Pope Jewish? Meanwhile, we have to make do with interviews and Sandy Surrogate...
At long last Okrent?
As promised, today New York Times ombud Daniel Okrent has added his two cents to the debate on the Times's coverage of Iraqi WMD .
Now, an emerging lesson from the self-education process going on here about the ways of journalism is that news articles are meant to be parsed, not read. And Okrent is, perhaps, one of the journos whose pieces as a rule are least susceptible to being understood in a single belt.
Today's piece is plainer than his average. And, not exactly fire-eating in tone, there's naught (or very little) for the comfort of Times management in the substance.
FROM the moment this office opened for business last December, I felt I could not write about what had been published in the paper before my arrival. Once I stepped into the past, I reasoned, I might never find my way back to the present.
Woah! Let's back up a bit. But only two months to March 28, when I mentioned that Okrent had answered the critics of the stance mentioned in the lede by producing a statement from Times Executive Editor Bill Keller in his pseudo-blog, which includes the words
I did not see a prima facie case for recanting or repudiating the stories.
What made Okrent change his mind? And when? He says that he told Keller on May 18 he'd be writing a piece on the subject; and that, for the piece, he's
spoken to nearly two dozen current and former Times staff members whose work touched on W.M.D. coverage
Okrent's view of the Times's recantation, in the form of the Editor's Note, is yes, but:
I think they got it right. Mostly.
In criticising the paper for putting the Note on A10 he's slipstreaming behind customers of the New York Times News Service (May 26).
But then he sets to work in earnest:
Some of The Times's coverage in the months leading up to the invasion of Iraq was credulous; much of it was inappropriately italicized by lavish front-page display and heavy-breathing headlines; and several fine articles by David Johnston, James Risen and others that provided perspective or challenged information in the faulty stories were played as quietly as a lullaby.
Okrent rightly fixes on the failures as systemic - but makes it commendably plain that what he has in mind is not some corporate colonic irrigation - along the lines of the Two Minute Hate at Orwell's Ministry of Truth - to purge guilt, followed by a return to business as usual.
Thus, he says that
reporters do not put stories into the newspaper. Editors make assignments, accept articles for publication, pass them through various editing hands, place them on a schedule, determine where they will appear. Editors are also obliged to assign follow-up pieces when the facts remain mired in partisan quicksand.
And he rightly points out that the demonising of Judith Miller - the handle of choice in the liberal echo-chamber, what there is of it - is beside the point:
pinning this on Miller alone is both inaccurate and unfair: in one story on May 4, editors placed the headline "U.S. Experts Find Radioactive Material in Iraq" over a Miller piece even though she wrote, right at the top, that the discovery was very unlikely to be related to weaponry.
Okrent then identifies
the journalistic imperatives and practices that led The Times down this unfortunate path.The humour is sardonic - and the checklist may prove useful for future reference.
Okrent wants more from Times management:
The editors' note to readers will have served its apparent function only if it launches a new round of examination and investigation. I don't mean further acts of contrition or garment-rending, but a series of aggressively reported stories detailing the misinformation, disinformation and suspect analysis that led virtually the entire world to believe Hussein had W.M.D. at his disposal.
The Editor's Note ends with this graf:
We consider the story of Iraq's weapons, and of the pattern of misinformation, to be unfinished business. And we fully intend to continue aggressive reporting aimed at setting the record straight.
So, everybody's on the same page at the Times - rather than moving on, all agree that aggressive reporting of the paper's WMD saga is the order of the day.
Now, it's an election year, with consequent feverish political activity in and outside Washington; and Iraq's daily production of newsworthy events is unlikely to slacken for months to come. The folks who would be doing all this aggressive reporting would have to be pulled off current stories in one or other of these areas. And many would have been involved, one way or another, in the original reporting (or lack of it) of the WMD story.
Culturally, it's going to be a hard sell. Editors responsible for filling the news-hole each day are not going to want their stars being put off their oats by cuttings wars over coverage that is now land-fill. Blue-eyed boys and girls are going to be pouting to their patrons in senior management; others may be used as hatchet-men in proxy wars between top Times managers.
Still, for at least the next year, we have Okrent on hand to keep an eye to make sure that that aggressive reporting actually happens...
On Ahmed Chalabi, Okrent provides the following titbit:
Readers were never told that Chalabi's niece was hired in January 2003 to work in The Times's Kuwait bureau. She remained there until May of that year.
STILL MORE (June 2)
Romenesko has loadsa links - here and here - on reaction to Okrent and to the New York story. They include a stream of Okrent on NPR's Weekend Edition.
The Pinochet caravan sets off again
The guy is a one-man WPA for lawyers.
When the fanatic Spanish judge Baltasar Garzón punk'd the British government with his extradition request for the old soldier some years ago, he occupied the House of Lords (the UK's top court) no fewer that three times , and had Home Secretary Jack Straw praying the guy would put in an Oscar-winning performance with the quacks to enable him finally to sling his dago ass out of the country.
He still has not had the grace to kick the bucket. And, so long as he lingers, the anachronists and stirrers will try to get him arraigned.
The latest decision, of the Corte de Apelaciones de Santiago, is to lift his immunity as ex-President in relation to charges concerning his involvement with Operation Condor.
Apparently, the decision came as a surprise - an El Mercurio piece says that the groups bringing the case were merely going through the motions.
The Chilean judiciary have been this way before, leading to a decision from the Supreme Court in 2000 that Pinochet was not fit to stand trial .
The latest decision seems to be down to a change in the makeup of the Corte de Apelaciones since 2000, and a TV interview Pinochet gave to a Miami TV station last November - he was just a tad too alert, apparently!
I'll keep half an eye on this: I can't see Pinochet ever facing trial, nor that Ricardo Lagos is really terribly keen on seeing him in the dock. Seeing him wriggle out of it might be amusing. (Next stop, the Supreme Court, I fancy.)
