a, a, b, b, true, false, true, false, Democratic, Republican, William Jennings Bryan

William Jennings Bryan sides with Atrios against Ron Fournier:

It should be the purpose of the Associated Press to convey to its numerous subscribers the unbiassed, uncolored truth. I recognize that this is extremely difficult and that with even the best of intentions those who report interviews, conventions and events will unintentionally inject their own opinions and yet absolute impartiality must be the ideal at which The Associated Press aims. You furnish news to Republican papers, Democratic papers, papers identified with other parties and to independent papers; and the readers of these Associated Press reports represent every phase of opinion.

Your association is not a party organ. It does not do editorial work; it is not the champion of any cause or the advocate of any man. It is expected to tell the truth about Congressional doings, legislative sessions, municipal matters, and to report correctly that which is given to it for publication. It cannot guarantee its readers against mistakes, for its agents are human, but it can correct mistakes when they are found out, and admonish its representatives to be cautious. It does not furnish the headlines, which are often misleading, but it can see to it that the text is free from intentional errors and that those who trust to its accuracy shall not be deceived.

I take this opportunity to express my appreciation of the treatment that has been accorded me. The association has asked me for advance copies of a great many more speeches than I have been able to give it, and in asking for an advance copy it has furnished the best proof that it wanted to treat me with fairness. Through The Associated Press I have been able to get my ideas and my arguments before the readers of the Republican papers, and I have been less concerned about the editorial comments of Republican papers than about the correctness of the news reports.

Bryan goes on to discuss his ideal newspaper: an independent paper – as opposed to a party organ – with non-partisan news reporting and openly bi-partisan editorials. That may be fine as far as the news goes, but what happens in a bi-partisan media environment when the two major parties are largely in agreement on a subject, but a significant percentage of the population thinks otherwise?

Below the fold: the full report of Bryan’s speech, taken from the New York Tribune of 23 April 1908.


I don’t usually pay attention to movie ratings – as opposed to movie reviews – but Netflix has a feature I really like. If you haven’t rated a movie, it shows you both the rating the Netflix users as a whole have given and the rating it predicts you will give based on your previous ratings.

I’ve been watching a lot of older movies lately, so I wanted to see a newer one. There Will Be Blood came up as related to some other movie I’d put in my queue. I hadn’t heard anything about it but the name; I wouldn’t have considered it had the description not mentioned Upton Sinclair’s Oil, which I haven’t read but know something about. Netflix users gave it somewhere around 3.5 out of 5 stars; Netflix predicted I would give it a 1.5. Netflix was about right, but there’s no way to give half-stars, so I gave it the 1 it deserved.


When I watched a little of the coverage of the Democratic convention this afternoon, I thought I was watching the Olympics again; when I looked at the coverage later in the evening, I was glad to see that the stadium had filled up. There was some talk a week or two ago about the weather: some Obama opponents had been hoping for rain. Fortunately, that didn’t happen, but I’m not so sure rain would have been such a downer.

One of my favorite movie sequences of all time is the convention scene in Meet John Doe. It’s held in a heavy rain and through the downpour the sight of all those umbrellas is quite striking both visually and as a sign of the dedication of the delegates. On the other hand, it ends in a riot, so we can be glad Obama got sun.

You can watch the scene here, starting at about the 0:45 mark. It ends here. (For those concerned with such things: the clips don’t give away the end of the movie, but they’re kind of spoilery.)

Tribune Thursday: Georgia flooding

  1. In defiance of New Jersey Governor John Franklin Fort, an Atlantic County grand jury – “on which were enrolled state and county officeholders, politicians and some of the biggest hotel and business men of the resort” – refused to indict “the dispensers of Sunday rum in the resort.” Governor Fort has threatened to declare martial law in Atlantic City in order to enforce laws against selling liquor on Sunday.

  3. Interesting headline: “BANKER STRANGELY SHOT.” Charles B. Roberts, president of the Baltimore Supply Company, is in serious condition after being shot near the boardwalk in Atlantic City.

  5. Flood waters are finally beginning to recede in Augusta, Georgia, but the recovery is only beginning. Damages may reach $1 million and “there have been from ten to fifteen fatalities, mostly negro laborers drowned.” The situation is still dire:

    The Augusta Railway & Electric Company cannot run its cars for three days. No power plant is in operation. The telephone lines are not doing business, and the railroads are accepting no passengers. The water service is crippled, but intact. The gas service is impaired, but the gas plant has not shut down. A citizens’ meeting will be held to-morrow.

