Sunday, February 27, 2005

Vile, contemptible claptrap

What else is there to say about a post by InstaPundit, who has the nerve to link approvingly to this, wretched, poisonous meditation (minus any actual evidence to back up the claim) of the boogeyman of "journalists in Iraq," 37 of which have died trying to report this story.
The failure of "hotel journalism" might be forgivable if it were truly about prudence or even laziness. But there has been something wilful about the bad reporting of this story. It is weirdly personal: Iraq must fail. It is in fact the press that failed, on a scale for which I cannot think of a precedent.

Base. Sick. Ignorant.

Or, frankly, business as usual.

Permalink posted by Jonathan : 3:34 PM

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Malcolm Gladwell, Iraq expert

David Brooks:
Thomas Kuhn famously argued that science advances not gradually but in jolts, through a series of raw and jagged paradigm shifts. Somebody sees a problem differently, and suddenly everybody's vantage point changes.

Tom Friedman:
Tipping points are sometimes more like teeter-totters: one moment you're riding high and the next minute you're slammed to the ground. Nevertheless, what's happened in the last four weeks is not just important, it's remarkable. And if we can keep all three tipping points tipped, it will be incredible.

Read more on Gladwell's appearance on "Nightline" in which he's asked whether "we know we're in the middle of a tipping point."

Permalink posted by Jonathan : 8:47 PM

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Limbaugh with a Law Degree

You know, I really don't want to harp on Reynolds, he seemed like a nice guy when I interviewed him, but can't he give credit where it's due?

Glenn Reynolds, Feb. 22:
ENDGAME IN AFGHANISTAN? Things must be going well, because it's not getting much press coverage . . . .

Rush Limbaugh, Feb. 18:
I think one of the reasons that we're not being told anything coming out of Afghanistan is because the news is mostly good. I think the very fact that there's not a whole lot of reporting out of there means the news is good.

Not the first time the Professor has converged his musings with Rush's.

And chances are neither pontificator has read this partly-cloudy portrait of Afghanistan.

Permalink posted by Jonathan : 12:40 PM

Saturday, February 19, 2005

The subtitle debate

A pretty funny essay from Ben Yagoda on the metastasizing book subtitle plague.
I miss the time, not so long ago, when it was possible for a book to go out into the world with only a strong title followed by a few hundred pages of outstanding writing. That was certainly the tack taken by most mid-20th-century nonfiction classics: ''Hiroshima,'' ''All the President's Men,'' ''The American Way of Death,'' ''The White Album,'' ''Elvis,'' ''Dispatches,'' ''Joe Gould's Secret,'' ''The Executioner's Song,'' Lillian Ross's ''Picture,'' ''The Right Stuff,'' ''The Soul of a New Machine,'' ''The Kingdom and the Power...'

I'm looking at my 1st edition copy of "The Kingdom and the Power" and wondering whether it fits into some other category in the subtitle debate. Here's what it says on the cover
The Kingdom and the Power
The Story of the Men Who Influence the Institution That Influences the World
The New York Times

If it's on the cover, but not on title page does that still make it a subtitle?

Permalink posted by Jonathan : 12:10 PM

Lead sentence cliffhanger

How's this for an opener in the Sunday NYT magazine article on the Iraqi Kurds? [No link yet]
There were two days left before election day, and Gen. Rostam Hamid Rahim, guerilla war hero and a member of Iraqi Kurdistan's regional Parliament since 1992, was determined that every Kurd vote.

Every Kurd vote what? Eat flesh?

Paging the copy desk.

UPDATE: The wife suggests that this sentence is fine, and after re-reading it, I think she's right. Nevertheless, I still think it's awkward. Maybe it would have been better to say "...was determined to get every Kurd to the polls."

Permalink posted by Jonathan : 11:02 AM

Friday, February 18, 2005

Carter: Not just a traitor, but a bad poet, too!

Via our post-structuralist lit-crits (and prose stylists!) over at PowerLine:

Well, it troubles me that a man who has no sense of meter, or rhythm, or metaphor, or figurative speech -- one who has, in short, no talent for poetry -- would choose to shape prosaic banalities into poetic form and publish them for all the world to see. Why would anyone do that?

Who among us is patriotic enough to stop this traitor Carter from publishing again?

Permalink posted by Jonathan : 12:35 PM

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Mini break

Posting to be moderate to light over the next few days, for various reasons.

