The husband of one of my close friends is an assistant chief of his local fire department; he's been a firefighter for more than 30 years. When the media began heating up about how the American military plan had failed and planners were having to revamp, he compared it to fighting fires.
Firefighters study fires. They understand how various materials affect fire movement and heat, what dangers exist in different types of buildings, how fires generally must be approached based on where they are and what's burning. They train for as many scenarios as possible in their exercises, and try to anticipate the impact of intervening factors: wind, cold, ice, snow, rain, extreme heat, problems with water or ability to reach the fire. In a sense, whenever firefighters are sent to put out a fire, they arrive with a "plan".
But every situation is different. You can't plan with precision because you don't know how the circumstances of a specific fire scene will come together. What if victims are inside? What if there are unanticipated highly flammable materials? What if the crowd watching it gets too close, or if someone starts trying to hurt the firefighters? What if several of those factors come together at once? It doesn't mean the firefighters are unprepared or impulsive or confused if they approach a new fire differently than any other fire before. And if in the middle of the fire some unexpected circumstance intervened, they wouldn't be irresponsible or incompetent if they changed how they approached the fire scene.
The same is true of the military. It's important to be flexible, as hard as that is with tens of thousands of troops involved, and our military is responding to circumstances that arise. The way the military thinks about this is clearly expressed in this excellent article by Mackubin Thomas in NRO:
As best as I can ascertain, the war plan for Iraq was designed to cause paralysis by simultaneously attacking the pillars of Saddamâ€™s power: the Baath party, internal-security forces, and the Republican Guard. For a variety of reasons, the desired outcome â€” the rapid collapse of the regime â€” did not occur. The path to the objective had to be modified. This is not rewriting the plan but modifying elements of it â€śon the basis of situations that cannot be foreseen."
But this quote from an Australian Broadcasting Corporation article about the "struggles" of embedded journalists, and journalists covering the war in general, is very telling:
Journalists in Iraq, whether embedded with coalition forces or holed up under the eye of Iraqi authorities in Baghdad, face a tough time reporting on a nasty war that has singularly failed to stay on message.
"Failed to stay on message"? Is this supposed to be a political campaign? It shows that the media has a frame they've placed the war in, that they have decided it's going to go this particular way and when it doesn't it's "off plan" or "off message". They aren't reporting what is, they're trying to fit what is into what they think should be. It's a huge difference, and has more to do with the coverage saying the military plan has changed than does the actual military changes.
Pay attention to how the media is covering this, and think about the fire fighting analogy. I think you'll see what I'm saying.
And, on a final note, I think the military is precisely on message: Getting rid of Saddam and his thugs. So what if it takes an extra ladder truck, and three fighters taking on the fire from the left instead of two from the right? The fire will be out, the goal will be accomplished, and the media will be left to analyze how poorly the military stayed within the media's definition of the military message.
Mike the Armchair Analyst has found bias by Reuters in an article on a poll about American support for the war. It's a good example of using careful wording so you're accurate in a strict sense, but creating a false impression.
Steven Den Beste has more about the impact of what Peter Arnett has done, written prior to Arnett's firing by NBC.
Reporter Peter Arnett has been fired by both NBC and National Geographic in the wake of his interview with Iraqi state-run television. NBC first tried to spin it as just "analysis" and not anything bad, but the sweep of public opinion (and, no doubt, a few strongly expressed private opinions) meant they had to back off.
Damian Penny called it right when he gave a sample Reuters caption about it, but the spin didn't come from there (at least not yet that I've seen), but NBC itself. Here's a bit of what Damian said:
Here's how the inevitable Reuters photo caption will read: "Award-winning journalist Peter Arnett leaves NBC headquarters after being fired for giving an interview critical of American foreign policy to a competing station...
And here's a little sliver from the MSNBC article on Arnett's "termination":
The interview quickly made Arnett a target of the warâ€™s supporters.
Oh, really? Was it only the war's supporters who thought his behavior was reprehensible? If so, that means all those anti-war types who say, "But we're for the troops!" are lying. Arnett's interview explicitly did two very dangerous things: First, it gave encouragement to the ones fighting for Saddam, which could both strengthen their resolve and tip some would-be fighters into feeling more confident in an Iraqi win, thus adding to the numbers. Second, it disheartened the Iraqi civilians who, on hearing it, would be justified in thinking that the US may actually lose or choose to withdraw because of the unexpected cost of the war. Those are the civilians that must at some point come out to help rid Iraq of the Ba'athists. Arnett has no doubt succeeded in postponing that day.
Both of those effects mean more deaths of American soldiers. Maybe only one or two, but every life is precious. And they also will most likely mean more civilian deaths. Arnett is not just an arrogant lying scum, he's an active harm to the US efforts.
And his apologies mean absolutely nothing. The interview has already played on Iraqi television. How likely is it that it will be replayed and replayed? I'd lay quite a bit of money on that myself. Will his apology be played? No. Will Iraqi television take it off the air because Arnett has retracted? No.
Of course we won't expect NBC to behave respectably in this, given that they already hid Arnett's history in their bio of him. This is from the official bio connected to his (still online as of this morning) "Baghdad Diary":
One of the worldâ€™s leading war correspondents and an authority on the Middle East, Peter Arnett has covered 19 wars in his 40 year career as a reporter and distinguished television journalist...
Early in 1990, he transferred to CNNâ€™s bureau in Jerusalem where he observed and studied the Mideast in depth. He was in the right place at the right time when the Gulf War began. He remained in Baghdad when other journalists left or were expelled, and thus became the only Western television journalist to report from Iraq throughout the course of the war. Arnett conducted the only interview with Saddam Hussein during the conflict.
He is currently on assignment in Baghdad for National Geographic EXPLORER.
And here is the coverage of those same years in the article on MSNBC this morning (remember, same network) about Arnett's firing:
Arnett garnered much of his prominence from covering the 1991 Gulf War for CNN. But even then the first Bush administration was unhappy with his reporting, suggesting that he had become a conveyor of propaganda.
At one point, he was denounced for his reporting about an allied bombing of a baby milk factory in Baghdad that the military said was a biological weapons plant. The U.S. military responded vigorously to the suggestion it had targeted a civilian facility, but Arnett stood by his reporting that the plantâ€™s sole purpose was to make baby formula.
Arnett was also the on-air reporter of a 1998 CNN report that accused U.S. forces of using sarin gas on a Laotian village in 1970 to kill U.S. defectors. Two CNN employees were sacked, and Arnett was reprimanded over the report, which the station later retracted. Arnett later left the network.
A little bit different, isn't it? National Geographic and NBC knew what he was. They just didn't care. Maybe they agreed with him. But there can be no doubt that he made no effort to be fair, much less unbiased, at any time in the last 15 years of his career. It calls the judgment of both organizations severely into question.
UPDATE: Another article on Arnett's firing, with this lovely quote:
``My stupid misjudgment was to spend 15 minutes in an impromptu interview with Iraqi television that has been received with anger, surprise and, clearly, unhappily in the United States and for that I am sorry,'' Arnett said in an interview broadcast on NBC today.
Mr. Arnett, words have meaning, and actions have consequences. Your decision to be a part of that interview was at best a product of your arrogant belief in your own importance, and at worst a knowing grab at an opportunity to harm the US's war efforts. It wasn't a county fair you were talking about, it is a war. "Stupid misjudgment" doesn't touch the hem of the garment of what it was.
I'm afraid, however, that Arnett is not unusual among journalists in his sense of this war as mostly a means to further his career and have fun, kind of a reality television where his behavior is exempt from consequences. Some of the journalists are no doubt honest and fair observers; I think most are neither. Arnett is different only in a matter of degree of ego, arrogance and anti-war sentiment.
[Thanks to reader Joe Nahmias for the link, in comments]
UPDATE: Here's the transcript of Arnett's interview.
[Link via Ibidem]
Peter Arnett, a CNN reporter in Gulf War I and now reporting for National Geographic Explorer, has appeared in an interview on Iraqi television saying that the first battle plan of the US military has failed, and the Iraqi resistence has been successful in causing that failure. How much do you want to bet that is replayed and replayed as propaganda?
Awash in objectivity, that Mr. Arnett. Can you say "arrogant"? Can you say "aiding and abetting"? Can you say "I won't be reading Nat'l Geog. any more"?
Don't talk to me about the alleged "bias" of Fox News while Peter Arnett is still accepted as a journalist and not a political activist by anyone.
I can't find an article about it yet, but Fox News played clips from the interview on Iraqi television. The FoxNews anchor read something - a press release, maybe? - that sounded like it came from Arnett's employers, saying he was just offering "analysis". Ha. I'm sure the entire clip will be online soon. We'll just see.
UPDATE: And here's a brief article on the interview, including some quotes.
UPDATE: Fritz Schrank thinks it's a clever ploy.
According to a report in Friday's Daily Variety, Moore is working on a documentary about the "the murky relationship" between former President George Bush and the family of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden. The paper said the movie, "Fahrenheit 911," will suggest that the bin Laden family profited greatly from the association...
According to Moore, the former president had a business relationship with Osama bin Laden's father, Mohammed bin Laden, a Saudi construction magnate who left $300 million to Osama bin Laden. It has been widely reported that bin Laden used the inheritance to finance global terrorism.
This is nice to know:
Moore said the success of his documentary and book reflects majority public support for his political argument.
"It's because the majority of Americans agree with me, see the economy in the toilet and didn't vote for George W," he said. "People are now realizing you can question your government while still caring about the soldiers."
I didn't realize that his Oscars diatribe was an expression of support for the troops. Silly me.
And this is disappointing:
Variety reported that Moore is working out a deal with Mel Gibson's production company, Icon Productions, to finance "Fahrenheit 911."
I guess that's the end of any desire on my part to see Mel Gibson in anything.
A correspondent for The Arab News managed to sneak into Iraq by trailing behind a television crew convoy, and is filing his reports. Two things in his report caught my interest particularly. First, this conversation he had with an Iraqi - and remember The Arab News has no reason to invent anti-Saddam propaganda, given the stance of the Saudi Arabian govt:
When we finally made it to Safwan, Iraq, what we saw was utter chaos. Iraqi men, women and children were playing it up for the TV cameras, chanting: â€śWith our blood, with our souls, we will die for you Saddam.â€ť
I took a young Iraqi man, 19, away from the cameras and asked him why they were all chanting that particular slogan, especially when humanitarian aid trucks marked with the insignia of the Kuwaiti Red Crescent Society, were distributing some much-needed food.
His answer shouldnâ€™t have surprised me, but it did.
He said: â€śThere are people from Baath here reporting everything that goes on. There are cameras here recording our faces. If the Americans were to withdraw and everything were to return to the way it was before, we want to make sure that we survive the massacre that would follow as Baath go house to house killing anyone who voiced opposition to Saddam. In public, we always pledge our allegiance to Saddam, but in our hearts we feel something else.â€ť
Different versions of that very quote, but with a common theme, I would come to hear several times over the next three days I spent in Iraq.
The people of Iraq are terrified of Saddam Hussein.
I wonder if this information will make it on the mainstream media back home? Would it convince anyone who thinks the US is lying about the way the Iraqis feel about the invasion, which this excerpt shows is very similar to what the official US line about it is?
And then this:
We decided to make camp in front of what used to be a hotel and rest stop just off the freeway, which was occupied by a Scottish brigade of the British Army.
[The brigade commander] said that we were not allowed to stay in the camp as we were not â€śembeddedâ€ť with the British troops, but we were welcome to set up camp a few yards outside the fence of the â€śhotelâ€ť. He promised that if we were in any danger, his troops would immediately come to the rescue.
These are unembedded journalists from an Arab newspaper that is openly hostile to the coalition efforts in Iraq, and the Scottish commander promises his men will help keep them safe. To me, that shows the willingness of our forces to protect everyone they can, and also it shows just how much effort the coalition forces are expending to take care of journalists at risk to their own safety. It materially increases the complexity of the war, a fact which most journalists not only don't acknowledge, but seem to accept as their due while sneering at the very soldiers who do it (not to say these two Arab News journalists are that way - they don't seem to be, in this dispatch). Look at this excerpt from an article in NRO:
...many of the journalists observable in this war theater are bursting with knee-jerk suspicions and antagonisms for the warriors all around them. A significant number are whiny and appallingly soft. Most club together, passing far too much of their desert sojourn gossiping with fellow reporters, mocking military mores in snide jokes and wise-guy observations, chafing at the little disciplines required by the militaryâ€™s life-and-death work, banding off as a group to watch DVDs on their computers in the evening, ganging separately in the mess hall during meals, rolling their eyes at each other when ideas like honor, sacrifice, or duty enter the conversation, and otherwise failing to take advantage of this unparalleled opportunity to enter deeply and perhaps sympathetically into the lives and minds of superlative fighting men.
...the vast number of the reporters Iâ€™ve spoken to are openly scornful of this warâ€™s aims and purposes.
It's always good behavior to kick your protecter in the teeth and then complain that they're not taking good enough care of you, isn't it? I think we need to be having some anti-journalist rallies.
This is the best photo out of Iraq that I've seen so far.
ALL POINTS BULLETIN: Be on the lookout for a busload of tall, ripped, fairly aggressive males dressed primarily in royal blue and white. Most will also be sporting either a "UK" emblem or the letters "K-E-N-T-U-C-K-Y" across their chests. These young men, known collectively as "The University of Kentucky basketball team", were scheduled to play a game on Saturday afternoon at 4:40 p.m. in the NCAA tournament. However, it is apparent that the team was replaced with imposters, as none of the team members who have won every game since January 1 showed up for today's game.
REWARD OFFERED: A slightly chewed and ripped UK cap
UPDATE: Congratulations to Marquette - while UK wasn't up to its usual quality play, Marquette's team also distinguished themselves. I hope they win it all.
I've posted a couple of things on The Command Post op-ed page this morning; here are the links if you're interested in reading them:
For those of you new to this site, or who've just forgetten since it's been 9 months since I posted a Ramble, the Saturday Ramble is a longer, non-newsy piece, more like a lifestyle column, that I used to do on a somewhat weekly basis. Yes, I heard your cry for "more, more!" and with my usual responsiveness I have provided.
I need a nap now.
TANEGASHIMA, Kagoshima Prefecture-The nation's first spy satellites were launched Friday, giving Japan its own eyes in the sky to help it deal with a bellicose North Korea and other potential threats.
The payload was carried by an H2A rocket that blasted off at 10:27 a.m. from the National Space Development Agency's (NASDA) Tanegashima Space Center. The launch prompted an immediate response from North Korea, which accused Japan of starting a regional arms race.
The satellites, one with an optical sensor and the other carrying a synthetic aperture radar, were placed on a polar orbit at an altitude of between 400 and 600 kilometers. While NASDA officials in the past announced the times at which satellites would be released into orbit as well as orbit altitudes, there were no such announcements this time.
Images from the satellites will be transmitted to receptors in Kitaura, Ibaraki Prefecture, Akune in Kagoshima Prefecture, and Tomakomai in Hokkaido. The data will be analyzed at the Cabinet satellite intelligence center in Tokyo. Total development costs, including the receptors, are estimated at 250 billion yen.
While the spy satellites offer greater capability, the added intelligence touched a raw nerve in Pyongyang. North Korea announced March 18 the proposed launch was provocative and posed a major threat to regional peace.
For some reason that I can't quite identify, I seem to be in serious meltdown mode. Therefore, I'm going to take a bit to recollect myself, possibly until tonight, possibly until tomorrow or even Monday. This may or may not include turning off the television, radio, computer and telephone. Any new visitors to the site, there's lots of great material to read if you scroll down, or dig around the archives. For my usual crowd, I recommend any of the blogs on the right or The Command Post.
It reaches home at Theosebes.
Bryan Preston and Chris Regan of Junkyardblog lay out the evidence in this NRO article.
Or maybe not. Theosebes has part of a press release about a book claiming that the book of Psalms in the Old Testament contains prophecies about the 20th and 21st centuries. I'm not quite sure how it's supposed to work, since the author says each year corresponds to a book in Psalms - there are, FYI, more than 100 chapters in Psalms (and don't even get me started on Psalms 119). At any rate, it's an amusing meander through the kind of mind that sees "sex" written in Ritz crackers, and the forms of nude women airbrushed into the ice cubes in liquor ads.
I wonder if it predicted this outcome?
From Patrick, a commenter on an earlier post:
Personally I would like to pour the Media a cup of shut the hell up.
That's a drink a lot of them could use regularly.
As always, the deadline for Dodd's Caption Contest is today when he gets home from work. Best I can tell, that's usually in the 6:30 - 7 p.m. EST range, although if you know anyone in Louisville we could probably waylay him and give you an extra 30 min or so. This week's photo is of Saddam, offering in these difficult times an excellent opportunity to verbally skewer one who so richly deserves it. Have at it.
Jane Galt has an excellent post on the cost of the war, with the dual benefit of also being an evisceration of Eric Alterman. It includes the classic line about his analysis: "That's nuts."
Sounds about right.
Sgt. Hook signs on from Florida, watching over the 120 troops at his command. He's going in the blogroll.
You don't want to get "Dixie-Chicked"!
And it's all in my heart. I love these guys! I'm watching the press conference right now with President Bush and Prime Minister Blair, and they are both speaking with passion and conviction. Blair is especially forceful. It's beautiful to see. He's shaming the journalists, although most will feel no shame since it's been burned out of their psyches by the arrogance of much of their profession.
Right now Blair is saying, We believed we have to act. I have no doubt we are doing the right thing. And if we walk away from this right now, we'll be doing a huge disservice to this generation.
It was magnificent. If you can, find a video of it and watch it. I'll look for one and post it when I find it.
Oh, and when a journalist said, "Old allies are against you... France and Germany disagree with you," Bush actually chuckled and grinned. Blair said, It is said that Europe is against you. Europe is not against us; some of the EU countries are with us, some are not. It is a division. And the majority of the new EU countries are with us.
That last is an indirect reference, I think, to the fact that the new EU countries are mostly those countries only recently free from Soviet domination.
Of course, afterward reporter Terry Mor
aon had to say, "You see what Bush and Blair have in common. They're both moralists when it comes to their political philosophy. Both are devout Christians, Bush rather publicly, Blair more privately. But this is grounded in their Christian moral view." You were to understand, by his wording and tone, that he was being more than a tad condescending and dismissive of this as a reasonable ground.
I have loved Tubby Smith since he came to coach the University of Kentucky after Rick Pitino bailed for the big pro lights. Smith isn't as flashy as Pitino, but I think he's as good a coach in his own style, and he certainly has greater constancy - something I think is very valuable in developing and maintaining an excellent basketball program. And I think Tubby relates to the people of Kentucky in a way impossible for Pitino, who always seemed like some exotic fauna on display for a limited run. Tubby is home folk, a grounded persona that can - like this year - take a struggling team and firmly, quietly, steadily turn it around until it's among the most powerful in the country.
Here is a profile of Tubby that I think tells you pretty much all you need to know about the man. I'm thrilled that he's the public face of Kentucky's team.
UPDATE: Because you can't get enough of Kentucky basketball :D, here's some more links:
The Blue Mist hits Planet Cheese - I think we're going to be seeing Blue Cheese after tonight.
Analysis of tonight's game - I think the "why Kentucky will win" is the strongest part.
Kentucky in Sweet 16 9th time in 11 years - Not, of course, that any of us are surprised.
Matt Labash of The Weekly Standard has an excellent article about an interview with the Public Affairs Officer (PAO) of CENTCOM, . I was going to excerpt it and comment, but CPO Sparkey got to it first.
One issue that stood out to me was the dangerousness of reporters roving the battlefield areas all hot to cover the action, yet doing so without the Allied forces having any way of knowing whether or not this particular jeep or truck or camouflaged person is friend or foe. We are dealing with an enemy that may even be dressing in US uniforms and killing Iraqi civilians to make it seem the US is doing so. We're dealing with an enemy that dresses in civilian clothes, pretends to surrender and then ambushes our soldiers. These journalists have to accept the risks if they choose to enter a battlefield.
And Sparkey's point is my point: You run around a battlefield, you could get killed. This is not a movie set! You can't yell, "CUT!" when the action gets to ferocious or threatens provocative non-combatants. I'm very sorry for the journalists who get killed, but folks, they aren't heroes, they're foolish. Being a journalist does not give you a Protective Shield. And risking the safety of our soldiers to ensure the safety of some hot-for-the-action, I-don't-have-to-follow-rules journalist is not something I'm willing to encourage.
Sometimes a little publicity goes a long way.
This is a good thing.
UPDATE: The site is back up and running hot, so I've dumped the rest of this post into "more" just in case you HAVE to read it.
However, so many thousands of people went to read the site that it melted the server and Sarge's hosting service had to move the blog to a different server (and if he has to pay for the bandwidth?! can you say "donation"? I'll check). Now, CPO Sparkey tells me, the Stryker folks can't post!
This is a bad thing.
I know they must have gotten an absolutely massive wash of visitors because my stats have been spinning from Sgt. Stryker hits, and that's just from being in the link list - they didn't even link to one of my posts in an entry. Here's hoping they can be back up soon and posting fiercely as they have been thus far. It's all good stuff over there.
Back in early February, I went to hear James Taranto talk about the then-impending war, and what a post-war Iraq may be like. Diane Moon was also there, with a concern fed by her knowledge of Iraq gained through her friendship with Salam Pax, a Baghdad blogger. How, she asked, is a people crushed so long under a dictatorship, with no cultural history of democracy, with no experience of that kind of government, supposed to learn quickly enough to permit a democratic government in a reasonable length of time after the war? Are the soldiers going to hand out copies of Democracy for Dummies?
It's a valid question, but I think at least part of the answer rests in those thousands of Iraqis who have escaped from Saddam's tyranny and now live in democratic countries. Yesterday Glenn Reynolds linked this diary entry by Kanan Makiya at The New Republic:
Like every other Iraqi I know, I have friends and relatives in Baghdad. I am nauseous with anxiety for their safety. But still those bombs are music to my ears. They are like bells tolling for liberation in a country that has been turned into a gigantic concentration camp...
The war rages on around me in the shape of the news broadcasts to which I have become hopelessly addicted. While I watch, my friends in the opposition are gathering in Kurdistan with the Iraqi National Congress and in Kuwait with Jay Garner's office. I should be there with them, but I am told I have to stay. I am needed here, to keep touch with Washington. I cannot stand it...
And there are many voices of Iraqis who live in the US, and who want this change; :
"So many Iraqis are wanting to serve, to liberate their country," says 40-year-old Basel Taki, of Canton, Ohio. "These people want to fight. They've paid a lot, suffered a lot."
The Free Iraqi Forces, made up primarily of Iraqi refugees, are trained to assist in civil-military operations and carry 9 mm pistols as self-defense weapons in the field, according to the U.S. Department of Defense Web site. They also are trained in rehabilitation efforts.
A defense spokesman on Monday couldn't immediately release the number of Free Iraqi Forces being trained or implemented in Iraq, but the department previously has said it would be allowed to train up to 3,000 members in Hungary.
The efforts to seed the ground for democracy in Iraq have been underway for a while. This is what Aiham Alsammarae, an Iraqi educated in America who could not go home when Saddam took over, had to say about the future, from a PBS program last October:
ELIZABETH BRACKETT: Alsammarae has spent many hours thinking about what will happen in Iraq if Hussein is overthrown. He has met with others active in the Iraqi opposition, with the state department recently picking up the tab for travel, to craft a plan for a post- Hussein Iraq.
AIHAM ALSAMMARAE: The government is between one year to three years, okay? And this government will push in the beginning to start making the constitution in the first year; and the constitution, which is rough like the democracy and all these things.
The second year, we are trying to start electing the local governments and all this representatives and... and... and judges and whatever, okay? And the third year, we are going to elect the president or prime minister or the king, whatever, whatever the people decide in that time.
And there are a number of organizations set up to pursue the goals of democracy without political affiliations, or at least without solely their own interests at heart. For example, The Iraq Foundation has this to say about its mission:
With its educated population and oil reserves, Iraq commands considerable human and natural resources, and enjoys a tradition of intellectual and economic prominence in the Middle East. A peaceful Iraq can serve as a stabilizing force and as a catalyst for security and economic prosperity in the region. However, Iraq will only live in peace within its borders and with its neighbors once democracy and accountable government are established. The Iraqi people will only flourish when their civil and human rights are respected.
And one fact stands out from their site:
The United States is now home to over 30,000 Iraqis political refugees who arrived after 1992.
Many of those Iraqis here, or in other Western democracies, will not choose or be able to return to Iraq when it's time to establish the new government. But the doomsayers who see the next government as a more-America-friendly-yet-not-that-different version of the Hussein regime are not taking into account the avid desire for a representative form of government solidly based in Iraqi culture and history that is prominent amongst Iraqi immigrants. And those immigrants have family throughout Iraq, thus having the capability to work toward change on a grassroots level with connections the United States as a government would never have. It won't be the US or the Western world imposing a government in a colonial mode, but the Western world assisting Iraqis to find their own best government, monitoring the process to make sure it's not subverted by anti-democratic forces.
I feel very positive about the potential for a stable post-Saddam Iraqi government, crafted by Iraqis with Iraqis for Iraqis. There will be a struggle, because there is a struggle in the Arab countries and the Muslim world in general between the repressive hardline Muslim contingent (exemplified by Wahhabism) and the more modern, democratic view of an increasing number of Arab Muslims. But I think the US can open the door for democracy in the Middle East without dictating all its boundaries. In truth, I think we've already done so by taking Iraqi immigrants into our society - and I think we'll hear more and more of this, from 29-year-old Iraqi immigrant and Dearborn, MI, resident Hider Al-Jubury, as it becomes clear regime change is assured:
"I want to take whatever I learn over here to help over there," says the member of Iraqi Youth Reunion, an educational group planning to help rebuild a post-Saddam Hussein Iraq.
Iraq won't need Democracy for Dummies; they'll have many Western-trained Iraqi tutors.
You probably have seen this, but I thought it very funny. Bush 41 is interviewed in this week's Newsweek magazine about the war and his son's role in it. The issue of the French came up:
What do you think is going on with France?
[Pause] They’re French.
Nope. There’s always been some friction. I was once talking to a group of French intellectuals, and I said, “You think we’re arrogant, and we think you’re French.” And they looked at each other and thought maybe I’d said something very intelligent. But that may well be it. It’s too bad, but life goes on, and we’ve got to do what we’ve got to do.
I love it. I think Bush 41 should have taken out Saddam when he had the chance, but I also think that Bush 43 gets a lot of his abilities from his dad. Certainly they have a similar attitude toward the French.
[Link via Hawspipe, where there's a little additional dig at ABC's Peter Jennings. I loved that too.]
Mike and I are still looking for more companies to add to our list of those who are supporting our called-up reservist troops by providing benefits beyond what is required by law, most especially making up the difference between military pay and their usual salary. If you want more information, or want to see the list we have already, go to The Home Front.
And for up to the minute information on the war, go to The Command Post.
If you're interested in death penalty issues, this is a fascinating site. It's a list of every execution in the entire United States since 1976, when executions began again following suspension by Furman vs. Georgia in 1973. Even better than that, they have a comprehensive posting of Internet information on every execution. How comprehensive? Well, because I found it through my referrer logs because they have included in their section on executed inmate Tracy Lee Housel a post I wrote on his death last March.
The only bad thing? They just link to my old blogspot site without pointing to the specific post. Oops. Whoever tries to find it will be lost. But hey, I'm all about helping! Here's the post.
That is one comprehensive site. Wish I'd know about it when I was teaching corrections.
UPDATE: From the same site, some very interesting information about the death penalty and the much publicized cases of innocent men on death row:
...the risk of making a mistake with the extraordinary due process applied in death penalty cases is very small, and there is no credible evidence to show that any innocent persons have been executed at least since the death penalty was reactivated in 1976. The 100+ death row inmates "innocent", "exonerated" and released, as trumpeted by anti-death penalty activists, is a fraud. The actual number of factually innocent released death row inmates is closer to 40, and in any event should be considered in context of over 7,000 death sentences handed down since 1973. It stands as the most accurate judgment/sentence in any system of justice ever created.
Of course any man executed unjustly is a tragedy. But if 40 inmates were truly innocent, that is about a 0.6% rate - truly an amazing feat. With current forensic technology, I'd say the percentage is even less in cases decided in the past five years. Note the "truly" innocent - a number of the "exonerated" folks apparently were released for reasons other than proven innocence - maybe technicalities?
Just what does a thumbs-up gesture mean in the Arab countries? It's not something I had considered before, but John Cole has all kinds of information about it over on Balloon Juice. Apparently some have claimed that a thumbs up gesture in some Arab countries means the same as a middle finger gesture here, but others - many from that part of the world themselves - are incredulous about that claim. It matters because some photos have been published of young Iraqis giving the thumbs up to troops. Is that a good thing, or a bad thing?
