Lunch With RiShawn Biddle

From RiShawnBiddle.com:

When RiShawn Biddle got into journalism in 1997--on the advice of one of his English professors--he knocked on the door of every publication in Atlanta. No one took him seriously: One editor sarcastically told him to take Journalism 101 before coming back to him for any work. Biddle got over that hump--and got a gig with that very editor too--thanks to talent, perseverance and great mentors. He also delivered the goods: Freelancing for Atlanta's alternative and community weeklies, he nailed down stories on such subjects as the protest group Refuse & Resist, the rise of private school choice and apartment safety in the suburbs. As a staff writer for the Dunwoody Crier from 1998 to 1999, he dug up stories on the secession efforts of one community while covering political intrigue in two of Georgia's largest counties. As an intern for ABC News correspondent John Stossel and his top-notch staff, he uncovered a custody fight between the adopted parents of adopted child Karen A. and the mother who abandoned her. The story became a segment in Stossel's special Why Children Don't Have a Voice. And as Reason Magazine's Burton Gray Memorial Intern, he pulled together lively features on the cultural impact of the Sony Walkman as well as on the battle over college student activity fees.

Currently a Los Angeles-based reporter for Forbes Magazine, Biddle covers real estate, hospitality and legal affairs. But he specializes in digging up feuds and shenanigans. Among his scoops: The sparring match between Barry Sternlicht's Starwood Hotels and its franchisees, the feud between Kinko's founder Paul Orfalea and the printing giant's new shareholder, and legal fracas involving Dennis Levine crony-turned-Santa Barbara breast implant firm president Ilan Reich and an investor group including Welcome Back, Kotter star Gabe Kaplan and producer Jon Peters.

He was recently named a finalist in the 2001 Southern California Journalism Awards for uncovering a ritzy golf course venture between insurance giant Nationwide Mutual and a convicted felon who victimized hall-of-fame slugger Harmon Killebrew as well as helped bring down two S&L's during the Eighties.Biddle's pieces have also appeared in Icon Thoughtstyle magazine, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Record (Hackensack, N.J.) and Bridge News Service. He was also one of seven winners and runner-ups in the Institute for Humane Studies' Felix Morley Journalism Competition in 1998. Among his appearances: An investigative journalism panel for the High School Journalism Day seminar at USC's Annenberg School of Communications, as well as on the radio show Marketplace and on the Business Talk Radio network.


My friend Tiffany Stone and I visited the Los Angeles bureau of Forbes magazine Tuesday where we met RiShawn Biddle (born 4/12/74) and bureau chief Seth Lubove. Then we went to lunch at an Italian place in Santa Monica with Rishawn.

I ordered a vegetarian pizza with fresh tomatoes, Tiffany had a salad and RiShawn ordered chicken.

Luke: "How did you become a journalist?"

RiShawn: "Back in 1995, I had transferred to Georgia Perimeter College in Atlanta, Georgia. I was in an English class. The teacher looked at my writing and told me that I could write for a living. My thought at that time was to be a lawyer but I hate big thick books. I was working at a I worked at a Honeybaked Ham store, putting myself through school. Just one of the peons prepping and adding glaze to hams.

"I wasn't thinking about what I was going to do with the rest of my life so I didn't do anything for two years."

Luke: "Was this a predominantly black college?"

RiShawn: "No, it was a predominantly white college and predominantly southern."

Luke: "Did you play sports?"

RiShawn: "None in college. In high school, we played jailhouse basketball, where you just chop people..."

Luke: "When did you graduate college?"

RiShawn laughs: "That's a long, long story. We won't get into that."

Tiffany giggles.

Luke: "I dropped out of UCLA."

RiShawn: "We'll leave it that I went to college."

Luke: "When did you start work as a journalist?"

RiShawn: "In 1997, I got tired of working at an Arbys, Honeybaked Hams... I worked as a temp secretary. And going to school. I figured I might as well take my professor's advice. I ended up taking a creative writing course with her."

Luke: "That's good for journalism."

RiShawn: "It taught me nothing about writing."

Tiffany: "Most undergraduate writing courses aren't that good or serious."

RiShawn: "Wait a minute, you are supposed to be asking the questions."

Tiffany: "Ok, I'll be quiet. I'm sorry."

A woman's place at this table is to be seen and not heard.

Luke: "Where did you grow up?"

RiShawn: "South Ozone Park, New York."

Biddle transferred to Georgia soon after his mother moved there upon RiShawn's high school graduation.

RiShawn: "Ozone Park is a Jamaican area."

Luke: "Are you Jamaican?"

RiShawn: "No, I'm an American black man."

Tiffany explains me: "He doesn't know New York."

Luke: "You didn't play cricket or anything?"

RiShawn: "No, I didn't play cricket."

Luke: "How did you get into journalism?"

RiShawn: "The first piece I got published was a letter to the editor of the USA Today criticizing a Marvin Olasky op-ed piece. I didn't think of that as writing. It was shooting my mouth off.

"Then, a few months later, I wrote a piece for a publication called Topside Load about addictions.I began talking to editors at small community weeklies around the Atlanta suburbs. I never wrote for a high school or college newspaper. Nobody looked at me and said, 'Gee whiz, RiShawn, we like you. You can freelance for us.' It was more, 'We don't need you.'

"I got positive feedback from Dick Williams, the editor of The Dunwoody Crier. It took me two months to act upon that.

"Stop pointing to your pizza."

Luke: "I'm offering her another piece."

RiShawn: "He wants to fatten you up. He wants to make you plump so he can have you around the house and just clean... So no one else can hit on you?"

Tiffany: "Yeah."

RiShawn: "Back to me, I guess."

Tiffany: "Yeah."

RiShawn: "I composed a story about a left-wing group called 'Refuse and Resist' to Topside Load's sister publication, Creative Load. This guy Fred Robinson was interested and he gave me my first gig in writing. I tried to write a balanced and fair piece. Refuse and Resist are best known for supporting Mumia Abe Jamal, this Philadelphia cop murderer. I tried to be fair to these guys even though they had these pimply-faced girls at their meetings who wore ty-die shirts with weed symbols on them and had guys who played hacky sack."

