Monday, July 31, 2006

Why Jack Sparks is the best

let's not engage in the argument that what's going on is some kind of organic product of musical influence. A bunch of greedy bastards who don't know a G chord from a G-string have sat around in a number of different rooms, wringing their hands and formulating combinations of sight and sound and theme to produce this shit. "What we need is John Mellenkcamp in a cowboy hat singing a "Tiny Dancer" type song without all the symbolism and metaphor, Def Leppard loud..." Ladies, I give you Kenny Chesney.

RTWT here.
A welcome return

Aaron is back blogging at God of the Machine

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Hitchens is still on the Niger beat

Brick by brick he shows that the MSM has the whole Wilson/Plame affair wrong from beginning to end.

Case Closed

The truth about the Iraqi-Niger "yellowcake" nexus.

To summarize, then: In February 1999 one of Saddam Hussein's chief nuclear goons paid a visit to Niger, but his identity was not noticed by Joseph Wilson, nor emphasized in his "report" to the CIA, nor mentioned at all in his later memoir. British intelligence picked up the news of the Zahawie visit from French and Italian sources and passed it on to Washington. Zahawie's denials of any background or knowledge, in respect of nuclear matters, are plainly laughable based on his past record, and he is still taken seriously enough as an expert on such matters to be invited (as part of a Jordanian delegation) to Hans Blix's commission on WMD. Two very senior and experienced diplomats in the field of WMDs and disarmament, both of them from countries by no means aligned with the Bush administration, have been kind enough to share with me their disquiet at his activities. What responsible American administration could possibly have viewed any of this with indifference
?

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Duke lacrosse

The travesty in Durham continues and becomes more bizarre. Two bloggers remain daily reads for coverage of this case: John in Carolina and the Johnsville News.

Also, check out Robert KC Johnson's latest:

Court TV Will Have the Answer

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

So long, pal

Mickey Spillane, RIP.

I heard it here first.

The obits recycle the boilerplate from 50 years ago-oh the sex, oh my, the violence. Here Foxnews:

As a stylist Spillane was no innovator; the prose was hard-boiled boilerplate. In a typical scene, from "The Big Kill," Hammer slugs out a little punk with "pig eyes."
"I snapped the side of the rod across his jaw and laid the flesh open to the bone," Spillane wrote. "I pounded his teeth back into his mouth with the end of the barrel ... and I took my own damn time about kicking him in the face. He smashed into the door and lay there bubbling. So I kicked him again and he stopped bubbling."
Here is the Washington Post:

In one typical passage from "The Big Kill," Hammer narrates: "I snapped the side of the rod across his jaw and laid the flesh open to the bone. I pounded his teeth back into his mouth with the end of the barrel . . . and I took my own damn time about kicking him in the face. He smashed into the door and lay there bubbling. So I kicked him again and he stopped bubbling."
I wonder if any of the writers have actually read the Mike Hammer novels. I doubt the guy at Times did.

In "I, the Jury," Hammer became so angry at a female psychiatrist that he shot her in her "stark naked" stomach. ("Stark naked" was a phrase that Mr. Spillane rather liked.) As she died, she asked, "Mike, how could you?" To which Hammer replied, "It was easy."
Gee, why was Hammer angry? (She killed his best friend.) Why did he shoot her in the stomache? (That is where she shot his friend so she could watch him die slowly.) Why did Mike shoot her at all? (She was trying to shoot him.) It's a completely different picture than the Times writer presented.

I also wonder how the critics reconcile their habitual scorn for Spillane's excesses with their ecstatic celebration of other rule-breakers. Why is "I, the Jury" a bad, bad book (oh the sex, oh my, the violence) but Bonnie and Clyde is a great movie?

Hammer is quintessentially American. Spillane understood the Jacksonian ethos, gave it an urban persona, and watched the fireworks go off.

In a tough spot, Hammer is the guy you want as a friend. If you had to go done a dark, dangerous alley, Mike Hammer is the man you want to go with you. Sam Spade is just too slippery to trust and Phillip Marlowe would get himself knocked unconscious before the balloon went up. Hammer would insist on going first and the bad guys would regret their ill-planned ambush.

Last word to Max Allan Collins:

Spillane was a primitive, a natural talent who brought to the tough mystery the concerns and traumas of the World War II generation of men, the returning soldiers and sailors and marines who found the American dream they'd been fighting for was frequently a nightmare. The loss of innocence these vets brought with them led Spillane to his more explicit violence and daring (for its time) sexual content. The vivid scenes Spillane paints -- including scenes of violence that remain unsurpassed -- indicate a natural artist of considerable talent and power. The craftsmanship of his surprise endings, the abrupt, startling conclusions he's famous for, are unmatched in the field.
Related:
Hence the immense popularity of Tom Clancy's novels

Monday, July 10, 2006

Press Think and Thinking Journalists

See update below.

