The Right wing Media and the Republican Party's dirty tricks
Salon Through the Looking Glass
Did you know that the "mainstrem media" is actively helping the Bush reelection campaign? Well neither did I but apparently an intrepid Salon journalist, Eric Boehlert, has taken off his tinfoil beanie and discovered the truth...
(You may need to stand an irritating ad to read the whole article)
... The Swift Boat Veterans for Truth became the latest multimedia incarnation. Launching the most bitter, and perhaps most deliberately misleading Republican-backed campaign attack since the racist Willie Horton ad of 1988, the group, bankrolled by a wealthy Bush donor, aired hollow, secondhand allegations that John Kerry lied about his actions in Vietnam that won five military medals. Not one charge about Kerry's medals has withstood the slightest scrutiny, but thanks to the inaction of the national press corps, which again appeared in awe of the mighty Republican attack machine and its conservative media echo chamber, the Swift Boat's dirty trick succeed in disrupting the presidential campaign for several weeks this summer.
Instead of quickly pointing out that Kerry's Vietnam accusers were factually challenged and that the coauthors of the anti-Kerry book, "Unfit for Command," had severe credibility problems, too many mainstream reporters, editors and producers, taking their cue from Republicans, agreed to abandon serious campaign coverage for weeks in order to focus, yet again, on a so-called character flaw of the Democratic candidate. By the time the Washington Post, New York Times and Los Angeles Times did deploy reporters to knock down the Swift Boat Vets' rickety charges, they'd taken on a life of their own in the anti-Kerry netherworld of talk radio, right-wing bloggers and Fox News.
This is one of those utterly fascinating articles that purports to be a sort of neutral behind the scenes analysis but somehow fails utterly to mention the large whale carcass (and bunch of petunias) dumped in the middle of the stage. It takes as its starting point that Kerry is 100% truthful at all times and that SBVT are in cahoots with the Bush campaign and then twists all the evidence to this end.
As a result it omits any mention of Kerry's 1971 VVAW activities -about the closest it gets to 1971 is discussing O'Neill's activites then. It calls the SBVT ad about Kerry's senate testimony "damning" but without covering the content. The entire whale is dismissed in "one of the Swift Boat Vets who appeared in a damning anti-Kerry ad served on the Bush campaign's veterans' advisory committee". The result of this omission is that the claim that SBVT are Republican stooges is more credible, but it also means that a whole swathe of other evidence (such as O'Neill's donations to democratic candidates in various races) is also required to be omitted lest it poke holes in the main claim.
Likewise Cambodia (the bowl of petunias) gets mentioned merely as What part of "I was in Cambodia," did O'Neill not understand? presumably because any further analysis would make it utterly clear that whereas O'Neill claimed merely to have been on the border at various times, Kerry made a specific place, date and time claim of an event "seared into him" that was contradicted by his own testimony elsewhere.
Part of the problem, apparently, is that the mainstream media treats the SBVT claims with too much deference: Even when the press took the time to dissect the Swift Boat charges, and found them lacking in factual basis, reporters still treated the accusers, and the partisan attack machine behind it, with undue care. For instance, in a detailed Aug. 17 report, the Los Angeles Times noted three key findings: that contemporaneous military documents support Kerry's -- and the Navy's -- version of the events surrounding his medals, that the men who actually served with Kerry on his Swift boat strenuously support Kerry's claim, and that some of the Swift Boat critics have been caught changing their stories and giving conflicting accounts. Yet the paper came to a timid conclusion: "What actually happened ... 35 years ago along the remote southern coast of Vietnam remains murky," suggesting the controversy is an impossible-to-solve he said/he said dispute. Bloggers such as Patterico and Beldar were remarkably critical of that LATimes story for rather different reasons, considering it to be an essentially fact free hit piece, so its interesting to note that paragraphs such as the ones below are consdiered as "treating with undue care" - obviously the LAT forgot key adjectival phrases such as "Barking mad"
The ad, the book and the people behind them have become staples of conservative talk shows and Internet sites. The claims — that Kerry lied about his war experiences, didn't deserve his medals and betrayed soldiers everywhere by protesting the war after serving in it — also have been recited in the mainstream media, along with denials of the allegations.
What military documentation exists and has been made public generally supports the view put forth by Kerry and most of his crewmates — that he acted courageously and came by his Silver Star, Bronze Star and three Purple Hearts honestly. This view of Kerry as war hero is supported by all but one of the surviving veterans who served with him on the two boats he commanded.
On the other hand it turns out that the media is treating the Bush AWOL saga with kid gloves. This statement utterly ignores the fact that whereas Kerry spent the entire Democratic Convention and most of his campaign glorifying his Vietnam war record, Bush has concentrated on more recent issues such as the collapse of a couple of towers in New York. Obviously the failure of Bush to volunteer for the SEALs and spend a season raping and pillaging like Ghenghis Khan 35 years ago is more important than his record as president. Although he does manage to disparage that too: Because with a presidential résumé that features a quagmire abroad in Iraq that has cost nearly 1,000 American lives, a net loss of more than 1 million jobs at home, and a job approval struggling to reach 50 percent, defining Kerry and putting him on the defensive may be the only way Bush can salvage a second term. Luskin nails Bush's economic record well and I see no real reason to improve on it. Likewise the "approval" rating is a little disingenuous and discussed well elsewhere. So what about the quagmire of 1000 lost American lives? Hello? 1000 lost American lives in a little under a year and a half works out as an average monthly death rate of about 60 per month. Compare this to the famous quagmire of Vietnam where the best months had death rates of three times this and the worst months (mid 1968-mid 1969) were closer to ten times this rate.
Some other amusing lines are: Alexander, the documentary maker, says not much has changed in four years: "I've been on the press plane and I've heard what the national press corps says about John Kerry. They don't like him. It's reminiscent of the Gore campaign." One wonders perhaps if that's because of the famous Kerry charm - you know the frequent invitations to go roughing it at Wendy's or surfing in Oregon, not to mention the humble "one of the people" nature that he demonstrates whenever he has to wait in line - or because since the start of August Kerry has avoided talking to the press as if they carried the plague. Sorry such sarcasm is unbecoming, let me try and be serious for a second here
And then there is this: (What are the odds that that an anti-Bush book coauthored by someone who spouted off online making fanatical slurs comparing Bush to a terrorist and his supporters to Nazis would ever be taken seriously by CNN?) Quick someone check if CNN has reviewed Maureen Dowd's latest and/or do a quick scan on the online outpourings of a certain rotund "documentary" maker. Somehow I think Eric seems to have utterly forgotten both of those charmers, not to mention Paul Krugman and "fighting" Al Franken.
I could go on but really its pointless, one does eventually tire of shooting fish in a barrel. Permalink
Thanks to doing some reƒearch for a story to be written in Eric Flint's 1632 univerƒe, I have diƒcoverd an excellent reƒource - Robert Cawdrey's A Table Alphabeticall of Hard Usual English Words originally publiƒhd in 1604.
The original on-line version is irritating to lookup individual words so I have produced a slightly modified version with an index that automagically goes to each word.
Matthew Yglesias has now popped up in a couple of the blogs I follow making snarky comments about the RNC and its speakers. Firstly he makes this petty snark about the Bush babes daughters.
The honest and decent side of me would like to say that attacking a president's alcoholic, brain-addled daughters is no way to engage in political debate. On the other hand, it's the president and his supporters who've decided to make his "character" -- his personal qualities and attributes rather than the nitty-gritty policy details -- the centerpiece of the case for his reelection. So, though rarely is the question asked, I think it must be: who raised these two? We know Bush isn't a policy wonk. We know he doesn't work particularly long hours. Fine. In many ways, being a workaholic is not a particularly admirable character trait. But has Bush spent any of his time off spending time with his daughters and trying to instill them with any values? Are they God-fearing Christians like GWB? What is it, exactly, that Laura gave up her high-flying career at the library in order to do?
And yeah, yeah, yeah, they're only 22. But I'm only 23. Rosenfeld's 22, and he's not a lunatic. Ezra's 20, Zoe's 21 -- the Bush twins aren't "kids" in the sense of "people too young to be held accountable for their basic lack of decency and good sense," they're college graduates, they have the vote, they're full-fledged members of American society.
Well I dunno, but this is the sort of thing that requires some sort of linkagery to back up the claim. OK so they aren't public speakers - big deal - but I see no sign that they are alcoholic or brain-addled. Being caught trying to get alcohol as a student is just one of those "there but for the grace of god" things for those who didn't get caught. Although I personally have never been legally underage in the US, had I been a student in the US and not the UK, I can pretty much guarrantee that I'd have been attempting to procure alcohol before my 21st birthday.
I have never been on live TV before an audience of gazillions myself so I have no idea whether or not I'd look like a fool or not. I do recall at about age 20 making an utter fool of myself in my first major public speaking event to an audience of utter strangers. At the time I was neither alcoholic nor brain-addled, just nervous as hell and no one ever thought to blame my revered papa for my cringeingly bad performance.
And then there's "But has Bush spent any of his time off spending time with his daughters and trying to instill them with any values?" Another utterly pointless and utterly unsupported slur. From what I can see from across the pond Bush seems to have done a reasonable job in producing two young ladies with no obvious failings. Since W is apparently not one for tying them up and whipping them if they fail to go to church on Sunday (or otherwise behaving in the manner expected of a fundamentalist nutcase) its hard to say whether he's installed any values into them or not, but I think it is fair to say that Matt's parents seem to have instilled into him a weary cynicsm that one would expect from someone twice his age. Absent any concrete counter evidence, if the Bush daughters are as generically pleasant as they appear in their exposure to date then I'd say he's done a decent job of getting values into them.
"Fear of" is not "Under"
Secondly and IMO more critically he shows his complete and utter cluelessness about postwar Europe when he tries to lay into Arnie. He claims that Arnie was misleading if not lying when he said he "and so many others lived in fear of the Soviet boot." because Austria was not behind the Iron curtain. I grew up in England in the 1970s/80s and there was reasonable fear of the "Soviet boot" in England then. Up until the collapse of the Berlin wall many Europeans were worried about possible Soviet invasion. Sure we might have been rescued by American nuclear weapons turning us all into radioactive slag but no one could be sure. For Arnie, growing up at the time of the Hungarian revolt, I have not doubt such fear was even more widespread. Given the bluff that had caused the Soviets to leave Austria in the first place I can see that many people watching crackdowns just across the border (hey Matt you know that in the 19th century there was something called the Austrohungarian Empire - I'll give you two guesses where it was) would justifiably fear that the Soviets might come back again. Fear of the Soviet boot to me is blindingly obviously fear of invasion. If one were Eastern European the phrase would have been "under the Soviet boot".
Then of course poor Matt gets all tetchy when people who understand English point out that socialism is not communism and other similar points of grammar, vocabulary and history.
UPDATE: Jesus H. Christ if I read one more blog post or receive one more email saying I "don't know history" because just as Arnold said Soviet troops did occupy part of Austria I'm going to kill someone. I say that Soviet troops temporarily occupied part of Austria. The point is this: Arnold's speech implies that he grew up in a Communist bloc country and he did not.
