The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes
Wednesday, March 31, 2004
I've started skimming through Walter Lippmann's Public Opinion (etext here).
Which is full of events and people that his readership would know well, but that I know not from a hole in the ground.
For instance, a landing by US Marines on the Dalmatian coast of Italy on September 29 1919, at the time reported in Washington as being on the orders of the Admiralty in London. The US Senate got pretty agitated, including one
Mr. Brandegee of ConnecticutWho?
Frank Bosworth Brandegee, that is, son of Augustus Brandegee. Both men Speakers of the Connecticut House of Representatives, the father a two-term Congressman during and after the Civil War, the son later representing the same, Third District, before becoming Senator in 1905.
Brandegee fils is one of not many Congressional suicides - discussed by Ken Rudin in his old WaPo column (March 16 2001).
The same piece has a graf or two on the political demise of erstwhile GOP star, Minnesota's Harold Stassen - who died only in 2001. Known in later life as a serial no-hope presidential candidate, he was perhaps the last of the LaFollette Republicans to surive on the political stage.
John Gunther, from memory, devoted a whole chapter to Stassen in his Inside USA; whereas, famously, Robert LaFollette Jr remained in the GOP and lost in the 1946 Wisconsin primary to Joseph McCarthy as reward for his loyalty, Stassen, who also stayed loyal, seemed to remain for some years afterwards as a man with a future, despite these being years of the ascendancy in the party of Ohio's conservative Robert Taft.
Rudin says Stassen's mistake came in 1956, at a time when Eisenhower was uncommitted to Nixon on the ticket, when he suggested publicly that Nixon step aside. Nixon was just then about to enjoy a reversal of fortune: and so was Stassen!
And the Dalmatian landing? Had actually been requested by the Italian government, a sort of UN-style peacekeeping operation, I gather. No attempted usurpation of American sovereignty by Perfidious Albion.
I suspect some of those Senators were rather disappointed with the reality.
Yellow is the new white
More evidence that Asian-Americans are functionally white comes in the form of a piece of humour in Details magazine (reproduced here): full-page photo of a young man of apparently East Asian extraction , casually dressed, tourist or student, with the text beside him.
The editorial starts:
One cruises for chicken, the other takes it General Tso-style. Whether you're into shrimp balls or shaved balls, entering the dragon requires imperial tastes.
There's a lot more in similar vein. References to ladyboy fingers and bonsai ass.
Seems to me like trying much too hard.
But - imagine a gag like that featuring a young man of African descent: the guy dressed as a blaxploitation pimp or gang member; pointing out his nappy hair and thick lips, for instance.
Never gonna happen. Same goes, mutatis mutandis, for MEChA men of La Raza or the Indians once called Red.
Razz a white guy as much as you like in magazines and TV: the storyline of whole swathes of TV advertising (in Britain, at least) depends on a moronic man clueless in a domestic setting - unable to work the washing machine or look after the kids for five minutes - who has to be rescued by his woman. Violence against men is often made a joke of; prison rape gags are legion.
But, as, stereotypically, in prison, the punks are all white: no deadbeat dads of colour sell washing powder or breakfast cereal.
(It is some consolation that these commercials send viewers away wondering: can the Superwomen who married these cretins be quite so Super after all?)
If the Details gag is anything to go by, Asian men are now cleared to compete with the white guys for klutz roles in TV spots. That, added to being clobbered by affirmative action in college applications, tends to put them clearly on the white side of the colour line.
Or is that fence? Or wall? Or barrier...
Slate corrects the Saletan error. Kinda
It was quick. I emailed the nice people at Slate over the snafu (explained in my piece yesterday), and within 24 hours, a correction had been posted.
(Of course, I don't know it was my email that did the trick: can't tell because those offering corrections aren't namechecked!)
If I was being pissy, I'd complain that the original article referred to four senators changing sides from supporting Roe v Wade to opposing the Feinstein Amendment. The correct number was five. But the difference in the total votes is 52 minus 49, or three. Readers are still left to scratch their heads as to who it was who moved the other way - and why .
In fact, the lack of evidence for Saletan's theory is no less glaring today than it was yesterday.
But, since I'm not being pissy...
And, with Daniel Okrent and the New York Times in mind, let it be recorded that
The bleating from the NYT - in which Okrent pretty much concurs (March 29) - that such corporate correction of op-ed errors was impossible is shown up for the complete bollocks it is.
On Her Majesty's Illiterate Service
A truly depressing tale: an MoD study has found that
half of all new infantry recruits only have the reading and writing skills of 11-year-olds.
A pathetic letter home illustrates the problem.
Absurdities I might be following, but aren't
From what used to be called the Dominions , a couple of perversions of grievance politics.
From Canada, language fascism: via Damian Penny, the tale of the language Gauleiter (aka Commissioner of Official Languages) Dyane Adam who is complaining that the government's French language quota is not being met because francophone civil servants insist on speaking English to one another!
Why the anglophone majority still do kow-tow to this system beats me: last I heard, the prospect of French Quebeckers even attempting to secede had diminished to near zero. The fact of the national Liberal one-party state has something to do with it, I suspect.
And, via Tim Dunlop, I learn that the opposition Labor  party (ALP) is proposing to scrap ATSIC, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission. Apparently, known amongst abo activists as Aborigines Talking Shit In Canberra.
Way back just after the blog started, I seem to remember looking at the land question, in particular the case of WA v Ward  - the name has stuck for being a tiny name for such an monumentally long case! It's a fascinating topic: one white man's snafu after another, carelessly giving away too much after decades of giving nothing at all, and having to take a whole lot back again.
But, I reckon - if it was too complicated for the professionals...
Tuesday, March 30, 2004
Unborn victims bill: Saletan wrong on the numbers - and on the principle, too?
Last time (March 26) we were talking about the Unborn Victims of Violence Act (HR 1997), it was to record the Senate vote on passage of the bill, which is now awaiting Bush's signature.
Slate's William Saletan has done a good deal of work - including a book - on the politics of abortion - so his piece (March 29) on the UVVA should be worthwhile.
His lede is a stark warning:
How long can supporters of abortion rights go on denying the distinct legal significance of unborn human life? Not any longer, if they want to save Roe v Wade.
He tells them:
...if you deny the human distinctness of the fetus, most people will stop listening to you. Given a choice between calling the fetus a child and calling it a pregnancy, they'll call it a child.
In particular, he compares two roll call votes in the Senate : on the Harkin Amendment to S 3 - the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003 - and that on the Feinstein Amendment to HR 1997.
The Harkin Amendment  was a declaration of support for Roe - and thus a gauge of the strength of pro-abortion (or, at least, of anti-anti-abortion) forces in the Senate: it passed, 52-46.
Feinstein fell, 49-50.
