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Changing Social Security: The Impact on African Americans

Horace Cooper, a member of Project 21 and also a member of The National Center's board of directors, will be a panelist at a Changing Social Security: The Impact on African Americans forum tomorrow at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies (10 AM to noon).

Other panelists include Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY), AARP Policy Director John Rother, Dr. Maya Rockeymore of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation and Dr. Dean Baker of the Center for Economic Policy Research.

Derek McGinty will serve as moderator.

Horace will be the only participant representing a conservative/free-market point of view, so he'll need to take his vitamins tomorrow morning!

Addendum (3/5/05): The Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies has announced that the audio for the conference is available online for those who wish to listen in.


Vladimir Putin May Need to Get Out More

This story, by John F. Dickerson in the March 7 edition of Time magazine, is amazing:

George Bush knew Vladimir Putin would be defensive when Bush brought up the pace of democratic reform in Russia in their private meeting at the end of Bush's four-day, three-city tour of Europe. But when Bush talked about the Kremlin's crackdown on the media and explained that democracies require a free press, the Russian leader gave a rebuttal that left the President nonplussed. If the press was so free in the U.S., Putin asked, then why had those reporters at CBS lost their jobs? Bush was openmouthed. "Putin thought we'd fired Dan Rather," says a senior Administration official. "It was like something out of 1984."

The Russians did not let the matter drop. Later, during the leaders' joint press conference, one of the questioners Putin called on asked Bush about the very same firings, a coincidence the White House assumed had been orchestrated...

The article says the Administration is trying to fight this level of "misinformation" by "struggling to build relationships that go beyond Putin."

If this story is true, it explains a great deal.

Hat tip: Drudge Report.


Squaring the Boston Globe: Getting Winston's Legacy Wrong

I love this piece about a Boston Globe writer who tries to use history to attack President Bush, but gets his history all wrong.


Portland Home Prices: Higher Than Necessary?

An Oregon Congressman apparently is offended by National Center Policy Analyst Ryan Balis' observation in the Washington Post that "smart growth" anti-sprawl policies in Portland, Oregon have tended to push housing costs higher.

The Congressman responds with his own letter to the Post:

In his Feb. 9 letter, "The Cost of Containing Sprawl," Ryan Balis wrote: "Suppressing housing development as demand for it grows will cause prices to skyrocket. This is evident in Portland, Ore., long considered a model for 'smart growth' planning."

According to the National Association of Realtors' Web site, the median price for a single-family home in the Portland region in the third quarter of 2004 was $215,000. This compared favorably to the cost of homes in sprawling Denver, $241,800 (second-quarter data); Las Vegas, $283,200; and the Washington area, $362,400. Also, The Post has run several articles about skyrocketing housing prices in Northern Virginia, an area known for its lack of growth-management policies.

Sprawling onto unlimited supplies of land has never made housing affordable and never will. Portland's housing remains relatively affordable in large part because its smart-growth policies have curbed sprawl onto farmland and made it easier to build more types of housing on less land inside the urban-growth boundary. The result is a more livable community -- and less expensive housing. Indeed, Portland's housing prices are substantially lower than those of every West Coast city from San Diego to Seattle.

U.S. Representative (D-Ore.)

Says Ryan:
Congressman Earl Blumenauer claimed the following: "Portland's housing prices are substantially lower than those of every West Coast city from San Diego to Seattle." However, a just released housing affordability study by the National Association of Home Builders placed at least three West Coast metro areas ahead of Portland for the 4th quarter of 2004: Salem, Oregon; Olympia, Washington and Eugene-Springfield, Oregon.
My two cents: The Congressman is mixing apples with oranges. Knowing that Denver's home prices are higher than Portland's tells us nothing about the impact of "smart growth" policies on Portland prices. Furthermore, the Congressman's contention, for which he provides no support, that reducing the available supply of land for homebuilding reduces home prices violates the law of supply and demand.

We still contend: "Smart growth" policies tend to increase home prices, making homeownership more difficult for lower-income individuals and families. But we agree with the Congressman on one thing: When they do find a way to buy a home, the homes will probably be built on smaller lots.