    There will be much suffering, especially in the northwestern part of the city, from which the water will not recede for two or three days. The people in the manufacturing district will require help. Whether Augusta will be able to care for the situation among the poor and unemployed will not be known until the water recedes further and opportunity is given for inspection. The flood expanse covers an immense territory, miles of water extending from the foot of the Carolina hills to the south into Georgia. The loss to farms, farm lands, crops and livestock in the valley is not included in the estimate of losses. The bottom cotton and swamp corn, an immense annual product, is ruined.


  7. The International Congress for the Protection of Industrial Property, currently meeting in Stockholm, is debating whether to take action to protest Britain’s new patent law. The United States and Germany both oppose the law.

  9. This is an odd story from Bordeaux: French soldier Camille Marquet was sentenced to six days’ imprisonment for attempting to blackmail President Theodore Roosevelt. The details:

    According to evidence before the court, Marquet wrote to the President on January 9, demanding on behalf of “My Society,” without other specification, $2,000, “on account of services rendered during the Presidential election,” and promising further “immense help.”

    Receiving no reply to this demand, Marquet wrote again on March 9, threatening a scandal “which will cast dishonor upon the whole family unless the money is forthcoming at a fixed date.”

    In conclusion, the writer of the letter recommended the greatest discretion, adding: “The highest heads are no longer safe on their shoulders: look a Portugal!”

    Roosevelt, not one for discretion, gave the letters to the French Consul General, who alerted the police.


  11. Governor Charles Evans Hughes, who still has not been officially renominated to his office but almost certainly will be, delivered a speech before a huge crowd at the Chautauqua County Fair in Dunkirk, New York. Hughes’ speech focused on

    the right of the people to demand the enforcement of the laws on the statute books and the unquestioned duty of the Governor of the state to see that this demand was carried out.

Photo: Governor Hughes at the Saratoga County Fair

the forging of historians

Lies, Frauds and Hoaxes

Historians are trained to examine all sources carefully, looking for subtle biases, omissions, and silences. But sometimes we are confronted with sources that lie outright or that are themselves fraudulent. How should we approach such sources? How do we determine authenticity and accuracy? How and why are some lies promptly discredited while others remain believable for years? Primary sources will include memoirs, diaries, correspondence, newspapers, maps, and other materials of questionable veracity.

I had a chance to design and teach my own course in grad school, but I never took advantage of it. However, before deciding to put it off for a while – which turned out to mean never teaching it at all – I came up with the draft course description above. It’s probably too vague as to period and place: I likely would have focused mostly on examples from U.S. history, since that was my specialization – but there’s no reason someone couldn’t make a course like this cover all sorts of times and places.

The emphasis of this sort of class was supposed to be on working with sources. My idea was to have, if possible – along with general readings on frauds, forgeries and hoaxes – a few weeks revolve around a particular type of source:

  1. Is seeing believing?: visual sources (maybe doctored photography and/or maps)
  2. The truth and nothing but the truth: legal sources
  3. To thine own self be true: diaries and memoirs

and so on, hopefully all with clever unit names. I suspect it would have been quite difficult to organize the material like that, and I probably would have fallen back on covering particular cases.

I also had the idea of including forgeries and hoaxes in the readings without marking them as such. The idea was to see if students could figure it out for themselves. But it never occurred to me to have them create a hoax of their own. (via)

constructing reality

This part of the Neil Volz article discussed below deserves to be highlighted:

Volz said Ney would never openly admit that anything he did was wrong or improper. He had his version of the truth and would stick to it no matter what; he expected staffers to do the same.

Even on little things, Ney would have his “own reality,” Volz said. In talking with a reporter, for instance, Ney might claim that dozens of constituents had called about a certain issue, when only one had done so.

“But then that was the reality we had to work with when it came to that issue and that reporter,” Volz said. “Whatever (Ney) said became his truth, and he would stick to that no matter what, that was the way it happened.”

I wonder if any of the reporters caught on, or if they reported Ney’s assertions – unfortunately, Volz doesn’t name any particular issues that can be checked – as fact. If it’s the latter, that doesn’t reflect very well on the media.


Speaking of prison as transformative experience, I was catching up on some rss reading recently and noticed this at the end of an article about former Representative Bob Ney (R-Ohio), who was just released from custody after serving time in prison and a halfway house for his role in the Jack Abramoff scandal:

During his months in prison, Ney said he tutored fellow inmates, answered letters and read more books than he had in 12 years. He also entered a 12-step program to deal with his alcoholism.

