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Sunday, September 12, 2004

Some credentials for the lawyer-bloggers who are prosecuting Dan Rather in the blogosphere

Maybe it's our own fault because so many of us use nicknames.  But some of us pajama-wearing bloggers are getting a bit miffed at being dis'd by CBS News and others in the mainstream media.  Some of us are getting a bit testy about it, in a mostly good-humored way.  (My own most recent post about lawyer-bloggers was tongue-in-cheek; I'm perfectly aware that sometimes I'm "full of it," and try not to let my ego float me away for too very long at a time.)

Hugh Hewitt, for example, posted today about an article in today's Los Angeles Times article today in which Jeffrey Seglin, a professor at Emerson College in Boston, is quoted as saying,

"The fear I have is: How do you know who's doing the Web logs?

"And what happens when this stuff gets into the mainstream, and it eventually turns out that the '60 Minutes' documents were perfectly legitimate, but because there's been so much reporting about what's being reported, it has already taken on a life of its own?"

Hugh suggests that Prof. Seglin, who has good credentials of his own, might bother clicking on some blogger links to answer that question.  Hugh lists several high-quality and influential nonlawyer bloggers whose identities and credentials are easy to find, but being a lawyer-blogger myself who's been down on CBS News' case for the past few days, I thought I'd "expose" the credentials of a few other lawyer-bloggers (sometimes a/k/a "blawgers") who are baying along with me as part of the pack.

Let's start with Hugh, then.  Hugh Hewitt's understated bio on his blog reveals that he is "the host of a nationally syndicated radio show heard in more than 60 cities nationwide, and a Professor of Law at Chapman University Law School, where he teaches Constitutional Law," and that he "is a weekly columnist for The Daily Standard, the online edition of The Weekly Standard, and a weekly columnist for WorldNetDaily.com."  In addition to summarizing his various books, Hugh's somewhat more detailed bio on the website of the Chapman University School of Law confirms that he's a three-time Emmy Award winner (1995, 1997, and 1998) as "co-host of the week-night television news and public affairs show Life & Times on PBS Los Angeles affiliate KCET-TV," and that he

served for nearly six years in the Reagan Administration in a [variety of] posts including Assistant Counsel in the White House and Special Assistant to the Attorney General of the United States. He was Governor Wilson's appointee to the South Coast Air Quality Management District, and is presently a member of the California Arts Council. Professor Hewitt appears frequently as a political and social commentator on shows including Nightline, The Today Show and Larry King Live. Professor Hewitt is an honors graduate of Harvard College and the University of Michigan Law School.

Pre-White House, Hugh also had an extremely unusual but wonderful clerkship on the prestigious United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit (the appellate level metaphorically just below, and literally just around the corner from, the U.S. Supreme Court), but he's too modest to have listed the details in any of his online CVs.  (If you were to imagine a combination of Scalia, Bork, Ginsberg, and J. Skelly Wright, you'd still not quite get the full flavor of his clerkship year.)

When he's not in his pajamas, John H. Hinderaker, "Hindrocket" of Power Line, is affiliated with the Claremont Institute for the Study of Statesmanship and Political Policy and is a partner in the Minneapolis law firm Faegre & Benson.  His practice history includes "twenty-six years [in] a broad-based and varied commercial litigation practice. A veteran of more than 80 jury trials, he has appeared in courts in fifteen states."  J.D. cum laude from Harvard; A.B. magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from Dartmouth — yeah, I think I've heard of those schools.  Scott Johnson, Power Line's "Big Trunk," is also affiliated with Claremont, and probably doesn't wear pajamas to his day job as "an attorney and senior vice president of TCF National Bank in Minneapolis."  Power Line's "Deacon" is Paul E. Mirengoff, a partner in the Washington office of mega-firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld (where his partners include uber-Dems Bob Strauss and Vernon Jordan).  In addition to government service in the Office of the General Counsel of the EEOC, his credential include an undergraduate degree, summa cum laude, in 1971 from Dartmouth College, and a J.D. in 1974 from Stanford Law School, where he served on the Stanford Law Review.

