21 July 2007

Steve Bailey's Straw Man Purchase and Column

Did the Boston Globe buy Walter Belair a handgun, or did Walter Belair buy a handgun for Steve Bailey with the Boston Globe's money ... and then Bailey gifted the handgun to Belair?

Bailey first tried to buy the handgun using John Rosenthal, a Massachusetts resident, at a New Hampshire gun show with the Boston Globe's money and was denied because Rosenthal was an out-of-state purchaser. So Bailey gave $240 of the Globe's money to Belair (a New Hampshire resident) to buy the handgun. Belair filled out the ATF form, passed the NICS background check, bought the handgun with Bailey's money and kept the handgun.

Listen to the show below starting at the 11 minute point, Rosenthal:

... I was the one talking to the dealer, I said, "I would like to buy this particular handgun, can I?"

He said, "Yeah sure, no problem." He said, "I need to see, uh, where are you from?"

I said, "Massachusetts."

He said, "No, no, no, you can't buy that handgun 'cause you're from Massachusetts but you can buy that long gun or military style assault weapon, no problem."

And I said, "Well, how 'bout if my buddy here who's a New Hampshire resident buys the gun?" And he said, "Oh, no problem." knowing full well it was a straw purchase.

Now listen to Steve Bailey defend his involvement in the admitted straw man purchase.

Poland WRKO - Tom Finneran - Steve Bailey Guns, and Kids

Bailey’s Straw Purchase: It’s not about bullying, It’s about breaking the law
18 USC § 922(a)(6). Unlawful acts
It shall be unlawful for any person in connection with the acquisition or attempted acquisition of any firearm or ammunition from a licensed importer, licensed manufacturer, licensed dealer, or licensed collector, knowingly to make any false or fictitious oral or written statement or to furnish or exhibit any false, fictitious, or misrepresented identification, intended or likely to deceive such importer, manufacturer, dealer, or collector with respect to any fact material to the lawfulness of the sale or other disposition of such firearm or ammunition under the provisions of this chapter;
ATF F 4473 (5300.9)
ATF's Learning Theater

"Get it?"

It's not the blogs I hate, it's their fans

Say "blog" in casual conversation, and it still evokes the spectre of shreiky, pompous demagogues and self-absorbed pedants.

It's a misleading image, but to be sure, the demagogues and pedants are still out there, fouling up the place. You might be one of them. Here's a simple quiz: Do you only blog about other bloggers? Do you engage in public blog-fights with other bloggers, leaving stinging retorts on each other's pages? Have you ever complained that people who don't agree with you "just don't get it?"

Have you ever proved your point by arguing that people with differing views - the non-it-getters - suffer from mental illness? Is every post you write followed by dozens or hundreds of comments from fellow it-getters wishing to burnish their credentials?

Put it like this: If a reasonable third party were to read your blog, would they come away feeling better about being human, or worse? You might disagree with me here, but as a rule of thumb, blogs that make me despair for the species are not good blogs.

UPDATE: Jay Rosen comments, "Who are they, these enthusiasts who claim that blogs will replace old media?" and Ivor responds.

John Burns on Iraq

Charlie Rose: A conversation about Iraq with John Burns of The New York Times (07/17/2007)

20 July 2007

Hero: Jack Farley

Peer Amputee Volunteer Puts Experience, Compassion Into Recovery:

Mr. Farley is a peer amputee visitor at Walter Reed Army Medical Center here. A retired federal judge, Mr. Farley is quick with a joke and a smile. He knows nearly everybody at the center it seems and knows nearly everything there is to know about prosthetics.

His right leg was claimed by a mortar in Vietnam nearly 40 years ago....

18 July 2007

It's Practically Bipartisan Solidarity!!!

Voters unhappy with Bush; Congress: Reuters poll

An even bigger majority, 83 percent, say the Democratic-controlled Congress is doing only a fair or poor job -- the worst mark for Congress in a Zogby poll....

