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Another Perspective

Let Him Who Is Without Spin…

By 2.12.15

I work on a treadmill of shameless self-promotion. Most mornings, I’ve tweeted before 6 a.m. When I’m not working on my column, I’m often blogging, posting on Facebook, jabbering on the radio (less often on TV) or speaking at a venue such as the Commonwealth Club of California.

I don’t want to bore anyone. I want people to like me — well, some people. So though I know that NBC News anchor Brian Williams had to take a leave of absence for six months — perhaps for good — to atone for concocting tall tales dirty with self-puffery, I also suspect that the handsome face of NBC News was under tremendous pressure to inflate his working persona. In 2015, it’s as important that top TV newscasters be a good story as it is that they report good stories. Maybe more important, as Williams showed courage in putting himself in a war zone.

Williams’ Chinook Down incident in Iraq occurred with other members of the network’s news team. Thus, Williams could not self-aggrandize without the consent — perhaps grudging consent — of his colleagues and the knowledge of higher-ups.

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Political Hay

Brian Williams for President?

By 2.12.15

The statement from NBC News President Deborah Turness was blunt and to the point. Among other things it said this in the announcement the network was suspending NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams for six months without pay:

While on Nightly News on Friday, January 30, 2015, Brian misrepresented events which occurred while he was covering the Iraq War in 2003. It then became clear that on other occasions Brian had done the same while telling that story in other venues. This was wrong and completely inappropriate for someone in Brian’s position.

In addition, we have concerns about comments that occurred outside NBC News while Brian was talking about his experiences in the field.

In other words? NBC is saying Brian Williams looked the camera in the eye and lied. Wow. The obvious? What better candidate for president of the United States than Brian Williams?

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Campus Scenes

Prohibition on Campus: In Loco Parentis Run Amok?

By 2.12.15

With colleges under growing pressure from the federal government under Title IX to reduce binge drinking and alcohol-related student misbehavior, Dartmouth College recently announced that it would ban hard liquor on campus.

The sexual assaults, fraternity hazing, and hospitalizations that have rocked campuses around the nation have often involved extreme intoxication, like the case of the former Vanderbilt football players convicted of raping an unconscious woman, or that of a Stanford swimmer recently accused of rape. 

Dartmouth isn’t the first school to ban hard alcohol — Bates and Bowdoin have similar rules — but it is the first Ivy League school to do so. Despite Dartmouth’s prominence as a member of the Ivy League, experts caution not to expect many institutions, if any, to follow its lead.

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Campaign Crawlers

Nobody is Really Ready for Warren

By 2.12.15

I've seen the interviews and I've heard the songs. I've seen the fake poll showing her leading in Iowa. I've been subjected to her mug in every corner of the Internet since she first pulled ahead of Scott Brown in that fateful race for Senate that propelled her from the lowly ranks of the Harvard faculty and the Troubled Asset Relief Program bureaucracy to the glittery halls of national elected office.

But I don't really believe anyone really wants the Massachusetts mohican to run for president.

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The Current Crisis

Brian Williams’ Future

By 2.12.15

On the vexed matter of Brian Williams my friend and colleague Wes Pruden raises a fundamental question. “Brian Williams, the tall tale teller for NBC News, has had a rough few days, but he’s likely to survive,” writes Wes. “He’ll probably be back,” Wes speculates, even overcoming the derisible endorsement of Dan Rather. Dan, your endorsement could be the kiss of death to poor Brian. Is there no reality-check on these egomaniacs?

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At Large

Setting the Stage for a Losing Falklands War

By 2.11.15

Recent reports about British defense have an ominous, heading-for-a-cliff feel about them.

Many in the defense establishment and private think tanks were dismayed when the Cameron Conservative-Liberal Democrat government, despite international turbulence, cut Britain’s Army from 100,000 to 82,000, its smallest since before the Napoleonic wars.