Michelle Malkin: Bone Marrow Donors Needed

Michelle Malkin is publicizing a call for Type O blood donors to join a bone marrow registry in order to help a desperately-ill Marine.

As my blood is Type O-, the "universal donor" type that is considered liquid gold to vampires, I've made a point of giving blood many times. Also, back in the 80s, I joined the bone marrow registry at the NIH in Rockville, MD. It was an easy process -- easier than giving blood, in fact. I simply donated about four test tubes worth of blood and answered a number of predictable questions about what I had been up to, to help make sure that if I was called upon to donate, I wouldn't transfer any nasty diseases. Since then, all I have to do to remain active on the registry is tell them if I move, so I can be located if needed.

Once in all those years I was called. I was a close match for someone. They asked me to come in and give a bit more blood for more extensive testing, to see if the match was close enough. It wasn't, but they kept my more detailed information in my computer profile for a possible future match.

People might think the big advantage to joining a bone marrow registry is the benefit to the recipient. I suppose if I ever donate marrow and it saves someone's life, that would be true. But the fact is that it has worked out as a selfish thing for me. Every time I hear on the news, or see a poster up on a restaurant window saying that someone needs a marrow transplant and they can't find a matching donor, I have the satisfaction of knowing that my information is on file and has been checked. That's worth a lot to me.

For more information about becoming a donor, visit the National Marrow Donor Program. You can see if a marrow donation center is located near you by visiting here, but you don't need to live near one to join the registry. You can visit here to see if you are eligible to donate.


Prince Charles-Camilla Parker Bowles: Settling the Civil Ceremony Question

Far be it for me to suggest a possible compromise settlement to any of the controversies relating to the Prince Charles-Camilla Parker-Bowles wedding (royal controversies give the British press their raison d'etre), but I have a suggestion that could resolve questions regarding the legality of Prince Charles marrying in a civil ceremony.

Specifically, since a good argument can be made that British law proscribes civil weddings for royals, but reasonable doubts exist, and given widespread and not unreasonable sentiment that the head of the Church of England ought to be married in a church (should not he who is the shepherd lead his sheep?), Parliament should approve a compromise bill, to whit:

No Act of this government should be interpreted to prohibit the legal marriage of a member of the royal family by a civil ceremony under the same laws applicable to the civil marriages of British subjects, save that no offspring of a purely civil marriage will be considered legitimate descendants for purposes of succession to the throne.
I'm sure I wrote that in American-ese (it was very hard for me to even type the word "subject"), but the Parliamentary fellows could hoity-toity it up in a few seconds flat.

This compromise settles the matter neatly, in my view. As a biological child is unlikely to result from a marriage in which the bride is 57 (adopted children are ineligible to succeed under British law), it is unlikely that any individual will be denied succession under this plan. Yet, deference to the Church is retained, as is the incentive for future royals to marry within the Church.

Furthermore, there is precedence for this in the "His Majesty's Declaration of Abdication Act 1936," the law under which Edward VIII not only abdicated, but formally renounced all rights of his descendents to the throne. The 1936 law was approved by Parliament in a single day, though the circumstances then were a bit more compelling than those at work in this case.

In addition to the United Kingdom, 15 other countries (the so-called "Commonwealth Realm" nations) recognize the British monarch as their head of state. Any change in the laws governing the succession to the British throne must also be adopted by the Parliament of each of these nations in order for the changes to apply in these nations. Thus, if my suggestion were to be adopted by the British Parliament, yet not adopted by all or some of the other Commonwealth Realm nations, a split could develop if both William and Harry died childless and Charles and Camilla had a biological child.

This scenario, while unlikely, at least has the entertainment value of permitting us to envision a world in which countries such as Australia, Canada, New Zealand and tiny Tuvalu recognized the British monarch as their head of state -- but did not recognize Britain's choice of monarch.

The tabloids would love it.

E-mail in response:

Before you begin to pontificate at least TRY to get your facts straight ... I'm sorry to hear that it was "very hard for [you] to even type the word 'subject'." You really shouldn't have struggled so ...

Britons have not been considered "subjects" of the Queen for many years. In common with nationals of other democratic countries we are known as "British citizens."

