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Thursday September 30, 2004

The frost is on the pumkin. The hay is in the barn. Yes, I stole that from J.T. (James Taylor, for the uninitiated). Early fall heading into October. For some, it's the best time of the year. The lowering sun emiting waning summerlike rays. The prospect of evenings by the warming fire or piles of raked leaves just begging to be jumped upon (those piles are never really as soft as they seem. It's all illusion.). Old Man Winter is knocking at the door and waiting patiently...for now. Within weeks The Frosty One will be beating the door down like the Big Bad Wolf. Winter weather. The long slow slide into the abbreviated days of winter. To me it's not fading glow of summer, but the omen of The Snow Monster. Of course it's all perspective and I'm not particularly pessimistic, but as a winter weather forecaster the prospect of very, very long nights is not particularly appealing. But enough of that. It's also the political season. So let's get to it.

Victor Davis Hanson has three questions for John Kerry.

NPR's Ombudsman, Jeffrey A. Dvorkin, writes How the Blogs Saved CBS... and NPR. Mr. Dvorkin gets it. Blogs should not be viewed by MSM as adversaries. They should be viewed as allies. With the analytical skills and technical expertise distributed throughout the blogosphere, they can be powerful instruments of truth-sorting. Just as the Japanese helped U.S. automakers develop and produce a better product, the bloggers can do the same for much of the media. Dvorkin writes:

First, we must acknowledge that the blogs have truly arrived. It is hard for journalists who have led a sheltered life without public accountability to acknowledge that those days are over.

But, methinks, there is still a hint of... I'm not sure exactly how to characterize it. Not animosity exactly. Not jealousy. Perhaps bruised ego. I dunno. You decide:

Bloggers must be as accountable to the public as they demand the rest of us must be. That means there should be some consequence for spreading false or partial information. Any thoughts on what those consequences might be would be a useful discussion.

I completely disagree with this premise. Why must bloggers be accountable to the public? The vast majority work for free. They use their own time and their own money to produce something that is available to everyone for free. Compare that to other media. Print journalists are paid for their work and their product is sold. Broadcast channels are granted an FCC license to act in the public interestand to use the public airwaves; their newsies are also compensated. Cable stations charge subscribers for access to their programming. NPR is taxpayer subsidized. Don't these require a higher degree of public accountability than someone writing for the love of it and paying for the privilege? And what of this consequence for misleading the public? What has NPR demanded of, say, Michael Moore? He's essentially been lionized by the glitterati. But I digress. The influence and popularity of any individual blog will be determined by the public. If they like it they will read it and it will spread. If a blogger has a reputation for disingenuousness, he will be rejected by the masses. If you don't believe it, just ask CBS and Dan Rather.

Related: Hugh Hewitt has put Jim Lehrer on notice:

Jim Lehrer takes his seat as debate moderator with the PBS brand as firmly affixed to his back as CBS is to Dan Rather's. Moderating a presidential debate never carried much of a risk for the mother ship in the past, but in this era of new media, any detectable bias on Lehrer's part will result in a cyber-tsunami headed towards PBS affiliates across the country.

Bloggers have struck CBS again. This time on a story concerning the draft:

CBS News has tacitly admitted wrongdoing in not identifying that Beverly Cocco, the woman featured in its story about the draft. In the original CBS report , Cocco’s membership in an anti-war group, People Against the Draft, was not disclosed. In a piece based on the TV story, Cocco’s membership was not revealed, either.

INDCJournal has interviews with CBS employees on this story and outlines four basic problems with the story:

1. The story was aired almost immediately following recent Kerry-Edwards talking points that were expressly designed to elicit unrealistic fear of a draft reinstatement for political purposes.

2. The story failed to disclose Ms. Cocco's political activism.

3. Even if the veracity of the e-mails wasn't central to the narrative of the segment, it was surely egregiously irresponsible to report their existence without disclosing their fundamental inaccuracy.

4. The use of inaccurate supporting material and the selective use of highly relevant facts mirrored many of the exact flaws that crippled the recent 60 Minutes story about George Bush's National Guard service.

And one INDC reader sends this comment:

If CBS's main motive is to get out the truth, and they know of a lot of voters, Republican or otherwise, who are scared of a draft based on false or sexed-up information, isn't it their job to debunk the myth rather than cover the "concerns?" I mean, sheesh, it's like, " are a couple of unsubstantiated and debunked emails that are causing people to panic. Maybe we should...COVER THE FEAR!"

