Does Novak Have to Squeal?

Eugene Volokh addresses a question I have been wondering about: can Robert Novak be legally compelled to reveal his source?
Eugene thinks (tentatively) yes, as the First Amendment claim that journalists sometimes make is not always upheld (Hey, I knew that: I saw Absence of Malice. Everything I needed to know about the law I learned from Sally Field…)
But the one factor I did not see in his analysis was the fact that Washington D.C. (which I presume would have jurisdiction, as I believe that is where Novak is based) has a “shield law” designed to protect journalists from having to reveal their sources.
I was able to confirm that the law exists, but unfortunately have not yet been able to find a link to the actual text.
I assume I am missing something fundamental here, but perhaps Prof. Volokh or someone else more legally qualified than I can clarify this point…
Update: Prof Volokh has kindly responded, stating:
The answer is no; the D.C. Code generally applies to proceedings in D.C. courts, and to D.C. prosecutors (plus possibly to civil actions brought under the diversity jurisdiction of federal courts, though I’m not sure how D.C. rules fit there). It would not apply, however, to Justice Department prosecutors — their actions in these matters are governed by the privileges set forth in general federal law, not the law of a particular state or of D.C., even if the prosecutors are physically located within that local jurisdiction.
However, reader Lead Balloons chimes in thusly in the comments:
Volokh commenting on your post stated that the D.C. shield law would only apply to a D.C. prosecution in the D.C. courts. I don’t know anything about the shield law. However, as a former AUSA in D.C., let me make two points: first, USDOJ is the local prosecutor in D.C. Secondly, there is no reason, other than politics, that the United States Attorney for D.C. could not investigate, and if necessary, prosecute, this case in either D.C. or federal courts. (That’s assuming the actions took place in D.C., seemingly a safe bet if the calls to journalists were made by White House officials.)
Curiouser and curiouser, say I! Seems that the question may well be more complicated than I had initially thought…

Final Showcase Results

The final results are confirmed: King of Fool’s post Caucasian Club has won the Showcase, and the Blogger Alliance has defeated the Axis of Naughty for the third week running.
Alliance voting statistics were as follows:
Blogger Alliance: 32 of 75 = 42.7 % participation
Axis of Naughty: 9 of 24 = 37.5 % participation
Full Showcase voting results:
King of Fools: Caucasian Club
( 44 links)
Tom’s Nap Room: I hate cruelty to animals
( 21 links)
Simon world: Big Bad Bill
( 9 links)
citizen lehew: Who Ate My Democracy?
( 8 links)
Patriot Paradox: The Death of Holly Patterson: RU-486 Claims Another Victim
( 4 links)
Random Fate: Good advice
( 3 links)
The Populist: Reaganomics at War
( 2 links)
Freedom In Iran: Freedom In Iran
( 2 links)
Economists for Dean: Welcome to Economists for Dean!
( 1 links)

Front Line Voices

If you have not done so already, you most certainly must check out Front Line Voices, a new site by Frank and friends. From the mission statement:
It has increasingly been the complaint of many troops that the picture that the media is painting of the progress in the War on Terror is far from reality. The mission of this site is to get out the full story by posting first-hand accounts as written by men and women who have actually been to Iraq and Afghanistan. There is no editing or commentary by those who run this site, and we will print any letter or story submitted by a legitimate source who has served overseas. Our only goal is to offer you the opportunity to read these stories and to find out what the reality is.

