Saturday, May 29, 2004

Big L, small minds

C-span is broadcasting a debate for Libertarian candidates.

Aaron Russo, candidate for the Libertarian nomination for president, just stated that "America has become a fascist country." The other two are pretty much the same. Russo also says that he wouldn't have attacked the Taliban because it did not participate in the 9/11 attacks.

I'm always amazed when I watch Libertarian gathering is how often they combine the rhetoric of the left, now the rhetoric of the Democrats, and that of the extreme right. I generally lean toward most libertarian arguments, but these people seem to carry them into conclusions that baffle me. One of the candidates, Gary Nolan, is a talk-show host. Russo is a movie producer. Michael Badnarik is a computer consultant.

It would be nice if any of them had any experience in politics or government.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

The press in Iraq

This explanation from the New York Times is about its coverage of Iraq. The upshot seems to be that Iraqi sources are untrustworthy. They don't say what accounts for their anti-Bush slant.

More of the Abu Ghraib addiction in the press

In today's Best of the Web. This really is an amazing phenomenon. The press seems to have made the Abu Ghraib scandal into some kind of hinge of history.

I hadn't thought about the Swingle Singers in years

Until I read today's Bleat.

I second Glenn's recommendation

Read Catherine Seipp's latest. It's about war movies and how Hollywood sees war these days. Lionel Chetwynd, the producer of the A&E movie Ike: Countdown to D-Day is a Hollywood conservative, like Tom Selleck who stars.

I recently bought this edition of Clausewitz' book On War. I was disappointed to read in the introduction that most of the material on actual strategy and tactics had been taken out and that this volume focused mainly on Clausewitz' philosophy of war. As I read the editor's introduction written in 1969, I got the feeling that the editor, Anatol Rapoport, had a contempt for Clausewitz' ideas about war. He seems to gain enthusiasm when he reaches a discussion of "peace research." I haven't finished it, but it struck me that it this is the kind of thinking that has infected our system of higher education and the left in this country. War is seen as a failure of diplomacy and of the failure to understand its causes sufficiently. It seems to suggest that, if we just had taken more time, we might have figured out how to resolve the terrorist problem peaceably.

Mr. Chetwynd recounts his acquaintance with a veteran of the assault on "Dieppe, a bloody but necessary dress rehearsal to D-Day that established the futility of invading a fortified European port."

Although they knew it was basically a suicide mission, not one man failed to report for duty. Chetwynd asked one of the old soldiers in his regiment, Sgt. Gordon Betts, why.

"My generation had to figure out what we were ready to die for," Chetwynd recalled Betts telling him. "You kids don't even know what to live for."

Chetwynd describes other encounters with people in Hollywood who had internalized the "war is never right" philosophy. They seem jarring to conservatives because most conservatives believe what our founding fathers wrote about liberty, patriotism and the blood of patriots. The left sees those ideas as abhorrent and evil. They see themselves as elite patriots trying to save the country from itself. As Hugh Hewitt frequently points out, they're going to get us killed.

Update: Cathy's blog
has this little ditty:
My teacher's always putting them down
He says they come from the wrong side of town
He told me they are bad
But I see they just make him mad
That's why I like being
A reader of the blogs.

He keeps saying my opinions are wrong
Because I won't sing that PLO song
I send him 300 websites and pretty soon
His face turns a really weird shade of maroon
He just won't become
A reader of the blogs.

He feels so helpless, 'cause he won't get a clue
Instead he brings up the UN and EU
At school they all stop and stare
I can't hide my laughter, but I don't care
I'll never stop being
A reader of the blogs

"Defines the news"?

I read a reference in Kausfiles to Wonkette's husband taking a job in New York. I check the link and found that he will be working for New York Magazine which describes itself as follows: "covers, analyzes, comments on and defines the news, culture, entertainment, lifestyle, fashion and personalities that drive New York City." I thought it was the New York Times that defines the news, but I checked out the contents anyway, to see if I could find out what defines the news. I still don't know.

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

We need more speeches

Michael Barone and Roger Simon got me thinking. We really do need more speeches like last night's, even if they only get a B+ from Andrew Sullivan. We need to be told more often what's at stake in Iraq. Instead of his weekly radio message, maybe President Bush should do a series of short (not more than 15 minutes) informal interviews that let him discuss issues like the war and the economy without making a speech. It would take an interviewer who can put him at ease as well as ask questions that the people out here want asked and answered. I'd love to see some of these with Rumsfeld and Cheney too. Barone mentioned FDR's "fireside chats." I don't think that would work for Bush, but I'd bet that some things like that could work, even if they had to buy the time.