Asked whether the experience had changed him, Ney responded, “This type of [t]hing changes you. I didn’t come out bitter or losing my bearings. I’m not saying that everything is absolutely fine — substance abuse is not a good thing. That’s a good change.”

Interestingly, former Ney staffer Neil Volz has also undergone a transformation of his own. As Volz tells it in this interview (via),

“I came to Washington this total idealist,” Volz told The Dispatch last week in his first public comments since he began working with federal prosecutors in 2005. “But it’s kind of like I took on this mind-set that there was a machine at work and I was just a cog in the machine. And, therefore, I need to get mine.”

It was a world of trying to justify accepting gifts that he knew were wrong, in exchange for legislative favors that he knew never should have been granted.

“It is a lot easier to rationalize something away when you are in the front row watching Michael Jordan play basketball,” Volz said. “That’s sad to say, but if I can kind of spend the next many years at least being honest about what’s happened … hopefully, whatever does come about, for my life, I can live with that.”

After a while, Volz says, he began to have second thoughts about his involvement in this world, but his first step away was not a very decisive one: in 2002 he took a job as a lobbyist with Abramoff’s firm.

“I lived in this insular world where everything was simple, because it was based around Bob’s best interests,” Volz said. “So it was kind of like I thought, ‘If I could get away from some of that, even if it’s going to Abramoff, somehow I could get into a better place.’

“But my priority was not, ‘I want to be the most ethical staffer/lobbyist in Washington.’ If that had been my priority, I never would have gone to work for Team Abramoff.”

Volz didn’t get much of a raise beyond his congressional salary of about $145,000 a year when he went to work for Abramoff. But the expectation of big money was just down the road, especially if he cashed in on his connections to Ney and others on Capitol Hill.

Ultimately, the new job was not a big enough change: Volz found himself again working closely with Ney on Abramoff projects. And it’s not clear from the interview just how much change Volz really wanted at the time. Presumably he couldn’t get too far from his old life if he was still hoping to make use of his “connections to Ney and others on Capitol Hill.”

But Volz continued to take small steps:

In early 2004, The Washington Post ran a story about Abramoff and the millions of dollars in fees he was taking from clients such as Indian tribe casino owners.

The story prompted Volz to not only take a fresh look at his own improper activities, but also to see the broad swath that Abramoff was cutting.

Abramoff left the firm of Greenberg Traurig and went to a different lobbying firm, followed by many of the members of “Team Abramoff.” But Volz decided it was time to get out.

“I said to myself, ‘I’ve got to get on the straight and narrow,’ ” he said. “I was scared, hoping all the black clouds would just pass over. But I wasn’t going to dig a deeper hole.”

Eventually, when the investigation reached him in 2005, he decided to cooperate:

“The clutter was lifting,” he said. “My contacts on the Hill didn’t matter. I was going to tell the truth.”

Volz’s 67-year-old father, a retired salesman and college professor from the Cincinnati area who is fighting Parkinson’s disease, told Volz it was time to come clean.

“My dad just kept telling me that at the end of the day, the guys with the badges are the good guys,” Volz said. “My friends and family all told me I had to just tell the truth. The fact is that cooperating was in my and my family’s best interests.

“I am not hiding from that. But I also knew that I looked long and hard at myself. I was committed to doing what I knew I could live with when I was 50 and 60 and 70 years old.”

Volz plead guilty and was sentenced to two year’s probation; his cooperation helped him avoid prison. He’s now working for an organization that helps homeless veterans with housing and employment.

media criticism criticized

I’m not sure I agree with this paragraph in its entirety:

The reaction to Maddow’s show highlights just how suffocatingly narrow, and right-wing, the spectrum of mainstream political discourse in America is. Hiring Michael Savage, Joe Scarborough and Tucker Carlson to host their own shows didn’t jeopardize NBC’s news brand, just as giving Glenn Beck — Glenn Beck — his own show didn’t jeopardize CNN’s. Most mainstream political and media figures even continue to insist that Fox is a legitimate news organization because Brit Hume confines his overt right-wing talking points to the Sunday show. But the presence of a liberal on MSNBC instantaneously destroys traditional principles of Journalism.

