Sunday, February 06, 2005

I've claimed for years that the CIA was behind the SLA, Charles Bates, the Patty Hearst kidnapping, Donald DeFreeze, the Manson Family, and the whole schmear

The reason they have to have chaos is so they can have control; it gives them the legitimate excuse for control. They don't want to say: "Well, we're a hidden government and we're in now, so we're gonna kick out the legitimate government." That wouldn't look very well, so they have to create the situation.

NSC and the DIA and the Navy are untouchable no matter what administrations come and go

Hale Boggs was the only member of the Warren Commission who disagreed with the conclusions. Hale Boggs did not follow Earl Warren and his disciples. He totally disagreed. Hale Boggs was in a plane crash lost over frozen Alaska.

Jim Garrison Interview
Playboy magazine, October 1967

911: Dear World Watcher

1978: Is "The Queen of Conspiracy"
going to break the JFK case
wide open, or is she just a
paranoid housewife who likes
to clip newspapers?

teasing with Chalabi peekabo


February 6, 2005
Talking on the Air and Out of Turn: The Trouble With TV

AST Sunday, Times reporter Judith Miller appeared on MSNBC's "Hardball With Chris Matthews" to discuss the Iraqi elections. In the course of the conversation Miller said sources had told her the Bush administration "has been reaching out" to the Iraqi political figure Ahmad Chalabi "to offer him expressions of cooperation." She continued, "According to one report, he was even offered a chance to be an interior minister in the new government." This led Matthews to interrupt Miller, exclaim "Wait a minute!" and press her to elaborate.

Now, Matthews is the sort of television host who will interrupt a guest about as often as he blinks, and his reliance on exclamation is roughly equal to his reliance on breathing. But to anyone who has tried to follow the jagged contours of Ahmed Chalabi's connections to the Bush administration, Miller's statement was a shocker. This piece of news hadn't appeared in The Times that morning; it didn't appear in The Times the next morning; as I write this column, on Friday, it still hasn't appeared. A lengthy analysis of the election aftermath by reporter Dexter Filkins, published Tuesday, didn't even hint of any current contact between Chalabi and the Bush administration.

But if you watched "Hardball" on Sunday night, and saw Judith Miller identified as a reporter for The New York Times, you would have every reason to think she was speaking with the authority of the paper. That, presumably, is why television news and talk producers ask Times reporters to appear on their programs; that, presumably, is why The Times's publicity apparatus books broadcast appearances for as many as 12 different reporters in a typical week. Yet Miller's revelation - Jack Shafer of called it "the second biggest Iraq story of the day (after the successful election)" - was fit to be broadcast on television, even if not fit to print. Why the difference?

Let me make a few things clear before going forward. First, I don't believe Miller's appearance on Matthews's show has anything to do with the current contempt citation hanging over her, the one resulting from her refusal to reveal sources to a federal grand jury. I believe she is right to resist the subpoena; that her apparent willingness to go to jail to protect her sources is admirable; and that The Times is right to defend her unflinchingly.

Second, hers isn't the only byline from The Times to appear on the bottom of the screen when you're watching "Hardball"; I've been on the show myself, sneezing through my makeup. I also appear regularly on a local Times-produced show here in New York, and occasionally on various other broadcast outlets whose producers are looking for a talking head to take a shot at The Times, defend The Times or bloviate about the state of American journalism. I disclose all this unexceptional and uninteresting information as a preface to my argument that reporters - not columnists or critics, only reporters - should appear on television news programs rarely, on talk shows even less often, and on programs dominated by interrogators as insistent and adept as Matthews not at all.

There are many, many reasons why newspaper people would want to appear on television. There's vanity, of course, and the ensuing cheap thrill of having someone stare at you on the subway, trying to figure out who you are. There's the admirable desire to help promote the paper you work for, and the less admirable one to promote your own career. There's the-well, I can't actually think of any others. But I can give you several reasons why it's bad for reporters, and bad for The Times.

Judging by their absence from the paper, one must conclude that either Miller's Chalabi revelations were wrong or unsubstantiated or that The Times is suppressing an important piece of news. If the first, the paper has suffered a blow to its credibility: Matthews introduced Miller as "an investigative reporter for The New York Times." The ID on the screen said "Judith Miller, 'The New York Times'." At five separate points in the show Matthews invoked her connection to The Times, as any host would.