Saletan explains that, of those supporting Harkin
Four of them voted against [the Feinstein amendment.] Feinstein's amendment was the sole alternative put forward by abortion rights supporters. It was the whole ball game, and those four senators held the balance of power. With their support, Feinstein's amendment would have been adopted, and abortion rights would be safe. Instead, the amendment failed, 50 to 49.
First, the math. Much as I loathe it - and there seems no easy alternative, even in these modern times - I've got down amongst the numbers. Saletan is wrong.
The difference between the 52 who voted for Harkin and the 49 who voted for Feinstein is accounted for like this:
Thus, 52 minus 5 plus 2 equals 49. QED.
How Saletan arrived at four votes switching, I know not.
Second, the principle. How does Saletan know what caused the switch?
He doesn't explain how - by indicating, for example, public position statements of the senators in question; or that he had asked the senators, or their people, what had motivated the switch.
Even under the putrid system of anonymous sourcing in place in the best newspapers, there is usually some indication of source, however absurd. Saletan gives none.
And I don't believe there is any a priori reason why his explanation should be the correct one. Perhaps the senators had differing reasons.
I can speculate. But Saletan is well-placed to do some actual journalism to find out!
More journo jargon
From Slate (emphasis mine):
USAT fronts, the WP reefers and the LAT and NYT stuff an Israeli prosecutor's recommendation that the country's justice minister indict Prime Minister Ariel Sharon...
The first and last of these are self-explanatory; reefers had me puzzled, though.
Explanation from the International Society of Weekly Newspaper Editors in a newsletter piece (PDF) discussing the Arizona Republic:
It now has more shorter stories with more sidebars...Additional information is now not in a jump, but in a separate story "refered" [refer, pronounced reefer] inside at the end of the main story. Jumps and long, drawn-out multi-column stories turn off many readers...They simply break one long story into two shorter, self-contained stories.
(I discussed the politics of the inside jump on March 11.)
There must be research on the respective performance of the jump and the reefer in getting readers to read the material placed inside the paper. Surely the reason the jump was invented was to use the front page material as a teaser?
Of course, there's no way that every story can be fronted: and if folks are prepared to pay for a whole paper, and skip straight from the front page to the sports pages - like I said, there must be research.
Uh oh - she's baaaaa-ack! The same Slate piece links a Judith Miller piece (March 29) on WMD. Cue Fats Waller with The Joint is Jumpin'...
Kelley: another foreign correspondent compares and contrasts
Was disgraced USA Today journo Jack Kelley really a different kind of rabbit ?
Romenesko points to a piece by a former foreign correspondent for UPI and USAT who provides some interesting context to the Kelley saga.
I don't know the writer, Christopher Winner, from a hole in the ground. And his article is placed in a publication - The American - which I had similarly never heard of before .
The piece is good for a couple of points:
First, he puts objective journalism (literally) in its place:
The fiercely guarded Puritan frontier that separates objective data (biblical literalism) from a personal sense of accuracy (a kind of interpretive theology) does not exist in any country outside the United States, and I include Great Britain.
This is guy - as he describes - brought up in the hard school of American journalism. The fact he expresses himself thus is therefore remarkable.
Second, he lists  the sorts of peccadilloes that foreign correspondents perpetrate which lie in the vast tract of reality between Kelley and his capital crimes and the illusory standard of journalistic perfection fit to do objective journalism:
I have seen good reporters pad their work with hearsay from local sources they did not check. I have seen fixers fix for correspondents who were too busy to authenticate sources. I have seen reporters gently conspire to adopt the same ("truthful") view of an event. I have seen enemies share, friends lie, colleagues adorn quotes; I have seen news agency reporters invent stories to recoup losses after another agency's scoop; I have myself, at wit's end, hastily grafted phrasing from better writers and accepted them (in my own mind) as my own, and I have witnessed others do the same. I have known fine correspondents to rely as invalids on work done by news agencies or by research assistants, which is tantamount to accepting a friendly bribe. I dare any English-speaking correspondent who has worked in the field to say they have been wholly original all of the time.
Not that Winner sides with Kelley on his misdeeds. But, he points out,
journalism is a crude, cruel and hyper-competitive business that turns on its own, discards them, and allows plenty little forgiveness in a pinch. Its spasms of moral self-righteousness - "We exist to serve the public; Kelley betrayed the public" - are wholly unconvincing, particularly when reportage and propaganda are sometimes literally embedded.
Now, I can imagine - and this is pure speculation - that attack-dogs on behalf of US Big Media could run a decent campaign of denigration against Winner - what is he doing with his own rag in Italy, rather than being star correspondent of the NYT or WaPo? - etc, etc.
And his stuff feeds my druthers - always a sign to be wary.
On the other hand, at least someone agrees with me...
A Winner six degrees of separation thing: this forum piece says that Winner is the son of Percy Winner, to whom author Curzio Malaparte wrote in 1949 seeking publication in the US of his novel La Pelle.
According to this bio, Malaparte had a pretty colourful life - gassed on the Western Front, a Fascist pretty much from the March on Rome to the fall of Mussolini in 1943, he fell out with the fat man and survived.
And, to judge from his Google rap-sheet, quite a lot of people knew that. Not me, evidently.
Getler, bad apples and Kelley: what about the anonymice?
WaPo ombud Michael Getler gets a good deal less play here than his New York Times opposite number, Daniel Okrent for all sorts of reasons: nothing like Jayson Blair or Peter Landesman has cropped up in the Post during the time I've been interested in such things (which isn't that long).
And my impression is Okrent's tenure is more of a performance - it's time-limited, for one thing; and one only has to look at the guy's photo byline to suspect a certain theatrical quality in his work that seems borne out in the prose itself.
Getler (March 28) is pondering the state of journalism in prize time. Just how rotten is it?
He seems  to conclude that the problem concerns
just a few, troubled bad apples among thousands of hardworking and fact-checking journalists.
But not these miserable few hacks alone:
But editors are the gatekeepers; they are the ones who ultimately must protect the paper and the public from any reporter who seeks to deceive or abuse the trust that must exist in a newsroom. Investigations must assess the role of editors and publishers, as well as that of the reporter.
It's a point I made at some length myself (March 23) in relation to the editing of Jack Kelley.
Getler also questions USA Today's performance :
Many of Kelley's stories were astounding in their detail, borderline unbelievable in many cases to anyone who has worked abroad. He had an amazing knack for being at the scene of extraordinary events.
It's undoubtedly a good thing to give full value to the editorial function's part in producing cases like Kelley's - where one can clearly see that the system has gone wrong.
But not if one is distracted from examining more fundamental issues of news quality. Such as the use of anonymous sources - much discussed here (just scroll down the page!).
Or the adoption by the media of the White House's news agenda or its way of framing news stories: the sort of issues explored in Susan Moeller's study (PDF) on WMD stories mentioned several times before here.
