Fat Steve's Blatherings

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Knock Me Down With a Feather

      The New York Times (yeah, I know, dubious source, but this story seems to be true) tells of a new Dutch way to improve traffic safety -- anarchy.

      Since the story will soon be gone from the Times free space, and since you have to register to look at it anyway, I'm going to post it in full here.

      Assuming it's true, this is all very weird.



A Path to Road Safety With No Signposts

Published: January 22, 2005

DRACHTEN, The Netherlands

"I WANT to take you on a walk," said Hans Monderman, abruptly stopping his car and striding - hatless, and nearly hairless - into the freezing rain.

Like a naturalist conducting a tour of the jungle, he led the way to a busy intersection in the center of town, where several odd things immediately became clear. Not only was it virtually naked, stripped of all lights, signs and road markings, but there was no division between road and sidewalk. It was, basically, a bare brick square.

But in spite of the apparently anarchical layout, the traffic, a steady stream of trucks, cars, buses, motorcycles, bicycles and pedestrians, moved along fluidly and easily, as if directed by an invisible conductor. When Mr. Monderman, a traffic engineer and the intersection's proud designer, deliberately failed to check for oncoming traffic before crossing the street, the drivers slowed for him. No one honked or shouted rude words out of the window.

"Who has the right of way?" he asked rhetorically. "I don't care. People here have to find their own way, negotiate for themselves, use their own brains."

Used by some 20,000 drivers a day, the intersection is part of a road-design revolution pioneered by the 59-year-old Mr. Monderman. His work in Friesland, the district in northern Holland that takes in Drachten, is increasingly seen as the way of the future in Europe.

His philosophy is simple, if counterintuitive.

To make communities safer and more appealing, Mr. Monderman argues, you should first remove the traditional paraphernalia of their roads - the traffic lights and speed signs; the signs exhorting drivers to stop, slow down and merge; the center lines separating lanes from one another; even the speed bumps, speed-limit signs, bicycle lanes and pedestrian crossings. In his view, it is only when the road is made more dangerous, when drivers stop looking at signs and start looking at other people, that driving becomes safer.

"All those signs are saying to cars, 'This is your space, and we have organized your behavior so that as long as you behave this way, nothing can happen to you,' " Mr. Monderman said. "That is the wrong story."

The Drachten intersection is an example of the concept of "shared space," a street where cars and pedestrians are equal, and the design tells the driver what to do.

"It's a moving away from regulated, legislated traffic toward space which, by the way it's designed and configured, makes it clear what sort of behavior is anticipated," said Ben Hamilton-Baillie, a British specialist in urban design and movement and a proponent of many of the same concepts.

Highways, where the car is naturally king, are part of the "traffic world" and another matter altogether. In Mr. Monderman's view, shared-space schemes thrive only in conjunction with well-organized, well-regulated highway systems.

Variations on the shared-space theme are being tried in Spain, Denmark, Austria, Sweden and Britain, among other places. The European Union has appointed a committee of experts, including Mr. Monderman, for a Europe-wide study.

MR. MONDERMAN is a man on a mission. On a daylong automotive tour of Friesland, he pointed out places he had improved, including a town where he ripped out the sidewalks, signs and crossings and put in brick paving on the central shopping street. An elderly woman crossed slowly in front of him.

"This is social space, so when Grandma is coming, you stop, because that's what normal, courteous human beings do," he said.

Planners and curious journalists are increasingly making pilgrimages to meet Mr. Monderman, considered one of the field's great innovators, although until a few years ago he was virtually unknown outside Holland. Mr. Hamilton-Baillie, whose writings have helped bring Mr. Monderman's work to wider attention, remembers with fondness his own first visit.

Mr. Monderman drove him to a small country road with cows in every direction. Their presence was unnecessarily reinforced by a large, standard-issue European traffic sign with a picture of a cow on it.

"He said: 'What do you expect to find here? Wallabies?' " Mr. Hamilton-Baillie recalled. " 'They're treating you like you're a complete idiot, and if people treat you like a complete idiot, you'll act like one.'

"Here was someone who had rethought a lot of issues from complete scratch. Essentially, what it means is a transfer of power and responsibility from the state to the individual and the community."

Dressed in a beige jacket and patterned shirt, with scruffy facial hair and a stocky build, Mr. Monderman has the appearance of a football hooligan but the temperament of an engineer, which indeed he trained to be. His father was the headmaster of the primary school in their small village; Hans liked to fiddle with machines. "I was always the guy who repaired the TV sets in our village," he said.

He was working as a civil engineer building highways in the 1970's when the Dutch government, alarmed at a sharp increase in traffic accidents, set up a network of traffic-safety offices. Mr. Monderman was appointed Friesland's traffic safety officer.

In residential communities, Mr. Monderman began narrowing the roads and putting in design features like trees and flowers, red brick paving stones and even fountains to discourage people from speeding, following the principle now known as psychological traffic calming, where behavior follows design.

He made his first nervous foray into shared space in a small village whose residents were upset at its being used as a daily thoroughfare for 6,000 speeding cars. When he took away the signs, lights and sidewalks, people drove more carefully. Within two weeks, speeds on the road had dropped by more than half.

In fact, he said, there has never been a fatal accident on any of his roads.

Several early studies bear out his contention that shared spaces are safer. In England, the district of Wiltshire found that removing the center line from a stretch of road reduced drivers' speed without any increase in accidents.

WHILE something of a libertarian, Mr. Monderman concedes that road design can do only so much. It does not change the behavior, for instance, of the 15 percent of drivers who will behave badly no matter what the rules are. Nor are shared-space designs appropriate everywhere, like major urban centers, but only in neighborhoods that meet particular criteria.

Recently a group of well-to-do parents asked him to widen the two-lane road leading to their children's school, saying it was too small to accommodate what he derisively calls "their huge cars."

He refused, saying the fault was not with the road, but with the cars. "They can't wait for each other to pass?" he asked. "I wouldn't interfere with the right of people to buy the car they want, but nor should the government have to solve the problems they make with their choices."

Mr. Monderman's obsessions can cause friction at home. His wife hates talking about road design. But work is his passion and his focus for as many as 70 hours a week, despite quixotic promises to curtail his projects and stay home on Fridays.

The current plan, instigated by Mrs. Monderman, is for him to retire in a few years. But it is unclear what a man who begins crawling the walls after three days at the beach ("If you want to go to a place without any cultural aspect, go to the Grand Canaries," he grumbled) will do with all that free time.

"The most important thing is being master of my own time, and then doing things that we both enjoy," he said. "What are they? I don't know."

Althouse & abortion: Not clear on the concept

      I have a lot of respect for Ann Althouse, but she makes a muddle here, when she writes about abortion.

      Althouse says:
Addressing a crowd of abortion-rights supporters yesterday, Hillary Clinton made an attempt to reach out to abortion opponents. She called abortion a "sad, even tragic choice to many, many women," . . . It is extremely hard to articulate a middle position on abortion, even though, I think, the majority of Americans actually occupy that position.

We want abortion to remain legal, but we also believe it to be morally wrong.

"There is an opportunity for people of good faith to find common ground in this debate - we should be able to agree that we want every child born in this country to be wanted, cherished and loved," Mrs. Clinton said.

Every child born -- and aborted -- in this country is "wanted, cherished and loved" -- just not necessarily by the woman carrying that child. Supporters of abortion rights don't think it is enough that someone else stands ready to love and cherish that unborn child. They want to put the decision in the hands of the person who must go through the pregnancy.

      Ann, Ann, that is not what the debate about abortion is about.  That is not what law is about.  Law is about what you may and may not do, and what happens when you do things you aren't supposed to.  It isn't about who feels what.

