Sunday, October 31, 2004

Aidan Update III (View Updates I and II)
--from the only-the-firstborn dept.--
Here at the Aidan Walter Stokes Home Office, we've received many letters, emails, and phone calls clamoring for "More Aidan"! Well, here you go, the World Premiere of: AidanYawns. (Quicktime, 2min, 2.1MB)

Saturday, October 30, 2004

Cross Examination to Innocence.

Austin Carr, who is the leader of our Friday morning group, wrote this:

Reading Oswald Chambers yesterday (Oct. 28) I contemplated what he was saying and it occurred to me that what he said can be reduced to six questions. Being a trial lawyer, I like questions a lot and I decided to ask the guys at our breakfast today the questions, in cross, examination form:

Q: How is your relationship with God these days?
A: Well, so - so, not as good as I would like, maybe a C+

Q: What was the purpose in Christ dying?
A: To make us perfect in the eyes of God.

Q: When Christ died on the Cross, what did he say?
A: “It is finished.”

Q: Were you born before or after Christ died?
A: Well, after, of course.

Q: If Christ said, “It is finished” is there anything that you can do to imporve upon the purpose of Christ dying?
A: Well, no, not at all.

Q: Then, let me ask you the question again, How is your relationship with God right now?
A: Ah, I get it, yeah . . . PERFECT.

Biblical authority, if needed, is at Romans 8:1
“There is therefore now, no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus . . . .”

Koski. We had a report that Mr. Koski's cancer has come back. Mr. Koski, aka "Koski", heads the math department at Miami Springs Senior High School, a description that does not begin to describe this extraordinary man. He and his math teams have had a nation-wide impact for many years. And he had a huge impact on our family intellectually as he taught Macon, Walter, and Mary.

He has had some form of non-Hodgkins lymphoma for many years, and it has apparently been in remission. But recently he has had chemo. Carol and I think we saw him the other day on one of our walks along the path by Ludlum Road, but we weren't sure because the man we saw was bald. The chemo seems to explain it. I don't know what the prognosis is, but I ask your prayers for this remarkable person.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Institutionalized Sin

What was going on with usury back in the day? Where do we see it now?
An Amazing Watch at Wal-Mart. Check this watch out: it sets itself to a government transmitter linked to the National Institute of Standards and Technology. (See my post on the "atomic" clock technology.) It has a battery that is solar powered. Several alarms, etc., etc. Long live Wal-Mart! Long live Radio Shack! Long live bourgeoise consumerism!

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Christian Legal Society vs. Ohio State. A win for the good guys.
Marsh. This morning's WSJ has, as its lead article, the resignation of the Marsh CEO as a result of the pressure that the NY Attorney General is bringing.

When I consider what Marsh did - they received "commissions" from insurance companies to which they stirred business - I am simply amazed. Our firm uses a national broker, Brown & Brown, one of Marsh's competitors, to help us find the right insurance and the right insurance company. To think that B&B would accept kick-backs from their recommended insurers makes me angry (I don't know that B&B does; I am going to write them and ask.)

The WSJ article says that Marsh will loose over $800 million per year in commissions, as a result of stopping the practice. But I would think that, over the long run, their business should increase when people are assured that their opinions are unbiased.

The Bar has been dealing with this issue over the last several years. Many law firms want to "diversify" into other services besides giving just legal advice or they want to "share" in the fees paid to vendors to whom they make referrals. (If you are on a "billable hour" format, there are only so many hours a day - only so much you can make. Often that is "simply not enough".) For example, one large firm has its own private investigator company. Other lawyers are invited to share commissions that are paid to life insurance agents whom they recommend (these are often very large commissions). Its pretty clear that the latter is unethical; I think the former is suspect as well.

We have thought about organizing a private social services group. But I think that would be problematical. People come to us for unbiased advice. What if there were better private social workers across the street? Wouldn't we want to keep our own people busy first, even if they were inferior?

