Saturday, June 19, 2004

President Gordon B. Hinckley to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom

President Hinckley is recognized by member of the LDS Church as a prophet, seer and revelator. He is the senior apostle of the church, which is organized on the pattern described in the New Testament. He will be 94 years old on Wednesday. I have felt the witness of the Holy Spirit many times as I've heard him speak. He truly is a great and capable man, especially at his advanced age, and deserves to be more widely known. I view him as every bit as much a prophet as Moses, Joshua, Samuel, Peter, Paul, James or John. He holds the same authority that the Peter, James and John held in the early church, which was lost with the death of the the original apostles and has been restored in our time.

An insider's view of Abu Ghraib

Torin Nelson, a professional interrogator who worked at Abu Ghraib as a civilian contractor and one of the sources for the Taguba investigation, gives probably the most objective version I've seen about what happened there. There were problems of understaffing, inadequate training and supervision and a facility that was too vulnerable to attacks by terrorists. It still appears that the military was reacting as it should to the problems, investigating them and prosecuting those who violated the law. I don't see that any of his observations implicate anyone in the Bush administration, however:
A special team was set up at the prison called "the break team," he said, "to take the difficult people and break them. That shows you the mentality."

Such actions conflicted with Nelson'sbelief that coercion and physical pressure are the exact wrong tactics to get someone to talk.

"Interrogation isn't about breaking someone's will, it's about breaking down the barriers between you," he said. Most people want to talk, if not confess; small bits of crucial, relevant information can be gleaned without any dramatic scenes, he said.

Nelson said he didn't know of any specific orders for military police to "loosen up" detainees, as the soldiers' lawyers have contended. But low-level military police were given too much responsibility, Nelson believes.. . .

For the American people, this needs to be brought as open as possible, as transparent as possible," he said. "Let's not focus on politics. Let's focus on a breakdown in the system."

The military and the country need to recognize how critical information is to any fight against terrorists, he said. That means giving soldiers in military intelligence better training and more responsibility, while at the same time making clear the line between good interrogation techniques and unacceptable threats and abuses.
I think that he's right. The press has been interested in this story mostly as a tool for discrediting the war in Iraq and tarring the Bush administration. This is misleading and unfair to the people who, like Nelson, were interested in serving professionally and properly.

Friday, June 18, 2004

More evidence of the U.N.'s fecklessness

Jim Moore notes that the genocide in Sudan is getting short schrift in the media and the "international community." What has John Kerry said about this?

�I believe that the United States and the international community must act immediately to apply effective pressure on the Government of Sudan to rein in its militia proxies and to immediately provide unrestricted access for humanitarian aid and aid workers. We must also act swiftly to initiate negotiations aimed at securing a political settlement to the conflict. And because there is no guarantee that the Sudanese government will relent, we must also start planning now for the possibility that the international community, acting through the United Nations, will be forced to intervene urgently to save the lives of the innocent.
Yep, that oughta work.

The media as campaigners

Best of the Web notes that the Philadelphia News has not only endorsed Kerry, but encouraged its readers to become active in his campaign and donate to it. "Perhaps the FEC should take up the question of Knight Ridder's electioneering for Kerry. It'd make an interesting test case."

We can daydream, but what are the chances that the FEC would take on all the *B* broadcast networks and the major newspapers on both coasts?

"because I could"

Hugh Hewitt may be reminded here by Augustine's Confessions, but most of us recognized it the punch line of a joke about why dogs lick their own testicles.

Here are some points from the CBS report on the 60 Minutes interview:
Mr. Clinton tells Rather he is proud that he fought the impeachment battle that failed to drive him from office.

"I didn�t quit. I never thought of resigning and I stood up to it and beat it back," he tells Rather.

"The whole battle was a badge of honor. I don�t see it as a stain, because it was illegitimate,"
Then, in the twelfth paragraph, the Monica Lewinsky scandal is mentioned. Clinton has obviously thought long and hard about how to word his rationalization:
The failure high on his list of regrets is the affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky that he terms "a terrible moral error."

The affair�s disclosure put him, he says, "in the doghouse" with his wife and also threatened to alienate his daughter, Chelsea. The family was able to overcome its terrible effect through counseling, however.

Hillary, says Mr. Clinton, needed time with him to decide whether she would stay married to him.

"We�d take a day a week, and we did � a whole day a week every week for a year, maybe a little more � and did counseling," says Mr. Clinton. "We did it together. We did it individually. We did family work."