      An example: it is illegal to use or sell heroin in the U.S.  Some feel this law is wrong, and should be repealed.  Suppose the law against heroin was amended by adding "It is perfectly acceptable, from a moral point of view, to sell or use heroin. However, we continue to ban it, completely, for our own reasons."  Would that establish "common ground" between those who want to decriminalize heroin use, and those who want it to stay banned?

      The abortion debate, legally speaking, comes down to one question, "When shall it be legal for an abortion to take place?"  The "abortion-rights" supporters answer is "Absolutely any time a women wants it, provided it's performed by licensed medical personnel."  The "pro-life" crowd says "Never, except maybe when continuing the pregnancy will kill the mother, or cause her grievous physical harm."  The middle position, shared by most of the country, answers "Sometimes, but not always.  There are times when a women should just be told 'No, you can't have a legal abortion,' but many other times she should be allowed to legally abort."

      Sen. Clinton's position, when she's pressed on when women should be allowed to legally abort, will turn out to be 'Whenever the women wants to.  No one can say "No," ever.'  Adding that we should all feel bad about the abortion isn't going to satisfy a single abortion opponent.


Saturday, January 22, 2005

News bias, casually observed

      One of the dubious advantages of being in the hospital is hearing the news on TV.  For whatever reason, they don't have Fox, but they do have CNN and Headline News.

      On Headline News today, I heard a CNN reporter talking about Bush's inaugeral speech.  She made a reference to (quote approximate) "Bush's version of democracy."  Well well, just how many versions of democracy are there?  And what are the differences among them?  She didn't say.  And which version is President Bush's, and how did she discover that he holds it?  No clue there either.

      But the hostile tone was, imao, unmistakable.  This raises the question, "When did the Left decide it hated freedom and elected government?"  And the answer is, the Left was born hating them.  I'll be having a long post on that when I'm back home.

      Another piece of bias was displayed via the Gallup poll.  Of post-World War II Presidents, Bush had the lowest average approval rating over his term.  Allegedly, anyway.  I saw no figures for Harry S. Truman (let us pause a moment, to show respect for one of the great men of U.S. history, and probably our greatest 20th century President).  Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, and G. H. W. Bush weren't mentioned either.  But the number one person on the list was -- President Lyndon Baines Johnson.  LBJ, the man who couldn't lose in '64, was so unpopular that he didn't try to run in '68.  Somehow, this didn't get mentioned.  Nor did I hear anything about why this approval rating was of any importance, especially given that W. just got re-elected.

      Nope, no liberal agenda here, nothing to see move along.


Friday, January 21, 2005

Bad History As Disinformation

      I'm in the hospital, in Minnesota, and have a room mate.  The room mate was chatting with his nurse, and they were talking about Iraq.

      First, they started to say that it was horrible, the people being killed over there.  They weren't very clear as to who these people are, and who was doing the killing.  I thought when they said "the killed," they were referring to those who were trying to hold an actual election.

      Then, up came the subject of Viet Nam.  Didn't people remember it?  Yeah, I remember it.  I remember we had the war won, with the native guerrillas mostly destroyed, infiltration was down, and the North attempting an invasion with tanks that was destroyed by S. Vietnamese forces supported by U.S. and S. Vietnameses airpower.  Then, the defeatists got control of Congress, and forbade us to help S. Viet Nam, and the second armored invasion worked.

      I also heard the nurse say that the National Guard was being misused, that it was never intended for overseas deployment.  I think this would surprise a good many WWII vets, who went overseas as part of the National Guard.  Googling '"national guard" purpose' gives me links to pages that note the Guard is an outgrowth of the militia, sent abroad in the Wars with Mexico and Spain, as well as the World Wars.  This page on the Iowa National Guard also shows it as being part of the overseas deployment force.  The page also notes National Guard units deployed overseas in the Viet Nam and Korean wars.

      I don't know where my room mate and nurse picked up their misinformation, but they are just wrong.  It's the kind of myth made to serve a purpose, though, that of conning the populace.

      I didn't see any point in challenging my room mate and the nurse on this issue, tonite.  We all have other things to worry about.  But as citizens, it behooves us to be well informed, and to put down these myths.

      In more positive news, my IV was just disconnected (though the line is still in), and I get 'full liquids' for dinner.  PUDDING!  APPLESAUCE!


Thursday, January 20, 2005


      I knew the MSM was bad, and the Minneapolis Star-Tribune was worse, but this is worse than I ever imagined.

      At long last, Strib, have you no decency?  Have you no decency at all?

      The Strib ran that under the rubric "opinion."  It doesn't seem to qualify as an opinion, but bile fits nicely.

      Hat tip to Powerline for pointing out this piece of nastiness.



Monday, January 17, 2005

Strib bashing three: Aid imbecility and racism

      Never ones to give up when they're in the wrong, the Strib is still whining that the U.S. should give more govt. to govt. foreign aid.

      There's an article about that here. bemoaning the fact that the U.S., with a population pushing 300 million, only gives "a measly 13 cents a day per American," compared to say Norway, which donates $1.26 per Norwegian.  The figure has to be expressed that way, because if expressed as total dollars, the U.S. aid figure of about $14,000,000,00.00 per year would look too large compared to Norway's $2,000,000,000.00 per year.

      Utterly missing from this is any discussion of the fact that Norway is a NATO member, and therefore an attack on it is an attack on us, and therefore, Norway can spend only 60% as much on defense, per capita, as we do, 'cause we're there to take up the slack.  Nor is there mention of the fact that the money we're spending to relieve distress in the area hit by the tsunami is not being counted as foreign aid by the Strib.  Nor do the words "Iraq," "Saddam Hussein," or "Oil-for-Food scandal" show up.  The idea that foreign aid functions mostly as a subsidy for exporters and a way for kleptocrats to pad their bank accounts is not on the radar screen. The idea that aid frequently makes things worse is right out, although that case has been made before (Google it yourself, I'm tired).  There isn't even any consideration of what we would spend the extra $126,000,000,000.00 per year foreign aid on, and what effects it might have, if we were as "generous" as Norway.

      What is on the page is the Strib editorial board's attitude.  They don't need to ask themselves about results.  It would make them feel good if the govt. took more of our money.  If it actually made things worse for foreigners, killed them even, well, the lives of non-whites aren't a major consideration, next to depriving the USAmerican public of its freedom.

      In short, the Strib editorial board is composed of fascists.  Smug fascists, to boot.


Bashing, part two: more on the Strib and Social Security.

      In my immediately previous post, I said "the Strib seems to be the one who's lying [about Socialist Insecurity], not the President."

      Some more on the SS system, as seen by the Strib.

      In the editorial I quoted before, the Strib insists:
The system is not in crisis; it has money to last for about the next half century,
and the Sunday paper had a signed piece by Dave Hage, asserting:
Social Security is running very large surpluses at the moment and it will have enough money to pay full benefits until the year 2042.

      What somehow doesn't get mentioned in all this is what happens to the surplus.  Answer, it goes into U.S. government bonds.  But the surplus is forecast to vanish around 2019.  So a more honest way of putting this would be:
The system will have plenty of money for the next fourteen or so years.  We hope.  After that, the SS administration will have to "redeem" bonds with the Treasury.  Unless the govt. is running truly massive surpluses at that time, general taxes will have to be raised sharply, or general government spending slashed, or SS benefits slashed, or we'll have to pay for SS by printing money.  All of these are likely to be real tough on the economy and the citizenry.

      Don't know about you, but that doesn't sound quite so rosy to me.

      Second, concerning the period after 2042, the Strib goes on to say:
and even then, if nothing is done the required benefit cuts would still leave retirees better off than those getting benefits today.

      Again, a more honest way of saying that would be:
If you're alive in thirty-eight years, and your SS benefits suddenly go down by 20-30%, that's fine with us.  And the fact that those now receiving benefits will do much better than those retiring later doesn't bother us either.  We love this big government program because it's a big, government program.  Keeping you from having non-govenrmental alternatives is our priority.  If that means fourteen years of status quo,twenty three years of severe economic stress, and then maybe stability, we say Go For It!

