Monday, January 31, 2005

A Good Day For Whistling

I started blogging back in May 2004, out of frustration at the wave of defeatism over Iraq that threatened to break the War on Terror.

Today I enjoy not only the actual first fruits of the Iraqi occupation, but the unexpected "perceptual" harvest in the US media.

The press is acknowledging--happily in some cases, grudgingly in others--that Iraq is not a total failure, a quagmire, a lost cause, a false hope, "Mr. Bush's War" or any of the other drivel that reached such a pitch last year.

Instead, we are shown to have a clear objective, a positive political goal, the sort of goal we did not set in Vietnam, and we are achieving it with the overt, enthusiastic support of a majority of the Iraqi population.

The debate about "end game" in Iraq will go on--but I think we have, for the first time, clear empirical proof of the victory of the 'hearts and minds' to throw back at the defeatists who continue to yearn for another 'Cronkite moment' in the Iraq war.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Full Circle

"What about British democracy?" Edmondson asked.... what does it mean to have labor men now at the center of government?" I ask.

"It means national socialism is coming out of it," says Kennedy flatly.

..."Democracy is finished in England. It may be here. Because it comes to a question of feeding people. It's all an economic question. I told the President in the White House last Sunday, 'Don't send me 50 admirals and generals. Send me a dozen real economists.'

...Wasn't aid to England likely to draw us in, as in 1917, asked Edmondson, mentioning Walter Millis' "Road to War."

No," said Kennedy positively. "Not if we know the answer. Not if we are coldly realistic and for America all the time. If they ask us to get in more than is safe for us, we ask them, 'What do you want us to do? How can we send troops over when Hitler has the ports? Why do you ask for men when you haven't called up all your eligible men? If they want us to patrol the Atlantic by taking our navy out of the Pacific, we answer that would bring a howl clear across America to California. If they want aviators, what ships are they going to fly in? As to ships, we haven't got any. I know about ships. We couldn't send an army anywhere right now. It would be senseless to go in. What would we be fighting for?"

This isn't Senator Ted Kennedy in 2005.
It's his dad, Ambassador Joseph P. Kennedy, in 1940.

Eerie, and sad.

Friday, January 28, 2005

What Abortion Compromise?

So Senator Clinton wants credit for finding "common ground" on abortion?

From what I've read, it starts with everybody agreeing to maintain Roe v. Wade and guaranteed abortion. Then, we agree that teen "celibacy" involves both abstinence and sex with prophylactics, and promote both at the same time.

Some people like Hindrocket at Powerlineblog think this is a winner. It probably will have powerful appeal to middle-of-the-road Republicans who run in fear from the abortion debate, as well as hardcore Donkey-wonks eager for any leverage in 2006.

But it has nothing for people opposed to abortion and promiscuity on moral grounds. And those moral objections are the reason there's a political argument about those things in the first place.

I don't think any more of this "middle-ground" argument in 2005 than when I first heard in in 1997, but it is encouraging to see proabortionists feel the need to maneuver.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Jack Straw Stumbles Out the Gate

The Daily Telegraph has an AFP release on a new foriegn policy initiative by the Blair government.
Mr Straw had produced a 200-page dossier that ruled out military action and made the case for a "negotiated solution" to thwart Iran's suspected ambition to produce nuclear weapons, The Sunday Times said.
American military action, that is.
It said a peaceful solution led by Britain, France and Germany was "in the best interests of Iran and the international community", while referring to "safeguarding Iran's right to the peaceful use of nuclear technology".
Already a dead duck. The USA recognizes that as long as Iran sponsors global terrorism, allowing them a nuclear program is the same as giving nukes to Hezbollah.

The Anglo-Franco-German bloc has already tried to resolve the Iranian nuclear tangle, and failed. Iran, after accepting the Western powers' guarantees of its soveriegnity and future deliveries of nuclear material, "clarified" the deal after the envoys returned to Europe by insisting that Iran would build its own reactor and produce its own fuel for its own peaceful purposes. I'd call that failure by the Europeans, since up to that point they said their mission was to keep Iran out of the nuclear club.

If the AFP report is accurate, the British government at least is ready to throw in the towel, and sees its mission for 2005 to push the US to swallow the Iranian "clarification" as an acceptable resolution.

Nuts.

A friendly word to our allies: Next time you set out to make President Bush reverse American policy towards a terrorist state, keep the prospectus under 20 pages. It's wrong to waste so much paper.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

R & R

What a week! I spent some days entirely at the hotel, crashing in a room when I wasn't at the desk. Some days I worked 14 hours. By Friday I was a useless zombie.