Preliminary Showcase Results

Folks –
Preliminary Showcase results are ready for this week, with King of Fool’s post Caucasian Club strongly in the lead, and the Blogger Alliance squeaking ahead of the Axis of Naughty.
I say ‘preliminary’, because, given that there were some concerns last week that votes did not get counted, I’m going to delay the official end of the contest until this evening. So: if you are concerned that your (or your Alliance member’s) vote may have been missed, you have until 5pm PDT to let me know. After that, I’ll do a final count, and announce the official winners. (Note: if you forgot to vote, that doesn’t count).
Thanks all…
-NZB

Leaking for Fun, Profit, and Jail Time

Kevin Drum draws our attention to the Washington Post’s scoop this morning that lends further credence to the claim that Bush administration officials deliberately leaked the identity of former U.S. ambassador Joseph C. Wilson’s wife — an undercover CIA officer. From the Post:
At CIA Director George J. Tenet’s request, the Justice Department is looking into an allegation that administration officials leaked the name of an undercover CIA officer to a journalist, government sources said yesterday.
The operative’s identity was published in July after her husband, former U.S. ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, publicly challenged President Bush’s claim that Iraq had tried to buy “yellowcake” uranium ore from Africa for possible use in nuclear weapons. Bush later backed away from the claim.
The intentional disclosure of a covert operative’s identity is a violation of federal law.
The officer’s name was disclosed on July 14 in a syndicated column by Robert D. Novak, who said his sources were two senior administration officials.
Yesterday, a senior administration official said that before Novak’s column ran, two top White House officials called at least six Washington journalists and disclosed the identity and occupation of Wilson’s wife. Wilson had just revealed that the CIA had sent him to Niger last year to look into the uranium claim and that he had found no evidence to back up the charge. Wilson’s account touched off a political fracas over Bush’s use of intelligence as he made the case for attacking Iraq.

Atrios is all over the story (natch) and Hesiod is asking where the top conservative bloggers are on the issue (using the Ecosystem as his source, which is nice: but damn, Hesiod, it’s The Truth Laid Bear — it’s not like you haven’t had a good year plus to get that right or anything…) Even the Bad Dude himself is joining the fun.
The facts are still coming out on this case, so I’ll reserve making any sweeping judgments until the full story (or at least, more of it) is known. But there’s no great moral conundrum here: if the facts of the Post story are true, then the administration sources clearly acted unethically, immorally, and illegally. And if their actions can be proven in a court of law, they should go to jail. We’ve got plenty of legal processes to deal with this sort of thing — and it appears that, thus far, those processes are functioning properly (the lead of the Post story is that the Justice Department is investigating the issue, after all).
As for broader conclusions on what this says about the Bush administration — I’ll wait on that. Obviously it isn’t good, but leaping to conclusions like impeachment (Hesiod) is a bit premature in my view. If, however, it can be shown that Bush himself authorized (or even knew of) the leak — then yes, impeaching a president for willfully violating the law is just fine by me. Ditto on a smaller scale for kicking out Karl Rove, if he proves to be responsible (which, to be clear, there is absolutely no evidence of at this time, although the speculation is not an unreasonable one).
But before celebrating the prospect of impeachment all too much, Hesiod should of course consider that it would leave him with President Cheney…
Update:Josh Marshall has some speculative, but excellent, thoughts on the matter