Luke, mystified: "What's hacky sack?"

RiShawn: "You haven't heard of hacky sack? We won't explain it to you, then. These guys were whack jobs but I tried to be fair and balanced. That was my first mistake. I turned in a fair and balanced piece. Fred Robinson looked at it. He's a black guy and I didn't realize at the time that he was fairly conservative. He looked and said, 'Come on. We can't take these guys seriously.'

"He got some filler info and started adding stuff in. That was the first piece that I got screamed at by a lot of people. The guys from Refuse and Resist called my house and harassed my mother [in Atlanta]."

RiShawn has a younger brother and sister. "I'm the one with the big pants in the family."

Luke: "How did you get the job at Forbes?"

RiShawn: "I was an intern at Reason magazine in 1999. Virginia Postrel, who was the editor-in-chief, suggested that there was an opening at Forbes for a position. I thought it was part-time. I went over to the Forbes offices then on Third Street and Wilshire on the [Third Street] Promenade [in Santa Monica]. I met with the bureau chief of the time Tim Ferguson. He said, 'Are you here for the reporter job?' I guess this is a fulltime gig? 'Yeah,' he said. I said I was here for the reporter position.

"After we talked, he led me into an empty office..."

Luke: "And he helped you off with your clothes?"

RiShawn: "No. He sat me in front of a computer and he gave me a financial statement for a company called North Face. I never really read financial statements. I looked through it and I found that the company looked like they were in trouble and I wrote that.

"A couple of weeks later, Seth called me in for another interview."

Luke: "Did Seth lead you into an empty room too?"

RiShawn: "No, Seth actually led me into a conference room."

Luke: "Did anything happen?"

RiShawn: "He told me that this was a tough job and this is what I am going to do... He laid it out for me. I should've paid more attention."

Tiffany: "You were real young, right?"

RiShawn: "I was 25."

Luke: "Had you yet known a woman?"

RiShawn: "I've known plenty of women. And that is a subject we're totally not going to talk about."

Luke: "Does it help when you go into bars to meet women to say that you work for Forbes?"

RiShawn: "It doesn't mean anything to them."

Luke: "Funny that. When Tiffany found out, she got tremors up and down her spine."

RiShawn: "We know that Tiffany gets tremors all over the place. At least, that's what I've heard.

"I guess the name, theoretically, can open a lot of doors, but I've never used it as an opening line."

Luke: "Does it open a lot of legs?"

RiShawn: "No, that requires charm. Luke, that requires charm."

Tiffany: "RiShawn, you're charming."

RiShawn: "Well..."

Luke: "He knows he's charming."

Tiffany: "A good sense of humor. Yeah, he does. I like the eyebrows curling upwards..."

Luke interrupts: "That's enough Tiffany."

RiShawn: "I don't use the Forbes name as a pickup line. If they ask me what I do for a living, I say that's what I do. My job is my job."

Luke: "Have you ever gone to interview someone and they've tried to seduce you?"

RiShawn: "Ok now, what the heck are you talking about here?"

RiShawn turns off my taperecorder. A few minutes later, I turn it back on.

Luke: "What is your dream?"

RiShawn: "I don't want to be the editor of a magazine or any sub-editor. I've seen what those guys have to go through and it blows. If you're running the show, you're under constant stress over circulation and everything else. At some point, I'd like to write a book and do syndicated columns. I've been approached a couple of times."

Luke: "Do you like [black talkshow host and libertarian] Larry Elder?"

RiShawn: "He seems like a nice guy. I've never met him. I got a book signed by him. I don't spend my time chasing celebrities."

Luke: "Throwing your panties on stage?"

RiShawn: "No, that's Tiffany's job."

Tiffany: "I've never done that."

RiShawn: "Who do you idolize?"

Tiffany thinks. I clear my throat noisily.

Tiffany: "Luke, I think there are plenty of women who read your site who idolize you. Naive young girls."

Luke: "But they're all under 15."

RiShawn: "Do you want to be a radio talkshow host one day?"

Luke: "Yeah. Would you like to be president of the United States one day?"

RiShawn: "My grandmother wanted me to be president when I was a little kid. But I figured that with all my umm..."

Tiffany: "Sex, drugs and rockn'roll?"

RiShawn: "Just the sex. I don't do drugs."

Luke: "How much sex have you had?"

RiShawn ponders: "Hmmm...."

Tiffany: "RiShawn's a player. I can tell. I knew when I met you RiShawn."

RiShawn: "I'm not a player. I'm a nice guy. Women get this mistake about me that I am a guy who goes around..."

Luke: "And pumps women."

RiShawn: "I'm just a very nice guy who works a job, comes home, pulls out my black book."

Tiffany: "Guys who are 28 are a certain way."

Luke: "Which of the women at the event Saturday night would you like to know better, hang out with?"

RiShawn turns off my tape recorder.

Luke: "Have you read more books or been with more women in the past year?"

RiShawn: "More women. I read six books [in the past year]."

I write Los Angeles bureau chief of Forbes, Seth Lubove: "Why do you two guys like cracking heads so much in your reporting? Why has RiShawn lasted at Forbes so long when most people flee within a year? Do you/Forbes mind him having a weblog?"

Seth replies:

--Cracking heads? i presume you mean "cracking" the heads of folks we write about, not each other (though that's been known to happen, too, during the heat of deadlines). I just happen to believe that the purpose of journalism is to put people on the spot, but be fair. There's plenty of other media outlets providing enough fluff and cotton candy to drive readers into sugar shock. We're just providing an alternative.

--Why has he lasted so long? You're probably asking the wrong person. I've been with Forbes over 13 years, so it's not my experience to "flee" within a year. RiShawn is a hard worker and a strong reporter with a good story sense, which has fit in nicely with the Forbes attitude.

