Thursday, September 23, 2004

"You can't mean that."

Cathy's World | Post-Rathergate-o-rama
From another corner of the world, a Washington journalist I know writes:
I was at a book party recently where political reporters for national publications (these are the people who are explaining things to the rest of the country) were talking about how good Farenheit 9/11 was. ("It reminded you that before Bush started this insane war, people in Iraq were sitting in cafes, playing in the park, not worrying about being blown up.") When I said, "Well, did Michael Moore mention they were being put into industrial shredders?" I got a suspicious look... I said I planned to vote for Bush, one woman said, "NO, no, you don't mean that! Are you kidding? You can't mean that." You kind of want to say to these political reporters that if you find the fact that you know someone who plans to vote to re-elect the president so utterly shocking, you might be in the wrong line of work.

The short version

Lord of the Rings.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Journalism as usual

I really don't want to keep on about this, honest, I don't. But I can't ignore this:
CNN (Reuters) | Triumph of the bloggers?
Orville Schell, dean of the School of Journalism at the University of California in Berkeley, said CBS's admission of error after days of stalling was "a landmark moment for the balance between the blogosphere and mainstream media."

Bloggers were the first to challenge the authenticity of the documents and first to publish detailed examinations of the evidence by dozens of self-declared experts, some of them with Republican Party ties.

"The credibility of the media has taken another hit, especially when you consider the story is not Dan Rather but President Bush's service in the National Guard," Schell said.

That latter story -- that said Bush ducked military service in Vietnam by entering the Guard and then getting special treatment thanks to his powerful father -- has been lost in the welter of complaints about the CBS story.

...Tom Goldstein, former dean of Columbia University's School of Journalism, dismissed the notion that CBS's dilemma was a sign that American journalism has become sloppier in recent years.

Goldstein said Rather's report was another example of bad things happening to good news organizations.

"They had the best in the business on it, and they got duped and there but for the grace of God go you and I," Goldstein said.
Is there really any other kind of expert than "self-declared"? As opposed to CBS' experts, unnamed until challenged, some of whom have publicly said they were working outside of their expertise, and even so had questions regarding the authenticity of the documents that CBS chose to ignore?

And what about the Democratic party ties of those who are complicit in the deception? Just a coincidence, I suppose.

Actually, there is a reason that so much of the criticism comes from sources known to be sympathetic to Republicans and conservatives. I hadn't intended to bring this up here, but since they mention it:
Hullabaloo | Playing By The Rules
It's admirable that lefty bloggers are being duly skeptical of the CBS documents and diligently reporting it on their blogs. It means that we have more integrity than the other side and will probably go to heaven.

Unfortunately, it also means that we are helping Republicans spin their lies and hurting our candidate. Again.

But, now that professional Republican propagandists are on the case, if you can't stomach the idea of not standing up for truth, justice and the American way in all circumstances, the better part of valor may be to blog on the myriad other Bush atrocities and let the right do its own dirty work...

If voices of the left blogosphere work to actively advance the idea that the documents are forgeries, no matter what their earnestly high minded motives, then whatever influence the blogosphere provides certainly doesn't benefit our side.
That is to say, the truth matters less than winning.

As I said in a previous comment, they think that the legitimacy of their charge against GWB is so obvious that the provenance of the documents doesn't matter. They were merely illustrative, never intended as proof of anything. Proof doesn't matter, the story is true, don't you care about that? Why are you people going on about fonts? We wouldn't lie to you, we're C-B-effing-S!

The overall tone of this story is "We really don't understand why everybody's making such a big deal over this." Reuters does its best to undercut and discredit every dissenting voice and represent this as nothing more than a handful of malcontents making noise.

The bloggers, who are barely mentioned (and never by name) in this story that pretends to be about them, will have to continue to hold Rather's feet to the fire, because CNN and Reuters are obviously disinclined to do the job. "There but for the grace of God go you and I", indeed. I wonder what the last story was that Reuters' editors released where they thought, "Please, God, don't let them look too closely at this."

Maybe it was this one.

What concerns me is that Dr Goldstein may be right, that journalism hasn't gotten sloppier in recent years. It was always this sloppy, we just weren't paying attention.

Monday, September 20, 2004

I never thought I'd quote Michael Moore | Put Away Your Hankies
If I hear one more person tell me how lousy a candidate Kerry is and how he can't win... Dammit, of COURSE he's a lousy candidate -- he's a Democrat, for heavens sake! That party is so pathetic, they even lose the elections they win! What were you expecting, Bruce Springsteen heading up the ticket? Bruce would make a helluva president, but guys like him don't run -- and neither do you or I. People like Kerry run.

