Wednesday, April 16, 2003

Say it ain’t so, Joe

Clueless Joe Sobran has been watching too much al-Jazeera. He informs us that “The Arab coverage … shames the American media into showing the war more candidly,” and describes what the world sees. “It sees brave young Arab soldiers desperately fighting a mighty invader.”
posted at 3:50 PM

What PBS doesn't show you
Charles Johnson catches an interesting piece in the anti-American, anti-Semitic Arab News, by one Kevin James, previously profiled on the taxpayor-subsidized Public Broadcasting System:

Remember the blatantly whitewashed commercial for Islam that PBS showed last December, called Legacy of a Prophet? The one that held up a New York City firefighter named Kevin James as a shining example of a patriotic, moderate Muslim?

Today this same Kevin James, who also just happens to be the director of government relations for the New York chapter of CAIR, has a Chomskyesque hate-America rant in the ever-loathsome Arab News, titled Bush's war on terrorism needs to begin with the face in the mirror. This is the first time I’ve seen such a deeply hostile screed openly attributed to a CAIR official, and it makes the agenda of that PBS documentary very, very clear.

A Clinton Legacy Moment: Will Abu Abbas go free?

Terrorist Abu Abbas, best known for the 1985 hijacking of the cruise ship Achille Lauro in which a wheelchair bound American was murdered and pushed overboard, has been captured in Iraq. The reaction from the Palestinian Authority?

Gaza City - Senior Palestinian official Saeb Erakat called on Wednesday for the "immediate" release of Palestinian radical chief Abu Abbas, arrested by US forces in Baghdad, saying the arrest violated a 1995 peace accord...

"We ask the US administration for the immediate release of Abu Abbas and for it to respect the 1995 interim agreement between the Palestine Organisation Liberation (PLO) and Israel ... and signed by (former) US president Bill Clinton," Erekat said.

He pointed to one of its clauses that says PLO members cannot be arrested or tried for acts committed before September 1993.

Abbas was tried an convicted in absentia in Itally, so there may be a loophole here. We'll see what happens.

via Damian Penny

UPDATE: According to the BBC:
# "The Israeli supreme court formally declared Abu Abbas immune from prosecution five years ago and allowed him to return to Gaza."
# (Jerusalem :: Simon Wilson :: 0927GMT) "The United States also dropped a warrant for his arrest several years ago but his capture in Iraq is now likely to be used as evidence that Saddam Hussein was supporting terror groups." (Centcom, Qatar :: Dominic Hughes :: 0540GMT )

UPDATE: From the Associated Press:

While out of the limelight for the past decade, Abbas is believed to have continued plying the terror trade from Iraq up to the time of his capture Monday in a raid on the southern outskirts of Baghdad.

Israeli intelligence officials say the PLF faction under Abbas was a conduit for Saddam Hussein's payments to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers.

Israel reported earlier this year that it captured several Palestinians who trained at a PLF camp in Iraq and were told by Abbas to attack an Israeli airport and other targets.

UPDATE: According to the AP, Abbas will not go free because, "State Department spokesman Philip Reeker said the interim accord involves only Israel and the Palestinian Authority. 'The United States is not a party to that or any amnesty arrangements regarding Abul Abbas.'" However, "Officials said their first priority is to determine through interrogation whether Abbas can provide useful intelligence about Iraqi leaders, plots by terrorist groups and the presence of other terrorists who might have been sheltered by Saddam Hussein." Reportedly the U.S. has not decided whether to try him, but Itally is seeking to extradite Abbas, and according to "the Justice Department's top counterterrorism prosecutor in the mid-1980s," Victoria Toensing,"unless prosecutors have better evidence than existed in the 1980s it would be unwise to go forward."

Tuesday, April 15, 2003

The “Republic of Fear”

No, not Iran or Iraq.

According to The Village Voice, New York Times Executive Editor Howell Raines:

manages through humiliation and fear. Aside from right-hand men Gerald Boyd and Andy Rosenthal and a core of loyalists, morale is said to be at a new low. There are many rooms in that palace and nobody sees the whole picture. But, says one source, "the old timers who lived through the worst of [former executive editor] Abe Rosenthal say they have never seen anyone be so arrogant, so petty, so mean. Vindictiveness is in." Another source says, "It's no longer about managing down. It's about paying obeisance to the king." Among cognoscenti, 43rd Street is now known as the "republic of fear."

via Drudge Report

UPDATE: Mickey Kaus points out an important aspect of the story:

Raines spiked investigative pieces about New Jersey Senator Robert Torricelli that would have run before Torricelli pulled out of his re-election race in October, 2000. Golden's sources subsequently turned to a TV station, which ran the stories that finally appeared to drive Torricelli from the race.

It seems likely that the Times, not WNBC, would have delivered Torricelli's coup de grâce—had Raines not killed key stories in the heat of the election campaign.

Remember -- and, I agree, it seems like six years ago rather than six months -- that at the time control of the Senate was hanging on a single vote. Retaining Torricelli's seat was considered vital for the Democrats. So Raines spikes stories that might have tipped the Senate to the Republicans (just as he or his henchpeople spiked Augusta columns he disagreed with).

Do something about BBC Bias

Vladimir Bukovsky’s group,, is holding a one-day seminar on BBC Bias: How Can We Stop It? on Saturday, May 31, 2003 in Canterbury Hall, University of London, Cartwright Gardens, LONDON WC1 (near King’s Cross). Registration closes May 24, 2003.

Bukovsky is:

appalled at the political bias displayed by the BBC. In order to re-establish impartiality he is prepared to withhold his licence fee and face prosecution rather than live with ‘Soviet’ style reporting.

posted at 12:50 PM

Academic freedom pop quiz
You’re President of the University of California. Students complain that their instructors are violating their academic freedom by improperly imposing their political beliefs. Do you:

1) Take the students seriously and remind errant instructors of their obligations under the University of California’s Statement on Academic Freedom. Or, do you

2) Gut the Statement on Academic Freedom?
posted at 11:33 AM

Berkley on the James?
Michael Graham’s QUOTE OF THE DAY:

”I don't really see the difference between [America] and Saddam Hussein. Killing is killing. We aren't more innocent than he is."--Richmond (VA) Vice Mayor Delores McQuinn, last night.

Despite the Vice Mayor's argument, Richmond Mayor Rudy McCollum's resolution calling for immediate withdrawal of US troops in Iraq was defeated by the City Council.

Yes, these are the same Mayor and Vice Mayor who held a press conference last year calling for the state police to patrol city streets because crime is out of control in their city.
posted at 10:16 AM

Al Jazeera as the Arabs see it
Al Jazeera in it’s anti-American and anti-Semitic glory – this is the stuff you won’t find on their English language website. Just page through the cartoons. Julius Streicher would be proud.

via Marduk
posted at 9:58 AM

Go read Biased BBC
Biased BBC has plenty of material to work with these days. For example:

The BBC's bias department seems to have been working overtime in the last week, producing both a report stating that ordinary Iraqis have more to fear from Coalition control of Iraq than the rule of Saddam Hussein, and a documentary that celebrates the lives of four British communist traitors who cost this country the lives of hundreds of its agents.

Monday, April 14, 2003

Perfidious France update

While France was calling for more time for UN weapons inspections and sanctions to work, Saddam was receiving “an abundant supply” of French weapons. According to Newsweek:

U.S. forces discovered 51 Roland-2 missiles, made by a partnership of French and German arms manufacturers, in two military compounds at Baghdad International Airport. One of the missiles he examined was labeled 05-11 KND 2002, which he took to mean that the missile was manufactured last year. The charred remains of a more modern Roland-3 launcher was found just down the road from the arms cache. According to a mortar specialist with the same unit, radios used by many Iraqi military trucks brandished MADE IN FRANCE labels and looked brand new. RPG night sights stamped with the number 2002 and French labels also turned up. And a new Nissan pickup truck driven by a surrendering Iraqi officer was manufactured in France as well.

The French, of course, deny violating the sanctions and insist that “new goods from France found in Iraq were probably illegal deliveries that Saddam purchased on a marche parallel, or black market.”

CNN, media access and Walter Duranty

What bothers me about the media piling on CNN for trading silence in exchange for access in Iraq is the knowledge that they were not, and are not, alone. In many parts of the world the only way for the press to maintain a presence is to implicitly agree to keep quiet about certain, uncomfortable, facts. They become complicit in the regimes they cover.

Sure, CNN wasn’t reporting the awful things they were learning inside Iraq, but who was? They weren’t the only news agency with offices there. When do we get the other mea culpas?

Too often, in too many different ways, media silence is traded for access. Whether in covering a brutal dictatorship, Capitol Hill or celebrities, compromises are made, and the news outlets most willing to compromise their integrity get the access.

Does anybody remember The New York Time’s man in Moscow -- Walter Duranty?

As Andrew Stattaford observed:

[Duranty] knew. Privately, he told British diplomats that as many as ten million people might have died, "The Ukraine," he admitted, "had been bled white."

Publicly, however, his story was very different. He claimed that tales of a famine were "bunk," "exaggeration," or "malignant propaganda." There was "no actual starvation."

Duranty also reported favorable on Stalin’s show trials, writing that the defendants were genuinely guilty. The New York Times received a Pulitizer Prize in 1932 for Duranty’s reporting from Russia. It has never been withdrawn or returned.

UPDATE: CNN spins:

CNN spokeswoman Christa Robinson noted that CNN reporters have frequently been kicked out of Baghdad by angry authorities, most recently a few days after the start of the war.

"The decision not to report these particular events had nothing to do with access, and everything to do with keeping people from being killed as a result of our reporting," she said.

Yeah, that's the problem with reporting the truth about repressive regimes -- people get killed. But not reporting enables those same regimes to survive with the result that many more people die as a result. If CNN couldn't report the truth about Sadam's regime while maintaining an office within Iraq, they should have closed their office. But they were not alone, and Iraq is not the only place where the press strikes this implicit sordid bargain.

UPDATE: Peter Collins recoounts how, back in 1993, he was required by his bosses at CNN to parrot Iraqi propaganda and to "shade the news" in order to help CNN score an interview with Saddam. Eventually he resigned.