[The case underlines yet again the thundering irony: grandstander Garzón goes after American dictators and their henchmen.
Yet, of prosecutions of the misdeeds of the regime of General Franco, we hear precisely nada. For decades in the 19th and early 20th century, Spanish politics were a musical comedy, just like those of their American cousins in more recent decades; in 1936, the joking stopped, and, it seems, no one - not even the flamboyant Garzón - wants the country to gesture towards jokedom again.
I'm not even sure whether the acts of the Franco regime are legally amnestied. I suspect it wouldn't have been necessary.]
Further particulars on the Spanish question:
There is indeed an amnesty for crimes committed under the Franco regime - two amnesties, in fact. This Nizkor page has links to a lot of useful-looking material.
It put out a paper in April 2004 (in Spanish and English) which proposes, on the basis of various human rights treaties discussed at some length, to tear up the post-Franco settlement and start digging up bodies, literally and metaphorically.
Good luck with that!
Even the new Spanish prime minister, the PSOE's  José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero (to name but one!), is - my hunch - unlikely to go the way of Argentina's President Néstor Kirchner, and leap to let the sunlight in, like the eminently childish Pip in the famous curtain-ripping scene  from Great Expectations.
There may be some meat on the report of a 2003 seminar Democratic Development and Reckoning with the Past: The Case of Spain in Comparative Context. And a 2000 paper Models of Transitional Justice - A Comparative Analysis looks at various countries - Spain, Greece, Guatemala and others: worth a gander, I think.
Saturday, May 29, 2004
Electoral college antics in Colorado
Whatever else the 2000 presidential election managed, for a while it put the institution of the electoral college on the map. This token of the visceral hatred of popular democracy amongst the Founding Fathers had, it seemed, somehow, previously to have passed largely unnoticed by foreign admirers of American democracy.
The rule is, of course, that the winner of each state's popular vote takes all the electoral votes for the state. Now, a campaign is underway to get Colorado to join Nebraska and Maine as the exceptions to that rule. However,
In Nebraska and Maine, a candidate gets one electoral vote for each congressional district carried and two more for winning the statewide vote. Under that formula, Al Gore would have gotten two of Colorado's electoral votes in 2000, instead of none.
The piece points out the downside: if Colorado could offer not its complete tally of 9 EVs, but only a margin of one or two, would candidates put in any effort to campaign in the state?
It's a Democratic ramp - surprise, surprise. Catch the Dems supporting spliting the EVs in California or New York, for instance!
Nothing wrong in that - after all, the Supreme Court has just given political gerrymandering the thumbs-up (or rather, the Nothing to do with me, guv) in Vieth v Jubelirer - explained here - it's all part of life's rich pageant  in American politics. No cause to be po-faced...
Kerry straw in the wind on foreign policy
A WaPo piece (May 30) on an interview  on foreign policy by John Kerry suggests that the neocon crusade may not be replaced by a liberal one if the man wins:
He said securing all nuclear materials in Russia, integrating China in the world economy, achieving greater controls over Pakistan's nuclear weapons or winning greater cooperation on terrorist financing in Saudi Arabia trumped human rights concerns in those nations.
The piece suggests that
In many ways, Kerry laid out a foreign-policy agenda that appeared less idealistic about U.S. aims than President Bush or even former president Bill Clinton...
Clinton, one recalls, joined Saint Tony Blair in his campaign to Bomb for Jesus in Kosovo - the first illegal - but oh so noble! - war of the new era that set us up for the second in Iraq.
As well as a pledge of no more Iraqs, we need an equally strong assurance from Kerry that there will be no more Kosovos.
One interview is, of course, nothing. But at least the rhetoric has Kerry pointing in the right direction.
That thing that Mao Tse-tung said about a journey of a hundred miles begins with a single step - perhaps that's the step. Perhaps not.
Remembering the man with a hole in his shoe
John Kerry is trying to secure the top job by making as slight an impression on the voters as possible, it sometimes seems. The tactical sense of that has, of course, been debated into the ground.
Which put me in mind of another guy who made no impression, Adlai Stevenson. The man who brought to an end twenty years of Democratic tenancy of the White House: from president for life to two-time failure in three candidates!
This page helpfully explains the reference, with illustration:
Photographer William M. Gallagher won the 1953 Pulitzer Prize for this photograph of Stevenson on the campaign trail in 1952. The image of the "Man with a Hole in his Shoe" remained with Stevenson and served as a symbol of his efforts during the 1956 presidential campaign.
The vice presidential slot in '52 was filled - No niggers need apply - by John Sparkman of Alabama: ah, the real Democratic Party!
(I have a book, The Uses of Power: 7 Cases in American Politics, which has a chapter on the 1952 Democratic Convention. I'll try to give it a squint and see what it says.)
This was the year that Lion of the South, Richard Russell, took it into his head that he could get himself to the head of the ticket. By then, almost twenty years in the Senate and risen to the rank of Eminence Grise, and still with the sense of a five year old when it came to national politics.
(As described in Robert Caro's Master of the Senate, Russell's protégé, Lyndon Johnson, had a similar rush of blood to the head in 1956.)
The relationship between Stevenson, the Mr Clean of Illinois politics, and the Cook County machine, is, I suspect, an interesting story. Kelly-Nash must have been on the way out as he was on the way in - some actual facts would be helpful here, I fancy...
Reflections on longevity- #94 Kenny Everett and Michael Foot
Strange the things that pop into one's mind.
Back in 1983, at the nadir of the Labour Party, it was led to stunning defeat by the shambling old socialist firebrand, scion of a West Country Liberal family, Michael Foot.
With the gait of a Chelsea Pensioner, needing a walking-cane to get about, he was an apt image of a party in an advanced state of decrepitude. Notoriously, he wore a casual coat - the infamous donkey-jacket - to a Remembrance Day ceremony at the Cenotaph.