The Godfather of law bloggers, of course, is the InstaPundit himself, Glenn Reynolds.  Again, his blog bio is pretty modest, but if you dig a bit deeper, you'll find that Glenn Harlan Reynolds is the Beauchamp Brogan Distinguished Professor of Law at the University of Tennessee College of Law.   (Endowed professorships are a very big deal, even for a full professor at any law school.)  His legal and popular-press publications list is a mile long — the top-tier law reviews in which he's published scholarly articles include Columbia, Virginia, Penn, and Wisconsin — and he has a BA from Tennessee in 1982 and a JD from Yale Law School in 1985.

As for the crusty old trial lawyer who writes this blog, the About Beldar link in the upper right corner of my sidebar will take you to a short bio that includes my name and bar card number, as well as a link that goes to my full bio on the website of the law firm where I'm currently "of counsel" as the (literal) office graybeard.  I've never pretended to false modesty about my credentials and experience, and in fact have ended up referencing them repeatedly in explaining my context for commenting on various legal matters.  I won't run through them in full here — that's what hyperlinks are for, Prof. Seglin.  But let's just say that CBS News seemed fairly well satisfied with my credentials, ability, and performance when I won a Fifth Circuit appeal of a defamation case as their lawyer in 1983.  (Note:  Neither I nor my current firm represents CBS at present, nor have I personally since 1983; and somehow I doubt that I'm likely to anytime soon.)

And there are many, many lawyer bloggers writing about this scandal that I could mention — including at least one other alumnus of my alma mater (Texas Law School), Los Angeles County prosecutor and media watchdog Patrick Frey of Patterico's Pontifications (whose online bio doesn't nearly do justice to his law school credentials, by the way).  [Update: (Just added a less oblique identification of and links to my friend Patterico.)  Also, in my original post, I left out left out the Bruin Brigade — the superbly credentialed and experienced Profs. Stephen Bainbridge and Eugene Volokh from UCLA, for instance!  Accord, Ann Althouse, the Robert W. & Irma M. Arthur-Bascom Professor of Law at Wisconsin Law SchoolSee also former Southern District of New York federal prosecutor Andrew C. McCarthy of NRO's The Corner, who led the 1995 terrorism prosecution against Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman and eleven others and has taught as an adjunct professor at NYU and Fordham.  Plus a deity!  And if he wasn't so busy with the SwiftVets, we could maybe get former Supreme Court law clerk and number-one-in-his-class Texas Law School graduate John O'Neill on board as well.  Wow, talk about your string cites!  This one would make any law review editor quiver!] 

I wouldn't mind matching up the academic and legal practice credentials of any of these lawyer-bloggers against — oh, just hypothetically, a certain lawyer who's running for President at the moment.  Yale is a great undergrad institution, of course, and Boston College is a fine law school.  (I emphatically disagree with the snarky folks who've made fun of him for not going to Harvard Law, having turned down Stanford and Columbia, both higher-regarded law schools, for Texas Law School myself because of financial and geographic considerations that I've never regretted.)  But if you start looking for the magna cums and summa cums, or the law review memberships and judicial clerkships, or the law review publications or major firm partnership-type credentials — well, let's just say that said lawyer's extended credentials as a practicing or academic lawyer thin out pretty quickly in comparison.  (His law license is officially dormant, as a matter of fact.)

I'll finish with this remark:  I'm highly confident that if we assembled together in a courtroom, the lawyer-bloggers currently "prosecuting" Dan Rather in the blogosphere could, collectively, match up just fine against any legal team CBS News chose to hire from any firm or firms anywhere in the country.  And Dan — without being too self-righteous about it — we're kickin' your butt in the blogosphere, buddy.  You guys can't even field a decent team in this arena.

Posted by Beldar at 06:33 PM in Law (2006 & earlier), Mainstream Media, Politics (2006 & earlier) | Permalink


Other weblog posts, if any, whose authors have linked to Some credentials for the lawyer-bloggers who are prosecuting Dan Rather in the blogosphere and sent a trackback ping are listed here:

» Credentialing the Blogosphere from PoliBlog

Tracked on Sep 13, 2004 1:56:55 PM

» Rathergate from XiPE

Tracked on Sep 15, 2004 6:35:12 PM


(1) Allah made the following comment | Sep 12, 2004 7:42:44 PM | Permalink

Another (ex-)lawyer/blogger here.

