Friday, June 29, 2012

The First Amendment ain't what it used to be


This month, in the Kimberlin v. Walker affair, we saw how a technologically illiterate and constitutionally indifferent judge could ban a blogger from writing about a public figure, requiring the intervention of an appellate court.

Does that happen all the time? Or was it — as a lawyer would say, if the lawyer were trying to annoy people — sui generis?

Well, I don't know about "all the time." But it looks like it has happened again.

I'm not sure that this is going to get Meredith Nilan the "privacy" that she wants and that Judge Sanbria-Vega was so eager to give her.

HT: Patterico

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Is Aaron Sorkin's preachy prophet shtick getting old?

Hot Air: Aaron Sorkin's Underwhelming Newsroom

HBO has taken us to some fanciful places during its recent ratings resurgence, from the vampire-blood-stained bayou of True Blood to the violent kingdom of Westeros on Game of Thrones. But in terms of pure fantasy, neither holds a candle to The Newsroom, the new series from writer Aaron Sorkin and producer Scott Rudin. Although the program — which focuses on the backstage shenanigans at a popular cable news show — is ostensibly set in the real world, the true backdrop is one that should be familiar to fans of The West Wing (not to mention survivors of Studio 60). It’s pure Sorkinstan, an overwritten utopia where all names are alliterative, all dialogue is charged, and the call sheet runs wild with all manner of mythical creatures, including the Liberal Republican, the Gun-Toting Manhattan Lefty, and a preponderance of Twentysomethings Who Reference Musicals. But the biggest flight of fancy here is the one Sorkin seems most invested in: that television audiences are desperate not only to relive recent history, but to watch him attempt to pompously rewrite it.


The knives are out. With the bloodlust-crazed Twitter lynch mob prowling the streets, fresh blood must be provided. It has been several days since Adam Carolla offered himself as a human sacrifice so a new victim was needed. And there is no more backlash-ready target than America’s Bard of Smug and Safely-Distant Meritocracy, Aaron Sorkin.

A blast from the past:

Generally, I think the West Wing is pretty funny

Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Myths of Watergate

W. Joseph Campbell

For years, the dominant narrative of Watergate has been that the dogged reporting of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein for the Washington Post revealed the crimes that forced Richard Nixon to resign the presidency in August 1974.

That’s also a media-driven myth — the heroic-journalist myth, as I call it in my 2010 book, Getting It Wrong.

I note in Getting It Wrong that the media-centric heroic-journalist construct “has become the most familiar storyline of Watergate,” serving as “ready short-hand for understanding Watergate and its denouement, a proxy for grasping the scandal’s essence while avoiding its forbidding complexity.”

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Watergate: The last hurrah

The fortieth anniversary of the break-in lets Woodstein and the WaPo take another victory lap. The rest of the MSM decides to play along. Everybody parties like it's 1975.

Watergate at 40: A legacy of courage

When I left the Washington Post’s gala celebration of the 40th anniversary of the Watergate story on Monday night, I had mixed emotions.

I felt great pride in what reporter Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein had accomplished in the early 1970s — helping to bring down a corrupt president, Richard Nixon — but I felt puny by comparison.

Watergate Remembered Four Decades Later at Washington Post Party

It was a cultural event, a class reunion, a celebration—not just of the 40th anniversary of the Watergate break-in, but of journalism itself, of that brief moment when newspapering was hailed as a noble profession.

No one has the bad taste to bring up the questions raised in the new books by Max Holland or Jeff Himmelman.

The end of a golden age is still pretty darn good

A Golden Age of Books? There Were Only 500 Real Bookstores in 1931

[In 1931] two-thirds of American counties -- 66 percent! -- had exactly 0 bookstores. It was a relatively tiny business centered in the urban areas of the country. Did some great books come out back then? Of course! But they were aimed only at the tiny percentage of the country that was visible to publishers of the time: sophisticated urban elites.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Assessing Obama

Peter Wehner looks at three new books on the Obama Presidency:

Please Excuse My President

The cynicism problem:

Some of these critiques are plausible. Edwards, for example, provides historically informed, data-driven arguments to fortify his claim that Obama overreached in attempting to impose an ambitious liberal agenda on a center-right nation. Then Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel famously articulated the Obama strategy when he said, “You never let a serious crisis go to waste.” But the public was less malleable and persuadable than Obama and his top aides believed. His victory in 2008 was not a mandate for wholesale change.

The other explanations for Obama’s failures are simply wrongheaded, however. The charge that the stimulus bill was not large enough is strangely beside the point. It was a failure because of its very design. Less than 15 percent of the stimulus was spent in fiscal year 2009—and only about 5 percent of the money appropriated was intended to fund items such as roads and bridges. Even Obama later chuckled that his much-hyped “shovel-ready projects” were “not as shovel-ready as we expected.” The bill actually served as the legislative embodiment of a 40-year liberal wish list. Had it been twice the size, it would simply have included more wish-list items.

I wronte this back in 2010:

The tone and direction were set by the hyper-partisan Rahm Emmanuel: “never let a crisis go to waste.”

The administration was almost eager to move the economic crisis to the back burner while they and the liberal Congress pushed forward with long-standing items on their wish list (cap and trade, health care reform, immigration reform, etc.). Inside Washington, it might seem smart to see a crisis as an opportunity to pass progressive legislation. To the people who are bearing the brunt of the recession, it seems like an abdication of leadership or a heartless betrayal of trust.

No surprise, then, that the stubborn economic weakness has been a drag on Obama’s approval numbers. It is not just that the public is impatient; many voters rightly sense that the White House felt little urgency to fix what was obviously broken

The squandered opportunity

For the first two years of his presidency, Obama had his way with the stimulus package, the Affordable Care Act, the GM-Chrysler bailouts, “cash for clunkers,” financial regulations, release of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) funds, credit-card price controls, the endless extension of jobless benefits, and more. As the Wall Street Journal put it, “Mr. Obama has been the least obstructed president since LBJ in 1965 or FDR in 1933.”

Unfortunately, the Administration chose to operate as a arm of the most partisan members of Congress instead of fashioning a program and platform of its own. On the really crucial issues, the president ratified the proposals of Pelosi, Dodd, Frank, et. al., rather than crafting his own, more centrist program.

The nonpartisan delusion:

Obama has routinely used rhetoric that is, by presidential standards, hyper-partisan and splenetic. He has accused Republicans of being members of the Flat Earth Society, of being “social Darwinists,” and of putting “party ahead of country.” He has portrayed them as cruelly indifferent to the suffering of autistic and Down syndrome children and the elderly. And as the Wall Street Journal’s Kimberley Strassel has pointed out, the administration has gone so far as to engage in implicit intimidation and threats against private citizens in order to frighten them away from giving money to Mitt Romney. To believe that Obama is at heart an irenic, unifying political figure requires an almost clinical level of self-delusion.

Is cable news now old news?

Jack Shafer:
The cable news audience has peaked

Shafer makes a good point here:

There’s so little news in cable news – especially during prime time – that it’s a bit of a misnomer to keep calling it “cable news.” As currently programmed, the networks best resemble political talk radio, in which people chat about the news instead of report it.

Cable news, vox populi, and professional sleaze

Cable news: get it fast, get it wrong

Media's Shifting Business Model