      Think you'll be seeing anything like that said in the Stribsoon?  Me neither.


How's about a little Strib bashing before I go?

      Today, the Star Tribune has an editorial calling W. a liar because he said blacks get shortchanged by Socialist Insecurity.

      The Pres. pointed out that blacks, on the average, live shorter lives than whites, on the average, and thus, on the average, don't get as much back as whites would.  A 'lie' and a 'vile canard,' thunders the Strib.  Blacks do quite well out of SS.

      Evidence?  Well, the SS admin. and the GAO both supposedly did studies that show this to be false, although the Strib can't actually be bothered to link to the studies, or give us any other source information.  Still, we do get some arguments:
Heritage failed to factor in the progressivity of Social Security benefits; on a taxes-paid to benefits-received ratio, those with lower incomes get more back. Blacks tend to earn less than whites, and thus their Social Security benefits are larger in comparison to taxes they pay.

      Hmmm, maybe I'm missing something, but doesn't this evade the issue?    While this is a good argument that low income whites make out, it doesn't show that blacks actually collect these progressive benefits.  Quite possibly the lower life expectancy cancels out the progressivity, or more than cancels it.

      It is also argued that:
Social Security is more than retirement benefits. It also includes survivor and disability benefits. Blacks benefit disproportionately from those programs. While blacks are 11 percent of the workforce, for example, they are 18 percent of those receiving disability benefits. Almost half the blacks receiving Social Security -- 47 percent -- are getting disability benefits or survivor benefits.

      Again, maybe I missed it, but when did W. propose to get rid of SS disability?  If he didn't, then the only proper comparison is present retirement and survivor benefits, vs. how retirees and survivors would make out under the Bush plan.  Since no data is given, there's no reason left to believe the Strib.

      Make that "almost no data," please.  The GAO is quoted as saying
"In the aggregate, blacks and Hispanics have higher disability rates and lower lifetime earnings, and thus receive greater benefits relative to taxes [paid] than whites."

      That strongly suggests that when you factor out disability, blacks get shafted by SS.  In other words, the Strib seems to be the one who's lying, not the President.

      More bashing on the Strib and SS in my next post.


Personal: It's "Stick close to the toilet" day

      In a few hours, my wife will come home from work, and we'll go out for a last humongously overeating breakfast.  Then, around 4:00PM CST, I'll start drinking a gallon of laxative.  As the evening progresses, I'll also swallow anti-biotics and possibly shower with antiseptic soap (although I may wait for tommorow for that; have to check the instructions).

      Tomorrow, at 10:00 AM, I'll report to Fairview University Hospital near the University of Minnesota Minneapolis campus.  Two hours later, they'll be slicing me open and doing a Vertical Banded Gastroplasty, aka "stomach stapling."

      My mood is a mixture of eager anticipation and fear.  That last surprises me, as I've been under the knife five times before (I used to ride a motorcycle).  Don't know why I'm nervous about this one, but I am.

      So, all of today's posts will be my last for a week or so.  If you live in the Twin Cities, I'd welcome visits while I'm getting well enough to leave the hospital.

      Here's hoping you don't let your health problems get as out of control as mine.


Tuesday, January 11, 2005

The Meaning of Rathergate, part four: Where's Cromwell when you need him?

      Well, after months of waiting, the CBS Independent Panel Investigating the Rathergate fiasco has issued its report.

      I must confess, I haven't finished it yet.  I've spent much of the day downloading the evidence that the Panel published in the evil PDF format.  But I did make it through the Executive Summary, Les Moonves's statement, and "Designated Victim" Mary Mapes's defense of her acts, as well as other web commentators.

      Certainly the single most insightful comment I've seen so far was on evangelicaloutpost.com, a site I don't think I ever heard of before. (hat tip: Hugh Hewitt)  Joe Carter quotes the panel's report:
More than a few of the staff members interviewed by the Panel likened this breakdown in the production of the September 8 Segment to a “perfect storm,” in which a confluence of factors came together and led to the failures.

      Carter then nails the problem with this idea:
Let’s look at the elements that went into the creation of this “perfect storm”:

1. The speed with which the story was produced.
2. The deference given to an experienced producer.
3. The producer’s association with Dan Rather.
4. A belief in the truth of the subject matter.

Is the Panel claiming that this “confluence of factors” is a rare event? Are we expected to believe that most stories are produced at a leisurely pace with an inexperienced producer that has no association with Rather and who doesn’t believe in the veracity of the material?

      No,that's not it.


      That's where CBS really went wrong.  It never occured to CBS that the truth was something they weren't sure of, something they needed to establish.  Mapes and Co. were certain they knew the truth, but couldn't prove it.  Enter Barnes and Burkett, both of whom were working against Bush's re-election.  Both of them had baggage that suggested they would lie to take down Bush.  Both of them were believed, instantly.

      That conviction is also why they fiasco went on for thirteen days, with CBS issuing one dishonest statement after another in defense of their piece, as the Panel Report shows.  In fact, CBS news doesn't seem to have any idea of what truth is.  They seemed to think that if they just talked fast and loudly enough, and ignored the evidence that the memos were phony, they'd prevail, with memos that were "fake but accurate."

      Mary Mapes inadvertantly confirms that this was a "routine disaster" in her response to the Panel Report:
I am shocked by the vitriolic scape-goating in Les Moonves's statement. I am very concerned that his actions are motivated by corporate and political considerations — ratings rather than journalism. Mr. Moonves's response to the review panel's report and the panel's assessment of the evidence it developed in its investigation combine not only to condemn me, but to put all investigative reporting in the CBS tradition at risk.

Much has been made about the fact that these documents are photocopies and therefore cannot be trusted, but decades of investigative reporting have relied on just such copies of memos, documents and notes. In vetting these documents, we did not have ink to analyze, original signatures to compare, or paper to date. We did have context and corroboration and believed, as many journalists have before and after our story, that authenticity is not limited to original documents. Photocopies are often a basis for verified stories.

Before the Bush/Guard story aired, the newly found documents that supported it were thoroughly examined and corroborated. The contents of the new documents mesh perfectly, in large ways and small, with all previously known records. [my emphasis throughout]

      So now we see what's truly appalling about the Rathergate fiasco.  They did what they always did.  It's just that this time, they got caught.


      Update, January 17th: Slate Magazine's Jack Shafer has a great piece about Rathergate and the report, (hat tip: Howard Kurtz), making the same point I do about a routine catastrophe:
Although the review pretends that the Bush service story was an anomaly, a temporary unhinging of CBS News' high journalistic standards, anybody who has worked with investigative reporters will recognize the fact-shaving, source-buttering, and ethics-skirting practiced by Mapes and her colleagues. . . .

Mapes was taken in by a hoax, it seems, and the auteur of CNN's Operation Tailwind program was convinced by unreliable sources. No conflicting evidence, no matter how strong, was enough to shake the faith of either reporter. Tragically, neither seems to have learned in their careers that doubt, not certainty, is often an investigative reporter's best friend.

T. S. M. B.D.!

Good News, Bad News

      The good news is that Austin Bay now has a blog, at http://www.austinbay.net/blog/.

      The bad news is that his commenting function doesn't work.  Go read it anyway, he's saying interesting stuff.


      Update: As of 2:08 AM CST, I can't trackback to Mr. Bay either.  Annoying.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Still Clueless After All These Months, part III: When you're in a hole, stop digging

      Corey Pein has responded to his critics on the Romenesko website.  I answered Mr. Pein, as follows.

      In reply to Corey Pein's defense of his article (http://poynter.org/forum/?id=letters, CJR's Pein answers his critics 1/5/2005 1:11:53 PM), I can only say it is as pathetically bad as the original.  What's interesting is that it's bad for the same reasons.

