Monday, October 29, 2007

Prepare to be inspired and enraged at the same time

This column is a must read.

G.I. Joe was just a toy, wasn't he?

Hollywood now proposes that in a new live-action movie based on the G.I. Joe toy line, Joe's -- well, "G.I." -- identity needs to be replaced by membership in an "international force based in Brussels." The IGN Entertainment news site reports Paramount is considering replacing our "real American hero" with "Action Man," member of an "international operations team."

I'm not surprised that Paramount feels the need to lessen Joe's American identity. Hollywood's slavish pursuit of the oversea's box office is not news. (See here.)

What deserves attention is the arrogant hypocrisy of their political ambitions. One one hand, they are global citizens eager to make a buck anywhere they can. At the same time, they aspire to to be kingmakers in the good ole US of A (something they would never dream of doing in Yemen or China or Venezuela).

Sunday, October 28, 2007

A good review of a bad book

Artist as Hero

So what looked from the distance to be a charmed life was, viewed from closer up, a complicated, in some ways even a quite sad, life. But possibly the saddest thing to have happened to Ralph Ellison came after he died, when the assignment of writing his biography was given to Arnold Rampersad. The author of two previous biographies--one of Jackie Robinson, another of Langston Hughes--Rampersad is an academic (a teacher at Princeton, now at Stanford), a writer one thinks of as reverential and hence quite uncritical toward his subjects. But in Ralph Ellison, far from being reverential or uncritical, he is unrelenting in the persistence of his pinpoint attacks on his subject's character and politics and highly critical of much of his writing, only rarely giving his subject the least hint of the benefit of any possible doubt.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Debunking some myths about the Jena 6

Media myths about the Jena 6

There's just one problem: The media got most of the basics wrong. In fact, I have never before witnessed such a disgrace in professional journalism. Myths replaced facts, and journalists abdicated their solemn duty to investigate every claim because they were seduced by a powerfully appealing but false narrative of racial injustice.

I should know. I live in Jena. My wife has taught at Jena High School for many years. And most important, I am probably the only reporter who has covered these events from the very beginning
Sounds like another case where the media picked a narrative before they established what the facts were.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Outstanding article

The Pornography of Misery Memoirs

An argument repeated by publishers to me when justifying the harrowing detail is that “the readers of these books are less well educated and need graphic detail to make them understand the impact of abuse”.

Oh, please! How stupid does a person have to be if they don’t understand the terrible impact of sexual abuse without having to read the horrific detail?

The chief reason to include detail that borders on pornographic is to entertain a prurient readership which would otherwise be reading about Fred and Rose West in the kind of True Crime books upmarket publishers like to sneer at.

Publishers churn out these misery tales for one reason: they ell

See also:
The Other Pornography

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Further evidence of the pointlessness of public editors

I have to admit that the ESPN ombudsman sometimes makes a lot of sense. Le Anne Schreiber told the Southern Pines Pilot

One of the most satisfying things about being the ESPN ombudsman is that it provides a very good perch for watching what is happening to journalism in general.
She is on to something there. I had the same thought and was going to use the Mike Gundy/ Jenni Carlson dust-up to illustrate the pernicious attitudes that hurt the Dinosaur Media. The public editor, though, beat me to it in her most recent letter.

The instigator of Gundy's Saturday rage was an opinion column couching itself as fact. I am not ombudsman for the Oklahoman, but through a week's ridicule of Gundy on ESPN, I never heard or read a clear account of the column that ticked him off. In what was supposed to be a balanced, give-both-sides-of-the-story report on ESPNEWS, I saw the full three-minute, 20-second videotape of Gundy's news conference for the umpteenth time, followed by a videotape of reporter Jenni Carlson's response on "Good Morning America," in which she says, calmly, "I stand firmly on the facts of the column." He looked bad. She looked good.

"What facts?" somebody at ESPN should have asked before ridiculing the coach while giving the columnist a pass. In building her case against the benched quarterback, Carlson introduces her evidence of his no-can-do attitude with these phrases: "If you believe the rumors and the rumblings …", "Tile up the back stories told on the sly over the past few years …", "Word is …" and "Insiders say …". In my book, those are not phrases from the realm of fact; they barely count even as speculation by anonymous sources.