Permalink posted by Jonathan : 11:17 AM

On blogo-gazing

Here's something I dropped into Jeff Jarvis's comments section about the recent "scalp hunter" piece in the NYT, and thought it might be interesting to post it here:

IN ALL seriousness, though, I read this story and had two thoughts: clearly the NYT had been beat, and was doing some furious catch-up. And two: there is something of a point here. Bloggers (both left and right) seem to go into a super-caffeinated, salivating hyperdrive when it comes to collecting heads. Look at Kos or Reynolds or any other site when it sinks its fangs into such a story: Trent Lott! Dan Rather! Jeff Gannon! Eason Jordan!

Are some of these stories important ones that traditional media missed? Absolutely. But on my end, as both a reporter and nouveau blogger, much of this stuff strikes me as overkill. And I get turned off by it.

When I go through some weblog and see post after post after post of blog-screaming about this VERY IMPORTANT ISSUE I MUST PAY ATTENTION TO NOW I am inclined to ignore it -- much like I ignore the ranting nut standing on the corner or the true believer screaming on the phone trying to interest me in a story.

Maybe it's media bias.

But maybe it's a bias against lunacy.

Permalink posted by Jonathan : 10:47 AM

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

It's like CIO-AFL, but different

Perhaps the clearest sign that Jonah G. doesn't do, like, a lot of research.
The notion that the Daily Kos wouldn't chase down similar prey if given the opportunity just doesn't pass the smell test. Josh Marshall and Kevin Drum are just as tenacious about finding damning quotes, contradictions, and old gems on Nexis-Lexis as anybody on the right. There have to be other factors involved.

Is he too busy reading books on Iraq?

Permalink posted by Jonathan : 2:58 PM

Sunday, February 13, 2005

On sleaze, kettles and pots

Glenn Reynolds, February 13, 2005
I also agree with Kurtz that it was the stuff about Gannon's personal life that led to his resignation, and that there's something rather sleazy about that. Backstage or not, targeting parts of people's lives that don't have to do with the story -- like, say, Eason Jordan's love life -- seems inappropriate to me, and likely to lend support to the bloggers-as-lynch-mob caricature.

Glenn Reynolds, February 16, 2004
THE KERRY INFIDELITY STORY seemed to die down over the weekend, but this report says that it may come back: "A woman who claims she had an affair with presidential hopeful John Kerry has taped a kiss-and-tell interview with a U.S. TV network, it was revealed last night. " (Via Timothy Perry).

Hey, what a difference a year makes!

Still haven't gotten your fill of the Professor targeting irrelevant (and untrue!) aspects of people's personal lives? Try here. And here. And here. And here. And here. Oh, and here, too.

UPDATE: Welcome Eschatonians.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Prof. Reynolds responds. His defense of wallowing in sleaze previously -- but not this time! -- seems a bit weak. Despite noting that "there's nothing there I'm ashamed of" in his many posts on the subject, his apologia seems to come down to the fact that since he put up one post expressing skepticism on another site (as opposed to SEVEN posts promoting the non-story on that he, somehow, was not wallowing in sleaze.

Perhaps his appearance on WNYC's Brian Lehrer Show [audio file] is more instructive. When asked "Did you have anything to do with the so-called Kerry intern rumor?" this is how he responded:
"Actually I kind of poo-pooed it. I remember writing that I didn't really care who he slept with, I cared what he would do about the war. I suppose simply repeating that people were talking about it could count, but in that case, isn't that what your emailer just did? I'm sure most people had forgotten the Kerry intern rumor until now."

A not very robust defense. And attacking the questioner for trying to demand accountability is the height of sophistry.

Permalink posted by Jonathan : 3:44 PM

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Are the Republicans listening?

Because one of the nation's alleged top newsmagazines just gave up on its reason for being. On C-SPAN, today, the monkeys and me saw Evan Thomas, Assistant Managing Editor at Newsweek, discussing the 2004 election [the event was on Jan. 10, at DC's Politics & Prose No videotape]. One of the questioners asked Thomas whether he thought the press, in the course of fact-checking claims made by campaigns, should pay specific attention to the sheer mendacity of wild claims-- in other words, eliminate the false equivalencey of "They both lie!" and get to the heart of it. Especially, in light of the fact that in this past election, GOP untruths swamped Democrat fibs.

Thomas's response? [This is a paraphrase, but pretty close to the spirit] "Well, that's a fair question, but we get hammered so much for bias anyway, we don't really want to exacerbate the problem by giving them more fuel for the fire."