There is no question than a journo using anonymous USG sources is per se doing anything unethical - both the New York Times and the Washington Post provide guidelines which have proved fairly elastic in practice. And the questionable WMD work of the Times' Judith Miller has been lauded by her bosses. (All discussed here before.)
This kind of systematic quality problem is much more intractable than a Blair/Kelley: from the tiny amount I've seen, getting a good many journos and editors to admit that there's a problem at all will be no easy matter.
A big case like Kelley is an opportunity for top management to impose a redemptive story arc: some senior heads rolling in the process, as in the Blair affair, but finishing with one of those scenes from the 60s TV dramas preceded by the title: Epilog. Loose ends are tied up, apologies made and forgiveness granted, all under the supervision of the wise and (to the viewers) comforting Perry Mason-type character.
(Indeed, a cynic might suggest that the management of a newspaper like the Times or Post should bring in a guy like Blair every few years, with the intention of playing out that sort of arc, to give the organisation a sort of colonic irrigation: the illusion of having been purged of impurities.)
It works for the average reader, too - who these days tends to be fairly distrustful  of newspaper product. Whilst the anonymous sources issue might well bore him or go over his head, he can understand the fakery of guys like Blair and Kelley without too much difficulty. So when a similar case is discovered and dealt with, he shares the narrative satisfaction of those inside the organisation.
The inclination of all parties, then, after a Blair/Kelley is, in Tony Blair's favourite phrase, to move on.
Which would be unfortunate.
A NYT Kelley piece (March 29) based on interviews with USAT journos.
Medicare video star Karen Ryan writes...
In advance of a proper review of the saga, I can offer you the words of Ryan herself.
It's a bit of rant - and who can blame her? The esteemed organs of the American press did about as well tracking her down as the intel boys managed with Iraqi WMD. Rather worse, given that WMD locations weren't listed online!
(Should she and the HHS have planned for the possibility? Of course.)
And video news releases are standard fare for local TV.
Interesting commentary from Colin McKay, a PR guy in Ottawa, with some useful links. Including a piece called The Top Five VNR Myths - first of these is that
Networks never use VNRs
It also talks about the MO whereby VNRs are pitched. Not perhaps quite as casual as as some of the folks at stations which aired parts of the HHS VNRs led one to believe.
GOP 350 votes for higher taxes slur on Kerry has stuck even for sophisticated media, apparently
Start with a piece on FactCheck (updated on March 24), outlining the way the story spread, including links to GOP lists of votes  and media pieces on the story.
Key things to note were:
The list of 352 runs up to April 2003, so I suppose the gag has been available for use for some time.
Now, as Campaign Desk point out (March 29), the 350 votes jibe has stuck: it quotes an AP piece on a Cheney speech which reports him making the jibe without parsing or commentary on its trickier points .
And now it's been incorporated into a BC ad featuring a Boston cop (Jay Moccia) which our friends at The Note (March 29) note. According to the script as quoted, Moccia says
John Kerry likes to raise taxes. So much so he's voted for higher taxes 350 times …
And The Note calls a must read a piece in the Boston Globe by Anne Kornblut (March 28) on the ad.
The Note doesn't mention the problems with the tax jibe, and nor does Kornblut.
Now, perhaps that's because the jibe is now an acquis - like Gore boasting about inventing the Internet - which is now impossible to retrieve, so it's not worth the effort of serious professionals to parse the thing - analysis which the plebs wouldn't understand anyway...
Or perhaps, as Campaign Desk suggests, they've forgotten.
(The Globe is surely a Kerry supporter: so on both grounds of fairness and partiality, it ought to have explained the point, surely?)
Whilst on the ad: Moccia says at one point
I'm a working guy with six kids.
What's that about? Even Catholics in America have been practising birth control for decades. And the guy is moaning about Kerry's supposedly increasing his taxes? With six kids?
The swing voter surely reacts: Should have tied a knot in it!
Big Media is unlinked - another dismal example
Looking at Campaign Desk, I see that Thomas Lang has a piece praising the LA Times for an article explaining the precedents on Presidential advisers testifying before Congress.
The Times piece makes reference to
A 2002 study by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service [which] found 20 instances in which presidential advisors summoned by Congress had testified and five in which the White House had refused requests.
Except the wretched rag fails to give a link to the CRS report in question.
Now, once upon a time, CRS reports were available on the site of Rep Mark Green. But they are there no longer. We peasants must scavenge for them on various sites . You'd have thought that Times - in such an excellent report - would have given us a bit of a hand.
Not even the damned title!
Fortunately, it does identify one of the advisors involved as Mr Copy/Paste himself, Zbigniew Brzezinski...
I can therefore reveal (!) that the work in question is Presidential Advisers' Testimony Before Congressional Committees: A Brief Overview dated April 5 2002 (RL31351), available on the FAS site (PDF).
There are regularly pieces from bloggers like J-guru Jay Rosen, and articles in the CJR, OJR, AJR and elsewhere, on the Brave New World of media, with new gizmos, new ways of production, marketing and what not: but here is a tiny way of putting to good use the basic functionality of hyperlinking to help readers to a greater understanding of the story.
And - nada.
Monday, March 29, 2004
Okrent on op-ed corrections...
...is the usual curate's egg  from the New York Times ombud.
I've mentioned before (on March 5, for instance) that Okrent can be expected to play a long game over the 14 months left on his contract. He needs to pick his targets, and husband his credibility.
So - as witness his Landesman comments, which I discussed on February 29 - he is not inclined to find exclusively for one side or the other in a controversy.
Thus, his lede is a tease:
It sounds like a simple question: Should opinion columnists be subject to the same corrections policy that governs the work of every other writer at The Times? So simple, in fact, that you must know that only an ornate answer could follow.
He is deliberately trying our patience: the Oracle cannot be rushed!
After pointing out that the seven (I hadn't realised the precise number) op-eds were not as other journos on the Times , he brings in a memo from
editorial page editor Gail Collinswhich he put on his 'blog' .
She makes the astonishing assertion that
It's not possible to be an independent voice and also be edited for content...which simply cannot be right. All book authors, fiction and non-fiction, have editors, whose role (as I understand it) includes both guiding their charges as to subject-matter and treatment, and, once the book is delivered, judiciously pruning and rearranging. And these are works at the antipode of the Just the facts, ma'am reporting that regular Times journos paradigmatically  produce.
The idea that any writer in any genre can dispense with firm but sympathetic editing without detriment to his work is truly risible .
However, Collins does say of the Magnificent Seven, that
while their opinions are their own, the columnists are obviously required to be factually accurate.
She seems to view factual accuracy with a good deal of condescension . At any rate, the rule is that
If one of them makes an error, he or she is expected to promptly correct it in the column. After some experimentation at different ways of making corrections, we now encourage a uniform approach, with the correction made at the bottom of the piece.