Why did Mr. Clinton commit adultery? He tells Rather there is no rational explanation. "I did something for the worst possible reason. Just because I could," says Mr. Clinton. "I think that�s just about the most morally indefensible reason anybody could have for doing anything."
It's all about his relationship with his family, and what he has done to heal that. It's not the reason. The reason was that he wanted to.

"Morally indefensible" is like the meaning of "is," it's a legalistic point. All of his defenders used that phrase during the impeachment hearings and trial. It signified that while degrading his office was immoral it was not a "high crime" or misdemeanor, and therefore impeachable. Of course, he avoids the implications of his behavior as to his judgment and fitness for office. He knows that Americans are taught to forgive a sinner, but he doesn't like that word--it sounds too religious. And it sounds too much like "misdemeanor." Wouldn't want to tarnish that badge of honor he earned for defending the Constitution.

Perhaps it is apropos that this story should come out in the week following Ronald Reagan's funeral. We can place these men side by side, so to speak, and see the difference in character. The hardcore Democrats will revile Reagan for the Iran-Contra scandal, for which he was never charged. The rest of us recognize the difference between courage and love of America and its ideals, and weaselry.

The Marc Rich and the other last-minute pardons are not mentioned.

Was Saddam involved with terrorism?

Was Father Geoghan Catholic?

Instapundit links to this report that Russia notified the U.S. after 9/11 of intelligence indicating that Saddam was preparing attacks on the U.S.

Was this in the 9/11 Commission reports? Will it be?

Hugh Hewitt called yesterday for a new commission to review the 9/11 Commission. I'm sure it was tongue-in-cheek, because expecting any commission in Washington to play it straight down the middle is like leaving your dog to guard your hamburger.

Still, the politicization of the commission is only part of the scandal. The rest is a national press that is more interested in obfuscating the truth than in making it clear. The story two days ago about the commission's finding that there was no credible evidence that Saddam and Al Qaeda collaborated on the 9/11 attacks, includes the fact that there were ties between them. How else could bin Laden have contacted Saddam to ask for assistance? Saddam shrewdly recognized that Usama was not the type to be a junior partner to him and would probably turn on him like he did the Americans, and wisely didn't respond, but there was no doubt that there were channels of communication.

Update: The Wall Street Journal points out a number of nuggets that the rest of the press in its zeal to discredit the war in Iraq ignored.

Now this is intelligence

A military interrogator explains how it really is, and what is at stake.
This is the real world and how the military really is, as opposed to the parade of horribles the press wants to present.

Embarrassing places to work

When I was in high school, I worked for a while as an usher in a theater in Waukegan, Illinois. I got $.50 an hour and had to wear cardboard dickies and ancient jackets that looked like doorman uniforms but hadn't been cleaned for years. Truly humiliating.

Lileks pretty much nails Chuck E. Cheese's. His recollection of Judge Reinholt's role in Fast Times at Richmond High reminded me of the kids working at Krusty Burger. Then there was Jennifer Anniston's job in Office Space where she kept getting hassled about how much "flair" she was wearing. It seems to have been a right of passage for a lot of us, but imagine a job at a place where you not only have to embarrass yourself but your customers as well. This place is so determined to be FUN that it's scary. The food is great, but the atmosphere is such that you can't talk over dinner and you're in constant risk of being pulled out of your chair and pressed into making a spectacle of yourself for the amusement of the other patrons. "Have fun, damn you! We're not going to make asses of ourselves alone!" This is not a place for curmudgeons, or even people who just want to eat. Maybe it works better in states with liquor by the drink.

His patriotism

Mikey Moore's new home movie is big in the countries that hate the U.S. He must be proud.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

Oh, the inanity!

I just saw Richard Ben Veniste pontificating on Charlie Rose. The problem on 9/11, he has determined, is that the FBI, CIA and other intelligence agencies weren't sharing information.

Oh, well done! No mention of the fact that left has been assailing the whole idea of intelligence, which after all means invading the privacy of others, for years. No mention of the fact that attack after attack throughout the 1990s the administration clucked unhappily and did little or nothing, while bin Laden built up al Qaeda and trained suicide bombers. The whole effort, if these hearings are any indication, has been to somehow pin the whole disaster on Bush.

What can you expect from people who think the way to fight crime is to outlaw firearms?

Lileks noticed pretty much the same thing but writes it better.

