[Paleopsych] Widsom of crowds

Eshel Ben-Jacob eshel at tamar.tau.ac.il
Fri Sep 17 09:17:59 UTC 2004

Dear Lynn,
You might find the attached papers interesting, All the best, Eshel

Eshel  Ben Jacob                                     E-mail:
eshel at tamar.tau.ac.il
Professor of Physics                               Home Page:
School of Physics and Astronomy
The Maguy-Glass Chair in Physics of Complex Systems
Tel Aviv University, 69978 Tel Aviv, Israel
President of the Israel Physical Society               Visit the IPS on-line

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Quoting "Lynn D. Johnson, Ph.D." <ljohnson at solution-consulting.com>:

> Here is an interesting example of the wisdom of crowds, in today's
> Opinion Journal, by John Fund:
> http://www.opinionjournal.com/diary/?id=110005611
> The energy of the internet to solve difficult problems (oil, space) has
> not yet been effectively tapped. There may be great ways to do it.
> I'd Rather Be Blogging
> CBS stonewalls as "guys in pajamas" uncover a fraud.
> Monday, September 13, 2004 12:01 a.m. EDT
> A watershed media moment occurred Friday on Fox News Channel, when
> Jonathan Klein, a former executive vice president of CBS News who
> oversaw "60 Minutes," debated Stephen Hayes, a writer for The Weekly
> Standard, on the documents CBS used to raise questions about George W.
> Bush's Vietnam-era National Guard service.
> Mr. Klein dismissed the bloggers who are raising questions about the
> authenticity of the memos: "You couldn't have a starker contrast between
> the multiple layers of check and balances [at '60 Minutes'] and a guy
> sitting in his living room in his pajamas writing."
> He will regret that snide disparagement of the bloggers, many of whom
> are skilled lawyers or have backgrounds in military intelligence or
> typeface design. A growing number of design and document experts say
> they are certain or almost certain the memos on which CBS relied are
> forgeries.
> Mr. Klein didn't directly address the mounting objections to CBS's
> story. He fell back on what high school debaters call the appeal to
> authority, implying that the reputation of "60 Minutes" should be enough
> to dissolve doubts without the network sharing its methods with other
> journalists and experts. He told Fox's Tony Snow that the "60 Minutes"
> team is "the most careful news organization, certainly on television."
> He said that Mary Mapes, the producer of the story, was "a crack
> journalist" who had broken the Abu Ghraib prison abuse story.
> But leaning on reputations does nothing to dispel the doubts raised by
> bloggers, experts and relatives and associates of the late Lt. Gen.
> Jerry Killian, the memos' putative author. Gary Killian, Gen. Killian's
> son, says CBS apparently didn't call several people he suggested they
> contact who would have contradicted the CBS story. Bobby Hodges, a
> former Texas Air National Guard general whom "60 Minutes" claimed had
> authenticated the memos, says that when he was read them over the phone
> he assumed they were handwritten and wasn't told that CBS didn't have
> the originals. He now says he doesn't believe the memos are genuine.
> Hugh Hewitt, the unofficial historian of the blogging movement, says
> that "bloggers have been overwhelmed with e-mails from active-duty and
> retired military who scoff at the form of the memos." They point out the
> man cited in the memo as pressuring Mr. Killian to "sugar coat" the Bush
> military record had left the Texas Air National Guard a year and a half
> before the memo was supposedly written. In addition, typewriters with
> perfect centering ability were nonexistent in 1972 and 1973, and
> National Guard regulations barred the maintenance of such records. Mr.
> Killian's widow adds that her late husband kept no personal files from
> his Guard duty, notes that CBS won't reveal its source, and says the
> memos are bogus. Earl Lively, director of operations for the Texas Air
> National Guard in the 1970s, told the Washington Times that the memos
> are "forged as hell."
> CBS's fallback defense is that its story was only partly based on the
> documents and points to its on-camera interview with former Texas House
> speaker and lieutenant governor Ben Barnes, who claimed that he pulled
> strings to gain a place for Mr. Bush in the National Guard. But Mr.
> Barnes is clearly unreliable. The New York Times reported last February
> that an unnamed former Texas official--later revealed to be Mr.
> Barnes--was telling reporters he had interceded on behalf of Mr. Bush
> but that his story "was subject to change, and there were no documents
> to support his claims."
> Indeed, Mr. Barnes's own daughter says her father's story can't be
> trusted. Amy Barnes Stites called a talk radio show Thursday to report
> that her father had told her a different version in 2000, when Mr. Bush
> first ran for president. "I love my father very much, but he's doing
> this for purely political reasons," she said. "He is a big Kerry
> fund-raiser and he is writing a book also. And the [Bush story] is what
> he's leading the book off with. . . . denied this to me in 2000 that he
> did get Bush out (of Vietnam). Now he's saying he did." When hostess
> Monica Crowley asked Ms. Stites if she believed her father had lied in
> his interview on "60 Minutes," she replied "Yes, I do. I absolutely do."
> "60 Minutes" may have a sterling reputation in journalism, but it has
> been burned before by forged documents. In 1997 it broadcast a report
> alleging that U.S. Customs Service inspectors looked the other way as
> drugs crossed the Mexican border at San Diego. The story's prize exhibit
> was a memo from Rudy Comacho, head of the San Diego customs office,
> ordering that vehicles belonging to one trucking company should be given
> special leniency in crossing the border. The memo was given to "60
> Minutes" by Mike Horner, a former customs inspector who had left the
> service five years earlier. When asked by CBS for additional proof, he
> sent another copy with an official stamp on it.
> CBS did not interview Mr. Camacho for its story. "It was horrible for
> him," says Bill Anthony, at the time head of public affairs for the
> Customs Service. "For 18 months, internal affairs and the Secret Service
> had him under a cloud while they established that Horner had forged the
> document out of bitterness over how he'd been treated." In 2000, Mr.
> Horner admitted he forged the memo "for media exposure" and was
> sentenced to 10 months in federal prison. "Mr. Camacho's reputation was
> tarnished significantly," Judge Judith Keep noted.
> Mr. Camacho sued CBS and eventually settled for an undisclosed sum. In
> 1999 Leslie Stahl read an apology on the air: "We have concluded we were
> deceived, and ultimately, so were you, the viewers."
> If it turns out that the Killian memos are indeed forgeries, the
> Internet will have played an invaluable role in exposing the fraud much
> faster than the 18 months Mr. Camacho had to twist in the wind. Free
> Republic, a Web bulletin board, raised early warning signals about the
> memos within hours of last Wednesday's "60 Minutes" broadcast.
> Powerlineblog.com, a site run by three lawyers, reposted those comments,
> which were amplified by indcjournal.com. Then design expert Charles
> Johnson, who blogs at littlegreenfootballs.com, retyped one of the memos
> using Microsoft Word and showed them to be a perfect typographic match.
> A defensive Dan Rather went on the air Friday to complain of what he
> called a "counterattack" from "partisan political operatives." In
> reality, traditional journalism now has a new set of watchdogs in the
> "blogosphere." In the words of blogger Mickey Kaus, they can trade
> information and publicize it "fast enough to have real-world
> consequences." Sure, blogs can be transmission belts for errors, vicious
> gossip and last-minute disinformation efforts. But they can also correct
> themselves almost instantaneously--in sharp contrast with CBS's
> stonewalling.
>  +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
>  This Mail Was Scanned By Mail-seCure System
>  at the Tel-Aviv University CC.

Eshel Ben-Jacob
Professor of Physics
The Maguy-Glass Chair in Physics of Complex Systems
President of the Israeli Physical Society

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