Yes, OF COURSE any of us would have run a better, smarter, kick-ass campaign. Of course we would have smacked each and every one of those phony swifty boaty bastards down. But WE are not running for president -- Kerry is. So quit complaining and work with what we have.
So, what are you trying to say, Mike?

Speaking of Janeane Garofolo

Did you know that enlightenment has finally come to Atlanta? No, seriously. Never mind those other eight news/talk stations, we've hit the big time now. Classic Country WSWK 1390 AM is now Air Atlanta WWAA, our very own Air America affiliate.

Yes, WWAA. Sounds like call letters a right-winger would have chosen as a joke, doesn't it?

Anyway, they sort of snuck quietly onto the dial while nobody but the AJC was looking (link requires registration). The station went dark for a while, always a promising way to start a new format. The story is dated 9-10: As of last Wednesday the station was still off the air, but it was broadcasting (repeats of Garofolo) yesterday, welcoming perhaps dozens of new listeners.

First impression: It's every bit as mellow and listenable as market leader Sean Hannity. Which is to say, like plunging red-hot knitting needles into my ears.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Warn the kiddies

Brian Micklethwait at |
How President Bush gets his enemies to choose the ground where they will die

I hereby place a bet on your forthcoming Presidential election: f**cking Bush landslide. Thermonuclear. If Kerry thinks it is bad now, let him see how it all looks in another month. 25 point poll difference. Meltdown chez the Kerry campaign. Bush looking so smug the Democrats will be jumping off ledges.
The heat from Janeane Garofolo alone will be enough to melt the ice cap.

Saturday, September 18, 2004

Suits vs. pajamas

The Weekly Standard, in its September 27 issue (on sale Monday), describes the meltdown of the CBS National Guard Memo story.

"Fake but accurate." Heh.

UPDATE: If you'd rather have the Washington Post version (which doesn't mention blogs at all), registration is required. But it does describe behind-the-scenes activity at CBS, including the fact that CBS stopped checking when White House communications director Dan Bartlett let three hours go by without questioning the documents' authenticity:
At that point, said "60 Minutes" executive Josh Howard, "we completely abandoned the process of authenticating the documents. Obviously, looking back on it, that was a mistake. We stopped questioning ourselves. I suppose you could say we let our guard down."
I suppose you could say that. So it's all the White House's fault for not telling them the documents were fake. Got it. How exactly Bartlett was supposed to verify a document he wasn't asked to verify, ostensibly taken from the personal files of a dead man, within three hours of learning of its existence, was not explained.
"So much of this debate has focused on the documents, and no one has really challenged the story. It's been frustrating to us to see all this reduced to a debate over little 'th's."
The devil, they say, is in the details. It's about credibility, and right now CBS don't got it. Plenty of people who happen not to be in CBS' newsroom have challenged the story, but you have to actually stick your head out of the door to be aware of that.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Okay, who had McAuliffe?

I didn't realize at the time I mentioned that bet I had with myself I'd already lost.
Washington Times | McAuliffe says Democrats did not leak Bush records
Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe yesterday said Democrats "unequivocally" did not leak memos to CBS that have called into question President Bush's service record, but may in fact be forged.

He instead insinuated that White House adviser Karl Rove may be responsible.

"I can unequivocally say that no one involved here at the Democratic National Committee had anything at all to do with any of those documents," Mr. McAuliffe told reporters, adding later that he also could speak for Democratic operatives and the campaign of Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry. "If I were an aspiring young journalist, I think I would ask Karl Rove that question."
Has anyone else blamed Karl Rove, or was this officially the first mention?

More TANG documents

18 Jun 73 from Bush's Superior Officer.
Dan Rather Vindicated.
1972 email casts doubt on Bush Guards service.
Know of a scam that needs investigating?

Sunday, September 12, 2004

Obsolete technology

Power Line | Suicide Bombers and CBS News
We now know that our richest and most powerful news organizations are willing to blow themselves up--to destroy their own credibility, once considered a news organization's most precious possession--to achieve a political goal. The landscape will never look quite the same again. Those of us who still value truth must look at the mainstream media in a new, more skeptical and critical way, taking nothing for granted. Because, like suicide bombers, the mainstream news organs will go farther to achieve their political goals than we ever imagined.
I am not yet prepared to say, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the "CBS documents" are forgeries. (They could be: I would say the overwhelming likelihood is that they are.) It's time for someone to produce the originals. But the AP report of the crowd booing when Bush mentioned Clinton's hospitalization is unquestionably, provably false, and someone should be fired over it.