      Mr. Pein's basic method, in both the article and the defense, is "Trust me blindly."  His article was noteworthy for not giving a URL for a single one of the people who called the memos frauds, so you could see what the evidence and arguments are.  Similarly, he starts off his defense by saying
Many critics of my article . . . have obviously not read it.
  No names, no evidence, just assertion.

      Pein says thinks the documents might have been produced in 1973.  The best evidence available is that no 1973 technology could have produced the CBS memos, with the possible exception of a linotype machine operated by a master typesetter.

      Mr. Pein misrepresented Joseph Newcomer's critique of the memos in his articles, and he continues to misrepresent it.  Dr. Newcomer's arguments, in brief: On the basis of his expertise as
one of the pioneers of electronic typesetting . . . [having] personally created computer fonts, and helped create programs that created computer fonts . . . [having been] a certified Adobe PostScript developer . . .[having] written about Microsoft Windows font technology in a book I co-authored, and taught courses in it [,] I therefore assert that I am a qualified expert in computer typography[, and] it takes approximately 30 seconds for anyone who is knowledgeable in the history of electronic document production to recognize this whole collection is certainly a forgery, and approximately five minutes to prove to anyone technically competent that the documents are a forgery. . . . The probability that any technology in existence in 1972 would be capable of producing a document that is nearly pixel-compatible with Microsoft’s Times New Roman font and the formatting of Microsoft Word, and that such technology was in casual use at the Texas Air National Guard, is so vanishingly small as to be indistinguishable from zero.
  Mr. Pein distorts this into an assertion that Newcomer starts with the assumption that the memos are false.

      Mr. Pein also dismisses Charles Johnson and Merryl Yourish.  Charles Johnson wrote:

I’ve been involved with desktop publishing software and scalable software fonts (as opposed to hot lead type) almost since their inception.  I’m a former West Coast editor of a popular computer magazine for a now-orphaned computer, the Atari ST/TT.

      I also co-owned a software publishing firm, CodeHead Technologies, for whom I designed and laid out packaging and manuals for more than a dozen products (in addition to developing most of those products, using 680x0 assembly language).  We used a combination of DTP and traditional typesetting techniques for these jobs, and I cut my teeth on some of the first serious DTP software ever created for personal computers—including Aldus Pagemaker and Aldus Freehand on the Mac, and less recognizable titles available for Atari computers (anyone still using Calamus or Pagestream out there?).
      My software company also marketed a word processing program (Calligrapher, written by a developer in Britain) that had the ability to import and use Postscript Type 1 fonts.  And I had early experience with some of the dinosaur-like dedicated word processors that were available in the 70s/80s.

      Ms. Yourish says:

I have a twenty-some-year background in publishing, starting in college on AM Varityper and Compugraphic typesetting systems, and moving on to Atex . . .  and then desktop publishing. . . .  I can write a book, lay it out, typeset it, edit it, copyedit it, proofread it, and put in the pictures."
  Yourish claims that in extensive personal experience as a professional typesetter,
I never—never—got a clean match on the first try.  Nobody ever did.  Matching type was and is the most frustrating, exacting, painstaking, time-consuming process that exists in any aspect of publishing.
  Mr. Pein's response, as near as I can make it out, is he knows as much or more than Newcomer, Johnson, Yourish.  He never explains how he obtained this expertise.

      Mr. Pein makes much of David Hailey's supposed typographic study of the memos.  He doesn't note that after the study was criticized, Hailey went back and changed what he had written, without giving notice of the alterations (what the current status of Dr. Hailey's study is I can't say, since he seems to have removed it from the web).  Nor does Mr. Pein reveal that Hailey "proved" that the documents could have been produced on a typewriter by reproducing parts of them with word processing software, then using Photoshop(tm) to add the bits that were extra difficult.  Perhaps I'm being dim, but I don't see the logic there, especially when one of Mr. Hailey's conclusions was that the font used was ITC American Typewriter Condensed Medium, which doesn't feature a reduced, superscript 'th,' as the memos did.  Instead, Mr. Pein asserts without argument or evidence that all criticisms of Hailey's work is invalid.  AGAIN: if Mr. Pein or Mr. Hailey thinks the documents could have been produced on a 1973 typewriter, bring out a typewriter available in 1973 and do it.

      Finally, Mr. Pein studiously ignores the flat out lies CBS told, both in the original story and in response when the story was questioned.  In the original broadcast, CBS claimed:

60 Minutes consulted a handwriting analyst and document expert who believes the material is authentic.

Robert Strong was a friend and colleague of Col. Killian who ran the Texas Air National Guard administrative office in the Vietnam era. Strong, now a college professor, believes these documents are genuine.

      Flatly untrue.  CBS consulted four experts.  Two told them they had doubts the documents were authentic, and CBS stopped talking to them.  The other two gave heavily qualified opinions that boiled down to "Possibly the signatures are authentic, but we can't verify anything else about the documents."  And Strong never said the documents were authentic, he said they might be, but didn't know.

      Similarly, CBS lied when they said they'd talked to people who had seen the memos "at the time they were written."  They lied when they claimed they'd checked the documents out over a period of six weeks (CBS got the memos about ONE week before the broadcast).  CBS lied again when it claimed to have "vetted" their source, Burkett, who they said " . . . did have the ability to get access to these documents and he was being truthful."  When they finally did check, they found that Burkett's supposed source denied ever having seen any such memos or ever having given them to Burkett.  CBS may NOT have lied when it said "We are confident about the chain of custody; we're confident in how we secured the documents," but only because they may actually have been that gullible.

      There are more flaws in Mr. Pein's article, but I'll spare you.  See here if you want more.  Let us close with something Mr. Pein asserts in his defense:
I am dismayed that in the flood of responses to my work, many critics are merely repeating what their favorite blogs say instead of making up their own minds.
  Note the lack of evidence on whether the critics made up their own minds.  (Mr. Pein can do long range telepathy?) Note the failure to consider that anyone might have read a variety of sources, followed the links, looked at the documents, thought it over, and come to the conclusion that people like Dr. Newcomer or Mr. Johnson had made a case.  Mr. Pein believes we all took everything on faith, and can't understand why we don't take him on faith.

      Mr. Pein, you and CBS made the same mistake.  We don't take anything on faith, we check it out.  And your article doesn't past muster.

Stephen M.
St. Onge
Minneapolis, MN


Still Clueless After All These Months, part II

And here's a cartoon example:

Auth assininity

      Tony Auth shows how the MSM want to treat controversy.  He won't mention Crichton's statements about the falsity of "global warming" are footnoted to the scientific literature.  He just wants to implies that Crichton is lying.  And it works -- if you don't think for yourself, or check the other side of the story, or know how to use the web.

      But the number of people who do use the web keeps increasing, as does the number who read blogs.  Pew Research's latest survey of blogging, available in the Satanic PDF format here, shows 120 million people use the internet; 32 million (27%) read blogs, up 58% from last year.  loggers have grown from 3 to 7 percent of web users in 29 months, a 42% per year growth rate; If present trends continue, in about years, all internet users will be blog readers, and in a decade or so everyone in the US will be a blogger, except the illiterate.

      Meanwhile, for one of my mean-spirited bent, it's amusing to watch these fools shooting themselves in the gut.  Soon, they'll have less respect than the Weekly World News.  After all, the WWN's whoppers are amusing, and they don't try to persude you they're telling the truth.

      And as the MSM sinks slowly into the swamp, keep in mind that


Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Still Clueless After All These Months, part I

     In the last few days, I've found two examples of why the MSM are losing the public trust.  They are interesting because the people making them have no idea what's changed since the rise of blogger factchecking.  I'll deal with one of them in this post, and the other seperately.