The interviews don't need to be slick and over-produced. They just need to let Bush be Bush to revive a phrase and speak from his heart. Americans need answers to the continuous smear on his character, his intelligence and his intentions for this war. If the press has its way, we'll never have a president that people trust again.


Is it just me or is Timothy Noah an annoying prat? A column called Chatterbox just sounds like it's trying for a 40s revival. His photo doesn't look a bit like Peewee Herman, which is how I pictured him from his writing.

The messianic Moore

James Lileks quotes Michael Moore:
The Iraqis who have risen up against the occupation are not �insurgents� or �terrorists� or 'The Enemy.' They are the REVOLUTION, the Minutemen, and their numbers will grow � and they will win.. . .

I oppose the U.N. or anyone else risking the lives of their citizens to extract us from our debacle. I'm sorry, but the majority of Americans supported this war once it began and, sadly, that majority must now sacrifice their children until enough blood has been let that maybe -- just maybe -- God and the Iraqi people will forgive us in the end.
I'm sure glad someone else has the stomach to read Moore's rants and keep the rest of us updated on the progress of his idiocy.

Monday, May 24, 2004

They're unhappy?!

The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press has published its latest poll of journalists. The first graf of the Overview:
Journalists are unhappy with the way things are going in their profession these days. Many give poor grades to the coverage offered by the types of media that serve most Americans: daily newspapers, local TV, network TV news and cable news outlets. In fact, despite recent scandals at the New York Times and USA Today, only national newspapers and the websites of national news organizations� receive good performance grades from the journalistic ranks.
The pessimism is based on "bottom-line pressures."

The other main finding was that journalists think that the press is going too easy on Bush, as if this were just between him and them. Most of them have bought into the "Bush lied" meme, despite the lack of proof and the irrelevance of that argument.

The number who describe themselves as liberal has gone up, but the majority still describe themselves as moderate. Hugh Hewitt describes himself as moderate conservative, I guess to distinguish himself from the Aryan Nations Conservatives. So journalists are moderate compared to what, the Bader-Meinhof Gang? I'm not sure there is such a thing as moderate in today's politics. If you can be "moderate" on the war, tax cuts, etc. it probably means that you don't understand the term, or you don't pay attention to what's going on. The big chasm between the parties today is over fundamental things like the meaning of 9/11, whether Saddam should have been left in power and whether the U.N. is, or ever has been, a trustworthy or effectual organization. It's hard to be in the middle on those.

The thing that has always annoyed me about journalists I see on TV is that they all assume that they are moderates, when they all sound like they belong to the Church of FDR. They never seem to question their own assumptions, or the rightness of undermining the confidence of the people in all of our institutions, except maybe the Social Security Administration.

The strong sentiment in favor of a more critical view of White House coverage is just one way the climate of opinion among journalists has changed since the 1990s. More generally, there has been a steep decline in the percentage of national and local news people who think the traditional criticism of the press as too cynical still holds up. If anything, more national news people today fault the press for being too timid, not too cynical.

Not only do many national news people believe the press has gone too soft in its coverage of President Bush, they express considerably less confidence in the political judgment of the American public than they did five years ago.
I haven't seen such hostility in the press toward a president since Nixon, and he was guilty. They were pretty tough on Clinton, but he handed them a big juicy sex scandal to play with. Bush hasn't done anything that most people would consider criminal, immoral or even dishonest, yet he is the bete noir of the chattering classes, who don't seem to wonder even to themselves why they hate him so.

Shouldn't it be a warning sign that so many of them in national media have less confidence in the judgment of the electorate than they did five years ago? They seem to live in a different society, concentrated in the blue states and are no longer interested in how so many Americans could disagree with what they're putting out. The "bottom line" stuff seems an awful lot like rationalization for what is more likely a shift in their own awareness of the nation. I'd be interested in a trend line of national journalists' income over the last 30 years. That might explain a lot.

It's a good day for Hugh Hewitt to be on vacation

His show is off the internet for a few days. And me out of range of a radio station that carries it.

The methods of slanting the news

Or, in the words of James Taranto, "[T]he surest sign that the journalistic obsession with Abu Ghraib has gotten out of hand is the way news stories on unrelated topics ritually invoke it."

He got that right. And he illustrates it with quotes.

I hope he makes it a new feature "Abu Ghraib Non Sequitur Watch," or just a generic "Journalistic Obsession Watch."

The games terrorists play

Was it a wedding party or wasn't it? Kimmitt says no.

But what about the video? Well they have this process now called "editing."

