Saturday, April 03, 2004

These guys are getting desparate

It isn't that Bush is a crazy warmonger anymore, it's that a Democratic regime would make rebuilding Iraq easier by enlisting the help of the U.N. From the people who so capably assisted the Palestinian refugee camps, Srebenica and Rwanda.

Friday, April 02, 2004

It's General Conference in Salt Lake City and the Bullhorns are In Bloom

And the street "preachers" will be out in force to harrass Mormons attending the meetings. Here's a roundup of letters to the editor about them.

The city's mayor, a former ACLU attorney, has seen the political light and supported an ordinance restricting these protestors to keep them out of people's faces, and a federal judge has upheld it. These people make a practice of showing up and warning the throngs of LDS people that they're all going to hell, and various other insults to their religion. This is the real face of 'free speech' in this country, along with people carrying signs endorsing the 9/11 attacks, and trying to disrupt meetings of the G-8. Of course, people exercising their freedom of speech aren't content with simply speaking out. They want publicity, which usually only comes from clashes with the cops. Thanks, ACLU.

Update: The Deseret News reports that the restrictions helped avoid incidents like the one in October that led to a Mormon man being arrested for assault when he tangled with one of the "preachers" whose rudeness succeed in provoking him. There was also this:
During one two-hour stint, the street preachers also endured a chorus of "send in the clowns" as two men dressed in clown suits spent several hours fervently heckling the street preachers on a host of topics before leaving.
The persecution of Mormons has nearly always resulted from agitation by ministers of other Christian churches. You'd think that they would have figured out by now, that they only make themselves look like they had never read the Sermon on the Mount. Of course, the members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints should remember that Jesus taught, "Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake," and not let the reviling get to you.

Falluja -- Big Mistake

The Belmont Club blog has a post on tactics against a Mogadishu scenario that is both reassuring and chilling. The people who indulged themselves in the murder and desecration of civilian workers in Falluja should be writing their wills.

Thursday, April 01, 2004

I have Peter Jennings on the box

He's reporting on the drug ecstasy. So far, he's making it sound pretty attractive. Maybe in the future, we'll all sit around living our lives on drugs, . . .

and the government will support us all.

Why does this vision remind me of The Matrix?

Update: The show's half over and the drug still looks pretty glamorous. I'm sure that Jennings is being scrupulously objective, but the head shots of DEA experts, scientists and prosecutors just don't cut it next to the shots of thousands of kids pulsing as one at a rave, and sharing pills tongue to tongue. Obviously, ABC isn't interested in deterrence. Maybe they realize that taking drugs might make their shows interesting.

Update: Show's nearly over. It's aim appears to have been to attack the government's case against ecstasy. Could it be that ABC News is heading libertarian? The conclusion seems to be that what's wrong with ecstasy is that it's a street drug and may be impure.

Wait. In the last 5 minutes there are a few facts and faces saying that ecstasy's physiological effects can be dangerous, that it is addicting to some people, and that its safety is still unproven. The final impression is that the government lied about ecstasy and therefore it is responsible for not dissuading young people from using the drug. I'm glad I wasn't watching this with one of my sons. If you can't help put out the fire, at least don't pour gasoline on it.

Mickey Kaus thinks that we're in danger from 'blowback' from Iraq

I tend to think that if we start seeing terrorist attacks in the U.S. or Britain, the blowback against Muslims in western countries could be almost as big a nightmare for police as the attacks themselves.

Neat Trick

The NYTimes reports:
"The Bush people have seized the vacuum," said Carter Eskew, a senior adviser to Al Gore in the 2000 presidential campaign.
Now all they have to do is hang on.

Working to bring ancient Christian documents to light

BYU has been given access by the Vatican to digitally image 14,000 pages of Syriac Christian writings dating back nearly 1500 years, which have been in the Vatican archives for the past 300 years, and publish the images in color on DVD next month.

Mormons believe that the church established by Christ and built up by his apostles following his death and ressurrection was overtaken by apostasy as strange doctrines crept in and ordinances changed during and following their lifetimes. These documents will give scholars insights into the beliefs of one of the branches of Christianity that existed in the Middle East during the period when they were diverging from the original religion after the apostles were no longer around.

These documents represent one thread of the religion which persisted after Constantine made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire, but during the period of the series of Ecumenical Councils called to discuss various doctrinal and liturgical issues.

Better late than never.

Monday, March 29, 2004

OK, I read the assignment.

My reaction to Carey's essay The Struggle Against Forgetting:

1. He's pretentious:
Journalism takes its name from the French word for day. It is our day book, our collective diary, which records our common life.
Except that news reports aren't always considered the best source for history. They are, to be sure, an important source, but by their very nature they are only one layer.