Perhaps some Americans are stupid enough that they don't understand the differences between socialist and communist or between "fear of" and "under" but if so then the blame lies on those "Democratic" and "Socialist" regimes consigned to the dustbin of history by another actor turned politician.
Starship Troopers vs Libertarian
Matt Welch didn't much care for Zell Miller's speech which does, I believe, count as the least libertarian address ever delivered by a member of a major American political party. I'd just like to highlight the very worst thing Miller said:
For it has been said so truthfully that it is the soldier, not the reporter, who has given us the freedom of the press. It is the soldier, not the poet, who has given us freedom of speech....
Democrats have been accused -- again and again -- of trying to institute a Starship Troopers theory of governance for having the audacity to question the credibility of a bunch of folks who passionately supported the Vietnam War but only as long as they could conscript someone else to fight it. This from Miller, however, is a simple negation of liberal democracy. One understands what he's talking about, of course, but the implication is that freedom is so precious that we dare not allow it to be exercised. It's an outrage, better suited for Singapore than New York.
Somehow I think Matthew is deficient in his comprehension of Starship Troopers. Perhaps he only saw the movie, the book is of course a paen of libertarian-inspired political thought written by Robert A Heinlein who was a well know libertarian. To say that Zell Miller's comments that it is soldiers who defend Freedom of the Press rather than the writer is anti-libertarian is, ah how can I put it, fisking stupid. Starship Troopers explicitly talks about how and why a veteranocracy could arise. Matthew, albeit unwittigly, seems to illustrate the hypothetical causes rather well.
Matthew is apparently considered one of the brighter lights on the "liberal" side of the blog world in America. If these posts are representative (and a quick scan seems to indicate that its not far off) then no wonder the American left wing is looking so weak. Intellectually there is better debate between the different wings of the right wing.
La Shawn Barber, who sponsors the Baldilocks blog as I do this month, has a review of one of the books debunking that surprising bestseller - "The Da Vinci Code". Somehow I can't help but do a little compare and contrast between this book and the book that seems to be the Islamic equivalent - Salman Rushdie's notorious Satanic Verses.
For one thing I note that Dan Brown has mysteriously failed to be hunted down by fanatical Christian fundamentalits egged on by a foaming at the mouth Jerry Falwell. In fact neither Jerry, nor the Pope, nor any other major religious leader that I can easily google has suggested that Mr Brown be helped on his way to explain himself to Jesus. In fact amazinly enough, Mr Brown has a tour schedule for signing his work at bookshops around the world. OK so its blank at this moment, but I'm sure that it will fill up when he releases his next book and wants to go out and drum up sales. For some reason his publisher seems not to expect that such tours could result in the premature demise of Mr Brown. Mr Rushie on the other hand faced denunciations and fatwas for blasphemy with numerous Islamic leaders such as the Ayatollah Khomeini declaring that he was sentenced to death and that it any Moslem was permitted to execute him. Mr Rushdie probably made quite a lot of money as a result but I don't think he's really enjoyed his life since.
In fact the review above is one critical difference between Christianity and Islam. It seems that many biblical scholars are debunking the Da Vinici Code in books of their own and making considerable money doing so. Not only that but certain churches seem to think that effectively "any publicity is good publicity" and actively try to recruit the nonbelievers who read the book by showing them that it is wrong. Of course it is possible to find denunciations and declarations of blasphemy, but that seems to be the limit. One harsh review by a Christain minister ends with the conclusion that:
I am not one for advocating book burning, but I will say that The Da Vinci Code is not worth the ashes burning it would create. It is as Sandra Miesel contends: "Blasphemy delivered in a soft voice."
As far as I can tell Islamic leaders and theologians were rather less willing to refute The Satanic Verses. Rather than calmly explain why the book was blasphemous and why reading it would endanger one's immortal soul, they preferred to try and ban the book and kill the author. Some apologists seem to think that this sort of response is excusable indeed almost to be expected because of the great insult, but to me this is the attitude of the spoiled child who has been thwarted. It also helps explain why there is so little creative thought or science in the Islamic world, despite it containing such a large proportion of humanity.
Perhaps Shiite leaders such as Ayatollah Sistani and other more tolerant sorts of Islam such as the Sufis can rescue their religion. I sincerely hope so but I fear that the fanatics have the upper hand at present.
An Englishman's Castle has an amusing link to a Times article (pay access for us suckers outside Merrie Englande), which seems somewhat peeved at the way Kerry shot himself in the foot with his endless playing up of his Vietnam service. This article manages to get a number of things wrong so doing as I was told I wrote an email to the times pointing out their errors:
you printed an article (http://www.timesonline.co.uk/newspaper/0,,170-1248728_2,00.html) about the US election campaign and the attacks on Senator Kerry's Vietnam service which seem to be misleading if not untrue. Firstly the article states that "the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth had already succeeded in raising awkward questions about his[Kerry's] reputation, even though most of their claims have since been disproved". This would seme to depend on your definition of MOST. The Swift Boat Veterans for Truth(SBVT) made essentially 7 claims: 1) that Kerry was not in Cambodia during Christmas 1968 2) that Kerry did not ever transport covert forces into Cambodia 3) that his first purple heart was gained under questionable circumstances 4) that his silver star (with "combat V") had serious inconsistencies as did his total list of decorations 5) that his third purple heart and bronze star awards were also undeserved 6) Kerry's stealing of Tedd Peck's engagement on 29 January 1969, which he included in his website timeline 7) Kerry's and David Alston's stories about Alston serving with Kerry on the 29 January and 28 February engagements
Of these claims 1) is definitively correct and admitted so by Kerry 2) is not proven beyond reasonable doubt, however the evidence seems clear that if then Lt Kerry did transport covert forces to Cambodia in late 1968/early 1969 then his was the only Swift boat that ever did so. Moreover no one has put a date on when such a mission might have occured and various crewmembers have provided blanket denials that the event occured while they served with Kerry. 3) is murky. Written evidence indicates that the wound was a) minor and b) likely shrapnel from his own weapon, howeverit is not clear whether there was sufficient enemy fire to justify Kerry's wounding as "in the heat of battle" 4) is definitively correct in parts as it is clear that V's are not awarded ever with Silver stars and that the thrid citation some 20 years later was irregular. Moreover he has claimed 4 campaign decorations when he was eligable for 2. 5) may be claimed to have been "not proven" in that there is considerable confusion about precisely what occured 6) Was proven to be correct, Kerry did take credit for Peck's action and has removed it 7) Was proven correct, Alson's claim to have been serving with Kerry for a long period was determined to be impossible -- and Alston no longer makes appearances with Kerry in telling those stories By my mathematics since four of the seven are correct, two are not proven and one is probably correct that means NONE have been disproved not MOST. The only way to get MOST is to say that "MOST of the SBVT claims have not been completely proved" and as any competant lawyer or logician will tell you NOT BEEN PROVED is not the same as DISPROVED
Secondly your article states that the SBVT have links to Karl Rove, this implies that the SBVT are in some way controlled and/or created by the Bush campaign. Ths implication is one which, if true, would mean that the Bush campaign acted illegally. One would have anticipated that if any actual evidence other than hearsay existed the Kerry campaign would have file numerous legal challenges. They haven't done so, which, I believe, implies that the evidence for this is considerably weaker than the unproven evidence presented by SBVT about Sen Kerry.
Finally, as your article states, it was Kerry's own campaign which raised his Vietnam service despite the fact that the Senator's Vietnam service and subsequent anti-war activities have been questioned intermittently for most of the past 3 decades; thus it seems surprising that the Senator and his campaign staff were caught so off balance when the SBVT began their campaign. This seems to indicate a lack of strategic thinking by the Senator which does indeed make his fitness for the Presidency questionable, whether or not the individual claims are correct.
The Captain's Quarter's blog - from whom I nicked a bit of evidence for that letter - has an amusing counterpoint article which rips into a nice piece of media double talk that deserves a link on the O that Liberal Media site for its breathtaking arrogance and duplicity. Unlike the Times which does a more in Sorrow than in Anger "what was he thinking" thingy this one goes for the "HOW DARE THEY" approach and calls the SBVT egregious liars. Which is a bit of a pity because as as noted above they aren't in fact liars, not even egregious ones.
Yet in meetings with Kerry, McKean and other advisers say, they told the Democrat that he had an extraordinary story of heroism to tell Americans. Campaign advisers say they felt sure of two things: Past Vietnam critics like John O'Neill, now a leader of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, would probably resurface, but Kerry and his allies could neutralize the criticism as they had done before.
The attacks on Kerry by the swift boat group, however, have stunned many in the camp and left Kerry frustrated that the media have not dismissed the charges as unsubstantiated. "What has surprised me is the voracity with which they have tried to attack his heroism," McKean said. "I have never seen people lie so egregiously and get away with it. This is as close to McCarthyism as you can get in a campaign. The print press has worked hard to discredit it, but television just replays the charges over and over.
Despite masses of soft money bashng Bush and the good will of the majority of the Mainstream Media, the SBVT have managed to hull Kerry's presidential ambitions. And in passing demonstrated precisely what I concluded in my letter to the Times, Kerry has the strategic sense of a lemming. "We know we have a weakness, we skated over it before so lets make it the centrepiece of our campaign"
I've just updated my blog publishing s/w. Maybe it will automagically upload the image too...
This picture is from last December just before I picked our olives. Share & Enjoy PS Alert folks will note the radical update of the BlogRoll PPS Ooo look! CSS cocks up when you have large photos in small DIVs - there may be a moral here but damfino what it is unless its to always have small photos Permalink
According to The Register, the Royal Navy will be using Windows to run some of its warships in the future. Now as various people have pointed out Windows doesn't precisely have a cast iron weapons-grade security reputaion. Indeed my fellow blogger at "An Englishman's Castle" posted a highly humourous warning message that he received after installing MS XP SP2 . Anyway, a quick bit of MS Paint allowed me to come up with this fictional summary of why I'm glad I'm not a sailor in the Queen's Navy
Share & Enjoy [Thanks to Greg "BLT" Donahue for the idea] Permalink
The PUTA is the world’s simplest computer to own and operate. You can hang it on a wall, place on a desktop or mount on an arm above your workspace. Clean, sleek and contemporary in design it is the perfect solution for providing elegant computer access. There are no cables, the keyboard and mouse are wireless and the screen responds instantaneously to touch input.
Bound to sell well in Spanish speaking markets.... where other things called Puta also respond well to ahh touch input And then there's Fuji's appreciation of English gestures
A week or so ago I noted an outbreak of moonbattiness in the Grauniad. Well, not much to my surprise things have not noticably improved now that everyone is back from their holidays. This article by The Grauniad's "security affairs editor" has so much that just cries out to be fisked.
The war on terror is being lost
The greatest obstacle to reducing the threat is the US administration
Richard Norton-Taylor Wednesday September 8, 2004 The Guardian
It starts out clearly enough doesn't it? No dancing around the issue here. Quite why the USA - a notorious sponsor of terrorists no doubt - is to blame is unclear but obviously it will be explained later
Forget all the arguments about Iraq, we are told. We have had Hutton and Butler, Tony Blair won't apologise for misleading the public and parliament, and it is time to move on. But how can we possibly move on? The invasion of Iraq has cost the lives of more than 1,000 American and more than 60 British soldiers. Put on one side the failure to find any weapons of mass destruction and the fact that Saddam Hussein's Iraq posed less of a threat to its neighbours - let alone the west - last year than when western governments were supplying his regime with WMD precursors right up to the invasion of Kuwait in 1990.