Slate’s Weisberg: Rounding as an Editorial Art Form

Slate’s Jacob Weisberg was on the Slate/NPR radio program Day to Day this morning, discussing President Bush’s appearance at the U.N. One particular statement caught me by surprise:
(transcript is, as usual, my own from repeated listening of the NPR RealAudio, the relevant section begins at about 4 minutes in):
Weisberg: We’re taking casualties in Iraq every day; over the last few days, U.S. soldiers have been killed at the rate of two a day. I think there’s a general acknowledgement that the occupation is not going well — perhaps it could be going worse, but it’s not going well and there’s no end in sight.
(italics mine).
There’s only one problem with Weisberg’s flat statement on the casualty rate in Iraq: it just isn’t true.
The most easily accessible source I have found for data on casualties is the impressive website at lunaville.org simply titled Iraqi Coalition Casualty Count. As the site explains in their methodology page, the Department of Defense itself doesn’t make it terribly easy to find day-by-day data on casualties, although they do provide the raw data in the form of press releases and (extremely) high level summaries (PDF). Lunaville appears to be stepping up to the plate to try to provide the information in a searchable database.
That said, back to Weisberg’s statement. We’ll assume that when he stated that “we’re taking casualties in Iraq every day” he included wounded personnel as well as those killed — and by that definition he is almost certainly correct. But when he says “over the last few days, U.S. soldiers have been killed at the rate of two a day”, the facts don’t seem to support him.
Lunaville shows the following counts for U.S. soldiers killed over the past week:
9/22/2003 1
9/21/2003 0
9/20/2003 3
9/19/2003 0
9/18/2003 4
9/17/2003 0
9/16/2003 0
Depending on how you interpret Weisberg’s “last few days”, you get a different number for the average deaths per day. But there is no mathematical way you can make that number come out to even approach 2. If you look at the past three days, you get an average of 1.33; four days gives you 1.0; five days gives the maximum at 1.6, with six days at 1.33 again and the last week’s average being 1.14.
How about the whole month of September? Lunaville shows 21 U.S. soldiers killed in the past 22 days; an average of 0.95 a day. The month of August? 35 U.S. deaths in 31 days — an average of 1.13 a day.
All of these calculations are, of course, completely dependent on the source data. I am assuming Lunaville‘s counts are accurate, as they appear to be quite serious about their task and I’ve seen no evidence to contradict them. But be your own judge; that’s what the hyperlink is for.
But if you do accept the source numbers, there’s no way to avoid concluding that Weisberg’s statement that “over the last few days, U.S. soldiers have been killed at the rate of two a day” is simply wrong. If the question of just how bad things are in Iraq right now wasn’t so critical, I might be inclined to let a statement like this slide. But this issue is critical, and if journalists are going to declare Iraq to be “not going well”, we at least should demand that they get the numbers right.
What’s that you say? Weisberg was simply speaking during a radio interview, and that taking an exact spoken quote and dissecting it like this is a tad unfair? Well, I’m sure Weisberg himself might agree. Or maybe not.
Finally, in taking potshots at Mr. Weisberg, I don’t want to commit the offense of simply reducing these dreadful losses to mere numbers. Yeah, it’s not two a day, but it is still too damned many. And so I encourage you to go here, or here to see the faces of the soldiers who will not be coming home. What was lost with them cannot be replaced for their families and loved ones; and I can only offer my thoughts and sympathies to those that they have left behind.

Objectivtity Is In the Eye of the Beholder

Slate’s Press Box columnist, Jack Shafer, took a break from beating up on Judith Miller to chide Matt Miller for a proposal in his new book, The Two Percent Solution. (No relation between the Miller’s, far as I know: what is it with Shafer and that name, anyway?)
Matt Miller, the able and patient host of KCRW’s Left Right and Center (he must be patient, he puts up with Bob Scheer every week), argues in his book for, among other things, newspapers to run a feature he calls ‘Still True Today’. (As I enjoy Miller’s work on KCRW, I must admit with embarassment that I haven’t read his book yet, hence I’m relying on Shafer’s quotations here). Shafer describes Miller’s idea as follows:
Setting aside the wisdom of Miller’s $200 billion proposal [the main thrust of his book; I leave this to another post – NZB], he believes newspapers should raise awareness of America’s unmet health, education, and income needs with a daily feature called “Still True Today.” Bannered across the bottom inch of Page One (just 2 percent of a standard broadsheet!), “Still True Today” would “institutionalize regular attention for things that are important even though there’s not ‘news’ in them,” Miller writes. One day the feature would explain, “42 million Americans are uninsured

Editor, Edit Thyself

The big names are making hash of the Sacramento Bee’s mind-bendingly-stupid decision to submit their widely respected house blogger Daniel Weintraub to editing of his blog. Kaus fears “a smothering blanket of bureaucratic timidity”; Glenn notes that the incident combines “unthinking political correctness, corporate-mandated dullness, and complete cluelessness, all in one event” and Welch observes “You don’t need to employ an ombudsman to be gutless and wrong, but it certainly doesn’t hurt.”
The Bee’s decision, is of course dumb dumb dumb. It can make whatever rules it likes about the content that gets posted to its web pages, so it’s not an immoral or unethical decision. Just a dumb one.
I figure we’re going to be submitted to some mealy-mouthed backtracking over the next few days as the Bee editors realize just how badly they’ve stepped in it. Expect a limp reassurances to emmanate from their general direction real soon — I only hope that poor Weintraub isn’t forced to particpate; the whole scenario would bring shades of hostage-videos to mind. “I am being treated fairly and the editing is not inhumane…”
Update: Roger Simon is also deeply unimpressed.