There were a bunch of wire stories in the papers today based on today's final hearing of the commission, which basically revealed what we knew on 9/12/01. The actual tapes that were released really are chilling, but of course newspapers can't convey that like TV and radio. They may think this is bad for the administration, but to me it was a reminder of how truly evil terrorism is and how truly unserious the left is about confronting it.

The most disgusting story of the day was this one, in which Rumsfeld admitted keeping the capture of a terrorist leader secret at the request of the CIA. This is being spun as a human rights violation because the Red Cross wasn't notified about this man, but the Geneva Conventions don't apply to terrorists. They aren't POWs because they are illegal combatants. I can think of a number of good reasons to keep such a capture secret, so why can't these elite folks who see themselves as the intellectual's alternative to the government?

The press is getting more and more arrogant all the time. The New York Times has lost its objectivity completely and the wire "services" sound more like Al Jazeera than news organizations.

Mickey Kaus apparently agrees, although he restricts his comments to Dan Rather's heir apparent at CBS News.

The terrorists send a message

A suicide car bomber attacked an Iraqi Army recruitment center, making it clear that the terrorism will not stop is when the Americans are gone. I hope the point isn't lost on the Iraqi people and religious leaders. These terrorists bear a striking resemblance to the Meccans who attacked Muhammed's new community at Medina during the founding of Islam. These were the infidels mentioned in the Quran, fellow Arabs trying to smash a new community based on a new ideal.

5 to 7 minutes? Oh, the humanity!

The 9/11 Commission reports get another headline: 9/11: Bush didn't react to attack for minutes, report says. I don't know what the point of this story is. It sounds like criticism, but I have to wonder how many people will react that way.

The real story is in paragraph 5:
The U.S. government and its military, on perpetual alert for attacks from overseas, weren't trained or prepared to respond to the suicide hijackings in domestic airspace, the commission said in a report giving the timeline of the attacks and the responses of the Federal Aviation Administration and the North American Aerospace Defense Command.
That, at least, comes within the Commission's purpose, but there isn't anything else in the story about that. It's all about how Bush got the news and what he did next. Is any of this different from what one would expect? If so, it's not apparent to me.

Man, what a concession!

Time magazine acknowledges blogs:
Over the past five years, blogs have gone from an obscure and, frankly, somewhat nerdy fad to a genuine alternative to mainstream news outlets, a shadow media empire that is rivaling networks and newspapers in power and influence.
Note the astonishment: But it turns out some people actually have interesting thoughts on a regular basis. As if only journalists were thought to have interesting thoughts prior to Instapundit.

I suppose a national news magazine can't cover just any story until it achieves critical mass, but the apparent surprise of the writer is what I find so interesting in this story and the arrogance and contempt for the rest of society it reveals.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

French Imperialism!

Free Tahiti Now! Where are the A.N.S.W.E.R. people demonstrating for the oppressed Polynesians? I wonder what the economic advantages to Tahiti of being a French possession are. I know Puerto Rico's biggest industry is manufacturing pharmaceuticals, since the drug companies get bit tax breaks for operating there.

The U.N. seems to be doing all it can to drive us out.

Fox News Channel has had a series of reports this week on a U.N. culture of corruption which is said to be endemic by people who work there.

Then there's this:
The office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights recently sent a letter to Caterpillar corporation's CEO in the United States warning that the bulldozers which the manufacturer sells to the Israel Defense Forces are used for acts that may be deemed human rights violations.

Smells like a leak to me

This story on the findings of the 9/11 Commission is all over the press today. It's from the AP and it stinks of a partisan leak, with the headline "Sept. 11 panel: Bin Laden sought Saddam's help but Iraq rebuffed him" Kind of wordy for a headline, no? It also has Democrat written over it. It reads a lot like the "questions" Richard Ben Veniste took so long to "ask" during the public hearings.

More than that, it misrepresents why we went to war to overthrow Saddam. It pounces on a quote from Dick Cheney that says "that Saddam had 'long-established ties' with al-Qaida," which it hardly disproves. All it proves is that Saddam didn't give them training camps and weapons. He probably recognized that bin Laden would have been dangerous to his own regime, but it hardly proves that there were no ties between them.

The story reports other findings:
�No convincing evidence shows that al-Qaida received state-sponsored financial support, although some governments such as Saudi Arabia may have "turned a blind eye" to the group's fund-raising activities.

