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Saturday, February 26, 2005

University of Colorado Blinks, Readies Churchill Buyout

Little Green Footballs links to a Denver Post story reporting University of Colorado officials are preparing to offer Professor Ward Churchhill a pay-off to go away, uh, excuse me, an early retirement package to go away. Churchill has become a cause celebre among radical Leftists in the wake of controversy surrounding his calling the victims of 9/11 "little Eichman" because they worked on Wall Street.

The Post cites two unnamed sources describing university officials' desire to avoid a costly legal battle they believe would certainly result from their firing of Churchill. March 7 is the apparent deadline for making the deal because that is the due date for a report by an academic panel appointed by the university's regents to investigate Churchill's writings and speeches:

"Depending on the panel's findings, due the week of March 7, CU president Betsy Hoffman could inform Churchill of the university's desire to terminate his employment. Churchill would then have the right to appeal through a faculty committee.
"Typically such dismissals - even if done by the book - result in years of expensive lawsuits that Hoffman told legislators last week the university would like to avoid,"
according to the Post.

This news comes as no surprise here, as we said two weeks ago officials would find a way to make the Churchill problem go away without firing him. The typical academic administrator has no guts in disciplinary matters unless the problem individual happens to be a known political conservative or a professing evangelical or fundamentalist Christian. Be on the Left, however, and, as LGF observes:

"Hey! Sounds like a great deal. Libel 9/11 victims, lie about your ancestry, forge artwork, teach anarchists how to commit terrorism, assault reporters—and end up with 10 million bucks and a quick easy retirement! Who knew the halls of academe could be so lucrative?"

UPDATE: Belmont Club has further information from The Rocky Mountain News, including this quote from University of Colorado president Betsy Hoffman:

"The more talk there is about the need to fire him, the more difficult it becomes for us to do that, if that's what we decide to do," she told Republican lawmakers, urging them not to join calls for action.
"If we approach this issue wrong," she said, "not only will every regent be sued personally, but every administrator will be sued personally and professor Churchill will win his lawsuit with triple damages and be back on the faculty, a very wealthy man at our expense."

In other words, what we are witnessing in Colorado is a public demonstration of the as-of-now unchallenged oppressive power of the Left's Political Correctness ideology.

Belmont Club's Wretchard puts it this way:

"This fear, whether real or pretended, is an impressive demonstration of the power of Political Correctness, a compound of legal menace, the threat of extralegal action and of retaliatory vilification that is not some figure of speech but an actual, material force.
"Even if Churchill is 'bought out' at $10 million -- should he stoop to accept such a beggarly sum -- he will have unambiguously demonstrated the value of leftist protection. That he could have survived repeated exposure as an ethnic identity thief, academic fraud and art forger; that he could have assaulted a newsman on television and withstood the personal opprobrium of the Colorado Governor, only to receive a fortune in compensation, can only add to his fame."

Stalin would be impressed.

Friday, February 25, 2005

GRASSROOTS GOVERNMENT: Only 4 Congressmen Blog ... But It's a Start!

Representatives Mike Pence of Indiana, Katharine Harris of Florida and Mark Kirk of Illinois - GOPers all - are the only Members of the U.S. House of Representatives with official blogs for their offices. Over in the U.S. Senate, Vermont's Patrick Leahy, a Democrat, has the senior body's sole official blog.

Four down and 531 to go, right!

Check out Patrick Ruffini's "Congressional Blogging: A Guide," which includes a superb analysis of the benefits likely to accrue to every Member of Congress who takes the leap into blogging. Ruffini also provides excellent responses to the familiar excuses and reservations so often heard from public officials at all levels of government when considering the prospect of blogging.

UPDATE: Duh! MediaSoul.com proprietor Stacy Harp asked the obvious question - why didn't I provide links to the four congressional blogs. So here they are: For Rep. Mike Pence, go here, for Rep. Katharine Harris, go here, for Rep. Mark Kirk go here and for Sen. Patrick Leahy go here. Actually, there is no reference to a blog that I could find on Sen. Leahy's homepage, but the "More From the Floor" link appears to be a blog. If somebody knows a better link, please let me know and I will correct this post ASAP.

New Study Full of Crow for Summers Critics; Finds Evidence Men, Women Both Use Their Brains But ... Differently

Captain's Quarters has a nifty post on a new study from researchers at the University of California at Irvine and the University of New Mexico that finds men and women have greatly disparate patterns of usage of the brain's componentry.

Men use much more of the brain's gray matter, which is used in processing information and is critical to doing operations such as mathematics, while women use vastly more of the brain's white matter, which enables things like multi-tasking and language, according to the study. Sounds very much like what Harvard President Laurence Summers is being roasted by PC Stalinists on the Harvard faculty for suggesting might be true, right?

Click on the headline above this posting to go to Captain's post, which includes links to the study, some of the statements of Summers'c critics and the exchange last week between NOW's Eleanor Smeal and Harvard Law's Alan Derschowitz on MSNBC's "Scarborough Country."

Tthat exchange ended with this telling observation by Derschowitz: "You will look like an absolute fool if he gets fired and it turns out to be right."

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Can MSM Journalists Please Get it Right On Proposed Federal Shield for Them?

Don Wycliff is the Chicago Tribune's public editor. He's also a thoughtful guy with a lot of years under his belt in the top rungs of the MSM. Despite such credentials, the Trib's public editor doesn't understand some essential points on the scope and history of a proposed federal shield law for reporters.

The proposal, which is similar to those already on the books in 31 states, has drawn lots of attention in recent months, thanks to Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald's attempt to force reporters Judith Miller of The New York Times and Matthew Cooper of Time to disclose the identities of confidential sources and other information that may or may not assist Fitzgerald in identifying who leaked some information about the wife of a Bush Iraq War critic to another Chicago Tribune columnist, Robert Novak.

The leak was the fact that Victoria Plame, wife of former Clinton and Bush White House national security aide Joseph Wilson, works at the CIA. Miller and Cooper could be slapped with 18-month jail terms if they continue to decline to answer Fitzgerald's demands.

You can read here and here why Fitzgerald's probe should have never have been started in the first place for the simple reason that whoever talked to Novak broke no law. Click on the headline above this posting to go to Wycliff's complete column.

Now back to Wycliff's column where he argued:

"I wonder whether in supporting such legislation we may be trading our birthright--the splendid informational anarchy fostered by the 1st Amendment guarantee of press freedom--for a mess of pottage. I wonder whether we may not be trading occasional outrages like the Miller-Cooper case for the everyday certainty of uncertainty that goes with being licensed by the government.
"You see, if the government gives journalists the right to be exempt from the normal obligations of citizenship, the government, ultimately, will get to decide who is a journalist. Of course nobody will admit that this is the case.
"They'll contrive some body of journalistic wise men and women, a college of cardinals, who will set standards and thresholds and regulations and such. But somebody will have to appoint those cardinals and, in the end, it will be the government that's in charge."

Two points:

First, nobody expects a federal shield law for reporters to do what Wycliff claims it would do - "the right to be exempt from the normal obligations of citizenship ..." The proposal recently introduced by Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) and Rep. Rick Boucher (D-VA) doesn't provide an unlimited absolute privilege and neither do the state laws.

A qualified federal privilege could make it possible for law enforcement and judicial officials to compel certain kinds of testimony before grand juries, which seems to be the main thing Wycliff associates with being "exempt from the normal obligations of citizenship." Models for such qualified privileges can be found in those provided for doctors, lawyers, shrinks and clergymen.

In fact, the Pence-Boucher proposal combines a provision protecting the identity of confidential sources (this is not an absolute privilege because it doesn't define when a source is confidential)with provisions providing a limited privilege for the protection of all kinds of information, includng names of non-confidential sources, if a judge is convinced there is a reasonable ground for believing the information held by a reporter is essential to the investigation, prosecution or defense in a criminal case.

Second, why is Wycliff so worried about the consequences - government control - that could result from the appointment of a panel of "journalistic wise men and women, a college of cardinals, who will set standards and thresholds and regulations and such"? Isn't that a pretty good description of what Uncle Sam has been doing for decades - appointing allegedly wise men and women - aka "bureaucrats" - who set standards and write regulations to control major parts of our daily lives? This argument sounds like another variation on the NIMBY appeal.

There is one other aspect of Wycliff's column that bears further comment and that is this statement:

"I yield to no one in my abhorrence of government by secrecy. Almost from Day One the Bush administration has been a particularly egregious offender in this regard. Indeed, I think it is only in a Justice Department made in the image of John Ashcroft that a hunt for leakers at the White House could have become a Javert-like pursuit of two reporters."

What? Hold on. Timeout, Mr. Public Editor!

It wasn't the Bush White House going ape over the Plame leak - though the Bushies have certainly have gone ape over other leaks since taking office in 2001. It wasn't former Attorney General John Ashcroft, either.

It was many of Wycliff's coleagues in the MSM who initially went nuts with accusations that the Bushies leaked to Novak as retaliation against Wilson and condemnations of Novak for supposedly jeopardizing national security by revealing the identity of a CIA agent. Such accusations were why journalists like the editorial page of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution characterized the leak as "perilously close to treason."

Is it too much to expect journalists to characterize accurately legislative proposals like the Pence-Boucher federal shield law? Or to include critical pieces of why and how such proposals come to be proposed?

Especially when said journalists occupy visible positions like public editor of the Chicago Tribune?

