Friday, May 21, 2004

The Keyhole Effect

Once again, we're being subjected to hysteria in the media. It's not quagmire anymore, it's worse--failure, defeat. The Iraqis hate us. Bremer is alienating everybody and is sitting on his trunks. Chalabi is being accused of blackmailing people involved in the UNSCAM scandal and/or spying for the Iranians. We're bungling everything possible and killing celebrants at a wedding party, or were they part of a terrorist underground railroad? On top of all that, we're not killing fast enough.

Of course, we're not seeing the whole picture, because of the preference for graphic violence, scandal and conflict. It would be interesting to pull back from some of these video clips of riots, gun battles, the aftermath of car bombs to show a larger setting.

Television and news reporting in general give us a narrow view of what's going on and we tend to generalize from that view. It's the same effect that Newt Gingrich used in the early days of C-Span when he was speaking on the floor of the House but viewers couldn't see that there were no other representatives in the chamber with him until Tip O'Neill ordered that the cameras pull back. By focusing on the neighborhoods where violence is occurring, our media give the impression, without affirmatively saying so, that what we see reported is happening everywhere throughout Iraq because we can't see the size of the country and all the peaceful areas. This is why people can get away with complaining that we haven't found WMD stockpiles. If you've ever seen the movie "Holes," you may get my point.

Anyway, it would be nice if any of the news organizations would try to add some perspective to their reports to really give us a true picture. It's understandable that the picture changes as more facts accumulate, but that makes it all the more important for reporters, producers and editors to follow up and makes it clear when the facts aren't clear. The Middle East is not an area where all is as it seems, yet our press seems almost eager to disbelieve whatever our military says,

The Bremer / Chalabi feud.

I don't know what to think about Ahmad Chalabi, but this is the second column I've read criticizing Jerry Bremer. I know most of the liberals don't like Chalabi, which makes me think he might really be a patriot, but I guess time will tell.

I was disturbed last week by the statements by Bremer and Colin Powell that the U.S. is ready to pull out of Iraq if the new government asks us. It's starting to sound like they haven't been listening to the president's speeches.

The Un-quagmire

Mort Kondracke is seeing the ghosts of Vietnam, but not like the rest of the press.

This is not a good time for the press to get snotty.

View from a Height quotes this exchange from an online chat on the WaPo website between a reader and Leonard Downie Jr., executive editor of the paper:
Arlington, Va.: Looks like trial by media to me. I don't intend to make light of what happened in Iraq, but don't you think that The Post is just feeding a lynch mob? It would be better to wait for a court to establish what happened, and go from there.

Leonard Downie Jr.: It is our First Amendment responsibility to inform the public as fully as possible regardless of what happens in courts or, in this case, inside the military justice system. To cite just one example, that is what we did with Watergate.
Talk about arrogance. "We're above criticism. It's in the Constitution!" People who think like that deserve to be pariahs. I've suspected for a long time that these people are all motivated by the hope to relive Watergate. This supports that.

Fortunately, they're not all like that. Collin Levey makes a good case that the media have not provided enough coverage of the sarin gas shell. I wonder why Downie hasn't fulfilled his First Amendment responsibility on this issue. Or does the First Amendment only apply to cases that are in court?

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Lileks on the news coverage, specificly Sy Hersh's, of the Abu Ghraib scandal:
Anything on the Berg slaughter? Alas, no. That was a one-off, it seems, an aberration. Move along, nothing to see. Hersh�s article ends: ��We�re giving the world a ready-made excuse to ignore the Geneva Convention. Rumsfeld has lowered the bar.�� Ah. Hereafter the terrorists will be emboldened to saw people�s heads off with dull blades.
Then he brings up the UN Oil for Diplomatic Protection investigation, which is given short shrift in the mainstream media, and asks:
Which body acted swiftly to investigate? Which body opened itself to public hearings and condemnations? Which body put the bad guy in the dock, held a trial, and pronounced sentence? . . . Kofi? your move.
What makes this such great writing is its economy. He uses irony and sarcasm juxtaposed with plain feeling more deftly than anybody I know (with the possible exception of Mark Steyn), fastfocusing on an angle that lays an issue out and strips it of all the stridulating media sophistry, so that it's left plain and needs no further argument. And he does it in so few words that he has plenty of room to devote the 80% of his bleats to news from Jasperwood.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Europe's population decline solved

Hard to believe with porn in most of the media everyday, but this couple didn't know where babies come from. Of course, the near universal sex education has probably served to prevent a whole lot more pregnancies than ignorance has.

Gun control needed

More deaths caused by the idiotic practice of firing rifles in the air to celebrate. This time it was a wedding party and it drew fire from a U.S. helicopter. 40 people are reported dead. The antiwar bloggers are having a field day with this, but I doubt that the helicopter crew feel very good about this. How about a public service message on Al Jazeera: Firing automatic weapons to celebrate is a good way to kill your guests!

It's odd, is it not that it's easier to buy guns and ammo than it is to buy fireworks? Not that I want to infringe on gun rights, but wouldn't it be cheaper and less dangerous to let them have firecrackers? Of course, that wouldn't be as macho, would it?