The term "British subject" means one who has allegiance to the crown. It was last used as a legal term referring to individuals in the British Nationality Act of 1948.

Jennie Martin

So the British monarch has no subjects? How can one be a monarch without subjects?

Addendum 2/25/05: The term "subject" continues to have legal meaning and official use in Britain -- see this list of types of British citizenships on a British government passport application website, for instance -- but the legal definition of "British subject" (as a citizenship class) now appears to apply only to a narrow group of individuals born before 1949.

So, should we replace the word "subject" in my proposed law above with the rather wordy phrase "British citizens who are not members of the royal family"? Seems rather awkward... but then, everything about this wedding appears to be a bit on the awkward side.


Is George Bush Right?

"We Europeans always want to have the world from yesterday, whereas the Americans strive for the world of tomorrow," says this piece from the English-language version of the German newsweekly Der Spiegel.

Though the piece appears at first glance to be about President Bush, there's plenty in here to warm the hearts of Reagan fans.

Hat tip: Ed Haislmaier and


Blowing it on Bloggers

Mark Tapscott is fisking a Wall Street Journal piece on bloggers and the proposed federal "shield law" limiting the government's ability to subpoena journalists.


Conservatism Not Splitting

I've been reading and hearing sentiments like this -- namely, that the conservative coalition is heading for a split between small-government "libertarians" and social conservatives for something like 25 years now. I assume it went on before that, but I wasn't yet noticing.

Considering that this split has supposedly been imminent for a quarter century or more, it sure is overdue.

That's because it is not happening. I could go on and on about why, but I will be succinct instead. This will require some use of generalizations, so be warned in advance about that.

First, the social conservatives want smaller government. Aka, Grover Norquist's "leave us alone coalition." Small-government/libertarian conservatives love to threaten social conservatives with departure in part because many moderates are embarrassed about being aligned with the un-hip social conservatives. (By the way, are we still in high school?) If the libertarians ever out-recruit the social conservatives the social conservatives will probably just ask them if they plain to support the appointment of activist judges. If they don't the social conservatives will be happy and if they do they actually are liberals.

Second, of Bill of INDC Journal's threat ("One day [we moderates] simply snap, our better judgment overwhelmed by a wacky sense of humor and stewing anger, and you'll wake up to a nightmarish world where the senior senator from Mass rides into the sunset as SecState and Billary is floating doomed socialized medicine schemes out of the Oval again."): Been there, done that. Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton. Every time you do that, the country comes back, righter than ever. In fact, you wandering "moderates" helped get us Reagan (response to Carter) and the Republican Congress (response to Clinton). Every time the coalition squabbles, it gets reminded of the importance of sticking together. And a few million other people are reminded, too.

Third, it is silly to draw excessive conclusions from who speaks at CPAC. Aside from the big names, CPAC panelists and speakers tend to be chosen by the sponsors. If you care about who speaks, instead of talking about taking one's chips and going home, become a sponsor of the thing. Any group big enough to be worth keeping in the coalition will find no difficulty doing all the sponsoring it needs to do. (Hint: Send in a check.) Similarly, the CPAC audience is not a demographically pure slice of modern American conservatism -- neither are Ann Coulter's fans. Draw conclusions from who boos at what and what you have learned is -- the opinion of the people who booed. The very people who booed a defense of President Bush's immigration proposal voted for, why, could it be -- President Bush? They probably volunteered for him, too, and gave his campaign some of their money. This is a split? It sure looks like a governing coalition to me.

Fourth, political movements that stop having debates (modern American leftism, I am speaking about you) sicken and die. Differences of opinion among groups and individuals in the conservative coalition are a sign of intellectual strength and vitality. If you consider yourself part of the conservative coalition but have a point of view, whatever it might be, that is not currently dominant within the coalition, here's two possibilities: 1) You and your allies aren't very good at explaining why you are right, or 2) You're not right. Work on it.


Gasping for Breath

These folks are encouraging individuals to ratify the Kyoto Treaty.

Are signers expected to reduce their personal carbon dioxide emissions by at least five percent under 1990 levels?

If so -- word to the wise, whatever else you do -- don't sign it!


American Flag

The American Flag blog will link to your blog if you have an American flag on your site.

