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July 2005 Archives

July 1, 2005


From the lighter side of the news, ABC is canceling its latest summer reality TV entry, after it ran afoul of minority advocacy groups. Of course, it seems like whites are the ones who should be complaining about stereotyping:

Under pressure from civil rights groups, ABC Television yesterday canceled plans to broadcast a reality show that let the white suburban families living on a Texas cul-de-sac decide which of seven families - including one black, one Asian, one Hispanic and one gay couple - would move into their community.

In the shows - all of them have been completed - seven diverse families seek votes from three white families in a development called Circle C Ranch, outside Austin. The white families, through a series of interviews, competitions and social interactions, award a 3,300-square-foot, four-bedroom, 2-bathroom home to the winner - a neighbor, the families say, who will fit in with the community's mostly Christian and Republican values.


An earlier ABC press release promoting the show said in part: "Will the resident neighbors be able to see past their own ideals and accept all of the families as people instead of stereotypes? Eventually some eyes and hearts open up, opinions change and a community is transformed."

The article goes on to describe the "disparaging remarks" made by some of the voting families. Gee, and there was a controversy? It didn't exactly take Nostradamus to see that one coming.

There may be worries about the portrayal of minorities on the show, but there was potentially another problem:

"The show directly violated the federal Fair Housing Act by rejecting families because of their race, color, national origin or the presence of children," said Shanna Smith, president and chief executive of the National Fair Housing Alliance, consisting of more than 100 private nonprofit housing agencies across the country.
Do you think maybe someone should have run the concept past the legal department before giving it the green light?

On the other hand, maybe if ABC had called it "Affirmative Action Housing," it would have received a more positive response. After all, paralleling the language of the Fair Housing Act, the Civil Rights Act prevents universities from rejecting applicants because of their race, color, national origin, etc. But somehow minority groups have gotten around that sticking point. Diversity Uber Alles. In fact, the language of the ABC press release even mirrors the justifications given by advocates of race preferences in college admissions: these policies are for the benefit of the majority, who are able to learn from their experience in dealing with minorities. The only difference is that everyone on the television show was voluntarily participating, but for some reason, that didn't seem to mollify activist groups. Instead, they " worried that the program sent a message that bigotry was tolerable." (Remember: tolerance always good. Except when it isn't.) But apparently they're not so worried about affirmative action in college admissions sending the message that discrimination is tolerable.

In any case, do you think we'll see the same sort of cries of outrage from liberals about "censorship" that we saw when, for instance, there was an outcry about the PBS series Postcards from Buster, or when CBS decided not to show a miniseries about Reagan, or any one of the myriad of other times when a television network bowed to advocacy group pressure? I'm betting the answer is no.

Testing 1..2..3..

Sigh. Sometimes I hate computers.

July 3, 2005

Murdered by pirates is good

Least compelling press release ever?

SOMALIA: PIRATES SEIZE TSUNAMI AID SHIP Armed men commandeered a ship carrying United Nations food aid to northeastern Somalia, the World Food Program said. The pirates forced their way on board the Semlow off the Somali coast, took the ship's 10 crew members hostage and took possession of 850 metric tons of rice that had been donated by Japan and Germany for tsunami victims in Somalia. "It is against international humanitarian law to hinder the passage of humanitarian assistance, and there is no justification for hijacking," the food agency said in a statement.
Yeah! That'll show those pirates!

"Oh, my gosh! It's against international humanitarian law? We'd better stop right away!"

July 8, 2005

Miller Lite

I'm torn on the whole Judith Miller saga. On the one hand, I'm a first amendment absolutist -- far more so than Miller's employer, the New York Times, which is fine with censoring people other than the Times. (Witness campaign finance "reform," which they wholeheartedly endorse. In fact, they were out there just the other day arguing for an expansion of the censorship regime imposed by McCain-Feingold.) On the other, I don't believe that someone working for a newspaper should have special rights that the rest of us don't have.

One thing I'm not torn about is the New York Times' pathetic attempt to defend its position and support Miller in a long editorial. It's filled with disingenuous comments and bad arguments. Where to begin?