I'm leaning toward believing General Kimmitt, if for no other reason that the U.S. military has a record of admitting mistakes and collateral damage. The terrorists have a record of lying through their teeth, as do Arab news media. Of course, U.S. media only imply that the lies are credible and bury the corrections.

Sunday, May 23, 2004

Interrogation without torture

I'm watching a program on The History Channel called We can make you talk about interrogation techniques which get information without torture. I doubt that Military Intelligence officials knowing these techniques, would feel any need to commit actual illegalities. What sounds more plausible is that the people condoning the abuses at Abu Ghraib weren't all that bright or skilled or that the MI dealing with Graner et al didn't want to know how they were "softening up" prisoners, which is worse.

What's the opposite of "collateral damage."

Better than just winning the war we're fighting?

Now there's a switch!

Mickey Kaus notes a WaPo story with a headline that's less accusatory than the story.

I like Kaus, but I'm not sure I agree with his Ballot Box Now! campaign. He seems to think they can do without a campaign and accurate means to prevent fraud.

Mickey's touting retired General Anthony Zinni as the Democrats' answer on national security, but I'm not that impressed. Asked whether he feels vindicated because he had reservations about the invasion of Iraq, he responded that he didn't, but " I know the area, I know the people, I know the culture, I know the situation. I knew the intelligence right up until the day of the war and I knew it wasn't there, the threat." Now that may be accurate, but it shows a lack of imagination in connection with the overal war on terrorism. The justification for the war had to be that Saddam posed a threat, but there is a better one that couldn't be stated explicitly. If we can get a working democracy in Iraq, the whole pattern of governments in Arab countries could change. And it may be working better than the Democrats would like.

On the other hand, he seems to have seen through Saddam's game with the U.N. and the American left:
I believed that Saddam Hussein was trying to pull a fast one on the U.N. inspectors in that he wanted them to give him a clean bill of health because they couldn't find a smoking gun. In other words, a stockpile. And I don't believe he had a stockpile. What he was very cleverly doing was building a framework that could start a program once he came out of sanctions.
That's precisely what Kenneth Timmerman and others have been saying. There were large stockpiles of pesticides, far beyond the needs of Iraq's agriculture, which could be easily converted to nerve agents, once the U.N. had eased sanctions.

American are wimps

Mark Steyn:
It's in the broader political engagement in Iraq that the coalition needs to metaphorically fix bayonets and go hand-to-hand with its opponents. The Sunni big shots and Sadr militias, the Baathist dead-enders and foreign terrorists, the freaks and losers have made a bet: that the infidels could handle the long-range antiseptic bombing but don't have the stomach for the messy mano-a-mano stuff that follows.

And they have a point. From Baghdad press conferences to Colin Powell, too much of the tone is half-hearted and implicitly apologetic: On bad days, the president himself is beginning to sound like an unmanned drone. The coalition needs to regain the offensive, to demonstrate not just weary stoicism but fierce will -- the same will those Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders showed. Bush has to be bold and imaginative, and to end the impression that he, his administration and America itself are mere hostages to events.
I'm all for staying around while the Iraqis figure out how to make a democracy, but not for reverting to the "Kick Me" style of foreign policy that emboldened bin Laden.

He's right. It was the horrifying TV footage from Vietnam and the way the Tet Offensive was presented as a catastrophic setback to the folks back home that won the war for the North Vietnamese. A lot of WWII vets had seen a lot worse, but their wives and kids hadn't, and the government thought that it could fight a sort of war without going into enemy territory, without taking and holding ground, and with an aim of making the North give up its designs on the South without punishing it for them. We allowed the Soviets and Chinese to supply the North by refusing to mine Haiphong harbor or bomb Hanoi or the supply routes through Cambodia. The press portrayed the North and the Viet Cong as unbeatable, because we weren't beating them with our "humane" model of war, which was just stacking up American and many more Vietnamese dead without any point.

A lot of Americans either concluded back then that all war is evil and that we should never participate in one again, or they've grown up being told that. In fact, war is probably less horrible today when waged by the West that it has ever been, because of the use of pinpoint-accurate bombs, but the TV camera doesn't show it. When the bombing in Baghdad started in March of 2003, most of the city was unaffected, but you'd have thought from the video and commentary coming back that it was another Dresden. Even now, in a nation of 25 million, most normal civil life goes on unhindered.