It's fun reading about the debate, although John seems to have had all of it he can stand. Doesn't matter what I think, anyway - if I was over there I'd be swathed in a burqa.
There must not have been a Reuters reporter either at the Oscars or watching it on television. Martin at Patio Pundit shows why:
I was pleased that Michael Moore was booed at the Oscars. You wouldn't know it from this Reuters report:Moore, who received a standing ovation from the assembled celebrities, invited the other nominees for best documentary film to join him onstage in solidarity against the war against Iraq.
One man's booed idiotarian is another man's ovated documentarian.
(Yes, I invented "ovated" - wanna make a big deal about it?!)
You just never know when you're going to come across interesting information. This article about weblogging by military types or others involved in the Iraq war identifies "Kevin Mickey, a Navy lieutenant commander at Camp Patriot, Kuwait". And who might this Lt. Cmdr. Mickey be? This may help:
Lt. Cmdr. Mickey, a 39-year-old reservist, says in an e-mail that he runs his own Web log, The Primary Main Objective, on his camp's computer network.
Yes! It's our very own Kevin, of largeamericanpenis.com before he cleaned up his URL to www.chinpokomon.com. I'm sure the latter address would be more to the tastes of mainstream media, although it's not like they link him or even give the link in text. Idiots.
Prayers and thoughts with you, Kevin. Hope you enjoy the heart failure you're going to give any number of innocent well-meaning people from the Yahoo! article when they start digging through your archives and come across things like....well... here's the archive, you'll find it. (Don't link from work!). Maybe they'll read this fine analysis you posted in January about the 2003 Annual Forecast War in Iraq. At least in conjunction, if not instead.
A friend of mine who watches mostly network news (as she doesn't have cable) has mentioned to me several times that ABC News - most especially Peter Jennings - is almost bared-teeth annoyed at the war and likely to do whatever they can to advance the anti-war position. She says that Jennings through his words and manner makes his contempt for the war and, by extention, the troops quite apparent. I only watch cable news, and didn't want to be angered enough to take a baseball bat to my television, so I hadn't flipped over there to see.
Well, the Media Research Center has come through with their Media Reality Check, which condemns ABC and, again, Jennings, in their own words.
...rumbling through the Iraqi desert with the U.S. Armyâ€™s 3rd Infantry Division, ABCâ€™s Ted Koppel pontificated to Jennings: â€śI just think, Peter, we ought to take note of the significance of what is happening here, because this is an invasion that in this particular case, of course, was not prompted by any invasion of the United States.â€ť
During ABCâ€™s prime time coverage, Jennings decried Bushâ€™s lack of responsiveness to anti-war demonstrators. He wondered to former Ford, Reagan and Clinton aide David Gergen: â€śSeeing the people in the streets of Washington today right across from Lafayette Park, people in Chicago, San Francisco, New York, demonstrating against the war, thereâ€™s a tendency, I think, in the administration to â€” pretend is not quite the right word â€” pretend it isnâ€™t happening.â€ť
Jennings spent much of Friday nightâ€™s coverage doing his part to make sure the anti-war side was heard, including an eight-minute interview with two far-left leaders of anti-war groups in which Jennings tossed softball questions such as, â€śWhy do you feel so strongly about this war?â€ť
In the morning, ABC reporter Chris Cuomo (son of the former New York Governor Mario Cuomo) picked up where Jennings left off. Previewing new protests, he insisted that anti-war activists represented more than the tiny fraction of the country that shares their views: â€śIn American history, protests like this have been prescient indicators of the national mood, so the government may do well to listen to whatâ€™s said today.â€ť
There's more where that came from.
Koppel's comments show his obvious preference for justification for the war, and skims over any other arguments others might make; if it wasn't the result of a direct attack, it is out of order. Jennings says the administration is "pretending" the anti-war protest isn't there (I wish the rest of us could pretend it's not), for which conclusion he gives no support, then spends eight minutes interviewing anti-war protestors. Eight minutes on a nightly newscast is huge. And finally, we learn from Cuomo-of-the-die-hard-Democrats that the anti-war protesters are likely "prescient", and non-embedded (read: not brainwashed or censored) reporters are finding "a lot of hostility" toward Bush and the US. I didn't see the piece, so I can't say whether this was there, but I suspect there was no discussion as to why the reporters embedded and the reporters unembedded found different things, beyond the circumstances of the reporters themselves.
Bias enters the media stream in so many ways beyond just the words used in actual reports - who is interviewed, what is emphasized, expressions by reporters and anchors, which stories are used, which footage or photos are used - the list goes on. I'll have to keep an eye on Jennings and the rest to see if they clean up their bias act.
[Thanks to Rick at The Guards of Magog for the heads up on the MRC article.]
Activists involved in the left-wing student and anti-war grassroots group MoveOn.org were bragging on Friday night at protest-organizing meeting in Washington, D.C. that they have members working in the newsrooms at CNN, ABC News and NBC, which also feeds news to its sister cable channels MSNBC and CNBC. "We're affecting news coverage of this war. We know it, because our friends are telling us they are affecting it," said an anti-war activist in an Adams-Morgan bar...
"At CNN and ABC we know that the producers and the anchors have been really receptive to our message," said the MoveOn organizer. "Peter Jennings even put our people on the air, with no opposing view. He loves our message."
ABC: All Biased Coverage.
You'd think, based on the two pieces smacked around below, that all the media outlets are bowing at the altar of Gen. Tommy Franks and Friends, that All War, All The Time entertainment station beaming in from Iraq, with a "God Bless America", "God Bless the USA" and "She's a Grand Old Flag!" soundtrack running an endless loop. Shockingly, there's evidence that (gasp!) journalists are not only not falling into line, but are using sneering skepticism :
Iraqi troops and militias used ruses, ambushes and other guerrilla tactics yesterday that exploited the risks inherent in the fast-moving Pentagon war strategy, inflicting more than a score of American casualties and raising questions about how effective the U.S. approach has been in convincing Iraqi troops and civilians that President Saddam Hussein's removal is inevitable.
After three days of routing Iraqi forces and even labeling their advance toward the Iraqi capital "the Baghdad 500," U.S. soldiers had a series of sobering engagements. One unit of Iraqi regular troops ambushed a U.S. convoy. Others trapped U.S. troops in what was described as a phony surrender, and some reportedly disguised themselves in civilian clothes. In the south, remnants of an army division moved heavy weapons into a residential area of Basra that U.S. and British forces were reluctant to fire upon.
You know, this actually answers itself. First, the engagements are light, with tragic yet relatively few casualties on either side. Second, the United States could limit American casualties by just glassing over the place with bombs, but they don't - the "U.S. and British forces were reluctant to fire" on residential areas. The Iraqi forces are fighting ugly, and the allied forces are trying to accomplish their goals without sinking to their level of endangering civilians. And now on to more blinkered commentary:
Nevertheless, the images beamed around the world of U.S. soldiers in stunned captivity, or dead in a makeshift morgue in southern Iraq, cast some doubt on the assumptions underpinning the U.S. approach. Pentagon officials had expected U.S. troops to be greeted almost universally as liberators, at least in the Shiite south. That view influenced a war strategy based in part on the goal of achieving victory by persuading the Iraqi population and military that Hussein's government is doomed.
Instead, the appearance yesterday was of members of the Iraqi government standing their ground. "We have drawn them into a swamp, and they will never get out of it," Iraqi Information Minister Mohammed Saeed Sahhaf declared in Baghdad.
Note that the first graph there says that allied forces thought the Iraqi population - that is, the civilians as well as government - would view the US as liberators. But the ones "standing their ground" in the second paragraph are Iraqi government officials, who of course are going to stand against invasion. They have everything to lose and nothing to gain if the allied forces succeed. Based on this uneven comparison, though, analyst Thomas Ricks has the following conclusion:
The continued Iraqi resistance specifically calls into question the efficacy of the biggest psychological operations campaign waged by the U.S. military. Over the last six months, U.S. aircraft dropped more than 25 million leaflets on Iraqi military units and civilians, urging them not to fight the U.S. invasion. That was supplemented by propaganda radio broadcasts and telephone calls to unit commanders inviting them to negotiate their capitulations.
The lack of large-scale surrenders suggests that Iraqi commanders instead may have been manipulating the expectations of their U.S. contacts. U.S. military commanders speculate that Iraqi soldiers simply are deserting and going home. But it is also possible that some units are biding their time.
Now we're shifting again to the Iraqi military, many of whom again are irrevocably tied to the Hussein regime and have no hope if it goes out of power. Many of them are also virilently against anything Western. But what about the "Iraqi population" as a whole? Glenn Reynolds highlights response that doesn't seem to mesh with Ricks' analysis, including this article:
As Iraqi Americans reach out to their relatives in Baghdad and Basra, in Kirkuk and Irbil, some are hearing words they never thought possible: Iraqis are speaking ill of Saddam Hussein.
They're criticizing him out loud, on the telephone, seemingly undeterred by fear of the Iraqi intelligence service and its tactics of torture for those disloyal to the Baath Party regime. . . .
For many kilometres, civilians and soldiers were lined up, waving and blowing kisses at the passing vehicles holding U.S. Marines. Many begged for food. Each U.S. vehicle had been given two boxes of ready-to-eat rations suitable for Muslims. Some people came back for seconds, hiding the food they had already collected.
For their part, the U.S. troops were amazed at the Iraqi soldiers' behaviour.
"Canteens, grenades, abandoned positions -- they even left the Iraqi flag in place before they retreated," said 1st Sergeant Miguel Pares, a New Yorker from Spanish Harlem and the top enlisted man in Bravo company, 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, 1st Marine Division.
It is a war. People will die on both sides. Media credulity about Iraqi military response and government pronouncements while expressing harsh criticism of Allied decisions and activities shows a lack of journalistic integrity and insight. The problem seems rather opposite, at least in this instance, to what Kalb and Solomon worry about.
[Thanks to Curt Coman for bringing the Ricks article to my attention.]
For more journalistic hand-wringing, head on over to E&P columnist Marvin Kalb's take on the horror of embedding:
When American soldiers go off to war, so too do American journalists. In this war, though, something new has been added. "Embedding" is part of the massive, White House-run strategy to sell a single message about the American mission in this war -- that the United States is liberating Iraq from a bloody dictator, who has used weapons of mass destruction against his neighbors and his own people, and that this is a war against terrorism or states that help terrorists and not a war against Islam.
By the start of the current conflict last week, more than 600 American and foreign reporters were embedded, all of them part of specific military units and many advancing on specific military targets. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, whose fingerprints are all over this new approach to press/Pentagon collaboration, wants proud, positive, patriotic coverage -- and so far that's exactly what he's gotten.
You know, it's hard for me not to just say, "These guys are such absolute and unsaveable morons that we should just throw up our hands and ignore them." I would say that, except for the fact that they represent the "media elite" in a lot of ways. Certainly E&P styles itself as an industry observer with some degree of objectivity. I don't understand why columns like Kalb's, and the credulous coverage of Solomon, haven't put E&P out to pasture. Consider what Kalb says toward the end of his column after all but pronouncing the death knell of journalism (well, he gets to the death knell at the end):
First Amendment purists argue that any government control over the media, even during a war, is constitutionally problematic and sets a dangerous precedent -- and therefore, in their view, embedding is a dreadful proposition.
Embedding is not a dreadful proposition. No journalist had to accept it, or any ground rule associated with it. Embedding is for the journalist who wants access and is prepared to pay a price to get it. But for those who worry about the blurring of the line between government and journalism, even in the post-9/11 war against terrorism, there is the larger problem of patriotic reporting. Will journalists covering the front or the White House criticize the mission, the troops, the president, or the strategy in the face of strong popular support for the war? Or will the public have to wait months, even years, after the war to learn about the blunders?
This is breathlessly idiotic. Does Kalb think that he's the only one concerned? Does he truly think that Howell Raines, or the writers at The Nation, are laying back saying, "Yeah, we're at war! Roll out the flags! Spike the criticism! We're a Rummy-led organization now!" If there's a problem, it's not that journalists can't get any legit negative stories out there - it's that many don't want to do the work that would entail, or their organizations won't support it. Much easier to whip out diatribes from the lofty position of "columnist for E&P".
And of course it's not even to be considered that maybe there aren't reams of horrific news lying unreported on the floor of journalistic opportunity.
Oh, yes, the death knell. Let us not leave it out:
Sept. 11, 2001, is the dividing line in journalism between purists and realists. Purists may still worry about the problems of embedding and patriotism; realists say the rules have now changed, and it's time we all recognize we are in a war against Saddam Hussein in Iraq and one against terrorism at home. And journalists may have to bend with the winds of change.
"Purists" here means "leftist anti-Americans". "Realists" mean "people who realize relentless anti-Americanism could mean more American deaths on the battlefield". I could not identify a single person of my acquaintance who would fault the media for covering a legitimate problem with war policy or prosecution, if it were done fairly and in a straightforward manner without an agenda. After all, this is the country that ousted Trent Lott and Jim Moran from leadership positions for idiocy-while-in-office - in each case their own party was responsible for the ouster. We don't hide from truth. But we aren't interested in leftist, biased whining.
Norman Solomon thinks the US mainstream media has gone all patriotic now that the war has started:
Creators Syndicate writer Norman Solomon is dismayed with the cheerleading approach many U.S. newspapers are taking in the initial days of war. And the media columnist said the practice of "embedding" journalists with U.S. soldiers is partly to blame.
"Embedding means the journalists covering the U.S. war on Iraq are 'in bed' with the military," said Solomon, explaining that the system can lead to reporters losing objectivity as they bond with troops.
"If journalists are going to embed themselves with U.S. troops, they should also embed themselves with Iraqi families," he told E&P Online Friday. "But it's obviously better to be on the sending rather than the receiving end of missiles."
Of course, we won't discuss that hundreds of journalists covering the war are not embedded, and that a lot of information about the policies behind the war and the way it's being prosecuted could be dug up stateside. Embedding doesn't have to limit coverage at all. However, his intent isn't to give an honest view of media coverage, but to whine because his leftist view isn't prominent enough. And he has such a stellar record that he should be listened to:
Solomon has a unique perspective on coverage of Iraq. He visited that country three times since the fall -- including a September trip with past and present members of the U.S. Congress and a December trip with actor/director Sean Penn that upset Bush-administration supporters.
Fine, fine credentials and certainly evidence that we should respect his view of how journalists aren't covering the war objectively.
Interesting how Editor & Publisher is presenting Solomon's viewpoint with little questioning itself - it does call him a "leftist", but you get the sense they don't see that as a bad thing. He's allowed to make blanket statements that I don't think a "right-wing" type would get by with:
Most mainstream dailies, said Solomon, are very conscious about reflecting the consensus of U.S. "elites." Since few prominent Democrats have spoken out against war on Iraq, newspapers feel they don't need much content against it, either -- even though there is plenty of antiwar sentiment in the communities where newspapers circulate.
Funny, I thought that American opinion was running over 70% for the war; I'd be interested to see how those numbers shake out regionally. I'd be willing to bet much of the country runs 90-95% in favor, with certain pockets on the left and east coasts running at 75-80% against. Obviously Solomon doesn't watch television either, where anti-war rallies are so ubiquitous that you just about believe there's one on every streetcorner in America. No insertion of such factoids in this article. Hmmm.
I'm sure it's not because E&P has its own agenda. How unobjective that would be!
I wanted to link Chris Muir's cartoon with a prominent button, but he didn't have one. He sent me to Foolsblog, which had a button, but not the title in it. I lifted that button, pulled the text from Muir's homepage, and viola! made a button with everything on it! We won't discuss the little band of extra color I had to add because I couldn't figure out how to make the title and author sections bump up together. We'll call it a feature, not a bug! If you'd like to link to Muir's site using the button, feel free. I'm just all impressed with myself that I photoshopped it successfully.
I've not spent enough time on media bias lately, but fortunately Media Minded is, as always, on the job. He's got a slew of great posts about bias and journalism in general, so I recommend you head on over there, start at the top and scroll down. Love the stuff about Eric Alterman - just a tiny taste, from an article/interview with him:
He [Alterman] acknowledged that "most big-city journalists are liberal. I personally don't know ... well, I don't have to my house for dinner anyone who's not pro-choice, pro-gun control ... pro-campaign finance reform."
Alterman also said that conservatives who think "the mainstream media hold them and their way of life in contempt" are largely correct.
And then MM says:
But Alterman believes the all-powerful journalistic codes of ethics prevent this bias from having any real-world effect.
That's right! Not the least little trickle gets in, as we see from this post.
That MM. He rocks.
(I'm thinkin' MM and his lady would be much better dinner companions than Alterman and his gang - ya think?)
If you're not reading Chris Muir's Day by Day cartoon, whatsamatta with you? Today's is especially beautiful. This guy is trouncing all current political cartoonists, and is of the quality of Berke Breathed and Gary Trudeau in their heydays.
From experience, I suggest that you not go back and read his entire archives while at work. Your coworkers will become suspicious from the giggles, gaffaws and fists in the air saying, "Right on!"
Tim Blair highlights a major issue in the whole polling game, although that wasn't the intent of his post. Whenever you hear about a poll with this or that result, especially if it seems to run counter-intuitive, see if you can find out what questions were actually asked. Here's an example of why:
JOHN HIGHFIELD: At what stage do you believe Americans will start to turn against the war?
WILLIAM BLUM: They are against it. If you ask the right questions, if you ask … see, the questions they ask usually in the polls is: do you support the President's attempt to overthrow the government of Saddam Hussein? Well, for that I myself might even answer yes. That implies that the only consequence of a war would be to overthrow one tyrant.
It all depends on the "right questions". And what question would Blum ask?WILLIAM BLUM: If you ask a question like: do you support the dropping of powerful explosives upon the heads of totally innocent men, women and children, demolishing their homes and their schools and their hospitals, are you in favour of that? That would change the answers, I think, quite a bit.
Most polls, of course, are not nearly that flagrantly biased. But a subtle adjustment in wording can make a huge difference. Think about the difference between these questions, both purporting to get at what Americans think of the UN (these are my made-up examples, no actual poll questionnaires were harmed for this post):
What role do you think the UN has played in this current war in Iraq?
A little rightish:
Do you think the UN's failure to stand by its November Security Council resolution contributed to the need for war in Iraq?"
A little leftish:
Do you think the UN was right to reject the recent US efforts to force through a Security Council resolution for war against Iraq?"
Now, if you had all three questions in the same questionnaire, that might be something different. But you can see how the framing of the question has a lot to do with the direction the answer might take. Reporters are also very good at this framing of questions, as you've no doubt noted while listening to international media question allied forces during the press conferences in Centcom. Just be on the alert for any questions that have the tone of "Have you stopped beating your wife yet?", especially when followed by accusations of failure to answer such questions directly.
Captain J. M. Heinrichs is a frequent and thoughtful commenter here and on other weblogs. He sent me the following, speaking as a Canadian military man, and gave me permission to post it here:
During the Gulf War, an RAF Tornado was shot down, the crew captured. A picture of the navigator was soon released to the press, but no one would comment directly on his haggard appearance. But every time I went out the door, I could look at his picture, probably interrogated, definitely severely beaten, [and] I had no problem being 'up' for my next duty shift.
This time I do not [need] pictures to remind me. The pictures of the American soldiers held and abused by Iraq give rise to sorrow for you and your country. I can only trust that the desire for revenge is buried by the determination to maintain the soldier values of the US Army, to finish the job properly, and to ensure that those who order and execute such atrocities are punished justly.
It also reminds me of the bitterness and chagrin I feel that we have been deprived by Mr Chretien of the opportunity to fight in Iraq. I am not ashamed: I am angry.
Via Kathy Shaidle's 'Relapsed Catholic' blog, the son of a Canadian MP is serving in Iraq.
Re Mr Chretien as Prime Minister, he is legally the Head of the Government of Canada only; the head honcho is Queen Elizabeth as represented by the Governor-General, Her Excellency Adrienne Clarkson. Which means that [while] as a soldier I am councelled against saying nasty things about Mr McCallum as Minister of Defense (he's my boss), the PM is fair game; I am being polite in not adding adjectives to the above sentiments. Incidently, Mme Clarkson spent her Christmas and New Years visiting our ships in the Gulf.
I think this reflects more of the Canadians than we tend to realize. I know that my Canadian friend Rick was totally behind the US and its military. I think most of Canada are our friends - it's the government that is so ... so... well, French.
No one who is sentient in this country can be unaware of the conflict between Israel and Palestinians; we hear about it incessently, especially as the rabid anti-war types make it clear that they consider support for Palestine a part of their anti-war rhetoric. We also hear from politicians and activists alike that only by resolving the Israel/Palestinian conflict can we have peace in the Middle East. The implication is that the strife between those two peoples is the problem, but this article about an American Jew - Caroline Glick - seeking to be embedded with American troops to cover the Iraq war for both the Jerusalem Times and the Chicago Sun-Times shows how much of a lie that is. A few excerpts:
First, her treatment in Kuwait:
A few hours before I was set to depart for Kuwait on a flight from Washington, DC, I began to realize that I would be in for a rough ride. I read on the Internet that the Kuwaitis issued a statement telling the international press corps in Kuwait that anyone transmitting reports to the Israeli media would face criminal prosecution...
The US army's public affairs officers were told by the Kuwaitis ahead of my arrival that they would not accredit me to work in the country. The State Department's agreement with Kuwait stipulates that the US army will not accredit journalists not already accredited by the Kuwaitis. For the rest of the international press corps, Kuwaiti accreditation was a formality... But for me, it was an insurmountable hurdle...
And it's quite clear that the Kuwaiti attitude toward Israel isn't about support for the Palestinians:
You can't find any Palestinians in Kuwait anymore. All 250,000 of them were deported in 1991 after the coalition forces liberated Kuwait.
Glick concludes that very succinctly:
For me, the main lesson from this odyssey is that to refer to the Middle East conflict as the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is to ignore the truth.
The truth is that at its root the conflict is about the Arab world's obsession with rejecting Israel. Kuwait hates the Palestinians. The Kuwaitis kicked the Palestinians out of their country.
The way I was treated had nothing to do with Beit El or Netzarim. It has to do with Tel-Aviv, Jerusalem and the Bible.
This is an open and unashamed prejudice, and it's not just because they don't know better - Glick notes that one Kuwaiti who interrogated her actually was born and grew up in Virginia. It's worth remembering when a new order starts forming in the wake of our current war.
[Thanks to Laurence of Amish Tech Support for the link.]
Michael Moore won an Oscar for his lie-umentary, Bowling for Columbine, as expected. Fritz Schrank, usually kind with his commentary, reaches deep for his inner Fisker and says what needs to be said about that.
I saw his little speech, and he was all but booed off the stage. I must admit that I clapped for the booers. Reading the article about the booing will tell you all you need to know about how Moore twists truth.
UPDATE: And Steve at Little Tiny Lies takes a shot at the whole Oscars event, with appropriate potshots at all the stars you love to mock. Meanwhile, Laurence Simon at Amish Tech Support compares Michael Moore with Jimmah Carter. It's a thing of beauty.
Arthur Silber has a post from philosophy professor Stephen Hicks who makes a quite reasonable argument for why the anti-war protestors should shut up and get on board now that the decision to fight a war is not just made but engaged irrevocably.
The only problem is: he's not dealing with reasonable people.
His analogy is that of a family making a decision that evoked disagreement, but once it's made should result in pulling forward together to the next thing. Here's my comment (made on Arthur's site too):
This assumes that the family members in question have any goals in common with the family that gave them birth, gave them an easy life through childhood and even now makes it possible for them to engage in their childish arrogance without significant consequences. The protestors aren't your garden variety rebellious teens; they're the Menendez brothers.
You can't deal with people who are so opposed to ideas you embrace that they almost literally cannot hear your arguments, or even honestly assess objective information pointing to answers different from the ones they thought true. These are the ones who, when faced with an Iraqi taxi driver, in Iraq, telling them how bad it is under Saddam and how the Iraqis welcome the US, wouldn't suddenly realize their own idiocy, but would instead suspect that the driver was a CIA plant trying to fool them.
To make another analogy, these folks are not parts of the body called USA, they are cancers - some benign, and some capable of metastasizing and damaging significant portions of the body. And you know, there's a part of me that wants to cut them out and throw them away. At the very least, maybe we need a little chemo.
The Command Post is back up in its new location, and rapidfire posting has resumed.
If you want to link to the new version, this is the absolute always get it link:
In the press conference from Centcom, the same reporter that was obnoxious yesterday - French? Arab? - said to the general (paraphrased): "In the cities where you said you were welcomed before, you are meeting with resistence and problems. Are you finding this a Vietnam, and are you suffering from over confidence?"
The general of course handled it calmly and confidently.
Can we embed this reporter somewhere, preferably under rubble?
UPDATE: Turns out the reporter is (surprise!!) from Al Jazeera television, that fine media outlet that played video of dead and captured, terrorized US troops on an endless loop until, I suppose, someone told them just what trouble they'd be in if they didn't stop...
Michele and Alan are moving The Command Post to a new server with better stability and ability to handle the traffic. No new posts there until about 2:30 or 3 p.m. EST, but once it's back up, go to www.command-post.org for minute-by-minute updates. I'm changing the link in the sidebar too.
In the meantime, I'll be posting here if I find anything that needs to go up. And if you haven't read it, go to Ibidem where jesus gil has posted the truly horrific details of the Al Jazeera video of American POWs interviewed on camera, and several who were executed and tossed in a pile on a bare concrete floor, their blood mingling into a pool underneath them. If that feels too graphic for you, read it anyway - this is what war really is, and this is what is happening and may happen more to some of our people. Be very very angry.
If you're not reading The Command Post, you're missing out on the best comprehensive, obsessively updated war news resource on the 'Net. I'll be back around this afternoon, but I encourage you to go over there for what's going on right now.
Just to keep your anti-bias senses sharp, read this article by Eric Burns of FoxNews Watch:
The problem with reporters who have a strong pro- or anti-war position is that they will filter information through their biases. Those with pro-war positions will be too accepting of unnecessary brutality and damage and waste. Those with anti-war positions will, as Ende suggests, impose such rigorous conditions on the warâ€™s results that success, as they define the term, will be impossible to achieve.
There's bias on both sides, and one of the most insidious forms (as I have said until you're likely sick of it) is framing - how you choose to present the information, and what parts of the "truth" are you presenting. So use multiple sources for your information, and be aware of how things are framed (tracking Fox News in comparison to Reuters or the BBC is a good exercise for this skill). One of the ways to get journalists to acknowledge their bias is to shake the evidence in their face repeatedly.
Besides, it's fun.
[Link via blogoSFERICS, which I can never spell without going over there two or three times. But, as Kevin says, he's "so right, it's embarrassing", so it's required reading.]
John Pendygraft is a photographer with the St. Petersburg Times who is embedded with a unit in Iraq; he has a weblog here (link via Instapundit). I found a number of interesting points while scrolling through his posts thus far.
First, a question - if you don't respect the military, the US or the reasons for this war, does that make you more likely to be dismissive of security? From a St. Patty's Day post:
Tonight there is a mandatory meeting for all media. I'm told a French journalist moved a picture of a classified map. We also are invited to watch a Predator launch here in a few hours.
And then this, from the "Preparing for Battle" post:
Just checking in. It's looking like things are ready to get moving here, but everyone has their opinions. They are checking things (outgoing photos and stories) for security. They're not making editorial judgments, but things like landmarks, maps, etc. are no-nos.
We were told the New York Times published a classified map with troop positions and later wrote something that disclosed troop positions. We all felt the impact, but everyone here is very reasonable. I haven't been told not to send anything, but they have seen everything that went out today. It added another big block of bureaucracy to the day. Everyone here is working well with it.
Is it coincidence that it's a French journalist and the NY Times who publish things that could have endangered our soldiers and their mission? Notice that this reporter is saying that no news judgments are being made by the military - no censorship. Just protection of classified info.
From the same post, something to think about when protestors say "we support the military but dislike this war":
Names are dicey as well, as are hometowns. The worry is protesters will bother people's families. Pilots are going by call sign only. The pilots in my tent got mad at an AP photographer who used their names, and the picture ran in their hometown paper. They were OK about it in the end. Other names are a big gray area based on rank, position and consent. Generally people involved in the attack are more concerned than supply and administration people.
But the photojournalist himself is learning respect for the people doing this mission. This from the "First Casualties of War" post:
We spent the morning in and out of bunkers in chemical gear and gas masks, hearing about incoming Scuds and waiting to see if the Patriots did their job. They did, and anyone who works with Patriots may stay in my home any day, drive my car, eat my food, tease my dog, play my CDs and put them back in the wrong case, get glops of jelly in my peanut butter jar, wear my clothes, and basically help themselves to anything that's mine.
