Patterico's Pontifications


Is Thriller the Best Album Ever?

Filed under: Music — DRJ @ 10:56 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

Yahoo notes that Michael Jackson’s album Thriller is 25-years-old this week and asks if it was the “Best Album Ever”:

Thiller had just nine songs on it. Of those nine songs, seven reached the top 10. If you break down those seven top 10 tracks, five entered the top five, two of which even hit number one. Talk about getting your money’s worth.”

I’ll defer to our musically-inclined host but I think it might be.


UPDATE BY PATTERICO: Music is, of course, a matter of taste, and people will have different reactions to the question: “Is Thriller the Best Album Ever?”

That said, the correct answer is “no.”

UPDATE BY DRJ: Heh. I knew you’d say that.

Meanwhile, Over at MSDNC — Chrissy Matthews Decided The GOP Debate Needed To Be “Truth Squaded” By David Shyster. The Dem. Debate from Vegas?? Not So Much.

Filed under: 2008 Election,Media Bias,Politics — WLS @ 7:21 pm

Posted by WLS:

 Well, I sort of give away the post in the caption. Last night on hardball over at MSDNC, Chrissy Matthews decided that David Shyster would be a one man “Truth Squad” on claims made in the CNN YouTube Debate:

Plus, HARDBALL‘s David Shuster will “truth squad” the debates.  Who was telling the truth and who was telling some tall tales


Sometimes Even I Wonder Why We Give These Guys/Gals Lifetime Appointments: Fed Judge Bankrupts Bay Area Town

Filed under: General — WLS @ 5:52 pm

Posted by WLS:

United States District Judge Vaughn Walker, a long-time judicial curiosity, has issued a judgment in favor of an aggrieved landowner in the amount of $36.8 million dollars, and against the City of Half Moon Bay.

That’s the City of Half Moon Bay, population 12,300.

ANNUAL municipal operating budget of $10.2 million.

Amount needed to pay judgment — $3000 for every man, woman, and child living in Half Moon Bay.

I suspect there may be a few less than 12,300 living there in the days and weeks ahead. 

The City’s conduct:  apparently its design of a drainage system caused the landowners property to be classified as “wetlands” under California’s environmental laws, meaning that he was precluded from developing condos.

Yeah – the land he acquired for $1 million.

The City of Half Moon Bay and its taxpayers must now pay him $36.8 million for that same land. 

Oh yeah — the Hon. Vaughn Walker called the city’s expert witnesses “uninformed” and their opinions on topography and drainage “baseless.”

I’m sure his A.B. degree from the Univ. of Mich. was in civil engineering.

Update on “Investigate the Media” and the San Francisco Chronicle Blog

Filed under: Blogging Matters — DRJ @ 2:26 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

Note: An earlier post on this subject is here.

Last week, a one-post now a two-post blog called Investigate the Media claimed that the San Francisco Chronicle “activated a devious system by which it deceives commenters on its website,” It also claimed commenters (apparently referring to conservative commenters) are “silenced for ideological reasons” or “because they strike too close to home — pointing out flaws in the article’s reporting or writing itself, or ethical or moral misdeeds on the part of the Chronicle editors or management.”

These are serious claims and, to the Chronicle’s credit, an online editor for the Chronicle responded promptly. Scroll down and click *More* for the full text of the response from Eve Batey, Deputy Manager-Online for the San Francisco Chronicle. (Ms. Batey was also interviewed here.) My summary of the main points from Ms. Batey’s response are set forth in the indented and bolded sections below, with additional thoughts following each summary:

The Chronicle’s website has easily accessible Terms and Conditions and a short-hand version called the Comments Policy that govern the terms of use for all comments. Commenters agree to these terms when they register at the website.

The Terms and Conditions provide that the Chronicle owns all right, title and interest to the website content. The Privacy Policy states that information disclosed by users “becomes public information.”

The Chronicle’s online editors do not moderate every comment. Instead, they rely on commenters to report abusive comments.

It makes sense that the editors can’t moderate every comment – the website would lose its interactive quality if that happened – but this may be part of the problem. San Franciscans voted 85% for Kerry and 15% for Bush in the 2004 election. If most SFGate users are liberal, there is a greater likelihood that the users will object to conservative comments and flag them as offensive.