Already we have one lie and one misdirection.
The lie: In Iraq there has been one Sarin shell used as an IED and a number of other shells discovered by the coalition, not to mention numerous cannisters of pesticide (a chemical munition precurson) in ammo dumps so failure to find any weapons of mass destruction is a flat out lie. True Bush, Blair etc expected to find more but since some have been found and in fact reported in the Grauniad this flat out lie seems to indicate the quality of journalism we can expect.
The misdirection: The last line has this gem "western governments were supplying his regime with WMD precursors right up to the invasion of Kuwait in 1990" which seems to be suggesting that:
no one was supplying Hussein before 2003 (whereas the Washinton Times has a recent article showing that France was cheerfully supplying weapons in 2002)
it was all the US's fault in the first place when a more accurate description would be that French and German companies where doing the supplying (see above Washington Times article).
For Blair, as well as Bush and his neocons, an invasion of Iraq would topple a vicious dictator, help the "war on terror" by preventing nasty weapons getting into the hands of al-Qaida sympathisers and promote democracy in the Middle East and neighbouring central Asia.
So far Blair and Bush seem to be at 100%. Democracy is taking root in both Iraq and Afghanistan (and yes neither place is perfect but they are getting there), nasty weapons do not seem to have got into the hands of Al-Qaida sympathisers and a vicious dictator has indeed been toppled. Where's the beef?
We have just witnessed the latest manifestation of the so-called war on terror in the Caucasus. Further east, across the oil-rich Caspian, lies Uzbekistan, where the US turns a blind eye to serious human rights abuses in return for military bases for the same war on terror. They were initially used to attack the Taliban and al-Qaida in Afghanistan, where elections are due next month - an event the US has done little to prepare for, wary of upsetting warlords, while leaving responsibility for security to its European Nato allies, which are unwilling or unable to provide.
Oh boy another paragaph ladened with half-truths. Lets start with We have just witnessed the latest manifestation of the so-called war on terror in the Caucasus. As noted at Harry's Place, a fast reader might think the article had suffered from one of the Grauniad's famous typos - surely its the "war OF terror in the Caucasus". But leaving that aside what precisely has the USA got to do with Chechnya, Ossetia and Dagestan? The only thing the US has done with regard to the Chechen situation is chase hard core terrorists out of Afghanistan who seem to have subsequently made their way to Chechnya. There is a logical disconnect here; either we are in a Global War against Islamic Fascism, in which case the USA has not provided enough support to Russia in its fight, or we are not in which case the USA has correctly done nothing to help. However from the context neither of these options appears to be what is meant.
We get to see what is probably meant in the discussion on Afghanistan, but before we get there lets point out that "turning a blind eye" to Uzbekistan's human rights abuses includes the announcement in July this year that the USA "will withhold millions of dollars in security and economic assistance to Uzbekistan, citing "disappointment" over Tashkent’s human rights practices."
As for Afghanistan, when its government begged NATO to send more troops which country was it that said "non"? The Americans have committed billions of dollars and twenty thousand troops while Europe has managed to produce a measly 6000ish and next to bugger all in aid. It is unclear how the US has contributed to the lack of support when in fact it has been the sole country to actually meet its promises in the 2001/2 aid meetings.
In Iraq - described with out irony by the Bush administration as the new "front line" in the war on terror - the US has installed a government of placemen. As the respected Iraq expert Toby Dodge observes in Survival, the International Institute for Strategic Studies journal, it has "a high proportion of formerly exiled politicians in the cabinet and a prime minister closely associated with the intelligence arms of both the British and American governments".
Can we please be reasonable here? In Iraq the Ba'ath regime ruled for decades and exiled or killed its political opponants so, given that the Ba'ath party is not acceptable in government from whence, other than the exile community, is the political leadership to come? And how, given the lack of contacts possible under Hussein, should a trustworthy prime minister be picked, if you are going to ignore those with linls to intelligence? Finally one notices a complete lack of mention of the UN in the process of picking the government. My recollection is that a certain Lakhmar Ibrahimi was quite involved.
The insurgency, he writes, is a home-grown phenomenon, springing from the political and security failures of the occupation. Foreign troops, he suggests, will be needed "for many years to come if anarchy is to be avoided". Dodge adds pointedly: "In the 20s and 30s, the hegemonic power seeking to recreate Iraq was Britain. The 1920 revolt made the occupation extremely unpopular with the British people and led to a change in government in London. The result was that state-building in Iraq was sacrificed at the altar of British domestic politics."
That "home grown phenomenon" is another sweeping statement that fails the smell test. There have been numerous indications that foreigners have been involved in the Sunni triangle fighting and likewise that Iran has been providing cash and armed assistance to Moqtada al Sadr. On the other hand the statement that troops will be needed for years to come is not one that should surprise anyone. Afterall the UN peacekeeping force in East Timor, not to mention the forces in parts of former Yugoslavia have been there for years and show little sign of withdrawal (contrary it might be added to the statements of Clinton in the 1990s). In fact I can hardly think of a single intervention since WW2 that has not resulted in the intervening troops remaining for years.
Blair insists his government will not walk away from countries it has helped occupy. The bigger question is how he will achieve his stated objectives of promoting democracy and human rights in the Middle East (as well as the road map to a peace deal between Israel and Palestine), fighting poverty, and giving a much-needed boost to a UN-focused internationalism. All this would help, much more than military occupation, in the fight against terrorism.
When you don't have anything positive to suggest just make blanket statements that occupation won't help the fight against terrorism. The idea that occupation may in fact help human rights and democracy the Middle East by providing a role model state seems to have escaped the author, who seems to think that somehow Iraq will blossom into a peaceful democracy as soon as the occupiers leave. Quite why this is more likely than a Somali or Afghani style descent into anarchistic chaos is utterly beyond me and the journalist fails to explain.
In a telling comment last week, Mai Yamani, of the Royal Institute of International Affairs, described the annual get-together at Oxford University of the Project for Democracy Studies in Arab Countries. The participants, she wrote in the International Herald Tribune, represented the "lost resources of an Arab world that is fast becoming isolated by illiteracy, ignorance, and repression".
OK and this is the fault of the evil coalition because...? One can't help but note that this illiteracy, ignorance and repression seems to be being driven by all the non-democratic regimes in the region. Precisely how maintaining the status quo from before the Iraqi invasion would help to foster change is a little unclear to me.
A new generation "denied the opportunity to participate in a range of democratic institutions or other vehicles for public self-expression, is finding more dangerous outlets for its passions". Yamani quoted a Saudi researcher at an English university as remarking: "It's easier for a young Arab to blow himself up than sweep outside his house. He doesn't feel he belongs to anything."
Oh really? If this Saudi at an English University is so intimately aware of the life of the young, one wonders why the entire gulf region is failing to be engulfed (sorry) in revolution? Part of the problem it seems to me is that the young in these countries are being encouraged to believe that in fact internal change is impossible. If Iraq succeeds then we can expect bloody revolution in the rest of the Middle East.
It is hard not to conclude that one of the greatest obstacles to the kind of better world Blair says he wants - one with less cause for terrorism, even if terrorists will always be around - is the Bush administration, and notably the likes of Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld. They have consistently dismissed British interests and embarrassed a prime minister who has attached himself so closely to the president with such little reward.
Why is it hard not to conclude this? I'm sorry did some piece of logical argument pass me by here? You haven't made a case for anything of the sort. If anything you have made the case that armed intervention is required and made clear that no one other than the US can actually do this. And as for the dismissal of Blair's/British interests. Right? like the way they failed to go to the UN and try and get a resolution in early 2003? Like the way they have told their traditional British allies, the Conservative Party, to get lost. And so on.
What did Blair think when delegates at last week's Republican convention booed speakers who mentioned the UN? How much longer can Blair, or his ministers, accept to be led by a US administration that denigrates everything they say they stand for? Asked at his press conference yesterday whether the war on terror can be won, Blair replied: "We can win it and I believe ultimately we will win it. But it is going to require emphasis not only on security, but tackling other issues as well." There is absolutely no sign he is succeeding in tackling them, not least because his closest ally, the US president, is simply not interested.
Did I miss the news that the UN had launched a fierce anti-corruption campaign? did I see a mea culpa about UNSCAM last week? in fact did I see anything at all that indicated that the UN was willing to take a tough stand on terrorism, genocide and the like? umm NO. Is it a surprise that people boo the UN? Blair has consistently said that he would prefer to work within a multilateral (UN) framework, likewise, although the Bush-haters seem incapable of hearing it, Bush and his team have said the same thing. Both leaders have also stated that when the UN drops the ball they need to do something more constructive than talking and hand-waving. Although Grauniad "journalists" seme incapable of actually listening to what Bush says, he has in fact at numerous times and in numerous places and perhaps best stated at the Air Force Academy graduation in June this year:
Just as events in Europe determined the outcome of the Cold War, events in the Middle East will set the course of our current struggle. If that region is abandoned to dictators and terrorists, it will be a constant source of violence andd alarm, exporting killers of increasing destructive power to attack America and other free nations. If that region grows in democracy and prosperity and hope, the terrorist movement will lose its sponsors, lose its recruits, and lose the festering grievances that keep terrorists in business. The stakes of this struggle are high. The security and peace of our country are at stake, and success in this struggle is our only option. (Applause.)
In the terrorists' vision of the world, the Middle East must fall under the rule of radical governments, moderate Arab states must be overthrown, nonbelievers must be expelled from Muslim lands, and the harshest practice of extremist rule must be universally enforced. In this vision, books are burned, terrorists are sheltered, women are whipped, and children are schooled in hatred and murder and suicide.
Our vision is completely different. We believe that every person has a right to think and pray and live in obedience to God and conscience, not in frightened submission to despots. (Applause.) We believe that societies find their greatness by encouraging the creative gifts of their people, not in controlling their lives and feeding their resentments. And we have confidence that people share this vision of dignity and freedom in every culture because liberty is not the invention of Western culture, liberty is the deepest need and hope of all humanity.
Fourth and finally, we are denying the terrorists the ideological victories they seek by working for freedom and reform in the broader Middle East. Fighting terror is not just a matter of killing or capturing terrorists. To stop the flow of recruits into terrorist movement, young people in the region must see a real and hopeful alternative -- a society that rewards their talent and turns their energies to constructive purpose. And here the vision of freedom has great advantages. Terrorists incite young men and women to strap bombs on their bodies and dedicate their deaths to the death of others. Free societies inspire young men and women to work, and achieve, and dedicate their lives to the life of their country. And in the long run, I have great faith that the appeal of freedom and life is stronger than the lure of hatred and death.
I wonder whether, if someone gave Richard wossname part of the text of this speech with a few alterations to remove the giveaway bits, he would be nodding in agreement or not. Do Richard Wossname and his fellows actually want action or would they prefer to stand around moaning about how bad everything is? I suspect the latter and that ultimately explains why they hate Bush and Blair. For people who prefer profound words and sonorous treaties to verifiable actions, the idea that a despot or a terrorist leader should be held accountable for his actions and deposed or killed is repellant because is shows up their shallowness.