Tuesday, April 1, 2003

A strange coincidence

Michael Fumento observes that:

First China not only sells Iraq fiber-optic links to improve that country's surface-to-air batteries, but it even provides the workers to install them. The French are caught selling parts to Iraq for F-1 Mirage fighters. Now we've found that the Russians have been selling Saddam anti-tank missiles, night vision equipment, and jamming equipment. What a strange coincidence that these are the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council who threatened to veto a U.S. liberation of Iraq.

posted at 11:14 AM

Reporting both sides of the war
Debra Saunders observes in The San Francisco Chronicle that:

WHEN MAINSTREAM journalists report both sides of racism -- pro and con, with equal weight -- or both sides of having a free press in America, then I'll believe that American media don't take sides on issues, and that there is at least a rationale for American media not rooting for U.S. troops to win in Iraq…

There are certain issues on which thinking Americans don't disagree… Yes, serious people can disagree on whether U.S.-led forces should have gone into Iraq. But serious anti-war Americans understand the consequences of a U.S. capitulation.

A U.S. pullout would send a green light to terrorists everywhere. It would invite global chaos and violence. If that doesn't scare journalists, they should think of how the news media likely would be silenced in a world that welcomes the likes of Saddam Hussein.

Monday, March 31, 2003

There’s a fishy odor at the Special Broadcasting Service

ABC Watch smells a fish in a “Defense Analyst” for Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s “poor ethnic cousin … the Special Broadcasting Service.” His name is Adam Cobb.

UPDATE: The U.S. office of Stratwise, Mr. Cobb's firm, is 4201 Wilson Blvd., #110X, Arlington, VA 22206, which is also the address of Mail Boxes Etc. And the phone campany's never heard of them.
posted at 2:03 PM

A Spanish OmbudsHack
John Chappell alerts us to La Vanguardia’s ombudsman, Josep María Casasús, who is quoted as stating:

The photographs of the faces of the first American prisoners were innocuous. What is a very grave attack against the Fourth Geneva Convention, and against humanity, is that armies kill civilians and cause international havoc.

Apparently Senior Casasús hasn’t considered which army has in recent years wantonly killed civilians with poison gas and engaged in wars of conquest against neighboring states at the cost of millions of lives – both civilian and military.
posted at 11:38 AM

Another low for the Guardian
In today’s Guardian, John Sutherland touts a conspiracy worthy of Mikey Rivero. He alleges that those pictures of “peace activist” and “martyr,” Rachel Corrie, snarling and burning an American flag for the Palestinian kiddies, are of unknown provenance and asserts:

Paranoia suggested [they originated from the] Israeli secret service, which monitors such events. This picture also looked, to some expert eyes, doctored.

Charles Johnson reports that the photographs come from the Associated press and from Corrie’s own organization, “the Olympia Movement for Justice and Peace.”

Concludes Johnson, “This is one of the most disgusting pieces of yellow journalism I have ever read, and it exposes the so-called ‘editors’ of the Guardian as the Jew-hating freaks they are.”

The Guardian’s ombudsman, Ian Mayes, declared last June that, “I do not think the Guardian is anti-semitic.” Perhaps Ian should take another look.

via Damian Penny

UPDATE: Bill Herbert reprts that "the intellectual origin for Sutherland's doctored-photo argument" is "the National Vanguard Network," which is a "repository for creamy Turner Diary goodness."
posted at 9:52 AM

CBC Radio and the Paris anti-war protests
Damian Penny observes that while other media are reporting that anti-war protests in Paris are violently anti-American and anti-Jew, CBC Radio’s Paris correspondent is reporting that they are:

not really anti-American … and they certainly don't have anything against the Jews. It's all very peaceful and idyllic and happy with the rainbows and the singing and the dancing and the joy and the bliss and the glaben!!!

UPDATE: CBC's Ombudsman is David Bazay in case any Canadian readers are interested.

Sunday, March 30, 2003

Skepticism that cuts only one way

The Hartford Courant’s Ombudsman, Karen Hunter, explains:

There's nothing like a war to test the news media's principles. The truth has to be separated from propaganda... Calls for blind patriotism have to be answered with the right amount of skepticism.

So how does The Courant react when presented with al-Jazeera photographs purported to be of American POWs? Do they wait to confirm the information? Do they wait until the families have been notified? No.

I'm glad The Courant didn't hesitate in publishing photographs. Perhaps the photos were Iraqi propaganda. The public can judge for itself.

UPDATE: Compare Hunter's description of the attitude adopted by The Courant with the response of The Oregonian, as described by Ombudsman Dan Hortsch:

the Pentagon had asked the U.S. press not to use shots of the POWs or of the dead until their families had been notified.

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Pentagon officials also said that taping the prisoners -- which included intimidating, mocking interviews -- violated the Geneva Conventions related to treatment of prisoners...

The conventions apply to governments, not to the news media. However, the media must consider whether their actions further the intent of the captors. In this case, use of footage of frightened, wounded prisoners being asked pointless questions seems to do that.

Editors at The Oregonian decided not to publish photos of the prisoners until families had been informed. They had no intention of showing the bodies.

Saturday, March 29, 2003

"We don't want peace. We want the war to come."

A pacifist gauges the will of the Iraqi people:

I spoke to dozens of people. What I was not prepared for was the sheer terror they felt at speaking out. Over and over again I would be told "We would be killed for speaking like this" and finding out that they would only speak in a private home or where they were absolutely sure through the introduction of another Iraqi that I was not being attended by a minder.

From a former member of the Army to a person working with the police to taxi drivers to store owners to mothers to government officials without exception when allowed to speak freely the message was the same - "Please bring on the war. We are ready. We have suffered long enough. We may lose our lives but some of us will survive and for our children's sake please, please end our misery."

via InstaPundit
posted at 12:21 PM

Mikey Rivero: Iraq democracy, U.S. & Britain are not
Marduk’s Babylonian Musings alerts us to some insightful commentary from a website endorsed by the Toronto Sun’s media columnist, Antonia Zerbisias as, “carefully considered, well crafted and very compelling:”

Dictatorships, afraid of their own people, always ban guns. Hitler banned personal guns, for example. Britain has banned guns. The US has strict gun limits, especially on military style weapons. Yes, those nations all have elections, but since those elections are usually rigged, this does not qualify them to be democracies. The ultimate litmus test of whether a society is a dictatorship or free lies in the access to weapons by the general populace. The people of Iraq have the right to purchase weapons that you or I as US citizens are not allowed to have. Therefore, our government is much more afraid of We The People than Saddam is afraid of the Iraqi people. (

Is that why Mr. What Really Happened, Mikey Rivero, prefers to publish this rubish from Hawaii instead of Baghdad?

UPDATE: Mikey elaborates:

I am not saying Saddam is a great guy, but there is a serious disconnect between the claims of his being a tyrant and the Iraqi gun laws. Maybe he is a tyrant, just less of one than the ones we live under.

“Vietnam”-think at The New York Times

The Baseball Crank alerts us that “a search of the New York Times for the term ‘Vietnam’ produces 99 results in the last week.”

Out of curiosity, I performed similar searches on the terms “Republican Guard”and “Fedayeen,” which produced only 98 and 64 results, respectively.

UPDATE: Times Watch has more on the The NYT's coverage of the war.
posted at 9:01 AM

Future brilliant minds of the Fourth Estate
Journalist, and Hunter College Assistant Professor, Karen Hunter reports:

I gave a pop quiz this week in the college journalism class I teach. As a bonus question, I asked: Who is Tommy Franks? Not one student out of 30 could identify the U.S. Army general in command of the war in Iraq.

Ombudsman: “NPR ... hostile to the conduct of the war”

Responding to “those who ask when will NPR resume 'normal,' (aka pre-Iraq) programming,” National Public Radio Ombudsman Jeffrey Dvorkin responds “possibly not for a while -- if ever. In fact, it is likely that programming really ended on Sept. 11, 2001.”

He observes that:

Looking back at Sept. 11, 2001, it seemed easier then: It was a moment of national and journalistic consensus about the event. If my e-mail is any indication, the war in Iraq has brought many of the long-held contradictions and tensions among the press, the political elites and the people into sharp relief.

And makes this startling admission:

This war will be a challenge for all media -- including NPR. There will be efforts to make the journalism tamer under the guise of a patriotic appeal. Others will push NPR to be more openly hostile to the conduct of the war.

Your tax dollars at work.
posted at 7:42 AM

A new restriction on freedom of the press in Canada
Toronto Star ombudsman Don Sellar reports that under a new law in Canada, the Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA):

there is one overriding principle: A young offender cannot be identified until a sentence has been imposed, and even then, only in limited circumstances.

The statute also prohibits the naming of a minor victim, unless both parents consent, and prohibits the identification of non-adult witnesses.

Nor are the restrictions consistent, as the law shields “the names of young victims or witnesses only when the crime was committed by a young offender, yet [allows] identification when an adult is to blame.”

Queries Sellar:

Would the law be respected if, say, a mayor's daughter had been murdered, yet media outlets were legally barred from identifying the victim or family?

Friday, March 28, 2003

Baghdad Broadcasting Corporation update III

In a post entitled “Murder By Telecast,” The Command Post reports that:

The BBC World Service has just signed [Iraqi blogger] Salam Pax's death warrant, live, on air, with a worldwide audience of millions.

Various bits of information about him have been on the web at various times in various places. So much that those of us that care about him were getting increasingly worried. But nobody had built up quite such a comprehensive dossier before, with all the pieces in one place. The BBC World Service then aired it, with the rather snide comment that he hadn't posted recently, and maybe the US Air Force had got him.

Glenn Reynolds observes that “putting up information that [Salam Pax] hasn't seen fit to make public seems to me to be crossing a line,” and promises, “If he turns out to have been killed by Saddam's goons, I'm going to very publicly blame the BBC.”
posted at 12:25 PM

Baghdad Broadcasting Corporation update II
The Guardian reports that “speaking last night at a meeting of Media Workers Against the War, Mark Damazer, the deputy director of BBC News, responds to criticism from the anti-war movement that the BBC is ’shackled’ by the government and military.” For example:

Mr Damazer admitted one of the areas where the BBC had made mistakes was in its use of language, but that it was seeking to put this right.

"If we have used the word 'liberate' in our own journalism, as in 'such and such a place had been liberated by allied forces', that's a mistake," he said.

Hmm. In the interests of truth in labeling, perhaps Media Workers Against the War should be renamed, “Media Workers who oppose their own country in favor of a bloodthirsty, mass-murdering tyrant in time of war.”