      The Columbia Journalism Review has published a particularly awful article on Rathergate, by someone named Coery Pein.  It's a terrible intellectual mess.

      Some of the things wrong with the article should have stood out to anyone, even if they'd never heard of the web.  The piece is riddled with ad hominem.  It contradicts himself, in consecutive sentences ("the document may have been typed. . . the documents are typed").  After sneering at Joseph Newcomer as a "self-proclaimed typography expert." who "supposedly proved" the documents were frauds, he trots out David Hailey, "not a professional document examiner, but a former Army illustrator," and expects us to blindly accept Hailey's supposed conclusions.  Pein asserts you could make a replica of almost any document using Word," but neglects to offer an example of this supposedly easy feat.  And Pein is blatantly hypocritical, saying of the critics of CBS "Their driving assumptions were often . . . based on faulty logic. Personal attacks passed for analysis," which are faults of his noted above.

      But the worst problem comes with Pein's links.  There aren't any.

      The entire problem for CBS resulted because they expected their story to be taken on faith.  Instead, people started examining the memos, pdf of which were posted on CBS's website.  The memos were quickly shown to be very bad forgeries, as documented here, here, here, and especially here.

      Pein tried to deal with this by not telling you where to find the arguments for the other side.    He also claims that the aforementioned David Hailey showed that the documents might have been produced on a typewriter.  Hailey's claims were ripped to shreds here, here, and here.  In fact, Hailey claimed the memos were produced with ITC American Typewriter Condensed Medium, a font available on typewriters since 1944.  If you follow the link, you find that the font doesn't have the superscript 'th,' much less one that looks like the Word 'th' that appears in the documents.

      Pein is trying to pull off an intellectual fraud here.  Once he might have gotten away with it.  But even though he's writing about blogs, he apparently didn't realize how easily his dishonesties could be exposed.  Or perhaps he's only aiming at people who don't use the Web?  Who take things on faith?  Who have no idea what the controversy was about?

      No matter.  What's important is that the people he can deceive are a shrinking and increasingly less influential part of the public.

      The world has changed, but even when writing about the change, the MSM don't get it.


I am too damned longwinded

      The monster post below [the one about Mr. Farrell, I mean] started out as a post that was going to be titled "In time, maybe we can replace the Main Stream Media", and was going to read something like:

      Over at Instapundit, the Blogfather was responding to someone named Henry Farrell, who had been criticizing him.  It seems that Mr. Farrell believes that Prof. Reynolds has been claiming, or ought to have been claiming, that the blogosphere can replace the Main Steam Media.

      Well we can't, today.  But look at the stories coming out of Asia concerning the tsunami disaster.  Bloggers are getting more and more information out, and faster, than the MSM.  News channels are running video that was up on the web hours earlier.  Bloggers are helping to co-ordinate relief efforts. Etc.

      Give us a few years, and cheap enough bandwidth, and I think we'll have the blogospheric equivalent of UPI/Fox News.  Individuals in various places will post words and video on local events, and the agency will review, sort, and call attention to their output.

I was also going to insert the following links in the text:






      "Hello, my name is Stephen, and I'm addicted to blathering."

      (Reply from 12-step group) "Shut up, Stephen!"


Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Getting one thing right

      Yesterday, Jan. 3rd, there was a story in the New York Times about the tsunami and the blogosphere.  The story has apparently been widely commented on in the blogosphere, and mostly unfavorably.

      However, blogger Xeni Jardin at BoingBoing.net disagreed (Jardin was quoted in the story, by the way). She defends the article, calling it
Another insightful piece from John Schwartz at the New York Times,
and denies that the article shows any hostility to bloggers. 

      Who's correct?  Let's take a look.

      The headline reads "Myths Run Wild in Blog Tsunami Debate."  What debate?  Well, Schwartz mentions Democratic Underground, which isn't a blog.  One of the resident DU morons thought the earthquake that caused the tsunami was in turn caused by (brace yourself) pollution and the war in Iraq.  He/she also thinks the earth is "organic".

      The Times story then notes that one of the three contributors to Wizbang made fun of the DU fools.  This appears to be the 'debate' referred to.

      After a paragraph about some of the good things bloggers have done in tsunami relief, Schwartz writes:
"It's so much of what they feed on, so much of what they are," said James Surowiecki, the author of "The Wisdom of Crowds."
[my link to the book]

      Note that no context is given that would allow you to know where or when Surowiecki said the words that are alleged to be his, or to tell you what is being referred to.  Given the way the MSM has behaved lately, this makes the quote almost meaningless.

      Schwartz then drops Surowiecki, without asking what is the evidence for S.'s comment about whatever it is he is referring to, and goes on to give some statistics about blogs, taken from a Pew Research Survey he also doesn't link to.  [WARNING!  WARNING!  DANGER, WILL ROBINSON, DANGER!  LINK UPCOMING TO EVIL PDF FORMAT SITE!  DANGER OF COMPUTER LOCKING UP WHILE BLOATED ACROBAT READER(tm) LOADS! DANGER!  The survey is here.]

      Getting back to posts on the tsunami, Schwartz notes that
Odd blog postings are not just for commoners. Norodom Sihanouk, the former king of Cambodia, posted a message in French to his Web site, www.norodomsihanouk.info, saying that an astrologer had warned him that an "ultra-catastrophic cataclysm" would strike the region, but Cambodia would be undamaged if the proper rituals were observed. King Sihanouk said that the thousands of dollars he spent on the ceremonies protected his nation from the disaster, and that he would donate $15,000 to disaster relief.

      Should you click through to Sihanouk's website, you'll find it isn't a blog either.  You won't find directions to the quote, so unless you want to spend a long time rummaging through the site, you can't check Schwartz's accuracy.

      Schwartz goes back to Surowiecki, sort of:
Mr. Surowiecki pointed out that there is nothing new about ill-informed rumor-mongering or other forms of oddness. "There were always cranks," he said. "Rumors have always been fundamental about the way people talk, or think, about politics or complicated issues." Instead of a corner bar or a Barcalounger, however, the location for today's speech is an online medium with a potential audience of millions.

But there is another, more important difference, Mr. Surowiecki and others say. Internet discourse can be self-correcting, with near-instant feedback from readers.

      Schwartz now shows his disapproval of the crude political bloggers:
What was lost in the sniping over the Democratic Underground posting was the fact that the follow-up comments were a sober discussion of what actually causes earthquakes. The first response to the posting asked, "Earthquakes have been happening since the beginning of time ... How would you explain them?"

Further comments explained the movement of tectonic plates and provided links to sites explaining earthquakes and tsunamis from the United States Geological Survey and other authoritative sources.

"Not to make fun, as I'm sure it's not a unique misconception ... but the reality is simple plate tectonics," one participant wrote. "The entire Pacific Ocean is slowly but surely closing in on itself. What happened is that the floor of the Indian Ocean slid over part of the Pacific Ocean, releasing massive tension in the Earth's crust.

"That's it. No mystic injury to the Gaia spirit or anything."

      Hmm, maybe the posts at DU are the debate?  Wizbang calling the DU idiots "idiots" was "sniping," which is presumably a bad thing.  Except that Schwartz is himself 'sniping' at people who post things he disagrees with.  I find all this hard to understand, except as an attitude by Schwartz that he's a superior sort of person who is therefore entitled to 'snipe' at those he takes to be bloggers.  But perhaps I'm mistaken.

      Back to the article.  A respectable authority figure is now introduced:
Online discussion can evolve toward truth, said Clay Shirky, an adjunct professor in the interactive telecommunications program at New York University and a blogger. One result is a process that can be more reliable than many new media, where corrections are often late and small, if they appear at all.

