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Saturday, February 17, 2007
Pork Train Redux

I talked about this a couple weeks ago, but the pork train continues to roll along.

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Friday, February 16, 2007
Another Dumb Idea

A national coalition of kooks and nutbars is calling for a nationwide boycott to impeach (President Bush) for peace and justice.

Consumers are asked to withhold
their spending for seven days,
beginning on Sunday April 15
and lasting until Sunday April 22, 2007.
Do NOT shop corporate outlets
Minimize use of oil and gas.
Carpool: bus, bike or walk.
If you buy, BUY LOCALLY.

Plan Ahead and Stock Up

Of course, by shifting their buying to before April 15, the net effect of all this, even if it did take off, is zero. I suggest a more meaningful and lasting economic protest would be to cease being consumers altogether:

Blogging 201: Investigative Blogging

Investigative blogging can be very difficult and time-consuming, but it can also pay off in recognition around the blogosphere and in the mainstream media as well.

How can you do some investigative blogging? Well, you have to start off with a story that doesn't seem right in some way. For example, consider the Christmas in Cambodia tale that John Kerry often regaled audiences with. Back in May of 2004, Kitty discovered the story in a sidebar to a longer article, and posted it to Kerry Haters:

Vietnam Vet Kerry Told Senate He Saw Military Action in Cambodia
By J. Michael Waller
Did decorated Vietnam War veteran John F. Kerry see military action in Cambodia? He says nothing about it on the campaign trail, but he stated it as fact on the floor of the U.S. Senate on March 27, 1986. In that speech, Kerry accused President Ronald Reagan of leading the United States into another Vietnam in Central America, accusing the administration of Nixon-like duplicity and saying that he should recognize it because of his Vietnam experience.

Kerry told his colleagues he was on Navy duty in Cambodia at a time when President Richard M. Nixon lied to the public and said that there were no U.S. forces in that country. He even took enemy fire. In his words, "I remember Christmas of 1968 sitting on a gunboat in Cambodia. I remember what it was like to be shot at by Vietnamese and Khmer Rouge and Cambodians, and have the president of the United States telling the American people that I was not there; the troops were not in Cambodia. I have that memory which is seared - seared - in me."

Now I looked at that story and something just smelled rotten. It had the aroma of one of those after dinner anecdotes that have been polished over the years, too convenient by half for the point that Kerry wanted to make about Reagan and Nicaragua.

A big part of having a nose for a phony story consists of expertise in your subject. For example, I broke a story a few weeks ago on a 9-11 conspiracy theory panel. I have been covering these conspiracy theories for awhile now over at Screw Loose Change. I noticed that the panel listed mostly members with whom I was familiar--people like Bob Bowman, Steven Jones, Kevin Barrett, etc., but there was one guy who was unfamiliar: Eric D. Williams. So I did some digging on him and quickly discovered that he had recently written a "book" called The Puzzle of Auschwitz, which he claimed was a look into what was true about the Holocaust, and what was a myth. It was not hard to see that this was Holocaust Denial, which may not be a crime in the US, but is certainly distasteful. That made it a minor story, but then I did a little more digging and discovered that Williams was not just another speaker at the conference; he was the conference director. That made it a really big story, potentially devastating to anybody who was foolish enough to attend.

Another example was the Jack Abramoff story. As Abramoff's crimes became apparent, the media (accurately) reported that the scandal did not cut solely against the Republicans; many Democrats had also accepted funds from the tribes he represented. Then the American Prospect trumpeted a story which claimed that this was not true, that the Abramoff tribes had dramatically curtailed their funding to Democrats once he took over. Many liberal bloggers picked up the meme, as did Paul Krugman.

Once again, the story seemed a little too convenient by half and my suspicions were aroused. Another big hint: in order to believe the American Prospect's claim, you had to believe that the mainstream media was helping out the Republicans by portraying this as a bipartisan scandal.

