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May 31, 2003

Absolutely awesome

Everyone, Doc and Mrs. Doc are parents! Their newborn adopted son is Camden Curtis, and he's just gorgeous. Go to Doc's site, I Am Right, and wish them well in this new venture. Doc and the Mrs. will be fantastic parents; Camden is one lucky little boy.

Posted by susanna at 12:15 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 30, 2003

Our personal American Idol: Mike Hendrix!

The blogosphere's own rockabilly star, Mike Hendrix of Cold Fury, has been featured in a mag local to him - Creative Loafing. All I can say is, I'm glad for that newspaper.

Posted by susanna at 03:41 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Places to go, things to see

I've been incommunicado for a few days and will likely be sporadic in posting for a couple more. But things move on in the blogosphere, so I'll take a few moments to send you around to Where Things Are Hap'nin':

Dean's World is hosting this week's Carnival of the Vanities. You owe it to yourself to check it out.

NZ Bear has another great idea, which is to get the Very Newest Blogs out there. I've checked his list, and already found a new daily stop: The Dead Parrot Society.

E.L. Core, of the fine View from the Core, is celebrating his blogiversary. Go wish him well!

Jordana and company at Curmudgeonry have joined Greeblie's cabal; check it out, and fix your link (as I will do sometime this weekend. I never said I was timely).

And, finally, the Timekeeper is back blogging at Horologium. Go see!

As for me, well, I'm kinda happy. I mentioned before that I had to go see a surgeon. I hate to find doctors in NJ because there are so many and I have no way of knowing who's good and who's not. So after chasing around here and there, I finally broke down and looked up UMDNJ (University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey) online. I found a couple of general surgeons on the faculty at UMDNJ, called one, and actually spoke to him in person! I think he was as shocked as me; his secretary was out and the switchboard had given me his direct number. But he was very pleasant, I told him briefly the necessary details, and he agreed to see me next week. So I'm going to consult with a surgeon who teaches surgery. How cool is that?

Posted by susanna at 02:47 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Edit, edit, edit!

The Lufkin, TX, newspaper is dumping Dowd until she explains her deliberate distortion of a Bush quote. It's about time the collective journalism world started holding the NY Times and its writers accountable instead of constantly bowing in groveling humility at its altar. But... I do highly recommend close editing of any column where you take the Times to task. The Lufkin paper includes this:

Dowd violated one of the cardinal tents of the newspaper business: Don't mislead your readers, because your credibility is your only currency.

Actually, I believe that would be a cardinal tenet. Could very well have been a typo, but still. Edit, edit, edit!

At least the sentiment is dead on.

(I know I'm being way picky, but recently I've been jarred when published fiction has included such clunkers as "hellbent for leather" and "prodigy" for "progeny". Argh. Where are the editors??)

[Link via Instapundit]

UPDATE: More info on "hell bent for leather". I've always read "hell-bent" as determined to do something regardless of the consequences or cost; one definition says "recklessly" determined. The "hell" part is saying, even the threat of hell won't stop me. The "hell for leather" part means, you're doing something fast or hard or all-out; I've usually seen it in the context of the old West, where, for example, you'd ride your horse "hell for leather" to get somewhere. So your leather tack would be strained by your intense use of it.

Now, certainly these two have similar meanings, or at least complementary ones. But "hell bent for leather" makes absolutely no sense at all. "Hell-bent on getting that car" does, but who would be so intent on getting leather that they'd risk hell to do it? I think the term is a mixing of the two other phrases by people who didn't understand what the originals meant, and just merged them because, well, they remember "hell bent" and they think they remember something about leather, so wasn't that, "Hell-bent for leather"? Noooo!! It makes sense about like when my aunt said she was out on a limb without a paddle.

But the mixed term has been used enough to get into the American Dictionary of Idioms, which makes me cringe. My friend Desiree sent me the link to this page, which explains both phrases and then the unfortunate combination of the two. It's very similar to my understanding of the situation.

People, stop and think about what an idiom means. It had its origins in some activity or context that made material sense to its originators. And it's only valuable as colorful description when used properly.

Posted by susanna at 02:30 AM | Comments (20) | TrackBack

May 27, 2003

Happiness is... A Carnival! (of Vanities, that is)

This will stay on top of the blog until the new Carnival is up next week - to participate in the 37th edition, contact Dean at Dean's World. Please take some time every day to read more of these excellent entries. I was very impressed with them all.

I'm delighted to be hosting this week's Carnival of the Vanities, where we can see the Best of Blogs for the past week. This all started with the inestimable Bigwig at Silflay Hraka who, like all good entreprenurs, took his excellent idea public and sent it on the road. Think of this as a cross-section of the blogs, a chance to check out new faces and places reading posts that the bloggers themselves think are their best of the week.

The posts are in the order I received them, except for a special section on place blogging at the bottom - a lovely treat to close out the list. There's a lot here, but I'm going to leave the post at the top of my blog for a week, so take the time to read a few each day so you can savor each one. They're worth it.

A few notes: When more than one link was sent, I used only one, usually the first listed. I would encourage those who sent more than one to add a post to the top of your site pointing new readers to the other posts, many of which seemed to be quite worthy as well. Also, I tried to link to both the individual post and the main weblog itself, in case the cursed blog links take a powder.

Note: Below is a late addition, due to technical issues, but I think it adds graphic interest to open with it. So, I give you Day by Day:



Don't miss the cartoon daily on its own site. The blogosphere will in future years be able to say, we discovered Chris Muir and Day by Day first! Very very cool.


And now for the rest of the fine entries:

Top 10 Reasons Women Can't Join Combat Units - already my short hairs are bristling. Anton at Last Man Dancing does a little Letterman riff that had me chuckling enough not to send in The PMS Troops. It was a close thing, though.

Laurence of Amish Tech Support, ever vigilant, points out the differences between coverage of an Arafat speech by the Jerusalem Post and Ha'aretz, in Were they covering the same speech? You know I love media bias pointers, and this hits the spot.

So what's with Al Qaeda? Steve at Tiny Little Lies points out exactly what I was thinking about the bombings in Saudi Arabia last week - it shows that Al Qaeda is neither very strong nor very bright. Excellent post. And I love this phrase: He may have blown the biscuit wheels right off his own gravy train. Mmm... biscuits. (Don't miss the post, linked below, by Venomous Kate who takes a different view.)

The Inscrutable American outlines what needs to happen in India to move the country toward prosperity. It's interesting that in several points he could be talking about the United States.

The Internet is bringing down the Tower, according to Kevin at blogoSFERICS - Tower Records, that is. The record giant that orginated in Kevin's hometown of Sacramento is in deep trouble, and he laments its passing.

James DiBenedetto at Eleven Day Empire takes on Molly Ivins, the Texas idiot fugitive Democrats and fascism, all in one post. Whew.

Venomous Kate of Electric Venom takes us to school about Al-Qaeda and whether their recent attacks in Saudi Arabia were "successful" on some reasonable scale. She says yes. It's a definite contrast to the post by Steve at Tiny Little Lies (linked above) - worth reading the two together.

Want off Blogspot? Not planning on busting the bandwidth bank anytime soon? Dave Worley of greeblie blog is looking for bloggers to adopt and move to MT. And for everyone else, he's got a new open forum where anyone with an email address can long on and vent.

Craig at MT Politics writes on the Glendale hazing incident, and the lessons not learned. It's a fine rumination on personal responsibility, and the difficulties of learning it when your parents don't require it.

John Ray of Dissecting Leftism defends a conservative archbishop who is being hounded by the Leftist Australian media.

Dean at Dean's World gives us a little history on the political magazines that have an influence far beyond what their circulation would suggest, and explains why that's true. Check out his lists of the magazines, and see if you've missed some of them. I know my reading list just grew.

Michele at A Small Victory comes face to face again with the familiar pain of 9/11 when she comes across a new book with a very personal meaning. It was a reminder to her - and to us all - that it's a day that shaped our lives, and will move us to tears for as long as we're here.

James at Outside the Beltway says that family farming is "essentially outmoded", a provocative statement but one worth considering.

Andrea at Too Much To Dream sends what she calls "a bit of a snark", which those of you who read Andrea know means it's a lovely post full of spleen and delightful turns of phrase. A good post for aspiring ranters to read. (What's it about, you ask? Does it matter? It's Andrea.)

Steve at Ravenwood's Universe gave me nightmares with this post about a friend who won't leave; I was so into it, having had a few similar scares myself, that when he shifted gears it took me a few seconds to catch up. It's a great post. Read it.

Humor columnist Madeleine Begun Kane at MadKane revisits her old high school alma mater with interesting results - a little scandal, a little Seinfeld, and a slipped-in reference to a Thousand Points of Light. Check out her other posts too - she makes me testy sometimes but she's got a keen humor even when it's directed at Dubya.

I wish I'd been in the movie theater lobby for the "Dirty Little Monkey" exchange in the post from Solonor of Solonor's Ink Well. Don't have liquid in your mouth when you read it, unless you want to clean your computer screen.

Wow. That's my first and best reaction. WOW! I want to try this in my classes, only it doesn't quite fit... John at John Lemon's Barrel of Fish explains a very clever way he gets his college students to think about the redistribution of ... anything earned. I don't want to give it away, but it's quite Machiavellian. I love it. (If his links are screwy - it took me about 5 times to get it to load - go to the main page and scroll to "MONEY FOR NOTHING AND YOUR GRADES FOR FREE" on Wed., May 15.)

Northstar at The People's Republic of Seabrook takes a trip through his old hometown newspaper and decides... he's better off where he is.

Murray at Silent Running clues us in to the Ten Signs Your Country is in Trouble. Given that his country is New Zealand, I able to chuckle, shake my head and say, "Those Kiwis!" (No, I don't want to see any comparable budget chart of the US.) Any rumors that his post involves Helen Clark are scurrilous, planted by Aussies, exactly right um, no comment.

It's "Karl Rove Week" at Seth's The Talking Dog, and this post questions why a man of Rove's talents works for the Bushies. An interesting question.

Frank at IMAO will shortly appear on a "WANTED" Poster at Handgun Control Headquarters if this post gets wide distribution. I think he'd really like that! So spread it around, or we'll send him after you with his cool little assault rifle.

Cooling us off a little, CG Hill at Dustbury takes us on a Sunday drive in Oklahoma, a meandering route that evokes front porches and lemonade.

The Mudville Gazette's Greyhawk, a military man, reminds us that Memorial Day is coming soon with this moving post about the ones who keep us safe - and don't always come home. I suggest reading it when you have some time to think on it, and say a word of thanks for our soldiers.

DaGoddess slaps Target around as she lies yuckily sick and tries to figure out how to take her medicine. I couldn't resist this, given the recent discussion on Wal-Mart vs Target.

Rick at The Rant has a very thought-provoking post on the subtle costs of moving knowledge jobs out of the US. It makes sense.

I don't quite know what to say about Mark's post at The Bemusement Park. He wrote a letter to his dad, killed last year in a car accident, and it's one of the most moving things I've ever read. I cried. It's something I'll be printing out and saving. You'll know why when you read it.

Kenneth at A Mind That Suits eulogizes the late icon of country music, June Carter Cash. It is a history, a tribute, and a very personal goodbye.

TheYeti from Tales from a Yet Suit puts on his extra thick fur and asks a friend whether there is a sexual reward for fulfilling stereotypical gender roles. He then winks at a bartender. (TheYeti sent me that link info, but I want to add that I found his propositions quite provocative, and will likely deal with them myself later this week.)

What we need in Saudi Arabia is a little instability - or maybe a lot, says Jack Rich at Haganah.

Turkey? Really? David at Clubbeaux is planning to pack up the family and move to the Mediterranean. And the way he describes it, I'm tempted myself.

Wizbang identifies another reason to hate Delaware. Who needed a reason?

Bongs and Chong and Life and Fame - Joe at Attaboy has them all in this funny post about life. We're just happy he didn't have the same negative vibes at midnight that Cinderella did. (And tell me, Joe - did you show your daughter that news clip?)

Aaron at God of the Machine evokes Duchamp and Warhol in an interesting little look at art, humor and the humorless non-art of today. Well, that last was my estimation of his last point; you knew I couldn't keep my opinion to myself.

Not seen Matrix: Reloaded yet? Dodd of Ipse Dixit has you covered in this review; he's The Man when it comes to sci-fi and movies. I've heard negative reviews, but Dodd says it's good so I'll be on my way to the theater... as soon as I remember where it is...

Is atheism treated unfairly? The Raving Atheist explores the double standard which condemns atheist advocacy -- but virtually no other form of ideological persuasion -- as "evangelism." I especially like his closing sentence (not necessarily agree with it, but a good turn of phrase).

We must treat friends as friends and enemies as enemies, says TR Fogey in this post at Tobacco Road Fogey - Israel deserves our support; how and whether the Bush Administration gives it will affect the 2004 election.

Dave's in Russia, and he sends a letter with a pretty scary scenario. We can thank Mandrake and shell at Across the Atlantic for providing the space for Dave to terrify us. I think I'm out of town that day too.

Fran of Northwest Notes, however, was just in NYC and it was quite a pleasant experience. She writes of it with charm and humor, making me realize that sometimes I do like NYC.

Ever just hung around finishing up your work when there was an announcement to evacuate the building? I have. Chuck at You Big Mouth, You! gives a cautionary tale and some thoughts on emergency procedures that might just keep you safe.

Matt is again Overtaken by Events, slamming the Texas idiot fugitive Democrats while simultaneously bemoaning the lack of smart hot babes in his high school. It's a neat trick!

Bryan at Arguing with Signposts mourns the closing of Les Miserables, which ended its Broadway run this past weekend.

A floating salary for Congresscritters linked to the federal deficit? I like! Eric at Viking Pundit makes a great case for it in A Modest Proposal. When do we start?

So how can the Demcratic presidential candidates stay - or even get - competitive on defense? Steven at The Grille ponders the question, and has some good advice. (Steven, I hope they don't listen!)

Feste at Feste...a fool's blog plays the tune for a French weasel dance, calling the moves like he sees them. I think he needs to be the next Ambassador to France - if we're going to have one.

