January 14, 2005
A Quick Link for the Sports Fans
|[Posted by ]|
With a big NFL weekend ahead, I thought I'd share a cool link I found through looking at our Site Meter. It's ESPN's Trackback Reports. From the looks of it, this page will give you the last two days of sites that are linking to ESPN.com stories. It's a quick & easy way to check out some amateur sports reporters.
I'm Also A Woman
|[Posted by ]|
So, I was listening to the audio from Charlie Sykes show yesterday. I knew that Kevin from BrainPost mentioned us on the air, but I didn't really know how we came up, so I wanted to listen to the whole show.
Charlie and the bloggers (doesn't that sound like an '00s version of Huey Lewis & the News?) were talking about other Wisconsin bloggers and Kevin was nice enough to mention me and Dummocrats. But then, he said, "I believe she's also a woman." For some reason, that just completely cracks me up.
Yes, I do have an ambiguous first name, but I'd hope readers would catch that I'm definitely a woman. Maybe I need to write less about football and more about shoes. Maybe knowing that these are my latest pair will help confirm who I really am. ;-)
I should say that the Sykes' show was awesome. It was cool to hear some of the bloggers I read everyday and important for the whole community of bloggers to get some publicity. There's still a huge untapped audience for bloggers. The more people who find out about blogs, and no longer need to rely on just the mainstream media, the better. Plus, some of those folks will be inspired to start their own blogs. And the blogosphere is perpetually in need of fresh, new voices.
Are Blogs the Big Media Target of 2005?
|[Posted by ]|
With President Bush safely in office for another four years, the mainstream media's thoughts have turned to another dangerous enemy: the blogger. The Columbia Journalism Review likens blogger's work in RatherGate as "mob rule". ABC News named bloggers their "People of the Year", but failed to mention anything at all about RatherGate. Instead, their short story seemed to focus on blogs more as personal journals and/or tools of political parties. Jonathan Klein famously said, "Bloggers have no checks and balances . . . [it's] a guy sitting in his living room in his pajamas." And now, the Wall Street Journal has joined in, attacking some left wing bloggers for receiving payments from the Dean campaign.
I'm surprised to find myself defending Kos, but I think he's absolutely correct. The WSJ is trying equate the White House's incredibly stupid decision to pay Armstrong Williams with the Dean campaign's early adoption of bloggers. Kos says:
So what's going on? Zephyr is obsessed with imposing journalistic standards on the blogosphere. We can debate the merits of this issue, and good points can be made on both sides (I think it's a dumb idea). But what Zephyr did, and which I find unconscionable, is that she took the Armstrong Williams issue, and made up shit about our involvement with the Dean campaign to score points.
Bloggers are not objective. Who the hell would even want to read an "objective" blog. Bloggers wear their point of view on their sleeves. Kos and Instapundit and other bloggers are debating the issue of disclosure, as in, do bloggers have to disclose whether they're receiving payments from a party or campaign? I think it's completely irrelevant. When you come to a site called "Dummocrats", I think you know where we're coming from. Same with Liberal Oasis or Right Wing News. No one on the internet is pretending to not have an opinion, the way that mainstream media reporters do day after day and night after night.
In the past, I've never bought the argument that the mainstream media's only real bias was for a good story. But, in this case, I don't think we're going to see a bias towards the left or the right. The media will direct its efforts at denigrating all blogs because self preservation trumps all.
In 2004, reporters were shamed by bloggers. Individuals who never went to J-School and who don't have the full force of a news organization behind them were able to uncover stories that paid journalists completely missed. Don't you think that makes them feel inadequate and, dare I say, a little defensive? What do people do when they feel defensive? They strike out. That's what I predict the mainstream media will do in 2005. They'll try to "get back" at bloggers either through unflattering stories or, even more threateningly, by pulling free content from the Internet. CBS News even altered its PDF of the RatherGate report so you could not cut and paste from it, making it more difficult for bloggers to quote from it.
The mainstream media's response to bloggers is strikingly similar to that of the recording industry. Instead of embracing the internet and using it to improve their product, they see it as a threat and want to get rid of it. So, maybe it's not bloggers that they fear after all, maybe what they really fear is change. But, as Confucius said, "Only the wisest and stupidest of men never change." And, I don't think anyone's going to argue that reporters are the wisest of men.