--Weblog? He can do whatever the hell he wants on the Internet, so long as he doesn't discuss the background of his own stories or provide additional information that wasn't published (though comments about editors and bureau chiefs are made at his own risk). Libel lawyers have big eyes.


Play by Play of Blogging Panel

RiShawn Biddle: "I like to write about morally dubious people. I'm interested in the psychology of people who do things I can only dream of.

"I started a blog because I have a big mouth. I like to talk. You could put me in a sewing corner with a bunch of ladies and we'll talk all day."

Professor Eugene Volokh: "Blogging is an inexpensive activity except for time. There's a good blog, Appellate Blog at blogspot.com. It's all about appellate litigation. It's written by a guy whose time is money. It's amazing the number of hours he spends on this stuff. He has 8-10,000 unique visitors a day. For me, it's the most useful source for news about law.

"I've persuaded the taxpayers of California to subidize all of my writing. That's one of the great things about being a professor at UCLA Law School. I'm hired to write whatever I want to write. I can write articles on any subject I want to and call it scholarship. My dean at some point may say, 'How about a law review article here and there?'

"People like to talk. Professors by definition like to talk. There are ten of us on the Volokh Conspiracy and we have some thoughts and we think we might be able to persuade some people to agree with us.

"Many of us write op-eds but that's a fixed narrow medium. It's got to be 700 words. It's got to have a news hook. It's got to be something that appeals to a large group of people. But when there's something we want to say in the way it should be said [when it should be said, we blog].

"The desire to shout out what you think is the truth is a natural human reaction."

Ken Layne: "About a year ago, we were at Eugene's house and we were going to shoot some guns. He'd put on his law school web page his latest WSJ op-ed. I encouraged him to start a blog. He said, 'Oh no, I don't have time for that.' Now listen to him."

Matt Welch covered the Ralph Nader campaign and voted for him. "After September 11, it struck me that what was coming out of those people's mouths [the Left] was particularly vapid and infuriating. I spent a lot of time reacting against those people, which brought me a devoted following of knuckle-dragging right-wing lunatics.

"September 12th was a bad day for idealogues of any stripe. Anyone who had their set formula for how the world works wrote or said something enormously stupid. I've spent most of my adult career writing about the distorting effects of ideology."

Emmanuelle Richard: "I started my blog in the summer of 2000 after taking a long course in html at USC. I was one of the first French bloggers. The French call me the mother of the French bloggers.

"My blog is not intellectual or political. It's things that make me laugh on a daily basis.

"I want the French to feel that the internet belongs to them and they can express themselves. The French are shy."

Mickey Kaus: "I started blogging because I didn't have anything else to do. I worked for Slate. I was in the shower. Bill Clinton had just delivered a speech about affirmative action. It enraged me. I realized that there was no reason why I couldn't post something on the web immediately in time for the reporters covering the speech to read what I wrote and influence their coverage. This has never happened.

"I wrote something for Slate called Chatterbox, then I went to work for Newsweek. Then I left Newsweek and I didn't have anything to do. Then I started posting long static items, one or two a week, on my site [kausfiles.com]. Then I ran into Walter Olsen, the anti-lawyer lawyer. He said, 'Mickey, I really like your site. It never changes. Everybody else is whoring after hits by posting daily comments.' Then I started posting something everything day. I was immitating Jonah Goldberg of National Review Online.

"The good things about blogs were no editors and no deadlines. The bad things were no money and no readers. But if you could ever solve the second half of the equation, you would be in good shape.

"Even if I quit Slate, I will never give up blogging because it is now as natural an act as speaking."

Heather Havrilesky: "After I lost my job, my time became less and less valuable [and she started blogging and getting Pay Pal donations that raised her wage to 25c an hour]. My blog allows me to try out new kinds of writing."

Mickey gets the most traffic of anyone on the panel followed by Eugene.

We discuss how much time we spend on our blogs. An hour or two a day is the average, except for Mickey whose fulltime job is his blog.

Volokh: "How much time do you spend schmoozing with people? Blogging is just another way of communicating, with less personal feedback but a bigger audience."

7:50PM: The cell phone of Cathy Seipp's father goes off and he struggles for a minute to figure out how to turn it off.

Maynard in the audience, with long flowing white hair and a couple of books on his lap of graphic novels aka cartoons: "I'd like to ask this gentleman [indicating Luke]. You're the one person who approaches his work with a certain romantic mystery. Your psychology...why you constantly put yourself at risk, is very intriguing."

Luke: "A lot of people read my website because there's a certain inherent drama in reading the musings of a mentally ill man. My family has been concerned about me and they paid for me [in March 2000] to go home to Australia, where they all reside, so that I could get a thorough mental health evaluation from the professionals of their choice. I sat down with a psychiatrist for three hours. She concluded I had a Narcissistic Personality Disorder...and that I needed 10-15 years of insight-oriented psychotherapy. That I had no sense of self. That I am totally dependent for my sense of who I am on feedback.

"A blog is my lifeline. I get so needy if I don't get emails constantly. Emails for me are like an IV. I will pose for pictures holding my gun if nobody writes in."

Eugene: "Guns are a recurring theme."

Rishawn: "I grew up in a neighborhood with guns. I'm trying to get away from that."

Luke: "I talked to a psychologist friend who said that if I ever got healthy, I'd stop writing."

[JMT writes: This may be correct. John Cleese used to be arguably the funniest man in the world. Then he went through years of therapy, and moved to Santa Barbara, and now he's basically a bore with a bad toupee.]

Rishawn: "I spend 70% of my work time on the telephone. I get into work at 7AM and I start making calls. So while I'm calling all over the world, I check out [various internet sites]."

Ken: "In the past seven years, my first place to go when news breaks has changed. I no longer go to the New York Times, I go to Instapundit."

Matt Welch talks about getting his National Post column because an old friend Googled him.

Eugene: "Ultimately money is just a means by which you can feel that you are important."

Bloggers kvell that they are number one or close to it when you type their first name into Google.