The World According to Pete is a quirky place, as you can see in this RANDOM BITS SE7EN - wherein we learn about aggressive women, tomatoes at McDonald's and Dexatrim. See what I mean?

Solomonia takes exception to the claim of a pro-Palestinian group that they are operating "in the spirit of Gandhi", and shares a little history of Gandhi to show why that claim is "perverse".

button at The Eclectic Chapbook deconstructs David Warren's article saying Salam Pax of Where's Raed is probably one of Saddam's people.

Not gotten your Monty Python fix lately? Never fear, CPO Sparkey has a great little sketch, "Monty Python Meets Zacarias Moussaoui ", at Sgt. Stryker.


This week, we have a new feature: A section on place blogging. A group of bloggers asked if they could have a section where posts on a sense of place were collected, which I thought was a great idea. While I tend to focus more on political blogs just because that's my own personal obsession, there are so many blogs out there with beautiful, contemplative writing on other aspects of life. Without further ado, I give you, with its own introduction:


Place bloggers write, on one level, about the place where they live: its ecology, its beauty, the particular quality of nature in that place, and their relation to it. On another level, place bloggers are concerned with larger questions of ecology and land use, the future of the environment, and human beings' relation to (or alienation from) the world we inhabit and share. And on a still deeper level, many place bloggers are exploring the whole notion of "place" itself: where and what is this elusive idea of "place", in its broadest sense, and what does it mean to us as spiritual beings in perpetual search of something called "home"? We invite you to explore with us...
--Fred First

Sainteros opens nicely with thoughts on the value of place blogging - what it can and can't do in evoking place. It might not be real, but I could taste Ann's fudge sauce, and see the view from the second-story porch.

Chris at Bowen Island Journal adds more thoughts on blogging place; this struck me particularly: "We are not strangers in our own lan(d)scapes, and nor are we alone in the community of humans on earth..." Touching people's thoughts almost in real time is one of the best parts of the Internet.

"Familiarity breeds respect," says Fred at Fragments from Floyd, and it's easy to see how much he loves his place. Don't miss Fred's great photography too.

Pica at Feathers of Hope ponders place from Davis, CA, a place where man and nature mix to create its own familiarity.

Place is inextricable from memory and muse, as Rana reminds us in this post about books, fishing and her Papa from Notes From An Eclectic Mind.

Lisa at Field Notes: asks - why write about place? It's a good question, well answered.

Numenius, also at Feathers of Hope, wonders what's up with bike path engineers. I saw the picture - now I'm wondering too.

Cassandra puts sense of place at the center of sense of self in this post on The Cassandra Pages about what sense of place is. She has lovely photos too, worth linking around the site. (If her direct link is not working, go to the main page, then to the archives for the Thursday, May 15 post.)


That's it! A truly incredible collection of thoughts and talent. It was a pleasure to read all 56 entries - I hope you take the time to read them all too. And don't miss the opportunity to participate next time, which will be hosted by Dean at Dean's World. Here's the list for hosts through July.

Posted by susanna at 11:59 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Help the good guys

A fire on base where Kevin of The Primary Main Objective is stationed has destroyed three tents with all the possessions of 29 soldiers and 12 Marines. Kevin has a PayPal button up to help those guys replace what they lost. On the day after Memorial Day, I encourage you to help out. It's a concrete way to show we're behind them - and even $5 from enough people goes a long way.

[Link via Andrea]

Note: I'm still not going to be at the computer much today. Hope you have a good one.

Posted by susanna at 10:21 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 25, 2003

Just so you'll feel sorry for me

I went to the emergency room Friday night to have those Technical Difficulties looked into. It's been a rough week, the fifth week of fighting either cold or allergies, was at the doctor's only Tuesday with that, felt absolutely miserable all day Friday and wound up at the hospital at 7 p.m. I was tired and hurting but generally accepting of the ER experience - I brought a book (a novel about ritualistic vicious serial murder - just the thing to ease the worried mind). I was triaged 25 min into the experience, and taken back into the ER treatment area an hour after that - 8:30 p.m. The doctor showed up at 9:30 p.m. He walked in, introduced himself, and said, "So, what have you got to show me?" I said, "Nothing I'm very excited about having to show you." Ha. ER humor. He seemed unmoved. He evaluated the problem, said, "I'm giving you antibiotics, as strong as you'd get in a IV. And referring you to a surgeon." Then he was gone. Whoosh. The nurse came in later with the first round of antibiotics, I took them and she left. For about 20 minutes. I had totally, absolutely and thoroughly had it. When she came back I was lying there with my face in my hand just crying. 10 p.m. by this time. She said, "What's wrong?" I think, doh - I'm in the ER, lady, what do you think?!. I say, "It just hurts." She is finally sympathetic (not the best bedside manner), and rushes off. A few minutes later she's back with Percocet and prescriptions*. Then I'm released. The hospital is 4 blocks from my apartment. I have to drive myself home. So I'm discharged, drugged and in pain and feeling monumentally sorry for myself, into a relatively heavy rain, and I cry all the way to the car. Sniffle.

It really was sad, and really was not fun, and all that. But at the same time... you know, the day after, you just have to have a sense of humor about it all. At least that's how my mind works. How melodramatic can you get? I replay it in my head and it moves in slow motion, with gentle, wistful music in the background, the rainy empty street, nothing but the cone-shaped light spreading from the security lamps onto the sidewalk, and this sad tearful figure moving through it... Pitiful, very dramatic... I'll have to remember that for whatever novel I eventually write. That's what happens in my life, and why I'm such a natural for blogging - almost immediately after something in my life happens, it becomes a story, with characters and a plot line and scene setting. I haven't decided if that's a gift or just weird.

At least I have a sense of humor. It's the only way to really cope.

* I took the Percocet when I got home, with milk, but I hadn't eaten much all day and had taken some pretty rugged drugs on a virtually empty stomach. So about 90 min later the Percocet had the predictable nausea effect with the predictable result. I've got a nice stash of it now, but it's not going down the hatch unless I'm writhing in excruciating pain. Ibuprofen is doing fine, thank you.

Posted by susanna at 12:26 AM | Comments (15) | TrackBack

May 24, 2003

A walk through Jersey City

I have something of a love-hate relationship with New Jersey, and even more so with Jersey City. I'm not a city person, by heritage or inclination, but sometimes the quirks and energy of living in the NYC metro area are very engaging. I'm glad I have lived here, even though I'll be pleased to leave. This week I took some photos of everyday Jersey City, things I see almost daily, to share with you.

Just a block away from where I work:

on the street Newark and Bay jc.jpg

Intersection of Newark and Bay streets

Sometimes the street displays are peculiarly... peculiar:

streettoiletjc small.jpg

Meeting personal needs on Jersey Ave

One of my favorite things in Jersey City is the fruit markets, which have fresher produce cheaper than the supermarkets - and often things that make you go, "huh?". This one, which I visit on a regular basis, is typical:

Fruit market on Bay jc.jpg

Fruit market on Bay Street - the one with organic packaged goods too

Several sections of older Jersey City boast brownstones, complete with apartments you enter under the stairway; those have courtyards of various sizes that are dressed in a wide range of plants and decorations - from nothing but bare concrete to a lush display worthy of any suburban gardener. This one is fairly typical - a desire for a garden, imperfectly realized:

Jersey City yard.jpg

Jersey City brownstone "yard"

A lot of other people don't have any kind of yard, even those referred to with scare quotes. They're lucky to have an old fire escape balcony:

Fire escape balconies.jpg

Fire escape balconies on Jersey Ave

And in case you've ever wondered where you can get your dreams cheap, well, it's right here in Jersey City, on Newark Avenue:

99 cent store Newark - Bay jc small.jpg

The 99 cent store

There's lots more to see, and I'll probably do this again. It helps to look at where I live and work as a place with its own interest and charm.

Posted by susanna at 07:36 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

May 23, 2003

Please stand by...

The owner of this blog* is experiencing technical difficulties that impede her ability to post. Any further explication of these difficulties - ANY - would immediately be logged under TMI. Trust me on this. What you need to know is: She is alive and apparently likely to stay that way for at least the foreseeable future, barring landing in the middle of a man-made or natural disaster. As soon as ever she is able to post, know that she will do so. The problem(s) will not cause long-term distress, nor likely a long term absence. Now's a good time to read more of the COTV, right?

* Please note that the technical difficulties are the blogger's, not the computer or the electricity or the ISP. FYI.

Posted by susanna at 05:23 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 22, 2003

Making a nutritionist cry

I went to a lunch meeting where they ordered a sandwich for me. I didn't actually get to eat it until after the meeting, when I found:

buttered 6" Italian loaf
fresh mozzarella
dried tomato steeped in olive oil & vinegar

This is called "A Soprano". I think because it's lethal.

(I didn't eat the meat - a bit much for me.)

UPDATE: Because I know you were dying to see it - here's the Soprano sandwich. I think you can tell why it has that name:

sopranolunch small.jpg

Very frightening.

Posted by susanna at 02:46 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

A public service

In the spirit of "All the news that's fit to print", Scott Ott of Scrappleface has done us all a public service - he's posted the staff directory of email addresses for the NY Times news staff. So. Now you know who to complain to.

Oh, and it's from the September 2002 staff directory so it's not the latest even though it's the one they send out now on request; also, the directory apparently only includes the emails of those who don't mind them being out there, so the list is incomplete. Better than nothing, though.

Posted by susanna at 10:22 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 20, 2003

Sorry about the dearth

Well, I've been manhandling a post all morning, off and on, and so far it's got me down on the mat and the ref is counting. We'll see if I manage to win sometime today. That and the 7:30 a.m. doctor's appointment and, now, work where things are stacked up since I've been out, are working against me. Sooo... sorry. The COTV is looking to have at least 40 entries (and I'm accepting more until 5 p.m.), so I'll probably be working on that too. But tomorrow? Tomorrow there will be more to read than you can do in days. None of it mine, mind you, but that may not be a bad thing.

Oh, on the visit to the doc - it's allergies, she says. No infection. I'm now the proud owner of prescriptions for Flonase and Zyrtec. And I'm publicly acknowledging that my sister told me repeatedly that it was allergies and I scoffed at her. She was right. (ooohhh that hurt.) I did have a cold on top of it though. So there.

Posted by susanna at 02:56 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Something I find mighty annoying

I've noticed lately that trackback pings are showing up in my trackback section when my blog is not actually linked on the other site. Apparently what is happening is that Mr. Trackbacker has written a post on a topic I've also written on that he wants my readers to know about. He swoops in, collects the trackback code on my site, plugs it into his MT interface and voila! he has a trackback on my site when he saves his post without the messy bother of actually linking to me. The only reason I can think of for doing this is that he wants my traffic to flow his way but for whatever reason isn't interested in his traffic flowing my way. Perhaps he's being modest, and thinks well, shucks, I don't got no traffic no way, what good is it gonna do Ms. Cut on the Bias if'n I link her back? The answer is: It's good manners, if nothing else, thank you very much.

I would be inclined to think it's the "what good will my traffic do her?" in general, btw, if I hadn't caught someone who gets as much or more traffic than me doing it.

It's getting on my nerves. No, traffic is not the end all and be all; if I thought it was I wouldn't have taken down my counters. But I don't much care for sneaky little traffic siphons either, no matter if you have the best lil ole intentions in the world. I'm serving notice. As of now, if a trackback to your site shows up on one of my posts, if you haven't actually linked to me that trackback will be deleted with no discussion. Repeatedly, if necessary.

Somebody has to teach a little manners around this place.

Posted by susanna at 06:00 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

May 19, 2003


This is where I spent most of my vacation:


Mom in the backyard, looking toward the sunroom

And this is what I came back to:


Grand Central Station, downtown Manhattan
Waiting to transfer to a bus to Penn Station

Now, there's a lot to be said about Manhattan, some of it good. But I'd rather be in photo A than photo B. Both photos were taken with my new Nikon Coolpix 2100.

That is, btw, the house where I grew up, although the sunroom was added some time after I moved out. The fence was built by my father of old chesnut logs rescued from a fence on an abandoned homestead nearby. My mom is the gardener, and can take most of the credit for the design of the landscaping. My dad is the usually-reluctant although also usually-helpful grunt work.

Posted by susanna at 10:12 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Okay, here's the deal

Somewhere, somehow, someway there've been some misunderstandings develop about The Carnival of the Vanities (COTV).

Because I'm that way, I'm here to tell you the right of it. Or at least the Susanna version.

First, what in the heck is it? Way back in the twinkling dawn of blogs (last fall), Bigwig of Silflay Hraka thought, "There are so many great new blogs, but nobody knows about them. How can we get those blogs out in the view of the masses?" He asked bloggers to send a link to their best work of the previous week, and published them as a list. Thus was COTV born. After several weeks of carrying the load of compiling the list himself, Bigwig sent his baby on the road where it's been ever since, hosted by a series of blogs. (And he's still looking for more hosts, if you want to do it.)

Now here's the second big question: Who can participate? Only specific bloggers, or blogs that are at a certain threshold of hits? As far as I know, there are no limitations. If Glenn Reynolds wanted to put an entry in, well, I would make room although I'd wonder if he'd been zapped by his techno music equipment. But despite her nearly 2000 hits/day on average, Michele at A Small Victory has not permeated every corner of the blogosphere and darn it, she deserves to! A blog like, say, Cut on the Bias, clunking along with about half Michele's hits, certainly qualifies. And there's all those blogs that started last week, last month, three months ago... they're all welcome too, in fact highly encouraged to send along a link. Feel undiscovered? It's not the fault of COTV! We're trying!

Do you have to do it every week? Uh uh. You send one in when the muse has smacked you over the head and you feel the need to share it with the blogworld.

So. That should clear things up. I can't send invitations to everyone out there, so those of you visiting here will have to take on the task of spreading the word. I've gotten several entries from people who said, "My friend so&so said I should send this to you..." That makes me happy. That's getting the word out. That's encouraging the ones who need encouraging. Go do it. Let's make this the biggest Carnival ever. You have until 5 p.m. tomorrow to submit an entry. And I'll keep the Carnival at the top of my site for the next week. You'll get the benefit of every ounce of influence I can muster. Which isn't necessarily a lot, but I do what I can.