EWU's Chantrill Declines to Go Public In Debate on Churchill, Academic Freedom

Last week we noted Professor Patty Chantrill's appearance on "The O'Reilly Factor" defending the faculty's reversal of the Eastern Washington University president's disinvitation of University of Colorado's Ward Churchill. Chantrill defended the faculty action as a blow on behalf of academic freedom.

To which I responded:

"The claim by academics like O'Reilly guest Prof. Patti Chantrill of EWU who claimed she and the faculty were merely affirming free speech is a hypocritical smokescreen, unless she and her ilk are prepared to disavow all forms of political correctness, hate speech codes, and the rest of the typical school's tools for suppressing non-Leftist expression, including especially that of evangelical and fundamentalist Christians. Don't hold your breath waiting for that disavowal."

Much to my surprise, an email from Chantrill arrived in my inbox the next day, pointing out that EWU liberals had protested the invitation of porn star Ron Jeremy and quoting Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis' familiar maxim that the best way to expose false speech is more speech. She also noted that I had originally mis-spelled her first name.

Delighted to be presented with an opportunity to engage Chantrill on the issue, I responded as follows:

"Why don't we continue this dialogue on the state of the First Amendment on the American campus and publish it verbatim on the blog? I can just about guarantee you it will be picked up throughout the Blogosphere.
"In the meantime, let me simply say that your Brandeis quote is exactly my point. And that is why I say that if academia repeals all of the speech codes AND makes credible long-term efforts to reach out to and invite conservative and evangelical Christians in philosophy, public policy and all the other major fields of inquiry, in order to redress the many decades of their systematic exclusion from campus forums, then I will be more inclined to take seriously free speech claims like those you presented on O'Reilly.

"Why don't you step forward and issue a call to your fellow academics to do this? Yes, doing so would be quite risky for you professionally, but then that proves my point further, does it not?
"I've been a journalist most of my career and believe the First Amendment is absolutely foundational. Did you know that Madison was disinclined to go along with demands for a Bill of Rights (see The Federalist Papers dismissal of such "parchment barriers" to the abuse of rights) and that his change of heart resulted from pressure from Baptists in Virginia and North Carolina? I've long found it ironic that secularists today owe their First Amendment rights in great parts to those Baptists?
"BTW, I thought you held your own against O'Reilly and you certainly came off as a poised spokesman for EWU. I was impressed. So many folks with a contrary point of view seem to just wilt, or give up, when confronting O'Reilly."

It would be wonderful to now share with you Chantrill's response - which was perdictable perhaps but also well-argued - but she declined my invitation to a posted discussion until an apparently threatening atmosphere she attributed to her public defense of the faculty clears.

Let us hope that atmosphere will clear soon and you can have the benefit of hearing a full exposition by both of us on the issue of freedom of speech on campus, including Chantrill's contention that my branding as hypocritical her assertion of freedom of speech was based on incorrect assumptions. She also wondered if I would be willing to post the evidence for her contention that I got it all wrong.

Well I am when the good professor is.

Does Summers Lynching Mean Academia is the Most Intolerant Place in America?

Harvard President Lawrence H. Summers is being lynched by a bunch of politically correct storm troopers because he commited the unforgivable sin of deviationism. Deviating from the accepted Leftist orthodoxy that plagues the American campus, that is, by observing that there appear to be fewer women than men in certain esoteric fields like higher mathematics, suggesting that the reasons for this ought to be explored and wondering if perhaps we should consider if there a connection between the numbers and inate gender differences.

I've avoided posting on Summers plight because at first it seemed unlikely to be more than a day or two-day story. Boy was I wrong on that score. Just yesterday, Summers met for the second time with the Harvard faculty and, according to an account of the meeting in The Washington Post, he opened with this statement:

"I am committed to opening a new chapter in my work with you. To start, I pledge to listen more, and more carefully, and to temper my words and actions in ways that convey respect and help us work together."

Is it not sad to see a grown man on his knees like that? With that statement, Summers all but begged them to please, please, please forgive him and promised to never, ever again dare to think any sort of subversive deviationist thoughts.

Even though the Post quoted an attendee from yesterday's meeting saying there wasn't quite as much angry passion among faculty members as in the previous such gathering, it is hard to see how Summers can survive much longer.

Perhaps the faculty storm troopers will now allow him a dignified but temporary respite from the vicious personal attacks, character assassinations and uncompromising calls for his resignation during which time he will be expected quietly to seek a new job. More likely, though the screaming will continue until the pieces of his figuratively dismembered career are hung in the four corners of the storm troopers' domain as warnings to all who join him in deviant thought.

Alas, the intellectual freedom of inquiry and expression than once marked the ivy covered groves of Academe is being snuffed by the aging children of the 60s. Increasingly, it is professional suicide to think and speak views that don't conform to the Left's various orthodox shibboleths, especially those enforced by close-minded feminists, rabid multi-culturalists and Hate America-types of all stripes.

Sad, so very, very sad.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

GRASSROOTS GOVERNMENT UPDATE: William Eggers' "Government 2.0"

I started reading "Government 2.0" tonight and was so encouraged by the introduction that I just had to post something on it. Here's the graph that especially got me revved up:

"And then there is the matter of using the Internet to open up government to create greater scrutiny by regular citizens. Achieving real transparency is about much more than just slapping a few friendly stats on a public web site. People want to see the full picture, the one that includes the recent surge in the rat population and slacking sanitation crews.
"This requires a total mindshift - one in which public officials permit successes and embarrassments to be both online and searchable. Sound utopian? In fits and starts, it's already happening, as you will learn in chapter 6."

That makes me want to just skip right on over to chapter six and read it first since, as regular readers know, my passion is seeking ways the web in general and the Blogosphere specifically can transform government, as it is now transforming the MSM, the marketing world and so much else. Sounds like Eggers has a similar passion, plus a whole lotta info, insight and knowledge I can't wait to tap!

Eggers is Senior Fellow at The Manhattan Institute and Global Director, Public Sector for Deloitte Research in Washington, D.C. Many of you may also know him as the co-author with former Indianapolis Mayor Stephen Goldsmith of "Governing by Network: The New Shape of the Public Sector," as well as a lengthy list of books, monographs and magazine articles numerous aspects of privatization of government services.

I'll keep you posted as I read "Government 2.0."

WSJ Gets It Right on Plame Affair Outrage but Blows it on Bloggers and Shield Law

Judith Miller of The New York Times and Time's Matthew Cooper face the prospect of having to serve jail terms because they refuse to answer Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald's invidious questions about their supposed contacts with figures allegedly connected to columnist Robert Novak and the Valerie Plame affair.

Shield laws that protect journalists from having to reveal confidential sources have been approved in 31 states but there is not yet such federal law. Representatives Mike Pence, R-IN, and Rick Boucher, D-VA, have introduced a federal shield law proposal but it faces a long road before it ever approaches President Bush's desk for signature.

Fitzgerald's pressure on Miller and Cooper has been the focus of earlier comment in this space, which you can read here. Then check out The Wall Street Journal's editorial page today for an excellent summary of why Fitzgerald should never have been retained to ask any journalists about their sources.

Here's the Journal's concise statement of why Fitzgerald should never have been appointed:

"In fact, it is almost certainly not a crime. That statute was intended to stop the treasonous betrayal of secret agents in the field by the likes of the notorious Philip Agee, and it requires a prosecutor to show that the discloser identified a "covert agent" knowing that the agent had been undercover in a foreign country within the last five years.
"For an official who had no such knowledge, the law also requires that the prosecutor show a pattern of exposing agents.
"It's far-fetched to believe that Mr. Novak's sources were culpable under any of these terms. Ms. Plame was safely ensconced at CIA's Langley headquarters, and if anything her husband was the one who first compromised her when he went public with accusations about the CIA consulting job that she had recommended him for.

"Once Mr. Wilson made himself part of a political campaign against the Bush Administration and the Iraq War, his wife's role was bound to become public."

The Journal nails it on this count, but then comes this paragraph, which frankly reads almost like an after-thought. Some might even construe it as a cheap shot at the Blogosphere:

"Some of our media friends are also pushing a federal shield law, and one has been introduced in the House and Senate. A large question, however, is who will be shielded. The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press wants to protect not just reporters from established news organizations but everyone who writes anything, which means that almost anyone with a laptop and a Web site could claim to be protected from having to provide grand jury testimony. This Congress will never pass such an expansive shield, and we aren't sure it should."

I suspect the Journal's editorial writer had bloggers in mind when this graph was penned. Bloggers certainly meet the the definition of "almost anyone with a laptop and a Web site." It's true, too, that no Congress is going to approve legislation that hands anybody a blanket exemption from the judicial process. That is a straw man because there is no reason why a federal shield law must necessarily amount to such an exemption. And neither do shield laws that protect confidentiality for people like doctors, members of the clergy and attorneys.

There is a serious case against a federal shield law to be considered, however, and you will find it on the National Center Blog where Amy Ridenour makes a solid case that it is unwise for the federal government to get into the business of defining who is and who is not a "journalist."

I am not convinced that a federal shield law is not a good idea, but I recognize the cogency of Amy's critique. What is disappointing in this is the fact that for many years, I have depended upon the Journal's editorial pages as a dependable source of most logical and factual analysis and commentary. The graph quoted above simply was not up to the Journal's usual standards.

CBS Had a Secret Private Eye Chasing Rathergate Memo Source

Joe Hagan of The New York Observer is reporting that former U.S. Attorney General Dick Thornburgh and former AP head Lou Boccardi Jr. were not the only investigators retained by CBS to probe Rathergate. There was also a private eye the network specifically retained to find the source of the forged memos at the heart of the scandal.

