Wednesday, April 30, 2003
Dumb letter-writer of the day: Pat Bender of Rancho Bernardo, Calif., wins todays prize with this howler in the San Diego Union-Tribune.
I refuse to be silenced when I oppose the war in Iraq or criticize our president. It looks to me as though the latter is bent on his policy to allow free speech to Iraqi citizens while labeling our right to free speech as treason.
Any report of our soldiers being killed gives me a heartache and the families who are left are heroic too. As a former corporate wife, I have the utmost respect for those left behind.
A former corporate wife? Yeah, there's a real comparison there between being left for a trophy wife and having a son/daughter/husband/wife/father/mother killed serving their country overseas.
Telemarketers are EVIL: When I first canceled my landline telephone service a couple of years ago it was prompted by a couple of reasons: First, long-distance telephone calls, including to my parents (those were actually local-toll calls) were free with my cell phone; Second, I never really spent a lot of time talking on the phone.
The only problem to be overcome was how to send faxes when it was necessary to do that. For awhile I used j2 -- which was a good service, but they eventually decided that occasional users like myself weren't worth the trouble and proceeded to jack the price up. Currently I'm using MaxEmail and I'm very happy with their service. It's good, and it's cheap.
To quote Bill Cosby: I told you that story so I could tell you this one...
Like I said, I cut my landline two years ago, but my recent purchase of a condo required me to reestablish one. The condo is located in a (somewhat) secure complex, and the method for allowing guests entrance to the complex is set up through the telephone.
What I've recently discovered was a third, valuable benefit of not having a landline -- no telemarketers. In the month or so I've had my new unlisted number, I've gotten numerous calls from all variety of organizations and businesses.
This morning, I got ticked. At 8:45 a.m., when I'm usually enjoying my last few minutes of sleep (I usually work the swing shift, stay up late and get up late) my phone rang. All manner of possibilities presented themselves. Was it my parents? Unlikely. They know better than to call before noon. If it's important, they might call at 10 a.m. or so, but still, unlikely. Was it work? Had some tragedy happened and they wanted my help putting out an EXTRA? Also somewhat of a longshot. There are other designers they'd call first. My name is fairly far down that list. Was it a collection agency? Once again, unlikely. I'm paid up on all my bills (though if you'd like to contribute, you may use one of the buttons at the left.) -- any collection agency call would probably be a mistake -- theirs, not mine.
Could it simply be a wrong number? That's happened before. I get a call every couple of nights from some guy looking for "Lawrence" (why not "Larry"?) -- hopefully soon he'll figure out -- there is no Larry. (Sorry, looking forward to the Matrix Reloaded.)
Could it be a beautiful woman? Searching for that special...someone...
Nope, instead it was one of those hyper-annoying automated telephone calls that, after awakening you ask you to "hold on the line to speak with a representative." A representative of what, it didn't say. Just who in the H-E-double hockeysticks do these companies think they are? If I actually did wait on the line, do they think that's going to make me more likely to purchase whatever they're selling?
Of course, the last time I dealt with one of these things it was several years ago and it was a collection agency calling -- it seems the people who had my telephone number before me were a little delinquent in paying their Montgomery Ward credit card off. The thing that ticked me off about those turkeys was they'd call -- require me to stay on the line and then, if two minutes passed and they still didn't have an operator to talk with me, a machine would apologize, promise to annoy me some other time and hang up! It took talking to two supervisors very slowly to make sure they would never call me back again.
So, if these turkey's call me back again, I'll make sure to get a 1-800 number for them and advertise it here. If you're feeling lonely, you can call them up.
Breaking the judicial stalemate: I heard Rush LImbaugh mentioning this subject as I drown into work, and then read the National Review Online article he was apparently referring to.
Basically the idea to get the recalcitrant Democrats to stop their unprecedented filibuster of Bush judicial nominees is to use the recess appointment power -- but not in the way it is commonly used. Usually, if the Senate fails to act on an appointee (usually a political appointee, but sometimes a judicial nominee), the president waits until the Congress is out of session and then places the person in the job by way of a recess appointment.
Well, here's the twist suggested by Cato Institute Fellow Randy E. Barnett:
President Bush could threaten to line judicial openings with committed conservative and libertarian recess appointees, people who are too old, too young, too smart, too conservative, or too burned by previous failed nominations to ever be considered for ordinary judicial appointments. Unlike practitioners who cannot abandon their practice for a short stint on the bench, professors who can take a few semesters off and judges with no prospects of higher judicial office would be ideal. It would be like a judicial clerkship program for conservative and libertarian law professors that can continue as long as there is a Republican president.
If the Democrats don't think they like "stealth" candidates like Miguel Estrada, just wait until they experience the delights of judges Richard Epstein, Lillian Bevier, Bernard Siegan, Lino Gragia, and dozens more like them on the Courts of Appeals. Or how about Morris Arnold, Alex Kozinski, Richard Posner, Frank Easterbrook, Edith Jones, or even Robert Bork as recess appointments to the Supreme Court? For the White House, the point of the exercise would be to propose a list of bright and articulate judges who are far more ideologically objectionable to the Democrats and their activist support groups than the president's current nominees.
It's an interesting suggestion -- and I can guarantee the Democratic party would go ballistic. You wouldn't have to worry about them putting pork in spending bills because they'll be too busy having cows.
Monday, April 28, 2003
On Jimmy Carter: Some people have asked me to remove former President Carter from the trading block for imprisoned Cuban dissidents. While I will concur that his work with Habitat for Humanity is good and noble work, his dealings on the international stage, show, at best willful ignorance when it comes to some of the people he's embraced.
As reference, I would refer you to these columns by Jonah Goldberg and Jay Nordlinger.
Goldberg presents a bill of particulars against Carter:
As Joshua Muravchik wrote in the New Republic in 1994 - when Carter was bollixing up then-President Clinton's efforts to stop nuclear proliferation in North Korea - "Jimmy Carter, for all his heroic advocacy of human rights, has a long history of melting in the presence of tyrants."
At the time, Carter said of Kim Il Sung, a brutal Stalinist dictator, "I found him to be vigorous, intelligent, surprisingly well-informed about the technical issues and in charge of the decisions about this country." As for the North Koreans, Muravchik wrote, Carter said the "people were very friendly and open." The capital, Pyongyang, is a "bustling city," where customers "pack the department stores," which looked like "Wal-Mart in Americus, Georgia." North Korea, it should be noted, has suffered from such government-imposed mass-starvation that millions have been forced to live off grass.
As the "human rights president," Carter noted that Yugoslavia's Marshall Tito was also "a man who believes in human rights." Carter saluted the dictator as "a great and courageous leader" who "has led his people and protected their freedom almost for the last 40 years." He publicly told Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, "Our goals are the same. ... We believe in enhancing human rights. We believe that we should enhance, as independent nations, the freedom of our own people." He told the Stalinist first secretary of Communist Poland, Edward Gierek, "Our concept of human rights is preserved in Poland."
Since Carter has left office, he's been even more of a voluptuary of despots and dictators. He told Haitian dictator Lt. Gen. Raoul Cedras he was "ashamed of what my country has done to your country." He's praised the mass-murdering leaders of Syria and Ethiopia. He endorsed Yasser Arafat's sham election and grumbled about the legitimate vote that ousted Sandanista Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua.
Carter does some good work -- but he'd be better off focusing on building homes for the poor and keep his mouth shut when it comes to international affairs.
Like oil and water...: New York Times columnist Paul Krugman and politics don't mix.
Paul Krugman, apparently isolated from news reports, is still fighting to prevent the United States from going to war against Iraq.