One of the reasons that I thought it brilliant to embed journalists with the troops - for all the difficulties it causes - is because it gives people who otherwise would likely never have much if any contact with the military a real up close look at the people and the work. I'm not expecting it to make an avowed liberal into a right-wing military fan. But it will be difficult for those in this cohort of journalists to ever caricaturize the military, to see them as a monolithic killing machine, to view them as anything other than average Americans doing their jobs and doing them well. It will, I believe, make coverage of the military more real and accurate as long as this cohort is present in the media. Some won't learn much, because they are resistent to learning anything, but many will, and it will benefit all of us, I think.
A couple of weeks ago there was a (justifiable) furor over some anti-war teachers in Maine telling the students of called up reservists that their daddies were off doing bad things. Now a soldier from Maine, a 36-year-old who could easily have children in the schools there, has died in Kuwait. I wonder if that soldier was the father of one of the children who was harrassed by a teacher. It puts a little stronger light on things, doesn't it?
Does anyone know how those teachers were disciplined, if at all?
This is very funny:
A man spent hours chained to the wrong building Tuesday in an ill-planned effort to protest war with Iraq, police said.
Jody Mason padlocked himself to an entrance of the Washington State Grange building at 924 Capitol Way S., thinking it was a sub-office of the U.S. Department of Energy.
Grange employees found him about 11:45 a.m. Tuesday and asked what he was doing.
He told employees he'd chained himself to the building in civil disobedience Monday night after listening to President Bush's televised ultimatum to Saddam Hussein.
Mason padlocked one end of the chain around his neck and the other to a door, which opens to a bottom-floor office. He told onlookers he was protesting Bush's foreign and domestic policies. He had affixed a sign to the building reading, "Reduce Deficit."
Grange employees explained that he was at the wrong building. The Grange is a nonprofit, nonpartisan group that advocates for residents in rural areas.
"I don't think that's ever happened before," said Larry Clark, Grange communications director...
Police officers used heavy-duty bolt cutters to free Mason.
"He asked for help because he didn't have the key," Olympia police Cmdr. Steve Nelson said.
Wasn't there a sign or something? You need to go look at the photo, too. That guy's been at the magic mushrooms.
[Link via Shanti Braford's daily links]
Do not attempt to fry chicken while naked. At least wear an apron.
Is this the next phase? No, not of the war, but of blogs. There's a most-of-the-time real-time chat going on with warbloggers logged online (where it's so rare to find any of us). I've been chatting there the last couple of nights, and I logged last night's convo at the behest of leader lagwolf, aka Andrew Ian Castel-Dodge.
It's pretty fun, although, I must say, the conversations do range. For your amusement, here are a few excerpts - just like the bloggish Teen Beat feature or something.
UPDATE: Some people take away more serious information.
Cast of characters: BjkinNH is Benjamin Kepple; Cwealm is John Cole; Laciquilt1 is, well, me; filethirteen - I'm gonna let you guess; Ocarina7 is Sasha Castel; Q52822 is Murray; comixho is Michele; RevBrianUDM is Brian; LittleTinyLies is Steve; UnsupportedSN1 is Robert; and dailypundit is... Daily Pundit.
BjkinNH: Shep's starting to look a little worse for wear tonight.
Cwealm: we need to try to get the blogfather in here
Laciquilt1: bush isn't?
filethirteen: traffic through the roof on the site
Ocarina7: Does anyone besides me think thaat he is totally weird looking?
Q52822: with shoes?
Cwealm: Aaron Brown is so awful that listening to him makes my hair hurt
Laciquilt1: Glenn with shoes is totally weird looking?
Cwealm: I think he looks like he has had a facee-lift
Q52822: tight shoes?
comixho: glenn had a face lift?
dailypundit: Norks are po'd about Iraq, just cancelled talks with SK.
dailypundit has left the room.
Q52822: well they're the ones that are hungry
Ocarina7: no, I meant Shep Smith
filethirteen: whoa... didn't notice dailypundit
BjkinNH: Shep is a bit odd.
Yes, this is how rumors start. To quash this one, to my knowledge Glenn has not had a facelift. Things got even more ... interesting? weird? ... as the night went on:
Cwealm: I am buyging some sunglasses tomorrow
RevBrianUDM: What if we started a rumor that Saddam beat his wife/wives.
lagwolf: that comment has gotten lots of people all uppity
Cwealm: Guess I have to fork over another 50 for some maui jim's
Q52822: thenn they would be all over him
Laciquilt1: no, no, start a rumor that he drives an SUV, eats french fries and wears fur
RevBrianUDM: I doubt it really.
lagwolf: this is my dixie post
Q52822: THE BASTARD!!
BjkinNH: Buy some raybans or something
Cwealm: my head is too fat for raybans
Laciquilt1: beating your wife isn't that big of a deal - they don't go after the saudis, you know
Cwealm: If I were a cowboy, I would need a 12 gallon hat
Laciquilt1: physical or ego issue, john?
Cwealm: I just havea big head
Cwealm: when I was in the army I had to go everywhere looking for hats
lagwolf: damn that is a load of comments
Cwealm: lacrosse helmets were near impossible to get comfortable
monkifuzz has left the room.
comixho: i forgot i was still in here
RevBrianUDM: So did we
comixho: gee, thanks
We did get serious:
RevBrianUDM: Transnational Progressivism - that's what it is all about
LittleTinyLies: i love cameroons; all that crunchy coconut
Q52822: a chocolate cocnut cookie?
UnsupportedSN1: Yep, Brian.
Laciquilt1: isn't that the one with caramel?
Q52822: not here
BjkinNH: I don't have any problems with transnationalism provided it is for tax purposes.
filethirteen: jeez. stats on the command center warblog thing are rocking
Q52822: just coconut n choclate
Laciquilt1: or is that samoas...
LittleTinyLies: when did we decide we have to ask a bunch of socialist buttmunches whether we could go to war
RevBrianUDM: When the electorate started voting for them, I guess
LittleTinyLies: i like the thin mints but the girl scouts have disappeared for another long year
Q52822: HEY! thats my PM you talking about
Cwealm: David Bloom is having the time of hislife
UnsupportedSN1: even worse, we're about to ask those buttmunches if we can administer the country we're liberating
Laciquilt1: so were you rafting on election day, Murray?
Q52822: I like the girkl scouts 8-)
LittleTinyLies: hey you can't have piggy muldoon forever
LittleTinyLies: i just like their uniforms
BjkinNH: Maybe we can send the Iraqi people Girl Scout cookies. Then there's no way the Iraqi Street will rise up against us.
RevBrianUDM: I don't know if Bush is crazy enough to go back to the UN. You think he will?
LittleTinyLies: hmm the french don't want the UK and us to administer Iraq...gee wonder why that is...hmmm...a puzzle
Q52822: the tree hugers were focused and the centre right parties split their own vote, it was a cluster fuck. What can I say
BjkinNH: I don't think he will. That would screw everything up.
UnsupportedSN1: Yes, it would
There you go. Scintillating conversation from live-time blogger chat. You will be assimilated!
Earlier this week, Rachel Corrie died when a bulldozer driven by an Israeli accidentally ran over her while attempting to tear down a Palestinian building. Meryl pretty much covered it, and I added a few comments. It was very sad, unnecessary and, quite frankly, a result of her own repeatedly bad decisions. But you knew it would become a big political brouhaha, didn't you?
The University of Maryland's independent student newspaper, The Diamondback, ran a cartoon in response which identified Corrie's action as "stupid", and, as you might expect, it's caused quite the little furor on campus - the biggest cries being about the newspaper's insensitivity. Here's the cartoon (sorry it's so large, but you wouldn't be able to see the caption otherwise):
Now, I'm not saying this is cartoon I find in the best taste. But I don't know that it deserves the response it got, especially from folks who claim to support freedom of speech and tolerance. Here's a typical reaction (for more, go here and here):
Ann Wylie, chief of staff for university President Dan Mote, called the cartoon "tasteless" and "crude." She called the newspaper an embarrassment and questioned the reasoning behind publishing the cartoon.
And note this:
The Diamondback received close to 2,000 e-mails and hundreds of phone calls as of yesterday. Correspondence poured in from more than 22 states and 10 countries, including Australia, Austria, Jordan, the Netherlands and the Philippines... The cartoon was posted on the Palestine Media Watch website Tuesday and listed six Diamondback e-mail addresses in addition to the paper's phone number and fax number. It instructed people to "force yourself to make a phone call to them."
Contrast this to, well, basically any liberal or leftist reaction to the endless horrific viciousness that pours from the pen of Ted Rall, the Western world's successor to the crown of the late Arab News cartoonist M. Kahil (who apparently is still sending in cartoons from beyond the grave). Rall gives regular lie to this from the E&P article:
"You wouldn't see cartoon in the newspaper making fun of 9-11 victims. You wouldn't see a cartoon making fun of a suicide-bombing victim," protester Setareh Ghandehari said.
Of course, you understand the difference between Corrie and the victims of 9/11 or suicide bombers - those victims didn't put themselves deliberately, vociferously, repeatedly in harm's way. For more on Ted Rall, including his cartoon about the widows of 9/11 victims, go to this old post on Michele's site - it's Rall's Hall of Shame (not that he has any).
The Diamondback's editorial department deserves your support for speaking out against the stream, and engaging the debate fully - this editorial is excellent, showing an openness to criticism, a willingness to stand by their decision to run the cartoon, and just a beautiful slam against the school's administration for tackling a public relations crisis with more vigor than they do substantive threats to the integrity of the school's ability to educate its students. It appears that the cartoon even ran despite being against the views of other editorial staff. It just gives you hope for the future of journalism.
UPDATE: For more discussions of the circumstances of Rachel Corrie's death, I recommend highly reading the following:
Au currant (no permalink, scroll down) - a few comments on the organization that sent Corrie out.
No Cameras - looking at heavy, armoured vehicles and the probable situation with the bulldozer and driver in this case. He also says:
Certainly, the speed with which ISM got the photos up, accused the IDF of murdering Ms. Corrie (whose name, I note, they initially misspelt as "Corey"), and organised a memorial in Olympia is indicative that the organisation's primary concern seems not to have been grief, but to make as much political capital from the incident as possible; it's noteworthy that there are marked inconsistencies between the account as it went up on their website, and an account in this article in the Monday edition of Haaretz.
That's also what's going on with the folks internationally who are complaining to the student newspaper - it's not about Corrie, it's about their own agenda. She's a tool, and they're using her pretty coldly.
Civax - An Israeli blogger with a perspective that you really should read. His conclusion works for the "human shields" in Baghdad right now too:
Damn it, American and European "peace activists" kids, grow up.
Running in front of too many moving cars will eventually get you killed, no matter what you shout in the process.
I think that's the bottom line - most activists are either hardened ideologues that are so immured in their stance that no reason or event will untrench them, or rebellious child-adults who choose the flashy, self-fulfilling way to attempt change rather than rolling up their sleeves to do the hard, often-unrecognized work that deep change usually requires. Sadly, some of those child-adults are in their 40s, 50s, and 60s; some of them die before their time.
New blogs keep popping up and older blogs keep posting fine commentary that sometimes get lost in the endless information stream. In response to that, the Carnival of the Vanities, originated at Silflay Hraka by the inestimable Bigwig, has grown into a roaming best-of bibliography of what's good in the blogosphere. I encourage each of you with blogs to consider what you've written this week and, if there's something you think deserves more attention, submit it to this week's blog host, Shanti of the excellent Dancing with Dogs at madhoo.1-at-email.com.. And while you're at it, send an email to Bigwig telling him what a fine thing he's done (bigwig AT nc.rr.com). He will especially appreciate it if you send links to obnoxious stories, or examples of other ways he can make his wife's life a misery (that don't, of course, include anything local law enforcement would take umbrage at).
Most of the posts I'll be doing on the war will be on The Command Post, which is doing a fantastic job of keeping up with things. I highly recommend you make it a frequent stop today. I'll be adding posts about other things here, tho.
It's time the "activists for peace" were called what they really are: violent, hatefilled and dangerous. This from a emailer to The Corner:
I work in the Financial District of San Francisco. The antics of the demonstrators yesterday was absolutely appalling. Blocking building entryways, yelling epithets at people, working people like me, who tried to gain access to their buildings. There was some sporadic violence, and one chilling scene, during the early evening commute, of protesters surrounding a young woman in her SUV. She was only trying to inch through the throng of people, ostensibly to get home (or just to get the hell out of there) when a group of these yahoos, many with bandanas or handkerchiefs around their faces, started to pound on the vehicle windows and hood with their signs. One idiot actually got up on the hood and was driven forward a few feet. According to a news crew on the scene, the protesters were debating whether to forcibly remove the driver and have her walk home, leaving her car behind. Luckily, it didn't get that far; a smaller group of protesters prevailed upon the idiots, saying it wasn't right to do, and the woman was then allowed to drive off.
But that's not the worst of it. SFPD confiscated from backpacks of those arrested items such as: knives of various types and lengths; a few crowbars; some bolt-cutters, cans of spray paint; and cans of what appeared to be accelerants of some kind. This morning, the website for one of the local tv stations reported that the police also found a cache of Molotov cocktails. Some peace demonstration.
The only good thing about this is that the average American may figure out that these nutcases do not represent anything but violent, envy-filled anarchy. Every philosophy - including peace activists - have their freak fringe that tend to violence (think murderers of abortion doctors), but it seems only the left embraces theirs as heroes. The average American needs to make it clear that they understand the line between civil disobedience (civil rights sit-in) and anarchy (attacking a woman who just wants to get home, because ... well... because.), and stop allowing an environment where that is in any way encouraged or even condoned.
I went to The Wiz this afternoon and bought a 13" color television for my office, so I could be shocked and awed too.
We'll see how long it is before they make me take it home...
(Maybe they won't, at least until the war is over. And the NCAA tournament. Wonder which one will last longer?)
Salam Pax posts from Baghdad:
On BBC we are watching scenes of Iraqis surrendering. My youngest cousin was muttering “what shame” to himself, yes it is better for them to do that but still seeing them carrying that white flag makes something deep inside you cringe.
That feeling is something we must make sure to remember when this war is over. The majority of Iraqis have been victims of Saddam too, and have a pride in their country that is well-founded in a number of instances. Our role will be to foster and encourage that pride, to help them build on the things about Iraq that are unique and good and valuable. One of the reasons for the still-abiding ill-feeling over the US Civil War was the hateful way the South was treated afterward; one of the reasons for World War II was the ill-treatment of the nations who lost in WWI. Sweeping the Saddamites out of the Iraqi system is job one - but job two is making sure Iraq takes its place as a strong and confident country, one with a government that not only is chosen by the people and is respectful of individual human rights, but is also grounded in their own history and culture.
There's no benefit to or, I think, desire for a mini-US called "Iraq", over in the Middle East. When Saddam is gone, it will be time for Americans to rally around the Iraqi people and do what we can to help them lay claim to a bright future without losing what makes them a distinct people with an often proud history. I've been the one with the white flag a few times in my life, and I know how it felt even though I understood at the time the need for it. We need to help them move quickly beyond that sick-feeling and hurtful place, for both our sake and their own.
Tobacco Road Fogey has a list of excellent questions for the anti-war protestors clamoring to get jailed for their civil disobedience. Tongue severing is involved.
This is why I'm dragging this morning. But I'm a trooper, I'll try to post some anyway.
Remind me why it is I don't drink coffee?
In counterpoint to the rabid anti-war types in Australia, here's an encouraging word from an Iraqi Australian:
Dear Australian soldiers, remember this: every individual Iraqi has been wounded physically or emotionally. You are on a sacred mission. You are on a mission to bring a smile to a child's face. You will help relieve the elderly of their agonies. You will help pave the road to a new life. You will give hope to thousands of mothers who lost their beloved ones in the dark torture chambers of the regime.
Your names will be recorded as heroes in the bright lists of history. You will help restore the weeping face of humanity with your good deeds.
I think she has a little more credibility about what's best for Iraq, don't you?
[Link via Tim Blair]
Twelve US Marines and four British soldiers dead in a helicopter crash in Kuwait. The first coalition casualties in the war.
Please pray for the families. And pray they're the only ones we lose.
UPDATE: It turns out that it was actually 12 soldiers who died - eight Brits and four Americans. Here's the CNN story this morning, which should be free of whatever taint Gary Farber sees at Fox News (in comments).
And there's also reports that we've lost one American soldier to enemy fire. (Story from MSNBC, to spread the link love and avoid charges of bias.)
What is important is not where the stories come from. It's that we keep these soldiers' families and comrades in our hearts and prayers. It's because of them we have this great country to live in.
This article in the military paper Stars & Stripes gives some insight into the actions and emotions of soldiers and military families in Europe - supporting the troops in Iraq, waiting for them to come home safely. There's a little bit of jealousy amongst the soldiers, in a good way:
Pfc. Josh Williams, also from 54th Engineer Battalion, agreed that now was the time for the United States to strike. Until recently, Williams was deployed to the Gulf, but was sent back for medical reasons.
â€śI feel like Iâ€™m missing out, not being part of that team anymore,â€ť Williams said.
Hall and Williams now help the rear detachment with support missions and family member assistance.
â€śThis job [with the rear detachment] is important, but Iâ€™d rather be over there,â€ť Williams said.
â€śItâ€™s an envy thing,â€ť agreed 1st Lt. Corey Genevicz, rear detachment commander for 54th Engineer Battalion. â€śMy role here is needed, to support our families, but Iâ€™m jealous of the guys who are over there on the front lines.â€ť
Altogether an interesting article.
A friend of mine, watching Tom Brokaw on the evening news between 7 and 7:30 p.m. EST, said they did a report on anti-war rallies which segued into interviews with folks in Florida who supported the war. The reporter closed out the report by noting that the area with the pro-war people is known as "redneck alley".
Did you see that? I can't find a video on the website.
I've even lived in Florida, and didn't hear any part of it called "redneck alley". "Snowbird roost", yes. "Bunny beach", yes. But not redneck alley. Could it be that I just run with the wrong crowd? Maybe I should start hanging out with television journalists with national news programs.
And you know (don't you?) that it was a descriptive remark, not an opinion, certainly no intention there to be derogatory.
It appears, by some calculations, that there are 1,100 casualties already in Iraq.
I expect this to increase exponentially.
Just when you thought the Dixie Twits had hit bottom:
The Dixie Chicks — who took a lot of heat after one member of the group made anti-Bush comments — narrowly averted another controversy with some of their red-blooded fans. The Scoop was startled to learn that the country and western crooners posed for one of those “I’d Rather Go Naked Than Wear Fur” ads for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals — but the ad was never released.
Charming. I guess we can take from this that Maines did not misspeak herself in a moment of blonde effusion on stage in Great Britain, but rather engaged in a little self-revelation that was hurriedly covered up by the Twits' management. And it gets more beautiful:
"The Chicks themselves were lovely about the whole thing, but their management got worried that some of their fans were rifle-toting, Bambi-shooting types who would take offense at an anti-fur, pro-animal message,” says a source. “They forbid release of the ad because they were worried about backlash or boycott. They even tried to pay PETA $10,000 to say it never happened.”
Once this gets out, what few country fans were hanging on in hopes the Twits didn't mean it will bail. Expect to see the Twits appearing in more pop things and fewer country things. Because, you know, their fans ARE rifle-toting, Bambi-shooting types. It's kinda like Joan Baez's fans finding out that she supports the war and appeared in a pro-gun ad with Charlton Heston that her management suppressed.
I guess they aren't the Dixie Chicks anymore - they're Texas Toast.
UPDATE: If you've not seen it, here's a first-hand account of dealing with the
Dixie Chicks Texas Toasts from blogger Bryan Preston. He also has this link to a story saying the management of the Dixie Chicks Texas Toasts is claiming the band is a victim of the VRWC. Not hardly, management dude - I'm thinking your girls shot themselves in the foot. Hey, that's an idea - they can appear in an ad for the Brady Campaign. That'll finish 'em off nicely.
(I have to confess a tremendous disappointment in the Chicks, because I think the sister-musicians are fantastic, and the band has some excellent music. But you can only take so much idiocy...)
UPDATE: Not that I would say something like, "Wow, wasn't she a hypocrite just to make money":
In their McDonald's commerical for McRibs, Martie was a vegetarian and spit out bites of the sandwich between takes...
Martie is the blonde sister, btw. And Natalie has a little history herself:
Natalie considered herself a flower child while in college and had a "world" and the Latin word for "Peace" tattooed on her ankle..
You always hope people grow up, but sometimes... well, sometimes they don't.
UPDATE: It just keeps on coming. Apparently the Chicks are getting hit in the ratings, which isn't surprising:
Natalie Maines' comments about President Bush cost the Dixie Chicks the top spot on the Billboard country singles chart this week.
Airplay for Travelin' Soldier, which had hit No. 1 the previous week, dropped 15% last week. Nearly all the decline came late in the week after reports that Maines told a London concert audience, "We're ashamed the president of the United States is from Texas."
"Airplay for the Chicks did start to erode on Friday," says Wade Jessen, Billboard's country chart editor.
And of course there are ironies:
A pop remix of Soldier by Sheryl Crow was sent to adult-contemporary stations this week by Columbia Records.
That's charming - the Twits and Ms. Crow, both avowedly anti-war, putting out soldier songs.
Here's an article from earlier in the week about the country music fan reaction.
Meryl has an excellent post about Rachel Corrie, the young American woman who was killed by an Israeli bulldozer while blocking it from knocking down a Palestinian target. Israel says "accident", her pro-Palestinian buddies say "deliberate murder".
I agree with Meryl:
Rachel Corrie died of stupidity and arrogance.
It's very very sad that she died. I feel sorry for her family, and those that loved her. I'm sure she was, in many ways, a wonderful young woman. But that doesn't mean she wasn't putting herself at risk, with full knowledge, nor does the fact that she died in the process of following her beliefs mean that she was right in what she was doing. I have more to say, but no time right now for long thoughts. Meryl does a fine job with that.
The whole human shield concept is predicated on the very Western arrogance that the human shields claim to oppose. They assume that their lives are more important to someone than the lives of the natives of whichever country they're "protecting" this week. When they realize that in fact their lives mean no more or less, it's a huge shock. I think Corrie's death was an accident, and the bulldozer driver is as if not more broken up than her friends over it. I doubt seriously that he meant to or even wanted to kill anyone. But Corrie's nationality had no role in her death. Her own heedlessness did.
A few months ago, there was a bit of a furor about whether there were many blogs by women. In the course of that, I learned about the weblog at Ms. magazine - ms.musings by Christine Cupaiuolo - and sent my URL as well as those of several other women bloggers to them in response to a request for blogs by women. I went by today to see if the list had been posted, since I hadn't heard back. It hadn't, but it sure was interesting reading anyway.
The top post on the blog when I got there said this:
With the missile strikes now underway, ms.musings will spend the rest of Thursday looking at women and war. Starting with the current issue of Ms., read a message from Robin Morgan, Ellie Smeal and Gloria Steinem about worldwide peace activism, and view the National Council of Women’s Organizations Statement on War with Iraq. Here’s a listing of coalitions and groups advocating non-violence.
Other features, which are not online as of this posting (the mag hits newsstands March 25), include an essay by Grace Paley, “Why Peace is (More than Ever) a Feminist Issue”; and works about wartime by three women: Patricia Sarrafian Ward’s fictional “Ghosts of Home”; Comic book artist Marjane Satrapi’s “Tales from an Ordinary Iranian Childhood”; and Helen Zelon’s memoir “Snow in Summer: LA, CA, 1963.”
Now, that initial line, "women and war", doesn't seem restrictive, does it? But as the further information makes clear - and as any quick, shallow browse through the website shows - Ms. magazine is vociferously anti-war. I thought, well, there's a comment function, so how about I just make a little comment saying, "You know, there are a lot of women with other views than yours. You aren't talking about "women and war", you're talking about "women who agree with us about the war". Here are links to a few other women's voices." I was going to post links to folks like Meryl and Michele, Diana and Shanti. With me on board, we have a mix of real women - single, married, mother, non-mother, working, educated, conservative, hawkish liberal, Jewish, Christian, Hindu, American by birth, living in America by choice. All hawks, in our own ways, and intelligently vocal on the war - and we could all list more women until they covered the whole spectrum of religion, race, and country of origin. And a number of them would describe themselves as feminists - we're not all Donna Reed wannabes (although some are, and more power to them).
But when I clicked on the "Comments" section, it dumped me into a message board where you had to register to comment. And when I decided to go ahead and register, just to make my point, I found that I had to agree with them before I could even comment:
If you agree to abide by our rules below, please press the Agree button, which will enable you to register on this message board. If you do not agree to these terms, press the Cancel button.
The Ms. boards exist to provide a space for feminists to discuss and debate issues important to them. By clicking "Agree," you are stating that you either consider yourself a feminist, support feminism, or are open to learning more about feminism. If you are actively opposed to feminism or openly hostile to feminists, you are not welcome to post on this board. If you do post messages that are insulting, mocking, demeaning, harassing or threatening to feminists or feminism, you will be banned from the boards. This is a private community.
You've come a long way, baby - right to being shut out of the conversation about women if you don't agree with the Ms. feminist checklist. I understand that they don't want their comments section to become a brawl over radical feminist issues, but they handled that with their other "Discussion Rules", most especially the first one:
1. Do not make slanderous, defamatory, violent, abusive, insulting, threatening or harassing comments directed at individuals or groups of people.
I was not going to post anything in attack mode, just offer a different voice in the discussion of "women and war". I guess my female voice isn't wanted.
Yes, you've come a long way, baby.
(Oh, and they encourage you to show support for the Dixie Chicks too. As if!)
UPDATE: I've added Ms. Musings to my blogroll (in the liberal section, natch). I sent a link to this post to Christine Cupaiuolo, and she responded very pleasantly, as she has each time we've exchanged emails. I may fuss about her politics, but I respect a person who is gracious in disagreement. Now if they'd open up the blog comments...
A discussion is developing in comments to the post on idealizing women; I've added links to two early COTB posts on Andrea Yates, in an update. It's not a new post 'cause the original one has been Instalinked. But I thought some of you might want to go back to see what's happening and join in.
Michele and Alan have set up a great temporary warblog called The Command Post. Yes, I'm posting on it. An excellent center for short links and info on the war.
You hear about these women who just think they're, you know, puttin' on a little weight, sick to their stomach, havin' a little gas from that taco salad last night, when, lo and behold, they go to the hospital with sudden gasping pains and out pops a baby! Who knew?!
I'm always suspicious of those women.
Well, I can report complete surprise this morning to learn that my blog has birthed a blog-baby - The Ernie Chambers Project. Remember Ernie? He wrote an excellent essay that I posted on my blog recently, and I thought I had him roped in for more. But noooooo... he snuck off and birthed elsewhere! Without so much as a note to his momma!
I'm suspicious of him now too.
I just found this amusing (in a dark kind of way). France has twisted the truth and blackened the US's reputation and done everything it can do to undermine efforts to disarm Saddam in a reasonable way - that is to say, a way that might actually work, instead of another inspection round that would help him ride out the current wave of international discontent until it was safe to expel the inspectors again. Now that efforts are moving forward to do what the UN has threatened for over a decade, France is whining and crying foul when their duplicitious behavior is called exactly what it is:
Anglo-French relations fell to a new low last night after Downing Street rejected a protest from Dominique de Villepin, the French foreign minister, over the way his country is being blamed for the failure to achieve a diplomatic solution on Iraq.
M de Villepin telephoned Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, yesterday to tell him the French government was "shocked and saddened" at British ministers' criticism of France in the Commons.
Tony Blair has led a concerted attack on France for its threat to veto a fresh UN resolution giving authority for military action.
The Prime Minister told MPs on Tuesday that France had acted "unreasonably".
He described its stance as misguided and profoundly dangerous, stressing that this had ultimately benefited Saddam Hussein. John Prescott, the Deputy Prime Minister, claimed that without French opposition Saddam could have been disarmed "without a shot being fired".
The Foreign Ministry in Paris issued a statement saying: "These arguments are not worthy of a country which is both a friend and European partner.
"This presentation of the facts does not conform to reality and deceives no one."
Bernard Valero, the Foreign Ministry spokesman, described M de Villepin's telephone call as "pretty vigorous" - diplomatic language for angry exchanges.
I'm listening to a press conference with Jack Straw right now, and someone just asked him about M de Villepin's call. He said, "I received it, but we do not accept the burden of it." That is just beautiful.
Watch for more posturing as France goes from lock-jawed world leader mode into world humanitarian only doing what we thought was right you are so mean to us victim mode.