'It looked like he pulled it off an X-wing fighter...'
|[Posted by John Tant]|
The phone rang one Friday night:
"Tant, it's Mace. Hi ya doing?"
Mace is an old friend of mine, a rather soft-spoken former Airborne Ranger and something of a gun aficionado. He's the guy who helped me pick out my first handgun. He also has an odd habit of making the "How" in "How ya doing" sound like "Hi."
"Heya Mace, what's up?"
"I just got a new rifle I think you might like. Come on over tomorrow...You HAVE to try this out."
"Aw, man...I'm supposed to help my wife pick out some window treatments for.....um, I mean, yeah I'll see you tomorrow."
So the next day I get to his place (a rather large spread in a, shall we say, rather rural area) and Mace is carrying a HUGE box. He pulls off the cover and....
You ever see the movie Alien 2? When Ripley has that huge, eff-off gun? Well, Mace's new rifle put a movie prop to shame. The barrel was roughly the same diameter as Kate Moss' neck. On end, it was about a foot shy of my six foot height. It was large. It was heavy. It looked like he pulled it off an X-wing fighter. It was a Barrett M82A1 .50 BMG rifle.
I say "rifle" in the loosest of terms, of course. When you think "rifle," you tend to think of that little .22 your grandfather gave you, or a .30-06 carried by your hunter buddy. However, when you think of a Barrett in no way does the word "little" become at all relevant in the discussion.
"Mace, what IS this?!?"
"Well, I came into a little extra money and decided to treat myself. This thing is totally wang. Check it out."
So we did. We took turns shooting it until we got tired. Although the barrel has a muzzle brake, and the gun is a semi-automatic (both of which help cushion the recoil), we were still a little fatigued after about an hour of shooting (It was how you feel after shooting clays with a 12-ga. for an hour...). But it was a blast to shoot, especially at targets roughly 600-800 yards away. Of course, it's a totally impractical rifle. I mean, where the hell would I use something like that outside of a VERY spacious area? It's not like I could take it to the local indoor range, or any local outdoor range for that matter. I'd only be able to really shoot it at Mace's place. And this gun weighs almost 30 pounds. It wasn't exactly balanced for off-hand shooting. Home defense? Frankly, it would barely fit in my living room. Plus, using it for hunting would, well...forget it. There are very few areas in the world where hunting with a .50 BMG round would be considered "safe," even in the loosest interpretation of the word.
No, strictly something for target shooting. And indeed, there are numerous clubs where guys go out and indulge in target shooting competitions (for example, the Fifty Caliber Shooters Association.). So why do I bring this up now? Well, it's in the wake of a recent Sixty Minutes story talking about the banning of .50 BMG rifles and how dangerous they are. See, they have no practical purpose, we're told...and so the Brady camp would prefer they be banned. Of course, the Brady people would prefer all guns be banned, but that's beside the point.
But there's something interesting going on here. On one hand we're told by the anti-gun crowd that it's OK to have guns as long as they are sporting...ie no fully automatic weapons or anything like that. Well, what can be more sporting than shooting a rifle in a competition where the spread between 1st and 4th place is about one inch at 1,000 yards? Particularly if the rifle in question has no other real use other than in these sorts of competitions? But now we're being told by the anti-group that because this gun has no practical purpose (in other words, is a sporting arm), it must be banned. I can't keep all of this straight!
I think what's getting lost in all of this are the numbers involved. A brand new Barrett M82A1 runs almost eight thousand dollars. And that's just the rifle. You want a scope, something that's going to allow you to shoot at a tiny little 'X' at 1,000 yards while standing up to the heavy recoil of the rifle, it's going to cost you more. Mace had a nice Swarovski scope he said cost around two large. So that's ten grand and we aren't even out the door yet. Gotta get ammo, and .50 BMG rounds aren't cheap. If you can get them for a dollar per round for practice ammo, you're doing well. Specially tuned target ammo can run, well, about as much as you can stand to pay for it. So figure you just bought a rifle that costs half as much as a Jeep Wrangler and costs you at least a buck (and usually more) each time you pull the trigger. And that's just the equipment. If you're going to compete with this thing, you have to keep it in rather tip-top shape, which means regular, fastidious, purely anal-retentive maintenance from the owner. So with all that, you have to figure the target customer for this rifle is someone affluent enough to afford a ten thousand dollar toy who had enough attention to detail to get that way...and isn't it the libs who keep telling us poverty begets violent crime?!?