I must give credit to Harry's Place for bringing the original bilge to my attention.
CBS is claiming that they have documents written by people covering up for Bush in the ANG which are obvious blatent forgeries.
The CBS article about their latest 60 minutes program includes this PDF file, purporting to be a memo written in 1973
If you download it and look at it it has a number of things such as a superscripted 187th and curly apostrophe's that make it look like its been written by Microsoft Word in 2004 rather than on a typewriter in 1973. This blog entry provides compelling positive evidence and is sufficiently simple that I replicated it just to see and I too have produced IDENTICAL results to the "original" memo on my laptop (OS win 2000 English, and Office 2000) by simply typing, remembering to set the paper to letter rather than A4 (since I'm in Europe) and typing a consistent two spaces after every period. OH and I had to stop word trying to be a smartarse ant indent the numbers.
Now I'm sure it was possible to produce very similar documents in 1973 but I refuse to believe that the average typewriter on an airforce base in 1973 would produce text with curly apostrophes, superscript and with its lines breaking IDENTICALLY to Microsoft Word in 2004. Don't believe me then please look at my version
I don't know where you get your news from in America but I strongly recommend avoiding CBS because they seem to be either faking evidence themselves or so incompetant that they can't actually detect such moronically bad forgeries. In fact this level of incompetance is insulting to its audience.
Update: A dead giveaway that this is not typewritten in that the text is kerned. An example of kerning is the letters fe in "feedback" where it is clear that the e is in fact under the top of the f. Same applies to "interference". I refuse to believe that a 1972 typewriter would kern fe like that
The AP is in full handwaving and distraction mode over the CBS 60 minutes fake memo issue (see previous blog entry and a gazillion and one other blogs). I suspect other news organizations will do the same thing. Their latest attempt is astoundingly feeble: to summarise the worst that AP can come up with is that he flew some missions on T-33 trainers and required a second landing a couple of times and they use that to try and bury the story about the forgeries.
Bush Piloted Guard Trainers Before He Quit
1 hour, 52 minutes ago By MATT KELLEY, Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON - George W. Bush began flying a two-seat training jet more frequently and twice required multiple attempts to land a one-seat fighter in the weeks just before he quit flying for the Texas Air National Guard in 1972, his pilot logs show.
The logs show Bush flew nine times in T-33 trainers in February and March 1972, including eight times in one week and four of those only as a co-pilot. Bush, then a first lieutenant, flew in T-33s only twice in the previous six months and three times in the year ending July 31, 1971.
The records also show Bush required two passes to land an F-102A fighter on March 12 and April 10, 1972. His last flight as an Air National Guard pilot was on April 16.
Not to put too fine a point on it but why are either of these things of interest to anyone? Apparently the implication is that Bush was either skiving or incompetant or both but neither deserves more than a moments consideration before we start yawning. After all we are given the facts with no background information whatsoe ever. For example it could be that the flights in the trainer were to give assistance to a newbie pilot or pilots who needed more experience or pilots and we have no idea about the weather on the two occasions when Bush needed to take a second pass at a landing. You should be clicking NEXT, BACK or otherwise moving on, as there is clearly nothing worth reading in this news item.
Meanwhile, questions were raised Thursday about the authenticity of newly unearthed memos purporting to have been written by one of Bush's commanders in 1972 and 1973. The memos, which were publicized by CBS News on its "60 Minutes" program, say Bush ignored a direct order from a superior officer and lost his status as a Guard pilot because he failed to meet military performance standards and undergo a required physical exam.
The network defended the memos, saying its experts who examined the memos concluded they were authentic documents produced by Lt. Col. Jerry Killian.
Oh dear - still reading? Ah um well actually we have to admit that one of our fellow news organizations has been taken to the cleaners. Its terribly embarassing dontchaknow? Anyway since we're on the subject here are some more reasons why.
.... Lines, a document expert and fellow of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, pointed to a superscript — a smaller, raised "th" in "111th Fighter Interceptor Squadron" — as evidence indicating forgery.
Microsoft Word automatically inserts superscripts in the same style as the two on the memos obtained by CBS, she said.
"I'm virtually certain these were computer generated," Lines said after reviewing copies of the documents at her office in Paradise Valley, Ariz. She produced a nearly identical document using her computer's Microsoft Word software.
Ok now that we've got that minor bit of news out of the way lest go back to reading about the incompetance of Pilot Bush and how the White House is doing everything it can to hide the records and make no comment on them what so ever - something suspicious to the prefessional journalists at AP.
The Defense Department released Bush's pilot logs this week under pressure from a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit by The Associated Press. The logs do not explain why Bush was flying T-33s or why he twice needed multiple approaches to make landings.
White House spokesman Trent Duffy said Thursday said he had no information on the reasons behind the multiple-approach landings or the surge in training-jet flights.
"He did his training and was honorably discharged," Duffy said.
AP would clearly love to follow that up with more smears but unfortunately it seems that no one who might be able to be a credible expert witness about Bush's piloting is prepared to say anything other than there's no story, however since we have lots of space to fill we'll go ahead and print their statements anyway
Former Air National Guard officials contacted by the AP said there could be reasons for the trainer flights and multiple-approach landings which have nothing to do with Bush's pilot skills.
Bush could have flown T-33s so many times because his unit did not have enough F-102A jets available that week, for example, said retired Maj. Gen. Don Shepperd a former head of the Air National Guard. Another former Air National Guard chief, retired Maj. Gen. Paul A. Weaver, said he saw nothing unusual about Bush making more than one landing attempt.
"It doesn't mean anything to have multiple approaches," Weaver said.
Lets just remember that all this is because of those nasty nasty swift vets. All the democrats were doing was the same as what the nasty VRWC has been doing to Kerry during August
Bush's Vietnam-era Air National Guard service became a focus of Democratic criticism this week amid a flurry of new reports about his activities. Democrats say Bush shirked his National Guard duties, a claim Bush denies.
Republican critics have accused Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry (news - web sites), a decorated Vietnam combat veteran, of fabricating the incidents which led to his five medals.
Finally we'll close with a brief summary of Bush's ANG career slanted to imply that he really was AWOL from May 1972 because he missed a physical. Let's not mention that the Air Force had a glut of pilots in 1972 and that the F102 was being phased out and that to put it mildy the ANG was only too happy to have Bush do the absolute minimum. Also lets ignore the fact that as Junkyardblog and Captain's Quarters note Bush had already accumulated enough ANG points to last him until something like 1980
Bush joined the Texas Air National Guard in 1968, serving more than a year on active Air Force duty while being trained to fly F-102A jets. He was honorably discharged from the Guard in October 1973 and left the Air Force Reserves in May 1974.
The first four months of 1972 are at the beginning of a controversial period in Bush's Guard service. After taking his last flight in April 1972, Bush went for six months without showing up for any training drills. In September 1972 he received permission to transfer to an Alabama Guard unit so he could work on a political campaign there.
That May, Bush also skipped a required yearly medical examination. In response, his commanders grounded Bush on Aug. 1, 1972.
Bush's pilot logs showed regular training in the F-102A until Feb. 9, 1972, when he flew 1.4 hours as the pilot of a T-33. After seven more flights in the F-102A, Bush made eight more T-33 flights between March 9 and March 15, including the four as co-pilot.
He flew an F-102A on March 12 and eight more times in April 1972.
Biased? Whaddya mean Biased? we found a negative angle on Bush and a negative angle on CBS thats fair and balanced so we're much better than Fox which won't bother reporting that Bush actually did his duty and flew aircraft maybe not quite 100% perfectly in March and April 1972.
As of 12:33 UK time on 10 September 2004 the BBC's US Election Coverage page has as its main story that new Bush military memos have been released and the nextmost top story is World 'wants Kerry as president'.
Readers who click on the Bush memo story see that it accepts completely unquestioningly the CBS memos which are being debunked by justabouteveryone (including me in my own small way).
CBS TV station reported on Wednesday night that it had obtained documents from Mr Bush's late Texas commander, saying Mr Bush discussed with him how to avoid drills during 1972.
In a memo, Lt Col Jerry Killian also said he was being pressured from his superior to give Mr Bush a positive evaluation.
This despite ABC and AP (see post below) casting doubt, as well as both the NY Times and the Washington Post having articles already available which question the memos. It is "rather" surprising to me that the BBC's Justin Webb in Washington failed to inform his editors that this is the case because it makes the story look so September 9th.
BBC Roots for Kerry
The BBC article also has this priceless line under a photo of Kerry: Kerry has said Bush must come clean on what he did which ignores the fact that, unlike Bush, Kerry has failed to release the majority of his military and medical records.
In fact although overshadowed by the Jakarta blast, when I listened to the World Service yesterday morning the World 'wants Kerry as president' story was in fact one of the main stories. In it the BBC is proud to inform the world that individuals questioned in a survey of 30 out of 35 nations were anti-Bush. Quite why this is important news is beyond me since only citizens of one country - the USA - get to vote in this election. When combined with the evidence above, it seems hard to escape the idea that the BBC is "Rather-biased".
Also of note is that the top Amaerican news item today apart from Hurricane Ivan is US assault weapons ban to lapse, an article full of anti-Republican innuendo. The innuendo is clearly justified because only stupid Republicans their NRA poodles would believe that the ban was a bad idea. Indeed the article utterly fails to mention that there could be good reason to oppose the ban, just noting approvingly that:
Several police chiefs have expressed concern about the move.
The Democratic Party's presidential candidate, Senator John Kerry, says he will make it an issue in the November elections and hold the president accountable for betraying police officers.
Given that the BBC seems to be showing this bias against Bush is it any surprise that in the UK Kerry leads Bush 47%-16%? Could there possibly be the chance that the BBC is in fact umm, influencing the Great British Public? and that therefore we are seeing an example of cause and effect here?
investigation about the source of the memos and whether the purported author would have written them (e.g. ABC News )
I believe the memos are fake because all three investigations turn up major inconsistencies.
In the first category we have to posit that in 1973 an officer or his secretary in the Texas ANG would use a typewriter that supported kerning, proportional spacing, curly quotes and superscripts to write memos for his private file. It is true typewriters did exist that could probably under expert control do all of these things but to do so would take a lot of work which is unlikely to occur for a memo.
In the second category we have odd abbreviations, jargon and so on which are unlikely to be used by the purported author. Again it is possible that military people in 1973 would mistype occasional abbreviations and it is conceivable that some of the jargon might be used. But it is unlikely there would be about one each criticism per line as there is in these cases.
In the third category we have fellow former TANG personnel and the purported author's wife and son who deny that he would have written such memos. And as well as other verifiably correct writings by the author which show a different view of Bush (which have BTW a different signature to the memos under discussion) and other documentary evidence that General Staudt retired a year before the Aug 1973 memo was written.
Each line in turn may be debatable but it seems to me that, just as fictional detectives would be happy only when they had method, motive AND opportunity, for these memos to be true they have to be convincing explanations for all three lines of investigation. So far what we have seen is unconvincing "it is not utterly impossible" explanations for each and that is not sufficient. As murdoconline (mental note: add to blog roll) writes in respect of my analysis
It's not that these things COULDN'T have been done in 1973. It's that they WOULDN'T have been done on that base in that office, or in bases or offices like that one, in 1973.