Posted by susanna at 07:49 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Foil them all! BWAHHAHAHA!!

Want to give it to the Big Business Record Companies AND Wal-Mart, while at the same time getting some excellent tunes?

You know what to do. Buy Dr. Frank's Eight Little Songs, just $8 post-paid. Laugh at the Big Guys! Thumb your nose at tight-lipped distributors! Support a blogger! Buy independent tunes from independent musicians!


(It's good music too.)

(Oh, yeah, no appts available at the doctor's today. 7:30 a.m. tomorrow. I may live that long. We'll see if my face implodes or my ears blow out before then. I think I'm having a mild manic episode.)

Posted by susanna at 11:52 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Because it's Wal-Mart!!

I have to add one more thing. Craig at Lead and Gold takes down a NY Times article that gets all urban snotty about Wal-Mart.

It's true that Wal-Mart doesn't bring in a lot of "diversity" in, for instance, its book section. I don't go to Wal-Mart when I'm in the mood for romance reading because it has 13 shelves of Nora Roberts, 27 of Danielle Steele and 1 of any other writers combined. Hint: I'd rather chew on aluminum foil while scraping my nails on a chalkboard than read Roberts or Steele. When I want diversity, I go online. When I want it right now and cheap I go to Wal-Mart. That is, when I'm blessed to be close enough to one.

There's certainly good and bad about Wal-Mart. But the NY Times gets all snarky and dismissive, which Craig handles beautifully. As for how it limits things by making a select few superstars... what about Oprah? Did the Times do a snarky little article about how Oprah's Book Club singled out books by minorities or mooshy treacle feel-good books for superstardom? What about that? Eh, won't see it in the Times. Me, I personally think Oprah and Wal-Mart and whoever should do what pleases them. If the NY Times wants to get its panties all in a wad, why, it can branch out in fiction itself.

Oh, wait. It already did.

UPDATE: Scrappleface puts it all in perspective.

Posted by susanna at 10:57 AM | Comments (17) | TrackBack

Things you should read

Steven Den Beste has an excellent article in today's OpinionJournal about the American military moving into the Information Age, and what it means for the tail to tooth ratio. [Link via Instapundit]

Tom Maguire at Just One Minute has not only fact-checked Tapped to within an inch of its shoddy life, he's also tracked down where Jayson Blair got the dough to pay his Amex bill. Sounds like Raines should be falling on Maguire's house. [Link via Junkyardblog]

Shanti at Dancing with Dogs is looking for a few good Iraqi women to join the blogging world. She's offering free blogging space and help, so spread the word. There's bound to be Iraqi 'Net savvy women out there.

Doc at I Am Right has made a slideshow called "Freedom". Go check it out and give him your feedback.

Cop and writer Bob Weir opines on the Scott and Laci Peterson case in The Texas Mercury; it's a good assessment, and as R. Alex says, not as annoying as the usual Peterson media fare.

Speaking of Alex, he apparently broke into my apartment and stole most of my to-do list. Hmph.

Newsday is reporting that two Supreme Court justices may step down next month; John Rosenberg is on the case already with links and some speculation.

Andy at World Wide Rant is having none of that white guilt.

Acidman answers all your questions. Really. Except I'm rather fond of t-shirts, myself.

Go read Venomous Kate because, well, she's got the coolest blog design and she's good.

Arthur Silber at Light of Reason gives some context to the anti-smoking lobby, and Ampersand at Alas, A Blog is basically unconcerned about it all.

And last, although never ever least, Steve at Little Tiny Lies is desperately seeking new reading material. Steve, why don't you start here? :D Failing that, I can recommend Stephanie Laurens.

Now, I'm going to go call my doctor.

UPDATE: For all the good info on Tapped, check out Henry Hanks.

Posted by susanna at 10:17 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Meet the bridesman

Should men be brides"maids"? Should women be grooms"men"?

Fox has an interesting article on the trend, which makes some people nervous (not the article, the trend). I personally have no difficulties with it, as long as both bride and groom are comfortable. The couple should discuss it in private before anyone is asked, though, and even if the one who wants the opposite gender attendant thinks it's silly that it matters, he or she shouldn't push it if their partner is uncomfortable. OTOH, I don't think the comfort of parents and various others at the wedding is an issue.

And then that leads to my next question: What about close friendships with the opposite gender after marriage? There are those who say that men and women can't be close friends without some level of sexual tension involved, which could spike and create trouble in a marriage especially if the friend is single or the time together doesn't often include the spouse. It's even more of a problem if the marriage is in trouble.

Not being married, I don't know that I can answer this definitively. My feeling is that as long as the friendship is above board, that the spouse knows about all the meetings and knows the friend herself/himself, that it's not a problem. I think keeping marriage vows is something that requires conscious monitoring anyway, not that most people are slavering sex crazed idiots but our state of mind and susceptibility to temptation ebbs and flows like everything else in life. And if you're close friends with someone, you already have emotional intimacy. But if both partners in the marriage are committed and working hard to make it as a couple, opposite sex friends shouldn't be the deal breaker. Of course, the friend should also put the friendship first and not allow things to slide off into dangerous territory either.

So those are my thoughts this early (for me) Monday morning, when I'm getting a headache for, oh, the 20th day in a row. What are your thoughts on opposite sex friends?

[Link via jimmy]

Posted by susanna at 09:16 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

May 18, 2003

Because I know you worry

I finally got my keys yesterday, when I went to the post office to pick up my mail. This is a good thing. You can stop worrying now.

Posted by susanna at 10:20 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Creative statistics

AC Douglas has the scoop on the latest on second hand smoke, the conclusion being that it isn't the demon it's portrayed to be. Excellent, worth reading both for the info on second hand smoke (or Environmental Tobacco Smoke) and for the discussion of how the EPA played fast and loose with their statistics to get the answer they wanted.

I tend to be a purist in a lot of ways, at times to my detriment, but it often means I go about with a very pollyanna idealism about how things are done. If I'm told in stats class that you never muck about with your data to get a positive effect when the question with the right answer isn't the original point of the study, then I expect that my professors and the academics out there in the real world are going to ethically do just that. Imagine my disillusionment when a stats professor joked about having to just about twist his data into a pretzel to get a positive effect (so he could get a publication out of it). It's pretty sad that we can't trust leaders, the government, the academic elite, but they - like journalists, like everyone - have to prove their trustworthiness before we can trust them. And the EPA has not stood up well to that test.

[Link via Instapundit]

Posted by susanna at 11:02 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

When balance is lying

Nat Hentoff has an excellent piece in Village Voice about the ongoing abuse of journalists in Mugabe's Zimbabwe, and the continued defense of Mugabe by both NYC councilman Charles Barron and, indirectly, the American media.

Barron has long proven himself to be nothing more than a racial opportunist, a man lacking anything resembling a moral. Hentoff's portrayal of him is damning. But the portrayal of the American media by a Zimbabwean journalist is not much less so:

Charged with "abusing journalistic privilege" under Zimbabwe's fierce censorship laws, [Iden] Wetherell [editor of the Zimbabwe Independent] has been arrested, threatened, and otherwise harassed—but not intimidated. In the World Press Review article, Wetherell spoke of the "balancing" of stories about Mugabe in some of the American media:

"Stories start off by saying, 'Whilst President Mugabe is demonized as a tyrant, he is a hero to many.' That sort of approach fails to explain anything—that more than 1 million Zimbabweans voted against him in the 2002 presidential elections. It obscures the fact that it is Zimbabweans who are saying this man is a tyrant, not just the West, that the allegations of misuse of power, of misallocation of funds, come from well-documented sources within Zimbabwe. To situate him as 'under fire' from forces in Washington mistells the reality that he is being widely criticized as abusive within Zimbabwe itself."

It's the old "one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter" syndrome. It is the soft racism of refusing to criticize a black man (unless he's an American conservative) or an African country. And the American media is thus complicit in the continuation of Mugabe's depredations on their own colleagues. The plaints of "objectivity" and "balance" are faint cries of hypocrisy when we see the vociferous condemnation of the Supreme Court in the 2000 election, of Trent Lott and Rick Santorum, of Enron and any number of other businesses. I'm not saying criticism wasn't warranted in many of those instances. I'm saying that it's telling where criticism is leveled while retaining the mask of "objectivity", and where criticism is withheld or tempered for the sake of "balance".

(See also this column by Dave Kopel on the media's coverage of Zimbabwe: Dailies ignoring Zimbabwe crisis.)

Posted by susanna at 10:52 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Parents more dangerous than pedophiles

Are we watching pedophilia push its way into the mainstream as a legitimate behavior? You'd think so, after reading this article in Canada's National Post:

Although sex offenders who prey on children are demonized by society, psychiatrists who treat them say up to 3% of Canadians are sexually drawn to children.

The point here is about the way it's written - "Although" they're "demonized", those "sexually drawn" to children make up 3% of Canadians. The "sexually drawn" and "psychiatrists" give the impression that it's a behavior outside the ability of the person to control - thus born in. And apparently because 3% of Canadians are thus "drawn", it's wrong to "demonize" them. I want to know where the 3% figure came from. I want to know who those psychiatrists are. And I want to know why the percent of people who do a behavior makes a difference in whether I should "demonize" it. I think there are a lot of people - probably more than 3% - who are "drawn" to alcohol and have a higher than average likelihood of abusing it. That doesn't mean I shouldn't or won't "demonize" people who drive drunk or who damage their families through their alcoholism.

However, most of these pedophiles do not act on their sexual fantasies.

Whew, well, that makes it okay. Sorry I got all testy! They don't act on it so that's okay. I won't condemn sexual attraction to children as long as they don't act on it.

Those who do mostly engage in exhibitionism, masturbation or gentle fondling of the child.

GENTLE FONDLING?! Oh, yeah, THAT makes it okay. The way this is worded clearly tries to make it seem that these behaviors aren't so bad. I mean, so what if Big John shows his weewee to little Tommy or Suzy? It's healthy for children to be comfortable with nudity. So what if Big John keeps photos of innocent children around and gets off with them? And, you know, caressing and touching a child can only make him feel more loved and cherished, giving him a stronger sense of self-esteem and a healthy sense of his emerging sexuality. And it's gentle, soft, even... kind. What's wrong with that?

(I've actually seen that latter argument made by someone in NAMBLA.)

"Fortunately, the individuals who have pedophilia ... that are likely to act out and seriously harm a child are very rare," said John Bradford, clinical director of forensic psychiatry and the sexual behaviours clinic at the Royal Ottawa Hospital.

Define "seriously harm". It is fortunate that not all pedophiles actually "act out". But I'd say more than a few "harm a child". The article tells us what the writer and the good doctor consider "harming" though:

Dr. Bradford published a study several years ago in the American Journal of Psychiatry that found only 28 patients in a database of 2,800 known pedophiles in Canada had committed acts of sexually motivated homicide or attempted homicide over a 20-year period.

There you go. A child isn't "seriously harmed" until the pedophile tries or succeeds in killing him. A little "gentle fondling" can't be termed "serious harm". Of course not.

Have I mentioned here before that statistically speaking an illegal behavior is often done many times before the offender is caught? The less serious the crime, usually the more frequently it's been done before apprehension. A man who has served two prison terms for aggravated rape probably committed 10 or more in his career to do time for two. So, just as a statistical exercise, how many times do you think a pedophile has "gently fondled" a child in the process of escalating to murder? But don't worry - that doesn't harm a child.

"In fact, in statistical terms, if you look at children that are killed, a parent is more likely to kill a child than a pedophile is going to kill a child," said Dr. Bradford, who has assessed such notorious sexual offenders as Paul Bernardo.

What was I thinking? Of course parents are more dangerous to children that pedophiles! Oh my goodness. I can't believe my own blindness. Let's take all children out of their homes and put them in daycares run by pedophiles. They'll be much safer. Whew. I'm glad I thought of this. Just think too of all the well-adjusted children we'll have after their self-esteem has been bolstered through repeated "gentle fondling".

Although the cause of pedophilia is unknown, studies show about 35% of pedophiles were sexually molested as children.

I'm very very sorry this is true. I wonder if that molestation was "gentle fondling" or if all 35% were nearly murdered?

Brain scans indicate sexually sadistic people often have some damage to the right temporal area of the brain. These injuries are frequently caused by oxygen deficits around the time of childbirth.

I'm unmoved by this until I see context. What percentage of the general population have damage to the right temporal area and are not sexual sadists? What percentage of sexual sadists have this damage vs the number who do not? Why should we connect the two? It's possible that the majority of sexual sadists also drive red cars, but that doesn't mean everyone with a red car is a sexual sadist - it could be completely unrelated, and it could be that the cause of the sadism also leans them toward red cars. Besides, when did sexual sadism become conflated with pedophilia? I don't see the connection. It's possible that the two run together at times - some pedophiles may also be sexual sadists - but that's no reason to use data on sexual sadists as evidence that pedophiles are biologically determined. So why make that connection?

"I'm convinced there's a biological component to it," Dr. Bradford said.

There we go! The good doctor is convinced it's true. No solid data, mind, but he's convinced so we'll trot out all sorts of unrelated, unexplained data and build a case. Hmmm. Yes, that's good science. Don't you agree?

All child molesters are at risk of re-offending without treatment, experts say. But some are more dangerous than others.

Well, bully for you for figuring this out. Everyone is "at risk" of repeating behavior that is pleasurable when there is nothing happening to make the pain of doing the behavior greater than the pleasure. Actually pedophiles have one of the very highest rates of reoffending even with treatment. But, wait - it's only "gentle fondling". Sorry, my bad, not a problem.

Among those who are not treated, those at lowest risk are family members who prey on their own children or relatives, about 6% of whom re-offend after eight years. Strangers who molest little girls are at higher risk -- about 13% re-offend after eight years. The most dangerous -- although more rare -- are bisexual pedophiles who molest children of both genders. In some studies, up to 40% of these people re-offend.