She justifies this differential rule on the grounds that
[The memo  ends in an editing snafu:
These are some of the top writers in American journalism. They take their reputation for accuracy very, very serio
Is that more drollery from Brer Okrent? Or a genuine lack of editing...]
Okrent - with a Mel Gibson Passion allusion, perhaps ? - asks
But who is to say what is factually accurate?
He says that many op-eds
use their material in ways that veer sharply from conventional journalistic practice. The opinion writer chooses which facts to present, and which to withhold.
He's kidding, surely? It's just the
chooses which facts to present, and which to withhold.
And not the hard news guys who are subject, as he quotes earlier, to the rigorous regime of corporate corrections as laid down in the Style Book: they never choose which facts to present!
Does Okrent really think that?
After some prose so purple that even I might have blue-pencilled it, he concludes that
Opinion is inherently unfair.
And he then spends some time on the rowdy crowd of partisans, pro and con, that op-eds attract, who are interested in circus rather than enlightenment.
Okrent admits that
there is no protected opinion that holds that the sun rises in the west.But seems to agree with William Safire's comment that
An opinion may be wrongheaded but it is never wrong. A belief or a conviction, no matter how illogical, crackbrained or infuriating, is an idea subject to vigorous dispute but is not an assertion subject to editorial or legal correction.
And that is right, up to a point. An opinion whether God exists, or the Yankees will win the World Series this year, is not necessarily falsifiable, though the reasoning supporting such opinions is susceptible to logical analysis; an opinion that the sun moves around the Earth eminently is falsifiable.
Those in professions such as law and medicine daily give their opinions as to existing or proposed states of affairs. And those opinions are certainly to a substantial extent susceptible to review and criticism based on objective criteria. Pace Safire, such opinions may well be wrong.
But there is no dichotomy, not even a gamut, between fact and opinion - that is the Big Lie underlying the false notion of objective journalism. The relationship between the two is much more complex, and usually inextricably entangled. Even in the hardest of news pieces, selection and omission - and expressions of opinion - are essential parts of the final product. As are the skills of at least one, hopefully several, editors.
The practical outcome of all of this at the Times is more op-ed corrections. About which I am the opposite of churlish.
But the issue of op-ed corrections has once more focussed on the illusory distinction between fact and opinion which American journalism is striving to defend with the same desperation and grip on reality as old George Wallace hoping to bar the way to desegregation by placing himself at the schoolhouse door.
Those post-Hutton BBC blues keep on a-wailing
They have an internal inquiry going - established, no doubt, for the usually reason: allocating the blame to others - which seems set fair to extinguish what little spirit of independence in BBC news remained after Hutton's attentions.
Leading news presenters are threatening to down tools , apparently, likening the process to Guantanamo.
(Which, of course, makes it sound like prima donnas preening and camping. Surely not?)
Okrent speaks: on op-ed corrections
I've taken his words of wisdom under advisement.
Sunday, March 28, 2004
Judith Miller and WMD: Okrent's answer from the top
New York Times ombud Daniel Okrent's pseudo-blog, whilst welcome for its substance, imposes a certain discipline on the unwary blogger. Entirely unfair to characterise it as a means getting stuff into the public domain and making the smallest wave possible in the process.
However - I had managed not take cognizance of the appearance of a piece (March 25 1607 ET) on the Miller-WMD saga in scribing my last effort on the subject (March 26 0010 ET).
Okrent has not broken his self-denying ordinance about pre-arrival events. But he introduces a quote from Executive Editor Bill Keller on the subject.
Very bizarre. Keller, as boss, naturally has the run of the paper to comment on whatever he likes. A cursory check with Mr Google suggests that, as yet, he has not commented on the Miller/WMD question. Is the appearance of his comments on Okrent's turf meant to demonstrate that Okrent has managed some kind of coup?
Or - remembering the importance of location in the paper (A17 is Siberia) as an index of the value placed on it by the paper's editors - perhaps putting the statement in the Okrent blog takes the edge off it .
As I do not mean to suggest in any way that I am not interested in readers' concerns about the paper...
And we would think that, why?
As for the text - Keller makes the same not on my watch point as Okrent. And then says
I did not see a prima facie case for recanting or repudiating the stories. The brief against the coverage was that it was insufficiently skeptical, but that is an easier claim to make in hindsight than in context. (By context I mean such things as, what others were writing at the time, what role editors played in handling and presenting the stories, how credible the sources were, etc.)
One might at first wonder whether he quite understands the meaning of prima facie.
What I think he's saying is that Miller is the girl with her finger in the dyke (as it were): he doesn't think Miller's errors differ much in kind, if not in degree, from those made by the rest of her colleagues on the issue. So if the Times admits even that her WMD stuff deserves a second look, he's also admitting that the whole of Times coverage is suspect.
(The substantive point - that no journos and editors realised at the time that the WMD coverage was screwed is surely wrong. The folks at Knight Ridder - as told in Michael Massing's piece - had latched onto the dissent within the USIC on the extent of the Iraqi threat. But KR are infra dig, Not Our Sort, Dear - so no one took much notice.)
Then, based on this (false) premise, Keller says
opening a docket and litigating the claims against the coverage was likely to consume more of my attention than I was willing to invest.
The Ninth Beatitude applies here - I don't think anyone thought a Jayson Blair/Jack Kelley-style review of the matter was in prospect this side of the Last Trump.
As for the future, clearly Miller starts with a large credit balance at the Keller Bank:
My experience of Judy...is that she is a smart, well-sourced, industrious and fearless reporter with a keen instinct for news, and an appetite for dauntingly hard subjects...
And Keller has his explanation ready for chi-iking from other pros:
Like many aggressive reporters, particularly reporters who deal with contentious subjects, she has sometimes stepped on toes, but that is hardly grounds for rebuke.
Which, being translated, is: Miller's critics are a bunch of hacks either themselves sore at being scooped, or getting their stuff from such scoopees.
Now, Keller isn't there as some kind of impartial umpire: it's his job to defend his people, whatever the merits of the complaints against them, so long as they can be defended, and cut them loose when they start risking the safety of the rest.
And, whatever else may lie behind the timing and placement of Keller's words, Okrent has done us a service in letting us know from the horse's mouth where we stand.
Relevant or no, one should perhaps add that Bill Keller was an enthusiastic member of the War Party.
For instance, he scribed a piece on June 14 2003  reiterating his support for the invasion, but commenting scathingly on the intelligence operation:
What the Bush administration did was gild the lily -- disseminating information that ranged from selective to preposterous.And he mentions the African uranium, aluminum tubes and Saddam/Al Qaida sagas.
Not to revisit the jury questions in the Miller case, but - didn't she write about some of that stuff?
Might as well quit it: we're not going to get any change out of Keller on Miller.
A regular reading of Brer Romenesko suggests that plagiarism is the surest charge to level if one is looking to winkle out a hack. But it's not one I think I've read levelled at Miller.