Again, if these formatting issues aren't an issue, it should be easy to produce (I mean FIND, not PREPARE) millions of other documents with the same formatting.
Proving that these documents are genuine should be as simple as wandering into the appropriate section of Texas ANG archives and taking documents at random. If the CBS memos are genuine then we will find hundreds of apparently typeset documents from 1973 from the same Air Force Base, we will find thousands with the same sloppy usage of abbreviations and general violation of air force standards and we ought to be able to find a large number written by the same author using similar slang even if none express similar opinions of superiors and so on. Moreover there wll be other references to (say) Gen Staudt poking his nose into things even though he was retired.
In fact of course when we look at the memos published or linked to at http://www.awolbush.com/ we a complete lack of proportional typewriters, different rank abbreviations etc. All this is basic analysis and scientific method as practised by detectives and scientists and other investigators for centuries. It may be a low blow but it seems to me that the majority of the people who are attempting to defend these documents are not trained in fields where such methods are used. There might just be a connection...
Somewhere (justoneminute blog? doesn't matter really) someone made a point about Occam's razor shaving Rather. I think this is the key point here and it is related to what Murdoconline wrote with respect to my initial post and with regard to CBS’s attempted defense.
Creating documents that are identical (to the extent of the low resolution PDFs presetned by CBS) using MS Word (+photoshop) takes between 10 minutes and an hour depending on just how realistic a version you want to make. These MSWord replicas are identical in critical areas such as the centering of the text, the curly apostrophes the superscripts, the kerning and margins.
People who have IBM Selectric Composer typewriters (and note that it _requires_ the high end Composer not the standard Selectric model) can create similar documents with a lot of work. That doesn't mean that a 1973 ANG Lt Col could not have created the memos but it makes it seem vanishingly unlikely since to do so he or his assistant would need to be
a very experienced typist
possess a top of the range typewriter
spend a lot of time on the composition
At the same time in this hypothetical typist would need to be either unfamiliar with AF standards for abbreviations and layouts or for some reason not type these standard memos in ways that were usual practise.
Occam's razor suggests that the simplest explanation is the most likely. Which is simpler?
All this is just concentrating on the mechanics of the document creation and ignores all the other inconvenient details such as that the Lt Col or his typist would have out of date information about Lt Bush's address, be scared of a General who retired a year earlier and Lt Col Killian would have to use a different signature for these than he did for hundreds of other documents. All of these things are individually possible although "odd", but the combined probability of all of them and the uniqueness of the document style means that they have to be considered fakes until CBS or its source provides the original docments for expert analysis.
As well as selectively providing a defense to some of the document critiques - many of which (e.g. the superscript one) were less than convincing - CBS and Rather attempted to divert attention by stating that it is the contents of the documents that is more important. Now this is odd since with regards to the documents provided by the Swiftboat veterans (to take an example not completely at random) CBS - when it finally deigned to notice them - immediately denounced them as being Republican stooges and therefore ignored their claims. The problem here is that CBS and Rather seem to think that the American public are gullible fools with the attention span of a gnat (in the interests of full disclosure I have to admit that as a nuanced highly educated European I have occasionally expressed a viewpoint not totally inconsistent with this one). This could be true if the SBVT ads were not still showing up and reminding people that, unlike Bush, Kerry has not even attempted to provide all relevant documentation of his military service. The average American may perhaps be stupid and is almost certainly bored stiff by the whole Vietnam issue, but he isn't so stupid and bored that he can't see a double standard when it shows up in such a fashion.
Unfortunately for Kerry, who is probably entirely blameless, the instinctive reaction to being played for a fool is to not like the people who fooled you. CBS, by being so blatently partisan, is going to cost Kerry this election. Ooops.
With luck it will also stop Rather’s career, unfortunately (again) it is likely to do that by causing CBS to lose many of its advertisers and audience. When people have stopped watching CBS to Rather’s latest evasion, CBS news and 60 minutes are going to see a collpase in Nielsen rating and the shareholders of CBS are not going to let Rather get away blameless. Ooops.
My heart (as we used to say in school) bleeds purple piss for them. Permalink
Three years ago I was waiting in the Business Lounge of Zurich airport for my flight to Japan. Everyone was crowded around the TV which was switched to CNN. We saw the replays and we saw the first tower collapse. Then it ws time for us to board our plane to Japan. It was not a relaxing flight.
I have nothing to say that others have not said. September 11th 2001 showed us all that there was something seriously wrong with the culture in the Middle East. As Victor Davis Hanson puts it:
Not every Muslim is a fascist terrorist, but almost every fascist terrorist is a Muslim. Killers are not screaming "Hail Mary" when they machine gun children in the back, slit the throat of airline stewardesses, or blow pregnant women up on buses across the globe. And they are not the subjects of condemnatory fatwas in Iran or Saudi Arabia.
The first thing that I note is that our nice liberal lady has utterly and completely missed the point about MS Word reproductions.
A lot of bloggers have been crowing about their ability to create documents similar to the Killian memos in Word. As Brian Weatherson notes, they are fallaciously affirming the consequent. Of course word processors can imitate typewritten documents. That's what they were designed to do! This is especially true if you already know what the Killian memos look like and set about duplicating them.
There are two things wrong with this. Firstly word processors are not imitating typewriters, if they were we'd all be reading documents in Courier or Pica Elite, rather word processors are imitating advanced typesetting systems. Secondly the whole point about the LGF reproduction was that it took no effort what so ever. There was no need to resort to MS Forger type tricks to reproduce the memos. Just using the (American) default settings for margins, tabs, centering, typeface etc. resulted in documents that were identical when printed. I have played with the August 18 memo - and the only way to get a match with the CBS memo in word is to stick 100% with the defaults. If you change the margins, the font etc you very different line breaks. In particular the second and third lines (ending in regarding and rating respectively) do not end up being the same length with any other font that I have tried. - Bookman Old Style, Goudy Old Stle, Century Schoolbook, Palatino Linotype etc. although I admit that Garamond gets close (there is approx a 1 point difference in lengths but in order to get Garamond to work requires changing the paper to A4 so that the other lines go correctly and means that the date position is incorrect without fiddly changes).
The question is whether there is anything about the documents that's rare or impossible in typed documents but ubiquitous in word processed documents. So far, I haven't seen any evidence of that. The discredited typography allegations were intended to show that the documents couldn't have been produced by a typewriter. If the critics had found traits of the memos that would have been unlikely or impossible from a a typewriter but nearly universal from a word processor, that would have suggested that a word processor was responsible. In fact, without the typography claims, all the critics are doing with their homemade Word demos is pointing out that a similar but not identical document can be produced in Word. So far, no one has been able to produce a document in Word that is truly identical at the level that would convince a questioned document examiner. All that has been shown so far is that Word can do many of the same things as typewriters.
This is where we see that we live in a different but parallel reality. I do not believe that Joseph M. Newcomer's analysis has been discredited. Rather it has been strengthened through further analysis however Majithise says later on that
In fact, the documents have been copied so many times that the type looks kerned because of cumulative distortions.
This is a clear example of someone who has not been reading the evidence properly since Newcomer uses as one example the behaviour of the "f" character in TrueType Times New Roman as definitive evidence that the docs are forgeries. He says its pseudo-kerning not kerning - fair enough - but it was one of the things that jumped right out at me when I looked at it earlier and I refuse to believe that scrumpling or photocopying distortion can cause this effect because in the 18 August memo it is one factor that contributes to the two lines being the same length because the pseudo-kerning of the f is different in other fonts to that in TNR. As Newcomer says it is worth looking at Occam's razor here, the documents line up incredibly well to default Microsoft word replicas and exhibit features that were extremely difficult to reproduce in the early 1970s and which no other equivalent military documents display (for example this one from the same AFB at the same time is very clearly in a fixed width font). The chances of this being coincidental are about as low as two named individuals in different locations being struck by lightning simultaneously.
The same error occurs in her analysis of the stylistic complaints. The signature style and use of abbreviations and rank designations in the forged memos is different to that seen on all genuine documents seen on the Internet (such as at the awolbush site). Just as an example Baldilocks points out that OETR is not used as an abreviation for anything in the Air Force/Air National Guard although giving a hint as to why it might have been used by the forger, it does appear on various Bush AWOL website documents. The OER / OETR confusion is an excellent example of something that the purported author simply would not have got wrong, there has been numerous testimony and documentary evidence to show that OER is what the military used as an abbreviation and Lt Col Killinan must have written or signed hundreds of these in his career (such as this one, which clearly states that it is a COMPANY GRADE OFFICER EFFECTIVENESS REPORT). To my mind it is similar to a professor saying that a graduate just got a DPh or a PhilD rather than a PhD. Unless someone can show that, in the way that Oxford calls a PhD a DPhil, the Texas ANG and/or 111th FIS in the 1970s called an OER an OETR then that adds to the compelling evidence.
The problem here is that the "fallacious affirmation of the consequent" is in fact in evidence on the CBS side. If you believe in your heart of hearts that Bush was AWOL then you don't worry about trifling details of font size or the abbreviations or the lack of sourcing because these memos affirm the consequent as you wish and are therefore true QED. It makes sections like this bit seem ironic in that the burden of proof seems oddly switched.
Authentication is not some magic epistemological seal of approval. It's a judgment based on a accumulated balance of probabilities. Sometimes an expert has to conclude that the evidence is ambiguous. This appears to have been the case with Matley. He concluded that it was impossible to tell whether these were real memos with Killian's signature or faked memos with genuine signatures tacked on. If the physical evidence is ambiguous, it becomes necessary to turn to other sources. If the questioned document examiners were able to affirm that the documents could be real, the evidential burden shifts to the reporters. They must ask questions about the quality of the source, the plausibility of the provenance, the consistency of the content with our other well-founded beliefs about Bush's record, and so on.
The Instapundit and Virginia Postrel both made similar points about the low trust nature of blogging and how bloggers get edited via theit readers and the commenters. This is why the typographic evidence is so good. We have seen people attempt to produce the memos on IBM typewriters of the period and discovered that to do so is extraordinarily difficult and we have seen that it is remarkably easy to do so on modern word processors. Then working from that base we have seen various printing and typographical experts explain why (pseudo-kerning, line-spacing etc.). From that we have arrived at a point where anyone can follow a fairly simple set of instructions and produce perfect reproductions of the memos using MS word while offers of a $10,000+ reward have failed to produce ANY typewriten replicas at all.
On the other hand some of the stylistic complaints turned out to be less accurate. For example One Hand Clapping reported that one memo referenced a false manual/regulation (AFM 35-13), which later investigation showed to be relevant - and referenced in one of the Awol bush documents), but if you look at the OHC link above you will see that this is noted in one of the Updates to the original post. This is precisely what is good about the blogosphere and why it is better than most mainstream media, correctional updates are posted immediately the error is caught so that other readers do not need to waste time on false information.
In related links: Allahpundit also notes that CBS's experts seem to have each been given a subset of the memos in order that if any one expert was suspicious of a particular memo it would not require invalidating all of them.