But I think the Marsh thing is so crystal clear in its wrongfulness that I am astonished.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Northern Anglican Woes, Southern Anglican Fidelity. The Windsor Report presents the findings and recommendations of the Lambeth Commission on Communion appointed by the Archbishop of Canterbury to investigate the election and installation of the homosexual as a bishop in the Episcopal Church US and the practice in some Canadian Anglican churches of holding same-sex "marriage" ceremonies. The Primate of Nigeria has published a response to that report. Both are worth reading, but don't fail to read the latter.
Where shall wisdom be found? And where is the place of understanding? These are the questions first asked in the Book of Job and pondered in Dr. Harold Bloom's letter to the WSJ's editors last week (October 22). Here's the link (for Subscribers).

Dr. Bloom is (unsuprisingly) skeptical of wisdom from non-secular sources; and thus questions the vailidity and prudence of President Bush's overt religiousity, implicitly endorsing Senator Kerry's secular Catholicism.

He first seems to be echoing Bill Clinton's DNC convention speech, again questioning President Bush's wisdom. This time, though suggesting that Mr. Bush's own religious fervency is the cause of his lack of prudence and skepticism.


It seems to me that Mr. Kerry's secularism has been demonstrated as simply a lack of foundation to any sense of calling, saying whatever is needed to whomever might be listening in order to secure their vote; and not to some higher purpose, but to a higher office. Conversely, Mr. Bush's religious beliefs provide him a sense of grounding, a calling. He doesn't seem to forget that the most powerful man on earth is still a far cry from an all-powerful God.

To suggest that one's worldview need be more secular in order to be more valid in the public arena is naive and narrow-minded. Knowing that an elected official operates out of principal rather than whim (e.g. opinion polls) is the mark of a leader. The fact that religiosity influences those principals does not make them less prudent or skeptical.

Further, the most amusing, but telling line from his letter is, "Many among us fear, realistically or not, that a second term for George W. Bush will help bring about the commencement of an American theocracy, an eventual tyranny of the twice-born."

His slight at the "twice-born" notwithstanding, his letter is not of theology, but of a fear of the influence of religion (or more precisely Evangelical Christian theology) in the public arena.

Dr. Bloom must have lost his sense of American history while serving at an "elitist university," as he describes Yale. Whether you agree with Christian theological tenets or not, such beliefs influenced the current structure of our representative government. More succinctly, our modern government was fashioned after a Presbyterian form of government, which is essentially representative: power is ceded from the people to representatives at all levels; accountablity is fostered via the division of power and the system of checks and balances. If a theocracy is what Dr. Bloom fears, it would have occured long ago.

But our Forefathers left England to escape the dictation of religious beliefs onto the populous. Thus, our Founders created what is now widely and liberally interpreted as the separation of church and state. Our freedom from religion is not a freedom of religion.

Religious and non-religious (i.e. secular) men and women have influenced and shaped our society throughout the ages, and we are better for it. Dr. Bloom's fear seems more of the paranoia persuasion than one based on plurality of thought and ideas.

(Special thanks to Paul Stokes for allowing me to post.)
Drinking from Cisterns, Drinking from the Spring of Living Water. Carol reminded me of this image the other day. Its from Jeremiah 2:13:

My people have committed two sins:
They have forsaken me,
the spring of living water,
and have dug their own cisterns,
broken cisterns that cannot hold water.

She recalled a sermon on that text preached by David Bridgman, our pastor during the 1980s. David was a "missionary kid", raised in China. His family fled when the Communists overran his parents' mission station. During the sermon, David recalls that his family had to rely on cisterns, and that the cisterns became dirty, with scum and insects, after many days without rain.

This is such a powerful image. So many times I turn to a broken cistern to quench whatever thirst happens to arise. I am too lazy to walk down to the spring of living water. I'm too busy. How important it is to attend church at least once a week. I am forced to be quiet, to listen to the Word preached and sung and prayed. So middle-class, so bourgeoisie, going to church every seven days. But it is like living water, and it has nourished me all of my life, despite what I allow down my throat during the week.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

DVDs via Mail. I enjoy movies. For many years, our family has rented movies from "Roman's", a small video shop about a mile down the road. There have been several ownership changes and its no longer called Roman's. But it will always be "Roman's" at our house.

For the last couple of years, I have noticed that many of the rentals seem to be pirated versions of the movie, especially the movies in the VHS format. Friends of mine who use another neighborhood video store in Virginia Gardens, a little town next to Miami Springs, say that pirated films are rented there too, and the owner told them he would go out of business if he were completely legit. I am not sure I want to rent pirated videos.