Of course, regurgitating stuff spoon-fed by USG sources is not viewed as plagiarism. Even if she is repeating someone else's stuff without namechecking them.
In relation to Bill Keller's hindsight point:
Picking up again with Susan Moeller's study - Ctrl + F the page - I find on page 45a an extract from Dana Milbank's WaPo article from October 22 2002 (on the WaPo site!) For Bush, Facts Are Malleable: Presidential Tradition Of Embroidering Key Assertions Continues.
Milbank cites three statements of Bush's, and says that each was
dubious, if not wrongAmongst the three is this:
Last month, asked if there were new and conclusive evidence of Hussein's nuclear weapons capabilities, Bush cited a report by the International Atomic Energy Agency saying the Iraqis were "six months away from developing a weapon."
there was no such report by the IAEA
Later in the piece, he says the White House afterwards said the source was not an IAEA report but US intelligence.
Milbank's piece was directed at Bush stretchers generally, not just Iraq-related ones. But it does suggest that, even at the prestige end of the media street, folks were calling attention to the Emperor's lack of apparel.
Regular readers will want to know where the Milbank piece ran. The generosity of the Post (no need to scrabble around for copies on Usenet!) allows one to know the answer: A1, no less! A memo to the White House.
And, thanks to Ken Auletta's New Yorker piece from January 2004, we know it went down like the showing of The Passion at a barmitzvah:
According to Maralee Schwartz, the Post’s national political editor, Fleischer, Hughes, and Rove each complained to her about him, and suggested that he might be the wrong person for the job.
Moeller cites a couple of other pieces from October 2002 on White House stretchers: a NY Times piece (reprint) by Steven Lee Meyers on Chechnyan terror (blink and you'll miss it!):
As Mr. Bush has done repeatedly, Mr. Putin raised the specter of a terrorist attack using nuclear, chemical or biological weapons...
And a Michael Kinsley WaPo op-ed (Slate reprint):
the dissembling is aimed at the American citizenry...
What would be helpful - to avoid the hindsight of which Brer Keller was so scornful - is some kind of timeline for us to be able to gauge the state of the art on media criticism of Iraqi WMD intelligence.
Richard Clarke, another of the anonymice
A piece in the blog of Cleveland Plain Dealer editor Doug Clifton notes Clarke's infamous background briefing in the context of the debate on anonymous sources.
There is, of course, no justification for officials speaking on behalf of the Administration to brief anonymously at all. But it must be easier for an official briefing a journo to spout a party line in flat opposition to his own beliefs when his name won't appear in the journo's piece.
And how often is what an official (civil service or Administration appointee) says on behalf of USG completely in accordance with his own opinion on the matter under discussion?
Here, I've rather been concentrating on the corrosive effect of USG anonymous briefings on the journos (rather assuming that the briefers are political hacks who are already as corrupt as they'll ever be!). But I suspect that most anonymous briefings on behalf of USG are not done by people 100% identified with the president of the day.
(I believe that, whilst many (all?) senior appointments are not civil service, but at the pleasure of the president, the folks appointed are far from all being FOBs or Bushies (or whatever). And both Clarke and George Tenet were Clinton holdovers. I'd be fairly sure there's research on this.)
In the UK, anonymous government briefing is endemic and seemingly ineradicable. The Hutton Inquiry - whitewash of HMG though it might have been - produced plenty of material on the point.
The peculiar convention whereby ministers, and not civil servants , are deemed responsible for the actions of government departments also acts to dilute accountability for official utterances.
Even the daily Number 10 briefings  are given off camera, and reported in oratio obliqua, rather than transcribed verbatim.
We have had the Phillis Report on Government Communications (PDF) (released on January 19, just before the Hutton Report was issued) - which seems to have disappeared more or less without trace .
Earlier pieces here where the plague of anonymice manifested itself on March 26, March 23, March 22, March 18, March 16, March 9, March 8 - and that's just March!
Friedman does an I have a dream. Oh dear.
New York Times Middle East guru Thomas Friedman  produces a piece of druthery (March 28) whose level of sophistication in style and content would, I suspect, appear sophomoric to blog favourite Cecile DuBois. Who is a sophomore . In high school.
For a start, he admits he
didn't listen to one second of the 9/11 hearings and I didn't read one story in the paper about them. Not one second. Not one story.
And that he gets his first daily dose of news from AOL.
Then he gives us his list of druthers.
And that's it.
Reparations case marmalised by judge
I've just had the treat of reading the 75 page Aetna opinion of January 26 2004  - the case is properly called Re African-American Slave Defendants Litigation - by Judge Charles Norgle (in the Northern District of Illinois, not New York, as I'd thought).
There can seldom have been so long an opinion for so patently meritless a claim. It was as if, given an enormous parcel on his birthday, the judge had patiently undone the many layers of wrappings and found no present inside!
And the interest in the case is not diminished by the fact that it is decided on procedural, rather than substantive, grounds.
The effect of the opinion is cumulative; but a couple of quotes will give a flavour.
One of the many reasons to grant the motion to dismiss was failure to state a claim on which relief can be granted (p57a):
Plaintiffs' Complaint is a pastiche of the generally acknowledged horrors of slavery, totally devoid of allegations of injury to the Plaintiffs or corresponding conduct committed by Defendants.
On statute of limitations, the plaintiffs argued that the discovery rule should apply to stop time running against their claims . The judge commented (p67a):
Plaintiffs are attempting to recover for injuries incurred by their ancestors over a century ago. Plaintiffs' ancestors knew or should have known that they were being brutalized and wrongfully forced to work for people, plantations, companies and industries without being compensated. If they did not know of their exact injury at the time it occurred, they certainly should have known of it after the Civil War, the passing of the Civil War Amendments, or even the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.
Now, all judges are human, and maybe Judge Norgle erred on one or two of the points on which the case foundered. But on every point?
Judging by the press reports (the one or two I've looked at!) - such as this - the plaintiffs won't be appealing.
My guess: the case is not merely dead, it's really most sincerely dead.
Reparations shakedown under way at Brown University?
Gradual emancipation was, it seems, enacted in Rhode Island in 1784; and the slave trade abolished there in 1787. A flourishing slaving operation had been carried on from Newport, Providence and other RI ports, and illegal trading, I suspect, was not unheard of after abolition - John Brown was tried in the state's courts for, and acquitted of, illegal slaving .
But to what extent was the wealth of the Brown family (after whose scion, James Brown, the university is named ) that helped to endow it in its early days derived from slaving?
And how much can the shakedown merchants blackmail out of the school on the back of it?
I have a feeling these questions have been knocking around for some time. A piece by Dr. Richard Lobban (apparently from December 2002) says
...the Providence Journal (1 August 2002, Emancipation Day) proclaimed that the John Brown House was the "house that slavery built"...