The interrogation-torture continuum

Apparently, the ineffectuality of torture is not as clear cut as we assume, and when you're concerned about stopping murders of multiple civilians as in the suicide bombings in Karbala or an ambush of U.S. troops, it's not so plain that suffering of a few persons outweighs the murder and injuries of others. In the words of George C. Scott portraying Patton said, "When you put your hand into a bunch of goo that a moment before was your best friends face, you'll know what to do." That urge increases as a prisoner defies interrogators and pushes their buttons, I imagine.

I suppose that's why interrogators need training and carefully thought out guidelines and limits. The Abu Ghraib photos don't depict anything that would "soften up" prisoners for interrogation, if you ask me. If these prisoners were truly the bloodthirsty terrorists they'e supposed to be, I don't really think they would respond to humiliation, but what do I know? I suppose that to some extent it's a matter of personality and how an interrogator interacts with other people.

Chief Wiggles has a humane approach. So would I. I'd be laughable as the bad cop, or trying to act like Scipowitz.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004


As I've read and listened to stories today about what's happening in Iraq and the struggles of the left to prevent or stop it, it occurred to me that we are engaged in an experiment of breathtaking audacity. By all rights, this should be the dream of the avant garde social planners, but it goes way beyond that. We are handing the Iraqis the secret to catching up with the West, and trusting them to have the sense to grasp it despite centuries of religious regimentation and superstition. Those fighting this project here are called liberals, meaning:
1. Not limited to or by established, traditional, orthodox, or authoritarian attitudes, views, or dogmas; free from bigotry.
2. Favoring proposals for reform, open to new ideas for progress, and tolerant of the ideas and behavior of others; broad-minded.
rooted in a Latin term meaning free. The irony is delicious. The liberals out of jealous spite are trying to convince the country that this is dishonest, improperly though out, illegal without the approval of the U.N., failing, hubristic, etc.

The good news . . .

linked in this roundup doesn't come from the NY or LA Times.

Newsweek's Smoking Gun is just smoke and mirrors

I looked at the big story claiming that the administration was authorizing torture. I was unimpressed. The supposedly super-secret memo posted on MSNBC is a draft and comments by Colin Powell, that had nothing to do with Iraq, making the point that terrorists are not entitled to the kind of treatment mandated by the Geneva Conventions. Duh.

I saw Wolfowitz being questioned on this by Dem senators. He noted that Iraq is a signatory to the conventions, while Al Qaeda was not, and the memo was written shortly after 9/11 and didn't deal with Iraq.

I heard that Newsweek ignored the Nicholas Berg atrocity altogether. Who are these people to ask us to trust them for news? This is yellow journalism every bit as despicable as Hearst's warmongering over Cuba.

Monday, May 17, 2004

Say what?

The Bleat is not a blog. Getting a little exclusive here, what?

Not that it matters much. It's a good thing Antonia doesn't live in the South. She sounds like she'd go out and stir up nests of fire ants just for spite. She's a definite whiner, and she's not that good at it. Blip. She's off the radar.

The new approach

Wretchard at Belmont Club speculates on the real purpose of Rumsfeld's visit to Iraq last week. He says it was part of a restructuring of the military there with one branch focusing governing and the other on winning the fight.

I think that Rumsfeld's training wheels analogy makes sense if we're going to succeed in building a democracy. The change may signal that the administration is aware of the confusing messages we're getting here at home and the need to clarify what's going on. I sure hope they can get the vision thing cleared up soon.

Give Kerry three years in office . . .

and his approval ratings will be beyond 50% too.

Sunday, May 16, 2004

Let us not praise impetuous men

I'd never heard of Paul Craig Roberts, who recently assailed the Brown v. Board of Education decision as "infamous," until I read a criticism of that claim by Eugene Volokh. I agree with Roberts that we have entered into an era of kritarchy, and that it is damaging the basic priniciples of our Constitution, particularly democracy and property rights. But to assail Brown seems beyond the pale. I think that the prior cases dealing with race had been a bow to democratic realities, and Brown recognized that the time had come to state clearly that segregation had proven itself indefensible.

Roberts is correct in his criticism of the willingness of judges to increasingly throw aside deference to the political branches. By doing so, they have made themselves political as the current impasse in approval of the president's judicial nominees in the Senate illustrates. But that wasn't initiated by Brown, it was in Marbury v. Madison. The best reason for judicial restraint is to avoid precisely the problems we have now, of government by lawsuits, where courts boldly grant litigants results that they have been unable to achieve through the democratic processes of politics. Courts should be reluctant to furnish the intent left unclear by vague or overbroad legislation. They should whenever possible resist attempts to overrule elected representatives. Brown was a case where that was just no longer possible, because democratic institutions had failed utterly in providing basic equality. Where the court went wrong was in its subsequent decisions requiring busing, integration using racial quotas, etc. In order to attack segregation, the court became activist, reaching out to interfere with all sorts of individual rights in order to accomplish its goals.