Saturday, August 27, 2005

Hitchens' Modest Proposal

Let me begin with a simple sentence that, even as I write it, appears less than Swiftian in the modesty of its proposal: "Prison conditions at Abu Ghraib have improved markedly and dramatically since the arrival of Coalition troops in Baghdad."

So begins an essay by Christopher Hitchens in the Weekly Standard. I agree with Hitchens on many things, disagree on a lot of others, but have never found him to be anything but a compelling writer. He is, to me, brilliant in sort of a Daniel Patrick Moynihan way, a broad and deep intellect, little tolerance for fools, and not averse to a couple of cocktails. There is also this epic flogging of a hopelessly out of his depth Ron Reagan Jr. on a network I have never heard of called MSNBC. (Thanks to Radioblogger) for the transcript.

RR: Christopher, I'm not sure that I buy the idea that these attacks (the London bombings) are a sign that we're actually winning the war on terror. I mean, how many more victories like this do we really want to endure?

CH: Well, it depends on how you think it started, sir. I mean, these movements had taken over Afghanistan, had very nearly taken over Algeria, in a extremely bloody war which actually was eventually won by Algerian society. They had sent death squads to try and kill my friend Salman Rushdie, for the offense of writing a novel in England. They had sent death squads to Austria and Germany, the Iranians had, for example, to try and kill Kurdish Muslim leaders there. If you make the mistake that I thought I heard you making just before we came on the air, of attributing rationality or a motive to this, and to say that it's about anything but itself, you make a great mistake, and you end up where you ended up, saying that the cause of terrorism is fighting against it, the root cause, I mean. Now, you even said, extraordinarily to me, that there was no terrorist problem in Iraq before 2003. Do you know nothing about the subject at all? Do you wonder how Mr. Zarqawi got there under the rule of Saddam Hussein? Have you ever heard of Abu Nidal?

RR: Well, I'm following the lead of the 9/11 Commission, which...

CH: Have you ever heard of Abu Nidal, the most wanted man in the world, who was sheltered in Baghdad? The man who pushed Leon Klinghoffer off the boat, was sheltered by Saddam Hussein. The man who blew up the World Trade Center in 1993 was sheltered by Saddam Hussein, and you have the nerve to say that terrorism is caused by resisting it? And by deposing governments that endorse it?

RR: No, actually, I didn't say that, Christopher.

CH: At this stage, after what happened in London yesterday?

RR: What I did say, though, was that Iraq was not a center of terrorism before we went in there, but it might be now.

CH: How can you know so little about...

RR: You can make the claim that you just made about any other country in the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia.

CH: Absolutely nonsense.

RR: So do you think we ought to invade Saudi Arabia, where most of the hijackers from 9/11 came from, following your logic, Christopher?

CH: Uh, no. Excuse me. The hijackers may have been Saudi and Yemeni,but they were not envoys of the Saudi Arabian government, even when you said the worst...

RR: Zarqawi is not an envoy of Saddam Hussein, either.

CH: Excuse me. When I went to interview Abu Nidal, then the most wanted terrorist in the world, in Baghdad, he was operating out of an Iraqi government office. He was an arm of the Iraqi State, while being the most wanted man in the world. The same is true of the shelter and safe house offered by the Iraqi government, to the murderers of Leon Klinghoffer, and to Mr. Yassin, who mixed the chemicals for the World Trade Center bombing in 1993. How can you know so little about this, and be occupying a chair at the time that you do?

That's got to smart. Back to dog show commentary Ron.

It Gets Worse.

Apropos of my recent post, apparently Fox News, abandoning its last shred of dignity, is now "America's Missing Person" channel. After the Holloway story, they cut to an account of the disapperance of Olivia Newton John's boyfriend from a fishing charter. (Summer fishing, had me a blast. Summer drowning, it happened so fast.) Concurrently, on CNN, Larry King's show had a decidedly hard-news bent to it, with political philosopher Pam Anderson as a guest. I was also going to check MSNBC but got sidetracked by a test pattern from a network off of the air. I figured it was more interesting.

Friday, August 26, 2005

24 Hour News?

It should come as no surprise that when I watch cable news, I watch Fox. (Although for my money the best news on T.V. is the News Hour on P.B.S.)

I am sure what I am about to write applies to CNN viewers and the 173 people who watch MSNBC as well.

The "newsotainment" shows are absolutely risible. A particular form of journalistic train wreck is Greta Van Sustern of Fox, who apparently thinks that the entirety of Western Civilization rests on the fate of a missing American in Aruba. (You may remember Van Sustern when she was with CNN before famously spending a considerable amount of money on a face lift and then going to work for Fox. She would have gotten more out of that money had she set it on fire for warmth.)

Equally disturbing is that Van Sustern has done exceedingly well in the ratings since her obsession with the missing girl, Natalee Holloway. As a believer in free markets, let me say that this fact keeps me awake at night.