You knew about Thornburgh and Boccardi. Now meet Erik T. Rigler:

"Five days later, CBS launched another inquiry into the memo scandal. The network hired a private investigator named Erik T. Rigler, a former F.B.I. agent and Navy aviator, to track down the source of the troublesome documents.
"Mr. Rigler’s sleuthing was not mentioned in the list of interviews and other pursuits in the independent panel’s final report on Jan. 10. Though CBS had promised transparency in investigating the memo scandal, of a half-dozen CBS News producers who spoke to The Observer, only one had even heard a rumor that the network had hired the private investigator."

Not everybody within CBS was unaware of Rigler's assignment. CBS anchor Dan Rather and his senior producer Mary Mapes knew, according to Hagan. Mapes reportedly gave Rigler all of her notes and leads, but he was unable to determine the source.

Guess where Rigler's search ended? With longtime Bush critic Bill Burkett and a deadend. But Rigler's work was not without fruit, as he produced a two-page memo regarding Mapes that was given to Thornburgh and Boccardi, according to Hagan. Mapes was angered that what she thought was an attempt to determine who suckered CBS with fake memos apparently became instead a critical look into the details of her version of the events leading to the memos being given to CBS and used for the Rather-anchored Sept. 10, 2004, broadcast.

CBS has confirmed its hiring of Rigler but denied that his assignment was to collect information about any network employee. Considering the determination of the three CBS employees who were asked to resign in the wake of Rathergate to take their cases to court, it seems increasingly clear that this scandal is poised to get very ugly and very public very quickly.

Read the whole Hagan story by clicking on the headline above this posting.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Harp Launches "Mind & Media" to Aid Bloggers Seeking to Review Latest Books

If you want to meet an entreprenurial dynamo, head to SoCal and look up Stacy Harp, proprietor for some time of MediaSoul.com blog and the brand-new company, Mind&Media.com. I absolutely love the arguably accurate proposition that forms the subtitle of the former - "because even people in the media have souls, too" - and Stacy is stepping out on an exciting project in the latter.

Mind & Media's reason for being is to test a concept in helping great bloggers get an advance tip on great new books, DVD documentaries and movies, and musicians that might otherwise be invisible to the vast marketing machines in Hollywood, LA and New York. To that end, Stacy is recruiting a corps of knowledgable bloggers who can provide credible reviews pro or con to help interested readers decide whether they want to try a new offering before forking over the cold hard cash. It's kind of a Blogosphere application of the Wikipedia concept to new products in the arts and publishing.

Stacy is promising interviews with "Seeds of Deception" author Georgiana Preskar and Peter Schweizer, author of "Reagan's War," which was the basis of the superb "In the Face of Evil" documentary DVD on how the former president won the Cold War. BTWm if you haven't yet gotten your copy of "In the Face of Evil," click on the logo nearby in the right-hand column.

If you want more information about how to become part of the Mind & Media trusted network of reviewers, contact Stacy via the web site. And be prepared for somebody with what seems like an endless stream of tremendous ideas to boost bloggers and blogging.

Do As We Say On Taxes, Not As We Do?

Corporate favoritism is rife in the U.S. tax code and the media industry is far from immune to taking full benefit whenever possible of Washington politicians' bottomless hunger for handing out favors. But to judge by its editorial page over the years you might not expect The New York Times to be such a media organization.

You would be wrong.

Captain's Quarters has the Times' hypocrisy on this issue nailed. Click on the headline above this posting to get the full flavor. Here's a sample:

"That's the problem with newspapers and businessmen in general who rail against tax cuts and investment protections in the tax code. Most of them operate or contribute to corporations that exploit these legal structures without hesitation -- as they should, if legal -- to benefit themselves and their shareholders. And yet they castigate others who do so, accusing them of threatening our "civic culture" and other hyperbolic rants about the evils of corporations. It's hypocrisy at its most base and ludicrous level."

FULL DISCLOSURE: Tapscott's Copy Desk also enjoys the benefit of a federal tax favor, consisting of a deduction for mortgage interest on a (believe me, very) modest house near Sykesville in still-semi-rural Carroll County, Maryland. Unlike The New York Times, however, I have long advocated a flat tax that includes no deductions for anybody for anything - "Here's how much I made last year and here's my check for 10 percent, Mr. Caesar. Now leave me alone."

BTW, for those of you who know your American history, it's that Carroll County. The loveliest of Maryland counties deserves a small footnote in the narrative of the Cold War because it was on a farm there that Whitaker Chambers hid his "Pumpkin Papers," the most damning evidence of the treason of Alger Hiss.

Monday, February 21, 2005

"Tapscott Behind the Wheel" Driving Soon to a URL Near You!

Everybody has their preferred means of "getting away from it all." Some like to take a long walk in the woods, others prefer to knit something or maybe play a round or three of golf. Getting behind the wheel or bars and driving or riding - as (safely) fast as possible as often as possible - has long been my favorite way of clearing my mind of all the nonsense of politics, media and the daily babble.

Cars and motorcycles - and especially anything and everything having to do with racing them - have been among my chief passions since I was a kid growing up in Oklahoma in the 1950s and 60s. One of my earliest memories is listening to Sid Collins, "the Voice of the Indy 500," with my dad every year. And there was that night in 1957 at an early NHRA Nationals when Dad and a neighbor helped Art Arfons get his aircraft-engined "Green Monster" ready for the next day of competition. Dad was an aircraft mechanic in the Navy during WWII and may have had some knowledge Arfons found useful.

My hero in those days was A.J. Foyt, who was in his prime during my teen years, so actually getting to see him at Indy in 1964, the year he won his second 500 (and the last win for the old front-engine Offy roadsters), remains among the greatest thrills of my life, even though it was only the final day of practice and qualifying, not the race itself. Oddly, Dad was a Chevy guy, so I was as well but the sound of those four-cam Indy Ford V-8s shutting down for Turn Two where we were sitting still makes the hair on my neck stand up.

Anyway, for most of my life, cars and motorcycles and racing were just a passion, nothing more. It didn't occur to me until 1985 that writing about these things was not only possible, it might also be a way of making some money. So I approached The Washington Times about writing a regular review column and much to my amazement they went for it. One thing led to another and those initial "Behind the Wheel" columns provided an avenue for becoming a full-time journalist, covering government and the automobile industry. About two weeks after the Times hired me as a full-time reporter, I realized being a journalist is probably what I should have been doing all along.

So much has happenned since those early days in the Times newsroom. I was able to break some important stories along the way, including a 1986 piece on how NASA's chief safety engineer had been warning the agency for months before Challenger blew up that those O-rings were no good. My obits on Henry Ford and Enzo Ferrari appeared on A1, too, which was an honor, and there were a number of important stories about waste and fraud in the government bureaucracy.

It's been two decades now and there have been ups and downs, good days and some truly awful ones as well. But through it all, one of the few constants has been those "Behind the Wheel" columns. Week in and week out for nearly two decades, I've had to make a deadline and produce something reasonably interesting, informative and useful about a new car or truck. How columnists like the Times' Wes Pruden - who produces two often brilliant and hilariously funny takes on Washington and politics every week - do it is beyond me!

The column went from the Times to K Street Etc. in 1990, then to The Journal Newspapers in 1991 and has been continued by the new owners as the Journals became The Washington Examiner. Five years ago, the Patuxent Publications also started running the column in many of its suburban Baltimore weeklies.

Now with the growth of the Blogosphere and the modest success of Tapscott's Copy Desk, it seems appropriate to start posting the "Behind the Wheel" columns on the Internet as well. Thus the creation of "Tapscott Behind the Wheel," a companion site to TCD. In addition to the new car and truck reviews, TBTW will include my occasional editorial thoughts, musings and observations about the auto industry and the world of motorsports.

So, even if the prospect of heel-and-toe downshifting an open-wheel race car from 150 mph for a 50 mph hairpin, or revelling in the tearing-sheet scream of a Ferrari V-12 at full song at 3:30 a.m. during the Daytona 24 Hour isn't exactly your cup of tea, you still might discover a pleasurable distraction from numbing spin, analysis, ranting and facts of the Blogs and politics. Just remember, "Tapscott Behind the Wheel" is very much a work in progress.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

"Connected Coast-to-Coast" Gets Rave Review from WordunHeard blog

Word is getting around the Blogosphere about the new MSNBC show co-hosted by Monica Crowley and Ron Reagan Jr., called "Connected Coast-to-Coast." WordunHeard.com recently posted a lengthy and highly laudatory review that you can read here.

WordunHeard's enthusiasm stems from the fact MSNBC has designed the show around the use of blogs and blogger feedback on news as it develops each day. The show's hosts take an initial look at the day's news, relying primarily on reporting and perspectives from the Blogosphere, during the noon hour, then return in the 5-6 p.m. time slot for updates, discussion and feedback.

I missed the first week's telecasts but if the show develops the format's potential, WordunHeard's optimism about the program will be more than fulfilled. Monica Crowley is a natural for the show, being smart, knowledgeable and extremely articulate. Ron Reagan Jr. is a surprising choice, but perhaps he will match or even exceed MSNBC's apparent expectation that he can be an effective and appealing liberal news-talk show co-host.