Andrew Sullivan observes that:

One thing you have to understand about some of these left-liberal top media honchoes - Howell Raines, Patrick Tyler et al - is that their actual social circle is pressuring them to go even further to the left. Their concern is seeming to be too conservative!

Baghdad Broadcasting Corporation update

Frank Sensenbrenner reports that:

Every time I've watched the BBC since the crisis, let alone the war, started, the BBC anchor has always asked her correspondent whether the American public is behind the war, and always receives a very nebulous response, bordering on grudging acceptance. I'm apparently missing the bulk of US public opinion over here in the UK, or BBC North America excises that bit. Perhaps they view the number of protestors in front of the White House as indicative of American public opinion. Come to think of it, I've never seen a BBC reporter sending a story in from outside Washington or New York…

posted at 11:40 AM

The “worst medical disaster” du jour
Micahel Fumento writes of the “worst medical disaster” du jour, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), that “there may be no fatal illness that will cause fewer deaths this year than SARS.”

He observes that “malaria kills up to 2.7 million people yearly … tuberculosis, kills perhaps three million more,” albeit few Americans, and that non-SARS “forms of pneumonia kill about 40,000 Americans yearly.”

Why all the attention to SARS? There’s “fame, fortune, and big budgets in sounding the ‘emerging infection’ alarm.”

Thursday, March 27, 2003

Life in this here AmeriKKKa

Proof that writers for The Guardian really do reside in an alternative universe:

Democracy is under threat in the United States; anyone who objects to the conflict in Iraq is not allowed to say so...

The harassment, arrest, detention and frustration of those who are against the war is becoming routine.

Oh, the repression!

via Tim Blair

UPDATE: Or perhaps The Guardian is referring to "The harassment, arrest, detention and frustration of those who are against the war" and lie down in the middle of a busy street.

UPDATE: This is the second time today I've received a monologue from an anti-war co-worker. Both speakers expressed the view that the war is hypocritical because President Bush was "unelected." For a repressed group, they sure feel free to unload their unsolicited political views.
posted at 1:56 PM

Forget the war, somebody shot an elephant!
Our nation is at war. American military men and women have been killed, wounded and captured, reports of civilian casualties are mounting and there are anti-war activists blocking streets. Complaints about biased and misleading press coverage are commonplace.

So today, Chicago Tribune Public Editor Don Wycliff uses his Op-ed page column to tackle a compelling reader complaint:

There's an article in today's Outdoor section about shooting an elephant. This is the most disturbing article I've ever read in the Tribune. ... Please don't print this stuff in the future.

If you’re wondering how Don comes out on this pressing issue, he’s against killing “a magnificent creature like an elephant solely for the pleasure of it,” but declares that he has “nothing in principle against hunting--for food, for self-protection.”

Presumably then it’s okay to kill an elephant so long as you intend to eat it, and then to tell your story to the Tribune. I’m thinking a nice cabernet would go best with elephant.

Wednesday, March 26, 2003

The war started with 9/11

Nick Land writes in the Shanghai Star that:

Having suffered an assault more murderous - and certainly more despicable - than the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbour, [the U.S.] no longer has the luxury of beginning this new world war, but only the implacable resolve to prosecute it to the end... War is no longer a "last resort" once it has been flagrantly initiated by hostile action.

Those who maintain that the overthrow of Saddam Hussein has no connection to the international war on terrorism are in most cases the same people who deny that the anti-terrorist struggle is in fact a "war" at all. This is yet another symptom of the international dismissal of 9/11...

Few seriously doubt that Iraq is a determined enemy of the US and a deceitful terrorist state, one manifestly obsessed with procuring weapons of mass destruction. Its alignment in the already ongoing world conflict is therefore beyond serious dispute...

Much of the world has deliberately blinded itself to the depravity and menace of Saddam Hussein's Iraq. Hopefully this cocoon of self-deception will be among the early casualties of the campaign.

via Tim Blair
posted at 11:00 PM

Ledeen: France and Germany in “a deliberate act of sabotage against America in time of war.”
Michael Ledeen reports in The New York Sun that the reason the U.S. and Britain were forced to abandon Turkey as a staging area for a second front against Saddam’s regime “was not an Islamic protest against the American-led coalition, but an act of anti-American intimidation by France and Germany.”

He reports that “Primary blame for the defeat of the measure lies with the opposition — the secular, Kemalist parties that have governed the country since Ataturk,” who were informed by France and Germany “that if they voted to help the Coalition war effort, Turkey would be locked out of Europe for a generation. As one Turkish leader put it, ’there were no promises, only threats.’"

This is only one of a serious of actions by France and Germany that can be seen “only as a deliberate act of sabotage against America in time of war.”

Others include ”exertions of French diplomats to 'convince' African countries to vote against us in the U.N.” and “first joining with us to give Iraq a ‘really, really, last chance’ and then preventing us from acting as if the language of Resolution 1441 meant what it said.”

Ledeen observes that “To take such action, Mr. Chirac must have conceived of a French future not only independent of the United States, but in open opposition to us.”

via The Corner
posted at 10:23 PM

Politically correct rules of engagement
"We don't want to hurt people if we can avoid it but now it has got to be that if you have got a weapon you have become an Iraqi soldier and we can kill you. This rules of engagement crap is making me lose men." – Capt. Waldron, 3rd Brigade Combat Team

“When Rome is strong, the provinces are orderly.” – a Shiite Muslim in Beirut after 9/11

Writing in today’s Times, Michael Gove gets to the core of what’s wrong with how the war is being prosecuted:

As Jacky Fisher, the architect of Britain’s naval superiority at the turn of the past century, put it, “the essence of war is violence, moderation in war is imbecility.” No matter how brittle President Saddam Hussein’s regime may appear, it will not be coaxed into collapse by noises off. It must be smashed. I had hoped that Tony Blair, who has been so admirably resolute in making the case for war, would appreciate that. But I fear that progress towards crushing Saddam’s tyranny has been hindered by the politically correct manner in which he and President Bush have prosecuted this war so far…

As far as the Iraqi population is concerned, any alms we dispense now could become tickets to a torture chamber in future, unless they can be certain the Baathists have gone for good. Once the regime has been smashed we can, and must, turn all our energies to reconstruction of the country. But until then, effort, however well-meaning, diverted from victory is perfume wasted on the desert air.

Reports are that Saddam’s thugs are using hospitals and mosques as staging areas and forcing people to fight at the threat of reprisals to their families. Capt. Waldron reports that most of the Iraqi combatants he’s captured are in civilian clothes. In Basra, Saddam has turned his cannons on his own people.

Rules of engagement are necessary, but we won’t win the hearts and minds of those who hate the United States by imposing absurdly limiting rules on our military. Simply put, they will result in more, not fewer, unnecessary casualties by prolonging the war. The proper and humane thing to do is to win this war as quickly and decisively as possible, and then help the Iraqis build a prosperous, democratic and peaceful future. Neither the war, nor the peace, will be won through half measures.

Baghdad Broadcasting Corporation update II

The Sun is reporting that:

THE BBC was last night sensationally condemned for “one-sided” war coverage — by its own front line defence correspondent.

Paul Adams attacks the Beeb for misreporting the Allied advance in a blistering memo leaked to The Sun.

And he warned the BBC’s credibility is at risk for suggesting British troops are paying a “high price for small victories”.

On Monday, he wrote from US Central Command in Qatar: “I was gobsmacked to hear, in a set of headlines today, that the coalition was suffering ‘significant casualties’.

“This is simply NOT TRUE. Nor is it true to say — as the same intro stated — that coalition forces are fighting ‘guerrillas’.

“It may be guerrilla warfare, but they are not guerrillas.”

via Rand Simberg
posted at 9:44 AM

Baghdad Broadcasting Corporation update
The Guardian reported on February 23, 2003, that “Senior BBC news presenters such as Huw Edwards and Fiona Bruce and journalists including Andrew Marr have been ordered by bosses to stay away from Saturday's anti-war march in London.” They are, however, “allowing more junior staff to attend the march but only in a "'private capacity with no suggestion that he or she speaks for the BBC.'"

Meanwhile, “The BBC director general, Greg Dyke, has also reminded staff they should remember their duty to be ‘independent, impartial and honest’ in the coming weeks as a possible war with Iraq looms.”

If you have to order reporters not to participate in political demonstrations, your chances of getting "independent, impartial and honest" news from them are virtually nil.

via The Edge of England’s Sword. (In contrast, Iain reports that the BBC Reporters' Log is "quality.")

Monday, March 24, 2003

And we thought France was bad

Reuters is reporting that not only has Russia been providing Baghdad with forbidden military items, despite American protests, but that the U.S.“discovered Russian technicians in Baghdad aiding the Iraqis with the [Russian supplied] GPS jamming system after the start of the U.S.-led war.” Allied planes, bombs and other equipment rely heavily on GPS information.


UPDATE: Here's the version from The New York Times:

The US on Sunday made public its protest to Moscow over the sales by Russian companies of anti-tank missiles and jamming equipment to the Iraqi military.

The State Department on Sunday voiced its anger at the Kremlin after a series of private requests as recently as last week by senior US government officials to Russia to halt the sales went ignored...

posted at 3:51 PM

Paleos in the news
The Eleven Day Empire reports on columnist Robert Novak:

who writes this morning to defend himself against charges of being "unpatriotic", leveled against him and other "paleoconservatives" by, among others, former Bush speechwriter (and current National Review writer) David Frum.

Meanwhile, The Washington Post’s Howard Kurtz reports that “The conservative movement is in shock and awe over a truly nasty brawl about Iraq.” He quotes Novak, who says:

It really poisons the political discourse to say that if you feel this hasn't been a wise decision on the part of the United States, you're criticizing your country and hoping for defeat.

Kurz then quotes prominent paleo Pat Buchanan, whose presumably non-poisonous political discourse includes such pearls as:

We charge that a cabal of polemicists and public officials seek to ensnare our country in a series of wars that are not in America's interests. We charge them with colluding with Israel to ignite those wars.

posted at 11:30 AM

"The information we give you here is factual"
Tim Blair is reporting that when asked to respond to a piece in The New York Times, Australian Air Marshall Angus Houston replied:

I can't comment on articles that appear in American newspapers. The information we give you here is factual.

No word as to what the question was.
posted at 10:43 AM

An example of the problem with self-selected samples
While The Guardian’s sister publication, The Independent, observes that “Public opinion has swung sharply in support of the war in Iraq following the start of hostilities, Reader's editor Ian Mayes reports that The Guardian’s mail is running strongly against war:

…an analysis of 100 of Wednesday's war letters showed 87 against the war and 13 in support. By noon on Thursday the pro-war correspondence had dropped further.

