Thursday, November 30, 2006

Star Tribune, Pioneer Press, and Original Writing

Yesterday I highlighted a cool quote from James Lileks. Here is my all time favorite paragraph in a local column (Joe Soucheray talking about Rep. Andy Dawkins opposition to a tax rebate, 4/7/99):

And budget surpluses now send Andy to the editorial pages to plead the case that Minnesotans should direct all or part of their rebate to reducing class size, affordable housing, sliding fee child care, polluted land cleanup and the general fund so brand new programs could be dreamed up. These problems are already funded, but the likes of Dawkins truly see a future in which the state births you, feeds you, houses you and assembles you in the town square for calisthenics before you go pedaling off to the straw mat factory on your yellow bicycle.

Maybe instead of quoting these guys, I should just adopt their writing as my own.


Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Lara, Logan, and Lileks

Remember that we are continuing our documentation of bad journalism from this week's Lara Logan 60 Minutes piece. There is a good comment on the original post concerning her "mounting evidence" claim. We will call that number one. Here are a couple more:

It’s that kind of straight-talk that has become Abizaid's trademark. When the Bush administration refused to call Iraq a "guerilla war," Abizaid did. When administration officials refused to admit that Iraq was sliding toward civil war, Abizaid said it was.

Disagreement among members of the administration and chain of command is not merely disagreement. The journalist picks the position he/she agrees with and characterizes that as an "admission."

"Three years into this war, close to 3,000 American soldiers killed and more than 20,000 wounded. A lot of Americans are wondering how it is that we got to this point. I mean, they still remember the president saying, 'Mission Accomplished,’" Logan remarks.

Did President Bush actually say "Mission Accomplished," or was that a sign on the aircraft carrier? What was the actual text of his speech?

On a lighter note, here is a really fun quote from James Lileks:

Macy's executives will walk out of their offices en masse like moaning zombies, and stand on the sidewalk selling apples to mournful folk music lifted from a Ken Burns documentary. If we don't hit the malls and hit 'em hard, the entire economy will go off the cliff like a Grand Canyon burro with an inner-ear disorder, and you, yes you, will be to blame. Future textbooks will have your picture: Mrs. Marvin Johnson. Did not buy a moderately discounted scarf at the mall the day after Thanksgiving, leading to the Panic of Ought-Seven.

Keep the comments coming on Lara Logan's piece. Fun quotes are welcome, too.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Planes, Trains, and Imams

Stop me if you've heard this one. Six Muslim imams are in an airport. They pray loudly before boarding an aircraft. Reports are that they were very critical of the Iraq campaign. Once onboard, some ask for seatbelt extenders that they don't appear to need. Passengers alert the flight attendant to their suspicions, and the imams are removed from the flight.

One pundit asked whether we would have done the same thing if it were six Catholic priests. Well, there recently was another story of alleged child abuse by a priest. I think the correct analogy is not whether you would be suspicious of a Catholic priest doing all of the above actions before an airline flight. It is whether you would allow your elementary school-age child to go on an overnight camping trip with a priest. It is not fair to the millions who are not abusers, but safety comes first. And the scandals have not been evenly distributed among all religious clergy. The same logic applies to the imams. It is not fair to the innocent that their religion has a certain connection to specific acts of terrorism using airplanes, but safety comes first.

Bleg: How big does your waist have to be to require a seatbelt extension?

Another Bleg: How have the leftist comedy shows (Daily Show, Colbert, etc.) treated this controversy? Will seatbelt extensions become a symbol of caucasian paranoia, the way that screwdrivers in the Bernhard Goetz case did? Or will they become a chilling reference to terrorism like box cutters?

P.S. Still looking for contestants to try and indentify journalistic problems with Sunday's 60 Minutes interview with Gen. Abizaid. I will give you a hint. One problem involves the preface, "first to admit...."

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Lara, Logan, and Lies

Just off the top of my head, I count five instances of bad journalism in this week's 60 Minutes interview of General Abizaid by Lara Logan. Can you spot all five? Do you see any more?

I don't want to take the time to point all of the bad journalism, especially when there are bigger fish to fry. I live in the home turf of the Minneapolis Star Tribune, after all.

This is your turn. Please give me your thoughts on the problems with the 60 Minutes piece in the comment section below.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Willie, Schumer, and Lee II

As some of you know, the hit counters linked at the bottom of this weblog can tell you details about who visits and when. Something interesting happened after I wrote the post below about Senator Schumer. Someone from the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee did a blog search for "Chuck Schumer" and found this site. Then a few minutes later, someone from the U.S. Senate Sergeant-at-Arms office viewed this site:

Domain Name ? (United States Government)
IP Address 156.33.63.# (U.S. Senate Sergeant at Arms)
ISP U.S. Senate Sergeant at Arms
Location Continent : North AmericaCountry : United States (Facts)
State : District of Columbia
City : Washington


Time of Visit Nov 21 2006 9:19:52 am
Last Page View Nov 21 2006 9:19:52 am
Visit Length 0 seconds
Page Views 1
Referring URL http://blogsearch.go...oring=d&sa=n&start=0/
Search Engine
Search Words schumer

Coincidence? Or is the DSCC reporting me to the Sergeant-at-Arms of the Senate?