Krugman refers to an ABC News report where a "Bush administration official" (not even "senior"?), apparently responding to a question about whether the administration had lied about the threat Saddam Hussein posed to the United States, said "We were not lying, but it was just a matter of emphasis."
Well, the fact of the matter is that the U.S. wasn't (isn't) lying, and Krugman backhandedly acknowledges it.
Sure enough, we have yet to find any weapons of mass destruction. It's hard to believe that we won't eventually find some poison gas or crude biological weapons. But those aren't true W.M.D.'s, the sort of weapons that can make a small, poor country a threat to the greatest power the world has ever known.
Oh, we'll find banned weapons, but those aren't real banned weapons. No one could die from those weapons.
As far as what constitutes a threat to the people of the United States, I'll trust the government, with its wealth of intelligence information, to a columnist who ofttimes displays a dearth of it.
It's amazing, as many have pointed out, that Krugman and his starry-eyed doves were willing to give U.N. weapons inspector many more months (or years) to find banned weapons, but want the U.S. armed forces, which were until very recently fighting a war, to have these things found yesterday.
Remember that President Bush made his case for war by warning of a "mushroom cloud." Clearly, Iraq didn't have anything like that - and Mr. Bush must have known that it didn't.
As far as the "mushroom cloud" statement, Krugman (predictably) takes it out of context.
A transcript of Bush's Oct. 8, 2002, speech reveals the context of the statement:
If the Iraqi regime is able to produce, buy, or steal an amount of highly-enriched uranium a little larger than a single softball, it could have a nuclear weapon in less than a year.
And if we allow that to happen, a terrible line would be crossed. Saddam Hussein would be in a position to blackmail anyone who opposes his aggression. He would be in a position to dominate the Middle East. He would be in a position to threaten America. And Saddam Hussein would be in a position to pass nuclear technology to terrorists.
Some citizens wonder: After 11 years of living with this problem, why do we need to confront it now?
There is a reason. We have experienced the horror of September 11. We have seen that those who hate America are willing to crash airplanes into buildings full of innocent people. Our enemies would be no less willing -- in fact they would be eager -- to use a biological, or chemical, or a nuclear weapon.
Knowing these realities, America must not ignore the threat gathering against us. Facing clear evidence of peril, we cannot wait for the final proof -- the smoking gun -- that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud.
If...then... it's a simple construct that seems to befuddle Krugman. Krugman continues:
Does it matter that we were misled into war? Some people say that it doesn't: we won, and the Iraqi people have been freed. But we ought to ask some hard questions — not just about Iraq, but about ourselves.
First, why is our compassion so selective? In 2001 the World Health Organization — the same organization we now count on to protect us from SARS — called for a program to fight infectious diseases in poor countries, arguing that it would save the lives of millions of people every year. The U.S. share of the expenses would have been about $10 billion per year — a small fraction of what we will spend on war and occupation. Yet the Bush administration contemptuously dismissed the proposal.
Ummm...I'm not sure about you Mr. Krugman, but I'm not counting on the WHO to protect me from SARS. I'm also not counting on the U.N. to protect me from terrorism. We have a government agency here, called the Centers for Disease Control. Maybe you've heard of it?
And then we get more opportunity cost examples. What about the Bush administration's funding of $15 billion to fight AIDS in Africa? Krugman has all sorts of plans for spending our tax dollars -- it's not often you hear about a non-military program that Krugman doesn't think should be fully funded.
Or consider one of America's first major postwar acts of diplomacy: blocking a plan to send U.N. peacekeepers to Ivory Coast (a former French colony) to enforce a truce in a vicious civil war. The U.S. complains that it will cost too much. And that must be true — we wouldn't let innocent people die just to spite the French, would we?
First, Krugman has a strange definition of "major." U.N. peacekeepers to the Ivory Coast? Readers who tend to take what Krugman tells them at face value would be disturbed to learn that the U.N. didn't want to send peacekeepers in the sense that we all know them -- blue-hatted soldiers carrying automatic weapons. Nope, according to Reuters, the French plan "proposed setting up a U.N. operation with 255 military and civilian staff in the West African nation, which has divided along ethnic lines after months of civil war despite a peace deal reached in January. But the resolution stalled after Washington objected to the projected $27 million one-year price-tag for the mission."
Let me get this straight. According to Krugman, the presence of 255 military and civilian staff, will prevent the deaths of innocent people. Not really, because there are already several thousand French troops on the ground.
Let's do a little Krugman-math. $27 million. Divided by 255. Average U.N. pay for employees at the Ivory Coast peacekeeping office works out to $105,882.35.
So it seems that our deep concern for the Iraqi people doesn't extend to suffering people elsewhere. I guess it's just a matter of emphasis. A cynic might point out, however, that saving lives peacefully doesn't offer any occasion to stage a victory parade.
Maybe Krugman should start writing for the "cynics" over at Indymedia.com. Of course, when Clinton was president, the strongest condemnation he could muster for not going in to stop the genocide in Rwanda was in Slate: "A few thousand Marines could probably have saved 800,000 lives in Rwanda--but we did nothing."
The 1999 article referenced above also shows that Krugman is all for using the U.S. military -- when a democrat is president.
The truth, I think, is that the very success of America--our emergence as the world's overwhelming superpower--creates a set of moral dilemmas for the left. (The Right--which at a fundamental level believes that man is not his brother's keeper--does not suffer to the same degree). There are now very few clear and present dangers to the United States itself; for the most part Realpolitik does not compel us to intervene in other countries' affairs. On the other hand, there is a great deal of evil in the world, and the United States often could do much to limit the damage. Doesn't this mean that we have a moral obligation to do so?
Apparently not when they have oil.
Krugman, oddly, after earlier in the article acknowledging that we would likely find some prohibited weapons (but not the lethal kind), proclaims that we won't.
One wonders whether most of the public will ever learn that the original case for war has turned out to be false. In fact, my guess is that most Americans believe that we have found W.M.D.'s. Each potential find gets blaring coverage on TV; how many people catch the later announcement — if it is ever announced — that it was a false alarm? It's a pattern of misinformation that recapitulates the way the war was sold in the first place. Each administration charge against Iraq received prominent coverage; the subsequent debunking did not.
Yeah, right. As evidence of that, the ABCNews.com site, at the very time Krugman's column was published on the Web, led with this article: "Tests Cast Doubt on Chemical Find in Iraq."
Thanks to this pattern of loud assertions and muted or suppressed retractions, the American public probably believes that we went to war to avert an immediate threat — just as it believes that Saddam had something to do with Sept. 11.
Now it's true that the war removed an evil tyrant. But a democracy's decisions, right or wrong, are supposed to take place with the informed consent of its citizens. That didn't happen this time. And we are a democracy — aren't we?
Is Krugman suggesting a voting test of some sort? If people willfully refuse to become informed about what's going on in the world, does that mean that the government can't do anything. Must a majority of the American people be able to understand Rep. Dick Gephardt's health care plan before they are able to vote in the Democratic presidential primaries?
The implications of such a "Krugman" requirement is disturbing. But, then again, Krugman knows what's best for you.
*UPDATE* Donald Luskin has tons more on Krugman's math, economics and even skills as a college professor. Check it out.
*UPDATE #2* More on Krugmania over at Just One Minute.
Bill Richardson & North Korea: Just caught a couple of minute of Greta Van Susteran's program while awaiting the beginning of the Ducks vs. Stars hockey game, and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson approved of the diplomatic path the Bush administration was now taking. In the past, according to Richardson, the labeling of North Korea part of the Axis of Evil and the president's threats "to remove Kim Jong Il" were not helpful.
Excuse me, but when did the President threaten that? [Not that the removal of Kim Jong Il would be a bad thing.] Google provides no indication that the president ever did that.