Several commentators faulted Carlson for criticizing an amateur athlete so harshly, and columnist Gene Wojciechowski raised questions about the accuracy of her observations But why did I hear no one at ESPN explicitly note that the column that so enraged Gundy was based on rumors and rumblings and the sayings of "insiders"? Because they want to be allowed to take those same liberties? Because they didn't bother to read the column? Because all that mattered was milking that videotape for a week's worth of commentary? Because the boundaries between fact, opinion and rumor have become so porous that nobody noticed rumor crossing the border with a fake passport
All of this is true. Moreover, it came from ESPN’s internal conscience. How can a mere blogger compete?

Actually, it’s pretty easy. Schreiber comments on and my non-post on an unread blog had exactly the same effect on the World Wide Leader:

ZERO. Nada. Zip.

Despite Schreiber’s trenchant criticism, the same clueless blowhards hold forth on ESPN. Bayless, Lupica, Forde, et. al. still cough up their fact-lite punditry on subjects they are too lazy to study.

It’s a perfect case study of corralled rebellion.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

“The most righteous of all the possessors of the Right Stuff”

First Mach flight propels Yeager, Air Force into history

It was just another test mission for Capt. Chuck Yeager.

Captain Yeager arrived at Muroc Air Force Base, Calif., the morning of Oct. 14, 1947, for what would be his ninth powered flight piloting the Bell X-1

Saturday, October 06, 2007

On to the trial!

Civil suit in lacrosse case filed

The city of Durham, former District Attorney Mike Nifong and the DNA laboratory hired by the disbarred ex-prosecutor conspired to falsely charge three Duke lacrosse players with rape, a federal civil lawsuit filed Friday alleges.

The 162-page document, a detailed account of every step of alleged misconduct that drips with indignation, sets the stage for a high-profile, high-stakes legal battle

Friday, October 05, 2007

The old boys club at work

I'll admit that I don't have high expectations for ombudsmen or "public editors". An interesting example of the problems inherent in the role shows up in this story:

Schreiber Keeps an Eye on ESPN 'Monolith'

Schreiber actually has a good grasp of the basic problems at ESPN:

Schreiber has been quite critical of ... the loud, talking heads who shout too much
Schreiber criticizes some of the anchors of the "Sports Center" shows throughout each day, complaining that those people make themselves more important than the news.
Schreiber wrote a strong and excellent column claiming that sportscasters doing a game should "keep their eye on the ball."
She said, "The most consistent complaint I get from viewers is that the announcing team is not sufficiently focused on the game." She explained that game announcers often digress from the game "by discussing topics near and far from the game at hand".

So far so good. But how can she believe such things and then do something like this?

Throughout her critiques, Schreiber lauds some ESPN talking heads such as Tony Kornheiser...

Come on now. Kornheiser is one of the most high profile figures at ESPN and he is guilty of every talking head sin that Schreiber condemns. He is loud, lazy, ill-informed, and self-indulgent. His primary role on Monday Night Football is to divert attention away from the game and onto some subject he like more.

Maybe i am the suspicious sort, but i wonder if this is the reason Kornheiser gets a pass:

Throughout her critiques, Schreiber lauds some ESPN talking heads such as Tony Kornheiser, for his work on "Pardon The Interruption." Tony was on the Times sports staff as a reporter with me when Schreiber was the sports editor.

It's easy for Schreiber, with her "postgraduate degree in literature" and her tenure at the NEW YORK TIMES, to chastise ex-jocks and reporters from lesser papers. But she just can't quite say a mean word about litle Tony who worked with her at THE TIMES.

As with most public editors, Schreiber is, first and foremost, a member of the journalist s guild. Further, she is a member of its most exalted order-- New York Times alums. That shapes her thinking and her criticism. What she calls "perspective" we in the gret unwashed call "blinders."

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Not just in Durham

Bar tape refutes cops

Video of '04 raid casts new doubts on city's elite police unit

The arrest report filed by two Chicago police officers claimed they searched Raymundo Martinez outside a Southwest Side bar because he threw a bottle of Corona down on the sidewalk when he saw them coming.

The officers, members of the special operations section, saw a plastic bag that turned out to contain cocaine poking from his sleeve and arrested him, their report states.

But cameras on the bar's ceiling and outside caught a very different scene that night in 2004 at Caballo's, 3748 W. 63rd St. Instead of two officers approaching a man drinking on a public street, the video shows more than two dozen police from the SOS unit raiding the bar and searching everyone, and arresting Martinez inside the bar

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Richard Jewell

Outstanding post over at the Autonomist

Richard Jewell, 1962-2007

Part I: Ray Cleere Seizes an Opportunity

This is the story of Richard Jewell, the hero who saved countless lives, and of Ray Cleere, the first of many heels who sought to railroad him for another man’s crime