Evan, time to hand in your pen.

Permalink posted by Jonathan : 4:48 PM

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Ouch. Or Heh, Indeed

From Poynter's Medianews website:
From STEVE LOVELADY, managing
editor, CJR Daily:

I have no patience for these armchair critics of real journalists, dead and alive, who throw the dice and enter the valley of death to get to the story.

Such Internet dilettantes need to get a life.

More importantly, they also need to do a little elementary research before they sound off from the comfort of foundation sinecures, or sequestered law offices, or academic preserves, about men and women -- some of whom do not come back -- who venture out every day, at great peril and under fire, to report back the truth. It's time we distinguish here the warriors from the sideline commentators and bloviators.

Oy (?) As they say in some quarters, Read the whole thing.

Permalink posted by Jonathan : 4:54 PM

Bimbo blond bobblehead calls for death to journalists

Via, of all places, NRO -- which decries what was said -- here is the transcript of an appearance by Ann Coulter on Kudlow & Kramer from Feb. 7. You'd think you'd be astonished, but you shouldn't be anymore, judging from some of her earlier voiced desires for Timothy McVeigh to drive his truck-full-o-fun into The Times building.

KUDLOW: We got a couple of seconds before the break when you guys are all going to come back, but, Ann, I just want to give you first whack at this. Eason Jordan, top news executive at CNN — I mean, to me, this is absolutely incredible — this guy says at a big conference in Davos that the US military is deliberately targeting and assassinating American journalists. Huh? He still has a job, huh? You got a take on that?

COULTER: Would that it were so!

KUDLOW: Would what were so?

COULTER: That the American military were targeting journalists.

KUDLOW: Oh, no! Don't go there.

COULTER: No, but, I mean, he immediately — it was just an incredibly cowardly thing to do. He says it, he immediately backs down to — from the statement that it is official government policy to be targeting journalists to, `Oh, it's just a rumor I've heard' and it might just be a few random individuals about which he has no facts, so it's a story that's not only implausible but not particularly interesting to what he has backed down to.

A little later in the discussion:

KUDLOW: Ann Coulter, I want to go with you. I'm going to give you the last word on a completely different subject, but I know you have knowledge on it. General Wayne Downing, a retired four-star, former head of special ops, told this show Friday that basically the time had come for surgical strikes in Syria. Do you have a quick, concluding thought on that?

Ms. COULTER: Yes, they should do that right after targeting the journalists.

More evidence that Coulter is, in fact, a Democrat mole.

Permalink posted by Jonathan : 1:11 PM

Monday, February 07, 2005

That 80's Cube

Cute lead, but wrong:
If one had bet on which fad of the early 1970's would achieve perennial popularity - and this was the epoch that brought us Pong, Rubik's cube and Wings - the Pink Floyd laser light show would probably have not been given the best odds.

The Rubik's Cube was a fad of the early 70's?

Well, it was invented by a Hungarian in the early 70's, but it did not gain popularity there until 1979 and clearly had not even minimally entered the Western consciousness until the 1980's.
Apart from a small seepage across the Hungarian borders, the Cube made its international debut at the Toy Fairs of London, Paris, Nuremberg and New York in January/February, 1980. With Erno Rubik demonstrating his own creation, the Cube made an immediate impact. The trade buyers were impressed, orders rolled in. There was just one problem: there were no Cubes! Western quality standards and packaging norms meant drastic changes in the Hungarian manufacturing process. This, as with any change under a communist in regime, was slow in coming. Communication between New York and Budapest, given the linguistic and cultural differences, despite the frequent interventions of Tom Kremer, were not easy. The new Cube was easier to manipulate. Ideal Toys renamed itRubik's Cube. The first Rubik's Cubes were exported from Hungary in May 1980.

I suppose, in a technical sense, that the era may have "brought us" the cube, if by "brought" and "70's" you mean gaining in popularity in 1979 in a Communist bloc country. But for anyone who remembers the phenomenon in the U.S., it was clearly an 80's obsession.

Interesting side note -- the thing was originally called the "Magic Cube."

Permalink posted by Jonathan : 6:35 AM

Sunday, February 06, 2005


Mrplflbltsgirt. Jesgdert. pluke.

Permalink posted by Jonathan : 10:38 PM

It's a mandate!