North Korea is a complicated situation. The combination of a nut with nukes and a major city within artillery range makes diplomacy a better option, for the time being. However, I'm usure how diplomacy will work. North Korea has demonstrated again and again that you can't trust it to live up to its agreements. It is a prodigious proliferator of missile technology. Its economy is in such shambles, that the sale of weaponry (including nuclear) to less-than-trustworthy regimes, or even directly to terrorist groups, is perhaps its only real business.
I'm loath to find out how this will eventually work itself out. Maybe regime change is the only way. But it's probably not going to be pretty.
Friday, April 25, 2003
Scott Ritter stays bought: Blogger Bryon Scott over at Slings and Arrows analyzes former U.N. weapons inspector Scott Ritter's defense of fellow Iraqi-bought public figure George Galloway.
No one takes Ritter seriously anymore, and for good reason, as Scott points out.
Krugman and math: Donald Luskin has the latest on New York Times columnist Paul Krugman's math difficulties over at NRO.
How do you spell "elitist?": Try K-R-U-G-M-A-N. Today, if you hadn't heard it before, Krugman reveals that he's none too fond of the Bush tax cuts -- past or present.
This time, Krugman uses Democratic presidential candidate Dick Gephardt's recently-announced health care plan to present his argument.
[C]ongressman Richard Gephardt's new proposal — to scrap the 2001 tax cut and use the reclaimed revenue to provide health benefits to the uninsured — has been widely dismissed as unrealistic. And in political terms that's probably true. After all, these days it's considered "moderate" to support an irresponsible tax cut that is merely large, as opposed to gigantic.
But today I'd like to take a holiday from political realism, and ask a naïve question: Why shouldn't the American people favor a proposal like Mr. Gephardt's? Never mind the details; why shouldn't the typical citizen, faced with a choice between Bush-style tax cuts and a plan to provide health insurance to most of the uninsured, choose the latter?
Ummm...because the tax cut will help spur job growth and the economy, while the health care plan will not?
Krugman, who likes to assail the rich and corporate America on a regular basis, finds it convenient to think kindly of the very companies he typically vilifies when it benefits his argument.
Would ending that risk [of the loss of health insurance] be worth several hundred dollars a year to the typical family? (It doesn't have to be worth $800: Mr. Gephardt's plan, which would provide increased tax credits to employers, would also lead to higher wages, offsetting some of the tax-cut reversal.) Yes, without question.
What exactly makes Krugman believe that greedy companies would take that extra money they keep from the tax credits and pass it on to their employees? I've got a pretty generous employer (as media companies go), but you'll excuse me if I choose to count on a politician (who I can vote out of office) to provide me with more money than I do a greedy corporate bigwig (that I have no power over).
If American families knew what was good for them, then most of them — all but a small, affluent minority — would cheerfully give up their tax cuts in return for a guarantee that health care would be there when needed. And even the affluent might prefer to live in a society where no sick child was left behind.
Hello, I'm Paul Krugman. I'm smarter than you. If you agree with me, then you know what's good for you. Otherwise, you're simply stupid.
I'm sorry, but that arrogance makes me sick.
Also, seriously, is there a sick child that gets left behind in this country? Remember just a few months ago that an illegal immigrant child was smuggled into the United States for a lifesaving organ transplant (that went tragically wrong)? I will concede that there are problems with the health care system in this country, but I don't think that any child is "left behind."
Anyone sat in a hospital emergency room lately? Did you see them turning people away because they had no insurance? No money? Didn't think so. As far as expensive, lifesaving operations go, I've covered fund-raiser after fund-raiser that small communities hold to try to raise money to help families that can't afford operations.
Another suggestion to Professor Krugman: Instead of writing a column about opportunity costs, why don't you look into Gephardt's plan and analyze it. How much will it really cost? What are its pitfalls? What are its strong points? Economically how feasible is it? Use some of those degrees you have!
Thursday, April 24, 2003
Dixie Chicks nekkid: In an effort to repair their image with their largely conservative country fan base, the Dixie Chicks (Full disclosure: I do own all of their albums -- bought before lead singer Natalie Maines started talking -- as opposed to singing) are going on ABC's "Primetime Live" tonight. From the excerpts played on Sean Hannity's radio show while I drove to work, I don't think it's going to help them. They're also on the cover of Entertainment Weekly mostly naked.
This prompted one commentator over at Little Green Footballs to take to headline writing:
"Rec. Execs sell Tex-Sex: Slick Pix don't Fix Dixie Chicks Nix by Hicks in Sticks."
Jay Nordlinger's Impromptus: My list of Cuban dissidents was cited in today's Impromptus over at National Review Online. You'll have to scroll down in the story. Unfortunately, he linked directly to the html table on my site and not to the entry here at Hoystory. So I've got no idea how many people are viewing it. But at least the names are getting out there.
A fair trade?: Zachary Barbera over at Voice from the Commonwealth, has a suggestion that we offer Cuban dictator Fidel Castro a straight-up trade, 1 for 1, of Hollywood leftists in return for the freedom of the journalists and human rights activists listed below.
Now, while I'm sure that there are plenty of Castro-loving Hollywood liberals that qualify, I'm hesitant to limit it to our finest actors and actresses. I think we should include anyone with some "fame" credentials in the trade.
Oliver Stone -- Hollywood Director who did a fawning documentary for HBO on Castro
Jimmy Carter -- Former President and friend to tyrants
Rep. Bob Filner (D-San Diego) -- House member and recent guest of Castro
Barbara Walters -- TV "Journalist" who did a puff piece praising Cuba's literacy rate under Castro
So, taking Barbera's suggestion, I'm going to try to come up with a list of 75 people that we could offer in trade. I'd like the list to include leftists who actually have had some ties to Castro. Whether that means they've spoken out in praise of him, visited him or supported lifting the sanctions regime, it doesn't matter. I just don't want this to simply be list of liberals we dislike.
So, help me fill out the list and we'll see if we can get some serious publicity for it. You can submit names using the comment button below, or using the e-mail to the left. Please use a format similar to the one I've used to start this, listing both the name and their tie to the Cuban dictator.
Waaaah! I don't like them! I was going to write on Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen's Tuesday column last night, but making the chart you see below was more time-consuming than I had anticipated.
Anyway, Cohen's little diatribe against media mogul Rupert Murdoch's Fox News Channel and New York Post is a waste of perfectly good newsprint (and Internet bandwidth).
Since 1917 the Pulitzer Prizes -- named for their creator, the 19th-century press baron Joseph Pulitzer -- have been awarded to encourage excellence in journalism. I happen to think that more could be accomplished with a prize for the worst in journalism. It should be called the Murdoch.
The first Murdoch would go to Rupert Murdoch himself, a media mogul who has single-handedly lowered the standards of journalism wherever he has gone. His New York Post and his Fox News Channel are blatantly political, hardly confining Murdoch's conservative political ideology to editorials or commentary but infusing it into the news coverage itself. It does this, of course, while insisting it does nothing of the sort.
I must confess I don't read a whole lot of the New York Post, I'm familiar with it, and I will at times read some of the columns or editorials, but it's not my standard fare. I rarely read any of its news stories. Cohen may or may not have read the paper's news stories, because he appears to take issue more with its headlines and celeb/gossip "Page Six" (which reports have it is not actually on Page 6).
It seems difficult for Cohen to grasp this, so I'll help him out -- the New York Post is a tabloid, not just in format, but in style. The New York Post is certainly more like a British tabloid than it is the New York Times, but people know what they're getting when they buy it. Just because Cohen in his ivory cubicle at the Washington Post doesn't approve of the New York Post's work, doesn't make it worthy of a "bucket of slime."
