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We Report... You Deride

 
Wednesday, March 17, 2004  
Creeping Revisionism

Program note: The post immediately below this one was extensively revised. When I originally wrote it, I couldn't find the web site of the pollsters, and had never heard of them before (hey, sue me-- I don't read the Moonie Times), so I wrote as much as I knew. When I got better info, I wrote that.

I'll do an update if there are one or two small points I want to add. I'll write a new post if things change. But if I just did a cruddy job of saying what I think, I'll just change it. I wouldn't use hindsight to change pieces to make me look smarter than I am. But I don't believe anyone should have to wade through endless drafts where I'm trying to figure out what I want to say.

1:33 AM

Tuesday, March 16, 2004  
Eureka!

Thanks to Taegan Goddard, I now have some statistics to support my belief that another terrorist attack would cost W. support, not add to it/ When people were asked that question in the last week of February:

* 45% said they'd be either somewhat or much less likely to vote for W.
* 29% said more likely to vote for him
* 22% said it would have no effect
* 4% aren't sure

Andres McKenna Research (Goddard's piece has the name wrong) is a conservative outfit, and they publish findings in the Moonie Times, so these numbers aren't jiggered or the product of wishful thinking.

I'm skeptical about the findings in two respects. First, the more hypothetical a question is, the less reliable a poll is likely to be. Second, even if the results are correct, being "much less likely" to vote for something doesn't necessarily mean "I'll change my vote"; it can mean you just go from "committed supporter" to "lesser of two evils." Current polls show that 75% of the voters say they won't change their minds about their candidate for any reason.

But even with all those qualifiers, the poll still supports what I keep saying: Americans will tolerate inconvenience and suffering only to the degree that it produces results. W. has been able to avoid nasty questions like "Why haven't you found Osama?" only because he hasn't inflicted any new damage on U.S. soil, and out of sight, for us, is out of mind.

And that is more or less what their writeup of an October, 2003 poll says:

"We believe that the ability to reduce the threat posed by terrorism and to confront radicals with force and firmness will be a threshold issue in 2004. The public will not let someone become (or continue as) president unless they believe that he is doing everything possible to reduce the risk of another attack and minimize the damage from an attack should it come. This particular intersection of attitudes and expectations could prove challenging for the Democrats to navigate in 2004."

It certainly could-- especially if Kerry handles the issue as badly as the "foreign leaders like me" issue. But if al-Qaeda provides tangible evidence that W's regime hasn't met those standards, voters will hold it to account.

3:26 PM

Monday, March 15, 2004  
The Weekly Bumillerality

Every Monday, the New York Times publishes a column entitled "Why George W. Bush Is Great." The column, written by the hopelessly unqualified Elisabeth Bumiller, dedicates itself to telling us something good about W. that the Evil Liberal Media does its best to cover up.

In this week's episode, she explains that (a) John Kerry is mean, because he thinks W. should work 24 hours a day, and (b) W. is a much better President than Bill Clinton because he's more punctual.

It wouldn't be a Bumiller column without at least one statement that is carefully qualified to mislead, and this week's entry is "Out of any given 24 hours in Washington, Mr. Bush will generally spend 11 hours working, 7 hours sleeping and 6 other hours in the White House residence."

The statement doesn't mention that W. spends fewer hours in Washington than any president since Eisenhower, because he takes frequent, long vacations. In August, 2001, he scheduled a 31-day vacation, which would have broken the record set by Richard Nixon. (When the media reported this, his people cut it back into the mid-20's.)

And, of course, W. spends an obscene amount of time campaigning for himself and other wingnuts, which cuts down the time he spends on the job even more.

Actually, I think I speak for the entire civilized world when I say that we all wish W. would spend less time governing, not more, miz B. But don't worry-- we're working on giving your idol a real long vacation starting ten months from now.

10:15 AM

Sunday, March 14, 2004  
Unfair Use

Kevin Drum has apparently found a problem he can't solve. The smart fellow who worked out the proper way to get Social Security in balance and rooted through 30-year-old records (and spin) to determine whether W. dodged military service has been stumped by this question: Did Robert Cox violate copyright laws when he created a page that:

* Used the New York Times's logo.
* Used their web feeds to embed live content
* Used their footers, ads, graphics and layout

All this was done in order to simulate a 'corrections' page for the Times's columnists. "Whether Cox exceeded fair use or not is something I can't judge," he confesses. But he does know enough to think that "they should be ashamed of themselves."

It's a simple question; it took me about three hours of research to learn everything I needed to know to keep me out of trouble when I was editing newsletters in my college days. But that was long before the Internet; now all anyone needs to do is start here. This page is just one of many on that site, which is devoted to explaining copyright, fair use, parody and other topics to librarians, webmasters and researchers.

The answer is that it isn't protected, because the original page wasn't a parody. A parody is exempt from normal standards of fair use because courts realize that a parody must appear to be as similiar to the original as possible in order to be effective. To to do that, it must borrow a more substantial amount.

The test is that it needs to be funny-- to at least try to make the reader laugh. The parody can celebrate the original's quirks or mock its flaws. In can appreciate, exaggerate or denigate the original. It doesn't even need to be clever-- hey, Larry Flynt's parody of Jerry Falwell's Campari ad was downright crass.

Cox's page is deadly serious (there's no way I'm linking to it), and its intention was to take whacks at the liberal columnists. When I looked at the site, it contained five 'corrections'. Three were addressed to statements in Paul Krugman's column; a fourth was for Maureen Dowd.

The page also included a link to the source of the 'correction'-- which takes you to such fabled humor sites as the National Review and the Nation.

Was this selection an accurate representation of the errors? Of course not. There was only one item from conservative William Safire, even though Spinsanity has six separate examples of errors in his columns (there's duplication on the page) and a couple from David Brooks. Nothing from Frank Rich or Bob Herbert or Nick Kristof .

(In the few days since I saw this, he's added another Safire, a Brooks and a Krugman, bringing the count to 5-3. I'm sure that's on the advice of counsel and it still won't help because nothing on the page is funny)

If this case gets to court-- and Cox would be really stupid to let it--the judge will rule that the use of the trademarks is not protected, because there is no intent to parody. The use of the material is intended to create confusion in the mind of the reader-- to falsely suggest that the Times has acknowledged that these criticisms are valid.

To suggest that this is a First Amendment case or a matter of Free Speech... it 's ignorant of the law and the constitution. This is theft and disinformation. And if someone were to put up a site that claimed that what Kevin wrote was wrong-- and stuck his picture and his logo on it-- I think he'd have a lot less trouble figuring that out.

Update: I don't disagree with Kevin's comments about the use of the DMCA. There isn't anything about the law that I like. But it;s on the books and the wingnuts employ it. I can't see any reason the good guys shouldn't use it.

6:21 AM

 
Why Emerson Would Have Loved Pundits

Atrios has correctly stated how the "conventional wisdom" has assessed the political impact of the terrorist attack in Spain and is right about how it would assess another 9/11.

(Aside to all the people giving him a hard time for saying that: Shut up. He isn't saying that either view is logical or just-- he's just pointing out that the inconsistency exists. It does.)

Atrios isn't saying the conventional wisdom is wrong about another 9/11. I am.


12:53 AM

 
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