(2) OhMike made the following comment | Sep 12, 2004 7:50:07 PM | Permalink


You keep kicking their butts, Beldar. MY money's on you and the bloggers.

BTW, I gotta get some pajamas.

(3) Dan S made the following comment | Sep 12, 2004 8:00:14 PM | Permalink

That case you won for CBS... zing!

What a great line to have in your bio in this case.

Too many lawyers! Sheesh! I'm just a poor little English M.A.

(4) Kathy made the following comment | Sep 12, 2004 8:17:20 PM | Permalink

This is why I love the blogosphere. It's experts writing about what they know best.

Unlike journalists with a communications or journalism catch-all degree and no life experience.

(5) Steve made the following comment | Sep 12, 2004 8:32:01 PM | Permalink

Where can I get a "Lawyers who blogged Rathergate" t-shirt?

(6) Kyle made the following comment | Sep 12, 2004 8:34:26 PM | Permalink

Another lawyer here. I'll take the blogosphere's attorneys any day. The level of research to date shames Rather and CBS.
Now for the next piece of circumstantial evidence linking CBS and DNC...The DNC is poised to run a series of personal appearance and TV ad campaigns entitled "Fortunate Son" (after John Fogerty's song from years ago) attacking the President's National Guard service. Of course, the timing of the 60 Minutes hit piece, the appearance of Carville, et al and this new campaign swing is purely coincidental, right?

(7) Mona made the following comment | Sep 12, 2004 8:35:22 PM | Permalink

Beldar, I also am a lawyer, tho currently opting to work outside the field. Thank you for so pithily and definitively defending bloggers-of-the-bar. For at least a year now I have taken my news almost entirely from blogs (and other online sources), many of them run by the fine attorneys you cite. I shall continue to do so, as their investigative skills and integrity completely dwarf those of the MSM.

There is no doubt in my mind that those trained in the rules of evidence are AT LEAST as competent to pass on facts and present them to the public as is any journalist. Certainly litigators have some notion about what questions ought to be asked, of whom, and where to look for production of relevant documents. AP, CBS and THE BOSTON GLOBE would not, at this point, have any room at all to diss bloggers, of the attorney variety or any other.

(8) Beldar made the following comment | Sep 12, 2004 8:38:25 PM | Permalink

Maybe Evan Schaeffer can persuade the MDL Panel to take this case (what case? ummm, gee, maybe he can think of one while he's at it ... and I guess we'd actually need cases, plural, to get the MDL Panel involved) and convene in Hawaii. Then we can all gather there — maybe, somehow, at CBS News' expense? T-shirts, leis, the whole nine yards! Yeah!

(9) Lord British made the following comment | Sep 12, 2004 8:51:07 PM | Permalink

If CBS, DNC, and US & World Report etc. continue the stonewall, what recource is there? Your doing a great job but as lawyers what can be done further?

(10) Beldar made the following comment | Sep 12, 2004 9:01:41 PM | Permalink

We could challenge Gunga Dan to create a character and duel us all in Ultima Online, I guess, Lord B. (Or in EverQuest, a realm I'm more familiar with.)

But more likely, we'll just keep up whatever pressure we can through punditry. CBS should be more vulnerable to public opinion than to lawsuits anyway, as per this newer post.

(11) RKA made the following comment | Sep 12, 2004 9:04:49 PM | Permalink

How do you match a network or newspaper's admittedly limited resources against the collective power of 10,000,000 critical brains?

(12) SF made the following comment | Sep 12, 2004 9:26:23 PM | Permalink

I just wanted to comment that your blog and Powerline's make me really like lawyers!

(13) Fredrik Nyman made the following comment | Sep 12, 2004 9:33:26 PM | Permalink

SF -- hey, I was thinking the same thing.

For that, I award you a conspiracy theory: Maybe the ATLA planted the memos with CBS in a very cunning and clever plot to significantly increase lawyers' popularity!


(14) Bendan made the following comment | Sep 12, 2004 9:44:24 PM | Permalink

An elaborate conspiracy to forge documents and place them in CBS's hands...foiled only by their use of a computer instead of a typewriter. I understand why it is so tempting to believe this story: fits your worldview and the alternative clearly would devastate it. But think about it: why would the White House pass along these memos if they were fake or if they didn't conform substantially to the story that the White House knew to be true? If the story was substantially fake, why didn't the White House say: gosh, these memos sure look authentic, but we know for a fact that the President served honorably, so they can't possibly be true?