But the Murdoch way of conducting a debate is to yell treason or something very close to that. His organization did so, for instance, in a New York Post column that virtually called Peter Arnett, the former MSNBC correspondent, a traitor for what he said in his now-infamous interview with Iraqi state television. Arnett made himself impossible to defend, but bad judgment or even craven obsequiousness to a source (the Iraqis) is not treason. It is merely bad journalism.
So, it's bad thing to conduct a debate by yelling "treason." Is it then bad form, in Cohen's view to conduct a debate by "yelling" "moron?" Apparently not. Besides that, doesn't Cohen understand that a newspaper "column" is exactly the place to debate whether Arnett is a traitor. Maybe Cohen needs to head back to Journalism 101.
It would be fun to imagine how the Murdoch press would cover Murdoch. It might have noticed that he abandoned his Australian citizenship and embraced America, apparently to comply with an FCC rule that prohibited foreigners from owning more than 25 percent of a TV license -- a touching immigrant saga. He dropped the BBC from his Star TV satellite operation in China because Beijing had a problem with its unbiased reporting.
The BBC has unbiased reporting? Tell that to the crew of the British warship Ark Royal.
Cohen's certainly entitled to his opinion, but it's curious that his attack on Rupert's Fox News comes shortly after CNN president Eason Jordan revealed that CNN's "unbiased" reporting covered up murder and torture in order to keep its bureau in Baghdad. A list of Cohen's recent columns reveals no taking to task of CNN.
After all, leaning a little to the right in your reporting is so much worse than covering-up for a brutal tyrant.
Maybe I can give out my own award. I'll call it the Turner. I'll award the first one to CNN's Eason Jordan. What will the award look like? Like Cohen's, but instead of a bucket of slime -- it'll be a bucket of blood.
Wednesday, April 23, 2003
Castro's crackdown: While the world's attention was focused on the war in Iraq, Cuban "president" Fidel Castro took the opportunity to imprison many advocates of democracy on the spurious charge that they were American agents.
The following table was published in Sunday's San Diego Union-Tribune, but did not appear on the paper's Web site. (I know, I work there, but that's outside my purview.) I'm reproducing it here, because I've been unable to locate this information anywhere else on the Internet.
Next time someone proposes ending the U.S. embargo on Cuba, have them check this list and see if these brave Cuban patriots are still rotting in their cells.
[Editor's Note: For those of you having a hard time reading the graphic, there is an html version located here.]
Tuesday, April 22, 2003
NOW they come to their senses: The National Organization for Women's leaders, and even the woman who first assailed the decision of California prosecutors to charge Scott Peterson with the murder of his unborn son, have backed away from their stupid comments.
A litmus test?: The Wall Street Journal's Brendan Minter outlines the Democrats' case against Bush's latest court of appeals nominee, James Leon Holmes.
Holmes, who received a "well qualified" rating from the liberal American Bar Association (once the "gold standard" according to Sen. Joseph Biden), has come under fire because of his personal views on subjects such as abortion, marriage, separation of church and state, etc.
Minter makes the case that Holmes is drawing all this fire because he is an orthodox Catholic -- a part of who he is that influences his views on everything. One would note that it's not an appeals court judge's job to apply his personal beliefs to the cases that come before him (or her), and the Democrats have presented no evidence that Holmes has in the past, or would in the future, ignore the law.
Minter argues that, contrary to the dictates of the Constitution, some Democrats are applying a religious test for judicial office. This is no surprise. The Democrats' hostility to anyone who is conservative and religious (like Bush?) started not with judicial nominations, but with cabinet picks. When John Ashcroft was nominated to the position of Attorney General, a position he had held at the state level, Ashcroft revealed (though he didn't name names) that several Senators had asked him about his faith.
Forty years ago, Democrats rightfully chastized some Republicans who questioned whether JFK's Catholicism made him unfit to be president. The more things change...
I'm sympathetic to Minter's argument, but I think there is an egg/chicken problem with the analysis. I tend to think that the Democrats' behavior looks like a religious test because the beliefs/views they oppose are common to evangelicals and orthodox Catholics (among others). So, by their blanket opposition to conservative thought, it has the effect of being a de facto religious test -- even though it isn't intended to be.
Monday, April 21, 2003
Staying on message: Did you know that New York Times columnist Paul Krugman thinks President Bush's economic plan is bunk? Oh, and did I mention that Krugman thinks Bush's economic plan is a disaster? Oh, don't forget that the plan is bad.
Krugman is obviously under instructions from the anti-Bush left to push that theme. Practically every column Krugman writes echoes the theme so often that it sounds like an embarrassing nervous tic, or a maniacal obsession.
Of course, there's no reason to take anything Krugman writes seriously. Basically, Krugman's assessment of the Bush administration's plans and motives come from the same place that Tawana Brawley's rape allegations came from. Still, let's pretend that Krugman is serious.
At what price would those jobs be created?
By price I don't just mean the budget cost; I also mean the cost of sacrificing other potential pro-employment policies on the altar of tax cuts. Once you take those sacrifices into account, it becomes clear that the Bush plan is actually a job-destroying package.
Why isn't this on the front page of the Times? Krugman has revealed that Bush's economic plan is part of a bigger plot to elect a Democrat in 2004. Bush, contrary to the political axiom that what every first-term president wants most is a second term, is creating a complex economic plan that's sole goal is to destroy the American economy and thus deny the current president re-election.
Not that the budget cost is minor. The average American worker earns only about $40,000 per year; why does the administration, even on its own estimates, need to offer $500,000 in tax cuts for each job created? If it's all about jobs, wouldn't it be far cheaper just to have the government hire people? Franklin Roosevelt's Works Progress Administration put the unemployed to work doing all kinds of useful things; why not do something similar now? (Hint: this would be a good time to do something serious, finally, about port security.)
That's what we need! More government workers! If he talks like a socialist and walks like a socialist....
Meanwhile, the United States is in effect about to run a W.P.A. program in reverse. That is, as a nation we're about to reduce spending on basic needs like education, health care and infrastructure by at least $100 billion, maybe more. And these spending cuts ? the result of the fiscal crisis of the states ? amount to a job destruction program bigger than any likely positive effects of the Bush tax cut.
More than a third of Krugman's $100 billion figure is just the state of California. Krugman's suggestion for months has been for the federal government to bail the states out of their free-spending ways. (If memory serves, four states sitll have budget surpluses -- would Krugman give those states "assistance" too -- despite the fact that they were fiscally responsible?)
Economics isn't engineering -- you can't look at an economic plan on paper and determine whether or not it will stand up. Bush and his economic advisers believe their plan can help the economy grow. Krugman disagrees, but he refuses to acknowledge that there even exists an opposing opinion. So instead of providing Times readers insightful analysis (the president's plan won't work because policy A causes the public to behave B and that hurts the economy C), he resorts to lame Joseph McCarthy slanders and lame turns of phrase.
I wrote once that Krugman had an excellent column when he endeavored to teach his readers the methods used by Enron to game the California electricity market. Krugman might eventually live up to his reputation as an accomplished economist if he aims to teach as opposed to demagogue.
*UPDATE* Donald Luskin points out that Krugman has a problem comparing like periods of time. Luskin points out that Krugman compares the tax cut figure, which is over a period of 10 years, to the job-creation figure, which is over a two year period. Thus, Krugman comes up with the laughable assertion that every new job costs $500,000 to create with Bush's plan. Thus, Luskin observes:
And that puts Krugman off by a factor of 29. Not bad for a politician -- but scandalous for an Ivy League econ professor.
Krugman was on ABC: And I missed it. Unfortunately, the local ABC affiliate here in San Diego has this thing about moving the time "This Week" appears just to tick me off. I've got the VCR set to catch it at its "normal" time -- 10 a.m., but this week, instead, I got some NASA show.
