Patterico's Pontifications

3/26/2009

Did the JournoList Leaker Violate the Privacy of List Members?

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 9:10 pm

Interesting question raised by the Mickey Kaus JournoList leak: isn’t it wrong for the leaker to have leaked this? Everyone on that list had an understanding that the communications between list members would be off the record. So, even though it was a big listserv, that understanding gave people a legitimate expectation of some privacy.

Then again, as someone who has seen the contexts of his supposedly private e-mails summarized in a comments section to show what a bad guy I am, I think you have to recognize that there will always be cretins who don’t respect normal conventions regarding e-mail privacy, keeping their word, etc. The larger the group, the greater the chance of such a turncoat leaking your e-mail.

And (as I have said before), as long as every journalist on the list is already identified as a openly left-leaning writer (like Eric Alterman, for example) I don’t see the list as Dangerous or Evil. So it’s not like there is some clear overarching societal benefit to breaking the off-the-record understanding.

Whether Kaus did anything wrong is a different question. Is it wrong for a journalist to repeat something that another journalist reveals he was told off the record? If the journalist revealing the comment knows he will be quoted for the record?

I say: not always.

For example, I once interviewed former L.A Times reporter Chuck Philips, who told me about things he claimed the FBI had said to him off the record. I repeated the statements. I thought they made Philips look bad for revealing them. He knew he was on the record when he talked to me. And what he was revealing — that the FBI believed Steven Seagal had not been involved in the plot against Anita Busch — was unlikely to be embarrassing to the FBI, in my estimation.

Under those circumstances, revealing the off the record statement told my readers something about Chuck Philips the reporter — that he was willing to sell out the confidences of his sources if he felt that it helped his agenda. That, I think, was worth sharing.

Reading the content of the e-mails published by Kaus, I think these may have been worth sharing as well.

JournoList Revealed!

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:45 pm

Mickey Kaus goes inside JournoList and reveals a set of messages from the secret and elite cabal. Shockingly, the participants sound like a bunch of fighting morons, just like everyone else on the Internet, with feverish e-mails bearing sober subject lines like: “BREAKING: Marty Peretz is a Crazy-Ass Racist.”

I have to admit, though, that I got a Very Special Chuckle when I read this line:

Everyone I know who likes Olbermann also acknowledge that he is egomaniacal and has a penchant for hysterical drama. The main difference, which is glaringly left out by anyone who conflates him with the Savages and O’Reillys of the world, is that Olbermann doesn’t tend to, you know, lie about stuff regularly.

Oh, man.

It’s glaring!

Read it all, and revel in how familiar and idiotic it all sounds.

UPDATE: Did the JournoList Leaker Violate the Privacy of List Members?

Pres. Obama’s Unilateral Cowboy Foreign Policies

Filed under: General,Obama,Politics — Karl @ 11:01 am

[Posted by Karl]

In advance of the G20 summit on the global recession, France and Germany disagree with Pres. Obama’s push for larger economic stimulus plans, favoring tighter regulation and transparency instead.  China continues to buy US government debt, but concerns that China and Japan may get the jitters over Obama’s borrow-spend-and-inflate policies are affecting the bond and stock markets.  The Obama Administration’s policies in Afghanistan and Pakistan look to be increasingly unilateral.  And Obama seems committed to a unilateral policy on Iran, in keeping with his campaign rhetoric.

As Instapundit Glenn Reynolds might say, “They told me that if I voted for John McCain, we would get unilateral, cowboy foreign policy… and they were right!”

–Karl

GOP Submits Its Own Plans

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:28 am

Politico:

House Republicans have begun unveiling detailed alternatives to President Barack Obama’s policies — a concerted effort to push back against Democratic efforts to label them “the Party of No.”

On Wednesday, it was a housing plan. Thursday, it will be a big, TV-friendly stack of budget blueprints, “The Republican Road to Recovery.” That’s to match the president’s own platitudinous budget title, “A New Era of Responsibility.”

The House Republicans’ budget document, provided to POLITICO ahead of its release, makes sure no one can miss the point: Each chapter begins “The Republican Plan,” and each section is divided into “The President’s Budget” and “Republicans’ Solution.”

House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said the housing proposal that he rolled out with eight other House Republicans on Tuesday was “in response to the administration — and the president himself, who continues to say that Republicans don’t have any ideas.”

“We’re here today to say yes we do,” Cantor said. “This is one in a series. It will not be the last. We are committed to trying to pull the agenda back to the mainstream and to respond to the problems facing America’s families today.”

Is this a good thing? It depends on what the ideas are.