Nice numbers there, devoid of context. Why would family members be less likely to reoffend? Could it be that their crimes were partly of opportunity, and after the molested child is no longer available they don't have the same access to another child? Seems relevant to me. The other numbers are just as isolated from context. What is the overlap? Are the 6% of family pedophiles who re-offend a part of the bisexual pedophiles? And could it be that the number of re-offending family pedophiles is low as well because they got better at hiding it? Standing alone those numbers are scary; with context I think they'd be more so.

Although the end results -- sexual assault and murder -- may be the same, the killers' motivations are often quite different.

Suddenly we're back to the killers. This article is careening wildly through the topic, not building any kind of coherent case. Irresponsible journalism, unquestionably. A little transition here would be good. But then remember - "seriously harm" means kill or attempt to kill. So I guess we're back to the pedophiles who actually harm children. "Gentle fondling" doesn't count.

"There are some individuals who are quite rare who are motivated by the violent aspects of sex, and that therefore drives them," Dr. Bradford said.

Yes. Both pedophiles and non-pedophiles - those "sexual sadists" again. Is this the temporal-lobe-damaged crowd?

For example, Joseph Fredericks, a violent repeat offender, kidnapped an 11-year-old boy from a Brampton, Ont., shopping mall in 1988. Over the next 24 hours he tortured and raped the boy, then choked him unconscious and stabbed him to death. Fredericks, a homosexual predator, was motivated by sadism and the fear he caused.

Hmm. Just an example of "serious harm". Note that Fredericks is identified as a "homosexual predator", not as a pedophile specifically. While I have religious issues with homosexuality, I don't think the majority of homosexual males are attracted to children. It's a separate, sometimes overlapping, thing. Our writer needs to be a little more careful with his characterizations.

By contrast, other sexual offenders kill their young victims to avoid being identified and caught.

Nothing to argue with there.

One of the most hotly debated topics in correctional services is how to rehabilitate pedophiles. Dr. Bradford said the Canadian penal system does a much better job at treating pedophiles than other countries, notably the United States. However, some provincial justice systems do a much poorer job than others, he said.

It's hotly debated because nothing really seems to work. We have no context here either, though, for comparing the Canadian system with the US system, just that Dr. Bradford thinks the US doesn't do as well as he does. Hmm.

One of the most successful treatments is anti-testosterone drug therapy -- sometimes called "chemical castration" -- that can substantially reduce sexual urges. Studies show treated patients are less likely to molest children than the general population. Therapists also use anti-depressants such as Prozac and Zoloft, which reduce the sex drive.

I say, whatever works. If chemical castration doesn't do it, how about the real thing? We could have a new Eunuch Choir of Former Pedophiles.

However, once out of prison, convicted pedophiles are not obliged to continue such treatments.

That's an issue for any number of problems that are aided by chemical moderation - certain mental illnesses come to mind too. This is just fact.

In the United States, California, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Louisiana, Montana, Oregon and Wisconsin have chemical castration laws on the books.

I thought the US didn't do well in this? Or is the list just for the sake of noting how few US states have such laws? What about Canada, what percentage of their country has them? Again, zero context here.

I can't decide how much of the problems in this article are due to bias on the part of the writer, just sloppy journalism on his part, or deliberate leading by the good doctor. Most likely a combination of the three. But the net result is a disgustingly conciliatory attitude about pedophiles that diminishes the harm they do to children. Any kind of touching a child with sexual intent is harmful. The degree of harm varies with the degree of touching and the persistence of it, as well as the child's ability to understand what is happening.

Repeated efforts have been made to normalize sexual activity with children, as well as adult-teen sexual activity (children 12-17). Certainly there are precedents of a sort - in today's society, young people in their early teens can marry with their parents' consent. One of my classmates married at 13, but her husband was also one of our classmates, 14 when they married. So it happens. Loretta Lynn married at 12 to a man in his 20s. I'd say that was child abuse, but that's just me. She stayed married to him. But that's a very different thing from sexual contact with pre-pubescent children, and from sexual contact between an adult and a pubescent child or teenager where the adult is using force, coercion or seduction to take advantage of a vulnerable person. That behavior is unequivocally evil. And articles like this one do nothing to give an objective view of the case. It's at best bad journalism, at worst an apologia for pedophilia.

[Thanks to Lane at Blog from the Core for the link; he has a good post on it too.]

Posted by susanna at 09:00 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

May 17, 2003

explain this to me...

I signed up for Blogshares when it first started. I bought a bunch of shares of this and that blog. I didn't go over there for several weeks because, quite frankly, seeing my nieces, sleeping through sickness and getting school work done seemed more important. Tonight I jumped over there just to see what was going on, and...

All the Blogshares I bought are gone! What happened? I apparently own 20 shares of some stupid idiot website that I'd never heard of before, and ALL OF THE ONES I BOUGHT ARE GONE! Explain that to me! If this is how the real world works, it's no wonder my real stocks lost 40% of their value in the last 18 months.

I am genuinely puzzled by this. What's going on?

Posted by susanna at 11:39 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

You go, girl!

As the wedding festivities for the arranged marriage were getting underway, bride Nisha Sharma's groom and his family came to her father demanding $25,000 in rupees in additional dowry. A widespread but illegal custom, dowries in arranged marriages in India are common, usually from the bride's family to the groom and his family. Sharma's father had already given the groom quite a bit, and Sharma said enough is enough. She called the police and had her groom arrested.

She's now a media sensation in India. I say, you go, girl!

While the whole issue of arranged marriages makes me itch, I recognize that it's a custom in a lot of places. Many people have forged successful and happy marriages that began that way. But in India dowries have become an especially touchy issue because thousands of women are killed yearly by their husband's family because the bride price was too low and they want to find a woman who can bring more. This from the article on Sharma:

According to government statistics, husbands and in-laws angry over small dowry payments killed nearly 7,000 women in 2001.

I hope Sharma's rebellion cracks the hold the dowry system has on some communities. Arranged marriages and dowries may continue, but her experience may show other women and their families that they're not dooming a woman to spinsterhood by rejecting outrageous demands.

Posted by susanna at 10:36 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

May 16, 2003

Bond revoked

The $1 million bond for two men arrested for killing WKU student Katie Autry was revoked yesterday. Lucas Goodrum and Stephen Soules will remain behind bars until their trial, unless their attorneys succeed in convincing the court to change its ruling.

I mentioned Katie's murder as a part of my earlier post on motive. I'll get back to that discussion tomorrow. The reason that the case has such an interest for me - besides just academic interest - is that my niece, who just completed her freshman year at WKU, was a friend of Katie's. I didn't mention it before because my sister asked me not to; she gave me permission after Goodrum and Soules were arrested.

Katie and my niece went to the gym together several times a week for a good part of the spring semester, went shopping together, hung out in each other's rooms. My niece had spent the night in Katie's room - the room where she died. Because she had spent most of her time with her boyfriend in recent weeks, my niece didn't know Katie had briefly worked as a stripper, and hadn't spent time with her for a few weeks before her death. But part of my time in Kentucky was spent talking about Katie with my niece, and discussing the crime. It brings it home when a murder affects someone in your family. And knowing Katie through my niece's eyes reminded me yet again that all we know of most victims is what the media tells us - and the media operates with its own frames, imperatives and biases, even with the best of intentions to be fair. She definitely made a series of very bad choices, and put herself in situations that made her victimization easier. But those choices were not the whole of who Katie was, and it's sad to see her relegated to either faceless victim status or, as one television station put it, "The Stripper Case."

My prayers go out to Katie's foster parents and her younger sister. Katie was buried in her cheerleading outfit from high school. She was 18 years old, a petite slender blonde who came to college nine months ago with a small town innocence. And now she's dead in a most horrific way. If Goodrum was her killer, I hope he goes to the chair.

Posted by susanna at 11:53 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Check the sources

Eugene Volokh is so good at explaining complex issues clearly and simply. In this post he tracks down the origin of a claim by Masters & Johnson that gay males have a median of 250 sex partners, which is outrageously higher than any other group. It turns out that the study M&J based their numbers on was not a representative sample - asking a gay male at a bathhouse in San Francisco in the early 1970s how many sex partners he has had is not going to get you an "average" answer. M&J for whatever reason chose not to make this lack in their source data clear - thus leaving open the opportunity for the figures, quoted in a college textbook, to be understood as a general truth.

My interest in the post is not the issue of gay males and their sex partners, but rather the importance of knowing where the numbers come from before giving any report credence - especially, again, if it makes outrageous claims. Sometimes the studies are done meticulously, in a carefully neutral way, and in those instances the data are at least clean. The worst you can say in that instance is the study would need to be replicated a few times to be sure of the findings. But Volokh's post tracks how easily bad data can get into the mainstream of public consciousness as truth.

I wish students had to take courses on understanding the use of statistics in popular media and how important it is to know the research method used, rather than just a grindingly hard and usually boring class in how to do multiple regressions. I personally get severe hives even thinking about doing statistical manipulations, although I've taken four graduate courses in it (I have Teflon brain for stats), but a lot of what we need to question isn't so much the math as the method - and research methods aren't as whimper-making as stats. It would be rather like learning how to use Word without having to know how to code it. It could be interesting, fun and very relevant to understanding the world around us. I'll be holding my breath until something that reasonable happens, though.

Posted by susanna at 05:50 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

More on the fish

Remember that fish story both Bigwig and I blogged about? Well, here's a little more info on the man behind it, Dr. Ransom Myers, which shows that maybe, jussssttttt maybe he has a) an agenda and b) a full intent to sway public opinion the way he thinks it ought to go.

First, the agenda:

Myers spent 13 years with DFO [the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans], then quit in a fury. He says he was dismayed with the department's handling of the cod collapse in the 1990s. "The collapse was all blamed on the environment, on the seals, on the foreigners, when it was primarily Canadians," Myers recalls. "I saw that as the big lie, blaming it on anything but ourselves."

Myers moved to Dalhousie University as Killam chair of ocean studies in 1997 and soon started publishing scientific papers on the demise and mismanagement of the cod stocks.

He and colleagues familiar with DFO's inner working accused the department of having "suppressed data" on the state of the cod fishery. They caused such a huge controversy and laid such serious charges that senior DFO officials threatened to sue Myers for libel.

Now, the intent to sway:

Myers and his colleagues spent weeks preparing for this week's splash. They hired video crews to get underwater footage and tape of Myers and his co-author Boris Worm strolling by the sea. Then, they made sure television reporters knew how to get hold of the videos for their newscasts.

They ran through mock interviews with media advisors at U.S.-based SeaWeb, a group dedicated to raising awareness of the life -- or lack thereof -- in the world's oceans. SeaWeb's Nancy Baron spent the week working the phones and the Internet, tipping reporters to Myers' paper -- and offering early, embargoed copies of the study -- to maximize Myers' media exposure.

Does that mean that Myers' study isn't important? Not at all. What it does say is that his intent is not solely pure science, but proving his theories. And it also says that the Washington Post took their bait hook, line and sinker. It's a reminder to us all - and should have been to the Post - that any time a study makes some shocking claim it's a very good idea to dig behind the interpreted data to the agenda of the scientist and the meaning of the raw data as compared to other studies.

Posted by susanna at 04:45 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Time for serious drugs

Remember how sick I was last week? Well, I'm not all better yet. In fact, I got all better except for my right ear and sinuses - still yuckity. Now things seem to be regressing, I feel a bit light-headed and want nothing so much as to curl up in bed for three days. Fortunately it's the weekend. I think I need antibiotics. It would help if I had a primary care doctor to go to, I suppose, but I never did find a new one after I decided not to go to the previous one again. Why, you ask? Well, I'm all for alternative medicine, but when she recommended I use magnets to take down the swelling in my left knee, I decided that was a little too alternative.

I haven't been to the emergency room yet this year. I was there twice last year and three times the year before that. I owe them at least one visit this year. Maybe this weekend will be it.

Posted by susanna at 04:16 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

A tribute to a remarkable lady

Mike at Cold Fury has a lovely tribute to June Carter Cash, who died yesterday at 73. She and Johnny Cash are icons in American music, and deserve every accolade. June and her family, The Carters, brought the music of a people to the entire world in a way that emphasized its beauty and pathos without trivializing or being disrespectful of its roots. They were country music, and the very best of it.

I can't think of June Carter Cash and Johnny Cash without remembering my own ditsy-ness about one of their songs, "Jackson". The song opens with these lyrics:

We got married in a fever hotter than a pepper sprout We've been talkin' bout Jackson ever since the fire went out

I'm going to Jackson...

Well, I was quite young when I first heard the song, which is my excuse. For the longest time, I thought the song was saying that they got married while there was a sickness going around - you know, like scarlet fever - and they'd been thinking about going to Jackson since the epidemic had abated. Well, it made sense to me at the time! What did I know about other kinds of fever? I confess that I didn't listen to the rest of the lyrics, so I wasn't picking up any other clues. I did find it curious that they'd gotten married while everyone was so sick, but who am I to question true love.

And yes, I was an adult before I ever really listened to the lyrics and corrected my original impression. I never said I was the sharpest knife in the drawer.

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This morning

I tuned in to listen to C-Span to hear Glenn Reynolds, which was fun. He was on Washington Journal, this morning on the topic of - at least in part - blogging. I was amazed at the lack of knowledge the hosts showed, not because they have a responsibility to know all about blogs, but because their lack of preparedness made the show less than representative or compelling. A little reading up on blogs would have helped a lot. Glenn, of course, did quite well although they didn't ask him much that illuminated the blog phenomenon. He mostly did that himself by adding commentary after answering their questions. I was delighted to hear Scott Ott later; he has a great voice, very clear and easy on the ear. They popped Scrappleface up on the screen for a few seconds, and Scott got a well-deserved plug. Several other bloggers - some quite odd - also called in, and as I was leaving for work Josh Claybourn was talking on the show.

I did send in an email about media bias watching in the blogs, mentioning Media Minded and Rhetorica as well as my own site, but it didn't make it into their show. Because I specifically mentioned my post on fisheries as an example of catching media spin, I linked to Bigwig's post on the fisheries below mine - just in case it did show up online. However, since a lot of you probably won't scroll down to look at the post again, let me link Bigwig here again. His post on the fisheries deals more with the study itself, and is really really good. (Do you think four separate links to the same post indicates just how much I want you to go read it?)