All of which shows that opinions expressed by people writing letters to The Guardian don’t accurately reflect public opinion as a whole.

Both The Guardian and The Independent have taken strongly anti-war editorial stances.
posted at 10:19 AM

“only the female POW wasn't wearing boots”
Lex Communis on treatment of the female American POW by her captors:

…you can't imagine the cold chill I'm feeling right now. I hadn't attributed anything significant to that bit of information, which has been thrown out with offhand casualness and has not been the source of any exegesis from any news source I've read or heard.

Until now.

Now I get it.

And the Iraqis made sure to film her naked feet, to show that her boots had been removed.

I don’t expect that we’ll hear any outrage from the International Red Cross, though … or the French … or the Germans … or the Russians….

Sunday, March 23, 2003

A dozen sites with frequently updating war news

# The Command Post

# The Corner

# Drudge Report

# MSNBC Latest

# CNN Latest Briefing

# Fox News

# ABC News

# CBS News


# AP Breaking

# BBC Iraq Latest

# The New York Times

UPDATE: The Command Post link now reflects their move to a new new server and new domain name
UPDATE: Make that a baker's dozen. Lex Communis alerts us to The Agonist.
posted at 12:14 PM

“the permanently curled lip”
Glenn Reynolds observes that the BBC’s sneering anti-American coverage hasn’t gone unnoticed in the Blogosphere.
posted at 10:12 AM

The ordeal of Elizabeth Smart
Back on March 13, in a post entitled “I just don’t get it,” Post Watch reflected widespread opinion when he asked of the Elizabeth Smart abduction, “How many of my readers were once 14? Everyone of you, I suppose. How many would consent to being a quietly compliant abductee from your own family at that age?”

The Salt Lake Tribune’s Reader Advocate, Connie Coyne, provides some perspective:

[Elizabeth Smart] now 15, was kidnapped at knife point from her bedroom last June 5, and, according to charging documents, was sexually assaulted the first night of her capture. Police have verified she was held in a hole in the ground covered with boards...

She compares the kidnapping to that of Patty Hearst, who was locked in a closet and repeatedly raped before becoming a participant in the Symbionese Liberation Army.

It's easy to be a legend in your own mind when no one is shooting at you -- or locking you in a closet or abusing you.

And, many members of the newspaper-reading public and some in the news media seem quite clear on how they would behave if they were 14 years old, had been kidnapped at knife point out of their own bedrooms, abused and then buried in a hole as Elizabeth Smart apparently was last June.

Within hours of her recovery, some TV reporters -- and members of the general public -- started asking, "If she had these opportunities to escape, why didn't she?" One reporter asked officials if they intended to give Smart a lie-detector test.

Pretty damn presumptuous, I say.

At least Smart doesn’t have public vilification, prosecution and imprisonment to look forward to, the way Miss. Hearst did.
posted at 9:35 AM

Reader Advocate Debbie Kornmiller reports the Arizona Daily Star axed a Dave Barry column because, according to Managing Editor Bobbie Jo Buel, “the paper needs to take a different tone once the war starts.”

Saturday, March 22, 2003

The myth of unfettered press access

“...a step forward ... from the restrictive policies and tactics the Pentagon has employed in every conflict since Vietnam.” – Ombudsman Michael Getler, The Washington Post

“...for more than a decade and a half after Vietnam, the Pentagon specialized in attempting to manage the American press corps.” -- Ombudsman Connie Coyne, The Salt Lake Tribune

Mike King, ombudsman for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, reports that he was contacted by “Wallace B. Eberhard, professor emeritus at the Henry Grady School of Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of Georgia and a retired Army Reserve colonel,” who wrote, of the 1991 Gulf War and the 2001 intervention in Afghanistan, that:

"The mythology . . . is that the press was cooped up and restrained unnecessarily -- with emphasis on the last word. What the press can never rationally discuss is the impact of a thousand journalists running about unwatched in a staging area for a major offensive. The media has tried to build a case for unrestrained access in a combat zone as an historic or legal right. They can't do it. A reporter -- like it or not -- is a guest of the military in a war zone."

It's important to remember, he says, "Soldiers fight to win, heavily dependent on secrecy, sworn to defend the Constitution and follow orders. Journalists hunt for news, obligated to their bosses, their view of what the public needs and wants, and a vague code of ethics.

posted at 8:57 AM

RiShawn Biddle responds to David Frum
RiShawn Biddle takes aim at David Frum (also Mrs. Frum and Jonah Goldberg), who wrote a devastating piece on Unpatriotic Conservatives. Where RiShawn really looses me, though, is his defense of Jason Raimondo. I’ve been following Raimondo off and on for years, and I think that Ronald Radosh had him pegged last October when he wrote in The Boston Globe:

…it seems that Raimondo is now attempting to forge his own Red-Brown alliance, as Europeans refer to the coming together in post Soviet Russia of right-wing nationalists and unreconstructed Communists. In August 2001, he even published an article in Pravda (yes, that Pravda) in which he dismissed the idea that ''America is a civilized country,'' and, referring to World War II, maintained that ''the wrong side won the war in the Pacific.'' As for Israel, last week Raimondo continued to proclaim the myth that ''Israel had foreknowledge of 9/11,'' a claim that puts his Web site in league with the most extreme anti-Semitic canards coming from the Arab world…

Here’s Raimondo’s response in which he accuses Radosh of “red baiting” him, but never really denies the fundamental accusations.
posted at 8:11 AM

Pro and anti-military intervention
An interesting juxtaposition.

Friday, March 21, 2003

Insuring the UN’s continued irrelevancy

The AP is reporting that:

Jacques Chirac says France will not authorize a U.N. resolution allowing the United States and Britain to administer postwar Iraq.

via The Corner
posted at 2:08 PM

Rachel Corrie, peace activist?
Zachary Cohen has an account of the known facts and conflicting stories about WHAT REALLY HAPPENED TO RACHEL CORRIE, the “peace activist” known for teaching Palestinian kiddies how to burn American flags and for getting run over by a bulldozer that was “part of an operation to eliminate tunnels used by Palestinian terrorists to illegally smuggle weapons from Egypt into Gaza.”

And here’s the young “peace activist’s” paean to “young fighters”, whom she also refers to as “martyrs:”

I would also like to ask you, and those to whom you pass this on, to think about the relative positions of the fighters and occupiers in this monumentally unequal struggle. While the huge force of Israelis have every technical aid invented by the US war machine, the few young fighters have NOTHING BUT THEIR WEAPON (and this not the most modern) - no helmet, bullet proof vest, radio contact or other protection. No back-up, no plane, helicopter, tank, APC, searchlight, dogs, flares, ambulance or refuge - put all the Israeli/American propaganda aside for a few minutes and try to imagine, please, the courage it requires to do what these youngfighters do, knowing that the odds are against escape and that, every time they do succeed in evading death, the odds against a further survival are shortened. Even if the operation is a success the price is always high.

Hate mail may be sent to The OmbudsGod

via Little Green Footballs and Daimnation.
posted at 1:22 PM

Television broadcasts of grateful Iraqis, celebrating their liberation from Saddam, are going to make for an interesting juxtaposition with broadcasts of nasty, anti-American European demonstrations.
posted at 11:56 AM

NPR listeners: More bias, please
Last week, NPR ombudsman Jeffrey Dvorkin admitted to an “apparent imbalance on NPR between pro- and anti-war commentators,” in which “NPR appeared to be allowing more voices to reflect anti-war sentiment,” and that “When the opinions expressed were pro-Administration, it was often grudging support and not entirely without moral reservations.”

This week he reports that “a lot of” listeners are complaining that NPR is ignoring “stories that may put the Bush Administration in a bad light.”

This reminds me of The Louisville Courier-Journal’s anti-war ombudsman, Pam Platt, who “made an immediate mental connection between” a Presidential press conference and censoring of the Rolling Stones by “Big Brother, Beijing Office.”

George Condon of Copley News Service observed of criticism of the press conference, “the liberals and the Democrats [are unhappy] because the press doesn't stop the war with their questions.”

In other words, the anti-war crowd isn’t complaining because the press is biased, but because it isn’t biased enough.
posted at 11:21 AM

Interesting editing at the BBC
In Britain, the National Union of Teachers released a statement urging “schools to be ready to deal with any increase in racism particularly Islamophobia and anti-semitism as a result of the possible war,” and cautioning that “Refugee, Muslim and Jewish pupils and staff are at particular risk of being targeted for abuse…”

According to Biased BBC, The BBC’s Newsround dutifully reported the warning, omitting any mention of Jews or anti-semitism. It was only after a complaint from reader Sally Foster, who asked “why aren't Jewish students and teachers considered worth mentioning? Why did you leave them out of the Newsround report?” that the BBC included a new paragraph mentioning Jews and anti-Semitism.

As Ms. Foster observes, the selective editing “cannot be for reasons of space for goodness' sake - we are talking about 2 words!”
posted at 9:44 AM

More of the “Bush is Hitler, Americans are Nazis” moral equivalence
Tim Blair alerts us to this statement from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s The World Today:

JOHN HIGHFIELD: Well the Nazis used to call it "blitzkrieg" when they did it prior to the Second World War, a softening up process. The Americans are calling it "shock and awe".

As Tim observes, “Highfield isn't a guest. He's the fucking host.” (Nice use of Army Creole, Tim!)

Thursday, March 20, 2003

Another partisan OmbudsHack

Referring to such paragons of virtue as impeached Federal judge, now U.S. Congressman, Alcee Hastings, Palm Beach Post ombudsman C.B. Hanif informs us that “blacks often serve as a moral voice for the nation.” He reports that the “moral voice” overwhelming opposes military intervention in Iraq and “seems” to agree with “Harry Belafonte … when he said Mr. Powell no more represents African-Americans than the national security adviser who has an oil tanker named after her.” In other words, African-Americans are a monolithic group and are only “represented” by blacks with the correct, left-wing politics.