While 83 percent said Congress was doing a fair or poor job, just 14 percent rated it excellent or good. Last October, in its final days, the Republican-led Congress earned ratings of excellent or good from 23 percent of voters. [my emphasis]
More Bipartisan Agreement!!
The 24 percent approval rating for Congress matched its previous low, which came in June 2006, five months before Democrats won control of the House and Senate due to public discontent with the job Republicans were doing.
Finally, Bipartisan Agreement on Something!
The percentage of Americans with a "great deal" or "quite a lot" of confidence in Congress is at 14%, the lowest in Gallup's history of this measure -- and the lowest of any of the 16 institutions tested in this year's Confidence in Institutions survey. It is also one of the lowest confidence ratings for any institution tested over the last three decades. [my emphasis]
Related: This Isn't What I Voted For

Web Ethics and Deletions ...

Yesterday, Armando Llorens at TalkLeft posted an embarrassing (for him) list of CPAC sponsors to counter Dean Barnett and the JetBlue/YearlyKos sponsorship controversy.

The post was also duplicated elsewhere (i.e. LeftWord).

Unfortunately, the CPAC he quoted from, and linked to, wasn't the intended Conservative Political Action Conference but instead the Center for Process Analytical Chemistry.

The entire post was subsequently deleted. I don't know how long the post was up at TalkLeft. The time stamp on the post was Tue Jul 17, 2007 at 11:38:57 AM EST. It seems Google cached it within 20 minutes of posting: retrieved on 17 Jul 2007 16:51:56 GMT.

I certainly understand why Armando would want to delete the post and - depending how long it had been up - why he thought he could (without anyone noticing?). This is NOT about embarrassing Armando.

It is a blogging ethics question. Links rot. Posts are deleted. Entire blogs disappear (I deleted my previous blog, took a year off and started over). So what? Quoted passages or entire posts of now nonexistent blog posts or entire blogs may continue to exist elsewhere on the 'net with the corresponding reference link broken. Again, so what?

What really was lost when Armando deleted that post besides his own potential embarrassment and misleading his readers? Should he have put an update on the post with a retraction instead? Would you? Why?

What do you think about bloggers deleting posts? What would you think if it was a news organization or another publication that deleted an online story without notice or explanation?

As a discussion starting point, Rebecca Blood wrote in 2002:

4. Write each entry as if it could not be changed; add to, but do not rewrite or delete, any entry.

Post deliberately. If you invest each entry with intent, you will ensure your personal and professional integrity.

Changing or deleting entries destroys the integrity of the network. The Web is designed to be connected; indeed, the weblog permalink is an invitation for others to link. Anyone who comments on or cites a document on the Web relies on that document (or entry) to remain unchanged. A prominent addendum is the preferred way to correct any information anywhere on the Web. If an addendum is impractical, as in the case of an essay that contains numerous inaccuracies, changes must be noted with the date and a brief description of the nature of the change.

If you think this is overly scrupulous, consider the case of the writer who points to an online document in support of an assertion. If this document changes or disappears — and especially if the change is not noted — her argument may be rendered nonsensical. Books do not change; journals are static. On paper, new versions are always denoted as such.

The network of shared knowledge we are building will never be more than a novelty unless we protect its integrity by creating permanent records of our publications. The network benefits when even entries that are rendered irrelevant by changing circumstance are left as a historical record. As an example: A weblogger complains about inaccuracies in an online article; the writer corrects those inaccuracies (and notes them!); the weblogger's entry is therefore meaningless — or is it? Deleting the entry somehow asserts that the whole incident simply didn't happen — but it did. The record is more accurate and history is better served if the weblogger notes beneath the original entry that the writer has made the corrections and the article is now, to the weblogger's knowledge, accurate.

History can be rewritten, but it cannot be undone. Changing or deleting words is possible on the Web, but possibility does not always make good policy. Think before you publish and stand behind what you write. If you later decide you were wrong about something, make a note of it and move on.

I make a point never to post anything I am not willing to stand behind even if I later disagree. I work to be thoughtful and accurate, no matter how angry or excited I am about a particular topic. If I change my opinion in a day or two, I just note the change. If I need to apologize for something I've said, I do so.

