July 2004

I’m 1/4 in, I can’t understand anything that’s happening with the ship because of all the arcane naval terms, but I already think its a great tale about male friendship, anchored by the irrepressible personality of Captain Aubrey.

Here’s a mirror for the executive summary and full version of the 9-11 Commission Report.

This is a great essay by Orville Schell about how the press failed in the lead up to the Iraq war.

The Bush Administration is considering plans to postpone November’s election, in case of terrorist attack. I, for one, will go absolutely ballistic if this happens. Postponing democratic elections, regardless of the cause, is nothing short of despotic. And this, from an administration that said it would not delay the transfer of power in Iraq (wiping our hands of the problem) for any reason whatsoever. Now they’ve got the Office of Legal Counsel – the same geniuses who wrote the torture memos saying its ok to disregard federal law if your the commander in chief, even though that’s horrible and there’s Supreme Court precident directly on point to the contrary – mulling over whether postponing elections is legal. How does anyone trust these people any more?

We can not have free government without elections; and if the rebellion could force us to forego, or postpone a national election it might fairly claim to have already conquered and ruined us. — Abraham Lincoln

Where’s the Republican Party of Lincoln now? If the current regime postpones or cancels the elections that would democratically and peaceably force them out, they should be ousted forceably.

Its time to examine what’s happened to journalism. The media has lost sight of what it means to report the truth. I heard Joe Trippi on Fresh Air yesterday, and he was saying that all of journalism today is “he said, he said”. In other words, if Bush says there’s a can of Coke on the table and Kerry says there isn’t, that’s what the papers will report. The reporter doesn’t say, I’m looking at the table myself and I see a can of Coke there. Reporters think they need to report “both sides” to be balanced, and that their responsibility stops there. No wonder the country is so divided, all that’s reported is spin, and we tend to believe the spin from the people we already believe.

A recent op ed by Neal Gabler in the L.A. Times argues that Fahrenheit 9/11 may have a favorable effect on this phenomenon. “What Moore and the film have done is take dead aim on one of the most sacred of journalistic shibboleths: the idea that journalists are supposed to be fair and balanced.” Balance, Gabler argues, can actually undermine what he calls fairness, and what I call truth. For example, news programs will put a Holocaust historian on air with a Holocaust denier, as if each viewpoint was equally credible. Gabler concludes:

In noisily forswearing balance for genuine fairness, Moore has shamed an American press corps that, for fear of offending conservatives, refused to report what Moore was now reporting – everything from the cursory interviews the FBI conducted with members of Osama bin Laden’s family in America before letting them leave to the eagerness of big business in exploiting Iraq to the astonishing fact that only one of the 535 members of Congress has a child serving in the military in Iraq.

I hope that journalists are paying attention. They need to worry a lot less about the appearance of fairness and a lot more about actually being fair: finding reporting the truth, even if its ugly, difficult and time consuming. After all, that’s why we lawyers are here, bothering to protect the First Amendment.

A story about an epidemic of blindness that strikes unexpectedly.
UPDATE: I really didn’t like this book. While its obviously a parable about man’s inhumanity to man, the characters are wooden and I think he piles on the tragedy with such a heavy hand, it gets dull.