Ilyka Damen Wins; Blogger Alliance Retains Sponsorship

Congratulations to Ilyka Damen, who has won this week’s New Weblog Showcase with the post A Happy Epiphany.
In other news, the dread Blogger Alliance has retained the sponsorship of the Showcase for another week, turning out 21 of their 65 members (32.3 %) versus the Axis of Naughty‘s 5 of 24 members (20.8 %).
Full Showcase results are as follows:
Ilyka Damen: A Happy Epiphany
( 24 links)
DFMoore: Your Daily Dose of Pizzazz!: More on Moral Relativism
( 15 links)
Jim Lynch: Remembering 9/11
( 9 links)
Snooze Button Dreams: We Like Broccoli (or “Stupid Human Tricks”)
( 8 links)
MIXBAGOFMUSINGS: Tuesday, September 09, 2003
( 5 links)
argghhh!!: McDonald’s to Launch Adult Happy Meals
( 5 links)
darrenkaplan.net: Aftermath–The New World 9-12-01
( 4 links)
Sequitur/Non: Clark’s AntiWar Credentials
( 3 links)
Forgotten Fronts: Kill the Imam.
( 3 links)
Tom’s Nap Room: Beatles take a bite out of iTunes
( 3 links)
Terrible Swift Word: Pathetic
( 3 links)
Crazy Thinking: The WTO disaster and the security threat within
( 3 links)
Bawstin Sports Pundits: Red Sox Nation
( 2 links)
Twothings Sites and Places of Interest: Twothings Sites and Places of Interest
( 2 links)
Perspective on the BS of TV Pundits: Tinsel Town Deficits
( 1 links)
Gold and Silver Blog: Mahendra’s Hurricane Isabel Prophecy
( 1 links)
The Enemy: “The Enemy” Brief Outline
( 1 links)

Give me Cappuccino (extra foam, half-caff, nonfat) , or give me…

Sometimes, folks with wealth redistribution schemes abandon all pretense of there being any connection between those paying the tax and those receiving the benefits, which at least makes them honest thieves. Take, for example, the bright bulbs up in Seattle who have decided that folks with a taste for espresso should pay for other people’s childcare:
On Sept. 16, Seattle voters will face a ballot question asking them to add a dime-a-cup tax to their espresso drinks. This “luxury” tax, as Initiative 77 calls it, would pay for preschool and day care programs.
(You can also find NPR’s coverage in RealAudio here).
This is great stuff for conservatives, of course — it’s right neighborly of the well-meaning liberals trying to pass this measure to make it so easy for conservatives to bash not just this particular scheme, but the entire concept of wealth redistribution.
And think of the slogans! “You’ll tax my latte when you pry it from my cold (on account of the double-cups I insist on and screw the damned rainforest) dead hands!” and all that…
PS – Suggestion to the Seattle forces opposing the tax: perhaps folks need a little history reminder. Seattle Coffee Party, anyone?
Update: Shot down!

Blogger Alliance Triumphs

In a come-from-behind victory, the Blogger Alliance has won victory in the first weekly contest to sponsor the New Weblog Showcase by having the highest percentage of its members cast votes for Showcase participants.
Final results were as follows:
Blogger Alliance: 30 of 76 = 39.5 % participation
Axis of Naughty: 8 of 24 = 33.3 % participation

Congratulations to Frank and his minions!
As I have mentioned, the sponsorship contest will run from week to week: so the Axis of Naughty has a chance to reclaim their honor this week… stay tuned!