Eugene: "Until the rise of the internet, your supply side of news was highly limited - a handful of national newspaper, the local papers, TV and radio. Now with the internet you can read any newspapers in the world and all these bloggers...opinion writers. They are all sources of information. How will this huge burst of commentary and sometimes reporting reach the audience? And the answer is through editors. Instapundit is an editor I find trustworthy.

"Usually the division is between linkers and thinkers. Those who primarily link and those who primarily opine. Instapundit is my news source. He's the way I found a lot of bloggers. I trust his news judgment. In the future, we won't think of bloggers and the media. They will all be sources of information."

Matt: "That is obvious to us and probably everyone in the room, but it is not obvious to the hiring staffs at the major newspapers, which do a dreadful job of recognizing talent."

Ken: "After 9/11, all the leftist news organizations Matt and I worked for fired us. Then the sneaky necon people were nice to us and they sucked us in."

Luke: "Blogging is about the purest form of meritocracy. You only get hits if you earn them. Therefore, it is no surprise to me that it [the blogosphere] leans right. Surveys consistently show that people who get their news primarily from newspapers, vote to the right and people who get their news primarily from TV vote to the left. So the more well informed people are, and bloggers tend to be well informed, therefore it should be no surprise they come from the right."

[WRHarper enjoyed: "Luke Ford’s hilarious logic chain “proving” that most bloggers should be right wing. Distilled to something like - most bloggers are well informed, most well informed people lean toward the right, therefore most bloggers should be right wing. I can’t possibly do justice to his rapid fire delivery or air of confidence."]

Eugene: "How do we know bloggers come disproportionately from the right? I'm not sure how many religious and cultural conservatives are on the panel? I think zero."

Everybody points at me and my yarmulke.

Eugene: "Fair enough. You certainly belong to a conservative religious movement. I had not thought of you as politically conservative. Fine, that's one. We're a big tent.

"My colleague Mark Kleinman is a rabid Democrat. Joshua Marshall. Jim Romenesko who is liberal."

Cathy: "I don't think Romenesko leans one way..."

Luke: "Oh no, he's left. He consistently links to [Eric] Alterman but wouldn't do the same to [Jonah] Goldberg."

Eugene: "Nobody has done a census of bloggers' political leanings."

Rishawn: "The people who work for newspapers aren't iconoclasts. They're latte liberals who drive Volvos. The guys who dominate the thinktanks and opinion media are conservatives. Bloggers tend to be iconoclasts."

Heather: "If conservatives are reading the newspapers and most newspaper reporters are liberal, something is wrong here."

Mickey Kaus: "I disagree with Eugene. If somebody at an institute got a grant to look at the top 100 blogs, and classified them as left, right and center, it would be dominantly right wing. There is something about talk radio that attracts right-wingers. There's something about blogging that attracts right-wingers."

Susannah Breslin poses a question about censorship.

Luke: "I'm open to censorship. There has been no society that has allowed complete freedom of expression. That's a good argument that all forms of civilization need some censorship."

Matt: "What about on your site?"

Luke: "I think I'm the least censorious of the panelists here as far as what makes it to my website."

Cathy: "You've improved since you've known that my daughter is reading your website."

Luke: "Since I've known that your 13-year old daughter is reading the website, I've cleaned it up. I let anything go unless it is incredibly personally [pointlessly] vicious..."

Emmanuelle: "What about the lawsuits?"

Luke: "I've been sued three times. I settled one. One was thrown out of court. One the other side dropped. It's quite an experience. I've probably become more careful.

"Susannah's question about brings me to tears because I've lost so many friends because of simply choosing to write on certain topics. I lost about half of my good friends in Los Angeles when I chose to write on talkshow host Dennis Prager. Almost all of my friends in my particular synagogue shunned me [back in early 1998] and none of those relationships have recovered.

"It's so difficult to write about certain issues and keep your friends. That I would even write about pornographers aside from morally denouncing them caused me to be ejected from four of my favorite Orthodox synagogues in Los Angeles.

"Race is an issue that almost nobody in the blogosphere approaches honestly because the social repercussions are so enormous. Tom Wolfe in 1963, the day John F. Kennedy was killed, went around to different ethnic neighborhoods in New York City and found that each one blamed another ethnic group for the assassination. He wrote a story but his newspaper would not publish it because this sort of thing, particularly in America, [is not published]. If blogs honestly reflected the way people honestly feel about racial matters [would be socially shunned]. Virtually everyone I know, when they feel safe, have some dislike for some ethnic group.

"The Trent Lott example is perfect. As John Derbyshire put it [on National Review Online], there are tens of millions of white people in America who do not like to be around black people. And most of these people vote Republican. I'm a Republican. All the condemnation of Lott from the right was that he was for segregation. Well, that's the way most of us lead our lives. Almost all of us prefer to live among our own kind. But blogs don't reflect this because if you point this out, you are socially ostracized."

Ken: "Until Eugene throws a blog party, you have no idea what race anybody is. Glenn Reynolds could've been a 600-pound Samoan woman for all I knew."

Somebody calls Andrew Sullivan irresponsible.

Luke: "How so?"

Rishawn: "Certain activities..."

A person who would prefer not to be identified: "Andrew is energetic and smart. He will go after you with hammer and tongues and any weapon that is available to you. Sometimes the weapons are the opposite of the one he used last week. He wrote a column outing other gay people..."

Luke: "What's irresponsible about outing other gay people?"

XXX: "People's privacy is invaded..."

There's a question about using a website to continue on the theme of a book.

Luke: "My website lukeford.com [sold in August of 2001] was the thousands of pages of notes I developed while writing my [book] history of sex in film. My book linked to my website. I found I got a lot more respect once the book came out. The publishing of the book was such a horrific experience. My editor taking out things because they were gossipy or offensive. 'We're not going to put people's real names.' My good stuff was printed on the internet."

Rishawn: "When I was working in small newspapers in Atlanta, Georgia, not only did I write the stories, I had to carry the camera and take the photos too."

