Paul Murray's weblog, with news you may have missed and my $0.02 worth on a number of topics.

"You can't make up anything anymore. The world itself is a satire. All you're doing is recording it."
- Art Buchwald

I bet you don't have a friend who's an acupuncturist

E-mail me: pmurray63 [at] (Be patient, I don't check it often.)

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Friday, November 30, 2007
Scorsese does Hitchcock -- for an ad.
I think the only time I might have linked to an ad before might be Jerry Seinfeld's short for American Express. Today we have another: Martin Scorsese doing an homage to Alfred Hitchcock with "The Key to Reserva". Hitchcock fans, see how many allusions you can spot.

You'll need Flash to watch it. It's 9:21 long. (Apparently Spanish TV on New Year's Eve is like our Super Bowl, with elaborate commercials.)

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Thursday, November 15, 2007
Obsessing over image.
There's a number of things that trouble me about the idea of Hillary Clinton as president. One of them is her campaign's obsessive efforts to manage the media, well-described in this New Republic story.
If grumbling about a [NYT Barack Obama pickup] basketball story seems excessive, it's also typical of the Clinton media machine. Reporters who have covered the hyper-vigilant campaign say that no detail or editorial spin is too minor to draw a rebuke. Even seasoned political journalists describe reporting on Hillary as a torturous experience. Though few dare offer specifics for the record--"They're too smart," one furtively confides. "They'll figure out who I am"--privately, they recount excruciating battles to secure basic facts. Innocent queries are met with deep suspicion. Only surgically precise questioning yields relevant answers. Hillary's aides don't hesitate to use access as a blunt instrument, as when they killed off a negative GQ story on the campaign by threatening to stop cooperating with a separate Bill Clinton story the magazine had in the works. Reporters' jabs and errors are long remembered, and no hour is too odd for an angry phone call. Clinton aides are especially swift to bypass reporters and complain to top editors. "They're frightening!" says one reporter who has covered Clinton. "They don't see [reporting] as a healthy part of the process. They view this as a ruthless kill-or-be-killed game."

Despite all the grumbling, however, the press has showered Hillary with strikingly positive coverage. "It's one of the few times I've seen journalists respect someone for beating the hell out of them," says a veteran Democratic media operative. The media has paved a smooth road for signature campaign moments like Hillary's campaign launch and her health care plan rollout and has dutifully advanced campaign-promoted themes like Hillary's "experience" and expertise in military affairs. This is all the more striking in light of the press's past treatment of Clinton--particularly during her husband's White House years--including endless stories about her personal ethics, frostiness, and alleged Lady Macbeth persona.

It's enough to make you suspect that breeding fear and paranoia within the press corps is itself part of the Clinton campaign's strategy. And, if that sounds familiar, it may be because the Clinton machine, say reporters and pro-Hillary Democrats, is emulating nothing less than the model of the Bush White House, which has treated the press with thinly veiled contempt and minimal cooperation. "The Bush administration changed the rules," as one scribe puts it--and the Clintonites like the way they look. (To be sure, no one accuses the Clinton team of outright lying to the press, as the Bushies have done, or of crossing other ethical lines. And reporters say other press shops--notably those of Rudy Giuliani and John Edwards--are also highly combative.)

So far, the strategy has worked brilliantly. In the current climate, where the mainstream media is under attack from both conservatives and liberals, Clinton may have picked the right moment to get tough with the press. But, as the murmur of discontent among the fourth estate grows--and Hillary's coverage has taken a sharper tone since a widely panned debate performance late last month--even some Hillary supporters fear that the strategy may produce a dangerous backlash.

Emulating the Bush Adminstration -- yeah, that's an appealing attribute, all right.

Author Michael Crowley goes on to describe the various tactics the campaign uses, which are familiar to anyone paying attention. He also notes that many of her media advisors worked for fellow Senator Charles Schumer. (Schumer inspired the Bob Dole wisecrack that's been recycled about other politicians: "The most dangerous place in Washington is between Chuck Schumer and a TV camera.")

(via somewhere I can't remember -- I don't normally read the New Republic)

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Tuesday, November 06, 2007
An inconvenient precedent.
I haven't heard much talk about a column I found quite damning. "Waterboarding Used to Be a Crime" was written by a current judge and law professor who was a JAG in the Nevada National Guard.
The United States knows quite a bit about waterboarding. The U.S. government -- whether acting alone before domestic courts, commissions and courts-martial or as part of the world community -- has not only condemned the use of water torture but has severely punished those who applied it.

The examples he lists include:
  • Japanese soldiers convicted of torture after WWII
  • American soldiers convicted of torturing Filipino guerrillas during the Spanish-American war
  • A Texas sheriff and three deputies convicted of violating the civil rights of prisoners
  • And a successful civil case against the estate of Ferdinand Marcos

We know that U.S. military tribunals and U.S. judges have examined certain types of water-based interrogation and found that they constituted torture. That's a lesson worth learning. The study of law is, after all, largely the study of history. The law of war is no different. This history should be of value to those who seek to understand what the law is -- as well as what it ought to be.

The law is supposed to be based on precedents. Apparently this administration finds this inconvenient.

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Monday, November 05, 2007
Brian Williams on SNL.
I actually watched all of Saturday Night Live this weekend. (I've given up watching it at all unless they have a guest who sounds promising.) NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams did a better job than some actors who have appeared. Some people are even saying he was underused. It helped that the show's staff wisely realized that they really couldn't embarrass him. (For the polar opposite, watch the mid-70's episode where presidential press secretary Ron Nessen hosted.)

Here's a clip from the show's last sketch. It started at a meeting where NBC executives are discussing a new open for the news to broaden its appeal. After sitting through some silly pop-type songs from a band, Williams insists that they reconsider his previously rejected idea ...