For instance, if there are 8 liberal commenters for every 2 conservative commenters, theoretically there are 4 times as many chances that someone will flag the conservative comment as offensive. Of course, the liberal commenters may flag other liberal comments or the 2 conservative commenters may flag all 8 liberal comments as offensive, but the odds don’t support either option happening on a regular basis.

Thus, the pool of flagged comments the moderators actually look at are more likely to be conservative and, as a result, conservative comments are more likely to be subject to deletion. Think of it as the online equivalent of profiling.

The online editors do not discourage diverse views and do not want to, either from a philosophical or from a business perspective.

I agree it doesn’t make sense to eliminate controversy if you’re in the newspaper business. In fact, the editors probably want diverse views because conflict drives up interest. However, even though it’s good business to encourage controversy, there is a flip side. The Chronicle may not want to irritate its mostly-liberal readers with too many conservative comments. However, until we can see the deleted comments, I accept the Chronicle’s statement that it handles comments in a fair manner.

The commenter who blogs at Investigate the Media was banned and/or had comments deleted because he “ran afoul” of the Chronicle’s Terms and Conditions.

To follow up on this, we requested copies of the deleted comments from the Chronicle and the blogger who posted on this at Investigate the Media. The blogger has not responded at his/her website. And despite the SFGate website’s Terms and Conditions that grant exclusive ownership of the contents to the Chronicle, the Chronicle has refused to provide copies of the deleted comments without permission from the commenter. However, Ms. Batey has reached out to this blogger at his/her website and asked permission to share the comments. The blogger maintains the “Chronicle admits to deceptive comment-deletion policy, offers bizarre excuse, then lies again.”

So what do we know? The Chronicle acknowledges that the SFGate commenter (jimjams) who posted Investigate the Media is a registered commenter. At his/her blog, jimjams provided one example where a comment was deleted by SFGate. That comment was apparently deleted because jimjams called the Chronicle staff writer an “idiot.” Does every commenter who calls someone an “idiot” (or similar terms) get banned at the Chronicle or does this only apply to comments about a Chronicle staff writer? Was the deletion related to the critical tone of the comment or to a pattern of inappropriate comments?

It’s hard to tell without access to the deleted comments. I hope the parties will provide copies of the comments … and, in the meantime, I have to wonder why they won’t.

Update 11/30/2007 @ 5:20 PM PST: Ms. Batey corrects my statement regarding the single comment posted by jimjams: “[T]he comment you see on ITM referring to a Chronicle reporter as an idiot wasn’t a deleted comment. Jimjams had actually been blocked for some time before that day, and the “idiot” comment was one of his/her non-Terms violating comments that was also hidden from view by the use of the tool. That, right there, is why using the “block user” function was the wrong decision.” Thanks for bringing this correction to my attention and I’ve noted the correction by striking through two sentences, above.

The Chronicle requested but the software vendor was unable to provide a feature that specifically noted when and why comments were deleted.

Ms. Batey provided a lengthy explanation of the technology issues, and I encourage you to click *More* and read her complete response. In short, the Chronicle previously used a “block user” function that “blocks all comments made by a user from view by anyone but themselves (upon login), and replaces those comments with a deletion message, in a way that simply deleting a single comment would not.” She asserts that this function has been used sparingly and only with commenters who, in the moderators’ view, repeatedly violated the rules. The “block user” function was chosen in an effort to promote transparency because it gave some indication that a comment had been deleted or blocked. In practice, however, this function did not seem transparent. Ms. Batey apologized for that and noted the Chronicle editors have stopped using the “block user” function.

I appreciate Ms. Batey’s discussion of things that work and don’t work in moderating comments. There is a learning curve in blogging – at least there has been for me – and I’m impressed with her willingness to acknowledge a lesson learned and to make changes as a result.


Click *More* for the full text of the email from Eve Batey, the San Francisco Chronicle’s Deputy Managing Editor – Online.


