May 29, 2003
UP IN SMOKE
UP IN SMOKE: One of my projects of late (that is, the stuff I'm working on when the blog goes silent) is collecting data on the madness of smoking bans like the one currently plaguing New York City; I'm hoping to get an op-ed or two in one of the Upstate papers as Albany's state-wide version of Nurse Bloomberg's little monster of a law takes effect this summer. This tidbit deserves special note:
AMSTERDAM, Netherlands - The latest news from the mecca of marijuana users is a real mindblower. Under a new ban on smoking in public places, Dutch coffee shops would be allowed to continue selling joints, but customers would have to go outside to smoke them.What would the Mayor say?
To the chagrin of the owners of the country's popular marijuana smoking establishments, broad national health guidelines due to take effect next January seem to have inadvertently struck at the heart of the liberal Dutch drug policy.
May 28, 2003
PUNKS FOR ISRAEL
May 22, 2003
MORE COMMENCEMENT WATCH
MORE COMMENCEMENT WATCH: Reader Judith Weiss points to Cynthia McKinney's speech at the neo-segregationist commencement held by UC Berkley's African Studies department; this was probably an appropriate choice of speaker, given the inherrent dementia of the event itself. And its not a commencement speech, but Steven Jacobson notes that UCLA named Tim Robbins Alumnus of the Year. Granted, Tim Robbins is a distinguished alumnus of UCLA, an institution that values its ties to the entertainment industry. But he reached the height of his career in the mid-nineties-- why give him this award now, when he's best known for demanding the right not to be criticized? I think the question answers itself.
May 21, 2003
COMMENCEMENT WATCH: We're seeing a flurry of stories about left-wing commencement speakers, who are becoming especially offensive in the wake of the Iraqi liberation. Expect more. Besides the even-handed and objective journalists of CNN and the New York Times, graduates have been forced to suffer through Jessica Lange, Phil Donohue, and Ben & Jerry. I was at the latter speech, and neither the Ithaca Journal report nor the school's press release quite get at how demented Ben Cohen's remarks really were. I'll have a transcript available in the near future.
Administrators justify these speeches-- and condemn the walk-outs and boos that they are now drawing-- by saying that its their job to "challenge" students-- but by an amazing coincidence, these "challenging" speakers sure tend to reflect the bias of the administration. Funny how that works.
I'm collecting stories on these speeches, so if you know any that I haven't mentioned, leave a comment or email me. (If the comments aren't working, which seems to be the norm these days, you'll have to email-- the address is to your left.) Note that I already know about this, but I'm trying to ignore that guy.
May 20, 2003
NOTHING NEW: But I should have time for some blogging tomorrow-- the forecast says rain, which should keep me inside and at the computer longer. See you then.
May 18, 2003
THE WISDOM OF BOB NOVAK
THE WISDOM OF BOB NOVAK: "Terrorist bombings in Saudi Arabia, which killed 34, including seven Americans, were followed by the U.S. government's revelation that the Saudi government had failed to heed warnings from President Bush's deputy national security adviser," went Mark Shields's conversation starter on yesterday's Capital Gang. The Gang went on to discuss whether the U.S. would or should "crack down on the Saudis," as Shields put it. Bob Novak offered these, shall we say, "creative" insights:
There has been a -- I would call it a conspiracy against the royal government of Saudi Arabia to just destabilize it that begins in Israel. The Israelis were in here with propaganda earlier this year, and there are people in the government who want to crack down on Saudi Arabia.... I think that the Saudis are getting a bum rap on this...Well.
...And I just am appalled at the idea that so many of American conservatives are playing into the Israeli line that getting rid of the royal family is going to be helpful on terrorism.
This sort of thing is about par for the course for Novak, but I still think it's worth pointing out from time to time. CNN's most visable conservative commentator regularly invokes the kinds of anti-Zionist canards and wild conspiracy theories generally associated with other networks, such as al-Jazeera. If I had a seat on The Capital Gang, I think this would be my Outrage of the Week-- every week.