Hanif goes on to inform us that this monolithic, racially defined “moral voice” has a “strong affinity with American Jews” and “that large numbers of Jewish people are opposed to invading Iraq.” Jews will undoubtedly be relieved to learn of this new “affinity.” Less than a year ago columnist Larry Elder was reporting that “blacks [are] three to four times more likely than non-blacks to be anti-Semitic” – and was calling on “black leaders” to “reconsider” their anti-Semitism.
posted at 12:10 PM

Paleo-cons or neo-confederates?
In a follow-up to yesterday’s piece on paleo-conservatives, David Frum mentions something that I’ve noticed too – people who describe themselves as paleo-conservatives generally hate Abraham Lincoln:

One subject I did not tackle in my piece was the obsessive hatred that so many of the paleos feel for Abraham Lincoln. I discovered late, though, that Lincoln was not unique: The site hates Winston Churchill nearly as passionately. As I read their fulminations, I realized how much the Rockwellites reminded me of the Nazi playwright in the movie, “The Producers”: “Hitler vas a better painter than Shursheel, Hitler vas a better dancer than Shursheel ...”

Years ago when I worked for a small conservative think-tank, one of my co-workers used to comment that his favorite President was Jefferson Davis. He even had a small Confederate national flag (not the battle flag) in his office, which I regarded at the time as more eccentric than offensive. The problem was that I kept running into other conservatives like him, and they all seemed to subscribe to Chronicles.

Wednesday, March 19, 2003

They’re collaborators not “human shields,” and terrorists not "militants"

NPR isn’t alone when it refuses to label Hamas as terrorists when they attempt to blow up school busses full of children, and instead refers to them as “Islamic militants,” thereby confusing terrorism with militancy.

Likewise, NPR isn’t alone in applying the term “human shield” to “protestors” who voluntarily travel to Iraq to protect military targets, thereby confusing them with the hundreds of hostages Saddam seized to serve as human shields during the first Gulf War.

It’s time to straighten this out. Groups like Hamas are terrorists, not mere militants, and “protestors” who voluntarily impede military intervention in Iraq are collaborators, not human shields.

UPDATE: It should be noted that most individuals who went to Iraq to act as "human shields" left when it became clear that the Iraqi government would place them at military installations, communications centers, electrical plants and water-pumping stations. Those that remain are being housed and fed at the expense of the Iraqi government. They serve at Saddam's pleasure.
posted at 2:30 PM

American crimes against humanity and other suppressed stories struggle to break free!
Media Minded looks at a Boston Globe piece about “Those brave alternative-media patriots, whose dissenting opinions have been so ruthlessly suppressed during the run-up to a possible Gulf War II.” But there is still hope for the ruthlessly suppressed messages to get out! For example, the Globe tells us that “The Free Speech TV satellite network [will] focus on what a spokeswoman, Linda Mamoun, calls ''the crimes against humanity the United States will perpetuate, and the opposition to it.''

As MM observes, “those on the left who complain about having their voices silenced are actually complaining that their hysterical messages have virtually no traction with the American public.”

The neo-cons strike back!

For years now we’ve listened as a small band of so called paleo-conservatives argued that they are the true standard bearers of American conservatism and lash out at the majority of conservatives who don’t identify with their movement. As National Review’s David Frum points out, many paleos have not only become anti-war:

But the antiwar conservatives have gone far, far beyond the advocacy of alternative strategies. They have made common cause with the left-wing and Islamist antiwar movements in this country and in Europe. They deny and excuse terror. They espouse a potentially self-fulfilling defeatism. They publicize wild conspiracy theories. And some of them explicitly yearn for the victory of their nation's enemies.

This is the best take-down yet of the paleos that I’ve seen.

via InstaPundit

UPDATE: Peter Sean Bradley has some thoughts on the anti-American tone of the paleo-cons. Money quote:

being an anti-American conservative is a lot like being an American-bashing Country-Western singer. That dog won't hunt. You lose your voice in the discussion in a heartbeat.

posted at 11:32 AM

More on the Baghdad Broadcasting Corporation
David Aaronovitch reports in yesterday’s Guardian that in a nation closely divided between pro-war and anti-war sympathies:

the impression has been given, on the BBC in particular, that public and expert opinion is strongly and almost exclusively opposed to military action. This expectation has entered the cultural stratum that the majority of broadcasters exist in, and so dominates that it has become that most dangerous of wisdoms - not so much orthodox, as axiomatic.

Tuesday, March 18, 2003

What exactly does The Boston Globe propose Bush should have done?

"Our position is no matter what the circumstances, France will vote 'no.' Because ... there is no cause for war to achieve the objective that we fixed-- the disarmament of Iraq" – French President Jacques Chirac (Chicago Sun-Times, 3/10/03)

“Bush should have done more to win over … France…” – The Boston Globe (3/18/03)
posted at 2:05 PM

Just the same old anti-American communist front groups
Interesting piece in National Review Online by Ion Mihai Pacepa on the Soviet roots of the World Peace Council, which “’participated in or co-organized’ the current worldwide anti-American demonstrations.”

The WPC was created by Moscow in the 1950s and had only one task: to portray the United States as being run by a "war-mongering government."

In the U.S., the primary organizer has been International F.O.R.W.A.R.D., a front group for the Stalinist Workers World Party. Likewise, another organizer, Not In Our Name (NION), has been identified as a front for the Maoist Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP). (also here)

Note: The OmbudsGod recently associated NION with the Maoist Internationalist Movement, which connection MIM denies.
posted at 12:11 PM

Polish jokes are out, French jokes are in
Bill Dennis has a collection of French jokes.

Okay, he seems to be suffering from the dread Blogger archive bug, so just go here and scroll down.
posted at 11:06 AM

Daily Mirror: Gen Tommy Franks is a bumpkin and university dropout
Here is how Britain’s anti-war Daily Mirror headlines a snotty profile of U.S. General Tommy Franks, who will lead allied forces in Iraq:

COUNTDOWN TO WAR: MILITARY MACHINE IS SET FOR CONFLICT: A bumpkin known as Pooh who'll mastermind the war
Mar 18 2003

For the record, after leaving school and serving as an enlisted man in Vietnam, Franks went on to graduate from the University of Texas at Arlington and has a Masters in Public Administration from Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania.

He served in Vietnam (where he received three purple hearts), Korea, Germany and the Gulf War. Buried in the article is Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's assessment of the the commander. "Tommy's intelligent and quick and he knows his stuff."

Bumpkin indeed.

UPDATE: It now appears that they've dropped the "bumpkin" part.
UPDATE: But it's still here.
UPDATE: It's gone from there, too.

So this is what France’s obstructionism is all about

In a Reuters piece headlined “France Says World Against Bush Ultimatum on Iraq,” the office of French President Jacques Chirac is quoted as saying:

"Whatever the objective pursued, France recalls that only the Security Council has the authority to justify the use of force…”

Which means that puny little France believes it has a veto over American military policy, even when that policy is in self-defense or to remove a brutal mass-murderer like Saddam Hussein from power.

The UN has a terrible record of responding to crises. It stood by while hundreds of thousand were slaughtered in Rwanda. A Security Counsel resolution authoring intervention in Kosovo was withdrawn because Russia stated they would veto it. In fact, U.S. intervention in Panama, Grenada, Haiti, Kosovo, Bosnia and Afghanistan all occurred without UN approval.

And France habitually sends its military into Africa without UN approval – most recently to the Ivory Coast after civil war broke out – suggesting that to the French, it is only the U.S. that needs such explicit authorization.

If international law is to be interpreted as requiring the U.S. to obtain approval from Russia and France before using its military, then it is in the words of Charles Dickens, “a ass, a idiot.”
posted at 9:45 AM

Europe favors war by 21 countries to 5
Referring to a piece by Stratfor's George Friedman, Andrew Sullivan has a breakdown by country of where European governments stand on military intervention in Iraq. He observes:

something that should be borne in mind when you hear NPR, the BBC and others tell you that "Europe" opposes the war. By an overwhelming majority of 21 countries to five, Europe backs war, with five countries neutral. And of those 21, you have the second and fourth largest economies, Britain and Italy, the two biggest emerging powers, Spain and Poland, and the entire former Eastern bloc. It would be a huge majority in the future EU. So why isn't the story that Germany and France are now isolated on the continent?

Wednesday, February 5, 2003

No sex please, we're British soldiers!

The Telegraph reports that a new ₤40,000 government-funded study finds sexism exists in the British military. For example, the use of the word “manning” instead of “staffing.” I don’t know, somehow “Staff the guns, the enemy is attacking!” doesn’t have quite the same ring to it.

Another criticism is that “the media image of women soldiers as sexy or tomboyish influenced Army policy and made it difficult for women to integrate.” In other words, in the new feminist Puritanism we mustn’t see members of the opposite sex as “sexy.” Absent castration, that seems unrealistic in the world outside the ivory towers of academia.

Which brings me to my favorite part, the title of the study itself -- Gendered Bodies, Personnel Policies and the Culture of the British Army. “Gendered Bodies?”* I don’t think that too many people are likely to join the military if it means becoming un-gendered.

*According to my Webster’s, gendered means “reflecting the experience, prejudices, or orientations of one sex more than the other.” The authors of the study clearly intended this awkward term as a reference to the masculine culture of the military, which they seek to emasculate in the name of equality.

Tuesday, February 4, 2003

Fisking done right

Fisking is a bit like playing the violin. Done badly, it's tedious and annoying. Done right, it’s a pleasure to behold. Tim Blair does it right. Here’s a sample of him Fisking his favorite victim subject, Margot Kingston:

Grace believes many women feel as she does - desperate, helpless, and afraid to speak up because "they're not able to back it up with political analysis".

So they take off their clothes instead? What is this, some kind of elaborate blonde joke?

She says she's never done anything like this before, and the momentum her email has generated "thrills me but scares me as well". She's nervous about stripping off, as are most women who've agreed to come, and she asked me not to reveal the location of the protest for fear of unwanted onlookers.

It's a private protest. The most effective kind.

posted at 11:16 AM

Sacred white elephants in space
One sign that a government program has become a sacred white elephant is when it is above criticism. This is true of the current manned space program.

Instead of exploring the solar system and the cosmos, we are spending tens of billions of dollars on an unreliable space shuttle and “International Space Station” extravaganza of no real scientific merit. The space station exemplifies NASA in general -- it costs a fortune yet just travels around in circles going nowhere.

Meanwhile, real space exploration has come to a virtual standstill. An interplanetary probe costs less than a single shuttle launch and yet can add substantially to our knowledge. But the shuttle/space station program continues to suck funding away from real science and exploration.