Anyway, Donald Luskin, caught the show, and has a question for the irresponsibly hyperbolic New York Times columnist.
In contrast, on NBC's "Meet the Press," Times columnist William Safire, on the subject of deficits and tax cuts, pointed out that the overuse of the phrase "______ as far as the eye can see" is demonstrative of only one fact -- "The eye can't see very far."
Gov. Davis and the Prison Guards: During last year's election season, California Gov. Gray Davis, in his drive for campaign cash made a deal with the devil, in the form of the state's prison guards union. The union contributed $3.4 million dollars to Davis' re-election campaign, and as the Union-Tribune editorial page reported on Friday, they got their money's worth.
It's not bad enough that California's massive budget deficit is going to cost thousands of jobs; that taxpayers are going to have to dig deeper into their wallets to help get the state back in the black; that countless public services are going to be cut. Meantime, California's prison officers could be in line for a 7.5 percent pay increase come July 1, thanks to a sweetheart deal negotiated by the Davis administration.
That deal, which was consummated as the governor began his re-election campaign last year, could end up costing the state $67 million more than anticipated. Not only are the prison guards in line for a hefty pay hike, their generous fringe benefits are even more galling. A greatly liberalized sick leave policy already has prompted the guards to call in ill some 500,000 hours more than in 2001. The consequent 27 percent increase in sick pay translates to a cool $36 million. That increase in turn helped drive up prison overtime costs.
The sick leave policy is so slack that prison managers cannot even require guards who miss a great deal of work to submit medical excuses to support their absences.
The flustered Davis administration hastens to remind that the contract's exact cost cannot be known just yet since the raise doesn't kick in until July 1. Besides, the governor's office is busily trying to get the prison guard union to renegotiate some of the pay increase. Not surprisingly, the union has so far refused.
Before the election, Davis' dealings with the guards union smacked of a quid pro quo, with the state budget hit with the mother of all fiscal disasters, you'd think that a seasoned politico like Davis would have known better.
Even if Davis manages to renegotiate the guards' contract, that solution may be worse than the problem we're already stuck with.
Davis, who is asking other state employees to take $850 million in pay cuts to avoid massive layoffs, remains optimistic that the prison guards will be reasonable. Twelve years ago, the union agreed to a 5 percent cut in return for additional vacation days that ended up costing the state $150 million. We shudder to think how much it will cost to rejigger this bad deal.
Hold on to your pocketbook.
No War for Oil: The Feckless French and the Recalcitrant Russians, who for years have supported the lifting of the U.N. embargo on Iraq, have seen the light now that the United States is in Baghdad. With the United States determined to eradicate all chem/bio/nuke weapons in Iraq, the French and Russians now demand proof before they forswear use of their veto to lift the sanctions.
What's changed? Well, when Saddam was in control, he made lucrative contracts with French and Russian oil firms for the development, export and sale of Iraqi oil when the U.N. sanctions were finally lifted. With Saddam gone, those agreements hang in the balance, and a United States that shed the blood of its young men and women to rid Iraq of WMDs and free the Iraqi people without France and Russian help, is understandably reluctant to reward their perfidy.
Who cares more about the plight of the Iraqi people? Well, it's not France, Russia or the anti-war protesters here at home who still harangue the United States and applaud "old Europe." The international opposition to this war, at least the international leadership, was opposed to war for primarily economic reasons. (The remaining reason was good, old-fashioned anti-Americanism.)
The United States should ignore the Franco-Russian blackmail threats and present a resolution to the U.N. Security Council lifting the sanctions for the benefit of the Iraqi people. Let France and Russia veto it. Prove once again that the U.N. is irrelevant.
Then watch the rush of countries to ignore the U.N. sanctions and do business in Iraq, with the encouragement of the United States and Britain. The Iraqi people will know freedom and economic development, irrespective of France, Russia and Germany.
Sometimes it's the little things: It's the little mistakes that you see in each day's newspaper that make you wonder what the heck's going on. You know the "paper of record," The New York Times is having trouble, when it creates a new problem for itself by making a mistake in a correction.
This story by William J. Broad, misattributed authorship of the book "War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know" to former U.N. weapons inspector Scott "I Stay Bought" Ritter.
No problem, run a correction.
Unfortunately, the correction refers to a Scott "Ridder."
Doesn't somebody check this stuff? It's not like it's a math problem.
Sunday, April 20, 2003
No respect for "choice": The National Organization for Women has once again demonstrated that despite its claim that it is "pro-choice" what it really is is pro-abortion. The head of the Morris County (N.J.) NOW chapter is objecting to prosecuters seeking a double-murder charge in the case of Laci Peterson, the 8-months pregnant Modesto, Calif., woman allegedly murdered by her husband.
"If this is murder, well, then any time a late-term fetus is aborted, they could call it murder," Morris County NOW President Mavra Stark said on Saturday.
The truth of the matter is that the child had a name. Laci, the mother, the woman, wanted the child. Stark should support the second murder charge, because the murderer (whoever it was, probably her husband) took away her choice.
"He was wanted and expected, and (Laci Peterson) had a name for him, but if he wasn't born, he wasn't born. It sets a kind of precedent," Stark said, adding that the issue was "just something I've been ruminating on."
Listen, Ms. Stark, don't think.
The legislative affairs director of New Jersey Right To Life, Marie Tasy, has it exactly right.
"The argument that (fetal homicide statutes) would interfere with abortion rights is ridiculous," Tasy said. "These groups are so radical that they would deny recourse to a family for the loss of a wanted child."
The vast majority of the American people, based on poll after poll regarding abortion, are far closer to the pro-life movement than they are to Stark's "a fetus has zero worth until it is born" position.
One wonders what Stark's position would be if the murderer had cut the child from Laci's body before or after her death before tossing him into the bay with his mother. Would that act be enough to warrant the double-murder charge? Just how gruesome does a murder have to be before Stark will come to her senses?
Friday, April 18, 2003
Book report: I'm on vacation this week and I spent much of the day reading Nicholas Sparks' latest book, "The Guardian." Like the rest of Sparks' books, it's a romance (yes, I'm a hopeless romantic, I plead guilty), but unlike most of his other books, there is thriller aspect to the novel as the main characters have to deal with a psychotic, murderous stalker.
Of course, it's not great literature by any measure, but it certainly is fun and worth a read.
Full of hot air: New York Times columnist Paul Krugman's body has been taken over by aliens. Or at least, you'd think so if you read only the first sentence of his latest column where he actually praises the Bush administration for new the new rules on diesel emissions.
However, it's clear the aliens have not completely asserted control over the Times columnist, because the rest of the column is the usual slams against Bush and some amazingly nutty ideas that the Bush administration has "an aversion to all things global."
The subject, though Krugman never mentions it by name, is the Kyoto Treaty on global warming -- and the Bush administration's move, early on, to recognize it for the farce it was.
[For the record, I think there is ample scientific evidence that the Earth is warming. BUT, I think the predictions that the temperature will rise, on average, up to 5 degrees Celsius are way out of whack. (Flashback 20 years ago and the very same scientists were warning about a new ice age.) I also believe that the warming is a natural environmental trend that is only minimally influenced by human actions.]
Though the Kyoto Treaty is dead (and was long before Bush took office) Krugman still wants the U.S. to do something and Bush is just a thoughtless, narrowminded obstructionist.
More broadly, they opposed any legitimization of the idea that global warming is a problem.
But why would that be such a bad thing, from their point of view?
We can safely dismiss the idea that the right has carefully weighed the scientific evidence and concluded that the overwhelming consensus of the scientific community is wrong. We can also dismiss the idea that conservatives have carefully examined the economics of emission controls and concluded that they are too expensive.