Justice Thomas: “This is Not Perry Mason”

Filed under: Judiciary,Law — DRJ @ 1:50 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

Courtesy of US News’ Washington Whispers column, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas explained why he doesn’t ask questions during oral argument:

“There’s a reason why Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas doesn’t talk much from the bench: He thinks judges should be seen and not heard. “My colleagues should shut up!” he says. In a rare scolding of his fellow judges, Thomas Wednesday night took off after those who ask questions and debate cases out loud during oral arguments while defending his own, oft-criticized, silent treatment.

Asked at an event honoring Winston Churchill sponsored by independent Michigan school Hillsdale College if he would talk more from the bench to “give us relief” from the other chatty judges, Thomas said, “I don’t think it’s my job to give you relief.” Thomas noted that through history, most top judges rarely asked questions. “What’s changed? Have the laws changed? What’s changed? And why are all these questions necessary? That should be the question,” he demanded of the near epidemic level of judicial questioning at Supreme Court hearings.

He later characterized his “shut up” comment as simply “shock value,” but then dug deeper into the issue. “I think that they should ask questions, but I don’t think that for judging, and for what we are doing, all those questions are necessary,” he said. “You don’t have to ask all those questions to judge properly.”

Justice Thomas compared judging to surgery … and Perry Mason:

“Thomas compared judging to another profession where debate isn’t aired in public. “Suppose you’re undergoing something very serious like surgery and the doctors started a practice of conducting seminars while in the operating room, debating each other about certain procedures and whether or not this procedure is this way or that way. You really didn’t go in there to have a debate about gallbladder surgery. You actually went in to have a procedure done.

We are judges. This is the last court in a long line in our system. We are there to decide cases, not to engage in seminar discussions. Now, each of us has a different way of thinking about things. Some people like to talk it out. Some people enjoy the questioning and the back and forth. Some people think that if they listen deeply and hear the people who are presenting their arguments, they might hear something that’s not already in several hundred pages of records.

Thomas said that once the cases get to the Supreme Court, there are no surprises left.“This is not Perry Mason.”

A law blog actually waded through a year of transcripts (I thought I spent time blogging) to compile a list of all the questions asked and by whom. The total number of questions by all Justices was 2,244. Justice Thomas was the only Justice who did not ask any questions. He practices what he preaches.


E. J. Dionne is a Lying Gasbag

Filed under: 2008 Election,Buffoons,Media Bias,Politics,Public Policy — WLS @ 12:10 pm

Poste By WLS:

I fully understand and expect there to be partisanship in opinion columns written by advocates on both sides of the political arena.  And while I find E.J. Dionne consistently wrong, I don’t generally find his writing to be wilfully deceptive.  His column today is an exception.

He finds little to cheer in the GOP candidates responses to the debate “questions” Wednesday night — though he has a few kind words for Huckabee and McCain.  But he makes a point of scolding Romney and Giuliani for “pandering”, while at the same time tarring the entire GOP with having a “growing anti-immigrant feeling.”  

But it was on immigration that Giuliani and Romney demonstrated for all to see that winning matters more to them than anything else.

Giuliani in particular had been warmly inclined toward immigrants, including undocumented immigrants, when he was mayor of liberal and diverse New York…. 

But on Wednesday, Giuliani played right into the feelings he once condemned and played down his past — even if he couldn’t fully deny it. After Romney assailed Giuliani for turning New York into a “sanctuary city,” Giuliani said that Romney had employed illegal immigrants to do work on his Massachusetts home, transforming it into a “sanctuary mansion.”

Romney, in turn, asked Giuliani if he was saying that a person who hired a company for home improvement work should be expected to ask someone in the work crew who had “a funny accent” to prove he was here legally. The exchange made both men look very small.

These paraphrases are as close as Dionne gets to actually quoting what either one of them said during the debate that he regarded a “anti-immigrant”  — remember, its their debate performance he is criticizing.  Near the end of his piece he encapsulates Romney and Giuliani’s comments on the immigration questions as leaving

“the odor of nativist compost being spread around the stage”  

using that line as part of a passage in such a way that an careless reader might attribute that phrase to John McCain when speaking about his GOP rivals.

So, what did Giuliani and Romney say that was so “nativist” during the debate?  Don’t bother looking for it in Dionne’s column, because there’s nothing there. 

After the jump, I’ve posted nearly all the passages from the debate transcript by Romney and Giuliani concerning immigration. 