May 14, 2003
MORE ON GLASS
MORE ON GLASS: Especially if you were just sent here by Andrew Sullivan, you might be interested in this little nugget from The Fabulist. Describing how the fact checking system at the fictional Washington Weekly was vulnerable, the narrator lists the fact checker's "Acceptable forms of Verification, in Order of Priority":
1. The New York Times-- The gold standard. If it was printed in the Times, it was accepted as true by the Weekly, absent overwhelming evidence to the contrary. It did not matter that the Times does not itself regularly employ fact checkers.I'll have to consult Glenn Reynolds to find out if this is a "Heh." or an "Indeed."
You can find more nuggets from Glass's book here.
SALAM PAX, BAATHIST?
SALAM PAX, BAATHIST?: David Warren makes the case in the Ottawa Citizen.
I don't doubt that Salam is the scion of privileged circles, or that that implies some conection to the ruling party. I think Warren is a long way from proving some anti-American conspiracy, though. If Salam is a propagandist, he's either very good or very bad at it, depending on your perspective-- he trashed Saddam often, and never made any really serious effort to plead against a U.S. invasion (which he merely said he couldn't bring himself to support). Has he been preparing all this time to undermine Western resolve in the post-war era? It seems far-fetched.
Warren admits that a real conspiracy (i.e., Salam working for Baath elements) is impossible to know, but says Salam is "up to no good." His main concern seems to be that people might take his views as representative of ordinary Iraqis, when in fact it isn't. Well, obviously it would be stupid, and indeed condecending, to assume that one guy represents the view of every Iraqi. It's a blog, not a poll. I do note that this is exactly the kind of mistake journalists are apt to make.
I'd like to see a bit more evidence before we convict Salam as a Saddamite.
May 12, 2003
May 10, 2003
THE BLAIR AFFAIR
THE BLAIR AFFAIR: What luck for Simon & Shuster that journalistic fabrication (and, in this case, plagirism) is now back in the news, just as Stephen Glass's The Fabulist is about to hit bookstores. The cases are not the same, though: Stephen Glass (or at least his narrator) went to great lengths to game the fact-checking system, and, because he knew how the system worked, went a long time without raising any red flags. As the reports that Mickey Kaus and Andrew Sullivan have been collecting demonstrate, Jayson Blair raised many red flags, and they were ignored. The Times itself reports that their metropolitan editor, Jonathan Landman, sent a short email to newspaper adminstrators reading simply, "We have to stop Jayson from writing for the Times. Right now." That email was sent a full year ago. This was an institutional problem at the Times, and using Glass as an example to bat down the suggestion that Howell Raines's "commitment to diversity" played a big role in the Blair scandal simply won't wash.
I'VE READ IT
I'VE READ IT: New York Times reporters aren't the only ones who can thwart Simon & Schuster's steath marketing strategy by finding copies of Stephen Glass's new book, The Fabulist, ahead of the release date. My local bookstore put it out too early, too. The result is a freelanced review that will probably appear next week, but to whet your appetite, here are some details that probably won't make it into that piece for lack of space:
• At the beginning of the novel, Glass's narrator (also named Stephen Glass) opines that some journalists think he should be ashamed and afraid forever for his offense (the same offense that the real Stephen Glass committed). "Because they are liberals, and have faith in rehabilitation, they never speak of it that way, but I believe they feel it profoundly."
There's that phrase, "they are liberals," tossed off so matter-of-factly. What would Dan Rather say?
• Much of the book is very good, particularly the authentic-feeling descriptions of anxiety. Though unlike the narrator I've never had a problem with lying (in fact, I hate direct lying, and go to great lengths to avoid it), I have struggled with an anxiety disorder, and some of these passages literally had me reaching for my medication.