The other problem with Romans are the late fees. Actually, its not a Romans problem, its a Paul problem. I rent a video and then don't have the time to take it back. So what I had rented for 3 or 4 dollars often becomes a 7 or 8 dollar rental. Sometimes I am so busy that I don't even have time to watch the video in the first place. So I have to take it back and then rent it again later.

Enter DVDs by mail, with the ordering via the internet. I recently started with the Wal-Mart version of this approach: $15.54 a month for 2 DVDs at a time. When you join, Wal-Mart asks you to list at least six movies in a queue. (The titles are selected from a database of a zillion.) Initially, you are sent the first two. When you send one back (you don't have to send two at once), you are sent the next title on your queue, and so on. You can go on-line to your account and change the order in your queue if you like. If there is a great demand for the title, then you may have to wait; I guess they send you the next available title on your queue. When you receive the title, you can keep it as long as you want, but you keep paying the monthly fee, for which your credit card is debited. The monthly charge includes the postage. There is nothing extra.

I really like this. Not only are the late fees avoided, but you don't have to watch the movie right away, you don't have to take the time to go to the video store, there are a lot of titles, there is no pirating. Not only will the neighborhood video stores be unable to survive, but Blockbuster must really be worried.

I thought that maybe people would abuse this service by passing around the video - several people might use the service for one price. But we are all so busy and autonomous. Who wants to wait on his friend before sending back the video that he has watched? The point is that I have a title-on-demand process. Sharing erodes that process. So back in the mail goes the disk as soon as I watch it.

Other technology may make this approach obsolete soon. Even now I understand that one can have his title-on-demand if he has Direct TV or has cable with that feature. I guess there are DSL services out there. But isn't that more expensive? I don't want all the rest of the dreck that comes with cable/Direct/internet. I just want to see a movie when I want to see it. Wal-Mart may have made this cheap and convenient enough that it will stick for us semi-Luddites who don't want to be so completely connected.

Friday, October 22, 2004

ChristianLawyersMiami.Com. I am in a Friday morning breakfast group with mostly lawyers. We study the Bible and bond. I started up a blog so that I could comment on the profound things that are said at the breakfast. I am trying to get the other guys to post, but they are, naturally, intimidated because they have already seen my work posted. If you would like to take a look, here it is. Please note that you can register and join in.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Permalinks! Hooray! Kith&Kin now has 'em! (And joins the rest of the blogging world.) If you drag your cursor over the time stamp at the bottom of this, or any, post, you will find a link to that particular post. What this means is that you can link to any post you'd like, or even to a few you don't. It means you can email someone a link to a particular post you'd like them to read, without making them scroll through a month's worth of posts. It also means that other bloggers can link directly to our posts and comment on them in their own blogs without making their dear readers scroll through a month's worth of posts.

Oh, and I changed the Time/Date header to reflect Eastern Standard Time, as opposed to Pacific Time which used to be the default.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Aidan Comes Home! Yesterday Aidan came home to 3020 Rea Road. Here are some of the pictures documenting his last morning in the hospital and his first evening at home.

Also, you can watch the 2 minute video (3.6 MB, Quicktime) of Aidan going home.

Aidan's first night at home was fulfilling for him, but exhausting for his parents. (This is nothing new as far as parenting goes, I know! I'm just reporting. Fair and Balanced Reporting, I might add.) Aidan slept for 1.5 hours, then fed for 30 minutes. He did that all night, starting at about 9pm, and ending about 9am.

As you'll note, the co-sleeper is on my side of the bed. This is because Kellsey's incision prevents her from picking up Aidan. So for now, I pick Aidan up and hand him to Kells for the feeding. It also means I'm the one who picks him up to change his diaper.