Tom Tole’s has an excellent cartoon in today’s The Washington Post about the need to look at the underlying assumptions behind our current manned program, but rather than address his argument NASA's defenders treat any criticism of the current program as an outrage.

Not to pick on The Eleven Day Empire, but here’s an example:

…what he did today is to pull down his pants and piss all over the lives and sacrifice of seven brave men and women; over the hard work and grief of thousands of people who work for NASA; and over the hopes, aspirations and dreams of millions of people in this country and throughout the world.

That is utterly contemptible. It shows Toles to be a heartless, soulless, worthless fuck, a hateful jackal who knows how to do only one thing - smear feces on the wall as a cry for underserved attention from his betters.

If toles' superiors at the Post had the slightest sense of decency or propriety, they would fire Tomes immediately. To their shame, I don't really expect they will.

It’s high time that NASA’s mission was reevaluated and the agency geared away from the shuttle/space station and refocused on exploration and science. And that is in no way disrespecting the lives of the seven astronauts who perished with Columbia – unlike using their memory as a shield to protect NASA from rational oversight.

UPDATE: James DiBenedetto writes:

Just to clarify the comments on my site - I agree that NASA is currently doing is NOT the way to go about manned space flight. I do believe very strongly that we must continue manned space flight, because that is where our future lies, and until we get rational leadership that commits to a PROPER program for the colonization and exploitation of outer space, if our choice is a mismanaged, dead-end shuttle/station program or nothing, I'll take shuttle/station. A poor and dangerous human spaceflight program is better than no human spaceflight program. I know that can be argued, but that's where I stand.

But I do recognize there are other arguments; as I said in the post you cited: "As my comments of the past couple of days should prove, I feel very strongly about space exploration - and colonization - and I don't have a lot of use for the argument that we should turn our back on what I see as our future.

Even so, there are arguments to be made; I disagree utterly with them, but they certainly exist. But there is an appropriate time and place and manner to make those arguments."

It's not JUST Toles' view, it's the way it's expressed. I admit that I'm not a fan of editorial cartoonists generally, and Toles in particular. Bu I saw his column as not an exhortation to take a cold, rational look at our current program, but (1) an attack against ANY manned spaceflight (which may just be a misinterpretation due to my bias showing through, I'll admit), and (2) an obnoxious, poorly-timed, thoughtless and hurtful way to go about getting his point across.

And that's what I reacted so strongly to.

OBG responds:

My own view is that "a mismanaged, dead-end shuttle/station program" ultimately discredits the entire space program by creating a poor and reckless track record. Eventually even Congress is going to question why we're shooting $15 billion a year into space with little benefit. It becomes hard to argue with the "for the cost of a single shuttle mission we can (fill in your favorite social program here)."

NASA's been coasting for a long time and if they want to continue to fire the public's imagination then they need to drastically change their direction.

If the choice is spending $15 billion a year on the shuttle/space station or giving it the axe and spending the money elsewhere, I'd take the axe - and I'll bet that more and more people are coming around to that view.

Monday, February 3, 2003

Astoturfing for prizes!

The Boston Globe’s ombudsman, Christine Chinlund, reports that:

Four times since mid-October the Globe has unwittingly published letters that were written not by the local folks who signed them, but by the Republican National Committee. The same letters, all praising President Bush, also appeared verbatim (or nearly so) in papers across the country, each signed by a person in that paper's area.

A PR campaign using these letters is known as “astroturfing.” They’re pre-written letters sent out by shills from around the country to media outlets, and the GOP isn’t alone in doing it. Nor does everyone agree that it is unethical. For example:

Michael McCurry, a former Clinton press secretary, finds no fault with the practice. McCurry, whose company offers technical support to client Internet users, tells critics of the letters: ''Grow up and join the Internet Age.''

Meanwhile, the “ website … rewards those who send letters with points that can be converted into gifts, ‘from coolers to mousepads.’” That’s not much of a reward for selling your credibility. At least McCurry gets real money for selling what’s left of his.

UPDATE: The Angry Cyclist has a slightly different take on the column:

Does anyone else think this would have never hit the Globe's radar screen if this was done by the DemocRATS?

It is unfortunate that GOP-authored letters were published as individual works. I applaud the effort to keep it from happening again. The Globe is blessed with readers who are smart, literate, and passionate about politics. The letters page should be reserved for their heartfelt words, not those of special interests seeking to sway public opinion.

From the mouth of Christine Chinlund, impartial and unbiased Boston Globe ombudsman - The Republican Party is a 'special interest(s)' who are not 'smart, literate, and passionate about politics', hell bent on a deceitful but hopefully quixotic quest to 'sway public opinion'.

UPDATE: Bill Dennis see astroturfing from a more populist perspective:

there is something about the complaints that strikes me as fundamentally elitist. Professional politicians hire professional speech writers and all sorts of spinmasters. No one accuses them of plagiarism, yet that is the charge some critics of astroturfing level at those who send these letters to their editor of their local newspaper. Bull. These letters to the editor were written with the understanding someone else would sign their name to them. Joe Blow citizens should be afforded the same courtesy given to the powerful.

If newspapers really want to stop astroturf letters from dirtying their op-ed pages, a few simple steps can be followed. First, no letter should be printed without verification. That's just basic journalism. It prevents someone from submitting a letter in someone else's name. A newspaper worried about astroturfing can not only get verification for who sent the letter in, they can ask the person submitted the letter if they are in fact the author. If the letter appears elsewhere, ban the letter writer.

Having authored Op-Eds for other people I have some sympathy for Bill's argument. Why should a different standard apply to the letters to the editor than to the Op-Eds? Or is the problem not so much that the letters are authored by professionals, as that the letters aren't unique?
posted at 2:09 PM

Junk science in the service of politics
Iain Murray takes a look at Why They Hate Us, “a new study from two professors at Boston University that supposedly demonstrates a deeply-held dislike of American culture among young people around the world (including the United States)”

He finds that, “There are two major problems with this study of teenagers' attitudes: the methodology and the logic. That doesn’t leave much.” The study makes no pretense at obtaining a good statistical basis from which to draw it’s conclusions – conclusions that result in such odd results as American teenagers rating themselves as negatively as the Pakistanis rated them, and much more negatively than did teenagers from Italy, Argentina and Nigeria.

Even the logic used to arrive at the study’s conclusion is defective:

…teenagers want so much to see American culture, which they despise, that they break their countries' laws to obtain it. Presumably so they can tut-tut and remark how shameful it all is. This argument isn't even circular, it's inherently self-contradictory. This study and the conclusions drawn from it are meaningless in every sense.

Meaningless, yes. But it’ll be cited over and over again by those whose agenda the study furthers. Whatever happened to peer reviews?
posted at 1:07 PM

Rand Simberg lays out a good case for trimming the manned space program
Rand Simberg admits that science isn’t “a good justification for a manned space program. It's simply too expensive, compared to all other federal science programs, particularly the way that NASA goes about it. But more to the point, by focusing on this purpose of the space program, and excluding all others, it allows people to ask questions like ‘why don't we do it with robots?’” And it’s the robot part that rubs him the wrong way.

For Simberg, it’s about becoming a “space-faring nation and planet.” You know, establishing “off-world settlements”, “A new leisure industry, with resorts in orbit or on the moon” and “an orbital infrastructure that can both mine useful asteroids and comets, and deflect errant ones about to wipe out civilization.” Oh my!

In other words, it’s all about allowing a handful of people to play Buck Rogers on the public dime. There’s an enormous opportunity cost to spending tens of billions of dollars a year on NASA, and if this is the best justification they can come up with for the current space shuttle/space station extravaganza, then let’s kill it now and start using the money in a cost-effective way to increase our understanding of the solar system and the cosmos.

If Club Moon can find private investors willing to drop tens of billions of dollars to establish “A new leisure industry, with resorts in orbit or on the moon,” then that’s their business. Just don’t ask Joe taxpayer to foot the bill.

UPDATE: Here's an excellent policy position statement from the Cato Institute.

Sunday, February 2, 2003

Space exploration is too important to be treated as a carnival ride

I withheld comment yesterday on the Columbia disaster because I didn’t want my own opinion of the current space program to impinge on the tragedy of seven lost lives.

This is going to make some people mad, but here goes...

The space program has long attracted the best engineers, pilots and scientists, and has touched the imagination of not just Americans, but much of the world. That said it is largely an expensive boondoggle that has gotten worse since the days of Werner and Marcus von Braun, when we blew untold billions of dollars in order to put a few astronauts on the moon in a publicity battle against the Soviets.

Today, rather than support meaningful space exploration, NASA’s budget is being largely used to build and support a “space station” of little to no scientific value. Manned space travel is expensive and detracts from our goal of understanding our solar system and the cosmos. Far more can be accomplished for far less using unmanned vehicles for which life support systems and manned-flight safety precautions are unnecessary.

There will be a time when sending astronauts to the moon, mars and other extra-terrestrial bodies will make sense from a scientific standpoint, but that time is not yet here, and pouring resources into an ancient fleet of space shuttles and a “space station” discredits the space program and ultimately retards the goal of space exploration.

It’s time to get serious about exploration and not just treat space as an expensive political carnival ride.

UPDATE: Rand Simberg makes an interesting observation:

Gregg Easterbrook says that it's time to end the Shuttle program.

He actually says much with which I agree, but I utterly disagree with his prescription, which is to have NASA build a newer, safer system. He gets it wrong because he continues to fall into the trap of believing that the primary purpose of a space program is for science.

Simberg identifies what I see as the problem, although he obviously does not. The legitimate purpose for using taxpayer money to fund a space program is to advance science. The program needs to become more science and less taxpayer-funded, over-priced carnival ride.

OmbudSunday: a partial roundup of ombudsman columns

# The Louisville Courier-Journal: Pam Platt tells us what the loss of the shuttle Columbia means to her.

# The Florida Times-Union: Mike Clark quotes “Howard Kurtz, Washington Post media reporter, on the good old days of the news media:”

There was no golden age (of journalism). There was certainly a time when politics and government were treated more substantively and seriously by the media. But what some people mythologize as the good old days was a time when women wrote mainly for what was known as the women's pages, when newsrooms were almost entirely white, when news about Negroes was treated differently than news about whites. Reporters of the Front Page mold may have been more in tune with the people they were writing for, but they were less educated, less specialized, less knowledgeable and sometimes drunker than today's journalists.