Lobban lists a good many slaving connections for Brown - including a plantation in Surinam - and names two professors, Norman Fiering of Brown and Stanley Lemons of Rhode Island College, as solitary opponents of a slaving or slave-holding source for most of the Brown family wealth.
A piece in the Brown Alumni Magazine of July-August 2003, which namechecks the Aetna shakedown launched in 2002 in New York - the case dismissed by the District Court judge in January 2004 .
Hostilities at Brown apparently got underway in March 2001 over the famous David Horowitz ad Ten Reasons Why Reparations for Slavery Is a Bad Idea-and Racist Too was published in the college rag.
According to the BAM piece, the slaving connections with Brown's endowment are murky - those with Harvard and Yale are much clearer, it seems.
It also has a couple of quotes suggesting that Northerners today do not realise that - I was about to type their ancestors, whose patent wrongness rather hits the nub  - Northerners of 200 years ago were intimately concerned in the slave trade.
Is that true? Given the general slant of what I take to be the broad thrust of history teaching in the US in the last couple of decades - multi-culti happy-clappiness for all except whitey, who is blamed for all ills - it would be odd.
At that stage, it seems, President Ruth Simmons (herself with slave antecedents) was keeping her counsel on the issue.
What happened in the interim to get her to set up the Steering Committee on Slavery and Justice which had its first panel discussion a few days ago (Brown Daily Herald March 19), I'm not clear.
The Committee has its own website which includes its terms of reference. Looks to me as if it's intended primarily as a research exercise, rather than an inquiry into legal liability or a touchy-feely rolling Oprah show.
I actually was alerted to the topic by a piece in the Guardian Education section (March 23) - I get the feeling the hack might have gone away disappointed with the modest scope of Simmons' committee.
But let it not be forgetten that reparations have been in full vigour for decades at Brown in the form of affirmative action...
MORE (April 7)
John Rosenberg has a piece on Brown's Third World Transition Program.
Fair enough - just - you may think: induction of foreign students into the American way of (academic) life and so forth.
Wrong. Third World means non-white - Park Avenue or Philadelphia's Main Line have pockets of 'Third World' by this definition!
It gets much worse. And I wouldn't like to spoil it for you...
Saturday, March 27, 2004
Radio fuck girl gets new gig
The Sandra Tsing Loh story has moved on, I find (pick up from March 16 piece).
She's got a new slot (as it were) over at KPCC, another NPR station. And the feud with KCRW manager Ruth Seymour has got uglier (hard to believe, but...): Seymour has released a letter sent by Loh apologising for the unbleeped fuck.
Of course, on the substantive issue, we've had the FCC decision on the Bono Golden Globes malfunction - I'd considered swapping FCC Chairman Michael Powell's blog nickname from Sonny Boy to Fucking Brilliant, but irony can only be taken so far.
Under the revised decision (March 19 piece), Bono's isolated, unintentional, non-descriptive utterance was condemned as indecent - and also, of course, as profane.
So it turns out that KCRW were exposed to FCC enforcement action  by STL's unbleeped fuck after all!
Cecile DuBois keeps it up
Much to my surprise and delight. She first surfaced her (February 1) as an apparent victim of one of those sub-zero-tolerance PC nonsenses, valiantly fighting her corner. It later (February 13 - a Friday!) dawned on your humble and obtuse blogger than Ms DuBois was not as other teen girl journalers; but virtually General Secretary of the Blogosphere Youth Wing.
Politically, she appears to be somewhat to the right of Genghis Khan : Wolfowitz and Perle are fluffy bunnies by comparison.
But it's the domestic comments which shine. As, for instance, her latest offering:
My classmate...brought her journal to class today. She predicted what everyone would be doing by our twentieth high school reunion....
For a writer with a gift for humour - to patently not care, and not come off a bitch about it - strange that in none of the several photos of her on the site do we see her smile...
Which law bars FCC censorship of satellite broadcasts?
The basic law on the matter is 18 USC 1464:
Whoever utters any obscene, indecent, or profane language by means of radio communication shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both.
It was originally enacted, more or less in this form, in §29 of the Radio Act of 1927 (PDF).
Now, when TV came along, there was presumably some case which applied the rule, mutatis mutandis, to images.
But where is the definition for radio communication ? And, if regular TV is within the section, why isn't direct broadcasting by satellite (DBS)?
Now 18 USC 1468  says that
Whoever knowingly utters any obscene language or distributes any obscene matter by means of cable television or subscription services on television, shall be punished by imprisonment for not more than 2 years or by a fine in accordance with this title, or bothand says that
As used in this section, the term ''distribute'' means to send, transmit, retransmit, telecast, broadcast, or cablecast, including by wire, microwave, or satellite...
If §1464 applied to satellite, §1468 would be superfluous.
The answer will no doubt turn up eventually: Micawber is the patron saint of Online!
While the URL is to hand, a general paper on Regulation and Deregulation of Telecommunications may be of interest. Also this, this (PDF), this (PDF), this (PDF), this, this and this (PDF) (of varying degrees of relevance!).
Friday, March 26, 2004
Local TV news: health concerns
I don't consume the product, so I'm loathe to anatomise. But - well, they started it with the HHS video news release thing...
The Minneapolis Star-Tribune has a piece on a worrying study from Minnesota U J-prof Gary Schwitzer looking at health stories on four Twin Cities stations' local news shows which found that
The average length of the 840 stories was 45 seconds
Not only was time constrained - enough for a gee whiz, not enough for necessary caveats - but none of the stations had a specialist health journo:
There were 58 people putting their names on health care stories in just four months
Now - devil's advocate - perhaps it's no bad thing for these stories to come across as rip-and-reads from a bunch of bimbos, rather than earnest tweed-clad nerds with that little knowledge that is the proverbial dangerous thing. Who might be overfamiliar with Big Pharma, for instance. Or have undergraduate obsessions with particular subjects. Or just be too damned confident for their own good.
For example, the BBC's domestic broadcasting is full of generous slots for health, with specialist health correspondents and doctors as regular broadcasters. The mumbo-jumbo which triggered the MMR vaccine fiasco - which has gripped the British public imagination much to the disadvantage of public health - was encouraged, rather than stamped on, by the serious media, including the BBC.
Overholser joins the anonymice hunt
Geneva Overholser, J-prof and cute with it, has a piece on Poynter on the New York Times' and Washington Post's performance under their new regimes governing the use of anonymous sources and is unimpressed .
She hits the key fact: that it's the newspaper's current laxness that allows the anonymice to get away with it.
Commenting on a White House anonymous rebuttal in WaPo of a CIA assertion, she says
What if the reporters (Dan Eggen and Walter Pincus) had told the White House that they could not use an off-the-record quote? The story might then have read: "White House officials declined to respond." Sure, readers would have gotten a different view –- because of a choice by the White House. A few such references on major stories like this, and some "senior administration officials" just might decide to go on the record.