Dr. Shirky said the key to reasonable discussion was to get beyond flames and the "echo chamber" effect of like-minded people simply reinforcing the opinions of one another and to let the self-correcting mechanisms do their job in a civil way. "You hope the echo chamber effect and the fact-checking effect will balance out into a better and more nuanced set of narratives, and a more rigorously checked set of facts," he said. But in such a sharply contentious world, "The risk is it will largely divide itself into competing narratives where what even constitutes a fact is different in different camps."

      I gather from the way this is presented that Schwartz disapproves of 'echo chambers.'  Oddly, that's precisely one of the complaints we political bloggers have with the MSM: too many people who think alike reinforcing each others prejudices.  Or is an 'echo chamber' a good thing when it's the Times?

      Miss Jardin now makes her appearance:
To Xeni Jardin, an editor of BoingBoing.net, the "self-healing" quality of debate is one of the most important results of the electronic medium. "When information that is provably untrue surfaces on the Net or surfaces in discussion groups, people want to be right - they want to know the truth," she said.

In her own blog, she said, "Sometimes people spend really a long time researching background information on an item that we post" and correct the record through comments.

      You noted I hope that the quotations suddenly stop, but the sentence continued.  That's how a professional journalist lets you know that the bit about "correcting the record through comments" was something Schwartz added, not something Jardin said.  The reason Jardin didn't say it is that BoingBoing has no comments section.

      But political bloggers are, alas, incurably stupid:
In the tsunami discussion on Democratic Underground, some participants continued to post farfetched theories about what caused the earthquake based on pseudoscience and conspiracy, and on Wizbang, the vituperation continued unabated, spreading even to many victims of the disaster.

      On balance, I think Jardin was half right.  There's no reason to believe Schwartz showed hostility to the blogosphere.  As Napoleon once said,
Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by incompetence.

      Schwartz is an incompetent reporter, who doesn't know enough about blogs to write about them, and his editor is an incompetent who didn't make sure Schwartz was qualified for his assignment.

      That's not malice, but it's almost as bad.


How to make a fool of yourself dept.: Believe you're infallible

      Some weird stuff's been posted recently.

      Minneapolis Star-Tribune columnist Nick Coleman launched an attack on the Powerline bloggers that was pathetic in its weakness, errors, and downright stupidity.  The blogosphere stomped a mud hole in him (see here for a link roundup).

      But blogger named Henry Farrell defended Coleman, sort of.  Money quote:
Coleman’s effort to “fact-check” the factcheckers is rather weak, but his main point is hard to refute - it’s a bit rich for slavering right wing hacks to accuse the mainstream media of ideological bias and expect to get taken seriously.

      Now, first, tell me, what does "slavering right wing hacks" mean?  According to Dictionary.com, a hack is
One who undertakes unpleasant or distasteful tasks for money or reward; a hireling. A writer hired to produce routine or commercial writing.

      Since hardly anyone in the blogosphere has been hired to blog, including the Powerline authors, I have a hard time seeing what Farrell thinks he means.  He uses "hack" and "hackishness" further down.  They seem to be general terms of derision.  As for slavering, that's defined as
To behave in an obsequious manner; fawn.

      Referred to synonyms at fawn, we find
To seek favor or attention by flattery and obsequious behavior.

      Just whose favor are the Poweliners supposed to be seeking?

      Farrell then switches to the Blogfather, Glenn Reynolds.  Farrell claims
bloggers like Glenn Reynolds . . . seem to believe that blogs should radically change or replace the mainstream media.

      The problem as Farrell seems to see it is
If you think that blogs should replace the mainstream media, then you should be prepared yourself to live up to some minimal standards of scrupulosity, intellectual honesty, and willingness to deal fairly with facts that are uncomfortable for your own ideological position. You should be prepared to live up yourself to the standards that you demand of others.

      I have no problem with those standards, but note there's no link to anywhere that Reynolds says that he expects the blogosphere to replace the MSM (or, for that matter, to anywhere Reynolds laid down any standards for the MSM; the only person prescribing standards so far is Farrell).

      Reynolds replied to Farrell, saying he couldn't think what he might have written that would suggest he, Reynolds, believes that the blogosphere will replace the MSM.  Farrell responds with two links to Instapundit posts in which Reynolds said the MSM was
unraveling before our very eyes, which I think is the biggest story of the election so far

and approvingly quoting Peggy Noonan in the WSJ Online saying:
Who was the biggest loser of the 2004 election? It is easy to say Mr. Kerry: he was a poor candidate with a poor campaign. But I do think the biggest loser was the mainstream media, the famous MSM, the initials that became popular in this election cycle. Every time the big networks and big broadsheet national newspapers tried to pull off a bit of pro-liberal mischief--CBS and the fabricated Bush National Guard documents, the New York Times and bombgate, CBS's "60 Minutes" attempting to coordinate the breaking of bombgate on the Sunday before the election--the yeomen of the blogosphere and AM radio and the Internet took them down. It was to me a great historical development in the history of politics in America. It was Agincourt. It was the yeomen of King Harry taking down the French aristocracy with new technology and rough guts. God bless the pajama-clad yeomen of America. Some day, when America is hit again, and lines go down, and media are hard to get, these bloggers and site runners and independent Internetters of all sorts will find a way to file, and get their word out, and it will be part of the saving of our country.

      I don't see how you can stretch this into a belief that blogs
will replace newspapers and network news shows.

      Reynolds has written
Though webloggers do actual reporting from time to time, most of what they bring to the table is opinion and analysis - punditry, in short. (No surprise here - people have been sharing opinions forever, and may well have an inborn drive to do so. Plus, you can opine without leaving your computer, while reporting hard news is hard work.)

      Reynolds does go on to say that the MSM has
cut back on newsgathering, treating news as a commodity product to be obtained from wire services while eliminating foreign and regional bureaus. Instead, Big Media organizations decided some years ago that they would focus on "news analysis" and punditry. That's, well, because you can opine without leaving your computer, while reporting hard news is hard work. (And expensive).

      Reynolds then criticizes this as a bad business decision.  The web makes the barriers to entry for punditry very low, placing expensive institutions like newspapers at a competitive disadvantage with bloggers, while corporate restraints and groupthink produce bad punditry.

      Reynolds concludes:
So as I see it, the economic upshot is that big publications like the New York Times will feel competitive pressure to do more of what they do best: reporting actual news from around the world. Meanwhile the buzzing, humming, done-for-love-and-not-for-money Blogosphere will provide an increasing share of the analysis and criticism. The result will be a kind of symbiosis that may leave both sides better off.

      Maybe this is what Farrell refers to?  'In the future, newspapers will drop almost all analysis and opinion, and concentrate on hard news.'  That would be a change, but since bloggers like Reynolds and Powerline would still be 'punditing,' I don't see how their partisanship would be an issue, assuming that they are partisan.

      In a reply to Reynold's reply, Farrell then says that even if he accepts Reynolds's contention that he, Reynolds, doesn't believe blogs will replace the MSM,
bloggers like Reynolds are being hypocritical - they don’t and won’t practice what they preach
.  But Farrell never identifies what it is Reynolds is supposedly preaching.

      Finally, after a further reply by Reynolds, Farrell starts presenting some specifics.  He links to blogger Mark Kleiman:
Mark has documented over time Reynolds’ resort to bizarre conspiracy theories, vicious slurs without evidence and unwarranted attacks on the patriotism of those who disagree with him

      If you now follow those links, the "bizarre conspiracy theory" turns out to be Reynolds linking to a story that quotes a member of the European Union Parliament.  This woman, Ilka Schroeder, said
The Europeans . . . supported the Palestinian Authority with the aim of becoming its main sponsor, and through this, challenge the U.S. and present themselves as the future global power. Therefore, the Al-Aksa Intifada should be understood as a proxy war between Europe and the United States.

It is an open secret within the European Parliament that EU aid to the Palestinian Authority has not been spent correctly. . . The European Parliament does not intend to verify whether European taxpayers' money could have been used to finance anti-Semitic murderous attacks. Unfortunately, this fits well with European policy in this area."