This morning I'm working on a Top Secret Project that may result in my heading off to Radford, VA, sometime in early fall. That would land me within easy driving distance of Meryl, Fred, Bryan, MM & Page, and Mike the Music Man himself. It could fall through, but if something comes of it I'll let you know.

Be back later with more bloggish goodness.

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May 15, 2003


Recently Steven Den Beste admitted he doesn't understand women. He pointed to a photo that does a decent job of explaining the differences, and Mrs. du Toit gets down to the 0s and 1s with a hierarchical vs relational explanation. Even Jim Bowen gets in the game, cheered on by Dodd. But I must say that Dave Barry's explanation via a quite graphic illustration is the best by far.

one evening when they're driving home, a thought occurs to Martha, and, without really thinking, she says it aloud: "Do you realize that, as of tonight, we've been seeing each other for exactly six months?"

And then, there is silence in the car.

To Martha, it seems like a very loud silence. She thinks to herself: I wonder if it bothers him that I said that. Maybe he's been feeling confined by our relationship; maybe he thinks I'm trying to push him into some kind of obligation that he doesn't want, or isn't sure of.

And Fred is thinking: Gosh. Six months.

And Martha is thinking: But, hey, I'm not so sure I want this kind of relationship either. Sometimes I wish I had a little more space, so I'd have time to think about whether I really want us to keep going the way we are, moving steadily towards, I mean, where are we going? Are we just going to keep seeing each other at this level of intimacy? Are we heading toward marriage? Toward children? Toward a lifetime together? Am I ready for that level of commitment? Do I really even know this person?

And Fred is thinking: that means it was...let's see...February when we started going out, which was right after I had the car at the dealer's, which means...lemme check the odometer...Whoa! I am way overdue for an oil change here.

This still cracks me up even though I've read it many times. As they say, read it all. It's scarily true.

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John Hawkins has an excellent post on Social Conservatives. He's not one, much, but thinks there's a little hypocrisy on the right regarding them:

The second and more frequent complaint that I've seen people on the right make about Social Conservatives is that they tell other people how to live & they're "moralizers". Well, who isn't a "moralizer", especially when it comes to politics? If you're a political junky (and many people reading RWN probably qualify), you're taking positions based on morals day in and day out. People don't seem to get this point, especially IMO, Libertarians & people on the right heavily influenced by Libertarian thinking. Many Libertarians seem to be under the incorrect impression that because they have "live and let live" point of view about many social issues, they are not taking moral positions on those issues. But, that is incorrect. For example, if you believe that prostitution, smoking pot, and gay marriage should be legal, then in effect, you don't consider them to be issues of moral consequence serious enough for the government to get involved in. So in effect, you are making a moral judgement by being against getting the government involved.

Disagree about what should be done, but don't get that self-righteous tight-lipped expression and tell me you don't believe in making moral judgments, it's all about live and let live. Honey, that's a moral judgment. And you don't mean it anyway.

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Carnival of the Vain

The Inscrutable American is hosting this week's Carnival of the Vanities.

Guess who's doing the duty for next week?

Yes, that would be me. I don't just welcome entries, I encourage them. (Kevin? Dodd? Bryan? Matt? MM? Vicky? Andrea? Frank? Jimmy? Meryl? CG? Eric? Page? Brent? You know who you are.) All entries due by 6 p.m. Tuesday, May 21.

Expect a return to the classic look.

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Don't know much about fisheries

A huge lead article in today's Washington Post frantically claims that not only have many important fish species been fished down to 90 percent of their 1950 levels, but that this is a major crisis in marine management. It does sound shocking, and from the article it also seems that the researchers did respectable research. It's interesting, though, how the material is presented. The science comes first, the lauds and cautions come next, and not until the 13th paragraph do we see any dissention or context. Even that is presented skeptically:

According to the U.S. figures released this week, American fisheries have been experiencing "steady, incremental improvement," with some species once in trouble now "fully rebuilt" and scores of other species "recovering." But the Canadian report calls into question the meaning of those terms. Is it fair, some experts asked, to call a population "rebuilt" when it has been restored to the level of a decade ago -- a level already 90 percent below what it was before the trawlers came?

I think the issues raised by the research and the critical evaluation of official pronouncements are valid. But the average person is not up on the whole fisheries and ocean populations thing, which means we can't provide any of our own context. A quick search in WaPo for articles by Rick Weiss, who wrote this piece, shows that he's probably a dedicated science writer, so at least he has some familiarity with science in general but not fisheries specifically. A review of the resume of the lead researcher on the report, Ransom A. Myers PhD, shows that he certainly has an impressive array of publications in the area of fisheries collapse. However, it also shows that part of his funding has come from various "green" groups: Environment Canada, the World Wildlife Fund, and Pew Charitable Trusts, to name a few. Does this taint his research? Not necessarily, but it's not unimportant either - the Pew Charitable Trusts have a section called "Saving the world's oceans" which states substantially the same thing that Myers' research shows. These groups operate on the premise that the fishing is damaging - are they open to considering that it's not that bad? That maybe the numbers are down but on balance the ecosystems are not under serious threat? To what extent does Myers carry that ideology into his own research interpretations?

The main point here is that the research is presented with a big splash in a credulous way without serious consideration of dissenting or moderating views. If the result of the research had been that heavy fishing in the oceans had not created a problem, would it have gotten the same splash? Would it have taken 13 paragraphs to get to seriously dissenting views? Would the story then have been, "What is up with these doomsaying environmental groups"? I doubt it.

I'm not saying the research isn't accurate, and it's possible we are facing a marine crisis. But the way this article is presented, I'm not convinced.

UPDATE: Bigwig has a really excellent post on this article as well, complete with graphics. I highly recommend that you check it out.

Posted by susanna at 01:44 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 14, 2003

How much does motive matter?

On May 4, early in the morning, a man she brought home from a frat party raped 18-year-old Western Kentucky University student Katie Autry* while a friend of his stood by watching. The man, who police say was 21-year-old Lucas Goodrum, then tucked blankets around the sprinkler system, sprayed hairspray on Katie's chest and groin, set her dorm room on fire and left her to die. She was rescued before the fire killed her, but she suffered third- and fourth-degree burns where Goodrum sprayed her with the hairspray - an accelerant - and three days later she died of her burns.

Just today reports have surfaced that another young girl, this one 17, showed up late in the evening on May 3 at the police department in her hometown near Bowling Green, where WKU is located, and reported that Goodrum had assaulted her with a cell phone in his apartment. In a congratulations ad Goodrum's mother took out in the local newspaper when he graduated high school in 2000, she said, "We have...been through a lot of trying times..."

Goodrum and his alleged accomplice, Stephen Soules, 20, have been arrested.

On Wednesday, April 23, Robin Edwards, 37, took the day off work to attend to "personal business". He went to the babysitter's, picked up his three boys - Bradley, 9, Ryan, 7, and Kyle, 5, took them to his rural home, lined them up and shot them one by one. He then killed himself. Police were alerted when the boys' mother, Edwards' estranged wife, called them frantically searching for her children. The article said:

As recently as Tuesday night -- less than 24 hours before the killings -- Edwards watched his boys play a spirited game of baseball with friends as he sipped a beer and talked calmly to neighbors.

On May 10, in Tyler, Texas, Deanna LaJune Laney, 38, allegedly killed two of her sons, Joshua Laney, 8, and Luke Laney, 6, and injured their 14-month-old brother, Aaron, who was in critical condition Monday. And this is how:

In a call to emergency workers early Saturday, Laney reported that she had just "bashed their heads in with a rock," Sheriff J.B. Smith said.

When they arrived at the home, sheriff's deputies found Joshua and Luke dead in the yard wearing only their underwear, large rocks on top of their bodies. Aaron was found in his crib with a pillow over his face, alive but bleeding.

Laney supposedly said God made her kill her children, and several accounts portray her as dissociated from reality. Laney's attorney is considering using a defense similar to the one used for Andrea Yates, who killed her five children last year.

Three very different cases, but all equally horrific. Where did the behavior come from? Who is more culpable? What should happen to them (or should have in Edwards's case, had he lived)? And why?

I'm interested in your thoughts.

* I attended WKU, which is one reason I'm interested in this case. Also, I know from a variety of sources that while Katie had gotten into wildness at WKU, she was essentially a sweet and pretty girl lacking in self-confidence, who'd had a difficult life. What Goodrum did no woman deserves, but Katie was particularly vulnerable and needy. It just seems such a betrayal, similar to taking the life of a young child.

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Outdoing Andrea

Andrea Harris put a pot on to boil and neglected to turn on the stove.

Andrea, I can do you not just one but many better.

When I left Kentucky I forgot my keys: car key, house keys, office keys, you get the idea. I had duplicates of the house and car keys so that was okay. I called my parents and told them to mail me the key ring.

It wasn't until they mailed it that I realized the key to my mail box is...

...on that key ring.


UPDATE: Well, I waited outside my building and waylaid the postman, so I've rescued the mail that was languishing in my mailbox. Unfortunately my keyring was not one of the things in it, so now I have to drive to the post office and fill out a "hold my mail" form with signature (they wouldn't let me do it over the phone because "it has to have a signature!"). I hope it gets here by Saturday so I can go back to what passes for normal. Sigh.

Posted by susanna at 05:11 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

More NY Times diversity dealings

John Rosenberg at Discriminations has an outstanding post quoting a young minority student at the University of Michigan complaining about the agenda of a NY Times journalist reporting on the impact of affirmative action at the university.

I've taught part-time at universities and community colleges for several years, mostly at Rutgers University in Newark, which has one of the most diverse campuses (read: highest percentage of minorities) in the United States. Several times half or more of my students were black or Hispanic. It's been my experience that there's no difference in ability between groups, but that the white students as a whole had both more confidence in their academic abilities and better training prior to college.

One of my students at Montclair University was a young black man who expressed himself just beautifully in any essays or papers he turned in. When I made a point of calling him aside to compliment him, and encourage him to go to graduate school in whatever discipline he chose, he was quite shy and seemed surprised at the thought that he had the academic ability for graduate school. I thought at the time that it was a shame that such a talented student hadn't had the support he needed to recognize and maximize his abilities. Was his race a factor in why he wasn't encouraged more? Was he not encouraged at home, or amongst his peers? I don't know. But one of the points made by the student who emailed John is an important one to highlight:

...the problems facing Black Americans today are the result of traits of anti-intellectualism that are ubiquitous in African-American culture.

I think that's true. If so-called black leaders would stop trying to protect their constituency's blackness, and instead focused on helping everyone maximize their best talents so they would be successful in whatever field suited them, the black community as a whole would be greatly benefited. But it seems to me that the fact of being black is supposed to be celebrated for its own sake, and any activity that started amongst blacks or is identified as being "black" is thus superior to any other choices. While there have been and are some outstanding black intellectuals, education has not (at least in recent decades) been identified as a "black thing", while vicious amoral black rappers are canonized for their "hip blackness". What is the message to young, intelligent, ambitious black students when highly accomplished blacks like Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell are called traitors to their race because they don't fall in with the political agenda of the "black leaders"? It is that race is the most important part of who you are, and being black is not so much about your skin color as it is about your ideology and dedication to your fellow blacks.

Affirmative action is one of the most public manifestations of that, and I agree with John's emailer that it now causes net damage to blacks. If Jayson Blair had been allowed to get by at the Times just because he was flash and dazzle with a great talent for sucking up, then his failure would not reflect badly on other black journalists. Expressly because his race played a role in his treatment, it means that black journalists have to work that much harder to prove that they are where they are because they're good, not because they are black.

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Eric Lindholm finds the NY Times admitting a mistake in the Blair story. You just hate to snicker, but...

Aw, why not. Eric makes it easy.

Posted by susanna at 03:14 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The joys of NYC

Sasha slams NYC's rent control system, and Brendan Miniter at OpinionJournal backs her up with a lot of pithy things to say.

The cost of housing in this part of the country is amazing. I have a third-floor walkup apartment with about 600 sq feet in a town next to Newark - a working-class town with a lot of first generation immigrants - that costs the same in monthly rent as my brother's 4-bedroom bungalow in Kentucky with a yard and basement. That's 8 miles from Manhattan. An apartment of an equivalent size in Manhattan would cost in the thousands. In my own apartment building, I'm the only person living alone - there's one older couple, three families of three and one apartment with three single guys. Living alone in an apartment the size of mine in Manhattan would be unusual too, in a working-class neighborhood.

And Miniter is right that even the grocery stores have higher prices - a box of clementines that costs $12 in Manhattan goes for $8 in my grocery store. Meat and produce are incredibly fresh and cheap if you're willing to travel to Chinatown to buy it, and you can find variety there and at the Union Square Farmer's Market that you'd be hard pressed to match on the Jersey side of things. But who wants to travel 45 minutes each way by subway to haul back bags and bags of groceries every few days?

There's a lot to love about NYC, but nothing (IMHO) that can't be gleaned in a nice week-long vacation there twice a year. Other than that, the fly-over states have it beat no question.

Posted by susanna at 03:01 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Journalism's Believability Crisis

Most of you have likely read the New York Times article on Sunday that outlined all of Jayson Blair's transgressions, complete with Howell Raines' whiny justifications and publisher Albert Salzberger Jr.'s stiff "no scapegoating here!" refusal to hold his organization accountable for its complete breakdown re: Blair. Of course they didn't admit that Blair got by at least in part because he's black, but then they didn't have to make that point - Mickey Kaus and Andrew Sullivan and Heather Mac Donald have made it for them.

On Sunday, Poynter Institute posted a discussion of the Blair debacle by an ethics panel, and reading their comments led me to question whether the behaviors that in Blair ran rampant aren't fairly ubiquitous in the media - just rarely found in one person at such volume. In fact, Poynter's Kelly McBride pretty much says they are:

Examine the specific sins of Jayson Blair and you will find the common transgressions of everyday journalism.