Some people - including, sadly, some of our colleagues in the news media - have mistakenly assumed that a reporter and a news organization place themselves above the law by rejecting a court order to testify. Nothing could be further from the truth. When another Times reporter, M. A. Farber, went to jail in 1978 rather than release his confidential notes, he declared, "I have no such right and I seek none."
Uh, maybe Farber did say that -- but Judith Miller was seeking such a right. In fact, not only is the Times lobbying for such a special right to be created by Congress, but they were trying to claim one already existed, even though the Supreme Court had expressly ruled otherwise.
Critics point out that even presidents must bow to the Supreme Court. But presidents are agents of the government, sworn to enforce the law. Journalists are private citizens, and Ms. Miller's actions are faithful to the Constitution. She is defending the right of Americans to get vital information from news organizations that need not fear government retaliation - an imperative defended by the 49 states that recognize a reporter's right to protect sources.
The Times is fond of pointing this out. But they fail to mention that very few, if any of those states, provide an absolute privilege not to testify. And the Circuit Court in this case explicitly addressed that issue, holding that even if a journalist's privilege exists, in this particular case it would not allow her to refuse to testify.
Most readers understand a reporter's need to guarantee confidentiality to a source. Before he went to jail, Mr. Farber told the court that if he gave up documents that revealed the names of the people he had promised anonymity, "I will have given notice that the nation's premier newspaper is no longer available to those men and women who would seek it out - or who would respond to it - to talk freely and without fear."

While The Times has gone to great lengths lately to make sure that the use of anonymous sources is limited, there is no way to eliminate them. The most important articles tend to be the ones that upset people in high places, and many could not be reported if those who risked their jobs or even their liberty to talk to reporters knew that they might be identified the next day. In the larger sense, revealing government wrongdoing advances the rule of law, especially at a time of increased government secrecy.

All that sounds very noble. The problem here is that it doesn't even come close to matching the facts presented in this case. Miller isn't protecting a whistleblower who exposed government wrongdoing; she's (assuming the Times' view of the Valerie Plame affair is accurate) actually protecting a government wrongdoer who tried to harm a whistleblower. We don't want such people "to talk freely and without fear."
The shroud of secrecy thrown over this case by the prosecutor and the judge, an egregious denial of due process, only makes it more urgent to take a stand.
Right. Except that this isn't a trial, and Miller isn't the defendant, so "due process" has nothing to do with the situation. Miller is a witness to a crime. Witnesses don't get to hear the government's case to decide whether they feel like testifying; it's not a "denial of due process" not to discuss the whole case with them, particularly in the context of a grand jury proceeding.

(Of course, if Miller is criminally prosecuted for contempt, she would be the defendant... but in that case, the details of the Plame affair would be irrelevant. The factual question would be whether she defied a court order, not what happened to Plame.)

There are other laughable parts to the editorial, such as where the Times compares Miller to Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, but I don't need to pile on them. I am not saying that there can't be arguments in favor of Miller's position; I'm just saying that the Times does a very poor job of making those arguments.

Flash: The New York Times Endorses Clarence Thomas

I discussed the New York Times' editorial in support of Judith Miller below; I forgot to mention the funniest part, though. A typical scenario in Constitutional jurisprudence these days goes like this:

Twenty or thirty years ago, the Supreme Court issued an opinion which was novel in Constitutional law. Now, the Court has an opportunity to revisit it, and the Court stands by its recent precedent rather than evaluating the case on its constitutional merits. Clarence Thomas writes a blistering dissenting opinion, pointing out that the constitution actually meant something different, and that the Court shouldn't rely on flawed precedent when it can rely on the actual meaning of the Constitution at the time of enactment...

...and the New York Times immediately denounces Thomas for being radical and extremist and outside the mainstream.

That is, until now:

Mr. Fitzgerald drove that point home chillingly when he said the authorities "can't have 50,000 journalists" making decisions about whether to reveal sources' names and that the government had a right to impose its judgment. But that's not what the founders had in mind in writing the First Amendment. In 1971, our colleague James Reston cited James Madison's admonition about a free press in explaining why The Times had first defied the Nixon administration's demand to stop publishing the Pentagon Papers and then fought a court's order to cease publication. "Among those principles deemed sacred in America," Madison wrote, "among those sacred rights considered as forming the bulwark of their liberty, which the government contemplates with awful reverence and would approach only with the most cautious circumspection, there is no one of which the importance is more deeply impressed on the public mind than the liberty of the press."
(Emphasis added.) Since when does the New York Times give a rats ass about "what the founders had in mind"?

The "evolving needs of society," to quote Justice Stevens' majority opinion in Kelo vs. New London, always outweigh what the people who ratified the Constitution thought at the time. It's a living document! We can't think about what Madison wanted; all we should care about is what the country needs now. And it needs Judith Miller to testify.