[Link via Instapundit]
Most of you probably know this, but those who write articles or opinion pieces for newspapers (or any media, for that matter) do not usually choose their headlines. That's mainly because they aren't involved in the design process, so they don't know how much room there is for the head. At some very large papers, there are people who do little but write headlines; at many papers, that job is handled by copy editors. It's not as easy as it might seem, as I know from having spent hours counting letters to see if a particular head would fit. It's a real skill to be accurate and interesting and still fit the allotted space consistently.
Because of the separation from writing the text, and the constraints of writing headlines, sometimes you'll get heads that do not fit the tone of the article or even the information in the article. And a bias expressed in an article may not show in a head, or vice versa.
That's what happened to the following writers:
A pair of professors, Allison Marston Danner of Vanderbilt and George Fisher of Stanford, scold the San Francisco Chronicle (seventh letter):On Sunday, The Chronicle's Insight section printed an opinion article in which we argued that if the United States goes to war against Iraq without a U.N. mandate, it would be breaking new and dangerous ground in international law. We do not believe the headline The Chronicle assigned our essay, "U.S. apes Nazi rationale," reflected what we intended to be a measured legal argument.
Oops. Some headline writer either wasn't paying attention, or had quite the little Bush-bashing head of steam going. Good enough reason not to judge an article completely by its headline.
Here's the original link; the entire letter as printed in the paper is quoted above. Don't you think it'd be more appropriate to correct that in the actual corrections page? I do.
[Thanks to Dodd for the OJO link]
James Lileks today rhapsodizes over the milk he drank as a child - or, rather, being Lileks, over the logo on the box. He says every child remembers the milk he drank growing up. I think he's right, but the immediate image I see isn't a box.
It's my Uncle Guthrie.
He was my grandmother's brother, my father's uncle, and he lived with his wife Laura (Aunt Laurie, to me and my siblings, always) at a little house at the base of a big hill. We went by there often because the church we attended was on top of the hill. When I was very little, they babysat me while my parents taught school; several years later they babysat my brother. They farmed a small plot and made some money selling milk from the few cows they had. I remember the big silver metal milk cans sitting in a frame beside the road, waiting for a milk truck from the local plant to come pick them up.
For a few years we kept a milk cow on the family farm, and my dad milked it daily. I never was good at milking, but he could squeeze a teat and spray milk halfway across the barn into a kitten's mouth. Dead aim. He finally tired of the scheduling limitations milking requires - he worked full time and usually had something else going too - so we began getting our milk from Uncle Guthrie and Aunt Laurie.
My dad was the principal of my elementary school, and my mom taught there too. I remember driving home with them and stopping at Laurie and Guthrie's to pick up tow-headed Alan and a gallon jar of creamy white milk. It didn't take long in the refrigerator before the milk separated into thick yellow cream and bluish white milk; we'd skim off the cream, sometimes throwing it away, sometimes keeping it to whip with sugar for desserts, and sometimes setting it on the counter in a mason jar to sour. Once it had soured - usually by the next day - one of us would sit with the jar in our lap while watching television, gently shaking it the whole time. By evening's end, we had a lump of butter and a jar of buttermilk.
Eventually the government closed down the little dairies - so tiny they hardly qualified for the name - because of concerns about disease and sanitation. We still bought our milk from them for a while, but gradually we shifted to what we called "store-bought" milk - everything we could make ourselves that we sometimes or even usually bought was called that:
"Hand me some bread."
"You want a biscuit?"
"No, that store-bought bread's ok."
The brand of milk we got at the store was Southern Belle, which if I'm remembering correctly featured a cow dressed like a 1950s stay-at-home mom. It was always good, and didn't turn blinky* as quickly as the milk we got from Uncle Guthrie. But I missed making the butter. Store-bought cream just doesn't work the same way.
UPDATE: Rita has a milk-related variation of the "man bites dog" story. All I can say is... ouch!
* "Blinky" is the term we use for milk that's turned - not yet sour, but with that kind of off taste that I always associated with grass (as in fescue, not marijuana).
It's that time of year! March Madness, baaayyybbeeeee! I've picked my brackets, more on emotion than sense, although I think I'm right (of course). Short version: KENTUCKY WINS IT ALL! Hahahahahaha (take that, Bryan!)
Matt at Overtaken by Events has set up a bloggish bracket war, and I've joined in. I think he's looking for more participants, although I shall win that too!
(But only if no one else joins.)
UPDATE: Charles, repeat after me: KENTUCKY
(Hello, everyone, and welcome to the Amish Tech Support Blog A Day Tour. Laurence Simon of Amish Tech Support is trying to post on a different blog every day for the entire year. Let's see what cut he has on the bias today...)
A little media-related shenanigans for your amusement...
If you blinked while reading the AP story CBS Pulls Correspondent Out of Baghdad you'd have missed it. Thankfully, you've got me to hit the pause button and scroll you back...
ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, Fox News Channel and MSNBC have all agreed to share any video footage from Baghdad during the first 24 hours of a war. The question remains how much video will be available.
Be sure to watch all the promotions pieces and hype from all of those networks claiming that they'll take you first into Baghdad, they have the best coverage, best equipment, best news team, correspondents around the world, etc...
Scrooge said it best: humbug!
For the first 24 hours, they're just copying off of each other's papers, which are most likely going to be copied right off of the notes that whatever DOD spokesperson says at a press conference. The embedded correspondents that were all hyped up and had a blast playing with their videophones and satellite uplinks will experience equipment failures by the score once the sand gets to them, and very few of these pretty boys in camo-drag can break down and repair an antenna or dish or edit pack on the fly.
I envision a sperm-on-egg strategy, where these reporters blow out their toys over time, all networks praying that at least one lucky embedded journalist manages to make it to the finish line with the ability to file stories.
The only differences between the major networks will be the kinds of mistakes they make with the same information. After all, CNN had a graphic saying that Columbia was flying at over 18 times the speed of light and a local anchor here in Houston said that Shimon Peres was the prime minister of Israel. Maybe there ought to be some sort of roundup of bloggers volunteering to watch and fact-check the various news channels for outrageous flubs?
To that thorn in my flesh, World Wide Rant.
(Did you get the Biblical reference, Andy? Love ya, man!)
Michele has a great post about an article admiring anti-war females as women operating from their nurturing, caring feminine core. She slices and dices the myth that mothers are intrinsically non-violent (and thus, of course, the "hope for the future").
This is a common sub-thread in the womyn-myth woven by feminists. I do think that women are by nature - as a gender - more into nurturing than men.* I do not think that nurturing = political ideology. The thing that's interesting in the feminist take on this is that it's saying that not only do women as a gender disconnect their reason from their emotions on a regular basis so they can emphasize the latter at the expense of the former, it's a very good thing to do. It's part of their effort to set women up not as equals to men, but as superior. So they take a quality that is often true of women, reframe it to only include instances where warm & fuzzy means liberal (it's not "nurturing" to advocate not killing unborn children), and then set it up as a superior quality to the male way (violence vs. nurturing). That of course also means they have to frame men as universally violent, but they do that regularly anyway so it's no strain.
And it shows up all over the place. Remember Natalie Maines, the Dixie Chick who shot off her mouth recently? She said she was against the war because she is a mother. See? And remember, way back when, last year? Andrea Yates? It's not a war issue, but it is a woman-as-mother issue. After Yates drowned her five children in a bathtub, a lot of feminists (and non-feminists who should have known better) came out in support of Yates saying that she had to be insane to do it because only a mother who was insane could do it. Quite a little tautology there, revolving around the construct of mother-as-nurturer.
This is another issue of framing, and something to watch out for. Being nurturing shouldn't supersede being rational in an argument of any sort. Certainly there are some instances where nurturing is the preferred choice even when rationality would lead you to another choice (such as, it's irrational in a utilitarian sense to save your child at the risk to your own life, but it is a situation where the instinct to nurture could justifiably win out). But in those instances you don't try to say nurturing is rational; you just say it's preferable. The problem is that with the woman-as-mother plea they try to declare nurturing as the trump of all arguments when they're finally backed into a corner where rationality has destroyed the rest of their argument. They claim moral superiority, but they go to immoral lengths to do it.
Why can't they just say, "I'm against the war, I feel that war is bad, and I don't care what you say, I'm not going to change my mind"? At least that would be honest.
UPDATE: Since it's addressed in the post, and in comments, here are two posts I did last year on the psychology in the Andrea Yates case. The first one looks at the beginning of the insanity defense development, with references to Laurie Dann. The second explores the differences in how murders by women vs men are handled by communities and the media, looking specifically at the Yates case in comparison with a similar case of a Los Angeles man who killed most of his children and tried to kill himself, during the time the Yates trial was going on.
It's a biological thing, and as with most gender-related biological things there are actually ranges of the behavior on both sides, which means a lot of men are more nurturing than a lot of women. I just think women as a group tend to be skewed more toward the nurturing end, and men as a group tend to be less nurturing. But then you have to define "nurturing". I'm using it in the "squishy lovey warm and fuzzy" sense that the feminists tend to mean; if you mean "nurturing" as in "taking care of", then men and women are equal - they just "take care of" in different ways, usually.
It's nice to find classic journalistic bias flowering in all its obtuseness right on the pages of that bastion of self-referential journalism, Editor & Publisher. It's not surprising - note that the post below deals with another E&P article that's anything but balanced - but it is disappointing. I have in the past seen E&P as having the potential to help journalism police itself, but it's obvious any such hope was either naive or ill-informed.
This latest misinformation comes from another E&P survey of newspaper editorial pages, and starts in the first paragraph:
For apparently the first time in modern history, the U.S. government seems poised to go to war not only lacking the support of most of its key allies abroad but also without the enthusiastic backing of the majority of major newspapers at home, according to E&P's fifth and (presumably) final prewar survey of the top 50 newspapers' editorial positions.
The first point here just about slaps you upside the head, which is the sheer arrogance of it all: not only are the key allies (France? Germany?) not on board, but neither are the newspapers! How any president can go to war without the support of the brie-eating left-leaning editorialists is beyond me. I bet it's beyond you too.
The second point is, well, they're misleading from the start about their own data. Notice that it says, "without the enthusiastic backing" (emphasis mine) of the editorial pages of the majority of "major" newspapers. Then note the details:
Of the 44 papers publishing editorials about the war Tuesday, roughly one-third reiterated strong support for the White House, one-third repeated their abiding opposition to it, and the rest -- with further debate now useless -- took a more philosophical approach.
In case you missed it, here's what that means: About 15 think the White House is doing the right thing, about 15 think it's the wrong thing - and in both cases it's a "reiteration" or "repeat". The rest took "a more philosophical approach", which based on later discussion appears to mean, we support going into the war but we don't like Bush. Thus it's likely a majority do support the war. E&P plays the framing game by saying the majority aren't "enthusiastic" about it, skimming over the agreement issue quickly by moving on to the Bush issue:
But, in the end, the majority agreed that the Bush administration had badly mishandled the crisis. Most papers sharply criticized Washington's diplomatic efforts, putting the nation on the eve of a pre-emptive war without U.N. Security Council support -- and expressed fears for the future despite an inevitable victory.
And we're surprised by that? The editorial pages of most dailies are inhabited by Clinton liberals. They reflexively dislike Bush and anything he does, and they will be reluctant to support him even when it looks like he's doing something right. But even a lot of those people have come on board with the war effort, although they take the time to trash Bush on the way. So E&P serves again as an example of how to be biased, this time with your own survey.
The biggest part of the game is played by what is emphasized. The first set of quotes given are all bashing Bush. Then we get this little gem:
There was always a group of roughly a dozen papers that strongly supported regime change as the only acceptable vehicle toward Iraq's disarmament. They included The Wall Street Journal, New York Post, New York Daily News, Chicago Sun-Times, and Boston Herald. They continued their praise of the president this week and celebrated the fact that "the regime of Saddam Hussein is doomed," as The Kansas City (Mo.) Star put it.
The majority of papers, however, remain deeply troubled by the position the U.S. finds itself in. Even large papers such as the Los Angeles Times, The Oregonian in Portland, and Newsday of Melville, N.Y., which have long advocated (or at least accepted) using force to disarm Hussein, criticized their President as he prepared to send young men and women into battle.
Notice that the whole third of editorial pages that support both the administration and the war are dismissed as "there was always a group of papers", a turn of phrase meaning, "these guys are unreasonable and intractable, so we don't even need to tell you what they say". Then we move on quickly to the "majority" who are "deeply troubled" - you can just see them frowning at their computer, too distressed to even open a new package of brie. Now, why don't we have a group of papers described as, "There was always a group of roughly a dozen papers that strongly oppose anything and everything Bush does, and take every opportunity to slap down the US as a ravening hegemon. They'd rather see a murderous dictator continue his killing than admit Bush might have a point." That would be at least as honest as Berman and Mitchell's little phrase.
Having dispensed with those intractables, the article moves on to quote a secession of editorials trashing Bush again and again, either directly or through attacks on his "diplomacy" or, more accurately, their sense of a lack of it. There aren't any quotes from the third that support Bush - we're to understand they don't count. They're just kneejerk partisans, as opposed to "deeply concerned".
Where is the E&P comparison of what the newspaper editorial pages reflect vs what the average American thinks? Is there any concern that the editorialists are out of step with their readers? Again, I think there's an implicit arrogance here that the editorialists are smarter and more savvy than their readers, so what they say matters more in the grand scheme. And in that, the writers and editors at E&P show themselves to be the same kind of elitists that plague journalism, diplomacy and academia at the highest levels - an elitism that is all the more insidious because it has no reference point to bring it out of itself. It is fully self-referential.
And it's sad to see that bias so flagrantly presented, and so ignorant of itself.
John R. MacArthur, a former reporter who is now editor of Harper's magazine, is spouting off about the limitations on reporters during this war in Iraq.
With the Defense Department warning journalists to get out of Baghdad, the stage is set for a repeat of the kind of information-control that kept the American public uninformed about the true dimensions of the earlier war, he said. "The Pentagon is expecting a kind of Panama-style war, over in three days," he said. "Nobody has time to see or ask any questions. I think if embedded reporters see anything important -- or bloody -- the Pentagon will interfere. Same result, different tactic: the truth gets distorted."
MacArthur seems annoyed that the actual fighting may last only three days, because that means that the Pentagon will be able to more easily hide the awful truth of whatever it is they do in Iraq. Too bad it likely won't last longer, isn't it? And while a few things are listed as stories that only got out after previous wars, neither MacArthur nor the writer - Barbara Bedway - make a decent case that the military is actively and maliciously obstructionist to journalistic efforts to get the "truth".
It's apparent from the article that MacArthur will assume that any coverage that doesn't result in reams of documentation of US military atrocities or at the very least extreme ineptness is obviously either censored or hamstrung. While I think it's important for the military and the country as a whole for clear, unflinching reporting to come out the war zone, going into it with the attitude of a MacArthur ensures at least as much distortion as he claims occurs at the military's behest already.
I heard again this morning on the radio, this time from a caller to the Curtis & Kuby show who identified himself as a Gulf War veteran speaking for a cadre of GWvets he knows, that the war in Iraq is not necessary or legit, and the lack of movement in the situation in North Korea is clear evidence that Bush is not interested in dealing with real threats but is actually intent on smacking down Iraq for any number of reasons (he mentioned a new one - oil).
I'm happy to see Dodd handling this issue quite nicely, but let me add my little piece.
North Korea is threatening to restart its nuclear processing facility. It hasn't to our knowledge done so. It is not hiding its intent, it is rather loudly proclaiming it. That is not the action of an aggressor contemplating an attack, but rather that of a country wanting to force another country - or group of countries - into negotiating with it and having some force behind that demand. It's a very real threat and a dangerous one. But it is not the ending of the situation, it's the beginning. It's a signal for diplomacy to intensify, not a signal for a smackdown.
As Dodd notes, the peace types should be thrilled with the Bush response to the North Korean crisis - it fits their preferred and oft stated mode of multi-lateral diplomacy, where the US doesn't go in as a cowboy and start shooting when negotiation is still capable of producing the desired results. And North Korea is learning that China, Japan and other countries in its sphere are not going to stand by and let this be about the US and North Korea - to do so diminishes both their (China et al) negotiating power internationally and their ability to have a say in the outcome of the negotiations. The North Korean situation is not an imminent threat; it is a hot spot currently in precisely the stage of response it needs to be in.
Iraq is another matter. It has been a threat and an active aggressor for over a decade. It has proven immune to appeals from every side - from the UN, from other Arab countries, from individual friendly countries, and most especially from the US. Iraq's efforts to gain supremacy through weaponization are not conducted in the open, but in secret so as to retain the element of surprise and the greatest chance of maximizing their ability to threaten. That is not the action of a country wanting to establish itself as a strong yet peaceful player on the world stage; that is the behavior of a terrorist regime with no concern for any interests other than its own narrow provincial ones - even when ultimately its focus on those narrow interests substantially damages its ability to secure success on issues of broader interest.
And that's my answer to the North Korea vs. Iraq question.
And yes, they did succumb to the temptation to make something of a pun of "Iraq".
I'm mulling thoughts about why (most) country music types are in favor of the war, and apparently a sizeable number of what passes for rockers these days are not. I think it has mostly to do with where they came from and who their core audience is. Country music is blue-collar, not lace cuffs or lanky-hair-and-jeans-at-half-mast. It's anti-establishment in a way that celebrates the average person - it's probably more accurate to say it's anti-elite, regardless of whether those elite are academics, wealthy corporate types or Chomsky leftists. It's John Wayne, not Alan Alda; it's "get it done" not "let's share our feelings about it". Sometimes that approach is too rough-edged to be the most effective. But more times than not, it's that solid core of real people that carry this country through crisis after crisis - people not afraid to roll up their sleeves and do the work, rather than ordering in more brie and Chablis for another round of negotiation.
Yes, country music is a lot about loving and losing, about unfaithful lovers or lovers forever, about kicking it up and coming back down hard, about paying the bills and ideals and lost dreams and the difficulty sometimes of just getting out of the bed one more day. But isn't that what life is, too? The best of rock 'n roll, the best of any kind of music, reflects real people. And I think most of the people who's life is a country song are behind our military, behind this president and behind this war.
Count me as one.
With war looming in Iraq, politicians and celebraties bantering about important issues, and pundits firing off commentary in every direction, it seems sometimes that there's not much the average person can do. After all, everything that can be said has been said, and everyone's mind is made up.
Last week a young friend of mine, a college student who is smart but more concerned about guys and classes than world politics, asked me, "So, what's up with Iraq?" She really didn't know much at all. In about 10 minutes, I reviewed the entire case against Iraq from the mid 80s on, including the stronger arguments against the war and my answers to them. While she's unlikely to dive into the debate now, if someone asks her about it (say, a pollster), she has some foundation to draw from.
There's a lot of those people in our day - people who have some consciousness of trouble gathering, but no real understanding of the issues. Some of them may have a cobbled-together view made up of disparate pieces snagged out of the endless stream of media that flows around all of us, but that's not the same as a coherent overview. So what you can do, the way that you can help the war effort and the conservative cause, is to bring up the topic throughout your day and educate the people around you.
This is not assuming that you're the most intelligent person in your sphere of influence. I know I'm not in mine. But I am one of the best informed, in that I follow the news closely and search out alternate sources of information on most issues. And I'm not advocating indoctrination - it's not about telling people what they should think, but rather serving as a means of giving them more information and a structure on which to start building their own opinion. They might in the end still disagree with you, but it will be a disagreement based on real information, not on what President Bartlett said when he wasn't in front of the West Wing cameras.
It requires some level of courage to do this, even if you don't approach it in an aggressive manner at all. You'll encounter some people who are vehemently opposed to your views, and in my experience those people tend not to be very kind in their dispute - they will call you names, or approach you as if from some great height of moral superiority. You can't change their minds. What you can do is hone your own arguments on the stone of their intransigence, and offer your reasoned detailing as a contrast to their emotional rants. Your goal there is to provide information and contrast to anyone listening to the discussion, not to try to convince the one so opposed to you. And you should also listen closely to what they say, because most successful lies have at their heart a kernel of truth. You want to pull out those kernels and, later, investigate them to see if they're something that will in fact modify your viewpoint. You don't want your own confident understanding to descend into the same intransigence shown by your opponents.
I also keep hearing from people who move in mostly liberal circles that they're fearful of exposing their more conservative viewpoints, for just the reason I mentioned above: people secure in their moral superiority will deride, diminish and mock anyone who disagrees with them. It can feel like the risk taken is not counterbalanced by the progress made when you challenge those people in their own social lair. But death of an idea can come from a thousand small cuts as well as by one smashing argument. You don't have to expose yourself to the full derision mode to make it clear you disagree, and to present some reasons why. If the veins of conservativism threaded through those layers of society were exposed, the left would lose its appearance of a monolithic, immutable mass.
We each can have a role in bringing back reason, discourse and honest disagreement; in fact, I think the average American longs for just that - it's the liberal political elite that speak in doubletalk and television sound bites with little philosophical clarity or, often, truth behind it. But we have to step forward and make the effort. It's a risk, but I don't think it's nearly the risk that our soldiers are taking right now to give people half a world away the right to do precisely the kind of thing I am urging you - and myself - to do.
If you want to see a point by point leftist view of Bush's speech, here's a good place to go.
Short version: The US is an evil, violent, slavering demon of aggression set at gobbling up the world at the behest of its idiot sans savant leader, who refuses to recognize that warm fuzzies will always in the end accomplish our goals.
It's a motley bunch of detainees. At least it's not racial profiling.
In this day of the Internet, Google and forwarded email, it just isn't smart to steal anyone else's written work. You're gonna be found out.
And if you're stealing Steven Den Beste's work, you're gonna be found out and exposed.
But now that I think about it, even yellow legal pads are no protection from being caught. It just takes longer.
This is it, people.
President Bush's speech was direct, clear and calm. I was proud of him, and finally believed we will as a country prove to be good at our word.
The Iraqis are stocking food and taping up their windows. I must say I'm likely going to do something of the same myself, including gasing up my car and getting some extra cash on hand. I would be surprised if the US mainland made it through this conflict unscathed.
And going into Iraq is still the right thing to do.
I came across this column of Peggy Noonan's today; it's two weeks old, but it's a classic that everyone should read. The liberals should read it for its very real wise advice to the party, and Republicans should read it as a warning of what could happen to us. There's no room for smirking condescension from conservatives - we're doing well now, but the only way to keep that going is to always always remember that the principles are more important than short-term political wins.
R. Alex Whitlock has an excellent piece reviewing the issues around the comments of Dixie Chick Natalie Maines, and the unhappy reception she's gotten stateside. I disagree with him some, as I say in his comments section, but he's right in that performers have a right to say what they want to say. I'm not one for immediate total boycotts of every artist - I won't be getting rid of my Dixie Chicks CDs, but I likely won't listen to them for a long time. But I do think something like this, even without boycotts, will stick to them, like the actions of Jane Fonda which follow her more than 30 years later. (And there are some people or groups who do get total boycotts, like, oh, say, Pepboys.)
Is this current administration going to change the meaning of the term "bush league"?
Most journalists are more conservative than most Americans.
It's an interview with - wait for it - Eric Altermann. He's speaking of economic issues in that particular quote.
He does say one thing I agree with: you can't divorce people from their biases.
I'm thinking his idea of how to compensate for that would be different from mine, though.
Steve at Little Tiny Lies is getting ready to be a pallbearer for the second time in a year; he writes this post that could be subtitled "Funerals - brought to you by cigarettes".
I don't harrass my friends who smoke; I know they're smart enough to know what it's doing, and they're adult enough to make their own decisions about it. It does make me sad that their lives are likely to be cut short by their choice, but I can't fix it. And I also know that my addiction to sugary yummy things is likely to put me in the ground sooner than it needs to happen, so I figure I should put siding on my own glass house before I heft those stones.
But my images of the future of smokers are particularly vivid. My grandfather chainsmoked hand-rolled cigarettes for as long as I knew him, tapping Prince Albert loose tobacco into white cigarette papers with his nicotine-browned fingers. When I was in my early teens, he had his larynx removed; the doctors said cancer snaked through it and encompassed it until what they took out was like a baseball. It left him with a hole in his throat, and a little machine he would press against his neck - it picked up and translated the vibrations of his vocal chords, allowing him to "speak", but with less expression than R2D2. My sister and I got to sew the little gauze bandages he wore over it; piles of gauze bandages every week. He couldn't smoke anymore, because it would have suffocated him.
So he chewed tobacco instead.
He died in a hospital, imagining people were trying to kill him, when I was 16.
Like Steve, my family is from Eastern Kentucky. Like Steve's family, they - we - grew tobacco. I have pulled tobacco plants and helped set them on the back of a setter; I've even stripped tobacco a few times, nearly choking on the heavy aroma of tar-like deposits from the tobacco on my hands. They don't grow tobacco anymore. I think that's a good thing.
We're all going to die, and many of us will do so sooner than we need to, because of decisions we make daily that in isolation seem easy and not very important. I'm too much of a libertarian to want the government to serve as a nanny to us all. I just wish we were better at taking care of ourselves.
I keep hearing about how the United States has failed with diplomacy. If only we’d done this, or that, or the other thing, we could have averted the war. It’s all about whether the US appeased adequately, and we’re found wanting.
But why is diplomacy by the US the only thing under scrutiny?
The French are the ones, by their assessment and the assessment of the various world “elites”, that should have the upper hand in any crisis calling for diplomacy. It is, as we keep hearing, their gift to the world, their peculiar talent, their historical skill. Yet through this situation, most especially from early last fall, France has become a lightning rod for controversy. Chirac has alienated the United States, Britain, and a number of other countries – including the former Soviet eastern bloc countries that are poised to come into the European Union, a land and population mass that would significantly increase the political importance of the EU. The French leader has not made many if any efforts at conciliation, and certainly not any at leadership. The United States and its allies – and, in truth, the UN as a whole – has been clear about its goal from the outset: disarmament of Saddam. Who has close diplomatic and economic ties to Iraq? France. Who has not worked aggressively toward making sure Iraq is disarmed? France. Uniquely positioned to do the type of diplomacy for which they claim the mantel of expertise, they have failed miserably and – in that sense – have themselves brought the world to the brink of war by not only refusing to do what they say they do best but by showing themselves to be precisely the opposite of their claim. They are not expert, they are inept.
When the dust clears from this conflict, and historians look back at events from the cushion of a generation away, whatever else they decide about the role of the players in this crisis, they will not decide that France was the sterling center of diplomacy. They will see France for the petulant, spoiled child it is – and they will see the damage France has done in the name of making itself the center of the universe.
The mental and moral nudity of the anti-war movement continues to find expression in physical reality. Tim Blair and Andrea Harris link this site where
skanks idiots exhibitionists anti-war types strip down and paint anti-war slogans on their naked bellies for all the world to see. There are males involved, but as usual the photos stop short of the full business. Who would have thought the anti-war folks would be so repressive and content to exploit women's bodies while preserving the modesty sensibilities sanctity of the male view?
Don't go there if you have no stomach for or would be offended by full frontal nudity. And don't go expecting sexy, unless you find sneering skanky hippie chicks sexy.
You know, I still really don't get this "nude for peace" thing. It seems to me that the only way it would have any meaning was if they were genuinely taking risks by getting naked publically. But none of them are! In fact, for the ones going around forming "PEACE" with their chilled white gooseflesh, they get this mutually orgasmic rush of feeling they've "done something important" while having taken no risk at all. And these hippy chicks and the guys who stop short of the full business - what risk for them? They all look like folks who take it off regularly for no reason at all, so what's the big deal about peeling down for peace? Next week they'll probably peel down for PETA, and then the next peel down for anti-globalization (which of course would be amusing, as any global anti-globalization movement has to be amusing). It's all a self-referential morality play operating in a rationality vacuum, serving only to strengthen Saddam.
And what kind of response to they hope to get? They think Bush is going to say, "Well, wow. You know, I've been battling off the French, the Germans think we suck and the Russians are hanging around the Rue de We-hate-Amerika too. The Democrats are after my blood, even some in my own party are bailing. I've stood strong, I've stood tough. I mean, I really really think we oughtta kill that bastard Saddam who's committed genocide and who knows what else. But now... well... I just can't continue in my belief in the morality and rightness of this military initiative in the face of some hippie skank in Australia getting naked in opposition. Colin, call Tommy - we're bringing the boys home."
Yeah. I'm seeing that happening, like, yesterday.
Meryl Yourish has started what I think should become an annual tradition - International Eat An Animal for PETA Day! The noxious numbskulls at PETA have started an ad campaign with what has to be the most horrific example of moral equivalence ever - comparing the killing of animals for food to the slaughter of Jews during the Holocaust. It's one of those things that takes your breath away.