Doug & Sue slept through the whole night. We don't begrude them that at all, especially since they've been doing pretty much everything throughout the day. That's because Kellsey and I pretty much sat around trying to figure out just what the heck is going on. But we'll be on our game tonight when Aidan gets reved up again for his all night dinner party. Here's hoping.
Head-tilted Goofiness. Funny, funny comments on peace-nick photos. Here y here y here.
How to prove p. If only I'd had this handy sheet during my time as a Philosophy Major at Davidson! It would have made deciphering all the current philosophical literature much more simple.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Friday's Baby Pictures. Macon's post with Aidan's pictures and his video greeted me mid-morning Friday. My heart filled up with joy and wonder. I have never seen Kellsey more beautiful than in the pictures with Aidan. Kellsey and Macon, the Sewells, the nurses, the families and friends all swaddled the little one with love and attention as surely as the little blanket swaddled him in the video.

Those pictures were in my mind when I saw another set of baby pictures that night. Carol and I attended a dinner for an organization called Project ChildHelp. A Christian lawyer in Miami, Frank Valladores, and his wife Lourdes, started the organization 5 years ago after they visited a special "orphanage" in the Dominican Republic. It was "special" because the babies and children that the Valladores visited there were disabled with one defect or another. Apparently in the DR culture a defective baby is considered a curse on the family, and the little ones are killed, cast out, or abandoned.

The "orphanage" that Frank and Lourdes visited kept the ones who were pushed out of their families. It was not a government run place, simply a house that someone owned who took money from the families for keeping the children.

The photos Frank showed at the dinner were, at first, photos he had taken five years ago. They showed little children in cages, little children tied up like animals, and little children lying naked and emaciated on the floor. Some sort of emotional gate had been opened that morning when I saw the pictures and video of Aidan. As a result I think, the pictures I saw that night especially upset me and they upset Carol.

But Frank's photos also showed the progress made by the mission that he and his wife organized and support after that first visit. The mission now supports a staff of about a dozen people who take care of the children, and there is even a full time physician. There are no more cages in this place. No one is tied up. The children are being fed and treated. Three or four times a year, Frank and Lourdes organize mission trips to the orphanage. Physicians from Miami Children's Hospital go with them. I met one of the physicians at the dinner, a pediatric gastro-enterologist, who has been working on the project with the Valladores almost from the beginning.

Last year, the DR government donated to Project ChildHelp a large tract of land overlooking the sea, where construction has begun on a home/hospital. Frank and Lourdes hope to move the operation out of the house where they first found the children caged and dreadfully neglected. (The house has no electricity nor running water.) I am just amazed to see what this lawyer and his wife, who have children of their own, have been able to do.

At the dinner, there was a table with little teddy bears assembled on it, each holding a photo of a child that lives at the orphanage. I looked at the photos of these children, some with misshapen heads or limbs, some with drooping eyelids. It was quite difficult to deal with these pictures and the pictures of Aidan, so beautiful, so perfect, that had already found a permanent place in my heart's photo album. So we decided to look at all of the pictures carefully and pick one of the children to support. We picked a little boy named Erickson or "Eric".

What a day!

If you want to learn more about Project ChildHelp, you can go here.

The Future of Professional Journalism Mom pointed me to this article by Alan at The Command Post on the effect of blogs on Professional Journalism. It's probably the best and most succint account of the blog effect I've read. I highly recommend it.
UNhelpful (from London'sIndependent.)
China is trying to stop the United Nations imposing sanctions on Sudan over the crisis in the Darfur region to protect its oil imports from the country, say western diplomats.

For the past six years Beijing has been the Sudanese government's main backer, buying 70 per cent of its exports, servicing its $20bn debt and supplying the Khartoum government with most of its weapons.

Beijing oil imports jumped 35 per cent this year and its reliance on a growing number of rogue states to meet its needs is putting it on a collision course with the United States. Sudan and Iran together supply 20 per cent of China's oil imports, and if economic sanctions were applied to either, Beijing would be unable to sustain its high growth rates.

If only some country would take the UN's own declaration of Genocide and make a less-than-everone-lateral (as opposed to Multi-lateral) move to stop the killing. Certainly the UN will get around to Taking Action, but that will probably be in 10 years.

Saturday, October 16, 2004


It's ok that U2's new music video is explicitly an Apple commercial. It would not be ok if it were a Microsoft commercial. They could probably pull it off if it were a Whole Foods commercial, but they definitely couldn't swing Wal-Mart. Maybe Gap, but not Jnco. Probably not Krispy Kreme, but definitely not McDonalds. Too bad for Viacom and MTV...maybe this is the first mass-distributed video that's not in their pocket.