Some story has aroused your suspicion. Now what? You've got to start digging. Obviously there are plenty of internet resources, but it is important not to limit yourself to stuff you can find on the web. In the Christmas in Cambodia story, I went to the library and borrowed a copy of Tour of Duty, Douglas Brinkley's hagiography of John Kerry's Vietnam service. I was stunned as I read the section on Christmas of 1968 to realize that Brinkley had John Kerry about 55 miles from the Cambodian border.

Now I knew I had a story. But almost as important, I had something nobody else on the web had; a couple paragraphs that I transcribed from the book. This non-web content was linked endlessly by bloggers discussing the Christmas in Cambodia story when it hit the mainstream media in early August of 2004.

If you do not have web-exclusive content, then people will commonly bypass you to link directly to the source. Yes, sometimes you will get a "hat tip" link, but that's nowhere near as valuable as a "here's the evidence" link.

Another way to generate web-exclusive content is to do significant work on a story. In the Abramoff example, I spent hours (probably 10 total) putting together spreadsheets to analyze the contributions from his tribes before, during, and after his tenure as their lobbyist. I copied those spreadsheets and placed them on my blog and voila, I had web-exclusive content.

Now, you've got a story and you've got some content that other bloggers will need to cover the story, how do you break it? Well, first you have to compose your post. Second you need to publicize it in the blogging community. Most bloggers of any size will be happy to listen to pitches for stories, but it has to be something they're interested in. Part of your expertise in your subject matter is knowing which big bloggers like your topics, and how to pitch it to them as individuals.

In the case of the Abramoff story, I knew Donald Luskin loves anything that discredits Paul Krugman, so I pitched it to him. This had huge benefits, as Luskin writes regularly for the National Review Online and was also able to push for a retraction from the New York Times (to which they eventually agreed). In the case of the Holocaust Denier Eric D. Williams, I approached an mainstream media reporter who had written occasionally about the 9-11 crackpots and presented him with the scoop. Since Dylan Avery (the creator of Loose Change) was scheduled to be at the conference (he has since bowed out), I sent the story to Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs, which had posted a few stories on Avery in the past (apparently Dylan had been an occasional pest commenter on LGF years earlier). Hot Air had been kind enough to cover a few of our stories at Screw Loose Change, so I sent it to Allahpundit as well. If I'd been thinking I would have pitched it to Instapundit along the lines of "this is how blogs and mainstream media are working together to break a story".

Kudos to David Kyle from the CPR Chatroom for suggesting this post.

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Thursday, February 15, 2007
Duncan Hunter Making Some Smart Hires

I still think his campaign is a longshot at best, but he's making some good choices. John Hawkins announces a (temporary) consulting assignment:

On February 3, Nathan Tabor from TCV Media got in touch with me and asked if I'd be interested in consulting for the Duncan Hunter campaign. We bantered back and forth, came to a basic understanding that Saturday, and then finalized the deal the next day. Long story short, TCV Media brought me on board to be their point person in building up buzz for Duncan Hunter online.

Since I am a blogger who's doing some consulting on the side, not a consultant doing blogging to get his name out there, I did attach a condition to my employment that Nathan was willing to go along with:

#1) I agreed to work a maximum of 3 months for the campaign -- which should be, in my estimation anyway, plenty of time to give Hunter a huge boost in name recognition and prominence in the blogosphere.

Additionally, while I am working on the campaign, I'm not planning to blog about any of the 2008 Republican contenders on RWN unless a story too big to ignore hits the wires. That's because I don't want to come across like a shill for Duncan if I eviscerate one of his opponents or talk him up. Additionally, if I'm done by May of 2007, at the latest, it's not as if it will be too late to get in on the serious 2008 discussions.

I linked to Hawkins' interview with Hunter a few months ago. He strikes me as a solid person, and there may be an opening for him with the front-runners being fairly moderate Republicans. But the jump from Congressman to President strikes me as unlikely.

I've already endorsed John McCain for president. But it is still early enough in the campaign that we can welcome more contenders as strengthening our eventual nominee. Duncan Hunter's made a smart move.

Update: I asked Gayle in the comments if she could name the last person to jump directly from the House to the Presidency, and admitted that I could not. I did a little poking around and it looks like the answer is James Garfield.