Everett was a queer (in more ways than one) DJ and comedian, who gave an extraordinary performance at a Conservative election rally, in which he made various radical policy proposals to those present, amongst other things:
Let's kick Michael Foot's stick away!
Foot, still needing that stick to get about, is still with us; Everett is long gone.
Funny old world...
Friday, May 28, 2004
JFK news management: never underestimate the outright lie
As regular readers will be aware, I've been looking at Daniel Hallin's Uncensored War for a little compare and contrast action with the present sorry state of US political news coverage.
On May 22, I mentioned a flat Kennedy lie from 1962 that proved very effective in killing a nascent story on the use of US troops in combat in Vietnam.
But the Kennedy Administration was required early on to get into the business of the downright lie to preserve their Vietnam options: Hallin (p26ff) looks at the coverage the New York Times gave to the Taylor-Rostow Mission , that set off on October 15 1961.
Gen Maxwell Taylor's report (the Evaluation and Conclusions section- executive summary, kinda - was mostly written by Walt Rostow, I gather) of November 3 1961, supported by Robert McNamara and the JCS , was for the deployment of a limited number of US combat troops . Discussions in appendices to the Taylor Report canvas the possibility of the large-scale deployment of forces from the US or SEATO ; such deployment is ruled out in the short-term, but leaving open the possibility should the dire military and political state of South Vietnam (described in the Report) go from bad to worse.
News management of the Report, and the Administration response, was designed to ensure that there was no news.
Now, as we know, for something to acquire the status of news generally requires an event - which requirement the Mission, the Report and the response would all fulfil; but also some change of position. An report of stasis - All Quiet on the Western Front - will not normally count.
(Hallin refers (p29) to Korea as an object-lesson for a Democratic president: avoid a limited land war in Asia. But - to protect his right flank - the need to avoid seeming soft on Communism - not something Kennedy was instinctively prone to being. Standing firm fitted the bill: but this image would clearly be undercut by a change in policy as significant as deploying combat troops to Vietnam.)
On top of this (p30)
One sure way to arouse the Right was to reject military advice.
Yet Kennedy's decision was to reject the Pentagon's proposal for 8,000 combat troops to be introduced for Mekong flood relief. How could the circle be squared?
By lying, of course. And avoiding Administration leaks, natch.
In the middle of October, Hallin says, the New York Times was already seeding the eventual party line :
Military leaders at the Pentagon, no less that General Taylor himself, are understood to be reluctant to send organized US combat units into Southeast Asia.
The Times reported on November 4 1961 :
The General declined to comment directly on whether he would recommend sending United States combat troops...
The Pentagon Papers  says
The submission of Taylor's Report was followed by prominent news stories the next morning flatly stating (but without attribution to a source [plus ça change!]) that the President "remains strongly opposed to the dispatch of American combat troops to South Vietnam" and strongly implying that General Taylor had not recommended such a commitment.
The section continues by pointing out that President Ngo Dinh Diem was unusually helpful:
Diem himself had given one of his rare on-the-record interviews to the New York Times correspondent [which?] in Saigon while Taylor was on his way home, and he too gave the impression that the further American aid he expected would not include ground troops.
And goes on:
Consequently, the general outline of the American aid that would be sent following the Taylor Mission was common knowledge for over a week before any formal decision was made.
The PP gives some context: other foreign stories competing for the news-hole included the (only recently ex-Belgian) Congo and the standoff with the USSR over Berlin, where
there had just been a symbolic confrontation of Soviet and American tanks.
The Times was called in, in the manner of air support, to give the Administration cover over the entire Cold War front:
The Administration was so concerned about public reaction to Soviet aggressiveness and apparent American inability to deal with it that a campaign was begun (as usual in matters of this sort, reported in the Times without specific attribution) to "counter-attack against what unnamed 'high officials' called a 'rising mood of national frustration.'" The Administration's message, the Times reported, was that a "mature foreign policy" rather than "belligerence of defeatism" was what was needed. What is interesting about such a message is what the necessity to send it reveals about the mood of the times.
So, a smooth news management operation on combat troops: public opinion conditioned to expect the decision ultimately made.
Not entirely. The PP go on (emphasis in the original):
The story appearing the day after the report was submitted, despite the flat statements against the use of combat troops, also stated that Taylor had recommended "the dispatch of more specialists in anti-guerrilla warfare to train Vietnamese troops, communications and transportation specialists, and army engineers to help the Vietnamese government combat its flood problems." The November 5 story was more explicit. It is noted that officials seemed to rule out the use of U.S. combat forces, "the move considered here a few weeks ago." But "at the same time it appears that Army engineers, perhaps in unusually large numbers, may be sent to help on flood control work and other civil projects and to fight if necessary." This last phrase was explicitly (and correctly) linked to the fact that the area in which the floods had taken place (the Delta) was precisely the area of greatest Viet Cong strength.
One has to admire the subtlety of in unusually large numbers!
As it happens, between the McNamara paper of November 8, and the McNamara-Rusk paper of November 11 1961 , the idea of sending troops for flood relief has disappeared - PP fingers Kennedy - who else would it be? - as responsible: no doubt, later historians have teased out the details.
The NSC met to approve the response to Taylor-Rostow on November 15; NSAM 111 was approved on November 22.
On November 16, the Times reports :
President Kennedy has decided on the measures that the United States is prepared to take to strengthen South Vietnam against attack by the Communists.
Hallin (p31) identifies some of the features of the case:
Clearly, I'll be coming back to this. But the overall impression is of an Administration every bit as contemptuous of the media and disregarding of the voters as Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Co.
And the New York Times might as well have been edited by Judith Miller for the amount of independence on display!
Liberal media and the Pew study
That great shouting-match topic for bloviators right and left finally gets decided on the facts.
Well, let's not go overboard: but the poll from Pew dated May 23 2004 under the heading Bottom-Line Pressures Now Hurting Coverage, Say Journalists offers striking evidence.