A modest proposal: The next time you are in line at the grocery store, ask the person behind you if they know the name of the girl missing in that island in the Caribbean. After they answer that question, ask them who the Chairman of the Federal Reserve is. The proportion of correct answers to the former and latter should keep you awake at night as well.

There was a time, prior to 9/11, when Americans had the luxury of not needing to know a whole lot about the world around them. A time for the trivial, banal, the ephemeral. A time, in short, made for Maureen Dowd. That time has past.

The 24 hour news channels might want to consider devoting a few hours in the day to news.

The Exploitation of Mother Sheehan, Continued.

ABC7 Looks At The Financing Of 'Camp Casey'

Cindy Sheehan kneels before a cross with her son's name on it, touches his picture, wipes her tears. It's an outpouring of emotion that is part of a scheduled news event organized daily for the television radio and print reporters who crowd in to capture a mother's grief.
Cindy Sheehan: "And I'm never going to see him again, I'm never going to hold him again, I'm never going to hear his voice again."


Sheehan's message hasn't changed since she got here but the support staff interested in getting that message out to the world has grown considerably.

Organizers are set up in this house trailer. Their meetings are closed to reporters.
Leading the group is Fenton Communications employee Michele Mulkey, based in San Francisco. Fenton specializes in public relations for liberal non profits.


Their bills are being paid by True Majority, a non-profit set up by Ben Cohen, of Ben and Jerry's ice cream fame. Ben Cohen: "People are willing to listen to her and we want to do as much as we can to make her voice heard." Cohen's liberal group has teamed up with Berkeley-based moveon.org, an anti-Bush group co-founded by Joan Blades.

Earlier this month, MoveOn.org helped organize anti-war vigils in support of Cindy Sheehan. Current Democratic National Party chair Howard Dean's organization, Democracy for America, is also involved. As is the more radical anti-war group Code Pink, organized by San Francisco's Medea Benjamin.

Money donated through these groups and others is helping to pay for Gold Star families whose children have been killed in Iraq to attend anti-Bush protests.

This week, Simi Valley, California Gold Star wife Melanie House flew to Idaho for a protest and then flew to Crawford.

Reporter: "Can you tell us if you're getting help in airfare to come down here?"
Melanie House: "What difference does that make?"


What will Cindy do when she is no longer useful to these people? Can you imagine the outcry and scrutiny from the Left if, let's say, the Swift Boat group financed a group of pro-war Bush-supporters in a counter-protest? All we need now is for George Soros to crawl out from under his Park Avenue rock and get involved.

A Convergence of Idiots

Here's a quote from Cindy Sheehan, who, if you haven't heard, had a son killed in Iraq.

"Am I emotional? Yes, my first born was murdered. Am I angry? Yes, he was killed for lies and for a PNAC Neo-Con agenda to benefit Israel. My son joined the army to protect America, not Israel. [Emphasis added.] Am I stupid? [Ed. Note: Yes.] No, I know full well that my son, my family, this nation and this world were betrayed by George Bush who was influenced by the neo-con PNAC agendas after 9/11. We were told that we were attacked on 9/11 because the terrorists hate our freedoms and democracy, not for the real reason, because the Arab Muslims who attacked us hate our middle-eastern foreign policy."

I have never trivialized Sheehan's grief. I also support her right to peaceably assemble and protest. I don't like what she says but repsect her right to say it, no matter how moronic it may be. It must be pointed out, however, that Sheehan is sounding more and more like the woman in a public library wearing the tin foil hat, muttering to herself and laughing maniacally. And as Sheehan has sown her anti-Semitic propaganda, the following item should come as no real surprise. (With an assist by Little Green Footballs) This is from a Neo-Nazi group Stormfronters:

"I'm driving out to Crawford, Texas tomorrow, Friday August 26th to help put up a White Nationalist voice in the protest against Bush's War for Israel that was started by Cindy Sheehan. Let The World Know That White Patriots Were First & Loudest To Protest This War For Israel. We don't want leftist Johnny-come-latelys who are misleadingly protesting this war as if the war is about oil (not true), or as if it's right-wing patriots who launched this war (not true) to hijack the issue from us. We want to challenge these leftists with the fact that their leftist leaders, like Hillary Clinton, are on the same War for Israel team as the cowardly Republicans who have been bought and paid for in the Senate, House, White House, and Media by the Jewish Neocon political machine."

Will the mainstream media call the aggrieved Mother Sheehan to account for her outrageous statements regarding Israel? Don't hold your breath.

As if this wasn't enough, the Flavor Flav of politics, the Clown Prince Himself, race-baiter Al Sharpton is on his way to Crawford. This should make for an interesting press conference. How about this question:

"Mr Neo-Nazi, how do you feel about sharing the stage with a Catholic (Sheehan) and a black man (Sharpton)?"

