Monday, December 12, 2005

Witness Weakness

A story that began last month is finally getting some traction. During the last few days various news outlets have been apoplectic over some hijinks at Wikipedia. In one case a newsman's Wikipedia bio was subject to misrepresentations. Gasp...a newsman...the unmitigated gall to attack a newsman. John Seigenthaler Sr, or was it John Seigenthaler Jr, was made to suffer the indignity of having false information bandied about that was unkind to his memory.

All of which seems vaguely familiar. Unless I'm mistaken, newspapers have had this sort of difficulty in the past. Some even run a regular column of corrections. When it was brought to the attention of Wikipedia they did the same and then added the controversy to Mr. Seigenthaler's bio.

The reason that the story has received the furrowed brow treatment is twofold. First, any story that involves members of the club get the sort of loving care that you would give your own family. They're interested in what others in the business are up to and by golly you must be too. Some members have made the mistake of forgetting their password. Judith Miller, Bob Woodward, Bob Novak and anyone at Fox News failed to recognize journalistic standards--never acknowledge contrary views. But most are dues paying members and march in lockstep.

The second reason has to do with the siege mentality brought about by rapidly evolving methods of delivering news. Traditional news outlets are losing their source of money--ink on paper--and haven't been able to replace it with internet delivery. Newsroom layoffs are now routine. Into this arrives an interesting rival, a source that carries with it some of the same flaws that print journalists have had to contend with. Rather than acknowledge the similarity, they attack as if their life depended upon it. Witness weakness.

Monday, December 05, 2005

The Very Model of a Modern Major General

In order to counter the perception of being weak on defense, Democrats are fond of promoting the sage advice of those with military records in their ranks. With that in mind, consider the following interviews on two of last Sunday's political chat shows.

FACE THE NATION--CBS (Bob Schieffer speaking with John Kerry)

KERRY:...And there is no reason, Bob, that young American soldiers need to be going into the homes of Iraqis in the dead of night, terrorizing kids and children, you know, women, breaking sort of the customs of the--of--the historical customs, religious customs Whether you like it or not...


Sen. KERRY: ...Iraqis should be doing that.

THIS WEEK--ABC (George Stephanopolis speaking with Rep. John Murtha) Note the contradictory statements in bold.

[T]here's a civil war going. We're caught in between a civil war right now. Our troops are the targets of the civil war. They're the only people that could have unified the various factions in Iraq. And they're unified against us.

[W]hy should I believe what the CIA says about what's happening in Iraq, that there's going to be a civil war? First of all, al Qaeda was wrong. It was wrong on the nuclear stuff. It was wrong on everything they have said over there. So why should I believe that there's going to be a civil war? -- same show, a few moments later.

Rep. Murtha on whether the Iraqis will throw us out:
[T]he military won a military victory. They got rid of Saddam Hussein. ...[snip] ... Now, it's got to be a political win. They have to win this politically. The Iraqis themselves. We'll stay there forever. The Iraqis are never going to say turn it over. We can't allow them to say when it's gonna turn it over.

You're gonna see the Iraqis clamoring. Listen, anybody we support in Iraq loses the election. And so they're gonna be clamoring for us to get out. -- same show, a few moments later.

(hat tip: Mickey Kaus)

Donkey Meat?

The paper beyond parody stumbles in from a drunken weekend with Tookie Williams to produce another cutting-edge front page headline article "THE LINE OF FIRE Some citizens fear for safety if courts uphold S.F.'s voter-approved ban on handguns." It seems that reporter Cecilia Vega stumbled upon a lesbian couple who live in the Mission District and own guns for protection. The couple knows what you're thinking and attempt to head that thought off at the pass with this stunning bit of logic;
Both belong to the NRA, not because they agree with what they call the "right-wing lunatics" running the organization, but mostly because they like the mailers and Second Amendment literature the group offers."
Forgetting for a moment that the reason the NRA leadership are considered "right-wing lunatics" is because they support the right to have guns for protection. The same position taken by our homegrown Thelma and Louise. To say you joined the NRA for mailers and literature is like saying you're a Democrat because of a fondness for donkey meat.


For historians wanting to know when newspapers died in San Francisco, it happened Friday December 2, 2005. That was the day the San Francisco Chronicle featured on page 1, above the fold, below the masthead the following breathless headline;
The party isn't over in S.F. -- it has just moved on to smaller, mellower places. Nights of excess in huge venues give way to calmer gatherings in more intimate settings.
Without doubt this served as a metaphor for their news product.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Measuring a Man

Today's effort to raise awareness about the impending execution of Tookie Williams comes in the form of an article entitled MEASURE OF A MAN'S LIFE. The San Francisco Chronicle assigned reporter Leslie Fulbright to plead both sides of the Tookie Williams case. Leaving aside the past, on the surface it would appear that today the issue is dealt with fairly.

However, the effort put forth is anything but fair. To begin with the article is fully titled 'MEASURE OF A MAN’S LIFE Questions of redemption, atonement and clemency swirl as Stanley Tookie Williams’ execution date approaches as a criminal'. The emphasis on redempsion, atonement and clemency come close to endorsing those things for Tookie while avoiding wording such as cold-blooded killer, gang leader, terrorist, drug dealer and racist. Next, the word count on both articles shows an interesting enthusiasm for one side of the argument:

for Tookie article 2055 words
Death penalty for Tookie article 1236 words

Measure of a man's life? Depends on who is holding the yardstick.

Friday, December 02, 2005

December 13th--Let's Have a Party.

December 13th is about to have even greater historical significance. The first being the capture in 2003 of world class thug Saddam Hussein. This of course was a mistake. He should have been shot on sight, sparing the world the bother of a trial and sparing peace activists the humilation of the lawerly council of Ramsey Clark.

Soon to come will be the execution of another world class thug Stanley "Tookie" Williams founder of the Crips street gang and convicted four time murderer. Opposing the execution is a familiar phalax of prison uniform snifers consisting of Jamie Foxx, Elliott Gould, Danny Glover, Laurence Fishburne, Ted Danson, William Baldwin, Bob Saget, Mike Farrell, Harry Belafonte, Jessica Simpson, Edward Asner, Jackson Browne, Russell Crowe, Richard Dreyfuss, Nick Carter, Gabriel Byrne, Bianca Jagger; politicians Tom Hayden, Mario Cuomo and Bill Rosendahl; Nobel laureates Desmond Tutu, Mairead Corrigan Maguire; and the Reverend Jesse Jackson.

Because the soon to be late Mr. Williams siezed on the notion that publishing anti-gang books was his jail cell key to success, newspapers have regailed their readers with misleading information on his behalf. People who write for a living have this preverse sense of professional courtesy.

These same newspapers frequently scold their readers about wisps of racism and imply through statistics that the death penalty is itself racist. All of which is interesting in light of Mr. Williams own behavior. According to fellow Crip Tony Sims, who was present during the execution of store clerk Albert Owens in 1979, Williams was asked why he killed Owens, he responded "because Owens was white and Williams was (for) killing all white people." Saddam Hussein would be proud--Williams is his kind of guy and now they'll be linked in history.