Scripting News for 5/29/2008

Photos of downtown Oakland 

Here’s a set of photos I took yesterday in Oakland.

Overlooked in the McClellan coverage 

The coverage of the McClellan tell-all book has focused on the White House spin, which amid all the bluster about surprise and how this isn’t the Scott they all knew (come on, why should voters care that you’re surprised), they aren’t really contesting the assertions, or if they are, they’re doing it weakly.

Probably some of them want to have jobs in the future, and lying right now wouldn’t help them in the careers. Further I think almost everyone who has been paying attention knows that what McClellan says is true. Why didn’t he speak out earlier? Why didn’t a lot of people? Also consider the possibility that other people in the White House got scooped, the ones trashing McClellan and are jealous that his tell-all book got out before theirs, and others are likely to be tried and perhaps go to jail for their actions. In other words, they all have axes to grind here.

The other point being overlooked, and this is a real problem, is that he says that the press was complicit. This is the more important allegation, and unsurprisingly, it’s being swept aside by the press. Had they done their job, and pressed for the truth, it would have been easier for insiders to tell them the truth. But corporate-owned media isn’t interested in helping us make decisions as a country, they’re only interested in ad revenue. That’s why it’s so important that we’re creating new media that isn’t so conflicted, and why the question of whether bloggers run ads or not is far from a trivial issue.

In court, if you have a conflict of interest, you’re supposed to disclose it, and if it’s serious enough, it disqualifies you. I’ve recommended many times that professional news media should have relationships with less conflicted bloggers for circumstances like this, so when they become the story, the public can have a discussion about them using the channels they own. They don’t have much of a choice here, because the channels are going to develop with them or without them. We could all save a bunch of time if they didn’t fight it, and welcomed amateurs into their midst.

Jury Duty, day 2 

I have another day of jury duty. I haven’t been selected, but the voir dire is going into a second day because we started so late yesterday. I am not allowed to talk about the specifics of the case as long as I might potentially be a juror, however I can say that I think it’s not likely that I will be selected. And I can say is that it is, again, an inspiring process. A few comments follow.

Until I moved to the East Bay in 2006, I had never ridden on BART. It doesn’t go down the peninsula to where I used to live, but it’s a fixture of life on this side of the bay and in San Francisco. I like riding BART not only because it’s usually faster than driving, but also because I get to see my fellow citizens without their cars. It’s fascinating to see who my neighbors are. In NY and Boston, where public transit is much more a part of daily life, you get that experience all the time. Not so much on the west coast.

Well, jury duty is like riding BART, only more so. It’s as if you were riding on BART, but each passenger, in turn, tells you what they do for a living, who they live with, where they came from, in some cases why they can’t serve (always dramatic). What the judge says about jury duty is true, it’s what makes America work. There are no professional jurors, just BART people. You just have to be registered to vote or have a driver’s license for them to find you.

Which leads to a curious inexplicable fact. First, judging from the jury, the Bay Area is a remarkably diverse place. But if you went by the jury alone, you’d conclude that there are no blacks in Alameda County. The only black person of the 100 or so potential jurors was an African immigrant. However, if you go outside the courthouse in downtown Oakland, or ride BART, you’d see that there are lots of blacks. What happened? Maybe they don’t vote or drive? I honestly don’t know. It seems very improbable that a random drawing would be so skewed.

I was riveted listening to the stories people told. It was fascinating. I also had opinions of the lawyers, and the parties. But I can’t talk about that yet. What I can say and will is that I was struck by the nobility of my fellow citizens. When asked to serve, they all rise to the occasion. People who doubt that there is cause for hope should sign up for jury duty and go through the process. It is something to behold.

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