I will sleep now as I'm due back in about 16 hours. I'll post on the events of the week when I find out what the heck went on.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

In the Inaugural Spirit, a Bush Apology

Since the President won't apologize for Iraq, in the spirit of inaugural unity, I offer one to the teeth-gnashing blue-wristband holdouts:

I'm sorry we're winning.

I'm sorry we knocked out a dictator, I'm sorry we got the Iraqi economy moving, and I'm especially sorry that we've met every step on the road to Iraqi democracy on deadline or ahead of schedule.

I'm sorry we made the UN seem impotent and the EU seem like a dysfunctional family.

We came, we saw, we kicked ass; that offends people, and I'm sorry.

As soon as I have some free time, in about four years, I will atone in Texas solitude with an ice-cold near-beer.

Y'all excuse me for gettin' back to work, much obliged to you.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Justice?

Wilbert Rideau is a free man after a jury of whites and blacks convicted him of manslaughter in his fourth trial.

A more detailed account of the case is given locally.

The jury refused to convict Rideau of first-degree murder, after trials tainted with bigotry:
Those same racial biases have echoed into the present, the lawyers suggest, in a systematic exaggeration of Rideau's crime — notably in the contention that Ferguson's throat was slashed, refuted by a well-known forensics expert in defense testimony Friday, who insisted the cut on her throat was "superficial."

I know nothing of the distinction in Louisiana law between second-degree murder and manslaughter, but it seems to me that you could construe, beyond a reasonable doubt, that a killer had the intent to kill when shoving a knife into somebody's throat and torso until they collapsed.

After a federal appeals court threw out his previous convictions on the grounds that a black man could not receive a fair trial from an all-white jury, Rideau asked the Supreme Court to release him without a fourth trial. The Court refused.

Rideau's supporters argue that Lousiana regularly releases other murderers and Rideau had been held longer than any other killer in the state, so he deserved to die outside of prison. That may be true.

From what I'm reading though, the only reason he got a new trial was race. He never denied killing Julia Ferguson, and said so on the stand in this case.

The AP reports try to slant the story as healing a racial divide in a small town. Releasing confessed killers probably isn't the best way to go about it.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Adopting an Ethos

Hugh Hewitt and Captain's Quarters are playing blog tennis over the revelation that the Daily Kos was paid to blog for Dean.

Dean seems to have made a shrewd deal for himself; not only did he pay a mere $3000, but he purchased not only Kos' positive support, and Kos' promise to avoid praising any other Democrat. Not bad for $3000.

Hugh seems to think that anybody posting politically ought to avoid taking payments from political figures.

Why? That would seem to be the ethics of journalism; but bloggers aren't journalists. Never will be either, unless we start submitting our copy to a trained editorial board for review and correction prior to publication.

Hugh likes to tout the creation of a blog by a vice-president of GM. I would be greatly suprised if that blog ever recommends a Toyota truck as the summer's sweetest ride. Does that bias make the blog less than respectable, or unreadable?

I reject adopting the ethical code of an alien profession. We bloggers are not fulfilling a professional role in an orderly society; we are the digital equivalent of the man on the corner with handful of pamphlets.

I was not paid to write this post. I claim.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Pathology on Parade

Powerline has a sharp fisking of the Mary Mapes press release.

The Mapes statement demonstrates another problem with 60 Minutes groupthink: they confuse controversy with news. This is separate of their liberal bias. There was no political slant to airing tape of Julie Andrews flashing her breasts, but it was provocative and therefore judged broadcast-worthy.

60 Minutes has been taking the same tabloid approach to current events for at least two decades. They find a shrill voice of complaint, no matter how illogical, indefensible, or extreme, and through carefully controlled editing, a sizeable budget, and a fearsome reputation, they build twelve-minute segments for their program.

The pattern exists separately of their political views. It can be applied to commercial-ethics and social-values stories as well as to politics.
Will welfare reform create a permanent class of homeless Americans?
Does Walmart destroy small-town America?
Is there anything truly bad with medical marijuana?
Is illegal immigration necessary for the economy?


The confusion of Controversy with real news is made worse by the staging of segments as dramatic conflicts between Hero and Villain.
Sometimes the Hero is the hardworking Establishment beset by quixotic Crusaders (this was their approach to the Vince Foster controversy).
Sometimes the Hero is a decent Crusader fending off the Establishment juggernaut (their usual approach to any corporate story, although sometimes it is used regarding the government, as in the Daniel Lamp Co. v EEOC story a few years back).