Things to ponder, but I'm sure that instead of considering them you'll just lash back with manufactured fury.

(15) MaDr made the following comment | Sep 12, 2004 9:45:42 PM | Permalink

Don't feel offended by the "pajama" remark. Hell, embrace it. I think a lot of bloggers will be. I think all bloggers should buy some jammies, put a pipe in their mouth, pose in a chair or on a couch with a PC in the foreground and an old typewriter in the background. Snap the pic and post it on their sites.

(16) Beldar made the following comment | Sep 12, 2004 9:52:58 PM | Permalink

Bendan, the White House staff hasn't taken a position on the authenticity of the memos, although they've said they're "watching" the subject with interest. What the White House passed along — in response to inquiries from other news media, not with any sort of endorsement or admission — were copies of the documents that CBS News faxed to the WH before the story broke. You're about three days behind on the facts of the story, my friend.

As for the "manufactured fury" lash-back you expect, I'll say again, as this blog's proprietor, that opposing viewpoints, when expressed in a nonprofane and civil fashion — as yours certainly was — are welcome. By all means, please do feel free to offer any logical, moral, typographical, legal, or other observations and objections that occur to you.

(17) MJB made the following comment | Sep 12, 2004 10:01:01 PM | Permalink

Power to the "NeoPopulists"! I've been so glued to the computer this week, tracking the blogs' pursit of Kerry. I had no idea so many of my fav bloggers were lawyers - certainly explains the breadth and depth of the research found online.

Thursday, Sept 10, 2004 should go down in history - the day the music died for the old media.

USAF '85-'92

(18) Tony made the following comment | Sep 12, 2004 10:02:34 PM | Permalink

And it's not only lawyers. Charles Johnson (LGF) has 30 years experience in science & technology. So do I: programming since 1971, B.Sc.(EE), M.Sc.(CS), president of an engineering software company.

The moment I saw the first results of the experiments Charles conducted, it was over for me. The difference on the "th" when using the PDF fonts was the icing on the cake. There is *no* way those memos were not produced very recently.

The Times (pun intended) - they are a changing.

(19) Birkel made the following comment | Sep 12, 2004 10:24:04 PM | Permalink

Another (ex) lawyer here.
Econ degree from Western Carolina, '95
MPP w/ a concentration in Int'l Trade and Finance--John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, '97
JD-University of Michigan Law School, '01

No law review here, but I guarantee I killed more brain cells than the average law student. :)

(20) jack white made the following comment | Sep 12, 2004 10:28:47 PM | Permalink

Earlier this pajama-clad, retired (but still licensed and CLE-attending) attorney speculated where this story would be if it were the plaintiff's lawsuit, Beldar. Let's look at the possible stages for dismissal: motion to dismiss, summary judgment, directed verdict, and defendant's verdict. All those who want to understand what this means, see my post below on Rathergate Day 23.

I think this wouldn't get past a summary judgment motion, and might be one of the very few cases not to survive a motion to dismiss. I would like to hear the thoughts of other practitioners of the black arts on how far this story, if it were the equivalent of a plaintiff's case, would go as it stands now. And please avoid "non-suits." That won't come until the financial squeeze forces CBS to admit it was either hoaxed or perpetrated a fraud.

(21) themarkman made the following comment | Sep 12, 2004 10:28:58 PM | Permalink

The answer for CBS is then simple, "Kill all the lawyers!"

(any actual lawyers who may perchance happen to come upon the above remark will kindly recognize the sarcasm intended and please not litigate)

(22) Chuck made the following comment | Sep 12, 2004 10:34:07 PM | Permalink

Don't forget us old retired Air Force clerk typists. When I saw the memos I immediately found my file of old AF records and saw that every order and piece of paperwork kept had the signature block aligned to the left and that the signatures on those fake memos should have looked liked this:



Jerry Killian
Lt. Colonel

That was a fundamental error that any AF clerk typist would have caught. In fact if said clerk typist had handed in a memo with that signature block his NCOIC would have chewed his ass royaly.