Virtue Pure Wins Victory Pure

Congratulations to Virtue Pure for winning this week’s New Weblog Showcase with the post On Roleplaying.
Full results are as follows:
Virtue Pure: On Roleplaying
( 31 links)
Pardon My English: Who Needs Citizenship?
( 26 links)
Snooze Button Dreams: Why oh why do I have to love women?
( 15 links)
brainstorming: Mayberry R.F.D.
( 14 links)
http://www.jerrymccusker.com/blog/: If Americans Ran the Afterlife
( 14 links)
QandO: Post-war Iraq is (gasp) difficult
( 12 links)
argghhh!!: Mudville Gazette: 911 Remembered: Rick Rescorla was a soldier
( 8 links)
Eye on the Left: The Exlusionary World of Money
( 7 links)
OPEN SOURCE SOFTWARE LAW: MORE ON SCO v. IBM
( 5 links)
Inspiranote: The Garden You Give
( 4 links)
Like a Packet of Woodbines: Cat’s eyes
( 4 links)
Blogfonte: George Galloway
( 3 links)
Write Lightning: The Emperor’s (Kids’) New Clothes
( 1 links)

Call for Alliance Updates

I will be working today on the code to tally votes cast by Blog Alliance and Axis of Naughty members to see who wins the Blog Showcase sponsorship contest.
If either alliance’s membership list has changed, now is the time to let me know. It will be a great help if you have additions to: a) Ensure they are added to the Ecosystem yourself if they are not already in the Ecosystem (you don’t need me to do this), and b) Provide me a simple list of the exact URLs of the new blogs as they appear in the Ecosystem. That will ensure I can get them added quickly today.
Update: Wow. That wasn’t so hard. The new code is implemented and appears to be working: check it out on the Alliance Statistics page. Alliances: I’d appreciate your help in double-checking the stats today; if you see any inaccuracies or issues I’ll do what I can to resolve them before the final count tomorrow morning.
Update Again: For the record, the Axis of Naughty is strongly in the lead at the moment — remember that the winning alliance will be determined by the percentage of their membership which participates, not the absolute number. The Axis currently has 29 % participation, while the Blogger Alliance languishes at 16%.

Welcome Newcomers!

Welcome, Lucianne.com visitors! Combined with the Instalanche Glenn unleashed yesterday, TTLB is getting a mighty blast of traffic, and I suspect many of you may be newcomers to my little part of the Blogosphere.
So, a quick guide:
– The post you are probably looking for is here: Inside the Mind of NPR. Or just scroll down.
– In addition to being a blogger myself, I also host a few weblog tools of my own devising. The TTLB Blogosphere Ecosystem is a list of weblogs ranked (and categorized) by their popularity with other weblogs, as measured by how many incoming links they receive. A new addition is another listing which shows weblogs ranked by their average number of daily visitors (traffic). Finally, the New Weblog Showcase is a weekly contest which provides a forum for those new to blogging to showcase their best work — see here for a FAQ and more details.
– If you feel like truly indulging this simple bear, browse through my self-selected greatest hits, which you’ll find under Classic Bear Truth on the left navigation bar. Personal favorites at the moment are When 300 Baud Was the Bomb (a reminiscence on the good old days of BBS’s published at Salon.com) ; The War of the Memes (my take on the war on terror); and July 28, 2014 (a more creative piece I did last summer trying to look forward by looking backward. Or vice-versa).
I hope you’ll find my work worth returning for, and if you have comments or feedback, please feel free to drop me a line. Enjoy your stay!
-N.Z. Bear