One of those places in Asia

Via Democracy Guy, I saw this story about Idiotarian George Galloway, the Saddam-loving, Stalin-worshipping, British MP:

The Guardian blog is reporting that George Galloway has taken the opportunity of the terrorist attacks in London today to score political points.
1513 Respect MP George Galloway says: "We argued, as did the security services in this country, that the attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq would increase the threat of terrorist attack in Britain. Tragically Londoners have now paid the price of the Government ignoring such warnings."
London's been a target. London will be a target. For a long time. Anyone who thinks anything Britain has or hasn't done since September 11 has increased or decreased London's likelihood of being a target for Al Queda is simply a damn fool. And to make a statement like that on a day like today, while bodies are still being pulled out of tube stations, reveals precisely the sort of sub-human George Galloway is.
There are so many things wrong with that statement that it would take a week to list them all, but Democracy Guy summed it up nicely.

One point he didn't highlight, which deserves notice, is this: it's common among liberals who deny that they're soft on national security to make the argument, "We're not opposed to a strong America defending itself. We're against the Iraq war because [pick one or more] it's the Wrong War, Wrong Place, Wrong Time (tm)/the White House didn't plan properly for the war/it will make us less safe/Bush lied! But we're not opposed to all wars. After all, we supported the attack on Afghanistan. All Democrats did. You're impugning our patriotism to suggest that we wouldn't have. Of course Al Gore or John Kerry would have, if they'd have been president. They just would have been smarter about Iraq."

But more and more, I see the sort of statements Galloway made: "We argued, as did the security services in this country, that the attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq would increase the threat of terrorist attack in Britain." (Emphasis added.) Afghanistan gets lumped in with Iraq as something which "has made us less safe."

Of course, liberals will argue that (a) George Galloway isn't American, and (b) George Galloway is a freaking lunatic. And they'd be right. Obviously Galloway doesn't speak for many mainstream American liberals -- although there was plenty of cheering for him in the liberal blogosphere after his combative appearance before Congress earlier this year. But I see the same sort of Afghanistan-And-Iraq language being used more and more.

No, I don't think that liberals are unpatriotic. Nor do I think they're so weak that they wouldn't have responded to 9/11 by attacking Afghanistan. But I do think that they reflexively assume that American military power is useless or even counterproductive, that "wars never solve anything," etc. Hence after the shock of 9/11 had worn off, they hopped right off the military bandwagon.

July 11, 2005

Safe harbor

You know, one consolation for the New York Times about the Judith Miller situation: they'll never have to worry about Paul Krugman or Maureen Dowd going to prison in a similar situation. That would require that these people actually talk to sources.

July 18, 2005

Slow news day

Did you know that lots of politicians know each other, and the people that work for them? Having run out of things to say about the opening on the Supreme Court, that's what the New York Times wasted a front page article on, today.

Unfortunately, actually covering the merits of the various judges would take work (by "actually covering," I don't mean "reprinting the People for the American Way talking points"), and there's no substantive news, so the Times is reduced to a gossip column about which staffer was invited to which judge's slumber party.

I really hope Bush hurries up and nominates someone soon. It will be nasty and repetitive, but at least it will involve actual news developments. Otherwise, the media is going to be reduced to asking Janice Rogers Brown questions like How long have you been a black quarterback?

Continue reading "Slow news day" »

July 19, 2005

Faster news day

I guess George Bush reads this blog. A day after I complain that I want him to announce his Supreme Court nominee, he goes ahead and announces... well, he announces that he's going to announce the name tonight.

Early speculation that it would be one of the Hispanic possibilities has given way to rumormongering about Edith Clement, but just in case he's still undecided, I want to clarify that I am available.

July 23, 2005

Root causes

I'm sure someone can explain how this is really George Bush's fault for invading Iraq.

Deadly explosions that rocked the Egyptian city of Sharm el-Sheikh on Saturday may be linked to a series of bomb blasts last October in the Red Sea resort of Taba, Egypt's interior minister said.

"We are trying to find out who committed these crimes," Habib al-Adli told reporters while viewing the extensive damage at the Ghazala Garden Hotel in Naama Bay, a popular tourism area of the city on the Sinai Peninsula. "It is likely that they have some relationship to the Taba operation."

At least 59 people were killed and 111 wounded when at least three explosions early Saturday rocked Sharm el-Sheikh.

Right? Clearly, if Egypt hadn't joined with Tony Blair and Bush in Operation Iraqi Freedom, this would never have happened.

Or something like that.

About July 2005

This page contains all entries posted to Jumping To Conclusions in July 2005. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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