(23) Jazzbo made the following comment | Sep 12, 2004 10:41:11 PM | Permalink

No lawyer here, but I've had to hire one several times. Does that count?

(24) Todd made the following comment | Sep 12, 2004 11:04:19 PM | Permalink

As I've mentioned before, I'm also a litigator and trial lawyer (with much more emphasis on the litigation part) and have practiced for 10 years. My credentials are nowhere nearly as impressive as Beldar's bloggers' "dream team," but I'd be happy to help out with some research or getting doughnuts or something useful like that. :-)

And, like others, I may have to get myself a pair of pajamas. That might make for some fairly comfortable posting/internet surfing.

(25) Wallace-Midland, Texas made the following comment | Sep 12, 2004 11:11:16 PM | Permalink

Good work!

Born in Lamesa eh? Did you ever know an old time there named Weldon A. "Cotton" Lindsey?

From down the road in Midland

(26) TC-LeatherPenguin made the following comment | Sep 12, 2004 11:22:19 PM | Permalink

I never quite get the definition of what someone in a law firm billeted as "of council" actually whoop-de-does? Rainmaker? Old Sage? Kick the kids?

(27) George made the following comment | Sep 12, 2004 11:35:14 PM | Permalink

New Safire Column


(28) CJ made the following comment | Sep 12, 2004 11:46:49 PM | Permalink

And me as a little old News Director-blogger. One of at least two I know (Peggy Phillip the other). Unfortunately, being that I work for a CBS affiliate, I've really had to be mostly silent on this issue. But if Dan wants some advice on the jounalistic ethics in this case, he's free to send me an email!

(29) Ron Wright made the following comment | Sep 12, 2004 11:55:36 PM | Permalink

Allah in the House suggests we all write CBS and the Boston Globe:


Here's my stab at it:

POOR WALTER CRONKITE, "And that's the way it is Sept. 11, 2004."

CBS News and the Boston Globe,

You got STUFFED!!

If you want to run something relevant in the 21st Century try doing something on the Mad Mullahs of Iran going nuclear soon and also think it's ok to hang a sixteen year-old girl.

Put the TANG issue to bed you got stuffed. People are not interested in hearing about it anymore. The issue is who will lead the country on the War On Islamofascism and wipe this failed Ideology of hate and murder from the face of the earth.

See my post over on Roger L. Simon's blog site. BTW the Internet and the Blogosphere have made the MSM irrelevant.


Ron Wright

(30) Lord British made the following comment | Sep 13, 2004 12:28:51 AM | Permalink

Ah Beldar! The Quest. Yes the Quest requires a gathering of able warriors with carefully selected skills complimenting one another to acheive the conquest of evil! let the games begin in ernest.!

(31) horan made the following comment | Sep 13, 2004 12:57:42 AM | Permalink

Network News is old news. Thank you, bloggers, for keeping the orwelling nightmare at bay.

ps I'm taking the Lsat in 2 weeks, if that counts? ;)

(32) Dirk Diggler made the following comment | Sep 13, 2004 12:57:43 AM | Permalink

I'm a disbarred attorney. Does that count?

/Just kidding

Quick question: Impersonating an officer (living or dead I presume) of the United States Armed Forces is a federal offense, correct? How could an investigation be initiated?

(33) Monty made the following comment | Sep 13, 2004 2:01:41 AM | Permalink

Well, first of all, I want to commend Beldar here as well. I firmly believe that there are much better educated (or simply SMARTER) people out there blogging than there are sitting behind a desk on TV. As for the "Lawyers who blogged Rathergate" or "I blogged Rathergate" T-Shirts - I can make them and I would be happy to do so for the cost of materials and shipping only. Of course I will post some kind of contact link on my blog about this, so check it out. I accept cash/check/blood/soda/beer or women, but I prefer cash or check. Keep up the good work.

(34) Beldar made the following comment | Sep 13, 2004 2:11:50 AM | Permalink

Wallace, that family name is very familiar to me, and I'm pretty sure my dad knows the family; I think my older brother and sister both went to high school with some Lindseys in the mid-1960s.