The Falklands, which it cost hundreds of British lives and five front-line ships of the shrunken, bath-tub Royal Navy to recapture from Argentina in 1982, are defended by, apart from Rapier ground-to-air missiles, just four Typhoon fighters and 1,200 ground troops. A single warship makes visits. And forces must still be found for the Middle East and NATO. Not to mention calls to intervene against the massacres of Christians in Africa.

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Letter From San Francisco

Yes, California, There Is a Death Penalty

By 2.11.15

What happened to California’s death penalty? There has not been an execution since 2006, when a federal judge ruled against the state’s three-drug lethal injection protocol. In 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld three-drug executions. It didn’t matter. Though as candidates Gov. Jerry Brown and Attorney General Kamala Harris — who both personally oppose capital punishment — promised to uphold the law, in real life they’ve let things slide. Fed up, two men related to murder victims have filed suit to push the state to carry out the law.

Kermit Alexander wants to see the law work on Tiequon Cox, convicted of killing the former football player’s mother, sister, and two nephews in 1984; Cox went to the wrong address for a $3,500 contract killing. Bradley Winchell is sick of waiting for the execution of Michael Morales, who raped, hammered, strangled, and stabbed to death his 17-year-old sister, Terri Winchell, in 1981. Sacramento Superior Court Judge Shellyanne Chang ruled in their favor Friday after Harris challenged them on the dubious grounds that crime victims and the general public “lack standing” to sue the state.

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Special Report

Prudence, Power, and Aggression

By 2.11.15

Is there a moral obligation to help Ukraine defend itself from Russian aggression? Nation-states do not have moral obligations. But states have interests, of which the obligation to function as instruments of their peoples’ moral interests is not the slightest. We should help Ukraine. The question is how.

The German Chancellor’s reluctance to provide the Ukrainians with weapons is understandable. If the effort is doomed to failure, as she implies, why bother? It would represent a costly gesture, not a policy. Rationally, economic squeeze plus resilient diplomacy, even in the face of repeated Russian insults, lies, and open contempt, may be the more sensible course.

What about Nigeria? Do we have a moral obligation to help Nigeria? The argument from morality should not change from one country to another, should it?

The harsh truth of the matter is that this is not the right question. The right question is this: do the neighbors of the country in trouble give the impression they want to do something about the crisis in their region?

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Spectator's Journal

Writing for Love of Country

By 2.11.15

A week or so before the annual Robert L. Bartley dinner, which The American Spectator again will be hosting tonight in Washington, Bob Tyrrell got to a restaurant he favors a few minutes before me; it was one of the periodical sit-downs at which we bat ideas around and assess the general situation, which we find, as regular conservatives and straight-ticket Republicans, by turns hilarious and appalling. I hate late; I always assume everyone else, and with good cause, feels the same way, and — this is righteous conservative dogma — you pay for your sins. I know Bob Tyrrell pretty well, but dogma prevailed over knowledge, and I expected he’d be mad and I’d be sorry.

But Bob was genial and affable as ever as I sat down and the thought crossed my mind there were few people in his position, which is after all the position of a major force in journalism, not conservative journalism whatever that is, but journalism, American current affairs, who would not, one way or another, let an impolite sonofabitch of a writer know he is out of line for making the boss wait five minutes. Bob never was that way.

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Media Matters

NBC’s Decision

By 2.11.15

Tom Brokaw, commenting on whether or not his successor Brian Williams would survive as the head of NBC’s “Nightly News” program, told the press that this “is a very serious issue that must be resolved on the facts.” It appears to have been resolved more on the basis of money and ratings. Were credibility the network’s first consideration, Williams would have been removed from his position last week.

If the most celebrated surgeon at a hospital killed a patient on the operating table through an act of gross malpractice, it wouldn’t take executives at that hospital weeks to determine whether or not that doctor should remain the “face” of the hospital. They would fire him immediately. They wouldn’t need to hold days of meetings to decide “if we should keep him on as the head of surgery.”

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