Yesterday's Rathergate Revisited post was intended to be my last because I'm getting sick of it, but then I read some more and just decide I need to work out some more irritation. I think I stumbed upon the source of the typeface criticisims of Majikthise's epistemiology post that I sortafisked yesterday. It appears to be a mahablog post where the author blows her entire thesis out of the water in two simple sentences:
Finally, I understand the wingnuts find it astonishing that the type seen in the Killian documents can be reproduced exactly in word processing documents today. But to anyone with a rudimentary understanding of typography, this is not astonishing at all. Times Roman characters produced on a lintotype machine in 1960 will match Times Roman characters created in Microsoft Word today. If two Times Roman characters were not exactly the same, one of them would not be classic Times Roman type, but something else.
This paragraph is precisely what is wrong. As the lady herself states higher up there are distortions in photocopies which mean that you can't draw a conclusion from the copy about the precise font, fontsize etc. However as I have tried to show in my various posts, and as Charles Johnson from LGF has shown, the alignment of the text over a series of lines is 100% coincident with Microsoft Word defaults on all the documents tested. The chances of this occuring being true for a series of documents produced any other way is close to zero.
Having said that Mahablog does some decent analysis of the 4 May docuument and the animation that purports to show its recreation in word. In fact that document did cause me some trouble to reproduce (but here it is) and required me to do a lot more mucking around than the other docs did.
[One thing to note though is that this official order from the same time frame and AFB is clearly not using a proportional font in its centered top AND the address form is rather different]
However despite Mahablogs excellent points on the 4 may memo her overall thrust is wrong. What she is doing is trying to shoot down each individual quibble rather than addressing the whole collection. Its a deliberate looking at the trees rather than the forest and therefore destined to fail. Here is a short list (E&OE)
Available on IBM Executive or Composer not Selectric
Needs a lot of time and/or IBM Composer
Needs Selectric because the ths are above the rest of the text. This means you couldn't type it with a key but needed to swap out type balls and play with rolling the paper up and down. Culd nto do this with Executive or Composer
Margins, tabs and line alignment
Fonts available on IBM Composer do not space equivalently
Lack of normal typewriter irregularities
Needs Selectric or Composer. Executive could not do this
From the various posts on The Shape of Days, we have seen that each individual typewriter named cannot produced all the features seen in the memos. Both the 18 August and 4 May memos show features which no single 1970s era typewriter had in conjunction. You could either get proprtional text or raised superscriptsbut not both. Since we see memos with both (and with perfectly aligned text identical to replicas produced by MS Word) common logic indicates that these documents are forgeries.
The Vodkapundit suggests that this article is another sign of rats leaving a sinking ship. It is but its also a wonderful example of liberal media bias that needs a fisk.
Bush re-election bid goes against grain
9/15/2004, 6:14 p.m. ET By RON FOURNIER The Associated Press
LAS VEGAS (AP) — President Bush is embracing troublesome topics that should be hurting him and fighting for states that should be tilting away from him in a campaign that has focused so far on character over issues.
In the Bush view of things, Iraq is a political asset, voters won't punish him for an ailing economy and the race is a referendum on Democratic Sen. John Kerry — all opposites of what experts had predicted.
When I and my buddies in the pundits's club got together before this campaign season it was obvious to use that Bush had to stay away from Iraq because it's a quagmire and clearly the economy was in the toilet so he couldn't focus on that could he? You know this sort of thing makes us look like total incompetants - as if we were writing our columns while in our pyjamas!
This is what happens when a disciplined, focused incumbent faces a challenger who, thus far, is neither — and when voters start making gut-level choices based on notions of leadership and character rather than preferences on policy.
For Kerry to prevail, issues need to matter more. Or voters need to think better of Kerry's character and less of the president's.
Look the electorate just won't listen to what we tell them anymore, they will insist on making up their own mind. How dare they believe those nasty swift-boaties bashing the glorious Vietnam record of Kerry? And why don't they care that Bush was a shirking playboy at the same time. I mena when the witnesses came off like bitter political hacks my friend Dan Rather madefound some documents proving it and a nice 86year old granny to stand up and say that they were "fake but accurate". What else are we supposed to do?
The race is close, with Bush leading or pressing Kerry in several Democratic bastions, including Wisconsin and perhaps even New York, and solidifying his advantage in GOP-leaning states such as Missouri. In Florida, where the disputed 2000 election was decided, private polling gives Bush a slight lead.
The race looks like its going to be a Bush landslide dammit so we won't be able to resort to lawyers to get our man in.
The deaths of more than 1,000 U.S. troops might tempt an incumbent president to retreat from an unpopular war, but Bush seeks political gain from it. Even on its bloodiest days, he holds up the conflict as an example of his steely leadership and a willingness to make tough choices, while accusing his rival of wavering.
Hey look they died for NOTHING. September 11th was just one of those things, you know. I'm sure if we'd asked nicely those Taliban chaps would have extradited Osama without needing nasty threats. And that Saddam, I mean he hadn't gassed anyone for 10 years so obviously he was behaving himself, President Chirac assured me of that and he would know.
In a speech here to members of the National Guard, the president sought to deflect questions about his Vietnam-era service by turning the subject to what he said were Kerry's equivocations on Iraq.
"What's critical is that the president of the United States speak clearly and consistently at this time of great threat in our world, and not change positions because of expediency or pressure," Bush said Tuesday.
How dare he try to talk about current issues and ignore his past! Look we spent hoursyears manufactur investigating evidence that he was a deserter and he has the effrontery to totally ignore it and concentrate on Iraq instead. Anyone would think we were fighting a war there!
He's playing to undecided voters who tell pollsters they're wary about Iraq and the economy but still hold Bush in relatively high esteem on character traits such as strength, decisiveness and leadership.
It is a major part of Bush's re-election strategy to convince voters that the world is too dangerous to change leadership in the White House, even if the status quo is imperfect.
How many times do we have to repeat Bush Lied People Died? Look he's a stupid monkey how dare he be so successful
The loss of nearly 1 million jobs during his tenure is a problem for Bush, particularly in Midwest battlegrounds such as Ohio, Pennsylvania and Michigan. But, with a flurry of excuses and statistics, he has fought Kerry to a tie on the question of who is best suited to create jobs, polls show.
"When you're out rounding up the vote, remind people that our economy has been through a lot," he told supporters in Colorado on Tuesday. "We've been through a recession. We had corporate scandals" and the Sept. 11 attacks, he said.
Why won't people believe us when we say that Enron was perfectly regulated upto January 2001? and the economy was in rosy shape in December 2000? It was all Bush's fault that the Nasdaq collapsed from April 2000! How could anyone blame it on us Democrats? And Bush completely failed to cope with the economic catastrophe of Sept. 11. Yeah some people died then too but it was the economy that got really hurt and that was Bush's fault.
Bush loads his speeches with one-sided data on the economy, including his take on the 5.4 percent unemployment rate: "That's lower than the average rate of the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s," he said.
The number of Americans without health insurance has risen during Bush's presidency, reaching nearly 45 million in 2003. Medicare costs are rising sharply. Yet the Republican put Kerry on the defense this week with a hard-hitting ad asserting that the Democratic plan would leave "big government in charge. Not you. Not your doctor."
Just because every president since Nixon would have drooled to have a 5.4% and falling unemployment rate is nothing. And you know those health care costs? thats those evil drug companies and mean HMOs ripping us all off. Nothing to do with medical malpractise what so ever!
After months of catering to his party's right wing, Bush has dusted off his "compassionate conservative" agenda. The Democrats say the GOP doesn't care about regular people. So Bush's stump speech includes a pitch to voters squeezed by the fast-moving new economy.
"I understand the world we live in today is a changing world," Bush said this week in Holland, Mich. "Think about what happened in the workplace. Years ago our fathers and grandfathers worked for one job, one company; they had one pension plan, one health care plan. Today people change careers and change jobs often. And the most startling change of all is that women now work not only in the house but outside the house."
Bush campaign polling shows the line plays well with suburban women, as does his assertion that Kerry's health care plan would amount to a government takeover.
Look we've spent literally DECADES pushing the message that the Republicans are evil mail chauvinist capitalist pigs always exploiting the poor (that would be YOU reader) so how dare he show sympathy or not insist on women being chained to the kitchen.
Kerry has polls and focus groups of his own, and they suggest he can't win without undermining Bush's credibility. While aides acknowledge that it's late in the game to be defining a well-known incumbent, Kerry's reshuffled staff is casting every issue in the context of character.
Bush wasn't just wrong about waging war in Iraq, he was misleading. He hasn't just lost jobs, he hasn't been straight about it.
"His is the excuse presidency," Kerry said Wednesday as he tried to make the economy a character issue. "Never wrong, never responsible, never to blame."
I blame that evil Rove character. We had this great campaign idea that we could show the economy in trouble and Iraq a quagmire and the voters won't believe it. We say he's a shifty lying scum but its like all the proles aren't listening. And instead they have the audacity to question our man. How dare they!
EDITOR'S NOTE — Ron Fournier has covered national politics or the White House since 1993.
Covered eh? as in what stallions do to mares? Yes I know lowering the tone but really laughter is the best way to make the self important really furious. Permalink
On the whole I am against hunting with dogs. And I can't see why, if foxes are vermin, they shouldn't just be shot, likewise mink and coypu which are definitely vermin. However I think that banning hunting is a bad idea for a whole host of reasons.
The main reason I dislike the ban is that the ban is being pushed by partly groups who are, in my opinion, intolerant, hypocritcial and uneducated. I am refering of ocurse to the morons in the various extremist animal rights groups. It worries me that such people, who seem to be unclear on the concept of cause and effect as it relates to (for example) animal testing and their hopes for a long life, should ever be seen to be victorious because it will only encourage more idiocy, such as banning fishing or forbidding any harm to the "poor cute wild animals" whatsoever.
Secondly there are some obvious cause and effect issues with regard to baning hunting. In a country that has practically banned shooting and has now banend hunting how, precisely, are vermin to be kept down? Most of the alternatives such as Poison or traps are well known to be indiscriminate killers that frequently cause as much or more harm to other species than the target one. Another cause and effect issue is the state of forests, woodlands and pastures. In places where there are hunts someone has an incentive to maintain, to some extent, these lands whereas without hunting they will probably go completely wild. As anyone who has paid any attention to the wild fires that have swept the US over the last few years, total wilderness is generally a fire hazard which eventually burns uncontrollably and causes masses of damage.
Thirdly this is a matter of property rights and the encoachment of the bureaucratic superstate. Due to the CAP and the related idiocies promulgated by Whitehall, rural land owners have already lost considerable rights to do as they please on their own land. Now another pastime has been banned. Eventually rural land-owners are going to find that everything they do is regulated by some idiot on an office in a city a hundred miles away. This is a bad thing
Finally, from what I can see, the ban applies to all riding with dogs, even drag hunts are to be banned just incase they upset the nerves of the poor ickle cweatures. This is, essentially, the wrong solution to the problem. It is the solution made by bureaucrats because it is easy to enforce rather than the solution that ought to apply. Surely a drag hunt would be a reasonable alterntative and one that removes at least two of my three objections by focusing on a particulalr cruel act - killing a fox by a pack of dogs - rather than a series of non-cruel acts that sometimes culminate in a cruel act.