Eugene: "A picture is worth a thousand words but very few sets of a thousand words can effectively be captured in a picture. Text is a versatile medium. Any thought or concept can be captured in text. Text is much more efficient to read. I like to read transcripts of speeches rather than listen to speeches. On first principles, I'm skeptical of video blogging.

"The conventional wisdom is that video news is a much inferior version of the news [to print]."

Cathy Seipp confesses that she still connects to the internet via a 56K modem. Everyone else on the panel I believe uses DSL or cable modem.

Cathy: "Bloggers get out of the house more than LA Times writers."

Ken: "They like to drink more."

Eugene: "I never do personal conversations by email. We want to exchange content but we also want a particular form - face to face human contact. It's a rare person who'd be happy blogging and sending emails."

Luke: "Orthodox Judaism organizes my life. I'm required to spend one day a week (the Sabbath) away from technology. I'm religiously required to pray three times a day with my religious community. My religion divides life into two spheres - the sacred and the non-sacred. The sacred is the ultimate reality for me, and it is without technology."

Gregory S. Taylor writes: "I don't think that Professor Volokh, for whom I have considerable esteem, is properly referred to as "Dr. Eugene Volokh." As far as I know, he holds a B.S. and a J.D. (law degree) and no doctorate. While it's true that J.D. stands for Juris Doctor and some call it a doctorate, those that hold the degree are not customarily addressed as "Dr." in the United States. (Lawyers in other parts of the world, including Latin America, however, are called "doctor.")"

JMT writes: "It's the attorney's quandary. You spend three years in law school, study for the bar exam, and, if you're lucky enough to pass, you're given nothing more than a membership card (until a couple years ago, a paper membership card). No title. You're just "Mr. Whatever" or "Ms. Whatshername." Even a lowly chiropractor gets to call himself "Doctor." Unfortunatately, the idiotic practice of pasting "Esq." at the end of one's name, in a misguided grab at status and prestige, has become commonplace among lawyers."

Sara Rimensnyder writes: "I've somehow missed talking to Luke Ford at all the packed LA Press Club events, but now am completely intrigued following his performance on the LA blogger panel this Saturday (where I again managed not to talk to him)."

Highlights Of Cathy Seipp's Blogger Panel

Moderator Cathy Seipp kept the discussion moving along and including the audience, which numbered 66 persons when I counted towards the end.

JMT writes: "66 people? In all of southern California?! A convention in the Yukon Territory for coin collectors who only collect pennies would draw a bigger crowd than that. Isn't this a pretty good indication that virtually no one cares about or is influenced by blogs, other than the people who write them?"

Cathy seated us according to our political predilections: Heather Havrilesky on the left, followed by Mickey Kaus, Emmanuelle Richard, Matt Welch, Ken Layne, Dr. Eugene Volokh, RiShawn Biddle (the only black man in the room) and myself on the the far right.

Susannah Breslin, a 6'2" beautiful woman with a not-present-tonight boyfriend, paid me some sweet public compliments. Big of her considering I just published negative comments about her. Susannah said the uncensored nature of my site was a strong point.

The opening 15-minutes of our panel was boring when we all introduced ourselves and said why we started blogging. I was bored listening to myself and cut off after a minute. The other panelists were no more better. Then a freewheeling discussion began. When forced to think on our feet and respond to the audience and other panelists, my group responded smartly.

Professor Eugene Volokh's huge IQ overshone all others. He put together cogent arguments on the fly. He's one of those rare brilliant people who are courteous, considerate and not condescending.

Mickey Kaus said that if you totaled up the 100 bloggers by traffic, most of them (LF: Instapundit, Drudge, Lucianne Goldberg, Andrew Sullivan) would tilt right (LF adds: and be white males).

The person I most looked forward to meeting was Cecile du Bois, who was adorably precociously 13-years old, with short black hair, braces and a mini-skirt. She came with her Dad, Jerry, Cathy Seipp's ex-husband. It was my first time meeting him.

Jerry and Cecile sat with Cathy's father Harvey, who's written a book.

Harvey: "Cathy says I can't write worth a s---."

Cathy: "I didn't put it like that."

Harvey should publish his stuff on the internet.

It was a brainy audience, at least half of whom were writers.

Most of the panelists went back to Heather Havrilesky's (who was also on last Saturday night's panel) place afterwards for a party but I was worn out, felt my CFS kicking in around 11PM, and I headed home. I gave an old Jewish lady a ride home. She talked about fighting for Israel and making calls Sunday for "Super Sunday," the biggest fundraising day of the year for the Jewish Federation. She kept calling me "rabbi," and she handed out fliers about Israel and Daniel Pearl, the slain Jewish-American journalist at the Wall Street Journal.

Susannah and a spiky blonde woman (Xeni Jardin) who helped organize last Saturday night's panel invigorated our discussion this evening. I take it that our discussion was more about values and last week's was more about technology. Xeni and Susannah were amazingly nice to me considering I had published critical comments about their panel.

Susannah says Tony Pierce was the outstanding personality of last week's discussion.

I heard several comments that our panel tilted right but five members were liberals - Heather, Ken, Matt, Emmanuelle and Mickey.

The men on the panel pontificated much more than the women and talked longer. It was a breath of fresh air that Emmanuelle did not have much of an interest in politics and preferred to talk about quirky technology in her gorgeous French accent. Matt should get down on his hands and knees every night and thank the Lord she married him.

Every time I see Emmanuelle, she has a new hairstyle. Tonight it was longer than usual and streaked red.

I was overjoyed that my buddy David Poland came long, bringing his friends Ray Pride (a regular columnist on Movie City News) and TV producer Andrea.

"I love David," Tiffany Stone told me later. "I'm so glad he's your friend."

I was the only person in the room wearing a yarmulke.

The food served aftewards was Hungarian and filled with pork. I only drank water.

Everybody on the panel had a good sense of humor (a sure sign of inteligence).

I talked endlessly about myself and my need for attention. I gave examples of how I've disgraced the Jewish religion and been kicked out of shuls.