The chances of the worm turning must be slight. One really needs the combination of an editor and a hack who are both in a state of demob happiness, perhaps on a slow summer weekend. It's druther - but a good one.
Another Times guy wait-listed for the treatment
One unsportsmanlike pleb, a certain Sasha Issenberg, down at Philadelphia magazine (April 2004 issue) has resorted to the sordid and underhand practice of actual journalism to uncover the feet of clay of New York Times op-ed lifestyle guru David Brooks.
Apparently, Brooks March 6 column  begins:
We're so full of it.
Issenberg would agree, if the plural were made singular.
Brooks, he finds, is a guy who deals in à peu près - who doesn't let the facts get in the way of a witty generalisation.
And when Issenberg phones the guy (stones of stone!) to run by him some of the discrepancies he's found between Brooks' version and his own findings, the great man is defensive.
A cat may look at a queen; and no doubt Brooks will fabulise on regardless of chi-iking from minnows like Issenberg.
Relevance? Times ombud Daniel Okrent has acknowledged that op-ed accuracy is on his to-do list. Perhaps Brooks may find himself a target of opportunity. Lifestyle may be an easier sell than WMD when it comes to selecting scapegoats.
The Judith Miller story gains a couple of twists
The last time (March 24) we were with the New York Times's Miller, she was on the Farther Shores of Neoconnery with Daniel Pipes and his Middle East Forum.
Re-reading Susan Moeller's study (PDF)  - of which more later - I naturally come across Miller's name more than once.
But, on p35a, a reference to a piece of Miller's appears in a section summarised in bold as
When journalists did take on the administration - especially when the White House's perspective formed the "conventional wisdom" - their stories were often buried or their criticism was more implicit than explicit.
Miller's is an article from October 26 2002 , not directly on WMD but on the National Security Strategy which was then only recently in the public domain. In particular, the assertion in the NSS that
Our forces will be strong enough to dissuade potential adversaries from pursuing a military buildup in hopes of surpassing, or equaling, the power of the United States.
Moeller says that
While Miller's piece quoted several Republican spokespeople, her framing of the issues let critical Democratic voices dominate.
Which is fair, though I'd not be sure that the critics are uniformly Dems. The piece appeared in the Arts and Ideas section, B9.
Miller's angle, though, is not, This is bad policy switch by Bush; but rather, It's a bad policy that's been around for at least a decade, arguably a lot longer.
The interest may just lie in the fact that for once , Miller is criticising the Administration, and getting her work buried accordingly.
But, just perhaps, she was taking a dive - a rather shallow one, in fact - to obtain a thin coating of objectivity.
In Jack Shafer's catalogue, the piece does not figure. Nor in the AJR August 2003 piece on Miller's WMD-related sins; nor in Michael Massing's NYROB piece on wider media failings on WMD.
Naturally, the thought occurs that one or two of Miller's critics might have been a little economical with the actualité. (Though it stays as a thought: the fact that a critic fails to mention an outlier like the October 26 piece has a probative value (of the critic's deceit) of as near to nil as makes no difference.)
But it does make one wonder how comprehensive have been the reviews of Miller's work.
There is a tailpiece: Miller got a quote in support of the NSS Hertz doctrine (she said it was called in USG) from
Richard Pipes, a Harvard University history professor emeritus
He most assuredly is. Father to the Daniel Pipes whose Middle East Forum maintains a list of experts on which Judith Miller appeared (which was where we came in).
Miller was on the list in April 2003; and, I suspect, was there in October 2002.
I wouldn't make a Federal case out of it: for a start, I'm not sure precisely how one would frame the non-disclosure charge against Miller for this. And, besides, as previously discussed here and all over, Times ombud Daniel Okrent views pre-arrival stuff as time-barred from his examination.
But the coincidence is nevertheless intriguing.
Anti-abortion wedge bill passes Senate...
...on Roll Call 63.
Of the 99 Senators voting, 13 Dems approved the bill, HR 1997, including Minority Leader Tom Daschle.
(No details for the roll call on the Dianne Feinstein amendment (defeated) , which was designed to achieve the goal of the bill without defining the fetus as human life .)
The non-voter wasn't Kerry: he's recorded as voting No. (The Note says he was due to be in Washington all day.)
OhmyNews? They said it...
A piece by Terry Heaton at Digital Journalist self-explanatorily called TV News in a Postmodern World News Is A Conversation led me  via Heaton's blog to an article in Japan Media Review on the South Korean phenomenon that is OhmyNews.
The first couple of grafs:
Three years ago, a crew of four people quietly launched the South Korean "citizen journalism" Web site OhmyNews. Since then, the site's full-time staff has grown to 53 -- including 35 full-time reporters and editors -- and the number of "citizen reporters" writing for the site has grown from 700 to about 26,700.
Given that the population of South Korea is around 50 million and the New York Times gets around 1.5 million unique visitors a day (source: the NYTC site, I think), this is clearly more than chopped liver.
There is a similar Japanese operation - JanJan - apparently; is it an ethnically specific thing ? Could it happen here? Who knows. This is more for the Ripley's than the read-across.
The big downside, of course, is that, for an enterprise in communication, almost none of the world's population can appreciate it.
Except, there is an international edition - which says its a Beta, and looks it.
Hatful of bonus points, though, for the first hed, over a teaser for a story on the upcoming impeachment of President Roh:
'Oops We Pissed Off The Kids'
And another hatful for this dose of realism from founder Oh Yeon-Ho  to JMR:
We do not regard objective reporting as a source of pride. OhmyNews does not regard straight news articles as the standard. Articles including both facts and opinions are acceptable when they are good.
Thursday, March 25, 2004
Karmazin has kojones?
Apparently, Mel Karmazin, boss of Viacom - and therefore, via Infinity Broadcasting, of man of the moment Howard Stern - is, if not mad as hell, at least not in the BBC post-Hutton fetal position.
Seems he told the Wall Street Journal yesterday he's right behind Howard:
Howard has two more years left under his contract. If he was interested in renewing today, I would renew it today.
Support for Stern is, one feels, a means to an end: kicking Clear Channel . Thus:
Another company canceled Howard's show for no reason other than that they were going to Washington to testify and just didn't seem to have the courage to stand up for programming that they aired. And we absolutely stand up for what Howard is doing.
Does that mean Karmazin will be first in the queue with the First Amendment writs against the FCC?
Not to judge by this shuffle:
I don't believe anybody wants to cross over the line. Viacom certainly doesn't want to. Don't believe any advertiser would want to cross over the line. Don't believe there is an advantage to broadcasting material over the line.
No: Mel is right behind Stern and he's antiphonising with the Comstock Choir (Head Soprano: Wicked Witch of the West Nancy Pelosi).
Chance of Karmazin backing even the most narrowly based First Amendment suit against the FCC? Think Lord Lucan riding in on Shergar - with Elvis on pillion...