      Apparently, Farrell and Kleiman think that if you believe that the EU would give money to the Palestinian Authority and look the other way when it's used to finance terrorism is "bizarre."  Argument?  None.  You're just supposed to ass/u/me it, and if an EU MP says differently, ignore her.  What was that about "intellectual honesty, and willingness to deal fairly with facts that are uncomfortable for your own ideological position"? 

      The stuff about "slurs without evidence?"  Well, in February of 2004, rumors circulated that Kerry had an affair with a former AP intern.  The rumors apparently started with the Clark campaign, and Drudge said that said rumors were under investigation by "TIME magazine, ABC NEWS, the WASHINGTON POST, THE HILL and the ASSOCIATED PRESS."  The U.S. press sat on the story, which caused Reynolds to note a double standard (they'd printed rumors about Bush 41 having an affair).  Then British newspapers The Sun and The Daily Mail printed a stories naming the alleged lover, and saying she'd taped an interview admitting everything.  Reynolds linked to bloggers who'd linked to those stories.  Finally, the woman and her family denied everything, and Reynolds (brace yourself) PRINTED HER NAME WHILE LINKING TO A STORY THAT ALSO NAMED HER WHILE CARRIED THE DENIALS!  Even worse, Reynolds linked to a story of Monica Lewinsky's affidavit in which she declared "under the penalty of perjury" that she'd never had a sexual relationship with President Penis, satirically implying that the denial in the Kerry case might possibly also be false.  Kleiman characterized this as
continuing to retail baseless rumors about Sen. Kerry's sex life, with the name of the woman falsely accused, even after they had been thoroughly discredited

      And the attacks on the patriotism of those who disagree with him?  Well, on the anniversary of That Day, Glenn Reynolds wrote a column about the war on terrorism.  In it, Reynolds refers to Jonathan Schell, who wants us to lose the war in Iraq.  Reynolds thinks this is identical to wanting us to lose the war against terrorists.

      Kleiman makes a sharp distinction between the war against terrorists and the war in Iraq.  Reynolds thinks they're the same war.  Either position is arguable (I side with Reynolds, but that's a different post).  Regardless of whether the two conflicts are one or not, Schell regards the country as being at war, and he wants this country to lose.

      Reynolds doesn't call this unpatriotic.  He doesn't have to.  He just notes Schell's opinion.  This gives Kleiman conniptions.

      Farrell seems to have three problems.  The first is that he hates "right" opinion so much, he can't understand plain words.  The second is that when someone points out his errors, he can't take seriously the possibility he was wrong.  The third is that he can't write clearly.  No wonder Farrell's defending the MSM.  Psychologically, he's a member.


The Face of Evil

      One of the greatest problems of the modern world is the inability to see evil when it's right in front of you.  It devastated the 20th Century.

      For instance, there was never anything more clearly evil than V. I. Lenin's regime. Whether it was overturning the only democratic election in Russia's history, because he'd lost, or encouraging the mass murder of landlords (he told Bertrand Russell he'd done this -- and laughed as he remembered it), or blocking food aid to the starving because the areas in question weren't sufficiently obsequious, this was an evil regime headed by a monstrously evil man.  Yet people managed to blind themselves, and see things 'as they ought to be, rather than as they are.'

      Today, I'm informed of another person who's right down there, morally, with Lenin.  Her name is Margaret Short, and she's a former Cabinet Minister in Britain.  That this person could ever, under any circumstance, be thought to be fit for decent society, much less hold a position in the Cabinet, speaks volumes about what's wrong in Britain and the West today.

      Ms. Short is mad at the U.S. for saving the lives of Asians.  I am not making that up.  She wants people to die rather than be helped by the U.S.

      The U.S., you see, announced that it would co-ordinate humanitarian relief to the tsunami victims, in association with India, Australia, and Japan.  These are the four countries that have significant military force projection in the area, and can thus fly in supplies quickly, get water systems restored, etc.  Short doesn't want us to do this.

      What Short wants is for everything to be left in the hands of the UN.  Again, I'm not making that up.  The UN sends "peacekeepers" to war-torn countries that help genocide take place, and at best don't stop it, while looting and raping the locals.  It ran the "oil-for-bribes-and-Saddam's-toys" program while Iraqi children died.  Short describes this cesspool of corruption and ally of oppression as
the best system we have got and the one that needs building up," she said.

"Only really the UN can do that job," she told BBC Radio Four's PM programme.

"It is the only body that has the moral authority. But it can only do it well if it is backed up by the authority of the great powers. . . .

"I don't know what that is about but it sounds very much, I am afraid, like the US trying to have a separate operation and not work with the rest of the world through the UN system," she added.

      In any sane world, Short would be spat upon publicly in her own country.  She'd also be unable to escape such treatment by going abroad, because she'd be less welcome that a rabid dog.  Instead interviewed by the BBC, a former cabinet minister "resigned as international development secretary over the Iraq war."

      Pardon me please, I need to go vomit.

(Hat tips to Mark Steyn via the Blogfather)

      UPDATE, Jan. 5th, 3:54 AM: Glenn Reynolds points to a Tim Blair post discussing BBC reporter Matthew Parris, who is guiltily thrilled at the death and destruction.  He is not nearly as evil as Short, but Parris is at the beginning of the psychological road that Short has traveled almost to the end of.

      It's interesting that Parris notes he is "an avowed atheist."  He ends his article by saying:
As we banish disease, seed the clouds for rain, and learn even to clone ourselves, scientific progress only deepens this discomfort, this inchoate shrinking back from mastery. We yearn for a sign from the cosmos of our fragility. We have just received such a sign. Thus — and I am sorry to say it and mean no cruelty or offence — the thrill.

      I'd put it a little differently.  When you reject a God of love, you're likely to end up worshiping a God of hate.  Parris knows he's in the wrong, but part of him just gets off on the thought of mass death.  It just goes to show [again] that G. K. Chesterton was right when he said that “The doctrine of original sin is the only philosophy empirically validated.”


Sunday, January 02, 2005

Washington Post Commentary, concluded

      On Thursday, as you may recall, I was critiquing a pretty good article in the Star-Tribune that was reprinted from the Washington Post.  Or rather, I was critiquing the first third, because the Strib just cut it off suddenly.  Time to finish commenting on the article as the Post printed it.

      It's worth noting again Edsall's and Grimaldi's remark that:
Kerry, faced with a difficult primary campaign and infighting and turnover among his consultants, did not begin seriously to address the general election until after his Super Tuesday primary election victory in March, eight months before the November vote.

      In plain language, Kerry had no ideas about persuading the voters to elect him President when he began his campaign.  Somehow, I'd think any competent politician would have thought about that somewhat earlier.

      I think we see here Kerry as a victim of Massachussetts liberalism.  "All politics are local," Tip O'Neill said, and Kerry has been elected there enough that he's forgotten the rest of the country is different.  Kerry doesn't like Bush and the Republicans, the MA voters don't like Bush and the Republicans, the activists who dominate the primaries and caucuses don't like Bush and the Republicans -- and those are the only people Kerry ever really talks with outside the Senate.  The fact that about half the country had voted for W. in 2000 never registered, emotionally.

      The Post says
At two junctures, when Kerry was either out of funds or under pressure to conserve resources for the close of the campaign, the absence of an overall strategy had damaging consequences: in March 2004, just when the Bush campaign began its first anti-Kerry offensive; and in August 2004, when the Swift Boat Veterans commercials raised questions about Kerry's service in the Vietnam War.

The Democratic media 527s "didn't do what we wanted done," Kerry media adviser Tad Devine said. "We would have run ads about Kerry, we would have had answers to the attacks in kind, saying they were false, disproved by newspapers."