In the meantime, here's a couple of graphs from WordunHeard's enthusiastic review:

"From a blogger’s perspective, one of the best segments of the week had nothing to do with the ‘Topic of the Day’, but rather the ‘Topic of the Times’. It introduced two unfamiliar faces, but two very familiar names. In a segment that dealt with exactly what a blog is, what constitutes a good blog and good blogger, Erick Ericson of Redstate.org was a guest along with Robin Burk of Winds of Change.

"If you missed it, you should watch it here (courtesy of Redstate.org via Winds of Change). It was recorded origionally on a poor quality video tape, but it is worth your viewing. Robin Burk gives an unarguable definition of what constitutes a good blogger and a good blog post. All that from brand new faces…furthering my previous point.

"The topic selection is smart and reflective of both major events in the news and major hot topics in the blogosphere. The two do not always coincide. That is what makes C2C so different. C2C does (and will) cover both.C2C has decidedly and consciously charted a new course, one that will prove to be the drip-drip-drip through the dyke, ever increasing until the barrier is no more.

The ‘Law of the Flow’ has been ratified (if not written) by the blogosphere. Control of the flow of information has just been decentralized. It was only a matter of time before it was recognized by one of the traditional ‘gatekeepers’ of the flow of information that there is nothing to be gained by desperately clinging to the old ways. It is not yet a matter of immediate survival, but it will be soon. I have suggested before that the last to adapt will be the first to disappear from the landscape."

Interesting isn't it, that the number three guy in the cable news-talk competition is the one who takes the risk and tries a show based on a concept that is far from well-understood outside the Blogosphere and precincts of the web's marketing mavens.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Wouldn't You Like to Read Your Dad's WWII Letters to Your Mom?

Bloggers of a certain age - i.e. those of us who are Baby Boomers - likely have at least one parent who served during World War II. Odds are that it was your Dad and he wrote lots of letters to your Mom during the war.

Odds are good, too, that they were young and in love in those days, and, hard as it is for us to imagine, they probably endured all the separation anxiety, loneliness, homesickness and lovesickness of young lovers that we never associate with our parents.

Those letters were your Dad's only way to talk to your Mom during the war and even though their generation was not given to being open about their private emotions, they often poured out their hearts in those letters. Wouldn't you love to be able to read the letters your father wrote to your mother and hear his heart? You might well discover aspects of their lives and personalities that you never before realized were there.

But how many of us have ever been able to read such letters?

Okie on the Lam proprietor Dale Baker has and this week he began sharing those letters with the world via his blog. You can also click on the "Dad's WWII Letters" blogad in the right-hand column of this blog.

Dale and I are on the opposite coasts but we share Oklahoma childhoods, so many of the place names and events mentioned by his father are familiar to me. Also, both of our fathers were in the Navy and spent time in training at the Navy's Norman, Oklahoma, facility. They might even have known each other.

Regardless where you grew up or where your folks served, you will be moved by Duke Baker's endearing words for his Anna Mae. Most of the time, he is simply conveying the mundane details of daily life at a Naval hospital. Spare though his prose is, however, you hear more than a few hints of Duke's compassion for the wounded and dying men under his care, as well as his longing for his beloved, home and peace.

Thanks, Dale, for sharing these letters with the rest of us. A lot of people you will probably never meet will be wonderfully blessed by your sharing.

Should Uncle Sam Define "Journalist" or "News Agency"?

Amy Ridenour's National Center Blog posted an astute analysis of the Pence-Boucher proposal for a reporter's federal shield law earlier this week. Unfortunately, I just discovered Amy's analysis this morning, thanks to being on the road all week. Click on the headline above to get to Amy's blog, then scroll down to the posting entitled: "Journalists (And Bloggers?) Shield Laws? What is a Reporter Anyway?"

Amy's essential point is that it is not a good thing to have the federal government in the business of defining who is and is not a journalist. I understand that reservation but the reality is that Uncle Sam got into that business with passage of the First Amendment and its guarantee of freedom of the press.

The key consideration here in my view is not defining who is a journalist but rather what is the "press." Long before the adoption of the First Amendment, people in the colonies understood that the free press included that day's newspapers and books, as well as pamphlets and circulars concerning public issues. In other words, the definition was wide and expansive.

So it should remain today. There is much in Amy's analysis that deserves additional commentary, though, so I encourage you to read and study her posting closely, then tell her (and me!) about your thoughts in response.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Denver Radio Hosts Use Colorado's Public Info (FOI) Law to Expose Ward Churchill

Craig Silverman is a co-host of a Denver area talk radio show and is on O'Reilly as this is written explaining how he has been using the Colorado public information (i.e. FOIA) law to turn up document after document concerning University of Colorado "professor" Ward Churchill. Among other things, Silverman says it appears Churchill didn't sign an oath required of every University of Colorado professor to uphold the U.S. Constitution.

O'Reilly speculates that this is the latest indication that Colorado officials are preparing to oust Churchill. I am skeptical, frankly, that Churchill will actually be fired. Disciplined in some meekly symbolic way, yes, but I just don't see the typical academic administrator or university board of regents member having the backbone to fire an academic who is at the center of a political controversy engendered by yet another Radical Left "critique" of "Amerika." If the man was to be fired, it should have been done long ago and ought not require the kind of drawn-out set-up process O'Reilly imagines.

Here's why I doubt that Churchill's University of Colorado paychecks will be stopping anytime soon: As disgusting and outrageous as was his calling the nearly 3,000 U.S. citizens who died in the 9/11 attack "little Eichmans" for their work on Wall Street, such views are commonplace on campus these days among the professoriat and have been for decades. I believe this accounts at least in part for Churchill's brazened defiance of the Colorado taxpayers for whom he does work - contrary to his loud protestations otherwise - and whose sons and daughters he has for years been filling with the hate and bitterness of the Extreme Left. He knows his colleagues well enough to know they mainly agree with him and don't have the guts to fire him even if they did disagree with his views.

The Ward Churchills teaching and running the colleges and universities of today were the New Left radicals of the 1960s, preaching hatred for America and economic freedom then just as they do now. Since the 1960s, they have turned out generations of acoloytes populating the non-tenured teaching staff and dominating the lower management levels of school administration.

Virtually all that has changed for such people since Mario Savio and "Free Speech Movement" at Berkeley in 1963 is the fact so many of them moved from attending the occasional class and organizing demonstrations to teaching the occasional class and ... organizing demonstrations.

Bottomline: Churchill is a mere PR problem, not an outcast, from the groves of American Academe. And he is far from alone. That's why, for example, the faculty at Eastern Washington University recently voted to reverse the disinvitation by the school's president of Churchill to come speak at that school.

The claim by academics like O'Reilly guest Prof. Patti Chantrill of EWU who claimed she and the faculty were merely affirming free speech is a hypocritical smokescreen, unless she and her ilk are prepared to disavow all forms of political correctness, hate speech codes, and the rest of the typical school's tools for suppressing non-Leftist expression, including especially that of evangelical and fundamentalist Christians. Don't hold your breath waiting for that disavowal.

Take note, Blogosphere - in the right hands, the FOIA is a powerful weapon on behalf of the truth. Yet another illustration of why passage of the Corny-Leahy "Open Government Act of 2005" is important.

GRASSROOTS GOVERNMENT UPDATE: Bill Hobbs on "The Bloggy Future of Journalism" in Nashville, Tennessee

Speaking of people who "get it" on blogs and journalism, check out BillHobbs.com and his current posting on "The Bloggy Future of Journalism," which provides an interesting analysis of the new Nashvillezine.com collaborative blog on, you guessed it, the music scene. Hobbs points to the comparative cost advantages of a blog versus traditional hard-copy publications covering the same topics.

What really got me excited about Bill's post, however, is the link he makes between the Blogosphere's cost advantages over the MSM and the incredible capacity of the blogs to cover government as it has never before been covered:

"A few months ago I had a conversation with a friend in the media business about a possible business plan for HobbsOnline. (Memo to my boss - it was idle chatter!) We were discussing how a single blogger, armed with a notebook PC, wireless Internet access, a digital camera and a digital video camera, could provide much more thorough and complete coverage of the Tennessee state legislature and state government than any newspaper does.
"Nashville's daily papers, The Tennessean and the City Paper both cover the legislature, but neither provides complete coverage because neither can.
"They are limited by space, by deadlines, by editors and by cost. A statehouse reporter can file one, maybe two, stories per day - and that forces them to focus on just one or two issues. They don't cover every piece of legislation. They don't even cover every piece if important legislation. They cherry-pick."

Cherry-pick, indeed. But compare that reality of the MSM with this reality of the Blogosphere:

"A solo blogger journalist, on the other hand, could report live, via a blog, from the legislature from morning until night, and file a far wider range of stories and briefs. On the hot issues, a quick hallway interview of a key senator could be video recorded, edited on the PC and uploaded in less time than it would take the local TV crew to get back to the station."

Think about that, folks! No wonder panic is beginning to be felt in some quarters of the MSM as facts like these are realized. Not to put too dramatic a point on it but Hobbs is pointing to precisely the reason why Hugh Hewitt's Gutenberg/Reformation analogy is right: The MSMers are the monks of old toiling away in their cloistered monasteries copying Scripture by hand while bloggers are cranking out millions of copies of the Bible in all the languages of the world so that people everywhere can understand the Gospel.

Just like the Reformation was a revolution in the church, the media, government and every other part of Western society, so, too, is the Blogosphere bringing about a communications revolution that is bound to "change everything."