If there's an act of suppression going on, the price is of course incalculable. But I don't remotely think that is the case. I've been able to determine with a very high degree of confidence that editors in the two departments most likely to have an interest in Miller's Chalabi assertions were unaware of them. (Miller was away from New York this week, and did not respond to messages I left on her office phone, her cellphone, and on e-mail. Executive editor Bill Keller declined to discuss the matter. "I'm sorry to be unhelpful on this one, but Judy faces a serious danger of being sent to jail for protecting a confidential source," Keller told me in an e-mail message. "I think this is not the time to be drawn into unrelated public discussions of Judy.")

Newspapers are different from talk shows. In the best circumstances, what appears in the newspaper is the collaborative product of reporter, editor, copy editor, desk or department head, and sometimes, the anointing ministrations of a masthead editor. What emerges from most television talk programs - in fact, what makes them interesting - is unedited, at times lightly considered, often impulsive. Yet those letters at the bottom of the screen ("Reporter, The New York Times") weld everything that's said to the paper's credibility.

Miller dodged the second danger lurking in the television studio, when she wouldn't take Matthews's bait and tell him whether she thought the elections, as he put it, "prove President Bush right, yes or no, about Iraq." But in the real-time, high-speed badminton match of a television interview or debate, opinions (or at least characterizations) that would never appear in the paper emerge. At several points during last year's presidential campaign, readers complained that one or another of The Times's political writers, appearing on TV, had said something that indicated they were biased for or against (in fact, almost always against) one of the candidates, and should therefore be disqualified from further coverage. This is not what you want your readers to think.

In the privacy of a one-on-one, off-camera interview, some print reporters will extract the information they're looking for with smiles and flattery; others will try pounding and intimidation. I know one magazine reporter who can switch between the two modes (and various others) so fluently you'd swear you were watching one of those one-man shows where a single actor plays a dozen roles. But both cajolery and aggression (not to mention their less glamorous teammates, patience, determination and shoe leather) are tactics informed, and justified, by a noble strategy: gathering the information that will enable readers to understand the events, personalities and issues of the day. So long as legal and ethical lines aren't breached, what matters is not the method of reporting but the results.

On television, dogged questioning can appear to be oppositional, even harassing. When White House correspondent Elisabeth Bumiller served as a panelist in a televised debate during last winter's primary season, some readers were convinced that her aggressive questioning of John Kerry and a head-to-head scrap with Al Sharpton demonstrated hostility. The same questions and the same attitudes deployed in a private interview could have produced answers that, in the paper, would have seemed absolutely proper and appropriate. But television can transform and distort reality; thinking you know a reporter from what you see on TV can be like thinking you know an actor from the way he behaves on stage.

I don't think any of my cavils pertain to columnists or critics, who make their livings peddling opinion. They are their own brand names. When David Brooks appears on one show and Maureen Dowd on another, their diverging viewpoints do not demonstrate contradictions at The Times; they demonstrate the views of David Brooks and Maureen Dowd. (I'll leave it to you to determine whether a public editor falls into this category.)

But reporters represent the standards of the entire paper's news gathering effort. It would be overkill for The Times to keep its reporters off television in all circumstances, but surely the top editors understand how publicity that can undermine reader trust is the worst kind of publicity a newspaper can get. They need to enforce a policy ensuring that no staff member will "say anything on radio, television or the Internet that could not appear under his or her byline in The Times."

Should be easy: those words are directly from the paper's "Ethical Journalism" handbook. But mild admonition is no insurance against reporters' getting ambushed, flattered or flustered into saying something an editor would strike in an instant. The only way the Times is going solve this problem is by making it a practice to regulate its reporters' appearances, and letting the paper - the reason everyone's here - speak for itself.

The public editor serves as the readers' representative. His opinions and conclusions are his own. His column appears at least twice monthly in this section.

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Groups Call for Hearings on the Justice Department’s Handling of Sibel Edmonds’ Case

Actually Old News: Explosive New 9/11 Revelations and Explanations

The sins of our fathers, the folly of man and the art of documenting history

Different but (Probably) Equal

Link Above is to Related Recent (02/06/2005) Article

Different but (Probably) Equal


January 23, 2005
Different but (Probably) Equal

ondon — HYPOTHESIS: males and females are typically indistinguishable on the basis of their behaviors and intellectual abilities.

This is not true for elephants. Females have big vocabularies and hang out in herds; males tend to live in solitary splendor, and insofar as they speak at all, their conversation appears mostly to consist of elephant for "I'm in the mood, I'm in the mood..."

The hypothesis is not true for zebra finches. Males sing elaborate songs. Females can't sing at all. A zebra finch opera would have to have males in all the singing roles.

And it's not true for green spoon worms. This animal, which lives on the sea floor, has one of the largest known size differences between male and female: the male is 200,000 times smaller. He spends his whole life in her reproductive tract, fertilizing eggs by regurgitating sperm through his mouth. He's so different from his mate that when he was first discovered by science, he was not recognized as being a green spoon worm; instead, he was thought to be a parasite.