She follows that with a list of several of his most egregious actions - filing a story with a dateline when he didn't go to the town indicated, describing scenes using photographs as the source to make it seem he'd been there, "borrowing" details from other publications, and others. She's quite forgiving of these transgressions, not by Blair but rather by journalists in general. She doesn't say they're right, she just either explains how they can be legitimate mistakes or differences in style or just the result of a journalism culture that makes unreasonable demands on its members. It seems she's genuinely distressed by the behaviors, but thinks the answer isn't a shift in emphasis to eradicating these behaviors, but rather having a less intense atmosphere and less stigma when people need time off to take mom to the doctor.

In one sense, she's right - I think a lot of the problem has to do with the culture of journalism, all twisted together with the demands of business and the same arrays of favoritism and PCism that attacks other businesses.

A journalist's value is measured by number of column inches published, amount of stir his work causes, and the extent to which he scooped the competition. The more manhours reporters put in, the more articles they'll produce and the greater the potential that The Big Story will be found. The pressures can be very intense, not just in the job but out of it. Journalists, like police officers, are always on the job even when they're off-duty - if something happens, no matter what they are expected to go. But journalists are also like actors in that everyone thinks they can do what journalists do, so there's an endless supply of people wanting the jobs and thus even very good talent often starts off at extremely low pay. You're hungry to move up, and the way you move up is to have more, bigger, splashier articles. If you have resumes from someone who produces 100 column inches a week with 5 errors, and someone who produces 60 with no errors, you're going to see the heavier producer as the better candidate - because errors aren't a deal-breaker in most situations, especially if offset by sufficiently impressive output otherwise.

Another issue is who journalism attracts. Anyone who's worked as a journalist knows the rush of being on the inside, being in the know when everyone else has no clue. You're there on election night, you're the one who actually interviewed this important person, you were the only one the police allowed behind the "Do Not Enter" tape, you're the one who brought down this politician or that corrupt business. It's heady, and easy to forget that you're dealing in lives. Making an article more interesting, breaking a story sooner, impressing your bosses and colleagues, all become more important than keeping faith with the people you're reporting about or quoting - or even keeping faith with your audience. Too often journalism draws in people who are wild for that rush, and let the responsibility end of it come crashing down.

Journalism is also a business. If your newspaper or television station is known as the one that always has the story, that translates into more revenue - which leads to compromises like those made by Eason Jordan and CNN. You're also going to go after the hotshot reporters who write with flare, who always seem to be on the trail of the next big story, who produce and produce so you don't have to hire as many other reporters. And you're going to turn a blind eye to many of that reporter's faults until the pain begins to outweigh the gain. Unfortunately for the NY Times and its faithful readers, Howell Raines and his minions have a high tolerance for pain and judge gain using criteria such as race and flattery quotient rather than integrity and accuracy in reporting.

And that highlights what McBride and, apparently, a lot of others in the journalism business don't quite get: The fact that a lot of Blair's behaviors are common in journalism isn't a mitigation for those who engage in them at lower levels, even if only through sloppiness or poor training. It is, rather, an indictment of the current state of journalism that those behaviors are not universally and assidiously rooted out.

I worked as a journalist for four years at small newspapers, mostly weeklies. While it wasn't the intense pressure of a big-city daily, it had pressures of its own - one of them being that I saw every day in the community the people I covered. That's where you learn that you have a responsibility to be accurate and to realize that every article you write has an impact on every person mentioned in it. They know if you're telling the truth in both facts and intent. I get tired of the media navel-gazing about what media management is or isn't doing, what slips reporters are allowed to make, what compromises are acceptable and what aren't. The bottom line is this: Don't claim you're telling the truth unless you really are. That's it. And if your reporters make many many mistakes, well, a corrections Hall of Shame published right across from the editorial page in every single issue will help fix along. It matters because you owe it to the people who trusted you to tell their story.

Journalists are human. They make mistakes. But there's a huge difference between making mistakes because you're human and accepting a whole array of at best sloppy and at worst deceptive behavior as the price of doing business. This comment from McBride serves as an example of what I mean:

The Internet and newspaper databases allow a reporter to download the work of others into word-processing files that can be mistaken for genuine notes or intentionally cribbed.

I've worked as a journalist and I'm now moving into an academic career, both jobs requiring a lot of research and writing. From that perspective I say to her that there is no excuse for mistaking someone else's work as your notes! That's pretty much what Doris Kearns Goodwin did too, isn't it? Of course it is. How hard is it to set up a separate computer document for material someone else has done? If you were going to print it out, then you print it on a different color of paper. If they're handwritten notes, then you take the notes on different colored notepads, or use different colored pens, or use some standard method of distinguishing them.

The things McBride highlights - and Blair did - are fixable to a large degree, but it seems too often media takes a Ford Pinto approach. It's easier to look sorry for the few times you're caught in egregious mistakes than to do the work and spend the money to keep those from happening.

Blair isn't the first to do this, and he likely won't be the last to try it. In the final analysis, what's so problematic about this case is that there weren't just warning flags but huge warning carpet bombs that were ignored by the top management for reasons having to do with valuing ego, raw productivity and liberalism over integrity. And then journalists like McBride step in to serve as worried apologists (although she would not see herself as one). I didn't mention the contributions by Poynter's Bob Steele or Pam Johnson, because basically the two of them say the same thing - yeah, journalism is screwed up ethically, but a few more Poynter seminars will fix that. Neither one of them said what needed to be said: The NY Times needs a major housecleaning to regain its credibility, and so does journalism as a whole.

And that's the real believability crisis - not Jayson Blair's behavior, but what his behavior and the reaction of the journalism world reveals about journalism itself. It doesn't inspire confidence.

Note: This doesn't really fit in the body of the post above, but I want to make it clear that I do think there are hundreds, even thousands, of journalists who do work with integrity and do their best to keep the faith with their sources and readers. And the bulk of articles printed each day are mostly accurate in both facts and intent. But there's a significant part of the journalism culture that operates against that, and we've seen now that integrity as a defining principle is not given much weight even in the highest circles of journalism.

Posted by susanna at 11:00 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Good news

The PhD Committee at my school met last week and, I found out Monday, passed my core area proposal "as is". This is a very happy thing. The proposal I submitted last spring (which was admittedly somewhat slapdash) was not approved, not even with changes. The PhD Committee has appointed a Core Area Committee for me, which means they've assigned three professors to fine-tune the bibliography I submitted if they think it's necessary. Those three professors will then officially accept the proposal, and when I think I know the material well enough, they'll write a question for me to answer using the materials. I'll take the question and all my references into a room with me, and be locked in with a computer for 8 hours to answer the question, with a limit of 20 pages. Then the Core Area Committee will grade it. When I pass that core area exam, I'll be one step away from ABD (All But Dissertation) - and I hope to pass that stage, defending my dissertation prospectus, during the fall semester. Very cool.

Posted by susanna at 10:56 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

May 13, 2003

Good suggestions for Muslims

I've linked Fatimah at Disaffected Muslim before, and she's recently posted a lot more excellent discussions. Specifically, I recommend you read her posts on how Muslims need to approach PR (and how they do it badly now), a glossary of Muslim terms that don't mean what you think they do, and a list of Muslim double standards that also make it difficult for them to integrate into American society.

From the Double Standards post:

Some examples of what I mean:

...Hand-wringing over whether Muslims are discriminated against or have their beliefs denigrated, contrasted with total indifference to what Muslims do to others, whether attacking others or discriminating against them or inciting hatred towards them (the infamous Nazi-levels of Jew hatred thoughout the Arab world and even in the West, ignored by organizations like CAIR while getting very upset by any criticism of Islam or Muslims, even when the person in question is a convicted terrorist or murderer)...

This one is one of my pet peeves -- Christian fundamentalists or evangelicals are excoriated as being the most unenlightened brutes on earth for their views (anti-abortion, the importance of religion in daily life, the missionary activities, etc.), trying to force their religion and beliefs on everyone else, while Muslims, who have similar or more extreme views and who also feel the need to proselytize endlessly, are given an absolutely free pass, even praised for their "diversity."

From the post Muslim PR:

...CAIR and other Muslim groups in the US seem to be going out of their way to be as offensive as possible, making me wonder if they actually understand American values and viewpoints. For example, they constantly use the "victimization" claim, about how they are being looked at funny and discriminated against, as well as more general complaints about how "the West" has horribly victimized Muslims for hundreds of years. Although this kind of complaining may play well among the politically correct, it will not get you very far with most Americans, who hate whiners and those who blame everybody but themselves for their problem. Also, holding on to 500-year grievances is generally not considered a productive use of one's time or energy.

It's good stuff, and with her knowledge of Islam she makes convincing arguments with historical examples. Fatimah is an American, previously an atheist, who converted to Islam and still is somewhat ambivalent about it. She also ruminates on why she chose to convert.

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May 12, 2003

Women in the military

Dean Esmay has asked women visiting his site to discuss whether women should serve in direct combat roles in the military. I suggest you read the comments thus far, which are quite thought-provoking. Men aren't allowed to comment there (but you can here).

Of course I do have a few things to say.

First, I think that objective baselines should be set for the physical requirements necessary to do each military combat task optimally - not marginally, not just enough - and then every soldier assigned that task should have to meet those requirements. No fudging to give women a better shot at it. Until that method is followed without compromise, women should not be in direct combat roles where those baselines make a difference. Can women be fighter pilots? Absolutely, that's not something where brute strength is an overriding factor. Can they be Special Forces? That's a lot more iffy. (Incidentally, I think the same should be true of any other government agency, like fire and police. You should have to be able to physically do the job without compromising before you're allowed into the agency.)

I do believe that women and men are fundamentally different emotionally and physically, but I believe that difference is on a continuum with quite a bit of overlap in the middle - i.e. some men are very nurturing, some women would be more than happy to eat their young, and I'd be surprised to find any point on the continuum without at least one member of both sexes on it. But I think if you plotted men and women on the same "nurture" chart the peak for women would be much more to the nurture end than the peak for men. I don't think that's fully determined by culture or training either. And that does have an effect on military service. I would not advocate the draft for women for that reason; I don't think many women are either physically or emotionally constituted to be highly successful warriors, although some are most decidedly both. A woman with the right mindset and physical prowess would make a fantastic warrior. But she will always lose in hand-to-hand combat with a man with similar training who is larger than she is. If women are in combat positions, they would have to be trained to compensate for that fact. For that reason - and others - I think women-only direct combat units would be preferable, but I'm open to discussion on that.

The issues of women killed en masse and women held as POWs are where the most difficult part of the question is for me - and I don't know the answer. A woman knowingly takes that risk, just as a man does. However, I think torture and rape as a woman POW would be different from that inflicted on a man. Men are harmed psychologically, and certainly they are susceptible to rape too. I don't minimize that. But it gets back to the emotional differences between men and women. It's a tough one to call on a collective basis.

I think too that we as women judge this issue through the lens of our own femininity. While I'm very independent and inclined to think I know how things should be done, at the same time I very much appreciate the differences between men and women and like a man who opens doors and feels at least a little protective of the women in his life. Just because I can handle the rough edges of life doesn't mean I necessarily want to. So that mentality plays into how I see women in the military - at least to the extent that it clouds my ability to see it dispassionately. Can a man treat a woman as a unisex comrade on the field of battle and then open doors for her and admire her womanly attributes when they're off duty? Some women don't want that kind of attention (men as protectors), so should I speak for them? It's a quandary.

What do you think?

Posted by susanna at 01:59 PM | Comments (20) | TrackBack

Back to the big lights

I'm back in New Jersey after a long but not too annoying journey from Kentucky. It was a great vacation, too short, and I have lots of photos to share once I get them downloaded from my new most excellent digital camera. I'm a menace with it - my brother already threatened to take it away from me.

Posting will likely be light today too as I get back on top of things at work and get unpacked at home. As per usual, my luggage is packed far too tight for normalcy, this time including about 25 paperback books either loaned to me or purchased at Joseph-Beth Booksellers in Lexington or at the Thrifty Bookworm, my favorite used bookstore in Lexington. I also have two cross-stitch projects packed, a crochet project, several movies and DVDs and...and...and... I'm tired just thinking about it. All will have to find their usual homes before I get back to posting regularly - which should be no later than tomorrow.

Posted by susanna at 12:48 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

May 09, 2003


Remember the post from yesterday? Surely you do, it's right below this one. It gives the tale of two women with very different families and histories, and asks the question, are we a product of nature or nurture? Well...

It's all about me.

That's right, both "histories" are factually accurate and both describe me, my family, my personal history, my ancestors and childhood associates. I'm always up for a good discussion of nature vs nurture - just ask my former students, poor things - but the point here was about how someone can cherrypick amongst a group of facts about a person or situation and shape articles or stories that are factually accurate yet very different and possibly misleading. Certainly we tend to include facts that are relevant to what we are trying to convey - for instance, if you were doing an article on eastern Kentucky mountain history, a lot of the information from the second section wouldn't be useful. But who decides what's relevant? How do you couch the information? I wrote the first section to be a bit dark and dramatic; I wrote the second one to give a gilded edge to the life described. Neither image is completely accurate taken as a whole. And often what you leave out is as important for perspective as what you leave in.

Journalists do a lot of cherrypicking; their training is mostly about what to cherrypick, and how to present it. Two people good at cherrypicking and writing could write a completely factual piece on the same person and it read like two different people - because the perspective about what's important, and how to present it, is so different. It's only over time with the same writer or the same newspaper that you begin to get a feel for who to trust - who's going to put together an article that is not just accurate, but fair and honest in both content and intent.

So who guessed it was me all along?

Posted by susanna at 08:05 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

May 08, 2003

A good question

Her great-grandmother chewed tobacco she raised herself, a great brown twist she kept in her apron pocket. Two of her grandparents came up from hardscrabble lives, one without even the wherewithal to have an outhouse, much less indoor plumbing. Her parents lived most of their lives within a few miles of where they – and she – were born, growing a big garden and getting meat from animals her father shot. One great-grandfather was chased out of his home county for stealing, and served time for running moonshine; her grandfather shot a man in a gunfight where three men died, in broad daylight in her hometown, long before she was born. She spent her childhood playing in the creek, making mudpies and swinging from the homemade swing her dad hung from the big tree in their yard. Her class had the poorest record of any in her school, and she beat the odds by being in the 50% of her freshman class who actually graduated high school. By that graduation, four of her six closest elementary school friends were married with babies, not always in that order. She drifted through this school and that school, moving at will, not owning a great deal, never really settling. By the time she was forty, several classmates or childhood playmates had led or ended interesting lives; one girl married and divorced twice before she was 20, another widowed by 18 and remarried twice more by 25. In just one family of cousins, one disappeared, likely dead in a strip mine pit at the end of a short but wild life; another dead of cancer, a third in a car accident. Another cousin was killed by “persons unknown” – but “people he owed money” were suspected. A childhood friend sat in prison, sentenced for having a meth lab. She had never been in real trouble herself, but sometimes she counted the ones she knew who were, and wondered where the difference was.