I've wanted to write something about Jay Rosen's "rollback" theory of GWB and the press for sometime now. It's a big topic and i have not been able to do it justice in a post. Fortunately, Matt Welch wrote this which touches on a central weakness of Rosen's argument. (Although Welch is not discussing rollback or ROsen directly.)

One of the key weaknesses of the rollback thesis is that it takes a very narrow view of the conflict between the president and the press. Narrow in two senses: Rosen confines his historical perspective to the last 30 years or so and he ignores the economic, technological, and social context that that shaped that period. Rosen takes it as a given that the Watergate-era media world is the way things are supposed to work.

The institutional press, its fourth estate identity, and what Ben Bradlee recently called “a holy profession” (because “the pursuit of truth is a holy pursuit…”)— these are all modern inventions. Their legitimacy derives not from the founding fathers but from the opinion of living Americans that an independent and truthtelling press is vital to have as a check on government power, that its loss would be dangerous to their well being, and that professional journalists are doing the job well enough now to be that vital check.
To Rosen, if the press is losing legitimacy, it must be because of the sinister actions of conservatives, and Bush-Cheney & Co.

What Welch brings to the table is a willingness to admit that the "nonpartisan, independent" press model was a business strategy that fit a certain set of economic conditions.

Objectivity was a money-making plan ginned up by publishers and ad execs before World War II, then latched onto by the journalism establishment afterward. When towns used to have multiple competing dailies, the titles differentiated from each other largely by politics, and few publishers (almost all of whom were heavily involved in editorial) cared much for non-partisan objectivity.
[SNIP]

if you can credibly appeal to all the readers (or at least the majority who aren't absolutely rabid in their politics), you are less likely to offend advertisers, and more likely to become the dominant local daily. Journalists and academics, who felt a long-abiding shame and revulsion toward the meddlesome excesses of moguls like William Randolph Hearst, seized this model as their own. The partisan sheets started dropping like flies; afternoon papers got killed by television, and even venal old Party codgers like the Chandler family reluctantly acknowledged that objectivity-hunting was better for business than political king-making ... especially as long as printing presses were expensive enough to discourage new entrants and drive money-losers out of the industry.
The independent "institutional press" that Rosen longs for was the relic of an era of media consolidation and temporary technological maturity. It was relatively small and increasingly insular, The media landscape of today looks more like that of 1939-- more boisterous, more diverse ideolgically. That is not Bush's doing but it is hard to understand why any politicial leader would want to play by obsolete rules.

UPDATED 7/12/06. I got an email from Jay Rosen which informs me that i have the rollback theory all wrong. That's quite possible. I'll post more about this when i get time, but for now take a look at these posts by Rosen.

Rollback

"What if Bush Changed the Game on You?"

Snow at the Podium, Rollback on the Rocks

It's a Classified War

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Hollywood, the market, and cultural blinders

A couple of years ago Tyler Cowen argued that Hollywood makes exactly the movies America wants because that is what profit-making entities do.

I addressed his argument in this post.

The latest New Yorker illustrates how cultural blinders hurt Hollywood's bottom line. Tad Friend looks at the Blue Collar Comedy guys and the industry's failure to capitalize on their success. Foxworthy and company are an entertainment juggernaut. Did you know that Foxworthy's records have outsold Steve Martin and Richard Pryor combined? Or that Larry the Cable Guy's last album outsold Chris Rock's 20 to 1? Their tour movies are the highest rated movies ever shown on Comedy Central.

Yet, the entertainment industry has consistently underestimated the money to be made. This quote helps explain why.

Hollywood may cherish an underdog story, but the success of Blue Collar makes the town a little squeamish. "People love to fight the system in Hollywood, but fighting the system is the system here," Marty Bowen, a well-known agent who recently became a producer, says. "Truly fighting it by being a republic is like wearing a scarlet 'R' on your Armani suit. And being religious is worse-'The Passion of the Christ' made six hundred million dollars, but people here saw it as an anomaly. They were frightened of it."

Friday, July 07, 2006

Best line of the week

A past winner of the club's coveted Pulitzer Prize, which is now awarded annually for the best leaking of national security information...

History as cartoon

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Duke lacrosse: Robert Zelnick

Prisoners of a false paradigm

A current US rape case shows just how skewed the liberal media's thinking about race has become.