This survey of US journalists about their profession appears to demonstrate that, judged by self-evalutation, journalists as a bunch are markedly more liberal than the population at large: on p26, it says that while only 20% of the public call themselves liberal, 34% of national press journalists do; and, though 33% of the public call themselves conservative, only 7% of national press journalists do.
If those numbers can be believed - beware artefacts! - Rush and Co were right all along, it seems.
The survey tests these headline figures with questions on various topics: for instance, on p27, it says that, whilst 42% of the public thought that homosexuality should be discourage by society, only 5% of national press journalists agreed. (Hence the widespread whooping and hollering over the Mass marriage mayhem - and the silent scream from Camp Kerry (!) for their friends in the media to shut the fuck up about the wretched topic.)
Naturally, you ask: if hackdom is so clearly skewed left, why in Sam Hill have they been feather-bedding Bush for most of his term to date? Pew asks (p16) whether Bush has had it too easy - all but local TV journos say, yes - but why would obviously have been technically too tricky a question to get any worthwhile response.
There's plenty else in the poll - well worth a gander.
Hard news on the op-ed pages
A Stanford U page, Grade the News, picks up a piece in the San Jose Mercury News that has put noses out of joint: an
editorial, which apparently took news reporters and editors by surprise, [which] alleged that San Jose City Councilman Terry Gregory "appears to have violated numerous state and local ethics laws, possibly including soliciting a bribe."
It's like a nightmare version of the movie trope - I seem to remember a flick called War Games - where, in order to crash an evil android or computer counting down to inevitable doom, Our Hero presents it with some kind of paradox, that blows its circuits and saves humanity.
In the fantasy world of objective journalism, news and opinion are like matter and anti-matter. And now some bright spark at the Mercury has mixed the two - run for your lives!
The words deckchairs and Titanic spring to mind...
Looks like we overdid it with the metaphors...
Iconic British advertisement (1990s) for the Australian lager Castlemaine XXXX: sheep-shearers overseeing the loading of a pickup with cases of XXXX; a couple of bottles of (local) sherry added 'for the ladies'; back axle gives way.
Unperturbed, one shearer says to the other
Looks like we overdid it with the sherry.
(Ordinarily, I'd let those sufficiently interested to trace such matters via Mr Google: turns out, the sherry ad doesn't seem to be described online.)
LA Times dumb on plagiarism
Plagiarism is Wag the Dog for media organisations: pretty baubles designed to keep the attention of the dumb savages while their womenfolk are bundled off.
The Times, unfortunately, chose to lift from a Howard Kurtz piece in WaPo a graf, more or less whole, which included a reference to Jack Shafer.
Shafer is rightly relaxed about the original offence, and rather more concerned at the Times' obduracy in refusing to acknowledge their fault.
NYT-Miller: thoughts provoked
Naturally, for the coverage - and the URLs, one starts at Romenesko .
For checking the Editor's Note, the Democracy Now page itemises offending articles with their errors - the original Jack Shafer pieces in Slate will also come in handy, of course.
Shafer, in his Wednesday piece, is magnanimous to a fault: after some weighty caveats, he says
But as a demonstration of accountability, it exceeds what most of the rest of the errant press corps has done by a factor of 100.
Does he know something we don't? (He queries, as I do - previous piece - why now? without supplying an answer.) Perhaps Okrent has tipped him off on the megatonnage of his Sunday piece.
(He's not interested in parsing the Note - disparages parsers, in fact. Odd.)
The Note is, of course, written in a species of mandarin prose not unlike that employed by Okrent: doubly mandarin in resembling the proverbial Chinese meal (an hour after consuming it, you're hungry again) - except that, with the Note, the hunger pangs are instantaneous!
And, of all people, departed Times Executive Editor Howell Raines stomps all over the wretched thing:
...editors' notes do not give readers the facts, analysis and context they need about disputed stories. I found this editors' note as vague and incomplete as some that have preceded it.
Raines has a rap-sheet as long as Broadway (for a start, he was Miller's boss - apparently, she was something of his blue-eyed girl - through most of the time she was peddling WMD falsehoods): the most impartial reading would support his contention, though.
On NewsHour, Susan Moeller of Maryland U, whose essential study of coverage of WMD has featured several times here, was not impressed:
...they weren't tough on themselves. It was…you asked the top of this story about the difference between a correction box and the editor's note. In many ways to me this was much too much of a correction box.
The USA Today piece has George Stephanopoulos denying that the Times WMD pieces led the US to war. Straw man alert, of course: puzzles me why the guy should be stepping up for the Times in the first place, though.
James C Moore's 3,500 word Salon piece is perhaps the longest post-Note piece on the Miller/WMD farrago, and features snippets from an interview done (when?) by Moore with Miller. It covers familiar ground, but raises one or two interesting points.
For instance, Miller states her MO thus:
...All I can rely on is what people tell me. That's all any investigative reporter can do. And if you find out that it's not true, you go back and write that. You just keep chipping away at an assertion until you find out what stands up.
Moore then comments:
In that description of her methodology, Miller described a type of journalism that publishes works in progress, and she raises, inadvertently, important questions about the craft. If highly placed sources in governments and intelligence operations give her information, is she obligated to sit on it until she can corroborate? How does a reporter independently confirm data that even the CIA is struggling to nail down? And what if both the source and the governmental official who "corroborates" it are less than trustworthy?
He quotes Todd Gitlin of Columbia U as prescribing scepticism, holding back dubious pieces and explaining sources' motivations.
But knowing when a story is ripe is clearly a generic problem of journalism: the very ambiguity in the word story - referring both to a particular article and the law case, political controversy or whatever that it deals with - signposts the problem. Get scooped or get egg on the face: a problem as old as newspapers. And writing a piece that suggests more than it delivers - but with the promise of beef to come - is, no doubt, part of the hack's art.
But - to take a couple of examples - continuous news and the primacy of bean-counters are relatively new.
Are they studies dealing with the question of prematurity in the news business, I wonder?