And what evidence does Krugman provide to support those last two assertions? I find it curious that Krugman, while opposing the unsigning of the Kyoto protocol by the Bush administration, has never addressed in his column what would happen to the U.S. economy if it would have been implemented. Krugman thinks the U.S. economy is bad now, just imagine what it would be like if Kyoto's draconian emissions standards would have been made law.
While we've been watching the Iraq show, many past achievements of U.S. foreign policy have been disintegrating. Through neglect and arrogance, the United States has squandered the good will it built up in Latin America in the 1990's. For half a century the U.S. has regarded the drive toward free trade as a key part of its global strategy; now trade negotiations are falling apart from lack of attention.
Of course, just because the well-read Krugman doesn't notice the efforts being made by the Bush administration, it doesn't mean that they aren't happening.
Like a broken jukebox that only plays one song, Krugman continues with the tired complaint that the Bush administration, like Krugman himself, can only focus on one thing at a time. A laughable assertion.
Even in Iraq, we're starting to see that winning the war was the easy part, and U.S. officials ? previously dismissive of "old Europe" ? are suddenly talking about the need for an international peacekeeping force. Such a force, like the one still in Afghanistan, would surely have to include French and German soldiers.
"Would surely?" Says who? Bush's "coalition of the willing" includes more than 50 countries -- why would we "surely" have to have assistance from France and Germany? The Iraqis already know how to surrender. And the last thing we need them learning from the Germans is how to kill Jews.
The truth is that we can't go it alone. But by the time that truth sinks in, there may be a lot of pieces to pick up.
Krugman must have the same definition of "alone" that President Clinton had.
Thursday, April 17, 2003
Blame America First! A Reuters dispatch puts the blame for the crackdown on Cuban dissidents squarely where it belongs -- on America.
Rising Dissent, US Pressure Led to Cuba Repression
Look at me! I'm important! That's what Martin Sullivan and Gary Vikan, members of the the U.S. presidential panel on cultural property are saying as they resign in protest over the looting of Baghdad's museum by Iraqis.
"Our priorities had a big gap," Sullivan told Reuters on Thursday. "In a pre-emptive war that's the kind of thing you should have planned for."
I can see the news reports now. Gen. Richard Meyers apologizes for the failure to plan for urban fighting in Baghdad leading to the deaths of hundreds of U.S. Marines and soldiers, but says "we did secure the Baghdad museum against possible looting."
Wednesday, April 16, 2003
What Liberal Media? Once again, Eric Alterman's thesis that the media really are conservative is demonstrated to be false by...the media. An AP report published on CNN's Web site reveals that lesbian musician Melissa Etheridge is "getting married" in Los Angeles. This will be news to many who thought that the law of the land was that marriage could only be between a man and a woman.
It's a given the announcement is news, but the media needs to be more accurate in its choice of words. It can't be called a marriage because any ceremony involves two women -- just like in an accident brief you can't say that a motorist collided with a parked car (in order for that word to be accurate, both vehicles must be moving...the co part of the word).
Tuesday, April 15, 2003
They fear what they do not understand: In the midst of my moving/home-improvement distraction, I missed the news that Secretary of Education Rod Paige caused a brouhaha among the East Coast elite by mentioning religion.
What Paige said, in response to a question from the Baptist Press (the news service of the Southern Baptist Convention) about whether secular or religious colleges and universities had a "better deal" was:
That's a judgment, too, that would vary because each of them have real strong points and some of them have some vulnerabilities. But, you know, all things being equal, I would prefer to have a child in a school where there's a strong appreciation of values, the kind of values that I think are associated with the Christian communities, and so that this child can be brought up in an environment that teaches them to have strong faith and to understand that there is a force greater than them personally.
This caused both the New York Times and the Washington Post to editorialize, suggesting that Paige should recant his remarks or resign.
Others rushed to Paige's defense, starting with former Education Secretary Bill Bennett, the Wall Street Journal's Brendan Minter and Boston University professor Peter Wood in National Review Online.
In short, this whole incident seems like little more than religion-bashing that has become the norm since George W. Bush became president. Sure, while in office President Clinton also talked about his faith and God, but he wasn't really serious -- and his behavior with a certain intern demonstrated that fact.
There's a hostility and a suspicion in much of the mainstream media with regard to matters of religion and faith -- mainly because too many don't have any first-hand experience with Christians, observant Jews or Muslims. In their ignorance, they must resort to caricature and supposition.
This attitude probably won't change until more Christians enter the news business -- something that is unlikely to happen in large numbers while the media is so hostile to them.
Another reminder why I don't watch much local TV news: Granted, I work for the newspaper and all too often all the TV "journalists" do is swipe stories from the morning paper (they learned this in college) and read them on air.
Because there was a pitching change in the Padres game, I flipped up a channel to see what was on, catching just a few minutes of the 10 p.m. newscast of the local Fox affiliate -- and I'm sorry I did. I listened to a grand total of three crime "briefs" and whoever wrote the script should be fired. In one, a police officer was hit by a woman who was apparently driving 75 mph down a city street. But what you don't know is if the woman even stopped after hitting the officer. No details of the woman (age, city of residence, name) were given, and the brief ended with a statement to the effect that it was unclear if the woman would face charges. I'm guessing she stopped, but it wasn't clear.
Two others also left the viewer with more questions than answers. Well, I guess I'll find out what happened in tomorrow's paper.
Not-so-useful idiots: Protest Warrior has some video from a San Francisco anti-war rally. You can find it here. I particularly like the lady that says she likes a dictator if he provides: clean water, free health care and free education. Translation: Castro good, Bush bad.
Maybe he's paranoid...: Or maybe it's just because we're out to get him. New York Times columnist Paul Krugman's latest diatribe isn't directed at the Bush administration, but at House Republicans -- certainly a change of pace.
While some new Krugman fodder would be welcome, unfortunately today's column is just a replay of the attacks against the old Newt Gingrich Republican-controlled when they trimmed President Clinton's request for an increase in the school lunch program. Then, Democrats accused the GOP of "slashing" the funding. Of course, the "slash" was not a "slash" as the word is commonly used outside of Washington, D.C.
In our nation's capitol, anytime Person A suggests that less money be spent than Person B wants, Person A is accused of "slashing" spending.
So, with that in mind, we turn to Krugman's column.
[A]s the war began, members of the House of Representatives gave speech after speech praising our soldiers, and passed a resolution declaring their support for the troops. Then they voted to slash veterans' benefits.
Krugman doesn't take on the White House today because he needs the White House's numbers as a foil to use against House Republicans. The Office of Management and Budget's summary for the fiscal year 2004 budget plan shows that, overall, the president continues to spend more on the Department of Veterans Affairs.
From FY2002 to FY2004 the VA budget increased from $26.9 billion to $34.1 billion. Once again, the House GOP's "slash" is actually a reduction in the rate of increase.
Krugman's "digression" in his column is also interesting.
A digression: we have entered a new stage in the tax-cut debate. Until now, the Bush administration and its allies haven't made any effort to explain how they plan to replace the revenues lost because of tax cuts. Now, however, party discipline is starting to crack: a few Republicans in the House and Senate, and many erstwhile supporters on Wall Street are beginning to notice how much we're looking like a banana republic.
Krugman must've been napping. The explanation Republicans have been giving for ages (or at least since the Reagan administration -- seems like ages to me) on replacing revenue "lost" due to tax cuts was that the growth spurred in the economy would create a larger base of wealth to tax. In short, the growing economy would replace the "lost" revenues.
Krugman also takes the Republicans to task for participating in politics while a war is going on.