No going back from here.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Aidan Walter Stokes celebrated his 0th birthday yesterday, October 14, 2004, at 7:59am. His second act as a 1 second old, after sticking his rear end into the air, causing the Student Nurses in attendance to proclaim, "Well! He's definitely a boy!" was to then try to keep his head inside of Kellsey's belly. I know this because when the doctor said, "Here he is!" I stood up and looked over the sheet with my camera. And there was only half of him! I stood there for a few blinks while they tugged at him, then wrapped his rear end in a blanket to get a better grip. That was enough for me, so I sat down again next to Kellsey's head and waited until he really came out. A few seconds passed and then I was called to stand up again, and sure enough, he'd lost his first ever tug-of-war. Ever the gracious loser, Aidan was screaming his head off.

He was 7 pounds, 4 ounces, 20 inches long (24 inches, with afro). Again, showing that he didn't mind losing, Aidan peed all over the nurse as she was trying to clean him up. (For some reason, she looked at me like it was somehow my fault.)

Kellsey and Aidan are recovering wonderfully. You can see pictures of Aidan's 0th birthday party here. (It's really basic, but I'd kind of like to get back to the hospital. We're watching Alias Season 3.) (And, no, this isn't all the pictures, this is only 15 out of about 90 so far. But give me and Grandfather Sewell a break, we've only had Aidan 36 hours. We'll take more shortly.)

UPDATE: You can view a 3 minute (Quicktime) video of 20 minute old Aidan here.

UPDATE: Check out the post on Aidan coming home!

UPDATE: You asked for it: More Aidan video!

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Censorship! From yesterday's Best of the Web Today, by James Tarranto:

The Democratic National Committee is attempting to use the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law to suppress a documentary critical of John Kerry. Sinclair Broadcasting, which owns 62 TV stations nationwide, plans next week to air "Stolen Honor: Wounds That Never Heal," which features interviews with former prisoners of war who feel betrayed by Kerry's antiwar activism. The Washington Post reports:
Sinclair's decision . . . is drawing political fire--not least from the Democratic National Committee, which plans to file a federal complaint today accusing the company of election-law violations. "Sinclair's owners aren't interested in news, they're interested in pro-Bush propaganda," said DNC Chairman Terry McAuliffe, whose complaint will accuse the firm of making an in-kind contribution to the Bush campaign.

If this is an in-kind contribution, what is "Fahrenheit 9/11"? How about Bruce Springsteen's pro-Kerry concerts, or for that matter newspaper editorials endorsing one candidate or another?

All these things of course are constitutionally protected free speech, as is "Stolen Honor." McAuliffe's complaint is frivolous, though it does underscore the absurdity of campaign finance laws that attempt to silence some political speech while carving out an exception for the media.

As well, it underscores the authoritarian nature of the political left when it comes to political speech. Liberals are quick to cry "censorship" when others merely criticize far-left or anti-American speech (remember the Dixie Chicks?), but they are eager to use the force of government to silence those with whom they disagree.

I couldn't agree with Mr. Tarranto more.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Shock&Awe is pretty much what hit me when the OB Doctor asked if we wanted to have our baby tomorrow. We declined and scheduled the C-Section for Thursday. Thursday! Wow! 7:15am, if you're playing along at home.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Bribery? Sean makes a good point in his comments on the post below regarding the corruption in the Oil For Food Program. What, exactly constitutes bribery? Is it a sliding scale? Is it on or off? For example: Is what Sadaam did (giving money to France in exchange for escaping the strictures of the UN sanctions) the same thing as what the US did and does in providing material support for countries less wealthy than we as they assist us in our coalition?

The O.E.D. defines bribe as dishonestly persuade (someone) to act in one's favour by a payment or other inducement.

It seems to me that whether or not something is a bribe depends upon the level of "dishonesty." This might, perhaps, put us right back at the starting point: If you view the US' actions as dishonest, then, of course it's bribery. If you view it as honest, then it's not. Or, maybe, if it's only a little dishonest it's only a little bit of bribery.