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How Deranged Are BDS Sufferers?

Pretty deranged.

Perhaps America could regain its reputation if General Pace would send a division of US Marines to arrest Bush, Cheney, the entire civilian contingent in the Pentagon, the neoconservative nazis, and the complicit members of Congress and send them off to the Hague to be tried for war crimes.

Now this is Paul Craig Roberts, whose CV Wikipedia sums up as follows:

Paul Craig Roberts is an economist and a nationally syndicated columnist for Creators Syndicate. He served as an Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan Administration. He is a former editor and columnist for the Wall Street Journal, Business Week, and Scripps Howard News Service. He is a graduate of the Georgia Institute of Technology and he holds a Ph.D. from the University of Virginia. He was a post-graduate at the University of California, Berkeley, and Oxford University where he was a member of Merton College.

And, of course, a thorough kook. He's a 9-11 Conspiracy Theorist:

I will begin by stating what we know to be a solid incontrovertible scientific fact. We know that it is strictly impossible for any building, much less steel columned buildings, to “pancake” at free fall speed. Therefore, it is a non-controversial fact that the official explanation of the collapse of the WTC buildings is false... Since the damning incontrovertible fact has not been investigated, speculation and “conspiracy theories” have filled the void. Some of the speculation is based on circumstantial evidence and is plausible. Other of the speculation is untenable, and it is used to protect the official explanation by branding all skeptics “conspiracy theorists.” The Popular Mechanics article and the TV documentary are obviously false since they both endorse the official explanation that the WTC buildings “pancaked” at free fall speed, an obvious scientific impossibility.

Yes, this supply-side economist knows more about building collapse than the hundreds of engineers that examined the World Trade Center's destruction. But he apparently doesn't know that there's no such thing as "free fall speed", since the speed in freefall is constantly accelerating due to the force of gravity.

And the idea of an academic and columnist calling for a military coup in this country just shows how deranged the Bush-haters are.

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Wednesday, February 14, 2007
My Two Favorite Candidates In 2008 Are....

John McCain, and Norm Coleman, who's running against this guy:

I got a hunch we're going to have a lot of fun with Franken over the next year and a half.
Christian Conservatives Beginning to Realize It's McCain or Nothing

You've got to get to the end of this article to find the real meat:

But McCain has at least one thing going for him with the religious right: Christian leaders are also wary of the other leading GOP presidential hopefuls, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

Giuliani supports abortion rights and gay rights. Romney has supported both in the past, although he now opposes abortion and gay marriage.

With no clear social conservative among the top-tier candidates, religious right leaders like the Iowa Christian Alliance's Steve Scheffler say they are now willing to at least give McCain a chance to explain himself.

That's a turnabout from last April, when Scheffler told The Associated Press, "There's no support for McCain in this constituency."

Since then, McCain has "made overtures to talk about his record," Scheffler said in a recent interview. "In many cases, he has a record conservatives would feel comfortable with."

As time goes by a lot of Christian conservatives may come to that realization.
Tuesday, February 13, 2007
Brainster On the Beeb!

I am scheduled to be interviewed on the BBC radio sometime this afternoon regarding the debunking James and I are doing over at the Screw Loose Change blog, I presume for airing later in the day. I will post more details as they become available.

Update: I will be on the World Today, a BBC show that airs over many NPR stations nationally. You can also listen at the link at 23:00 GMT, which I believe is 6:00 PM on the East Coast, with rebroadcasts at 10:00 PM and 1:00 AM. They had already interviewed the Loose Change boys (all three participated) and asked me a few questions. I have done quite a few radio interviews, but this was the first time I'd actually done one from a studio. Thanks to Bill Shedd and the rest of the folks at KJZZ and the BBC for setting this up!

Update II: It appears that we will have to wait for the show to be archived; I do not appear to be in the show shown under the 23:00 GMT link.

Update III: Some people caught the stream here; try it at 10:00 Eastern. Also, it looks like the full program is an hour and some NPR outlets may only cover a half-hour. You can now listen to the archived show here.

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Down Goes Marcotte! Down Goes Marcotte!