But the problem, for 60 Minutes producers in search of material, is that whenever a lone voice cries "Establishment Conspiracy!", they are trained to see a Story.
They'll have to investigate a bit to see who sentiment, bias, and marketing research cast as the Villain, but there is undoubtably a Story.

This left the organization open, operationally, to accepting a document-trail that even Hollywood would have rejected as bizarre and incredible.

This mindset is evident in Mapes' statement:
The new documents also were corroborated by retired Gen. Bobby Hodges, the late Col. Killian’s commander, who said that the documents showed Col. Killian’s true sentiments as well as his actions in the case. After the broadcast, Marian Carr Knox provided the same corroboration in her televised interview. Yet, despite the panel’s recognition of the heretofore unchalleneged integrity of my work in the past, the panel was quick to condemn me here on the basis of statements of people who told my associates and me very different versions than what they told the panel.

...It is noteworthy the panel did not conclude that these documents are false. Indeed, in the end, all that the panel did conclude was that there were many red flags that counseled against going to air quickly. I never had control of the timing of any airing of a 60 Minutes segment; that has always been a decision made by my superiors.

...If there was a journalistic crime committed here, it was not by me.

...I believe the segment presented to the American people facts they were free to accept or reject, and that as those facts were presented, there was nothing that was false or misleading.

I told a Story with a Hero and a Villain. I verified that the Hero and the Villain actually exist. I "corroborated" the Controversy as valid to the extent verifying that the people involved had actually walked the face of Texas in the Vietnam era. I kept it vague, suggestive, indirect, and provocative, so that the public could not resolve the Controversy solely on our broadcast. I myself don't know what the hell happened in Texas in 1973. What more do you want of me? Why pick on me for following the format? Was it the timing? I don't control the timing! You just want a scapegoat.

Completely lost is the ideal of a television news segment as reliable, accurate, knowledgeable, and verifiable, as an encyclopedia entry.

In a human sense, it is tragic that having refined the attitudes, value judgements, and thought processes of the perfect 60 Minutes producer, Mapes is now barred from fulfilling that role; because those carefully cultivated traits are handicaps just about anywhere else.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Deja Vu All Over Again

The climax of the CBS forged-document scandal seems to mirror that of CNN's Tailwind scandal:
The bosses are very, very sorry.

The producers are toast.

The Face gets fourteen lashes with a wet noodle.
Apparently, this is now SOP when a network news division runs an outright lie. Puthetic.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Sauron Network Still Flings Mud

In today's Against the Grain commentary by Dick Meyer, CBS continues to refuse to let accuracy get in the way of complaints against the Bush Administration:

The Gonzales record, as it stands now, is clear and ought to be anathema to any Democrat:

his sanctioning of an August 2002 Justice Department memo that essentially condones torture in interrogation

his memo to the president that argued the Geneva Conventions didn’t apply to aspects of the war on terror

his decisions to use military tribunals instead of courts and to designate U.S. citizens as “enemy combatants"

Gonzales erred at every juncture. These decisions have all since been renounced by courts or by the relevant agencies. And, of course, they are closely tied to national embarrassments of Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay and the abuse of Afghan and Iraqi prisoners by U.S. soldiers. Thus Gonzales’ legal work for his client, the president, is tied to those failures.
I have no idea what it means to "sanction" a memo; Gonzalez requested an analysis by Justice Department employees and forwarded it to the President.
Gonzalez did not argue that the Geneva Convention did not apply to terrorists; the Geneva Convention itself says that unorganized fighters may not be prisoners of war and that combatant states may set up tribunals to sort out captured fighters into POWs and insurgents, a position Gonzalez endorsed and that federal courts have upheld.
Military tribunals are ongoing.
Although courts have limited the ability to try citizens as enemy combatants, only one such person was charged and the government halted proceedings pending a resolution of the matter from a federal court.

But this does not matter, because Meyer is embarrassed about locking terrorists up in Guantanamo, and since Bush is now forever out of his reach, he'll slam the staff.

...On the other key part of Gonzales’ career: as counsel to Texas Governor George W. Bush, Gonzales’ most important job (by Bush’s own measure) was to brief the governor on each execution in the state. And in Texas -- there were a lot – 150 in Bush’s six years as governor.