TC-Leather Penguin, "of counsel" is an extremely flexible term that is used in a variety of ways by different firms, and it certainly may include the functions you list. Generally speaking, it represents a lawyer who's too experienced to be called an "associate," but who's not an equity co-owner in the firm. Even that's not always true, though; some firms use "of counsel" to designate retired partners who may still have a share in the profits. Ex-judges often join law firms as "of counsel," and law professors sometimes practice a bit on the side under that moniker too. Sometimes it refers to lawyers who are only practicing on a part-time basis. So it truly has no well-defined meaning.

Tony, you're absolutely right, it's not just lawyer-bloggers by any means who've had a big hand in this. I made lawyer-bloggers the subject of this post mostly because I already knew the backgrounds of quite a few of them or where to look to find more information. (Note the consistent pattern of the lawyer-bloggers I've listed who've underplayed their credentials on their own blogs' "about ___" pages; in just about every case, to get more detail I had to find a website where someone else was tooting their horns for them.)

By the way, I appreciate Power Line's John H. Hinderaker linking this post, but was a little bit amused that he did so using my name rather than my nickname. "Hindrocket" can't bring himself to call me "Beldar"? I chose to blog under a nickname on the theory that (1) it'd be more easily remembered by folks than my actual name, and (2) it'd keep me, and anyone else, from taking what I wrote too seriously. I get lots of hits from folks who've googled "Beldar," which I think supports the first theory anyway. One commenter, though, recently wrote that he spent several frustrating hours learning more than he ever wanted to know about Norse mythology while googling "Baldar" — obviously not a vintage SNL fan.

(35) Steve Leonard made the following comment | Sep 13, 2004 2:21:57 AM | Permalink

I'm a semi retired graphic designer (not a lawyer) and am quite familiar with type fonts. The disputed "Times Roman" on a Selectric was actually called "Press Roman" and the cut of the face was slightly different than true "Times Roman". As such the character count will always be slightly off of that produced by Microsoft Word using "Times Roman" or "Times New Roman". There a number of examples out there of "Times New Roman" exactly matching these bogus memo's and I've superimposed couple sample lines to satisfy myself. I have no doubt that CBS would have gotten away with this were it not for the blogs. KEEP IT UP!!!

(36) Eden made the following comment | Sep 13, 2004 2:35:43 AM | Permalink

Never thought I'd say it, but...

Hooray For Lawyers!

...Including, But Not Limited To, Those Who Blogged RatherGate! (My bro works for SullCrom...)

Speaking of experts, did you guys catch the medical doctor of something or other who had written his own program to find the best match of x-ray images with, erm "affine transforms" or something something..?

It's the way hottest memo-animation:


Anyway-- so y'all have a license to raise hell in a legal way. Ok, so WHY aren't ya prosecuting CBS/Rather/Somebody to reveal the "source" of these blatantly slanderous, defaming, whatever they're legally called forgeries??? Let's get going, suits! RatherGate Dream Team, All Rise!

(37) Radical Whig made the following comment | Sep 13, 2004 5:03:32 AM | Permalink

For that matter, what do we REALLY know about Dan Rather? Had anyone heard of him before he reported from Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963? Maybe HE was on the grassy knoll.

(38) mike made the following comment | Sep 13, 2004 8:14:15 AM | Permalink

Two additional rebuttals to the "we don't know who the bloggers are" criticism:

1. No single blogger can make an issue a national story (unlike the Power vested in a single individual such as Dan Rather.) It takes dozens of bloggers (and Drudge) to float a story to the top. This process is actually a tremendous filter to stop a story that is unworthy of mass attention.

2. Bloggers don't start out with the credibility and number of readers that you, Powerline, and Instapundit have. You have developed it over time, and thus have a track record to support your credibility.

(39) DCE made the following comment | Sep 13, 2004 8:52:01 AM | Permalink

And here I am, just an engineer (electrical and optical), feeling overwhelmed by the credentials of some of our fine bloggerati.

(40) LargeBill made the following comment | Sep 13, 2004 9:19:59 AM | Permalink

Not to be small and petty about this guy, but doesn't he (Prof. Seglin) have that same crayz eyes look as Krugman?

The many quality blogs have been my only refuge from the insultingly partisan MSM. That the blogs seem to have a sense of humility about their reporting makes them all the more believable.