(One of ours is here -- and we have a flag favicon.)


Kyoto: Browbeating America... Without Result

Here's an overseas perspective on America's decision not to ratify the Kyoto Treaty. Worth reading in its entirety, but here is an excerpt: a democracy such as the U.S., it is not possible to browbeat a president into doing something which is deeply unpopoular with the general population. In tin-pot countries such as Azerbaijan, Congo, Djibouti, Iran, Kyrgyzstan, Liberia, Myanmar, Pakistan, Russia, and Syria, the president can ratify anything he likes, because if he bothers with elections at all, they are mere formalities which simply prove that the incumbent should be in office for life. In short, if the world wants the U.S. to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, they are going to have to make a decent case and sell it to the general population of the United States. (In Europe this has not been necessary, as thanks to the EU, sweeping decisions are made at a lofty and detached level guarded by a phalanx of bureaucratic jargon and overpaid consultants, meaning there is no longer a requirement to gain approval from the ignorant masses.)

...To the average Yank, and to a great many other people (including myself), the Kyoto Protocol looks as though it has been craftily developed by political parties wishing to hobble the U.S. economy. Until such time that somebody steps forward and persuades them that this is not the case, the Yanks are not going to budge - and nor should they...

Hat tip: I learned of this from Tim Worstall, by way of Michelle Malkin.



Notice (thanks to Wizbang for the pointer) that when the former leader of Britain' Conservative party, Iain Duncan Smith, wrote an op-ed about the influence blogs could have on Britain, the first example of blog empowerment ("blogpowerment"?) he thought of had to do with Britain's socialized medicine system.

Namely, that "patients who have waited and waited for [National Health Service] care" will find a voice through blogs.

Michael Barone, Iain Duncan Smith and others have written that blogs make conservatives more mainstream and leftists more radical. They thereby conclude that blogs, on balance, help the right.

I submit that the advantage goes deeper -- to the nuts and bolts of policy debate. Blogs filled with the grievances of the victims of socialized medicine will be the best answer to those who might be swayed by Ted Kennedy and others to seek to impose that sort of system on us.

I propose that, as a 40th birthday gift to the American people, we expand Medicare over the next decade to cover every citizen from birth to the end of life.

-Ted Kennedy, January 12, 2005

Beware of Kennedys bearing gifts.


Everything I Know Is Wrong: Kyoto, Summarized

Sean at Everything I Know Is Wrong has a top-flight post on global warming.


Let me put it more directly: global warming may or may not be happening -- anyone who tells you that they know for certain, one way or the other, is lying to you. The best, most accurate statement that can be made about global warming is, "we don't know, and we don't have any way to tell -- the world is too big."
Sean explains much in a very few words. If global warming bores you but you think you ought to read something about it every once in a while just to keep up, read Sean's post here. (If global warming doesn't bore you, click here.)


The Torch: Justice is Blind

This new blog has some things to say about the death of the terrorist who died from a "Palestinian hanging."


Power Line: "Deeply Contemptible Conduct"

Dittos to Hindrocket of Power Line's opinion regarding the treatment of Jeff Gannon.

Feb192005 Waxman on Bullying

Good point, Professor.


A Honeymoon for American Soldiers Based in Europe

U.S. Army Specialist Joe Roche, whose observations about his experiences in Iraq earned the honor of being quoted by President Bush and by the Smithsonian Institution, among other distinctions, has sent over some new thoughts: His impressions of Europe, where he has been stationed with the 1st Armed Division since the 1st AD left Iraq last year.

As usual, Joe is an optimist, tempered with realism:

When I got married in December, friends asked my wife and me if we were going on a honeymoon. We replied that we are and have been for months because we are in the U.S. Army stationed in Europe.

Yes, we get some weird looks when we say this, but it is absolutely true. It is because we are in the Army that we have been able to travel to some of Europe's great places and partake in some special experiences.

My time being stationed here is now finished, and I know I have been very lucky. I would like to share a little with you because in these months in Europe, my wife and I have experienced some of the great legacy that is the impact of America. I fear that I will fail to a great extent, however, because most of this simply is beyond my ability to tell you in words.