Her great-grandmother was a lady, a pillar in the community, living in a house in town with landscaping and a rock fence in front. One great-grandfather was a circuit judge, another a prominent businessman, a third the head of the local school board. All four of her grandparents had college degrees, in a time when that meant something, and her parents had their degrees as well, which led to long distinguished careers in education. Every year the family traveled in the eastern United States – to Florida beaches, to Colonial Williamsburg, on a jaunt through Canada. She graduated top of her class in elementary school, tenth in her high school class, and earned degrees from several colleges. She worked with politicians, and earned awards as a writer. The friends of her youth became teachers, doctors, even one a veterinarian. She and her siblings all had graduate degrees, and lived happy productive lives. Her cousins were teachers, lawyers, even one interior designer. She had no one to visit in prison. By the time she was 40, she was nearing one of her long term goals, her friends much in the same place in life as she, and while nothing is ever easy, nothing was really bad either.


Did the early lives and ancestors of these women have much to do with the lives they built themselves? To what extent are we a product of where we come from?

Posted by susanna at 02:52 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

May 06, 2003

A few words on Bill Bennett

Most of you know by now that Bill Bennett, who set himself up as the standard bearer for virtuous behavior, has been a high-stakes gambler for many years - the same years he was urging the rest of us to make the sacrifices necessary to be virtuous ourselves. While I tend not to spend much time following the teachings and pronouncements of public moralists, from what I knew of Bennett he had a lot of good things to say. The recent revelations about his behavior don't mean what he had to say is now empty of whatever truth it had before the revelations. But it does mean that his own credibility is basically gone, and those who are always lying in wait for ones who set a high moral standard and fail to meet it are now savaging not just Bennett but moral people and standards in general. Michael Kinsley is just one example.

Bennett initially tried to defend his behavior by saying that gambling isn't wrong.* To me, that answer immediately revealed the extent to which he truly is addicted to it - not because it is obviously a lie, but rather because whether or not he does believe it's wrong, both gambling in general and the lavish way he went about it are antithetical to the message he was spreading across the country. And even if he thought it was fine to do, and (as is apparently the case) he was able to do it without harming his family's finances, he knew that a major percentage of his regular audience of religious people would find it at best inappropriate and at worst rampantly sinful. In essence, he paid for his gambling with money from people who thought it wrong, and did so knowing they thought it was wrong and would not support him if he revealed his behavior. So he was knowingly living a lie by keeping it hidden, which is as great a wrong as the gambling itself even for those who believe gambling is a sin. He is, plainly, a hypocrite, and I think comparable to Jesse Jackson and his out-of-wedlock child in this instance.

What is saddest about this is that now others who carry a message similar to Bennett's good virtue recommendations will have to deal with the cynicism and disdain that rightly belong to the man, not the message. A moral truth is no less a truth because someone who espoused it failed to live up to it. It's always a mistake to follow a person rather than seeking what truth is behind their message - and that's true in all endeavors, not just in morals and religion. Humans will always, at some point, fail to meet their standards unless their standards are so low that breathing accomplishes it. The higher the standard, the more frequent and often the more spectacular the failure. I don't think that a goal of treating all members of our society as equally valued should suffer because Jesse Jackson is a hypocrite. I don't think the goal of seeking virtue over vice should should be emptied of value because Bill Bennett is a hypocrite. But the biggest lesson, for me at any rate, is the value of living your life honestly and openly - especially being honest with yourself, which I struggle with. It's hard to be cold-eyed about your own failings, but it is a moral victory to see your faults and struggle to improve your record at meeting your standards. Bennett failed at this most essential of moral lessons, at least until now - what he does in the next while will show whether he truly has good character at his core.

* Note about gambling: I don't want to use this blog to be preachy at all, but I did want to add a few thoughts in here. I personally think too many people identify things as sinful or wrong behavior more on the basis of the behavior's potential to go there, rather than the behavior itself. Gambling is an example. I don't think it is on its face wrong. What makes it wrong is when someone neglects other obligations (like supporting his family) to do it, when they lie about it, or when they get caught up in the other kinds of vices that often accompany it. I believe a number of behaviors are clearly identified as sinful in the Bible, but it's a low percentage of all possible behaviors. It's a matter of understanding the principles of what makes behavior wrong or right, and Bennett is being disingenuous when he is saying gambling isn't wrong and he didn't say it was wrong. He violated any number of principles in pursuing gambling, because of the context of how he did it and the extent he did it. There aren't many behaviors that can't be done in such a way that they become wrong, including such usually laudable things as giving to charity and teaching morality. But that means there's no easy path to the right thing, doesn't it?

Posted by susanna at 08:33 AM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

The only sounds...

It's after midnight. The house is quiet. The steady watery rush of the swollen creek across the field from my parents' house is all that's left of the day's heavy rains. Night creatures add a chorus of whirrs, chirps and insistent burring, but softly as if the darkness lowered its conductor's wand...softly, softly. I shift in my chair at the computer, and the creak of the reed seat sounds in sharp contrast; the clacking of computer keys is an intrusion, but at the same time almost inspiration. The mind is released from the rushing stream of information that daylight and modern life bring.

I wonder sometimes what this world would be like if everyone were cloaked in this gently textured darkness while they slept. No horns blowing at 2 a.m., the whirs not cars but insects, no reminders of what awaits when the sun reaches out again. Some tasks are better for such peaceful surroundings, but maybe some are better for the frenetic pace of a place that never sleeps. If that's true, I'm glad there are those who prefer it, because I know I never will.

Posted by susanna at 12:50 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 05, 2003

Wouldn't you know

Here I get Instalanches two days in a row and I'm not even posting! Oh, well. Storms knocked out my parents' Internet access for most of the day, and I'm not feeling well enough to fight this dial-up connection to go hunting for news anyway now that it's back up. I'm about to go into town (12 miles away, 1700 people) to get cough syrup and sewing supplies - I'm making a princess play outfit for my 3-year-old niece, and a little play quilt for my 9-mo-old niece. Priorities, you understand.

Actually, I read Glenn's post, and was glad to see the actual quote he referred to because it does precisely what I think needs to be done - doing a real comparison of corrections of Blair's vs others at the Times. But it doesn't go far enough to give real comparability - you also have to consider stage of career and types/severity of corrections. I may have to buy a Weekly Standard when I get the cough syrup...

Speaking of medicine, the best thing I've done so far for my cold is also the grossest thing I've self-inflicted as an adult - snorting very warm salt water. Did that make you nauseated? It's great. Just don't do it when anyone is in the room with you. At this rate I'll be well oh... by maybe June. Sigh.

Oh, and I'm still pondering the whole computer fix thing, but THANKS for all the suggestions, they are helping tremendously.

Off to Wal-Mart now. Do you think they'll have Weekly Standard?

Posted by susanna at 02:13 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

May 04, 2003

This is not fun

Gremlins are pounding on my right temple with vicious little mallets and I'm ending Day 4 of "almost too sick to think". I'm at a better computer now, at least since I rebooted after noticing the system was down to 6% of resources, but I don't promise that will mean more posting. Hopefully tomorrow I will return from the edge of insanity (no comments from the peanut gallery please). Also, does anyone know if you can add RAM to a Celeron computer?

Posted by susanna at 07:18 PM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

A bit too dismissive

Glenn Reynolds is dismissive of my sense that affirmative action is a part of the reason for Jayson Blair’s spectacular failure at the NY Times – first a history of having many corrections on his stories published, some very substantial, and then finally the charge of plagiarism that resulted in his resignation. Specifically, Glenn says that:

Well, maybe -- but I seem to recall seeing a post somewhere to the effect that Johnny Apple had an even higher percentage of corrections. So maybe the problem goes deeper.

This characterization is both inappropriate and exactly right for two different reasons. First, it’s inappropriate because R.W. “Johnny” Apple is a prominent and (in some quarters, anyway) respected journalist, and was even 20 years ago when I was in journalism school; to equate him logically with Blair, we would have to consider only the first years of his career as Blair is only four years into his own – seven if you count his college years. Did Apple get away with that many corrections then? But it’s also appropriate because if he does get away with that many corrections now, maybe that’s a sign of another kind of favoritism. Maybe “he’s a good horse that ran well, now that he stumbles we can’t put him out to pasture” is the attitude, especially if the mistakes he makes are all in the direction of the impression the NY Times wants to make (such as when William Powers called him the “most famous quagmirist” in writing about the Iraq war, as Glenn linked here). If that's the case, and the NY Times runs its news division based on various types of favoritism these days, that's just one more reason to dismiss their claims of being the best newspaper in the country.

As for “I seem to recall seeing a post somewhere to the effect …”, that needs a little attribution to get my attention. Context is everything in such matters. After all, I seem to recall seeing a post somewhere to the effect that Glenn Reynolds puts puppies in blenders.

Affirmative action is a difficult thing, and my current view on it is that it was something necessary at one time that has so far outrun its usefulness that it has become collectively harmful to those it’s supposed to help. I think it’s likely that somewhere along the way Condi Rice got a leg up because of her race; I would be the first in line to say that she is a remarkable woman that deserves to be just exactly where she is; that’s one of probably thousands or millions of instances where attention to race resulted in the right thing happening. I also know personally of numerous cases of minorities who have used their race as a tool to gain undue advantage.

I don’t know if Jayson Blair rose to the top because he was a hot-shot reporter or because he was a black hot-shot reporter. But given the context of his situation, I still think the latter. I’d like to see the statistics for corrections run in the NY Times by reporter, and compare that to Blair’s record. Even if race was an issue, I don’t think Blair’s situation means that all or most or even many minority journalists don’t deserve to be precisely where they are. But to dismiss the possibility out of hand that it is an issue here is precipitent.

UPDATE: Media Minded, an authentic-been-in-the-industry-eons journalist (heh, MM, I said you were old) has a few comments on the Blair situation, including a lot of good links. And no, I'm not linking him because he linked me. MM is always solid in media blogging; he's the first place I look when I hear about some new thing happening in the world of journalism.

Posted by susanna at 07:13 PM | Comments (20) | TrackBack

May 03, 2003

Hello from Kentucky!

Yes, I'm in God's country. Couldn't mention it before because it was a surprise for my mom, who's birthday is next Wednesday. You never know when she might read my blog! There will be posting, but how much depends on what's going on and the speed of the computers available. Right now I'm using one that takes about, oh, 100 minutes to load a page (ok, maybe 100 seconds). Enough to make me nuts since I'm used to DSL or LAN.

The trip down took me 7 hours, although I flew - and flight time totaled 2 hours. Long story, I'll share later, but it included walking several blocks in the rain without an umbrella in Manhattan, and an hour sitting nodding asleep in the plane sitting on the tarmac at La Guardia. Got in last night at midnight, and all I can say is I'm glad I wasn't quarantined for SARS, as much as I was sneezing and generally being the passenger you DON'T want to sit beside. On the bright side, I've been to Wal-Mart twice already, so life is good.

I've also gotten sicker (imagine that) so I'm taking naps every few hours. This is a very weird and noxious cold, dragging on much longer than usual. Sigh. Anyway, I'll be socked away in the wilds of eastern Kentucky for the vast majority of the upcoming week, so I'll be sure to toss in a few posts with a rural theme. Sometime tomorrow I'll share about today's festivities - croquet, mint juleps, and a tea party.

I just took my temperature. It's 100.4. Happy happy joy joy. Good night.

Posted by susanna at 10:38 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Even better post

Yesterday I posted about Jayson Blair, a NY Times reporter who resigned after accusations of plagiarism, following a short career rife with mistakes and published corrections. I asked the question, Was he kept around so long because he's black? Laurence Simon, who has been involved with professional journalism much longer than me, answers "yes", and explains in illuminating detail precisely how the best journalism careers should work, and how Blair likely bypassed it to both his own detriment and that of his newspaper.

Posted by susanna at 09:44 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

May 02, 2003

Just wondering

I learned about this plagiarism brouhaha over at Media Minded:

Jayson Blair, the New York Times reporter who copied portions of a Texas newspaper's story about a woman whose son died during the war in Iraq, resigned under pressure yesterday...

[Howell] Raines said Blair's story last Saturday "incorporated passages from another newspaper's coverage of the family, in Los Fresnos, Tex., and we have been unable to determine what original reporting he did to produce it."

It seems that Blair was not new to difficulties:

Blair, who joined the paper in 1999 and was a summer intern there in 1998, is considered an aggressive young reporter by his Times colleagues, some of whom were shaking their heads at the damage he had inflicted on his career. He has been involved in a number of controversies and the paper has run 50 corrections on his stories.

He's been there four years and has had 50 corrections actually published? It makes you wonder what a reporter with that kind of record is doing at the NY Times - not that a lot of their reporters don't make mistakes, but rather mistakes that rise to the level that the Times was willing to print a correction. He worked freelance at a couple of other big places, including the Boston Globe and the Washington Post, but he didn't finish his degree at the University of Maryland. You don't need a degree to be a good reporter, but to not have a degree or significant experience and get a job with the NY Times? And it's not as if his earlier mistakes were small:

In December, during the police investigation into the Washington area sniper shootings, Fairfax County Commonwealth's Attorney Robert Horan Jr. criticized a Blair story in the Times that quoted unnamed sources as saying teenage suspect Lee Boyd Malvo was responsible for most or all of the 13 shootings that left 10 people dead. At a hastily called news conference, Horan said much of the story was "dead wrong."