PS: If any of you guys need 'em my wife keeps buying me pajama's as gifts (I need to make a list next time).

(41) slarrow made the following comment | Sep 13, 2004 9:33:08 AM | Permalink

Not only are the leaders of the "pajama brigades" highly credentialed, it is significant they're highly-credentialed lawyers.

Two reasons: first, lawyers are trained to build and sustain arguments. Consequently, they know how to ignore the fluff, dismiss the hand-waving, and stick to the essentials of the case. That's what they do for a living. (Presumably, that's what journalists do too, but that hasn't been the case for some time. More on that later.)

Second, lawyers are expert in recruiting, evaluating, and presenting the positions of experts on subjects the lawyer may know little or nothing about. That's what's devastated the CBS case; this acquired skill coupled with the wide reach of blogs makes for a powerful combination. (Again, journalists are also supposed to be good at this; they aren't.)

I think the key here is that lawyers exist of necessity as only one side in an adversarial system and have had to be good at the practice of argumentation in order to make a living. The MSM has been prosecutor, defender, judge and jury for so long it's lost the vital skills of following ideas and questions to their logical consequence. Now they have adversaries, and they're discovering that the bloodhounds are better at this than they are.

That's why it's important that the clearinghouses for this episode are largely run by lawyers, and their credentials show why they've been so effective.

(oops--longer than I wanted. Ah well. And no, I'm not a lawyer, just a computer programmer with a philosophy degree, so I at least know my way around the edges of arguments.)

(42) Thomas Sellke made the following comment | Sep 13, 2004 12:11:42 PM | Permalink

Here's a suggestion I'm sending to our
good friends at CBS News:

I propose that Dan Rather be appointed
CBS News Anchor for Life (assuming that
he does not already have that title).

Giving Mr.Rather this title would be a
wonderful celebration of the new focus
at CBS News on providing hilarious

However,despite Mr.Rather's recently
demonstrated mastery of slapstick comedy,
I fear that your Nielsen ratings may suffer
if you do not augment Mr.Rather's presence
with some additional comedy talent.And,
I've got the perfect person for you!
It's former Iraqi Information Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf,AKA "Comical Ali".

With Rather and Comical Ali as CBS News
co-anchors,your ratings are guaranteed to

(43) Crank made the following comment | Sep 13, 2004 1:10:00 PM | Permalink

Just another cum laude Harvard Law grad, big-firm lawyer and blogger here . . . I very much doubt that the people at CBS News have anything like the academic credentials, skills, or thoroughness of the leading lawbloggers, who are kicking their butts in our spare time.

But it's more than that. The strength of the blogosphere isn't just lawyers and journalists. It's having access to both readers and fellow bloggers with relevant practical experience in fields outside the world of words and persuasion. Somebody mentioned Charles Johnson above, and the blogosphere is chock full of savvy tech people. And more than that, on the "AWOL" and Swift Boat stories, there are a ton of bloggers with military experience. And there are so many more examples.

Any decent lawyer will tell you that what matters isn't knowing the answer, it's knowing who to ask and where to look for the answer. We bloggers have many good people to look to. If CBS cared to know the truth, it could find them too.

(44) Steve H. made the following comment | Sep 13, 2004 1:59:45 PM | Permalink

I am not a lawyer and never have been.

All right. All right. I AM a lawyer.


(45) King of Fools made the following comment | Sep 13, 2004 2:23:30 PM | Permalink

This whole pajama meme is simply not fair. Being royalty, it just happens that I purchase my pjs from some well reputed gentlemen who made some very nice garments for my good friend, the Emperor.

Enough about pajamas please!

(46) salt made the following comment | Sep 13, 2004 5:09:01 PM | Permalink

So lawyers discussing technology, type fonts,
IBM typewriters trump computer scientists, type setters, secretaries, typewriter salesmen?
Many of these lawyers are experts in their narrow specialized field and their opinions should be given additional weight when confined to that field. The rest is all halo effect - You are asking us to conclude since they are lawyers with an expertise in one area that expertise extends to all areas. I think not. They are smart guys who make their living argueing and have a lot of spare time - that is why they have good blogs. Just because you have a JD doesn't mean you are not a hack.
Can't wait for this high powered legal team to prove the president 'served honorably.' (Nice switcharoo - the issue was the GW Bush received specialized treatment, screwed up, didn't take his physical disapperead for 6 months and then spent the next 30 years fibbing about it. Now the issue is I can make a good facsimile of that memo on my computer in Word) Maybe when they are done with CBS these high powered legal minds can find out who leaked Valerie Plame's name or get to the bottom of who hyped our pre-war intelligence. Maybe the August 2001 PDB was fake and that is why the Bush Administration did not act. To your keyboards boys.....