How can I impart the emotion of looking down on the graves of the people of Noville, Belgium, who were killed by the Germans in reprisals; looking at the candles in Giessen, Germany, on the night marking the U.S. bombing of the city in 1944; the monuments to Americans and British in Prague for the liberation of their country from the Nazis and the Soviets; the beautiful and grotesque images of great culture and Fascism in Rome; the love of Americans that is to be seen all over Luxemburg where the cost of their suffering in war is so graphic; the quaint grouped graves of Jews who made up the better parts of some German towns; the grandeur and romance of Paris where war and remembrance is to be felt everywhere; the pride in resistance to the Nazis and the love of freedom in Amsterdam?; the ominously dark yet impressive structures of Berlin that show both great human achievement and monstrosity ...and Bastogne?

All this time we have lived in a nice little apartment in the German town near our base. We have lived amongst the Germans and traveled as freely as can be. Yes, the Army has us very busy and working hard, but we make use of our free time and days off to see all we can. When we do this, we encounter other American soldiers doing the same. I see that stateside it looks to you like all Europeans are anti-American. That just is not true, and even where there is such sentiments, it isn't quite what you might think.

I am sensitive to our mission in Iraq because I was there for 15 months, and most of my fellow soldiers are returning there. You see all the criticism, but I see that Poles, Czechs, Latvians, Italians and others are much involved with us in Iraq. I remember seeing Ukrainian and Bulgarian soldiers often on my missions there. Here in Europe I have also seen much respect for us that is both subtle and cautious. I think Europeans are far more diverse than you might think.

Europeans are in huge transitions. For the most part, the economies here are a mess and are getting worse. Germany's unemployment rate is at a 73-year high not seen since the days of the Weimar Republic. Rather than seeing Europe dominated by the Germans and French, what I have seen is that these two are isolated and weakening, while the rest of Europe is branching out. This is making most of Europe far more supportive of American foreign policy while the Germans and French are lashing out because of growing weaknesses.

I think you are most aware of official hostility in Paris and Berlin. What you aren't seeing is that all around them, in Denmark, Hungary, and elsewhere, the move is to support the U.S. and prevent Paris and Berlin from ever dominating again. In the past months, the European Union has moved to create thirteen small military units. Some argue that this is to be a counter to the U.S. military. The reality is that this is all too small and disorganized to ever be able to lead a mission. In fact, the effect is pushing Europe further into following the U.S. lead as these units will be follow-on forces at best.

As regards European leadership in the world challenging the U.S., I just don't see it either. Having lived here, I can tell you that Europeans are very divided on this because many want to follow American leadership that is based on values and principles. I've also learned that the only real foreign power the Europeans have to project is economic, and that is on the big decline. When it comes to political or military power, Europe just doesn't have anything to put forward on the world stage.

In Paris, perhaps one of the most anti-American capitals of Europe, we still found respect. I should know because I wore my "Bush-Cheney" and my "Global War on Terrorism" hats sometimes, as well as talking like the American I am! Instead of experiencing hostility, we were always treated well and we saw just about everything in Paris. If you haven't been there, you might be surprised to know that the legacies of America are to be seen all over the city. Statues of George Washington, streets named after Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt, and so much more.

I don't know if I can possibly get you to appreciate what it is like to go to a city that has been devastatingly bombed and destroyed by the U.S., and yet to be treated like a hero, be welcomed, and be made to feel very comfortable. Berlin and so many other cities of Germany that we have spent time in are like this. Bear in mind that almost all of our bases here are in former German military bases that were fought over and occupied by the U.S. after WWII.

There are some things deeply of German heritage that America saved for them, too. For example, it is almost unsettling to visit Marburg and stand at the crypt of Hindenburg. The reason is that it is misplaced here from the Prussian lands because his grave was rescued by the U.S. Army and brought here to prevent Soviet desecration.

Sometimes you can feel tempted to feel bad, but then there is the Holocaust, and the destruction by Germany of Poland, Belgium or Luxemburg that is just shocking beyond imagination. One hostile German lady told a fellow soldier that her soldier-dad was killed by an American in Holland during World War Two, to which he replied by asking why her dad was there in the first place. The lesson was clear: Americans came as liberators while the Germans were destructive conquerors.