Is it ridiculous to suppose that the hypothesis might not be true for humans either?

No. But it is not fashionable - as Lawrence Summers, president of Harvard University, discovered when he suggested this month that greater intrinsic ability might be one reason that men are overrepresented at the top levels of fields involving math, science and engineering.

There are - as the maladroit Mr. Summers should have known - good reasons it's not fashionable. Beliefs that men are intrinsically better at this or that have repeatedly led to discrimination and prejudice, and then they've been proved to be nonsense. Women were thought not to be world-class musicians. But when American symphony orchestras introduced blind auditions in the 1970's - the musician plays behind a screen so that his or her gender is invisible to those listening - the number of women offered jobs in professional orchestras increased.

Similarly, in science, studies of the ways that grant applications are evaluated have shown that women are more likely to get financing when those reading the applications do not know the sex of the applicant. In other words, there's still plenty of work to do to level the playing field; there's no reason to suppose there's something inevitable about the status quo.

All the same, it seems a shame if we can't even voice the question. Sex differences are fascinating - and entirely unlike the other biological differences that distinguish other groups of living things (like populations and species). Sex differences never arise in isolation, with females evolving on a mountaintop, say, and males evolving in a cave. Instead, most genes - and in some species, all genes - spend equal time in each sex. Many sex differences are not, therefore, the result of his having one gene while she has another. Rather, they are attributable to the way particular genes behave when they find themselves in him instead of her.

The magnificent difference between male and female green spoon worms, for example, has nothing to do with their having different genes: each green spoon worm larva could go either way. Which sex it becomes depends on whether it meets a female during its first three weeks of life. If it meets a female, it becomes male and prepares to regurgitate; if it doesn't, it becomes female and settles into a crack on the sea floor.

What's more, the fact that most genes occur in both males and females can generate interesting sexual tensions. In male fruit flies, for instance, variants of genes that confer particular success - which on Mother Nature's abacus is the number of descendants you have - tend to be detrimental when they occur in females, and vice versa. Worse: the bigger the advantage in one sex, the more detrimental those genes are in the other. This means that, at least for fruit flies, the same genes that make a male a Don Juan would also turn a female into a wallflower; conversely, the genes that make a female a knockout babe would produce a clumsy fellow with the sex appeal of a cake tin.

But why do sex differences appear at all? They appear when the secret of success differs for males and females: the more divergent the paths to success, the more extreme the physiological differences. Peacocks have huge tails and strut about because peahens prefer males with big tails. Bull elephant seals grow to five times the mass of females because big males are better at monopolizing the beaches where the females haul out to have sex and give birth.

Meanwhile, the crow-like jackdaw has (as far as we can tell) no obvious sex differences and appears to lead a life of devoted monogamy. Here, what works for him also seems to work for her, though the female is more likely to sit on the eggs. So by studying the differences - and similarities - among men and women, we can potentially learn about the forces that have shaped us in the past.

And I think the news is good. We're not like green spoon worms or elephant seals, with males and females so different that aspiring to an egalitarian society would be ludicrous. And though we may not be jackdaws either - men and women tend to look different, though even here there's overlap - it's obvious that where there are intellectual differences, they are so slight they cannot be prejudged.

The interesting questions are, is there an average intrinsic difference? And how extensive is the variation? I would love to know if the averages are the same but the underlying variation is different - with members of one sex tending to be either superb or dreadful at particular sorts of thinking while members of the other are pretty good but rarely exceptional.

Curiously, such a result could arise even if the forces shaping men and women have been identical. In some animals - humans and fruit flies come to mind - males have an X chromosome and a Y chromosome while females have two X's. In females, then, extreme effects of genes on one X chromosome can be offset by the genes on the other. But in males, there's no hiding your X. In birds and butterflies, though, it's the other way around: females have a Z chromosome and a W chromosome, and males snooze along with two Z's.

The science of sex differences, even in fruit flies and toads, is a ferociously complex subject. It's also famously fraught, given its malignant history. In fact, there was a time not so long ago when I would have balked at the whole enterprise: the idea there might be intrinsic cognitive differences between men and women was one I found insulting. But science is a great persuader. The jackdaws and spoon worms have forced me to change my mind. Now I'm keen to know what sets men and women apart - and no longer afraid of what we may find.

Olivia Judson, an evolutionary biologist at Imperial College in London, is the author of "Dr. Tatiana's Sex Advice to All Creation: The Definitive Guide to the Evolutionary Biology of Sex."