Also, check out PowerlineBlog.

I've said it before, but I feel compelled to say it again: think carefully before you decide to view any of the beheading videos circulating on the Internet. Such brutal images can haunt you forever. Expect kidnappings and beheadings in Iraq to continue--especially since the Italians have apparently paid a ranson to the terrorists for two hostages:

After lengthy negotiations, and mediation by tribal chiefs and religious clerics, the captors settled on the smaller ransom in exchange for the two Simonas' freedom, the paper said. The captors got US$500,000 on Monday, then they allowed one of the negotiators to go with them to make sure the two women were alive and on Tuesday the kidnappers got the remaining US$500,000. The two women were later that day handed over to a tribal chief and a cleric who handed them over to the International Committee of the Red Cross in Baghdad, it said. "It was a happy ending," Roz told Reuters.

Perhaps a happy ending for them, but many others will die because of it. Sure, it's easy for me in the comfort and security of the United States to have such a cavalier attitude. I'm sure, if it were me or my family I would be ecstatic that the ransom was paid. I understand that. But that's why hostages and family members should not be allowed to dictate policy. It is surely in the personal interest to do so, but it is just as surely not in the public interest. At least the Brits understand this:

Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said: "We have a policy... we don't negotiate with hostage takers."...Defending the government's decision not to negotiate with terrorists, he said: "If we do not have this position there would be many many more people who would be kidnapped and the world would be less safe."

That's the correct policy, but (and this is a huge but) it is a horrific and terrible choice to have to make. Meanwhile, hostage taking in Iraq continues apace.

Wednesday September 29, 2004

Tony Blankley is going all medieval on us, but this statement is overly optimistic:

It's all quite charming — this drama of the first debate as presented by the courtly class of pundits, jesters and fools. But if history is any guide, Thursday night's joust will not be the decisive element in the presidential campaign — because the voters are not the damned fools that journalists think they are.

Most Americans have been following this campaign quite closely for a very long time. Probably about 95 percent already have reached their conclusions. They have taken the measure of each of the candidates and the tentative results are in. About 50 percent won't vote for Mr. Kerry, and about 45 percent won't vote for Mr. Bush.

Call me pessimistic, perhaps, but I think that this is Beltway mentality. I'm sure all Tony's friends and most of his aquaintances have been following this campaign quite closely for a very long time, but surely the same cannot be said of the public at large. But I quibble, really, for I do agree with Tony's thesis that the debates probably won't change many hearts and minds.

The trend in this election is clear. Despite (or perhaps, because of) all the great issues facing our weary, bleeding old world, this election is about character. By a small majority, the American public will have considered Mr. Kerry and rejected him for lack of presidential character. They just don't trust him to lead us through the mortal storm in which we are engulfed. Mr. Kerry's measure has been taken, and been found wanting. No clever, last-minute words can change that national judgment, any more than a woman can be persuaded by strict logical argument to fall in love. It is not open to debate.

I think those who watch the debates will comprise three main camps: those who want the President to gaffe, those who want to see Kerry miscue and those who just want to see someone (anyone really) crash and burn.

Dick Morris asserts that the first debate (which centers on foreign policy) is already a foregone conclusion:

It doesn't matter if John Kerry is really Daniel Webster in disguise, schooled in the arts of debate and fluent or even eloquent in expression. This first debate will not be decided on style or points. It will reach its pre-ordained conclusion — a big Bush win — because of the inherent contradictions in Kerry's position on these issues....The Democratic Party's leftist base — and Bush's ads attacking Kerry flip-flops — have forced the Massachusetts senator into a difficult strategic hole in the first debate. I doubt he can talk his way out of it.

Indeed it may be too late for Kerry to change his colors.

I'm not sure what, if anything, to make of this:

A pilot flying a Delta Air Lines jet was injured by a laser that illuminated the cockpit of the aircraft as it approached Salt Lake City International Airport last week, U.S. officials said. The plane's two pilots reported that the Boeing 737 had been five miles from the airport when they saw a laser beam inside the cockpit, said officials familiar with government reports of the Sept. 22 incident. The flight, which originated in Dallas, landed without further incident at about 9:30 p.m. local time.