I gave the final words of the panel: "Orthodox Judaism organizes my life. I'm required to spend one day a week (the Sabbath) away from technology. I'm religiously required to pray three times a day with my religious community. My religion divides life into two spheres - the sacred and the non-sacred. The sacred is the ultimate reality for me, and it is without technology."

Joh3n writes: "Luke was an enigma to me. Interposed with his closing statement about the sacred and the non-sacred was his opening jabs at his own sanity. I guess I'll have to read more of his stuff."

The shadow of Glenn Reynolds aka Instapundit hung over all of us. We were only reverential about his work ethic and the wide swathe he's cut through the blogosphere.

I detected no "aura of rudeness" around Heather, who now has a place in my "Hot Chicks Who Blog" Hall of Fame along with Moxie, Susannah and Emmanuelle. Heather has a Jewish boyfriend, Barry Langer, who strenuously objected to me about XXX's description of his lovely. Heather however conceded she might project a tad bit of rudeness.

I keep meeting couples where the woman happily admits to flaws but her man vigorously rejects such possibilities. I think that's the way God made us. A real man wants to take care of his woman.

It's a disgusting rumor that Heather Havrilesky's domain name is a reference to Barry and his shortcomings.

I meet Martin, a good friend of Moxie's and a graduate of Yeshiva University.

Tiffany Stone tells Mickey Kaus how shocked she was when she discovered that I, a lover of good spelling, grammar and punctuation, loved inarticulate President Bush. She didn't think anyone smart could love the prez.

Mickey says he's best suited for Republican women. Liberals regard him as a betrayer while Republicans want to convert him.

I chat with a couple from Temple Sinai. The husband nailed me to the wall about my putative practice of Orthodox Judaism - one is either modern or an Orthodox Jew. You can't be both. Orthodox Judaism rejects substantial amounts of modernity, including the findings of Biblical scholarship and archeology. I'm either an authentic Ortho Jew and inauthentic modern, an authentic modern and an inauthentic Ortho Jew, or self deluded or heavily compartmentalized. This is why Orthodox intellectuals who participate in the public discourse tend to be cranks (how Rabbi Shmuley Boteach is widely regarded in Orthodox circles).

I met Debbie Gendel and her screenwriter husband Morgan. Debbie introduced Cathy to her now ex-husband Jerry.

Cathy Seipp repeats what she told me Thursday night - the picture on my site Friday morning of my sore tongue was a bad idea.

I arrived at 6:40PM to see Rishawn Biddle and Mickey Kaus chatting outside.

I went inside and heard several writers talk about Jim "Media News" Romenesko's sexual orientation. Desiring to be a good Orthodox Jew, I could not participate in such a tawdry conversation.

XXX writes: "Andrew Sullivan always makes reference to Romenesko being "pro-gay.""

"Check out this article in New York magazine and the number of gay inferences. "Significant other? None to speak of, at least lately."

A writer took Andrew Sullivan to task Saturday night for being irresponsible. "How so?" I challenged. The writer criticized Sullivan for outing people as homosexual and using every rhetorical weapon in his arsenal to win arguments, even if they are dishonest tools and wielded below the belt.

Jim Romenesko recently posted:

The Post's gossip columnists have apologized to Sandy Koufax and author Jane Leavy for running a Dec. 19 blind item saying the Hall of Fame pitcher "cooperated with a best-selling biography only because the author promised to keep secret that he is gay." The "Page Six" writers say in their third column item: "Koufax himself, an intensely private man, was deeply offended by our item. The author has denied making any deal with Koufax and called our item 'erroneous.'" On Friday, the Los Angeles Times reported Koufax has severed ties with the News Corp.-owned Los Angeles Dodgers because of the gossip bit.
AN EX-NEW YORK POST SPORTSWRITER SAYS: "As much as I enjoyed being a 'Post guy,' I loathed being linked with the gossip geeks who refuse to let the facts stand in the way of what they think is a good story. ...Maybe it wouldn't bother me so much if these snakes stayed out of the sports arena. But they keep slithering in, trying to find gay baseball players." (TCPalm.com)
"We outed Koufax as a heterosexual," says NYDN editor (NYT/reg. req.)
Newhan on Murdoch's firm: "It should be called Bad News Corp." (LAT)
Koufax author: I don't want to profit from this unseemly tale (TCP.com)
Gossip item controversy has enraged Dodgers officials, fans (NYDN)
Earlier: "Koufax gay? Nothing wrong with that -- but no way" (NYDN)

Luke says: The Post columnists should only apologize about Koufax if they are factually wrong. My stand on outing - ambivalent. I do think it is wrong to profile homosexual Hollywood players as having romantic relationships with women.

On the panel, Cathy Seipp said she always thought Romenesko was fair and balanced. But a bunch of us on the panel, and many of us in the audience, said he was a lefty, always linking to braindead Eric Alterman (rarely to more interesting stuff from Jonah Goldberg) and highlighting anything negative about homosexual neocon Andrew Sullivan, in particular Andrew's graphic sex-seeking personal ads of a couple of years ago (which Cathy would not allow to be discussed on the panel as there was a 13-year old child in the audience and it was in bad taste anyway to talk publicly about such things). Sullivan replies by pointing out Romenesko's biases towards the left.

Why do homosexuals (not that there's anything wrong with that, Tiffany) like Matt Drudge and Andrew Sullivan and company play such a disproportionate role on the blogosphere? Because they don't have wives and children to look after.

Homophobic fury at John Connolly Romenesko as power broker

DSFT posts to LaExaminer.com: "Is Koufax a smoker of the pole and if so, he must have pitched and not caught."

Matt Welch, a friend to the homosexual agenda, replies: "DSFT -- Uh, if you're going to make 4th grade gay jokes, the least you can do is demonstrate your bravery by leaving a real name...."

Mattie writes: "gotta love scolding people on posts - dude, if you dont like it, remove it. I am interested in knowing if Koufax hid the meat and what kind of towel snapping went on in that locker room - i cant wait until this brings out some other shaft lovers out of the closet in current baseball, i just wonder which of em are brave enough to go the cocoa route with barry."