Declining newspapers

Dr. Thomas C. Reeves has a good post on why newspapers are losing membership. This is right on target:

Newspapers have become wearisomely predictable. They were always partisan, of course, but these days, led by the New York Times, most editorial pages and much of the political writing is solidly encased within the confines of a monolithic left wing ideology.
This predictability is not just a feature of the day to day coverage of a given paper. There is also a predictable sameness to papers across the country. When I lived in Madison, I expected the local papers to be liberal. They reflected their community. But the same insular liberalism is on display in my paper here in central PA—a solidly conservative region.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Duke lacrosse: Triangle media still spin for Nifong

The Durham Herald-Sun and the Raleigh News and Observer have weighed in again on the Duke Lacrosse case. Both opinion pieces still try to shore up the travesty that is DA Nifong’s politically motivated prosecution of an absurd case.

Let's talk sports

Put lacrosse case on a faster track
The first is an op-ed by a Duke professor (Orin Starn). Both Robert KC Johnson (“Shameless”) and John in Carolina (“Prof misrepresents Coach K“) do an excellent job of addressing the errors and omissions packed into that short column. One point deserves mention here.


Starn writes:
But beyond the alleged sexual assault, there remain reports, uncontradicted so far, that some of the 46 white lacrosse players shouted the n-word at the two women at their party; and that one made that ugly "B-, Thank your Grandpa for my cotton shirt" comment. It's hard to understand how Coach K or anyone else could not see a "racial aspect" here, as much the result of loutish drunkenness as it may have been.
Starn is not quite honest here. The reports of the “n-word” come mainly from the two dancers themselves. Both have given contradictory accounts of the evening and both have a motive to portray the lax players in as bad a light as possible. The comment overheard by the neighbor (the cotton shirt remark) came in response to a racially-charged comment by the second dancer. The good professor leaves all this out.

This is not a minor point. By focusing on the racial aspects of the case, Starn is helping to poison the jury pool in Durham. At this point Nifong’s best hope is to make the case about race and not about the facts. Starn and the News and Observer are helping him.

In its editorial the Herald-Sun girded up its loins and . . . issued a bold call for a speedy trial. Like its “rival” the News and Observer, it still spins for Nifong even when it tries to take a bold, forthright position. Like most of the MSM, it refuses to confront all the disturbing facts in the case when it issues its agonizing reappraisals of the mess that is Durham justice.

Here are some of the lowlights:

To say that the case is like any other on Durham's docket is to deny reality. Intense national media scrutiny has been fed by attorneys' efforts to try the case before reporters and pundits instead of a judge and jury.
Talk about blaming the victim. The media frenzy took off before any of the defense attorneys said anything. The lacrosse team was convicted in a trial by media that Nifong fed with his interviews. But the H-S ignores that and implies that the defense team is at fault.

Defense attorneys have released a stream of damaging evidence -- although there is much they do not divulge -- that seems to undercut the prosecution's case and leads many to question Nifong's judgment.
They also are in error here. NBC’s Dan Abrams has seen the whole file that Nifong turned over.

And we hate to imagine the fallout if the lacrosse case winds up being decided by an election instead of in court.
Oh yes, the fallout (whatever do they mean?). That would be terrible. More terrible, apparently, than the way Nifong used the case to decide an election.

Duke and Durham need to learn lessons from this incident and decide how to make positive changes. But the healing can't really begin until all the truth comes out -- which is the purpose of a trial.
Actually, criminal trials are not the venue for establishing truth or helping Durham “learn lessons” or make “positive changes.” Trials determine the guilt of individual defendants.

The Herald-Sun is still dissembling as it calls for a speedy trial and it is shirking its duty. Instead of waiting for he truth, the paper should start digging into the mistakes made by the media, Nifong, and Duke. Isn’t that what a watchdog press is supposed to do?

The paper has no appetite for such work. Like most local media, they are loyal lapdogs for prosecutors. This is made clear by the gentle way they handle the questions about Nifong’s handling of the case.

Nifong's critics have questioned everything from his character to his legal savvy. We think that the 25-year veteran of the prosecutor's office must have some evidence, or he would have dropped the case long ago.
The DA gets the benefit of the doubt. From the beginning, the lax players were presumed guilty; their presumption of innocence went out the window back in March. But Nifong—he “must have some evidence.” The Herald-Sun does not tell us what it might be, but they are sure he must have something. It is a touching to see the media place such childlike faith in a politician. It is a faith that is contradicted by the facts we know—no DNA, no severe injuries, no date rape drug, no viable timeline, multiple false statements by the DA, absurdly contradictory accounts by the accuser and the second dancer.

Why, then, does the Herald-Sun cut him so much slack?