Time for the losers to start bending to the will of the people.
...Shiite clerics here, who, confident they now have a popular mandate from the elections, are advocating for Islam to be acknowledged as the underpinning of the government. They also insist that the Americans stay away from the writing of the new constitution.

Love that democracy.

Permalink posted by Jonathan : 9:38 AM

Stop Philip Johnson before he kills again!

Every so often, the NYT will sink its talons so deep into a story that the average reader will often be left muttering, "Did I really just read the 17th article on Newt Gingrich?" It is no dream. The self-perpetuating machine of inevitability and -- well, who knows what? -- drives editors and reporters and, quite possibly, the graphics people to an all-consuming Leave No Angle Unflogged mania, creating a slash-and-burn path of destruction across Styles, Escapes, and Westchester Weekly (see, Roth, Philip; Male, Pale).

Which brings us to this week's topic. And now don't get us wrong. The trained monkeys and me truly heart the gay dead architects almost as much as we heart the Jews. But Philip Johnson, we surrender.

We understand the need for a full Philip Johnson section devoted to your life and works. Really we do. We know that, for many, the retrospectives, the multimedia presentations, the misty recollections of your fascistic and anti-Semitic leanings, will not nearly be enough.

But the Connecticut Weekly doing the "Philip Lived Here!" piece. Oy. Arts and Leisure posthumously quasi non-outing the man and his eyewear? ("Over the years, Johnson's design would become a prime signifier of brainy, creative and often gay male eccentricity.") It is a bridge too far. The grim toll so far in the last week: Six articles, 7,600 words.

As a sage friend of mine once pleaded: Make the bad man stop.

(A final note of confession: the philistines at Blogoland had never heard of Philip Johnson until his timely passing.)

Permalink posted by Jonathan : 8:38 AM

Saturday, February 05, 2005

The (Judy) Miller--Chalabi non-bombshell

And I say this as a person who collects many, many checks from the gang on 43rd Street (for which I am grateful), but Good Lord, what was Bill Keller thinking when he told Daniel Okrent this??
"I'm sorry to be unhelpful on this one, but Judy faces a serious danger of being sent to jail for protecting a confidential source," Keller told me in an e-mail message. "I think this is not the time to be drawn into unrelated public discussions of Judy."

Of course, Dan was asking Bill to comment on Ms. Miller's revelation on MSNBC's 'Hardball' that a certain Ahmed Chalabi was getting a nice bit of help from the 'Muricans for possibly an interior ministry job thingy. No small matter, except never reported in the paper. Miller never responded to calls, and Keller took a pass. OK, fine. Then why in the world is she reporting for the paper and talking on the TeeVee if she can't be drawn into a public discussion of her own reporting and talking? If she's so compromised by the Valerie Plame affair, then should she not be relieved of doing further work for the paper?

Just wondering.

Permalink posted by Jonathan : 7:49 PM


Was just watching ESPN's NFL Primetime. And, now -- I'm saying this as a long-suffering Eagles fan -- it was grindingly, achingly dull. I was forced to turn it off. How bad was it? Well, there was the rote march through each team's season, a nasueating kissy-face tribute to Steve Young (freshly inducted into the Hall of Fame), and -- no joke -- a package on what the players will be doing the night before the big game. (choice wild-man quotes: "Pray", "Sleep", "Relax") . Not to worry, only 17 hours or so of this tomorrow.

Permalink posted by Jonathan : 7:41 PM

Friday, February 04, 2005

What did he say?

Harlan K. Ullman, architect of the "shock and awe" campaign in Iraq was on Fox News's "Studio B" today, talking a little Condoleeza Rice:
"She's got lots of charm. She's very attractive."

Word is that Ullman also considers Maggie Gallagher a "total hottie."

Permalink posted by Jonathan : 4:01 PM

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Iraqi elections more important than invention of wheel!

Not that you'd want to oversell it or anything.
Maybe I am mistaken, but I sense that the reactions to the Iraqi elections--good and bad, including even those on The Corner--don't come near to reflecting its significance. This is an event like Dien Bien Phu or the collapse of the Berlin Wall. It marks a turning point in history. It changes the future, of course, but it also changes the past.

Early word is that they got al-Sadr to play the title role in Terminator 4: Rise of the Sunnis.

Permalink posted by Jonathan : 3:15 PM

What he said

Charles Pierce voices something that has been on my mind for quite a few days now (scroll down a bit) [via Eschaton]:
You do not own their courage.

The people who stood in line Sunday did not stand in line to make Americans feel good about themselves.