I'm from Minneapolis, and one thing I marvel at is that I don't think many Americans are as pro-American as are many Europeans. In Luxemburg City, the main church in the center has a huge U.S. flag by the altar. Tell me where in Minneapolis you will find that!

Often I am traveling around Germany in military convoys wearing full uniform and have to make stops for food or fuel. I can't count the number of times people have come up to show respect to us soldiers. I wish more Americans could experience this and feel the legacy that is America.

I think that we are too caught-up with the diplomacy of left-leaning European leaders who dominate the news to see that underneath them are many people who support and admire America, even with the Iraq mission. For example, conservative Angela Merkel, who was raised in communist East Germany, is the leader of Germany's leading opposition party and might be a future leader. She illustrates the disparity in pro- and anti-American sentiments in Germany as being because of the difference between those who have suffered more recently for freedom and those who haven't.

Think about it. I don't think it is any accident that Central and Eastern Europeans support us so much. "I know what it is when you don't have freedom," Merkel explains about her childhood living in East Germany, "and so I have a strong feeling for freedom, in comparison to the Western experience where the existence of freedom is normal and fighting for it is not as necessary as it was for us."

If anyone of you are curious about following my travels with your own, I insist you go to Bastogne, Belgium, in December for the commemoration of the Battle of the Bulge. First, realize that Americans have fought hard and died hard in the forests of that region in two wars in the past century. It really is like traveling the hallowed grounds of Gettysburg when you go through the Ardennes. All over it is marked by tragic reminders of the destruction of the First World War, and then you see that this place bled so much during the Second also. This is where America made some of it's greatest stands for freedom in the 20th Century. These are the forests where you will find some of the American National Cemeteries where U.S. soldiers are buried, such as General Patton.

The people of Bastogne love us. You will see hundreds of Belgians dressed as American soldiers, and you will feel a love and admiration for us that is more humbling than anything I can describe. They welcomed us into their homes and treated us like modern-day saints. I know, though, that what it is really about is the legacy of past great Americans who were there in the two world wars, and the sacrifice they made for freedom against the tyrants terrorizing Europe and then stood up to the Soviet threat for 45 years afterwards.

One thing to realize about some of the anti-American sentiments is that we bring it on ourselves sometimes too. I know we laugh at this when it is on Jay Leno, but one morning on the German TV show Der Magazine, many college-age kids in New York were asked who the leader of Germany is today. About half said Adolf Hitler is. For Germans shameful of the Nazi past, to hear American kids so ignorant of history like that is crushing and offensive. What do you expect foreigners to think of us when we have kids so ill-educated out of high school and voting in our elections?!

What this says, I think, is that while we should realize that anti-Americanism really isn't as big in Europe as it is shown in the press and media, we should also realize that we have some work to do to clean up our act too. We are the world's champions of freedom and democracy. We should show our pride in this by being worthy of it as best we can. This means too that we don't abuse the American legacy by being negligent and ignorant of our history and our place in the world.

Well, this is the finish of my being stationed in Europe. It has been some of the most special and amazing months of my life. I know this might sound hard, but if you are able and willing, you really should join the Army and get yourself stationed here. You will love it if you make the most of it. Yes, you will get deployed in service to our missions in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, but that is worth it when you experience and appreciate the legacy we are following. The great generations of past Americans that paved the way for Europe's liberation have left this for us today. It truly has been the best honeymoon for my wife and I to be American soldiers based in Europe.

Joe's letter reminds me very much of another letter I posted on this blog, also written by a veteran, titled "I Have Wanted to Revisit France, Since Being There in WWII..." I posted the latter letter, by World War II Vet Edward Kitsch, on the 60th anniversary of D-Day last June 6th. Because President Reagan passed away immediately following that commemoration, I suspect some folks who would appreciate Mr. Kitsch's letter did not see it at that time.

The similarity of spirit in the two letters is striking to me, though their combat experiences were nearly sixty years apart.



I received this in an e-mail. Don't know if it is true.

According to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a total mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.

Ins't taht amzanig?