Kate Coe posts: "While I don't care very much about what Sandy does to whom, this deal does explain why the book is such a hagiography. The author made Sandy into such a saint, that I wondered if the man was human. Over-compensation on behalf of the writer?"

I chat with Eugene Volokh about movies. He and his wife are thinking of seeing Gangs of New York. He prefers action films and his wife prefers chick flicks. Dr. Volokh does not talk about his blog in his class, thus one of students told me the other day he doesn't know what a "blog" is.

Volokh and Kaus are completely secular Jews who give not a second thought to throwing overboard the millenia-old traditions of their people. They're confident that in their intellectual brain power, they can intuit right and wrong better than the four thousand years of Jewish tradition. Unfortunately, such people will not pay the full price for their hubris in this world. We will.

The panel began promptly at 7PM. Cathy introduced us by reading representative samples from our work. For me, she chose the emails I published from Danny Provenzano and JMT, who wrote: "You've been writing some good stuff lately. Has your team of physicians and therapists finally found the right combination of powerful psychotropic drugs?"

JMT replies: "It's always an honor to be mentioned in the same breath with a member of the Provenzano Family. The "I'm your Moral Leader. Get in the van" line might have been better, but she probably hasn't been reading you that long."

I'm going on a low dose of lithium starting this week to combat my predilection for manic intensity.

I asked Mickey Kaus why outing public figures who were homosexuals was wrong. He said it violated their privacy.

The panelists, and other bloggers, are loathe to criticize their peers, particularly the powerful ones like Andrew Sullivan, Instapundit. It's just not worth the hassle of having to deal with the hurt feelings, says one member of this powerful group. There's a tacit understanding between Mickey Kaus, Instapundit, Andrew Sullivan that they won't strongly criticize each other. So much for the wide-open blogosphere. As it gets more successful and mainstream, it loses its edge.

Instapundit says: "Hmm. Pretty tacit, as I didn't know about it."

Oliver Willis writes: "I'm aware that this is Ford's perspective, but if there's any truth to it - it's outright pathetic. People slammed me in the past when I pointed out the echo chamber of thought (especially with conservabloggers), but this is sad.

"I treat no blogger as a sacred cow, regardless if they're more popular than I am or if they're to the left or right of me. Perhaps I'm an old-schooler who thought we got into this thing to exercise opinions and not just pat each other on the back, or maybe I'm just an agitator."

Luke says: Willis (alexa.com ranking of 110,000) does not violate the tendency I mention above because he does not rank among the most influential or widely-read bloggers. It's like my making a generalization about NFL quarterbacks and a kid who throws the ball around to his friends in eighth grade says, "Hey, that doesn't apply to me."

Atrios writes Willis: "Kaus has also admitted he won't be mean to [Matt] Drudge, for similar reasons..."

Most gossip columnists have a similar understanding - that they won't publicly criticize or gossip about their peers. My imaginary friends (induced through powerful psychotropic medications) - Chaim Amalek, Putative Marc, Khunrum, Fred Nek and Helpful - have no such compunctions.

Helpful writes: Outing is wrong. A person's sexuality is a private thing. The only exception is when a person is an absolute hypocrite like the late Roy Cohn. McCarthy era homophobe by day. Self-loathing Nancy Boy by night.

Hoover is another example where outing would have been fine, but exposing innocuous individuals' sex lives to public scrutiny? Not right.

Howard Owens reports Michael from San Diego Joh3N Rishawn Biddle

Wil Forbis writes:

[RiShawn Biddle] had a weird speech pattern where he would start a sentence, then seemingly decide on a better way to form the sentence, and start over from the beginning. But the new sentence would seem like a duplicate of the previous sentence, and you were left thinking, "Why didn't you just say it right the first time?"

Like, he would say: "I really think that bloggers most bloggers... I really think most bloggers are right of center." I guess it doesn't seem that annoying on the page, but he did this all night.

RiShawn Biddle writes: "So this Fordis guy seems to have a problem with my speech patterns. I guess he thinks he could do a better job. That's why he was on the panel. Oops. He wasn't? Apparently not good enough. And you can print that."

Israel: The National Question Moral for U.S.

Paul Craig Roberts writes: Israel is a Jewish--not a multicultural--state. Imagine Israel’s fate if it had to contend with a Palestinian vote.

Imagine Israel’s predicament if the country permitted massive non-Jewish immigration and, in addition, was undergoing a silent invasion by illegal Palestinian immigrants. Imagine, also, that Israeli schools taught that Jewish males were hegemonic racists and sexists who oppressed Jewish women and Arabs. Imagine, further, that Israel had civil rights laws that made Jews second class citizens and bestowed “minority preferences” on Palestinians and other Arabs. Combine this package with guilt-ridden political leadership. What chance would Israel have?

As dangerous as its situation is, Israel has none of these disadvantages. The U.S., however, has every one of them.

RiShawn Biddle, a black libertarian and journalist for Forbes, responds on his weblog: PAUL CRAIG ROBERTS' 'ALIEN' PROBLEM: The pages of VDare.com would be far more horrifying if its editorial content wasn't so laughable. Besides the volumes dedicated to ripping National Review Online's editor Jonah Goldberg, the dreary site is nothing more than a endless series of tired anti-immigrant rants from should-never-beens such as syndicated columnist Sam Francis, who just came out with a hackneyed scaremongering piece about how an amnesty program for illegal aliens will supposedly give terrorists a free pass to bomb other parts of our amber waves of grain.

One would expect Francis to be a Vdare columnist. Unfortunately, the same goes for my acquaintance and former Forbes colleague Peter Brimelow, an otherwise good guy--and talented journalist--whose anti-immigration screeds were once championed by National Review, for whom he also once wrote. But I was surprised when I found an anti-emigre' column by Paul Craig Roberts. Yes, that Paul Craig Roberts, the economist who helped pioneered supply-side economics in the Seventies, craft the Reagan administration's tax cut policies in the Eighties and most recently, wrote a fine tome on how the drug war has led to wrongful criminal prosecutions.