UPDATE: 7/6/06. I'm getting a lot of new traffic for this post. I invite new readers to take a quick glance back through the May and June archives. There are over a dozen posts on the Durham travesty there. For example:

Duke lacrosse: The News and Observer is still covering for Nifong

Duke lacrosse

From the cone of silence to Emily Litella
Duke lacrosse

Robert KC Johnson has another must read post.
Shameless

That a professor would publicly mischaracterize the personal traits of one of his own students—at a time when that student is facing extraordinarily serious, if procedurally dubious, charges—is beyond belief.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Crime in Europe and the US

Who knew that Orleans, France had a higher crime rate than New Orleans, Louisiana? Or that Belgium was becoming a crime-ridden pit?

I thought the Europeans were supposed to be more law-abiding and less violent than us gun-crazy American.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Used bookstores

Thoughts from Library Girl and Miriam's Ideas
This thought from the latter really rings true:
I order most used books over the Internet these days, but something is missing. The serendipity, for one thing. I have discovered some of my favorite books by taking a chance on a volume by an unknown (to me) author. I've also found old chestnuts on the shelves which gave me a thrill of recognition.
The internet has made book buying more convenient and lets us choose from a tremendous selection of books. But that convenience has destroyed the thrill of the hunt.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

What is going on at DHS?

No, I mean seriously. WTF?

Fairfax Man Accused of Illegally Helping Immigrants

A Department of Homeland Security supervisor has been charged with falsifying immigration documents to help Asian immigrants obtain U.S. citizenship, officials said yesterday.

Robert T. Schofield was arrested Wednesday afternoon at his Fairfax County office, where he is a supervisor for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which processes immigration applications
.
Now, generally, that would be no big deal. One bad apple and all that.

But this is what makes you wonder about the managers at DHS

Over the past decade, the government investigated "numerous allegations of bribery involving Schofield and Asian immigration applicants" when he worked at the former Immigration and Naturalization Service, according to court documents unsealed yesterday. Schofield was demoted at one point for "conduct unbecoming a government employee,'' the documents say, and had an "inappropriate relationship" with a woman connected to an INS criminal probe.

When confronted about that relationship by INS officials, Schofield fled to East Asia, where he made $36,000 worth of unauthorized purchases on his government-issued credit card, according to court documents.

It was unclear when Schofield returned to the United States, how the previous investigations ended and how Schofield became a supervisor when the new Department of Homeland Security took over INS's functions in 2003. Homeland Security spokesman Jarrod Agen would not comment on Schofield's employment history
.
Celebrity and the corruption of journalism

Three stories illustrate again why "TV journalism" should be considered an oxymoron.

First Rebecca Dana has Anderson Cooper's number. Or, rather, his lack of numbers.
But there is one pesky measure of victory that Mr. Cooper doesn't quite satisfy: He doesn't actually win.

On average, only some 630,000 viewers a night tune in to Anderson Cooper 360, to watch Anderson Cooper do his professional duties
.
She is also not impressed with his big interview with Angelina Jolie:

Still, the Jolie interview brought up a natural parallel. She gets two hours in prime time to talk about the plight of refugees because she is famous. He gets two hours in prime time to talk to Angelina Jolie for essentially the same reason.

Then there is Lisa de Moraes's take on Barbara Walters and Starr Jones:

De Moraes writes of Walters's "carefully constructed image as the Mother Abbess of TV journalism." What I find interesting is that Walters has been able to maintain that fa├žade even through decades of fluff interviews. Will it change now that she admits that she lied to reporters about what was happening with her show.

Speaking of rising negatives and not believing some of the things a woman has said, B-Wa had been telling her fellow journalists for months that there was no truth to the rumor Star was being dropped from the show. In early May, while in Washington for a "coming out" dinner for Saudi Arabia's new ambassador, The Post's Reliable Source column said she told them that Star Jones was not being dropped from "The View." A couple of weeks earlier the New York Times quoted her as saying, "If Star wants to continue to be [on 'The View'], she is welcome."

These days, B-Wa explains she told those little white misinformations to "protect Star
."

The LA Times has the same idea:

Everybody in TV lies, of course. To save face, to save feelings, to save careers.

But rarely do the lies come apart so publicly and - quite frankly - so deliciously.

And rarely is a journalist such as Walters, whose main asset is her credibility, after all, forced to admit to tangoing with the truth
.
A journalist lying to other journalists sounds serious to me. I wonder if future stories about Walters or The View will mention it?

I have my doubts. I fully expect to see Walters quoted as "the first woman network anchor" in stories about CBS and Katie Couric. Walters the lying executive producer will go down the memory hole.

Thirty years ago some overly clever numbskull thought B-Wa could anchor a network news show. The experiment failed, but it made her a journalistic celebrity. Like Anderson Cooper, she will always be newsworthy and quote-worthy. It is a permanent state of grace. Facts and truthfulness just do not matter when one is part of the Elect.