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Willie, Schumer, and Lee

From an article in the New York Observer about Senator Chuck Schumer:

“One good thing for me: All the people who I opposed, who I haven’t talked to, are not there,” he said, leaning forward with a sharp cackle. “Every single incumbent that we targeted is not there—so I breathed a sigh of relief. Some of them would just glare at me. I don’t blame ’em.”

How is one to interpret that? The leader of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee targets some of his colleagues. And he does it in such a way that he is ashamed to face them. He doesn't "blame 'em" for being angry.

When I think of Schumer and his tactics against political opponents and judicial nominees, I am reminded of Lee Atwater. To this day, I believe that the furlough of Willie Horton by Governor Dukakis was a legitimate political issue. However, Atwater apparently did not. So he apologized to Dukakis and others when he was dying from a brain tumor.

Everyone who is in politics should keep a list of people to whom they would apologize if they were dying. And then they should apologize even though they are not dying. Going forward, they should stop doing stuff that would require an apology.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Schools, Soucheray, and Stuff

I have been meaning to write about the zero-tolerance policy at Eagan (MN) High School that allegedly resulted in a suspension for a student who defended herself in a fight. Although it is tempting to place this in the "too good to fact check" category, the reaction of school officials suggest that there is more to the story. For example, there could have been physical provocation that was not caught on camera.

I am reminded of the story about the kid who was allegedly barred from a school field trip to the Minnesota Vikings practice facility for wearing a Packers jersey. Privacy rules prevented school officials in that case from giving the real reason for the suspension. In later court filings, we learned that there was more disruptive behavior than just the jersey. It is important to get all the facts in one of these school suspension cases.

Let us assume, though, that the Eagan incident is exactly as it appears. During an on-air discussion of this topic, I called the local Joe Soucheray radio show (AM 1500) with a question. If schools are teaching students to defend themselves from a Columbine-style gunman by throwing books, would such students also be subject to suspension under zero tolerance?

Friday, November 17, 2006

Friday, Saturday, and Sunday (11-17-06)

It's open thread Friday. Turn the comments section below into your own mini-blog.

One possible topic is the old shrimp boil controversy, which is updated in this week's Minnesota Lawyer:

Maslon application rejected by Twin Cities diversity group

TCDIP is hoping to put a controversial episode behind it.

Barbara L. Jones : November 13, 2006

The Twin Cities diversity group that Maslon, Edelman, Borman and Brand wanted to join has made it official: It won’t have the Minneapolis law firm as a member.

Twin Cities Diversity in Practice (TCDIP) — a consortium of law firms and corporations in the Twin Cities established to promote diversity in the legal profession — voted on Nov. 1 to deny Maslon’s membership application.

* * *

The story discusses how the Minnesota Association of Black Lawyers (MABL) objected to Maslon's application because three lawyers from the Maslon firm represented the plaintiffs in a challenge to the University of Michigan's affirmative action policies. More on the controversy here, here and here.

Last week, a large majority of voters in Michigan approved a ballot initiative that essentially completes the partial victory created by the U.S. Supreme Court ruling. Racial preferences in state employment, university admissions , and public contracting will be prohibited by the proposal.

Here is the November 1, 2006 announcement of the decision from TCDIP:

For several months, the Diversity in Practice board has deferred a vote on the application by Maslon, Edelman, Borman and Brand to join our organization, while we reviewed our membership criteria and then considered the Maslon application against those criteria. The application has been very controversial, with extensive and passionate arguments aired on both sides.

At its monthly meeting today, the Diversity in Practice board voted not to accept Maslon’s application. The reasoning of the majority votes varied, but all were focused on the impact on our ability to accomplish our mission. Diversity in Practice is not a sanctioning body. Non-admission is not a censure; it is simply a decision that admission would impede our ability to accomplish our mission. This decision is not intended to be a comment on the Maslon firm’s commitment to diversity.

The Diversity in Practice board also offered to participate in a discussion with the Maslon firm moderated by a neutral mediator provided by the Minnesota State Bar Association (MSBA). We believe our mission — to attract, recruit, advance and retain attorneys of color in the Twin Cities legal community — will be well served by candid dialogue about the challenges before us. We thank the MSBA for their invitation.

We understand that this decision will not be popular among some of you, and would have been equally unpopular among others had it gone the other way. We hope everyone will agree that the overall mission of this organization is too important to abandon over any single disappointment.