That's progress, but it's also a problem. The Iraqi people haven't been reduced to scrounging for potato peels in American camp dumps, and had their cities reduced to rubble the way the Germans and Japanese were. Most of the damage to their power grid and oil industry were inflicted by the outgoing regime, which also released thousands of violent criminals. Because we followed up the destruction of Europe and Japan with food and supplies and the Marshall Plan, it was clear to the people that it was their own governments which had brought calamity on them and that we didn't hate them. The Iraqis probably already know that Saddam was not their big brother, but we can't count on that earning us any good will.

War is still bloody and there are still heartrending shots available for TV cameras of mourners wailing and wounded children. What we have to remember is that Arabs murdered the crews of three airliners and flew them with their passengers, including women and children into buildings with upwards of 20,000 people. It's not a question of whether Saddam was involved in 9/11. We need to bring it home to all Arabs that Fascism, Taliban and terror will not bring about the triumph of Islam over the West. There may be one billion Muslims in the world, but there are a third of a billion in the Coalition countries, and we are perfectly capable of killing enemies in large multiples of our losses.

I think that Sistani and most others know that. Muqtada al-Sadr may be figuring out that his Iranian backers can't help him, even if he can't quite bring himself to submit, because there's an arrest warrant out for him on a charge of murder. But the Iraqis are only a part of the audience for our little play. There are the Palestinians, the Egyptians and everywhere there are Arabs being given Jenin while their leaders are living in Hollywood. We want those people to see that the military and terrorist route is a dead end, but that we are amenable to helping them build something better.

We won't do that by dithering and indecision. We want this to resemble Bambi v. Godzilla. Our enemies think they know us because they watch a lot of our TV. We need to disabuse them of the notion that they can beat us with P.R. That means we, the People, must suck it up and resolve to ride this horse 'til it's broke, whether we are uncomfortable with the idea of children firing AK-47s at our soldiers or the enemy using women and children as shields. We must acknowledge that war is nasty, as General Sherman did, and either decide that we will not prolong it with half-measures or tying the hands of our soldiers, or that it's not worth it and hunkering down for the next 9/11 under President Kerry.

Think about this:
Muslims are angrily at war with Buddhists in East Asia. Muslims are at enraged with Animists in Africa. Of course, none of this approaches the sheer hatred that Muslims bear towards Hindus in the South Asia peninsula. And this foaming hatred blanches compared to the white-hot fury Muslims feel to the Christian American Crusaders. And this fury is but a candle to the incandescent, boiling, supernova of murder they feel toward the Jews.

Does anyone beside me detect a pattern here?

What's wrong with Islam?

Actually, the same thing that's wrong with Judaism and Christianity. It started with revelations from God, but was later overcome by intellectuals and philosophers. Moses, Jesus and Mohammed were all meek men who served God and their followers. None of them got rich or exercised great worldly power; their kingdoms were not of this world. Nor did their early followers. But once they were out of the way, the warriors and "scholars" took over and many of these were seduced by the power of being able to interpret revelations for the people. The Jews had an empire for a short while, but ended up losing their own land, not to regain it for 1900 years and are still without a tabernacle or temple.

Mohammed's war was defensive. Jesus was the prince of peace, but his promised second coming will be not so much a war as a violent cleansing of the world from all war. Moses's wars were commanded to destroy societies which had become so corrupt and evil (They sacrificed their infants to their idols) that their end had been decreed by God in order that they would not corrupt his people. They failed to obey that decree and ultimately lost their promised land and were forced to wander the rest of the world until their prophesied gathering commenced.

The golden age of Islam was during the Turkish rule. The Arabs never could overcome their own Bedouin heritage which kept them in a constant cycle of internecine war, except when they were dominated from without. Now they have been given freedom, but they realize that they have failed to keep up, or even to retain the advances made by the Ottomans. Since Islam was given by God and was supposed to fill the earth and hasn't, there were only two possible explanations: Its adherents were not worthy and therefore, not able, to complete the plan; or the religion as it has been interpreted by generations of taliban, mullahs, sheiks and ayatollahs is not true. Neither explanation is tolerable to Arab honor, so a third explanation has been posited: The West is Satan's system of opposing God's command and thus must be destroyed, even if it must be done with the weapons created in the West. This begs the question, why didn't God prevent the West from outstripping the Arabs in economic and military power, but that can't be acknowledged without the answer that Muslims have failed to be worthy of God's favor.

The existence of multiple variants of a religion is plain evidence that it is no longer in direct communication with God, for his house is a house of order. Therefore, some or all of the extant versions of the original revelation must be apostate to some degree. All three have gone through eras where they conquered others and established empires and became ultra wealthy. All three have gone through phases, or developed sects, of violence and inquisition. It seems to be Islam's turn at the moment.