�Bin Laden decided he wanted to attack the United States by 1992, and worked meticulously in building an organizational structure of senior operatives and a broader Islamic army from terror groups throughout Africa and the Mideast.

Update: OK, it wasn't a leak, but the press report was spun more than cotton candy. Andrew McCarthy provides clarification from the commission transcripts.

Where is this mentioned in McCain-Feingold?

Jabba the Tub wants his movie to affect the election, AND he expects to be paid for the privilege of listening to an hour-plus political ad. Why don't the Republicans do the same thing? Would anybody pay to watch a movie attacking John Kerry or Ralph Nader? Republicans and most others have lives. Consider how much you have to hate George Bush to pay $8 to listen to some (beep) feed your hatred for an hour and a half. This strikes me as more of the death rattle of the Democrats.

Elephant gives birth to a mouse

Maybe it's just the spin, but the first story I saw about the report from the 9/11 Commission is this one, which amounts to nothing more than another attack on Bush. Once again we're told that Saddam did not help Al Qaeda, which is not the same as saying that he wasn't engaged in terrorism. They must have missed Zarqawi. Stephen F. Hayes has done his own investigation.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Hey, can she help it?

From A Fly on the Wall via Professor Althouse's blog:
Paramount Pictures is worried that Meryl Streep's edgy, chilling performance as a U.S. Senator in The Manchurian Candidate, which opens at the end of next month, is too close to the real Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, a pal inside the studio tells me.
What else did they expect when they asked one of the greatest actresses of all time to play a "scary and evil" woman married to a politician?

I wonder how good her belly laugh is.

Is the press above the law?

Instapundit links to this report about reporters resisting subpoenas which call on them to verify the truth of their reporting. Why should they object? They think it looks bad, apparently. Maybe to other reporters, but to most of us out here in the great unwashed, it looks like they think they're better than everybody else.

It's of a piece with the press's wrapping itself in the First Amendment, but Professor Volokh points out the flimsiness of that cloak. It is, after all, the mere freedom to print opinions without being subject to government regulation or harrassment. It doesn't somehow raise their business to a kind of fourth branch of government. The guardian of the people's right to know is the free market, not the New York Times.

If the press wants that kind of power, it should become answerable for its defalcations like other professions. They want us to trust them, but they don't even want to have to testify under oath that their reporting was truthful. Instead, they heap contempt on their customers in the mistaken belief that they are above all regulation. Maybe they've never heard of the unseen hand. Or bankruptcy.

Monday, June 14, 2004

Something smells froggy here

William Safire reports on the UN Oil for Food scandal.

Is it the revolution yet?

This letter to the editor caught my eye. I hope that complaints like this will grow until editors wake up to the fact that they are responsible to their readers, and start finding ways to present more points of view in their reporting.

Sunday, June 13, 2004

A non-existent endangered species

A DNA test allegedly proves that a protected "species," the Preble's meadow jumping mouse, is not a separate species at all. The research "suggests the Preble's mouse in fact never existed. It instead seems to be genetically identical to one of its cousins, the Bear Lodge meadow jumping mouse, which is considered common enough not to need protection."

One wonders how many more similar endangered non-species will be found to have deprived people of their property rights over the years. Junk science or political science?

A lesson for Iraqis

An Iraqi policeman whose station was destroyed by terrorists says he would like to ask the bombers:
"Why don't you go and directly attack the Americans themselves instead of targeting your countrymen?"
Well, because the Americans would kill them. Duh. And if you want the Americans to leave, you'll have to kill them yourself or they'll kill you. Don't let anybody kid you about how if we all just disarm and show our enemies that we're no threat, they'll do the same. There are people in the world who would react with a smile and a spray of bullets. That's what evil is.
"I would love that security prevailed in Iraq, under conditions of freedom and democracy," the chief said. "Not the democracy of weapons and killings, but rather the democracy and freedom of thoughts and of constructive dialogue. Not of explosions."
What he and his countrymen need to learn is that democracy doesn't come without the willingness to defend it from men like Saddam and the Ba'athists who are now seeking to occupy the vacuum they think his ovethrow leaves behind. They need to learn the lesson that Americans have been taught by their history up until recently, that freedom for the ordinary people will always be threatened and must therefore be jealously guarded, even to the point of violence. Nobody else has reason to care. Islam is said to come from a root meaning peace, but if jihad means anything useful in this age, it means fighting to defend freedom, since judgment means nothing without it.