That's why I liken .50 BMG precision shooting to Formula One racing. The equipment involved is so specialized and so costly that the people using it simply don't fit the profile of your average 7-11 robbing thug. And just as a Formula One car will blow the doors off that 98 Riceboy Civic with the big fartcan, a .50 rifle will have much more power than a .30-06 round at any point on the ballistic chart. But does that mean we need to crack down on Formula One cars on our highways? Or is the market somewhat self-correcting in that regard?
I'd say the latter. Take a wild guess how many .50 BMG rifles have been used in crimes in this country, and I don't want to keep seeing the same hands. Yep. Zero. Never ever. Not once. And I hate to get all class-conscious here, but the kind of guy who is going to buy a gun like this is NOT the kind of guy who gets jollies by holding up people.
Now I'm told Sixty Minutes was going to air special memos from 1983 showing that these guns are extra-specially dangerous, but CBS has taken Bill Burkett off their speed dial. So sadly, we're left with the facts. And it's not like we're seeing violent crime escalate. Barrett started making these things in 1983. If the Brady Bunch's theory is correct, after 22 years these things would be flooding the streets and we'd be hearing daily reports about long range shots killing people in their cars. But I bet very few people reading this have ever seen one live and in person. As for the crime wave...fuhgeddaboutit. Violent crime has been on the decline for a long time now, despite the dire warnings of doom about the so-called Assault Weapons Ban expiring. And this decline is despite (John Lott would say "because of") increased gun ownership. Bottom line...this is not a weapon that has ever figured into violent crime, nor will it
ever figure into it.
But it's damned fun to shoot. And maybe that's exactly what the Libs have against it. Instead of having fun blowing things up, I guess instead we're all supposed to sit at Manhattan tea parties and pretend Christo is an artistic genius.
I'm sorry...who were the egalitarian ones again?!?
Update: Speak of the devil...John Lott offers up some thoughts on the Sixty Minutes story and on the .50 BMG in general.
January 13, 2005
Fox Caves to Criticism that 24's Terrorists are (Gasp!) Muslims
|[Posted by ]|
To my shock, I just learned that Fox's hit show, 24, has cast Muslims as the terrorists in its latest installment. I mean, how in the world do they come up with this stuff? Muslims? What are the writers smoking?
Thankfully, Fox will provide stations with TV spots that portray Muslims in a positive light. After all, not all Muslims are terrorists. Although, as Abdel Rahman al-Rashed so famously said:
It is a certain fact that not all Muslims are terrorists, but it is equally certain, and exceptionally painful, that almost all terrorists are Muslims.
I can't tell you how pissed off I am that Fox caved to CAIR on this one. The sad fact of the matter is that America is at war with Muslim terrorists. The 19 men who hijacked planes on 9/11 were all Muslims. The terrorists of Beslan were Muslims. I could go on and on. These days, making terrorists in a work of fiction anything but Muslim smacks of pandering.
CAIR is, of course, worried about the image of Muslims in America:
"When average Americans don't have any personal interaction with Muslims, whether it be at work or at school, they base their perception of Islam and Muslims from what they see on TV," she added. "We did bring that to Fox's attention."
If "average" Americans have a negative perception of Muslims perhaps it's because what they saw on TV was two hijacked jets crashing into buildings and thousands of people being murdered. I might be going out on a limb here, but if there's a negative perception of Muslims maybe that has a little something to do with it.
One thing I wonder about it is whether American Muslims do suffer from severely negative perceptions. I think Americans are (rightly in my opinion) suspicious of Muslim, male non-citizens, but does that feeling extend to our Muslim citizens? I remember reading a few scattered cases of vandalism against Muslims after 9/11, but I also remember reading a story about how people were specifically going to, for example, Pakistani restaurants, to show support for the American Muslim community. In any case, even after 3,000 people died, it wasn't like what's happened in Holland since Theo van Gogh's murder.