My suggestion is to eat meat all day long as a prolonged nose-thumbing at PETA. Meryl advocates at least one major ingestion of animal protein, but I think only an Atkin's Diet-like approach is sufficient. Bacon or sausage for breakfast, hamburger or chicken for lunch, assorted slices of ham or other animal in between, and then a finish at the steak place of your choice. Make sure KFC fits in there somewhere, since, according to Anniversary Guy Dodd, it's been particularly targeted by the PETA folks recently (chickens in cages feature prominently in their ads).
It's fun to mock the PETA gang, and of course eating meat is always a pleasure. But this meatcott has a very serious point, and one that even the most vehement vegetarian should support - there is never a time when the vicious slaughter of millions of people can be compared to... well...anything else. And anyone who does so has immediately lost every last drop of credibility they may have had, and in my judgment has lost any hope of building it in the future.
So after you've grabbed your sausage, hamburger, chicken and steak, write an email to PETA listing your meat score for the day and let them know how despicable they truly are, as an organization and as individuals associated with it.
birthday fifth anniversary, oh wondermous leader battalion captain of the HOSTILE family, and father of the Blogfodder domain!
UPDATE: Changes made based on reminders from The Anniversary Guy himself in comments.
Nancy Pelosi, showing us all what leadership is about.
The Dixie Chicks may be ready to run from their earlier anti-Bush comment, but I'm afraid it's too little too late - they're gonna be facing wide open spaces in their concert venues.
Here's the latest - Natalie Maines' "apology" after saying on stage in Britain that she's "ashamed Bush is Texan":
Statement from Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks March 14, 2003
"As a concerned American citizen, I apologize to President Bush because my remark was disrespectful. I feel that whoever holds that office should be treated with the utmost respect. We are currently in Europe and witnessing a huge anti-American sentiment as a result of the perceived rush to war. While war may remain a viable option, as a mother, I just want to see every possible alternative exhausted before children and American soldiers' lives are lost. I love my country. I am a proud American."
(smacking my head) THERE'S your trouble! I'm not a mother! If I was, I'd probably at the very least be a human shield, if I didn't actually tie myself to an Army tank or ballistic missile in an effort to stop the war. And I'm sure that if I was in Europe and saw all those people dissin' the US, why, I'd feel that sudden ephiphany too that says, "Hey! They're right! The US is scum! Our president is pathetic! I'm going to mock them both right here in Europe!" I mean, all those people couldn't be wrong, could they?
Nope, it's not convincing me either.
But you know, I can't wait until that young lady hauls her butt back to Texas. I'm thinkin' there's a long line forming to kick it, good 'n hard.
This is a horse I don't mind hitchin' my cart to:
Voted for him twice.
FoxNews has an article today about musicians releasing songs explicitly about the war which includes this closing comment:
"It's great that musicians are writing songs that address the war, both pro and con," he [Brian Raftery, a music writer at Entertainment Weekly] said. "I just hope other artists can have the same freedom without a lot of backlash."
I think wanting the "freedom" to do openly political music (or videos or films or books, for that matter) "without a lot of backlash" is an effort to quash the very "freedom" they want - only for other people. When artists of any type pursue a career dependent on people's opinion of them and their work, they make their opinions and lifestyles factors people will consider in making decisions about their work. I wouldn't say that Madonna should be blacklisted from performing anywhere. I would, on the other hand, support a venue that told her she was not to perform an explicitly political song during her show or she couldn't perform there at all. Same for any artist performing pro-war or pro-military music. And, further down the food chain, I think fans have the right to decide to boycott either Madonna or the venue if they disagree with either one.
"Freedom of speech" is one of those concepts that became malleable in the hands of people who would use it to their advantage. But it has a specific legal meaning, which isn't "the right to say anything I want to and you still have to pay me and come see me and support my extravagant lifestyle because otherwise you're violating my freedom of speech!" Celebrities who insist on "speaking out" can't expect that not to have consequences. Freedom of speech has consequences for all of us - we could lose friends, jobs, status, any number of things, without it being illegal. That's part of the risk of speaking out. Conversely, it could also strike a popular chord and catapult a person to greater fame. Such are the vicissitudes of public opinion.
I support the right of the artists to say what they want. I support my right to refuse to buy any of their music, or go see their movies, or read their books. In that push-pull, why should their "right" supersede mine so that they are somehow protected from negative consequences? It's just another example of the infantilism too often associated with stardom of any stripe.
UPDATE: And here's a prime example. The Dixie Chicks, as you likely know, informed the audience in a British concert that they were ashamed that George Bush is from Texas. Wellllll... now some of their fans are ashamed to be fans - three Kansas City stations have even pulled TDC from their playlists. I'm not saying they should have, or shouldn't either. It's a marketplace issue. And the Dixie Chicks will face another marketplace issue when they play to a (now, at any rate) sold out crowd in Kansas City in a month. Oh, they're kicking off their new tour in South Carolina - I think Mike at Cold Fury is right about what their reception will be.
I wonder if they'll say that about Bush back in the States?
Or maybe not. WaPo is doing a series on the Internet involvement in anti- and pro-war efforts; so far they've done two articles on the anti-war effort, here and here. But today they're supposed to do one on pro-war efforts, so keep your eyes open. I'll link it as soon as I see it.
Wonder what sites we already know about will be on it?
UPDATE: The waiting is over! Here's the WaPo article on pro-war/pro-military sites, and The Home Front is right there. Big thanks go out to Scott Ott of Scrappleface fame, who put the site's name in the WaPo hopper.
Rod Dreher, while admitting no love for their politics, writes a paean for France. It basically comes down to this: they're idiotic, infantile and immoral, but boy do they make a la crĂ¨me excellente de crĂ¨me! Yeah, baby!
I was talking about France with a friend of mine when we were in Manhattan last weekend. I admit to being provincial, but he is the son of a Caucasian from Appalachian Ohio and a Japanese native; he lived in Spain much of his youth and spent more than a little time in France. He has no love for George Bush nor is he eager for the war in Iraq, so he doesn't have the reflexive annoyance with the French that I do. Still, he can't stand them. I won't quote him, since what he said was very bad. But it was interesting to hear my thoughts confirmed by someone who knows from firsthand, long term experience.
I'd be interested to hear what he and Dreher would have to say to each other.
And don't miss this - more reason to believe in the moral uprightness and principled stance of the French opposition to the war.
[First link via Dustbury, who expresses proper trepidation about me in his post. Second link thanks to Curt.]
I'm on a ceaseless mission to provide you, my reader, with interesting information or, failing that, people to mock - preferably an idiotarian cloaked in journalistic righteousness and riddled with leftist clichĂ©s. I hereby coin a term for these folks: Dowdists. Sad to say, it's really not that difficult to find them on the nation's opinion pages.
Case in point: While meandering through the Lexington Herald-Leader, I came across a column by a member of their editorial board, Larry Dale Keeling, writing what he no doubt saw as a clever, penetrating-yet-witty piece. I'm thinking he wrote it after lunch, and those mushrooms on his pizza didn't come from a Green Giant can.
The madness of King George II has the United States in one helluva Middle East mess. Thanks to his obsession with putting Saddam Hussein's carcass in a body bag, this nation is in a lose-lose situation.
King George! Hahaha! He knows history, and manages to call the president a tyrant and an idiot without using either word! And he used "helluva" - that means he's really really mad. And you know, if it wasn't for "King George", why, we'd be kissing Saddam's ring instead of planning to blow him right smack into the middle of his 72 virgins. That'd make the world so much safer! What is King George thinking?
If we prosecute this war as the bully of the international schoolyard, with little support from other students, we do grave damage to our image as a peaceable nation, slow to anger but frightening to behold when our wrath is provoked.
Oooohhhh now King George is a schoolyard bully. We'd better have a warning for this. WARNING: MIDSTREAM METAPHOR SWITCH! One question, Larry love - if 12 years isn't "slow to anger", what is? A generation? A century? A millenium? Better watch it - critters left to stew too long become ooooiiiiillllll. And wrath is frightening because of the impending action it implies - no action, no fear. You might want to look up the term "chimera".
We put great stress on our relationships with friends, both longtime and newfound. We put fear into the hearts of potential friends by giving them reason to worry that the bully will turn on them next. And we risk striking the spark that ignites the Middle East tinderbox into a region-wide blaze that surely will singe us here at home.
We were going along well there, Larry, until... WARNING: MIDSTREAM METAPHOR SWITCH! ... we made the clunky transition from bully to blaze. You also seem to have some difficulty with the term "friend". Let me help you:
friend n. 1. A person whom one knows, likes, and trusts. 2. A person whom one knows; an acquaintance. 3. A person with whom one is allied in a struggle or cause; a comrade. 4. One who supports, sympathizes with, or patronizes a group, cause, or movement
Okay, Lar, Britain is 1, 2, 3 AND 4. France is 2, and just barely at that - we're not sure we really know them, although we're afraid we do. We hope we don't, that there's something about them that we don't know, because if what we do know is all there is, then they're the scorpion in this old tale. And a scorpion is a friend to no one. "Friend" does not mean "someone who makes really good cheese, bizarre yet freakishly pricey clothes and sometimes agrees with us if it benefits him". A friend is someone who shares at least some of your values, and works with you in tandem to promote them (that would be Britain and Australia, among others). And if you think that most of the countries in the world operate solely on principal and not self-interest, you're too naive to have your job. The US operates with benevolent pragmatism. It accepts alliances with people who stuck their fingers in the wind and saw it blew the US's way. This isn't a schoolyard with a bully. This is a rumble between rival gangs and a whole slew of vicious mercenaries who'll go where they get the most. And we're going to win.
I'm not even going to go there on your little "Arab street as tinderbox" thing. If you don't pay any more attention than to believe that, it's a waste of my time.
If we fail to prosecute this war now after months of promising to do so, if we fail to disarm Saddam and remove him from power after deploying 300,000-plus troops for that task, we destroy our credibility in the region and our ability of influence its politics for generations to come.
I actually kind of agree with you here, except I'd say we lose our reputation as courageous and resolute. We become a weak-kneed, desolute worldweary rouĂ©, casting about for who to screw next while deserting the field at every hint of real trouble. We become... France.
And see? You're contagious - now I'm switching metaphors.
We leave this Joseph Stalin wannabe in power to terrorize and torture his people and to continue developing weapons of mass destruction while playing games with U.N. inspectors. We abandon our Arab allies, who look to us to remove Saddam from power, to face his wrath alone.
We've done that for 12 years, 8 of them under (bad imagery) our very own weak-kneed, desolute worldweary rouĂ© named Bill. Why not a few more? We don't want to be thought a bully gang headed up by King George the Pyromaniac.
And by our unwillingness to pull the trigger, we invite our enemies, whether nations or bands of terrorists, to think of us as weak. And that will encourage them to attack us again.
Um, yes. That's why we're going to get rid of Saddam. Remember 9/11? I do. I saw the WTC burn. Do you know why that happened? Because for years the terrorists poked and killed and bombed and humiliated our bloodied soldiers while Bill diddled with an intern under the Oval Office desk. Getting rid of Saddam is part of cleaning out that nest of poisonous vermin.
So, here we sit, in and around the Persian Gulf, poised to enter into Babylon, caught between Iraq and a hard place. Going forward is fraught with peril. Going back is fraught with peril.
Iraq and a hard place! Hahaha! Did you think of that in the bathroom, and write it on toilet paper with your wife's lipstick? Or did you steal it from someone else? Clever to use "Babylon" instead of the modern "Baghdad" - shows the extent of your education and literary reach. Not quite sure what you're doing with the "fraught with peril" thing, though. War is always fraught with peril, and this is one we didn't start.
I don't like where the madness of King George has brought us. I don't like it one damned bit. I don't like how he got us here. I don't like the fact that he is trying to buy allies in what appears to be a holy war for him.
Good swing back to your opening metaphor, nice use of another curse word to say I mean business, buster! This is not your mother's column! I'm confused here, though. The "madness" of "King George" got us here? I thought it was the failure of Bush I and Powell in Gulf War I, the intransigence of Hussein, the lily-livered duplicity of the UN, the festering of terrorism fed by Saddam's blood money, that diddling in the White House back a few years ago... Are you on an alternate universe? Or just sucking down Dowd for too long?
And you also win Best Use Of Nutcase-Christians Meme With Sly Reference To Terrorist Jihad.
I remain convinced that we are where we are because Hussein offered a convenient election-year distraction to make American voters forget that Osama bin Laden was still loose when they went to the polls last November and because the son feels compelled to clean up Daddy's unfinished business. I also remain convinced that North Korea is a more serious immediate threat to our national security.
Good summary of the DNC talking points. Could use a little verve. A little originality. A little truth, maybe. But hey! We don't want you to strain your brain by actually thinking.
But unlike most of my colleagues on the Herald-Leader editorial board, I believe the consequences of retreat would be worse than the always dreadful consequences of war. From this position that the madness of King George has brought us to, we can't afford not to put Hussein in that body bag -- figuratively if not literally. To do otherwise would only embolden our enemies.
You know, that's very very scary - you're the moderate one on the editorial board. Repeat after me: The Lexington Herald-Leader is committed to objectivity. The Lexington Herald-Leader is committed to objectivity. The Lexingt... Nah, I don't believe it either. But at least, after all your angst and parroting the DNC and apparently using Janeane Garofalo as your authoritative expert on Middle East Policy, you manage to get to the correct conclusion anyway - Saddam needs to be dead. And we need to get our war on.
Although I don't like where we are and what we must do
As contrasted to, say, King George at a BBQ yellin', "YAAAA-HOOOO, we gonna smoke some Iraqi rumproast tonight!!!" You know how these demented bully pyromaniac schoolboy kings can be.
I take solace in the hope that there will be a silver lining in these storm clouds:
You're looking for the money too? What are you, French?
that this blind rush into war
Which took twelve years
with insufficient thought for human or economic consequences
Evidenced by the 17 UN resolutions and months of international debate
will be the impetus for American voters to limit the madness of King George to one term.
In your wet dreams, boyo. In your wet dreams.
I think Ari Berman means to be funny in this article he wrote for Editor & Publisher on how very small dailies are opining on the potential for war with Iraq. While there are amusing moments - ones ringing true for me, a former reporter at some pretty tiny papers - what he mostly winds up being is condescending.
"We don't really have an editorial page," said Jim Stoute, news editor of the Blackwell (Okla.) Journal-Tribune, daily circulation 2,513. "We're lucky to have a front page and an obit page." Noted Terri Hacket, news editor of the Macon (Mo.) Chronicle-Herald, daily circulation 2,545, "Associated Press is our only link to the outside world."
After four weekly E&P surveys examining the 50 largest-circulation newspapers' editorial views on the Iraq crisis gained wide notice, we launched a grassroots mission -- to discover what the nation's 50 smallest-circulation papers thought about a possible war. These views from the heartland largely come from "Red" (pro-Bush) states. Of the 50 smallest papers, 18 are in Kansas or Oklahoma. Seventeen other papers, besides those in Kansas, are in the Midwest.
Turns out, very few of them are even opining on Iraq, let alone taking hard-and-fast stances, either hawkish, as does The Wall Street Journal, or dovish, like The Sun in Baltimore. Only five of the tiniest 50 have published editorials of any sort on the subject...
...the Bisbee (Ariz.) Daily Review, the smallest general-interest daily in the United States, with a circulation struggling to reach four digits, has actively chronicled the march to war. Bisbee is 25 miles from Fort Huachuca, where the Army's 11th Signal Brigade (1,200) outnumbers the paper's circulation (985). Although close to the troops, the town of Bisbee has had two peace rallies in the last month and the Daily Review remains skeptical of mammoth nation-building efforts of the kind that would be needed in a postwar Iraq. "While we may want to export capitalism and freedom throughout the world," it editorialized, "attempting to mold nations in our image is a false step."
...The Lyons (Kan.) Daily News (circulation 2,321), on the other hand, took the opportunity Feb. 6 to pummel the "elite," Franco/German, anti-American media. Such an editorial would fit snugly in the pages of the New York Post (circulation 590,061).
...at least this survey was easy to complete. Last month, the Houston Chronicle transferred me to four different departments before finally faxing an editorial (three days later), addressed to "R.A. Burnham." But now, when I called the Council Grove (Kan.) Republican, circulation 2,150, and asked for the editor, the secretary put down the phone and hollered, "Crrrraig!" Within five seconds, the editor was on the line with what was now familiar news: "We don't have an editorial page."
Yes, I'm being a bit defensive on behalf of the little newspapers. The writers and editors don't lunch at Tavern on the Green, none of them are likely to be embedded with troops in the Middle East, and I'd say not many have degrees from the Columbia School of Journalism. But the sly humor in this piece just highlights why the media "elite" really don't get it - they're too busy comparing themselves to themselves, leaning confidingly over the table at a tony Manhattan eatery or Washington, DC, bistro, sharing sotto voice, "And then she put down the phone and yelled, "Crrraaaiiiggg!!" Ha ha ha.
Maybe the New York Times would serve it's readers better if that's all it took to get Howell Raines on the line.
Arthur Silber has on his site a letter written by an American soldier in 1918:
"It is a strange feeling to me but a very real one, that every letter now that I write home to you or to the little sisters may be the last that I shall write or you read. I do not want you to think that I am depressed; indeed on the contrary, I am very cheerful. But out here, in odd moments the realisation comes to me of how close death is to us..."
Read it all, and realize that now as then this is true:
Ten million dead -- and a story behind each of them probably not unlike this one.
We pray that the number this time will not even be one percent of that 10 million, on anyone's side. But the fight for freedom always means sacrifice, and the ones doing the sacrificing are all like Mike Spann and Frank Earley - real people with dreams, hopes, families and a joy in life.
"I believe in the meaning of honor and integrity. I am an action person who feels personally responsible for making any changes in this world that are in my power...because if I don't, no one else will".
A passage from his CIA application
Frank Earley is buried at Bac-de-Sud Military Cemetery, Bailleulval, near Arras.
Shannon Spann, widow of CIA officer Johnny "Mike" Spann, and her three children, from left, Emily, 4, Alison, 10, and Jake, 11 months, visit her husband's grave at Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day, Monday, May 27, 2002
Many American journalists covering The Current Unpleasantness will do so outside the deal with the military allowing journalists to be embedded with troops. I'm not surprised by this - I would have thought it was an "of course!" Having the opportunity to be embedded will give journalists access to events and information they wouldn't otherwise have had. But I would - and do- think poorly of a news organization that put all it's people in that position. There's a lot more going on, and somebody needs to cover it. The opportunity should be about having an even better rounded coverage than previously possible, not narrowing it down to a government-sanctioned news feed.
Somehow, somewhere, somebody apparently thought someone was dissing the journalists who are not embedded, because in this article they're coming out of the woodwork to say they're better than the ones who are embedded:
Still, the "unilaterals" -- as they are widely known -- appear glad to make their own choices. Embeds "can only do what they want you to," said Chang W. Lee, a photographer for The New York Times who is also stationed in northern Iraq. "We are here to find out what really happened. Once you are with the troops, you do what they want." John Makely, a nonembedded photographer with The Sun of Baltimore working out of Kuwait, agreed.
They are free to cover the truth! They are not impeded by The Big Bad Government (that would be US, not Iraqi). They, not their embedded colleagues, are the carriers of the torch of Freedom of Speech, Truth, Objectivity, and whatever other drivel* they are using to feel good about themselves. There's enough whine in these folks to make me think they must be French (or at least eat brie daily).
It's not a better or worse. It's a different kind of coverage. Duh. Get over yourselves.
I was a bit amused by a couple of cuts from it. See if you can figure out why:
"I think we will have opportunities to hook up with forward units," said Karl Vick, a correspondent for The Washington Post, using a satellite phone outside his hotel in Sulaymaniyah in northern Iraq, while grilling fish with a few other reporters. "The downside is that the American military shoots a lot of people. You might want to be on their side of the line when that happens."
However, Laurie Goering, a correspondent for the Chicago Tribune, admits that the embeds have one significant advantage. "It looks like it will be safer to be embedded," she said via phone from the Kuwait City house she is sharing with six other Tribune Co. journalists. "When you are by yourself in the desert, it is harder to tell what is coming your way."
Yes, they're traveling in packs. Even when they're being "independent" they're hanging together. How much would you like to bet they get story ideas off each other? I don't care, particularly, but it does make it more likely they'll focus on something they think collectively is important, rather than having the independence they vaunt about. I realize that for safety purposes, it's wise to do what they're doing. I'm not being critical of that. Just saying, go easy, guys, there are a lot of ways to limit opportunities, and good reasons too sometimes without the government even being involved.
Disclaimer: I know some of the journalists in the article aren't being arrogant little snots. I expect those are the ones who will turn in the best work. That's usually the case.
* Those things aren't drivel, but the way they are being used is drivelish. Is that a word?
I see in my mindâ€™s eye a photograph of my father, standing straight and proud in his Army Reserve uniform, during the ceremony where he made captain. It brings memories of being a little girl, hugging this tall, handsome man who felt strong and a little scratchy in his uniform. I felt safe when he was around.
I also remember the summer when I was just old enough to understand what war was. It was during the Vietnam War. Each summer my dad went away for two weeks to reserve camp, and this year I began to grasp the edges of the knowledge that his uniform and that war might come together, and if they did he might not come home. I slept with his photograph beside my bed, and more than once I cried myself quietly to sleep.
He was never called up, but I still can feel that hollow fear I felt as a little girl when I think of the children whose daddies â€“ and mommies â€“ are in Afghanistan, Kuwait, other places overseas and soon Iraq. Some of them wonâ€™t come home. Others will sacrifice time with their families, big moments in their childrenâ€™s lives, and career advancement while theyâ€™re called up as reservists to fight this war. I think itâ€™s important that we remember the lives the reservists leave behind, and encourage their employers to extend full salary â€“ either in addition to or supplementing their military pay â€“ and benefits to these soldiers so they and their families have one less worry in a scary time.
Mike at Cold Fury and I have set up a website to do just that - The Home Front. It includes this list of employers ; itâ€™s a dynamic thing, so please feel free to send us more where you have personal knowledge of their support for soldiers. I encourage all of you to write emails of thanks to these employers and, if possible, patronize their businesses. Let them know you support their support of our troops. And pray that all the daddies and mommies, aunts and uncles, sons and daughters come home.
We also ask that any of you with websites to please link The Home Front and, if you truly feel energetic, add it to your blog list. Mike is not only hosting the site, he did the design - beautifully, I might add, including that custom banner - and he's also made a link button that's at the site or in the upper right section of my sidebar if you'd like to use it on your own page.
Supporting our troops is something every American should be doing, no matter where your stance on the war. They're the ones who make this country safe.
This, of course, from an industry that will print a press release almost without reading it.
I don't know if the questions were scripted, although obviously who got to ask one was predetermined. Certainly some of the obnoxious condescension of some reporters couldn't have been the preference of the White House. And you know what? None of them had to be there. No one had to write about it. What a rich thing that would be, for Bush to hold a press conference and nobody attends! They'd really chuckle over that down at the press club.
This president has not gone unchallenged. The media needs to stop acting as if they're the only safeguard against tyranny - and stop vacillating between stupid and evil as the best Bush appellations. He can't be both and do what he's doing. Maybe if they'd get off their butts and do some actually investigative journalism, they wouldn't have so much time to whine about a Presidential reality play.
A psychiatrist specializing in the psychological scars left on soldiers by war uses neuroscience, evolution and Homer to explain what's going on and how to make it better.
Dr. Shay, 61, is a psychiatrist who specializes in treating the psychological damage combat inflicts on soldiers. His approach is woven out of the different strands of his life: part neuroscience, part evolutionary theory, part psychiatric empathy and part Homer.
When he argues that the military is too prone to treat soldiers as interchangeable parts rather than people, he will cite e-mail messages from Vietnam veterans, historical studies of slavery, work on stress hormones and Book 1 of the "Iliad."
...His first book, "Achilles in Vietnam," published in 1994, compared the experiences of soldiers in the Trojan and Vietnam Wars to argue that war's psychic wounds â€” what is now called post-traumatic stress disorder â€” have always existed.
Those spiritual injuries, Dr. Shay wrote, didn't arise just from bad luck in combat. They were the consequences of soldiers' feeling mistreated by their own commanders. Grunts who didn't feel cared for by the officers felt what Achilles felt against Agamemnon in the epic.
Very interesting. I do think we expect soldiers to return to daily life as if they were in Cancun for a few months, not living in rough conditions and most likely involved in killing people; it's not fair, and I think makes the readjustment harder than it has to be. Can you go from dropping bombs to making pancakes for your kids on a Saturday morning without some kind of disconnect? I don't think I could. I'm not sure Homer's the answer, but it's definitely an issue we need to consider as we move toward war.
(At least, we'd better be moving toward war!)
It's been a busy day; didn't sleep much last night, was at work by 7 a.m. and just got home. I'm down to my last nerve, and at the point that I'm about to beat my radio to death with a Swiffer mop if they play that US Window Factory commercial one more time. It has this fast-talking pitchman with a background chorus of high school girls saying "We TOLD you so!!" in a knowing way only teenagers can achieve. Isn't this where they tell you to tie a knot and hang on? I think I'll tie a knot in a VERY heavy rope and smack those girls with it.
It appears I'm in a good mood to eviscerate something. I'll go see what I can find.
UPDATE: Well, it appears that the only thing I'm capable of eviscerating tonight is a section of fresh ginger. So I'll share with you one of my favorite recipes, which I hauled out tonight for some comfort food.
(Both recipes from Cooking Light magazine)
Malaysian Chicken Pizza
ÂĽ cup firmly packed brown sugar
Âľ cup rice wine vinegar
ÂĽ cup 62% less-sodium soy sauce
3 TBSP water
2 TBSP chunky peanut butter
1 TBSP peeled, minced fresh gingerroot
Â˝ to Âľ tsp crushed red pepper (I donâ€™t use this J Iâ€™m a wimp)
4 cloves garlic, minced
Â˝ lb skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces
Â˝ cup (2 oz) shredded reduced-sodium Swiss cheese
ÂĽ cup (1 oz) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
1 (12-inch) Basic Pizza Crust
ÂĽ cup chopped green onions
Combine first 8 ingredients in a bowl; stir well with a wire whisk. Set aside.
Coat a large nonstick skillet with cooking spray; place over medium heat until hot. Add chicken, and sautĂ© 2 minutes. Remove from pan; set aside.
Pour vinegar mixture into skillet; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook 6 minutes or until slightly thickened. Return chicken to skillet; cook 1 minute or until chicken is done. (Mixture will be consistency of thick syrup.)
Sprinkle cheeses over prepared crust, leaving a Â˝ inch border; top with mixture. Bake at 500 degrees for 12 minutes on bottom rack of oven. Sprinkle with green onions. Remove pizza to cutting board; let stand 5 minutes. Yield: 6 servings (about 292 calories per wedge)
Protein 18.3; Fat 7.6; Carb 37.9; Chol 33; Iron 2.6; Sodium 389; Calc 148
Basic Pizza Crust
(from Cooking Light magazine, Sept/Oct 1991)
1 TBSP sugar
1 pckg dry yeast
1 cup warm water (105-115 degrees)
3 cups all-purpose flour, divided
ÂĽ tsp salt
1 tsp olive oil
1 TBSP cornmeal
Dissolve sugar and yeast in 1 cup warm water in a large bowl; let stand 5 minutes. Stir in 2 Âľ cups flour, salt, and oil to form a soft dough.
Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead until smooth and elastic (about 5 min); add enough of remaining flour, 1 TBSP at a time, to prevent dough from sticking to hands.
Place dough in a bowl coated with cooking spray, turning dough to coat top. Cover dough and let rise in a warm place (85 degrees), free from drafts, 1 hour or until doubled in bulk.
Punch dough down, and divide in half. Roll each half of dough into a 12-inch circle on a lightly floured surface. Place dough on 12-inch pizza pans or baking sheets coated with cooking spray and sprinkled with Â˝ TBSP cornmeal. Crimp edges of dough with fingers to form a rim. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85 degrees), free from drafts, 30 minutes. Top and bake according to recipe directions. YIELD: 2 (12-inch) pizza crusts, about 720 calories each.
NOTE: Store half of dough in freezer up to 1 month, if desired. Let dough rise; punch down, and divide in half. Dust half with flour; wrap in plastic wrap, and store in a zip-top heavy-duty plastic bag in freezer. To thaw, place dough in refrigerator 12 hours or overnight; bring to room temperature, and shape as desired.
Protein 19.8; Fat 5.1; Carb 145.3; Chol 0; Iron 8.9; Sodium 299; Calc 30.
Rush Limbaugh's guest host today, Tom Sullivan, just mentioned the blog LT Smash, the blog of a soldier in Iraq. I'd love to see what kind of spike that gives his stats. I just tried to get on it and it wouldn't load. Hmmm.
Another sign that blogs are taking hold in the mainstream. He said (loose transcription), "Have you heard of blogs? They're like... Drudge, only he writes about news, and they write about anything and everything. They're good writers that some people like to read. Andrew Sullivan is one I like to read..."
That is very cool. I'm glad he didn't say, "It's one of those diary like things where people meander on, only some people do more serious stuff."
I was waiting for this. I was actually hoping for this. In fact, if she hadn't done this I was going to send her an email today saying, "So?! What do you think about what I said?" Meryl Yourish has responded to my post from yesterday about Mel Gibson, the rabbi and the movie. Her basic point is: Susanna, you're wrong.
I see her points. I recommend you read them. I've said my piece already.
(Okay, I'll make one more: If Mel Gibson in any way tries to stir up anti-Jewish sentiment by misrepresenting truth, then he deserves all the derision and condemnation headed his way.)
UPDATE: Meryl - the gift that keeps on giving. (That means she's posted more, btw.)
PILING ON UPDATE: Diana Moon and AC Douglas have a few things to say on their own blogs, as does Alan at Theosebes. Lynn B links but mostly to link Meryl et al. I don't think she's very happy with me.
(NOTE (3-12): Lynn, you need comments on your blog! Just because you're not happy with me now doesn't mean I think you don't like me and won't ever again. Of course you love me. Doesn't everyone?
Seriously, I anticipated that this would cause a mini-firestorm, and I looked forward to it. I think we're all better off getting these kinds of things out in the open and discussing them - even with a good deal of heat - as long as we keep from getting ugly about it. Which you have. And most everyone else has too. Even, shockingly enough, me.
And I love you back :).
AND STILL MORE: Here's a fascinating transcript of an interview with Phillip Jensen, the new Dean of Sydney's Anglican Cathedral, St. Andrews. He hits on the second issue discussed in my original post - that the various major religions are not compatible doctrinally. His point is that if you believe that what one religion teaches is the truth, then you by definition can't believe all of what the others teach. Sometimes they're mutually exclusive. For example, either Jesus lived or didn't. Either he died or didn't. Either he was resurrected or he wasn't. To say otherwise is illogical.
I was intrigued - in light of this discussion - to see that the rabbi quoted immediately associated Jensen's statements with violent wars of religion in "the bad old days". Folks, disagreement about what is truth doesn't have to be a source of violence between people. I can disagree with you about religion and be perfectly content living beside you, working with you, babysitting your kids, having you housesit for me, respecting and loving and admiring you... Believing someone is wrong doesn't automatically mean a leap into violence and forced conversion. I'm peaceful and loving, honest I am.
[Link via Theosebes]
UPDATE: Comments are closed on this post. The ones already posted run the gamut, and nothing will be deleted or changed. But I don't want this to degenerate into anything less productive, and I don't want to monitor months of additional comments from people who wander in from Google. You're welcome to post about it yourself, and trackback the page.
Publishers and media outlets that cover writers are watching the progress to war with keen interest. Their experience from 9/11 showed that in the wake of news that outstrips any book for horror, intensity and immediacy, the nation's interest in reading non-news related books dips:
"Book sales just stopped after Sept. 11," said Jane Friedman, president and chief executive officer of HarperCollins, the publishing division of the News Corporation. Extrapolating from company research into the impact on sales of the 1991 gulf war and the Sept. 11 attacks, Ms. Friedman said: "The effect at the cash registers is going to be considerable. We have done numbers. It will be millions of dollars in lost revenue."
The slow buildup to a potential war has not affected the major houses' publishing schedules, which are often set as long as a year in advance. But with memories of the impact of Sept. 11 on book publicity still fresh, publishers are anticipating weeks of lost bookings and are resigned to the fragility of promotion plans...
Jack Romanos, president and chief executive of Simon & Schuster, said it would be difficult during a war to get authors on the air if their books were not related to current events. "The focus will be on the war, if it happens, and we know we'll lose access to the media for publicity purposes for the duration," he said.
Andrea Smith, a "Today" show producer who oversees author bookings, said: "We are looking carefully at books that relate to the war. We are also trying to figure out what we might need to cancel if the war happens." She estimates that about 60 percent of the authors usually scheduled on "Today" have written news-related books. "If there is a war, a hundred percent would have to be news-related," she said.
A tragedy like the terrorist attacks can abruptly change the public's taste in books: people look for information, not entertainment. In times of crisis, publishers also report a rise in sales for spirituality books.
"I would have thought people would want to escape," Ms. Friedman said, "but I've seen the numbers. It's strange to talk this way, but we had this experience only 18 months ago, and we think we know what the reaction will be."
Very interesting. I wonder how the numbers break out amongst the genres. If I had to guess, books will do well in the genres where evil is faced and conquered (action, thrillers, mysteries, even westerns) or where you can lose yourself in something that will warm your heart and always end well (romances, specifically). During difficult times, readers don't want to read about someone's self-absorption and angst, modern novels where everyone sleeps with everyone else, male and female, tossed about from affairs to drug addiction to standing stalwart in the face of Male Oppression or Capitalist Hegemony. When the world is shrouded in gray, we need a little black and white.
I do think that the next Harry Potter will fly off the shelves, if anything with greater alacrity than before - another classic retelling of the good vs evil tale.
The coverage of the war will be different this time, just as the war itself will be different:
In a warehouse that until a few weeks ago housed American tanks and armored vehicles, which are now in Kuwait preparing for a war against Iraq, a Hollywood set designer is overseeing feverish efforts to complete a $200,000 stage in time for military briefers to deliver news of that war to gathered reporters and a worldwide television audience. The glitzy, high-tech set, half as wide as a basketball court, features a soft focus blue and white map of the world as its backdrop. Hanging from industrial gray steel stanchions and girders will be five 50-inch and two 70-inch plasma video screens. The TV screens will display all manner of video, computer images, maps and just about anything else officers from America’s Central Command might want to show...
Air Force Col. Ray Shepherd, director of public affairs for Central Command, said, “We use the latest technology in our military operations. It’s only fitting we use it here.”
...if the TV set up seems a bit slick, there is also at work here a fundamental change in philosophy that may alter even more dramatically than the bells and whistles what it is the world will learn of this war.
During Desert Storm, journalists were kept on short leashes by their military media handlers. Access to frontline troops was rare. The generals running Desert Storm came of age during the Vietnam War and their tight control over the media was a reaction to news coverage in Vietnam where unfettered media access to the troops resulted in what many in the military saw as unfairly critical coverage. There grew up a glass wall between the civilian media and the military.
This time around, more than 800 journalists will live in the field and onboard ships with the 250,000 soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen who are expected to take part in the war. At no time in Vietnam were that many reporters and photographers in the field with troops even though there were twice as many troops as here in the Arabian Gulf.
All this is actually a good thing. It's difficult to foster a lie in the face of so many people dedicated to digging up the truth and the access to do so. Both the military and the journalists will be kept on their toes.
[Link via Romenesko]
Mel Gibson is reportedly close to finishing a movie on the last 12 hours of the life of Jesus Christ, a project he's doing using his own money so he has complete control of the outcome. Gibson has said it's for the purpose of "telling the truth" and, some say, undoing Vatican II. I don't know much about Catholic church law, but apparently part of Vatican II was a papal "rejection of the notion that the Jews were collectively responsible for the death of Jesus". Now Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder of the Simon Weisenthal Center in NYC, is asking Gibson to make sure his film doesn't "undo" the good of Vatican II and again "unleash more of the scurrilous charges of deicide directed against the Jewish people".
I have sympathies with the rabbi, but I think we have to be very careful here with history. The New Testament makes very clear that the Jewish leaders of Jesus's day plotted against him for quite a while before eventually becoming the conduit through which Pilate became the instrument of his death. In that sense, the Jews were responsible for his death. It's revisionist to say otherwise.
Where I agree with the rabbi is that Christians should not hold Jews today accountable for that act almost 2000 years ago. In fact, many Jews of Jesus's day were not behind the plot. Jesus himself was Jewish, as were all of his apostles and all of his initial followers. The history of the Jewish people up until the death of Christ is the history of Christianity as well. Nothing is served by animosity between the two religions now, and I would say that a person proclaiming Christianity who mistreats a Jewish person is going directly against New Testament teachings. In that sense, I would join with the rabbi in saying that I hope Gibson's movie doesn't indicate there's still a score to settle.
This kind of thing bothers me on a grander scale, though - I abhor all this "I'm OK, You're OK!" umbrella that tries to draw all religions into the same place of amorphous "spirituality" that's at core the same thing but just expressed in different ways. The religions themselves say otherwise. Religious Jews today deny that Jesus Christ is the Messiah foretold in OT times. There's no way around that fact. Christianity is predicated on Jesus being the Messiah, which obviously directly contradicts Judaism. Islam recognizes Abraham, Moses and Jesus as prophets - which some use as a way of pointing out how Islam plays well with others - but it too denies that Jesus is deity, holding Mohammed above them as the direct path to God. The beliefs of Islam, Christianity and Judaism cannot be merged into one "spirituality" without stripping from all of them their central tenets. And I won't even go into the religions where Biblical figures do not factor in, as they are even more apparently at odds with the three; I include atheism and secularism in that group.
Trying to find a way to merge these disparate beliefs is, I think, precisely the wrong way of finding a political place where all religions can coexist. Those who are truly committed to the central tenets will always rebel against this corruption and - to them - blasphemy of their beliefs. I know I would and do. There will always be chafing between what the groups each think is the right thing to do, and creating little cultural enclaves within our country where each can do his or her own thing unchecked is also a bad idea. What the groups have to do is come together and say, we have to live together. What structure is going to do that? A part of that negotiation is an understanding that some belief systems by their very nature will not work in the United States. For example, the belief systems of some white supremicist groups (nominally Christian, although I cringe to even tangentially give them that name), the Wahhabism form of Islam, and some more virulent forms of other religions such as Hinduism or the black forms of witchcraft or voodoo.
The traditions of Christianity and, by inference, Judaism, were a strong part of the political and legal foundations of this country. I believe those principles are among the strongest reasons we continue to be successful today, and I think the extent to which we move away from them is the extent to which our nation becomes weaker. However, I also think that most major religions have a lot in common with Christianity in their tenets on how to treat others (with the exception, as noted above, of the more radical hate-everyone-else subsets). There is a place where we can retain the best parts of what this country is, and still provide the fullest freedom of religion in the world. But part of that will involve being honest about our beliefs, and accepting that in some ways we will never agree.
So when someone like the good rabbi comes along and makes a request as he has done, I think it's something worth discussing on a cultural level. But I don't think it serves the broader best interests to rewrite history in the hopes of all fitting under that spirituality umbrella.
UPDATE: Comments are closed on this post. The ones already posted run the gamut, and nothing will be deleted or changed. But I don't want this to degenerate into anything less productive, and I don't want to monitor months of additional comments from people who wander in from Google. You're welcome to post about it yourself, and trackback the page.
I spent most of yesterday in Manhattan, eating at a Persian restaurant and a Chinese ice cream store, infiltrating the Columbia University bookstore, and managing to spend 30 minutes in Strand Bookstore (8 miles of shelves!) without buying anything. The effort left me exhausted, as you can imagine, so that's why not much posting. And now I'm off to church. So I wanted to leave you with a few things to read, and I'll be back to harangue at something later today.
In honor of the prominent display at the Columbia University bookstore which included books by Noam Chomsky and Theirry Meyssan on the US's duplicity, I bring you Why Do They Hate Us?, an essay about two books by Frenchmen who see quite clearly that French anti-Americanism is based in France's own angst. [Link via Instapundit]
And of course any time Mark Steyn writes a column, you had best go read it. The latest is on how terribly the war on terrorism is going in light of the war on Iraq.
My friend and yours, that increasingly useful-to-dictators-but-deadly-to-his-own-countrymen Jimmah Carter, today fires another shot at his successor in an effort to prove he has at least as much relevance as the French. Fortunately the blogosphere is on the case. [Second link via Instapundit]
Dodd says Blix has ulterior motives.
And finally, Salam in Baghdad isn't quite sure a woman running things in Iraq after the war is a good idea. He's not actually too convinced the war is a good idea. If you're not reading Where is Raed?, you should be.
Lawrence O'Donnell started his career as a writer for television before spending over seven years working in Washington first as an advisor with Senator Patrick Moynihan and then as Democratic chief of staff of the United States Senate Committee on Finance from 1993 to 1995. He's back in Hollywood these days, first to work with West Wing, then to develop and produce Mr. Sterling. He was on Fresh Air Thursday night with a guest host, talking about his shows and his time in Washington. I came in at the end, which was a penetrating and candid look at the White Houses of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. It made such an impression that I went online and made a fairly close transcript of that section of the program; if you want to listen yourself, the show can be found here; the part I post here is from about 24 minutes in to just past 32 minutes.
I'm starting this in mid-comment from O'Donnell; I will occasionally start a new sentence where it wasn't clearly a separation in the audio, for readability. You can listen to it yourself if you worry that I misrepresent anything.
O'Donnell: I had a real hard time conceiving of an honorable president [when he began working on West Wing]. I had never witnessed one in my adulthood... which spanned from Lyndon Johnson through to Bill Clinton. And I worked with Bill Clinton fairly closely, and just ended up through that having a kind of a lower opinion of him with every professional encounter. But that's a whole long story which has nothing to do with Monica Lewinsky or political ideology, and everything to do with just effectiveness and professionalism in the workplace which he was not great at.
...Senator Moynihan is the most honorable person I have ever known.
Host: Did you identify with the policy wonks of the Clinton administration?
O'Donnell: That's a hugely exaggerated notion, that President Clinton was a policy wonk or anybody working in the West Wing was a policy wonk other than Gene Spurling. That's just the rap, that's just the image they wanted for themselves, the positive rap they wanted for that president, he was no more a policy wonk than any other president.
From my experience in the Oval Office with Bill Clinton, he knew about an index card worth of material. Let's put it this way, I was never in a meeting with Bill Clinton and the senators where Bill Clinton was not the single most ignorant person in the room. And I don't say that as a criticism, that's normal. He's from out of town, he's just come from a governorship... These governors that we make presidents, it's like taking the president of Avis and making him the president of Warner Brothers. What do you think he knows on the first day? They know nothing.
But the image that Clinton easily achieved was that he knew more than most presidents. That's because up against the White House press corps that's a really easy thing to achieve because no one's allowed three follow up questions in a row...
Host: What are your impressions of White House culture and the Bush administration?
O'Donnell: I'm hugely impressed by it, I have to tell you, I envy it a little bit because, you know, you get to work with one president in your lifetime... I was only going to get to work in one White House... it turned out to be the Clinton White House, which was a badly messy and disasterously run White House because all organizations resemble their head, and the head of that organization was just nutty. And I think we all now know that...
And Bush is so disciplined, this is totally policy aside because I really don't find myself in agreement, personal political agreement with the Bush administration on pretty much anything I can think of. But it's an extremely disciplined place, and runs in a wonderfully efficient way. Karl Rove has brought such a smart organized intelligence to the overall political view and political interconnectedness of everything...
Andy Card has run the most stable West Wing we have seen since possibly they built the West Wing. And he's a completely ego-less White House Chief of Staff who does a tremendous job and knows how to do it. I would have loved to have come into that kind of White House to do business instead of coming into a White House where people feared, who is going to tell this bad news about this vote count to the President's wife? Because no one wants to do that, because if they do they will be perceived by various people as an enemy, you know, it was madness, it was just madness, and unprofessional, and rampantly so... It was as bad as any Hollywood studio I ever had to deal with.
And there you have it.
Regardless of your views on policy, you have to admit that a tightly run White House brings greater confidence that the decisions being made are based on a decision process involving logic and purpose, not on fear of the President's wife and a need to raise something out of the chaos. One of the main reasons I posted this (other than I think it's funny to see the stuff on Clinton) is that it brings me a lot of comfort as we head into war to hear that the Bush White House is a scene of calm, reason and purpose. It settles my heart, somehow. It certainly reinforces my confidence that Bush is precisely the person we need right now to lead the country where it has to go.
I also like that it comes from someone who doesn't agree with Bush's policies. He's clearly not talking from a partisan view here. And that gives what he says all the more weight.
I may even wind up watching Mr. Sterling. But don't hold your breath.
I keep hearing, don't go into Iraq. What purpose will it serve? We're not at risk.
September 11, 2001
It's not as if the United States has been affected directly, or that Iraq has any connection to al Qaeda.
September 11, 2001
Besides, the arrogant United States deserves all it gets.
September 11, 2001
To all those people - these hypocritical and smug ones who have lived in freedom, off the wealth of this country, either as citizens or recipients of American largesse and lives - I say
September 11, 2001
You are no friend of mine. You are no friend of America. Your reasoning is flawed, your moral vacuity is an abyss. A world shaped after your vision would truly be a hell. And I'm thankful that this country is still strong enough, despite you, to do the right thing.
And I mean that sincerely.
Mike has posted Charlie Daniels' letter to the Hollywood idiotarians, which says exactly what I think about them. Only he's more eloquent.
Did I mention I love Charlie Daniels?
After nearly a year of trying, after humiliating myself repeatedly and publically with all manner of caption inanity, I have finally WON THE IPSE DIXIT CAPTION CONTEST! Yes, yes, I know. It's the pinnacle of an already distinguished blog career. I've been basking in my own glow for hours now.
I can now go gently into that dark night.
I thought George W. Bush did an excellent job in his speech and press conference last night.
There's both skepticism and support out there, with Lileks right on board with me (although perhaps not quite as enthusiastic) while he deftly identified the [Terry] Mor
oan of the night. The criticisms seemed to be mainly that Bush didn't look like he was jazzed and ready to fight. He was quite lowkey, and did that indicate tiredness?
I thought he gave the situation precisely the gravity it deserved. The tone to me didn't seem tired or bored or I'd-rather-be-eating-pretzels. What he seemed to me was a world leader taking off the media flash 'n dazzle suit, setting aside the efforts to impress or satisfy the cameras, and speaking from the heart about what's going on in the world and in his mind - the mind of the man who literally holds the security of the world in his hand. I am much more impressed by a simple, straightforward "We will disarm Saddam" delivered in a normal yet firm voice than I would be by some podium-pounding declamation. He wasn't performing. He was, as he said the UN must do, showing his cards. This was the best speech I have seen him make.
I also thought the media showed itself to be the liberal hacks so many of them are (especially when it comes to politics), led by Mor
oan. It was in part what they said, but also the tone in which they said it. Several revealed aggression, arrogance and condescension that clearly showed they think they're smarter than the president. They may think they scored points, but the truth is he won so big they can't see the top of his win from where they stand. And the tone of their questions bothered me for another reason - the relentless emphasis on "what the world thinks". I thought Lileks answered this the best, in his "ideal answer" to Mor oan's question:
while I agree that ordinary citizens have protested our government in foreign capitals, I’d ask you why American security should be determined by 26 year old Belgian college students, and I’d also note that these rallies have been organized by people who’d dance in the street if someone set off a tactical nuclear device in the lobby of the Monsanto corporate office. But more to the point, Terry, I’d ask: What went wrong in your education that you believe that the disapproval of China constitutes failure?”
I'm more confident than I've been in a while that the Bush Administration won't back down. I've been worried. I'm not anymore. So I think Bush did what he set out to do.
UPDATE: Andrew Sullivan thinks Bush just looked and acted exhausted, and worse, defeated. I genuinely don't get why he - and others - think that. No, he didn't do handsprings around the stage. No, he didn't play kissy-face nice with aggressive, hostile journalists. He did seem like he was at the end of his patience with diplomacy - not frustrated, or tired, just resolved and done with the make-nice. And that stripped-down version of the man is the best thing I've seen in a while. It tells me what's at his core, and I like what I see. He has a line in the sand, he tried to get others on board before reaching it, they didn't cooperate, so now he's reached it and he's closing down the boardwalk. All that's left is what has to be done, and he is the only person in the world who has to make that decision. And I'm very glad he's the one in power now that this moment has arrived.
UPDATE: Sigh. It keeps getting worse. Columnist Tom Shales at the Washington Post suggests Bush was medicated last night during the address. And that's one of the nicer things he says in his condescending attack. Mr. Shales, I wouldn't trust you with a loaded ink pen, much less the security of the world. I suggest you are the one who needs your meds adjusted.
Bryan of Arguing with Signposts, where I got the link, has a little more to say.
You've all heard about the reality TV show under development where CBS will put an Appalachian family into today's Beverly Hills and follow their (no doubt hilarious) efforts to figure out how to function in that environment. Well, now US Congressman Hal Rogers (R-KY) - who represents the district where I grew up and where my parents still live - is taking umbrage and telling CBS to cease and desist (scroll to the last item):
In a letter to [CBS President Leslie ] Moonves, Republican Rep. Hal Rogers expressed outrage over the proposed program, which moves a family from rural Appalachia to a Beverly Hills mansion and tapes their lives for a year.
Mr. Rogers said the show "will reinforce inaccurate stereotypes that have plagued Appalachian residents for decades."
"As a lifelong resident of Appalachian Kentucky, I am appalled by the very idea of this program, which seeks to humiliate and exploit rural Americans," wrote the congressman. "This program is an insult to the millions of people living in Appalachia, and CBS should pull the plug on this poorly conceived show immediately."
I've complained about the show before, and suggested they move a tony family from the Upper East Side of NYC (or, even better, a hippy-liberal wealthy-but-pseudo-for-the-poor Greenwich Village family) into deepest Appalachia and see how they make out. It's all about stereotypes. But I've lost a little of my own umbrage after hearing some Italians get frosted over The Sopranos. I say to CBS - do your best. Anyone who believes that's what Appalachia is all about already thought that before, and some lame reality TV show isn't going to cause a shift in the country's landscape of cultural stereotypes. The truth is, there are some families in Appalachia that fit the stereotype right down to the foil packet of Redman and the "I'll kill you before you kill me" attitude. Some bad bad people. But there's mostly people just like me and my parents and my wide extended family. Eh.
Just so long as they don't send Sarah from Joe Millionaire into the mountains. We don't need that kind of boost to the gene pool.
[Thanks to Dodd for the link]
Doggerel Pundit takes a walk through the Blogosphere in poetic form, mentioning a lot of your favorites - including yours truly - in the process. A fun read.
[Link via Silflay Hraka]
I just came across this:
45 Iranian girls are sold in Karachi (Pakistan) every month.
Mrs. Azam Naseripour (MP): Sale of Persian girls & women is among the most profitable smuggling businesses.
Following the recent published media reports on the smuggling of Iranian women and girls in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Mrs. Azam Naseripour (MP and a member of women's faction in Parliament), in an exclusive interview with WomenInIran.com, detailing Parliament's recent actions on diminishing such smuggling, said: women smuggling is only second to drug smuggling in Iran. She added: it has cultural and economical roots and I believe providing social welfare (which is currently being discussed in Parliament) is among the tools to reduce the problem.
Responding to the question of why we (Iran) don't join the world convention on prohibiting women smuggling, she said: I am personally not opposed to joining this convention but since most of these girls are sold by their fathers I believe joining the convention will only be a symbolic gesture and will not have any practical effects. We need to undertake grass root actions along with solving economical problems.
Answering if enacting new legislation to reduce the sale of girls by their
fathers can be effective, Mrs. Naseripour (MP from the province of Islamabad-gharb) replied: I don't think so.
It should be noted that the Pakistani daily "Mashregh" recently reported that on average 45 Iranian girls aged 16-25 are bought by rich men in Pakistan every month. The daily added that for the past 2 years a group of Iranian Baluchies have been smuggling these girls from the southeastern Iranian province of Sistan-Baluchestan into Pakistan and sell them in Karachi.
Selling women is also a big business in some former Soviet republics. Why are feminists threatening things like nude protests at a tony golf club when things like this happen with frightening regularity?
You know, I'm getting to where I love seeing things like this, because the fact that they're being covered so assidiously means someday they may lose their impact. I think they already have begun to do so, and the day can't come fast enough for me.
The latest play is by $2 million a year television news anchor Diann Burns. I can't improve on the way Chicago Sun-Times Robert Feder tells it:
Diann Burns, however, has been anything but silent since WLS-Channel 7 took her off the air while continuing to pay the remainder of her $2-million-a-year contract, which runs through June 30.
Until last week, Burns, 45, had been the No. 1 news anchor at the No. 1 station in Chicago. Despite the entreaties of her ABC bosses to sign a long-term deal for more money, Burns and her agent/husband, Marc Watts, made a calculated business decision not to accept an early renewal of her contract. Instead, they chose to wait it out until they could make a deal with WBBM-Channel 2's Joe Ahern or whomever else might be the highest bidder.
When it became clear to all that Burns was looking to bolt, Channel 7 bosses made their own calculated business decision to take her off the air. If Burns and Watts didn't see it coming, they must have had blinders on.
Rather than sit out her time on vacation and wait to make a triumphant comeback later this year as Ahern's brightest star, Burns became intoxicated with her own self-importance.
When she wasn't praying with her husband and pastor or, as she said, "giving [the] matter to God," she spent much of last weekend spinning the local African-American media.
Suddenly, there was Burns popping up all over black radio stations with her sad story of unfair treatment by Channel 7.
An interview with Burns in the Defender reported "outrage and concern" in the black community over her plight and included a call for a boycott of Channel 7 by a group called Black Women for Economic Parity.
Watts also enlisted support from the National Association of Black Journalists by framing the whole issue as one of "freedom."
There's more, but I'll leave you to mine that dark pit of greed. This woman made a bad calculation in her contract negotiations, and is now coldly using the history of prejudice against her race to claim that she's been mistreated. The only evidence she can offer is, basically, that she isn't getting her way so it must be because she's black. The bad part is, she's getting support all over the place, including from her pastor, professional organizations and even the Chicago city council.
Her behavior is greed writ large, and is precisely the kind of thing that makes it nearly impossible for us to develop a society that truly doesn't count race as anything but an interesting cultural artifact rather than a defining characteristic. She's gouging, pure and simple. I don't really care what she does or doesn't do, because certainly that kind of complete and utter self-absorption and callous use of other people's pain for your own gain is not limited to any one ethnic, cultural, racial or social group. What's sad is to see a pastor involved - not that we haven't been exposed to that for years as Jesse Jackson hides a Judas heart behind a faux God face [again, a behavior seen across all religions and races, but other races can't use race as one of their tools of greed]. And it's sad too to see a group like the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) buying into it and thus damaging their own organization's credibility.
I'd be much happier to see that pastor denouncing Burns for her greedy efforts to use God and her ancestors' struggle to squeeze money from her bosses. And to see the NABJ showing that they can distinguish between prejudice and posturing to benefit salary negotiations. If they allow themselves to be shills for such an obvious money-grab, how can we believe them any time they claim prejudice?
The answer to that is: we can't.
A fascinating article in today's New York Observer lets us from flyover country look at the underbelly of the NYC political scene, as highlighted by the opinions pro and con for war in Iraq. One quote will serve as a shot across the bow in warning:
"The first time it hit me, I was at cocktail party Tina Brown gave for Arianna Huffington’s book," said Steve Brill, Newsweek contributing editor. "All the toasts came back to war and how horrible Bush is. My wife said, ‘This room is so unlike the rest of the country. It’s like being on a different planet.’"
Now, I doubt Brill was surprised that a pro-war stance wasn't welcome at a party for Arianna Huffington; it just brought that knowledge into sharp focus. The problem is, these people having mutual orgasms of agreement think not only that they're right, not only that everyone else is wrong, but that people who think they're wrong are by definition stupid and filled with an unreasoning blood lust. I see all over the place in conservative publications and blogs the little caveat "You can be against the war and still be both reasonable and intellectually honest", but you don't see any similar caveats emerging from the anti-war crowd.
Although, according to a writer I admire a great deal - Heather MacDonald, who often writes about policing for The City Journal - the pro-war types in Manhattan can be a bit orgasmic too:
...Heather Mac Donald, a fellow at the right-wing think tank, the Manhattan Institute, is that somewhat rare breed, an anti-war Republican. Among the "pro-war fanatics" she dines with regularly, she said, "you’re confident in your opinion, but why bother when it’s a futile gesture anyway?" So she mostly keeps quiet.
"I have a friend who works at The Wall Street Journal on the editorial side," said Ms. Mac Donald, "and he’s anti-war and he won’t even mention it, because there the unanimity is so strong."
There's a pro-war bias at the WSJ?! Who knew? I disagree with MacDonald on the issue of the war, obviously, but interesting to see a liberal as intimidated at the WSJ as a conservative would be at the NY Times. Good thing none of those biases show up in print, isn't it?
While the information in the article is interesting - evidence certainly of the worldviews through which the elite filter their understanding and possibly frame coverage of the news - the most striking feature is just the inside glimpse at New York City in action, including the clear attitude that what happens there is what matters most anywhere. Do you think you'd see a similar article about the elites in, say, Kansas City? Houston? or Miami? Possibly but not, I think, with the same sense of the people being movers and shakers on a national or international level.
My favorite two quotes:
"Personally," said Mr. [Christopher] Buckley [the editor of Forbes FYI], "my idea of a good time is not a screaming argument over the crĂ¨me brĂ»lĂ©e over the Iraqi civilian casualties. On the other hand, it’s a dead mouse on the living-room floor if you don’t—a dead mouse the size of California."
"Usually, I just keep my mouth shut," said Richard Johnson, the New York Post’s Page Six columnist. "I feel like I’m being asked to perform for liberal friends. They’ve never heard any of these views; they can’t believe you would be such a heretic. It’s like having the wrong handbag."
The Iraqi war as compared to crĂ¨me brĂ»lĂ©e, mice and handbags. Only in New York.
Yesterday I posted about a speech I heard James Taranto of Opinionjournal.com give at the Fabiani Society on Tuesday night. It's now posted in its entirety here, which means you can fact-check me! How cool is that.
[Thanks to James Joyner of Outside The Beltway for a heads up on the link]
He's gone, but refuses to be forgotten no matter how hard we try.
And now I'm wondering why cut on the bias is not on that little free-floating link list he's got going there. Am I not even good enough for a dead blog, Spoons?!
(And yes, I'm deliberately ignoring the link in Everyday Blogs, because this is a new thing, and besides, I'm a woman, I can be inconsistent and/or unreasonable if I want to.)
Oh, wait. They're talking about cigarette butts. Nevermind.
A university is affiliated with a major, very conservative religious group. The executive vice president of the university makes it clear he thinks a lottery is the wrong way to support education, and lobbies against it. But at the same time, he also lobbies for private colleges to get the same amount in lottery-paid scholarships as public colleges, if in fact the lottery passes. After all, he wants his school to get its fair share.
It's only right.
What is wrong with this picture?!
[Link via Theosebes, who has a bit more to say.]
A group of Congressional Democrats are considering introducing articles of impeachment against President Bush and possibly members of his cabinet. It's just idiocy, and they know it. I can't resist, though, pulling out a couple of quotes from Head Brain Dead Francis A. Boyle, a law professor at the University of Illinois.
"It's under active review by several members of Congress," Boyle said. "It's going to take someone with courage, integrity and a safe seat to do this."
Hmmm... wouldn't one of the definitions of "courage" and "integrity" be someone who didn't have to hide behind a safe seat to be willing to speak her mind? And isn't saying a safe seat is necessary an admission that the majority of Americans don't agree with them?
"I'm not interested. I think it would be destructive for this country. This country needs healing, and that's why I'm running for president," said Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich of Ohio, the Progressive Caucus chairman.
Boyle said Kucinich's refusal to be involved in the impeachment planning was politically motivated.
"I think Kucinich might have done it if he had not decided to run for president," Boyle said. "I guess he concluded that might hurt his run for president."
Is Boyle trying to say here that his and other supporters' efforts aren't politically motivated? And it's just bizarre that he says in one place that someone with "a safe seat" will be needed to introduce the measure, and then turns around and criticizes Kucinich for refusing to be a part of it because it "might hurt his run for president". This man is a law professor? The whole effort is so stupid that even Rep. Jim "I-Love-Saddam" McDermott won't touch it.
Somebody needs to make these losers get a real job. They clearly have too much time on their hands.
Just a reminder to you all that I'm working with Mike of Cold Fury to put together a website listing companies that are either paying full salary to called up reservists or paying the difference between their military and regular pay. It's been slow going getting names of companies so far, so I need your help. A goodly portion of you have jobs, and likely know whether anyone in your company has been called up. It doesn't have to be a big national company, or big at all. Check with your company and find out what they do with reservists during this deployment. If they do make sure the reservists have full pay - either through paying it all or the differential - send me an email at email@example.com. I won't be listing the source of the information on the site, but I do need to know how you know it's true. Also include a website address if the company has one.
The draft site is here, but trust me - it's going to look so much better when it's a Mike-designed site, and not a Susanna-mucks-in-Blogger mess!
The reason I think this is important is twofold: First and foremost, the men and women who leave their families to fight this war are making a signficant sacrifice for all of us, and the last thing they need to worry about is whether their families will be able to make it financially while they're gone. Second, committing to this kind of payout can run to real money for the companies, because they will sometimes have to hire others to fill in temporarily and thus will pay twice for the same work. If they don't hire temps, then their workforce is down while their outlay and workload stay constant. I think companies who do make sure their reservist employees are covered financially deserve to be supported by us and thanked for their very real contribution.
CPO Sparkey at Sgt. Stryker and Michelle at A Small Victory have both already helped by requesting their readers to send in their list(s). I would appreciate it if any of you who have weblogs yourself would do the same. If you do, let me know and I'll put a thank you on this post.
Tim Blair has an excerpt from an interview with Australian PM John Howard, who demolishes the arguments of every human shield and anti-war idiotarian out there.
It was a New York kind of experience last night at the Fabiani Society, a group I'd not heard of before I received an email invitation to their monthly meeting. It said James Taranto* would be speaking, and cheese would be served. I decided I needed to know if the cheese was Taranto, French brie or some acceptable Wisconsin stand-in.
I arrived precisely at 6 p.m., after settling a disagreement with my cab driver about whether I said 43rd or 53rd street. The venue was an imposing stone building, with a small, tasteful nameplate. The suited attendant (concierge?) in the lobby directed me first to the coat check, then upstairs to a meeting room which inside looked like every meeting room in every conference hotel in America - opulent without being overdone or, for that matter, interesting. It was a very Republican crowd - no Birkenstocks, no flowing dresses, no ponytails on the men, no sequined anti-war slogans anywhere. It was all suits, wingtips, pumps, colors ranging from black to dark green, with occasional tasteful flashes of red. I felt a trifle underdressed but not out of place in my black cords and red sweater.
I must report that the refreshments included Brie cheese. And it was good brie. The woman serving herself before me was unconcerned when I pointed out that it was also French brie - or at least she ignored me while getting more.
Taranto turned out to be younger than I thought; Diana Moon was unimpressed, and Megan hasn't commented, but I enjoyed his talk. I confess I did think, at one point, "anyone who reads blogs knows all this already". But he mentioned the Axis of Weasels in his introductory remarks, actually crediting Scrappleface with injecting it into the popular media stream, and since Scott Ott is a friend I was immediately won over. He listed Bush's three reasons for the war - Saddam has pursued WMDs, Iraq is a human rights nightmare, liberating Iraq will give democracy a foothold in the region - then added his own. The US abandoned the Iraqi opposition in the early 1990s after telling them they had US support in overthrowing Saddam, Taranto said; because of that, "We have a moral obligation to free them."
The left put forward three myths in their fight against the war, he said: We're rushing to war, the war on Iraq is a diversion from the War on Terror, and the war on Iraq will increase terrorism. He spoke on those for a few minutes, but it can be summarized thusly: No, no and no. He did say that irresolution inflames the Arab street, not stalwart response to threat, and Saddam stands as a symbol of defiance for the fanatical Arab factions.
He also thought having the French on board with the Iraqi war would be valuable - they could help the Iraqi soldiers surrender.
Diana spiced up the question and answer period by asking very directly just how he thought the Iraqis were going to build a democracy when they didn't even know what one was. Check her post for details on that - "Democracy for Dummies" was mentioned. I'm afraid she's right that he didn't answer the question, although he did talk about it for a bit. But he was very good to chat with people afterward, and of course we hovered around him like moths at the backporch light.
I couldn't find a taxi when I left, so I hiked to the subway and got home in only an hour and a half. All in all, an excellent evening, and I'm looking forward to the next one. The people were obviously intelligent, informed and - in my judgment - right. A nice combination. But I'll have to tamp down my instinctual need to disrupt the flow with ... well, I don't know! Odd clothes, loud music, arriving on a Harley, something!
Maybe I'll have an anti-French sit-in next to the brie. And bring my own crackers.
A documentary filmmaker in Jersey City has made a film called:
Terror Town: Jersey city, USA
A blurb I received on it says:
This documentary film exposes tensions between Northern NJ Muslims and non-Muslims in the year following the attack on the World Trade Center... Screening to be followed by discussion on how to bridge the gap with the filmmaker and a panel of representatives.
I'm assuming the gap they're speaking of is the one between Muslims and non-Muslims, not the one between the filmmaker and the panel. The screening will be at 7 p.m., Wednesday, March 12, in Victory Hall at 186 Grand Street.
A blurb for it on the website of a local radio station reads:
The film explores the climate of suspicion and fear that has permeated post-9/11 Jersey City, a town with a substantial Arab and Pakistani presence.
Your Intrepid Reporter will likely be reporting back the next day. This should be good.
In a difficult time, when somber thoughts often overtake me, it's good to see something that makes me happy. Like this.
Cal Thomas has a little something to say to Nicholas Kristof.
Yes, I know LewRockwell.com gets frothy about the mouth, but they occasionally have interesting things to say and certainly they bring up important issues to think about (just like The Nation, and even NPR, do sometimes). Last night at The Fabiani Society meeting, someone had set out about a dozen photocopies of an article from LewRockwell.com by Jeffrey A. Tucker. I read it, to pass the time before Taranto spoke, and it got me so riled I started taking notes in the margins for a post today.
Tucker’s basic premise is that just about every political sin you can imagine is involved in conservatives’ willingness to support or be involved in the war on Iraq. His conclusion is that it’d sure be a fine thing if conservatives had the ideological and philosophical purity and behavioral consistency of libertarians. My conclusion is we’d sure be in a bad way if the stern-minded and self-righteous Tucker were in charge of things. Certainly there are some absolutes in life – there have to be, or societies couldn’t be sustained. But catty little snarks at people with whom you disagree without any alternative solution other than “let them go to hell in their own way” is not the best way to go about establishing those absolutes or gaining consensus on them.
Anyway, I’m not going to do a line by line fisk, just hit some highlights and leave you some meat to savage on your own. Tucker takes different conservative “categories” one by one, so I’ll follow his lead.
We've all encountered this in our private lives, people with whom we have agreed with on a huge range of economic and cultural issues are just downright wrong on the war.
Yes, and that would be you, Jeff.
They don't trust the government to run the economy, our families, or our schools, but think it is just great for the US to amass the largest military machine owned by any government in the history of the world, for the US and its allies to be the sole nuclear monopolists, for the US to slaughter people in a foreign country who have never done anything to us and spend twice that country’s GDP in doing so.
This is just breathtaking in its fundamental idiocy. Has he never heard of “peace through strength”? Imagine this scenario: You’re a 98-pound weakling and you’re wearing a fancy gold chain. You’re walking down the street and a 250-lb body builder says, give me your gold chain. What is likely to stop him from taking it: Your saying, “Hey dude! I’m all for liberty! You know, you leave me alone, I’ll leave you alone, life is good!” Or your pulling out a loaded and cocked handgun and pointing it at him? Now consider he turns his attention to the lady who runs a dairy and provides milk to your cheese-making business. He starts beating her up repeatedly, raping her, kills one of her kids and incidentally the milk production drops dramatically. Which is an adequate response: Get another supplier and mind your own business, or stop the beatings, rapes and killings and, incidentally, restore your milk supply? One of the points here, a point that Tucker and like-minded
idiotarians libertarians like to ignore, is that with bullies you don’t stand down and expect them to leave you alone. Especially if they’re already jealous of your gold chain.
That's only the beginning of the incredible ironies associated with conservatives who support this war. Whatever happened to Russell Kirk's "politics of prudence," to pro-life politics, to rules against entangling alliances, to opposition to big government? Every one of these tendencies is obliterated by the tyrannical mass killing associated with war.
Again we see stunningly simplistic reasoning. Isolationism is just fine when you have no connections to other persons or groups, no trade exchanges, no citizens from their country in yours, no common vision of liberty for all, no concern about who is killed where as long as the blood doesn’t stain your new suit, or the screams don’t keep you awake nights. This country would be much poorer morally, culturally and financially if we were closed to exchanges with other countries. I do think we need to stem the bleeding of public funds into the hands of illegals or countries that take our money with one hand and stab us in the back with the other. And I don’t want to see the US casting about for another place to deploy. But just because you put your hands over your eyes so you can’t see what goes on in the world doesn’t mean it’s morally right to ignore it, or that you won’t get slapped into the ditch without even seeing the blow coming. In fact, the latter is almost certain to happen.
I’m opposed to huge government, but I’m thinking we’d reduce it a lot more by attending to trimming domestic gimme programs rather than slicing up the military. And what’s this “tyrannical mass killing” business? What, are we going dump tons of deadly chemicals on hapless old men, women and children, killing them in piles on the streets of their hometowns? No, wait, it’s Saddam who does that.
Let me attempt to organize possible explanations for the lurch of the right into warfare ideology:
“Attempt” is a good description. We just hope next time he won’t “attempt” it, but actually “do” it. Nothing Tucker’s said so far – or actually nothing he’s about to say either – make any sense unless it’s that time of the month for him. PMS sucks, doesn’t it?
The influence of the neoconservatives. This is the theory of Paul Gottfried. The idea here is that a group of ex-Trotskyites who never really developed a fondness for liberty came on board the right and began to exercise undue influence. Just as they once favored world communist revolution, they now favor the global imposition of democratic "capitalism," which really means a New Dealish regime administered by enlightened bureaucrats wholly beholden to the US.
He rattles on more about this, but that’s the kernel. It’s the old “empire” argument, only this is an empire held together by socialist nanny-statism with regular obeisance (one assumes in some monetary or economic form) made to the US. I can see why he’s worried – it’s certainly been a prominent feature in all the wars and battles the US has fought on foreign lands in the past 100 years. Isn’t the vote next week on making Japan, Germany, France, Bosnia and assorted other countries into US territories?
Loyalty to the GOP. This theory holds that the typical Republican will go along with anything so long as it is enacted by "our" president. This theory easily explains the Congress, which depends on favors and largess from the executive. For low partisan reasons, GOP activists have a tendency to demonize the opposition to the point of not seeing how their own party has become just as bad… Under this theory, principle plays no role in politics; it is all about us versus them.
This theory holds that the typical Republican – as opposed to, say, the typical libertarian – drinks the party kool-aid as long as it has enough sugar. Nice. If only we conservatives could aspire to the moral heights of libertarians who don’t care if people die in droves in other places, and plot against the country of those self-same libertarians. Hey, I’m good, you’re good, life is good! I agree that sometimes partisanship overrides principle, and I hate to see that. But it’s not limited to Republicans, it’s not absent from libertarians, and while we can work to curtail it there’s never going to be a functional government where it doesn’t happen. And if this article by Tucker isn’t demonizing Republicans, I can’t imagine what would be. See “mote, beam”.
Wait, there’s more.
This theory has explanatory power, and is especially alarming considering the thesis of Jeffrey Frankel that the parties have switched places, with Democrats becoming the party of fiscal responsibility, free trade, competitive markets, and minimal government, while the Republicans have become the party of trade restriction, big government, and interventionist economics.
Well. Look at that. While I can honestly see that some Republican factions have gotten too cozy with the whole trade restriction/big government thing, to say that the Dems are better in those areas defies all reason. Apparently Tucker took his Midol with a chaser of bourbon.
TV versus Web. I've yet to meet a warmonger who isn't addicted to television watching, nor a peace person who is. Peace people tend to be better educated, avid readers of history (actual books!), and attached to alternative news sources. When a Bush administration official makes a claim about the perfidy of Iraq and the threat it presents to Americans, peace people Google it in order to verify it, and by doing so discover all the lies and distortions. In contrast, TV people are manipulated by the incessant hype of television: "Showdown with Saddam!!!" These days, for all the contrary points of view aired by television, they might as well be owned and run by the government.
This is the one that really burned my biscuits. My little margin note reads, “BUNK!” I’ve yet to meet a “warmonger” who is addicted to television! Clearly when Tucker feels a little better he needs to get out more. If you put “Warmongers” in place of “peace people” in his second sentence, you’d be a lot closer to the truth (unless by “alternative news sources” you mean Indymedia). Peace people “google” Bush and discover his “lies and distortions”? Peace people don’t even listen to Bush! They write their rebuttals before he even speaks! Yeah, they’re all about fact checking and reasoned discourse. What a load of smelly crap! The people who call Bush to account the most for not sticking to his principles, for waffling, for not holding the line for liberty and small government are conservatives, not flower-draped peaceniks. They are all burning up the travel routes to and from Iraq, morphing from idiotarian to human shield to human ballistic missile as they get their idiot ass out of harm’s way (sample quote: who knew we could be killed?). They haven’t time for googling.
Talk Radio.The same point applies to warmongering talk radio. In the 1990s, talk radio seem to be the cutting edge of populist opposition to big government. We loved it. In a strange transformation since Bush beat Gore, talk radio has become a national menace: ill-educated loud mouths whipping up party-line frenzies and treating all who disagree as vermin…Perhaps instead of embodying a new mode of popular education that can save the country, talk radio has merely dumbed down conservatism and turned it into a megaphone for fascist ideology.I’m glad to see that Tucker got his talking points from Tom Daschle in time to include this in his article.
Intrinsic corruption.Under this view, American conservatism is inherently and hopelessly bankrupt because of its lack of intellectual rigor and rejection of systematic thinking.As opposed to, say, Tucker’s brand of libertarianism, which apparently bypasses thinking altogether.
It holds too many contradictory ideas (emphasis on law and order plus liberty; free trade plus mercantilism; pro-American plus anti-empire; pro-freedom plus anti-personal liberty). There are no principles to which it is unyieldingly attached. It is therefore easily manipulated by the state and its interests. …I admit to having increasing sympathy with this perspective. Maybe conservatism is just a hoax, not an ideological cousin of libertarianism but rather from a different tribe entirely!
I would actually find some comfort in the thought that Tucker and I are not ideological cousins – that means there’s hope for me. This mix of nonsense almost defeats me. But I persevere. I won’t attempt to dissect each of his little comparisons here, but I can’t resist the first one.
Mr. Tucker. “Law and order” are what make “liberty” possible. I’ll be happy to take you through the lecture I give my freshman policing and corrections students on how society evolved as adherence to fundamental agreed-upon rules increased amongst disparate groups, enabling them to form mutually beneficial associations offering greater protection. The most successful of these groups also emphasized the importance of limiting demands for conformity – that’s the liberty part, if you don’t get it. Treasure the friction between law and liberty in your society – it means that the society still exists and is not under a totalitarian regime. Unlike, say, Iraq.
The eternal problem of nationalism.American conservatives have always prided themselves on their patriotism and seen liberals as alienated from our land and history. This sensibility has mutated to become a grotesque political form that periodically pops up in the history of nations: uncritical embrace of the ruling regime as if it embodies the mystical will of the people, combined with a belligerence toward foreigners and their sympathizers at home. It always leads to the dehumanization of the "other." This theory invariably raises the specter of Germany in the 1930s. Every school kids knows the question: how could a civilized country descend into barbarism in such short order and without people really recognizing what was happening right under their noses? How indeed! Perhaps conservatism is not a unique victim but rather its descent is only symptomatic of a generally base tendency in the nature of any people.
What is that rule that says the instant you invoke Hitler, you’ve lost your argument? I’m not surprised to find Tucker meandering into this swampy noxious pit too. I have yet to see any “uncritical embrace of the ruling regime”, even by the most avid Bushies of my acquaintance (actually, that would include me – the avid Bushies category, that is). There are howls on every hill, from “warmongering” bloggers to the National Review to television pundits to even (perish the thought!) talk radio. The public discourse is in full voice. Nobody’s descending anywhere, unless it’s Jeffrey A. Tucker into his own little libertarian world, eyes closed, hands over his ears, singing, I can’t hear youuuuuuuu!!! any time something comes along to challenge his preconceptions and preferred worldview.
He has some more drivel here, but even I have standards – some things are so easy that a light swat is overkill. I’ll just finish up.
In any case, it becomes increasingly difficult, if not impossible, for any friend of freedom to call himself a conservative… We have all had the feeling of reading some piece on National Review Online and thinking: I have nothing in common with these people! Well, perhaps it is they who are the conservatives, and you are not. We lost the word liberalism long ago, and only adopted the term conservative with the greatest reluctance. It is time to give it up too, neither describing ourselves as such nor allowing others to do so. We don't take our marching orders from neocons. We don't believe what we see on TV. We do not love the GOP. We are not nationalists. We believe in the idea of liberty. We are libertarians – a word that is not yet completely lost…
You missed one, Tucker. “Idiotarian”.
I don’t agree always with National Review Online, or any other publication for that matter. That doesn’t mean I have nothing in common with them. I have some things in common with a lot of liberals I know, and occasionally when the moon is high and I hold my mouth just right I have tiny bits of harmony with the more reasoned of the lefties. I can even honestly say that Tucker and I probably agree on more than a few things – at least on what the areas of concern are, if not the solutions. The problem with Tucker is that he reduces everything to such simplicity that it empties his arguments of value. He snarks and slaps and gets all righteous, without taking on a single real problem or offering any real solutions with a chance of success.
Tucker – I suggest you ditch the bourbon, get some prescription muscle relaxers, and next month just curl up with a hot water bottle and a basket of assorted types of chocolate. Trust me, it works wonders.
UPDATE: I email our friend Jeffrey, and he sends a link! See below.
From: "S. Cornett" (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Sent: Wednesday, March 05, 2003 11:14 AM
Subject: A brisk fisk
Mr. Tucker -
Just wanted to let you know I took great exception to your article title "Is
there something about conservatism?" and have dissected it at some length on
In case you aren't familiar with it, "fisking" is the term used in the
blogosphere for a detailed takedown of a disputed article, lovingly named
after useful idiot Robert Fisk. "Idiotarian" is, I think, self-explanatory.
cut on the bias
One of the commonest forms of madness is the desire to be noticed, the pleasure derived from being noticed. Perhaps it is not merely common, but universal.
Mark Twain, "The Memorable Assassination"
From: "Jeffrey Tucker" (email@example.com)
To: "S. Cornett" (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Subject: Re: A brisk fisk
Date: Wed, 5 Mar 2003 14:38:57 -0600
Very flattering! Thanks!
Oh, I see you like Mark Twain. So do I: http://www.libertystory.net/LSDOCTWAINWARPRAYER.htm
From: "S. Cornett" (email@example.com)
Sent: Wednesday, March 05, 2003 3:11 PM
Subject: Re: A brisk fisk
>Very flattering! Thanks!
You're welcome! I'll be more than happy to do it for you again sometime. :)
>Oh, I see you like Mark Twain. So do I:
That's very cool! Interesting that you were able to find a quote from him with about the same level of solution to a real problem that you had in your article. Quite clever. Did it take long to find? Or did you get a peace activist to google it for you?
Have a great day!
From: "Jeffrey Tucker" (firstname.lastname@example.org)
To: "S. Cornett" (email@example.com)
Subject: Re: A brisk fisk
Date: Wed, 5 Mar 2003 15:59:49 -0600
You know, this is a famous piece of American writing. You are free to appreciate it even if you think that we should start killing people in Iraq right now.
NOTE: The arrow brackets were changed to parentheses because the arrow brackets delineate code in HTML and text inside them disappears when published.
... at least for me and my sensitivity to idiocy.
I went into Manhattan tonight for a talk by James Taranto to The Fabiani Society; more about that tomorrow, when I'm not about to keel over from tiredness. I will mention, however, that I met up with Megan McArdle and Diana Moon there, so that was cool all by itself.
The dangerous episodes happened on my way home. I took the PATH train from Manhattan back to Jersey, and noticed a bit of idiocy in interpreting research results on one of the advertisement banners lining the top of the subway walls. Here's what it said:
WRAP WITH YOUR KIDS (photo of fajita wrap): Having just one meal a day with your child could decrease the likelihood that they'll try marijuana by up to two thirds.
It's a good thing I didn't have my black marker or I'd have edited the daylights out of it. I'm sure the genesis of the idea came from a study somewhere that said that kids who have at least one meal a day with their parents are less likely to use marijuana. Sounds like the same thing, right? Wrong. Dinnertime with junior does not cause lower incidence of marijuana use, but rather is an indicator of what works toward that end - namely that junior has a parent or parents who a) cares what he's doing; b) spends time with him; and c) insists that he spend time with the parent(s). "Junior - you, me, dinner, got it?" is not a vaccination. If you sit there and rail at junior for everything, or tell junyette that she's stupid, you aren't going to get that nifty little drop on toke risk. Dinnertime is a symptom of what's being done right, not the magic bullet.
Okay. Whew. Glad I didn't blow a gasket on the train.
On the drive home from the subway stop, I listened to NPR (I know, I asked for it). In an "On The Record" segment, the hosts of the show As It Happens played an excerpt from a speech by Senator Ted Kennedy. There was no intro, no followup, no rebuttal. Just the excerpt. And what did Mr. Kennedy talk about? Why, he said that President Bush's administration knew that North Korea was likely to start intensifying their effort to get nuclear arms way back in late 2001. But the Bushies didn't let the Congress know until 11 months later, after Congress approved going after Iraq. Here's a paraphrase of what he said next:
I don't know how the decision was made when to release this information. I'm not saying that the vote in Iraq had any bearing on when Bush decided to release the information on North Korea. But if Bush held back the information deliberately until after the vote, that is the biggest betrayal of the American people since Vietnam.
You of course get this. Kennedy is saying that all of this is true. He's just couching it in "I'm not sayin...!!" so no one can accuse him of actually saying it was true. It's underhanded sleazy politics, and NPR played it cold. Charming.
By this time I was gripping the steering wheel and holding on to keep from ripping out the radio. Then I heard this little exchange. An interviewer was talking to the executive director of a Canadian Chinese national youth group about Chinese pro basketball player Yao Ming. Ming is coming to Canada with his team, which has the Chinese community there all excited. About halfway through, the interviewer brought up the commercial starring Ming and actor Verne Troyer, who played Mini Me in an Austin Powers movie. In the commercial, the men are sitting side by side on an airplane, Troyer with a huge 17" screen Apple laptop and Ming with a lil ole 12" screen laptop. The contrast is - huge basketball player, little computer, little actor, big computer. And it works. But not for the interviewer. He said (paraphrased):
This commercial with Ming... do you think it's playing off a stereotype... it plays off the stereotype of the Chinese as short, and here's this really tall Chinese guy with a little short guy.
The interviewee hadn't seen the commercial, but that didn't stop him from agreeing and then going off about stereotypes of Chinese as short and weak - only to follow it up with comments like, "Ming shows the good traits of all Chinese which is to work hard." Um, isn't that a stereotype?!
And guys - the commercial uses Ming because he's one of the two tallest men in the NBA!! Not because he's a tall Chinese man. It had never occurred to me that Ming's race had any point at all in the commercial until I heard this little exchange. It smacked of such liberal hype and framing that I could hardly believe it made it on the air.
But it did. And that's why it's dangerous for me to get out - some day I'm going to start ripping banners off the subway walls, or wreck my car while ripping out my radio with my bare hands. It's just a matter of time.
(Today is the first of occasional posts from a friend of mine who chooses to go by the name Ernie Chambers, which his mother would not recognize as his but he likes it. He's a fine writer, and I'm glad he's going to be contributing. When he does. Which had better be more often than he's promised so far.)
by Ernie Chambers
I have a confession to make: I do not read newspapers. Neither do I regularly visit the websites of newspapers. I rarely even bother to scan the daily news synopses emailed to me from The Washington Post and The New York Times. Despite this blockade I maintain, through seemingly unavoidable osmosis, a general knowledge of current facts and events. This is not as filtered as I would like; I am aware both that the U.N. inspections in Iraq are reaching a crisis point and that J-Lo's current Love For Eternity is Ben Affleck. I'm not sure which train wreck will happen first.
I think I've stopped reading newspapers because most of what I find in them is either uninteresting or unreliable, or both. (This is also, by the way, why I don't enjoy being around most people.) I can deal with lack of reliable -- in a marketplace of ideas, truth probably emerges somewhere eventually. It's the lack of interesting that gets me.
I know I should be concerned, for example, that the Department of Homeland Security is an agglomeration of so many agencies that it will be unwieldy. I can't bring myself to care, or to read news stories about it. This is not to say that the mechanics of organizational behavior don't interest me; to the contrary, I wrote a dissertation on the subject. What doesn't interest me is the way a journalist will write about it. Journalists frequently take subjects that are immensely fascinating and render them as he-said/she-said accounts that read like a 7th-grade schoolgirl's diary.
It seems that journalists have only one frame to bring to a story, namely, The Power Struggle. Second-rate journalists simply report what two or three people on either side (because there are only two sides, you see) of a story have to say, and pretend that they have "covered" it. We are left to trust that the people they quote are in fact representative of the constituencies invoked. It is probably unwise to do so.