E-Mail in response...
This can be expanded upon. I have found that if you practice looking at the whole page at once and not focus on the letters you can tell if there are typos on the page or not. You may have to read each word after that to identify which precise words are misspelled. I've been practicing this proof reading trick for a long time and find that 99% of the time it works. I learned about this from a former landlady in Boston who typed up papers for grad students. She could look at the page ONCE, and then watch soap operas while her fingers did the work, without looking at the page again. She typed 250 words per minute flawlessly. What a racket she made. Told me that she didn't actually "read" the paper and didn't know what the content was about when she had finished. Photographic mind, I guess. But it illustrates what the mind can do.

Mark Jacobson


Journalists' (and Bloggers'?) Shield Laws: What is a "Reporter," Anyway?

Balancing this favorable article by Joe Strupp in Editor and Publisher about the "reporter's privilege" to be partially except from subpoenas is this excellent one by Dan Ackman in Forbes.

Editor and Publisher piece alerts us to bi-partisan legislation in Congress (H.R. 581 and S. 3440) to give "journalists" legal rights other mere mortals lack.

Such a law, of course, would require a federal definition of what constitutes a journalist.

H.R. 581 defines a journalist (a "covered person") as:

A) an entity that disseminates information by print, broadcast, cable, satellite, mechanical, photographic, electronic, or other means and that--
(i) publishes a newspaper, book, magazine, or other periodical;

(ii) operates a radio or television broadcast station (or network of such stations), cable system, or satellite carrier, or a channel or programming service for any such station, network, system, or carrier; or

(iii) operates a news agency or wire service;

(B) a parent, subsidiary, or affiliate of such an entity; or

(C) an employee, contractor, or other person who gathers, edits, photographs, records, prepares, or disseminates news or information for such an entity.

So, would a blogger be covered? Depends. (I'm reminded of Justice Scalia's complaint that Congress too-often approves laws the meaning of which is unclear.)

As "A" seems obviously to cover bloggers, bloggers would qualify if they are considered covered by i, ii or iii,


1) Is a blog a "periodical"?

2) Would a blogger who obtained information in the course of writing for a blog but who also writes books, or plans to write a book, be covered, but one who has no such plans not be covered?

3) If you use a "satellite system" (say, a cell phone hookup) to transmit data to your blog, or use a cable modem, does your blog qualify under Section ii's references to "cable system" and "satellite carrier"? And, conversely, would data uploaded via a telephone modem/land line render one a "non-covered" entity?

4) What is the legal definition of "news agency"?

The Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press has examined the above-referenced section of H.R. 581 and concludes the bill does not cover journalists "without contracts or those who publish solely on the Web."

The Reporters Committee's definition, it seems to me, relies on increasingly-antiquated definitions of some of the terms. Is there a true distinction between a "news agency" and a group blog whose authors do original research and reporting? Reporting that may be read by 100,000 or more people in a single day on the main blog, and linked to by other blogs?

A number of questions come to mind:

* How would H.R. 581, if adopted, classify a four-person group blog at which one of the bloggers was a talk radio host, another worked for a trade publication, a third was a law professor who occaisonally contributed articles to law reviews and the fourth cut hair for a living? Are three of the bloggers shielded, and the fourth, not?

* Is it fair to give a radio station with a few thousand listeners at any given time more legal rights than writers of a news-oriented blog with ten times the audience? Is "fairness" important?

* The main sponsor of H.R. 581, Rep. Mike Pence, said in defense of his bill that "without the promise of confidentiality, many important conduits of information about government activity would be shut down." If the purpose of the legislation to to protect disseminators of information about the government, lest speech be "chilled," shouldn't whistleblowers get similar protections against subpoenas?

* If a blogger printed some paper copies of his blog entries and handed them out on the street, would his blog become a periodical? If not, would it become one if he did this at regularly-scheduled intervals?

* Should publicly-funded media, such as NPR broadcasters, be exempt from shield laws, since being part of government should sufficiently abrograte the need to be protected from it?

I have more, but I'll stop now with this thought: Let's not use the federal code to try to define journalism.

Addendum: This legislation seems much more friendly to bloggers.

Addendum 2: Former Journalist Mark Tapscott has additional thoughts here.