Starting with Sadaam: The honest way to persuade the UN that sanctions should have been dropped would have been for him to allow inspectors anywhere at anytime, giving proof that he disarmed and was discontinuing his weapons program. [And, please, let us hereby stipulate that Sadaam was in no way doing this. Ok? Please don't make me do all the hyperlinking work to demonstrate that this is the obvious truth.] According to the Duelfer Report Sadaam instead was giving oil & cash money to people in power in order that they might help drop the sanctions regardless of the status of Sadaam's WMDs in hand or intent to build. It is clear that Bribery is the only way to describe this behavior.

Is this the case with the US? It is unhelpful to declare "yes" on the prima facie evidence that America gives money/cars/F16s/island getaways to countries around the world. If the giving of money/things/services were the sole criteria for bribery, then we would only be immune to the charge were we to have the financial stature of Hati. Futhermore, we could also, then, openly declare, "Bribery!" on employers, parents who give allowances at the end of the week when chores are done, and Universities who give students scholarships so long as they get good grades.

For the everyday person, using everyday common sense, these examples are not examples of bribery.

But I suggest that to some folks, it seems repugnant that when the US says, "Jump," to some countries, they "have no choice" but to jump, since they could really use some of that money/thing/service that only the US has. Part of the reason it seems repgnant is a very postmodern idea: the use of Power, in any way, is Wrong. (In fact, in the postmodern stew where we are Beyond Good and Evil, it seems to me that the only Evil is, actually, the Use Of Power by Anyone But Me. But that's a different post.) This is foolishness (and self-referrentially destructive) and an abandonment of the idea that Power might actually be used for the Good. It is easy to think of a place where one with Power might force another to do Good: in fact, Parents do this often, with impunity, and for the betterment of their children. "Eat your vegetables or no dessert. Go to bed or no playground tomorrow."

Would you like to argue with me about this? Then you might be inclined to declare that Spain was bribed out of the coalition. Spain was bribed with the blood of their children, as men with Power (the power to bomb and destroy) influenced Spain to do what said Men with Power wanted them to do: quit the coalition. For some reason, folks don't call this bribery.

So if "dishonesty" (and thereby "bribery") is not constituted solely in being richer or having more Power (some might say these are synonymous), since one can honestly use one's riches and honestly use one's Power, then where lies the dishonesty of the US' actions as we brought others into the current coalition?

Where is the dishonesty in asking a weaker friend: "Help me stop the bully on the block, please. I've been studying Karate and can do some damage, but I can't do everything. If you come along, you can use and have my baseball bat. If you come along and miss work, I'll pay you for your time. If by coming along and helping you don't have time to fix dinner for your family, I'll arrange to have someone fix a very fine meal for them."

If the coalition is bribed by the US, then the whole world is, in some way, being bribed by the US: Russia is disarming its nuclear weapons because we're paying them, countries in Africa do what we ask because we give them humanitarian aid (that is, we spend money on them), there is not a country in this world that is not benefited financially by the US if it lines up with US interests, either because of outright gifts, or because our companies make investments there.

What America has done in gathering allies is only Bribery if you think that what the coalition is doing is dishonest. That is the test for Bribery. So to translate the meaning of "Coalition of the Bribed": Coalition doing a Bad Thing; Coalition being dishonest.

This is why I have little patience for the Left's declarations of "Coalition of the Bribed!" It is vacant of meaning: I already know that the Left would rather we didn't invade Iraq. When folks declare that we should have an International Coalition, they're simply saying, "We shouldn't have gone to Iraq." Sure, that's not what they're thinking when they declare such a thing, but this is the end point of such silliness. The very fact that a report has come out showing that France & Russia were Bribed and no one on the left is saying anything about it clearly demonstrates that Bribery is not at all the issue for them. Declaring, "America BRIBED!" is itself deeply hypocritical and simply a rhetorical tool for the Left.

Now: the question of Should We Be In Iraq? is a good one, and one over which we can have a good discussion. But the issue of Bribery as thrown at America is a non-issue as it's only a weak but emotionally evocative (ie: Rhetoric) offshoot of the larger issue.

Saturday, October 09, 2004

Kelly Poynter makes a really good point about how Journalism, in light of recent scandals, isn't giving itself the same kind of treatment it gave the accounting/buisness world or the Catholic Church after their scandals.