It may be true that mainstream journalists and media critics troubled by the appearance of Rachel Maddow’s new show are not similarly troubled by the already-existence of conservative shows, but I, personally, found myself much more skeptical of CNN after the Headline News channel’s evening programming – which I used to rely on daily for a quick 30 to 60 minute filtering of “major” stories – was turned into Nancy Grace, Glenn Beck, and Showbiz Tonight. Maybe I’m alone in having had that response. This is not to say that I no longer trust at all “the most trusted name in news” – just that while I don’t really approach their news reporting much differently than I did before, I’m much less likely to trust CNN’s analysis of the news. (Also, it’s been at least a year since I watched even one thirty minute stretch of Headline News – not even during the daytime programming that still resembles the old network.)

Meanwhile, I’m more troubled by things like this:

Having a prime-time lineup that tilts ever more demonstrably to the left could be risky for General Electric, MSNBC’s parent company, which is subject to legislation and regulation far afield of the cable landscape. Officials at MSNBC emphasize that they never set out to create a liberal version of Fox News.

That blockquote is actually from a story published last November in the New York Times, when Olbermann’s increasing ratings were making news and there was talk of Rosie O’Donnell hosting a show. Is there a benign interpretation of the mention of legislation and regulation in that context? It reads a lot like a tacit acceptance of the government’s ability to censor, or at least retaliate against, the expression of particular political views.

Categorized as journalism

two concepts of forgery

Positive forgery:

Having learned that the first dealer “would pay more for better content,” Israel was soon advancing to her own full-tilt production of letters from other luminaries. She bought a gaggle of vintage manual typewriters, had famous letterheads printed up on antique paper and used an old television as a light box on which she could trace signatures. Even so, while writing as Noël Coward, Dorothy Parker, Edna Ferber and, most convincingly, Louise Brooks, Israel remained more an enhancer than an outright fabricator. She would use some of her subjects’ best real lines (Brooks on the studio head Harry Cohn: “My cat has spit up hairballs more attractive than him”) and take care with the chronology of their lives. The seams rarely showed. Indeed, the editor of “The Letters of Noël Coward,” published only last year, included two Israel pastiches — “a big hoot and a terrific compliment,” thought the erstwhile forger. (I reviewed the book and never batted an eye.)

Negative forgery:

Still, a bit of implausibility where Coward was concerned — having him write more candidly about his homosexuality than he would have allowed himself to — raised suspicions in one of the playwright’s friends who was also a collector. Israel fell into her first pot of hot water. Some outlets would no longer touch what she was selling; a grand jury began investigating; one New York dealer said he’d refuse to testify if she paid him $5,000. The danger blew over, but Israel, now living in a “constant state of anxiety,” decided to move on to a surer-fire if less creative m.o. — having a middleman, a wacky ex-con pal, fence only actual letters she stole from archives. To throw off the archivists, she would leave behind well-crafted replicas that she had prepared after careful study and note-taking. Sometimes she would spirit the originals past reading-room attendants in her shoe. Even so, the F.B.I. eventually caught on to the new scheme, and she couldn’t get rid of those manual typewriters fast enough, dumping them “one by one, in trash cans along a mile stretch of Amsterdam Avenue.” Thanks to a hard-working lawyer from the Federal Defenders Program as well as a kind-hearted judge, she got away with five years’ probation and six months’ house arrest.

Is there such a thing as an honest forger? Maybe so. A few days ago I saw a job listing on craigslist for what I suppose would be called a “ghost-signer”: someone skilled enough to trace an author’s signature hundreds of times per day inside copies of the author’s just-published book.

Tribune Thursday: wireless telephonic communication

  1. Remarkable news from the presidential campaign: Taft might actually campaign. Rather than remain in Cincinnati for September and October as planned, “it is by no means impossible” that Taft will “make a speaking tour of at least some of the doubtful states.”

  3. John P. Reid, “said to be a wealthy American,” committed suicide in England.

  5. The American fleet arrived to an enthusiastic welcome in Sydney.

  7. The De Forest Radio Telephone Company has signed a contract with the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company that allows it to install a “wireless apparatus” in the insurance company’s Madison avenue tower. The radio telephone company expects that New York will be in “wireless telephonic communication” with Paris – where a similar apparatus will be installed on the Eiffel Tower – within two years.

  9. The Lusitania set a new world record for crossing the Atlantic. The time of 4 days and 15 hours was 3 hours and 40 minutes faster than the previous record for an average speed of 25.05 knots.

  11. It is looking increasingly likely that Charles Evans Hughes will be renominated for Governor of New York.

Photo: “A street scene in Sydney and the Governor of New South Wales”