Peggy Noonan Really Gets It on the Blogosphere! Captain's Quarters Says She Ought To Be Bloggers' Prose Laureate

Former Reagan speechwriter, crafter of wonderfully written books and columns on public policy issues and all-around great-hearted person Peggy Noonan has a tremendous column in today's issue of The Wall Street Journal that you must read. Normally I would give you a couple of sample quotes to entice you to click over, but I don't want to delay your getting there any more than necessary. Just click on the headline above this posting and enjoy. This is the best op-ed I've read anywhere on why the Blogosphere fulfills the same public service functions as the MSM, only often far better.

UPDATE: Captain's Quarters is nominating Noonan for the Blogosphere's "Prose Laureate." I enthusiastically second that nomination! And as always the Captain's analysis of Noonan's WSJ op-ed on bloggers and the MSM is rich with insight.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Senators Cornyn, Leahy Intro "The Open Government Act of 2005" to Reform FOIA, Senator Recognizes Importance of Blogs

Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) today jointly introduced the first major overhaul in nearly a decade of the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The Cornyn-Leahy proposal addresses major problems with FOIA administration, case law and enforcement, based on suggestions received during the past year from open government advocates on the Right and Left.

Cornyn is the major force behind the proposal. Prior to his 2000 election to the U.S. Senate, Cornyn was Texas' Attorney General, a position in which he became a hero to public right to know advocates with his aggressive championing and enforcement of the Lone Star state's open government laws. Now the Texas senator wants to do the same at the federal level for the FOIA.

Bloggers should know that Cornyn and his Senate Judiciary Committee staff members had them in mind while drafting this legislation. He acknowledged as much this morning during a floor speech introducing the FOIA reforms:

"I want to thank my colleague from Vermont, the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee who’s long been a champion of these issues, for his hard work on this bill, and together our offices have spent a great deal of time meeting with open government advocates.
"I’m proud to say that this bill is supported by a broad coalition across the ideological spectrum, because I believe that this legislation should not be a partisan or special interest bill, indeed it is not...
"As the Senator from Vermont said at a recent Judiciary Committee hearing:
'I have always found that every administration, Republican or Democratic, would love to keep a whole lot of things from the public. They do something they are proud of, they will send out 100 press releases. Otherwise, they will hold it back. We have the FOIA, Freedom of Information Act, which is a very good thing. It keeps both Democratic and Republican Administrations in line.'
"I agree with that, and I would say that essentially what we’re talking about is human nature. It’s only natural that government leaders want recognition for their successes, but not their failures. But we as a healthy democracy need to know the good, the bad and the ugly.
"The news media is of course the main way people get information about government. The media pushes government entities, and elected officials and bureaucrats and agencies to release information that the people have a right to know, occasionally exposing waste, fraud and abuse. "And hopefully, more often than that, letting the American people know what a good job their public officials are doing. But we’ve also seen in recent years the expansion of other outlets for sharing information outside of the mainstream media – to online communities, discussion groups, and blogs."

I've had numerous conversations in recent months with Sen. Cornyn's Judiciary Committee staffers responsible for developing the FOIA reform package and found them instantly receptive to and thoroughly understanding the role of blogs in the news and public policy debate processes. This is reflected in the proposal and will be important as bloggers become more frequent and adept users of the FOIA to break news and to advance the public policy discussion and debate.

Of course, everybody who cares about preserving representative government has an interest in maintaining the public's right to know what the government is doing, subject only to legitimate national security, law enforcement and proprietary business considerations. As Cornyn said this morning in his remarks to the Senate:

"I believe all these outlets can and do contribute to the health of our political democracy. But let me make this clear, Mr. President, this is not just a bill for the media, lest anybody be confused. This is a bill that will benefit every man, woman and child in America who cares about the federal government, cares about how the federal government operates, and ultimately cares about the success of this great democracy."

This is important legislation and the Blogosphere will be wise to champion its passage. A key part of the process of blogs becoming more important and influential in news and public policy is understanding and taking advantage of laws like the FOIA.

For more on the Cornyn-Leahy proposal, go here.

NRB UPDATE: Had a Great Time Critiquing Fairness Doctrine return advocates on NRB's FCC Panel Tuesday

A large and enthusiastic crowd of National Religious Broadcasters members cheered more than a few times yesterday as Federal Communications Commissioner Kevin Martin and yours truly made the case against restoration of anything resembling the Fairness Doctrine. I've met a bunch of super people here in Anaheim this week and am encouraged to find so many folks who love the First Amendment and are constantly wary of efforts to compromise it.

I'm lunching today with Stacy Harp, proprietor of MediaSoul.com and eInvolved.com, a couple of blogs you should know about from the thriving SoCal evangelical community, and a couple of pastors from area congregations. I am eager to hear their stories of how blogging has made a difference in their works.

Then, it's back to the airport and home, via a looooonnnnng flight to Atlanta and finally home to BWI. It's been a great trip but there is no place I ever prefer to be than home with Claudee, Abby and Cuddles.

Full-time blogging resumes here tomorrow.

Monday, February 14, 2005

I'm Off to the National Religious Broadcasters' National Convention Monday Through Wednesday in Anaheim

It's a looonnnng way from Baltimore's BWI airport to John Wayne in Anaheim, CA, but that's my itinerary today, via Cinncinnati. Purpose of the trip is to participate on an NRB panel tomorrow afternoon to discuss the disturbing prospect for the return of the tFCC's Fairness Doctrine and much else connected with the nation's chief airwave regulator. Brent Bozell of the Media Research Center will also be on the panel, as will FCC Commissioners Martin and Copps.

The NRB national convention includes a week's worth of panels, banquets, seminars and presentations on a multitude of First Amendment and other freedom of expression issues, so if time permits I will live-blog a session or two. Keep an eye on this space, especially Tuesday and Wednesday morning.

Also on Wednesday, I am going to meet and lunch with a group of Southern California Godbloggers, including MediaSoul's Stacy Harp, who is also the proprietor of eInvolved.com, which tracks lots of faith and free expression issues from a Christian perspective. It's going to be a fascinating week, folks.

The National Debate Explains What's in a Name

Lefty bloggers went nuts last week when it was revealed that "Jeff Gannon," the Talon News White House correspondent, was actually "James Guckert" of whatever. Guckert's use of a psuedonym became a kind of symbol for Daily Kos and others on the Left of the Bush administration's alleged deceptiveness.

Well, now along comes Robert Cox, proprietor of The National Debate blog and the inspiration behind the Media Bloggers Association, with the definitive treatment of the prominence of fake names in the news media, the entertainment world and politics and government. For example, I'll bet you have no idea who is George Schwartz:

"Many on the left, and in the MSM, have done their Inspector Renault impersonation and profess to be "shocked" that a journalist would publish under a pseudonym.
"The irony here runs thick.
"The lead attack dog on "GannonGate" has been David Brock of Media Matters for America. This is the same David Brock, self-proclaimed member of the vast right-wing conspiracy, who served as attack dog on various Clinton-era scandals including "TrooperGate" and now works for uber-lefty and world famous financier George Schwartz.
"Never heard of him? Perhaps you know him better by his "fake name" - George Soros.
"Entertainers have long changed their names for a variety of reasons. Some have sought to de-ethnicize their names: Allen Konigsberg became Woody Allen, Alphonso D'Abruzzo became Alan Alda, Jacob Cohen became Rodney Dangerfield and Bob Zimmerman became Bob Dylan. Some sought to glamorize their name including Frances Ethel Gumm (Judy Garland), James Bumgarner (James Garner) and Marion Morrison (John Wayne). Lawrence Tureaud, Cherilyn LaPierre, Maria Rosario Pilar Martinez Molina Baeza, and Paul Hewson all opted for just one name: Mr. T, Cher, Charo and Bono respectively. Thomas Mapother, Todd Jones, Demetria Guynes and Jo Tejada have found success as Tom Cruise, James Earl Jones, Demi Moore and Raquel Welch."

I knew the use of nom de plumes was widespread in these worlds, but I had no idea it was so extensive. One has to wonder if perhaps the last word has not yet been written on "Gannongate." Click on the headlne above to get the full story from The National Debate.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

EASONGATE UPDATE: Will Jordan Now Lead an Anti-Blogosphere Offensive?

Let's be clear about the resignation of CNN's chief news executive, Eason Jordan - he did not submit his resignation with either an admission that he made an outrageous claim for which he had no evidence or a declaration that what he said is true. He quit to avoid further controversy and additional tarnishing of CNN's already shredded reputation and credibility. Let's also be clear about Jordan's view of who is responsible for the controversy - it's the Blogosphere's fault.

Click on the headline above this posting and read The Word Unheard's excellent dissection of Jordan's statement. What it reveals about Jordan's attitude will probably make you want to regurgitate but read it anyway. Also, thanks to Lorie Byrd for pointing out that among Jordan's MSM credentials are a prestigious Freedom of Information Act Award. Which brings up my basic point about Jordan's flaming downfall.

Eason Jordan grew up in the MSM at CNN. He is a product of that media organization's culture and consciousness. He is admired and respected throughout the MSM and has become one of the exemplars of its place in the American and indeed worldwide public policy community. Thus, it is likely that he is far from being alone in the middle and top leadership rungs of the MSM in holding to the view of the U.S. military as a mortal threat to journalists.

In fact, one suspects that in his heart of hearts Jordan and many of his MSM colleagues probably believe a lot of hateful Bromides of the Left that have just as little connection with reality. Understanding how widespread this warped frame of reference is in the MSM goes far in explaining how the MSM is so totally out of touch with most Americans.