For the overwhelming political lesson of the last year is that war works ? that is, it's an excellent cover for the Republican Party's domestic political agenda. In fact, war works in two ways. The public rallies around the flag, which means the President and his party; and the public's attention is diverted from other issues.
Well, it works both ways. The war is also an excellent cover for the Democratic Party's unprecedented obstruction on Bush judicial nominees. It's the nature of the seriousness of war that it tends to cloud other issues. Life and death is more serious than comparably petty budget battles. But not to Krugman.
As long as the nation is at war, then, it will be hard to get the public to notice what the flagwavers are doing behind our backs. And it just so happens that the "Bush doctrine," which calls for preventive war against countries that may someday pose a threat, offers the possibility of a series of wars against nasty regimes with weak armies.
Someday the public will figure all this out. But it may be a very long wait.
A substantial majority of the American people do understand the Bush doctrine. Unfortunately Krugman isn't among them. The veiled implication is that Bush plans to start a number of wars to divert public attention from the economy and other domestic problems. It's an extremely cynical and offensive suggestion, especially without any evidence to support it.
But that's not surprising, coming from Krugman.
Monday, April 14, 2003
April 1865: Just got done watching the documentary on the History Channel. It was well done and informative. If you missed it, I'm not sure when they'll re-run it, but it's definitely worth 2 hours of your time.
Nearly there: Blogging should reach pre-move levels late this week. All boxes are officially unpacked and there's just one good day's worth of home-improvement work to be done before I sit back and declare it: "Good enough."
Selling the truth for a dateline: There's been a lot of debate both in the blogosphere and in the mainstream media about CNN executive Eason Jordan's confession in Friday's New York Times that CNN had first-hand knowledge of the torture and brutality behind Saddam Hussein's Iraq, but kept quiet. CNN stayed silent for two reasons: First, to protect the lives of Iraqis who worked for CNN from Iraqi government reprisals, and; Second, to ensure that CNN would have an editorial presence in that country.
Some have made the case that Jordan did his best to protect Iraqi CNN employees from government reprisals. Blogger Andrew Hagen is one of those who made a thoughtful defense of Jordan's conduct.
The real crime was committed by the Iraqi regime, not CNN.
If CNN just pulled out of Baghdad, all of their Iraqi employees and family members would have likely been tortured or killed.
I concur that the Iraqi regime was the source of the real crime, but CNN put itself in a vulnerable position. It put itself in a position that its reporting could be controlled by the threat of violence.
Tom Rosenstiel of the Project for Excellence in Journalism (showing that "excellence" can have many different meanings) also supports Jordan's position.
"He wrote an extraordinary and sensible essay," Mr. Rosenstiel said. "He was weighing out his journalistic responsibility and his human responsibility. It's a difficult task, but it comes with the territory of an editor who is responsible for his people ? and the news."
Jordan was faced with a difficult decision -- and he made the wrong choice.
What Jordan should have done was close the Baghdad bureau and move his reporters to Kuwait or Jordan or some other adjacent country where they could report on what's happening in Iraq without a gun pointed at their heads. How much honest reporting can be done in a totalitarian regime with government minders watching your every move? CNN's reporting, and that of most other news organizations in Iraq, was a farce.
Blogger Rand Simberg pointed out that Jordan's confession on CNN's Iraq coverage, begged a question.
Now that we know how the game is played, please tell us why your reporting from Damascus, or Gaza, or the West Bank (as just three examples) should be given any credibility whatsoever. How much of Arafat and Assad's thuggish behavior have you been covering up? And if you now propose to tell us, why should we believe you?
In a just and rational world, this should be devastating for the network, but they'll probably get the usual pass.
Add into Simberg's mix Fidel Castro's Cuba and its recent under-covered show trials of pro-democracy advocates.
Sadly, CNN got itself into the position of having to worry about the fate of its native workers in Iraq because of the vain journalistic prestige a Baghdad dateline gave it. The desire for their own reporters to have the pictures, murals and statues of Saddam Hussein as scenery shots for their stand-ups put them in a position to be blackmailed.
"The most trusted name in news" is CNN's slogan. If that's true, what does that say about the rest of the news business?
*UPDATE* I should've checked The Wall Street Journal's opinion page before I posted.
Franklin Foer makes the following revelation:
Of course, Mr. Jordan may feel he deserves a pinch of credit for coming clean like this. But this admission shouldn't get him any ethical journalism trophies. For a long time, CNN denied that its coverage skimped on truth. While I researched a story on CNN's Iraq coverage for the New Republic last October, Mr. Jordan told me flatly that his network gave "a full picture of the regime." In our conversation, he challenged me to find instances of CNN neglecting stories about Saddam's horrors. If only I'd had his Times op-ed!
Would that this were an outbreak of honesty, however belated. But it isn't. If it were, Mr. Jordan wouldn't be portraying CNN as Saddam's victim. He'd be apologizing for its cooperation with Iraq's erstwhile information ministry--and admitting that CNN policy hinders truthful coverage of dictatorships. For CNN, the highest prize is "access," to score live camera feeds from a story's epicenter. Dictatorships understand this hunger, and also that it provides blackmail opportunities. In exchange for CNN bureaus, dictatorships require adherence to their own rules of reportage. They create conditions where CNN--and other U.S. media--can do little more than toe the regime's line.
Thursday, April 10, 2003
I think I've calmed down now: I saw today's video of what I've been referring to as the "Lenin moment" -- that is, the toppling of the statue of Saddam Hussein in Iraq. I must admit that it brought a smile to my face.
When I had a spare moment at work, I cruised some of the blogs, just to see what others were saying. The consensus on nearly all that I visited was that today was a very good day for the U.S. military, the Iraqi people and for the cause of freedom.
However, I also came across some links to the anti-American, Bush-haters over at Democratic Underground. (I'm not going to link to it, you can find it yourself, it's everywhere over at that site.)
I think it's probably a good thing if many of those people never find themselves within 100 yards of me.
When presented with television images of hundreds and thousands of Iraqis rejoicing in the streets of Baghdad and Basra, children freed from prison, Iraqis kissing U.S. soldiers, what is the common response among the liberal democrats over there?
Anger that the news media aren't showing pictures of children unintentionally wounded by U.S. and coalition troops.
Anger that they only see thousands of people when there are several million people in Baghdad.
Despite the testimony of Iraqis to the tortures inflicted on Saddam's political opponents, one of Saddam's apologists wrote, his keyboard dripping with venom, that George W. Bush was far worse than Saddam. That George W. Bush would go down in history as one of the world's great butchers.
When presented with evidence of the liberation of the Iraqi people, the haters over at DU had a choice: "Am I going to stick to my preconceived worldview, or am I going to believe my lying eyes?"
The consensus is that their hatred of George W. Bush, the American military and, ultimately, the Iraqi people, blinds them to the truth. Comfortable in their cocoon of hatred, they close their eyes to the outside world. Hate is easier.
We have a MOAB: Just saw John Pike on Fox News. (Full disclosure: I interviewed him several times many years ago and used him as a source when I was covering Vandenberg AFB for the Lompoc Record.) Pike suggested that we might find a use for the Mother of All Bombs if, hypothetically, a column of Iraqi troops was heading toward U.S. forces on the road to Tikrit. Pike said that we could drop the bomb on the road in front of the Iraqi column to "demoralize" their troops.
I've got a better idea.
Why don't we just drop the bomb on the Iraqi column and kill the Iraqi troops? After all, if they're still fighting for Saddam Hussein at this point, I don't think they're likely to be able to be reintroduced into a polite, democratic, post-Saddam Iraq.
Wednesday, April 09, 2003
They need something to keep them busy: Democrats Henry "See No Clinton Administration Evil" Waxman and John Dingell are asking the General Accounting Office to see if Vice President Cheney has been helping Halliburton and its subsidiaries get defense contracts.