With this literary urine sample, Roberts has moved from eminent pundit to race-baiting scoundrel. After taking us through a history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Roberts contends the latest crisis is a harbinger of what may happen to America if it doesn't cease and desist from "insane" immigration policies have that have left it captive to "alien cultures," made "second-class citizens" of native "white males" and transformed former Mexican territories-turned-American states in California and the southwest into "Mexican provinces."

How, umm, crafty. I guess Roberts was napping when Mark Krikorian tried pulling that half-baked stunt. To prove his point, Roberts cites Israel's non-assimilationist society as an example of how our nation should handle its huddled masses...

Since Roberts enjoys telling fairy tales, let me try one out. Let's suppose Israel did decide to offer an olive branch, say, recognize Palestinians as equal citizens, handed them the right to vote and addressed ethnic discrimination with laws that gave every citizen, no matter their ethnicity, the equality of opportunity to make something of themselves. Let's suppose that Israeli schools then taught that decades of treating Palestinians as second-class citizens--including the forced seizure of their private property--was just as wrong as the Nazi's Final Solution and the enslavement of and discrimination against American Blacks. I'll bet that the average Palestinian would rather have equal citizenship in Israel than a pile of dust in the West Bank or Gaza Strip.

My hypothesis is probably absolute lunacy, but then, so is Roberts' notion that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can teach us anything about immigration. If anything, Israel is a lesson on how not to handle immigration. After all, both Israel and its rivals within the Arab world, especially Iraq and Jordan face angry hordes of Kurds and other minority ethinicities who have been treated shabbily at best, and in most cases, slaughtered ruthlessly. Perhaps if these Middle Eastern nations embraced the concept of the melting pot, they wouldn't have so many angry ethnic terrorists within their borders. More importantly for our anti-terrorist efforts, the United States would be able to remove Saddam Hussein from power without the possibility of Iraq being divided into warring ethnic fiefdoms.

But Roberts would never argue that. No, no, no. Like most rabid anti-immigrationists, it would actually expose his arguments for what they are--mere bigotry.

"THERE IS AN OVER ABUNDANCE OF FOOLS IN THE WORLD. BIDDLE IS ONE OF THEM": Strong words from Paul Craig Roberts--via one of my sources--over my April 16 post trashing his repugnant anti-immigration screed disguised as Israeli-Palestinian conflict commentary in VDare.com. Oooh, it hurts sooo--little. After all, I've been called worse by all kinds. But I'm perplexed: What is so foolish? My judgement of his column on its own terms--and finding it lacking in so many ways? Or Roberts piece, whose statements, including that "Mexican provinces" line, so borders on bigotry that it probably wouldn't make the pages of National Review, that bastion of anti-immigrant conservatism? I'll let you decide for yourselves--and let you know if Roberts has any additional responses. But while I'm at it, let's not forget another anti-assimilationist element in American intellectual thought: The'multiculturalist' left, whose worldview is just as repugnant as that of the VDare crowd. The only difference is that instead of closing the borders, they work to banish the memory of the dead white men who helped develop the melting pot in the first place, replace equal opportunity with race-based systems and expouse the conceit that all cultures are equally good--which as proven by the Middle East conflicts, just isn't so.

Nov. 1, 2007

I once wrote that RiShawn was the only darkie in a room of pale faces (at a panel at AFI). He reproved me for the word "darkie." He said it was racist. I removed the word.

Biddle worked at Forbes. He was fired when his notes couldn't substantiate one of his stories (quotes). He went to the Los Angeles Business Journal and then to the Indianapolis Star as an editorial writer.

Richard Prince writes:

An African American editorial writer for the Indianapolis Star was ousted late Wednesday, five days after he wrote a racially charged blog posting blasting the city and county council president, who is also African American.

The newspaper's editor, Dennis Ryerson, removed the posting by RiShawn Biddle Wednesday and apologized to readers.

Then, at 5:30 p.m., Tim Swarens, editor of Opinion and Community Conversations, sent this one-sentence note to the staff of the Gannett newspaper:

"Effective immediately, editorial writer RiShawn Biddle is no longer employed by The Indianapolis Star."

Riddle's blog entry was titled, "The Indianapolis Black Democrat minstrel show."

It was originally called "Coons for Power," judging from the Web address for the blog entry, which uses those words, and according to the Indianapolis blogosphere.

One blogger wrote that the piece originally compared the council president to "Zip Coon, a derogatory, racial slur on black men dating to the days of slavery."

In the version that remains elsewhere on the site, one that Biddle writes "was revised by yours truly to better reflect the overall point," he says:

"Then there's the embarrassing spectacle that is Monroe Gray, whose tenure as city-county council president is being marked by a lack of decorum during council sessions, the videos of himself on YouTube and responses to allegations of corruption that wouldn't be acceptable to a child who claimed his dog ate the homework. His act epitomizes the lack of seriousness some Black politicians show in their work; it's just inexcusable.

"If I hadn't seen this with my own eyes over the past three years, I would have thought they came straight out of 'Scrub Me Mama with a Boogie Beat.' I don't know any powerful Black people like that. Do I? Sadly, we do. Before our eyes stand men and women charged with serving the citizens of this city behaving badly, awfully, arrogantly, as if they didn't receive any home-training."

...Blogger Ruth Holladay, a former Star columnist, wrote Wednesday night:

"A larger issue is the Star's horrendous history with hiring and retaining black journalists under Gannett: Michael Dabney, an editor, resigned or was fired over a problem with his license not being renewed — Dabney landed at NUVO," the alternative weekly, "and is the president of the Indianapolis Association of Black Journalists; Michael Rochon, extremely talented, a young cop reporter and a personal favorite, was fired rather than helped for a substance abuse problem — he later died at home in Philadelphia; Kim Hooper and Courteney Edelhart left to take better jobs; James Patterson, an editorial writer whom Biddle replaced, was fired — he and Lisa Coffey have a lawsuit against Gannett."