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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.


Michael King: Murder Most Foul

Project 21 member and blogger Michael King is on the O'Reilly Factor just now.

The topic is a woman in Atlanta being given probation for murdering her infant daughter.

Read Michael's blog, Rambling's Journal, for more on the case.


Washington Post on Kyoto: Three Sentences, None Accurate

From Wednesday's Washington Post:

The [Kyoto] treaty is aimed at controlling global warming linked to carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. It was negotiated in Kyoto, Japan, in 1997. Although the United States helped shape it, President Bush pulled the United States out as soon as he took office.
Three sentences. None accurate.

The first is inaccurate by omission, as it fails to address even the possibility of economic and/or strategic motives for the treaty. (More details here and here.)

The second is correct only insofar as there was a conference in Kyoto in 1997 in which some of the negotiations took place. There were other official conferences and many negotiations in many places. (The U.S. actually signed the treaty at the Buenos Aires, Argentina conference in November, 1998.)

The third is flatly false. The U.S. has never withdrawn from Kyoto. President Bush, like President Clinton, has declined to send the Kyoto Treaty to the Senate, but the U.S. remains a party to international treaty conferences and the Bush Administration has not removed the U.S. as a signatory to the Kyoto Treaty. (More details here.)

I'd fisk this article more, but I have a life.


Honoring Our Escape

In honor of the U.S. escape from the Kyoto global warming treaty, we posted three new short papers on the topic on our website this evening. Each is based on op-eds I had on the Knight-Ridder newswire over the past few weeks:

National Policy Analysis #524: Michael Crichton's State of Fear: Climate Change in the Cineplex? - Michael Crichton's books, when made into movies, have grossed over $3 billion. Will money-lusty but liberal Hollywood make a movie of his book that criticizes the global warming establishment?

National Policy Analysis #523: Spinning Global Warming - A left-wing organization is feted by the news media as if it were a group of objective climate scientists

National Policy Analysis #522: Meeting the Climate Challenge: Left-of-Center Groups Warn of Impending Doom - Liberal political groups warn that global warming means doom, but others disagree


Pew Center: Kyoto is Merely Symbolic

The February 16 Washington Post has this quote about the Kyoto global warming treaty:

"The greatest value is symbolic," said Eileen Claussen, president of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change.
No doubt that's just what the citizens of the countries that ratified it want to hear.

Nothing like losing your job or paying more for necessities in service of a symbol.


Kyoto Can Be Fun

EnviroSpin Watch takes some fun whacks at European compliance with the Kyoto Treaty and recommends Tim Blair's hilarious poll: "How will you celebrate ratification of the Kyoto Protocol?"

(To find Tim's poll, look on the left side of Tim's blog. I voted for the Greenpeace option, myself. Nobody ever thanks those guys!)


At Least We're Honest

This U.S. government report says Italian environmentalists are protesting because the U.S. has declined to ratify the Kyoto agreement.

Meanwhile, this European Union report says Italy ratified Kyoto, but is not complying with it.


The Volokh Conspiracy, The First Amendment, and Mafia Dons

I agree with Judge Sentelle's observations (as covered by Orin Kerr at the Volokh Conspiracy) about applying a First Amendment privilege not to testify to reporters:

Perhaps more to the point today, does the privilege also protect the proprietor of a web log: the stereotypical "blogger" sitting in his pajamas at his personal computer posting on the World Wide Web his best product to inform whoever happens to browse his way? If not, why not? How could one draw a distinction consistent with the court's vision of a broadly granted personal right? If so, then would it not be possible for a government official wishing to engage in the sort of unlawful leaking under investigation in the present controversy to call a trusted friend or a political ally, advise him to set up a web log (which I understand takes about three minutes) and then leak to him under a promise of confidentiality the information which the law forbids the official to disclose?
I said something very similar here, thereby earning this blog a #1 spot on Google for the term "mafia dons."