O.K., so a prominent blogger forms a political consulting partnership with another blogger, gets an account from a major Presidential candidate, and promptly discloses it, in all its gory detail, on the pages of his website. Over the next few months, a disclaimer is attached to the side of his blog, alerting people that he is working for one of the candidates he's writing about (the other blogger announces his employment, and promptly goes on hiatus for six months to work on the campaign). His employment is discussed, not only in anecdotal fashion on his website, but also in numerous profiles of the blogger in the mainstream media. In addition, the web savvy of the candidate in question is also a featured item in those stories; his understanding of new media, and, in particular, the blogosphere, becomes the definition of his candidacy.
And now, almost two years later, someone decides that it's a scandal, an "Abu Ghraib" of web punditry. This week's report on the Killian Forgeries, CBS' reactive pose when initially confronted with the evidence, and the lack of due dilligence the network performed when it received the documents, has predictably been used as a cover to attack the tenets of "objective" journalism as practiced by CBS News, as opposed to the doctrinaire agitprop produced by FoxNews and most of the blogosphere. But if anything reveals the emptiness of the traditional media, it's this story, which was published in the news section (that is, the section of the paper not edited by Julius Striecher) of the Wall Street Journal: an attempt to provide a false ideological counterpoint to the Armstrong Williams story.
That I have to devote any time to this flaming-piece-of-crap of a story makes me feel diminished, which is a poor condition to be in on a beautiful morning in Berkeley (I'm visiting my sister and nephew). What Mr. Zuniga and Mr. Armstrong did wasn't unethical, and doesn't diminish my enjoyment of their blogs (full disclosure: neither has ever included me in their blogroll, or taken note or issue with anything I've posted here). It does seem ironic that a number of bloggers who've made the most noise about this violation of "blogger ethics" are also practicing lawyers, none of whom seemed too concerned about the ethics of our own profession when it came to intentionally or recklessly disseminating the false stories of the "Swift Boat Vets". In any event, it is not morally equivalent to accepting money from the taxpayers to shill for a government policy, and not disclosing it.
January 12, 2005
Right-wing pundit Jill Stewart endorses Ahnold Ziffel's reapportionment initiative, a noble cause indeed, but for the wrong reason. Like so many opponents of gerrymandering, she supports giving the power to redraw districts to retired judges, who, as political appointees of the governor, are as much political animals as the legislators they are replacing. While using retired judges solves, at least theoretically, the problem of partisan gerrymandering (whereby one party redraws the lines to create as many potential districts for their own party as possible), it does nothing to insure against the problem of gerrymandering to protect incumbents, which is what the California State legislature did in 2001. And the current political dynamic in California, in which the Democrats have an overwhelming edge in both houses in Sacramento as well as with the state delegation in Washington, was inherited from the redistricting plan drawn up by a special panel in 1991, which Ms. Stewart views as a Golden Age. Quoth Stewart:
In 1991, Gov. Pete Wilson challenged the latest absurd gerrymander drawn up by Democrats in the state legislature. The courts were asked to step in. Eventually, the California Supreme Court sided with Wilson and temporarily took the power away from the slimy California legislature. The court ordered an independent panel of special masters to create geographically and racially accurate voting districts. In several resulting mixed districts, Democrats and Republicans were forced to compete head-on.But mostly, after 1994, they elected Democrats. The partisan split in the state legislature following the 2000 election, the last election held under the lines drawn by the "special masters", gave the Democrats a 50-30 edge in the State Assembly, and a 26-14 lead in the Senate; under the lines drawn up by the legislature, the split after the 2002 and 2004 elections was 48-32 and 26-14. The current dominance by the Democratic Party in Sacramento is not something imposed on the people by "slimy" politicians, it's something that, apparently, the people want.
This temporary outbreak of democracy inspired some non-hacks to run between 1992 and 2000. Californians, largely unaware of why they suddenly had choices, elected a wave of moderate to conservative Republicans and Latino Democrats.