Over at ZD: A rumination on blogging and journalism

Nicholas Lemann of The New Yorker has contributed a thoughtful piece to the debate over what a citizen journalism might look like, Amateur Hour: Journalism with journalists. My guess is that the blogosphere will take it badly, minimizing the argument as another “journalism vs. bloggers” rant. It’s not.

The debate is not whether bloggers are journalists, though many believe they are, but whether there is a process, the one professionalized as “journalism,” that is valuable enough to preserve in an era when barriers to communication are radically lowered. As a journalist-turned-turned blogger, I obviously see blogging as a channel for getting ideas out. I also recognize that what I am doing here and on RatcliffeBlog is not often journalistic. In my case, I draw on the rhetorical styles of essay writing much more often in my blogs. As Lemann points out, though, many bloggers mimic what they think is a good lede and call it journalism.

Over the past couple weeks, since the largely pointless blow-up between myself and another blogger on ZD Net, I’ve been thinking a lot about the meaning of what goes on in this genre of writing….

Read the whole thing: » Journalism of all kinds and the process of growing | Rational rants | ZDNet.com

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Roberts and Alito Misled Us

I’ve written about the fact that their first rulings on the Supreme Court show Roberts and Alito Misled Us. Now, Senator Edward Kennedy responds to the gap between the picture presented during the confirmation hearings and the reality of the rulings:

The discussion should start with a few truths. First, any qualified nominee to the Supreme Court will have spent many years thinking about legal issues. We should require that nominees share that thinking with the Judiciary Committee, and not pretend that such candor is tantamount to prejudging specific cases. In particular, the Senate should have the same access to the nominee’s writings as the administration. Second, the Judiciary Committee will need to reorganize the way it asks questions. An in-depth inquiry will require something more than short rounds of questions that pass from senator to senator. Third, we need to remember what this process is all about. It is good to hear that a nominee has a loving family, faithful friends and a sense of humor. It is important to know that nominees possess the intellect, life experience and discipline that make a good judge. But it is essential that we learn enough of their legal views to be certain that they will make good on the simple promise etched in marble outside the Supreme Court: “Equal Justice Under Law.”

A nominee isn’t just a billboard for family values, they are accomplished lawyers and judges who should be willing to frankly discuss their philosophy, their record and the potential impact of rulings on the public.

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Is leaving this page a desecration of the flag

Well, you would be erasing a flag if you leave it, once you are there.

There are lots of practical reasons to destroy a flag, the Boy Scouts cover the steps for destroying a flag. With all the issues facing this country, years of court debates about flag desecration (is anything with a flag on it sacred? do those cheap flags you buy for the lawn need to go in the trash or to a special facility) is so much misdirection from the real crisis. If you hear “flag desecration” is a campaign issue this fall, vote for the other guy, the one who is concerned about real problems.

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Floyd Landis’ testosterone levels

The world seems prepared to accept that Floyd Landis, Tour de France, victor fails drugs test:

Floyd Landis, the American cyclist who on Sunday won one of the most thrilling Tours de France of recent years, could be stripped of his title after a drugs test showed an abnormally high level of testosterone in his body.

However it is not the case that his testosterone level was abnormally high when he was tested, rather the difference between his testosterone and epitestosterone levels is abnormal. He did not test positively for a high level of testosterone, his epitestosterone level is abnormally low. Given Landis’ reliance on cortisone shots to combat the pain in the hip he will soon have replaced and the extraordinary performance he put on the day his test was flagged may account for the weird ratio of testosterone to epitestosterone; the body produces both and cortisone may have changed how Landis’ body.

If he was doping, it’s a terrible day for cycling. The Tour will have to reassess everything before next year. If Landis is going to be crucified for a strange result misreported as an “abnormally high level of testosterone” it will be a disaster for cycling, sport and journalism. We don’t know, yet, what’s going on.

UPDATE: WSJ.com – Tour Winner Floyd Landis Denies Taking Drugs, Does Say He Drank:

The revelation that Mr. Landis was drinking the night before the test could be significant. According to several studies, alcohol consumption can increase the ratio between testosterone and epitestosterone, which occur naturally in the body. Mr. Landis failed the test because it showed an elevated ratio between the two.

According to Mr. Landis, the drinks weren’t part of his usual training. “I don’t ordinarily ever drink alcohol during a race,” he said yesterday. But earlier that day, during Stage 16, Mr. Landis had faded in the Alps, surrendering the leader’s yellow jersey and falling more than eight minutes behind. Afterward, he was all but convinced that the race was over for him. “What would you have done?” he asked. “Until yesterday, that was the worst day of my life.”