Inside the mind of NPR

I like NPR. I don’t agree with their slant of coverage much of the time, particularly regarding the war. But I listen, simply because there just ain’t any alternative if you want continuous radio news coverage. But even I was taken somewhat aback by an interview I heard yesterday.
In a bout of self-examination (or is it congratulation?) NPR’s Terry Gross interviewed NPR’s Anne Garrels on Fresh Air yesterday. Garrels was NPR’s correspondent in Iraq during the early phase of the war, and has just written a book on the experience.
The interview is available in RealAudio format here — the segment in question begins at about 28 minutes 30 seconds in. (The transcript below is my own transcription from listening to the audio (repeatedly)).
Gross asked a simple question, Garrels answer to which speaks volumes:
Terry Gross: Could you describe what you consider to be the emotional high point and low point for you during the war — as a reporter and as a human being being there?
Anne Garrels: I think a curious high point was in the weeks afterwards when I realized that all the months of staying there had really been worth it because Iraqis had so accurately predicted what was going to happen; Iraqis knew themselves and made it very clear. So in a perverse kind of way I guess that was a high point. I was astonished at how ill-prepared the Bush administration was for the aftermath from the very beginning. And that continues to this day.

Think about this. Garrels witnessed the fall of one of the more evil regimes of the past century. Even for the most staunch opponent of the war, the end of Saddam’s power and the beginning of the Iraqi people’s freedom must be recognized as a huge achievement for human decency.
But what was Garrels emotional high point? That’s right: when she felt reassured that yes, things really are going badly for Iraq — and the U.S. When her view that America was screwing things up was confirmed.
It is human to want to validate one’s own actions; to feel some smug self-justification if events do indeed turn out badly when one has been predicting they would. But in Garrels situation, with all the things she must have seen and experienced, to declare that feeling to be the high point?
It is honorable of Garrels to admit this honestly. But that doesn’t make it any less pathetic.

A day to remember

I had meant to do a more significant post today, but other responsibilities intervened.
In brief, then: this is not the anniversary of a “tragedy”. It is the anniversary of an attack; planned and carried out by men who conciously and deliberately inflicted the death and suffering of that day on the citizens of our nation — and many others.
I believe that September 11th, 2001 represented one battle of a larger war — not the first, by any means, and as much as we might regret it, not the last. You may disagree with my use of the word “war”. But what you think, and what I think, doesn’t matter: because it is clear that the remnants of those who attacked us two years ago are quite clear-minded, and they have no doubt that it is war — ask them yourself.
We forget this at our peril.
I wish the best for all who lost loved ones two years ago on this painful day. And for all of us, I wish safety, and more to the point, victory: for we will never, ever find the former if we do not achieve the latter.

Blogger Alliance Rises to the Challenge

It looks like the Blog Alliance is in the game for the competition to sponsor the New Weblog Showcase.
This is excellent news — and all the more reason for new bloggers to sign on for the Showcase this week.
To the Axis and Naughty and Blogger Alliance members, I am going to slightly change the approach for the contest, as follows:
– Previously I said that “Whichever alliance can succeed in delivering the highest participation (linking to entered Showcase posts and to the winner’s announcement Monday) from their membership — measured by percentage of your total membership — will win sponsorship of the Showcase.”
What I think will be easiest is if I simply count votes to Showcase posts. That way the winning alliance can be announced on Monday morning with the Showcase winner. I still would request and appreciate links to the winner on Monday, of course, but it won’t actually count towards determining the winning alliance.
– If I get the code written this weekend, I will probably implement the sponsorship-contest on a weekly basis. It is up to the alliances whether they would like to participate going forward, but I’ll put the logic in place so that for every week, whichever alliance has the greatest participation in the Showcase will win sponsorship for the following week.
If there are any serious objections, let me know, but I think this will work out well all around…
-NZB

Amish Angst?

Lair at Amish Tech Support is making ambiguous noises about possible changes over at his comfortably padded cell.
The End of Amish Tech Support? Whether you agree, disagree, or simply ignore him in disgust, you must admit that the Blogosphere wouldn’t be the same without Amish goodness. (And badness.) He’s a borderline-Touretts semi-sociopath, but he’s our borderline-Touretts semi-sociopath.
Stick with it Lair — change the name if you must, but you can’t leave now. All the plants would die.