"Well, I think our policy has been clear since the Wannsee Conference, Wolf. It's the Jews first, then the Catholics, and then the blacks. Next question."

The Canis Lupis Dilemma

In eulogizing Henry Clay, Abraham Lincoln quoted Thomas Jefferson in describing a difficult situation thusly: "But as it is, we have the wolf by the ears and we can neither hold him, nor safely let him go."

The Republican Party finds itself in the type of situation with the Religious Right.

The latest example is televangelist Pat Robertson suggesting America "get rid of Hugo Chavez", President of Venezuela. In an inadvertent admission that he doesn't understand the first fucking thing about covert operations, he suggested this on his nationally syndicated television program. Way to uphold operational security, Pat.

Is Chavez a problem? Of course. But do we need to have Robertson weighing in on this? No. I mean, here is a guy who prayed away a hurricane in 1985; one would think he could ask for a well placed bolt of lightning from The Almighty to dispatch a Latin American dictator, right? Force majeure, anyone?

This idiocy would be benign and laughable were many in the Republican Party not beholden to Robertson and his ilk. Yes, Robertson has an ilk, an ilk that has co-opted the Republicans on so many issues that some moderates and Libertarians wonder to what degree the G.O.P may be at risk for becoming a theocratic as much as a political party. It would be a tragedy to replicate the mistake the Democrats have fortuitously succumbed to, allowing the troglodytic minority to set the agenda for an entire party. Let them have their Democratic Underground,their MoveOn.org, their Michael Moore, their Ramsey Clark. Let the unhinged fringe tail of the Democrats wag the Party dog.

Religion should not be driven from the public square, nor should it be the lingua franca of political discourse. It is easy to denounce Robertson's statement, less so to diminish his influence. It is time the party of Lincoln do both.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

What Are Words For?

For those of you in on the Missing Persons reference in the title, bravo.

Here's an idea: For everyone either alleging or denying media bias, particularly in print, count the adjectives. Pick a prominent newspaper, like the Old Gray Lady herself, the New York Times, and read an "objective" "news" story and note descriptive words. Here is an instructive exercise:

A statement of fact: "President George W. Bush nominated John Roberts to the United States Supreme Court."

Or perhaps: "George W. Bush today nominated Judge John Roberts, a former Assistant Solicitor General in the administration of George H.W. Bush and Justice Department official during Ronald Reagan's presidency, to the highest court in the land."

Now this: George Bush, ignoring the vigil of Cindy Sheehan in memory of her son who was killed in Iraq, today picked a controversial judge, John Roberts, as his nominee to the United States Supreme Court to replace the departing moderate Sandra Day O'Connor.

This type of reporting might come from the Washington Post, for example.

And then there is: George Bush, ignoring bipartisan pleas for a moderate to replace Sandra Day O'Connor, selected a conservative (and vaguely...German) justice as his nominee for the high court. John Roberts, who argued to repeal Roe v. Wade in previous Republican administrations, is sure to be a lightning rod for those who claim Bush is trying to turn the Court to the Right. When reached at home for a comment about his nomination and the vigil of Cindy Sheehan, Judge Roberts, taking a break from stomping kittens to death said..."

This would be the New York Times.

Let me emphasize again that looking at the adjectives is most helpful when reading supposedly "unbiased" news coverage, not op-ed writings. For those wanting to see how biased op-ed writers are, you need look no further than this great site.

Using Cindy Sheehan

George Will has a good article on the circus surrounding Cindy Sheehan and the Lunatic Left's cynical exploitation of her grief. Only a cretin would diminish her grief but some, like "dataguy" from the Daily Kos, view her anguish as nothing more than propaganda:

Framing Cindy Sheehan:

We should call her "Mother Sheehan". We should never call her Cindy; I don't know her. "Mother Sheehan" is her title, and expresses her ceremonial status as a bereaved mother, calling forth over the dead body of her son. She is not a person now, she is a mother, which is not an expression of her individuality, but rather the expression of her eternal character: the mother, the bringer of life who has been wronged by state power.

We should use the word "sacrifice". She has sacrificed the most precious thing a mother has, the life and promise of her child.

We should use the word "useless" frequently. The death of her son is a useless sacrifice, done for the vanity of the ruler.

We should not use the name of her son. Her son is a symbol of all sons who have been sacrificed for this useless and criminal war.

The term "vigil" should be used to describe the persons and their patient petition to the dictatorial ruler. It is a vigil over the body of the dead son, killed by the ruler for his own purposes.

The right will try to INDIVIDUALIZE and SPECIALIZE her complaint. We must try to make her cry the UNIVERSAL and ETERNAL cry of all mothers whose children have died at the whim of the tyrannical and dictatorial ruler, who has made the decision to push children to the front of the army for his own, useless purposes. We must seek to make this like funeral vigils over all time. This is not Mother Sheehan's vigil, this is a vigil over the dead son, killed by the ruler for his own selfish reasons.