Alberto Gonzales wrote an “execution summary” for the first 57 of those cases. Those memos were obtained by writer Alan Berlow, who wrote about them extensively in The Atlantic Monthly in the summer of 2003.

Berlow wrote, “In these documents Gonzales repeatedly failed to apprise the governor of crucial issues in the cases at hand: ineffective counsel, conflict of interest, mitigating evidence, even actual evidence of innocence.”
These matters are the basis of an appeal, and in our system it is the judges who consider the merit of such claims. The State Counsel has no obligation to act as the advocate of the condemned, broaching every claim by the convicted killer as to why he should not be executed.

Meyer concludes:
Four years ago, the Democrats rolled over on the Ashcroft nomination. Then they rolled over on the Bush tax cuts, the authority to invade Iraq, the Patriot Act, No Child Left Behind and the Medicare reforms. None of that did them one lick of good in November.

If the Democrats have the gumption to fight about anything, it ought to be about this nomination. But it appears they don’t.

Since the brains behind the Ashcroft nomination, the tax cuts, the Iraq war, the Patriot Act, No Child Left Behind and Medicare reforms just won 60,000,000 votes for re-election, perhaps the Democrats should have firmly endorsed such things instead of screaming that they represented the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

So I don't think Democrats will put much stock in Meyer's advice, though I'm sure they're glad to know he's on their side.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

FT: UN to Overreach Itself

That's not how the Financial Times puts it, of course.

The Times pretends that the USA overreached itself, shamefully launching the massive tsunami relief project ASAP without the UN blue.

Diplomad has been doing an excellent job showing how useless the UN has been to this point. A clue to the handover may be the last line of the FT article: the USA may want nothing to do with "long-term" development projects in mildly-hostile countries.

This will do nothing to improve the relief project; let's hope it doesn't hinder.

Saturday, January 01, 2005

Nick Coleman: Super-Genius

Nick Coleman's hatchet job on Powerline is reverberating through the political blogosphere, and I'll add my echo.

Nick Coleman is a genius.

Groucho Marx's autobiography, Groucho and Me, mentions how his grandfather made a lifetime score in the publishing industry. According to Groucho, it occurred to the elder Mr. Marx that when movie studios bought up the rights to a novel in order to make a film about it, there would be money in issuing a special reprint of the novel with still images from the film stuck in the middle.

Such simple inspiration has led to nearly a century of irritation, torn binding, and steady profits. Elegant. A classic medium is perverted and contorted with the sex appeal of the new medium, to produce a new hybrid cash cow.

Witnessing Mr. Coleman's opus, I feel as if a time machine let me witness the first tabloid editor accusing a movie star of being pregnant and/or gay. It is history in the making.

All Mr. Coleman had to do was skim Powerline for the names of the authors, and write a column making fun of their nicknames and accusing them of being in the pay of shadowy forces of a Republican bent. That was the only real work involved. For the rest, he simply picked over their outraged retorts, and the irate reader letters, for more sarcastic banter. He need do nothing more than wait for them to seek him out. They will write his next column for him. And the next. For free!

We can't help ourselves. It's in our nature as conservatives to critically reveiw the media. It's in our nature as bloggers to post our conclusions.

For a minimal investment in time and preparation, Mr. Coleman has tapped into a free, undying force of nature to propel him to El Dorado.

I feel like a Bronze Age oarsman watching the first crude sailboat float past.

Sure, there are a few fellow liberals trying to get in on the action. There's a Henry Farell, and a Marxist who calls himself "Ben Franklin". But there's plenty of conservative blogger outrage to go around. In fact, the more seeds of justified anger are sown, the greater the potential harvest of smarmy rebuttal.

Now we can see if Nick Coleman has the cunning to match his invention. With perserverance, initiative, and a dedicated search for forward-looking newpaper management, Mr. Coleman can found the bold new art of "blog review". Every week, sow insult and rebut angry replies.

The formula, once perfected, need not be limited to political blogs. Any form of human endeavor may be a subject for a blog, and therefore open to slander. Chihuahua breeding. Home preserves. Hummel. And not just in the United States! With the wonder of the global internet, potential victims in Europe and Asia are just a Google-search away.

Douglas Adams once described an immortal whose chosen quest was to insult every being in the universe. There are tasks that will take many lifetimes to fulfill; those that undertake them are assured job security.

And wealth. Such a broad-based column could be syndicated in a hundred papers. A thousand! And then the hard-bound anthologies of syndicated columns! The mind boggles.

And all of it due to a single moment of introspection, shared by his editors: Y'know, we're not above that.