(47) Old Patriot made the following comment | Sep 13, 2004 6:27:25 PM | Permalink

I'm not a lawyer. I'm a retired Air Force NCO with 20+ years experience as a photo interpreter. I've written several HUNDRED documents, in a dozen or so different formats, for the military. I went to the usual Air Force schools, including NCO Academy and staff management schools. That's hard experience that can be directly applied to the current debate. I've chipped in on Powerline, Captain Ed's, and Donald Sensing's sites (along with many others), and offered my 'expert' opinion on this and many other topics. THAT is what makes blogging more accurate and more honest than the MSM - there are hundreds, sometimes thousands, of people with expertise in a given area that read, interpret, and comment on blogs, leading to a consensus that is far more likely to be "true" than anything the MSM tries to print. Dan Rather was screwed by several thousand people, not "just a handful of lawyers", and not just "a bunch of guys in pajamas". It was the consistent effort of several hundred people, each with experience in the topic being discussed, each making their individual contribution. The final result has been overwhelming and excruciatingly painful for 'Gunda Dan' and his Media cohorts.

(48) bdeep made the following comment | Sep 13, 2004 6:28:08 PM | Permalink

Re: googling "Baldar"... could have been worse: he could have had the misfortune of learning more than he wanted to know about Battlestar Galactica after googling "Baltar"...

(49) Old Patriot made the following comment | Sep 13, 2004 6:35:31 PM | Permalink

I'm not a lawyer. I'm a retired Air Force NCO with 20+ years experience as a photo interpreter. I've written several HUNDRED documents, in a dozen or so different formats, for the military. I went to the usual Air Force schools, including NCO Academy and staff management schools. That's hard experience that can be directly applied to the current debate. I've chipped in on Powerline, Captain Ed's, and Donald Sensing's sites (along with many others), and offered my 'expert' opinion on this and many other topics. THAT is what makes blogging more accurate and more honest than the MSM - there are hundreds, sometimes thousands, of people with expertise in a given area that read, interpret, and comment on blogs, leading to a consensus that is far more likely to be "true" than anything the MSM tries to print. Dan Rather was screwed by several thousand people, not "just a handful of lawyers", and not just "a bunch of guys in pajamas". It was the consistent effort of several hundred people, each with experience in the topic being discussed, each making their individual contribution. The final result has been overwhelming and excruciatingly painful for 'Gunda Dan' and his Media cohorts.

(50) holdfast made the following comment | Sep 13, 2004 6:44:12 PM | Permalink

Though only a mere pup compared to many others here, I too practice the lawyerly arts. What salt fails to understand is that attorneys are required to learn at least a bit about evidence and credibility, as applied to both witnesse and documentary evidence. It doesn't mean that we all know how to code Times New Roman in MS Word or can recite every model of IBM Typewriter sold in Texas in 1972, but we do understand the process of document authentication and standards of admissability, and generally have a fairly well tuned BS detector.

In addition, I have 10 years experience serving with the reserve element of the armed forces of a NATO country, and a pretty good feel for "military writing" (an oxymoron only ecliped my "military music" and "military intelligence"). Just looking at these memos, there are a half dozen elements that scream "wrong" to me - everything from the abbreviations of rank to the casual language and the "CYA" subject line. Let's get real here - you'd have to have a career death wish to put this stuff down on paper - and without a single corrected mistake!

Salt - here's your homework asignment. Go and find a 1972 or older typewriter that does proportional spacing (not too common, but then do exist). Then type a perfectly centred four line signature block at the top of the page in under 30 minutes. Then ponder why someone would invest that kind of time in a sig block for their own record. It doesn't even pass the laugh test, let alone a plausability test.

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