If there are any persons who are theatre professionals at the Sheenan vigil, they should arrange things much more theatrically.

If I was there, I would not let Mother Sheehan talk to the press, but I would have her talk only through a spokesperson. In particular, I would not allow her to argue with critics, and would allow no critics to approach her. Her dignity must be preserved. If lesser emissaries from the ruler arrive (C Rice, etc), these should not be allowed to speak to Mother Sheehan.



If there were ever an argument for overturning Skinner v. Oklahoma and allowing the sterilization of idiots, I think dataguy could be the poster boy. I can picture this moron: long hair, a thinly filled-in goatee, sitting in Ann Arbor or Santa Monica in his rent-controlled apartment, a "No Blood For Oil" sticker on a corkboard, recently fired from Kinko's after "speaking truth to power" over the inherent racism of using "black" toner in the copy machines, and just so earnest in his belief that he alone is a Philosopher King. If only stupidity were painful.

Slow News Day

The Associated Press, with an unerring sense for the meaningless, just couldn't help themselves from a little enviro-gas price-Bush bashing.

Getting President Bush from here to there consumes an enormous amount of fuel, whether he's aboard Air Force One, riding in a helicopter or on the ground in a heavily armored limousine. The bill gets steeper every day as the White House is rocked by the same energy prices as regular drivers. Taxpayers still foot the bill.

About the only vehicle Bush has much say in is the 2001 white Ford F250 pickup he keeps on his ranch. At the nationwide gasoline average of $2.61 a gallon, it would cost at least $75 to fill the Ford's tank. The 1999 four-wheel-drive model gets 13 miles per gallon in the city, 17 on the highway, according to an Energy Department Web site,
http://www.fueleconomy.gov .

The motorcade generally doesn't cruise placidly at fuel-efficient speeds, but rather hurries along its route as fast as possible. It also often idles outside while Bush is at an event, burning up fuel but ready to depart at a moment's notice.

The president's limos alone consume lots of gas. Starting with his inaugural in January, Bush began tooling around in new 2006 Cadillac DTS limos. The full-sized luxury sedan version, available to the general public, has an 18-gallon tank that would cost about $47 to fill at that $2.61- a-gallon rate. (White House vehicles are fueled at a special, dedicated facility and the price paid per gallon there is not released.) Cadillac spokesman Kevin Smith said the Cadillac DTS sedan gets 18 mpg in the city, 27 on the highway.

The vehicle Bush uses is a much different animal _ with different gas mileage. An outside company customizes the DTS for presidential use by "stretching" it to limo length, adding bulletproof glass, heavy armor and other bells and whistles _ all making it significantly heavier and less fuel-efficient, Smith said.

The same thing for the Chevrolet Suburbans that are sometimes used as limo substitutes. The mass-marketed 2005 K1500 Suburban would cost nearly $81 to fill up with its large 31-gallon tank. It gets 15 mpg in the city, 19 on the highway, according to
http://www.fueleconomy.gov . But it's not clear exactly which trim model of Suburban Bush uses, and his are custom-fitted with extra gear that would reduce the gas mileage. In the air, Bush most often flies on a Boeing 747-200B laden with, among other things, an anti-missile system. Like gas for cars, fuel costs for the largest plane in the Air Force One fleet have gone up dramatically _ from $3,974 an hour in fiscal 2004 to $6,029 per hour now, according to the Air Force.

Reducing his appearances outside the White House and making other gestures toward fuel conservation could help cut down on costs.

So the AP thinks President Bush should fly commercial? Or maybe he can buy a Prius and drive himself? I am only surprised the story didn't start like this: Getting President Bush from here to there consumes an enormous amount of fuel, whether he's aboard Air Force One, riding in a helicopter or on the ground in a heavily armored limousine. The bill gets steeper every day as the White House is rocked by the same energy prices as regular drivers. Taxpayers still foot the bill. Among those taxpayers is Cindy Sheehan, protesting in front of Bush's Crawford ranch after losing a son in Iraq...

Now here is a story that wasn't reported in 1997, largely because the press has little use for irony.

"The most vulnerable part of the Earth's environment is the very thin layer of air clinging near to the surface of the planet, that we are now so carelessly filling with gaseous wastes that we are actually altering the relationship between the Earth and the Sun - by trapping more solar radiation under this growing blanket of pollution that envelops the entire world," Vice President Gore told the U.N. Global Warming conference of 159 nations this morning in Kyoto, Japan.

The message is serious. So serious in fact, the DRUDGE REPORT has calculated that Vice President Al Gore is burning more than 439,500 pounds of fuel, or 65,600 gallons, at a cost of more than $131,000 on his 16,000 mile trip, just to deliver the warning.