LATER: Joseph M. Newcomer (site bandwidth swamped, mirrored here) does the font geekery I'm not qualified to do. I say again, overwhelming likelihood. Not even considering the word of Jerry Killian's family, or the deviations from military memo formatting, or the likelihood of Killian (a man who, according to those who knew him, hated to type) using a $4,000 (in 1972 dollars) typesetting machine for "file" memos that no one else would ever see, or the conspicuous lack of other memos of similar appearance from the same time and place--or the continuing conspicuous non-appearance of even one original.

There is one more possible defense, though, and I have a little bet with myself as to when it will surface.

Saturday, September 11, 2004


Blogs don't do Moments of Silence well. It just looks like another day we slept in.

The moment defies any words of mine. Try Lileks' from a year ago.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Another reason to be gone

We don't usually get the opportunity to complain about hurricane weather here in Atlanta, but what's left of Frances crawled up the Flint river and knocked out power to a quarter of a million people here, including me.

Had it happened over the weekend, I would have been safely ensconced in the Hyatt Regency watching Margaret Hamilton fly by the 19th floor window. So, of course, it waited until we were actually home to kill our power.

I know, some people have real problems.

Last to the party again

Bloggers left and right have seen this New York Times article comparing misstatements from both candidates over the weekend. Those on the left are laughing at Bush's suggestion that "Too many good OB/GYN's aren't able to practice their--their love, with women all across this country": Those on the right are scratching their heads at Kerry's reference to "confused people like me who can't make up our minds". Relatively few mention both quotes.

The president, as all who are not blinded by partisan passion can admit, is a poor extemporaneous speaker. In his defense (again, as all who are not blinded by partisan passion can admit), he has the ability to connect well to individuals, to make eye contact and convince them instantly that he does care what they have to say. Everyone who's met him remarks on it. And he has a straightforward speaking style that can be quite effective when those who write his words bear it in mind. But he wings it at his peril when speaking to a group. He occasionally veers into Quayle's disease, where his words are so tortured that it's difficult to tell what he meant to say.

Senator Kerry, on the other hand, struggles with the informal "how ya doin'" at which Bush excels. His intellectual grasp of the issues he wishes to address can't be questioned: He knows what he wants to say about them (which is, like most politicians, as little as possible, and I don't fault him for that), and he generally says what he wishes to say, clearly.

At the beginning of the campaign, his tendency to find his four months' Vietnam experience relevant to every question asked was a quirk that helped define him, but as time passes it becomes more and more conspicuous that he has done nothing to brag about since. (We can only assume he thinks so, since he never raises the subject of his years of experience as Massachusetts' lieutenant governor and US Senator.) So, rather than run on the things that make him clearly different from Bush, he appears to be going for the "anything you can do, I can do better" approach.

But if so, why would he characterize himself as a "confused person...who can't make up [my mind]"? This is, as noted, exactly what the Republicans are saying about him. Was he kidding? Was it a wry jab at his critics, to portray himself as something he clearly isn't, a man so befuddled that he'd just as soon eat at a restaurant that doesn't offer choices rather than make a decision what to eat for lunch? Or was he caught up in a failed attempt at folksiness that got away from him (as the Times writer seems to think)?

The alternative, that he accidentally told the truth, is too outrageous to contemplate.

It could be that Kerry is simply humor-impaired. Or I am. I'm trying to think of another way to read this:
Kerry was presented with the semiautomatic shotgun during a Labor Day stop in Racine, West Virginia.

"I thank you for the gift, but I can't take it to the debate with me," Kerry told a cheering crowd as he held up the device.
I'm not entirely humorless. I know he was joking. Was he supposed to be saying he wished he could? Or that they wished he would? How angry are the Democrats? If Bush made a remark about taking Saddam Hussein's sidearm to the debate with him, how would that have been received?

Sunday, September 05, 2004

Bad PR

Now, see, if I'd been thinking, I would have told you up front that I wouldn't have been around much this week, since we're all at Dragon*Con. I would have mentioned ARTC's Friday night show (with Harlan Ellison) and our Sunday night show (with Jewel Staite).

Now, of course, if you're not already there, it's almost too late.