Harold Ickes, who ran the Media Fund, a 527 organization that raised about $59 million in support of Kerry, said the federal election law prohibiting communication with the Kerry campaign created insurmountable obstacles in crafting effective, accurate responses to anti-Kerry ads. Ickes said he regretted not responding to the Swift Boat Veterans' attacks, but at the time he thought they seemed "a matter so personal to Senator Kerry, so much within his knowledge. Who knew what the facts were?"

      In the first place, as I wrote in the Strib portion of this critique, there apparently was a lot of coordination between the Kerry campaign and the 527s.  In any case, with so many in the media as sympathetic to Kerry as they were, the whole communications problem could have been easily dealt with.  Just have a reporter, or a blogger-reporter such as the Daily Kos ask the legitimate news question "Senator, how do you respond to these charges?"  Whatever Kerry would have said would appear in the MSM and on the web, and the 527s could promptly use it to script their responses.  They didn't do this because they were once more preaching to the converted.  No Bush or Swift Vet ad was going to make them vote for Bush, so they didn't see the need to answer the Bush campaign.  Ads attacking Bush energized them, so they'd work with the general public. Wrong.

      This all speaks to another of the Democrats' problems, their contempt for everyone who doesn't already think their way.  I've bogged on this before, and I'll say it again, confident it won't be listened to: "Lose the attitude and the certainty you're always right."  Until Democrats respect the people who disagree with them, they won't be able to communicate with them.

      Ickes was right, though, when he said of Swifie attacks "Who knew what the facts were?"  To answer the Swift Vets, Kerry had to respond personally.  His failure to do so was probably because he couldn't think of anything to say.  'Yeah, I hoped the U.S. would lose in Viet Nam' was not a winning platform.  'I was an idiot when I was that age' isn't much better.  'I was wrong, and here's how I made those mistakes' might have worked, but it risked alienating a large part of the base.  But the true reason they weren't answered is probably 'It never occurred to me that the ads would be effective.  The same attacks were made in MA, and they didn't hurt me then, so I didn't expect them to work in 2000.'

      Edsall and Grimaldi write "Early Research Is Like Yeast", a pun I love.  Having decided to concentrate on mobilizing "soft" Republican voters instead of concentrating almost everything on the undecided, the GOP used the elections of 2002 as a testing ground for their 2004 campaign.  The result: instead of losing seats, as usually happens, in the House the GOP picked up six seats, the Senate went Republican with a two seat gain. 
Republican firms, including TargetPoint Consultants and National Media Inc., delved into commercial databases that pinpointed consumer buying patterns and television-watching habits to unearth such information as Coors beer and bourbon drinkers skewing Republican, brandy and cognac drinkers tilting Democratic; college football TV viewers were more Republican than those who watch professional football; viewers of Fox News were overwhelmingly committed to vote for Bush; homes with telephone caller ID tended to be Republican; people interested in gambling, fashion and theater tended to be Democratic.

Surveys of people on these consumer data lists were then used to determine "anger points" (late-term abortion, trial lawyer fees, estate taxes) that coincided with the Bush agenda for as many as 32 categories of voters, each identifiable by income, magazine subscriptions, favorite television shows and other "flags." Merging this data, in turn, enabled those running direct mail, precinct walking and phone bank programs to target each voter with a tailored message.

      Very interesting, but I'd like to know who is being quoted in the phrase "anger points," and just what the context was.  As it is, it's spin: 'the Republican voters are all Neanderthals who are angry about something.'  Still, I can't complain too much, there.  The Dems will read that, nod sagely, forget how angry their own voters were, and screw up some more in 2006.

      A larger point is the way the information revolution hits ever wider areas of society.  It's hard to conceive of such tailored messages being affordable in the past.

      Meanwhile, what were the Donks doing? 
Democrats had access to similar data files. But the Bush campaign and the RNC were able to make far better use of the data because they had the time and money to conduct repeated field tests in the 2002 and 2003 elections, to finance advanced research on meshing databases with polling information, and to clean up and revise databases that almost invariably contained errors and omissions.

"Very few people understand how much work it takes to get this technology to actually produce political results. We are one election cycle behind them in this area," said a Democrat who helped coordinate voter contact in the 2004 campaign.

The Bush campaign's early fundraising success made much of this possible. By March 2004, Bush had $110 million in the bank and virtually no debt. During this period, Kerry was forced to spend all his time and money in the Democratic primaries, a fight that cost him $36 million and that left him $5 million in debt.

"Nobody was giving a thought at all to the general election," said Kerry pollster Mark S. Mellman. Until that March, "it was: How do we survive this week?"

      Well, Democrats, even if Kerry wasn't doing that, the DNC should have been thinking about it.  In fact, as you find when you refer back to the beginning of the article, it was the RNC that did that research for Bush.  So why weren't the Donks on the ball?  Inquiring political junkies want to know, and inquiring reporters should have pressed on this.

      The article then notes the Republican ads attacking Kerry, which Kerry failed to respond to, do to lack of money, while the 527s ran what may have been the wrong ads.  The same points I made above about getting the 527s on board apply.  Additional point: maybe the Kerry camp was wrong about what was needed (their judgment during the campaign seemed poor, and still does in retrospect).

      The article also notes
the Swift Boat Veterans ads, the first one airing on just four cable channels at a cost of $546,000. The Swift Boat Veterans eventually would raise and spend $28 million, but the first ad was exceptionally cost-effective: most voters learned about it through free coverage in mainstream media and talk radio.

      Edsall and Grimaldi fall short here.  They might have noted that if Kerry had responded, the same media that brought the ads to people's attention would probably have carried Kerry's response.  Again, the big problem was that Kerry didn't have much of a response.

      Edsall and Grimaldi might also have linked to some of the Post's own articles on the Swiftie's ads. I always thought the Post did the best job of analyzing the issue in the MSM. While heavily biased in Kerry's favor, they did note that Kerry had not, for example, released all his records despite claiming to do so, and that his Cambodia story had fallen apart.

      Another good point from the article:
The Bush campaign's early strategy decisions shaped GOP spending. Under the guidance of Rove, Dowd and Mehlman, the Bush campaign had financed early research into ways to communicate to center-right voters through nontraditional media.

The Bush campaign concluded that many of their voters did not trust the networks and the establishment press, and therefore did not trust messages transmitted through them.

      Arguably, the question 'Just why is it the Bush voters don't trust "the networks and establishment press" is not part of the story on how campaign money was spent, but I'd expect the question to be raised 'Did the Kerry campaign ever realize this?  Did they do anything about it?'

      One reason the MSM isn't trusted is on display in the article itself.  The last three paragraphs of the story read:
"They did a lot of stuff really well. They were ahead of us," said one of the Democrats' get-out-the-vote managers who did not want to be identified. "They had a strategy set by the beginning that they were going to live and die by. And we didn't."

In an election with a 2.6 percent margin of victory, the Bush campaign was run to ensure that every dollar went to fulfill core strategies, that resources were allocated to capitalize on Bush's strengths and on Kerry's vulnerabilities, and that the money necessary to finance research, technological advance, television and the ground war was available when needed.

At the July Democratic National Convention in Boston, McAuliffe commented on the disciplined Republican team: "We are up against the dirtiest, meanest, toughest group of people we have ever faced. They have money, they have power, and they ain't going to give it up easily."

      The statement that the Republicans were ahead of the Democrats, did things well, and had a strategy they stuck with is a legitimate, informative part of a story about campaign spending.  A judgment that every dollar the Bushies spent was disbursed in accord with strategy, capitalized on Bush's advantages, and was there when needed is good, unbiased analysis.  McAulliff's statement that the Republicans are dirty, mean, tough, and not going to give up easily tells you nothing about how well the two sides spent their campaign money.  It does say volumes about Edsall, Grimaldi, and the Post, though.  I wonder if they realize just how much?