Moore - uniquely? - makes one essential point:
The failures of Miller and the Times' reporting on Iraq are far greater sins than those of the paper's disgraced Jayson Blair.
Blair's crimes had the quality of being comprehensible to the mob: those of Miller and her editors are much more like the byzantine financial dealings of Bill Clinton, for which no one could lay a glove on him.
The fact that Miller helped the country to war, and Blair - didn't - doesn't really make up for the difficulty of selling the importance of her case, even to the average Times reader .
One aggravating element was Miller's TV appearances: with copy appearing in the Times, it is at least possible to edit the stuff to conform the language used with so much of the information as is judged to be reliable. On TV, not so much.
For instance, following the appearance on April 21 2003 of Illicit Arms Kept Till Eve of War, an Iraqi Scientist Is Said to Assert - based on information from one scientist - Miller went on NewsHour with Jim Lehrer referring to scientists - plural.
Annie Oakley shoots from the hip...
Miller's quote to Moore is already something of a classic:
"You know what," she offered angrily. "I was proved fucking right. That's what happened. People who disagreed with me were saying, 'There she goes again.' But I was proved fucking right."
Were stimulants involved there? Moore is too much of a gentleman to enquire.
One final point: were Times editors actually taken in by Miller's WMD crap?
With USG, my hypothesis is that Chalabi functioned much as the second Tonkin Gulf Incident worked for Lyndon Johnson.
In August 1964, you'll recall (this is all from memory!), Johnson was fighting Barry Goldwater for re-election, and perceived himself vulnerable on the national security issue. The South Vietnamese government was feeble and no viable partner of the US in the fight against the North if things continued as they had been. Gradual escalation - the OPLAN 34A raids on the North - was designed to bolster the GVN, and persuade Hanoi of USG seriousness without risking a ground war.
The second TGI did not take place; at the time Johnson ordered retaliatory air strikes, he knew that the second incident was highly dubious, but was happy to use it as a pretext for a plan that showed him taking action - but limited and calibrated, not a Goldwater-style armageddon.
This time round, USG surely knew Chalabi was providing them with crap; but anything that served the end of facilitating the invasion of Iraq was grist to the mill. Any comeback would come after the Glorious Liberation (PNAC Year Zero) - the evidence is that no one senior in USG paid much attention to the detail of the après-invasion.
Perhaps, the management at the (pre-Blair defenestration) Times took a similar view: invading Iraq was Bush's idée fixe - to oppose him on it would be not only futile but costly to the paper in terms of punishment over access; a war with our boys taking the field is always good for the news business; eventual exposure of Chalabi's fraud would be an A17 affair, Miller's an eminently explicable excess of zeal.
Surely, they couldn't have believed the stuff was kosher, could they? Now that really would be worrying...
Thursday, May 27, 2004
NYT-Miller: why now?
There's a good deal been written about the Times' Editor's Note (scroll down), to some of which I'll get to by and by.
One puzzling feature in relation to the meta: why does the Note appear now?
The second shoe we're waiting for is Daniel Okrent's piece in the Times this coming Sunday. Okrent, as regular readers will be aware, has previously grandfathered all things done before his arrival as ombud - including, most notably, the paper's treatment of Iraqi WMD intelligence.
Which meshed nicely with the paper's management's decision to defend its WMD coverage, and refuse any sort of inquiry into it.
Was it Okrent who decided to break with a line that seemed to be holding without notable difficulty? Or the NYT management's?
Has Okrent got hold of a smoking gun? Is that anything that the Note addressed?
We've not long to wait, of course. After Okrent decided not to make a Federal case of the Peter Landesman sex slaves piece, much discussed here, I suggested he was conserving his ammunition for a worthier target.
The Times' enthusiastic promotion of false war propaganda would certainly rank as worthier: is Okrent going to blow his stash on the subject?
Nancy Pelosi's Comstock friend turns nasty
L Brent Bozell III, to be precise. Of the Parents Television Council, a leading group of frothers-at-the-mouth over ubiquitous TV smut.
Pelosi Pied Piper-ed 172 Democrats in support of the Gag Stern Bill HR 3717 (March 12) - and look how Bozell repays her!
The Post Pages seem to be working
I mentioned - with due scepticism - a couple of weeks ago that the Blogger software now provides the luxury of one-post-per-page - just like MT.
Touch wood, the system seems to be working. In particular, the Google spider - which loathes big pages (like the Plawg monthly archives!) and only takes 100KB of any page - seems gradually to be hoovering up all the little Post Pages. (The spider for the FreeFind search box - see left - likewise.)
Which should make finding what you're looking for in the Plawg a whole lot easier that Ctrl + F-ing (appropriate choice of letter!) down fat archive pages.
[Other big plus of Post Pages: no damned permalinks to not work as usual!]
The Kerry abstinence program snags multiply
I've still seen no satisfactory - or any - explanation why the infamous Kerry gap - the five week period between the Conventions during which Kerry would be barred from spending the money he's raised - has only just become a topic of conversation. Where the fact there would be a gap has been known since at least January 2003 (May 24 piece).
Apart from bellyaching from various parties with the noses out of joint (the Chappaquiddick Kid's and the Boston Mayor's, notably) a couple of snafus have turned up:
First, the Boston Herald says (May 26), Dem apparatchiks are warning that Kerry's non-acceptance of the nomination could jeopardise the Convention's
federal designation as a National Special Security Event.
Are these the same guys at the DNC who should have gripped this problem as soon as it was apparent that the Republicans were going for a late convention of their own?
Second, Kerry has said that, under his abstinence program, his vice-presidential candidate would accept his nomination at the Convention. WaPo (May 26) says that
Republicans have questioned whether Kerry's campaign could qualify for $15 million in public convention money if the Democrats do not formally nominate a candidate. According to one GOP source, any individual could file a complaint to block Kerry from getting the money.
I've made a half-hearted attempt to trace the rules, and failed - of course, the Big Media don't deign to link or reference for the benefit of the little people.