More FCC censorship
It's slow going.
But, having re-read the Supreme Court in Pacifica - followed by Robert Corn-Revere's statement  to the House Telecommunications Subcommittee, I'm a little surer that a full-bore constitutional challenge to FCC censorship  would be worthwhile.
Pacifica - without getting into Marks (piece yesterday) - looks to be shaky in several respects (expounded by RCR rather more satisfactorily than I could manage!)
By way of rough-and-ready summary:
Other questions arise.
First, of all, strategy. We obviously want to do maximum destruction to the regime of FCC censorship, but there are several possible claims that might get in the way one of the other:
Would it be good strategy to have several cases running in parallel? Since the Supreme Court can select which (if any) case to take, one would ideally not want to give the Court the chance of selecting a case which could be decided on narrow grounds which left the bulk of the FCC censorship system intact.
On the other hand, we would not want the best to be the enemy of the good: if, we put all our eggs in one basket with a global claim of unconstitutionality and lost before the Supremes, the system could end up with a legitimacy it currently does not have; and we will have lost the chance for a High Court challenge in the area for a good many years afterwards.
(Besides, Stalinist direction of such matters is impossible: there probably will be several cases. The interaction problems still need to be dealt with, though.)
To get any test case off the ground, one will need a plaintiff with standing to sue who has a claim which is ripe . A suit at the District Court will not lie, it seems. What is needed is a final agency action by the FCC (RCR n151), from which an appeal to the DC Circuit Court may then be made .
Would it be reasonable for the courts to insist that a radical suit seeking the whole system of indecency censorship to be declared unconstitutional necessarily need to piggyback on a particular FCC enforcement action?
Framing any claim (broad or narrow) may be tricky: for instance, I doubt whether a preliminary injunction would be available where one was claiming that existing law or regulation was unconstitutional.
(One might stand a better chance of getting an injunction in a suit to declare a putative new FCC law - currently HR 3717/S 2056, as previously discussed several times here - unconstitutional. Cases brought against child porn - Free Speech Coalition - and internet smut - Reno v ACLU and Ashcroft v ACLU - were, from memory, all covered by preliminary injunctions. The laws attacked have thus never been enforced.)
The impact of the Chevron doctrine - of which I had not taken cognizance till a couple of days ago! - on the willingness of the courts to intervene needs to be considered.
My slight understanding of this is that Chevron was a 1984 Supreme Court case ruling that Federal courts should show a large measure of deference to the interpretation by regulatory bodies of the laws and rules under which they operate.
From what little I've read on the subject, it seems that the doctrine has weakened over recent years; and it is not clear to me how far it would apply to questions: the name to plonk  is, I believe, the Carolene Products footnote .
In any case, RCR in his piece doesn't mention the Chevron doctrine; which I take to be, at the very least, suggestive that it does not apply to FCC censorship questions.
(The doctrine would seem eminently applicable to other parts of the FCC's remit: competition control, for instance.)
I can't help a feeling of of deflation: too little knowledge chasing too many difficult problems! Time to get some in , I fancy.
What's on in Congress
Details are, bizarrely, mostly not available either via THOMAS or the Senate and House sites.
Prospective floor schedules (such as they are) come from the majority party leaderships' sites; calendars (state of play with unfinished legislation, etc) from the GPO (this VoteSmart page has the links).
I seem to remember reading somewhere that members and their staffs have a super-duper integrated version of all this; as with CRS Reports (public access to which was kiboshed, and not restored - the last time I looked), the elected are happy to keep the electors in the dark whenever they can get away with it!
(Of bills being followed here, the Abortion End-run Bill - aka HR 1997 is due on the Senate floor on Thursday .)
There is no sign of S 2056, the FCC bill, reaching the floor. Though that could well be an artefact of a combination of Plawg ignorance and Congressional online shambles.
MORE (April 7)
The House Republican Conference site seems to have a lot of the necessary information: 108th Congress bills classed by subject, daily schedule with analysis of bills, etc. Much better than the Senate GOP site - unless I'm reading it wrong.
Wednesday, March 24, 2004
Are Rehnquist and Stevens the last WW2 vets in senior government?
According to this, Chief Justice William Rehnquist was in the USAAF during World War 2, and Justice John Stevens was a US Navy man.
I suspect they are the last veterans of that war still in full-time employment as officials in the Federal government in a senior role.
(Amongst members of Congress, I see that Ernest Hollings served (USA) but Robert Byrd apparently did not.)
The perils of Pacifica: a suitable case for (Marks-ist) treatment?
[I turn to refresh my memory of the fundamental US Supreme Court decision underlying FCC practice on indecency censorship, and...]
Back in the days of hope, when the Mordor-like pall cast by Injustice O'Connor was not yet patent to the mob yearning to be free of affirmative action, it was necessary to consider the case of Bakke and its ratio decidendi - at best tortured, mostly likely illusory - vivisected and Frankensteined by the perverse mechanism known as 'Marks analysis' .
The cleanest rule would be that no proposition would have precedential value except one clearly and explicitly agreed in terms by at least five of the panel of nine. The upshot of Marks is that the ratio of a decision may be one supported by no justice whatsoever.
But the vanity of Their Corvinenesses would not brook the notion that anything that fell from their beaks could be of no lasting value. Thus stare decisis becomes unstable and indecisive!
In Bakke , the box score was as follows:
POWELL, J., announced the Court's judgment and filed an opinion expressing his views of the case, in Parts I, III-A, and V-C of which WHITE, J., joined; and in Parts I and V-C of which BRENNAN, MARSHALL, and BLACKMUN, JJ., joined. BRENNAN, WHITE, MARSHALL, and BLACKMUN, JJ., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment in part and dissenting in part, post, p. 324. WHITE, J., post, p. 379, MARSHALL, J., post, p. 387, and BLACKMUN, J., post, p. 402, filed separate opinions. STEVENS, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment in part and dissenting in part, in which BURGER, C. J., and STEWART and REHNQUIST, JJ., joined, post, p. 408.
In Pacifica, things are only a little simpler:
STEVENS, J., announced the Court's judgment and delivered an opinion of the Court with respect to Parts I-III and IV-C, in which BURGER, C. J., and REHNQUIST, J., joined, and in all but Parts IV-A and IV-B of which BLACKMUN and POWELL, JJ., joined, and an opinion as to Parts IV-A and IV-B, in which BURGER, C. J., and REHNQUIST, J., joined. POWELL, J., filed an opinion concurring in part and concurring in the judgment, in which BLACKMUN, J., joined, post, p. 755. BRENNAN, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which MARSHALL, J., joined, post, p. 762. STEWART, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BRENNAN, WHITE, and MARSHALL, JJ., joined, post, p. 777.
Does Pacifica require Marks analysis, I wonder? (Still at the back of the grid...)
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