Finally, Jordan is leaving CNN but that is far from the end of this flap. Once he is freed of CNN's corporate shackles, don't be surprised to see Jordan making the rounds of the MSM martyrdom circuit. You can easily imagine Katie Couric's first question.

Look also for a new MSM offensive against the Blogosphere, led by Jordan. He laid the ground work for such an assault with his resignation statement and may see such an offensive -centered around the claim that blogs are untrustworthy because they publish "conflicting accounts" - as his tool for shifting the focus of the debate away from what he allegedly said.

This could get bloody, folks.

Friday, February 11, 2005

GRASSROOTS GOVERNMENT: Ridenour Offers Two Ideas for Criminal Cases

Amy Ridenour's National Center Blog is taking up the challenge and running with it this morning, offering two excellent suggestions for applying Grassroots Government concepts to the difficult field of criminal law and processes. Click on the headline above to go to Amy's full posting. After you do that, be sure and let her know what you think. Tell me, too, ok?

In the meantime, millions of Americans have already experienced something akin to Grassroots Government in the past decade, as local and state authorities have moved many official services to web sites. The federal government has its FirstGov web site, which is Uncle Sam's official web portal and the IRS is doing a booming business processing tax returns people file electronically.

But is "E-Government" the same thing as Grassroots Government? Not necessarily. I believe the former is a necessary precursor to the latter because, whereas the one provides electronic access to government services, the other provides avenues of participation in the process of governing. Big difference, right?

That said, I am curious what kinds of experiences readers have had in dealing with various levels of government via official web sites. Living in Maryland, I have had satisfactory occasions, for example, to download tax forms and information from the State Comptroller's office, and have searched the site for information on such exotic topics as how to get my motorcycle driver license renewed after a 15-year hiatus.

At the federal level, downloading databases from numerous federal agencies is a common occurrence here, as part of the Computer-Assisted Research and Reporting (CARR) program I oversee here in the Center for Media and Public Policy at The Heritage Foundation. The CARR program trains MSM folks and bloggers how to apply the tools of statistical analyses to public policy databases in search of news that would otherwise not be reported.

In fact, it was my experience finding databases on government web sites that first got me thinking about how the Internet in general and specifically the Blogosphere can be used to involve citizens directly in their government's daily activities.

So, what about you? Let the discussion flower!

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Important New Pro-FOIA, Public Right to Know Proposals Coming in Congress

Three Members of Congress are my new best heroes this week because they are standing up for the public's right to know what our government is doing. The Hill's Jonathan Kaplan has an excellent story on the latest developments, which notes:

"Reps. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) and Rick Boucher (D-Va.) last week introduced the Free Flow of Information Act, which would establish a federal shield law to protect journalists' sources, who could be dissuaded from sharing sensitive information if they knew reporters could be compelled in court to release their names...
"'A free press is the only real check on the exercise of government power in real time,' Pence said, adding that he had talked extensively with the House Judiciary Committee's staff about the bill but had not spoken to Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.).
"Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) plans to introduce a bill that would make the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) a more user-friendly law for journalists and citizens who wish to obtain government information.
"If enacted, the bill would allow plaintiffs to recoup costs in FOIA lawsuits, lessen the burden of proof for citizens not associated with a news organization and tighten the time that government agencies have to respond to FOIA requests."

You can read the full Kaplan story by clicking on the headline above this post.

I have a new Knight Ridder Tribune Focus on FOIA column coming next week that will provide lots of details about the Cornyn bill, which is tentatively dubbed "The Open Government Act of 2005." If the Pence-Boucher and Cornyn measures survive mostly intact and are approved by Congress and signed by President Bush, 2005 will go down as a banner year for transparency in government.

Foggy AP Reporting Shows Need For Accurate Advocacy Group Disclosure

Recent reports of pro-Bush commentators like Armstrong Williams failing to disclose their government contracts and grants, as well as revelation that an NBC free lancer covering the UN was also being paid by a pro-UN advocacy group, has focused new attention on the importance of the MSM being completely forthright about real and potential conflicts of interest in reporting.

The individual cases got the lion's share of attention, but another vastly more significant arena of gross conflicts of interest in reporting is only now beginning to be examined critically in the Blogosphere. That arena is the use of quotes favoring increased government spending provided by officials of non-profit advocacy organizations that are themselves recipients of federal largesse. See, for example, my Townhall.com "What is Going on at AP?" posting on February 2.

Others are noticing things at AP, too, including blogger Amy Ridenour, who also happens to be the head honcho for the Washington office of the National Center for Public Policy Research, a conservative think tank. Amy has a detailed critique of two stories by AP's Charles Hanley that fail to disclose important information about three sources.

None of the three happens to be recipients of federal moneys, but each of the three has clearly stated, easily verified ideological purposes that Hanley's readers should know about. That is the point that caught my eye, but Ridenour has more, much more. You can read the complete posting here. You should also let Amy know your thoughts on her critique.

GRASSROOTS GOVERNMENT: Here Are Three Ways to Start It

How can the incredible communications tools made possible by the Internet be applied to government to make it more accountable, transparent and efficient? Can the Internet/Blogosphere transform government as it is already transforming the MSM? Is it possible blogs are the most powerful tool of self-government since the creation of the printing press?

I believe the answer to all three of these questions is yes. That is the passion and vision behind Tapscott's Copy Desk. But it's one thing to have a vision and something else entirely to find the practical means of bringing that vision to reality. And that is the goal of Tapscott's Copy Desk, to initiate and participate in a discussion of the practical means of encouraging and aiding the development and growth of Grassroots Government.

Here are three suggestions of areas where I believe blogs can be applied to the daily working of government. It would be great to get some discussion and comment going here on these ideas, especially if you have more ideas on how to make this happen:

* Post bills before Congress: Unless there is a national emergency, there is no reason Congress cannot post on the Web the full texts of all bills reported out of committee to the floor for final consideration at least 48 hours before voting. The Thomas system presently posts the text of bills when they are initially introduced but that is always different from what gets reported out of committee.

Putting the text of appropriations bills for 48 hours would be especially valuable. It took the Blogosphere about half that time to undress Dan Rather and CBS on the Rathergate forgeries. Putting the Blogosphere to work fisking appropriations bills - which are famous for couching the most outrageous examples of pork barrel spending projects in obscure language - almost certainly would provide a powerful incentive for Congress to clean up its act in this area. It would also encourage greater citizen awareness and participation in the legislative process and Lord knows more public attention would be a healthy thing for any Congress.

* Post the federal regulatory comment process: Federal agencies propose and promulgate thousands of new federal regulations - better known as "red tape" - every year. The process by which these regs are developed and commented upon by interested parties in industry and the general public is a relic of the pre-Internet/pre-PC era.

What typically happens is a bureaucratic department decides it's time to issue a new reg, so it drafts one and meets with representatives of the industry being regulated and its critics in the non-profit advocacy community. The revised draft reg is then published in the Code of Federal Regulation (CFR) for public comment for an initial period of 60 days.

If you happen to be a daily reader of the CFR (and please get professional help if you are!), you may be aware of the draft reg. More likely, the only way you know about it is if you are either part of the industry being regulated or are a participant at some level in the advocacy community concerned with that industry. Thus the comments that are submitted to the proposing agency always reflect primarily the concerns of the regulated and, depending upon which industry is involved, the critique or support of the self-appointed watchdogs of that industry.

The agency may or may not revise the proposed rule to account for the comments received during the comment period. The final draft is then published in the CFR, with a date certain by which the new reg becomes law, assuming nobody takes the agency to court to prevent that from occurring. This insular process is why most federal regulation represents the product of the collective efforts of the regulators and the regulated, usually to each other's mutual advantage. Yes, it happens "in public," but it's an "eyes wide shut" deal, as far as the general public is concerned because most of us have far better things to do than sit around reading the CFR to see what outrage is being perpetrated today.

Why not require regulatory agencies to instead post proposed regs on agency blogs which allow public comments by any interested party. The agency could then in real-time explain the rationale for its proposal, encourage a wider discussion of the pros and cons of the proposed reg, open itself to the possibility of better ideas coming out of the comment period and obtain the perspectives and expertise of a much wider range of commentators and interested parties. The result would be to open federal federal rule-making so that it is more truly a transparent and thus accountable process.

The analogy of the wisdom of crowds is especially relevant here: No single federal agency is as smart as the collective expertise, knowledge and skills of all the people and products in the affected industry. A blog-based rule-making process would provide an effective means of aggregating this "crowd" for the public benefit.

* Judicial proceedings: Wouldn't it be fascinating to be the proverbial fly on the wall in chambers when a federal or state court judge or panel of judges is debating a case? What might happen if the judge or panel used a blog to solicit additional commentary and expertise as it deliberates?

This may well be the least realistic or desirable application of the Internet to government in this posting. But there is a growing body of opinion that the federal judiciary needs to be opened up and made more transparent in its functioning. Blogs may be the way to accomplish this much-needed public policy goal.

EASONGATE UPDATE: MSNBC's Scarborough says put up or be fired

Joe Scarborough, the former GOP congressman turned MSNBC talkfest host, delivered a scathing indictment of CNN's Eason Jordan last night, saying Jordan should either produce evidence to back his apparent claim that U.S. soldiers intentionally target journalists in Iraq or be fired as an example to the rest of CNN that rumor-mongering is not acceptable in a credible news organization.