I think Americans are far more fair-minded than we're given credit for. We understand that not all terrorists are Muslims. We don't need TV spots to explain that. However, we also understand that most terrorists are Muslims. Even if fiction writers are pressured to sweep that fact under the rug, it won't make the reality of it go away.
Wacky Prince Harry
|[Posted by ]|
Prince Harry Windsor will undoubtably be roundly panned for posing for this picture:
But really, can we expect more from a rich, but not bright, 20-year old son of an unstable narcissist and an elitist prig? Rather than rip on Harry, perhaps we should praise him for reestablishing the royal family's fine tradition of toadying to the Germans. Harry's great uncle, Edward Windsor, was romantically portrayed as the man who gave up his throne for the love of a woman, but the truth is a little more nasty:
Over the next two years Edward travelled extensively in Europe including visiting Nazi Germany where he met Adolf Hitler. When France was occupied by the German Army in 1940, Edward and his wife moved to Spain. In July 1940 the couple went to live in Portugal. Soon afterwards the Federal Bureau of Investigation received information that the Duke and Duchess of Windsor were being used by the Nazis to obtain secrets about the Allies. On 13th September 1940, an FBI officer sent a memo to J. Edgar Hoover that: "An agent has established conclusively that the Duchess of Windsor has recently been in touch with Joachim von Ribbentrop and was maintaining constant contact and communication with him. Because of their high official position, the duchess was obtaining a variety of information concerning the British and French official activities that she was passing on to the Germans."
The British government also discovered that Adolf Hitler planned to make Edward the puppet king of the United Kingdom if the Germans won the Second World War. When he heard the news, Winston Churchill, the British prime minister, arranged for the Duke of Windsor to leave Europe and become the governor of the Bahamas.
So, way to go Harry. Thanks for giving the British people yet another reason to question the wisdom of a hereditary monarchy.
Update: To be fair, I should point out that much of the current popularity of the British monarchy stems from the behavior of many in the Royal Family during WWII. I think King George and Queen Elizabeth (the Queen Mum) were beloved by the British people for staying in London during the Blitz. I know that the current Queen was in some kind of service during the war, and the Duke of Kent was, I believe, a pilot in the RAF when he was killed. So, like so many other Brits, they showed a lot of character back then. Edward Windsor just wasn't one of them and maybe Harry is a throwback to that kind of royal.
January 11, 2005
Mapes Doesn't Get It
|[Posted by John Tant]|
I recently came across a statement from Mary Mapes concerning her well-deserved firing (hat tip: Little Green Footballs). I don't have the time to fisk the whole thing, and even if I had the time I doubt there is enough Zofran in the world to keep me on balance while I do it. But I would like to highlight one part of her incredibly self-serving rant, with my emphasis added:
Much has been made about the fact that these documents are photocopies and therefore cannot be trusted, but decades of investigative reporting have relied on just such copies of memos, documents and notes. In vetting these documents, we did not have ink to analyze, original signatures to compare, or paper to date. We did have context and corroboration and believed, as many journalists have before and after our story, that authenticity is not limited to original documents. Photocopies are often a basis for verified stories.
Mary, Mary, Mary...I think you've been reading too much Corey Pein. Exposing the documents as fake didn't rely on ink analysis, or looking at original signatures, or dating the paper on which the thing was printed. What made it laughably easy (and exposed your whole little effort as extremely childish) was the simple fact that in the space of five minutes, both Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs and Joseph Newcomer were able to duplicate EXACTLY the memos in question, using only Microsoft Word with default settings. That's what made it such an amateurish forgery, and that's why you got caught.
Using Mapes' logic, the picture below should be accepted as a true copy of the Mona Lisa, mainly because you don't have ink to analyze, signatures to compare, or paper to date...but you have context and corroboration with me telling you it's a copy:
Obviously that is a fake, and a rather glaring one. If it was a photocopy you wouldn't need to look at the ink, or the signature, or the paper. You can tell just by looking at it. So it was with the memos.