John Edwards rethinks keeping his foul-mouthed liberal blogger.

Word of Marcotte's resignation came as Fox News Channel commentator Bill O'Reilly was leading his program with a full-throated attack on the two bloggers.

A conservative blogger, Michelle Malkin, wrote recently: "Seems that everyone but the Edwards campaign has tracked Marcotte's foul-mouthed nutroots diatribes. Or perhaps the Edwards team is well aware of her lunatic blogging and can't wait for her to unleash her unbridled anger on their spiffy website to give him a gritty, 'progressive' edge."

But a liberal blogger, Chris Bowers of, wrote that "Republican attempts to make Democrats look bad though guilt by association with us crazy bloggers were a miserable failure."

Hmmm, maybe we could start another Google Bomb? Miserable failure?

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I Am Shocked To Discover

That Jacques Chirac has had many love affairs.

Three months away from his expected retirement, President Chirac has for the first time confirmed his appetite for extraconjugal affairs, saying that he loved many women in his lifetime “as discreetly as possible”.

Hey, way to confess the juicy stuff, Jacques!
Monday, February 12, 2007
Why Do Women Choke?

Here's an interesting article that I'm sure the writer will live to regret.

It turns out that by at least one measure—the number of unforced errors—men play equally well throughout the match. They make unforced errors on about 30 percent of the most important points, about 30 percent of the least important, and about 30 percent of all those in between. But women show a very different pattern: 34 percent unforced errors on the least important points, steadily rising to almost 40 percent on the most important. That's almost surely too big a difference to be mere coincidence.

What, besides choking, could explain those numbers? Maybe the closest games are usually played late in the match, when players are more fatigued; maybe more of those games involve weak players; maybe more of them occur at the French Open, where the court is harder to play. But professor Paserman tests all these theories, and none stands up to statistical analysis.

Fascinating stuff, of course, but risky for any man to be writing about, particularly when you try to apply it to the business world, as he goes on to do.
Love Me, Love My Dog

The truth of this statement is borne out by an anecdote in this article:

She confronted him about this at dinner one night, and he confessed, in some anguish, that he didn't love Sophie, didn't love dogs in general, never had.

They broke up the next week. More accurately, she dumped him. "What can I say?" Edie told me, somewhat defensively. "Sophie has been there for me, day in and day out, for years. I can't say the same of men. She's my girl, my baby. Sooner or later, it would have ended."

The article goes on to speculate about why humans love dogs and concludes it's because they're cunning charmers:

Or, to look at it from the opposite direction, Archer suggests, "consider the possibility that pets are, in evolutionary terms, manipulating human responses, that they are the equivalent of social parasites." Social parasites inject themselves into the social systems of other species and thrive there. Dogs are masters at that. They show a range of emotions—love, anxiety, curiosity—and thus trick us into thinking they possess the full range of human feelings.

This catches a bit of it, but more than that, I suspect humans and dogs have evolved together for reasons that annoy the neighbors of people with dogs; the fact that they bark when they hear somebody. For most of human history, knowing when others were approaching was potentially critical to remaining alive.




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Brainster in the Media

Howard Kurtz's Media Notes: May 27, 2005

Slate Today's Blogs:

March 16, 2005

May 9, 2005

June 3, 2005

Cited for Breaking the Christmas in Cambodia story (at Kerry Haters):

Hugh Hewitt: KerryHaters was on this story a long time ago. How could the elite media not have asked these questions before now?

Ankle-Biting Pundits: Our friends Pat and Kitty at Kerry Haters deserve the blog equivalent of a Pulitzer for their coverage of Kerry's intricate web of lies regarding Vietnam.

The Weekly Standard

Les Kinsolving

Greatest Hits

What If the Rest of the Fantastic Four Were Peaceniks?

Lefty Bloggers on Gay Witchhunt (linked by 16 blogs including Instapundit)

Kitty Myers Breaks Christmas in Cambodia

Brainster Shows Brinkley Says No Christmas in Cambodia

Explanation of the Blog's Name

Power Ratings Explained

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