Third, WaPo says
Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie said Republicans would demand equal time from the networks if Democrats do not nominate a candidate in Boston.
Again, I have no idea whether the claim has any merit.
[Note that Dan Balz and Jim VandeHei would not dream of helping us shmucks out on these technical points. Objective journalism... ]
I've read nothing in any depth on the practical consequences of reverting to Plan A, and having Kerry accept in Boston: whether he could get value from burning his stash in the pre-convention period, the 527s holding back pre-convention to take up the slack from the Kerry campaign for the five week hiatus - that sort of thing. (Looking in the wrong places, no doubt.)
Has the abstinence program idea and the associated furore got the remotest bit of salience with ordinary voters? Has it been polled for news media?
Because, against the management shambles that is the present Administration, the Dems management of the five week problem fails to offer much of a contrast.
The Boston Globe (May 26) has an anonymous Kerryman saying that
Kerry still had not reached out to the Federal Election Commission, seeking an advisory opinion on the legality of the move. He has received briefs from campaign lawyers expert in election financing laws.
According to the Globe piece, Dems generally are relaxed about the manoeuvre.
The California prisons racket: like the poor, still with us
Monumentally depressing, apparently incapable of remedy and of interest to very few: no wonder I've been giving the topic a rest!
But TalkLeft flagged a piece in the Public Defender Dude blog giving a view from close to the centre of the action.
The anonymous PDD explains a particular element of the corruption that the California Correctional Peace Officers Association have wrought on body politic of the state: a compliant judiciary.
Apparently, back in 1986, three members of the Supreme Court were winkled out for their opposition to the death penalty. The lesson was learnt:
Courts in states like Mississippi, Alabama, Texas, Florida, Georgia, and other deep south states used to affirm an abnormally high rate of death sentences, something like 60-70%. California's affirmance rate is in the high 90s.
And a similar approach is taken to lesser offences:
Courts of Appeal do the same thing, upholding verdicts that are clearly wrong as a matter of fact and law just to ensure that people do not get out of jail.
The piece links a useful - equally depressing - article in the LA Times (May 24) which sheds further light on the MO of the CCPOA in maintaining their iron grip on the prisons.
(As I've said before, there has been no shortage of investigative pieces from the big Golden State papers on the iniquities of the system: it's just that nothing much has been done on the strength of them.)
In the spotlight is the criminal giveaway contract that CCPOA punk Gray Davis signed with his masters back in 2002.
Under which, for example,
the union - not wardens - [fills] 70% of the jobs involving the custody of inmates.
Resident CCPOA comedian Lance Corcoran is his usual jovial self:
Years ago, if you were a union activist, the warden would send you to Siberia.
He knew he didn't need to finish the thought...
There are other dysfunctional (ie, functional for the benefit of the CCPOA) elements - for instance,
...supervisors do not have collective bargaining rights, and their salaries have not kept pace with those of the officers. Officers with high seniority can make as much, or more, money than their immediate superiors.
Not to mention a sick leave regime where
under the 2002 contract, the department stopped requiring a doctor's note from officers who showed a pattern of abuse, such as calling in sick before scheduled days off.
The LAT piece does say that
a group of senators announced last week that it would block union members' raises this year unless they renegotiatethe 2002 contract. One to follow up in due course.
PDD says of the CCPOA
...I am more scared of them than I am of anyone else, because if, God forbid, I ever got into their sights as someone they wanted to get, they could get me. Have me put into prison for some trumped up reason, and they can guarantee that you never walk out alive. Their power makes Abu Ghraib look tame by comparison.
You think that's hysterical? I have a dozen or more pieces in the last nine months or so (search on CCPOA) to change your mind...
Wednesday, May 26, 2004
The real purpose of Saudi armaments mega-spend
An explanation - I think from a BBC radio programme - of the prodigious spending on weapons by the Saudis: a means of paying off those who needed to be paid off.
Instead of just stealing the necessary money, they used commissions. In order to justify large-value commissions, one must have correspondingly greater-value transactions.
Few things would be big-ticket enough: armaments fitted the bill. Apparently, a lot of the stuff is still in the boxes it came in. Some of it, the Saudi forces don't have the chaps who know how to operate.
Just as Japanese politics is oiled by cash stripped from state construction contracts: half-built airports and the like abound. There might even be the shell of a seaport built fifty miles inland.
There's a ben trovato quality to the Saudi story - clearly, for now, to be treated as hypothesis only.
NYT's own news management hammered
There is a particular group of people suckered by the Times's Iraqi WMD (I laughingly call) coverage whose displeasure might actually have some effect: those papers which take the New York Times News Service.
But, according to E&P (May 26), the first that the 300 rags who take the NYTNS heard of the Editor's Note on the WMD coverage fiasco was at 2200 ET.
The piece quotes
Doug Clifton, editor of The Plain Dealer in Cleveland- a rag of some renown - as saying
A correction ought not be one of those things you have to deal with as breaking news. They knew about this for a while. It is sort of bothersome that they did not put any advisories out.
By the lights of the sachems at the Times, the Plain Dealer is one of the little people. If the Gray Lady was having to grovel, it was clearly looking to limit the satisfaction that lesser breeds might take in it.
Clifton points out that the Plain Dealer ran the Note on page 2:
We didn't want to be accused of sweeping it under the rug
He then went beyond that sly dig directly to critcise the Times for running the Note on A10, something I mentioned earlier today. This E&P piece helpfully points out that not only was the Note place well inside, but there was no reefer: that is, nothing on the front page referring to the Note.
That note was not merely buried, it was really most sincerely buried!
Names of other NYTNS clients are mentioned in the piece - some well-known names like the San Francisco Chronicle which, apart from the immediate farrago concerning the Note, have egg over the face for printing the Miller crap. (Not to say they printed all of it, or didn't contextualise or otherwise detract from its awfulness.)