If you discover that you have posted erroneous information, you must note this publicly on your weblog. Deleting the offending entry will do nothing to correct the misinformation your readers have already absorbed. Taking the additional step of adding a correction to the original entry will ensure that Google broadcasts accurate information into the future.

The only exception to this rule is when you inadvertently reveal personal information about someone else. If you discover that you have violated a confidence or made an acquaintance uncomfortable by mentioning him, it is only fair to remove the offending entry altogether, but note that you have done so.

Your thoughts?

Previous: Wierd Web Workings at CNN

17 July 2007

Dance Party in Iraq


In September 2005, Kuma\War introduced Mission 58 - Assault on Iran.

Surprisingly, someone in Iran noticed and within a month there was a petition published on the web against the Kuma\War episode. A few months later, the Fars news agency (via Reuters/Wired) reported that there would be an Iranian video game developed in response.

Kuma\War quickly announced a new episode responding to the Iranian response, while the Iranian response was still vaporware: Mission 76 - Payback in Iraq MP.

Well, yesterday the Iranian video game was finally released: Iran wages virtual war with US.

It's interesting that the first-person shooter genre of games is able to produce virtual reality (VR) episodes soon after an event is described in the news. The interest generated in this episode and "dialog" between Iranians and Kuma\War is fascinating.

How far from now before we'll see "first-person journalist" VR episodes on news web sites where you can move through the event location with a camera and microphone?

15 July 2007

Culture War: Institutions vs. Media

Here is the news (as we want to report it)

Ever since 1963, the institutions have been the villains of the media liberals. The police, the armed services, the courts, political parties, multinational corporations - when things go wrong, they are the usual suspects. In my media liberal days our attitude to institutions varied from suspicion to hostility. From our point of view, the view from below, they were all potential threats to human freedom....

This ignorance of the realities of government and management enabled us to occupy the moral high ground. We saw ourselves as clever people in a stupid world, upright people in a corrupt world, compassionate people in a brutal world, libertarian people in an authoritarian world. We were not Marxists but accepted a lot of Marxist social analysis. Some people called us arrogant; looking back, I am afraid I cannot dispute the epithet....

Media liberal pressure has prompted a stream of laws, regulations and directives to champion the criminal against the police, the child against the school, the patient against the hospital, the employee against the company, the soldier against the army, the borrower against the bank, the convict against the prison - there is a new case in the papers almost every day, and each victory is a small erosion of the efficiency and effectiveness of the institution.
Snippet of Jay Rosen's comment at PressThink
Denying and destroying the legitimacy of a social institution is a series of acts over a period of time undertaken by many people who understand the overall task. There are all kinds of ways that the target may "deserve it."
Political Jihad and the American Blog: Chris Satullo Raises the Stakes
But the real goal of the propagandists - with their shouts of Bias! Arrogance! Monopoly! - is to destroy journalism. Why? Because journalism is the sworn enemy of propaganda.

I believe Satullo is drawing a distinction between those who are frustrated and angry with the traditional news media, and want answers, as well as changes, which is one group of critics—many of them pro-Bush or red staters, some of whom blog—and another group, posing as critics of bias, who see an opportunity to discredit CBS News in the wider public sphere.

They want to achieve an historic victory in a very long war between conservatives and the likes of CBS, going back to 1969 and Spiro Agnew, or even further to 1964, when Barry Goldwater met the hostility of Northeastern journalists. (For this background go here.) They want to inflict as much damage as possible on an institution they treat as hostile to Republican Truth, and to the message of the cultural right.
My comment at PressThink:
[The Malau]: But using ponctual cases to destroy decades old institutions simply because they disagree with our views just seems counter-productive and irresponsible.

That's a great conservative argument. In fact, that's been a conservative argument for decades since the 60s and 70s. It's at the heart of the counter-revolution/culture war.
What I find very interesting is that liberals are making this argument in defense of this incarnation of global cosmopolitan, transnational journalism.

It seems to me that the two main functions of the 4th Estate - witness and watchdog - are under siege. As a witness, journalists are accused of being stenographers and PR hacks by partisans of each political party. If you are a watchdog, then you have a political agenda - you are the opposition.