After reading through them, I went back to re-read Dionne’s column again, just to verify that the column he typed had used the following letters from the alphabet:

a, b, c, d, e, f, g, h, i, l, m, n, o, p, r, s, t, v,  and y.

I did so because I thought maybe had had been typing on a defective keyboard, one which was missing the letters necessary to include this sentence in his column:

 “Hillary Clinton pandered to the nativist tendencies of the Democrat party by reversing her position on issuing drivers’ licenses to illegal aliens after being blasted on the subject following the MSNBC debate.”

But, I found that he had used all those letters on his keyboard in his column, so I’m at a loss to explain his failure to mention Hillary’s odor — of nativist compost I mean.  I’ve never been close enough to her to know if she has any other. 


L.A. Times: Is Merely a “Social Networking Site”

Filed under: 2008 Election,Dog Trainer,General — Patterico @ 2:52 am

An L.A. Times story, which discusses the YouTube debate questioners’ undisclosed ties to Democrats, says of a “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” question by Retired Brig. Gen. Keith Kerr:

Although the retired military man and Clinton’s camp said the Democratic candidate had nothing to do with the question, CNN apologized. David Bohrman, executive producer of the debate, said the network wanted to avoid “gotcha” questions from clear Democratic partisans and would not have allowed the query if it had known of Kerr’s ties to the Clinton campaign.

But several Internet commentators said the cable-TV network should have screened out Democratic partisans, who they said “hijacked” the Republican forum. In postings that popped up throughout the day Thursday, they said that: A Texas woman identified only as “Journey,” who asked if women should be punished for having abortions, had appeared in another YouTube video wearing a “John Edwards ’08” T-shirt; a man asking a question during the debate about gay rights had also appeared on a social networking site as a supporter of Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), and a Manhattan Beach man — while tasting an ear of corn and asking a tough question about farm subsidies — had once worked as a summer intern for Rep. Jane Harman (D-Venice).

A “social networking site”?

David Cercone appeared as a supporter of BarackObama . . . on! It is the official website for Obama’s presidential campaign. Cercone had been a member there since July.


The URL for the screenshot is The URL “” is simply the New Hampshire subdomain for has a donate button which you can use to make contributions to his campaign.

How does the L.A. Times justify referring to an official campaign website as a “social networking site”? Even accepting the fact that Obama’s campaign website is set up with social networking features, it is nevertheless his official campaign website. It is inexcusable for this paper to omit any mention of the fact that this “social networking site” is officially connected with Obama’s campaign.

And, by the way — the woman who had the John Edwards ’08 shirt on? She also has this button on her LiveJournal profile (on a blog that, according to Michelle Malkin, is linked from her YouTube profile):


The article is designed to make it seem like the Republican debate was just as balanced as the Democrat debate was. The article strains to find Republican ties to questioners at the Democrat debate (while ignoring the plethora of documented ties between Democrats and the questioners in the Democrat debate). Thus, we are told, the genuine Republican perspective was represented at the Democrat debate, because it was a Republican who hugged his gun and called it his baby, prompting Joe Biden to joke: “I don’t know that he is mentally qualified to own that gun.”

But wait a second. If CNN apologized for Kerr’s question, and said that CNN “would not have allowed the query if it had known of Kerr’s ties to the Clinton campaign” — then why didn’t CNN apologize for a question by a guy who is a declared Obama supporter blogging on Barack Obama’s official campaign website? And why didn’t CNN apologize for a question by a woman who is a declared Edwards supporter?

And why didn’t the L.A. Times press CNN harder about this?

UPDATE/CORRECTION: The John Edwards button is not directly on the questioner’s YouTube profile as I had originally said, but rather on her LiveJournal profile, which is reachable from her YouTube profile. I have clarified this in the post above. Thanks to Christoph.

Readers’ Rep Blog Publishes Almost No Critical Comments

Filed under: Dog Trainer,General — Patterico @ 12:12 am

Amy Alkon says that the new Readers’ Representative blog at the L.A. Times has a “faux comments section.”

I’m starting to agree.

What kind of a blog publishes only a few of the comments submitted to it? And what sort of blog deep-sixes almost all the critical comments submitted to it?