Also in December, after Blair wrote a story charging that Kent State University was miscounting its football attendance, university officials accused him of lying. The piece included quotes from Pete Mahoney, the school's associate athletic director, but Mahoney told the Daily Kent Stater that Blair had never contacted him. "Those are not my quotes," Mahoney said.

The Times is right to dump Blair, given his history and the apparently clear evidence in this case. But another good question is: why was he there to begin with? Does it have anything to do with the fact that he's black? It seems highly likely to me that a reporter making such a rapid rise, without a college degree, in the face of such obvious issues with accuracy, must have something going for him other than a stunning way with words.

I don't know that I'm right, but I'm pretty sure I am. I don't like to see this kind of thing, for a couple of reasons. First, working as a journalist can be a crushing pressure at times, especially at the big papers, and it's good to have a little run-up to the Big Leagues to get your craftsmanship and accuracy issues smoothed out. Second, when someone is placed in a position he or she isn't ready for, for reasons outside pure competence in the profession, it intensifies that pressure and also makes it more difficult for others who share the same characteristics (be it race, gender, or whatever the minority of the month is) to win their rightful honor for actually showing professional competence.

I would be very interested to know the hiring history of the New York Times - what percentage of people do they hire at the level of experience and college background of Blair? Of those people, what percentage are minorities? And if they're pitched into that environment ill-prepared, what efforts are made to help them navigate the shark-filled waters?

Maybe Blair's just another Michael Bellesiles or Janet Cook, someone of genuine talent who deserved the position but thoroughly screwed up because of lack of character. But I doubt that's the whole story.

UPDATE: Well, Jennifer Merritt, a woman who interned with Blair, thinks it's star power that dazzled the big papers and let Blair slide through:

...I think that sometimes, star-like qualities, a couple of really good (and probably unproblematic) stories, charisma, and fast-talking can benefit young journalists the same way those qualities benefit CEOs. That wow factor can blind people to even the most obvious and easily-researched fatal flaws, and can make it easier to accept excuses for, say 50-some corrections.

Merritt says that Blair had a history of corrections as an intern at the Boston Globe too. But that still leaves the question open: Would they have fired him more quickly if he was a white male?

Posted by susanna at 02:30 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

I love Australia

The great sportsman Edward Stanley Brown, who played rugby for Australia in the 1920s, was honored by having a grandstand in the local sports stadium in his home town named after him. Now the UN wants the town of Toowoomba to change the name.

Why? Because Brown went by the nickname "Nigger Brown" his entire life, and activist Stephen Hagan is offended by the name "E. S. Nigger Brown Stand" even though "Nigger Brown" is even on Brown's tombstone. He took it all the way through the Australian courts, who tossed him out on his ear, so he took it to the yahoos at the UN.

It's a great story, and you must read it all, but the best is that Hagan is incensed because it's harmful derogatory stereotyping - which doesn't stop him from making his own little aspersions:

He also said Toowoomba was a "redneck" town, pointing to a conservative, elderly population, its rural setting, and the fact its voters support "right-wing politicians ... like [Prime Minister] John Howard."

And Hagan isn't stopped even by the fact that all the Aboriginies in the area - the ones he's "saving" from this indignity - think he's a loon:

Toowoomba's 4,000-strong Aborigine community is not supporting Hagan's campaign, a community elder, Walter McCarthy, confirmed by phone Friday.

He said a community meeting in 1999 had passed a resolution agreeing that the name of the grandstand had "nothing to do with race," and should remain in honor of a great sportsman. That resolution still stood.

Moreover, the heads of 11 regional bodies representing 10,000 Aborigines in the wider Queensland area had discussed the matter, and 10 had agreed the name should stand. The dissenting 11th representative was Hagan himself.

And what did our fine Aborginal activist have to say about that?

Asked about the communal disagreement, Hagan dismissed Aborigines whom he said were too willing to please the establishment.

"We call them coconuts - black on the outside, white on the inside."

Fitting somehow that he found like minds at the UN.

Posted by susanna at 11:59 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Mucho gracias

C.G. Hill of Dustbury, ever generous in word and deed, hit my tipjar to assist with the digital camera purchase I'm contemplating. Mucho gracias, C.G., you're very kind.

Posted by susanna at 10:55 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The British connection

The two terrorists involved in the bombing of a bar in Tel Aviv on Wednesday were traveling on British passports; this article in The Scotsman details who they were and summarizes other British connections to terrorism since 9/11. The headline indicates that the article discusses how they became terrorists, but it doesn't actually do so.

One of the terrorists died along with three innocent victims; Omar Khan Sharif, 27, escaped. Here's more detail from Ha'aretz, and from Sharif's hometown newspaper, the Derby, England, Evening Telegraph.

[Links via The Guardian weblog]

Posted by susanna at 06:22 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Go get 'em!

The Diablogger is a little hot under the collar about a bunch of journalism missteps and idiocy.

Posted by susanna at 05:45 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 01, 2003


Sorry for the light posting, I'm still feeling as if my head is stuffed with cotton balls and my throat lightly sanded; in the last 30 min or so someone has also begun tapping gently but repeatedly with a hammer against my right temple. I'm going on a Secret Mission this weekend, so I'm also cleaning my apartment on the off-chance I go down in some fiery inferno - can't have the police thinking my apartment was ransacked just because I didn't straighten things up. I've switched to decaffeinated tea, and discovered that oatmeal cookies do a fine job of scratching my throat (in a good way - it itches).

And yes, there are changes on the horizon for the blog, more about my attitude than any change in focus. I've been thinking for a while that I've been too caught up in my hit counter, watching to see what gets reactions or hits or if my stats are going up or down. I dearly love writing my blog, but I also have a lot of other pulls on my life that don't just deserve attention but need it if I'm to be successful and healthy. So yesterday I took down the hit counters - all three of them (see? told you I was obsessed) and I already feel better. In a way it's like a fresh start, thinking only about what I want to write about and enjoying the comments you leave without wondering how many of the faceless blog horde is sliding into my port each day. Don't get me wrong - I would love for the whole thundering herd to come through every day. But I don't want it affecting what I write, and it has, not your fault but mine.

I want to do more original stuff like my piece on driving home. I'm getting a digital camera and want to do more photo things. And I'm considering doing some original journalism - interviews, maybe, some research on topics I'm interested in. Sometimes I'll be howling with the blogosphere pack, sometimes I'll be tracking scent on my own. And that's okay too.

So. My next cup of tea is steeping, I desperately need many drugs, and the latest sinkload of dishes seems to have begun loosening its death grip on the yucky gunk on them. Off to experience the latest installment of The Joys Of Being Me.

(I'm not thinking it's going to make it to syndication.)

Posted by susanna at 10:49 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Oh, Lexington! Smoke - but not hypocrisy - free

Lexington, KY, the town where I once lived and may live again some day, is quite the quirky little place. There are pockets of very poor people, an increasing number of Mexican immigrants, and waves of shoppers from eastern Kentucky, many of whom see Lexington as The Bright Lights, and have rarely ventured further from their homes than a day of shopping there. Then you have the super-rich, people who live on multi-million dollar horse farms, who hobnob with presidents, entertain royalty in their homes and - in the case of a certain Middle Eastern sultan - think nothing of rearranging the entire landscape for acres out from the main house to give it a more pleasing aspect. A trip to Paris for them is like a trip to Lexington for some other shoppers.

Then you have the sorta rich and sorta sophisticated, the Junior League crowd, who fly to New York a few times a year to take in a show and that new museum exhibit, the ones who have season tickets to the orchestra as well as prime seats - usually legacy seats - to the UK Wildcat home games. They're lured into thinking they're more sophisticated than the rest of Kentucky because - after all - the horse farms are there, and so much money, why, movie stars come to parties there! It's the professional layer: the brokers, the lawyers, the college professors from UK, the bankers and real estate developers and interior designers. While there are exceptions, many of those in this layer don't mix much with the average middle class folk, of which there are many, people who live in subdivisions on half-acre lots instead of in an Estate subdivision with 10-acre lots and square-foot minimums on the homes as large as some apartment buildings.

I love Lexington. It's quirkiness is part of its charm, as long as you don't get testy about the money thing. The scenery is seriously world-class, and it does manage to have many of the pleasures of a larger city while not losing the accessibility and charm of a smaller town. The biggest problem with Lexington is - it is unrelentingly liberal in local politics. And the biggest annoyance in Lexington is - the local newspaper, the Lexington Herald Leader, an unrepentently liberal rag that would do Howell Raines proud.

The latest kick is local government's efforts to institute a smoking ban in public spaces. You realize that this is the center of tobacco country too, where hulking warehouses line entire streets, once filled with carts and then trucks filled with bales of dark sticky pungent leaves. Tobacco still forms a significant part of the local economy, the source of cash for many of those shoppers coming into the city. I'm no apologist for smoking - I watched my grandfather die from his habit - but in a country where the rights of self-determination are the bedrock of society, it seems out of line to stamp out smoking when people choose it knowingly.

But there it is. And the local newspaper is joining hands with the local politicians to bring it about. Today the H-L - which has a rampantly liberal editorial board - praises the city's vice-mayor for championing the no-smoking rule. The vice mayor is a wealthy man who owns Applebee's restaurants all over the country, some of them in cities with smoking bans. The argument against the ban isn't about rights, no, it's about lowering business revenue - and the vice mayor says it hasn't happened in other cities. And that's when the H-L highlights an argument that shows just how hypocritical this whole campaign is:

"People did not quit drinking because they couldn't smoke," he [the vice mayor] said.

A prime source of money for most restaurants is selling alcohol. Now, if you set them up on a one-to-one basis, which is worse for our country economically, societally, and health-wise: Alcohol or tobacco? Do people go beat up family members once they get a couple of cigarettes into their lungs? Do people drive too fast and take out entire families after smoking a pack at the local bar with buddies? Do people rob, rape, steal or commit murder while under the influence of cigarettes? I've not seen it happen, or heard it reported. And I don't know objectively that this is true, but I'd be extremely surprised to learn that the health consequences for tobacco - counting all supposed second hand smoke risks too - are greater than the direct and indirect health costs of alcohol to our society.

I'm not advocating another alcohol prohibition, although it wouldn't change my life much if we had one. I'm pointing out the hypocrisy of this smoking ban that's sweeping the nation, wiping out even dedicated smoking bars. If ANY of the concerns stated by the liberals - with Lexington here as a microcosm of it - were actually true, they wouldn't be choosing smoking to pick on. Lexington is on board because it fancies itself as The New York City On The Kentucky River, a manifestation of its least attractive feature - a certain smug liberalism that embraces Hillary without doing much to help those liberalism is pledged to serve.

I love Lexington, and I don't like the headaches I get when people smoke around me. They really really REALLY hurt. But it hurts worse to see a city I love sucked into early-stage socialism by liberal politicians and a local paper led by liberal transplants seeking to bring their own values and impose them on the local populace.

UPDATE: And for more goody-goody news - the new mayor, Teresa Isaacs, ran on a "no new taxes" platform. Guess what? Her very first budget she's including a tax increase, but a sneaky one. The local paper criticizes her mildly, but saves its big guns for smacking around councilmembers who don't like having to decide whether to approve it. The editorial is really a bizarre little thing, with the basic feel of, "Yes, yes, it's really bad that the mayor wants to bomb the world, but what really fries us is that the council is balking at having to decide whether to agree with her!" Yeesh.

Oh, and don't miss editorial cartoonist Joel Pett, an ideological soulmate of Ted Rall's. Here's his farewell to Charlton Heston and his view of the freedoms of the US cleverly screened through Iraq's future.

Posted by susanna at 11:16 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Removing obstacles

This is interesting:

Princess Hissa bint Salman inaugurated a center for financial and investment consultancy services to businesswomen here recently. The center will also provide information on the movement of shares at national and international stock markets through a facility to sell and purchase shares...

“We should encourage Saudi businesswomen to invest in the Kingdom before they surprise us by putting their money abroad like some businessmen,” the princess said. “I hope officials will look into the situation of female investors and remove the obstacles they are facing,” she added.

“There are able businesswomen who should be given opportunities, especially in the investment field, within the framework of Shariah, which gives women full rights to manage their wealth independently,” she said.

Sounds like a good idea to me too, but I thought it especially pertinent that Salman made a point to say, it can still fit under Shariah. I would think that increasing power for women in this way will eat away at the traditional second-rank role of women in Saudi society. How can you be a fully engaged and active businesswoman when you can't even drive yourself to where you work? At the same time, it's obvious that Saudi businesswomen are going to do business there or take it elsewhere - they aren't going to hand it over to the men. A struggle between worlds, apparently, and it would appear the more modern approach is winning out. This is a good thing.

Posted by susanna at 10:05 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Just the thing

Finishing a religious fast and need a quick pick-me-up? Getting worn down with door to door evangelizing? Preacher going on too long for your hypoglycemia?

No problem! Just reach for - a Bible Bar.

Posted by susanna at 09:33 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Are we surprised?

The anti-war folks are refocusing, according to Fox News. Are they moving on to protest another war - say, one in Africa? Of course not, because they're not "anti-war", they're "anti-Bush" and this article makes that abundantly clear (not that we didn't already know it):

Anti-warriors say they still have plenty of other targets — the Bush administration's "first-strike" foreign policy, the White House's stance on Syria and post-Saddam humanitarian efforts in Iraq...

United for Peace and Justice (search), insists it is "well positioned" to challenge the "disastrous direction of our government's foreign policy and the misguided and discriminatory domestic priorities of the Bush administration." But it also concedes the movement "faces serious challenges."

..."I think it [anti-war movement] will be visible and I think it will be a force in 2004," said [David] Cortright [president of the security research group Fourth Freedom Forum], adding that many political anti-war groups are "pretty clear they not only want to change the policy but change the policymakers."

And of course they're still deluding themselves:

...some anti-war groups say they were right all along, and that the Bush administration is nothing less than the bully on the international playground.

Uh huh. "Yes! Although all the facts in the case point to the contrary, we were right all along! In fact, the fact that the facts are indeed facts points to our correctness because it shows the level of duplicity!" Magic mushrooms, anyone?

I guess intellectual honesty is too much to hope for.

Posted by susanna at 06:48 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack