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May 01, 2004
BELMONT CLUB POSTS more thoughts on what's going on in Fallujah: "The Corps, besides incorporating the Chinese word Gung Ho into its vocabulary, may have finally proved to the Arabs that they can out-hudna anyone who ever stood on a patch of sand."
Read the whole thing, which is quite interesting and suggests that blogospheric calls for a more, um, forthright approach were possibly misguided.
UPDATE: Belmont Club has a followup post. I hope that this analysis is right, and that what's going on is clever negotiations and divide-and-conquer of the sort that the Marines are good at. I just can't tell from here.
And here's some useful perspective, noting that Fallujah isn't Iraq, much less a proxy for the entire war on terror. That's certainly true, and it's interesting that it's getting so much attention. It's almost as if it's meant to distract everyone.
CATHY SEIPP'S MONTHLY REVIEW OF MAUREEN DOWD is up. In this installment, she explains why Dowd's columns remind her of soft porn.
JEFF JARVIS REVIEWS TED KOPPEL:
To put this another way: The device presents those listed as victims. That is how the device has been used in print with the dead in Vietnam, from AIDS, from urban crime, 9/11 and other acts of terrorism, and so on. Victims. And where there are victims, there is a wrong done to them -- by man or nature.
But these are not victims. They are soldiers who went to do a job and did so valiently. But that is not how I saw them presented last night on Nightline. I did not see a tribute. I saw victims. And that is the problem I have with using that device now.
UPDATE:" Jay Rosen says, of course, Koppel was making a political statement -- and so what?
I agree with that... except.
Koppel says he wasn't making a political statement. That's what's dishonest about it. He was making a political statement and that would be OK if he'd level with us about it.
He's trying to be "political" and "objective" at the same time and that doesn't work. It's an on-off switch and he's trying to put the switch in the middle. And it's arcing.
One of Jeff Goldstein's commenters observes:
Watched it. Thought it was sad, moving, tasteful.
This is bias I began with, but the program left me with a desire, more visceral than before, to make sure our soldiers didn't die for nothing, to finish the job.
What Lincoln said at Gettysburg is still true, and that is the lesson I hope our leaders on both sides take from seeing the faces of the fallen.
There are some other interesting comments.
MY BROTHER'S IN TOWN, and blogging will be light this weekend. But I want to be sure to recommend Ron Rosenbaum's new book, Those Who Forget the Past: The Question of Anti-Semitism, a collection of essays and excerpts from all sorts of people including David Brooks, Frank Rich, Barbara Amiel, Larry Summers, Nat Hentoff, et al. My copy showed up in yesterday's mail, and it was immediately seized by the Insta-Wife (this happens often) but she pronounces it excellent, and it looks that way to me, too, based on what I could tell before she got hold of it.
I also notice that the book includes a chapter by Laurie Zoloth on the anti-semitic riot at San Francisco State University, which I wrote about here a couple of years ago. There seems little question to me that anti-semitism is undergoing a major revival, and I'm glad that this book is addressing it.
April 30, 2004
IF A BUTTERFLY BALLOT FLAPS ITS WINGS, does it lead to volcanoes and tidal waves? In Hollywood, yes.
UPDATE: More here:
Hollywood has never been known to let scientific fact get in the way of a good story, and recent releases provide plenty examples in which a filmmaker will rely on technical fudgery so as not to bore an audience. In Godsend, for instance, the parents of an eight-year-old car accident victim employ some technologically dicey methods to clone their son after his death. Last month’s Enternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, in which Jim Carrey plays a man who erases all memory of his ex-girlfriend from his brain, intentionally glosses over the neurological aspects of such a procedure, preserving a sense of possibility without the burden of scientific realism. It should come as no surprise, then, that Fox’s upcoming The Day After Tomorrow might not offer an entirely accurate portrayal of global warming. . . .
What one might not expect, however, is seeing well-known environmental policy advocates rally behind the erroneous earth science upon which Day After Tomorrow is founded. Yet this is exactly what they plan to do. In a “town hall” meeting scheduled for the same night as and literally down the street from the premiere of the movie, Al Gore, Robert Kennedy, Jr., and MoveOn.org will use the film to draw attention to Bush’s record on environmental abuse. “The Day After Tomorrow presents us with a great opportunity to talk about the scientific realities of climate change,” Gore said to Variety. “Millions of people will be . . . asking the question, ‘Could this really happen?’” In true Hollywood cliffhanger fashion, the former Vice President offered no answer, implying that the voters will have to tune in to find out.
I'll spare you the suspense: The answer is "no."
SOME GOOD STUFF FROM KERRY: "I believe that failure is not an option in Iraq."
Unfortunately, I don't see the multilateralism he champions as viable.
KERRY = GORE: That's the fear of leading Democrats like Tony Coelho and Donna Brazile.
JEFF GOLDSTEIN: The Ted Koppel Interview. Again, as reliable as Maureen Dowd -- but much more amusing!
UPDATE: An interesting bit of historical perspective on war casualties and the reporting thereof.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader John Vecchione emails with a point that many readers have made:
If it wasn't a political stunt to show disapproval of the Iraqi invasion why aren't the names of those soldiers killed in Afghanistan and Kosovo (two the other day) being listed? Because Koppel doesn't have a problem with those fights.
Seems that way to me.
THE TORTURE INCIDENT: I don't have a lot to add to what Kim Du Toit says:
If they're found guilty, I hope these assholes go to jail.
Because when the Islamist pricks do this kind of thing to our soldiers, I want to be able to go after them with a vengeful spirit.
Of course, it's not the same as Saddam's torture -- which was a matter of top-down policy, not the result of assholes who deserve jail or execution, and will probably get one or both. As with other reported misbehavior, it should be dealt with very, very harshly. But those who would -- as Senator Kerry did after Vietnam -- make such behavior emblematic of our effort, instead of recognizing it as an abandonment of our principles -- are mere opportunists.
LT Smash has more thoughts:
THE UGLY TRUTH of warfare is that there are no “knights in shining armor” who will always fight for Good. Evil lurks deep in the hearts of all men, and it doesn’t care what flag you wear on your sleeve. We are most vulnerable when we suffer under the burden of tremendous stress – but the ultimate responsibility to resist Evil lies with every individual.
Our soldiers sometimes do horrible things. Disgusting things. Cruel things.
When they do, we must not hide from the truth. Those repsonsible must be identified, prosecuted, and punished appropriately. There must be a public accounting for these crimes.
Because we are a civilized society, we must never give in to the temptation to brush aside such atrocities as “the way things are in war.” For if we fail in this responsibility, we will ultimately become no better than those we are fighting.
And that would be the greatest tragedy of all.
UPDATE: Jonah Goldberg:
This needs to be investigated and prosecuted. If there's more to the story -- whatever that could conceivably be -- let's find out. But if the story is as it appears, there has to be accountability, punishment and disclosure. Indeed, even if this turned out to be a prank, too much damage has already been done and someone needs to be punished.
Under Saddam torturers were rewarded and promoted. In America they must be held to account.
UPDATE: Several readers point out that California Attorney General Bill Lockyer probably wouldn't see a problem here. But let's not let our standards fall so low.
ANOTHER UPDATE: "what they have done is tantamount to treason, in that they have certainly given aid to our enemies, in the form of propaganda fodder, during a time of war."
Sgt. Stryker is equally harsh: "Every single angle of this story is disgusting and infuriating." Read the whole thing, which gets much harsher.
MORE: Will Collier emails (and, though his email didn't say so, posts):
What's the difference between what this small group US guys did in Iraq and what Saddam (and every other Arab state) has been doing for years?
In our case, the people who did this will spend most, if not the rest of their lives in Kansas making small rocks out of big rocks.
In every other case, they¹d be promoted.
End of comparison.
Indeed. Which isn't a reason to ignore it, but which is relevant to the lessons people might tend to draw.
STILL MORE: Greyhawk notes an unsung hero: "Does anyone out there think 60 Minutes exposed this story? They didn't. (but they want you to think they did.) This was a case of a courageous individual stepping forward and enabling the Army to police itself."
Read the whole thing.
ISN'T THIS A BIT INCONSISTENT with earlier stuff that Joe Wilson has said?
It was Saddam Hussein's information minister, Mohammed Saeed Sahhaf, often referred to in the Western press as "Baghdad Bob," who approached an official of the African nation of Niger in 1999 to discuss trade -- an overture the official saw as a possible effort to buy uranium.
That's according to a new book Joseph C. Wilson IV, a former ambassador who was sent to Niger by the CIA in 2002 to investigate reports that Iraq had been trying to buy enriched "yellowcake" uranium. Wilson wrote that he did not learn the identity of the Iraqi official until this January, when he talked again with his Niger source.
Hmm. Maybe this is why we haven't heard much on this topic lately.
UPDATE: Matthew Hoy has more thoughts on this.
April 30, 2004 -- WASHINGTON - The State Department's No. 2 official said yesterday that those guilty of corruption in the U.N. oil-for-food program "ought to hang."
The blunt remarks by Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage to a House subcommittee were the strongest comments the Bush administration has made since accusations surfaced in January that Saddam Hussein ripped off $10 billion from the program.
This should have some people worrying.
Meanwhile, the U.N.'s reputation has gotten so bad that even the Canadians are jumping ship:
WASHINGTON -- With yesterday's landmark speech, Paul Martin tacitly acknowledged what Canada's foreign policy establishment has refused to accept for decades: that the United Nations is a failure, for which there is no solution.
The Prime Minister's proposed alternative is a new international body, the G-20 summit of world leaders, representative of North and South, developed and developing, rich and poor: a working group unfettered by the UN's bureaucracy and its anachronistic Security Council.
What hath Kofi wrought?
THE NATIONAL DEBATE says that Ted Koppel's excuses are wearing thin.
I'd still like to see Nightline present the names of all the oil-for-food money recipients. And maybe of a few Iraqi kids who died because of the fraud's keeping them from getting medicine. And maybe an interview with Kofi Annan's son, Kojo, about his role. . . .
Just in the name of balance, you know.
MAINSTREAM JOURNALISTS sometimes complain that bloggers don't do enough original reporting. Well, here's some. With photos! It would be interesting to see more of this sort of reporting in the mainstream media.
And here's some more, though I think that this particular specimen is about as reliable as the Bush quotes in a Maureen Dowd column. But it's more amusing.
HEY, MAYBE IT'S WORKING! Both CNN and the BBC report that terror attacks are at their lowest level in 30 years.
UPDATE: Allen S. Thorpe emails:
I hope somebody is writing a history of the secret war that's going on now but can't be reported. You can't have the same kind of news coverage for a war on terror as you can for a ground war like Iraq, Vietnam or WWII, but we need history.
I keep hearing the press complain that they're not getting enough information, but when I hear the questions they ask, I'm amazed anybody talks to them at all.
HELP WANTED AD: "Experience in blogging is a plus." But of course!
SOUTHKNOXBUBBA gets a mention in Sports Illustrated.
LAST NIGHT I finished reading Robert Silverberg's latest, Roma Eterna, an alternative-history novel in which Rome never fell (Moses got stopped before he reached the Red Sea). An interesting book, tracing two alternative millennia via a series of interleaved short stories, essentially. If you like alt-history, I think you'll like it.
I DON'T HAVE MUCH TO SAY about the Google IPO. But Venturpreneur has multiple posts on the subject -- just keep scrolling.
DANIEL HENNINGER REPORTS on Spirit of America's fundraising drive, which has exceeded goals 15-fold.
BJORN STAERK NOTES high-level antisemitism in Norway.
ARE WE GOING TOO SOFT IN IRAQ? Some people think so. It seems that way to me, too, though I'm reluctant to make a judgment at this distance. But in my lifetime, at least, the United States has generally erred by not being violent enough, rather than by being too brutal.
UPDATE: "Too soft" seems to be the consensus around the blogosphere. And maybe it's true -- though it's worth remembering that the daily reports of "explosions in Fallujah" for the past few weeks didn't involve very much of our stuff being blown up, and that the amount of damage done to the enemy there is probably greater than news accounts suggest -- but reader Tucker Goodrich emails:
After reading the article below, one can also interpret this as the Iraqis finally starting to take responsibility for the state of their country.
They don't like us doing it, but they don't want these people to succeed. That leaves them with one real choice, and it's one we have to encourage if our experiment in Iraq is going to succeed. That sounds like the Marines' attitude.
That's right. As I say, I'm reluctant to second-guess the Marines on the scene with regard to this sort of thing.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Barbara Lerner says that it was Rumsfeld's war, but it's been Powell's occupation.
YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Jim Hohnbaum emails:
I was an officer in the military, and I've known a lot of Marines, and I don't believe for a second that letting the Iraquis handle it was the Marines' idea. I believe if they had their way they would have gone in weeks ago rather than calling it off and letting the insurgents dig in and set booby traps. To me this whole thing stinks of a real Vietnam analogy: the lack of political will in Washington to let the troops win the war. This is supposed to be a war on terror, and we have a lot of terrorists surrounded. Don't tell me the Marines just want to walk away, because I don't believe it.
Dang. I hope that's wrong.
April 29, 2004
UPLOADED SOME NEW PICTURES to the Exposure Manager gallery for anyone who's interested.
The picture to the right is Ozone Falls, which is less than an hour from my house. It's a "natural area," which means there are no trails, and you just scramble down a less-steep part of the cliff to get to the falls. There's a sign and a pull-off, but I was the only one around the whole time I was there.
I've really enjoyed cruising around the backroads with car and camera lately. And it's reminded me just how terrific this part of the country is. There are lots of hidden gems like this one all over the place, with most people (even people who live around here) barely aware that they exist.
It's also a pleasure to meet people all over. Everyone I've met has been friendly, and happy to chat, or offer directions. Whenever I travel around the United States I'm always amazed at that. Wherever you go, people think that folks elsewhere are less friendly, but they're mostly wrong.
HUGH HEWITT has advice for Michael Kinsley.
RYAN BOOTS has his weekly roundup of the Iraqi blogs, which he's calling the Carnival of the Liberated. It's a must-read.
ART AND TAXES? Some questions for Kerry.
UPDATE: Accountant reader David Walser says something's wrong here. Click "more" to read his take.
Read More ?
MAX BOOT WRITES that Kerry should base his campaign on the muscle gap.
THE BLOGOSPHERE IS MOVING FAST to help the Marines combat Al Jazeera's propaganda, with the first shipment of television equipment bought with blog-readers' donations going out just 23 days after it started. It's enough to outfit eight independent Iraqi television stations. Bravo to the blogosphere!
But the real question is why this is being addressed via private donations a year after Saddam fell?
UPDATE: Reader Joe Zwers offers a positive take:
And the real answer is that central planning always leaves something out. The Soviets five year plans consistently failed. China's Great Leap Forward was a disaster. North Korea was once the more prosperous and industrialized part of that peninsula. Now it can't feed its own people, even with massive food aid, while the south prospers.
So, the U.S. did plan many things properly in the Iraq war, but there were clearly some omissions. This is to be expected. In World War II, I believe it was, people were knitting socks for the troops since the Army didn't have an adequate supply. What this does show, however, is that because this country is not as rigid as other societies, it can quickly respond to needs on a voluntary basis. That is why a free societies triumph over the long run, despite the supposed efficiencies of more structured ones.
Um, okay, but I still think that they should have thought of this sooner.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Gerard van der Leun reports from Camp Pendleton.
And here's a photo gallery posted by Donovan Janus of Exposure Manager.
SPACE PROPERTY RIGHTS CLAIM DISMISSED: The link is to a District Court opinion. This opinion underscores my position that some sort of actual possession, and not simply the making of a claim, is essential to the creation of a property interest in an asteroid or other space real estate.
STEVEN DEN BESTE IS IRRITATED. As usual, a long and interesting post results.
JAN HAUGLAND says that Al Jazeera is an enemy combatant.
THE 9/11 COMMISSION IS MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING -- how else do you explain this:
The commission of five Republicans and five Democrats issued a statement saying Bush and Cheney had been "forthcoming and candid" and their input would be of great assistance as it looks to complete a final report by July 26.
Two Democrats on the panel, Vice Chairman Lee Hamilton and former U.S. Sen. Bob Kerrey of Nebraska, left the session about an hour early. Hamilton, a former congressman from Indiana, was said to have had a prior commitment to introduce visiting Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin at a lunch
If it's worth ditching the President's testimony for a luncheon introduction, the whole enterprise can't amount to much. (Emphasis added).
ROGER SIMON HAS MORE ON UNSCAM, and how even people who admit the existence of the scandal seem unwilling to admit the implications.
Sadly, Tom Lantos, who usually knows better, appears to be among those in denial.
Sorry, but what this scandal reveals is that the United Nations can't be trusted, on grounds of either integrity or competence, to discharge its alleged mission of promoting human rights and world peace.
IF YOU TOOK VIDEO OF THE "MARCH FOR WOMEN'S LIVES" Evan Coyne Maloney would like a copy.
I GUESS THIS IS ASYMMETRICAL ASYMMETRICAL WARFARE:
Mystery group wage war on Sadr's militia
In a deadly expression of feelings that until now were kept quiet, a group representing local residents is said to have killed at least five militiamen in the last four days.
The murders are the first sign of organised Iraqi opposition to Sadr’s presence and come amid simmering discontent at the havoc their lawless presence has wreaked.
The group calls itself the Thulfiqar Army, after a twin-bladed sword said to be used by the Shiite martyr Imam Ali, to whom Najaf’s vast central mosque is dedicated.
Residents say leaflets bearing that name have been circulated in the city in the last week, urging Sadr’s al-Mahdi army to leave immediately or face imminent death. . . .
"It has got some of the Mahdi guys quite worried, I tell you. They are banding together more, when normally you would see them happily walking on the streets alone. I think their commanders have ordered them to do that."
IT'S PROBABLY UNCOLLEGIAL OF ME to pick on Douglas Brinkley -- I think that he and I have chapters in the same book coming out this summer -- but his flacking for Kerry has gotten so bad that even lefty columnists are calling him on it:
These days Brinkley is acting a lot less like a historian and a lot more like a PR flack for John Kerry, the subject of Brinkley's flattering bestseller "Tour of Duty: John Kerry and the Vietnam War." Brinkley proclaims his independence from the Kerry campaign -- "This is my book, not his," he writes in "Tour" -- but he's become a major player in the Kerry agitprop machine.
On television, in magazines, and on Kerry's website, Brinkley functions as a dependable surrogate for the candidate, quick to testify to Kerry's unflinching qualities of heroism and leadership. . . .
It gets worse. After the Kerry campaign learned that the Globe had interviewed Gardner for its Kerry biography, Brinkley called Gardner. The presidential historian -- Brinkley has written about Franklin Roosevelt and is a disciple of the late historian and biographer Stephen Ambrose -- warned Gardner of a "firestorm" if the vet went public with his doubts about Kerry, and then hacked out an article attacking the former gunner's mate on Time magazine's website!
Hilariously, Kerry declined to talk to the Globe about Gardner's criticisms, but graced Brinkley with his opinion -- uncritically relayed by the historian -- that Gardner's stories were "made up."
Who needs opposition research when Doug Brinkley is on the case?
Dozens of internal United Nations audits of the troubled oil-for-food program in Iraq were routinely shown only to the U.N. official now at the center of an international scandal over kickbacks from the regime of Saddam Hussein, a congressional investigator said yesterday.
Joseph A. Christoff, director of international affairs and trade at the General Accounting Office, told a House hearing that U.N. auditors had refused to release the internal audits to GAO investigators probing the scandal that poured an estimated $10.1 billion from secret oil sales and inflated contracts into Saddam's coffers under the U.N. program.
Stonewalling. Imagine that!
UPDATE: Then there's the this:
April 29, 2004 -- WASHINGTON - The vast majority of the United Nations' oil-for-food contracts in Iraq have mysteriously vanished, crippling investigators trying to uncover fraud in the program, a government report charged yesterday.
It's not so mysterious, really. . . .
If this doesn't prove that the United Nations isn't up to the job, I don't know what does. It's time for a top-to-bottom housecleaning, but it won't happen. There are too many people with their hand in the till, and too many politicians with a vested interest in pretending that the United Nations is something like the United Federation of Planets, instead of the corrupt-yet-inept dictators' defense fund that it really is.
FRITZ SCHRANCK has some firsthand observations on the state of the economy. Some of his reporting is from Pawley's Island, a place where my family used to vacation regularly.
UPDATE: Fritz is certainly clearer than the guys at CBS Marketwatch, where the headline says "U.S. Growth Cools" -- but the story tells us that GDP grew 4.2% last quarter as opposed to 4.1% the quarter before. That's cooling? Apparently it is, when "economists, on average, had been expecting slightly stronger growth." Sheesh. I don't think this is political slant or anything. It's just bad.
WASHINGTON -- The Department of Homeland Security is investigating whether Islamic extremists infiltrated the nation by stowing away on Algerian liquefied natural gas tankers that docked in the Port of Boston and has concluded several stowaways may have had links to indicted Al Qaeda terrorists, officials disclosed yesterday.
Hmm. Given the enormous destructive potential of liquefied natural gas tankers, I hope we're taking a very, very close look at these.
In the future, I think, newspapers will become almost entirely devoted to local news and happy fluff, like me. I depend on my paper for local news, because I don’t watch TV news. . . .
That’s the niche that waits for them. The internet will swamp their ability to sum up the daily state of the world, because a) there’s so much available on the net from the big dogs, and b) small little-noted institutional biases in the paper’s selection of news stories will kill their credibility with those who sample from many sources.
A MARINE IN IRAQ is asking for your help.
Compare the silence on the UN scandal with the cacophony of stories on Enron, WorldCom, and Martha Stewart. There is a clear double standard at play here. When a corrupt CEO loses billions of dollars, it's all over the news for weeks. When a member of the UN does it, it's as though it never happened.
Well, there has been some coverage -- but not that much, and certainly nothing like the drumbeat of stories we got on Enron when it first broke. Of course, some people thought that the Enron scandal would knock Bush out of office, while this scandal merely has the potential to undercut John Kerry's multilateral approach to foreign policy and cost him the election. So there's nothing to see here. . . .
April 28, 2004
PHOTOBLOGGING: Here's a gallery of beautiful photos from Vietnam.
HUGH HEWITT played an embarrassing speech by Frank Lautenberg on his show today:
How to explain the Lautenberg melt-down? Well, many, many callers and e-mailers who heard me play the speech think he was drunk. I don't.
Read the whole thing.
WHY NOT? EVERYBODY ELSE IS: Frank J. is offering advice to John Kerry. Sadly, some of it may actually be better than the advice he's getting from the campaign staff. . .
WELL, THIS IS A TRADITIONAL METHOD of supporting the troops.
(Via who else?)
NANOTECHNOLOGY: A CAUTIONARY TALE. Best caveat: "Perhaps the most unlikely thing about this tale is the possibility of the side without a nanofactory being victorious in war."
CATHY SEIPP HAS THE SCOOP ON THE SPIN SISTERS: The comments about bias and clueless elitism in women's magazines sound like something the InstaWife might say.
I'LL NEVER TRUST NIGHTLINE AGAIN -- because its producer, Leroy Sievers, claims to be unaware of when ratings sweeps take place:
Koppel, also in the announcement, acknowledged that Memorial Day might have been "the most logical occasion" to do the program. Ya think?
"But we felt that the impact would actually be greater on a day when the entire nation is not focused on war dead," he said.
Ah yes, and, of course, Memorial Day falls outside the May sweeps, when viewer levels are used by the networks to set advertising rates. Memorial Day is also traditionally a day of very low television viewing. He forgot to mention that stuff.
Sievers and others we spoke with at ABC News insisted they did not realize that the May sweeps start tomorrow.
So Nightline is staffed by either clueless idiots unfit to work in TV, or by shameless liars who think we'll fall for anything. Which is it?
UPDATE: Reader David Whidden asks: "Did Ted Koppel ever read the names of the 3,000 people who died on September 11? Just wondering."
Not to my knowledge.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Laurence Simon emails:
I worked at an ABC O&O down here in Houston for four and a half years. For anyone in ABC to say that they have no idea when sweeps starts, from the CEO down to a security guard, is quite possibly the most insane thing I've ever heard.
If he's telling the truth, then it's proof of why ABC is in fourth place out of the Big Three.
If he's lying, then he's got a bright future as a potential head of ABC News.
Heh. Meanwhile reader David Walser emails: "Maybe Ted could read the names of those Saddam would have killed, raped, or tortured had he remained in power."
I'd settle for him reading the names of the people who got oil-money from Saddam as part of the oil-for-food scandal. . . .
MORE: Ted Koppel: "When we began taking our journalism more lightly, people began taking us less seriously."
STILL MORE: Reader John Reandeau emails:
If Nightline's stunt is news and not a political statement, then why are they leaving out the names of those who have died in Operation Enduring Freedom? As Pat Tillman made us aware, we still have Americans fighting and dying in Afghanistan as well. The deliberate separation of Iraq from the rest of the War on Terror is agenda journalism at its best. I love the idea of remembering and naming our military dead. But I detest the way Koppel intends to exploit them.
PS - If I had a Neilsen diary, I wouldn't be watching.
BLACKFIVE brings us thoughts of a sort quite alien to Michael Moore.
GROWING ANTI-MULLAH SENTIMENT IN IRAN? Stephen Green posts a lengthy and detailed report.
SPOONS HAS THE UNSCAM COVERAGE ALL FIGURED OUT: And with a handy chart!
A CAUTIONARY NOTE: Kerry's various gaffes have got Bush supporters feeling pretty good this week. But I don't think that the Kerry campaign's misfortunes will continue forever, and the Bush people need to recognize that his campaign has its own issues. He's entirely capable of losing this election, despite all the help he's currently getting from the Kerry campaign's screwups.
In particular, I still think that they should get rid of Cheney in favor of Condi Rice. Cheney's contribution to the ticket the first time around was (as we heard over and over again) gravitas. Bush doesn't need him for that now. Cheney also has a lot of baggage, which Bush also doesn't need. And his role in the Administration is open to question -- I've recently spoken to a couple of current and former Administration folks, with no particular axes to grind, who think that Cheney's doing considerably more harm than good.
Of course, if they were planning a move like that, it would be smart to wait until later to announce it. . . .
UPDATE: On the other hand, Daniel Drezner has a piece in TNR that explains Kerry's problems well: "The problem is not that Bush is unbeatable; the problem is that he seems unbeatable when compared to Kerry."
I think he's onto something in his analysis, which isn't as snarky as that sentence standing alone makes it sound.
THANKS! For some reason, a bunch of people hit the Amazon and PayPal donation buttons yesterday. Or maybe for no reason at all. (Hey, who needs a reason?)
Anyway, thanks a lot. It's a much appreciated antidote to the hatemail. For some reason, the hatemailers seldom send money.
ANOTHER PHOTO REPORT FROM INDC, this one from the anti-IMF protests.
UPDATE: Jeff Goldstein's description of this report is, um, much more colorful than the one above.
Yeah, like that's a surprise.
IT SEEMS I'M NOT THE ONLY ONE to make a Kerry-Dole comparison.
JEFF JARVIS HAS A ROUNDUP OF IRAQI BLOG POSTS: The UN and USA Today are getting criticized, though for different reasons.
MORE ON UNSCAM:
Why did France and Russia oppose efforts to topple Saddam Hussein's regime? And why did they press constantly, throughout the '90s, for an expansion of Iraqi oil sales? Was it their empathy for the starving children of that impoverished nation? Their desire to stop the United States from arrogantly imposing its vision upon the Middle East?
It now looks like they it was simply because they were on the take. Saddam was their cash cow. If President Bush has suffered some discredit over his apparently false - but not disingenuous - claims of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, the lapse is minor compared to the outright personal selfishness and criminality that appears to have motivated many of those who opposed his efforts to rid the world of one of its worst dictators. . . .
The defect of international coalitions is that they include the just and the unjust, the bribed and the honest, the democratic and the autocratic. And their members cannot be trusted equally. The group that stood up and backed the invasion of Iraq was nicknamed "the Coalition of the Willing." Now it appears it was also "the Coalition of the Honest."
The press's relative lack of interest in this colossal scandal -- which dwarfs anything involving Enron or Martha Stewart -- is hard to explain. As reader Brian Naughton writes:
With the UNscam story unravelling almost daily, no one seems to be talking about the CEO of UN Inc. I'm referring, of course to Kofi Annan. If this guy isn't complicit in these crimes he would have to be the most astoundingly incompetent CEO in recent history, perhaps ever!
Yes. It's interesting that he's not getting the kind of treatment that corporate CEO's get, notwithstanding that this is likely the biggest financial-fraud scandal in history.
UPDATE: Mystery writer Roger Simon is looking for this scandal's Mr. Big.
MORE KERRY WORRIES:
In recent appearances, Mr. Kerry’s digressions and obfuscations about whether he threw a war medal or a ribbon on the White House lawn in 1971—or whether the young Mr. Kerry should have used the word "war crimes" to describe actions in Vietnam—have obscured the candidate. At every turn, he has managed to turn the TV screen into smoked glass: He’s right in front of you, but you can’t … quite … make … him … out. With his morose patrician mien and robotic delivery—parodied with precision by Jon Stewart on the Monday, April 24, Daily Show, surely not a good thing for the candidate—Mr. Kerry’s TV performances are sounding a gut-level alarm about his ability to inspire confidence in the electorate. . . .
"I’m not sure what the message is—that may be the essence of the problem," said Joe McGinniss, the author of The Selling of the President, the best-seller that detailed Richard M. Nixon’s media strategy. As a Massachusetts resident, Mr. McGinniss said he had never seen Mr. Kerry do well on TV—or even in public, for that matter.
I'm pretty sure that if John Edwards were the presumptive nominee, we wouldn't be hearing so much voters' remorse from Democrats. This sounds like Bob Dole all over again: He can't connect with the public, he's unappealing on TV, but we'll nominate him anyway! Did we mention he's a war hero? They always win!
DONALD RUMSFELD ON BIAS FROM THE PRESS:
There are two ways, I suppose, one could inform readers of the Geneva Convention stipulation against using places of worship to conduct military attacks. One might be to headline saying that Terrorists Attack Coalition Forces From Mosques. That would be one way to present the information.
Another might be to say: Mosques Targeted in Fallujah. That was the Los Angeles Times headline this morning.
Ouch. (Via CPT Patti).
RISKS TO NANOTECHNOLOGY INVESTORS: My TechCentralStation column is up.
DAVID ADESNIK makes clear why Wesley Clark isn't the nominee. Ouch.
UNSCAM UPDATE: Claudia Rosett writes:
It's looking more and more as if one of the best reasons to get rid of Saddam Hussein was that it was probably the only way to get rid of Oil-for-Food. The problem wasn't simply that this huge United Nations relief program for Iraq became a gala of graft, theft, fraud, palace-building and global influence-peddling--though all that was quite bad enough. The picture now emerging is that under U.N. management the Oil-for-Food program, which ran from 1996-2003, served as a cover not only for Saddam's regime to cheat the Iraqi people, but to set up a vast and intricate global network of illicit finance. . . .
In Oil-for-Food, "Every contract tells a story," says John Fawcett, a financial investigator with the New York law firm of Kreindler & Kreindler LLP, which has sued the financial sponsors of Sept. 11 on behalf of the victims and their families. In an interview, Mr. Fawcett and his colleague, Christine Negroni, run down the lists of Oil-for-Food authorized oil buyers and relief suppliers, pointing out likely terrorist connections. One authorized oil buyer, they note, was a remnant of the defunct global criminal bank, BCCI. Another was close to the Taliban while Osama bin Laden was on the rise in Afghanistan; a third was linked to a bank in the Bahamas involved in al Qaeda's financial network; a fourth had a close connection to one of Saddam's would-be nuclear-bomb makers. . . .
In a world beset right now by terrorist threats--which depend on terrorist financing--it's time to acknowledge that the U.N.'s Oil-for-Food program was worse than simply a case of grand larceny. Given Saddam's proclivities for deceit and violence, Oil-for-Food was also a menace to security.
April 27, 2004
Just watched John Kerry on Hardball. Incredibly, although Chris Matthews asked not a single hard question, Kerry managed to hurt himself badly on at least three occasions, and I didn't hear the entire interview.
Yes, that's the campaign in a nutshell, at the moment.
Message to Republicans: Don't get cocky. Kerry can't possibly do this badly for the entire campaign.
UPDATE: On the other hand, Chris Matthews should be worried. Will Collier says he's going home to Mama.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Ouch -- tough crowd in Will Collier's comment section:
You know Matthews is slipping when he's the guy Democrats go to in order to recover from the tough questioning on Good Morning America.
Did I say ouch? I'll say it again. Ouch!
OXBLOG HAS A ROUNDUP of various people's thoughts on what we should be doing in Iraq.
KENNETH TIMMERMAN SAYS that Saddam's WMD have been found. Given the way this week has been going for John Kerry, he's probably right. . . .
OVER AT FRAGMENTS FROM FLOYD, the Nikon D70 is getting a good review. I certainly like mine.
UNSCAM UPDATE: James Morrow has a column in The Australian on the oil-for-food scandal:
Those named include not just Sevan but a vast array of Russian politicians, close friends of French President Jacques Chirac (including France's former minister of the interior), British Labour MP George Galloway, former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter and, closer to home, Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri.
In short, it's a who's who list of high-profile anti-war and anti-sanctions voices, all revealed to be shills for Saddam.
But by far the biggest recipient of Saddam's largesse was the UN. During the program's existence, more than $US1 billion was kept by the organisation as a fee for administering the program. As one senior UN diplomat recently told London's Daily Telegraph: "The UN was not doing this work just for the good of Iraq. Cash from Saddam's government was keeping the UN going for a few years."
Amazingly, though, it has taken an incredible amount of time for this story to get what little traction it has so far gained in the media. (Certainly the anti-war Left, which is happy to believe that George W. Bush toppled Saddam to kick a few contracts to Dick Cheney's old pals at Halliburton, has been deafeningly silent on the topic.)
Perhaps because of all the DIY international lawyering engaged in by the world press corps in the run-up to Iraq's invasion, many journalists are reluctant to admit that the UN they put so much faith in was many times more corrupt than they could imagine the Bush White House being.
Or maybe they just don't want to admit that so many of the anti-war voices they used to support their stories were bought and paid for with money belonging to the long-suffering, if little-mentioned, Iraqi people.
But the naive belief among journalists with little or no international law background that no military action is legitimate without the UN's seal of approval is one thing. The continued fetishistic belief of politicians and opinion-makers in the supposed good intentions of the UN is another -- and it is something that needs to end immediately.
It's ended here.
FROM THE VILLAGE VOICE:
WASHINGTON, D.C.— With the air gushing out of John Kerry's balloon, it may be only a matter of time until political insiders in Washington face the dread reality that the junior senator from Massachusetts doesn't have what it takes to win and has got to go. As arrogant and out of it as the Democratic political establishment is, even these pols know the party's got to have someone to run against George Bush. They can't exactly expect the president to self-destruct into thin air.
With growing issues over his wealth (which makes fellow plutocrat Bush seem a charity case by comparison), the miasma over his medals and ribbons (or ribbons and medals), his uninspiring record in the Senate (yes war, no war), and wishy-washy efforts to mimic Bill Clinton's triangulation gimmickry (the protractor factor), Kerry sinks day by day. The pros all know that the candidate who starts each morning by having to explain himself is a goner.
Is resurrecting John Edwards the answer? I doubt it, though I liked him better than Kerry. Lots of people on the right, meanwhile, are predicting a last-minute appearance by Hillary Clinton. This sounds like the stuff of pundit dreams more than reality (though she'd probably be better on the war than Kerry -- say what you will about Hillary, but nobody's ever accused her of being wimpish or indecisive). It's not too late for Kerry's campaign to hit its stride. But all this wheel-spinning isn't helping.
Someone attempting an exact replay of the 9/11 attacks today would likely be beaten to within an inch of death - and I wouldn’t take that inch for granted - by passengers with nothing to lose. Even if the terrorists managed get to the cockpit, physical locks and airline policy would make it impossible to take control of the plane. They could kill everyone on board and blow up the airplane, but that makes this kind of attack identical in effect to the “bombing” type. The “hijacking” category, at least for commercial passenger flights, has been largely negated. “Never again” is not just a solemn vow here. It is a statement of fact.
Why, then, do I still have to surrender my nail clippers, take off my belt and wait three quarters of an hour to go through a metal detector honed to such a level of sensitivity that the steak taco I had for lunch sets it wailing? What harm could I inflict with a one inch piece of flimsy metal on a hundred instant air marshals, a bank-vault quality door and pilots specifically trained to never give up control of the airplane? Why is our still-recovering economy being subjected to this level of delay and inefficiency? More importantly, why are our dramatically finite security dollars being spent here as opposed to on other, largely unsolved, problems - like the other three types of threats outlined above? Are these measures effective security, or are they primarily meant to comfort us?
I think we know the answer.
I am sent a newsletter from a women's rights group in Pakistan, which lists items from Pakistani newspapers. The following is a recent selection (I checked the items on the newspapers' websites):
Lahore: A girl, Kauser, 17, was strangled by her elder brother because she had married of her own will. She returned home and asked her family to forgive her but her brother strangled her with a piece of cloth. - The Daily Times.
Ghotki district: Two women were killed over Karo-Kari (honour killing). One Nihar Jatoi tied his wife to a bed and electrocuted her. One Bachal axed his wife Salma to death and fled. No arrests were reported. - The News.
Sargodha: A woman is in hospital after having both legs amputated because of severe injuries inflicted by her brother-in-law and mother-in-law, who clubbed her for her alleged illicit affairs. The woman, who was fighting for life, said the real reason was that her brother-in-law was trying to force her to arrange his marriage to her younger sister, but her sister had instead eloped with her paramour. - Dawn.
What chance of this woman becoming an international symbol, as has the boy who so tragically lost his arms during the invasion of Iraq?
Why is international public opinion not outraged at the treatment of women in Islamic fundamentalist societies? Why is it easier for millions of people around the world to see America as the great evil, rather than the countries in which governments ignore such horrific abuses of women?
Because elites around the world see American culture as a more immediate threat to their power than Islamic fundamentalism.
THIS suggests that they need remedial civics lessons for the Times editorial board:
An editorial on Saturday about citizenship testing referred to a question about voting rights that many people get wrong — and gave the wrong answer. The Constitution does not specify a "right to vote." Four Amendments, the 15th, 19th, 24th and 26th, forbid denying or abridging the right to vote on account of such things as race and sex. The Seventh Amendment, mentioned in the editorial, deals with the right to have a lawsuit tried by a jury.
SOUTH DAKOTA'S POLITICAL SOAP OPERA continues to unfold.
I DON'T KNOW WHETHER Amazon is going to replace brick-and-mortar merchants, but I notice that I'm buying more and more stuff from them. And in a related development, my wife heard from a real-estate person that small commercial-office space is in a glut because a lot of people are running their businesses out of their home, given the ease of doing so that comes from the combination of Internet, cellphones, and UPS. I suspect that there's more of this kind of thing going on under the radar.
TRADITIONAL MEDIA MARKETING "is crumbling, just crumbling."
JOHN KERRY -- the next Wesley Clark?
I don't know if things are as bad for Kerry as this makes him sound. But his campaign is definitely not ready for primetime, and the election season is pretty far along.
UPDATE: Thomas Oliphant: "I watched Kerry throw his war decorations."
John Podhoretz: "Kerry is a terrible, terrible, terrible candidate."
All campaigns have their ups and downs, and Kerry may find his stride. But it does seem to be true that his best week so far was the week he took off.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Kerry still has Adam Nagourney on his side! It's like stepping into a parallel universe where the Kerry campaign is a well-oiled machine. Hey, look, Spock has a beard!
(Not this one.)
STEPHEN BAINBRIDGE ON PROFESSIONAL TRAVEL:
Traveling to attend academic conferences or to give faculty workshops has definite benefits. You raise your visibility in the profession. You meet interesting people and see old friends. Often, you learn stuff and/or get valuable feedback on a project.
The costs are escalating, however. Security hassles. Long lines. Delays. Cancelled flights. Grungy airplanes. Lousy food. Surly service. Disrupted sleep patterns. Lately, moreover, I seem to come down with a cold - or something worse - after roughly every other flight.
I enjoyed my trip to Chicago, but on balance it just isn’t worth it anymore.
Yeah, I often enjoy those trips, but overall, professional travel is more of a "have to" than a "get to."
BUY AN AD on Al Jazeera? Why not?
JAMES LILEKS: "This may be the one thing that makes the Arab Street rise up: it gets leveled, by Arabs."
April 26, 2004
Sudan has ordered the removal of Syrian missiles and weapons of mass destruction out of the African country.
Arab diplomatic and Sudanese government sources said the regime of Sudanese President Omar Bashir has ordered that Syria remove its Scud C and Scud D medium-range ballistic missiles as well as components for chemical weapons stored in warehouses in Khartoum. The sources said the Sudanese demand was issued after the Defense Ministry and Interior Ministry confirmed a report published earlier this month that Syria has been secretly flying Scud-class missiles and WMD components to Khartoum.
Very interesting. And I wonder where Syria got them?
DON'T MISS THE ROCKY MOUNTAIN BLOGGER ROUNDUP. Also, Alphecca has posted its weekly roundup of gun bias in the media, and don't miss this week's Carnival of the Capitalists.
Yeah, I've been busy today, and I'm behind.
GIVE ME A BREAK: Just saw Linda Ellerbee running a pathetically slanted anti-Bush "kids' news" item on the economy, on Nickelodeon. Sheesh.
UNSCAM UPDATE: H.D. Miller asks "who is Javier Robert?" I hope that lots of people will want to investigate this. (Via Friends of Saddam).
MICHAEL TOTTEN offers advice for John Kerry on the medals flap:
Here you go, senator. Say this on the TV: “Today’s more strident anti-war activists remind me of my own immature self back in 1971.” It will kill two proverbial birds with a single figurative stone. It will play well among people who matter. And you’ll feel a lot better.
Better advice than he's been getting, it would seem.
UPDATE: Yes, definitely -- Powerline has noticed airbrushing at the Kerry website and has the screenshots that show it.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Is it a meltdown?
SOME INTERESTING NUMBERS ON TROOP MORALE IN IRAQ: Generally quite positive, but I think that we do need to stress long-term efforts to ensure that the current good numbers on recruiting and retention persist.
SARS UPDATE: Reader Bill Rudersdorf sends this disturbing story:
The latest outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in China, with eight confirmed or suspected cases so far and hundreds quarantined, involves two researchers who were working with the virus in a Beijing research lab, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Monday.
Rudersdorf observes: "Our friends, the technologically advanced Chinese, seem to be a bit ham-fisted in their labs. Hope they don't mess with bio-weapons." Indeed.
KERRY TALKS TOUGH ON FOREIGN POLICY:
WASHINGTON -- If elected president, John F. Kerry would move to increase the US military by 40,000 troops. He would send more soldiers to Iraq if commanders said they were needed. He would stay in Iraq as long as it took to get the job done.
Those are the policies that Kerry's inner circle of foreign policy advisers must work with every Monday at lunchtime when they meet to discuss ways to take the Democratic candidate's ideas to the American public.
Their main goal: ''To show that we can protect America better than George Bush," said Rand Beers, Kerry's chief national security adviser. . . .
Kerry's success may hinge on whether voters are convinced that his ability to forge ties with allies can make America safer than President Bush's more unilateral approach. Lately, the differences between the candidates have sometimes been hard to detect.
Sounds good to me. Though Kerry's fixity of purpose is, as always, open to question. And, say, could these be Kerry's mysteriously supportive "foreign leaders?"
Kerry has conferred frequently with foreign leaders over the years. After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, for instance, he conducted a ''listening tour" of the Middle East, meeting with Sharon, President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, even Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat at his compound in the West Bank.
MP3.COM RETURNS, sort of, over at CNET.
ATHENA RUNNER is blogging again.
HERE'S A TRANSCRIPT OF KERRY'S APPEARANCE ON GOOD MORNING AMERICA TODAY regarding the medal controversy, and it's pretty devastating.
UPDATE: More here, from Roger Simon and an observant reader.
MORE CRUSHING OF DISSENT: By dermatologists! Phil Bowermaster observes: "Academic freedom is only skin deep."
MAXINE WATERS makes a compelling argument for abortion rights.
RICH GALEN is heading home, but he's posted a final report from Iraq, with pictures.
UPDATE: Here's an interesting report from a just-returned soldier on Iraq.
THE TINY TORAH: An interesting documentary.
MICKEY KAUS: "Which is creepier--the possibility that the Times prints only pro-Kerry letters, or the possibility that it receives only pro-Kerry letters?"
UPDATE: Ed Morrissey scents "a whiff of desperation at the Gray Lady."
April 25, 2004
Contradicting his statements as a candidate for president, Sen. John Kerry claimed in a 1971 television interview that he threw away as many as nine of his combat medals to protest the war in Vietnam. . . .
Throughout his presidential campaign, Kerry has denied that he threw away any of his 11 medals during an anti-war protest in April, 1971.
His campaign Web site calls it a "right wing fiction" and a smear. And in an interview with ABCNEWS' Peter Jennings last December, he said it was a "myth."
But Kerry told a much different story on Viewpoints. Asked about the anti-war veterans who threw their medals away, Kerry said "they decided to give them back to their country."
Kerry was asked if he gave back the Bronze Star, Silver Star and three Purple Hearts he was awarded for combat duty as a Navy lieutenant in Vietnam. "Well, and above that, [I] gave back the others," he said.
The statement directly contradicts Kerry's most recent claims on the disputed subject to the Los Angeles Times last Friday. "I never ever implied that I did it, " Kerry told the newspaper, responding to the question of whether he threw away his medals in protest.
Well, you don't imply it if you just say it outright!
UPDATE: Kaus has more, and has an additional Patriot Act flip-flop!
STEPHEN GREEN is correcting Tom Friedman.
SADDAM-supporting MP George Galloway blew his top yesterday after The Sun sent him a barrel of OIL.
Mr Galloway claims he has never seen one — so we arranged for him to have his own 200-litre drum.
It came as the Glasgow Kelvin MP fiercely denied pocketing £1million from Iraqi tyrant Saddam.
His name was on a list of people allegedly rewarded by the dictator with vouchers for millions of barrels of oil.
We delivered our drum, complete with Sun logos to the front door of his £500,000 home in South London.
It sat in his drive for three hours before he dragged it away and hid it from view in an 8ft privet hedge.
One word: Heh. (Via Friends of Saddam).
UPDATE: More here.
WHO'S BAD AT FIGHTING MALARIA? Exactly!
A PRO-CHOICE REPUBLICAN visits a Kerry abortion-rights speech/rally and returns with photographs and a report.
DR. MANHATTAN has thoughts on David Rieff's piece on the Palestinians from today's New York Times.
AN INTERVIEW, of sorts, with a Blackwater contractor fresh from Iraq.
HERE'S A REPORT that Iranian activists protested in front of the UN mission in Tehran.
MORE CRUSHING OF DISSENT by a racist university administration. "I guess this case has shown me that just because I'm a different skin color, the merits of what I wrote have been marginalized and ostracized." Oregon State should be ashamed.
UPDATE: Readers say that he was fired by the student paper, not by the administration, which wasn't clear to me from the article. Sorry -- my mistake. Nonetheless, there's still a double standard here.
ERIC SCHEIE WONDERS why some news outlets seem to be ignoring the UNScam oil-for-food scandal.
JEFF JARVIS notes an amazing initiative by American blogger Kerry Dupont to help out Iraqi bloggers with equipment and support.
DAVE TROWBRIDGE is declaring victory in the culture war. Somewhere, Jose Bove is crying.
Related development here.
JAY ROSEN WRITES that President Bush has a new strategy on the press:
And the reporter then said: Well, how do you then know, Mr. President, what the public is thinking? And Bush, without missing a beat said: You're making a powerful assumption, young man. You're assuming that you represent the public. I don't accept that. . . .
Whoever can speak to the whole nation becomes a power. There is still a reporters gallery, and it is still speaking the language of a Fourth Estate. But perhaps its weakness is in speaking a language Americans recognize as theirs. Bush is challenging the press: you don't speak to the nation, or for it, or with it.
He cannot sustain this challenge all the time--thus, the April 13 press conference, thus the embeds--but it is a serious argument. Intellectually, it's almost a de-certification move against the press corps. There's a constituency for this, and it picks up on long-term trends that have weakened the national press, including a disconnect between Big Journalism and many Americans, and the rise of alternative media systems.
As a first step out of this trap, journalists need to ask themselves: how did we become so predictable?
The press, of course, is unrepresentative. It isn't elected, nor -- in its views, its background, and its personal characteristics -- is it reflective of the public. (If the public thought like the press, no Republican would ever be elected President.) Nor does the public feel that it is represented by the press. I don't know if it ever did, but back in the day when reporters were more like ordinary people in their habits, incomes, and backgrounds -- the Lou Grant era -- I think it was more plausible to make that claim.
UPDATE: Reader James Bourgeois emails:
I am a regular visitor to your site and my interest was really piqued by the item you posted on the president's commenting that the press doesn't represent the public.
President Bush is right. The media do not represent the people. Journalists (I hesitate to call them reporters because they are all failures at that job), whether working for electronic or print media, represent a minority of vocal holier/smarter than thou liberals who would make all important decisions for the "great, unwashed masses" that comprise the electorate in our country.
I am a former reporter. I have a journalism degree. I left the business because of its drift from real reportage to advocacy and the abandonment of journalistic standards and ethics in favor of the kind of slanting and spinning we see today on the pages of the morning paper and on the evening news broadcasts. I knew it was time to find another way to make a living when I watched Peter Jennings, on a closed circuit feed to ABC affiliates, berate the American voter for Ronald Reagan's election victory over Jimmy Carter. Jennings, who was a Canadian citizen at the time, repeated that disgraceful performance in a toned down manner thenight he ascribed the Gingrich led Republicans' takeover of the House of Representatives to a temper tantrum by the voters.
The really disturbing thing about what's going on in the media is that the effect has seeped into local newsrooms of small dailies, weeklies and small market television stations as well. The reporters in those small markets are mostly ambitious types who want to make it to the big leagues and to get there they have to show they have game. In other words, they'd damn well better subscribe to the prevailing political views or they have no shot at all at an upward career path.
Real journalism, until the advent of the internet, was a dying craft. The mainstream media is too absorbed in shilling for liberal politicians and left wing causes to have an objective view of its output. There are no opposing opinions in the newsrooms at CBS, NBC, ABC or any of the leading dailies which would give the major players enough pause to consider that perhaps the other side has a legitimate viewpoint that should, by right, be given some play without denigrating comments, asides and negative labeling affixed to it.
It is no secret why Rather, Jennings and their ilk abhor people like Matt Drudge, Charles Johnson and Glenn Reynolds. You guys have taken their audience. While they were busy evading their responsibilities to give news consumers the truth, they lost their viewers and readers to those who recognized a vacuum and stepped up to fill it.
One cannot be a realist without recognizing that no thinking person can report on events and issues today without having some opinions. Those opinions, however, are to be kept out of news stories, whether they appear on newspaper pages or on television and radio broadcasts. The mainstream media, unfortunately, in buying into the liberal line that the ordinary citizen is incapable of making rational, informed decisions, made a conscious decision to quit informing them and instead has chosen to engage in launching a daily propaganda barrage.
As for that "days of Lou Grant" comment, the Mary Tyler Moore show didn't come close to depicting the reality of a newsroom. The newsroom is a place of sniping and backbiting, populated by cheap shot artists fighting for inches and minutes by taking sensational angles on stories that, when presented honestly and objectively, tell themselves to willing audiences. I've been there, and sometimes a reporter gets sent out on an assignment that turns out to be a dog or a non-story. When that happens, a real professional doesn't tart it up to get air time or page space. He moves on the next one. We don't see that today and its effects are easily detected in the shrinking readership and viewership
of mainstream media outlets.
Well, that's perhaps a bit overstated. But the White House press corps certainly isn't reflective of America, nor is it elected. Nor, in light of shrinking viewerships and readerships, can it claim that it's giving the people what they want. As ABC's The Note admitted a while back:
Like every other institution, the Washington and political press corps operate with a good number of biases and predilections.
They include, but are not limited to, a near-universal shared sense that liberal political positions on social issues like gun control, homosexuality, abortion, and religion are the default, while more conservative positions are "conservative positions."
They include a belief that government is a mechanism to solve the nation's problems; that more taxes on corporations and the wealthy are good ways to cut the deficit and raise money for social spending and don't have a negative affect on economic growth; and that emotional examples of suffering (provided by unions or consumer groups) are good ways to illustrate economic statistic stories.
None of these shared beliefs make the press "representative" of Americans at large, though it does tend to share the views of the academic/professional class to which it belongs.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Julie Cleevely emails:
Your reader James Bourgeois has just summed up the media in Britain perfectly. A couple of honourable exceptions, but in the main our media is no more than propaganda and lies. The BBC is a serious problem- Al Jazeera for middle class snobs.
Well, I think that these criticisms are a bit strong. Media bias is more like unconscious racism, most of the time, than it is like deliberate misrepresentation. While there are certainly cases of deliberate misrepresentation, most of the time I think it stems from a worldview so deep-rooted that they're unaware of it.
But it's certainly true that the notion of the professional press as a check on the government has no foundation. The Constitution envisions freedom of speech and of the press as checks -- not the institution of the press as one. That's a key difference, I think.
YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Mike Hammer emails:
Glenn: As a former print journalist I'd like to make a brief comment about the non-representative press. Journalists may be out of step with mainstream America, but for the vast majority of them it is because they are woefully underpaid, not overpaid. I suspect that many more newsrooms would swing to the middle if reporters were paid enough to live above the poverty line.
As a current college professor I could say the same thing about academia. If assistant professors were paid enough to live in middle class neighborhoods, then more of them might actually consider themselves middle class.
Assistant Professor of Spanish
San Francisco State University
I'd be the last to disagree that academics are underpaid. By definition! But the White House press corps makes a lot more money than most Americans, I imagine. It's true that reporters at run-of-the-mill newspapers don't make a lot of money. But I think that the analogy with academics demonstrates that there's more to being "mainstream" than income. In fact, I don't think the salary difference accounts for it, as higher-paid academics and journalists don't seem to be any less aligned with the overwhelming ideologies in their fields. Indeed, as James Bourgeois suggests, they seem to be the opinion leaders for the less well-paid among them.
Newzilla, meanwhile, thinks I'm too generous to the press. But small publisher Brian Kuhn emails:
Though I often feel I'm fighting a losing battle and throw my hands up in disgust over the obvious bias displayed by the national media, I must say that I'm pretty durn proud of the small weekly and daily newspapers across this great land of ours. We (small town newspapers) are like a bunch of mini-blogs, printing everything from who visited who over the past week, to, yes, cute little cat and dog pictures. When news happens we of course print it, but with the very real knowledge that HOW we report it effects real people . . . often our friends and neighbors. Spin just does not work in small communities. Any fool publisher/editor/reporter who does try something like that wouldn't last a year. That's a fact.
As far as political affiliations within this large community of small publications, I'd say it's 50/50, much along the lines of the famous "red/blue" map of 2000. We tend to reflect the communities we serve. I know of two small weeklies in our neck of the woods that were bought out by young pups fresh out of journalism school, who started running editorials that didn't reflect the general conservatism of our area. They were about as liberal as you can get, repeating the usual liberal mantras. . . and they didn't last a year. They just lost their readership, and had to sell. Democracy at work.
I wrote a column for our state's press association for nearly a decade about technology issues facing our industry -- from around 1990 to mid 2002. I strayed from my usual field in my last column to beg my fellow publishers across our state to read Bernard Goldberg's "Bias," and to do everything we could to counter the failings of our national media by remaining true to our commitment of fair and balanced reporting at the local level, and a commitment to serving, not dictating to, our readership.
Many of the older generation of publishers (including my father) grew up with complete faith in national media , believing anything that makes it into print or on the airwaves had to be true -- especially from such organizations as the NYT, TIME, Newsweek, and other print media. So, I didn't know how that last column of mine would play.
To my surprise, I didn't hear one argument against that column. Not one. From the many people who e-mailed me to comment on it . . . only agreement.
So, yes, the national media is blowing it big time in ways obvious to those both in and outside the industry. And the disgust of the public is justified.
But to the reader you posted in your update, Glenn, who quit journalism out of similar disgust . . . don't give up hope on those of us with small circulations and viewership. We're still ticking, and providing a positive difference within the communities we serve.
. . . and proud of it.
Hey, that's my job description here at InstaPundit!
MORE: Ryan Pitts disagrees with me, but it seems to me that his points are already answered in the updates to this post. I will say, though, that Pitts' "we're just plain folks" response rings false to me and, I suspect, a whole lot of other people. Including media guys like Gerard Van der Leun, who's a lot harder on the press than I have been.
And at any rate, it's clear -- going back to the original point of this post -- that whatever the divorced, go-fishin' guys in Pitts' newsroom think, the national media in general and the White House press corps in particular think that they are not just plain folks, but that they have a special, institutional role of a quasi-governmental nature. Hence the "Fourth Estate" claims. The problem is, that they don't. As I said earlier, the Constitution sees the activities of speech and publication as checks on government. There's no special role for the institution of the press. Which is a good thing since the Internet, talk radio, etc., are blurring that line beyond recognition and letting the rest of us get in on the act.
There are, by the way, quite a few very interesting comments to Rosen's post now, and I highly recommend that you read them if this incredibly long post hasn't totally exhausted your interest in the subject.
Finally, Roger Simon:
I will add, however, before I rush off to the Book Festival, that the press is often their own worst enemy.
The recent Presidential Press Conference, referred to by Rosen and others he cities, is a strong case in point. If one of the goals of free journalism is to make clear presidential policy they did a particularly poor job of it that day. Four questions were devoted to asking Bush to make an apology for 9/11 because Richard Clarke had. Leaving aside whether Clarke was being disingenuous, the answer has no real meaning . It's devoid of factual content and is essentially a posture, no matter what the reply. It doesn't lead to transparency, because it's only "attitude."
If the press wanted to ask something legitimately hard of Bush, how about this: "Mr. President, why didn't you fire George Tenet on September 12?" Now there's a question I'd like to hear answered, not the puerile pabulum asked by these veteran journos. I didn't need Bush to dismiss them. I was perfectly capable of doing it by myself.
Ouch. Yes, if the press were better at its actual job, people might cut it more slack on its self-described role. Here are some other unasked tough questions for Bush that I noted shortly after the press conference. Most of them, unfortunately, would have required actual knowledge that the press either lacks, or assumes that its readers and viewers aren't up to comprehending. Either way, the "special role" seems dubious.
And read this and this while you're at it.
Jay Reding: "What we're seeing now is a struggle between what the media thinks it is and what it has actually become."
EARLIER I NOTED THIS NASA RELEASE pointing out that many newspapers were showing pictures of the space shuttle Columbia crew's flag-draped coffins and identifying them as Iraq war dead. Here's a partial list of outlets that were snookered. Apparently, they just picked these up from an antiwar website and didn't do any further checking.
Remember this when Old Media guys talk about how untrustworthy the Internet is. . . .
UPDATE: I finally managed to get the Memory Hole site -- which has been down from traffic load, I guess -- to open. The problem is that he filed a Freedom of Information Act request that's rather obviously flawed. Here's the link, which may or may not work for you. But here's the FOIA language:
All photographs showing caskets (or other devices) containing the remains of US military personnel at Dover AFB. This would include, but not be limited to, caskets arriving, caskets departing, and any funerary rites/rituals being performed. The timeframe for these photos is from 01 February 2003 to the present.
The request should have specified combat deaths. One reader emails that this was an Air Force mousetrap, because astronauts are not military personnel. Er, except that they usually are. I assume that this was an honest mistake on the part of the Memory Hole, but it's a dreadfully-worded request, and it's not surprising that the result included non-combat deaths. What's more, to the extent that newspaper editors were aware of the wording of the request, they should have realized the risk that these photos would not represent Iraq combat deaths or, for that matter, combat deaths at all.
I FINISHED NEAL STEPHENSON'S THE CONFUSION the other night. I liked it a lot, and my reactions were very similar to Eugene Volokh's, though I liked its predecessor volume, Quicksilver, more than Eugene did. You can see a lot of narrative threads being pulled together, not only from Quicksilver, but from Cryptonomicon. I very much look forward to the next volume, The System of the World, which I've already pre-ordered from Amazon.
UNSCAM UPDATE: Here's still more on the oil-for-food scandal:
At least $1.1 billion was paid directly into UN coffers, supposedly to cover the cost of administering the $67 billion scheme, while Saddam Hussein diverted funds intended for the poor and sick of Iraq to bribe foreign governments and prominent overseas supporters of his regime. . . .
Although the UN Security Council approved the plan to levy a 2.2 per cent commission on each oil-for-food transaction, the huge sums this reaped for the UN have never been fully accounted for.
A senior UN official who is closely involved in uncovering evidence of the scandal admitted: "The UN was not doing this work just for the good of Iraq. Cash from Saddam's government was keeping the UN going for a few years.
"No one knows exactly what sums were involved because an audit has never been done. That is why they are wriggling and squirming now in New York."
(Emphasis added.) This explains a lot.
CLAYTON CRAMER documents nature's power.