Friday, May 20, 2005

This is news?

The NYTimes has printed a two page story to a case of prisoner abuse at Bagram over two years ago which has been investigated and prosecuted by the military. Here's my comment to Jeff Jarvis's blog:
I'm wondering why we're just reading this now, after the Newsweek retraction? Apparently, this story is the result of the military investigating itself, which makes it a case of individuals out of bounds, not a policy to torture prisoners.

I have to wonder about the timing of this leak and the motives of whoever leaked it. Accounts like this are troubling, but coming from the NYTimes, I can't trust it to be a fair and objective report. It's luridly written, to elicit maximum outrage, particularly from Muslims, as the Newsweek leak that wasn't did.

The current climate in the media is poisonous. They are so intent on proving that the Newsweek story was based on truth even if the exact details turned out to be wrong, that I prefer to wait for the Pentagon's response. This is starting to look like a meltdown of professional detachment. These are the same people who accused the blogosphere of being a pack of wolves and vigilantes, but the Eason Jordan, CBS memo scandal, etc. only made most people think the MSM had lost their minds.

They may have good sourcing for the Bagram story and the photo of Saddam in his underwear, but the issue isn't that some individuals are ignorant boors when given a little authority. The reports are that the military is steaming mad about the leaking of these photos in violation of its rules. So are these stories really proof that the whole military is out of control and bent on demeaning Muslim prisoners? Add them up and compare them to the numbers of people we have in custody.

Abu Ghraib was sickening and disgusting, and so are the stories out today, although the photo of Saddam in his shorts doesn't bother me. What bothers me is that members of the news media have made themselves participants in violation of the Geneva Conventions by publishing information they should recognize as explosive and possibly illegal in a petty effort to get even with the White House Press Spokesman.

I hope the reporters are willing to go to jail to protect their sources, because those sources deserve to be jailed along with any soldiers who committed abuse of prisoners.

How bad do you want energy independence?

Here's one way, but you have to know that environmental groups will block development of these resources in any way possible.

No, really, that's me!

Check this photo. The caption reads in part:
Benjamin Hunt, looking a lot like Darth Vader, joins hundreds of others at Jordan Commons on Wednesday to see the opening of "Star Wars: Episode III
I guess we'll just have to take the paper's word on that.

The reviewer in the same paper, The Deseret Morning News, understates a feature that all of the Star Wars movies have in common " the dramatic scenes don't carry as much weight as the action sequences." I can't imagine that there is much suspense either about what Anakin will do in the end.

This is supposed to be a tragedy, like Hamlet, Macbeth or Othello. But according to Aristotle, you need a noble hero who, because of hubris, walks right into a series of fated events that lead to his downfall. I haven't seen the film yet, but I'm guessing that Hayden Christensen is not up to playing anything like what the main character needs. He was obviously chosen for his looks and because no one had ever heard of him. Lucas seems to have a penchant for using unknowns for his heroes and heroins. Who had ever heard of Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher or Harrison Ford before Star Wars Episode IV? Their youth, the fantastic settings, special effects and the action scenes, made up for their deficiencies as actors.

May the farce be Sith you?

Glenn Reynolds offers his reaction to Episode Three along with a roundup of other reviews from the blogosphere.

Yeah, I know that it's full of lib-think and inverted logic, but I go to these movies for the spectacle, not the plotting or dialogue. Just the names, "Attack of the Clones" and "Revenge of the Sith", tell you all you need to know about what to expect intellectually. But it's the special effects, visual imagination and technology that is fun to see. I don't care if it reeks of, I can shut out the propaganda. I've done it before, but I really want to see the spectacle.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

What's the sound of a person falling off a cliff?

It could well be "Nooooooooyi!

I've gone back and forth on this during the afternoon. But after reading her speech in more detail, I think she's getting a raw deal, and that the reaction to her remarks is taking them out of context. The example she gives is of the crass behavior of some American businessmen in China, and she does point out that America is a great country:
This incident should make it abundantly clear. These men were not giving China a hand. They were giving China the finger. This finger was red, white and blue and had “the United States” stamped all over it.

Graduates, it pains me greatly that this view of America persists. Although I’m a daughter of India, I’m an American businesswoman. My family and I are citizens of this great country.

