June 28, 2003

Rumor has it that the Charlie's Angels sequel just out this week leaves a lot to be desired in the plot area, which for me makes it an ideal moviegoing experience. Films that are more substance than style can be viewed more comfortably (and cheaply) in the privacy of one's home, whereas a movie like this (or last week's example, The Hulk) needs to be viewed on a big screen to be wholly appreciated.

BTW, it's only been out a day, and I'm already tired of the hype about Demi Moore. Of course she looks great--she's Demi Freaking Moore. And if I could spend $400k on plastic surgery and a makeover, I bet I'd also look damn good in a pair of Speedos.

June 27, 2003

This story is impossible to read without having your heart broken: a mother's reaction to the death of her son, soccer star Marc-Vivien Foe.
I often disagree with him, but Michael Totten speaks quite eloquently in this post, about the non-response by the U.S. to the ongoing tragedy in Liberia.

June 26, 2003

As expected, LaBron James was the first pick in the NBA draft, taken by the Cavaliers (dig their new unis !) The Lakers selected Brian Cook out of Illinois, and Luke Walton, whose dad still owes us for '77, from Arizona. Special congrats to Tommy Smith of ASU, who got drafted by the Chicago Bulls in the second round: he's the uncle of my former lawclerk's son, and is a tremendous shotblocker who moves like a point guard.

"State laws against bigamy, same-sex marriage, adult incest, prostitution, masturbation, adultery, fornication, bestiality, and obscenity are likewise sustainable only in light of Bowers’ validation of laws based on moral choices. Every single one of these laws is called into question by today’s decision...."
--Justice Antonin Scalia, dissenting opinion, Lawrence v. Texas

June 25, 2003

Hmmm, Governor Steve Smith...it does have a nice ring to it.

Since he can no longer fashion a coherent argument, Mr. Samgrass has now taken to defending the human rights record of North Vietnam in the 60's and 70's, in an attempt to slam the war record of John Kerry, to wit:
"...not even the most Stalinized of the Vietnamese leadership ever ran a regime, or proposed an ideology, as vile as that of Saddam Hussein. Indeed, Ho Chi Minh in 1945 modeled his declaration of independence on the words of Thomas Jefferson, appealed for American help against France, and might have got it if FDR had lived. Uncle Ho shared in the delusion that there could be an anti-colonial and anti-dictatorial empire."
Pardon my french, but, is he shitting me? Try going into Fullerton or Costa Mesa sometime and saying that. Uncle Ho, Pol Pot, and the rest of those SOB's could match Saddam, corpse for corpse.

June 24, 2003

Remember the story a couple of months ago, that various documents had turned up showing that a British M.P., George Galloway, had taken payoffs from the Iraqi government. Well, as it turns out, one set of the documents turned out to be forgeries.

Many visitors to this site don’t spend every waking hour, either at the office or in their mom’s basement, glued to the blogosphere. For those of you who don’t know who George Galloway is, he is a bete noire among the far right, a left-wing British politician who was publicly opposed to our great adventure in the Persian Gulf. After the war, a journalist for an English tabloid, the Daily Telegraph, “discovered” documents purportedly linking Galloway, through a Jordanian third-party, to a scheme in which he was to be paid a percentage on barrels of oil sold by the Iraqi government. A couple of days later, the Christian Science Monitor published an article concerning documents that showed direct payments to Galloway.

The usual suspects in the b-sphere jumped all over this; for them, it proved that a “Fifth Column” actually existed, that opponents of the war were acting not out of sincere disapproval to aggressive action, or out of skepticism at the tall tales concerning WMD’s, but out of a desire to coddle fascist dictators. In combination with the “mass graves” argument, it was an effective rejoinder to those who had any questions about the direction of American foreign policy.

As it turns out, though, the documents published by the CSM were forgeries. Their source had been an Iraqi general who had also attempted to pass forged documents implicating Galloway to another English tabloid. Since the forged documents had been potentially more damning, dealing as they did with direct payments to the M.P., rather than efforts by a third party to obtain some bakhsheesh using Galloway’s good name, that would have seemed to stick a fork in the “scandal”. After all, the “self-correcting” mechanism that is supposed to be inherent in the blogosphere, that is supposed to make what we do the next stage in the evolution of journalism, would demand that those bloggers who hyped the story in the first place make the appropriate apologies, retract their earlier posts, and hopefully promise to be more careful (and more skeptical) in the future.

But that is not what happened. Instead, the response has been to downplay the CSM’s retraction, even asserting that the article “authenticates” the Telegraph’s documents. No references to their earlier posts, when they based so much of their attack on the tangible “proof” that Galloway had taken bribes from Saddam Hussein; instead, it is as if their original post had never been published. How Rainesian. Blogosphere loses.

In fact, in order to keep this story going, they use a bit of dowdification in citing the CSM article. The Monitor alluded that the experts they employed to analyze their documents also reviewed copies of the Telegraph’s documents, and concluded that they “seemed genuine”. This gets trumpeted to mean that those experts had determined that those documents were not forgeries. But, in fact, the article doesn’t conclude that.