Fox News' Brit Hume also brought up Easongate with "the panel" during his evening newscast and it was clear that panelists Morton Kondracke, Mara Liasson and Charles Krauthammer all thought Jordan has committed a most serious journalistic sin. Krauthammer in particular just hammered Jordan, leaving him absolutely no wiggle room (or to use David Gergen's interesting term, "walk-back" space) between dressing up unproved assertions as news and claiming to have been misunderstood. Captain's Quarters has the analysis of both these critiques, which you can read by clicking on the headline on this posting.

But wait there's more!

Over at Easongate.com, Bill Roggio and crew have great summaries of the Scarborough and Hume segments, as well as an Easongate petition you should know about, plus an interesting and challenging discussion of the Blogosphere's motives in this affair. NRO's Jim Geraghty sparked the posting with some very tough and much-needed questions for bloggers to ponder, as this scandal continues to develop. Take-away point - there is such a thing as a blog feeding frenzy, as one of Easongate's commenters put it, and a logical, transparent and fact-based process of unravelling the story. It is a mark of maturity that the Blogosphere understands Geraghty's point and practices what he preaches so well.

Finally, go to Jeff Jarvis and BuzzMachine and spend some time with his "Whose News" analysis of Easongate and Gannongate. Jeff's perspective is especially valuable because he is both a grizzled veteran of the MSM and one of the most perceptive expert practicioners of the new media.

There undoubtedly is much more of note on Easongate that I've missed. Be sure to check out Michelle Malkin here (though, you might want to ignore the "Bush =s Hitler"item because it will probably make you spittle-launching, table-pounding angry with our public schools and The Providence Journal) and Truth Laid Bear here, where you will find the latest roundup of Easongate commentary throughout the Blogosphere.


UPDATE: Bret Stephens of The Wall Street Journal editorial board has an interesting take on the Easongate scandal, which is as it should be since he was present in the audience at the very World Economic Forum panel where Jordan seemed to accuse U.S. soldiers of purposely killing a dozen journalists. You can read Stephens op-ed here, I think - it requires registration.

Unfortunately, Stephens fails to disclose a critical piece of information. He is affiliated with the WEF via its satellite group, the Forum of Young Global Leaders. If you aren't familiar with that forum, its membership includes 1,111 men and women who are under 40 years of age and who are deemed to be media leaders. Stephens was recently accepted as a member, according to Dinocrat.com, which broke this story here.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

GRASSROOTS GOVERNMENT: Nanobot blogs Congressional Nano Caucus news conference

It's small - hey, it's a nano thing, you know - with only a handful of members but the Congressional Nano Caucus held a joint news conference today on Capitol Hill with members of the NanoBusiness Alliance, commenting on President Bush's proposed 2006 budget for science and technology programs.

The news conference itself wasn't particularly newsworthy, as it was one of legions of such gatherings this week in which people and organizations with an interest in the myriad of federally-funded programs and activities contributed their two-cents worth on the Bush budget.

What was more newsworthy was the fact Adam Keiper, managing editor of The New Atlantis, blogged the Congressional Nano Caucus/NanoBusiness Alliance news conference for NanoBot.com. Keiper is a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and a NanoBot correspondent.

Now unless you happen to be passionate about nanotechnology and/or work in the industry, odds are great that you won't see a word about the news conference in tomorrow's MSM, despite the fact that developments in this amazing field are on the verge of paradigm-changing advances in several areas. That is why Uncle Sam has been spending hundreds of millions of tx dollars in recent years supporting nanotechnology research endeavours.

NanoBot put the Capitol Hill news conference on the screens of anybody and everybody. It would have been no difficult task to enable NanoBot visitors to ask questions of the news conference participants. That in a nutshell is the power of Grassroots Government - using the Web to put governors and governed in the same place, regardless of their location, to discuss what should be done.

Put another way, it's the beginning of bringing the wisdom of crowds into the daily affairs of government. What's the next step, folks?

BLOGLEY'S BETCHA DIDN'T KNOW THIS: Which future President of the United States boycotted the funeral of the first President?

There were actually a number of future chief executives around when our first President died, so think carefully, as the answer may not be as obvious as you think.

UPDATE I: This Blogley's has been up for more than 24 hours now and still no one has come up with the right answer. Well, actually my brother Kyle, who is one of Oklahoma's smartest and most visionary developers, got it right but employees of Tapscott's Copy Desk (if there ever are any) and Tapscott family members (of which there are many, strewn across America from the Mid-Atlantic through the South, across Texas and all the way over to Caleeforneea) aren't eligible for the tremendously lucrative and awesomely prestigious prize that comes with winning a Blogley's.
Anyway ... we're still waiting.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

PoliPundit's "American Interactive Democracy" Has 20 Great ?s for Congress

PoliPundit's DJ Drummond has corralled people and bloggers in 58 congressional districts in 32 states who are asking their senators and congressmen for answers to 20 questions you probably wouldn't mind asking your own leaders!

What got my attention is Drummond's description of this project as part of PoliPundit's apparently ongoing effort to encourage "American Interactive Democracy." Sounds very much like the Grassroots Government idea that gets a lot of attention on this blog.

Click on the headline above and check out PoliPundit's project. It looks like something of which all of us should be a part. Here are PoliPundit's 20 Questions:

1. Should photo ID cards be required in order to vote?
2. What will you do to secure our borders from illegal immigrants and/or terrorists?
3. Is there a better solution to Middle East turmoil, than the establishment or promotion of freely elected democratic republics? Why or why not?
4. What are your intentions regarding Tort Reform?
5. If you could write an Amendment to the Constitution and know it would pass and be ratified, what would that Amendment be?
6. What specific measures would you recommend to protect Social Security for coming generations?
7. Where do you stand on eliminating the income tax and SSI tax and replacing them with a national consumption tax?
8. What will you do to ensure the integrity of the voting system?
9. What are the limits to judicial authority?
10. Given that many states give equal treatment U.S. citizens, legal aliens and illegal aliens, just what does it mean to be a U.S. citizen (besides not being hassled by Immigration?)
11. Should undocumented aliens have the ability to get legal drivers licenses?
12. What is your first proposal to balance the Federal Budget?
13. What is your proposal for lowering the National Debt?
14. Confidence in the validity of elections has fallen sharply in some places. What would you recommend to repair and rebuild that confidence?
15. What are the limits to the authority of the Federal Government?
16. Do you believe the continued existence of a central bank (the Federal Reserve) that issues fiat money is in the best interests of the U.S.?
17. What actions do you support for education reform?
18. Should judicial nominees be guaranteed a “yes or no” vote in Committee? Why or why not?
19. What should our short and long term strategies be in Iraq?
20. What should the United States’ relationship be with the United Nations?

This project by PoliPundit is one solid example of how the Blogosphere can apply the Internet to help transform government and make it more accountable. What's your idea?

GRASSROOTS GOVERNMENT: Congress Should Post Bills on Web Before Voting

Requiring Congress to post proposed bills on the internet before voting on them is one of the easiest and least expensive ways of using the Internet to help citizens better understand what their government is doing or considering.

Heritage Foundation president Ed Feulner (yes, he's my boss but don't hold that against him) recently proposed such a requirement for the 109th Congress, which is now beginning to consider the largest federal budget proposal in history, reforming Social Security, America's oldest and most trusted entitlement program, and a bewildering complex and lengthy list of proposals affecting every area of every citizen's daily life. If ever there was a time to make it easier for people to understand what their government is up to, now is it.

Here's Feulner's column, which I suggest is worth your most serious consideration. It originally appeared on the Heritage web site Dec. 6, 2004:

"On Capitol Hill next month it’ll be out with the old and in with the new, as the 109th Congress takes the oath of office.Of course, neither house will look much different. More than 95 percent of incumbents who ran this year were re-elected.
"Still, the beginning of a session is a time for changes. Here’s one that would make a genuine difference: Make the legislative process more open. For example, when lawmakers write their rules for this session, they ought to require that every spending measure and conference report be posted on the Internet for at least one day before members can vote on it.
"And that should be a bare minimum -- after all, it would still be difficult to read an entire appropriations bill in one night. Posting the text wouldn’t be difficult. Every measure has to be typed up before it can be presented for consideration. That typed document can easily be posted as a file attachment on the Web.
"But this small change would pay big dividends.If you doubt that, just ask Dan Rather. In September, the soon-to-retire CBS anchor worked on a “60 Minutes” broadcast that showed several documents, supposedly from the early 1970s, which seemed to prove that President Bush had failed to complete his service in the Texas National Guard.
"The documents, it turns out, were complete forgeries.Within hours of the CBS broadcast, Internet bloggers were taking the story apart piece-by-piece. They noted that the documents were written in a font style that’s common in Microsoft Word, but virtually unheard of 30 years ago.
"They pointed out that the letters in the documents were proportionally spaced, while typewriters in the ’70s rarely offered this feature. And they showed that the documents used “superscript” (e.g., making the “th” smaller and elevated in 7th), again, a common feature in modern Microsoft programs but something unavailable on ordinary typewriters of the day.
"It was the classic case of the market proving smarter than any one person (as Nobel Prize-winning economist F.A. Hayek might have pointed out). It could have taken a single investigator weeks to uncover all those clues.
"But through the Web, a typewriter expert here, a graphic designer there and a computer programmer somewhere else were able to pool their knowledge, examine the documents and prove they were falsified. All within hours.
"Now imagine this process applied to a spending bill. Let’s recall that, just last month, Congress had to rework a $388 billion appropriations measure because somebody slipped in a provision that would have allowed Appropriations Committee staffers to look at confidential IRS records.
"By the time that 'mistake' was discovered, House members had already passed the spending bill. They had to return to Washington, rework the legislation and vote again to fix the mistake. This could have been avoided if the bill had been posted to the Web beforehand.
"Instead, we would have had numerous taxpayers combing through the bill. Bloggers would have found the provision, talk-radio hosts would have amplified their comments, and voters would have complained to their representatives.
"This same process would allow us to identify and eliminate wasteful spending measures before they become law. And it would actually be more evolutionary than revolutionary. When Newt Gingrich became Speaker of the House in 1995, he helped create 'Thomas,' which makes the text of every bill available online at thomas.loc.gov.
"But Thomas doesn’t yet include the full text of, for example, spending measures. What we need is full disclosure of every bill, before it’s voted on. The public deserves more than just the chance to read bills that have become law; it ought to be able to comment on measures that are under consideration.
"That’s a sure-fire way to ensure that the 109th Congress is more accountable -- and thus does a better job -- than the 108th."