He rode Stage 17 with a hangover? Wow, that’s even more amazing.

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King George thought he was above the law

Bush’s Tactic of Refusing Laws Is Probed:

A panel of legal scholars and lawyers assembled by the American Bar Association is sharply criticizing the use of “signing statements” by President Bush that assert his right to ignore or not enforce laws passed by Congress.

The President has decided he is above many of the laws he signs, more than 800 in the past few years.

We live in a nation of laws, having decided some 230 years ago that we would not be governed by men who decided capriciously what would be right and wrong for some, not all, without the say of the people through the debate and passage of laws. If the President cannot sign a law without claiming an exception to it, he should resign the office he holds created by the Constitution passed by representatives of the people, because he has decided not to live by that Constitution.

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In case you hadn’t noticed, we’re evolving

The Washington Post on the wonderfully real process that is producing us: And the Evolutionary Beat Goes On . . .:

The research offers a fascinating snapshot into how the human genome has continued to change as humans adapted to new circumstances over the past 10,000 years. As people went from hunter-gatherers to agricultural societies, for instance, there is evidence of genetic adaptations to new diseases and diets.

Evolution never stopped. We tend to talk about it in the past tense, but we shouldn’t. Unfortunately, bacteria and viruses evolve a lot faster, so we must depend on medical science to keep us ahead of the bugs that can kill large numbers of us—which suggests that scientifically made technology is a new aspect of our evolutionary equation.

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Steal Ben Stein’s Money, mine and yours too

Ben Stein, a conservative and funny man, has a great piece in The New York Times this Sunday, A City on a Hill, or a Looting Opportunity:

Is this America, where far too many of the rich endlessly loot their stockholders and kick the employees in the teeth, the America that our soldiers in Ramadi and Kirkuk and Anbar Province and Afghanistan are fighting for? Is this America, where we will end up so far behind the financial eight ball we won’t be able to see because of mismanagement by both parties, the America that our men and women are losing limbs for, coming home in boxes for?

I suggest you read the whole thing.

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Slaughter on the rise

There is no other definition for what is going on in Iraq now than “civil war.” Since we demanded credit as liberators, we now must admit we delivered Iraq into a vicious self-immolation masquerading as a functioning state.

The Washington Post reports Scores Of Sunnis Killed in Baghdad:

A deadly wave of violence that began early Sunday in a Sunni Arab neighborhood continued throughout the capital Monday, with car bombs detonating near police patrols and gunmen ambushing a commuter bus.

More than 50 people were killed Sunday when Shiite Muslim militiamen descended on the al-Jihad neighborhood after sunrise, residents said, setting up checkpoints, demanding identification cards and bursting into homes to single out Sunni Arabs to kill. Bodies, some of which appeared to have been tortured, were discarded in the streets, witnesses and Iraqi officials said.

Washington needs to acknowledge reality. Simply “staying the course,” whatever that slogan might mean depending on the Bush Administration’s political needs today, is a destructive path for Iraqis and Americans. We need a truly consistent plan for resolving this conflict and the mess we made of a messed-up land.

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Income disparity grows like a well-watered bush

This just in from The Washington Post…. Well-Paid Benefit Most As Economy Flourishes:

Wages are rising more than twice as fast for highly paid workers in the Washington area as they are for low-paid workers, an analysis of federal data by The Washington Post shows.

That means the spoils of the region’s economic expansion are going disproportionately to workers who are already well-paid, widening a gap between rich and poor in a place where it is already wider than in most of the country.

Just pointing out the obvious disparity in the Bush recovery with some more hard data. This disparity is related to so many aspects of today’s challenges to our democracy, from how polarized Congress has become to the difficulties of fixing public education, and much more. The Post continues:

…from 2003 to 2005, the average wage for people in the lowest pay bracket, with salaries around $20,000, rose only 5.4 percent in the Washington region — not enough to keep up with rising prices. For the jobs that pay around $60,000, salaries rose 12.4 percent, well ahead of the 6.8 percent inflation in that period.

UPDATE: And, today there is this…. 2005 Compensation For Top-Earning Executives Grew With Stock Option Awards:

It was another banner year for the Washington area’s highest-paid executives.

The median total compensation for the 100 highest-paid executives at local public companies rose 21.2 percent in 2005, to $6.4 million from $5.2 million the year before. While the median salary for that group increased 4 percent, bonuses climbed nearly 14 percent, the value of the typical stock option grant went up by more than 25 percent, and other forms of long-term compensation leapt by a third.

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