The Readers’ Representative blog has a comments section — in theory. But the Readers’ Rep says that only comments that “touch on topics of wide interest or raise new aspects of the conversation” will be posted.

What sort of comments “touch on topics of wide interest or raise new aspects of the conversation,” in the estimation of the Readers’ Rep?

Well, based on the comments published so far, if you praise the newspaper, your comment has a good chance of being published. If you have criticism — not so much. Your comment will likely be rejected — although you will receive a nice e-mail from the Readers’ Representative.

So far, the blog has been up for four days. It currently has eight posts, and eight comments have been approved. Only one of them is negative or critical. In the extended entry, I list all of them. Five of the comments are positive, one is neutral, one is negative, and one is the Readers’ Representative’s response to the negative one.

I am also aware of three [UPDATE: four!] other critical comments that have been submitted — that were not published. One of them was mine:

So, you will publish only comments that, according to your view, “touch on topics of wide interest or raise new aspects of the conversation.” Other comments will not be posted.

This is much less of a “conversation” than I had hoped. What about comments that talk about Tim Rutten’s abuse of the policy on anonymous sources? Will those make it past the gatekeeper?

What about Tim Rutten’s claim that The New Republic admitted that Scott Beauchamp “concocted” an aspect of his story — when The New Republic admitted only an error? I had hoped that part of the “conversation” could be about whether the Readers’ Representative sees “concocting” a story as equivalent to errors. Will comments raising that issue make it past the gatekeeper?

You can run your blog the way you like, of course. But if you really want a “conversation,” allowing a free flow of comments is much better than tight control. In my opinion.

That comment was not published. Instead, Jamie Gold sent me an e-mail, which said, in part: “This forum for the most part won’t be for allegations of error, which are handled as requests for correction.”

They’re not ignoring the negative comments. They just (with one exception) aren’t publishing them.

So far, this is not a “conversation,” as Jamie Gold characterizes it. Rather, it appears to be a “faux comments section,” as Amy Alkon describes it.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything quite like this in over five years of reading blogs.

All comments referenced in this post are set forth in the extended entry in their entirety.



Basketball Coach Bob Knight Exonerated in Hunting Incident

Filed under: Sports — DRJ @ 8:15 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

A Lubbock, Texas, man’s claim that Texas Tech basketball Coach Bob Knight intentionally shot at him, hitting him in the back, was declared unfounded by the Lubbock police department:

“Lubbock police say a claim made by a south Lubbock man that Texas Tech coach Bob Knight shot at him during a hunting outing is unfounded.

James Simpson, 51, said he believes Knight or a member of his hunting party shot at him after he told them to stop hunting dove near his property near south University Avenue Oct. 21. Simpson said bird shot struck his residence while he was cleaning his pool, and he was later shot in the back and neck after he confronted Knight.”

The hunting party, which was in an open field next to Simpson’s house, included PGA golfer Larry Ziegler and a Texas Tech booster:

“Simpson lives inside the Lubbock city limits, but adjacent to a field were it’s legal to hunt. Simpson said he told Knight and other hunters to stop shooting so close to his house, and as he walked away, two more shots were fired in his direction, striking him in the back.

“It scared the hell out of me,” said Simpson, who filed a complaint with police two days later but met with investigators for the first time Tuesday. “I couldn’t work for two days. He shot me on purpose.”

Knight told The Associated Press Simpson’s claims were “ridiculous” but declined to comment further because he didn’t want to give the press and other media outlets more to report, his attorney said. But two others who were hunting with Knight that day – Tech athletic booster Bob Curtis and former PGA golfer Larry Ziegler – refuted Simpson’s claims. “If he said someone shot at him, that’s a joke,” Ziegler said. “That didn’t happen.”

Said Curtis: “If anybody shot over there, it was probably me. If anybody had done it.”

A local station reports that Simpson has a home video from that day:

“Just to summarize: no pellets, no injuries, no property damage and no access to the video tape while the case was being investigated. Police closed the case and no charges will be filed.

Meanwhile the video taped argument between Simpson and Knight sheds some light on what might have happened. First it shows that Knight was pretty well restrained. There was some yelling back & forth but Knight never used any foul language… not even a single cuss word.