One last thought - cities are dangerously vulnerable. As a reader of military SF I am frequently reminded of just how delicate a city economy is since typically cities only have on hand a few days of food and a limited supply of water and have only a few main routes in and out. The French habit of going en grève and blockading places shows this principle well. If countryside protestors wanted to cause chaos in London (for example) they could affect millions probably causing food shortages, unemployment and massive increases in the cost of living very very simply. Any number of farmers have the fertilizer and diesel they would need to create ANFO explosive and cause severe structural damage to the motorways and railways around London. I reckon that just hitting the M1/M25, M4/M25 and M40/M25 junctions would be sufficient to cause major trouble for the SE economy. Taking out a few other junctions on the M25 and a couple of major railway lines/stations would of course also help to this end but probably would not be essential. The countryside however is not so vulnerable since population densities are lower and there are fewer chokepoints.
Courtesy of buzzmachine is this truly excellent article: Dissecting the Media: Trust and Transactions. All I suggest is read it all and then come back for my thoughts. The strengths of the "new media" is that a) it can fact check anything in zippo time when it gets worked up about it. b) it can comment just as accurately on the base facts as the old media c) it has no taboos or incentives to gloss over inconvenient details
The weaknesses are that it can't generally create the initial reportage of facts - although in both Iraq and Iran the blogs have been very useful alternative news views and in other places blogs have reported events with a different slant to the old media - and that it can be hard to separate the wheat from the chaff.
A) is key for strengths. A good news organization will use the blogs fact checking abaility to guide its own researchers. As for weaknesses, again a good news organization will be able to act as editor/aggregator for the blogosphere. This will occur eventually, indeed in someways sites such as instapundit are already doing this. There may well be a business opportunity for a respected person or group to do the same thing.
I predict we will see "old media" caught with its trousers down numerous times over the next year or so as they adapt to the above. Some will fail to adapt and will be consigned to the dustbin of history.
So the US votes on November 2nd. I believe that no matter whether Bush or Kerry wins, shortly afterwards (say Nov 5th - Guy Fawkes Day) Bush will authorise a serious attack on Fallujah to wipe out the enemy there. Unlike the last time the Americas will not be so gentle to the town and its inhabitants. Fallujah will be a bonfire and in many ways this should be seen as a fitting 399th aniversary of the original gunpowder plot.
Bush will do so because a) Fallujah is the major town not under Iraqi/coalition control in Iraq b) An object lesson is needed in order to get peace elsewhere and to get the Iraqi elections on track
No matter who is to be president in 2005 the US needs to make it abundantly clear that there are limits to what is aceptable. I think if Bush loses he will want to make sure that Kerry has at least one festering boil lanced in Iraq and if he wins he has every incentive to show the world that he deserved to win.
Why Fallujah? Al Sadr is just about controlled. The Sunni fighters aren't. I doubt we will see a Hama style razing of the town but I would be extremely unsurpised if we do not see a cordon surrounding the last redoubt and that that is then pulverized.
Personally I think this should be done sooner, but I'm skeptical that it will because the Democrats and segemnts of the US media would be find 1001 ways to spin this as a negative and a sign of "quagmire" or something. As a result we will see a month more of terrorist activity and many more innocent iraqis will die, simply because back here in the west a bunch of hypocrites would rather see America lose than Bush win.
This newsday piece (found at A Small Victory ) is just breathtaking. It seems we really do have a reality distortion field and its not the usual bottle of vodka variety. I'm supposed to be working but I have to take a few minutes and fisk it so here goes:
EYE ON THE MEDIA
BY DANNY SCHECHTER CBS's most popular program "CSI" can now investigate a crime scene close to home.
The reputation of veteran news anchor Dan Rather is lying on the floor, bloodied by a mistake he has now admitted, flanked on the political right by "we told you so" finger-pointers led by GOP operatives demanding his head.
As usual its nice to see how far we can go before we get to a disagreement. This is about it. "bloodied by a mistake he has now admitted" seems to be missing a few words like "grudgingly" or "after stonewalling like Nixon for a week or more"
A news outlet once headed by "the most trusted man in America" is accused of being the least trustworthy. With Rather apologizing for airing a story based in part on memos that CBS cannot verify, it looks bad for network news in general and critics of President George W. Bush in particular. And that fits the M.O. of the people behind the hit.
"memos that CBS cannot verify". That's rich You know even the NY Times is calling those memos fake. I'm tempted to break in to a parody of John Cleese and the Parrot Sketch "They aren't unverifiable, they're fakes, they are forgeries, these memos are counterfeits, they're copies.They are not the genuine article.They wouldn't be real if you passed them through a photocopier 5 million times..."
"And that fits the M.O of the people behind the Hit."? Hit by whom? if there was an attempted hit it was by CBS and Rather trying to exhume Bush's national guard record looking for holes, coincidentally in conjunction with the Kerry campaign and the DNC sayig the same thing. If it was a hit then it was Rather who helped set it up.
The story that "60 Minutes" ran charging that Bush had not completed his Texas National Guard duty has now been pronounced a "mistake." CBS News added that "a source had misled the network on the documents' origins." The network promised "an independent review of how the report was prepared to help determine what actions need to be taken."
Why the "quotes"? are you suggesting that we not believe CBS when they try to blame it all on a source? are you possibly suggesting that the "independent review" will be issued with ten gallon pots of whitewash?
Over at Fox News, they were breaking out the champagne when the admission of error came down from Black Rock. Fox, of course, has its own (wink, wink) "standards" and never makes mistakes worth acknowledging. Their playbook in this regard feeds and follows a well-established White House approach: When confronted by unwelcome truths, avoid them, deny them or tarnish the critic.
Fox News branded this dust-up a scandal, a "Rathergate," using a familiar "change-the-subject" tactic to deflect attention away from persuasive charges that President Bush has not told the truth about his military "service." Allegations about a media misdemeanor were quickly blown up into a felony demanding Rather's career termination with prejudice.
This is a classic. Two paragraphs using a familiar "change-the-subject" tactic to deflect attention away from persuasive charges that CBS was caught with its pants down trying to smear the president..
The right-wing attack machine works by personalizing issues and demonizing "enemies" with overheated language and cartoon-like characterizations. Osama "the evil doer" bin Laden gave way to Saddam "the butcher of Baghdad" Hussein, and now John "the phony war hero" Kerry has been displaced with a "lather over Rather." It's a textbook example of how attacks against journalists are used to denigrate news not to the right wing's liking by planting items in the media food chain and cranking up an echo chamber of feigned indignation.
Again the phraseology seems somewhat ironic. Obviously the leftwing would never personalize issues or demonize enemies. See paragraphs above and below for counter-examples of the left personalizing issues and demonizing their enemies.
The Republican National Committee operates its own 24/7 anti-news network to monitor coverage and orchestrate a rapid response. Salon reports that the story casting doubt on the documents was first pushed into the news stream by Creative Response Concepts, a Republican public relations firm. Then, selected bloggers went to work led by an Atlanta lawyer who helped get President Bill Clinton disbarred and was the first who called the memos fakes. His charges spread like a prairie fire through the rabid conservative grapevine and amen corner. The goal: Focus the media on Rather, not Bush. CBS initially stood by the documents, then hedged, saying that even if they were flawed, the story that Bush had disobeyed his commander's order to have a physical was accurate in essence. But it finally had to concede it was a mistake to run the story.
Well now let's see, CRC issued a fairly stupid PR claim which they then clarified with embarassing haste once they had about 5 gazillion bloggers question what they said. Oddly enough (and rather like the original problem at CBS) that doesn't get any mention in the story. Oh and the Atlanta lawyer, remind me what was that about the right "personalizing attacks"? and "rabid conservative grapevine" - demonizing? The goal: honesty in journalism, something that Mr Schechter seems unclear about.
It's possible that CBS was flim-flammed, but TV's need for visuals did them in. By trying to gussy up the story with what producers call "video enhancement elements," "60 Minutes" fell on its own sword, opening itself up to attack. Other leading news outlets including the BBC ran the same story about Bush's troubles in the Guard without being discredited.
Possible CBS was flim-flammed? See comment above about "unverifiable". CBS was "flim-flammed" without a single doubt. What this paragraph is trying to say is that if the sleazy Ben Barnes had been the only witness CBS would not have had a story because of him being a sleazy democratic politician. The BBC wasn't discredited because all they did was parrot the CBS story and throw in a weasel word or two when it got a bit iffy. If I say "Danny Schechter is a dunken heroin addicted paedophile" and its taken up by 500 other blogs do you bother atacking the 500 others or do you go for the source?
Dan Rather has been a punching bag of the right ever since he was targeted for being rude to President Richard Nixon 30 years ago. Conservative journalists accused him of fudging footage from Afghanistan in the 1980s when he took over the anchor chair as the high salaried "Six Million Dollar Man." Some conservatives tried to buy CBS with the promise they would fire Dan Rather the day the "Tiffany Network" became theirs. His critics pictured him as the poster boy of their hated "liberal media."
Oh really? Poor Dannyboy was a victim. There he was forced on pain of torture to take those memos and air that segment and in further mitigation he's never ever put a foot wong before and he was out of the country at the time. Can we have some more excuses here? No doubt he was pining for fjords, tired and shagged out following a prolonged squawk.
The irony is that he doesn't fit the stereotype. Rather has a superpatriotic persona. A day after 9/11 he went on the David Letterman show to proclaim his willingness to do whatever his president ordered. On Sept. 22, 2001, he said he would give the administration the benefit of every doubt. When a pre-war interview with Saddam Hussein in Baghdad raised eyebrows, he tacked hard right in his war reporting, for which he later won the conservative Media Research Center's top prize for best network coverage.
Don't write Rather off. He has had more media lives than the Republican Guard that wants to bury him. He is just this week's poster boy for the sins and screw-ups of an imagined liberal media.
I just love the close. Really there is no liberal media bias. Honest. Trust me. I'm a journalist I would know. Its all the fault of those evil evil republicans. Permalink
If (to pick a name totally not at random) Halliburton had committed such a flagrant set of scams we'd have almost every newspaper and journalist on the planet digging for more. But when its Saddam Hussein scamming via the sainted UN Secretariat we hear practically nothing
A few posts ago I called media people hypocrites and I in the immediately previous post I fisked some idiot about his VRWC theory on Rathergate. This would be another excellent example of media bias. It's about a scam that potentially dwarfs ENRON and includes politicians and sleazy businessmen, as well as possible terrorists, has copious real documentation not hacked up on a word processor and run through a photocopier three times and there seems to be just one journalist investigating.
As Claudia Rossett's latest update in the WSJ concludes
...It would be interesting for someone with full access to the contract details -- meaning, I suppose, the UN's own investigation into itself -- to total the scores of Oil-for-Food contracts for baby formula, weaning cereal, milk and so on (much of it bought from Security Council member nations Russia and France), and employ some pricing experts to fill in the rest of the numbers.
But what we know already is that Mr. Annan, whose Secretariat turned a blind eye to Saddam's food pricing scams, has never apologized for presiding over the biggest fraud in the history of relief. He has not used the word "illegal." The closest he's come has been to admit this past March, after much stonewalling, that there may have been quite a lot of "wrong-doing"--before turning over the whole mess over to a U.N. investigation that has since smothered all details with its own blanket of secrecy.