This land we call home is a most-loving, and ever-giving nation – a “promised land” that we love dearly in return. And it represents a true force that – if used for good -- can steady the hand – along with global economies and cultures. Yet, to see us frequently stub our fingers on the international business and political
But what was played up was this:
Unfortunately, I think this is how the rest of the world looks at the U.S. right now. Not as a part of the hand --giving strength and purpose to the rest of the fingers--but, instead, scratching our nose and sending a far different signal.
I can see how these lines could seen as expressing sentiments like those of and George Soros, I think that Hugh and Powerline aren't being quite fair. The whole metaphor of the middle finger of the world was a really stupid and because that gesture is very offensive and the rest of the stuff about the hand as a whole lacks the same impact as the main image.

She's talking about how Ugly Americans can damage our image with the rest of the world. The military knows this from how often American soldiers misbehave overseas, which is why it took such pains to discipline the soldiers who abused prisoners at Abu Ghraib. I can imagine Donald Rumsfeld making the same point, but he's been in government long enough that he would know better than to phrase it in this way. I don't think she deserves the grief she's getting, because the story she recounted is true and some Americans do hurt our image.

I don't believe in boycotts. They hurt a lot of good people along with the bad. The exception to that would be cases like Ghandi's protests against British colonialism or Martin Luther King's use of a boycott to show the people the economic stupidity of treating blacks as sub-humans.

In this case, however, there is no Pepsico policy that America is an evil influence in the world. The problem is that Ms. Nooyi's words sound too much like the kind of things the left is always saying about America. She is not Michael Moore, and it would be unfair to take out our resentment for him on her.

I never did care for Pepsi

And Indra Nooyi, President and CFO of Pepsico gives me one more reason to avoid it. I do love Mountain Dew, but it's caffeinated and I shouldn't be drinking it anyway.

David Gelernter

His surname means "learned," and is very apt, as he demonstrates in the latest Weekly Standard, making a compelling argument that in our zeal to keep religion out of schools we have made it impossible for young people to understand where we came from and appreciate a host of literary, rhetorical and artistic allusions and metaphors, not to mention denying them an introduction to "the noblest monument of English prose." Each person who reads the Bible must decide for him/herself whether to believe it or not, but the trepidation with which it is treated in our schools today sends student a message that it is something to be avoided. Whether you and your family are or aren't religious, America was founded as a society deeped informed by the Bible, and Americans need to know that and the myriad ways it has affected us and the world. That is not to say that only the Bible must be taught, but since it has been as large a part of Western civilization (though rapidly declining) as the Quran is in the Muslim world, how can we say our students are educated when they know next to nothing about it?

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Why would Bush veto this?

One of the Salt Lake TV stations, KSL, last night had a segment burnishing Congressman Matheson's accomplishment of funding paving a road to the "most remote location in the lower 48 states." It's a tiny settlement called Navajo Mountain and the only way to get to it is to drive on a road that goes into Arizona and then back into Utah. Here's an aerial photo of the "town." The report states that people have to drive 40 miles to buy gas and a four-hour round trip to buy groceries. It also has this:
Jim Matheson did a rare thing for a Utah congressman. He went after funds for paving in Arizona.

Rep. Jim Matheson, (D-2nd): "This road does not give them good access in and out for any of their services. And let's remember, Navajo Mountain is the most remote location in the lower 48 states."
. . .

But some tribal elders prefer it that way.

Lee Greymountain, Navajo Mountain: "They're used to it. They got used to it, being isolated for so long."

Don't worry, Matheson says. The town will still be isolated, even if the road is paved.
The Congressman's office couldn't have written it better.

The funds Matheson "went after" amount to $1.3 million, and that still won't finish the project. (last paragraph.) I know Navajos tend to vote Democrat, but how many votes can this place have?

What on earth are we doing funding stuff like this when we're running a huge deficit? I have to wonder how many other projects like this are in the bill.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Cool banner ad

Right click on the Coldwell Banker ad at the top of this page and click "play". The 3-D effect from having the background move as though one were looking out a window, while the lettering seems to float in front, was quite an attention grabber to me. I've never seen anything quite like it.

$50 for the NYTimes Op-Ed?

I declined to pay $20 a year to the NYTimes crossword puzzles. I'm sure not going to pay $50 to read its Op-Ed columns. Meanwhile, Fortune Magazine makes stories available for blogging links.