Oh, and some media columnist for a European newspaper, famous for its sophisticated use of the words "fuck" and “cunt,” opines that “In the American press, day after day, the White House controls the agenda. The supposedly liberal American press has become a dog that never bites, hardly barks but really loves rolling over and having its tummy tickled.''

# The Washington Post: Michael Getler reports that a “reader sent the following message last Monday:”

I implore you to challenge the paper's editorial staff to question the President's unwillingness to participate in press conferences, especially now when our nation is being led into war. I find it astonishing that so few reporters/columnists have brought the Bush administration's refusal to face the press to the public's attention, because, frankly, this avoidance of accountability is both disturbing and ominous.

While acknowledging that President Bush has held about the same number of news conferences as Presidents Carter and Ford, and more than Nixon, at this point in his first term, Getler (whose anti-war sympathies are seldom far from the surface) calls on the President to hold a “a proper, announced-in-advance, full-scale presidential news conference sometime between now and when the bombs start dropping,” to allow for “concentrated follow-up questioning.”

# The Oregonian: Dan Hortsch responds to a message sent by the state Superintendent of Public Instruction “to nearly 200 school district superintendents. The Superintendent wanted to ‘correct the misleading headline and story’ that appeared that day in The Oregonian.”

The Oregonian piece, headlined "Oregon will set a lower bar for minority, disadvantaged students," is about how the “State Board of Education's adoption of a plan to alter the timelines in meeting some requirements of the No Child Left Behind federal education law” would set “standards for the next decade for low-income, minority and other students [that] would be lower than for nondisadvantaged students.”

Hortsch reports that the piece is fairly accurate, and that state officials believe their approach to be “a sound, gradual approach to closing the achievement gap, rather than set unrealistic targets for schools." He notes that, “state education officials also objected to use of the word ‘lower’ in reference to standards that would be used for students in certain groups. They contend that in fact Oregon would raise standards from the present.”

Saturday, February 1, 2003

OmbudSaturday: a partial roundup of ombudsman columns

# Orlando Sentinel: Observing that, “A newspaper in Lincoln, Neb., staked out some new territory for American Indians this past week when it stopped referring to the professional football team in the nation's capital as the Redskins,” Manning Pynn argues that the issue of using controversial names in a newspaper has “a couple of elements.”

First, he asks, “Is naming a team after a minority group offensive?” The corollary is “Would a team deliberately call itself something it didn't like or respect?” The answer, of course, is no.

Pynn’s “second element has plenty to do with journalism.” It boils down to, “teams, not newspapers, decide what to call themselves.

If a sports team's moniker truly were offensive, though, the newspaper wouldn't cure the problem by keeping that name a secret. If anything, that would help protect the team from warranted criticism and contribute to the offense.”

# The San Diego Union-Tribune: Gina Lubrano appears to take peace marchers at their word when they report 1,200 marchers in their contingent in the January 18th Martin Luther King, Jr., parade. Marchers were “outraged” that The Union-Tribune had reported only that there were “more than 100.” No independent corroboration for the higher number is given, and since we know that the primary organizer of anti-war demonstrations, International A.N.S.W.E.R., is notorious for using inflated numbers, perhaps a little skepticism of numbers reported by the anti-war movement might be in order.

Friday, January 31, 2003

Euro-Anti-Semitism or valid satire?

The Independent (UK) was recently taken to task in Little Green Footballs, and elsewhere, for publishing a grotesque anti-Semitic cartoon of the Israeli Prime Minister. The cartoon appears to many, including The OmbudsGod, to clearly invoke the ancient blood libel against Jews (that Jews eat and/or drink the blood of non-Jewish children) – which is still in common use in the Arab media.

Today, The Independent asks “the question: was this cartoon anti-Semitic?

Coercive marketing and the PTO

A lot has changed in school since I was a kid, some of it for the better, a lot for the worse. One thing that is really ticking me off is the use of children as a marketing arm for various goods and services only vaguely related to school.

For example, our local PTO routinely holds “contests” where classes that make a certain sales quota are rewarded with an ice cream or pizza party. In other words, little Jimmy and Sarah and LaToya are being used to coerce Mom and Dad into buying stuff so that the PTO can get a kickback from the ACME Over-Priced Products Company of P.O. Box, New Jersey. This is all coordinated through our local taxpayer-funded schools – attendance mandatory by law.

It used to be just Scholastic that had penetrated this market, and the books they sell are reasonably priced and closely related to education, but it’s gotten worse. For example, Wednesday (or is it Thursday?) is grocery day. Yep, every week you can have your kid schlep home groceries from school, as though his usual load of books and papers isn’t enough. Now they’re selling “discount cards” good for I don’t know what, but if 20 kids (virtually the entire class) sell one they get a pizza party. Guess who little six-year-old Tommy expects to buy this latest swindle?

This isn't just my local school district. An entire industry aimed at marketing through the public schools has cropped up. Only unlike the crops of well-educated students the schools are supposed to be producing, this industry deserves to be ploughed under and the fields salted so that it will never happen again.
posted at 10:56 AM

Going to war without France
Dean Esmay reports that the:

Line of the week comes from Jed Babbin, former Deputy Undersecretary of Defense:

Going to war without France is like going deer hunting without an accordion. You just leave a lot of useless, noisy baggage behind.

As stated on last night's Hardball with Chris Matthews.

Thursday, January 30, 2003

International A.N.S.W.E.R.: "It's us against them.”

Would an “anti-war” front group for the Stalinist Workers World Party fib about the number of protestors at a demonstration?

Many newspapers have received complaints about under-counting the number of demonstrators at the recent International A.N.S.W.E.R. sponsored demonstrations in Washington and elsewhere. The experience of Minneapolis Star Tribune ombudsman Lou Gelfand appears to be typical of what was happening. Here are samples of the fifty-something “vibrations” he received:

"Your Sunday piece about the protests in Washington mentions that there were only 30,000 people in the march. I attended and there were at least 500,000. C-Span was reporting 700,000." -- Zachary Jorgensen.

"I attended the rally in Washington [and] there were over 700,000…" -- Elizabeth Tellen…

Complainants often said that the Washington Post reported 500,000 rallied.

In fact, as Gelfand notes, The Post reported that:

U.S. Capitol Police suggested the march drew 30,000 to 50,000 people. Protest organizers said that the number was closer to 500,000. The truth might fall somewhere in between the guesses, or it might fall somewhere beyond the edges.

As a rule, the larger the demonstration, the more seriously it is taken. So whose number are we to accept?

I don’t know about the Capitol Police number, but this piece in The Nation, about an experience from an earlier A.N.S.W.E.R. protest, shines some light on the numbers used by the protest organizers:

"I'll make a deal with you," said an ANSWER organizer at the Capitol rally to Terra Lawson-Remer of Students Transforming and Resisting Corporations (STARC), who was coordinating media outreach for the NSYPC event. "We won't play the Mumia tape again"--ANSWER had already broadcast a taped speech by Mumia at the Ellipse--"if you'll tell the press we had 150,000 people here." Lawson-Remer was in a bind; she didn't want them to carry out this threat, but she believed the turnout was in the 50,000 to 75,000 range. The ANSWER organizers pressed the point, arguing that whatever they said, the media would report fewer. This was not a difference of opinion about the truth. "It's not about accuracy. It's about politics. It's not about counting," said ANSWER's Tony Murphy condescendingly. "It's us against them. [The pro-Israel] demonstrators had 100,000 here last week." (Responding to a web version of this article, ANSWER's legal counsel called this account a "disgusting fabrication," but I can attest to its accuracy because I was there.)

ANSWER is notorious for inflating its demonstration numbers…

I certainly know whose numbers I won't be accepting at face value. And if they're willing to lie about basic stuff like this, what else are they willing to lie about?

Analysis of the State of the Union Address

If you have a little time, rhetoric scholar Andrew Cline analyzes the State of the Union Address.
posted at 12:27 PM

Wycliff’s latest screed against Bush
Don Wycliff, ombudsman for The Chicago Tribune, launches into another of his patented anti-Bush screeds today, focusing on the State of the Union address. After informing us that:

We led the coalition that kicked Hussein (sic) out of Kuwait, devastated his country and his army, clamped a crippling and demeaning regime of sanctions on Iraq and maintained it for the last 12 years. We've bombed his country routinely, cordoned large sections of it off from Baghdad's control and now have breathed new life into the effort to disarm Iraq--by force of arms if necessary.

None of this is any more than Hussein (sic) deserves (although his people do not), but it does give one an idea why he might be angry enough to want to lash out in the nastiest possible way at the United States.

Wycliff then minimizes all this by his misleading characterization that:

There is no evidence that Hussein (sic) has acted on that impulse--at least none that the Bush administration has seen fit to share with the American people.

Hmm. Saddam attempted to assassinate a U.S. President, has enormous stockpiles of deadly weaponized chemicals and biological agents (which he specifically promised to get rid of), is attempting to obtain a nuclear bomb and is known to harbor, fund and supply terrorist groups – several of which have targeted Americans. Nope, no evidence. Move along. Move along.

One curious point Wycliff makes, in an attempt to tar the second President Bush with the first, is that in 1990 Saddam Hussein sounded out the United States about how we would react if he invaded Kuwait, or at least the disputed area then claimed by Iraq, and U.S. Ambassador April Glaspie informed him that:

We have no opinion on your Arab-Arab conflicts, such as your dispute with Kuwait. Secretary (of State James) Baker has directed me to emphasize the instruction, first given to Iraq in the 1960's that the Kuwait issue is not associated with America.

When questioned later, she stated:

Obviously, I didn't think, and nobody else did, that the Iraqis were going to take ALL of Kuwait.

But what this shows is that Saddam does respond to signals. And if the signal is that he can continue to do what he is doing without fear of American intervention, then he will continue. It shows the folly of sending ambiguous or mixed messages to Baghdad.

The unambiguous message must be do as you promised to do at the end of the Gulf War or we will remove you. Had it not been for the ambiguous message Ambassador Glaspie delivered the first time, we probably wouldn’t have had to fight the First Gulf War, or a second one. Now is not the time to be signaling Saddam that we aren’t serious.

As an aside, Saddam’s full name is Saddam Hussein al-Majd al-Tikriti. He is usually called either Saddam or Saddam Hussein. Hussein is Saddam’s father’s first name. You’d think the ombudsman of a major regional newspaper would get his name right. Yet week after week, month after month, Wycliff persists in calling Saddam by the brutal dictator's father's name.