They are asking for your tax dollars to be spent on an investigation despite the fact that: There have been no credible allegations of wrongdoing; Cheney has no say in who is awarded defense contracts; Cheney cut all financial ties with the company before taking office (therefore he doesn't gain anything when Halliburton is awarded a contract).
Hopefully the GAO will decline to waste money on this farce, but don't count on it.
Writing and the war: I haven't written much on the current war on Iraq, and that's not just because I've been overwhelmed by the home-buying/moving/home-improvement activities.
I've got friends over there in the Gulf -- good friends. From my church group there are 8 guys, all Marines, deployed over there. Four of them I consider friends. Two of them very good friends. They're both officers and enlisted men. They're pilots, riflemen, mechanics, engineers.
Several times a day, I go here and, full of anxiety, search for the names of men I know, men I respect, men I'm proud of.
So far, their names have not appeared. But that gives me little solace. Until a few days ago, the first name on the list of dead was Lt. Thomas Mullin Adams of La Mesa, Calif. -- my hometown. Adams was 27. As I unpack boxes full of books -- ones my parents wanted out of the rafters of their home -- I'm going to have to look at the yearbook for my senior year of high school. At 27, Adams was likely a freshman when I was a senior -- and there are only two high schools in La Mesa: Helix and Grossmont.
As each day passes in this war, I care little about what many of the talking heads on TV say. I don't care about the second-guessing. I don't care about the civilian casualties. I don't care if there's a "pause" in the campaign. I don't care about the small stuff.
I care about bringing a quick and successful end to the war.
When I see our troops -- my friends -- protested by simpletons who see President Bush as a Hitler and Saddam Hussein as a democratically-elected ruler, I don't know whether to scream or cry.
While our troops -- my friends -- endanger themselves to avoid killing Iraqi civilians I hear/see whining from people who point to sites like this and assail our soldiers. I read the SPJ-L list and see these arrogant, pompous, self-important "journalists" presented with a photo of an Iraqi girl cheering American and British liberators respond with:
How miserable a man he must be to find pleasure in the death and mutilation of children.
US networks report 100 Iraqi civilians an hour arrive in overcrowded Baghdad hospitals where there are shortages of anesthetic and antibiotics.
The United States' success in liberating the people of Iraq from a dictator who is responsible for the shortages of anesthetic and antibiotics is equated to finding joy in killing kids.
I haven't written much on the war, because many times I feel myself incapable of forming coherent thoughts through my rage.
As the fighting hopefully winds down, I'm hopeful that my emotions will follow.
Tuesday, April 08, 2003
Stupid Journalists: According to Jonah Goldberg over at National Review Online, NBC correspondent Andrea Mitchell, wife of Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan, was on the Today show talking about last night's decapitation strike on Saddam Hussein. After 4 bunker-busters hit the site Saddam was believed to be at, there won't be much left of Saddam to identify. DNA testing of the bits will be necessary. So, where will we get known Saddam DNA to compare?
Mitchell noted that we have a DNA sample of Saddam's son-in-law. But, "Intelligence sources tell me that's not a close enough relative for a match."
Definitely not the sharpest tool in the shed.
Monday, April 07, 2003
Michael Kelly, RIP: Michael Kelly was the first U.S. journalist killed in Iraq last week when the Humvee he was riding in crashed.
Kelly was an excellent writer and editor. He will be missed.
When word of Kelly's demise hit the Union-Tribune's watercooler, the consensus seemed to be that he shouldn't have been there in the first place -- he's a columnist, not a beat reporter.
Predictably, I'm going to have to disagree.
First, let me say that, given the opportunity, I'd be over there too. I know the conditions are miserable, but the opportunity to report on a war first-hand, living with the troops, is something I couldn't say no to. Of course, I'm single, and Kelly was married with two young children.
The Union-Tribune published Kelly's final column on Sunday. If you compare it to the typical beat reporter's work, you'll see a difference. A difference not only in the writing, but in the depth of the reporting. The one thing too many reporters often fail to do is provide a picture of what is going on -- they depend on the photographers -- and their work suffers.
From Kelly's column:
Near the crest of the bridge across the Euphrates River that Task Force 3-69 Armor of the 1st Brigade of the 3rd Infantry Division seized Wednesday afternoon was a body, which lay twisted from its fall.
He had been an old man, judging from his blood-matted gray hair, and he was poor and not a regular soldier, judging from his clothes. He was lying on his back, not far from one of several burning skeletons of the small trucks that Saddam Hussein's willing and unwilling irregulars employed. The tanks and Bradleys and Humvees and bulldozers and rocket launchers, and all the rest of the massive stuff that makes up the American Army on the march, rumbled past him, pushing on.
Michael Kelly will be missed. He was doing what he loved and American journalism is the better for it.
There are still unpacked boxes on the floor...: but the computer is assembled and I'm back to limited blogging, probably for about another week.
Anyway, the "professional journalists" who discuss media issues over on the Society for Professional Journalists mailing list once again have shown that they lack critical thinking skills.
The incident that has caused a very minor uproar on the listserv is a news article that was brought to the attention of journalists by one Daniel hopkins (sic):
I guess Ann Coulter got her wish: Invade their country, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity--with a twist. Will the Iraqis be next?
BY MEG LAUGHLIN
CAMP BUSHMASTER, Iraq - In this dry desert world near Najaf, where the Army V Corps combat support system sprawls across miles of scabrous dust, there's an oasis of sorts: a 500-gallon pool of pristine, cool water.
It belongs to Army chaplain Josh Llano of Houston, who sees the water shortage, which has kept thousands of filthy soldiers from bathing for weeks, as an opportunity.
"It's simple. They want water. I have it, as long as they agree to get baptized," he said.
And agree they do. Every day, soldiers take the plunge for the Lord and come up clean for the first time in weeks.
"They do appear physically and spiritually cleansed," Llano said.
First, though, the soldiers have to go to one of Llano's hour-and-a-half sermons in his dirt-floor tent. Then the baptism takes an hour of quoting from the Bible.
"Regardless of their motives," Llano said, "I get the chance to take them closer to the Lord."
Personally, my only concern is Llano's flippant attitude regarding the possibility that some of the soldiers may feigning a conversion experience to get a bath. But the "professional journalists" have all sorts of other problems.
First, there's the outright hostility to religion, specifically Christianity. One wonders what the response might be from the "professional journalists" if soldiers were embracing Islam.
Second, is the inability to tell the difference between the forced conversion to a religion, which Coulter seemed to advocate, and a soldier's free choice to be baptized.
Of course, no one called Hopkins on his lack of tolerance or hostility to religion, instead we get the following responses:
From Beth Matter:
This is disgusting.
From Bradley Osborn:
Wow! And I'll bet Chaplain Llano didn't have to resort to donning micro mini-skirts while peddling his latest myopic "defame the liberals" tome on every morning show and press junket in the free world either.
Eric Alterman's "What Liberal Media" is still in a box, when I get a chance to pull it out, I'll post my dissection of Chapter 2. Of course, everyone knew from the start that his thesis was full of holes, but the SPJ listserv continues to be a source of support for the conventional wisdom.
Tuesday, April 01, 2003
A light at the end of the tunnel?: Or is it just an oncoming train? The move is going well, the vast majority of Hoystorical possessions are in my newly-purchased condo. More than a week of prep work has finally made the condo nearly-livable.
The next thing to make the move will be the computer from which I now type. As my ISP flips switches and buttons, my site's graphics may disappear for a short time and e-mail may go on a temporary holiday. But, this will be a temporary hiccup. Expect blogging in earnest to begin sometime early next week, at the latest.