Could the NYTNS 300 get together on the issue? Then we might have some fun...
[How much play has this got on the main networks? Or even the news networks? Will there be anything on the nightly news on ABC/NBC/CBS? Is 60 Minutes sniffing round it?]
NYT-Miller: this, I don't get
From Romenesko's Letters (5/26/2004 8:01:26 AM), a note from one John Maggs, whose email address is at the National Journal:
"The problematic articles varied by authorship..." but not very much. With the exception of the Czech connection articles, which were handled relatively well by the Times, especially compared to the breathless coverage elsewhere, all but one of the bad articles cited by the editors had Judith Miller's name on them. Not one of the skeptical articles pointed to with pride by the editors had her name on them. It is a devastating verdict for her, and a really shining moment for the Times.
Is this W43rd Street ventriloquism, the first media establishment voice  calling for Judith Miller to swing from a sour-apple tree?
Perhaps Arthur Sulzberger and Bill Keller have been reading the fulsome praise they lavished such a short time ago on the Hack Whose Name Durst Not Be Spoken Of . The very lack of any reference to Judith Miller, perhaps, was intended to speak loud.
If some day it may happen that a victim must be found...
NYT-Miller: an indication of insincerity
There's plenty about on the subject today, of course.
Striking is this E&P piece, which refers to this passage in the NYT Editor's Note (piece earlier today):
The Times gave voice to skeptics of the tubes on Jan. 9, when the key piece of evidence was challenged by the International Atomic Energy Agency. That challenge was reported on Page A10; it might well have belonged on Page A1.
Three guesses on which page the Editor's Note appeared...
At last, the New York Times WMD climbdown!
As I look through my window, three squadrons of saddlebacks are looping the loop in formation.
Quite unexpectedly , the Times has issued an Editor's Note clarifying its coverage of issues of intelligence concerning Iraq's WMD and links to terrorism - which, in both cases, have proved mythical .
I shan't be barging my way to the front of the parsing detail : cross-checking the Times' selection of pieces and comments thereon with Jack Shafer's work on Judith Miller, for instance. And, natch, looking once more at those fulsome endorsements of Miller from those funsters Sulzberger and Keller - who would now unexpectedly be available for barmitzvahs, if they were any justice, which there isn't.
One may salute the Times' management of expectations - but at least, in seeking to contextualise Miller's deficiencies, the Note recognises that the fault lay with the Times' editors, who drank as deep of the neocon/Chalabi Kool Aid as she:
Editors at several levels who should have been challenging reporters and pressing for more skepticism were perhaps too intent on rushing scoops into the paper.
None of those editors, one suspects, has to fear for his position.
Tuesday, May 25, 2004
FCC Censorship: Wall Street Journal sees the risk to free speech
The op-ed operation of the WSJ is, of course, notable as being a respectable home for neocon fire-eaters. (The news operation one hears great things of; but, since it's pay-only, its reputation, for most, is moot.)
But the op-ed section provides a useful article (May 24) on the concerns of talk radio - a trade seminar on the subject last weekend - over the impact on its freedom of the FCC crackdown on smut.
Nothing strikingly new; but perhaps some momentum building.
(Of the two areas of censorship, indecency and profanity, the more troubling is the latter: indecency has become identified with sex in FCC enforcement, but profanity has not been used recently, and stretching its meaning to cover political speech may be easier to justify.)
The clear need, as I've stated before, is for litigation to be set in train with a view to killing FCC censorship on indecency and profanity at the root by getting 18 USC 1464 declared unconstitutional in relation to their censorship.
Some action is in train, in relation to the Bono Golden Globes decision; the last time I looked, it had yet to get anywhere.
(For the numerous previous pieces on the subject here, search on FCC.)
TV broadcasters have been bellyaching to Time about the difficulties of scheduling programming attractive to the young male demo in the post-Jackson climate of fear.
Here's a clue, guys: 1464 delenda est! (See above for details.)
Misleading campaign ads - again
The good people at Campaign Desk keep plugging away, this latest sparked by a NYT piece by Jim Rutenberg on the subject.
Rutenberg mentioned an Annenberg poll (PDF) from May 12 that confirms the effectiveness of the distortions: our old friend, John Kerry's 350 votes for higher taxes, even persuaded 50% of Dems in battleground states!
CD rightly says that
The only way to stop the campaigns from continuing to grossly distort the truth is for the entire press corps -- not just the Times and the Washington Post, but USA Today, the Associated Press, and the TV networks, which are the source of news for many more voters -- to point out these distortions, immediately and unequivocatingly, using their own reportorial (as opposed to editorial) voice..
It's said much the same before, and with no discernable effect. Objective journalism rules.
I can't even see that the objectivists have actually been forced into the field to defend their putrid position in vigorous debate, by CD or anyone else. That would be a start...
FCC censorship: Disney wants it extended to cable
From Jeff Jarvis, a tale of Mousewitz manoeuvres.
The politics here are complicated to a degree. The censorship issue is only a small part of a vast machine - we've touched on, for instance, the question of revision of the media concentration rules, the cable must-carry rules, down-rezzing, analog switch-off - and that, I'm sure, is just scratching the surface.
Disney - who straddle the cable-broadcast divide - are lobbying for extending FCC censorship, and for a new and specific reason: a la carte programming.
Cable makes its money by bundling channels; you pay for stuff you never watch, but it makes the revenues of the cable companies more predictable, and, thus, more valuable. (Non-economist's explanation!)
A la carte supporters - John McCain to the fore  - are taking a straight consumer choice angle; but also the Comstocks see a la carte as another stick to beat TV with:
Brent Bozell, president of the Parents Television Council, points to a "grotesque" scene last month on FX's critically acclaimed drama, The Shield. A police captain is forced at gunpoint to perform fellatio on a gang member while other members watch. "...The problem is, if you get basic cable, you get FX," he says..
Disney is, therefore, touting an alternative to a la carte for Comstocks who don't want to pay for smut.