There are many theories of why this is so. I subscribe to three:
  1. The press has undercut their role as witness through he said/she said, View from Nowhere, the soundbite, the anonymous source, and being a slave to the constraints of their medium (column inches, [inverted pyramid], and TV summaries between commercials). This cuts at the heart of their "professional" credo. They are no longer considered by many to be reliable, or trustworthy, witnesses - unprofessional in their craft as evidenced by participating in staged events, scripted broadcasts and editorial selection.
  2. Watchdog journalism has been undercut by "Gotcha" journalism (see Searls) . There was a time when the "Truth" of the underlying story, or the power of the 1st Amendment, had enough public support that fake evidence, quotes maliciously taken out of context, and destroying reputations in the jury of public opinion was acceptable. There was a widely held public opinion that the decades old institutions of state power and capitalism needed a good kick in the teeth and the 4th Estate was the tool by which to deliver it. But today, Liberalism, Progressivism and the press are suffering a credibility crisis born from the excesses of that revolution.
  3. Conservatives have been on a Long March to challenge the authority of this 30-40 year old incarnation of an institutional press. Read Kaplan again, and think about the charges of a liberal media by conservatives:
Because he always seems to define even the most heroic institutions by their worst iniquities, his target is authority itself. Disclaimers notwithstanding, he is the soul of the left incarnate.
Does the Left rise up in defense of what Jay calls "traditional press" and attack the new conservative media out of a sense of kinship? Is it the enemy of my enemy is my friend? Combine Kaplan with ABC's The Note here ("Like every other institution, the Washington and political press corps operate with a good number of biases and predilections.") and here ("One party knows the press is its 'enemy'; one party mistakenly thinks the press is its 'friend.'"). Combine it with Lemann from Jay's link here:
Conservatives are relativists when it comes to the press. In their view, nothing is neutral: there is no disinterested version of the news; everything reflects politics and relationships to power and cultural perspective. If mainstream journalists find it annoying that conservatives think of them as unalterably hostile, they find it just as annoying that liberals think of them as the friend who keeps letting them down.
However, Keller, who is himself of indeterminate politics but is probably more conservative than his fiery populist predecessor, Howell Raines, went on, “Conservatives feel estranged because they feel excluded. ... [the whole paragraph is key]
Neal Shapiro, the president of NBC News, whose variegated domain includes cable television, and even blogs, plainly felt that the nightly news broadcast needs to have its red-state credentials in order. He said of NBC’s new anchor, Brian Williams, “He’s a great journalist, a great reporter. Having said that, he’s a huge nascar fan, has been since his father took him to the track when he was a kid. He cares a lot about his faith. He wants to take the broadcast on the road a lot. He was on the road the whole week before the inauguration. Brian does get it. He once did a story on Cabela’s”—the superstore chain for hunters. “A lot of the people in the newsroom said, ‘Gee I didn’t know about that.’ But he did. And many of our bureaus did. We’re not just the Northeast Corridor.” One doesn’t get the sense that Shapiro worries about the possibility that NBC’s anchor might be out of touch with the values and concerns of residents on the Upper West Side.
Did you hear that? Do you hear it [here] in comments? It's right in line with Okrent's column on the liberal slant at the NYT.

Do conservatives want all their media to be Fox News? I don't think so. I don't watch Fox News at all and I'm not the only one removed from the Left that doesn't. But I do think it's good for our country to have a Fox News that can be held accountable just as CBS and CNN have been.

And on that note, I'll add a fourth trend that influences - but is not directly related to the crumbling credibility of the witness/watchdog press. And that's the Information Age flow around gatekeepers. That undercuts the authority of the gatekeepers as well.

None of this is meant to excuse the conservative revolution, or counter-revolution, that is critical - if not hostile - toward the press, but to explain it. Something I think Jay wants to do, tries to do, but often fails to do as well as he could because of his own bias.
An Anthology of Journalism's Decline
The 'Media Party' is over
"When the Press Fails..." From a New Book by Lance Bennett, Regina Lawrence, and Steven Livingston