Mr. Annan is due to step down next year. If he wants to leave a legacy more auspicious than having presided over Oil-for-Fraud, he might want to devote his twilight time at the U.N. to mending a system in which a U.N. Secretary-General feels free to describe the overthrow of a murderous tyrant as "illegal," but no one at the top seems particularly bothered to have presided over that tyrant's theft of food from hungry children.
Maybe CBS and 60 minutes could redeem themselves by doing an investigation of the UN Oil for Food program? I can almost certainly guarrantee they would get enormous ratings and Ms Rosett has lots of the information already. Surely for a suitable fee she would be willing to help CBS get a story with compelling visuals that would be a ratings monster.
First, assuming that you were in favor of the invasion of Iraq at the time of the invasion, do you believe today that the invasion of Iraq was a good idea? Why/why not?
Second, what reaction do you have to the not-very-upbeat news coming of Iraq these days, such as the stories I link to above?
Third, what specific criteria do you recommend that we should use over the coming months and years to measure whether the Iraq invasion has been a success?
Here are my answers.
Answer to Q1
Yes it was a good idea. Why? Three basic reasons
It showed other dictatorial regimes that continued stonewalling and noncompliance with UN resolutions and the like is a bad thing. Libya is a good example of a regime who has dramatically changed its tone thereafter, but there are others such as Syria who seem to be slowly coming around. Despite the chaos in Iraq there is one group of people who have clearly and unmistakably lost - the leaders of the Hussein regime. They have been killed, humiliated and if still alive look set to face trials by their former subjects which will sentence them to execution. Leaders in other similar regimes (such as Libya and Syria) now realise that blatent scofflaws will be taken down eventually. Since these regimes don't have a retirement policy this means that the current leadership can now understand that misbehaviour now implies their own death in some other way than peacefully in bed. Although Iran and N Korea may believe they have sufficient cards to threaten and bluster, I have no doubt that even these two regimes are extremely nervous about what might happen after a Bush reelection. Likewise, despite the general lack of investigative journalism, sanctions busting now looks like it has a downside as well. All those people with slippery morals who benefited from UNSCAM are going to be nervous. There is a LOT of documentation and enough people investigating. Over time the names will come out and even if there are no trials reputations will be ruined. Until the deposing of Hussein violating UN sanctions and resolutions looked like a risk free activity, now it isn't.
It shows the subjects of neighbouring regimes that there is an alternative. Despite the attempts of Al Sadr and his friends, millions of Shia pilgrims can visit Najaf and be exposed to a free world with a vibrant set of newspapers and no censorship. This will be literally revolutionary in my opinion assuming that Najaf remains out of control of Sadr and his thugs. In the late 1980s I hosted a group of Russians who came to visit the UK. These were generally speaking the children of the prvileged elite but even they were utterly blown away by such simple things as all night shopping or a dozen brands of toothpaste, the example of free-wheeling Najaf will be just as mind blowing to the repressed Iranian pilgims. I don't know whether it will be the choice of 200 newspapers or what, and it will probably be different for each pilgrm, but I am sure that it will impress them positively. Although I suspect the effect will take longer I also expect that similar reports will filter back to Sunni countries as well, aided and abetted by satellite TV. The UAE, Kuwait and so on are going to be nervous. Saudi Arabia is likely to be petrified about the Iraqi visitors to the next Hajj as even in much of the "Sunni triangle" the results of the invasion are turning out to be positive. As with Afghanistan it may teach another contrary lesson: don't try and fight Americans, by the number of foreign fighters who fail to return. We do not know precisely how many foreigner jihadis are in Iraq and how many of them are being killed but from the statistics it looks like an absurdly skewed loss ratio of something like 50 to 1. This means that since approximately 1000 Americans have died, about 50,000 insurgents had died. Even if just 10% of the insurgents are foreigners that means about 5000 have died (and I suspect a similar number in Afghanistan). Eventually, if the insurgency continues, would be jihadis are going to realise that very few of their bretheren are returning from trying to fight the Americans. In other words just as President Bush has declared Iraq becomes a beacon of progress even with the fighting and that message has (which Bush doesn't mention) a subtext (which Bush doesn't mention) that you really have to be sure that you are eager to embrace paradise if you try to fight the US. The fact that this subtext is just an unconfirmed rumour makes it worse for morale.
Removing Hussein was good for the majority of Iraqis (see also answer to Q2 below) as well as the rest of the world. Despite the, in many cases deliberate, ambiguity in the reports by the media, the various investigative boards have concluded that Hussein was in violation of UN resolutions about WMD and had links with Al Qaeda and other terrorists. He also very clearly was not going to reform on his own. It may sound trite or naive but I do believe that Hussein was indeed an example of Evil, just as Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot were. I am not a Christian but I do believe that leaving evil in place is what a Christian would call a sin of omission and that is generally considered to be just as bad as directly performing Evil - a sin of comission.
Answer to Q2
I also read the Iraqi blogs and otherarticles that are more positve, incliding Chrenkoff's roundups. Large chunks of Iraq (perhaps 90% by area and 80% by population) are generally peaceful and improving. Infrastructure is being rebuilt after decades on under-investment and skewed prioritization. Also if I were an insurgent I would be attacking with everything I had right now because it is effectively use it or lose it time. As I stated lower down, on November 5th or thereabouts the major rebel base - Fallujah - is going to be attacked. The insurgents may believe that this will not happen if Bush is defeated, but they can certainly read opinion polls that show Bush currently in the lead and they can certainly do the same political calculation I have done and see that if Bush wins he has no reason not to launch a major attack and plenty of incentive to do so, as this Belmont Club article describes.
Although it may be dangerous to assume that the insurgents think rationally, the evidence in this case is sufficiently strong that I see no reason not to assume that they wish to do everything possible to convince the American public to vote for Kerry. Even if Kerry has more fortitude than the Spanish socialists and in fact attempts to copy the Bush policy, there are bound to be handover SNAFUs that will give the insurgents an opportunity, and it is entirely possible that he will attempt to remove the US forces in Iraq far faster than Bush would. Hence for the insurgents there are both positive and negative incentives to attack as ferociously as possible now and I have no doubt they realise it.
Answer to Q3
The primary metric has to be the welfare of the average Iraqi. And when I say the average Iraqi I mean to include the entire country from Shia south to Kurdish north. One good metric that Arthur Chrenkoff reports in the link above is the number of marriages. Marriages are not things that occur when people are pessimistic or repressed. Other metrics are basic thngs such as the provision of power or sewerage systems or the reflooding of the estuary marshes. Despite the individual pain, the impact of terrorist outrages need not be a primary metric, however the negative version may well be. A colour coded map that indicates the number of months since a terrorist attack has occured at a particular location would be an excellent metric as would a statistics on deaths from "normal" causes such as malaria or dysentry and indeed a measure of overall healthcare. Another excellent marker will be the rate of emigration and the counterveiling return of previous emigrants.
The election in January will be a good marker, but it cannot be a repeatable metric except as an indication of the coalistion keeping its promises - so far that has been generally good but with occasional irritating lapses.
Two related topics that tend to cause incomprehension between mostly liberal Europeans and not as liberal Americans are abortion and capital punishment. Generally speaking the former group are in favour abortion and against capital punishment while Americans on the whole are perceived as holding the opposite view. The problem is that there are in fact four possible options not two and cases can be made for each.
There are wild exaggerations on all sides in these arguments as proponants of one view attempt to demonise their opponents, in this discussion we will assume that those in favour of abortion and/or capital punishment want it to be an occasional thing not the standard treatment/punishment and that those against abortion are willing to permit it in those cases where the pregnancy is likely to kill the mother if it proceeds. With that noted lets see how the four different choices stack up in terms of morality and logic.
1) Oppose both capital punishment and abortion rights
What one might call the Catholic position. If you believe that (human) life is sacred and that ending a life or potential life for any reason is therefore a major sin then this is the only possible position. The key here is that you believe that humans have a right to life simply from that fact and that therefore any life is better than no life. This is logically consistent and fits in nicely with much religious idealism. I don't agree with this position but I find it defensible.
2) Oppose capital punishment but support abortion rights
The Euroliberal position. The Euroliberal position arises from a combination of a belief in the rights of women combined with the idealism of the "life is sacred" viewpoint. The key point here is that you believe that humans have a right to life simply by being born but that sometime before birth they are not alive and therefore do not count. The problem is that, IMO, this position is logically indefensible as you end up killing innocents and not killing monstrous murderers who have themselves killed.
3) Support capital punishment but oppose abortion rights
The Religious Fundamentalist position. This is effectively a position that believes in protecting the innocent but removing the worst of humankind from the earth. What this says is the reverse of the Euroliberal one - that every potential life has the right to come into existance but that a human can forfeit his or her right to life by certain actions. This viewpoint seems to be held by both Christian Fundamentalists and by Islamic ones. I consider this to be the logically defensible but again I disagree with it.
4) Support both capital punishment and abortion rights
The pragmatic or darwinist viewpoint. Effectively this viewpoint says the reverse of the Catholic viewpoint - namely that in fact no life may be preferable to a bad life and that you have no guaranteed right to continued life. Another way to look at this viewpoint is that it is the "nature red in tooth claw" approach where the genepool is culled of those who are undesirable. With respect to the death penalty the culling is direct, with respect to abortion it means that the next generation is better. Logically this is also defensible and it is the position I agree with.
Political parties and their viewpoints
Unfortunately in (Western) Europe no mainstream political party supports either position 3 or 4 despite considerable evidence that voters in Europe are in fact in favour of the death penalty. Also except for Catholic groups very few political organizations support option 1 thus option 2, the one that I consider to be the most logically flawed is the one that wins be default.
In the US on the other hand the position is more complicated. The Republicans are generally a mixture of 3 and 4 while the Democrats are a mixture of 2 and 4, however there is considerable overlap and I supect you could find members of both parties that hold any one of the four possible options. UPDATE Perhaps I should clarify what I mean when I say I support the death penalty and abortion: I think it was President Clinton who said abortion should be "safe, legal and rare". That description pretty much covers my feelings, abortion needs to be an option in those cases where there are no good choices just a selection of bad ones.
As with abortion I want capital punishment to be "safe, legal and rare" where "safe" means safe from being a mistaken conviction. Essentially I see the death penalty being used only for those cases where the criminal is caught literally red-handed or where the evidence is otherwise incontrovertable. In addition I would tend to want to limit it to cases where the murderer has killed or attempted to kill more than once. A serial killer or someone who goes "postal" for example. Permalink
Its a pity that an article that attempts to be an defense of "Big Journalism" and an attack on those snaky upstarts would fail to get one of its attacks about the snarky upstart wrong in precisely the way that just encourages the snarky upstarts.
The offending portion:
Last week, one fashionable Minnesota blogger -- a bank vice president who is getting a lot of ink and TV time lately -- posted a scurrilous piece about U.S. Sen. Mark Dayton, calling him, "Minnesota's contribution to the psychiatric profession."
This clearly refers to this post which was indeed written by "The Big trunk" AKA Scott W. Johnson who is an attorney and senior vice president of TCF National Bank in Minneapolis. Unfortunately the post was written in ah MAY 2004 which is not "last week" for most commonly held definitions of last week.