We believe Diversity in Practice has made remarkable progress in the past year. We hope that the time, analysis and publicity that have been devoted to the membership issue can now be turned to advancing our mission. We ask all of you who value this organization and cherish its mission to reaffirm your commitment to action in the coming year.

Thank you for your continued membership in our organization and your commitment to widening the circle of opportunity in the Twin Cities legal community.

Here are the new membership criteria:

Criteria for membership in TCDIP group

(1) An applicant for membership in Diversity in Practice must be an employer of lawyers. The applicant may be a private law firm, a corporation with at least one lawyer, or other organization that employs lawyers.

(2) The applicant must be committed to advancing the mission of Diversity in Practice, which is to attract, recruit, advance and retain attorneys of color in the Twin Cities legal community; and

(3) The board shall determine that admission of the applicant will enhance the effectiveness of Twin Cities Diversity in Practice in the pursuit of its mission.

Got that?

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Keith, Sinbad, and Colin II

I had forgotten about my groggy post-election post. Then I saw this in Minnesota Lawyer:

Note to self:

1. No more self-deprecating posts.
2. No comments on the body types of members of Congress.
3. Lose weight.
4. Send better picture to Minnesota Lawyer (close mouth when picture is taken).

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Horton, Stewart, and Lee

Star Tribune story about a defamatory website:

Yet after he was elected last week, the public learned that while campaigning hard for himself and other DFL candidates, the African-American candidate also helped concoct one of the most racially charged political attacks since Willie Horton. Stewart and some friends designed a website that mimicked Fifth District Independence Party House candidate Tammy Lee's real website. The quotes and links to the Ku Klux Klan and David Duke made it appear as though Lee was running on a "white power" platform.

Me: Willie Horton was a real criminal who was let out on furlough. The website was fake and defamatory. No comparison.

Welcome to Captain Capitalism readers!

Monday, November 13, 2006

Sorkin, Studio, and Sixty

Should I celebrate a particularly insightful call? Or are Studio 60 and Aaron Sorkin just that bad and predictable? You decide.
Blacks, Troops, and Courts

Let's wrap up a couple of things.

1. Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. Much like The West Wing and The American President were Aaron Sorkin's utopian vision of a Democrat/Clinton White House, Studio 60 is about Sorkin's wishes for Hollywood. One cast member, Tom Jeter, has an awkward relationship with his blue collar dad. Tom is not respectful enough of the hard hats; Dad is not respectful enough of the finer things in life. Tom's brother is in Afghanistan, which allows Tom to "support the troops" with the much-needed body armor (real story debunked by Little Trunk here).

Tom, in his late 20s, is shocked at how little his parents know about the arts. He has to explain the "Who's on First" vaudeville routine to them. He goes so far as to obtain a record album of the classic routine for his parents, who don't have a CD player. This is an interesting bit of math. On the one hand, you have to be pretty young not to know about "Who's on First." You also have to be pretty old to have a phonograph instead of a CD player.

Anyway, this week's episode is the conclusion of a two-part episode where a chain of events begun with a speeding ticket leaves Tom in a Nevada jail. Tom was speeding for a really good reason, but the audience must wait until part two to find out the reason.

Prediction: Tom was doing something really nice for the troops and had to speed in order to do it. This prediction wins out over the other possibilities, which include doing something really nice for blacks or something really nice for reproductive freedom.

2. Scalia. Still waiting for answers to my post below. I have one submission that I am holding for now. This is a really good question. Give me your thoughts.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Tic, Tac, and Dough

A conservative jurist (say, in the mold of Justice Scalia) is often seen as being against things like gay rights and legalized abortion. It is more than just the fact that a conservative would naturally be against liberal positions on these issues. A conservative judge would typically look at the text of the Constitution and say that the right to privacy (and, consequently, a right to things like abortion) is nowhere to be found in the words of the Constitution.

This week, voters in South Dakota struck down the very strict anti-abortion law that had been passed by the legislature and signed by the governor. For tic tac dough, the win, and the car, please explain why this may be seen as a victory by those who support a conservative view of the Constitution.

No, I am not talking about timing and tactics -- saying that they should wait until they get another justice on the bench. Why would Justice Scalia view the vote in South Dakota as a victory?

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Keith, Sinbad, and Colin

Unexpected result from Election 2006: There is a new fat person I have to deal with being told I look like.

Time to work out.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Predictions, Predictions, and Elections

Please give me your election day predictions -- before 5pm Central.
Predictions, Promises, and Prescience

Ah, as predicted here and here, one more 60 Minutes hit piece before the election. Don't get me wrong, a story about earmarks is great. And this story has a Republican as its hero. But CBS already did a story in September with the same cast of characters. And Rep. Flake's statement that Republicans are more to blame because they are in power must have really had the 60 Minutes crew members licking their collective chops.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Friday, Saturday, and Sunday (11-03-06)

Open thread time. Give us your insight into a topic of your choice in the comment section below.