2. He's sanctimonious:
For here you will study the practice of journalism. Not the media. Not the news business. Not the newspaper or the magazine or the television station but the practice of journalism.
Sort of like going to law school and not learning how to run a law office for profit. Of course, reporters don't need to know the business end, but this paragraph invoking a 'pure' craft of journalism strikes me as a lot like the baloney I get from the state bar about how noble the practice of law is, as if it weren't about making money. (Hey, I have an idea! Let's drop the expensive and timewasting CLE requirements and send the money we save to the Southern Poverty Law Center! - ed.)

This is the kind of rhetoric that tells students, "You are entering a field that makes you more important than the average slob. You're special. You're superior. You're not answerable to anybody but your fellow journalists."


3. He's militant:
Journalism arose as a protest against illegitimate authority in the name of a wider social contract, in the name of the formation of a genuine public life and a genuine public opinion.
If this is true, what do we do when journalism sets itself up as an illegitimate authority?

And in a democracy, who other than the people, should be allowed to decide that duly elected officers are illegitimate? I can just imagine a new class coming in after Watergate hearing this and thinking, "Yeah! We're the Woodwards and Bernsteins of the future, and every public official is another potential Nixon. Bring it on!" That's the kind of attitude that leads to press feeding frenzies and phenomena like Richard Clarke. He's not in authority and he's challenging the incumbent administration. He must the the hero of the piece.

What is the basis for assuming an adversarial attitude, as contrasted with a skeptical attitude? I remember hearing some reporters talking about a broadcast interview with the president the day before and was impressed by the boxing metaphors used, "He didn't lay a glove on him." Ah! For reporters, an interview isn't an opportunity for reporting; it's a cross examination. I was getting it.

But then, I listened to a few White House press briefings and press conferences. My litigation instincts were primed. But, if this had been a courtroom, every question would have been objected to and the court would have sustained the objections. Journalists don't have to take classes in evidence. Maybe that's why they don't seem to realize that the public expects reporters to report, rather than posit their own suspicions and innuendoes and press the interviewee to disprove them. Of course, if they have comments from another source, it's appropriate to ask for responses, but I think most people like me viewing the typical gaggle of reporters think they are a bunch of jerks. I have seen interviews where reporters covered the issues, asked incisive questions and got real news content without being rude at all. It's possible, and more than that, it can reveal a liar in a way that doesn't make the reporter look like the jackass. That would be a noble aspiration for a journalism student.

4. He's full of platitudes. The last lines of the piece sound somewhat Marxist in this day and age:
The struggle of people against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting. To make experience memorable so it won't be lost and forgotten is the task of journalism. To be able to do this and to do it well is all that one can ask for in a career.
This presumes that all power is a priori to be resisted and struggled against. FDR had power. So did JFK. And the press acted like lapdogs for them both. They liked being on the inside of that noblesse oblige kind of power, where it's understood that the powerful are entitled to it, because, being also rich, they're different from you and me. If there is anything as offensive as a press pack in full bay on a false scent, it is the same pack panting and wagging their tails around a charlatan.

Today the New York Times had a front page story with the headline, "PRESIDENT ASKED AIDE TO EXPLORE IRAQ LINK TO 9/11 LINK; Acknowledgment by Rice" This is supposed to be a triumphant verification of Richard Clarke's claim that Bush was distracted by Iraq, presumably because of some freudian obsession, from properly responding to the attacks which were carried out by Al Qaeda, as is now pretty much acknowledge.


I'd have said a president who didn't ask whether Iraq was involved wouldn't have been paying attention. As Mort Kondracke reacted this evening, 'What did Bush do about the attacks? He attacked Al Qaeda!" Where's the proof of Clarke's theory in that?

This is what that "struggle of people against power" mush leads to--the illusion that a lot of Ivy League grads represent the proletarian struggle for justice, when all it really amounts to is political game playing. If I were a journalist, I'd be pretty ashamed today that this is the de facto arbiter of what news is in this country.

Instead of all this guff about the task of laying down the memory of the race, wouldn't this be better a better goal? Tell the people what is happening, both in government and other areas of interest, and get as many details right, as soon as possible, and provide those we serve, the public, a variety of angles on these events, so that they, and future historians, can decide for themselves what they mean.

The Great Left Hope

Air America is up, and "airlifting entertaining, progressive talk radio to millions of Americans who for far too long have been and are being neglected by talk radio broadcasters today."


The words 'entertaining' and 'progressive' do not belong in the same phrase. Where are these millions of Americans who are being neglected? Most of them are listening to NPR, and they'll listen to this new outfit long enough to remember that they hate commercials and go back.