Which one gets the new media, and which one fails to recognize that the web is crawling with free, and often superior, competitors to its opinion columnists?


Who needs to pay for magazines and newspapers dripping with liberal bias and hostile reporting. Nobody expects the press to be cheerleaders, but the media really need to get over the idea that their customers depend on them to be told what to think.

Along a similar line, India's government recognizes bloggers as journalists, while America, the birthplace of press freedom and freedom of speech, is discussing how to regulate them under campaign finance laws.

The other question about Newsweek's reporting

Newsweek has withdrawn its report of interrogators at Guantanamo flushing a copy of the Q'uran down a toilet. Obviously, have a single source who bails on you isn't good enough, but this begs the question of whether the story should have been printed at all, given its lack of news value. Most Americans couldn't care less, because they aren't as sensitive about their own scriptures as Muslims purportedly are. What is gained by this report, other than to ? I doubt it would change anybody's mind about supporting or opposing the administration's detainee and interrogations policies, but "professional journalists" these days seem to have a reflex to publish anything that might make George Bush look bad. It's almost a part of "journalistic ethics."

I watched an interview last night on Brit Hume's show with Bob Zelnick, the head of the journalism department at Boston University and a former correspondent at ABC News. Zelnick, who is also quoted by the WaPo made the usual remark about the danger of single-sourcing a story that could be so volatile, but he also said:
I don’t think this amounts, in terms of journalistic technique, to the kind of egregious performance we saw by Dan Rather and CBS in the Air National Guard story. But I think, in a case like this, the discretion is the better part of valor. And I would have been really reticent about it.

Another thing I would add about this, Brit. I may be in a distinct minority here, but I think that, even if I believed this story to be true, I would have been reluctant to go with it, because I think the emotional impact so far exceeded the journalistic value of what I was offering, that I would have just let this — let someone else break this if I was going to lose it.. . .

[T]his was a lapse into the CBS practice, saying that we admit our source was wrong, but we can’t prove a negative, we can’t prove that the events didn’t happen, therefore, we’re not going to retract. [italics added]
Of course, Zelnick isn't full of the vitriol against Bush that seems to afflict everybody working in news media. He's certainly more circumspect, and wisely so, than journalistic cowboys like Dan Rather and Mary Mapes.

I keep reading that journalists are supposed to "hold power accountable" and "comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable," but those are just cliches and, if you don't apply them evenly and with judgment, hypocrisy. What people are wondering today is "who holds the power of the media accountable?" It seems incredible that after the "60 Minutes II" debacle, not to mention the Jayson Blair scandal, reporters like Michael Isikoff, well-known by most news junkies and well-regarded by his fellow reporters, should show so little caution about publishing a story like this. The White House is not passive in dealing with gaffes like this anymore. It will strike back if given a chance, and justifiably so given the overt hostility of Old Media. Talk Radio hosts and bloggers also jumped on this story and rubbed Newsweek's nose in it. I suspect that a new growth industry will, or should be, Red State sensitivity training for journalists, or how not to reveal your bias.

Newsweek's defense has been that everybody knew that there was abuse occurring at Guantanamo, but the sources seem to be detainees or their lawyers. And there are also plenty of reports of Muslim "activists" desecrating the Q'uran by booby-trapping copies, cutting out pages to conceal things and making up reports like this to stir up hatred for the West. Then, of course, you could predict this reaction from the rabble rousers who foment protesting mobs.

Maybe an answer to Sheikh Rashid Ahmed would be this, from James Taranto:
[B]y way of comparison, recall that three years ago Palestinian Arab terrorists occupied the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. Priests reported that "gunmen tore up Bibles for toilet paper," according to the Daily Camera of Boulder, Colo. The Chicago Tribune noted after the siege that "altars had been turned into cooking and eating tables, a sacrilege to the religious faithful."

Christians in the U.S. responded by declining to riot and refraining from killing anyone. They had the same response 15 or so years ago when the National Endowment for the Arts was subsidizing the scatological desecration of a crucifix and other Christian symbols. This should also put to rest the oft-heard calumny that America's "religious right" is somehow a Christian equivalent of our jihadi enemies.

The force of blogging

Apparently Luke's father has started a blog.