If you want to be taken seriously, you need your own solution. If your solution is a true return to smaller government and personal responsibility, great. But if your solution is more of the same, stick to fighting the other guy’s solution.

I can’t tell which this is, and I don’t trust the Republicans implicitly. Show us the details.

Dallas Police Turn to “Plain Language” Instead of Codes

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:12 am

The Dallas Morning News has a fascinating story about the local police department’s move to replace specialized radio codes (like “10-4″) with “plain language” terms (like “understood”). The idea is to create common understandings in situations where there is coordinated activity between separate jurisdictions that use different codes:

Through the years, departments developed their own unique codes or signals that were different from even neighboring agencies. So one department’s 10-13 (“officer in trouble”) was another department’s “request wrecker.”

Police officers also have different ways of saying things.

When East Coast officers say “collar,” they mean arrest, but in Nevada, officers say “rip,” said Tim Dees, a retired police officer and senior editor for lawofficer.com, a law enforcement Web site. With many agencies working together, “if you use the wrong word in the wrong context, people will look at you funny,” he said.

Good idea? I think the answer is: “It depends.”

Every profession has specialized terminology; in theory, this creates more precise understandings within the profession, and less clarity to those outside it. Whether to use the jargon or plain words depends on why you’re using it and whether you care about being understood.

For example, law enforcement has particular terms that cops and prosecutors routinely use. A cop talking to me in casual conversation may say that he saw a “187” and chased a guy with a “burner” until the guy “TCd.” That’s fine in my office, but when he’s talking to the jury, he had better tell them that he saw a murder, and then chased a guy who was armed with a gun until there was a traffic collision.

If he’s telling the story at mealtime, the terms he uses may vary depending on whether his companions are his partners at lunchtime, or his wife’s family at a bar-b-q. Using the same jargon is natural in one context, but may be rude in another, if nobody understands what he’s saying — even though his intent is the same in either context.

Note that people sometimes use specialized terms even when they don’t add clarity. Saying “one eighty-seven” instead of “murder” conveys no more specialized meaning, and takes twice as many syllables. Still, cops and DAs do it all the time. Part of the point may be to emphasize that “we understand this and others don’t.” Every profession or group potentially has an insular “only we understand” aspect; taken to an extreme, it can become cult-like, where members are taught a new language and instructed that members must know the terms or be cast out.

If you’re concerned about being understood by a broader audience, plain terms are better. If you care only about developing a small group of people who share common understandings, code words may be preferable.

But at all times, you need to keep in mind who your audience is, and how they will hear what you’re saying. If you’re selling cars to Latin America and you insist on calling your model the “Nova” out of pride, you’re taking a stand: I won’t change my name to suit my audience. You’re also an idiot who will sell fewer cars, because “no va” means “it doesn’t go.”

Getting back to the police department example, if the department is regularly working with outside agencies and suffering because of misunderstandings, that counsels in favor of a plain language approach. But if the police department mostly speaks to each other, and has a common understanding about certain terms, you might endanger lives by forcing veteran officers to abandon familiar terms in high-stress situations. They may overthink their speech, and that in itself can cause a lack of communication.

There are no easy answers. But deciding on how to express what you need to say depends critically on how it will be understood by your audience. That’s because communication is a two-way street. And while theories are great, communication has to work in the real world. Sometimes, when it doesn’t, people may die as a result.

This is a fascinating topic, and I’d love to hear our resident police officer Jack Dunphy weigh in.

Because I Enjoy Waving Red Flags in Front of Bullshit

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 12:19 am

I just tonight saw this article by my new hero Andy Levy. He says what I’ve been thinking, so well, on so many levels, that I will quote generously:

Don’t question the motives – question the policy. When you disagree with President Obama’s policies, say so, and make it clear why. But remember that Obama is doing what he thinks is best for the country, as President George W. Bush did. Both men love America and want what’s best for her. End of story.

Don’t make it personal. We don’t need another “derangement syndrome.” We don’t need people doing things like emphasizing Obama’s middle name in a derogatory fashion. How anyone would think that’s beneficial to their cause or to the country as a whole is beyond me.

Also, it’s not even clever. Neither are “smushwords” like BusHitler, or “sillywords” like Rethuglicans and Dhimmicrats.

And this:

Don’t automatically think people who disagree with you are stupid or evil. Some of them are, of course (as are some of the people who agree with you). But most of them aren’t, and you might actually learn something if you listen to them.

Finally, don’t use the fact that many on the left behaved abominably for the last eight years as an excuse to behave the same way. America needs adults. And if it bothered you when they did it, it’s a good sign that you shouldn’t do it.

If there is ever a third party, I nominate Andy Levy as president. And I think he could win. Not that this is the only consideration. He’s also right.


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