I used to have NPR on all day long. Then one day I realized that it had almost as many breaks and ads, but they were all for other NPR programs. The pledge drives kept telling me that I was supporting pure radio without that evil profit motive or advertising. But all the shows began with short bits telling us who the commercial underwriters were. So it does have advertising.

I also asked myself what was wrong with being supported by advertising. Why ask listeners for money when you can sell ads and not bother them? What I concluded shocked me. These people either think that capitalism is shameful or they want to appeal to people who feel that way. Yet they solicit underwriting from businesses and private foundations whose money came from businesses at some point! So they're either closet socialists, Marxists or just cynical hypocrites.

This left me with such a stench in my nostrils, I haven't been able to listen to NPR since. NPR is a business, pure and simple, but its business model is based on a pretense. 'We're not a business; we're a collective!"

Sunday, March 28, 2004

A blog convention I wouldn't listening in on

Jay Rosen has a good essay which he advances for his session at the upcoming BloggerCon at Harvard Law School. He poses the following questions, with more to be added:
1. Why do we say that weblogs have given the people the power of the printing press?

2. And if that's true, how does the weblog alter the public's dependence on "the press" and professional journalists?

3. What really distinguishes journalism as a practice and in what portions of the practice can citizen authors rightly, effectively share?

4. What makes the weblog a potent tool of journalism and what are its potential uses?

5. As a new platform for journalism, what does the World Wide Web offer the practitioner, the practice, the press?

6. What does a Web journalism competently done by citizens actually look like, where do we find it, and where can we imagine it going in the years ahead?

7. What lessons in excellence, competence and public service can the profession of journalism teach to citizens, amateurs, webloggers-- and to us at BloggerCon?

8. What does it mean for a weblog with journalism in it, authored by a member of the public, to have a public and to serve a public good?

9. Which goods are worth serving for webloggers doing a kind of journalism?

10. How do we understand the independence of webloggers and their voices if these voices mainly comment (and thus depend) on news and other material originated by the major media? What's so independent about that?
Some of these are pedantic, but what did you expect for a discussion group?

Rosen is a journalist who takes blogs seriously and not as a threat. His essay and this one by James W. Carey, CBS Professor of International Journalism at Columbia University.

I'm going to need to absorb these and the questions Rosen poses, and gather my thoughts. I hope I can say something useful. I respect Rosen a lot. He reminds me of Michael Kelly, whose loss I feel keenly with every new issue of the Atlantic Monthly.

Anybody giving odds?

Saad Eddin Ibrahim, a professor of political sociology at the American University in Cairo, calls the Arab Middle East the sick man of the world and advocates democratization as outlined in the Alexandria Declaration. Don't hold your breath. First, it has to be proven to work in Iraq.

The Good, Bad and Ugly in Iraq

After reading Fred Barnes' report from Iraq, I think it may be premature to turn over power in Iraq on the schedule we've adopted. I hope it will be more like self-government with training wheels, because we don't need to have all our efforts there wasted.

He says the Iraqis are whiners, which is not unusual for people who have been used to having the government do everything for them; that their press is anti-American, only slightly more than ours; and that their economy is in for a jolt as economic aid for rebuilding comes in. The economy is already ahead of the last year of Saddam's regime and moving up fast. I guess that when you have a lot of whining going on, the best way to shut it up is to put the whiners to work.

I hate the way freedom of the press is used everywhere to mislead people and promote single points-of-view. I guess that's inherent in the concept of professional journalism, and reflective of the training of reporters, who should be trained on the job, not in universities; as well as the marketing of news, as in tabloid, but I don't know what we can do about the likes of Al Jazeera except prove them wrong on the ground. You'd think Iraqis and other Arabs would have learned their lesson from Baghdad Ali, but it will probably take more time.

Where are the jobs?

The Chicago Tribune takes an adult approach to the question. It is childish to compare the current economy with the stock market bubble of the 1990s which was based crazy stock prices and options that became worthless shortly thereafter. This country needs to get off its butt and quit whining for the government to create jobs out of thin air. That only happened when Clinton and Coolidge were president, and they didn't make it happen. A lot of the old jobs are disappearing either because they aren't needed anymore or because Americans have priced themselves out of the international market. We need to quit waiting for them to come back and start retooling, retraining and moving to find work in new businesses. We also need to quit subsidizing medical costs and then wondering why they keep rising. Businesses should pay employees enough to pay their own medical bills, and they'd come back under control. Medicare is going broke. Let it, and quit shelling out more and taxing the jobs we have.

Wow! That would be like NPR going off the air!

The Guardian reports that executives and news anchors at the BBC are threatening to cut programming as a protest against the inquiries into the network's false reporting of the WMD story. I'd be asking Parliament to drop the Telly Tax accordingly. The stupidity of supporting the media with tax revenues is, one hopes, coming home to roost.