Here is part of the Simpson tape as played during our simulcast of News Channel 11:

Simpson: “Move down. You’re too close to my house. Pellets fell on my house.”

Knight: “I didn’t shoot once in that direction.”

Simpson: “Pellets fell on my house. You’re the two. I’m filming you.”

Knight: “You do whatever you want.”

Simpson: “I’m filming you, Bob. I told you move down farther where the pellets don’t land at my house.”

Knight: “I didn’t shoot at your house.”

Simpson: “Bob, I’m telling you now the pellets landed in my swimming pool.”

Knight: “I didn’t shoot at it. I can’t help that.”

Simpson: “I’m asking you to move down farther.”

Later in the tape, Knight’s hunting partner Bob Curtis is heard saying he might have been the guy who shot too close to Simpson’s house. But Simpson ignores Curtis and continues to yell at Bob Knight.”

Simpson has a history of run-ins with the police department:

“It’s not like Mr. Simpson is a complete stranger to police. He has a lengthy history with the department. In some cases he claims to be the victim of harassment, retaliation and death threats. But in at least one case, Mr. Simpson went to jail on accusations of aggravated assault. We were not able to locate the police report on that aggravated assault case from the Lubbock police department web site overnight. So, we’ll try again today during daylight hours, hopefully with a little help from the officer assigned to media relations.”

I bet a lot of people would be surprised that there are places where you can hunt inside the city limits. Texas Senate Bill 734 that became effective 9/1/2006 generally allows property owners to permit hunting on annexed private property of a minimum 10 acres (shotguns) or 50 acres (rifles and pistols) within the city limits.


Fair and Balanced at CNN — Where Every Top Tier Democrat Candidate for President Gets To Plant A Question in the GOP Debate — (Edwards Got Two)

Filed under: 2008 Election,General — WLS @ 5:01 pm

Posted by WLS:

I know I’m last in the pool on this here, but I had this caption floating around in my head and it seemed too good to let it get away without using it.

To differentiate myself a little from Patterico and DRJ below, I’m going to expound a little on points raised yesterday by Hugh Hewitt and this morning by Glenn Beck about the fiasco that was CNN’s decision-making process on which videos to select.

The biggest indictment of CNN and the YouTube “format” is the apparent fact that the 33 chosen videos — including 4 6 8 obvious plants (and maybe some not yet so obvious):

1) in any way represented the best of the 5000 video questions they claimed were submitted, and

2) that the selections, in the view of the Clinton News Network, represented questions about issues that presented anything remotely resembling an intellectually honest effort to bring about a debate by GOP candidates for the benefit of GOP voters.

Imagine the reaction of Hillary Clinton and her “Gotcha” sensibilities if in the Dem YouTube debate, an “undecided voter” had posed a question like this:

Mrs. Clinton, as an advocate of womens’ rights, including a women’s right to choose, please explain the clear legal threat to those rights by an extremist Supreme Court majority that finds it proper for Congress to outlaw a procedure where the mother is placed under general anesthesia or conscious sedation, and the doctor inserts grasping forceps through the mother’s cervix and into the uterus to grab the baby, gripping a body part with the forceps, and pulls it back through the cervix and vagina, continuing to pull even if resistance causes the baby to tear apart — for example, a leg might be ripped off the baby as it is pulled through the cervix and out of the mother — with the process of removing the baby piece by piece continuing until it has been completely removed, with the doctor making as many as 10 to 15 passes with the forceps to remove the baby in its entirety (or at least in pieces) though sometimes removal is completed with fewer passes.

If elected, how would you guarantee a woman’s right to have a baby within her uterus carved up like a Thanksgiving turkey?”

So yesterday’s debate was supposed to address issues of concern to GOP voters?? And not to spotlight issues that divide GOP voters and appeal to advocates of certain points of view in the Dem. party?

More specifically, the questions that were picked with respect to immigration were meant to highlight WEAKNESSES of each candidate to whom they were directed:

Question One — To Giuliani about “sanctuary cities”

Question Two — To Thompson about amnesty in immigration reform

Question Three — To Tancredo about need for guest workers

Question Four — To Huckabee about tuition breaks for children of illegals.


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