First-rate journalists dig a bit deeper to garner facts and quotes that presumably reveal more about the struggles and motivations involved. Yet they, too, cling to the Power Struggle frame. In consequence virtually all news accounts of politics and economics boil down to battles between self-interested players. Journalists appear to have adopted the economic model of man, and news is the poorer for it.
What's worse, the disputes are not even framed in interesting terms. Take for example the recent anti-war rally in Washington, D.C. Most news organizations portrayed it as part of a conflict between people who oppose war and people who favor it. Interview a few marchers, interview a pro-war college Republican, snap a couple of pictures, and you've got yourself a story. Much more interesting, however, is the fact that the march was organized and led by Stalinists. In other words, a number of peace activists are making their beds with defenders of totalitarianism, out of a shared hatred for the U.S. government. Now that's a story, and an example of a much deeper struggle for power in America (and the world).
But it's hard to write about, or even to understand, plus pointing it out seems so, well, conservative. If people want those facts, let them read Bill Buckley's rag or, even more gauche, a blog.
For another example, take environmental reporting. A well-known secret in D.C. is that the Washington Post employed one full-time environmental journalist at the start of Clinton's tenure, and when this person moved on the Post did not hire another. When it became clear that George W. Bush was the next U.S. President, they hired four reporters to cover the environment full time. You see, this topic is all about a Power Struggle between Industry and Gaia/The Children. As representatives of the former (another errant frame), Republicans will surely bring more conflict to the environmental arena, and that's all news is, right?
In reality, a striking trend is the increasingly diffuse nature of pollution -- what experts call "non-point source" pollution. This includes farm run-off, outdoor grills, small industrial waste, and so on. In the 1960's and 1970's, centralized environmental regulation was much more effective, because there were large gains to be made by regulating the "tailpipes" of automobiles and industry. But there are fewer and fewer gains left to be made there; the real challenge is to deal with non-point source pollution. And for this, centralized, one-size-fits-all rule-focused (as opposed to outcome-focused) regulation is not very effective.
In fact, real solutions to environmental problems (and net improvements, as opposed to simple redress of harm) are coming from local stakeholders who live among the resources people inside the Beltway are fond of holding meetings about. Take the Quincy Library Group in Quincy, California, for example. Frustrated by the polarization and economic devastation wrought by federally-imposed logging prohibitions on their forestry-dependent town, a small number of local officials, environmentalists, and logging company representatives began meeting in their town's public library, because its rules required them to keep their voices at a civil level. The group grew by dozens, and eventually its members worked out an agreement that protected significant stretches of the local forest while providing for dead wood culling and limited logging. Key old-growth areas were off-limits, but most logging jobs in the town were saved.
Ever read about Quincy? Probably not. I'll bet you've read a dozen stories about arsenic in drinking water, though. Arsenic -- now there's a story, and it gets juicier if you avoid incorporating much science into the recounting.
It seems, in other words, that to depend on newspapers for one's understanding of the world is to resign oneself to ignorance. As Ben Hecht once observed, "Trying to determine what is going on in the world by reading newspapers is like trying to tell the time by watching the second hand of a clock."
So what causes this paucity of interesting journalism? James Fallows identified part of the answer years ago when he observed that national political reporters are no longer very good at investigating. Instead they are the handmaidens for a variety of sources, namely political insiders and organizations they trust. Couple this with the fact that a majority of national news reporters disclose a Democratic Party identification and perhaps we have an explanation for how NOW is routinely reported as a "women's group," for example, while the equally large (at least) Concerned Women for America rarely receives coverage, and never reeives the neutral "women's group" label. (I don't think Fallows had this in mind when he cried j'accuse, by the way.)
Maybe another reason for uninteresting news is the news cycle itself. A daily newspaper has to publish, well, every day. When something is hot (i.e., when it can be framed and reported in a way that attracts attention) news outlets milk it. Recentlywe were bludgeoned not only with every possible technical detail of the Columbia's final launch, but accounts of the emotional trauma endured by NASA's director as well (who, in case you've been confused by his self-serving commentary, is not a close relative of any Columbia crew member). Journalists have to talk about the hot issues, even when they have nothing to add. It will be a handful of magazine writers and bloggers who ask the really interesting questions about the Space Shuttle, like why we even bother with one, and what the good alternatives are.
Perhaps the best explanation for uninteresting news is a dearth of interesting journalists. Let's face it -- it's very hard to emerge from several years of acquiring a degree in Journalism with a knowledge of much anything interesting, any more than it is possible to spend one's college years acquiring an Education degree and emerge qualified to educate anyone about anything.
Maybe I'm being too critical of journalists. They are after all and despite their professions of attaining to a high calling, salesmen. Sure, some of them want to persuade us, but for the most part they simply want to be listened to. We get the Cliff's Notes view of the world (with e-x-t-e-n-d-e-d weather coverage) because we are a Cliff's Notes society. Quick, what's the fastest way to get an American to turn off his TV set? Put something educational on every channel (or something hosted by Bob Saget). We like our news the way we like our chicken: in processed nugget form that bears only a faint resemblance to the real thing.
But there are, thankfully, some very interesting journalists out there, doing wonderful work. Perhaps not surprisingly many of them are not at newspapers (just as it seems increasingly to be the case that the most interesting academics have only tenuous university affiliations, if any). See nearly any writer in the world's finest magazine, for example, or Christopher Hitchens as he migrates to magazines not populated by Stalinists, or Malcolm Gladwell at The New Yorker. And for the finest newspaper coverage in quite some time of environmental groups, check out Tom Knudson's excellent series in The Sacramento Bee. Hope indeed springs eternal, and on the West Coast no less (albeit Sacramento).
So all hope is not lost, especially when one factors in the growing power of blogs to channel interesting news quickly and with sometimes insightful criticism. Sure, we need straight journalists to give us the raw material, but increasingly they are like UPS deliverymen -- indispensable but not people whose opinions on world events are especially valuable. I take that back; it's an insult to my UPS guy. At least he talks to a cross-section of folks and knows how to tuck in his shirt.
(If you'd like to write to Ernie, please email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. But I'd rather you lambast him in comments.)
In the 57-year history of the United Nations, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council have vetoed more than 250 proposals, but seldom has the power to say no raised as much political dust as France's possible use of its veto to block authorization of the use of force in Iraq.
One of the main points of the article is that Russia has vetoed a lot - mostly when it was still the Soviet Union - to protect its interests, and that the US has wielded its veto powers mainly to protect that upstart Israel:
The United States has invoked its veto power 76 times, usually to ward off actions against Israel...
Most recently, it vetoed an otherwise unanimous Security Council resolution in December that criticized the Israeli government for a series of attacks by its occupation forces against UN workers and facilities in the Palestinian territories...
All the blathering about Russia and the US is for the purpose of offering France two outs: It's behaving honorably here because it's standing on principle rather than vetoing to protect its own interests, and even if it is vetoing to protect its own interests, what's the big deal? All the other kids do it too.
For all its criticism of France in the current situation, the United States is the only permanent member of the Security Council to have used its veto power frequently in recent years... The veto has been invoked in only a few cases where vital international security issues are at stake, and the current crisis may become one of them.
Diplomats say President Jacques Chirac of France is walking a tightrope. If he declares that he will not use the veto power, France would lose much of its negotiating clout in the Security Council. If he announces that he will veto military action against Iraq, the United States and Britain would have no further interest in seeking UN endorsement for their actions.
There is also the argument that a veto by France will irreparably damage the United Nations, but the Iraq question is a war and peace issue that will divide the organization no matter which way France votes. And the UN has survived other veto crises...
France also has used its veto power only 18 times, usually in collaboration with the United States and Britain, and only twice on its own, to defend its interests in Indochina and in the Indian Ocean.
The rest of the article is an historical overview of how the Security Council was set up, and why (according to the writer's view). And this little comment closes it out:
Diplomats say permanent members, particularly the United States, use the threat of veto as a means of getting their way, a practice known as the closet veto. In addition, the permanent five often meet privately to hash out agreements, which are then imposed on the rest of the council.
Catch that? The US is the one that throws its weight around the most, and yes, the Big Five strong-arm the rest regularly. So why all the fury at France?
It's a poorly written and meandering screed, with its clearest point being an attempt to provide adequate cover for France. It fails.
Nicholas Kristof has a column today about how the mainstream media has neither interest nor ability to properly cover the issue of religion in American life, most especially the evangelical or born-again movements (often but not always overlapping). It's an open admission of bias that's worth your time to read. Three points of evidence:
...nearly all of us in the news business are completely out of touch with a group that includes 46 percent of Americans.
...offhand, I can't think of a single evangelical working for a major news organization.
In its approach to evangelicals, the national news media are generally reflective of the educated elite, particularly in the Northeast. It's expected at New York dinner parties to link crime to deprived childhoods â€” conversation would stop abruptly if someone mentioned Satan.
This is a confirmation of what I and others have been saying - that much of the bias that's there is likely a result of worldview and so endemic as to be virtually invisible to practitioners. It's to Kristof's credit that he sees it. However, even while he rails at his fellow journalists and points out the problems with covering religion, he manages to use more than a couple of stereotypes himself - proving that even well-intentioned he can't get it right.
First, look at his comment about the cocktail party - the implication is that an evangelical would reject "bad childhoods" as the cause of criminal behavior and cut straight to Satan. While there are those would do view Satan as a marauding force sucking people into horrific behavior, the majority of Christians who believe in Satan - and that would include me - have a much more nuanced view. The majority of Christian doctrines, including evangelical, are embued with the concept of choice - we choose to do right or wrong, and while a force for evil pulls at us constantly, it's not some mysterious Luke-in-a-cave struggle. It's all too human temptation, and there are many things in our lives that make us more susceptible to certain temptations, including poverty. You are no more likely to find a "born-again" Christian who believes "the devil made him do it" than you are to find a Manhattan liberal who believes the twisted capitalist nature of our country pops out poor minority criminals like popcorn out of a carnival hopper. Determinism and irresistible forces are not just religious concepts. Such broad brushes painting with derision are just another way to dismiss Christians as logically nuts.
And this is just flagrant propoganda:
For example, evangelicals' discomfort with condoms and sex education has led the administration to policies that are likely to lead to more people dying of AIDS at home and abroad, not to mention more pregnancies and abortions.
Actually, I'd say that an attitude of "all sex, with anybody, any time, no consequences, yeehaw!" is more likely to result in an increase in sexually transmitted diseases, as well as a lot of not very wonderful social consequences. Some religious people are against all forms of birth control, and I disagree with their reasoning. But I also don't think we need to be teaching children in school that oral sex is a fun and happy thing to do for that couple of hours between getting home from middle school and the time mom and dad get home. And it's amazing how abstaining from sex until moving into a monogamous relationship would reduce sexually transmitted diseases. I'm not saying it's reasonable to think everyone's going to take that path. I'm saying the media need to stop sneering at that as a viable option while calling themselves objective.
Kristof manages the amazing double feat of identifying a problem while serving as a fine, unwitting example of it himself. It's important to everyone for Americans to understand how faith works in their own lives and the lives of their neighbors. It doesn't have to be about doctrine or agreeing with doctrine or saying Joe is right and Jane is going to hell this weekend - it just needs to be an honest I-really-want-to-understand-how-this-works coverage. Only when you have a clear picture of the impact of religion on a person's life - and faith is a very personal thing - can you begin to grasp the impact it has on the nation as a whole. And the mainstream media is institutionally resistent to an open and honest coverage of it.
It's a shame the media can't get around this prejudice, because we desperately need a clear-eyed coverage of religion and its impact. Some religious movements are harmful to both their practitioners and society as a whole; some religious practices can inform public policy in positive ways. How do we determine the differences? How do we approach them as a society? The media have almost completely abdicated their responsibility to illuminate this debate because of their reflexive distaste of and intellectual disdain for anything that smacks of God.
On a last note, Kristof couldn't get through a column without a swipe at Bush:
It's impossible to understand President Bush without acknowledging the centrality of his faith. Indeed, there may be an element of messianic vision in the plan to invade Iraq and "remake" the Middle East.
Oh please. Kristof apparently has a cheat sheet of "religious concepts" that he uses like I used to use the "sports jargon" cheat sheet given to me when I had to cover sports, with about the same ring of authenticity. I'm glad he sees the problem; I just wish he could see the extent to which he's a part of it.
Bill of Bill's Content posts that Rush Limbaugh reported on his show yesterday that Saddam Hussein killed "a senior Iraqi missile engineer" to prevent him talking to UN inspectors - and Bill can't find anything about it in US media. I just did a search on the NY Times for the general's name, but nothing came up.
Some knuckle-headed squishy-left women are promoting the Lysistrata project (Andrea has more here), which basically is the reading of a play that is in part about women refusing to sleep with their husbands until they quit their warring about. Steven Den Beste disproves their basic premise - that women are naturally anti-war - by linking to a group of warblogging femmes. I'm honored to be included.
What these squishy-left airheads don't get is that we are not for war so much as we are against evil. And we are not women in this discussion, we are humans. I personally don't have a "woman's view" of such things. Matters that require moral logic and the courage of your convictions are not about whether you wear a double or single pocket slingshot. It's fairly telling about their level of intellectual and moral development that everything in the lives of these women can apparently be reduced to that level. I treasure the differences between men and women where those differences matter, but I don't invent them where they have no place.
Jonah Goldberg's column tsks at Ms. Garofalo for her anti-war idiocies.
Yes, yes, it's from last Friday, but I just got to it today.
Did you know that NPR is a corporate sychophant? I didn't either until I read this curmudgeonly piece by freelance journalist Sally Eckhoff:
Advertising? On public radio? Of course not. To get mentioned on NPR, you give a "grant" to the station or show you want to "sponsor." They in turn, voluntarily I gather, mention that you Bring Good Things to Life any number of times during the high-powered program of your choosing. Locally, you may hear the flakking of a garden club festival or your car repair shop. Nationally, though, the sponsors tend to be not quite so benign. Agribusiness giant Archer Daniels Midland's tag line on NPR -- The Nature of What's to Come -- is enough to make your blood gel. And it 'd take more delusion than I'm able to manufacture to believe there's going to be any rabble-rousing news about agriculture and the environment anywhere within shouting distance of that.
Environmental issues that particularly bedevil the Northeast seem to dry up and blow away before public radio gets hold of them. The dangers of monoculture crops and over-centralized food production are routinely ignored in favor of elegiac pieces about the death of dairy farms that are being systematically wiped out. So when I hear that "underwriting support" for nationally distributed shows is provided by G.E. or Dupont, I get antsy about the orientation of my local station. Here in the Hudson Valley, G.E. recently knuckled under to the idea of dredging their PCBs out of the Hudson River only after spending two years and $10 million on heart-tugging local TV ads trying to convince the public that they were better environmentalists than those who were insisting on the clean up -- yet the coverage of this nationally-felt environmental issue was whispery and weak on my local public radio station, and the station continued playing G.E.'s sponsorship jingo during most of that time, contributing to the moral confusion.
While it's obvious that Ms. Eckhoff, whose bio notes she writes for Village Voice, Salon.com and the NY Times, is quite the granola, she has a few peaks of good sense in her column. It is hypocritical of NPR to pretend that they "don't take advertising" - the only way that would be true would be if the companies who sponsor things there did so anonymously without any expectation of wielding influence. I doubt that the efforts to avoid covering sensitive-to-"donors" material is as flagrant or calculated as she alleges, but I also think the influence is there.
As much as anything, the article is a good read from the other side of the bias fence. Conservatives think NPR shills for liberals, granolas think they shill for corporations, and NPR itself thinks it sits humbly on Mt. Olympus, shedding truth on the intellectually-starved masses and serving The Common Good. The truth is probably that NPR operates within a worldview skewed left but with a pragmatic sensibility about its financial security, resulting in a mix that lurches along like a wagon held together with toothpaste and twine - functional, at times elegant but often ugly and not quite up to heavy lifting.
Often bias is about framing (and you'll see more about that tomorrow), and it behooves us not to be blind to ways that our own biases allow certain biased frames to slip right past us. I wouldn't have thought about the things Eckhoff identifies, but I thought they were valid issues of concern - I won't say she's right, I won't say she's wrong. She's giving a perspective that broadens the discussion.
And please - don't reflexively dismiss her just because she closes the article with this sentence:
No boat rocks on a marshmallow sea.
Ouch. That hurt.
What a liberal cartoonist sitting on his butt in comfort and peace sees when thinking of Saddam, war and children:
Small Reasons to Pursue Containment Over War
What people who have a sense of history and don't want to doom Iraqis to repeat it see when thinking of Saddam, war and children:
Kurdish dead including children in Halabja, Iraq, 1988
Shocking as it may seem, there's humor in Canada! Funny humor! Who'd a thunk it?
(Sorry, Capt., couldn't resist)
HIGH SCHOOL FRENCH CLUB SURRENDERS TO GERMAN CLUB
By William Grim
(Grove City, Ohio) -- School officials in this suburban high school were informed today that members of the school's French Club have officially surrendered to the suburban high school's German Club.
"We felt it was the only thing we could do under the circumstances," said Mme. LaForge, who has taught sophomore French at Grove City HS since 1985 and is the newly-dubbed Vichy Club's advisor. "The boys in the German Club were threatening to pull down all the posters of the Eiffel Tower on the walls of the French classroom."
Herr Gruber, advisor to the German Club, scoffed at Mme. LaForge's assertions. "They are the whimperings of an inferior race who speak a language full of irregular verbs and idioms. In German, everything is standardized. Eine Reich! Ein Volk! Eine Grammatik!"
Dr. Sidney Biddlestreet, Superintendent of Schools for Grove City, declined to comment citing confidentiality laws and not really knowing what was going on at the high school.
Although details are sketchy at this point, Mme. LaForge did state in a communiquĂ© that all French students will be closely collaborating with the German Club and that all non-Aryan students will be banned from taking French and going on the field trip to Paris during Spring Break.
There's some ranting going on at the site too. Worth a little digging around.
The trial of James Kopp in the shooting death of abortion doctor Barnett A. Slepian begins with jury selection today. Apparently Kopp intends to make a case for justified homicide, on the grounds that Slepian was going to perform abortions that day and thus Kopp's shooting prevented other deaths. Kopp is also claiming he meant to harm but not kill Slepian.
In my judgment, there's not much moral difference between Slepian and Kopp - both did truly reprehensible things. But Slepian was operating within the law, and Kopp outside it. There's no excuse for operating outside the law in the way Kopp did, and I think he should get the maximum penalty for murder.
A little bit of bias slips into the article in the NY Times on it. Consider this:
Most people active in the anti-abortion movement are troubled by Mr. Kopp. They say he threatens their efforts to chip away at and ultimately overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that recognized a woman's constitutional right to end her pregnancy.
It conveys the impression that these anti-abortion types are irritable because Kopp has brought unwanted attention to the movement, and why couldn't he have either killed in another name or at least been better about getting away? It doesn't indicate any kind of dismay about the murder at all. And the writer also makes sure you understand that Roe vs Wade was about recognizing a clear right already in the Constitution, rather than the things it was - a taking away of states rights, and a determination that abortion fit under an umbrella of rights not explicit in the Constitution. (And certainly the freedom to have abortion on demand is not clearly Constitutional in the way the right to own a gun is, although you wouldn't know that if you only looked at liberal discussions of the two issues.)
So what do the pro-life folks really think about Kopp? You don't have to go far - it's in the very next graph:
"It's terrible that someone is murdered, and it sets us back a decade," said Clarke D. Forsythe, president of Americans United for Life, a public policy organization based in Chicago. "It's a black mark against anti-abortion education. We have denounced violence unconditionally as wrong."
Note the clear condemnation of the murder - twice. And of course he's concerned that this sets back the cause, because it does. One of the reasons it does is little subtleties like this article, where the information is framed to make pro-life advocates seem callous to murder.
In the most recent episode, when a young biracial woman - black and Korean - was attacked her assailant said it was because "no one wants a nigger to be president;" she was a candidate for president of the Student Council. The university community and others have been vociferous in their outrage and response. However, last winter in six separate incidents a number of white or Asian students who looked white were attacked by a gang of ten black high school students in separate incidents. When the young attackers were arrested, they said their attacks were explicitly targeting white people. However, despite the evidence even prior to the arrests, the university and the community twisted themselves into pretzels to avoid labeling them as racial attacks. John has a startling quote from an editorial about it:
...the attacks might have been racially motivated, in that skin color determined the victims, but they might not have been racistly motivated - deliberately intended to do harm to persons because of their race.
Huh? It's just a flagrant attempt to say that black on white crime even if admitted to as a racially motivated crime is not the same as white on black racial attacks. And that is itself racism.
Erin O'Connor has additional information, weaving incidents at other universities into the mix.
This needs to be covered and hammered on. I don't like hate crimes laws, but if you're going to enforce them, at least be consistent. All this kind of behavior does is feed the very beast they're trying to kill.
Tim Blair is on the case with Salon's poverty posturing and bias blather.
There's a slogan to rally behind: "Salon -- perceived to be true by 4 out of 10 cashed-up yupster chatter monkeys!"
The man who most likely planned the 9/11 attacks has been captured.
It's possible he's not going to be willing to talk.
Is there a case for torturing him if the information gained would save thousands of lives?
Eric Lindholm of Viking Pundit explores the possibility.
The exchange in comments to my earlier post on the effect of smoking during pregnancy on the children has brought out some thoughts on violence in entertainment mediums and the concommitent likelihood of violence in children or teenagers. We hear repeatedly, from many sources, that the violence, sex, drugs, etc., in popular media are sucking our young people helplessly into a vortex of chaos. But while it's certainly not something that would encourage peace, love and happiness, I've yet to see a scientific study isolating exposure to those things as a causation of criminality or self-destructive behavior. Yes, they tend to correlate with that behavior in many instances, and I do think it's likely there's some exacerbation of already-seeded tendencies. That's a long way from causing it.
I think we forget sometimes that truly our daily lives have no where near the violence that previous generations - and some current parts of the world - experienced on a daily basis. The majority of people killed their own meat, and wringing a chicken's neck, skinning a deer or slicing up a slaughtered pig were bloodlettings threaded into the tenor of everyday life. People were accustomed to the death, sometimes horrible deaths, of family and friends - and when those deaths occurred, no one in a shiny truck with flashing lights arrived to take the body away to be neatened up before the family saw it. Often justice was a family matter, raiding by other groups was common, and, even as communities formed into more "civilized" structures, public executions were the norm rather than that exception. Vicious dictators and marauders oppressed and killed millions of people; slavery was common, and it is rarely a gentle servitude. The beatings, the deaths, the blood, the using and abusing of loved ones, were the reality of the children, not a remote image screened behind glass.
In the midst of that, some of the world's greatest thinkers, artists, writers and moralists were formed and moved through their lives. Parts of the world became ever more civilized and the more brutal aspects of daily life fell away with the increase in technology. Widespread contact with violence in many forms did not plunge society into that chaos, but if anything served as a grounding in our humanity and a caution of what we could become if unchecked.
The harm in our society does not emerge from the violence we experience on television, in films, in music or in video games. It is rather a result of moral vacuity and a failure to parent. You cannot fail to give a child a moral frame, put him in front of the television or computer for endless hours, and expect that child to develop into a morally good person with a rich understanding of the nuances of rights and proper behavior. It is more a testimony to the inherent goodness of human nature that many children turn out well in spite of those conditions, than to any credit on the part of morality censors or the parenting-by-proxy that is the best many children get.
I'm not saying some of the music, films, television programs and computer games aren't revolting and potentially harmful - I think they definitely can be. But laying the blame for social degeneration on those sources is abdicating the individual responsibility of families to raise their own to be good citizens. There is nothing new under the sun. No child today is subject to more than children throughout the reaches of time, although some pockets of the affluent West have been more able to shield their children in recent generations than most have been. Placing some limits on the proliferation of media filth - the extent to which it is publically available - is I think an appropriate social choice. But to lay the fault for wickedness at the feet of a video game is a refusal to see difficult truths.
According to this article, one of the three Al Qaeda men arrested in Pakistan today is the mastermind of the 9/11 attack, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. I suggest we dispose of him as outlined above.
I am heartened by this capture.
I now return you to the no-news Saturday.
A new study has linked heavy smoking by pregnant mothers with criminal behavior and substance abuse by the children born of those pregnancies:
Women who smoke during pregnancy put their babies at risk for a host of physical and developmental problems. But could they also tip the scales in favor of criminal activity and drug abuse by their children down the road?
Patricia Brennan, Ph.D., an assistant professor of psychology at Emory University in Georgia, found that daughters of women who smoked more than 10 cigarettes a day were almost three times as likely to be hospitalized for substance abuse and one and a half times as likely to be arrested than were women whose mothers did not smoke during pregnancy.
The sons of women who smoked this amount were also more likely to be arrested than were the sons of nonsmokers. Brennan examined maternal smoking and subsequent arrest and hospitalization records for 8,000 Danes born between 1959 and 1961. She could not ascertain maternal alcohol or drug use because this behavior was considered rare in Denmark at the time.
Brennan notes that the daughters' substance abuse could have contributed to their higher arrest rate. "It is likely a combination of genetic factors, parenting and smoking on the part of the mother during pregnancy," says Brennan, who published the results in The American Journal of Psychiatry.
Hmmm. I think Psychology Today is hyping this more than is warranted. I'd like to see how the study is constructed, and what controls are used. It's possible that women with a certain array of characteristics were more likely to chain smoke during pregnancy, and the substance abuse and criminality of the children were more a factor of parenting than readjustment of the brain chemistry toward a more criminal mode.
Also, the article isn't clear enough about what type of criminality is under discussion. It's possible that children whose mothers chain smoked during pregnancy did have developmental glitches in their impulse control and anger management abilities. A lack of impulse control is highly correlated with criminality, as is difficulty handling temper - especially assaultive behavior and minor crimes like shoplifting or kiting small checks. But good parenting can improve those behavioral problems. It seems harsh - and inappropriate - to make such a strong connection between criminality and smoking during pregnancy.
Something very comforting for all of us who ride subways and trains:
OSAKA -- A bullet train driver snoozed at the controls for 8 minutes while the high speed car ran at a speed of 270 kilometers per hour until an automatic brake system stopped it at Okayama Station, officials said.
No passengers were injured during the accident but West Japan Railway Co. had no choice but to apologize.
"What must not happen took place," said JR West's transport division head, Mitsuhito Hashimoto. "We will step up fundamental safety programs to prevent this thing from happening."
The driver of the Tokyo-bound Hikari 126 train took a nap at the controls for a 26-kilometer section until the bullet train reached Okayama at about 3:20 p.m., Wednesday.
After the train stopped some 100 meters before the regular location, station workers rushed to the door of the driver's room to find him asleep. They knocked on the window but he was still sleeping. Eventually the conductor went inside the compartment and woke him up.
The best part is they let him keep driving the same train on to its next destination.
We're now going to have to deputize journalists:
A British journalist claims to have tracked down four people on Interpol's "most wanted list" in one hour and 22 minutes.
Ian Cobain, of the Times, says he used widely available resources including electoral registers, internet search engines and commercial records.
Two alleged child abductors wanted for extradition to Canada after snatching two children, the daughters of one of the pair, were found to be living openly in Bridgend.
One was even listed in the local telephone directory, and both were tracked down in 15 minutes.
Shortly afterwards, a man who is the subject of an international arrest warrant issued by police in Moscow, also accused of attempting to snatch his own child, was traced to an address in Houston, Texas.
And little more than 30 minutes later, a fourth suspect, accused of terrorism and firearms charges, was discovered living in a ÂŁ450,000 semi in Surrey.
The wanted posters for all four bear the warning "may be dangerous", and all are subject to Interpol's "red notice", which means they should be apprehended immediately and extradited.
The Times says the fugitives' rapid discovery is likely to be a huge embarrassment to Interpol, which has been looking for them for several years.
Apparently Interpol is where old FBI agents go for a little R&R after catching terrorists in the US. I feel safer, don't you?
I really can't say it better than this:
Swedish officials are to build mini emergency exits for frogs and snakes to stop them becoming trapped in tunnels under a new railway.
About 20 toads, snakes, frogs and lizards will be used to test the new exits in April, according to reports.
Construction workers working on the Botniabanan railway in northern Sweden noticed that cement tunnels were becoming a death trap for small animals.
According to Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter, the creatures have been sneaking through small cracks in the cement, but are unable to get out.
Small pipes will now be installed in they can find their way above ground again.
It's no wonder they don't have enough money for a military. Next they'll be building little escape hatches so rats won't get caught in buildings that burn down.
There will be posting today. There will be no discussion of hard news. I need a break. You need a break. And all there would be anyway would be railing at the idiots who think Iraq's destruction of useless old missiles today actually meant something.
So consider this a Garofalo-Free-Zone for this first day of March 2003.