Meanwhile, the Senate is in recess till June 1, and S 2056 has still to make it to the Senate floor, having been reported out weeks ago. Assuming it makes it onto the floor in time to make progress, the more crap that can be stuffed into it, the harder it'll make the conference.
There's surely no time to roll a la carte into S2056, to judge from the pieces linked below. Apparently, a
a bipartisan group of Energy and Commerce committee members asked Federal Communications Commission Chairman Michael Powell to study a la carte pricing and the middle-ground option of themed tiers[, and] wants the FCC to report to Congress by Nov. 18.
Third Man script online
I've mentioned The Third Man before - back in March 2003 - as
probably the greatest movie ever on America's view of itself (and others' views of America), vitriolically anti-American (and anti-Everyone Else!) (and one of the laugh-out-loud funniest pics you'll ever see)
Probably is a bit strong, probably - but I stand by the rest: given how bad British movies were during the 1930s - one has Alexander Korda's Henry VIII, The 39 Steps and one's pretty soon scraping the barrel - followed by the privations of war and post-war, the fact that the industry could make one of the best of all British films is something of a miracle.
The script comes without provenance - unspecified, undated draft - which no doubt ruins things for genuine film buffs; but it is - or reads like, a script, rather than a transcript, and looks to be pretty close to the final cut.
Monday, May 24, 2004
Chalabi and the media - again
The rimming by elements of the media of super-carpet-salesman Ahmed Chalabi...
Yeah - got the T-shirt. As well as an E&P piece by William Jackson, Harry Jaffe has a piece in the Washingtonian on the Post's record - majoring on the infamous, previously discussed here, Chinese walls between the op-ed and news operations. Jim Hoagland, it seems, is a long-standing mate of Chalabi (someone with Nexis who cares should check his disclosure of this little fact. Don't all rush at once...); at the same time as Hoagland was lauding the douchebag, the likes of Walter Pincus were furiously flagging him as a fraud on the news pages. Buried somewhere around A17, mostly, I suspect.
Will Leonard Downie apologise for this journalistic shambles? No more than Bill Keller or Arthur Sulzberger for Chalabi's NYT colon, Judith Miller. (Several pieces - search, if you've a stomach for it.)
Their sang-froid in the face of disgrace is positively Chalabian.
It would all be slightly less galling if one knew that bearer bonds had changed hands. I fear that the bazaar-rat got his goodies from the cream of American journalism absolutely gratis.
Stupid white men...
ProfNet - another meld of news and PR
Noted here to record the URLs - with Romenesko.
ProfNet is a sort of bulletin board on which journalists can request the help of experts in particular fields. Amazingly, it seems that the experts available are connected with companies whose aim is to get PR benefits from the arrangement.
The precise MO, I do not understand. Seems fishy enough to return to at some juncture, however.
So that's who Bill Moyers is...
In a piece on May 18, I was talking, not for the first time, about the misuse of history to justify or condemn current practice - in this case, in journalism. And discussed comments in a speech that Bill Moyers gave which seemed tainted with Golden Agism.
It did not occur to me to check Moyers' bio. It turns out, that, for more than one potential Golden Age, he would have been in them!
In particular, having half an eye on the Vietnam War connection, he was
special assistant to...President Johnson (1963-1965) before serving as presidential press secretary from 1965-1967.
He's retiring from PBS and plugging a book right now: I'm saving a Texas Monthly interview for later.
Moyers crops up once in Hallin's Uncensored War (scroll down) - on p170: in response to Walter Cronkite's famous February 27 1968 post-Tet report, Moyers reports Johnson as saying that
Cronkite was it
(He also doesn't figure much, I see, in the first volume (Taking Charge) of Michael Beschloss's series on the Johnson tapes.)
Washington Post photos and video from Abu Ghraib
I had a piece on May 11, raising an eyebrow that the Post should have a thousand photos and only publish ten.
Subsequently - URL now lost - I read that a lot of these thousand pics were regular holiday snaps, images of intra-coalition fornication and other minimally probative items.
Last week, the Post acknowledged receipt of a further batch of photos, plus some other evidence. This - to the extent the paper has decided to make it public - is linked to from a web chat by Executive Editor Leonard Downie last Friday (May 21).
why can't you make [the photos] available on a separate site or link? This is something we are discussing, and I don't know what we will decide.Downie says the proposal is under discussion.
And asked whether, on USG's part, this was
part of a decision "to get it all out now."he says
I can say that our reporting is not part of a government strategy of any kind.
No indication that he was touching wood or crossing fingers as he typed this!
The real art of news management
When an Administration has a fact it needs to neutralise, there are numerous ways of skinning the cat:
Neatest of all, of course, is to keep that fact secret. What one might call pre-news management. Fine - if you can manage it.
Then, if it's going to come out, one has the various means of framing the fact, to dissipate its impact: releasing it through a safe pair of hands - why do I think of Bob Novak there? - timing the release on Friday afternoon, or after an Al Qaida operation; camouflaging it with a blizzard of snow; a pre-emptive strike against those who will use the fact against the Adminsration. The usual.
Thus far, hack-work. Good enough for a West Wing script, but still AAA at best.
The real artistry comes in allowing the fact to appear in broad daylight, in the Macy's window of political journalism, the lead of the New York Times or Washington Post - and still have the fact ignored or discounted by the media generally.
Surely, you say, this is a feat of prestidigitation beyond the skills of even a David Copperfield?
Recall, though, the case of the August 6 2001 PDB (April 12), whose title caused such a wave of conniptions throughout official Washington when it was read out before the 9/11 Commission during Condoleezza Rice's testimony:
Bin Ladin Determined to Strike in US
Yet that title had already appeared on the front page of the Post in an article  by Bob Woodward on May 19 2002!
Official Washington had apparently forgotten!
How the trick was done, I'm not sure: however it was done, one has to recognise quality manipulation at work.
It's a theme here which is, as the man says, developing...
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