• When the narrator confesses to his parents, they at first don't believe the scandal a big deal. Their son tries to explain that it is a big deal to journalists, and they'll cover it a lot, but the parents believe that no one will care-- until they realize that Stephen's girlfriend has told her mother, "a huge yenta," and now everyone in their cross-country social circle will know. Says the narrator:
She was right, of course. All the Jewish suburbs splattered across the country-- Lakeside, South Orange, Highland Park, Shaker Heights, Whitefish Bay, Scottsdale, West Bloomfield, Scarsdale, Potomac, just to name a few-- are impossibly interconnected, as if by underground tunnels. As children, we went to overnight camp with kids from the other suburbs. We saw them again in college, and after we graduated, we ended up marrying them. And then, when our kids came, we were supposed to move out of the cities we lived in, and into still another one of these suburbs. Life would become a series of holiday commutes: Rosh Hashanah in Lakeside, Passover in Potomac, Thanksgiving in Shaker Heights. Winter vacations, when possible, were to be spent seeing grandparents in Fort Lauderdale, which seemed to be the final stop on the tunnels' route.I come from this world, and I tend to think this is overstating the case; I grew up in Highland Park, Illinois, and I went to camp with kids from Shaker Heights, Ohio, but I have no idea what they're up to now. Tabins from my father's and my generation don't tend to marry people from other Jewish suburbs-- if the spouses are Jewish at all, it's usually because they converted-- but I don't think this phenomenom is peculiar to our family; last I heard, the rate of intermarriage is about 50%.
The point of this bit of hyperbole (or poetic license, if you prefer) is, I gather, to show how the only important thing to a person is what's going on in his own world-- by implication, only journalists really care about the Stephen Glass scandal, just as anyone cares only about the gossip from his own social circle. Interestingly, the NYT piece contains this corroborating nugget:
Daniel Goldin, a buyer at the Harry W. Schwartz Booksellers, a chain in Milwaukee, said he ordered four copies of the book for each store. He said that learning the identity of the author did not much affect his view of the book, since few people outside the media business remember Mr. Glass. He said he was not concerned that "I am going to get caught too short of copies."I'll probably have more of these nuggets here when I think of them. Glass will be on 60 Minutes tomorrow.
May 07, 2003
HE'S ALIVE: Take some time to read Salam Pax's latest, including posts that he couldn't get online during Internet outages in Baghdad.
May 06, 2003
DOES HE HAVE A FRAUDULENT...
DOES HE HAVE A FRAUDULENT BLOG, TOO?: Former New Republic scammer Stephen Glass has an upcoming book about his lying-- naturally, a fictional book. The New York Times got a hold of a copy, and reports:
The novel's narrator, also named Stephen, is a writer for the fictional Washington Weekly, whose style and political views closely resemble The New Republic's. Mr. Glass calls that style ironic contrarian. "Weekly pieces were attack pieces, but not angry, predictable attack polemics such as you might find in The Nation or National Review," he writes. "They were sophisticated, low-key takedowns, all the more devastating because they used the source's own words to hang him. It was assisted suicide, not murder." As at The New Republic, writers for the fictional magazine frequently punctuate a subject's quotations with the dry, one-word sentence, "Indeed."
The New Republic uses "Indeed" like that? I hadn't notice, and a quick flip through the current issue turned up nothing. Maybe Glass is just an Instapundit fan.
May 02, 2003
THEY'RE SMILING IN WARSAW
THEY'RE SMILING IN WARSAW: Did you catch this line in Bush's speech?
We thank the Armed Forces of the United Kingdom, Australia, and Poland, who shared in the hardships of war.Well, that's quite a feather in Alexander Kwasniewski's cap! The Polish president has an ambitious plan to make Poland a major player in transatlantic relations, and maybe become Secretary-General of NATO in the process, with a muscular pro-Americanism. (This deal is part of the plan.) God bless 'im.
I didn't actually get to watch the speech, thanks to the World's Worst Waitress. (When you're next to a party of ten, things tend to get a little slow-- but tonight it went further, into total disregard for anything our table might have needed. It was a Chinese restaurant, and she even forgot the fortune cookies. I left her a nice tip commensurate with our service-- $0.00.) I did watch him land and schmooze with the deck crew earlier; though the critics may have half a point, I thought it was pretty cool, and it didn't feel artificial to me. (And this guy really liked it.) I can't comment on the delivery of the speech, obviously, but I think the text is terrific. The whole thing is full of good lines, but I'm not going to single them all out tonight. You can probably find it on other blogs, anyway.