You do not own their courage.

They did not stand in line to justify lies about Saddam and al-Qaeda, so you don't own their courage, Stephen Hayes. They did not stand in line to justify lies about weapons of mass destruction, or to justify the artful dodginess of Ahmad Chalabi, so you don't own their courage, Judith Miller. They did not stand in line to provide pretty pictures for vapid suits to fawn over, so you don't own their courage, Howard Fineman, and neither do you, Chris Matthews.

You do not own their courage.

They did not stand in line in order to justify the dereliction of a kept press. They did not stand in line to make right the wrongs born out of laziness, cowardice, and the easy acceptance of casual lying. They did not stand in line for anyone's grand designs. They did not stand in line to play pawns in anyone's great game, so you don't own their courage, you guys in the PNAC gallery.

You do not own their courage.

They did not stand in line to provide American dilettantes with easy rhetorical weapons, so you don't own their courage, Glenn Reynolds, with your cornpone McCarran act out of the bowels of a great university that deserves a helluva lot better than your sorry hide. They did not stand in line to be the instruments of tawdry vilification and triumphal hooting from bloghound commandos. They did not stand in line to become useful cudgels for cheap American political thuggery, so you don't own their courage, Freeper Nation.

You do not own their courage.

They did not stand in line to justify a thousand mistakes that have led to more than a thousand American bodies. They did not stand in line for the purpose of being a national hypnotic for a nation not even their own. They did not stand in line for being the last casus belli standing. They did not stand in line on behalf of people's book deals, TV spots, honorarium checks, or tinpot celebrity. They did not stand in line to be anyone's talking points.

You do not own their courage.

We all should remember that.

Permalink posted by Jonathan : 11:31 AM

Having your intellectual cake, eating it, and then squirting it out your rear

Brilliant ploy by the warbloggers last week: their pre-emptive attacks on reporters in Iraq had the clear intent of cowing them into not reporting what’s going on so that the spin of “Just the fact that they’re having an election” would sell. In other words, if massive attacks had engulfed the country, and had disrupted elections throughout, Insty, Powerline and Hughey and Dewey Hewitt would have squawked that the REAL STORY of the Iraqis voting was being “covered up” by those villains at the MSM-1138

And now these guys are all mind-readers, who know, in their heart of hearts, that the NYT, WaPo, Reuters, and many others had “lined up behind the terrorists” and really wanted to report mayhem -- really, they did! -- but were foiled by all the wonderful news. There is a word for this kind of thinking: paranoid, delusional psychosis.

Permalink posted by Jonathan : 10:14 AM

A story about teachers, minus the teachers

The NYT ran this story yesterday on teaching evolution around the country. The conclusion?
Teaching guides and textbooks may meet the approval of biologists, but superintendents or principals discourage teachers from discussing it. Or teachers themselves avoid the topic, fearing protests from fundamentalists in their communities.

This sounds like a rip-roarer of a story, and CJR's Campaigndesk sure thought so. But I read this piece a little differently. Namely, after 1,600+ words on teachers feeling the chill in broaching the subject of evolution, Ms. Dean skirts one important issue: teachers.

Oh, there are experts and "curriculum review" folks who give their second-hand tales of teachers afraid to teach, who quietly close the book, who may be fundamentalists unwilling to teach a theory that goes against their core beliefs. And all those stories may be true. In fact, one biology teacher in Ohio is quoted in the story -- he is the only one. But his story serves to undercut the thesis: namely he teaches evolution, but in "little bits and pieces" throughout the year. Interesting, but a little weak, no?

As for the villains in these stories, the aforementioned principals and superintendents? What do they have to say for themselves? Not much, because they're not quoted.

Ms. Dean quotes people who say they hear "all the time" and "constantly" from teachers who feel the chill from local schools. Couldn't those contacts have set her up with a teacher to tell her first hand, instead of relying on second-hand testimony?

Hey, this could have been a fantastic piece. Instead, it is something that does not deliver on its sweeping premise. And I'm aware of Ms. Dean's bona fides as editor of the section, but if I saw a draft of this, I'd send it back and tell her to get me some real, honest-to-God teachers who are actually, really, not teaching Darwin's theory.

NOTE: a "Dr. Jon Miller" is quoted in the story. I am not him.

FULL DISCLOSURE: I'm a freelancer who often contributes to the NYT.

Permalink posted by Jonathan : 9:20 AM

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