Oh, and don’t miss Wycliff’s little dig against the U.S. and Israel at the end of his column.

As I listened to the president speak … my mind went back to one of the hit movies of last summer, "The Sum of All Fears."

…the movie depicted a terrorist group's successful effort to acquire and smuggle into the U.S. a nuclear bomb, which is detonated in Baltimore and devastates that city.

Interestingly, the nuke in that instance … was made in Israel, with fissile material supplied by the United States.

It’s a f-ing Hollywood movie, Don. Get real.

Monday, January 27, 2003

Don’t believe everything you read on the Internet

Poughkeepsie Journal ombudsman Kathleen Norton advises readers on writing letters to the editor. She cautions that:

Editorial Page Editor John Penney also reminds readers that Internet sources of information are not always credible. He urges readers to state their opinions, but not to state facts in absolute terms unless they are sure they are true.

Sometimes media columnists need reminding, too.

Those sophisticated Europeans

The main fixture of the Dutch football season is the match between Ajax, from Amsterdam, and Feyenoord, from Rotterdam… I had the misfortune once — through an error at the ticket office — to find myself sitting in the midst of the Feyenoord fans. It was a profoundly disturbing experience. Imagine thousands of football supporters screaming ‘Fucking Jews!’, or ‘To the gas chamber!’, or ‘Next stop Auschwitz!’ every time a player from the Amsterdam side touches the ball. Imagine, if you can bear it, thousands of people making hissing noises, mimicking the flow of gas…

Something very strange is going on here…

Ian Buruma in The Spectator.

via Tim Blair

Guardian policy on the Iraq situation
Ombudsman Ian Mayes reports that an “updated statement of the Guardian's position is likely this week to coincide with the Blair-Bush meeting at Camp David.” The current position is that:

We support a multilateral resolution, primarily through the United Nations, involving the final, verified destruction of all and any Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, Iraq's compliance with other UN resolutions, the concurrent phased lifting of non-military sanctions, an end to the no-fly zones and to UN controls on Iraqi oil and the opening of Iraq's borders to free movement...

We have not ruled out our support for the use of force as a means of last resort... We have condemned the Saddam regime on numerous occasions... We support containment, deterrence, diplomatic isolation, targeted sanctions pending a change of government...

But lest you think the Guardian might have a realistic policy for accomplishing all this:

We do not support the US policy of forcible “regime change”; we have condemned targeted assassination...

Mayes informs us that the Editor’s morning conference:

was not an anti-war rally, either in tone or atmosphere, although there were perhaps speakers who had hoped it might be, calling for the paper to declare itself unequivocally against the war in the way that it had declared itself against Suez in 1956…

The leader then…, "The world must be told clearly that millions of British people are deeply shocked by the aggressive policy of the Government. Its action in attacking Egypt is a disaster of the first magnitude. It is wrong on every count - moral, military, and political...”

Which brings us to an observation by Iain Murray, in The Edge of England’s Sword, reminding us of the impact of the Suez debacle:

Let's not forget that it was America's refusal to back Britain, France and Israel over the Suez crisis that is probably the defining moment that set the Middle East along the road to ruin. If Nasser had been dealt with then, we probably wouldn't have Saddam now. Moreover, that incident helped cause the British and French empires to break up prematurely, I think, a process America encouraged, leaving a legacy of suffering and war in Africa and other areas (the legacy is not nearly so bad in areas that had come to independence gradually and thoughtfully, such as India). Finally, it was also the cause of the splitting of France from the Atlantic alliance. Dulles and Eisenhower have a lot to answer for, and simply blaming Europe for it is just not good enough. I also have a suspicion that it will be looked back at by historians as probably the biggest delay in encouraging true Anglospheric feeling. It certainly made at least one generation of British Tories more suspicious than they should be of America.

Forcing an end to the attack, which also resulted in the downfall of the Anthony Eden's government, was arguably the low point of Eisenhower's presidency.

OmbudSunday: a partial roundup of ombudsman columns

# The Oregonian: Columnist Arianna Huffington has “taken a step too far,” according to The Oregonian’s associate editor Doug Bates, who produces The Oregonian's daily Commentary page, and ombudsman Dan Hortsch agrees. She has formed:

the Detroit Project, in which she personally appeals for money to place broadcast ads on the air.

Her columns, Bates said, remain "snappy and readable." However, he added, "She has dragged herself across the line from being a commentator to being an [anti-SUV] activist . . . . She loses the status of sideline observer."

Huffington disagrees, stating that, “she does not ‘in any way’ see a conflict between her role in the Detroit Project and her role as a columnist. ‘It is a movement to raise awareness.’"
# Fort Worth Star-Telegram: David House reports on the results of a reader survey to determine the popularity of each of the 34 comic strips and eight single panel cartoons they publish daily:

Family Circus appears to be the most-read feature (71.7 percent) followed by For Better or For Worse (65.4 percent) and Hagar the Horrible (65.3 percent).

Rounding out the bottom were new edgier strips:

Get Fuzzy (15.1 percent), Jump Start (12.7 percent) and Frazz (12.2 percent).

The once-entertaining, now annoying, Doonesbury came in at fifth from the bottom with 23.8 percent, and Cathy, which was recently almost dropped from the Salt Lake Tribune before ombudsman Connie Coyne mounted a campaign to save it, came in at seventh from the bottom with 25.1 percent. Changes in the line-up are in the offing.

# Minneapolis Star Tribune: Responding to an AP piece, which quoted the U.S. Capitol Police chief who said, "About 30,000 people moved out on the march route" for the recent anti-war demonstration in Washington, there were “50 or more reader vibrations” reports Lou Gelfand. Zachary Jorgensen wrote claiming “I attended and there were at least 500,000. C-Span was reporting 700,000," which must be news to C-Span. Elizabeth Tellen testifies that, “I attended the rally in Washington [and] there were over 700,000.” Joe Sehl accuses the paper of “minimizing the demonstrations for peace,” and alleges that “The newspaper's conservative slant is showing more and more all the time,” which will certainly come as a surprise to conservative readers.

While crowd estimates can be notoriously tricky, “U.S. Capitol Police suggested the march drew 30,000 to 50,000 people.” The pro-totalitarian Stalinist Workers World Party front, International ANSWER, which organized the demonstration, chose the unlikely figure of 500,000.

Gelfand criticizes the AP piece for lack a paragraph summing up crowd estimates, and notes that, “At Twin Cities rallies where law enforcement often shuns an estimate and the sponsor's figure is suspect, it is the reporter's obligation to estimate the crowd,” which strikes The OmbudsGod as problematic. If you are standing inside a demonstration, even a few thousand protestors can seem like a million because you cannot accurately judge overall crowd density and how much ground is covered.

# Richmond Times Dispatch: Jerry Finch has some thoughts on coverage of the Washington anti-war demonstration and on crowd estimates.

# The Virginian-Pilot: Marvin Lake reports receiving a complaint from a marcher:

[Portsmouth resident Lawrence J.] Fagan saw a conspiracy, an intentional effort on the part of both the Associated Press photographer and the editor who selected the shots to perhaps undermine the anti-war effort.

Sunday, January 26, 2003

Go ahead, eat that beef!

NumberWatch is reporting that:

The ten million deaths once projected for [variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease] vCJD have shrunk according to The Times to a couple of hundred. Is this the end of the CJD scare? goes the headline. It just joins the list of what was called (in Sorry, wrong number!) The incredible shrinking statistic (e.g. US Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala “Soon because of AIDS we might not have any Americans left.”).

In case you’ve forgotten, vCJD is what people were supposed to get if they ate an animal infected with Mad Cow Disease (bovine spongiform encephalopathy), which had infected large numbers of cattle in the United Kingdom due to the way in which animal feed was being processed.

Saturday, January 25, 2003

OmbudSaturday: a partial roundup of ombudsman columns

# The Washington Post: Michael Getler reports that an inaccurate story in The Post, which reported that “"National security adviser Condoleezza Rice took a rare central role in a domestic debate within the White House and helped persuade President Bush to publicly condemn race-conscious admissions policies at the University of Michigan," prompted Rice to "put out a statement saying, in part, that she agreed with the president's position, ‘which emphasizes the need for diversity and recognizes the continued legacy of racial prejudice, and the need to fight it.' But, she added, 'I believe that while race-neutral means are preferable, it is appropriate to use race as one factor among others in achieving a diverse student body.’"

# The Salt Lake Tribune: Connie Coyne has had it with the Raelians. She acknowledges that “covering a group whose leader sports Star Trek-like uniforms can be a fun diversion. But this latest round of stories is too much. There, I have said it: No more Raelian stories until this group offers some kind of proof about its claims.” She offers her “ personal theory on why this group is getting so much coverage: It's that biologist's teeth. The woman Raelian who heads Clonaid has a set of choppers that could serve as a poster for what will happen if you fail to brush and floss.” You know, I think Brigette Boisselier’s teeth match her eyes and hair quite nicely.

# Toronto Star: If you don’t want to see your name in print, then don’t talk to the press is the unstated lesson in Don Sellar’s piece about the Star’s violating the confidentiality of a dozen “weight-loss challenge participants, including a few who gave their weight or other sensitive personal information.” It seems that a screw-up resulted in publication of their names and hometowns along with their tales of “struggles and successes.”

# Orlando Sentinel: In its never ending quest to identify Americans by dubious categories of race and ethnicity, the “most recent census ... expanded that list to more than 200 groups -- combining race, ethnicity and nationality -- with Hispanics becoming the nation's second-largest population group.”

As Manning Pynn observes, “that complicates things because, although most Hispanics are white, that ethnic category can include people of all races.” What then do government bean counters call the nation’s largest population group? By what it is not, of course. They are Non-Hispanic whites.

Not The OmbudsGod. I refuse to answer questions relating more to the color of my skin than the content of my character. I’m a non-hyphenated American.

# The San Diego Union-Tribune: Gina Lubrano explains that:

When editors select what news stories they are going to use on a particular day, their only agenda is to keep readers informed. Sometimes, of course, they make mistakes and fail to give a story the prominence it deserves or give a story too much prominence.

Those human failings aside, you know when you read a news story that it has been written by a reporter, a professional whose purpose is to gather information, verify it and provide all sides of the story. Reporters know when writing news stories, they are to set their biases aside. And should their biases betray themselves, it is up to editors to make sure they are cut out of stories.