This page includes posts from
August 1-7, 2004 in the usual reverse
order. Each posting on the home page is perma-linked to these
Under normal circumstances I would simply enjoy reading Tom Maguire’s blog posts on presidential stories such as the current who-said-what dispute between the Swift Boat Vets and the Boston Globe.
Considering that at least two of the Vets are from Delaware, however, with George Elliott living only a few miles from the headquarters of Sneaking Suspicions, I’m intrigued enough to make a suggestion to those on both sides of the controversy.
With all due respect, it’s past time for large corporate news organizations such as the Boston Globe to run the following:
There have been far too many examples where those kinds of statements have proven to be woefully short of the truth for anyone to take it seriously.
Instead, the Globe should simply post on their website the complete audiotape of any interviews, if the subjects complain that they were misquoted.
It’s not hard to do, and if the interview subjects know that the tapes will be produced, they also might think twice about making a false claim that they were either misquoted or taken out of context.
On the other hand, if the newspaper balks at posting the tapes and transcripts, then it's fair to conclude that its story is not necessarily reliable.
The other Swift Boat Vets should also learn a valuable lesson from what’s now happening to George Elliott. Any future interviews from any media contacts seeking comment should be taped—by the vets.
It’s not hard. The equipment needed for taping telephone calls is readily available from stores such as Radio Shack, and there’s nothing wrong with insisting on taping any conversation with reporters. They should also be told they’re being taped, with a comment that the tape is for the protection of both parties.
Some reporters might balk, but there’s a simple response to those who object—no interview.
And if the newspaper still screws up the story, the Vets should post their own tapes at their own website.
There’s a lot to be said for transparency. It might even help people and newspapers be a bit more honest.
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My constitutional law professor at American University was a bit conservative, especially when the discussion centered on the First Amendment. If a classmate used the phrase “chilling effect,” that was good for a several minute sermon. We quickly learned that talking about one’s temperature and the Constitution at the same time was not a good idea, both for argument’s sake and frankly as a matter of proper constitutional interpretation.
It appears that at least a few judges on the Tenth Circuit share this practical view, based on a decision issued yesterday.
A sheriff’s management practices in Shawnee County, Kansas, office managed to generate some fairly committed opposition to his continued tenure in his elected post. Several voters began working to obtain signatures for a recall petition.
As if to prove for all concerned that these folks were correct in their assessment, the sheriff then tapped into the Kansas criminal justice record system to check for any records on the petition leaders.
Someone tipped them off. They contacted the local media, and the controversy quickly bubbled over.
The sheriff’s ham-handed tactics apparently had an effect, however, in that the petitioners failed to gather enough signatures to force the recall vote. Nonetheless, a Kansas court eventually ordered the sheriff’s removal from office on other grounds.
The petition leaders sued the sheriff, seeking damages for the alleged violation of their civil rights because of the way he misused his authority to check the criminal history records.
The district court ruled that the sheriff was not protected from liability by qualified immunity, but the Tenth Circuit panel held instead that the facts failed to support a First Amendment claim:
Considering that the sheriff managed to screw himself out of office in any event, I’ll bet that he will nonetheless take some cold comfort from this decision.
On the other hand, it would be perfectly understandable if the plaintiffs felt a bit hot about it.
Someone once figured out that politicians are no different from participants in any other free market. As with any other group, they will seek out ways to maximize their own positions, while reducing opportunities for competitors.
Futzing with the twin requirements of periodic redistricting and raising campaign cash are just two of the many ways in which these folks preserve their advantages.
All the more reason to smile, therefore, when I read this headline from the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel about a decided advantage in fundraising among current members of the Wisconsin legislature:
(Hat tip to Rick Hasen).
That one’s worth at least three Claudes for its sheer obviousness.
There's usually not much funny about a newspaper story that reminds us of the cruelty of nature.
Nonetheless, sometimes you just can’t ignore it when a headline writer misses a golden opportunity.
An online story in today’s News-Journal is a good example.
The actual headline reads,
Apparently frigid water in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Ocean City, Maryland and Fenwick Island, Delaware upswelled into an area teaming with fish. The fish were used to the normal 60 degree conditions, but when the water temperature dropped to 40 degrees they couldn’t handle the change.
At least one estimate is that perhaps a million fish succumbed to the unusual event, with thousands of carcasses now washing ashore:
Now here’s the issue: The fish were croaker.
I am not making this up.
Nonetheless, it certainly raises the question why the newspaper failed to use the word “croak” in the headline.
It would have been a natural choice of terms, under the circumstances.
The folks running the summer screening series for the members of the Rehoboth Film Festival showed two interesting films last night.
The short film, Ocean City [no website found], centers upon a painfully shy young man’s first faltering steps to break away from following his father’s career path. Most of the story takes place along the boardwalk in Ocean City, New Jersey, but other than as the background there doesn’t seem to be any particular reason why the film uses the old beach town as its title. It’s no Atlantic City, in other words, but a pleasant little fable that follows familiar paths.
Burning Annie was the feature film, and most of the audience liked it better than the short. Glenn Reynolds has touted this movie on his site for a long time, and now that I’ve seen it I can understand why.
There is much to like in this comedy about a college student who’s convinced that his rocky romantic history is tied directly to his obsession about Woody Allen's Annie Hall. Several scenes drew immediate bursts of laughter from the audience, but in the discussion afterward the reaction was decidedly mixed. However, the folks that didn’t enjoy it also seemed like those who use the word “cinema” when the rest of us use “movie” instead.
Several scenes reminded me of our college-age daughter and her friends. I think it easily deserves to be shown at this fall’s festival.
I heard this during a pleasant round of golf on Saturday morning:
Makes perfect sense.
Official small print disclaimer: This is, after all, a personal web site. Any opinions or comments I express here are my own, and don't necessarily reflect the official position of my work as a government attorney or any of my clients.
That fact may become obvious later on, but it needs to be said here anyway.
© Frederick H. Schranck 2002-2004