Now, Mapes is correct in one thing: photocopies are indeed often used as a basis for stories. But she has a rather casual, rather glaring skip in her logic chain, to wit: the problem with the memos wasn't that they were photocopies, but that they were so spectacularly fake that the fact that they were photocopies was rendered immediately irrelevant. These memos receive no credibility simply by virtue of them being photocopies, or more precisely the fact that other photocopies have been used in other stories.
Further, as the story came out (and the CBS report made clear) the context and corroboration Mapes relied on was itself dependent on CBS staff telling those people the documents were real. That's not even that fine of a line to get tripped over, and that Mapes doesn't even acknowledge it speaks volumes. Her entire diatribe amounts to reiterating that the memos were "fake but accurate." Well, if that's the standard she wants to use to pursue a story, that's her choice.
But she ought not be surprised, nor insult our intelligence us with faux-outrage, when her credibility takes a well deserved hit as a result.
January 10, 2005
Randy Moss & Moongate
|[Posted by ]|
While the lovely Rachel Lucas of Blue-Eyed Infidel may rate Brett Favre only slightly below Michael Moore in her hierarchy of hatred, she may have a point about Randy Moss. Sure, mooning the Lambeau Field crowd is classless and feigning taking a dump and wiping his ass on the goalpost is just gross, but it's not the end of the world.
I hate Moss with the fire of a thousand suns. I hate the Viqueens even more. I can't decide whether I want them to lose by 70 points Sunday or if I want them to tease their fans into thinking they could finally win a Super Bowl, and then lose. But, all of that said, what Moss did to the Lambeau crowd isn't all that different from what the University of Wisconsin Marching Band did to him back in November:
The Wisconsin marching band was on hand and jacked up the stakes when it dispatched an 18-person tuba brigade to the end zone, playing the only kind of music 18 tubas can.
The kicker, though: Draped over each tuba's horn opening was a cloth, with a letter taped on to that cloth, and as the Badger tubas marched across the end zone to the delight of the Lambeau Lunatics, the letters spelled out: "W-H-E-R-E (space) Y-O-U (space) A-T (space) M-O-S-S?"
Randy Moss, injured and out of the game, dissed by band geeks! By tubas, no less!
The cut to Moss in the ski cap, half-enraged, half-amused by the Tuba Diss was worth it all.
Why is that funny and what Moss did unforgivable? I have no idea. I think they're both pretty funny. Moss is a jerk, but not because of what he did yesterday. He's a jerk because he quits on plays and quits on his team. Unfortunately for Packer fans, where he was at yesterday was in the endzone. A lot.
I think sportswriters get all hot and bothered about things like this just to stir up controversy. I suspect it makes them feel like real reporters.
The Next Great Blue Hope?
|[Posted by John Tant]|
"In the Spring following a Presidential election, a young
Virginian's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of gubernatorial
politics." -Lord Alfred Tantyson.
Earlier last week, John Behan made some very insightful observations about Virginia's contribution to national politics.
First, a short primer is in order for those who aren't familiar with our fair commonwealth. Virginia technically is a very conservative state. I say technically because there's a contingent in Northern Virginia, near DC, which would elect Karl Marx given half a chance. However, the lower state tends to the deep, crimson red (and whatever comes after red...we have a fair share of voters in that area who thought Michael Badnarik was a reasonable candiate...). Northern Virginia also represents quite a bit of the money in the state, as well as a significant portion of the state's population. This has always been an interesting feature of Virginia politics, and actually tends to mirror the national Red v. Blue issues.
Now, our governors are term limited to one four year term. That's right...they are almost immediately lame ducks, which in my opinion is the only thing that made Gov. Mark Warner's term bearable (more on that in a minute). So after their terms, there's a bit of a question as to what our fair governors do next. This is made more compelling by the fact that our gubernatorial elections take place in odd years...and it being 2005, we're looking at one this year. This means Governor Warner is leaving office just in time to start a campaign for a federal office...like Senator.