For one thing, the Monitor’s experts were dealing with copies of the documents, and could not therefore make any analysis as to the ink, the paper or any other aspect that might have called the original documents into question. More importantly, however, was the context in which the experts reviewed the copies of the Telegraph documents. According to the Monitor, the determination made by the experts concerned whether the Monitor documents and the Telegraph documents were textually consistent with other documents generated over the years by the Iraqi government. Their expert concluded that while the Monitor documents were too neat, seemed to advance too quickly through the bureaucracy to be genuine, and were too direct in naming the officials in question, rather than using euphemisms, the Telegraph’s documents were “…consistent, unlike their Monitor counterparts, with authentic Iraqi documents he [had] seen.”

The above passage is the only reference to the alleged authenticity of the documents purported to have been discovered by the Telegraph. What isn’t mentioned is that the above review only called into question the authenticity of the Monitor documents; it wasn’t until they analyzed the ink and paper that they concluded that the documents in question had been recently generated, and were therefore forgeries. No such review was done by the Monitor’s experts on the Telegraph documents. It is therefore disingenuous to suggest that the Telegraph documents were authenticated, when the originals weren’t even reviewed. And, of course, where two of the three sets of documents contemporaneously discovered on this subject turned out to be forgeries, a fair-minded observer might wonder about that third set.

No one blames the bloggers in question for running with the story when it first came out. It was juicy, it seemed to come from a reliable source, and it allowed them to smear their adversaries without a second thought. However, if the blogosphere is going to maintain its credibility, it must be quick not only to respond to errors, but to make the appropriate retractions when we make mistakes. Our blogs are our own little newspapers, and the permalinks we set are our sources. If we screw up, then we are obligated to go public, and not stonewall behind bogus interpretations of the truth. That sort of thing makes bloggers no better Jayson Blair.

I haven't bought (and hadn't really intended to buy) either the Sidney Blumenthal or the Hillary Clinton memoirs; autobiographies really aren't my cup of tea, and spending upwards of $35 on a hard-cover book that I probably wouldn't read for months anyways does not appear to be a good investment. But I'm starting to vacillate on The Clinton Wars, especially after reading this Richard Cohen column today. As he points out, the twisted mentality of the right during the Clinton Presidency has survived, and many of the same people in both the government and the media who pushed the "scandals" of that era are in power today. Blumenthal's history of that era covers events that are still fresh in the memory, and certain people have a vested interest in trying to discredit the messenger.

June 23, 2003

The Supreme Court's split decision on the affirmative action programs at Michigan is the big news today. I'm not going to read the decisions for awhile (those who care for more thorough legal analysis should go here, here, or here), but I can't help but think that this is at least a huge symbolic victory for supporters of the policy. Since the Bakke decision, there had been an inexorable movement in the courts towards banning race-based remedies, and I think that a lot of people assumed the Supreme Court would definitively strike down affirmative action this time. Although the Court's ruling left state laws like Prop. 209 in California on the books, it takes a lot of the momemtum away from affirmative action opponents, who must now acknowledge that government programs that seek racial diversity as a goal are constitutional.

June 22, 2003

Excellent piece by Michael Kinsley on why George Bush's dishonesty in leading our country into war hasn't resonated with the public, a sizable percentage of which believes that we have discovered WMD's. [link via Roger L. Simon] It's a cynical take, though, and one that I don't necessarily buy. I think that the issue will linger, in much the same way that the public expressed hostility to the efforts to drive Bill Clinton out of office, but nevertheless remembered Monica L. at the ballot box in 2000. When conservatives like George Will, Bill Keller, and William F. Buckley say that the non-discovery of WMD's matters, it matters.

Two other points bear repeating. First, public opinion in America always believes that we are in the right, at least initially. It believed that invading Mexico was justified in 1846 (and almost ended the career of an anti-war congressman named Abraham Lincoln in the process). It believed that the Spanish really blew up the Maine. It believed that the U.S. really was attacked in the Gulf of Tonkin. For many people, patriotism literally means, my country right or wrong.

Second, it is always important for our elected representatives to tell the truth, especially about matters of policy. Those who say that it doesn't matter that Bush stretched the truth a little to trick us into a war, since Saddam was an evil dictator, have a hard time explaining why we should believe him on that issue, or anything else (ie., Iran). Supporters of the President can't plausibly use the discovery of "mass graves" as a justification for the war, as a point of comparison to the liberation of Auschwitz and Treblinka at the end of World War II, since the U.S. didn't start that war: we were attacked, remember. FDR didn't invent Pearl Harbor.
Debuting Monday: NaziPundit. Somehow, I doubt that site will be a fixture on my blogroll.

It's funny, because it's true: For all who have ever attended law school, and for the people who still love them, Prof. Volokh has provided a handy set of maxims on "equity". To which I add, O Equity, where is thy sting?