Friday, October 08, 2004

Best line in the debate:

I have a logging company?


You wanna buy some wood?


Bush is definitely present and responding to what's said. so much for the spin.
lest we forget...

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Why the press should abandon all pretense of "objectivity"
First of all, there is no such thing as objectivity. Any person (that is, a "subject") is inescapably subjective in their view of the world. If the press gave up the lie of objectivity, then I would be far more interested in what they had to say. As it currently works, in order to understand the "news" article I read (or hear or watch), I first have to decipher just where the author is standing as she makes her observations. Only then am I going to get anywhere close to approximating an understanding of what it is she is observing. That she steadfastly refuses to tell me where she's standing (or that she's even standing anywhere at all) makes it that much more energy and time consuming for me to read her report. (Incidentally, I think this has a whole lot to do with the reported "campaign news fatigue" that reporters are wringing their hands over.)

What would be better: News organizations (and reporters, by association) should just come out and say what side they're on. Besides the fact that I could decipher their reporting better, it would actually force some of them to do better reporting. Of course, there would be the inevitable few organizations that would simply become out and out organs of vitriol against the opponents. But the organizations that wanted to change people's views on things would be forced to write articles that were more thoughtful and balanced in order to gain a hearing by the "opposition". Essentially, a Republican author, trying to persuade a Democrat, would have to faithfully represent the Democrat position before making the Republican case. The author would know that a Democrat would recognize a straw man and immediately reject the rest of the Republican's propositions.

Not that I think this will happen anytime soon. Most big-name reporters seem to prefer patronizing the public by making sure the unwashed masses recieve the "truth" from them.
Distributed Reporting
That's what I think the phenomena surrounding the "Rathergate" CBS mess with the "fake but accurate" memos should be called. The same principle that makes SETI@home work, computers across the country working on a little piece of the puzzle, then recompiling it with the answers, is what made CBSRather's "scoop" crumble. Pajama wearing bloggers picked apart the "scoop" according to what they knew about: some folks understood typesetting, others knew something about Guard Memo Writing Protocol, others highlighed sketchy connections between partisan "leaks". Finally, some bloggers added it all together and, voila: Dan Rather LIED! (Or, at least it's clear that he was totally duped by forged memos.) While it always makes me grin to see the clearly partisan Rather have egg on his face, the most interesting thing about the matter is the distributed reporting that occurred. It's probably been happening for some time now, this distributed reporting, but it really became clear (to me, at least) with this issue.
PS: I know that this is way behind the curve in terms of "timeliness" but I've been thinking about this for a while now (ask Sean!) but just haven't had the time to post.

Monday, October 04, 2004

No War for Oil! We will, however, support a madman for profit.

From the Times of London: (hat tip: instapundit.)

A LEAKED report has exposed the extent of alleged corruption in the United Nations’ oil-for-food scheme in Iraq, identifying up to 200 individuals and companies that made profits running into hundreds of millions of pounds from it.

The report largely implicates France and Russia, whom Saddam Hussein targeted as he sought support on the UN Security Council before the Iraq war. Both countries were influential voices against UN-backed action.

A senior UN official responsible for the scheme is identified as a major beneficiary. The report, marked “highly confidential”, also finds that the private office of Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, profited from the cheap oil. Saddam’s regime awarded this oil during the run-up to the war when military action was being discussed at the UN.

The report was drawn up on behalf of the interim Iraqi government in preparation for a possible legal action against those who may have illicitly profited under Saddam. The Iraqis hired the London-based accountants KPMG and lawyers Freshfields to advise on future action.

It details a catalogue of alleged bribery and corruption perpetrated by Saddam under the UN programme, revealing how the regime lined its pockets and those of influential politicians, journalists and UN officials.

Um, and Kerry has the gall to call the coalition bribed?

UPDATE: (10.7.04) from The Scotsman SADDAM HUSSEIN believed he could avoid the Iraq war with a bribery strategy targeting Jacques Chirac, the President of France, according to devastating documents released last night.
It's even more damning as you read on. Maybe Kerry should start start calling us the coalition of the unbribed. but he probably won't, since that would entail his changing his position on something.