Indeed, that's the traditional route for our ex governors (ex-Governor George Allen is now our junior Senator), although barring a Senate run our guys tend toward national party positions...former Governor Gilmore headed the Republican National Committee after his term, for example. But more compelling is the fact that, prior to winning election as our governor, Mark Warner mounted a failed challenge to Senator John Warner. I think it's plain the guy has national aspirations. So, as Senator Allen comes up for reelection in 2006, and with Gov. Warner leaving office in January of that year, that gives plenty of time to set up a Senate campaign for the ambitious Governor Warner.
However, Behan doesn't think Warner will risk any of his political capital on that Senate race. That's a pretty shrewd observation, but I'm not sure Warner is necessarily going to skip to a Presidential race either. That isn't to say Behan's analysis isn't compelling. For one, assuming Warner has a Presidential run in mind for his future, will he want to spend six years in the Senate? Dovetailing with that, the track record of Senators running for President is none too bright.
And then we have Warner's actual governing style. Consider, big picture, there's a Democratic party out there totally confused as to how they can win a Red state, and frankly quite desperate to do so. And here we have Warner, a Blue-To-The-Gills Dem who did just that...won in a Red state. Will that be too attractive for the Democrat leadership to pass up?
Or is attractive even the right term? See, Warner won because he ran as a moderate conservative, not as a Democrat, and certainly not the kind of Democrat the national leadership has recently shown they want to get behind. And Warner has his own weaknesses that will be trumpeted at a national level. For example, Warner ran on an outright promise, repeated ad nauseum, that he wouldn't support a tax increase...and as soon as he was elected, began campaigning to raise taxes. He finally pushed a one billion dollar tax increase through our Assembly (with the help of, to my eternal shame, some Republicans in that body), and almost immediately after we learned that the state was going to post a rather large surplus for 2003 (and, in fact, has posted a nearly one billion dollar surplus for 2004, meaning the tax increase was absolutely unnecessary.). It's arguable as to whether or not Warner knew about the surplus when he was pushing for the tax increase, but that's not the main issue here. The issue is we have a guy with Clinton-like morals when it comes to telling the truth about his positions (positions on issues, that is...get your mind out of the gutter!).
With that, is it reasonable for Warner to expect to get away with the same thing on a national level? For that matter, it's not entirely assured that he's going to get away with it in Virginia. Democrats looking for The Next Blue Hope should be advised that the best path to victory in a Red state is in being Red...and not in conning the voters into thinking the candidate is Red. But again, it's iffy as to
whether Democrats are even interested in moderating their tone in the first place. Look at what happened when Gore lost...the party tilted even further to the Left. And now that Kerry is a goner, what was the Democrats' response? Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid. Barbara Boxer doing her best to sideline any chance Democrats have of being taken seriously in the near future by objecting to the Ohio Electoral Vote. Michael Moore being treated like The Little Prince (actually, I'd better make that the YOUNG prince...). This is not a party currently interested in the moderation Mark Warner claims to be offering. This is a party sinking further into the morass of partisanship and snarkiness, not one interested in the reform needed to win a national election.
Frankly, Warner has a chance to win a Virginia Senate nomination. But for him to get a Presidential nomination would mean the Democratic party would need to stop on a dime and turn their bus around immediately from their headlong rush into the ash heap of history. And there's little evidence they are willing to do that. If anything...they're downshifting and stepping on the gas. For that reason, I think we'll see another Warner/Warner Senate race further down the road. Think about it. In the wake of an unnecessary one billion dollar tax increase imposed right as the Virginia economy was recovering, the next Governor will have to deal with the fallout. And just as the economy is starting to falter (if necessary, the VA Democrats will help talk it down), along comes Mark Warner as a tacit reminder of "better days," just as Senator John Warner is coming up for reelection. Gov. Warner can afford to wait a couple of years for
But then, I'm the guy who was convinced Howard Dean would win the Democratic nomination...
New Blog Contributor
|[Posted by ]|
James and I were sad to learn that John Tant was ending his great blog, The Crease. However, we're thrilled that John has agreed to become an occasional contributor to Dummocrats. We look forward to John's thoughtful commentary, especially on days like today when James and I are far too numb from the Packers defeat to even think straight.
Please join us in welcoming John to the blog!