It's not too late for the 109th Congress to make such a change.

There are lots of other ways the Internet and specifically the Blogosphere could change government for the better by making it easier for citizens to be much more deeply involved. You can read some of my suggestions in this vein here. You'll need to scroll down to the "Can the Blogosphere do for Government what it has done for the MSM" posting. What I would really like to see happen is for the Blogosphere to start "fisking" the concept of Grassroots Government - i.e. applying the transparency, immediacy and power of the Internet to the way we govern ourselves.

The Blogosphere has transformed the MSM. Now it's time to do the same for government.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Today's Must-Read I: Malkin Talks to Rep. Barney Frank on Eason Jordan remarks

Michelle Malkin got Rep. Barney Frank on the telephone and talked to him about what he heard during remarks by CNN's Eason Jordan during the Global Economic Forum at Davos. Frank confirmed that he heard Jordan seeming to assert that U.S. soldiers intentionally targeted and killed journalists covering the War in Iraq. Jordan, who has yet to grant a public interview on the growing controversy, is not likely to be cheered by Frank's answers to Malkin's questions, which you can read by clicking on the headline above.

Rep. Frank, a Massachusetts Democrat, is among the most liberal Members of Congress but is known as an extremely capable debater and a force to be reckoned with in the House of Representatives no matter which party has control. Frank said Jordan started backpedalling from his original assertion when it was challenged by Frank and others present at the forum.

Also, don't miss Captain's Quarters indispensable updates on Easongate, starting here. And don't miss Easongate.com, which is a joint blog record of the scandal, compiled by The Fourth Rail's Roggio and four co-conspirators, including Blackfive, Brian Scott, Chester and Charles Goggin.

UPDATE: Michelle Malkin is da bomb! Not only she did get Rep. Frank to talk, she also got David Gergen on the telephone and a statement from Sen. Chris Dodd. Howie Kurtz, go thou and do likewise!

Today's Must Read II: Powerline's Deacon Exposes CBS Bias in Weekly Standard

There is a law of logic that A cannot be non-A. That simple assertion of fact is the basic building block of inferential reasoning. Such reasoning is found at its most sophisticated levels in philosophy and law. Thus, it ought not surprise that Powerline's Deacon - a consumate practioner of the law in the nation's capitol - reads the recent CBS Rathergate report and concludes there was clear evidence of political bias in Dan Rather's Sept. 8 "60 Minutes" segment based on forged documents regarding President Bush's military service in the Texas National Guard.

Deacon's brief piece is scathing in its assessment of the Thornburgh/Boccardi "investigation" of Rathergate report and its conclusion that it could find no evidence of political bias influencing the Sept. 8 segment. Boccardi even said proving bias was rather difficult.

Nonsense, notes Deacon, citing the body of civil rights law and the Supreme Court's three-tiered test for inferring the presence of racial bias in a decision or action with negative consequences or effects on minorities:

"Yet questions about motivation lie at the heart of many garden-variety legal disputes, most notably cases involving issues of unlawful discrimination under various civil rights statutes. Recognizing that very few employment decision-makers will admit to bias, the Supreme Court quickly developed a construct for inferring the existence of bias through "indirect" evidence. "Proving bias thus became no more difficult than proving other allegations of fact, a state of affairs consistent with Chief Justice Rehnquist's comment that the state of one's mind is just as much a factual issue as the state of one's digestion."

Click on the headline above to go to the full column. After reading Deacon's Weekly Standard column, a lot more folks are probably going to conclude the CBS investigation was itself evidence of bias within the network.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Watch a Star Explode

No, this isn't a link to a video of Babs getting the 2004 election results. It's a sequence of four shots of light echoing from a star. I'm no astronomer, so I can't even begin to explain why light can be shown to echo in the same way as sound. For that, you should ask Kevin Alyward, the extremely smart guy behind Wizbangblog.com. You can do that after you click on the above headline.

Eason Jordan Update: The Fourth Rail Demands CNN Release Forum Tape; Abovitz Answers Hewitt Queries

The Eason Jordan flap is heating up this morning, as Bill Roggio, proprietor of The Fourth Rail and a former member of the U.S. military, demands that CNN make public the Davos videotape. That videotape would remove any doubt whether Jordan accused American military personnel of targeting and killing journalists in Iraq.

Here's the text of Roggio's letter to CNN:

"Hello CNNia Administrator,
"Release the videotape and a transcript of Mr. Jordan's comments at Davos, and I will be convinced. Until then your apologetic is unconvincing and insulting. Several bloggers in attendence heard otherwise, and based on Mr. Jordan's history, I am inclinded to agree
with them.
"Mr. Jordan has a long history of demeaning the US military and accusing them of targeting journalists. As a former soldier I am personally insulted. Perhaps CNN should launch an investigation into his statements. Your association with Mr. Jordan can be very damaging to
your credibility and reputation.
"I have suspended citing CNN as a source of material in my weblog, which is viewed by over 1,500 people a day, until I am convinced CNN is honest in getting to the bottom of this story. My readers typically follow the links through on my posts to read my sources.

"I have copied other bloggers in an attempt to convince them to do the same. Hopefully this
will create a noticable impact on your site hits and give your adversisers pause.
"Also, I have begun to compile a list of CNN advertisers and will put together a letter to make them aware of this situation unless I see results.
"We demand the transcript of Davos and nothing less."

CNN would be well-advised to make that videotape public ASAP, as well as any other materials it may have that shed light on Jordan's most recent comments and those he has made in a similar vein in the past. You can read those here, courtesy of LaShawn Barber's Repository I and II.

UPDATE: Hugh Hewitt has posted the answers he received to questions he put yesterday, I believe, to Rony Abovitz, who was the first to disclose the World Economic Forum controversy ignited by Jordan's claims. You can read Hugh's text here and Abovitz's original posting here.

Is the Editorial Page Where the MSM Will Find Cyber-Salvation?

More than a few denizens of the typical daily newspaper newsroom these days fear for the future of their chosen employers. Circulation declines continue unabated despite the best efforts to stem the red ink, classified advertising revenues are fleeing to the Internet and rare indeed are readers under 30 years of age who ever even pickup a daily at a newstand.

But there is more than mere hope for the survival, perhaps even the renewed prospering of the traditional daily newspaper, but only if, according to Dan Gillmor, the people in charge recognize they must become part of "the conversation with the community and, even more, helping community members have a conversation among themselves. Newspapers, given their positions, can be at the center of this conversation -- not the object of it in most cases, but the enabler and, to some extent, agenda-setter."

The "conversation," of course is the one enabled by the Internet, especially via blogs. News is 24/7 and so is conversation about the news. That is why news consumers, not news providers, now drive the news process.

But Gillmor makes an interesting point this morning on his "Dan Gillmor on Grassroots Journalism" blog - it may well be the editorial page that holds the key to the traditional daily's opportunity to become engaged in the news conversation in any given community. People on the news reporting side of the newsroom likely are scoffing now as they read that assertion, but Gillmore makes a convincing case, which you should read in full, starting here.

We Have a Blogley's Winner!

As you can see by clicking on the headline above, Danny fired off the answer to the first-ever Blogley's Betcha Don't Know This! contest on Tapscott's Copy Desk. Unfortunately, I can't tell you anything else about our winner because Danny's profile isn't enabled.

But congratulations anyway, Danny. The answer was: President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the father of the Social Security system, was also the first chief executive to recommend to Congress that American's also be encouraged to use private investment-based annuities to supplement their Social Security savings.

In case you wonder where the name of this odd contest originates, understand that in traditional newspapers, the copy desk inhabitants were invariably among the oddest but also smartest people in the newsroom. It was not unusual for them to indulge in continuous contests of one-upmanship based on knowledge of little known or otherwise useless scraps of knowledge.

Thus, "betcha didn't know the _________" was frequently heard from the slot man and around the rim, as the copy flowed, the time till deadline slowed and amazing new facts were stowed in the mental archives that often saved a newspaper from embarrassment the next morning.

So, Tapscott's Copy Desk will from time to time host a "Betcha Didn't Know This" contest to help circulate helpful but obscure or otherwise hard-to-find information around the Blogosphere. The suggestion box is open for ideas about suitable prizes for contest winners.

UPDATE: Now it can be told - the identity of "Danny," our winner! He's Dan Glover, editor of National Journal's Tech Daily. One of the sharpest people I know in D.C., too.